Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031520.cfm    

In Minnesota we are proud of calling ourselves the land of 10,000 lakes.   Owning, or at least having access to, a cabin on a lake seems like a birthright to native Minnesotans.   In many parts of the world, though, access to water is severely limited.   This is certainly the case in Israel, where people rely on the yearly rains for a significant amount of their water supply.  At the time of Jesus, cisterns were used to store water from the yearly rains, and wells were public places where people gathered to draw water for their daily use.   Now I mention this because in our Gospel this 3rd Sunday of Lent Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at “Jacob’s well.” 

There are a couple of details in this Gospel that are significant.   First, notice that the Gospel tells us that it is about noon.  Most people would have come to draw water early in the morning when it was cooler, as opposed to mid-day.  This suggests that perhaps the woman didn’t want to bump into other people. Possibly (as we discover later in the Gospel) this is because the woman had 5 husbands and was currently living with another man.   Second, it would have been highly unusual for a man (and a Jew) to talk with a single woman (and a Samaritan).  The reason for this is that there was a great deal of hostility between Jews and Samaritans, and at that time there wasn’t any fraternization between men and women, most especially when they were strangers.

Although the woman initially misunderstood Jesus and his offer to give her “living water,” after talking with Jesus we discover that she was transformed by the encounter.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the book of Exodus.   It is the story of the Jews in the desert grumbling against Moses because of their thirst for water.   God instructed Moses to “Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”    The connection to the Gospel is evident.  The difference, though, is that the water Moses provided only satisfied the people’s physical thirst.   Jesus satisfies our spiritual thirst.  

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   It reminds us that “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.   I suspect we have all been physically thirsty at some point in our lives, and we know what that feels like.    What does it feel like to be spiritually thirsty?   
2.  Can you remember a time when Jesus has quenched your spiritual thirst? 
3.  While it is easy for me to acknowledge that I have sinned, it is hard for me to see myself as a sinner.    Our second reading today, though, reminds us that Christ died for sinners.   Do you, like me, have difficulty seeing yourself as a sinner?   

 

A few weeks ago I made an attempt (which ultimately was only minimally successful) to clean off my desk. In some ways my cleaning attempt was like an archeological dig. The deeper I got, the more interesting things I discovered. Now I used to feel bad about how my desk looked. Several years ago, though, I went to a talk about how to be better organized. The presenter said one thing in particular that really spoke to my heart. Specifically she said: “Some people file things to find them. If you are one of those people your desk is always neat and clean. Other people, though, file things when they are finished with them. If you are one of those people you almost always have piles on your desk. The reason for this is that you need to keep everything you are working on in plain view. If you put something away you are done with it.” These words immediately brought me a sense of comfort and peace. And while I don’t brag about the appearance of my desk, I no longer feel bad about it either.

I suspect that most of us have had similar experiences—times when someone has said something that calmed our fears, eased our distress, or lessened our guilt. These times are islands of peace amid the often stormy sea of life. There are other times, though, when someone says something that can cause us to feel uneasy or even anxious. For me, the words of Jesus often do both of these things. 

At times, Jesus’ words can be enormously comforting as when he reminds us that God loves us and forgives our sins. At the same time, though, Jesus’s words can also challenge us as they remind us that we are to love others as we have been loved and to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus’ words are often a two-edged sword. They comfort and console us, while at the same time challenging us and perhaps making us feel a bit uneasy about how we are living. 

While I definitely like living in my comfort zone, I find I function best when I am on the edge of my comfort zone as opposed to being in the middle of it. Most often Jesus’ words challenge me to move out of the middle of my comfort zone and live on the edge of it. They remind me that if I want to experience God’s love and forgiveness, then I need to work to extend these to others. This isn’t easy and in fact I fail at it regularly. If I look to Jesus’s words for comfort and consolation, though, I must also hear and be open to the challenge in them. The promise, as well as the challenge of Jesus’s words can not be separated. Being a disciple of Jesus is not just about recognizing this, but also living so as to give witness to it with our lives. 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030820.cfm  

Each year on the 2nd Sunday of Lent we read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Christ.   This weekend we read Matthew’s account of this event.  The basic details are the same in each of the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration.  Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain.  (In the scriptures, mountains were often the place for an encounter with God.)  While there, Jesus was transfigured before their eyes --- “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold Moses and Elijah appeared to them conversing with him.”   After Peter voiced his desire to stay in the experience, a voice from a cloud announced:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”   After the experience was over, Jesus charged his disciples:   “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  

I believe there are moments in each of our lives that are moments of great grace --- times when we see or experience things on a deeper level and feel God’s presence.  These moments don’t occur regularly and certainly not often.  They are not under our control, but they are “transfiguring” moments, nonetheless.  Our “transfiguring’ moments may not be of the same intensity as that of Peter, James and John, but I believe they are no less real.    

For our first reading for this 2nd Sunday of Lent we always read a section of the story of the call of Abram (soon to be Abraham).  God told him:  “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.”  

Our second reading this weekend is from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In the opening sentence of our reading for this weekend Timothy is admonished:  “Beloved:  Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.   As I mentioned above, I believe we all have “transfiguring” moments in our lives ---- certainly not as intense or to the same degree as Peter, James and John, but no less real.   When have you had a “transfiguring” experience in your life?  
2.   How many people have you told about your “transfiguring” experience?   If you’re like most people, it is a very limited number (if anyone at all).   Why is it hard for us to talk about these experiences?
3.   When you have had to bear a hardship did you find the strength that comes from God? 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030120.cfm 

This weekend we begin the season of Lent.   Now as you may have heard me say previously, when I was growing up I used to look forward to Lent with all the excitement of a trip to the Dentist.  (My apologies to the dentists in our congregation.)  As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve come to realize how important and how good the season of Lent is for our Church, as well as for me personally.   It is a time to step back from the usual activities of life and focus on our relationship with God.   We do this through the primary activities of Lent:  Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.    In our prayer we attend to God.  Through our fasting we deny ourselves what we want to discover what we really need.   And in our almsgiving, we offer from our surplus, to those who have little or nothing.  

Each year on the first Sunday of Lent we read one of the accounts of the Temptation of Christ in the desert.  This year we read from the Gospel of Matthew.   The basic details of the temptation are the same in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  In these Gospels Jesus faces three temptations:  The temptation to take care of his own needs (turn stones into loaves of bread); the temptation to a grandiose display of power (throw yourself down from the parapet of the temple); and finally the temptation to worldly power and might (all the kingdoms of the world I shall give you, if you only worship me).   We all face similar temptations in our lives --- certainly not to the extent that Jesus did --- but temptations that are similar in kind, if not strength and intensity.   Jesus has shown us, though, that God’s grace is sufficient to resist these temptations.    

In our first reading this weekend we read the scriptural account of the temptation of Adam and Eve.   It serves as a counterpoint to the Gospel.   Unlike Adam and Even, Jesus does not succumb to temptation.  

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   It follows the theme of the Gospel and first reading and reminds us that “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  We all face temptations in our lives.   Now certainly the temptations we face aren’t nearly as intense or as powerful as those faced by Jesus.  Would you agree, though, that in one way or another we all face temptations similar to those faced by Jesus?   
2.  Christians did not invent temptation.  We do believe, though, that we have found the remedy for temptation in Jesus Christ.   When has God’s grace helped you to resist temptation?  
3.  Why do some people seem better able to resist temptation than others?    

Follow the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for this weekend’s readings.   
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022320.cfm

In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus tells his disciples:  “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you…………………..”  Later Jesus says again:  “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you…………................”   

Now there are some people who have suggested and continue to suggest that in these words Jesus was seeking to abolish the law the scribes and Pharisees held so dear.   I don’t believe this was the case.  Rather I think Jesus was calling his disciples to a deeper commitment to the law and an entirely new way of living.  Jesus is clear about this at the end of this weekend’s Gospel when he said:   “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”   These words remind us very forcibly that as followers of Jesus our lives are to be substantially different from those of non-believers. Certainly we don’t always do this well, but that does not mean that we can ever stop trying.  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Leviticus.  It shares the theme of the Gospel.   Specifically God told Moses to tell the whole Israelite community:  “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge again any of your people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”    

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In the section we read this weekend Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us):  “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1. Why is it so hard at times to love our neighbor? 
2. What helps you let go of hurt and resentment, and forgive?
3. What do you think Paul meant when he said we are Temples of God?    

There is both a long form and short form of our Gospel this Sunday.  The remarks below are based on the short form of the Gospel.  For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021620.cfm

I suspect we have all encountered people who could be described as “holier than thou.”  This oft used phrase paints a picture of an individual whose words and actions suggest an attitude of religious superiority and/or self righteousness.   Such were the scribes and Pharisees at the time of Jesus.    They were not necessarily bad people.  The problem was they thought that by knowing and following the law to the letter, they were models of holiness and righteousness.   The difficulty with this was that they had allowed the following of the law to become an end in itself and not a means by which they could grow in and develop their relationship with God.     That is why Jesus’ opening words in our Gospel today are important:  "I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”    Jesus then goes on to challenge those who would be his disciples to go beyond the law in their words and actions.  This continues to be our challenge.   We may not have born false witness or harmed a neighbor, but have we truly tried to love our neighbor as our self.   Following the letter of the law is far easier than giving witness to the law by the witness of our lives.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.  In the section we read today the author reminds us of the importance of following God’s commandments. The commandments, though, are given to help us live justly and uprightly.   Following them is not an end in itself.  

Our second reading this Sunday is once again taken from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   It reminds us of God’s mysterious and hidden wisdom.  It closes with the wonderful promise:  “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:   
1. Has there been a time when you have followed the letter of the law, but have stopped at that point? 
2. Do you think your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees? 
3. What do you think God has prepared for those who love him?   

With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.

1. Campus Master Plan: Beginning in January of 2018 a Campus Space Planning Committee began working to establish a vision for our campus to prepare us for the next 100 years of service to our Church and our city. Last fall this group completed its work in providing a vision, and establishing a set of priorities to ensure our buildings and campus serve both our current needs and the needs of future generations at The Basilica and in the community. 

As a next step, we selected a team of individuals and organizations to translate that vision into a more specific Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. To work with members of our parish, we searched for an architectural firm that could work as a team with urban planners, historical preservationists, and landscape architects. Through a process which included “Requests for Qualifications” and “Requests for Proposals,” we identified interested experts from across the country. Eventually three teams were interviewed in person, and ultimately it was recommended to The Basilica Landmark Board that the Architectural firm HGA and their team be hired to develop a Master Plan for our Basilica Campus. The Basilica Landmark Board approved the funding of this recommendation and we began negotiations for a contract with HGA.

Next a small Master Planning Committee was formed to work with HGA and their team in the development of the Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. This Committee met for the past six months to develop a Master Plan for our campus, which included some specific issues, e.g. accessibility, music, parking, meeting/social space, and our liturgical space. As the details become finalized we hope to share the results of the work of this committee in the coming months. 

The Plan is very comprehensive and includes recommendations to support the broad vision for the campus and solutions to all identified needs to better perform our day to day ministries and works. The Plan did not filter against a budget or a financial target to ensure we addressed all opportunities. The Master Plan included 15 “groupings” of work and expense to reflect potential projects or campaigns for The Basilica to consider. These are representative of likely project groupings, and the included detail allows The Basilica flexibility in defining scope of each project we pursue in the coming years. 

The detail in the Master Plan will be used as a starting point and will help guide us as we begin the work to determine the appropriate scope and phases of implementing the Master Plan. These project priority decisions will be reflective of the needs of our Parish community and reflect the interests, budget and giving capacity of our Parishioners and donors. 

2. Feasibility Study: As I have mentioned previously, The Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz Whaley Flessner to conduct a feasibility study to help determine fund raising capacity for a potential Capital Campaign needed to implement elements of the newly developed Master Plan.

As the work of the Campus Space Planning, Master Plan Development, Feasibility Study and potential Capital Campaign have broad implications for our Parish we have been actively engaged with The Basilica Landmark Board, Parish Council, and Finance Committee to ensure our leaders are informed and appropriately involved in providing guidance and approval. 
3. Our Parish Finances: A big THANK YOU to all those who so generously supported our Basilica parish at Christmas and through year-end giving. Your financial support makes it possible for us to continue to offer the programs, ministries, and services that are the hallmark of our parish. 
 
I want to thank all those who have made a commitment of financial support to our parish community during our financial stewardship campaign this fall. Please know your commitment of financial support to our parish community is greatly appreciated. Your pledge—no matter the size—is important and makes a difference. It allows us to continue to offer the many programs, ministries and services that are the hallmark of our Basilica community. Please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support. 

4. Change Management Consultant: As I have mentioned previously, several months ago our parish our Parish Council and Finance Committee approved funding to hire a Change Management Consultant, to help us as we seek to implement our new strategic plan. 

Most recently our parish staff and a small Task Force have been working with the Change Management Consultant to help us develop an “assessment tool” to help us identify those ministries, services, and programs, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community and need to continue, as well as those that need to change or end. Our new Strategic Plan has provided the foundation to guide our decision making process and prioritization. 

It is both good and important periodically for parishes to take a step back and review the various programs and ministries that are part of their parish operation to make sure they are still filling a need, or whether they to be modified, or ended so that new or emerging needs can be addressed. The Change Management Consultant is helping us take a careful and considered look at all that we do here at The Basilica. We hope to finish this work sometime in early spring. 

5. Archdiocesan Synod: On the weekend of January 18 and 19 members of our Parish Synod Committee spoke at all the Masses on the upcoming Archdiocesan Synod. A synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is Archbishop Hebda’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this Archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today—and into the near future.

The synod process began this past fall and continues during the winter and spring with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod. In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process. On Pentecost weekend May 21-22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly. Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the archdiocese and will meet to discern synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop. The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.

I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese. It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end —since I first informed you of the synod—we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward. There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session at mary.org/synod. You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead. 

6. Catholic Services Appeal: The 2020 Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) will begin the weekend of February 1 and 2. This yearly appeal helps support the many ministries, services and programs within our Archdiocese. Now I realize many people are concerned that contributions to the Catholic Services Appeal will be used for purposes they didn’t intend. In this regard, it is important to note that The Catholic Services Appeal is an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. This was done, to insure that all the money that is collected through the Appeal would go directly and solely to the ministries, services, and programs supported by the CSA. No CSA funds go to the Archdiocese. 

By pooling the financial resources from generous donors throughout our diocese, much important and necessary work is funded by the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA). As your pastor, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of the Appeal; I encourage you to make a gift to support these important ministries, services and programs. Please look for the Catholic Services Appeal information in pews, or learn more at csafspm.org.

7. Recent Maintenance Projects: In addition to several smaller maintenance projects this summer, there were also two major maintenance projects. We replaced the carpeting in the lower level of the church. If you have not been in the lower level of The Basilica recently I would encourage you to stop down and see the new carpeting. Replacing the old carpeting and updating the hospitality area with an expanded area of terrazzo was one of our major maintenance projects this summer. I know I come from a biased perspective, but I think it turned out quite well. 

The other major maintenance project this summer/fall was rebuilding the south façade of our parish school building. While the brickwork is done a couple months ago, the Terra Cotta needed to finish the job was delayed. It finally arrived a few weeks ago and has been installed. If you haven’t seen the rebuilt south facade of the school, I invite you to stop and view it after church some weekend. I think it turned out exceptionally well. 

8. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate: The Bishops of the United States have launched a year-long initiative that invites Catholics to model civility, love for neighbor, and respectful dialogue. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate will ask Catholics to pledge civility, clarity, and compassion in their families, communities, and parishes, and call on others to do the same.

The initiative is built on the recognition that every person—even, and perhaps especially, those with whom we disagree—is a beloved child of God who possesses inherent dignity. Civilize It is an invitation to imitate the example of Jesus in our daily lives in our encounters with one another through civil dialogue.

In talking about this initiative, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, of Venice, and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development emphasized the importance of Civilize It in the context of the current divisive climate: 

“Conversation in the public square is all too often filled with personal attacks and words that assume the worst about those with whom we disagree. We are in need of healing in our families, communities, and country. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate is a call for Catholics to honor the human dignity of each person they encounter, whether it is online, at the dinner table, or in the pews next to them. I invite all Catholics to participate in Civilize It. In doing so, they can bear witness to a better way, approach conversations with civility, clarity, and compassion, and invite others to do the same.” You can find out more about Civilize It at CivilizeIt.org.

On Sunday, February 16 at 11:00am Bill Dougherty from Better Angels will speak in the lower level of The Basilica about the work of Better Angels. At the end of his talk we will invite people to take the Civilize It pledge of: 1. Civility; 2. Clarity; and 3. Compassion, and to pray for civility in our conversations. hose who are interested will also be invited to commit to the three additional three more workshops with Better Angels: March 7, 21, and 28. These will be skills workshops to delve deeper into the concepts Bill will address in his talk that day.

Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary

 

Full Bulletin:

February/March 2020 Bulletin

 

 

At the heart of my faith is the unbending and abiding belief that each and every person is a beloved son and daughter of God. Now certainly my words and actions don’t always give witness to this belief. The sad fact is that at times I live and act in ways that seem to deny this core belief. And yet, this does not diminish what for me is the most basic fact of our existence: every human being is beloved and sacred in God’s eyes.

From my perspective the above belief needs to be applied consistently and without exception. From the unborn life in the womb, to the refugee at our border, to the homeless person on the street, to the inmate on death row, to the person suffering the ravages of a slow and painful death: all life is sacred. If we start down the road of arguing that life only has meaning and value that we assign to it, we can easily come to the conclusion that some lives are more important, more significant, or valuable than others. Frankly this idea frightens me. God is the author and sustainer of life. Life has value not because of anything we do, accomplish or possess, but rather because we are created in the image and likeness of God. 

This past January marked the 47th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion. Legalized as a private act, abortion continues to be a divisive, emotionally charged, and very public issue. I believe those who identify themselves as pro-choice in regard to abortion either do not understand or refuse to acknowledge the sacredness of life, especially and most particularly, life in the womb. By the same token, those of us who identify ourselves as pro-life give the lie to this position when we fail to acknowledge and appreciate the sacredness of the woman considering an abortion, as well as those who identify themselves as being pro-choice. 

If we are truly pro-life I believe we cannot disrespect, or worse condemn, those who are considering an abortion or who support abortion rights. Rather, we need to look at them as God does and treat them with care, concern, respect and love. Where we have failed to do this, we need to offer our most sincere and humble apologies. And we must recommit ourselves to have reverence for all life. 

As pro-life people, our challenge and goal is to preserve, protect and enhance life at all stages of development, and in all its manifestations. Whenever the opportunity arises and whenever the occasion presents itself, we must freely and unapologetically speak of the value and dignity of every human life. And we must call people to respect the fragile, gracious and wondrous gift of life. In doing this, though, we must never forget our obligation to love and respect even those who don’t share our position, and not seek to demonize or condemn them.

As Catholics, as Christians, as people who are pro-life we must respect those with whom we disagree, and strive to see in them the image of God. If we cannot demonstrate our respect and reverence for life with those with whom we disagree, then our pro-life rhetoric rings hollow. For whenever we fail to respect life—any life—we fail to appreciate both the tremendous gift that life is, as well as the One who gave us that gift. It is not always easy to give voice and witness to our pro-life beliefs, but we need to remember that our God is always offering us the grace we need to do this. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020920.cfm 

“Pass the salt, please.”   How often do we use those words in a given week?   I suspect that even those who are trying to cut down on their salt intake still use these words a fair amount of the time.   Salt is perhaps the most common seasoning.  It is an inexpensive way to give zest and flavor to whatever it is added.  

In our Gospel today for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells his disciples that they are “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.”   In these familiar words Jesus reminds his disciples that they are to live in such a way as to have an impact on the world around them.   Jesus is clear.  No one “lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel basket;  it is set on a lampstand, where is gives light to all in the house.”   But we aren’t to be “salt” and “light” so that others will think highly of us.   Rather we are to be salt and light so that people “may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.    In it Isaiah exhorts the people to “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.  Then your light will shine forth like the dawn.”    Clearly being a “light” requires some concrete and specific actions, not just good thoughts.   

Our second reading this Sunday again comes from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.    In it Paul tells the people of Corinth that he “did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom …….... so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom, but on the power of God.”  

Questions for discussion/reflection:

1.  When have you been salt or light to those around you?
2.  When has someone been salt or light to you?   
3.  When has your faith been encouraged not by someone’s words, but by someone’s actions?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020220.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.    This Feast is celebrated on February 2nd each year.   Our Gospel for this Feast is the story of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple in accordance with Mosiac law. 

When Mary and Joseph came to the Temple they encountered Simeon, who was “righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.”   Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and then said to Mary: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be sign that will be contradicted --- and you yourself a sword of sorrow will pierce --- so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  

Mary and Joseph were fulfilling the prescription of the law of Moses when they presented Jesus in the Temple.   As is often the case in the scriptures, though, things have a much deeper meaning than is immediately evident.   Simeon’s words prophesy both Christ’s ministry and his passion and death.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Malachi.  In the section we read this weekend God announces:  “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me………”  From our Christian perspective we see this prophecy as referring to John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Christ.  

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter to the Hebrews.  It reminds us that Jesus “had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, the he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people.  Because he himself was tested through what he suffered he is able to help those who are being tested.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1. Simeon said that Jesus was a “sign that will be contradicted.”  What does this mean to you? 
2. Have you ever waited, as Simeon did, and eventually found your waiting rewarded?  
3. I loved the words from Hebrews that “because he himself was tested through what he suffered he is able to help those who are being tested.”   When and how have you felt Jesus’ help in time of need? 

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