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/060219-ascension.cfm  

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord.   This Feast used to be celebrated on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  Several years ago, though, the Bishops of the United States moved the celebration of the Ascension to what would have been the Seventh Sunday of Easter. 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the last few verses of the Gospel of Luke.   In it we are told that Jesus led his disciples as far as Bethany and then told them he was “sending the promise of my Father upon you” Then,…………he raised his hands and blessed them.  As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.”    

The above scene is also recorded in our first reading this Sunday from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.  In this account Jesus promised that his disciples “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you………… When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”   

As I reflected on these readings, I remembered a wonderful homily preached by another priest at his mother’s funeral.  In his homily he noted that while his mother had died, she would continue to live on.  He then went on to name various people and situations where his mother’s presence would be known and felt.   His message was clear.  While physically gone,  his mother’s presence would continue to be experienced.   This is the same message of our Gospel and first reading.   While Jesus would no longer be with his disciples physically, he would continue to be with them.   We experience this abiding presence of Christ in many ways, but most evidently in the Eucharist, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the grace of God that is continually being offered to us.     

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.  In it Paul prays that the “eyes of your hearts be enlightened and that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call ………………..and what is the surpassing greatness of his power.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you felt someone’s presence even though they were not physically with you?   
  2. When have you felt God’s presence in your life?
  3. I loved Paul’s use of the phrase “eyes of your heart.”  When have you seen some one/thing through the eyes of the heart?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052619.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the Sixth Sunday of the season of Easter, and once again our Gospel is taken from the Gospel of John.   There are three distinct sections to this Gospel.  In the first section, Jesus reminds his disciples that:  “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our dwelling with them.”   In the second section, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, “the Advocate whom the Father will send in my name………”   In the third section, Jesus reminds his disciples that “Peace” is his farewell gift to them.  Therefore they are not to let their “hearts be troubled or afraid.”   

Each of these sections is rich in meaning.  In the first section, while the idea of God dwelling with his people would not have been new, the intimacy and immediacy of this indwelling would have been original.   In the second section Jesus introduces his disciples to the Holy Spirit.  Again, the people of this time would have a sense of God’s Spirit.  And yet, here and later in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the Spirit as one with, yet distinct from the Father.  Finally, in the third section Jesus talks about giving his disciples peace.  We often think of peace as the absence of strife or tension.  For the people of Jesus’ time, however, peace or shalom had a much deeper and richer meaning.  It was an abiding sense of God’s presence.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles.  It is the story of one of the first conflicts in the early church.  Specifically, it deals with the question of whether gentile converts to Christianity needed to be circumcised in order to be saved.  (Circumcision was a sign of the Jewish convent with God.)  This Sunday’s reading skips Paul and Barnabas’ trip to Jerusalem to speak to the “apostles and elders about this question” and jumps to the decision itself:  “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to animals, and from unlawful marriage.”     

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation continues John’s vision of the “holy city Jerusalem.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Have you ever experienced God dwelling with you?  
2.  On occasion I have felt the peace that Jesus spoke of in our Gospel today.   When you have experienced this peace in your life?  
3. In our first reading the apostles and elders were bold in their declaration that:  It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us………”    When have you felt the Spirit guiding you 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/051919.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Easter.   Once again our Gospel for this weekend is taken from the Gospel of John.  It comes to us in two distinct sections.  

At first blush, the opening words of the first section of this Gospel are a bit puzzling:  “When Judas had left them, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.’”  The question naturally arises as to why are we reading about Judas during the Easter season?   The answer is that the setting of this Gospel is the last supper.  For John, Jesus’ glorification is rooted in and grows out of his suffering.  Judas’ departure set in motion the course of events that ultimately led to Jesus’ glorification.   And since Jesus’ resurrection is his glorification, there is a certain appropriateness to the mention of Judas on this Fifth Sunday of our Easter season.  

The second section of this Gospel begins:  “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.   I give you a new commandment:  love one another.”   Now while this is not a new commandment, what is new is the next sentence:   “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”   In these words Jesus really “raises the bar” in regard to what is expected of his disciples.   

Our first reading this Sunday is again taken from the Acts of the Apostles.   It tells of the missionary efforts of Paul and Barnabas to various cities.  The last sentence tells of their arrival at Antioch.   We are told:  “And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation.   It presents us with a “vision” of John of a “new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,”   with a loud voice saying: “Behold God’s dwelling is with the human race.   He will dwell with them and they will be his people……….”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:    

  1. The challenge for us to love one another as we have been loved by Jesus can be daunting.  When have you been successful at it?   When have you failed? 
  2. While most of us are not called to be missionaries in foreign countries, we are all called to share the message of Jesus Christ in our own ways.   Can you recall a time when you have given witness to Christ by what you have said or done?
  3. When have you been aware of God’s dwelling with you?
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051219.cfm    

In our three year cycle of readings on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we always read from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.  In this chapter Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd and his disciples as the sheep.   The section from chapter ten we read this Sunday is very brief.   It is only three verses:  “Jesus said: My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.   I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of my Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.” 

We should not presume that the brevity of this Gospel suggests it is unimportant. In fact quite the opposite is true.  This Gospel tells us three very important things.  1.  Jesus is continually calling us to follow him.  We need to listen, though, in order to hear that call.  2.  We cannot accidentally fall away from God or be snatched out of God’s hand.  Rather, we are meant for eternal life with God.  3.  Jesus is able to promise these things because he is one with the Father, not subordinate to the Father. 

In our first reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles.   In the section we read this weekend, Paul and Barnabas continue to preach about Jesus Christ.   However, since the Jews of that area had rejected their preaching, they preached instead to the Gentiles, telling the Jews: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”   When they continue to encounter resistance they “shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is once again taken from the book of Revelation.  It presents a “vision” that told of a future time when “They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1.  Jesus said that my sheep hear my voice.  How do you “listen” for the voice of Jesus?
  2. What helps you to listen for the voice of Jesus?   
  3.  We are reminded in our first reading that God intends salvation to be for all people.  Why do think some people want to restrict/limit the number who can be saved?  
     

God's Forgiveness

A few weeks ago in a conversation with a friend, I suddenly realized that without intending it, I had said something that bothered, and in fact, had hurt my friend. Now saying something hurtful certainly wasn’t my intention. In fact, quite the opposite, I was trying to be witty. Thus, when I realized that what I had said had been hurtful, I began to explain what I meant, and why I had said what I did. As the explanatory words tumbled out of my mouth, it dawned on me that I was doing the same thing that increasing numbers of people seem to be doing; I wasn’t apologizing, I was explaining. When I realized what I was doing, I immediately shifted gears and offered an apology for my intemperate words. I then asked my friend to “call me out” in the future, if and when, I explained rather than apologized. He promised he would, and we moved on to other things.

From my perspective, explaining why we said or did something, rather than apologizing for it seems to be a growing phenomenon. People will send snarky emails, say nasty things, or do things that are discourteous or just plain rude, and when they realize they acted intemperately, they will tell you why they said or did it, rather than apologizing for it The thing is, though, that while at times it can be helpful to know someone’s motivations and intentions for their words and actions, this doesn’t change the fact that someone may have been hurt by them. In these situations, an apology, not an explanation, is what is needed. And apologies start with the words: “I am sorry.” 

In regard to the above, however, we need to be brutally honest. In some cases, even the words: “I am sorry” are insufficient. These times occur when we have knowingly and intentionally hurt someone, or when we have become aware that the hurt caused by what we said or did ran deeper than we thought. At these times, a simple “I’m sorry” is not enough. We need to go to a deeper level. We need to ask the tough question. “Will you forgive me?” When we say “I’m sorry,” we are still in charge and in control. When we ask: “Will you forgive me?” We are ceding that control to another person, and asking them to give us what we cannot give ourselves: reconciliation and peace. 

The above is a good example of what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we come to God with our sins and failings, and tell God of our sorrow for the things we have done wrong. We also ask, though, for God’s forgiveness. In asking for this forgiveness, however, we need never fear that God’s forgiveness is in doubt. The forgiveness of our sins is offered to us freely, and generously, without limitations or end. God loves us. And because God loves us, God cannot not forgive our sins. 

When we ask for God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can trust and believe that because of God’s love and in God’s mercy, our sins—whatever they may be—are forgiven. And in asking for the forgiveness of our sins, we know and believe that we will receive in return what we cannot give ourselves: God’s pardon and peace.  

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/050519.cfm           

In our Gospel this Sunday we read of a resurrection appearance by Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias.  We are told that Simon Peter and the other disciples had gone fishing, “but that night they caught nothing.  When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”    He asked them if they had caught anything and when they said they hadn’t, he told them: “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”   When they were not able to pull the net in because of the number of fish, the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter: “It is the Lord.”   Peter than jumped into the water and swam to shore.  When the other disciples arrived, Jesus fed them with bread and fish.  He then asked Simon Peter three different times:  “Do you love me?”   

Over the years, many explanations have been offered as to why Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him.  Some suggest that it was because Peter had denied Jesus three times.  Others suggest that Jesus wanted Peter to understand not just the importance of the question, but the importance of his answer.   I would like to suggest, though, that perhaps the most important thing about this exchange is that it was only after Peter had declared his love that Jesus gave him a mission:  “Feed/tend my sheep/lambs.”  For Peter, as for us, the things we do in the name of Jesus should come out of our love for Jesus.     

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles.   In it the disciples are brought before the Sanhedrin because in defiance of their orders, they continued to preach about Jesus.  “But Peter and the apostles said in reply, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation.   The style of writing in this book is known as apocalyptic literature.  Often it was written during a time of trial/persecution, and it was intended to offer hope and encouragement.  It is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, it uses vivid imagery and symbolic language to convey the idea that despite the difficulties of the present, God is ultimately in charge.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever thought God was calling you to do something?   Did you respond to that call out of love for Jesus? 
  2. Have you ever experienced a conflict between obeying God versus men?  
  3. There seems to be a fascination in regard to apocalyptic literature.  Why do you think this is?   

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

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042819.cfm

 

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter, which is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  Although our first and second readings for this Sunday follow our three year cycle of readings, the Gospel for this Sunday is always Jn. 20: 19-31.   It is the story of Thomas. 

 

I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for poor Thomas.   He didn’t believe the other disciples when they told him that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had appeared to them.  As a result, forever after he was known as “doubting Thomas.”   Now I don’t know that I can completely restore Thomas’ credibility, but I’d like to offer two thoughts in his defense.   First, it seems to me that the other disciples couldn’t have been very effective witnesses if they couldn’t convince Thomas that they had encountered the risen Lord.  Certainly the idea of someone rising from the dead was an unprecedented phenomenon, but the disciples couldn’t have been very persuasive if they couldn’t convince Thomas --- a man who had been in their company for three years --- that Jesus had been raised from the dead.   Second, I don’t know that doubt is such a bad thing.   Doubt and faith are two sides of the same coin.   You can’t have doubt if you don’t have (at least some) faith.   In fact, out of Thomas’ doubt came the first statement of Easter faith:  “My Lord and my God.” 

 

Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It recounts the beginnings of the apostles’ ministry, which was a continuation of Jesus’ mission and ministry.  In this reading we are told “Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women were added to them.” 

 

Our second reading today is taken from the Book of Revelation.   We will be reading from this book for the next five weeks.  It is important to remember that the Book of Revelation is “apocalyptic” literature.  It is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, apocalyptic literature is filled with vivid imagery and symbolic language.   It was written during a time of trial or distress and it was meant to encourage and offer hope in the face of trials and suffering.  It also reminded people to remain firm in their faith.  

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1.   Do you think doubt is a bad thing?

2.   Have you ever tried to convince someone of something only to have them doubt you?  Did they ever come to believe you? 

3.  If you encountered someone who read the Book of Revelation literally, what would you say to them?  

A few weeks ago Johan van Parys, our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, wrote an excellent column for this space articulating why he is staying in the Catholic Church. His words prompted me to reflect on why I to stay in our Church, especially in light of the fact that many people have left or are at least taking a break from our church.

In most cases the reason people have left, or are taking a break from our Church, has to do with the handling of the clergy sexual abuse crisis by the leaders of our Church. Over the past many years, hundreds, if not thousands, of priests have engaged in the sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults. Others have sexually exploited or harassed adults. Worse, many bishops and others in leadership positions covered up this behavior or turned a blind eye to it. Worse still, it has come to light that some bishops have also engaged in this kind of behavior. Worst of all, though, is that now that the actions of these bishops have come to light, the leadership of our Church still hasn’t developed a comprehensive plan to respond to the sexually inappropriate behavior of their fellow bishops. 

Until and unless the leaders of our Church acknowledge their failures, and put forth a concrete, specific plan for their future accountability, our Church will continue to be embroiled in the sexual abuse crisis, and people will continue to leave our Church in frustration and anger. People have been deeply wounded by individuals they have trusted. In many cases, those in positions of authority allowed this to happen. These same leaders must now commit themselves publicly to openness, transparency, and honesty. This is called accountability. People should not only expect it; they should demand it. 

Despite the failures of many in leadership positions in our Church, however, and despite the fact that many people have left our Church, I chose to remain. While the reasons I stay are many and varied, there are two primary reasons. 

I stay in the Church because I need the Eucharist. As Catholics we believe that in the Eucharist we celebrate and share, that Jesus Christ is really and truly present—not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. We offer no proof for this. There is no logical or rational explanation for it. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a matter of faith. And it is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist that I hunger for and that sustains and nourishes me in my life. As I tell the children at First Eucharist every year: I know that I am not the best person in the world. I am a sinner. But I would be far worse without the Eucharist. The Eucharist makes me be a better person than I would otherwise be. I cannot do without it, and I cannot accept a substitute for it. 

The second reason I stay in the Church is that I need a community of faith that both supports and challenges me. I believe we do this especially well at The Basilica. Here at The Basilica we welcome all those who come through our doors. Not only do we strive to see the face of Christ in one another, but we also strive to be the face of Christ for each other. While some would seek to limit the embrace of our Church, I believe that the embrace of our Church can be nothing less than the embrace of God’s love. 

In his message at the beginning of Lent a few years ago Pope Francis wrote: “Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.” I believe these words describe well what the church, as a community of faith, is all about. These words are an important and necessary challenge to parishes everywhere. They remind us that parishes can never be self-referential or concerned only with their own self interest. The Church needs to be a community of faith that supports and challenges its members. The Church needs to be a community of faith where people are welcomed and accepted. The Catholic Church—and particularly The Basilica—does this better than any church I know. I need this in my life. 

And so because I need the Eucharist and because I need a community that supports and challenges me, I stay in the Catholic Church. 

In this space several months ago I quoted a line from the late comedian Phyllis Diller, who famously said: “Don’t go to bed angry…Stay up and fight.” I believe this is good advice for Catholics today. And so, on this Easter Sunday, I say to all those who may read this: Don’t leave our Church angry. Stay and fight for a Church that is open, honest, and transparent. Stay and fight for leadership that is accountable and responsible. Stay and fight so that you can be the Church that you want the Church to be. Stay—and celebrate the Eucharist and be a part of a community that supports and challenges all of us. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042119.cfm 

The readings listed above are those that will be used on Easter Sunday morning at the Basilica.  There are different readings for the Mass of the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, and a different Gospel for Easter Sunday afternoon.   

The Gospel for Easter Sunday is John’s account of Mary of Magdala’s finding of the empty tomb.  We are told that she “came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.”   Peter and John then both ran to the tomb.  John arrived first, but perhaps out of deference to Peter, did not go in.  He merely “bent down and saw the burial cloths there.”   When Peter arrived he went into the tomb and “saw the burial clothes there.” John also went in and we are told that “he saw and believed.”   We don’t know exactly John what believed because the last line of the Gospel is enigmatic: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”   It is easy for us from our vantage point 20 centuries later to wonder why Peter and (perhaps) John didn’t immediately understand the resurrection.  We need to remember, though, that Jesus’ resurrection was entirely new, clearly extraordinary, certainly beyond understanding, and something that has never occurred since.   

In our second reading today, St. Paul urges us to “Think of what is above, not of what is on the earth.”  

Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It is part of a speech by Peter to the Gentiles.  In a few brief words Peter summarizes Jesus’ ministry and then reminds people that “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What stands out for you from the various Services of Holy Week?
  2. Is there a sentence from the Easter Gospel that has special meaning for you? 
  3. Peter speaks of being a witness to the risen Lord.  How do you give witness to the risen Lord Jesus in your life?  

     
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
 
 
This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday.  In addition to the usual three readings, we also have a Gospel reading that is used at the beginning of Mass.  This reading records Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem just prior to his passion.  This Gospel is read at the beginning of Mass and introduces the procession with palms. 
 
Each year on Palm Sunday we read one of the accounts of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross.  This year we read from the Gospel according to Luke.  While each of the four evangelists tells the story of the passion and death of Jesus, they each approach it from their own unique perspective.  In this regard, Luke is not as sparse in detail as Mark.  At the same time, in Luke’s account of the passion, Jesus is not as regal or as “in charge” as he is in John’s account.   From Luke’s perspective, Jesus willingly accepts his suffering and death as the fulfillment of God’s plan.   
 
While we are all familiar with the story of Jesus’ passion, reading (or hearing) it in its entirety can help us appreciate anew--and hopefully at a deeper level--the suffering Jesus’ endured for our sake.  
 
The first and second readings for Palm Sunday remain the same every year.   The first reading is taken from that part of Isaiah known as the “songs of the suffering servant.”   From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have seen these songs as referring to Christ, the suffering servant par excellence.  
 
The second reading for Palm Sunday is taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  It is in the form of a hymn and it speaks of Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth and back to heaven.  Its simple eloquence reminds us that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” for us.   And because of this, “every knee shall bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord………..”  
 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
  1. As you read the passion, what moment stands out for you?
  2. The “cross” has been a Christian symbol for centuries.  Yet, in recent years especially, it has become more decoration/ornamentation than a symbol of one’s faith.  Why do you think this is?
  3. In the second reading, Paul speaks of Jesus’ emptying himself for our sake.  Have you ever emptied yourself for another?    

     

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