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/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:

  1. 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?
  2. John describes himself as not being worthy to carry Jesus’ sandals.  How would you describe yourself in relation to Jesus? 
  3. 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

 

Bulletin
https://container.parishesonline.com/bulletins/02/0207/20191201N.pdf

 

Recently I attended the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. While I have kept in touch with some of my classmates, this certainly has not been the case with all of them. Given this, it was good to see my classmates again and catch up on what has gone on in their lives these many years. At one point in the evening, in a private conversation with one of my classmates, he revealed that he had been sexually abused by his pastor when he was in grade school. I thanked him for his courage, and for trusting that he could share this information with me. I asked if he would be open to getting together for lunch so we could talk about it. He said yes, and we exchanged email addresses so we could set a date for lunch. 

When we got together for lunch, my classmate shared his experience with me. Not only had his pastor abused him, but he was also a serial abuser, who had victimized others. My heart went out to my classmate as I listened to the pain and hurt he had suffered. I knew there was nothing I could say that would be helpful, so I just listened, apologized and offered my prayers—knowing all the while that this was too little, too late, and probably more for my sake than for his. 

Several years ago I had a similar experience, when one of my grade school classmates told me he had been abused by one of the associate pastors at our home parish. Unlike my high school classmate, however, his abuse had taken place over a period of years. Now, in both these cases, I would by lying if I said that I handled them with grace and composure. In these and other instances when I’ve talked with victims of sexual abuse, I have prayed swiftly and mightily that God would give me the right words to say, or at least help me not say something terribly wrong, inappropriate or hurtful. Listening to someone talk about the pain and hurt they have experienced at the hands of the church is a grim experience. In these instances, though, while I didn’t think I said anything particularly profound or helpful, I did come away with the awareness that I had been “standing on holy ground.” 

(As part of my conversation with both of my classmates, I asked if I could write about the experience in our parish bulletin. I also promised to get their permission before publishing anything. Both agreed to this. I am grateful for their willingness to allow me to share their experience.) 

Now with the above as background, it needs to be said that it is vitally important that those in leadership positions in our church listen to the pain and hurt of people who have been victims of sexual abuse. Their/our work, however, doesn’t and shouldn’t end there. We need to acknowledge our failings and the harm they have caused. Further, we need to ask for forgiveness over and over and over and over again. We also need to seek ways to promote healing and reconciliation, and finally and perhaps most importantly the leaders of our church need to commit to making changes so that these things can never happen again. Unfortunately at this point, most of the changes that have been made to date have not arisen out of care and concern, but rather as a result of lawsuits or changes in the law. And even more unfortunately, I think there is an unspoken attitude among many leaders in our church that once this crisis blows over they can go back to the way things used to be. This cannot happen. We can and must do better. And while our Archdiocese has made some progress in this regard, much more needs to be done. 

The words openness, transparency, and honesty are much in vogue these days. Their high fashion status, though, doesn’t diminish their importance or necessity. Specifically in regard to our church, they call our bishops to a high standard of accountability. Certainly for some time now our leaders have failed to meet this standard. For this they need to confess their failings, apologize, repent, and establish clear standards of openness, transparency, honesty, and accountability. And they need to work with others—most especially those who have been the victims of sexual abuse—to establish these standards. If the bishops across the United States can’t do this or if they are unwilling to do this, they shouldn’t be surprised if people stop paying attention to them or simply leave our church.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120119.cfm 

This coming Sunday, as we celebrate the First Sunday of the season of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year.  This year we will use the “A” cycle of readings, which means that our Gospel readings will be taken primarily from the Gospel of Matthew.   

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”   In essence Jesus is saying that people will be doing normal everyday things when the end comes.   He sums up his comments by saying:  “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”   Clearly Jesus was reminding his followers that they are not to live as did the people of Noah’s time, thinking only of their present comfort and happiness, and giving no thought to the future.   Rather, we are to stay awake and be prepared for no one knows when the Son of Man will return, or when one’s own life will end.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In this reading Isaiah offers comfort and hope to the people of Israel who are under threat from their enemies.  In this reading Isaiah reminds the people that if they are true to their covenant with God, “many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.’”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   It probably was written somewhere between 55 – 60 AD, and reflects the common thinking at that time that the second coming of Jesus was imminent.   Paul says:  “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. It is easy to become lulled into thinking only of our comfort in the present moment and to forget about being prepared for the Lord’s coming.   What is one concrete thing you could do to keep better focused on being prepared for the Lord’s coming?
  2. Priests of our Archdiocese are asked to do advance planning for our funerals.  It is an interesting experience.  If you knew the end of your life was approaching what would you do to plan for it?  
  3. How would you respond to someone who claimed the return of the Lord was near?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112419.cfm

 

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  This Feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925.   Seeing the devastation caused by World War I, Pius established this Feast as a way to remind people that Christ is Lord of both heaven and earth.  Initially this Feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October, but when the Roman Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar in 1969 it was moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  (The new liturgical year will begin on December 1st  with the Fist Sunday of Advent.)   

 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the scene of Jesus on the cross.  He is ridiculed by the rulers and jeered at by the soldiers.   We are told that the soldiers taunted him by saying “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”   There were also two criminals crucified with Jesus.  One of them reviled Jesus saying:  “Are you not the Christ?   Save yourself and us.”   The other rebuked him, however, and asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.   In reply Jesus said to him:  “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  

 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second book of Samuel.   It recounts the story of David being anointed as King of Israel.  As Christians, we see the Kingship of David as pre-figuring the eternal Kingship of Christ.

 

Our second reading this Sunday contains a wonderful Christological hymn (a hymn to Christ).   It is St. Paul’s pronouncement of Christ’s place in God’s plan of salvation.   The hymn really needs to be read in its entirety to fully appreciate it, but it reminds us that:  “He is the image of the invisible God ……………………. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross.”   

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

  1. A friend of mine likes to say that the criminal who asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom was a thief to the end, in that he stole heaven.   Hearing Jesus’ response to his fellow criminal why do you think the other criminal didn’t also ask to be remembered when Jesus came into his Kingdom?
  2. Jesus’ exchange with the “good thief” gives me a profound sense of hope that the gift of eternal life will be offered to all who are open to that gift.    What do we need to do to be open to that gift?
  3. What does it mean to call Christ our King?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111719.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.   As we come close to the end of this liturgical year, which will end next weekend with the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, our Gospel reading focuses on the end times.    It begins with Jesus reminding people that: “All that you see here --- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”   

The people naturally ask:  “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”   In response to this question Jesus tells the people not to follow anyone who comes in his name saying:  “The time has come.”  He then describes catastrophes and calamities that will occur before the end times.   He ends, though, with a note of consolation:  “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”   Notice that Jesus doesn’t promise that his disciples won’t experience pain or difficulties.  He does promise, though, that ultimately God will triumph.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the prophet Malachi.   It shares the apocalyptic theme of the Gospel.   Like the Gospel, though, it also offers a promise of consolation and hope:   “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  

For our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.  In this reading, Paul reminds the Thessalonians (and us) that while we await the end times, we are not to grow slack or idle.  Rather, Paul is clear that we are to work diligently as we await the return of the Lord and “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. There seems to be a constant ebb and flow in regard to interest in the “end times”   Why do you think this is? 
  2. When have you felt God’s comforting grace in the face of difficulties or pain? 
  3. Has there been a time when you have grown slack or been idle in your faith?   What re-energized your faith?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111019.cfm  

In our Gospel this Sunday the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, posed a question to Jesus that presumed there would be a resurrection.   Not only was their question insincere, but also it was rather implausible.  As background to their question, though, it is important to remember that for many Jewish people there was/is no clear belief in an afterlife.   Rather, it was their belief that you lived on through your descendants.   Given this, having children was very important.   In fact, having children was so important that if a woman’s husband died without offspring, it was the responsibility of the next unattached male from the husband’s family to marry the widow and try to have children.  Knowing this, the Sadducees invented a story about a woman who married seven brothers, each of whom died without producing any children.   When the woman died, the Sadducees wanted to know “at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her.”   

Jesus’ response to this question was masterful.   He implied that the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant because: “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second Book of Maccabees.   This is the only time during our three year cycle of readings that we read from this book.   It tells the story of seven brothers who died rather than “eat pork in violation of God’s law.”   The reason they were willing to die was because of their belief in an afterlife:  “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.   In it Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to continue to live a life of faith.  “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What causes or helps you to believe in an afterlife? 
  2. How would you describe the resurrection to someone who didn’t believe in an afterlife? 
  3. What causes you to live a Christian life?  Is it hope of heaven or fear of hell?   
Archdiocese logo header

Archdiocesan Synod

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 website here.  You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead.  
 
Fr. John M. Bauer
Pastor
 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110319.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this Sunday we read the familiar story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, but more importantly the chief tax collector, and therefore a very wealthy man.   Since taxes were no more popular at the time of Jesus than they are today, Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, would have been held in low esteem, if not contempt, by the people of that time.  When it came to Jesus, though, Zacchaeus was not concerned about people’s opinion of him.   We are told that “he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus.”   

When Jesus came to the spot where Zacchaeus was, he said:  “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”   People began to grumble at this, but Zacchaeus “stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”    Clearly the encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Wisdom.   It shares the theme of the Gospel in that it reminds people that:  “you (Lord) have mercy on all, because you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent…………………Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord.”    The message of both the first reading and the Gospel is clear.  God wants the sinner to be saved and will give ample opportunity for people to turn away from their sins and back to God. 

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.    In the section we read today, Paul prays for the Thessalonians (and us) that “our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith…………”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Zacchaeus was unwilling to let his short stature keep him from Jesus.  What keeps you from Jesus?
  2. The encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life.  Where changes might you need to make in your life need for you to follow Jesus more closely?
  3. I love the image of God making us worthy of God’s calling, but how does God do this?    

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste in into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102719.cfm 

In our Gospel this weekend Jesus addressed a parable to "those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.”  The parable begins:  “two men who went up to the temple to pray:  one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.”  We are told that the Pharisee  “Spoke this prayer to himself.  ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity  --- greedy, dishonest,  adulterous --- or even like this tax collector.   I fast twice a week.  I pay tithes on my whole income.’”    The tax collector, though, “stood off at a  distance, and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”  

The difference between these two people in terms of their prayer is striking.   The Pharisee was not so much praying as he was giving a report on his “supposed” goodness.  The tax collector, though, had a clear since of his own sinfulness and his need for God’s mercy.   His prayer was honest and heartfelt.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.   It shares the theme of our Gospel in regard to prayer.   It is clear that “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds, it does not rest till it reaches its goal.”   

In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul writes very personally about feeling abandoned by those who whose support he had anticipated.   He also is clear, though, about his trust in God: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.  To him be glory forever and ever.  Amen.” 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. I don’t think many of us pray as the Pharisee did in our Gospel for this weekend.  (Few of us are that grandiose.)   I also don’t think that many of us pray as the tax collector did.  (Few of us are that honest.)   How do you approach God in prayer?
  2. How do you know when God has heard your prayer?
  3. Even though he felt abandoned, Paul was sure of God’s presence and grace.  Have you ever experienced God’s grace at a time when you have felt abandoned or betrayed.?    

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