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/032419-yearc.cfm 


This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of the season of Lent.   Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two seemingly unrelated sections.   In the first section (Lk. 13:1-5) Jesus rejects the Jewish belief that bad things happen to people because they have sinned.   He refers to two incidents in which people had either been killed or died in an accident.  He then states unequivocally that “By no means!” did they die because they were sinners.    

In the second section of this Gospel (Lk. 13: 6-9) Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree that had borne no fruit.   The owner of the vineyard wants to cut it down.  “Why should it exhaust the soil?” he asks."   The gardener responds by asking for one more year so that he can “cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.  If not you can cut it down.”   

The connecting point for these two sections is clear.  We may not experience judgment in this life for our sins, but judgment eventually will come.   God is incredibly patient, but ultimately there will come a time of judgment for all of us. 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus.  It contains the wonderful story of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush.   In this encounter Moses had this exchange with God:  “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?’  God replied, ‘I am who am.’”   This is an important and profound moment.  The fact that God would tell Moses’ God’s name is a sign of God’s covenant with God’s people and God’s abiding presence with them. 

Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In it Paul reminds us that the things that happened to the Israelites happened “as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things as they did.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When bad things happen to people, especially good people, if they aren’t a punishment from God, why do they happen? 
  2. If someone asked you by what name you call on God, how would you reply?
  3. God is incredibly patient with us, but ultimately there will be a time of judgment.  What’s your image of the final judgment?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031719.cfm  

Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent we read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Since this is year C in our three year cycle of readings, we read from the Gospel of Luke.   In Luke’s account, we are told that “Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.  While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.  And behold two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah…………………  As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master it is good that we are here;’ ……………… from a cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my chosen Son; listen to him”   

There are several elements that are common to all three accounts of the Transfiguration.  1.  It took place on a mountain, which in the Old Testament often was the place where God’s presence was made known; 2. Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white or white as light; 3. Moses and Elijah are identified as appearing with Christ; 4. Peter suggested that they stay; and 5. A voice came from a cloud identifying Jesus as God’s chosen/beloved son.    

The experience of the Transfiguration certainly must have been overwhelming and awe inspiring.  I would suggest, though, that we all have had similar experiences in our lives ----- perhaps not to the depth or degree of the Transfiguration -----  but we all have experiences of God’s presence and grace ----“transfiguring” experiences.  These experiences give us hope when we encounter difficult or uncertain times in our lives.   

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Genesis.  It is the story of God’s covenant with  Abram (later Abraham) that his descendants would be as numerous as the “stars in the sky” and that: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”  

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.  In it Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you had a “transfiguring” experience in your life?   
  2. What stands out in your memory about that experience?   
  3. Have you ever thought of yourself as a citizen of heaven?   
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031019.cfm  

This weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of the season of Lent; and every year on the First Sunday of Lent we read an account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert.   This year we read from the Gospel of Luke.   In Luke’s Gospel, the temptation occurs after the infancy narratives and just before the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.   The three temptations Jesus faces are the temptation to turn a stone into bread; the temptation to accept power and glory; and the temptation to test God.   

Luke’s account of the temptations varies in three subtle, but significant ways from the accounts of Matthew and Mark.   First, Mark’s account of the temptation merely notes that it occurred.  He does not include any details of the temptations.  Second, in both Matthew and Mark at the end of the temptations we are told that angels came and waited on Jesus.   These angels are not mentioned in Luke.   Third, it is only in Luke’s Gospel that at the end of the temptations, we are told that “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.”    This seems to indicate that Jesus --- like us --- would face other temptations in his life.  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.    The context is the Jewish harvest festival.   It recounts the “ritual” the Jewish people were to follow at harvest time to help them remember their salvation history.   This ritual --- like our ritual of the Eucharist --- made it clear that remembering God’s work and ways is vital to salvation.  

Our second reading today is taken from the Letter to the Romans.   It reminds us that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. While we are not likely to face temptations on the scale that Jesus did, we all face temptations in our lives.  What helps you resist temptation in you life? 
  2. As mentioned above, Luke ends his account of the temptation with the ominous statement:  “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.”    How do you deal with reoccurring temptations in your life?
  3. Have you ever made “distinctions” between Christians, or between Christians and other religions?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030319.cfm 


Parables were a favorite teaching device for Jesus.   In essence parables are simply short stories or sayings that are meant to convey a deeper meaning.   They try to tell us something about God, about our relationship with God, or about how we are to live.   In our Gospel this Sunday we find several brief parables:  “Can a blind person guide a blind person?   No disciple is superior to the teacher.  Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?  A good tree does not bear rotten fruit.  For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes.”   Taken together these parables/sayings remind us that those who seek to guide others, must take care that their own house is in order before they undertake the task of guiding someone else.   

Clearly the message of these parables/sayings is one that needs to be heard today --- perhaps most especially by those in leadership positions in our church.   In the recent history of our church we have seen many priests and bishops who sought to guide others, while not “practicing what they preached.”  Because of this we should not be surprised that people have left of Church.   For this we need to hold people accountable.   As a consequence of this those in leadership positions must re-learn that they need to preach first to themselves before they presume to preach to others.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.  We don’t often read from this book, but the section we read today shares the message of the Gospel.   “When a sieve is shaken the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks.   As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.”  

Our second reading today is taken from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In the section we read today Paul reminds us to be steadfast in faith, so our labor will not be in vain.  “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Can you remember an instance when your words/actions were not consistent with your faith?
  2. Has there been a time when your faith has been tested in regard tribulations you have had to face? 
  3. How does one devote themselves to the work of the Lord? 
     

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022419.cfm


“Now, listen because I’m only going to say this once.”  Growing up with four brothers and two sisters, these words were frequently on my mother’s lips.   I was reminded of them when I read the opening words of our Gospel today.  “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘To you who hear, I say,’”   

In our Gospel for this Sunday Jesus tells his disciples that they are to live and act in ways that set them apart from others.   Jesus tells his disciples: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you………. Give to everyone who asks of you…………Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful……….. Stop judging and you will not be judged……….. Give and gifts will be given to you.”    

Jesus’ words remind us clearly that for his followers God is the standard for our words and actions.  We are called to treat others as God has treated us, by loving and caring for them, being merciful and by not judging.   Certainly we don’t always do this.  Yet Jesus is clear.   As God has loved and cared for us, and shown us God’s mercy in so many ways, so we are called to do this for one another.  This is not just a suggestion or a recommendation.  It is a command given to all those who seek to follow Jesus Christ. 

Our first reading this Sunday is from the first Book of Samuel.    In the section we read today we heard, that King Saul, consumed by jealousy of David, was seeking to kill him. In a reversal, though, David  has a chance to kill Saul.  He refused to do it, though, thus demonstrating God’s mercy and compassion.  

In our second reading this Sunday from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, (Adam) we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.”  (Jesus)   


Questions for reflection/discussion:

  1. Jesus told us to “love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.”  Why do we find this so difficult? 
  2. Jesus also said:  “Give and gifts will be given to you.”  When have you experienced this in your life?
  3. Where have you seen others bearing the “image” of the heavenly one?  (Jesus Christ)
My youngest brother has a mean streak. He also can be incredibly kind and generous. He has helped me with my estate planning and in fact is the executor of my estate when I die. He and his wife and children also helped me move several months ago. They did a great job cleaning and packing. It was in the packing, though, that I noticed his mean streak. He kept asking me when the last time I had used something was. Then throughout the cleaning and packing process he would make periodic trips to the dumpster with trash bags that I didn’t remember filling. Much to my chagrin, however, I can’t say that I’ve missed anything. 
 
My brother also had my name for Christmas this year and one of the things on my list was a couple of new cookie sheets. As I was putting them away he demanded that I produce my old cookie sheet, which to be honest definitely had seen better days. He promptly took it and deposited it in the garbage. Now I can’t prove it, but I’m almost positive he threw out several other items while I wasn’t looking. 
 
Now, I know my brother isn’t really being mean, and he knows that while I am not a hoarder, I do have trouble letting go of things. I like to think I’m sentimental, but my brother is the youngest in our family, and for the first several years of his life everything he had was a “hand me down.” From this perspective, I suspect things lose their sentimentality after you’re the fourth or fifth person to possess or use them. Given this, my brother doesn’t have a problem purging things that aren’t being used or that have survived their usefulness. And while I did do some purging in my recent move, I know that there is a lot more purging that I need to do.
 
Not only do I need to do some purging of physical “stuff,” though, but I think there is also some emotional “stuff” that I could easily purge and do without. I suspect this is true for all of us. In my experience, most if not all of us hold on to some anger, resentment, and old wounds. We also carry around bad memories, hurt feelings and painful experiences we aren’t able to forgive. In most cases it’s not that we deliberately intend to hold on to these things, it’s just that we don’t know how, or simply aren’t able to purge them.
 
In the above situations it would be great if someone could just rummage through our past bad experiences and resentments and simply put them in an emotional dumpster. Unfortunately, this is a task we have to do ourselves. And yet, we really aren’t alone in it. If we invite God into our lives, if we let God’s grace find a home in our lives and hearts, God’s grace can help us to let go of—to purge—those negative things that in many cases hold us hostage and keep us from moving forward spiritually and emotionally.
 
Letting go of things, either physical things or emotional baggage, is not easy. Fortunately there are people who can help us purge some of our physical items. (I suspect my youngest brother might be available.) And God is there to help us let go of the emotional baggage we carry. The key in both cases is to invite them in and let them do what they are good at. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/021719.cfm 

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes.   The more familiar version of the Beatitudes is found in Matthew’s Gospel. (Mt. 5:1-12a)   Luke’s version of the Beatitudes differs from Matthew’s in three distinct ways.   1. Luke’s account takes place on a “stretch of level ground,” not on a mountain.  2.  Luke’s Beatitudes are not spiritualized as are Matthew’s, e.g. in Luke the “poor” and “hungry” are blessed, not the “poor in spirit” and those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”   3. Finally, Luke’s version contains four “blessings,” but also four “woes.”  

Luke’s Beatitudes remind us that true blessings come to those who know their need for God and rely on God rather than themselves.   They also suggest that when we seek to be fulfilled by earthly things, and place our confidence and hope in these things, we can anticipate “woe” for ultimately these things cannot satisfy us and cannot offer us eternal salvation. 

Our first reading for this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah.   It shares both the theme and structure of the Gospel.  It reminds us that “cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,” and “blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” 

In our second reading for this Sunday we continue to read from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.   The section we read today, is a simple, yet eloquent statement by Paul about our belief in eternal life.   Paul says clearly:  “If Christ is preached as raised form the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” ……………….. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.”   
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you experienced God’s blessings in your life?
  2. When have you relied on yourself and not placed your trust in God?
  3. What does the promise of eternal life 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/021019.cfm    

 

There are two scenes in this weekend’s Gospel. In the first scene, we are told that the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and so he got into Simon’s boat and they put out a short distance so that he could continue to teach the crowds.  After he had finished speaking, he told Simon “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”   While Simon initially objected, he did as Jesus suggested and ‘they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.”   Such must have been the power of Jesus’ words that experienced fishermen took fishing advice from the son of a carpenter.  

 

The second scene in this weekend’s Gospel occurs immediately after the miraculous catch of fish.   We are told that Simon Peter “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’”  In response “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men.’”   At this point we are told “they left everything and followed him.”  Peter is like many of us.  We often focus on our sinfulness, and fail to realize that God calls us as we are, where we are.  And the God, who calls us, also gives us the grace to respond to that call.

 

The theme of the Gospel is echoed in our first reading this weekend from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  God calls Isaiah, but Isaiah is reluctant:  For I am a man of unclean lips………”     God, however, sent a Seraphim, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  He touched Isaiah’s lips with the ember and said: “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”   As in today’s Gospel, the message is clear: God doesn’t send the qualified; rather God qualifies those whom God sends. 

 

In our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In the section we read this weekend, Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) of the Gospel he preached:  “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.” 

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1.  When have you been invited to trust in God? 

2.  Have you ever felt God calling you to do something for which you did not feel qualified?

3.  Have you ever allowed your sense of sinfulness to keep you at a distance from God?   

From the Pastor 

With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.

1. Christmas at The Basilica: Before Christmas becomes a distant memory, I want to express my gratitude to all those who made this year’s celebration of Christmas such a wonderful experience. Our attendance was great and I received numerous compliments about the quality of the liturgies and music. I was also very impressed with the prayerful spirit that permeated all of our liturgies. As your pastor, I have much to be proud of and even more to be grateful for this year. 

I also want to thank all those who contributed financially to The Basilica this past year and particularly at Christmas. Your financial support makes it possible for us to continue to offer the programs, ministries, and services that are the hallmark of our parish. 

2. Lent: While it may be hard to believe, this year Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is March 6. As a child I never really appreciated Lent. As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve come to realize how important and how good the season of Lent is for me, and for all of us. As in the past, we have scheduled a variety of different speakers, activities, and services at The Basilica during this special season. I invite and encourage you to take a look at your calendar and to plan on participating as part of your Lenten discipline. Visit mary.org for a list of our Lenten activities and services.

3. Our Parish Finances: First and foremost, I want to thank to all those who have made a commitment of financial support to our parish community during our financial stewardship campaign last 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. The really good news this year is that over 200 new parishioners chose to make a pledge of financial support for our community.

In regard to our parish finances, as I write this column, we are slightly behind in regard to our anticipated income at this point in our fiscal year. Thank you to all of those who support our Basilica community financially. Please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support. 

4. Catholic Services Appeal: The 2019 Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) will begin the weekend of February 2 and 3. This yearly appeal helps support the many ministries, services, and programs within our Archdiocese. Now, I realize many people are concerned that contributions to the Catholic Services Appeal will be used for purposes they didn’t intend. In this regard, it is important to note that The Catholic Services Appeal is an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. This was done to insure that all the money that is collected through the Appeal would go directly and solely to the ministries, services, and programs supported by the CSA. No CSA funds go to the Archdiocese.

By pooling the financial resources from generous donors throughout our diocese, much important and necessary work is funded by the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA). As your pastor, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of the Appeal. I encourage you to make a gift to support these important ministries, services, and programs. Please look for the Catholic Services Appeal information in pews, or learn more at csafspm.org.

5. Strategic Planning: Our Parish, Our Future: As I have mentioned previously, several months ago we began the process of developing a new strategic plan for our parish. (Our previous plan carried us through spring of 2018.) The reason we engage in strategic planning is simple. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29.18). If we don’t consciously and prayerfully plan for our future, we are at risk of drifting into a future not of our choosing and certainly not of our making.

I am pleased to report that at the October meeting of our Parish Council our new Strategic Plan was approved. Our new Strategic Plan retains our core Vision, Mission, and Values, and builds on instead of replacing, the previous strategic plan. There are three Strategic Areas of Focus in our new Plan:

  • The Arts: to move, inspire, and transform individuals and communities through excellence in the arts and creative practices.
  • Inclusivity: to build a culture where people feel valued, welcome, integrated, and included.
  • Homelessness: to respond to the needs of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

This plan will serve as a road map to guide and direct our efforts for the next three to five years. Our efforts will help us identify those ministries, programs, services, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community. The insert in this bulletin includes a brief description of our new Strategic Plan. For more information, visit mary.org/ourfuture.


6. Campus Space Planning: As I have mentioned previously, last fall The Basilica Landmark has approved funding for the hiring of a liturgical consultant to help us look at our entire campus, and plan for its future. This fall Fr. Gil Sunghera S.J. was hired to help us build a vision for our campus spaces that helps us welcome the community and our guests. Fr. Gil is from the University of Detroit Mercy and works with their School of Architecture.

Some of the important issues/concerns that will need to be considered are the renovation and updating of the interior of The Basilica. We will also need to consider how to make The Basilica and its campus more welcoming. Accessibility issues will also need to be looked at.

This process of developing a master plan for The Basilica and its campus will take several months and will need input from our parishioners. It will also occur concurrently with the implementation of our new strategic plan. We will share more information about this important work as we move forward.

7. 150th Anniversary of our Parish: This year our parish celebrates its Sesquicentennial. 150 years ago the Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Minneapolis. The first Mass was celebrated on October 4, 1868. (When the parish outgrew its original site, seven lots were donated at 16th and Hennepin Avenue in 1904. The cornerstone of The Basilica, which was initially known as the Pro Cathedral, was laid in 1908, and the first Mass was celebrated in The Basilica on May 31, 1914.)

We kicked-off our year long celebration of our 150th anniversary on Sunday, September 30. Archbishop Hebda presided at the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses that day.

Throughout the coming year there will be a variety of events, activities, and exhibits to celebrate our Sesquicentennial as a parish. I invite you to attend as many of these as you are able as we celebrate 150 years of faith. 

Two events in particular I would like to note include a reunion for all couples who were married at The Basilica. The Wedding Reunion will take place on Saturday, February 23 with a blessing at the 5:00pm Mass followed by a reception. More information can be found at mary.org/weddingreunion. There will also be a School Reunion for former students of The Basilica School. This reunion will take place September 7. More information can be found at mary.org/weddingreunion.

8. Second Collections: While no one likes special collections, it is heartening to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last special collections here:

On the weekend of December 1 and 2, $11,621.95 was contributed to the second collection to help support our sponsorship of refugee families through Lutheran Social Services. 

The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude and prayer for your generous and caring response. 

 

Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary

 

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For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012019.cfm 

This Sunday and for the following three Sundays we return to what is known as Ordinary Time in our Church Year.  Ordinary Time is that time between the seasons of Christmas and Lent, and between Easter and Advent.   

Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of the wedding at Cana.   There are two specific things in this Gospel which deserve comment. First, notice that when the wine ran out, Mary did not tell Jesus what he should do.   She merely brought the matter to his attention:  “They have no more wine.”   She left it up to Jesus as to how to respond to this situation.    If you are like me, this is not how I usually bring a problem to God.    Too often when I bring things to God in prayer, I have a desired outcome in mind.   Mary, though, just presented her concern to Jesus and left it in his hands.  I think this is a good model for our prayer.  The second thing I would note is the abundance of water turned into wine: “six stone water jars………………each holding twenty to thirty gallons.”   This reminds us that where God is involved there is always an abundance.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   The people of Israel have returned from Exile, and the prophet Isaiah reminded them that they still have found favor with God:  “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you, and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”   It is the marriage imagery that ties this reading to this Sunday’s Gospel.   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In it Paul reminds us that “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there re different workings,  but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In your prayer have you ever followed Mary’s example and simple brought something to God without having a hoped for outcome in your mind? 
  2. Where have you experienced God’s abundance in your life? 
  3.  What gifts have you been given?   

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