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For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This Sunday we begin what is known as “Ordinary Time” in our Church year. This designation is not meant to diminish the importance of this time of year, but rather to distinguish it from the seasons of Advent and Christmas, which we just concluded, and the seasons of Lent and Easter. At the conclusion of the Easter season, “Ordinary Time” will begin again, and will continue through the summer and fall months.
Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of John. In this Gospel John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and says: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And while John initially says that he did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Gospel concludes with his clear statement: “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” I suspect the reason John didn’t recognize Jesus was that he knew him as his cousin. Eventually, though, he came to understand that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Familiarity can sometimes blind us to seeing something beyond the familiar.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is from that section of Isaiah known as the Servant Songs. In the section we read today Isaiah speaks about his call to be a prophet. He is clear that God will work through him “to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel.”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the beginning of the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In it Paul identifies himself, and greets the people of Corinth with the words: “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Discussion/Reflection:
1. Has familiarity with a person or a situation ever blinded you to the presence and/or grace of God?
2. Have you ever recognized God’s presence and grace only in retrospect?
3. Why do you think Paul began his letter to the Corinthians with the words: “Grace and peace?”
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/011220.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Since Jesus’ Baptism took place when he was an adult, it may seem odd to celebrate his baptism so soon after we have celebrated his birth. The fact is, though, that other than the various infancy narratives and the story of the finding of Jesus in the temple, there are no stories of Jesus’ years before his Baptism and the beginning of his public ministry. When you stop and think about it, however, there is a certain “rightness” to this. While it would be interesting to know about Jesus’ life before he began his public ministry, his mission and his ministry are far more important to us because they brought about our salvation.
Our Gospel this weekend is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Baptism. Matthew is the only evangelist to include the verse that tells us that when Jesus came to John for Baptism, “John tried to prevent him, saying, I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me.” Most scripture scholars agree that John didn’t want to baptize Jesus because he did not see Jesus as a sinner in need of Baptism. And while we believe that Jesus was without sin, we also believe that his baptism marked the beginning of his public ministry. (As Christians, it is our belief that Baptism takes away original sin. We also believe, though, that Baptism begins our life in Christ, and as importantly that it empowers us to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus.) We are told that after Jesus was baptized, a voice came from the heavens saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” We believe that the Spirit is also given to us at our Baptism, and that we are all beloved children of God.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is taken from the section of Isaiah known as the “Servant Songs.” The servant is the chosen one of the Lord, and the song describes the characteristics and mission of the servant. We see the “servant songs” as prefiguring Jesus. In the section for this weekend we read: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit;”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. In it Peter describes the mission of Jesus and reminds us that “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- We believe that the Holy Spirit is given to all the baptized. What is the Holy Spirit empowering you to do?
- If it is true that God shows no partiality, why bother with Baptism?
- Do you see yourself as a Beloved Son or Daughter of God?
During this past Advent, I got up one Sunday morning around 4:00am to pray and get ready for the day. (Since I am not a morning person, my rule is that I need to get up three hours before I have to talk.) After a cup of coffee (half decaf – half regular), I settled in to pray Morning Prayer. After I prayed the psalms and canticle, and reflected on the reading, I started to read the intercessions. The first three were fine, but when I read the fourth one I was somewhat taken aback. I thought it said: “You are praised throughout the ages; in your mercy help us to live devoutly and temporarily in this life, as we wait in joyful hope for the revelation of your glory.” I read it again, and then again. The third time through, I realized the word was temperately, not temporarily. I had to laugh at myself for my malapropism, as I realized I wasn’t as awake/alert as I thought I was.
Later that evening, I reflected a bit on my inadvertent substitution of temporarily for temperately. It dawned on me that perhaps there was a message for me in my malapropism. As I continued to reflect it occurred to me how easy it is for me to focus almost exclusively on what is right in front of me and forget that this life is not the end, that there is more. Our existence in this world is not all there is. It is temporary. At every Mass in the embolism the priest says after the Our Father we are reminded that “we live in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” These words call us to remember and believe that as good and blessed as this world is, it is temporary. There is something more. There is the promise and hope of eternal life.
Now certainly it is our sure and certain hope that our faith offers us the promise of eternal life. At times, though, it is easy to let this belief fade into the background, as we focus our time and attention exclusively on this world. For the vast majority of us, I don’t think this is intentional. Rather, sometimes the tasks and challenges of this world not only distract us, but can engulf us and cause us to lose focus of what ultimately matters. At these times, it is good to remember that while this world offers us many blessings, ultimately it is temporary and transitory. Our final destination is heaven.
As Christians, we are called to live devoutly and temperately in this life. We do this because we realize that this life is temporarily, and that ultimately we hope to share eternal life with our God. The hope of heaven should both challenge and incentivize us to live in such a way in this temporary and passing life, so that we never lose our focus on the life to come.
- The revelation of a star guided the Magi. When have you ever received a revelation that guided you in your life?
- If Jesus is the savior of all people, what would you say to those people who want to limit the number of those who will be saved?
- What do you need to do to let the light of Christ shine in you that you might lead others to Christ?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122919.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Our Gospel this Sunday occurs just after the visit of the Magi to the new born Christ child. We are told that “When the Magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him’” Joseph did as he was told and “took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” They remained in Egypt until Herod died.
This Gospel and the one we read on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, tell us almost all of what we know about St. Joseph. While the information is scant, it is clear that Joseph was a man of great faith who was open to God’s will in his life even though he may not always have understood that will.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach. It was chosen because it and our second reading this Sunday from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians, talk about the virtues of family life. In Sirach we read: “God sets a father in honor over his child, a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” And in St. Paul’s letter we read: “Put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love,”
Clearly all three readings this Sunday extol the values of family and the virtues we are called to display as followers of Jesus Christ.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Families today come in all shapes and sizes. What do you think defines a family?
- I have a friend who has several children, now all adults. When her children were growing she used to quip that “Of course, it was easy for Mary and Joseph to be the Holy Family. They only had one child, and he was perfect.” What makes a family holy?
- What is the biggest obstacle to families being holy?
Many years ago an older man from a neighboring parish came to see me. He was distraught and troubled. He said, “Father, one of the priests at my parish told me I that my hands weren’t clean enough to receive communion, and that I should come back after I had washed them. Father, I’m a mechanic, and I work with my hands. I did wash them, but apparently they weren’t clean enough.” He then showed me his hands. He concluded by saying: “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. Did I do something wrong?” His hands were indeed gnarled, and displayed the signs of years of manual labor. They also bore the telltale traces of grease and grime.
As I looked at the man’s hands, I thought of St. Joseph. As a carpenter his hands must also have been gnarled, and most likely callused and stained from working with wood. And yet they were the same hands that carried and caressed the infant Jesus. They were the same hands that held and hugged Jesus as a child. They were the same hands that guided Jesus’ hands as he learned to use the plane and chisel. And I suspect Jesus held Joseph’s hands as Joseph was dying. With this image in my mind, I talked with the man about St. Joseph’s hands. I told him that Jesus knew that calloused and stained hands were not the measure of a person’s piety or what was in their heart.
I am continually surprised that there are there are many good and well intentioned people who think it is their responsibility and role to publicly determine who can receive communion and/or how they should receive it. Many years ago when I was in the seminary I attended a lecture on Ecumenism. The priest who spoke was not someone who would have been identified as being “liberal.” He was very kind person, though and quite articulate about our Church’s dogmas, doctrines, and teachings. As importantly, he was able to represent our Catholic beliefs well in an Ecumenical dialogue. During the question and answer period following his talk an individual asked when it was appropriate to deny someone communion. The priest’s answer surprised me. He said: “You don’t know what has happened in that person’s life in the last ten minutes. If you have a concern, you mention it privately.” He was clear that publicly refusing to give someone communion is seldom, if ever, appropriate.
We are told that in his life and ministry Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners. He was also known to spent time with foreigners and other outcasts from society. Jesus also touched lepers and others who had been marginalized or ostracized because of an illness or other physical malady. Jesus was indiscriminate in regard to whom he touched and with whom he spent time. He accepted people as they were, whoever they were.
In addition to hanging around with some questionable people during his life on earth, Jesus continued this practice when he gave us the gift of himself in the Eucharist. It is in and through the Eucharist that Jesus continues to abide with us as individuals and with our Church. None of us is worthy of this great gift. No one earns the right to receive the Eucharist. And no one has the right to determine the worthiness of someone else to receive the Eucharist.
On the Feast of Christmas, I can’t help but think of St. Joseph holding the infant Jesus immediately after Jesus’ birth. In his callused and stained hands he held the savior of the world. I suspect that Joseph intuitively knew that Jesus wouldn’t object to anyone who held and received him with love and devotion. Like Joseph, may we who hold and receive Jesus today never forget this fundamental and abiding truth.
- When have you felt God “communicating” with you? Was it in your prayer, through other people, through the events of your life, through a dream or?
- Ahaz didn’t want to tempt God by asking for a sign, yet God gave him a sign anyway. Has God ever offered you a sign?
- What do you need to do this last week of Advent to prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121519.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of the season of Advent. Our Gospel this weekend comes in two parts. In the first section, once again we encounter John the Baptist. This time, though, John is in prison and will soon face death. Given this, he is concerned whether Jesus was indeed the “one who is to come.” At first glance, this question from John may seem strange, but I suspect that as John approached death he wanted to be sure that his mission had not been for naught. In response, Jesus does not give a yes or no answer. Instead he said: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” As we will see in our first reading for this weekend, these are all signs of God’s grace and favor --- and a promise of hope for the future.
In the second section of this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus “began to speak to the crowds about John.” He concludes by saying: “Amen I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. At the time of this prophecy the Jewish people had been conquered in the north by the Assyrians and in the south by the Babylonians. Isaiah speaks words of comfort and hope to this conquered people, reminding them there will come a time of vindication when all with see the “glory of the Lord” when God will come “with vindication.” The signs of the Lord’s return will be the very signs Jesus mentioned in our Gospel today: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of James. In it James urges: “You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” While this sentence reflects the early church’s belief that the return of Christ was imminent, it reminds us today that we are called to wait patiently for the Lord’s coming --- whenever that may occur.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- I suspect there are times for each of us when, like John, we wonder whether our lives are on the right course. Who do you look to for guidance at these times?
- What signs of God’s Kingdom do you see in the world around you?
- How do we wait patiently for the Lord’s coming?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120819.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the Second Sunday of the season of Advent. Each year on the Second Sunday of Advent our Gospel reading presents us with the familiar figure of John the Baptist. This year we read Matthew’s account of John’s preaching. We are told that John’s message was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Those who came out to hear John were the people around the region of the Jordan who “were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” However, when “he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers!’” Clearly John, like Jesus who would follow him, saw the Pharisees and Sadducees as opposing rather than supporting his message.
It is also important to note that John clearly understood his roll vis-à-vis Jesus. He said: “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is Isaiah’s prophecy of a future King from the “stump of Jesse.” (Jesse was the father of King David.) The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon this future King: “a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight will be the fear of the Lord.” (If these words sound familiar they are what Catholics refer to as the “gifts of the Holy Spirit.”)
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. In it Paul asks that “the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- I have always been impressed with John the Baptist’s clarity in regard to his mission. How do you think he came to such clarity?
- John describes himself as not being worthy to carry Jesus’ sandals. How would you describe yourself in relation to Jesus?
- As a child I had to memorize the gifts (as well as the fruits) of the Holy Spirit. I was always troubled by the gift of fear of the Lord. Someone then suggested that I substitute the words “wonder” or “awe” for fear. That made much more sense to me. How do we exhibit wonder or awe of God?
With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.
1. Advent and Christmas Events/Activities at The Basilica: As we move into the Season of Advent and Christmas, there are several events/activities at the Basilica which you are invited to attend.
On Sunday, December 8 we will hold our annual Global Fair Trade Market from 8:30am to 3:00pm. Great gifts will be available from local vendors, just in time for Christmas giving.
Taizé prayer, with the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, will be celebrated in the lower level of the Basilica on Tuesday, December 10 at 5:30pm.
On Sunday, December 15 our Cathedral Choristers, Children’s Choir, Cherubs, and Juventus as well as the children of the Learning Program will present The King of Love by Betty Lou and Ronald Nelson. The musical uses familiar carols to tell the story of the Incarnation. The musical will be presented in the lower level of the Basilica after the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses.
On Friday night, December 20, Handel’s Messiah will return to The Basilica. Tickets for that performance can be purchased at mary.org/messiah.
Finally, we hope you will plan on joining us for one of our Masses on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Our Mass schedule is available on our website at mary.org.
2. Our Parish Finances: First and foremost, I want to thank all those who have made a commitment of financial support to our parish community during our Basilica Fund campaign this fall. Please know your commitment of financial support to our parish community is greatly appreciated. Your pledge—no matter the size—is important and makes a difference. It allows us to continue to offer the many programs, ministries and services that are the hallmark of our Basilica community.
In regard to our parish finances, as I write this column our income is tracking to budget but is down from being able to balance our budget. It is our hope to move towards a balanced budget over the next couple of years. We currently use funds from school rental income to balance our budget, but we know this is not a sustainable solution long-term. This year our goal is to raise an additional $150,000 over our budgeted income.
I am hopeful that with our collections at Christmas and with year-end giving we will continue to stay on track with our projected income. Thank you to all of those who support our Basilica community financially. Please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support.
3. Change Management Consultant: Several months ago our Parish Council and Finance Committee approved funding to hire a Change Management Consultant, to help us as we seek to implement our new strategic plan. Our parish staff and a small Task Force have been working with the Change Management Consultant to help us identify those ministries, services and programs, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community, and need to continue, as well as those that need to change or end. Our new Strategic Plan has provided the foundation to guide our decision making process and prioritization.
It is both good and important periodically for parishes to take a step back and review the various programs and ministries that are part of their parish operation to make sure they are still filling a need, or whether they need to be modified, or ended so that new or emerging needs can be addressed. The Change Management Consultant is helping us take a careful and considered look at all that we do here at the Basilica. We hope to finish this work sometime this winter or early spring.
4. Archdiocesan Synod: As I mentioned in an earlier bulletin, on the Vigil of Pentecost (June 8, 2019), Archbishop Hebda formally announced that our Archdiocese will be embarking on a synod, our first since 1939. A synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is the Archbishop’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today—and into the near future.
Archbishop Hebda described the local pre-synod and synod process as following Pope Francis’ “listening Church” model. “It’s the confidence that comes from believing that the Holy Spirit works in the faithful, and it’s in sharing those things that are most important to us that we’re able to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
The synod process will begin this fall and winter with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the spring/summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod. In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process. On Pentecost weekend May 21-22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly. Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the Archdiocese and will meet to discern synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop. The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.
I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese. It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end —since I first informed you of the synod—we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward.
There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session on our parish website at mary.org/synod. You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead.
5. I would also like to update you on the work of our Campus Space Planning Committee. Beginning in January of 2018 this committee began working to establish a vision for our campus to prepare us for the next 150 years of service to the Church and the city. Earlier this year this group completed its work in providing a vision and set of priorities to ensure our buildings and campus serve both our current needs and the needs of future generations at the Basilica and the community. Their efforts have helped us move into the future with confidence and hope. I am enormously grateful for all the time and effort this committee put into this important work.
As a next step, we selected a team of individuals and organizations to assist us in creating a more specific Master Plan for the Basilica and its campus. The process, included “Requests for Qualifications” and later “Requests for Proposals” and in-person interviews. In these requests we wanted architectural firms that could work as a team with urban planners, historical preservationists, and landscape architects. We eventually interviewed three teams and ultimately recommended to The Basilica Landmark Board that the team, led by the Architectural firm HGA be hired to develop a Master Plan for our Basilica Campus. The Landmark Board approved the funding of this recommendation and we began negotiations for a contract with HGA.
After this a small Master Planning Committee was formed to work with HGA and their team in the development of the Master Plan for the Basilica and its campus. This Committee has been meeting for the past few months and will continue to meet this fall. In addition to the whole Basilica campus this committee will also examine some specific issues, e.g. accessibility, music, parking, and our liturgical space. It is our hope that we will be able to share the results of the work of this committee early in 2020.
6. Feasibility Study: As I have also mentioned previously, The Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz Whaley Flessner to conduct a feasibility study to help determine fund raising capacity for a potential Capital Campaign needed to implement elements of the newly developed Master Plan.
As the work of the Campus Space Planning, Master Plan Development, Feasibility Study, and potential Capital Campaign have broad implications for our Parish we have been actively engaged with the Basilica Landmark Board, Parish Council and Finance Committee to ensure our leaders are informed and appropriately involved in providing guidance and approval.
7. Recent Maintenance Projects: In addition to several smaller maintenance projects this summer, there were also two major maintenance projects. We replaced the carpeting in the lower level of the church. If you have not been in the lower level of the Basilica recently I would encourage you to stop down and see the new carpeting. Replacing the old carpeting and updating the hospitality area with an expanded area of terrazzo was one of our major maintenance projects this summer. I know I come from a biased perspective, but I think it turned out quite well.
The other major maintenance project this summer/fall was rebuilding the south façade of our parish school building. While the brickwork is done, the Terra Cotta needed to finish the job has been delayed. When the order was first placed, we were told that the Terra Cotta had a 105 calendar day lead time and should have arrived by the end of August. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago we were informed that Terra Cotta will not ship until November 1. So unless there are further delays, by the time you read this bulletin the Terra Cotta hopefully will have arrived and have been installed.
8. At the end of September we completed the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of our parish. 150 years ago, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Minneapolis. When the parish outgrew its original site, seven lots were donated at 16th and Hennepin, and the corner stone of the Basilica of Saint Mary was laid in 1908. 150 years is a significant amount of time. It speaks highly of the faith and dedication of those who have gone before us that not only has our parish survived, it has thrived. As our parish moves into the next 150 years we are blessed by our parish leadership and our staff who serve our parish so well. It is the task and challenge for all of us, though—and it will take our combined efforts—to ensure that for the next 150 years our parish will continue to be a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline and place of welcome for all who come to our doors. I am excited by this challenge, and given all the work that has gone on the past several months—and some cases continues to go on—I am very hopeful for the future.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary