Fr. Bauer's Blog

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Our Gospel this Sunday is once again taken from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel which is known as the Bread of Life discourse.   In the section we read today Jesus told the Jews: “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”    The people responded by saying:  “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”   Clearly their familiarity with Jesus had blinded them to believing that he could be anything other than what they knew him to be.   Jesus, though, challenged them to believe that he was sent by God and that “whoever believes has eternal life.”  Jesus also told them that:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”   

We have grown up with the belief that Jesus is the Bread of Life given to us in the Eucharist.  This would have been an entirely new concept for the people of Jesus’ time.  It shouldn’t surprise us then that they struggled to understand it.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the first Book of Kings.  In the section we read this Sunday, Elijah as fled into the desert.  As he rests under a broom tree and prayed for death, “an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.  Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water……………………strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”   This story is a prefigurement of what the Eucharist does for us.   It strengthens us and sustains us on our journey of life.   

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.  Paul reminds the Ephesians that they must be “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  What is your first memory of the Eucharist?
2.  Have you ever felt the Eucharist strengthening you to do something?
3. Where do you need to forgive, as you have been forgiven? 

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

Our Gospels for the next couple of Sunday’s are taken from that section of John’s Gospel known as the Bread of Life discourse.   Our Gospel today immediately follows the story of the feeding of the 5,000.   The crowd has sought out Jesus and, upon finding him, Jesus says to them: “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”    They then asked Jesus “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”  Jesus didn’t respond to their desire for a sign, but instead invited them to have faith in him as the one sent from God.  He tells them:  “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”   

Often times we ask God for “signs” of God’s love and care for us.   Like the people in our Gospel today, though, we seek the signs we want and not the signs God has given us.  The challenge for us is to look through the eyes of faith and see the signs of God’s love and care that exist all around us.  

In our first reading this Sunday, from the Book of Exodus, the Israelites grumble against Moses and Aaron: “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our flesh pots and ate our fill of bread!”   Similar to the feeding of the 5,000, God sends the Israelites “manna” to eat.  When they question about it, Moses tells them:  “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.   In the section we read this Sunday,  Paul urges the Ephesians to “put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:  

  1. Have you ever asked God for a sign only to discover later that you missed a sign that was already present?
  2. Have you ever grumbled against God when things didn’t go the way you wanted?
  3. What does it mean for you to put on the new self created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth?   

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

Our Gospel this Sunday is the story of the feeding of the 5,000.   Perhaps because this is one of the few incidents that is recorded in all four Gospels, the story is very familiar.   We are told that Jesus was concerned about feeding the large crowd that had been following him.  He asked Philip:  “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”  Philip answered him:  ‘Two hundred days wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.’”  Andrew then said to him: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many.”   Jesus had the crowds recline, then he took the loaves and fishes gave thanks and distributed them to the crowd and “when they had their fill, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.’  So they collected them and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.”  

There are at least three things that are worth noting in this Gospel.  1.  Jesus starts with what is at hand.   He could have performed this miracle without using the boy’s bread and fish, but he chose to use the five barley loaves and two fish that were at hand.   2.  The disciples “discounted” the loaves and fish.  “But what good are these for so many.”  3.  There was an abundance left over: “twelve wicker baskets” were filled with the fragments that were left over.    Taken together I think these things remind us that when God works in our lives/world he can and does work with what is at hand --- even though to us it might not seem like much --- and produce abundant results.  

Our first reading this Sunday God shares the theme of the Gospel.  In it, God, working through the prophet Elisha, feeds a multitude of people with twenty barley loaves.  “For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’ And  when they had eaten, there was some left over as the Lord had said.” 

We continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians for a second reading this Sunday.  In the section we read this Sunday Paul urges the Ephesians “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How often to you ask God to do something for you, instead of asking God to help you do something?
  2. Have you ever felt God working in your life and producing abundant results?  
  3. What does it mean for you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received?  

A while back, I started praying the rosary again. Now, I never really abandoned the rosary, I just didn’t pray it on a regular basis. What got me started again, though, was my driving. Recently, I noticed that when I was driving, my irritation with other drivers had begun to move more toward anger. When I realized this, I decided I needed to do something about it. I tried turning off the radio and reciting some scripture verses, but after a few minutes, I found my attention wandering, and I was right back to criticizing other drivers. So, I decided to go back to the tried and true and started saying the rosary. And lo and behold, it has helped.

Now I’d like to tell you that my irritation level while driving has been reduced to zero, but that hasn’t happened. I still get irritated with other drivers, but when that happens I say the next Hail Mary for whatever driver irritated me. And when I do that, I can feel my irritation slipping away.

There is something about the cadence of the rosary that is soothing to my mind and my soul. I don’t have to think, I just have to let the Hail Mary’s, Glory Be’s, and Our Father’s carry me. As the beads slip gently through my fingers and I feel the soft weight of the rosary in my hand, I experience a definite comfort and a sense of peace. What is especially appealing about the rosary for me, though, is its portability. You can pray the rosary anywhere and at any time. And if push comes to shove, and you don’t have a rosary handy, you can always use your fingers to count the Hail Mary’s. The only problem I have is that I get the Joyful, Glorious and the Luminous mysteries confused. So, for now, I am using just the Sorrowful mysteries.

Now, like most forms of prayer, the rosary has some strong advocates and promoters, as well as some critics. My grandmother Degnan was a great advocate of the rosary. She prayed the rosary daily for her grandchildren. And if we were experiencing any difficulties, she doubled her efforts on our behalf. I know I was the recipient of untold decades of the rosary during my college years. As an added bonus—from my grandmother’s perspective—the rosary was a great non-medicinal aid to sleep. She would start a rosary when she went to bed, and invariably she would fall asleep with the rosary in her hand. And if she woke up in the night, as she often did, she would pick up saying the rosary right where she left off.

The rosary is a great form of prayer for some people, but I realize it is not for everyone. The important thing, though, is not how we pray, but that we pray. Prayer helps us to lift our minds and hearts to God and open ourselves to God’s will and work in our lives. Prayer can comfort us, challenge us, guide us, inspire us, enlighten us, and empower us. It can help decrease our stress levels, reduce our tension, and—while driving—can even calm our irritation or anger.

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

In our Gospel last Sunday Jesus sent his disciples out two by two to preach and heal in this name.  In this Sunday’s Gospel we are told that when they returned: “The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.  He said to them ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’”   Unfortunately the crowds discovered where they were going and “arrived at the place before them.”    When Jesus saw the vast crowd “his heart was moved with pity for them for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”  

Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, knew that his disciples were tried after their missionary journey.  He also knew they probably needed to debrief and to talk about what had happened.  He responded to this need by telling them to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”   In a similar way, when we are tired and overwhelmed Jesus still invites us to come away to a deserted place and rest with him.  Unfortunately, too often we fail to respond to Jesus’ invitation and thus don’t find the rest and refreshment he wants to give us.  

Our first reading this Sunday from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah shares the theme of the Gospel.  In it God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, promises to care for his people: “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord.”   

In our second reading this Sunday from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, Paul reminds us that Christ came to establish peace and to end divisions and hostility. “For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

  1. Many people find retreats or days of reflection places where they have experienced rest and refreshment in Christ?  When and/or where have you found rest and refreshment in Christ? 
  2. Have you experienced Christ, the Good Shepherd, caring for you?  
  3. Where do you need to experience Christ’s peace in your life?   

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

In our Gospel this Sunday we are told that Jesus summoned the twelve and sent them out “two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.”  He also told them they “were to take nothing for the journey, but a walking stick --- no food, no sack, no money in their belts.    They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic………………  So they went off and preached repentance.  The twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”    

If you stop and think about it, there is some sense to be made of Jesus’ sending the twelve on a “test run.”   It would have been important that they had some experience of preaching, teaching and healing, before Jesus’ death, so that after His death this task would not seem so intimidating to them.  Having done it once, they could do it again.   Why, though, would Jesus tell them to take nothing for the journey?   I suspect the reason was that Jesus wanted them to know that any success they had was God’s doing and not their own.   By going out without any “provisions” they were forced to rely solely and completely on God.  Thus they would know that it was God’s grace and not their efforts that brought any success to their mission.   

Our first reading this Sunday shares the theme of the Gospel.  Amos has been called by God to be a prophet.   Amos was clear that this was not his choice. “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.  The LORD took me from following the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In the section we read today Paul praises God ”who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever felt God calling you to do something or to go somewhere?  How did you respond? 
  2. When have you had to rely on God’s grace and not your own efforts? 
  3. How has God blessed you in your life? 

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

I once heard an “expert” described as someone who carries a briefcase and had to travel at least 50 miles to get some place.  I think there is more than a grain of truth to this statement.  It certainly reflects what was going on in this Sunday’s Gospel.  In that Gospel Jesus came to his native place and began to teach in the synagogue.   The people were astonished, but also very critical. They said:  “What kind of wisdom has been given to him?  What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!  Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  Are not his sisters here with us/” And they took offense at him.”   

Jesus was too familiar to the people in our Gospel today.   They knew who he was, and that was all that he could be.  They were not open to him being other than what they conceived him to be.   At times, all of us “lock” people into a preconceived idea of who they are and/or what they can do.   When we do this, though, we fail to recognize the presence of God in that individual.  And when we fail to recognize the presence of God in one person, it limits our ability to see the presence of God and the grace of God at work all around us.  This is what was happening in our Gospel today. 

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, It shares the theme of the Gospel.  God has sent Ezekiel to the Israelites, a people “hard of face and obstinate of heart …………… And whether they heed or resist --- for they are a rebellious house --- they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In the section we read this Sunday Paul talks about being given a “thorn in the flesh.”  He begged the Lord to take it away, but the Lord told him: “My grace is sufficient for you.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever let an early experience of someone blind you to better/deeper understanding of them? 
  2. When have you failed to recognize the presence of God in someone? 
  3. Have you ever had an experience when God’s grace was sufficient for you?    

Dear Archbishop Hebda, Bishop Cozzens and Fr. Lachowitzer:

Archbishop Hebda, I want to welcome you to our Archdiocese as Apostolic Administrator. Please know that you are in my prayers and the prayers of our parish, as you begin this important ministry. I pray it will be a time of healing and new hope for our Archdiocese.

I write this letter with a very troubled heart. During the past two years, at listening sessions and at various meetings, I have heard my parishioners describe feelings of outrage, betrayal, breach of trust, and deep sadness over the manner in which certain events have been handled in our Archdiocese. Very sadly, some people have even chosen to leave the church. The loss of these good people is a wound from which our church will not soon recover.

In recent accounts in various media and most recently in a report last Friday by Madeleine Baron of Minnesota Public Radio, questions have been raised in regard to the manner in which the Archdiocese has shared or not shared important information regarding Archbishop Nienstedt. These reports are concerning on several levels. Most specifically, however, they suggest that the Archdiocese has not been transparent, honest and forthcoming in the information it is has shared with the faithful of the Archdiocese in regard to Archbishop Nienstedt. 

Given the events of the past two years, and most recently the resignations of Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Piché, I think it is absolutely imperative that, unless prohibited by law or promise of confidentiality to lay witnesses, the Archdiocese release all information regarding the investigation of Archbishop Nienstedt. I realize objections will be raised in regard to the release of this material. Given the fact that Archdiocesan funds were used, however, I firmly believe that the right of the faithful to this information outweighs any objections. More importantly, I believe that in order for our Archdiocese to rebuild the trust needed for the healing process to begin, full disclosure is essential so that we can move forward with the clear and certain knowledge that nothing has been or is being hidden or concealed.

I request that the release of information specifically needs to include:

  • the report(s) from Greene Espel;
  • the report(s) from Peter Wold;
  • the report(s) to Archbishop Vigano;
  • a full and accurate accounting of costs associated with these reports;
  • a general outline of the financial obligations of the Archdiocese to Archbishop Nienstedt, as defined by canon law and the regulations of the USCCCB.
  • Any additional information necessary to reveal any remaining issues and restore openness between the Archdiocese and parishioners, unless prohibited by law or promise of confidentiality to lay witnesses;

I have shared this letter with our parish leadership and I will also publish it in an upcoming parish bulletin as I have done in previous correspondence with Archbishop Nienstedt and in summaries of various listening sessions. I will do the same with any response you have. I believe that ongoing transparency is both necessary and critical during this time of crisis. It is my firm belief, as I hope it is yours as well, that it is only through this kind of transparency and openness that our Archdiocese will be able to move forward in healing and hope.  

Thank you for your ministry in and to our Archdiocese.  

Sincerely yours in Christ,

John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary


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

In today’s Gospel we have a story within a story.   The main story is about a synagogue official named Jairus who sought out Jesus’ help because his daughter was “at the point of death.”   Jesus set off with him, but while they were on the way to Jairus’ house a woman with a hemorrhage touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak, hoping to be healed.   She was healed and when it was discovered that she was the one who had touched his cloak, Jesus said to her.  “Daughter, your faith has saved you.”   While this was taking place “people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said: ‘Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?’”   Jesus, though, disregarded the message and told Jairus:  “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”   When they arrived at the house, Jesus asked those who were mourning the child’s death:  “Why this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead, but asleep.”  Jesus then put them all out and “he took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum.’ which means ‘Little girl I say to you arise!’”  The child arose immediately, the people were astounded, but Jesus “gave them strict orders that no one should know about this.”     

There are three important things to note about this story.  1. The synagogue official was willing to take a big risk for the sake of his daughter.  Other synagogue officials would not take kindly to one of their own approaching Jesus with a request.   They regarded Jesus as problematic trouble maker.   2.  Notice that Jesus restored the little girl to this life.  This is a story of resuscitation, not a resurrection.   3.  Often in Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus has performed a miraculous deed, he told his disciples not to tell anyone about it.  The reason is that the people of Jesus’ time were looking for a messiah who would restore Israel to a place of prominence.   Jesus was not that kind of messiah.    

Our first reading this weekend, from the book of Wisdom, shares the theme of the Gospel.  It reminds us that "God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.  For he fashioned all things that they might have being.” 
In our second reading this weekend, Paul is writing to the community at Corinth.  He has asked them to take up a collection for the Christian community at Jerusalem.  He said:  “Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs.”   

Questions for reflection/discussion:    

  1. Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said that many times he had been driven to his knees by the conviction that he had no where else to go.   I think this was the position that Jairus was in.   Have you ever found yourself in this position? 
  2. How would you explain the difference between being resuscitated and being resurrected?  
  3. From our second reading this weekend, it seems that sharing our abundance with others was part of the Christian life from the very beginning.   I suspect, though, that how much we share from our abundance would depend on how you define abundance.   How would you define abundance?  

A few weeks ago I was doing some cleaning at my cabin and had the radio on in the background. At one point the theme song from Mission Impossible came on. As I listened I was transported back in time as I remembered watching the show when I was growing up. (Yes, I know there have been several movies based on “Mission Impossible,” but I still like the old television show the best.) I especially liked the words that introduced each episode “Your mission, should you chose to accept it is….” I like the well defined purpose and the clarity of knowing exactly what was expected and what needed to be done. There are many times when I long for that same kind of clarity in regard to God’s will in my life. It would be great if God would clearly tell me, “John, your mission should you chose to accept it is….”

Unfortunately, more often than I care to admit, when I am trying to discern God’s will or what God would have me do in a particular situation, I am much like a boat without a rudder.

I pray, but my prayer is often directionless and without focus. I want clarity and direction, and worse I want it now. In my efforts to get God to tell me what God wants me to do, I am impatient almost to the point of demanding. I don’t like it when I get this way, and I suspect God isn’t too happy with me either. 

When I encounter these times in my life, one of the things that is helpful for me is to remember and take to heart a prayer that Thomas Merton wrote many years ago. I have kept this prayer in my Breviary since I was ordained. And on times too numerous to mention I have found it very comforting. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Discerning God’s will for us, or what God would have us do in a particular situation is not always easy. It can be frustrating, time consuming, and even a little annoying. It would be much easier if God simply told us, “Your mission should you chose to accept it is….” Unfortunately, if God were that direct, it would negate our free will. And our free will is one of the things that defines us as human beings and separates us from other creatures.

And so, at those times when I struggle with discerning God’s will, I take heart and find consolation in the prayer of Thomas Merton. The way I figure it, if one of the premier spiritual writers of the 20th century had trouble discerning God’s will, I should probably cut myself a little slack when I experience the same difficulty. I also take comfort in the knowledge that God will never call me to a mission that is impossible, because with God’s grace all things are possible.