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Several years ago I heard a story --- probably apocryphal --- about a small boy who snuck into the room where his baby brother lay in his crib and whispered: “Tell me about God. I’m already starting to forget.” I thought of this story as I reflected on this Sunday’s Gospel. In this Gospel we hear Jesus exclaim: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” I believe these words remind us that we should be child-like (as opposed to childish) in our relationship with God. We are called to trust and believe that the God who loved us into existence, will never abandon us or fail to hold us firm in God’s love.
This is the message in the second part of today’s Gospel. There we hear the familiar words: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” These comforting words remind us that in God we will always find rest and comfort.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah. It is a prophecy of the Messiah’s return and the establishment of his kingdom. “and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. “ .
In our second reading this Sunday from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, Paul draws a contrast between the “flesh” and the “spirit.” Paul reminds us that because of Jesus Christ: “You are not in the flesh, on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Has your relationship with God gotten simpler or more complex as you have gotten older?
2. Where in your life do you need rest from your labors or burdens?
3. How do you know when the Sprit of God is dwelling in you?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles. This Feast is observed each year on June 29th, and since June 29th falls on a Sunday this year, it takes the place of what would have been the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Our Gospel for this Feast is the familiar story of Jesus asking his disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” His disciples must have been pleased they could fill him in on the local gossip. “Some say John the Baptist, other Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus, though, makes the question more personal, though, by asking: “But who do you say that I am?” It is Peter who gets is right --- even though at that point he didn’t understand the full meaning of his words: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” In response, Jesus tells him: “……….you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church……….”
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles. We are told that Herod had Peter arrested and put into prison. While in prison an angel of the Lord appeared to Peter, freed him from the chains that bound him, and led him out of prison. In response to this miraculous act Peter said: “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”
Our second reading for this Feast is from the second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy. Paul is facing death, but reminds Timothy that God has been and continues to be his strength. “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me…….”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. How would you respond to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?”
2. Peter felt God working in his life when he was freed from prison. When have you felt God working in your life?
3. Do you believe that a crown of righteousness awaits you at the end of your life?
This coming October, Pope Francis has called for a special Synod on the family. According to Pope Francis, “the Synod will be on the family, the problems it is facing, its assets and the current situation it is in.” In preparation for this Synod, bishops from around the world were asked to seek input and gather information from the people of their respective dioceses. Several individual bishops, as well as conferences of bishops, have released summaries of the input they received. Archbishop Michael Jackels, the Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, was one of the bishops who reported on the input he had received.
Additionally, though, he offered his reflections on that input. In this regard, he noted that “the responses reflected positions relative to marriage and the family that were varied and opposing.” He also reported hearing a range of opinions about birth control, divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, and other issues. While I don’t think anyone would be surprised at this, I am grateful for and pleased by Archbishop Jackels’ candor in acknowledging it.
In his reflections on the input he had received, I was struck in particular by one comment Archbishop Jackels made. Specifically, he said:“The Church is a lot like a family, which is never perfect, often not pretty, sometimes dysfunctional and a source of frustration, even the cause of anger. And yet we still identify with it, claim membership in it, and how dare anyone try and say otherwise. In the Church family we always hold out hope that other members or things in general will change for the better. And what “better” means varies from family member to family member.”
I think Archbishop Jackels really hit the nail on the head with this comment. As I have mentioned previously, I think Church is like a family. In my own family, we have managed to cancel out each other’s votes in the last several presidential elections. And yet we realize that when we come together to share a meal, when we all put our feet under the same table, there is something much bigger holding us together than could ever divide us. And so it is with Church.
When we celebrate the Eucharist we experience the preeminent commitment of God to us. At its deepest level, the Eucharist is a communion of life, a communion of love with our living God. It is a sharing in God’s life, so that our lives can be holy, and we can be united in Christ. In the fourth century, St. Augustine in a homily about the Eucharist said: “So now, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful: ‘You are the body of Christ, member for member.’ (1 Cor. 12.27) If you, therefore, are Christ's body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord's table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying "Amen" to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear "The body of Christ," you reply "Amen." Be a member of Christ's body, then, so that your "Amen" may ring true!”
When we gather for Eucharist we come with all our different perspectives, opinions, prejudices, perceptions, views, thoughts and ideas about how things should be. It would be easy for these things to separate and divide us. When we share Eucharist, though, the things that might divide us shrink in significance as we are unified in Christ through the Eucharist that we share in his name and memory. It is the Eucharist that strengthens us, that nourishes and sustains us, and that unites us as we seek to follow Jesus. And in the Eucharist, when we receive the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ in the world. We are united in faith, and because of this our differences — whatever they are — dim in comparison to the unity we experience in the Body of Christ.
For this Sunday’s readings, please click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. For those old enough to remember, this Feast used to be called Corpus Christi. It celebrates our belief in that in the Eucharist we celebrate in Jesus’ name and memory that Jesus Christ is really and truly present --- not present just symbolically, not present merely in memory, not present simply spiritually --- but really and truly present. We offer no proof for this belief. There is no rational explanation for it. There is no way to logically reason to it. For us it is a matter of faith. And as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Heb. 11.1)
Our Gospel for this Feast is taken from the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John. In the section we read this Sunday Jesus tells us: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Deuteronomy. In the section chosen for this Feast Moses reminds the Israelites that when they were in the desert God “………. fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth form the mouth of the Lord.” The manna that fed the Israelites in the dessert prefigures the Eucharist.
Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. The section we read today is very appropriate for this Feast: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. How would you explain our belief in the Eucharist to someone who doesn’t come from a Christian background?
2. Have you ever spent time in an Adoration Chapel or in quiet prayer before the Tabernacle? What was that experience like?
3. What do you remember about your First Communion?
For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. This Feast celebrates our belief that God has revealed God’s Self as loving Father, redeeming Son and sanctifying Spirit. In the preface for this Feast we hear the words: “For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit you are one God, one Lord: not in the unity of a single person, but in a Trinity off one substance.” How this can be we do not know. That it can be we do believe.
While our belief in a Triune God has been at the core of our faith since the beginnings of our Church, the dogmatic statements that articulate this belief are the result of later generations of believers.
Our Gospel reading for this weekend is from the Gospel of John. It speaks of the core and essence of our faith: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Exodus. In this beautiful passage we are told that “………. The Lord stood with Moses there and proclaimed his name, “Lord.” Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out ‘The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.’”
Our second reading this weekend is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. It was probably chosen because it speaks of each member of the Trinity. It is also, though, the greeting that is often used at the beginning of Mass. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. We believe in one God, who has revealed God’s self as Father, Son and Spirit. What explanation of the Trinity has been most helpful to you in understanding this belief?
2. How have you experienced the presence and/or action of the Father, Son and Spirit in your life?
3. What does it mean to you that God is “slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity”?
“The only purpose of the Church is to go out and tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ. It needed to surge forth to the peripheries, not just geographically, but to the peripheries where people grapple with sin, pain, injustice, and indifference to religion.
“But the Church had become too wrapped up in itself. It was too navel-gazing. It had become ‘self referential’ which had made it sick. It was suffering a ‘kind of theological narcissism.’ When Jesus said: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’ people assumed he was outside, wanting to come in. But sometimes, Jesus knocks from within, wanting to be let out into the wider world. A self-referential church wants to keep Jesus to itself, instead of letting him out to others.”
The above quotation is part of a pre-conclave talk given by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis). Another Cardinal, Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, the Archbishop of Havana, said that this speech, given during the cardinals’ pre-conclave meetings, was "masterful" and “clear.” In fact he was so impressed with the talk that he asked Cardinal Bergoglio for his notes and his permission to share them publicly.
I too like these words of Pope Francis. They remind us that our Church does not exist for its own sake and well being. Rather our Church is meant to bring Christ to the world — to be the face, the hands, the body, and the love of Christ in the world.
This weekend we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at The Basilica of Saint Mary. That first Mass has been followed by countless other Masses. Additionally, in the 100 years since that first Mass, almost 26,500 babies have been baptized at The Basilica (161 of them were baptized this past year alone); thousands of weddings and funerals have taken place here; as well as Anointings of the Sick and Ordinations. And in recent years The Basilica has been host to hundreds of Confirmation ceremonies for the Archdiocese. In addition to these sacramental celebrations, The Basilica has also educated thousands in our school, and since 1974 in our faith formation programs. Through our various programs, services and ministries we welcome all those who are seeking to know and follow Jesus Christ in their lives. As I mention at the beginning of every Mass, we welcome people to worship with us whether they worship with us regularly or whether they are just visiting. Whatever brings people to The Basilica and wherever people are on their faith journey, they are welcome here.
In addition to our parish activities, though, for one hundred years The Basilica has also been a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline. The Basilica is a magnet for attracting people from all over the metro area. Individuals from more than 540 zip codes call this parish their spiritual home. They provide critical funds and volunteer hours to help thousands of people. And our efforts make a difference. Since its beginnings at The Basilica over 25 years ago, our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry has served countless people. Some are homeless, some on the edge, and some are working families who just can’t make ends meet. Each year, we serve about 50,000 people. Last year we provided 7,000 pairs of shoes, 13,000 sandwiches, and hundreds and hundreds of bus tokens, gas cards, and rental assistance. The Basilica campus is the home for this life changing and life saving ministry.
Beyond meeting the needs of those in our community to just survive (food, shelter, clothing,) we also provide life skills programs and sessions as well as mentoring. The Basilica’s employment ministry currently serves more than 470 people who are unemployed or underemployed; helping them search for jobs, providing job search guidance, one-on-one counseling and resume building workshops.
In addition to our social ministry, The Basilica of Saint Mary also plays an important role in the downtown community. For a hundred years The Basilica of Saint Mary has been a center for civic and cultural activities including ecumenical prayer services, concerts, art shows and speakers. We need to ensure that this continues in the future.
Thousands of activities fill the calendar each year at The Basilica, involving parishioners and the community we serve. From liturgies to our employment ministry, education programs to to sandwich ministry, concerts to outreach programs, The Basilica Block Party, to art exhibits, we are a thriving community. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at The Basilica this weekend, let us pray that we will continue the proud tradition of being and bringing Christ, not just to our parishioners, but also and especially, as Pope Francis said, to those on the peripheries — to those people who grapple with sin, pain, injustice, and indifference to religion.
Click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for this Sunday’s readings.
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. This celebration reminds us that all of us have been baptized into one and the same Spirit --- the Advocate --- who has been given as gift to the followers of Jesus.
Our Gospel reading for this Feast is from the Gospel of John. It records a resurrection appearance of Jesus and his words to his disciples: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Our first reading this weekend is from the Acts of the Apostles. We are told that “………. they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”
We shouldn’t think these two different accounts of the gift of the Spirit are at odds with one another. Rather, they remind us that at times the Spirit comes to us in a gentle and quiet manner, and at other times the Spirit comes in a powerful and very evident manner. This connects well with our second reading for this Sunday from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In the section we read today, we are reminded that “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit, there are different forms of service but the same Lord; who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Sprit is given for some benefit.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. When have you experienced the Spirit in a quiet and gentle manner?
2. When have you experienced the Spirit in a manner that has been powerful and evident?
3. What manifestation (gift) of the Spirit have you been given?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser:
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. (This Solemnity used to be celebrated on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter, but several years ago, the Bishops of our Province made the decision to transfer this celebration to Sunday.) Our Gospel for this Solemnity is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. It does not speak of the Ascension directly. Instead we are told that “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted.” Jesus then gave them the great commission “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you until the end of the age.”
We should not be concerned that we are told that while the disciples worshipped Jesus, they still doubted. Faith, as we know from our own experience, is not the same as certainty. Rather, faith reminds us that even in our uncertainty, Jesus is always with us, and is leading and guiding us until the end of the age.
Our first reading this Sunday is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. It records the Ascension of Jesus, but prior to that it also records Jesus farewell words to his disciples: “’But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”
Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. In the section we read today Paul prays: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call………………”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Have you ever worshipped, but doubted?
2. How are you called to give witness to Christ in/through your life?
3. How do you see things through the “eyes of the heart?”
Recently Pope Francis, in an action that didn’t gain a lot of attention, added the name of Blessed Peter Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits), to the company of the saints, short-circuiting the normal canonization process. In an August interview with Antonio Spadaro S.J. for Civiltà Cattolica, a periodical published by the Jesuits in Rome, Pope Francis spoke of Faber as a "model" for himself, both as a Jesuit and now in the governance of the universal church. The Pope said he admired Faber for his ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving."
When I read the Pope’s words, my immediate reaction was: what a great idea, canonizing someone who was able to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents." Holding up someone like Peter Faber as a model of sanctity, and a way of life worth emulating, reminds us that as Catholics we should never disregard or disdain those with whom we disagree. Certainly this runs counter to the way many in our church deal with those they regard as their opponents.
In our in our church these days there are times when it is not enough simply to disagree with others. Instead, at times we tend to demonize those with whom we disagree, or worse invite them to find another church. This behavior is not limited to a particular group. I have seen people on both ends of the spectrum --- liberal and conservative --- engage in this conduct. Frankly and bluntly, I find this kind of behavior embarrassing at best.
When Jesus called his first disciples he simply said: "Follow me." There was no litmus test to see if they passed muster. He simply invited them to follow him. And it was in following him that they came to understand what they were called to believe, and how they were called to live as his disciples. And we know from the Gospel that some found his words too difficult and simply left. In fact we are told that as a result of the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel that "many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him." Notice, though, that Jesus never spoke ill of those who left. He didn’t demonize them. And he never asked them to leave. When people left his fellowship, it was always their decision.
I am excited that Pope Francis has name Peter Faber, S.J. a saint. I am pleased and grateful that he did so because he appreciated Peter Faber’s ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents." And I am going to pray for St. Peter Faber’s intercession so that I can be more like him in my life.
To find this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from that part of John’s Gospel known as the Last Supper Discourse. In it, Jesus prepares his disciples for his death, resurrection, and eventual ascension into heaven. He tells his disciples: “I will not leave you orphans.” Rather, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth………..” Additionally, twice in this Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to demonstrate their love for him by keeping his commandments. And his commandments are simply that we “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all you mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk. 10:27)
Clearly for Jesus if we strive to love God and our neighbor this creates a new relationship with them --- a relationship of love. In essence we are family to one another and thus are never orphans.
Once again our first reading this weekend is the Acts of the Apostles. In the section we read this Sunday we hear that Philip “proclaimed the Christ” in Samaria, and “when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John who went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken again from the first Letter of Saint Peter. In today’s section Peter exhorts the people to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Have you ever felt alone or on your own, e.g. orphaned, and then realized God was with you?
2. How have you experienced the Spirit of Truth --- the Advocate promised by Jesus --- in your life?
3. What explanation would you offer as the reason for your hope?