Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090615.cfm 

In our Gospel this Sunday we are told that Jesus went “into the district of the Decapolis” and people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment.  They “begged him to lay his hand on him.”   In response to their request, Jesus did something unusual, “He took him off by himself away from the crowd.”   Once away from the crowd, Jesus “put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue, then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ --- that is ‘Be opened!’ ………………  his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly” He ordered them not to tell anyone.  But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”  

There are at least three things worth noting in this Gospel.   1. The area of the Decapolis would have been Gentile territory.  This reminds us that Jesus did not see his mission as restricted to the Jews.  2.  We are not told why Jesus took the man off by himself.  I suspect, though, that Jesus knew that being deaf the man probably lived an isolated existence.  In addition to being healed, the man probably also needed simple human contact.  Jesus provided this.  3.  Often, particularly in Mark’s Gospel, we find Jesus telling people not to talk about the miracles he had performed.   The reason for this is that the people of that time were looking for a Messiah who would restore Israel to a place of prominence and power in the world.  Because of his miracles people could look to Jesus to be this kind of Messiah.  Jesus was clear, though, that he was not that kind of Messiah 

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In the section we read today the people are reminded of God’s ultimate victory even in the face of war and persecution.   “Say to those whose hearts are frightened;   Be strong, fear not!  Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”   The signs of God’s ultimate triumph are clear:  “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared.”   This is precisely what Jesus was doing in our Gospel today. 

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint James.  James’ words are clear:  “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”   

Questions for reflection/discussion:

  1. Where do you need Christ’s healing presence in your life? 
  2. When and/or where have you found hope in the face of trials and adversity?
  3. Have you shown partiality in your dealing with others?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.   
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/083015.cfm 

After reading from the Gospel of John for the past few weeks, this Sunday we return to the Gospel of Mark.   In our Gospel this Sunday we find a scene that is often repeated in the Gospels.   Jesus is at odds with some of the Pharisees and the scribes, who were strict adherents to the law.  Now, in and of itself, adherence to the law is not a bad thing.  In the case of the scribes and Pharisees, however, it was problematic because in many cases their relationship with God had taken a back seat to their adherence to the law. 

The issue is our Gospel today had to do with the fact that Jesus’ disciples “ate their meals with unclean, that is unwashed hands.”    Prior to eating, Jews were supposed to purify themselves.   These and other “rites of purification” were prescribed for Jews, and yet Jesus’ disciples were ignoring them.   Jesus challenged their position and reminded them that what “defiles” people does not come from outside, but from within a person.   If our hearts are set on God the appropriate actions will follow accordingly. 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.  In it Moses reminded the people of the “statues and decrees” they had been given by God.   “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God is to us whenever we call upon him?”    For Moses, the law was to lead people to God, not take the place of their relationship with God.    

Our second reading this Sunday is from the letter of James.   We will read from it for the next four weeks.   In the section we read today, James reminds us that we are to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever allowed “following the rules” to take the place of your relationship with God?
  2. When have you called upon God and felt close to God?
  3. How do “doers of the word” act?  

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below and copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082315.cfm

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.   Often it seems like our lives are just one decision after another.   Some are minor: What should I wear today? What should I have for breakfast?   Some are major: Should I marry this person?  Should I take this job?   In our Gospel this Sunday “the Twelve” are faced with a major decision.  This Gospel follows immediately after Jesus’ words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  Many of Jesus disciples misunderstood these words and “As a result of this many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.   Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’  Peter answered him ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”   

In our first reading this Sunday the tribes of Israel also faced a decision.  We are told that Joshua gathered the people and addressed them in these words.  “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.  As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”   The people responded: “we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”   

The decisions we have to make about following the Lord are usually not as dramatic as those faced by the Twelve or by the tribes of Israel.  Yet each day we are faced with decisions both small and large that ultimately will determine whether we will follow the Lord or chose another path.   

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.   In the section we read today Paul reminds us that, as Christians, our relationships with one another must have Christ as their model.  “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever had to make a life changing decision to follow Christ?   
  2. What small decisions have helped you to follow Christ?
  3. When have you not used Christ as your model in the way you have treated someone?   

Normally this Sunday we would celebrate the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  However because this weekend we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Mass of dedication for the Basilica, we have received permission to use the readings from the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven.  Please click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for these readings. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081515-day.cfm 


The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven celebrates our belief that Mary’s body, because she was the mother of Jesus Christ, did not suffer the corruption of death.  Rather, because of her unique role in God’s plan of salvation, we believe that Mary now shares eternal life with God in heaven body and soul.  While some may wonder about this belief, it is for us, as Catholics, both a sign and a promise of the destiny that awaits all of us who believe in and seek to follow Jesus Christ. 

Our Gospel for this feast records Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and Mary’s song of praise (the Magnificat) for the wonders that God has done for her: “for his has looked with favor on his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed.”   Clearly Mary was aware of God’s gracious favor to her.  In this she is a model for us.  Because of this she is truly: “Blessed among Women.”  

Our first reading for this feast is taken from the Book of Revelation.   The book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature.   It is highly stylized and filled with vivid images and symbolic language.  It was meant to convey hope to a people experiencing trials or difficulties.   The section we read today tells us that “a great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet…….”  We are told that a dragon also appeared and “stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.”    But “her child was caught up by God ………..and the woman fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”    This vivid language is meant to remind us that God is charge and will always have the final word.  

Our second reading this weekend is from 1Corinthians 15: 20-27.    It reminds us that Christ is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, and that “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for ‘he subjected everything under his feet.’”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Many years ago on retreat my director asked me to compose my own hymn of praise to God   --- my own Magnificat --- for all that God had done for me.    It was a marvelous experience.   What would you include in your hymn of praise to God?  
  2. In light of what would happen in her life some people might question why Mary could call herself blessed.   How would you respond to these people?
  3. Why would Paul refer to death as the “enemy”?  

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080915.cfm 

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.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080215.cfm

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. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072615.cfm 

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.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071915.cfm 

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. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071215.cfm 

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? 

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