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/080518.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://usccb.org/bible/readings/072918.cfm 

F.H.B:   “Family Hold Back” was a phrase I heard on numerous occasions when I was growing up.   Usually it occurred when my father would invite unexpected company to “stay for dinner” and my mother would go into overdrive to make sure there would be enough food for everyone.   I suspect the fact that she was Irish had something to do with this.  From her perspective running out of food was only a slightly lesser sin than denying the faith.   This memory came to mind this past week as I reflected on our Gospel for this weekend.  In that Gospel we are told that a large crowd had been following Jesus and so Jesus said to 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.”   

Since this is one of the few incidents that is recorded in all four Gospels, this story is familiar to all of us.   Jesus 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 a couple things to note in this Gospel.   First, notice that Jesus started with what was at hand.   He could have worked this miracle by himself, but he took what was at hand and built on it.   Second, when God is involved, abundance is the order of the day.  Scarcity is not an issue.  There is always more than enough.   These two things remind us that if we let God work with and through us, great things can happen.  

Our first reading this weekend from the second Book of Kings, is the account of an earlier miraculous feeding.   In this case twenty barley loaves fed over a hundred people.  “For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”

In our second reading this weekend we continue to read from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.   In this reading Paul urges us “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”   

Questions for discussion/reflection:

  1. When have you felt God’s grace encouraging your efforts so that you were able to do something that surprised you?  
  2. Do you live with an attitude of abundance or scarcity?
  3. What does it mean for you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received?   
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072218.cfm 

In our Gospel last weekend we heard how Jesus sent out his disciples two by two to preach repentance, drive out demons, and anoint the sick with oil and cure them.   In our Gospel this weekend we see the disciples return to Jesus and “report to him all they had done and taught.”   While they no doubt were excited by their missionary efforts, Jesus also realized that the disciples were probably tired and hungry, so he said to them:  “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”   Unfortunately, the people followed them and Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because “they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”     

Our first reading for this weekend is from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah.    In this reading, the Lord chastises the shepherds “who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.”  There is a clear contrast in this reading between the shepherds who have mislead and misdirected the people and the Lord, the Good Shepherd, who always has the best interests of his people close to his heart.    The connection with the Gospel is clear.   Jesus is also the Good Shepherd, whose heart is moved with pity for the flock entrusted to his care. 

In our second reading for this weekend, we continue to read from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.    In this reading Paul reminds us that in Christ Jesus we “who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever felt yourself being called to go to a deserted place and rest for a while?
  2. Clearly not all shepherds are “Good Shepherds.”   What are the hallmarks of a Good Shepherd.?
  3. When and/or how have you felt yourself becoming near to Christ?   
     

There is a story about two monks in the Middle Ages (an older monk and one of the younger monks) who were traveling cross country for a visit to a remote monastery. At one point, the road they were traveling on came to a stream. There was a woman there who asked them if they could help her cross the stream. The older monk replied that he would be happy to help her and immediately picked her up and waded across the stream. When they got to the other side the woman thanked them and went on her way, and the two monks went their way. About an hour later the younger monk said to the older monk: “Brother, I don’t think it was appropriate that you picked up that woman and carried her across the stream.” The older monk replied. “Brother are you still carrying that woman with you? I put her down the minute we got across the stream. I’m surprised you are still carrying her.” 

Like the young monk in the story above, I suspect that all of us “carry” things with us that we need to put down. It could be a grudge, an old hurt, a painful or embarrassing moment from the past, or a memory of something we did that was wrong. We hold these things close, and seldom, if ever, speak of them with others. These things weight us down and hinder our growth. They take up space in our minds and hearts and spirits, and in extreme cases can prevent us from moving forward with our life. 

I’m not sure exactly why we “carry” around these things, but I do know that prayer can help us put them down—for a while at least—and eventually forever. The image I like to use is that of an ice cube. When you hold an ice cube in your hand for a few moments and the exterior begins to warms to the touch of your hand, if you put it down and then take it up again a few minutes later, a part of it remains on the surface where you placed it. While it may be only a drop, it is not as big as it was. 

And so it is when we bring our cares, woes, hurts, grudges and pain to prayer. If we can leave them with God for a few minutes, while we may take them up again, a part of them stays with God and they are not as big as when we first brought them to prayer. And if we continue to practice bringing those things we “carry” around with us to prayer, we may discover one day that we have left them with God and we no longer carry them with us.

Like the young monk, sometimes we carry things with us that we shouldn’t be carrying and that we need to put down. Prayer is a great place to bring these things. And God is always ready and more than willing to take these burdens away from us. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071518.cfm 

In our Gospel this weekend, we are told that Jesus sent out his disciples “two by two, and gave them authority over unclean spirits.”   He also instructed them 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.  He said to them: ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.  Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.’  So they went off and preached repentance.

This Gospel reading is taken from chapter 6 of Mark’s Gospel which is not even the half way point in his Gospel, so why would Jesus send his disciples out at this point in his ministry?  I think there are at least two reasons why Jesus would do this.   1)  He wanted his disciples to experience what it would be like to preach and heal in his name.  This would be there responsibility after he was no longer with them, so what better time to do this then when he was still with them and could encourage them and help them understand what they were to do.   2)  I also think, though, that Jesus sent them out at this time and in this manner (taking nothing with them) so they would realize that it was by God’s power and authority and not their own that they were able to do what they did.   I say this because along with their mission, Jesus gave them “authority.”  And he wanted them to know that it was because of God’s bounty and by virtue of the authority he had given them that they were sent forth to preach and heal in his name. 

Our first reading this weekend from the Book of the Prophet Amos, shares the theme of the Gospel. Amos is clear with Amaziah, the high priest of Bethel, that he did not choose to be a prophet.  Rather, he was chosen and empowered by God:  “The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”   

In our second reading this weekend, Paul reminds the Ephesians (and us) that we have been chosen by God “to be holy and without blemish before him.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Every now and again I slip into the bad habit of failing to remember the most basic fact of our existence, and that is that everything I am and have comes as a gracious gift from a loving God.  What helps you to remember this? 
  2. Have you ever felt called and empowered by God to do something?
  3. What helps you to live a holy life?   
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. ‘
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070818.cfm   

At a conference I attended several years ago one of the speakers began his talk (to a group of peers) by saying:   “An expert is someone who comes from at least twenty-five miles away and carries a briefcase.   I am not an expert, I am one of you. ”   I suspect the speaker began this way both to disarm us and to challenge us to be open to what he had to say.    He realized that sometimes it is hard to be taken seriously by a group of peers.   Our peers know us.  They know our faults and failings.  They are familiar with us.   We are a recognized commodity.   

A situation similar to the above occurred in our Gospel for this weekend.  Jesus had returned to his “native place, accompanied by his disciples.”    When he began to teach in the synagogue those who heard him were astonished.   “They said, ‘Where did this man get all this?  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?  And are not his sisters here with us?” 

While the people in this Gospel did know Jesus, they stopped at the point of familiarity.   They made the mistake of thinking they knew all there was to know.  Because of his wisdom and by the mighty deeds wrought by his hands, though, they should have realized there was more to Jesus.  Unfortunately they were too caught up in their own way of thinking and looking at things.   

Our first reading this weekend relates the call of Ezekiel to be a prophet.   He has been sent to the Israelites, a people who are “hard of face and obstinate of heart.”   This reading shares the same theme as the Gospel.  It reminds us that sometimes our pre-conceived ideas of the ways and work of God can blind us to new realities.    

In our second reading this weekend from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul talks about being given a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from becoming too proud and to remind him that God’s grace was enough for him.   This is a lesson I have learned and then had to re-learn several times in my life.   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Has there been a time when--only in retrospect--you recognized the presence and/or power of God in your life? 
  2. Have you ever been “hard of face” and “obstinate of heart” with God?
  3. Have there been times when you have discovered that God’s grace is enough for you?   

     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070118.cfm 

This weekend we continue reading from the Gospel of Mark.   Our Gospel contains two stories, The first is the story of the resuscitation of a little girl, the daughter of a synagogue official.  The second is the story of the cure of a woman with hemorrhages.  The focus, though, is really on the first story.  Now in looking at this story, it is important to make a distinction between resuscitation, which is a return to this life, and Resurrection, which is a birth to a new and eternal life with God.   In this Gospel, Jairus, a synagogue official, approached Jesus, fell at his feet and pleaded with him saying: “My daughter is at the point of death.  Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”    Now, as background, it is important to note that it would have been unseemly, at best, for an official of the synagogue to approach Jesus and ask him for a favor.  Most of the religious leaders of that time vigorously opposed to Jesus.   And yet, out of love and concern for his daughter, the official did the unthinkable and came to Jesus pleading for his assistance.  

Jesus went with the official but before they could get to the official’s house, people arrived and said: “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”   Jesus, however, ignored them and proceeded to the house.  Upon his arrival he was ridiculed when he told the people that “the child is not dead, but asleep.”  Disregarding these people, he entered the room where the little girl was and commanded her to arise.   The girl arose, and walked about, prompting astonishment from those who were present.   The message of this Gospel is clear:  Jesus is Lord of both life and death. 

Our first reading for this weekend, from the book of Wisdom, shares the theme of the Gospel.   We see this in the opening sentence:  “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.”   Later in the reading we find these words:  “For God formed man to be imperishable, the image of his own nature he made him.”    These words remind us that we are made for life ----- life with our God forever.   

In our second reading this weekend, from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about “this gracious act”  that the Corinthians are about to engage in.    What is this gracious act?   They are going to take up a collection to help the struggling church in Jerusalem.    In encouraging their generosity, Paul reminded them and us that “your abundance at the present time should supply their needs.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Like Jairus, there are times when I approach God because I have no where else.   I suspect it is my pride and independent nature that keeps me from going to God sooner.   What keeps you from approaching God?    
  2. Why are so many people afraid of death?
  3. What “gracious act” are you called to do this week?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062418-day-mass.cfm     

Names are very interesting.  Sometimes they can signal continuity. (Many names have been in a family for generations.)  At other times they can express uniqueness.  (I do a lot of Baptisms, and I’m continually surprised at some of the new names that crop up.)   Names can also have a religious connotation, (think of Faith, Hope and Charity).  They can also be an expression of a popular trend. (I’m always intrigued each year by the list of the most common baby names.)    

In our Gospel this weekend for the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, we encounter Elizabeth and Zechariah who have to choose a name for their new born son.   We are told that “When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, ‘No.  He will be called John.’   But they answered her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who has this name.’  So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  He asked for a tablet and wrote, ‘John is his name,’ and all were amazed.”    The child was named John because the angel Gabriel had told Zechariah this was to be his name.   In Hebrew “John” means “God is gracious.”  In this case God was indeed gracious because Elizabeth, who was thought to be barren, conceived a son in her old age.   The name is also appropriate because John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ, thus his name is a sign of God’s gracious favor toward all of us.   

Our first reading for this Feast is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In this reading, Isaiah rejoices that he was called by God to be a prophet.  “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name…………………You are my servant, he said to me, Israel through whom I show my glory.”    

In our second reading for this Feast, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul reminds us that “John heralded his (Christ’s) coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. What is special/unique about your name (first, middle, last, or a nickname or Confirmation name)? 
2. Isaiah saw himself as being called by God to be a prophet.  Have you ever felt God “calling” you to do something?
3. How or when have you experienced God’s gracious activity in your life?    

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/061718.cfm  

Several years ago, at another parish, we gave out mustard seeds on the weekend on which today’s Gospel was read.   Our target audience was children.  We thought it would be a great way to give them a “hand’s on” experience of how tiny a mustard seed was, and how big a plant these small seeds could produce.   Now, not only did kids get involved in this endeavor, but so did the adults.   The winner was a woman who had planted the mustard seeds in a pot she hung outside on the one of the poles for her clothes line.   With very little care on her part, the mustard seed had grown into a plant that was a good three feet in diameter.  I don’t know what she did with the mustard plant, but its growth was a great illustration of today’s Gospel parable comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed:  “It is like a mustard see that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants………….”   

Parables were a favorite teaching device that Jesus used to tell people something about God or about our relationship with God.  The parable in today’s Gospel reminds us that the bringing about of the kingdom of God is God’s work, not ours.   It will occur in God’s time, not ours.  And its advent and growth will occur whether or not we are aware of it.    

Our first reading this weekend, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, reminds us that God is in charge and God’s work will occur with or without or understanding or participation.  “And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.” 

St. Paul, in our second reading today, reminds us that: “we walk by faith, not by sight.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever discovered “after the fact” that God had been at work in a situation or a particular circumstance?
  2. Can you think of an occasion when God’s time was different from your time? 
  3. What does it mean for you to walk by faith, not be sight?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/061018.cfm 

This Sunday we return to what is known as “Ordinary Time” in our Church’s calendar.   It is called Ordinary Time, to distinguish it from the seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent Easter.  At the beginning of our Gospel this Sunday we are told that when the crowds gathered around Jesus his relatives “set out to seize him for they said: ‘He is out of his mind’.”   In the verses that follow, Jesus responded to the people who questioned whether he was using demonic power to case out demons by telling them:  “How can Satan drive out Satan?”   He then told them:  “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.  For they had said: “He has an unclean spirit.”   The Gospel closes with Jesus’ family finally arriving.   When told his family had arrived, Jesus responded by saying: “Here are my mother and my brothers.   For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”      

While our Gospel today is a bit of a hodgepodge in regard to its meaning. It does tell us, though, that  people were suspicious and even hostile toward Jesus because he did not conform to their expectations. Their resistance to Jesus was fueled by the suggestion from the religious leaders that he was out of his mind and/or possessed by Satan.     More importantly, though, this Gospel also reminds us that those who believe in and seek to follow Jesus are in a new relationship with Jesus and with each other.   We are brother and sister, mother and father to one another.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Genesis.  It records the aftermath of the sin of Adam and Eve.   The point of the story is that when sin entered the world our relationship with God changed.  The mutuality and the close and open relationship with God that humans once enjoyed was forever changed because of sin. 

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.   In it St. Paul reminded the early Christians (and us) that when we encounter pain and difficulties --- even the pain associated with death that we are not to be discouraged.  “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comprehension, as we look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen; for we know that what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Why is it easy to think of some people as our brothers and sisters, and not so easy for us to think of others as brothers and sisters? 
  2. How do you imagine our relationship with God was before sin entered the world?
  3. Our second reading today is often used at funerals.   What do you find most consoling about it?  

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