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/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?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and past it into your browser: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011319.cfm 

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.   Now, to some it might seem strange that we celebrate this Feast so soon after we have celebrated Christ’s birth, especially since the scriptures tell us that Christ was baptized as an adult at the beginning of his public ministry.   The reality is, though, that other than the infancy narratives and the story of the finding of Jesus in the Temple, we really have no information about Christ’s early life.   When you stop and think about it, this is as it should be.  What is important about Christ is not any stories about his early life, but rather the stories about his preaching, teaching, miracles and ministry.  

This weekend we read the story of Jesus’ baptism from the Gospel of Luke.  The first section of this Gospel is a summary of the mission of John the Baptist:  “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”   The second section of this Gospel records Jesus’ baptism.  We are told simply that after he had been baptized, “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’”   Interestingly, in Mark and Luke the voice from heaven is addressed to Jesus personally, whereas in Matthew the voice is addressed to the surrounding crowds.   (John records Jesus baptism indirectly, though the words of John the Baptist.)

There are two choices for our first reading this weekend.  At the Basilica we will be using Isaiah 42: 1-4; 6-7.   The section we read this Sunday is part of what is know as the Songs of the Suffering Servant.   It is God’s promise to send a “servant” who will be filled with God’s Spirit.   We would see this as prefiguring Christ.   

We also have a choice for our second reading today.   At the Basilica we will read from the Acts of the Apostles.  In this reading Peter boldly proclaims:  “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

  1. Have you attended a baptism recently?   What do you remember about it? 
  2. How would you explain baptism to a non-Christian? 
  3. If God, shows “no partiality” why is baptism important?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010619.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord.   Epiphany comes from the Greek word “epiphaneia” meaning manifestation.   In the Western Rite Catholic Churches this Feast is celebrated as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi from the East.  

On this feast we always read the Gospel story of the visit to the new born Christ child by astrologers or magi from the East.  If you read the Gospel text carefully, however, you will notice that the magi are never identified as “kings” and their number is never specified.   (We presume there were three, because there were three gifts.)  The three “kings” we sing of comes to us from our verbal tradition and not from the scriptures.  

The message of this feast is important and it is stated well by St. Paul in our second reading today.  “………... the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise of Jesus Christ through the Gospel.”   In essence Paul is saying that Jesus came to save all people for all time.  His manifestation to the magi (being Gentiles, not Jews) reminds us of this most basic fact.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah.  It speaks of the restoration of Jerusalem, when the Israelites will return from their exile.   The new Jerusalem will be a light to the nations for the Lord will shine upon it.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. While there have been and will continue to be dramatic and powerful epiphanies of our God, I also believe that subtler epiphanies take place all the time.  Can you remember a time when you experienced an epiphany of God’s presence and grace?
  2. If Jesus Christ came to save all people for all time, why do you suppose some people want to put limits on God’s salvific will?   
  3. Can you find the Epiphany stained glass window in the Basilica?    
     

A few weeks ago, after the meeting of U.S. Bishop’s in Baltimore, I received an email from a friend. He was distressed and angry that the Vatican had intervened and asked the U.S. Bishops not to develop specific recommendations for how to handle malfeasance among their ranks. The Vatican asked them to wait until a meeting of the heads of the various bishop’s conferences from across the world that will take place in Rome this coming February. While my friend understood that it was perhaps better to deal with the issue of malfeasance on the part of bishops on a worldwide basis, he didn’t understand why the U.S. Bishops didn’t at least discuss the issue, without coming up with specific recommendations. Frankly, I think my friend has a right to be angry. At a minimum our bishops should have discussed this issue in a public forum. Once again, our bishops have failed to provide leadership at a critical time in our church—most specifically the church in the United States. And as a result more people are heading to the door on their way out of the church.

While I understand and respect people’s decision to leave—or at least take a break from our church—I would like to suggest that, from my perspective, they are leaving the church for the wrong reasons. Certainly our bishops have been a disappointment, but they are only a small part of our church. More important for us as Catholics is that we know and believe in Jesus Christ and his message of love, peace, care, and compassion. More important are the sacraments and especially the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. More important is our belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God that speaks to our lives today. And more important is our belief that whatsoever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters we do to Christ. These are the things that define and maintain our church. 

Our church is much bigger and much better than the members of the hierarchy who have ill-served it. Yes, these men have had a very big and a very bad impact on our church. BUT, they are just a small part of our church. While their actions and their inaction have been and are very public and very problematic, they are just a small part of the church. From this perspective, I would like to suggest that it is the organization of our church, most specifically the hierarchy, and not our church, that people should be upset about. Catholics went through one crisis of faith when they discovered they couldn’t necessarily trust priests who ministered to them. We are now going through another as it becomes clear that many bishops have not fulfilled their duty to hold abusers and their enablers accountable. People have a right to be angry, disappointed, and upset about this. 

The words transparency, openness, and honesty are much in vogue lately. Their high fashion status, though, doesn’t diminish their importance or necessity. 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, repent, and establish clear standards of accountability. And they need to work with others, most especially the laity, to do this, and thus to provide the leadership we deserve. If they can’t do this, or are unwilling to do this, then they shouldn’t be surprised if people simply stop paying attention to them. 

This year, as we celebrate the great Feast of Christmas, I extend a welcome to all those who, despite their discouragement, disappointment, and anger, will join us for worship at The Basilica as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The many and diverse people who fill our church are a visible reminder that we have a big God, and so we need a big church. A church that is much bigger and much better than our bishops. This Christmas especially, this is something for which I am particularly grateful.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/123018.cfm  

This Sunday we observe the Feast of the Holy Family.  This Feast celebrates Jesus’ birth into our world as a member of the human family of Mary and Joseph.   It also reminds us that the Holy Family is a model for our own families.   

When I was growing up it used to be very easy to say what a family was.   It was a mom and dad and any number of kids.   Through the years, however, I have had to continually expand my understanding of family.  I say this because I have come to realize that families come in all shapes and sizes   What is most important in regard to families (of whatever configuration) is that they are characterized by loving relationships.  At their best they are marked by lives lived out in care and service of one another and the broader community.   Clearly this was the case with the Holy Family.   

Our Gospel this Sunday is the story of the finding of Jesus in the Temple.   This story illustrates well the relationship of love that existed in the Holy Family.  Note that there is no display of anger, no recriminations, and no resentment.  Rather there is mutual respect, an effort at understanding, and above all love.  Would that all families manifested these qualities.   

There are two options for our first reading this Sunday.  The one we will use at the Basilica is from the book of Sirach.   This book is part of the Wisdom literature included in our Catholic Bible.  If it is included in Protestant Bibles it is usually under the heading of “apocrypha books”.  Following the theme of the Gospel, the section we read today reminds us of the ideals of family life:  honoring and reverencing parents, caring for them, and exhibiting love and kindness toward them.  

We also have two options for our second reading this weekend.  The one we will use at the Basilica is from the First Letter of St. John.  In this reading we are reminded that “We are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:  

  1. I once heard a speaker say that families should be defined by bonds of love versus bonds of relationship.    Do you agree or disagree? 
  2. How would you define a family?
  3. Have you ever thought of yourself as a child of God?  

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