Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111818.cfm    

 

It seems that every few years someone predicts that the world will end on a specific date, or in a particular year.   So far all of these predictions have been wrong, but that hasn’t stopped people from continuing to predict the end of the world. 

 

In our Gospel this Sunday, Jesus talks about the end times.  He said: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the starts will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”   This imagery is vivid and stark.  It reminds us that the end times will come and there will be a summation of the world and a time of judgment. 

 

It is important to remember, though, that at the end of this Gospel Jesus also says:  "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”    These words remind us that while we do believe that the world will one day come to an end, we shouldn’t spend our time wondering and worrying about when it will occur.  Rather, we should live our lives in such a way that we will be prepared whenever it comes. 

 

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.   It too speaks of the end times.  It also is hopeful, though.  For the closing verse of today’s reading says:  “But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” 

 

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   Today’s selection contrasts the Jewish priests of the Old Testament with Jesus Christ:  “But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God:”

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Why do you think people continue to predict the end of the world?
  2. If you knew the world was going to end at a certain point in the future, what would you do differently?  
  3. If you would do something differently if you knew the end of the world was coming, why aren’t you doing that now?    

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111118.cfm 

Our Gospel this weekend opens with Jesus sitting opposite the temple treasury.   He watched as people put money in the treasury.  In fact, “Many rich people put in large sums.”   Then “a poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’”   

It is easy to be generous when we have a surplus.  As Christians, though, the challenge for us is to give from our hearts, not from our surplus.   We are called to share generously --- whether it be our money, our time, our possessions, our care and concern, whatever it might be --- we are called to share simply because we are able to do so.   As followers of Jesus we are to share our blessings because we recognize that we have been blessed.   

Our first reading this weekend from the first Book of Kings shares the theme of the Gospel.  We are told that Elijah went to the home of a widow in the town of Zarephath.   He asked her for a cup of water and a bit of bread.  She told him that she had “only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug.”   Elijah told her not to worry to “make a little cake and bring it to me……………For the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’”   As a result of her generosity in sharing what little she had, “She was able to eat for a year and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry.”    

We continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews in our second reading this weekend.   It reminds us “so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:  

  1. Can you recall a time when you shared/gave more than you had anticipated?   What motivated you to do this?
  2. Why does sharing seem to be easier for some people than for others? 
  3. How would you describe salvation to someone who comes from a non-Christian background?  
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.   
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110418.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is very familiar.  For this reason it would be easy not to give it a lot of thought or attention.  It is such an important Gospel, though, that I would hope we would take a few moments to really listen to it so that we can realize anew its important message.   

As this Gospel opens we are told that “one of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him.  “Which is the first of all the commandments?’”   Now this would not have been an unusual question.  At the time of Jesus there were over 600 commands, precepts, and prohibitions in the Jewish law.  Rabbis were often asked about the relative importance of these various commands.   What is unusual is Jesus’ answer.  Jesus does not give just one commandment:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” but two: “The second is this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  At this point, we are told that the scribe who originally approached Jesus told him these two commandments are “worth more than all burnt offering and sacrifices.”  Jesus then said to him:  “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”    

Now certainly both of these commandments had always been part of the Jewish religion.  What was unique in this instance is that Jesus yoked them together.  In essence he was reminding people we can’t love the God we do not see, if we don’t love the neighbor we do see.   

Our first reading this Sunday from the Book of Deuteronomy, provides the background for the Gospel.   In that reading Moses told the people:  “Hear O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!  Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heat, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Letter to the Hebrews.  It contrasts Jesus, our high priest, with the priests of the Old Testament: “He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people;   He did that once for all when he offered himself.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. It is easy to say we love God, but how do we know when we really love God?  
  2. Why is it so much easier to love the God we cannot see, then to love the neighbor we do see? 
  3. I love the image of Jesus offering himself for us.   How would you explain this concept to someone who doesn’t come from a Christian background?    

     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102818.cfm

In this Sunday’s Gospel we encounter Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, who on hearing that Jesus was near began to shout:  “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”    Several people rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he was undeterred.  He kept calling out all the more; “Son of David, have pity on me.”  When Jesus heard him, he called him over.   In response we are told that Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus.” Jesus then asked him: “What do you want me to do for you?”   Bartimaeus’ response was immediate and clear.  “Master, I want to see.”   Jesus then healed him, and Bartimaeus “followed him on the way.”    

There are three important moments in this story.  The first is Bartimaeus’ persistence in calling out to Jesus.  This reminds us that we too need to be persistent when we cry out to Jesus in prayer.  We need to remember, though, that persistence in prayer always needs to be combined with an openness to how God might respond to that prayer.   Second, I believe the fact that Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak is important.  For a beggar a cloak was vitally important.  Not only was it the target where people could throw their alms, but it was his shelter during the cold night.   By throwing aside his cloak Bartimaeus was clear that he didn’t want anything to hinder him from coming to Jesus.  Third, notice that after he was cured, Bartimaeus did not go his own way, but rather “followed” Jesus on his way.     The encounter with Jesus was so life changing for Bartimaeus that Jesus’ way became his way.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah.  It announces the return of the Israelites from the Babylonian captivity.  “I will gather them from the ends of the word, with the blind and the lame in their midst.”  

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.  In the section we read this weekend we are reminded that Jesus was chosen by God to be our high priest and to intercede for us: “it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the One who said to him: You are my son; this day I have begotten you;”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Bartimaeus would not let anyone deter him from calling out to Jesus.  Have you ever let anyone or anything keep you from calling out to Jesus? 
  2. In the Gospel Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak so that it would not hinder his effort to get to Jesus.  What do you need to throw aside in order to follow Jesus?
  3. What does the phrase “high priest” mean to you?  
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102118.cfm   

Some times it takes us a while to “get it.”   That was certainly the case with the disciples in our Gospel for this weekend.   In the verses immediately preceding this Gospel Jesus has told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem where the chief priests and the scribes will “hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit at him, flog him, and finally kill him.”  These are difficult words, made more so by the fact that this is the third time Jesus had predicted his passion and death.   And yet his disciples, in particular James and John, still don’t “get it.”    Even after hearing these words we are told in our Gospel for this weekend that “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’    Jesus replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?’  They answered him, ‘Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left’”    
Jesus rebuked them and then reminded them that his disciples will find their greatness in suffering and service.    

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah.   As was the case several weeks ago, the section read this weekend is part of the Song of the Suffering Servant.   This “song” provided an important basis for our Christian understanding of the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death.  The section we read this weekend reminds us that life can come out of suffering.   “Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days, though his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”  

For our second reading we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   It reminds us that, although  Jesus is our high priest, he is able to “sympathize with our weakness” because he “has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How would you respond if someone asked you why innocent people suffer?
  2. Have you seen life, or some other good, come out of suffering?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus can sympathize with our weakness?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101418.cfm    

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”   This was the question the man in our Gospel this Sunday posed to Jesus.  (If we are honest, I suspect that, if we had the opportunity, all of us would love to ask Jesus this question.)   Jesus responded to the man by reminding him of the commandments.   But the man told him:  “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”   We are then told that Jesus looked at him, loved him and said to him:  “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”   In response to this, we are told: “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”     

I think there are a couple things that need to be said about this Gospel.  First, the man was obviously very sincere in his question.   I also have to wonder, though, if he wasn’t looking for just “one” thing he could do to guarantee that he would inherit eternal life, and then he could live and do as he pleased.  The reality is, though, that we have to do more than “one” thing to inherit eternal life.   Following Jesus impacts all the whole of our lives --- all that we say and do.   Second, though, I think we also need to be clear that selling all that he had and giving it to the poor was ultimately what the man in this Sunday’s Gospel had to do in order to follow Jesus.  For each of us there is something that ultimately we will have to do follow Jesus.  What this is will be different for each person.   

Our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom, shares the theme of the Gospel.  It reminds us that riches are deemed nothing in comparison to having prudence and wisdom.    

In our second reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews we are reminded that:  “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. The man in our Gospel this weekend was asked to sell what he had and give to the poor in order to follow Jesus.   What do you think Jesus is asking you to do in order to follow him? 
  2. How would you define prudence and wisdom?
  3. Have you ever felt “convicted” by the word of God?   
     

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100718.cfm   

Our Gospel this weekend comes in two sections.   In the first half of this Gospel Jesus talks about the difficult issue of divorce.  The occasion for Jesus’ teaching was a question by the Pharisees: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”    Jesus responded to their question by asking them what Moses had taught.  They replied correctly that Moses had permitted divorce, but Jesus told them that it was “Because of the hardness of your hearts” that Moses did this.    Jesus then went on to remind them that when God has joined two people together this union is blessed and sanctified by God and “what God has joined together no human being must separate.”    In the second half of this Gospel, we are told that people were bringing their children to Jesus to have him touch them.   When his disciples rebuked them, Jesus told them:  “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  

The theme from the first half of the Gospel is echoed in our first reading today which tells the story of the creation of man and woman.  The importance of pets notwithstanding, this story reminds us that the “suitable partner” for a human being is another human being.   

In both the Gospel and the first reading it is important to point out what is not being said.   Jesus did not say that it was okay to criticize or judge those who go through the painful experience of divorce.  Jesus did not say that people should stay in abusive relationships.   Rather, he spoke about the dignity, goodness and blessedness of the union of those whom God has joined together.    

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter to the Hebrews.  This letter was probably written somewhere around 90 A.D., which is relatively late compared to most of the other Epistles in the New Testament.   It was written to strengthen people’s faith, but also to increase their knowledge and love of Jesus.   In the section we read this weekend we are reminded that: “For it is fitting that He, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.”     

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Has a friend or someone in your family gone through a divorce?   How did you respond? 
  2. What does it mean to be “childlike” in our relationship with God?   
  3. If someone asked you why Jesus had to suffer and die, how would you respond?   

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/093018.cfm  

Jesus’ disciples didn’t come across very well in our Gospel last weekend, and they continue that pattern in our Gospel this weekend.    They complain to Jesus because “we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”   Notice they didn’t say “because he does not follow you,” but rather “because he does not follow us.”   Clearly, their idea of discipleship is far more restrictive than that of Jesus.   The fact is that Jesus had a far more expansive and inclusive view of discipleship than his disciples did.  We know this because He reminds them: “whoever is not against us is for us.”     

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus’ words seem a bit harsh.  He speaks of cutting off a hand or a foot, or plucking out an eye if any of these cause you to sin.   Now clearly Jesus is not suggesting amputation or blinding one’s self.  Rather he is reminding his disciples that we need to be aware of those things that lead us to sin, and seek to eliminate them from our lives.

Our first reading for this weekend from the book of Numbers shares the theme of the Gospel.  It raises the question of who can speak/act in the name of the Lord.   In this reading God shares some of the Spirit God gave to Moses with “seventy elders.”   Two of those who were given the Spirit were not at the gathering where this occurred, yet they too received the Spirit.    Joshua wanted Moses to stop them, but Moses replied:   “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets.” 

In our second reading for this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of St. James.   While at first blush this reading appears to condemn those who are rich, a deeper reading reveals that James is reminding the early Christians (and us) of the danger of trusting in wealth as opposed to God.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Limiting the people through whom God works or failing to recognize God working through certain people seems to be part and parcel of the human condition.  When have you done this? 
  2. To borrow an old phrase, what are the “occasions of sin” in your life?
  3. It is easy to put our trust in something other than God.  When have you done this?      
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092318.cfm 

Our Gospel reading this Sunday is taken from the ninth chapter of Mark’s Gospel.  That is a little over halfway through Mark’s Gospel.  Earlier in this chapter the disciples had experienced Jesus’ Transfiguration.  In the passage we read this weekend Jesus offers the second prediction of his passion. (We heard the first prediction of his passion in last Sunday’s Gospel.)  “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”  We are told the disciples “did not understand the saying and they were afraid to question him.”   

Now you would think that Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death would have a sobering effect on Jesus’ disciples.  However, we are told that when they arrived at Capernaum Jesus asked his disciples what they had been talking about on the way “But they remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.”   Their behavior caused Jesus to remind them that “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”   Clearly for Jesus service is the true measure of discipleship and not status, power, position or prestige.   

Our first reading this Sunday, from the Book of Wisdom speaks of the just person who is beset by evil doers.  “With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for according to his words, God will take care of him.”    These words clearly connect with Jesus’ words in our Gospel today in regard to the fate that awaited him.  

We continue to read from the Letter of Saint James in our second reading this Sunday.  In this weekend’s selection James reminds us that “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist there is disorder and every foul practice.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Jesus’ words in our Gospel today seem to be at odds with the “Gospel of Prosperity” that is preached by some evangelists.  How do you reconcile Jesus’ words with the Gospel of Prosperity?
  2. How does service in the name of Jesus find expression in your life?
  3. Have jealousy and selfish ambition ever found safe haven in your life? 
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/091618.cfm 

Our Gospel reading this weekend is very familiar.   We are told that Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi and along the way Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?”     The disciples must have pleased that they could fill Jesus in on the local buzz.   They told him some say: “John the Baptist, others, Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”   Jesus then turned the question on them.  “But who do you say that I am?”   Peter responded: “You are the Christ.”   Jesus then went on to teach them “that the Son of man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priest and the scribes, and be killed and rise after three days.”   Peter took him aside to rebuke him, but Jesus in turn rebuked Peter and went on to remind all of his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”    

Certainly Jesus could not be accused of false advertizing.   He is clear that those who follow him should not expect a life of ease or prosperity.  Rather they should anticipate some hardship and perhaps even suffering.  If this were all that Jesus was offering it would be surprising if he had any disciples at all.   We also have come to know and believe, though, that it is in following Christ in this life, ultimately we will come to eternal life.  

Our first reading this weekend is from the book of the Prophet Isaiah.   In it, Isaiah is clear that in the face of any difficulties: “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced, I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”       

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint James.  In today’s section, James reminds us that our faith must find expression in our actions.  “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works!   Can that faith save him?”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What would you say to someone who had lived a good life, was a good Christian person yet continued to experience trials and difficulties?
  2. What does it mean for you to pick up your cross and follow Christ?
  3. How do you understand the connection between faith and works? 
     

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