Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into you browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/063019.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two sections.  In the first section we find an example of the hostility that existed between the Jews and Samaritans.   (While there is debate over the exact origins of the Samaritans, a common explanation suggests they were descendants of two of the tribes of Israel who were not deported from Israel during the Assyrian conquest of the kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE.)    Both the Samaritans and the Jews believed they represented the true “Israel,” and as a result there was great animosity between them.   As Jesus and his disciples were passing through Samaria they tried to stop at a Samaritan village, but they were not welcomed.  James and John suggested calling “down fire from heaven to consume them.”  but Jesus rebuked them for their suggestion. 

In the second half of this Sunday’s Gospel three potential followers approach Jesus.  Two of them place conditions on their discipleship.   Jesus’ response to them reminds us that we cannot place conditions on following him.  Our discipleship needs to be single-minded and whole hearted.  

Our first reading this Sunday shares the theme of the demands of discipleship.  It records the call of the Elisha to be a prophet.  When called, Elisha expressed the desire to “kiss my father and mother goodbye.”  After being told by Elijah to: “Go back!” Elisha realized his response needed to be unconditional.   And so as a sign of his unconditional commitment to his call, he slaughtered his yoke of oxen and “used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh and gave it to his people to eat.”   The destruction of plowing equipment and the oxen was a clear indication that he did not intend to return to his former way of life.  

We continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians for our second reading this Sunday.  In the section we read this weekend, Paul reminds us:  “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever felt a tension between the call to discipleship and doing something else? 
  2. Is there something you need to put aside in order to follow Christ better?
  3. What is one concrete way that you are called to express your love for your neighbor?  

For this Sunday's readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062319.cfm  


This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.   This feast celebrates our belief that in the Eucharist we celebrate and share in Jesus’ name and memory, Jesus Christ is really and truly present.   We offer no proof for this belief.   This is no logical or rational way to provide evidence for this belief.  For us, as Catholics, the Eucharist is a matter of faith.   And as we read in the beginning of chapter 11 in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.” 

Our Gospel for this Sunday is from the Gospel of Luke.   It is Luke’s version of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  Because of the abundance of nourishment provided for the hungry and expectant crowd, this miracle is seen by some as a prefiguring of the Eucharist.   While there is much to comment on in this Gospel, two points in particular stand out.  First, notice that Jesus started with what the disciples had --- “five loaves and two fish.”    Second, notice that he took the loaves and fishes, “said the blessing over them, broke them and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.”    I have a friend who likes to say: “See what happens when you pray before you eat.”    But I think a more important lesson is the way Jesus handled what could have been a difficult situation.  He started with what the disciples had, blessed it, but then gave it back to them to distribute.   I think this is a wonderful illustration of the way God works in our lives.   Often in our prayer we want God to do things for us.   However, in our prayer if we can offer to God what we have (minimal though it may seem), allow God to bless it, God will give it back to us ---------- and marvelous things can happen as a result.    

Our first reading this Sunday, from the Book of Genesis, tells the story of Melchizedek, the king of Salem.  He shared bread and wine with Abram (later Abraham) and together they gave thanks to God.   As with the loaves and fishes, we would see this as a prefiguring of the Eucharist. 

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.  It is Paul’s account of the institution of the Eucharist.   It ends with the words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. It is our belief that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist ----- not present merely symbolically, or spiritually, or in our memory ----- but really and truly present.  How would you explain this belief to someone?  
  2. Do you pray that God will do things for you, or do you pray that God will give you the grace, courage, insight, and strength to do things?   
  3. What is your favorite memory in regard to the Eucharist?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/061619.cfm 

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.   This Feast celebrates our belief that God has revealed God’s Self as loving Father, redeeming Son and sanctifying Spirit.  In the preface for this Feast we read:  “For what you have revealed to us of your glory we believe equally of your Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   How this can be we do not know.  That it can be we do believe.   

While our belief in a Triune God has been at the core of our faith since the beginnings of our Church, the dogmatic statements that articulate this belief are the result of later generations of believers.   

Our Gospel reading for this weekend is from the Gospel of John.   In it Jesus promised to send the Spirit to his disciples.   In making this promise, Jesus is clear that even though he will no longer physically be with them, the Spirit will empower and guide them.  “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Proverbs.  We don’t read from this book very often.  At least part of the reason for this is that it is poetic literature, and thus not always easily accessible.  In today’s reading “Wis​dom” is personified as being with God from the very beginning.  As Christians, we would see “Wisdom” as a prefiguring of both Christ and the Holy Spirit. 

Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   While it was probably chosen because it speaks of each member of the Trinity, I found the last few lines to be most poetic and compelling:   “………but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. We believe in one God, who has revealed God’s self as Father, Son and Spirit.  What explanation of the Trinity has been most helpful to you in understanding this belief?  
  2. How have you experienced the presence and/or action of the Father, Son and Spirit in your life?  
  3. What gives you hope in your life?   
Seeing All As God's Children webpage image

God's Big Picture

Many years ago while visiting my brother and sister-in-law, I spent some time playing with my niece and two nephews (all of whom are now adults). At one point during my visit my youngest nephew was attempting to color a picture. I say attempting because, while he was using a variety of different crayons to color the picture, his efforts at staying inside the lines were being met with only limited success. I commented on this and suggested that he try harder to say inside the lines. His response was a masterpiece of childhood simplicity. 

He looked at me and said: “That’s okay. I’m not sure what the picture’s gonna be yet.” Silly me, I thought the picture was determined by the pre-drawn lines. My nephew on the other hand had a slightly broader vision. For him the picture was whatever it turned out to be. He wasn’t limited by any preconceived ideas or pre-drawn lines. For him the end product was what really mattered. 

In the years since this experience happened, I have reflected on it often. You see, many times I have approached my life similar to the way I approach coloring. I think I see the whole picture, but in reality my perception is limited and I see only what I want to see. In my mind, the lines have already been drawn, and all that is left is for me to try to stay within them. I think I see the full and complete picture, only to discover later that there was more to be seen just outside my preconceived lines. In effect, I often missed the big picture and settled for a limited/reduced version. 

I think the above is particularly true in regard to my relationship with God. I have discovered that more often than not, God draws outside the lines in my life. God sees a bigger picture than I do, and I am surprised (and sometimes amazed) when I finally get enough perspective to see that bigger picture. There are times I have faced adversity or distress only to discover later that they were the source of great blessing or grace. On the other hand there have been times when something that initially appeared to be a blessing was in fact not the blessing I originally thought it was.

It is indeed fortunate for us that God is not limited by our preconceived ideas or the pre-drawn lines in our lives. God sees the bigger picture. And often times God draws outside the lines of our picture, to make a picture of God’s own design. In light of this, over the years my prayers have become less specific as to what I want and more open to what God wants for me. In this way I am hopeful that I might be more open to the picture of myself and my life that God has for me, and that I might work with God to make this picture a reality. 

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

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/060919-day.cfm   

 

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.   This Feast celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the Church.   Along with Christmas and Easter, Pentecost is really the third great Feast of our Church Year.   Unfortunately coming as it does at the beginning of summer, it doesn’t get the same attention as Christmas and Easter.   This is regrettable because it is our belief that the Spirit leads and guides our Church as well as each of us individually.  Moreover it is the gifts of the Spirit that enable and empower us to live as Christ has called us to live.  

 

There are different readings that can be used on Pentecost.   At the Basilica the second reading we will use 1Corinthians 12: 3b-7; 12-13.   The Gospel will be John 20: 19-23. 

 

Our Gospel reading this weekend is the story of an appearance of the resurrected Christ.   Jesus came to his disciples even though “the doors were locked.”  Twice he says to them: “Peace be with you.”   Then he goes on to say:  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.”    Jesus’ breathing on his disciples calls to mind God breathing the breath of life into Adam.  (Gn. 2.7).   It is spiritual life, though, that Jesus breathes into his disciples. 

 

Our first reading this weekend is from the Acts of the Apostles.   It recounts the first Pentecost when “tongues as of fire” came upon the disciples and they were all “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” 

 

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  It reminds us that “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit.”  

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Have you ever felt empowered by the Spirit to do something?

2.  Some gifts of the Spirit are very evident/dramatic; some are more subtle,  All are real, though, and all are necessary.  What gifts of the Spirit have been given to you?  

3.  Why do you think Jesus told his disciples twice:  “Peace be with you”?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/060219-ascension.cfm  

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord.   This Feast used to be celebrated on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  Several years ago, though, the Bishops of the United States moved the celebration of the Ascension to what would have been the Seventh Sunday of Easter. 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the last few verses of the Gospel of Luke.   In it we are told that Jesus led his disciples as far as Bethany and then told them he was “sending the promise of my Father upon you” Then,…………he raised his hands and blessed them.  As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.”    

The above scene is also recorded in our first reading this Sunday from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.  In this account Jesus promised that his disciples “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you………… When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”   

As I reflected on these readings, I remembered a wonderful homily preached by another priest at his mother’s funeral.  In his homily he noted that while his mother had died, she would continue to live on.  He then went on to name various people and situations where his mother’s presence would be known and felt.   His message was clear.  While physically gone,  his mother’s presence would continue to be experienced.   This is the same message of our Gospel and first reading.   While Jesus would no longer be with his disciples physically, he would continue to be with them.   We experience this abiding presence of Christ in many ways, but most evidently in the Eucharist, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the grace of God that is continually being offered to us.     

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.  In it Paul prays that the “eyes of your hearts be enlightened and that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call ………………..and what is the surpassing greatness of his power.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you felt someone’s presence even though they were not physically with you?   
  2. When have you felt God’s presence in your life?
  3. I loved Paul’s use of the phrase “eyes of your heart.”  When have you seen some one/thing through the eyes of the heart?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052619.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the Sixth Sunday of the season of Easter, and once again our Gospel is taken from the Gospel of John.   There are three distinct sections to this Gospel.  In the first section, Jesus reminds his disciples that:  “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our dwelling with them.”   In the second section, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, “the Advocate whom the Father will send in my name………”   In the third section, Jesus reminds his disciples that “Peace” is his farewell gift to them.  Therefore they are not to let their “hearts be troubled or afraid.”   

Each of these sections is rich in meaning.  In the first section, while the idea of God dwelling with his people would not have been new, the intimacy and immediacy of this indwelling would have been original.   In the second section Jesus introduces his disciples to the Holy Spirit.  Again, the people of this time would have a sense of God’s Spirit.  And yet, here and later in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the Spirit as one with, yet distinct from the Father.  Finally, in the third section Jesus talks about giving his disciples peace.  We often think of peace as the absence of strife or tension.  For the people of Jesus’ time, however, peace or shalom had a much deeper and richer meaning.  It was an abiding sense of God’s presence.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles.  It is the story of one of the first conflicts in the early church.  Specifically, it deals with the question of whether gentile converts to Christianity needed to be circumcised in order to be saved.  (Circumcision was a sign of the Jewish convent with God.)  This Sunday’s reading skips Paul and Barnabas’ trip to Jerusalem to speak to the “apostles and elders about this question” and jumps to the decision itself:  “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to animals, and from unlawful marriage.”     

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation continues John’s vision of the “holy city Jerusalem.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Have you ever experienced God dwelling with you?  
2.  On occasion I have felt the peace that Jesus spoke of in our Gospel today.   When you have experienced this peace in your life?  
3. In our first reading the apostles and elders were bold in their declaration that:  It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us………”    When have you felt the Spirit guiding you in your life? 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051919.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Easter.   Once again our Gospel for this weekend is taken from the Gospel of John.  It comes to us in two distinct sections.  

At first blush, the opening words of the first section of this Gospel are a bit puzzling:  “When Judas had left them, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.’”  The question naturally arises as to why are we reading about Judas during the Easter season?   The answer is that the setting of this Gospel is the last supper.  For John, Jesus’ glorification is rooted in and grows out of his suffering.  Judas’ departure set in motion the course of events that ultimately led to Jesus’ glorification.   And since Jesus’ resurrection is his glorification, there is a certain appropriateness to the mention of Judas on this Fifth Sunday of our Easter season.  

The second section of this Gospel begins:  “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.   I give you a new commandment:  love one another.”   Now while this is not a new commandment, what is new is the next sentence:   “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”   In these words Jesus really “raises the bar” in regard to what is expected of his disciples.   

Our first reading this Sunday is again taken from the Acts of the Apostles.   It tells of the missionary efforts of Paul and Barnabas to various cities.  The last sentence tells of their arrival at Antioch.   We are told:  “And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation.   It presents us with a “vision” of John of a “new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,”   with a loud voice saying: “Behold God’s dwelling is with the human race.   He will dwell with them and they will be his people……….”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:    

  1. The challenge for us to love one another as we have been loved by Jesus can be daunting.  When have you been successful at it?   When have you failed? 
  2. While most of us are not called to be missionaries in foreign countries, we are all called to share the message of Jesus Christ in our own ways.   Can you recall a time when you have given witness to Christ by what you have said or done?
  3. When have you been aware of God’s dwelling with you?
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051219.cfm    

In our three year cycle of readings on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we always read from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.  In this chapter Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd and his disciples as the sheep.   The section from chapter ten we read this Sunday is very brief.   It is only three verses:  “Jesus said: My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.   I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of my Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.” 

We should not presume that the brevity of this Gospel suggests it is unimportant. In fact quite the opposite is true.  This Gospel tells us three very important things.  1.  Jesus is continually calling us to follow him.  We need to listen, though, in order to hear that call.  2.  We cannot accidentally fall away from God or be snatched out of God’s hand.  Rather, we are meant for eternal life with God.  3.  Jesus is able to promise these things because he is one with the Father, not subordinate to the Father. 

In our first reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles.   In the section we read this weekend, Paul and Barnabas continue to preach about Jesus Christ.   However, since the Jews of that area had rejected their preaching, they preached instead to the Gentiles, telling the Jews: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”   When they continue to encounter resistance they “shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is once again taken from the book of Revelation.  It presents a “vision” that told of a future time when “They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1.  Jesus said that my sheep hear my voice.  How do you “listen” for the voice of Jesus?
  2. What helps you to listen for the voice of Jesus?   
  3.  We are reminded in our first reading that God intends salvation to be for all people.  Why do think some people want to restrict/limit the number who can be saved?  
     

God's Forgiveness

A few weeks ago in a conversation with a friend, I suddenly realized that without intending it, I had said something that bothered, and in fact, had hurt my friend. Now saying something hurtful certainly wasn’t my intention. In fact, quite the opposite, I was trying to be witty. Thus, when I realized that what I had said had been hurtful, I began to explain what I meant, and why I had said what I did. As the explanatory words tumbled out of my mouth, it dawned on me that I was doing the same thing that increasing numbers of people seem to be doing; I wasn’t apologizing, I was explaining. When I realized what I was doing, I immediately shifted gears and offered an apology for my intemperate words. I then asked my friend to “call me out” in the future, if and when, I explained rather than apologized. He promised he would, and we moved on to other things.

From my perspective, explaining why we said or did something, rather than apologizing for it seems to be a growing phenomenon. People will send snarky emails, say nasty things, or do things that are discourteous or just plain rude, and when they realize they acted intemperately, they will tell you why they said or did it, rather than apologizing for it The thing is, though, that while at times it can be helpful to know someone’s motivations and intentions for their words and actions, this doesn’t change the fact that someone may have been hurt by them. In these situations, an apology, not an explanation, is what is needed. And apologies start with the words: “I am sorry.” 

In regard to the above, however, we need to be brutally honest. In some cases, even the words: “I am sorry” are insufficient. These times occur when we have knowingly and intentionally hurt someone, or when we have become aware that the hurt caused by what we said or did ran deeper than we thought. At these times, a simple “I’m sorry” is not enough. We need to go to a deeper level. We need to ask the tough question. “Will you forgive me?” When we say “I’m sorry,” we are still in charge and in control. When we ask: “Will you forgive me?” We are ceding that control to another person, and asking them to give us what we cannot give ourselves: reconciliation and peace. 

The above is a good example of what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we come to God with our sins and failings, and tell God of our sorrow for the things we have done wrong. We also ask, though, for God’s forgiveness. In asking for this forgiveness, however, we need never fear that God’s forgiveness is in doubt. The forgiveness of our sins is offered to us freely, and generously, without limitations or end. God loves us. And because God loves us, God cannot not forgive our sins. 

When we ask for God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can trust and believe that because of God’s love and in God’s mercy, our sins—whatever they may be—are forgiven. And in asking for the forgiveness of our sins, we know and believe that we will receive in return what we cannot give ourselves: God’s pardon and peace.  

 

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