Fr. Bauer's Blog

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This Sunday, as we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, we also celebrate the beginning of a new liturgical year.   The focus of the season of Advent is on the two comings of Christ --- the first at his birth and the second at the end of time.   The promise fulfilled and the promise of what is yet to come are both part of our Advent celebrations.  

Our Gospel for this first Sunday of Advent is from Mark.   In the section we read this Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples:  “Be watchful! Stay Alert! You do not know when the time will come.”   This might seem like a call to be spiritual insomniacs or to always be on the alert.   Jesus, though, follows these words with a parable about a man traveling abroad who takes care that his house is properly cared for and guarded while he is away.  This parable reminds us that if we are diligent and prepared, we will be ready to meet the Lord whenever and in whatever manner he comes.   

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It shares the theme of the Gospel.  It is a prayer for God to reveal God’s the Israelites who are being held in captivity in Babylon.  Isaiah also prays that the people would be properly disposed for God’s revelation.  “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in all our ways!”  

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In the section we read today, Paul gives thanks for the gifts of God that have been manifested in the Church at Corinth.   “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  What helps you to be prepared to meet Christ?
2.  In retrospect have you ever realized that you missed recognizing the presence of Christ?
3.  Where have you seen the grace of God at work in your life?  

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 Christ the King.  This Feast closes the current liturgical year.  Next Sunday we begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent.  The Feast of Christ the King 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.  

Our Gospel this Sunday is the last judgment scene from Matthew’s Gospel.  We are told that “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”   Those on the right were told they would “inherit the kingdom prepared or you from the foundation of the world”  because when they offered food, drink, welcome, clothing, and care to those in need, they did it for the Lord. Those on the left were sent off to eternal punishment because “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”  

An element common to both groups is their surprise:  “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?”   This reminds us that we are called to serve those in need not only because they are in need, but also because we recognize Christ in them. Perhaps more importantly, though, we are called to respond to those in need because our salvation depends on it.  We don’t get to pick and choose who is worthy of our charity and love.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.   Ezekiel reminds us that the Lord God is our Shepherd and he will “look after and  tend his flock,” but he will also “judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.”     

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Paul is clear about the necessity of Christ. “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.    Have you ever recognized Christ in one of your least brothers or sisters? 
2.    When have you failed to respond to the needs of one of your least brothers or sisters?
3.    How are people brought to life in Christ?  

May They All Be One

As he lay dying of cancer, Pope John XXIII reportedly continuously whispered Jesus’ prayer: “May they all be one” (John 17:11). As a priest, diplomat, and finally as Pope, one of John XXIII’s aims was to reach across denominational barriers to re-establish the unity of God’s people. He once said: “Whenever I see a wall between Christians, I try to pull out a brick.” Along with Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII was canonized (named a saint) on April 27, 2014.    

I think John XXIII’s words about removing bricks from the walls that separate Christians are perhaps more important now than when he first uttered them. In our world today, there is much that would/could separate Christians. Divisions exist on almost every moral issue, and there is ongoing debate about major issues in our Christian faith—the ordination of women being perhaps the most notable.  

In addition to the differences that exist among Christians, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that differences also exist among Catholics. I don’t believe, though, that we should be alarmed or threatened by differences. Rather, I believe it is the divisions that arise from our differences that are the real source of shame and scandal. There is something wrong if we allow differences to turn into disputes and divisions.   

In regard to the above, I want to be clear. Acceptance of others doesn’t mean we agree with them. Dialogue with others doesn’t mean that we abandon our principles, and respect for others doesn’t mean endorsement of their beliefs. To lack respect for the differing position of others is to be haughty, ignorant, or both.   

Many years ago Dr. James P. Shannon was President of the then College of St. Thomas. He later became an auxiliary bishop in our Archdiocese and eventually left ministry. While President of St. Thomas, he wrote an essay in 1962 entitled: “The Tradition of Respectful Argument.” In that essay he wrote:  

The ability to defend one’s own position with spirit and conviction, to evaluate accurately the conflicting opinions of others, and to retain one’s confidence in the ultimate power of truth to carry its own weights are necessary talents in any society, but especially so in our democratic culture.

There is some evidence that these virtues are in short supply in our land. The venerable tradition of respectful argumentation, based on evidence, conducted with courtesy and leading to greater exposition of truth is a precious part of our heritage in this land of freedom. It is the duty of educated men to understand, appreciate, and perpetuate this tradition.  

If we can remember and put into practice the ideal of respectful argument, perhaps some day Pope John’s prayer: “May they all be one,” will become a reality.   

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

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.   Our Gospel this weekend is the arable of the talents. We are told that a man decided to go on a journey and so he called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  “To one he gave five talents, to another two;  to a third one --- each according to his ability.”    The first two servants traded with the talents they had been given and doubled them.  The third “buried his master’s money.”   After being gone a long time the master returned and called in his servants to settle accounts with them.  The first two were congratulated for being “good and faithful” servants, and were promised greater responsibilities.  They also were invited to “share in their master’s joy.”   The third was berated as a “wicked and lazy servant,” and thrown “into the darkness outside.”  

What are we to make of this parable?  It seems as if the master’s treatment of the third servant is unduly harsh.  I think the key to understanding it is to be found in the fact that he entrusted his possessions to his servants “each according to his ability.”   The third servant was lazy and indifferent.  He didn’t even put his master’s money in the bank where it could earn interest.   As with every parable, this one also tells us something about God or about our relationship with God.   Specifically this parable reminds us very clearly that God has given us the gift of faith, and we put off living out our faith at our own risk.  

Our first reading this weekend from the book of Proverbs speaks of the qualities of a worthy wife.  It  shares the theme of the Gospel in that a worthy wife uses well the talents and abilities she has been given.  In this she is like the first two servants in the Gospel. 

Once again this weekend our second reading is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.  In the selection we read this weekend Paul reminds the Thessalonians that because of Jesus Christ they “are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief.  For all of you are children of the light………”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

1.    What are you doing to develop the gift of faith you have been given? 
2.    What inhibits or prevents you from developing the gift of faith?  
3.    What does it mean to live as children of the light?   

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

This weekend we celebrate the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.   When this Feast falls on a Sunday it replaces the normal celebration for that Sunday, in this case the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.    The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Cathedral Church of Rome.  It is where the Pope presides as Archbishop of Rome.   The more well known, St. Peter’s Basilica, is the Church were the Pope presides as head of the universal Church.  

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is the story of the cleansing of the Temple.   This is one of the few stories that is found in all four Gospels.  We are told that Jesus went to the temple area and ”found those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as money changers seated there.”   Now to be fair, these people were providing a needed service.   Often people came from a distance to offer sacrifice at the Temple.  For them to bring their offering with them would have been a hardship.  It was much easier to buy what your needed when you got to the Temple.  The difficulty was that it had gotten completely out of hand.   The Temple had become a marketplace and not a house of prayer.   On this Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, this story reminds us that our churches are places of God’s presence and our prayer.   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.  The Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, but Ezekiel offered a vision of the Temple’s restoration and a lavishness of new life streaming forth from the Temple.   

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

Questions for reflection/discussion:

1.  At times my prayer feels like the Temple in this Sunday’s Gospel --- filled with a lot of commotion and little quiet.   Is that true for you as well?
2.  Have you ever experienced God’s new life pouring into your life?
3.  Have you ever thought of yourself as the temple of God in which God’s Spirit dwells 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 Commemoration of All Souls.  This Feast is always celebrated on November 2nd,  and this week it displaces the celebration of the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. On this day we remember and pray for our deceased relatives and friends, but also for all those who have died marked with the sign of faith.   

Our readings for this feast remind us that our God is a God of life and love, and that God wants to share God’s life and love with us not just in this world, but in the life to come.   This is the clear message of Jesus in our Gospel today.   “And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father,  that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him, may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom.   Although this Book was written about one hundred years before the time of Christ, it clearly reflects a belief in some kind of eternal life. The opening lines of today’s reading speak clearly of this belief:  “The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them.   They seemed in the view of the foolish to be dead, and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction. But they are in peace.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In this reading, Paul is clear about our belief in the resurrection of the dead.  “For if we have grown into union with him (Christ) through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  What helps you to believe in eternal life?   
2.  How would you explain eternal life to someone who didn’t believe in it?  
3.  Do you believe people can lose the opportunity to enjoy eternal life? 

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

In our Gospel this Sunday, like our Gospel last Sunday, we once again see two groups --- who would not have been considered allies --- come to Jesus with a question.   In this case the Pharisees and the Sadducees, come to Jesus and one of them “a scholar of the law” asked Jesus: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  Now this would not have been all that unusual a question.   There were over 600 precepts or commandments in Judaism, and Rabbis and Teachers were often asked by their followers to offer some kind of order to them.   The scholar of the law must have been at least somewhat surprised at Jesus’ answer.   For Jesus didn’t give just one commandment, but two.   “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”   

In linking these two commandments Jesus is clear.  We cannot say we love the God we do not see, if we do not love the neighbor we do see.   Love of God and love of neighbor go hand in hand.   And as the old song has it: You can’t have one without the other. 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus.  In the section we read this weekend the people are warned that they are not to mistreat or oppress aliens, widows or orphans.  These groups were among the weakest and most vulnerable, and God was clear that the mistreatment of them would bring dire consequences. While not explicitly a call to love your neighbor, it is clear that the people are called to care for those who are less fortunate.   

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. Paul congratulates the Thessalonians for imitating him and the Lord, and thus spreading the faith.  “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  How do you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?   
2.  It is easy to love our neighbor in the abstract, but how do we do this in concrete and practical ways?   
3.  How can we lead others to Christ, by the witness of our lives?   

Try as we might to prevent it, every now and again during one of our Masses someone will put leaflets or flyers on the windshields of cars in our parking lots. Now this hasn’t happened recently, but with elections around the corner, it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. I think two things need to be said in regard to these leaflets and flyers.

First, I am convinced that the people who leaflet cars during Mass do so out of a sense of commitment to their cause or candidate. From a certain perspective, this is commendable. It reminds us that we have the right to participate in the political process on all levels. The problem is that someone could infer that because the leafleting occurred on Basilica property, that The Basilica was endorsing a particular cause, or candidate for that cause. In this regard, we need to be clear. While The Basilica—like all Catholic Churches—has the right and the responsibility to commend and endorse positions on moral issues, it cannot, has not, and will not endorse a particular candidate for any political office at any level, even if that candidate espouses our values and moral principles.  

Walking the line between clearly stating our moral principles and beliefs, and appearing to endorse a particular candidate, can be very difficult. On the one hand, our Church has a fundamental commitment to stand for justice. This commitment demands that the Church, as an institution, just like its individual members, must involve itself in fashioning and maintaining the common good. However, a distinction needs to be made as to how this is done. One way is to get involved in advocating for particular issues, e.g. respect for life, housing, jobs, economic issues. Another option is to support particular candidates or political parties. Individual Christians may do either or both. The Church as an institution may only do the first. The Church needs to remain apart from partisan politics in order that it can speak more clearly, freely and in an unbiased manner for fundamental moral values.  

While I think we do a good job of this at The Basilica, we need to be honest that at times the Catholic Church in the United States has failed in this regard. At times we have all heard U.S. priests and bishops become so strident about an issue at election time that it seems they are endorsing a particular candidate or party. We need to remember, though, that for the Church, values are what is most important and what is at stake. Endorsing particular candidates or a particular party limits our Church’s ability to speak with authority to all the issues. The Church needs to refrain from partisan politics in order to speak more effectively and from the perspective of justice, to all the issues. 

I’m hoping that no one leaflets any cars at The Basilica during this election season. But in case it happens, please know this was not done with our permission. If it does happen, though, may it spur all of us to participate in the electoral process and give witness to our beliefs and values by voting.

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

Our Gospel this Sunday is a good example of the saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  In this Gospel we see the Pharisees joining forces with the Herodians in an effort to entrap Jesus on the question of paying the census tax to Caesar.  The two groups would have been very unlikely allies.  The Herodians would have favored paying the census tax to Caesar, while the Pharisees would have opposed this.  And yet these two groups united to approach Jesus with the question:  “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”   Jesus was in a tough spot.  If he said yes to paying the tax he would lose standing with those who opposed the Roman occupation of Israel.  If he said no, he could be seen as an insurrectionist.  Jesus, though, shrewdly sidestepped the question by asking to see the coin used to pay the census tax.  (In asking to see the coin he sends the clear message that he himself did not have such a coin.)   When given the coin Jesus asked “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  They replied “Caesar’s.”  Jesus then said;   “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”   While the coin bore the image of Caesar, the unasked question in this exchange is “What bears the image of God, and therefore needs to be given to God?”  The answer of course is us.  We are all made in the image and likeness of God.   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In the section we read this Sunday God uses King Cyrus --- who was not Jewish --- to reestablish Israel.  He tells Cyrus: “I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.”   This reminds us that God can call and choose anyone to achieve God’s purpose.

Our second reading this weekend contains the opening verses of the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.   After an opening greeting Paul thanks the Thessalonians for their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ………...” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Do you see yourself as belonging to God because you are created in God’s image? 
2.  Have you ever felt that God had used you to bring about God’s will?
3.  If someone followed you around for a day would they be able to recognize and thank you for your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ?   

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

R.S.V.P.  Re’pondez  s’il vous plait.   This seems like such a simple request, and yet, so often it is ignored.   Certainly this indicates a lack of social grace.  The people in our Gospel parable today, however, were guilty of more than just a lack of social graces when they ignored the invitation to the wedding feast.   We are told they not only “refused to come to the feast,” but in some cases “laid hold of and mistreated the King’s servants and even killed them.”   What kind of people would do this?   Well, I suspect they differ from us in only in degree. They were people who had become so self-absorbed that they couldn’t recognize the gift/invitation that was being offered to them.        

While the angry response of the King seems exaggerated, it is tempered by his largess and generosity in sending his servants to invite to the feast whomever they could find.    This reminds us that no one is beyond the reach and embrace of our God’s love.   But what about the person who was ejected because he didn’t wear a wedding garment.   Well, since guests frequently came from a distance over dirty and dusty roads, the host often provided an opportunity for them to clean up, as well as a fresh garment for them to wear.  The guest’s refusal to comply with this custom went beyond rudeness and would have been insulting to the host.   The message in this is clear.  It is not enough just to show up.  Something more is required.  

Our first reading this weekend from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, speaks of the lavish banquet that God has prepared for his people.   But, as in the Gospel reading, it is necessary that people respond to God’s invitation to this banquet. 

In our second reading this weekend from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians, Paul reminds us that in every situation and circumstance he “can do all things in him who strengthens me.”   

Questions for Reflection:

1.  Looking back can you see where you have failed to respond to or even rejected an invitation from God?
2.  Have there been times when you’ve just shown up in response to God’s invitation, without doing anything else?  
3.  In our second reading Paul talked about living in widely divergent circumstances.   He then said:  “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”   Can you think of a time when you were strengthened to do something that initially you didn’t think you could do?