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/070118.cfm 

This weekend we continue reading from the Gospel of Mark.   Our Gospel contains two stories, The first is the story of the resuscitation of a little girl, the daughter of a synagogue official.  The second is the story of the cure of a woman with hemorrhages.  The focus, though, is really on the first story.  Now in looking at this story, it is important to make a distinction between resuscitation, which is a return to this life, and Resurrection, which is a birth to a new and eternal life with God.   In this Gospel, Jairus, a synagogue official, approached Jesus, fell at his feet and pleaded with him saying: “My daughter is at the point of death.  Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”    Now, as background, it is important to note that it would have been unseemly, at best, for an official of the synagogue to approach Jesus and ask him for a favor.  Most of the religious leaders of that time vigorously opposed to Jesus.   And yet, out of love and concern for his daughter, the official did the unthinkable and came to Jesus pleading for his assistance.  

Jesus went with the official but before they could get to the official’s house, people arrived and said: “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”   Jesus, however, ignored them and proceeded to the house.  Upon his arrival he was ridiculed when he told the people that “the child is not dead, but asleep.”  Disregarding these people, he entered the room where the little girl was and commanded her to arise.   The girl arose, and walked about, prompting astonishment from those who were present.   The message of this Gospel is clear:  Jesus is Lord of both life and death. 

Our first reading for this weekend, from the book of Wisdom, shares the theme of the Gospel.   We see this in the opening sentence:  “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.”   Later in the reading we find these words:  “For God formed man to be imperishable, the image of his own nature he made him.”    These words remind us that we are made for life ----- life with our God forever.   

In our second reading this weekend, from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about “this gracious act”  that the Corinthians are about to engage in.    What is this gracious act?   They are going to take up a collection to help the struggling church in Jerusalem.    In encouraging their generosity, Paul reminded them and us that “your abundance at the present time should supply their needs.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Like Jairus, there are times when I approach God because I have no where else.   I suspect it is my pride and independent nature that keeps me from going to God sooner.   What keeps you from approaching God?    
  2. Why are so many people afraid of death?
  3. What “gracious act” are you called to do this week?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062418-day-mass.cfm     

Names are very interesting.  Sometimes they can signal continuity. (Many names have been in a family for generations.)  At other times they can express uniqueness.  (I do a lot of Baptisms, and I’m continually surprised at some of the new names that crop up.)   Names can also have a religious connotation, (think of Faith, Hope and Charity).  They can also be an expression of a popular trend. (I’m always intrigued each year by the list of the most common baby names.)    

In our Gospel this weekend for the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, we encounter Elizabeth and Zechariah who have to choose a name for their new born son.   We are told that “When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, ‘No.  He will be called John.’   But they answered her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who has this name.’  So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  He asked for a tablet and wrote, ‘John is his name,’ and all were amazed.”    The child was named John because the angel Gabriel had told Zechariah this was to be his name.   In Hebrew “John” means “God is gracious.”  In this case God was indeed gracious because Elizabeth, who was thought to be barren, conceived a son in her old age.   The name is also appropriate because John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ, thus his name is a sign of God’s gracious favor toward all of us.   

Our first reading for this Feast is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In this reading, Isaiah rejoices that he was called by God to be a prophet.  “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name…………………You are my servant, he said to me, Israel through whom I show my glory.”    

In our second reading for this Feast, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul reminds us that “John heralded his (Christ’s) coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. What is special/unique about your name (first, middle, last, or a nickname or Confirmation name)? 
2. Isaiah saw himself as being called by God to be a prophet.  Have you ever felt God “calling” you to do something?
3. How or when have you experienced God’s gracious activity 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/061718.cfm  

Several years ago, at another parish, we gave out mustard seeds on the weekend on which today’s Gospel was read.   Our target audience was children.  We thought it would be a great way to give them a “hand’s on” experience of how tiny a mustard seed was, and how big a plant these small seeds could produce.   Now, not only did kids get involved in this endeavor, but so did the adults.   The winner was a woman who had planted the mustard seeds in a pot she hung outside on the one of the poles for her clothes line.   With very little care on her part, the mustard seed had grown into a plant that was a good three feet in diameter.  I don’t know what she did with the mustard plant, but its growth was a great illustration of today’s Gospel parable comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed:  “It is like a mustard see that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants………….”   

Parables were a favorite teaching device that Jesus used to tell people something about God or about our relationship with God.  The parable in today’s Gospel reminds us that the bringing about of the kingdom of God is God’s work, not ours.   It will occur in God’s time, not ours.  And its advent and growth will occur whether or not we are aware of it.    

Our first reading this weekend, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, reminds us that God is in charge and God’s work will occur with or without or understanding or participation.  “And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.” 

St. Paul, in our second reading today, reminds us that: “we walk by faith, not by sight.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever discovered “after the fact” that God had been at work in a situation or a particular circumstance?
  2. Can you think of an occasion when God’s time was different from your time? 
  3. What does it mean for you to walk by faith, not be sight?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/061018.cfm 

This Sunday we return to what is known as “Ordinary Time” in our Church’s calendar.   It is called Ordinary Time, to distinguish it from the seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent Easter.  At the beginning of our Gospel this Sunday we are told that when the crowds gathered around Jesus his relatives “set out to seize him for they said: ‘He is out of his mind’.”   In the verses that follow, Jesus responded to the people who questioned whether he was using demonic power to case out demons by telling them:  “How can Satan drive out Satan?”   He then told them:  “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.  For they had said: “He has an unclean spirit.”   The Gospel closes with Jesus’ family finally arriving.   When told his family had arrived, Jesus responded by saying: “Here are my mother and my brothers.   For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”      

While our Gospel today is a bit of a hodgepodge in regard to its meaning. It does tell us, though, that  people were suspicious and even hostile toward Jesus because he did not conform to their expectations. Their resistance to Jesus was fueled by the suggestion from the religious leaders that he was out of his mind and/or possessed by Satan.     More importantly, though, this Gospel also reminds us that those who believe in and seek to follow Jesus are in a new relationship with Jesus and with each other.   We are brother and sister, mother and father to one another.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Genesis.  It records the aftermath of the sin of Adam and Eve.   The point of the story is that when sin entered the world our relationship with God changed.  The mutuality and the close and open relationship with God that humans once enjoyed was forever changed because of sin. 

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.   In it St. Paul reminded the early Christians (and us) that when we encounter pain and difficulties --- even the pain associated with death that we are not to be discouraged.  “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comprehension, as we look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen; for we know that what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Why is it easy to think of some people as our brothers and sisters, and not so easy for us to think of others as brothers and sisters? 
  2. How do you imagine our relationship with God was before sin entered the world?
  3. Our second reading today is often used at funerals.   What do you find most consoling about it?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052718.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.   This celebration reminds us that the God we worship has revealed God’s Self as Creating Father, Redeeming Son and Sanctifying Spirit ---- three persons, yet one God, undivided and of one essence.   The preface for this Feast states:  “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God.  For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit you are one God, one Lord; not in the unity of a single person, but in a Trinity of one substance.”   While we may not be able to explain how this can be --- that it can be has been our faith since the beginnings of the Church.  

Our Gospel for this Sunday is the last four verses of Matthew’s Gospel.   In it Jesus commands his disciples:  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  

In our first reading this Sunday, from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people of all that God has done for them.  He then says:  “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  It reminds us that we have received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘"Abba, Father.’”  This reminds us that God is not removed from our world and our lives.  Rather, because of Jesus Christ, we are able to call on God with the intimate term of “Father.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In the seminary, we had to take a class on the Trinity.   Despite this, (or maybe because of it) at times I still struggle for words to explain/describe the Trinity.   What words would you use to explain/describe the Trinity?  
  2. In the first reading this weekend, Moses reminded the people of all God had done for them.  What has God done for you?
  3. When does it mean for you to call on God as “Father?”  

     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052018-mass-during-day.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  At the time of Jesus, the feast of Pentecost was a Jewish harvest festival.   From our Christian perspective, however, this Feast celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.   Our first reading this weekend from the Acts of the Apostles describes this scene in dramatic language.  “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in the one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” 

The scene described above is very dramatic.  And certainly the gift of the Spirit can be manifested in this kind of dramatic way.  I would suggest, though, that more often the gift of the Spirit is seen in less dramatic ways.   This was certainly the case in our Gospel this weekend where we read of an appearance by the resurrected Jesus.  We are told that Jesus appeared to his disciples and said: “‘Peace be with you.  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.’”   The subtlety and intimacy of Jesus “breathing” the Spirit on his disciples reminds us that the gift of the Spirit sometimes comes in a quiet and calming manner. 

Regardless of whether the gift of the Spirit is dramatic or subtle and peaceful, it is not given for our own use.  Rather as St. Paul says in our second reading:  “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How have you seen the gift of the Spirit manifested?
  2. What gift(s) of the Spirit have you been given?
  3. How would you explain the Holy Spirit to someone who comes from a non-Christian background?   
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051318-ascension.cfm     

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.   This Feast used to be celebrated as a holy day of obligation on the Thursday after the sixth Sunday of Easter.  Several years ago, however, most dioceses in the United States moved this celebration to the Sunday immediately following what would have been Ascension Thursday.    

Our first reading this weekend, from the Acts of the Apostles, contains the account of the Ascension.  “When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said:  “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way you have seen him going into heaven.”  

The Gospel reading for this weekend is taken from the Gospel of Mark.  It too contains an account of the Ascension, (albeit briefer than the one in Acts).  It contains the clear declaration, however, that even though Jesus was taken up to into heaven he “worked with them (the disciples) and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”  

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.   In it Paul prays:  “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When I think of the Ascension I have this image of Jesus’ disciples staring off into the sky looking for Jesus.   Eventually, though, they had to learn to find his presence here on earth.   Where on this earth do you see signs of Christ’s presence? 
  2. Where have you found the grace of Christ at work in our world? 
  3. I love St. Paul’s use of the phrase:  “the eyes of your heart.”    What have you seen with the “eyes of your heart” that you didn’t recognize with your regular vision?  
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050618.cfm 

“I love you:” three simple words, but words that can carry many meanings.   Saying “I love you” to a spouse has one meaning, another when said to an offspring, still another when said to a friend or acquaintance.   In our Gospel for this Sunday we hear Jesus say:  “……… I also love you.”    To understand what Jesus means by these words we need to read the five words that precede them:   “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”   The Father’s love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for the Father is not a romantic love (Eros) or the love of one friend for another (Philios), but rather an intense, absolute, and unwavering love (Agape).    

Jesus’ love for us is not dependent on our ability to recognize and respond to it, nor is conditioned on our acceptance of it.   Rather, Jesus loves us as we are, simply because we are.   As importantly, Jesus loves us with the same love with which the Father loves him.    It is an intense, absolute and unwavering love.   Because of Jesus’ love for us, we are chosen and invited to be his friends, and called to love one another.   

Of course, we always have the choice whether or not to accept Jesus’ love for us.   The question is, though, why wouldn’t we accept it?   

Our first reading for this weekend from the Acts of the Apostles shares the theme of the Gospel.  In that reading we hear Peter proclaim:  “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”    

Our second reading for this weekend elaborates on this theme as St. John reminds us that we are called and “to love one another because love is of God.”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Perhaps I am deliberately naïve, but it seems to me that Jesus is eminently clear that God loves us.  Yet many people see and/or speak of God as vengeful or wrathful.   Why do you think this is?  
  2. If we truly believe that God shows no partiality, why do some people try to restrict God’s love?        
  3. What prevents us from loving one another?   

     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042918.cfm 

I have never been much of a gardener.  Keeping a couple of house plants alive is about as much as I can handle.   I do appreciate, though, those who create beautiful flower gardens and those who grace our tables with fresh fruits and vegetables.  I suspect it not only takes an interest, but also a special set of skills to create and cultivate a garden.  Now I mention this because the image of a garden is evident in our Gospel today as Jesus tells us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.”  

Friends of mine who are gardeners tell me that if a plant is to produce beautiful flowers or abundant fruit, a certain amount of pruning is necessary.   I suspect this is why Jesus told us that his Father “takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”    In addition to pruning, though, if a plant is to bear fruit it must also receive the proper nutrients.  Jesus reminded us of this when he went on to say:  “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”   

We continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles for our first reading today.   Today’s section is the wonderful story of how Paul (Saul), who had previously persecuted the early Christians, tried to join the disciples.  We are told that they “Were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.”  Finally “Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord……”  

Our second reading today is from the first Letter of Saint John.  In the section we read today, John reminds us that we are to “love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What do you need to allow God to prune in your life in order to become a better Christian?  
  2. When have you been suspicious of someone’s words or actions only to discover that they were acting in good faith and with charity?
  3. How and/or where do you need to love in deed and truth?   

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042218.cfm  
 
Each year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we read a section of the 10th chapter of St. John’s Gospel.   This chapter contains Jesus’ discourse on the “Good Shepherd.”   In fact our Gospel for this weekend begins with Jesus’ statement:  “I am the Good Shepherd.”   In this Gospel, Jesus articulates exactly what it means to be a Good Shepherd 
  
  1. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  He doesn’t run away when he sees the wolf coming.
  2. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. 
  3. The Good Shepherd is the shepherd of “all” the sheep, not just the ones that belong to his fold.
  4. The Good Shepherd does all that he does freely and out of love. 
 
Jesus’ description of the Good Shepherd would clearly set him apart from Israel’s religious leaders in the past, as well as at that time, who did not always -- or even often -- act in the best interests of their people.  
 
Our first reading for this weekend is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  In it we hear Peter “filled with the Holy Spirit” address the Sanhedrin and boldly proclaim his faith in Jesus Christ as the one through whom salvation is offered.
 
Our second reading for this weekend is once again taken from the first letter of St. John.   In the section we read this weekend, John reminds us that we are children of God now, but what we shall be has not yet been revealed.   When it is revealed, however “we do know that we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 
 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
 
  1. Even though many people have not had any experience with sheep, they find the image of the Good Shepherd very comforting.    Why do you think that is? 
  2. The priest sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, particularly in the United States, has revealed clearly that many priests and bishops are not the shepherds we would want or hope for.   Despite this, many people still look to the church and its leaders for guidance/support/leadership.  Why is this?
  3. What do you think it means that we shall be like God?  

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