Fr. Bauer's Blog

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

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102019.cfm

 

This Sunday we celebrate the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this Sunday we read the parable of the unjust judge.  This parable is unique to Luke.   It is introduced with the words:  “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always.”   He then tells the story of a widow who continually comes to an unjust judge demanding her rights.    Eventually the judge said to himeself:  “While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.”   

 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus.   It tells the story of a battle between the forces of Amalek and those of Israel.   During the battle: “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.”   So “Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so this hands remained steady till sunset.” 

 

The Gospel and the first reading together remind us of two essential elements of prayer:  1. persistence; and 2. the support of others.   At times it is easy to become discouraged in prayer.   The support of others, though, can help us persevere in prayer. We persevere in prayer, though, not to change God’s mind, but to discern how God might be responding to our prayer. 

 

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul urges Timothy to “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”    

 

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

 

1.  Has there been a time when you have been discouraged in prayer?  What helped you to persist?

 

2.  When have others been helpful to you in your spiritual life?

 

3.  Are you persistent in prayer whether it is convenient or inconvenient?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101319.cfm  

The Gospel and our first reading this Sunday deal with the healing of lepers.   In the Gospel, ten lepers meet Jesus as he is entering a village.  “They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’”    Jesus told them “Go show yourselves to the priests.”    They set off “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.”    In response, Jesus wondered aloud where the other nine were.   Then he said to the one leper who returned, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”   

In the first reading Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, is cured of his leprosy.   He asked if he could give a gift to Elisha for his cure, but Elisha declined the offer.    In response Naaman said:  “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will not longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord.”   

The message of both these readings is clear.  When we realize that God has touched our lives, it should change us.   The challenge, of course, is to realize when God has touched our lives, and then to be open to God’s grace changing our lives.   

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.    Paul is suffering for the Gospel “even to the point of chains, like a criminal.”   But he reminds Timothy that “the word of God is not chained.”   And it is the word of God that brings us salvation in Christ Jesus.   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have there been times/moments when you have felt God touch your life?                       
  2. Why do you think only one leper came back to thank Jesus?
  3. Paul suffered because he preached the Gospel.  Have you ever suffered any repercussions because of your beliefs?

FROM THE PASTOR 

October/November 2019 Bulletin 

Once again I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish life. I have mentioned some of these items before, but I want to ensure everyone has heard of them. Also, I have included new information in regard to some of these items. 

1. 150th Anniversary of our Parish: As I write this column we are heading into the final events for the celebration of our parish’s Sesquicentennial. 150 years ago the Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Minneapolis. The first Mass was celebrated on October 4, 1868 in a shed church. A stone church followed and was dedicated in 1873. When the parish outgrew this building, seven lots were donated at 16th and Hennepin Ave in 1904. The cornerstone for what is now known as The Basilica of Saint Mary (The Basilica of Saint Mary was originally known as the pro-Cathedral) was laid in 1908, and the first Mass was celebrated in The Basilica on May 31, 1914. 

150 years is an impressive 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, but it has thrived during the past 150 years. As our parish moves into its next 150 years we are extremely blessed by our parish leadership and our staff who serve our parish so well. It is a 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 a place of welcome for all who come to our doors. I am excited by this challenge and very hopeful for our future.

2. Our Strategic Plan: Our Parish, Our Future: As we move into the next 150 years, we will be guided by our new strategic plan for our parish. (Our previous plan carried us through spring of 2018.) This plan will serve as a road map to guide and direct our efforts for the next three to five years. 

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. 

As I have mentioned previously, at the October 2018 meeting of our Parish Council our new Strategic Plan was approved. The new Strategic Plan retains our core Vision, Mission, and Values, and builds on—instead of replacing—the previous strategic plan. There are three new Strategic Areas of Focus in our Strategic 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

We continue to work with a team of volunteer leaders and The Basilica staff to assist in both executing the strategic plan and ensuring we develop the right metrics and governance to ensure the outcomes desired are achieved.

3. Our Parish Finances: This fall we once again will be encouraging people to support our parish through their financial stewardship. The good news in regard to our parish finances is that thanks to the generosity of our parishioners, we ended the fiscal year with a much less than anticipated deficit. (The deficit is covered by a portion of the rental income from our school building.) The bad news is that the income from our financial stewardship is not keeping pace with the increase in our expenses. While we are not at a critical juncture yet, we are at the point where if we don’t do something, the issue will only get worse. 

Given the above, and to support the implementation of our Strategic Plan, our Parish Council and Finance Committee approved funding to hire a Change Management Consultant to help us identify those ministries, programs, services, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community, and help us determine what services, ministries and programs will continue, change, or end. Our new Strategic Plan will provide the foundation to guide our decision making process and prioritization.

4. 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 let 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 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. I will share more information about the synod in the near future, as we continue to organize for our involvement and input. I mention it now, though, so that it will hopefully be in your minds, hearts and prayers. 

5. Parish Council Elections: I am pleased to inform you that in the recent elections for our Parish Council, Nadia Webber (representing Liturgy) and Donna Bonicatto (representing Learning) were elected to our Parish Pastoral Council. I am also pleased to report that Dr. Deirdre Palmer will service as the liaison to the Parish Council from The Basilica Landmark. And Katelin Richter Davis has accepted appointment as an at-large member of the Council. Finally, Trevor Adamek will serve as the Finance Committee Representative to the Parish Council. I am very grateful to each of these individuals for their willingness to serve on our Parish Council. The members of our Parish Council represent a cross section of our parish. 

The Parish Council meets monthly and works with me and our staff to determine the needs, aspirations, and direction of our parish. As such it plays a vital role in our parish community. I am enormously grateful to our Council members for sharing their insights and expertise as we work together to carry out the mission of our parish. 

6. 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 they 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. 

As a next step 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.

7. Feasibility Study: As I have 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 has 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.

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 May 4 and 5, $5,676 was contributed to The Basilica Landmark Annual Appeal.
On the weekend of June 15 and 16, $10,184 was contributed to the collection to cover the costs of air conditioning The Basilica.
On the weekend of July 27 and 28, $6,787 was contributed to our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry.

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

 

 

 

A few years ago some friends of mine moved their dining room table and chairs into their living room and their living room furniture into their dining room.  Putting the dining room table in the living room allowed them to accommodate a larger crowd for family dinners, especially when their children got married and started having children of their own. Since it has been this way for a few years, I suspect this is a long term arrangement. Now to be honest, this arrangement works quite well. They have a large family room off the kitchen, and with the former dining room being adjacent to the kitchen, people can easily talk and visit while a meal is being prepared, and then eat dinner without being crowded.

Now, I have to admit that at first I was a little tentative in regard to my friends’ shifting their dining room and living room. In the years since they did it, however, I have come to understand the wisdom of their thinking.  The meals I’ve shared at that table are always very enjoyable, with great humor, good food, good companionship, and lots of elbow room. And if we began to feel a little crowded at the table they could just put in another leaf, and there was always room for more. 

In reflecting on my friends’ decision to move their dining room table into the living room, it seems to me that it is a real metaphor for what church is all about: It reminds us that there is always room for more at the table of the Lord.  Church is (or should be) a place where all are welcome—no exceptions, no limitations, no exclusions.  The embrace of our Church can be no less than the embrace of our God’s love. 

Jesus was always very clear about the expanse of God’s love. We are told that he dined with sinners and tax collectors.  Moreover Jesus was even known to invite himself to someone’s house for dinner. And of course, there was also that occasion when a woman known to be a sinner, burst into the middle of dinner and washed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them when her hair. I believe that in sharing a meal with anyone and everyone Jesus was sending the clear message that God’s love is extended to everyone, and that there was always room for more at the table of the Lord.  

As someone who by necessity often eats alone, I really enjoy those occasions when I can share a meal with others. I especially appreciate when the table is filled, and the laughter and love flow freely. For me this is a wonderful image of the table of the Lord— where the table is large enough so that there is always room for more.  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100619.cfm 

The theme of faith runs through all three readings this weekend.   

The Gospel this weekend comes in two sections.   In the first section the disciples ask Jesus to “Increase our Faith.”  Jesus replied:  “If you have faith the size of a mustard see, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”   In the second section of the Gospel Jesus, used the imagery of a servant and master, to remind us that:  “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;  we have done what we were obligated to do.’”   Both of these sections deserve comment.   

For those who have never seen a mustard seed, it is indeed a very small seed.   Several years ago at another parish we gave out mustard seeds at the beginning of summer and invited parishioners to plant them and bring them back at the end of summer to see how big they had grown.   The seeds were so small that volunteers who taped them to 3 X 5 index cards complained that they nearly went blind doing so.   Yet, Jesus is clear that if we had faith the size of a small mustard seed, great things could happen.   

Jesus is also clear that God is not obligated to do things for us, or to give us heaven.  Out of love for us, God has established us in this world and given us charge over it.   Our task, our obligation is to respond in love to God and do what God has commanded.  If we do this, then God will respond to us in love, not out of obligation.   Being a faithful disciple does not obligate God to do things for us.   God does all that God does out of love for us.   

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Habakkuk.  In it the prophet laments God’s silence in the face of violence, ruin, misery, strife and discord.  God responded clearly and forthrightly.  “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint, if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”   This reminds us that God is working even when we are not aware of it.   We are called to wait patiently and in trust.  This is part of what faith is all about. 

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that we are called to persevere in faith in the face of adversity “with the strength that comes from God.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What does having faith mean to you?
  2. How do you persevere in faith in the face of adversity or hardship? 
  3. What would you say to someone who feels God is silent in the face of their prayer?      

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092919.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time.    Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar Story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man.    The rich man “dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.   And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”    Both Lazarus and the rich man died.   Lazarus found comfort in the “bosom of Abraham” while the rich man went to the “netherworld where he was in torment.”     The rich man appealed to Abraham to have pity on him:  “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.”   Abraham reminded the rich man that “a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.”   

There are two very important lessons in this Gospel.   1.  Notice that the rich man didn’t refuse to help Lazarus.  (They have no interaction with each other in this Gospel.)   It is simply that he didn’t notice Lazarus in need.    This reminds us that we are called to notice and respond to the needs of those around us.    2.  The Gospel makes clear that the choices we make here on earth have eternal consequences.  We don’t get a “do over” at the end of our life.   

The first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Amos.  It shares the theme of the Gospel.    It begins:  “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts:  Woe to the complacent in Zion.”    This reminds us that compliancy in the face of need is as bad as refusing to help.  

In our second this Sunday we continue to read from the first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul exhorts Timothy to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness.  Compete well for the faith.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  When have you have been complacent in the face of need?
2.  Has there been a time when you noticed a “need” that you initially missed.  How did you respond?
3.  I have never thought of being called to “compete well for the faith.”   Yet, I like that idea.  It reminds me that faith should not always be easy or without difficulty.   How are you called to “compete well for the faith?’’ 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092219.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this weekend Jesus tells the parable of the steward who was reported to his master “for squandering his property.”   The master’s decision to dismiss the steward for his mismanagement would not have been surprising to the original hearers of parable.  Being a steward was an important and prestigious position.  An individual who failed to properly discharge the duties of this position deserved to be fired.   The steward’s response to his impending termination was very interesting.   He knew he was in a tough position, so he “called in his master’s debtors one by one,” and reduced the amount they each owed his master."   The parable ends with the enigmatic statement:  “And the master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently.”    

What are we to make of this parable?   Was Jesus praising or endorsing the steward’s acts?  I don’t think so.  Rather, Jesus was commending the steward’s ingenuity, his resourcefulness in responding to a very difficult situation.   The steward acted decisively and cleverly to assure a future for himself.   The point of the parable, then, is that if the steward, who couldn’t have been all the smart to begin with (after all he squandered his master’s property) could act decisively and resolutely to ensure his earthly future, shouldn’t we as followers of Jesus act just as decisively and just as resolutely to ensure our eternal future.   

The first reading this Sunday  is from the Book of the Prophet Amos.    In this reading the Lord ominously promises never to forget those “who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” 


The second reading this Sunday is taken from the first Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In this reading Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that prayer is to be an integral part of our lives: “in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hand, without anger or argument.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. While I understand that the parable for this weekend is encouraging us to be decisive and resolute in ensuring our eternal future, I’m not sure how to do this on a day to day basis.   How do you see this played out in your life?  
  2. I am a bit unnerved at the message of the first reading that God will not forget those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.   This doesn’t seem to square with our belief that God is love.   How do you reconcile these two ideas? 
  3. Do you believe you have an obligation to pray for others --- even people you don’t know, or worse that you don’t like?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/091519.cfm  

This Sunday celebrate the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from the 15th chapter of Luke’s Gospel.   This chapter is often referred to as the “lost and found” chapter of Luke’s Gospel.   The reason is that it contains three familiar parables about things that are lost, but eventually found.   

It is important to remember that the key to understanding parables is to understand that they are not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, they were simple stories that Jesus used to tell us something about God or something about our relationship with God.  We use stories all the time to help us understand one another.   We say that someone has a heart of gold, or that they would give you the shirt off their back.   We don’t mean these things literally.  Instead they give us a sense of the kind of person someone is.   In a similar way Jesus used parables to help us understand God and/or our relationship with God.   

Our parables this Sunday tell us how much God loves us.   If we stray or get lost, God doesn’t wait for us to find our way back to God; rather God actively searches for us.   God seeks us until God finds us, and when God finds us God rejoices that we are once again reunited with God.  

Our first reading this Sunday shares the theme of the Gospel.  It is taken from a section of the Book of Exodus in which the people have turned away from God.   God tells Moses: “Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.”   Moses, though, reminded the Lord of all that the Lord had done for love of his people.   “Why, O lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand.”   And because of Moses’ words, God relented.    

Our second this Sunday shares the theme of the Gospel and first reading.  It is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul acknowledges his sinfulness but then proclaims:  “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  To better understand this weekend’s Gospel I’d suggest a simple exercise.   Remember a time when you were lost.  It could be as a child or an adolescent, or even as an adult.   Remember how you felt, and then read these parables from that perspective.   Did it make a difference in your understanding of these parables?   
2.  Have you ever found something that had been lost for a period of time?   How did you feel?
3.  Paul says:  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  Of these I am the foremost.”   This suggests to me that in order to be saved we need to acknowledge that we are sinners.    While it is easy for me to acknowledge that I have sinned, it is hard to think of myself as a sinner.  Is that true for you?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/090819.cfm    

This weekend we celebrate the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.    Our Gospel this weekend addresses the issue of the “cost of discipleship.”   At the beginning of this Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”    After telling two brief parables, the first about knowing the cost of building a tower before undertaking this endeavor, and the second about gauging the likelihood of victory before going into battle, Jesus concludes by saying:  “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciples.”   

What are we to make of these words of Jesus?   Clearly very few of us “hate” our friends and families and/or have renounced all our possessions, and yet we still identify ourselves as followers of Jesus.   Is this a case of selective hearing on our part?    Do we get to choose which words of Jesus to follow and which to ignore?   In response we need to understand that Jesus was speaking with hyperbole to make a point.   We can’t call ourselves his disciples and then live however we want.   Jesus wants us to commit ourselves completely to him.  Nothing is more important than our relationship with him.  We need to let go of anything and everything in our lives that diverts us from that commitment.   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Wisdom.   It reminds us that God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our comprehension.   “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”  

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon.  This is Paul’s shortest letter.  It was written to an individual, Philemon, who was a Christian, and whose slave, Onesimus, had run away.   Onesimus had been converted to Christianity by Paul, and now Paul was sending him back to Philemon with the plea.  “So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.”   This request placed Philemon in a difficult position.  If he didn’t punish Onesimus he could be regarded as “soft” by his peers and by his other slaves.  On the other hand, after Paul’s request, if he punished Onesimus, he could be regarded as not a true Christian.    This brief letter reminds us once again that there is a “cost” to discipleship.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Many people either ignore or dismiss the words of Jesus in our Gospel today.    Why is this? 
2.  What do you think Christ is asking you to give up to be his disciple? 
3.  Have you ever been in Philemon’s position, where you have had to make a public decision about how to live out your discipleship?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082519.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this Sunday Jesus is asked an important question:  “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  In one form or another, this question has been asked by people of every generation.   

Based on Revelations 7:1-8, those who take a fundamentalist/literalist approach to scriptures, argue that the number of those who will be saved is one hundred forty-four thousand.    It is interesting, though, that in our Gospel for this Sunday Jesus does not answer this question.   Instead Jesus told a parable about the people seeking admittance after the master of the house has locked the door.   They are told “I do not know where you are from.   Depart from me, all you evildoers.”   And at the end of the Gospel Jesus says:  “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.   For behold some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.”    

While on the surface Jesus words in our Gospel may seem confusing, I think they tell us three important things about salvation.   1.  They remind us that it is foolishness to try to determine or limit the number of people who will be saved.  2.  They tell us that salvation is not automatic, and not based simply on familiarity with Jesus.  3. They suggest that salvation is not something we achieve/merit, but rather it is God’s gift.    

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   The opening sentence is significant:  “Thus says the Lord:  I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.”    These words are clear that salvation is not limited to a chosen few.   God’s salvific will is universal. 

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter to the Hebrews.   In it the author admonishes:  “do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him.”  Apparently, some early Christians had begun to lose their enthusiasm for the faith and had grown lax.  This passage reminds them that:  “for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.”   

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. There seems to be an endless curiosity about the “number” of people who will be saved.   Why do you think this is?
  2. If salvation is God’s gift, what do we need to do to accept that gift?
  3. It is interesting that discipline and discipleship share the same root.   What kind of discipline is expected of disciples?   

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