Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click in the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072119.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary.   We are told that Martha was busy with the details of hospitality, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.   Martha came to Jesus and said:  “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”   In reply, Jesus said to her:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.   Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”    

Since I identify much more with Martha than Mary, I had always struggled with this particular Gospel.   Many years ago when I was on retreat, my retreat director asked me to meditate on this passage.  I resisted, but my retreat director insisted.   And so, I took the passage to prayer and in my prayer it suddenly occurred to me that from my perspective three words were missing from Jesus response:   “at this moment.”   I inserted these three words after “There is need only of one thing, at this moment…………”   Mary had realized that at that moment the important thing was attend to the Lord.   Martha, rightly concerned about hospitality, had allowed that concern to become dominant, and as a result she missed the opportunity to attend to the Lord.   This same thing continues to occur in each of our lives.  We can become so focused on something --- sometimes things that are good and important --- that we can fail to be conscious of and attend to God.   The challenge for us is recognize the moments of God’s presence when they occur and then, like Mary, to attend to them. 

In our first reading this Sunday Abraham extends hospitality to three visitors who were passing by.   At some point, Abraham recognized that God was one of his visitors.  As a result, as often happens after a divine visitation, there is an announcement: “One of them said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.’”   Abraham’s generous hospitality had resulted in the announcement that in her old age, Sarah would have a son.  

In our second reading this Sunday Paul wrote from prison to the Colossians.   Paul is clear that even in our suffering Christ is “the hope for glory.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Can you think of a time when you have been so preoccupied that you almost missed a moment of God’s presence? 
  2. Has there been a time when in extending hospitality you have felt the presence of God?
  3. In times of pain or suffering have you ever found hope in Christ?   

God Never Forgets Us

A few weeks ago I did some much needed grocery shopping on my day off. (My refrigerator and pantry were bearing a strong resemblance to Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.) I stopped at the local CUB store and was surprised at how many people were there in mid-afternoon on a Monday. Pleased that it took me only about 30 minutes to find everything on my list, I approached the checkout lanes. Unfortunately, I was dismayed to see at least three people in each line. I made my best guess at which would be the fastest and for once I was right. The line I picked moved very quickly. When it came my turn to check out, I dutifully pulled out my reusable bags and tried to keep up with the checkout person. Unfortunately, she was much faster than I was, and I only had half my items packed when it was time for me to pay. I took out my wallet with my credit card and went through the usual process. I continued packing but I noticed that the person behind me didn’t have that many items and they were speedily packing them. The person after them started to check out, and it was obvious that my side of the counter was needed for their purchases. I hastily piled my remaining items in my bags, and finished just as their first few items started down the conveyer belt toward the bagging area. Pleased that I hadn’t caused any major disruption, I headed for home.

Unfortunately, when I got home I realized I had left my wallet at the check out counter. I immediately called CUB and asked for customer service. After describing my predicament, the person at custom service told me that indeed my wallet had been turned in. After a big sigh of relief and a quick prayer of thanksgiving, I headed back to the grocery story to pick up my wallet. After waiting my turn I explained that I had called about a lost wallet. The customer service representative asked me to describe it, and after locating it in a box in the safe, said: “Can I see some I.D?” I immediately burst into laughter, since my I.D. was, of course, in my wallet. Since this must have been a standard question, the customer service rep didn’t immediately realize the absurdity of their question. It wasn’t until I suggested that they look at the driver’s license in the wallet to confirm that it was mine, that they finally got it. A slow smile spread across their face as they handed my wallet back to me. 

Over the years, I have known parishioners and friends who have lost their I.D. or had it stolen. Not only is this enormously inconvenient, it can be very frightening and time consuming to try to “recreate” one’s life with a new I.D. and new credit cards. Given this, in my prayer that evening I definitely expanded on my earlier and briefer prayer of thanksgiving. 

Also in my prayer that evening, as I reflected the events of the day, I was reminded how fortunate we are that we never have to worry about losing our identity when it comes to God. In Isaiah 49:15-16 we read: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have carved your name.” The words remind us very forcefully that God knows us through and through, and even if we should forget God, God will never forget us. 

As I closed my prayer that night I was struck once again at how blessed and fortunate we are that God loves us so much that God never forgets us and never needs to ask for our I.D. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071419.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of the Good Samarian.   Now as background to this parable, it is important to note that Jews and Samaritans had no contact with each other and in fact were very  hostile to each other.  What elicited the parable of the Good Samaritan was a question raised by a “scholar of the law” as to what he must do to inherit eternal life.   Jesus responded by asking him:  “What is written in the law?”  The scholar of the law replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”   Jesus told him that he had answered correctly.  We are told, though, that “because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”   In response, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.   

There are at least three things worth noting in this parable.  First, the logical people to help the injured man should have been the priest and the Levite.  We are told, though, that they passed by.  Perhaps the best face we can put on their refusal to help was that they feared the man was dead and if they had come in contact with him it would have rendered them ritually impure.   Second, notice that the Samaritan not only was an unlikely person to offer assistance, but the assistance he offered went above and beyond what anyone would have expected.  Third, note that at the very end of the parable, Jesus asked the scholar of the law “Which of these three………..was neighbor to the victim?”   The man couldn’t even say it was the Samaritan.  Instead he answered: “The one who treated him with mercy.”  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.   In it Moses invited the people to “heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statues……………. for it is already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”  

For our second reading this weekend we switch from the Letter to the Galatians, from which we have been reading the past several weeks, to the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians.  The section we read today is an early Christological hymn.  It begins: “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Who is your neighbor?
  2. When have you failed to help your neighbor?
  3. What do you think Paul meant when he said that Christ is the image of the invisible God?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070719.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this weekend Jesus “appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.”   They are to greet the households they enter with the words: “Peace to this household.”  and say to them: “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.”    

Clearly these 72 were to “prepare the ground” so that people would be receptive to the message of Jesus.  As I thought about this, it occurred to me that the practice of people “preparing the ground” for Jesus has never stopped.  Perhaps people have not been as intentional as the disciples in this Gospel, yet in my own life, I can think of countless people who by their lives, by their words and actions, have “prepared the ground” so that I would be receptive to the message of Jesus Christ.   I would guess this is true for all of us.   The challenge for us is to be aware that we too are called to “prepare the ground” so that those we encounter will be receptive to the message of Jesus.    

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It is a vision of Jerusalem at the end times.  Isaiah tells the people:  “Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent………………… in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.”    

In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians.   Paul is clear and eloquent that if he has anything to boast about it is not status or rank, but the crucified Christ:  “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the Lord had been crucified to me and I to the world.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Who “prepared the ground” for you, so that you were receptive to the message of Jesus? 
2. To whom are you called to “prepare the ground” so that they might be receptive to Christ?  
3. Why was it so important for Paul to boast in the cross of Jesus?  

 

The 16th century mystic, Saint John of the Cross, once wrote: “God’s first language is silence.” In commenting on this insight of Saint John of the Cross, the late Trappist monk, Thomas Keating, in his book Invitation to Love, said: “Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.” 

Now certainly the above words sound good, pious and important. Let us not fool ourselves, though, Silence is not easy. We live in a world that is filled with noise and distraction. From the moment we get up on the morning, to the time we go to bed at night, we are bombarded with a variety of stimuli. Our phones talk to us and remind us what we are to do, whom we are to call, where we are to go, and how we are to get there. Siri and Alexa address us like old friends, and are ever present in our lives. In the face of this stream of noise and distractions, finding time for silence is more than important; it is a necessity. For it is in silence that God speaks to our hearts, our minds and our spirits. 

With all the extraneous noise in our lives and in our world today, though, how do we learn to enter into silence and allow God access to our lives? Well, it seems to me the solution is simple. Unfortunately simple does not equate to easy. It is simple. in that we merely need to learn not to be held captive by our electronic devices and other stimuli. We need to train ourselves to grow quiet on a regular basis and simply be at peace in the silence of God’s love. 

But the above is by no means easy. In a very real sense we are victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media-driven society. Unfortunately, we are not unwilling victims. Given this, we need to take control of our devices and not let them control us. Now to be honest, this is clearly a case of “do like I say, and not do like I do.” I constantly struggle to find silence in the midst of the noise and hustle of the world. And when I do find it, it is fleeting at best. And yet, when I can turn off my phone, sit in silence, and quiet my mind, my heart and my spirit, I feel the presence and peace of God. And I am reminded that God abides with me. 

Silence is important. Because it is in the silence that God comes to us and dwells with us. Silence; provides the space for God to enter into our lives. That is why it is so important to be silent so that we rediscover the abiding presence of God. For it is only in silence that we discover that God alone can satisfy the longings of the human heart. God’s first language is silence. And it is in the silence that God waits to reveal God’s Self to us. 

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”?  

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