Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s reading click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052415-pentecost-day.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.  This Feast reminds us of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the early church.    It also celebrates our belief that the Holy Spirit continues to guide our Church. 

There are different options for the Gospel and the second reading for this Feast.   The first reading, though, is always taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It recounts the descent of the Holy Spirit on the first disciples.   “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 all filled with the Holy Spirit…………”  

The Gospel we will use for this Feast is a resurrection appearance by Jesus.   We are told that Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them:  “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 first reading reminds us that sometimes the Spirit comes to us in a powerful and dramatic manner, but our Gospel reminds us that sometimes the Spirit comes in a more subdued and quiet manner. Regardless of how the Spirit comes, it is given to us for a purpose.  This was Paul’s message in our second reading today from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When and/or how have you felt the Holy Spirit working in your life?  
  2. When have you seen the Holy Spirit working in someone else’s life?
  3. What gifts of the Spirit have you been given? 

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051715-ascension.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.   Both our first reading and our Gospel tell the story of the Ascension.   In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we are told that “………. as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”   Similarly, in our Gospel today we are told that:  “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.”  

Now while this Feast celebrates Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, it is also celebrates what the disciples did after the Ascension.  Both our reading from Acts and our Gospel tell us of the commission that Jesus gave his disciples before he ascended into heaven.   In Acts we are told:  “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  And in our Gospel Jesus told his disciples:  “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”    And we know that empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, this is just what the early disciples did.   The task of being witnesses of Christ and proclaiming his Gospel now falls to us.   

Our second reading for this Sunday is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.  In it Paul prays for the people of Ephesus “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. Who was the first person to tell you about Jesus Christ?
  2. What is one concrete and specific way you could be a witness for Christ and proclaim his Gospel?
  3. I love the words: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened.”  What do these words mean to you?   

I have been using the same books to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (formerly the Breviary) for over 35 years, and yet on a regular basis a word in the psalms or scripture readings, or one of the prayers, will catch me by surprise and be a source of prayer and reflection for me. Most recently this happened with one of the prayers of intercession for Thursday of the fourth week of the psalter. The prayer was simple:  “Grant, Lord, that we may see in each person the dignity of one redeemed by your Son's blood, so that we may respect the freedom and the conscience of all.” 

As I reflected on this prayer it struck me how easy it is for me to not to see the dignity in each person, let alone respect their freedom and their conscience. More often than I care to admit I view someone do something or I hear someone say something, and I assign a negative meaning to their words or actions, without ever bothering to check to see if there was any accuracy to my interpretation.    

Perhaps I am looking for company in this particular failing, but I suspect this is something we all do—at least occasionally. Someone will say something or do something and we take offense, without bothering to check to see if our interpretation of their behavior or their words was correct. When we do this, we fail to see in that person the dignity of one redeemed by Jesus’ blood. And instead we have sat in judgment of them.  

In addition to respecting the dignity of others, though, it is also important to remember that even if we disagree with their behaviors and/or words, we are still called to respect their freedom and their conscience. In saying this there is a need for clarity. Respecting someone’s freedom and conscience does not mean we are giving assent to their behavior or words. Nor does it mean that we can’t voice our disagreement. Rather, respecting someone’s freedom and conscience means that we must strive to see and love in them what God sees and loves in them. Certainly this is not always easy. And clearly from time to time we all fail at it. As followers of Jesus, though, it is a task from which we cannot shrink.     

Christ did not come to redeem only a select few. He came to redeem all of us. None of us by dint of our own effort can achieve our own salvation. We all stand in need of the salvation that is offered us through Jesus Christ. This is one of the fundamental truths of our faith. I believe we only begin to understand the depth of this truth when we are able to see in each person the dignity of one redeemed by Jesus’ blood and respect the freedom and the conscience of all. 

 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051015.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 today 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 it 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 this Sunday is 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 this Sunday 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 believe in a seemingly vengeful and/or angry God.   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://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050315.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 takes not only an interest, but also a special set of skills to create and cultivate a garden.  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. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042615.cfm

The fourth Sunday of Easter is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday because in our three year cycle of readings, the Gospels for this Sunday are always taken from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd.  In fact in the opening lines of today’s Gospel Jesus says:  “I am the Good Shepherd.”   

In this Gospel Jesus articulates three qualities of the Good Shepherd.  1.  The Good Shepherd “lays down his life for the sheep.”   2. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep:  “I know mine and mine know me.”    3.  The Good Shepherd is inclusive:  “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is again taken from the Act of the Apostles.  In the section we read today Peter, speaking of Jesus, says: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”   In the past, some have interpreted these words to suggest that only Christians go to heaven.   Those who espoused this idea, however, failed to realize that salvation is God’s work.  And if God wants people to be saved, God will find a way to do it.   For those of us who know and believe in Jesus Christ, however, it behooves us to follow Him who is the sure way to salvation.   . 

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint John.   John reminds us:  “Beloved, 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 it.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Which quality of the Good Shepherd do you most appreciate?
  2. What do you think St. John meant when he referred to us as a children of God?
  3. What do you think St. John meant when he said we will be like God? 

For this Sunday’s Readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041915.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday records a resurrection appearance by Jesus.  It takes place while the two disciples, who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, were telling the other disciples about their encounter.   Luke tells us: “While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.’”    

There are a couple things to note in this Gospel.  First, Jesus’ opening words to his disciples were “Peace be with you.”   Clearly he knew how distraught and confused they were, so he desired to calm their fears.  In this regard it is important to note that the word for peace in this context is not simply the absence of strife or conflict.  Rather it is a deeply rooted sense of serenity and tranquility.    The second thing to note is Jesus’ emphasis on his physical presence ---- that it is really him.   This reminds us that while Jesus’ resurrected body is different from his former body, it is also continuous with it.   His death was real, as was his resurrection.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles.   It is an excerpt from a speech by Peter.   In the section we read today, Peter is clear:  “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint John.   In the section we read today we are reminded.  “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.  He is expiation for our sins, and not only for our sins but for those of the whole world.  The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you felt the “peace” that Jesus wished for his disciples in today’s Gospel?   
  2. How are you called to give witness to Jesus Christ?
  3. What does it mean to you that Jesus Christ is you Advocate with the Father?    

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041215.cfm 

I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for poor Thomas.   One quick and ill-conceived comment and he is forever labeled “doubting Thomas.”   Perhaps even worse, because we read this story every year on the Sunday after Easter there is little chance that he will ever live down this appellation.   

In defense of Thomas, I would like to suggest that he is not so much a doubter as he is a realist. Thomas had accepted the hard and ugly fact of Jesus’ death, and he had begun to move ahead.   (I say this because our Gospel today reminds us that he was the only one who was not cowering in fear behind locked doors.)  Also, his statement:  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” --- while crude --- is merely asking for a proof similar to what the other disciples had already seen and experienced.  

When we think of Thomas, it is important to remember that we have grown up with a belief in Jesus’ resurrection.  If we can put ourselves in his shoes, however, we can perhaps begin to grasp what an unprecedented, unexpected, astonishing, miracle Jesus’ resurrection was.  From this perspective, I wonder if most of us were in Thomas’ shoes wouldn’t ask for a bit more “proof” before believing wholeheartedly in Jesus’ resurrection.  

Our first reading for this Sunday moves us quickly from the resurrection to the life of the early Christian community.  It begins with the unequivocal statement:  “The community of believers was of one heart and mind……………...” 

Our second reading for this Sunday is taken from the first letter of St. John.  (Our second readings throughout the Easter season will be taken from this letter.)  In the section we read this weekend, John reminds us that we show our love for God and the children of God, not just by knowing, but by keeping the commandments of God.  

Questions for Discussion/Reflection

  1. Alfred Tennyson once said:  “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”  Do you agree or disagree?
  2. What would you say to someone who had difficulty believing in the resurrection?  
  3. What can we do today to make the community of believers of one mind and heart?   

The readings for Easter Sunday can be found by clicking on the link below or by copying and pasting it into your browser.    http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040515.cfm 

Our Gospel for Easter Sunday is from the Gospel of John.   It records Mary of Magdala’s discovery of the empty tomb after which she sought out Simon Peter and told him.  “They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they put him.”   We should not be surprised that Mary did not immediately believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.   The resurrection was an entirely new and unimagined event.  And as we are told at the end of today’s Gospel:  “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”   

The first reading for this Easter Sunday is taken from the Acts of the Apostles and is an excerpt from a speech by St. Peter.   It really is the Gospel story in miniature.  Perhaps the most surprising thing about his speech is that it was delivered in the house of Cornelius, who was Gentile. Initially Peter understood the mission of the nascent Church being only to the Jews. Given this, Peter is perhaps prescient in this speech because he boldly declares that “everyone who believes in him (Jesus) will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”   Elsewhere in Acts we know that it took Peter a while to come to this conclusion.  

Our second reading for this Sunday is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In the section we read today Paul uses the imagery of yeast as he declares:  “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Try to put yourself in the place of Mary Magdalene as she went to the tomb in today’s Gospel.   What would be your first thought at finding the tomb empty?  
  2. How would you explain the resurrection to someone who had never heard of it before? 
  3. Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins through the name of Jesus?   

One of the things I like best about this time of year is seeing the new life that is starting to spring up all around us. That some things must die so that others may live, or that out of death comes new life, clearly is a part of the natural order. The cycle of life, death and rebirth is part of the wonder of creation. In addition to the world of nature, though, the phenomenon of death and rebirth is also found in human beings. The human spirit seems especially resilient. Time and time again I have witnessed people come back from the “grave” of trauma, loss, pain, and suffering. It is easy to look to these experiences, as well as the experiences in the world of nature, and be reminded of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is good and important. But we must always remember that, while these things may point to and be a good reminder of the resurrection of Jesus, ultimately they are not on par with the resurrection. They must always fall short of and pale in comparison to that miraculous and wondrous event.

There are many things in the natural world that are precursors of, metaphors for, and pointers to the resurrection. And yes, there are many experiences within human life that remind us of and speak to us of the resurrection. But these things are not comparable with and should not be thought of in the same way we think of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus differs from these experiences not just in degree, but in kind and type.

Now I realize that to some the above may seem like splitting hairs, but I think it is an important distinction. When we compare things in the world of nature, or within our human experience, with the resurrection of Jesus, we run the very real risk of thinking that the resurrection of Jesus is part of the this continuum. I believe, though, that this is a faulty way of looking at things. It reflects an incomplete understanding of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is completely and wholly different from any experience/occurrence in the created world. In fact, the really good news about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that it is not part of the natural order of things. It is a supernatural reality.

It is very important for Christians, who live with the natural cycle of death and rebirth, to understand how truly miraculous and how utterly different the resurrection of Jesus truly is. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you and I are invited to share a completely new and wondrous life—a life that is eternal with our God in heaven. This is indeed good news. Moreover, it gives us hope and comfort in the face of the little deaths and rebirths we bear witness to or that are a part of each of our lives.

When we place the resurrection of Jesus on par with the cycle of life, death and rebirth that occurs in the world of nature and in our human experience, we sell short the wonderful miracle of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus was not resuscitation and a return to this life, it was a resurrection to a completely new and eternal life.

As we look to the budding forth of new life around us during this season of spring, let us be grateful for the love of our God that makes this new life possible. And let us see in this new life a metaphor for the resurrection of Jesus. But let us also, though, always be mindful of the truly wondrous and miraculous event that the resurrection of Jesus was and is. In and through the resurrection of Jesus, we are offered the gift of new life—a life beyond this life—a life that begins (and never ends) in the eternal love of our God. This is the real miracle of Easter—that in His death and resurrection Christ not only shares eternal life with God, but has promised that same life to all those who believe in and follow him. Certainly we should celebrate this, but also and as importantly we should rejoice in this gift of eternal life that is offered to all believers.

 

Pages