Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010316.cfm           

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord.   Epiphany comes from the Greek word “epiphaneia” meaning manifestation.   In the Western Rite Catholic Churches this Feast is celebrated as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi from the East.  

On this feast we always read the Gospel story of the visit to the new born Christ child by astrologers or magi from the East.  If you read the Gospel text carefully, however, you will notice that the magi are never identified as “kings” and their number is never specified.   (We presume there were three, because there were three gifts.)  The three “kings” we sing of comes to us from our verbal tradition and not from the scriptures.  

The message of this feast is important and it is stated well by St. Paul in our second reading today.  “………... the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise of Jesus Christ through the Gospel.”  In essence Paul is saying that Jesus came to save all people for all time.  His manifestation to the magi (being Gentiles, not Jews) reminds us of this most basic fact.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah.  It speaks of the restoration of Jerusalem, when the Israelites will return from their exile.   The new Jerusalem will be a light to the nations for the Lord will shine upon it.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1.  While there have been and will continue to be dramatic and powerful epiphanies of our God, I also believe that subtler epiphanies take place all the time.  Can you remember a time when you experienced an epiphany of God’s presence and grace?
  2.  If Jesus Christ came to save all people for all time, why do you suppose some people want to put limits on God’s salvific will?   
  3.  Can you find the Epiphany stained glass window in the Basilica?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122715.cfm

 

This Sunday we observe the Feast of the Holy Family.  This Feast celebrates Jesus’ birth into our world as a member of the human family of Mary and Joseph.   It also reminds us that the Holy Family is a model for our own families.  

 

When I was growing up it used to be very easy to say what a family was.   It was a mom and dad and any number of kids.   Through the years, however, I have had to continually expand my understanding of family.  I say this because I have come to realize that families come in all shapes and sizes   What is most important in regard to families (of whatever configuration) is that they are characterized by loving relationships.  At their best they are marked by lives lived out in care and service of one another and the broader community.   Clearly this was the case with the Holy Family.  

 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the story of the finding of Jesus in the Temple.   This story illustrates well the relationship of love that existed in the Holy Family.  Note that there is no display of anger, no recriminations, and no resentment.  Rather there is mutual respect, an effort at understanding, and above all love.  Would that all families manifested these qualities.  

 

There are two options for our first reading this Sunday.  The one we will use at the Basilica is from the book of Sirach.   This book is part of the Wisdom literature included in our Catholic Bible.  If it is included in Protestant Bibles it is usually under the heading of “apocrypha books”.  Following the theme of the Gospel, the section we read today reminds us of the ideals of family life:  honoring and reverencing parents, caring for them, and exhibiting love and kindness toward them. 

 

We also have two options for our second reading this weekend.  The one we will use at the Basilica is from the First Letter of St. John.  In this reading we are reminded that “We are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

  1. I once heard a speaker say that families should be defined by bonds of love versus bonds of relationship.    Do you agree or disagree?
  2. How would you define a family?
  3. Have you ever thought of yourself as a child of God?   
Celebrate Christmas at The Basilica

A Living Reality

Since the beginning of time, people of faith have searched for the God who had left so many proofs of His existence, yet had always remained hidden from sight. His presence was real, yet always mediated through created things, and therefore always elusive.  

And then, in the fullness of time, all that changed. While all was quiet, in the deep stillness of a winter night, God came to a small country town and dwelt among His people in human form. God’s presence was no longer mediated and mysterious, but now real and actual. 

It was first noticed by shepherd folk with keen ears and star gazers with sharp eyes. Yet soon a waiting world was to know of this miraculous event. And down through the centuries believers of every age have continued to search for and discover God made manifest in that tiny infant born in Bethlehem.   

Today we celebrate the birth of Christ, not as a past event, but as a living reality. For we believe that God did not come to dwell among us once long ago and then return to heaven. God continues to abide with us. He is Emmanuel—God with us now and always.  

May we attune our eyes and our ears as we seek to discover the living God present among us. May we open our hearts to his presence and love. And may this Christmas be a time for all of us to recognize anew the presence of God revealed to us in our newborn king, Jesus Christ.   
 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.   
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122015.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting “the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’”    Then after expressing wonder that Mary should come to visit her Elizabeth said: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”    

Clearly men are peripheral to this meeting of Mary and Elizabeth.  It is the story of two woman who  have both miraculously experienced God’s presence and grace in their lives, and they have come together to share and celebrate this wondrous experience.   This is a great model for all believers.  When we have experienced God’s presence and grace in our lives we need to find those people with whom we can share that experience.  For it is in sharing it that we come to understand it at an even deeper level.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Micah.   It was written to a people who had lost hope when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and its citizens transported to Babylon.  It reminded them that despite their current circumstances a Messiah would come and return the exiles to their home and rebuild Jerusalem.  “Thus says the Lord:  You, Bethlehem-Ephratha too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; ………………… Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, and the rest of his kindred shall return to the children of Israel.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter to the Hebrews.   In the section we read this Sunday we are reminded that we have been saved by Christ’s “once for all” sacrifice.  “…………we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you experienced God’s presence and grace in your life?  
  2. With whom have you shared the above experience?
  3. Why do you think God chose to come to us in the infant, Jesus Christ?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121315.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent.  This Sunday is sometimes referred to as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, because we are joyful that our time of waiting and preparation is coming to an end.  

Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two sections.   In the first section we are told that the crowds, some tax collectors and even some soldiers approached John the Baptist with the same question:  “What should we do?”   In each case, John is clear that they don’t have to do extraordinary or difficult things.  Rather they are to be satisfied with what they have, act with kindness and compassion, and they are to share what they have and not extort from others.   

In the second half of the Gospel we are told that the people were all “asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.”   In response, John said “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.”  John the Baptist had a clear sense of himself and his mission.     

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah.   In the section we read this Sunday, Zephaniah prophesizes that, despite Israel’s infidelity, God in his mercy would spare a holy remnant which ultimately would enjoy peace.  “The Lord has removed the judgement against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.”    

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.  In the section we read this Sunday Paul exhorts the people to trust in God.  “The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests know to God.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. If you could ask John the Baptist what you should do during this season of Advent, what do you think he would say to you?  
  2. Our second reading this Sunday is a prophecy of consolation.   Have you ever needed a prophecy of consolation in your life?
  3. What helps you to trust in the Lord, and to have no anxiety?    

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120615.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the second Sunday of the season of Advent.   In our Gospel this Sunday we encounter the figure of John the Baptist.   John is a central figure during Advent.   He is the precursor of Christ ----- the one who came to prepare the way for Christ.   His message was simple. “John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”     

In this Sunday’s Gospel Luke introduces John by describing a very specific place and time.  “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip, tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the desert.”   I suspect the reason for this specificity is that Luke wanted to place the beginning of John’s ministry on center stage in world and local history at that time.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Baruch.   The people of Israel are in exile in Babylon and feeling abandoned and hopeless.   In the face of this situation, Baruch reminds them that God has not forgotten them, and he offers them a vision of hope for the future.  “Up, Jerusalem!  Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.   In the section we read today Paul offers a prayer for the Philippians.   “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ……………”  

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. Advent is a season of preparation rather than a season of repentance. What do you need to do to prepare for Christ during the season of Advent? 
  2. Baruch offers a vision of hope for Israel in their exile.  Is there a scripture passage that offers you a vision of hope?  
  3. Paul prays that the Philippians will discern what is of value.   How do you discern what is of value?            

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112915.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new Church year.   We are on a three year cycle for our Sunday readings.   We just finished with the “B” cycle where our Gospel readings were taken primarily from the Gospel of Mark.   This Sunday we begin the “C” cycle of readings, and our Gospels will be taken primarily from the Gospel of Luke.   

The major theme(s) of the season of Advent can be summed up in the words: preparation, vigilance, anticipation, and wakefulness as we wait in joyful hope our celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as well as his coming at the end of time.  

Our Gospel this Sunday, like our Gospel last Sunday, is apocalyptic in tone.  Jesus tells his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves………………… And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”    While we wait for these signs to occur we are to be vigilant so that “your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap………………… Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah.   It is a prophecy of hope to the Israelites who faced the conquest of their land by the Babylonians.   “In those days, Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her:  ‘The Lord our justice.’”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.  In the section we read today Paul prays for the Thessalonians. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you you…………..” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How are you called to “prepare” during this season of Advent?
  2. What helps you to stay steadfast in the face of adversity?
  3. How can you “increase and abound in love?”  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112215.cfm 

This coming Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  This Feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925.   Seeing the devastation caused by World War I, Pius established this Feast as a way to remind people that Christ is Lord of both heaven and earth.  Initially this Feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October, but when the Roman Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar in 1969 it was moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year. (The new liturgical year always begins with the Fist Sunday of Advent.)    

Our readings this Sunday have an apocalyptic tone.  As I have said previously, apocalyptic writing is very stylized.   It uses vivid imagery and dramatic language, as well as visionary and prophetic images to make its point. Apocalyptic language was used in times of trail or difficulty to assure people that despite the suffering of the present moment, God was with them and ultimately would triumph.   Apocalyptic literature is not meant to be taken literally.

Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of John.  It is the scene of Jesus before Pilate.   Pilate asks Jesus:  “Are you the King of the Jews?”   Jesus reminds Pilate and us that “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”   While ostensibly Pilate is in charge of this encounter, from John’s perspective (and ours) Jesus is the one who is in control.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.   It is part of Daniel’s vision in which he saw “one like a Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” to be present to the “Ancient One.”   We would see this language as prefiguring Christ.   

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Revelation.  It is a hymn of praise for Christ.   “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who had made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. We aren’t big on royalty in the United States.  How would you explain Christ the King to an unbeliever?   
  2. What would you say to someone who takes a literal approach to apocalyptic literature?     
  3. What are the hallmarks of one who tries to live as a member of the Kingdom of God? 

Many years ago I visited a parishioner in the hospital who had been diagnosed with advanced cancer. I had been told by the family that she didn’t have more than a few weeks to live, and would be moving to hospice when she left the hospital. When I stopped at the nurse’s station to see if it was okay to visit, the nurse said that would be fine. I noticed, though, that they were just beginning to bring around the lunch trays, and so, I indicated that I could stop back later. The nurse replied that my timing was actually good as people usually ate better when someone was with them. I entered my parishioner’s room just as an aide had brought in the lunch tray. I told my parishioner to go ahead and eat, and that we could talk while she ate. While she ate, we had a lovely visit as she told me about her husband and family and her life. After about 25 minutes I indicated that I probably should be going. She thanked me for visiting and then almost as an afterthought said that she hated eating alone so the timing of my visit couldn’t have been better. 

The two things I remember about this visit were the nurse’s words that people usually eat better when someone was with them, and my parishioner’s words that it was nice to have someone with her while she ate because she hated eating alone. Over the years, I’ve come to realize how important these things are. Being with someone and conversing with them while they eat can be the difference between just ingesting food and sharing a meal. Eating with someone can also help us better appreciate the food. It can also fill us up—not just physically, but in other ways as well. 

I believe the above is the reason why, when Jesus’s time on this earth was coming to an end, he chose to share a meal with his disciples and then to command them to “do this in memory of me.” Jesus knew the importance of sharing a meal with others. He knew that this wasn’t just a way to nourish their bodies, but also a way to nourish their spirits. I suspect he also knew that people ate better when there was someone with them. 

We believe that in the Eucharist that Jesus left us, that Jesus is really and truly present. Further, we believe that when we receive the Eucharist it strengthens us and sustains us that we might become more like Christ. As St. Augustine said many years ago: “Behold what you are. Become what you receive” The Eucharist is not a reward for life well lived. Rather it is to help us live life well. It helps us to better follow Christ and to better bring Christ to the world around us.  

In addition to being a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, though, the Eucharist is also a communal event. As we gather to celebrate and share the Eucharist we are reminded that as we seek to follow Christ, we do so within a community of faith. It is the community that strengthens and sustains us when our energy begins to wan and our efforts feel unproductive. In the Christian community, we are reminded that there is no private dining at the table of the Lord. We are all in this together, and we need the encouragement and support of one another as we seek to be and to bring the presence of Christ in our world.  

The Eucharist is a great gift and blessing. It is a sacred communal meal we share and that empowers us to follow Christ and to be Christ in our world. For this gift let us never fail to give thanks. Because of this gift let us pray that we might become what we believe. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111515.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time.  Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King which is the end of this liturgical year.   As always, as we come close to the end of a liturgical year the readings focus our attention on the end times.   This is the case with our Gospel reading today.   In that reading we hear Jesus tell his disciples that after some time of tribulations “they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”   Jesus then tells his disciples:  “when you see these things happening, know that the is near at the gates.”  After this dire warning, the Gospel closes with the somewhat enigmatic statement that "of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”   

What are we to make of this Gospel?   Well I think it reminds us that while we do believe that Christ will return at the end of time in the glory of the final age, we also need to be aware that Christ is still present in our midst today.   And while we need to be aware of and prepared for the end times, one of the best ways to do this is to strive to be aware of and prepared to meet Christ in our daily lives.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.   It is apocalyptic literature, which was written to a people who were experiencing trials or tribulations.  It uses vivid language and images to remind people that despite any trials or difficulties ultimately good will triumph.   In today’s reading we are told there will be a time “unsurpassed in distress.”   At this time, though, “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament.”   

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.  It reminds us that “But this one (Jesus) offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God.   Now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. If only the Father knows when the end times will occur why are some people so fascinated with trying to discern the signs of the end times?
  2. What helps you to be aware of Christ’s presence on a daily or regular basis? 
  3. Have trials/tribulations ever caused you to think about giving up on God?  

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