You are here
Fr. Bauer's Blog
There is both a long form and short form of our Gospel this Sunday. The remarks below are based on the short form of the Gospel. For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021620.cfm
I suspect we have all encountered people who could be described as “holier than thou.” This oft used phrase paints a picture of an individual whose words and actions suggest an attitude of religious superiority and/or self righteousness. Such were the scribes and Pharisees at the time of Jesus. They were not necessarily bad people. The problem was they thought that by knowing and following the law to the letter, they were models of holiness and righteousness. The difficulty with this was that they had allowed the following of the law to become an end in itself and not a means by which they could grow in and develop their relationship with God. That is why Jesus’ opening words in our Gospel today are important: "I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus then goes on to challenge those who would be his disciples to go beyond the law in their words and actions. This continues to be our challenge. We may not have born false witness or harmed a neighbor, but have we truly tried to love our neighbor as our self. Following the letter of the law is far easier than giving witness to the law by the witness of our lives.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach. In the section we read today the author reminds us of the importance of following God’s commandments. The commandments, though, are given to help us live justly and uprightly. Following them is not an end in itself.
Our second reading this Sunday is once again taken from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. It reminds us of God’s mysterious and hidden wisdom. It closes with the wonderful promise: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Has there been a time when you have followed the letter of the law, but have stopped at that point?
2. Do you think your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees?
3. What do you think God has prepared for those who love him?
With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.
1. Campus Master Plan: Beginning in January of 2018 a Campus Space Planning Committee began working to establish a vision for our campus to prepare us for the next 100 years of service to our Church and our city. Last fall this group completed its work in providing a vision, and establishing a set of priorities to ensure our buildings and campus serve both our current needs and the needs of future generations at The Basilica and in the community.
As a next step, we selected a team of individuals and organizations to translate that vision into a more specific Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. To work with members of our parish, we searched for an architectural firm that could work as a team with urban planners, historical preservationists, and landscape architects. Through a process which included “Requests for Qualifications” and “Requests for Proposals,” we identified interested experts from across the country. Eventually three teams were interviewed in person, and ultimately it was recommended to The Basilica Landmark Board that the Architectural firm HGA and their team be hired to develop a Master Plan for our Basilica Campus. The Basilica Landmark Board approved the funding of this recommendation and we began negotiations for a contract with HGA.
Next a small Master Planning Committee was formed to work with HGA and their team in the development of the Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. This Committee met for the past six months to develop a Master Plan for our campus, which included some specific issues, e.g. accessibility, music, parking, meeting/social space, and our liturgical space. As the details become finalized we hope to share the results of the work of this committee in the coming months.
The Plan is very comprehensive and includes recommendations to support the broad vision for the campus and solutions to all identified needs to better perform our day to day ministries and works. The Plan did not filter against a budget or a financial target to ensure we addressed all opportunities. The Master Plan included 15 “groupings” of work and expense to reflect potential projects or campaigns for The Basilica to consider. These are representative of likely project groupings, and the included detail allows The Basilica flexibility in defining scope of each project we pursue in the coming years.
The detail in the Master Plan will be used as a starting point and will help guide us as we begin the work to determine the appropriate scope and phases of implementing the Master Plan. These project priority decisions will be reflective of the needs of our Parish community and reflect the interests, budget and giving capacity of our Parishioners and donors.
2. Feasibility Study: As I have mentioned previously, The Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz Whaley Flessner to conduct a feasibility study to help determine fund raising capacity for a potential Capital Campaign needed to implement elements of the newly developed Master Plan.
As the work of the Campus Space Planning, Master Plan Development, Feasibility Study and potential Capital Campaign have broad implications for our Parish we have been actively engaged with The Basilica Landmark Board, Parish Council, and Finance Committee to ensure our leaders are informed and appropriately involved in providing guidance and approval.
3. Our Parish Finances: A big THANK YOU to all those who so generously supported our Basilica parish at Christmas and through year-end giving. Your financial support makes it possible for us to continue to offer the programs, ministries, and services that are the hallmark of our parish.
I want to thank all those who have made a commitment of financial support to our parish community during our financial stewardship campaign this fall. Please know your commitment of financial support to our parish community is greatly appreciated. Your pledge—no matter the size—is important and makes a difference. It allows us to continue to offer the many programs, ministries and services that are the hallmark of our Basilica community. Please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support.
4. Change Management Consultant: As I have mentioned previously, several months ago our parish our Parish Council and Finance Committee approved funding to hire a Change Management Consultant, to help us as we seek to implement our new strategic plan.
Most recently our parish staff and a small Task Force have been working with the Change Management Consultant to help us develop an “assessment tool” to help us identify those ministries, services, and programs, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community and need to continue, as well as those that need to change or end. Our new Strategic Plan has provided the foundation to guide our decision making process and prioritization.
It is both good and important periodically for parishes to take a step back and review the various programs and ministries that are part of their parish operation to make sure they are still filling a need, or whether they to be modified, or ended so that new or emerging needs can be addressed. The Change Management Consultant is helping us take a careful and considered look at all that we do here at The Basilica. We hope to finish this work sometime in early spring.
5. Archdiocesan Synod: On the weekend of January 18 and 19 members of our Parish Synod Committee spoke at all the Masses on the upcoming Archdiocesan Synod. A synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is Archbishop Hebda’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this Archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today—and into the near future.
The synod process began this past fall and continues during the winter and spring with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod. In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process. On Pentecost weekend May 21-22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly. Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the archdiocese and will meet to discern synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop. The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.
I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese. It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end —since I first informed you of the synod—we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward. There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session at mary.org/synod. You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead.
6. Catholic Services Appeal: The 2020 Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) will begin the weekend of February 1 and 2. This yearly appeal helps support the many ministries, services and programs within our Archdiocese. Now I realize many people are concerned that contributions to the Catholic Services Appeal will be used for purposes they didn’t intend. In this regard, it is important to note that The Catholic Services Appeal is an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. This was done, to insure that all the money that is collected through the Appeal would go directly and solely to the ministries, services, and programs supported by the CSA. No CSA funds go to the Archdiocese.
By pooling the financial resources from generous donors throughout our diocese, much important and necessary work is funded by the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA). As your pastor, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of the Appeal; I encourage you to make a gift to support these important ministries, services and programs. Please look for the Catholic Services Appeal information in pews, or learn more at csafspm.org.
7. Recent Maintenance Projects: In addition to several smaller maintenance projects this summer, there were also two major maintenance projects. We replaced the carpeting in the lower level of the church. If you have not been in the lower level of The Basilica recently I would encourage you to stop down and see the new carpeting. Replacing the old carpeting and updating the hospitality area with an expanded area of terrazzo was one of our major maintenance projects this summer. I know I come from a biased perspective, but I think it turned out quite well.
The other major maintenance project this summer/fall was rebuilding the south façade of our parish school building. While the brickwork is done a couple months ago, the Terra Cotta needed to finish the job was delayed. It finally arrived a few weeks ago and has been installed. If you haven’t seen the rebuilt south facade of the school, I invite you to stop and view it after church some weekend. I think it turned out exceptionally well.
8. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate: The Bishops of the United States have launched a year-long initiative that invites Catholics to model civility, love for neighbor, and respectful dialogue. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate will ask Catholics to pledge civility, clarity, and compassion in their families, communities, and parishes, and call on others to do the same.
The initiative is built on the recognition that every person—even, and perhaps especially, those with whom we disagree—is a beloved child of God who possesses inherent dignity. Civilize It is an invitation to imitate the example of Jesus in our daily lives in our encounters with one another through civil dialogue.
In talking about this initiative, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, of Venice, and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development emphasized the importance of Civilize It in the context of the current divisive climate:
“Conversation in the public square is all too often filled with personal attacks and words that assume the worst about those with whom we disagree. We are in need of healing in our families, communities, and country. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate is a call for Catholics to honor the human dignity of each person they encounter, whether it is online, at the dinner table, or in the pews next to them. I invite all Catholics to participate in Civilize It. In doing so, they can bear witness to a better way, approach conversations with civility, clarity, and compassion, and invite others to do the same.” You can find out more about Civilize It at CivilizeIt.org.
On Sunday, February 16 at 11:00am Bill Dougherty from Better Angels will speak in the lower level of The Basilica about the work of Better Angels. At the end of his talk we will invite people to take the Civilize It pledge of: 1. Civility; 2. Clarity; and 3. Compassion, and to pray for civility in our conversations. hose who are interested will also be invited to commit to the three additional three more workshops with Better Angels: March 7, 21, and 28. These will be skills workshops to delve deeper into the concepts Bill will address in his talk that day.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
At the heart of my faith is the unbending and abiding belief that each and every person is a beloved son and daughter of God. Now certainly my words and actions don’t always give witness to this belief. The sad fact is that at times I live and act in ways that seem to deny this core belief. And yet, this does not diminish what for me is the most basic fact of our existence: every human being is beloved and sacred in God’s eyes.
From my perspective the above belief needs to be applied consistently and without exception. From the unborn life in the womb, to the refugee at our border, to the homeless person on the street, to the inmate on death row, to the person suffering the ravages of a slow and painful death: all life is sacred. If we start down the road of arguing that life only has meaning and value that we assign to it, we can easily come to the conclusion that some lives are more important, more significant, or valuable than others. Frankly this idea frightens me. God is the author and sustainer of life. Life has value not because of anything we do, accomplish or possess, but rather because we are created in the image and likeness of God.
This past January marked the 47th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion. Legalized as a private act, abortion continues to be a divisive, emotionally charged, and very public issue. I believe those who identify themselves as pro-choice in regard to abortion either do not understand or refuse to acknowledge the sacredness of life, especially and most particularly, life in the womb. By the same token, those of us who identify ourselves as pro-life give the lie to this position when we fail to acknowledge and appreciate the sacredness of the woman considering an abortion, as well as those who identify themselves as being pro-choice.
If we are truly pro-life I believe we cannot disrespect, or worse condemn, those who are considering an abortion or who support abortion rights. Rather, we need to look at them as God does and treat them with care, concern, respect and love. Where we have failed to do this, we need to offer our most sincere and humble apologies. And we must recommit ourselves to have reverence for all life.
As pro-life people, our challenge and goal is to preserve, protect and enhance life at all stages of development, and in all its manifestations. Whenever the opportunity arises and whenever the occasion presents itself, we must freely and unapologetically speak of the value and dignity of every human life. And we must call people to respect the fragile, gracious and wondrous gift of life. In doing this, though, we must never forget our obligation to love and respect even those who don’t share our position, and not seek to demonize or condemn them.
As Catholics, as Christians, as people who are pro-life we must respect those with whom we disagree, and strive to see in them the image of God. If we cannot demonstrate our respect and reverence for life with those with whom we disagree, then our pro-life rhetoric rings hollow. For whenever we fail to respect life—any life—we fail to appreciate both the tremendous gift that life is, as well as the One who gave us that gift. It is not always easy to give voice and witness to our pro-life beliefs, but we need to remember that our God is always offering us the grace we need to do this.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
“Pass the salt, please.” How often do we use those words in a given week? I suspect that even those who are trying to cut down on their salt intake still use these words a fair amount of the time. Salt is perhaps the most common seasoning. It is an inexpensive way to give zest and flavor to whatever it is added.
In our Gospel today for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells his disciples that they are “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” In these familiar words Jesus reminds his disciples that they are to live in such a way as to have an impact on the world around them. Jesus is clear. No one “lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where is gives light to all in the house.” But we aren’t to be “salt” and “light” so that others will think highly of us. Rather we are to be salt and light so that people “may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.”
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. In it Isaiah exhorts the people to “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light will shine forth like the dawn.” Clearly being a “light” requires some concrete and specific actions, not just good thoughts.
Our second reading this Sunday again comes from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In it Paul tells the people of Corinth that he “did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom …….... so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom, but on the power of God.”
Questions for discussion/reflection:
1. When have you been salt or light to those around you?
2. When has someone been salt or light to you?
3. When has your faith been encouraged not by someone’s words, but by someone’s actions?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This Feast is celebrated on February 2nd each year. Our Gospel for this Feast is the story of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple in accordance with Mosiac law.
When Mary and Joseph came to the Temple they encountered Simeon, who was “righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.” Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and then said to Mary: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be sign that will be contradicted --- and you yourself a sword of sorrow will pierce --- so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Mary and Joseph were fulfilling the prescription of the law of Moses when they presented Jesus in the Temple. As is often the case in the scriptures, though, things have a much deeper meaning than is immediately evident. Simeon’s words prophesy both Christ’s ministry and his passion and death.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Malachi. In the section we read this weekend God announces: “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me………” From our Christian perspective we see this prophecy as referring to John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Christ.
Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter to the Hebrews. It reminds us that Jesus “had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, the he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered he is able to help those who are being tested.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Simeon said that Jesus was a “sign that will be contradicted.” What does this mean to you?
2. Have you ever waited, as Simeon did, and eventually found your waiting rewarded?
3. I loved the words from Hebrews that “because he himself was tested through what he suffered he is able to help those who are being tested.” When and how have you felt Jesus’ help in time of need?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browswer.
“I’m sorry the mailbox is full and cannot accept any more messages. Please try your call again later.” Every now and again I’ll get that message when, I’m trying to call someone. Unfortunately, more often than I care to admit I think this is the message God gets when God tries to call me. I mention this because today’s Gospel is the story of the call of the first disciples.
This Sunday we celebrate the third Sunday in Ordinary Time. Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two sections. The first section is tied to our first reading today. The second section, though, relates the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and the call of the first disciples. Jesus calls Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew, as well as James and John the sons of Zebedee. Jesus didn’t waste a lot of words in calling these first disciples. He merely said: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Certainly the call of these men was clear and evident, and in that sense it may differ slightly from the way God calls you or me. On the other hand, though, they must have been open and attentive to the call, because they answered it immediately and unambiguously.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. This passage was chosen because it contains a prophecy about the restoration of the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali. These lands are also referenced in the opening verses of today’s Gospel. We believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah.
For the next several weeks our second reading will be taken from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. In the section we read today, Paul pleads for unity among the people of Corinth “so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. When have you heard the call of God in your life?
2. Looking back, can you see where you were too preoccupied or busy, and may have missed God’s call?
3. Why is unity (not uniformity) so important in the Christian community?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This Sunday we begin what is known as “Ordinary Time” in our Church year. This designation is not meant to diminish the importance of this time of year, but rather to distinguish it from the seasons of Advent and Christmas, which we just concluded, and the seasons of Lent and Easter. At the conclusion of the Easter season, “Ordinary Time” will begin again, and will continue through the summer and fall months.
Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of John. In this Gospel John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and says: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And while John initially says that he did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Gospel concludes with his clear statement: “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” I suspect the reason John didn’t recognize Jesus was that he knew him as his cousin. Eventually, though, he came to understand that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Familiarity can sometimes blind us to seeing something beyond the familiar.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is from that section of Isaiah known as the Servant Songs. In the section we read today Isaiah speaks about his call to be a prophet. He is clear that God will work through him “to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel.”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the beginning of the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In it Paul identifies himself, and greets the people of Corinth with the words: “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Discussion/Reflection:
1. Has familiarity with a person or a situation ever blinded you to the presence and/or grace of God?
2. Have you ever recognized God’s presence and grace only in retrospect?
3. Why do you think Paul began his letter to the Corinthians with the words: “Grace 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/011220.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Since Jesus’ Baptism took place when he was an adult, it may seem odd to celebrate his baptism so soon after we have celebrated his birth. The fact is, though, that other than the various infancy narratives and the story of the finding of Jesus in the temple, there are no stories of Jesus’ years before his Baptism and the beginning of his public ministry. When you stop and think about it, however, there is a certain “rightness” to this. While it would be interesting to know about Jesus’ life before he began his public ministry, his mission and his ministry are far more important to us because they brought about our salvation.
Our Gospel this weekend is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Baptism. Matthew is the only evangelist to include the verse that tells us that when Jesus came to John for Baptism, “John tried to prevent him, saying, I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me.” Most scripture scholars agree that John didn’t want to baptize Jesus because he did not see Jesus as a sinner in need of Baptism. And while we believe that Jesus was without sin, we also believe that his baptism marked the beginning of his public ministry. (As Christians, it is our belief that Baptism takes away original sin. We also believe, though, that Baptism begins our life in Christ, and as importantly that it empowers us to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus.) We are told that after Jesus was baptized, a voice came from the heavens saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” We believe that the Spirit is also given to us at our Baptism, and that we are all beloved children of God.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is taken from the section of Isaiah known as the “Servant Songs.” The servant is the chosen one of the Lord, and the song describes the characteristics and mission of the servant. We see the “servant songs” as prefiguring Jesus. In the section for this weekend we read: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit;”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. In it Peter describes the mission of Jesus and reminds us that “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- We believe that the Holy Spirit is given to all the baptized. What is the Holy Spirit empowering you to do?
- If it is true that God shows no partiality, why bother with Baptism?
- Do you see yourself as a Beloved Son or Daughter of God?
During this past Advent, I got up one Sunday morning around 4:00am to pray and get ready for the day. (Since I am not a morning person, my rule is that I need to get up three hours before I have to talk.) After a cup of coffee (half decaf – half regular), I settled in to pray Morning Prayer. After I prayed the psalms and canticle, and reflected on the reading, I started to read the intercessions. The first three were fine, but when I read the fourth one I was somewhat taken aback. I thought it said: “You are praised throughout the ages; in your mercy help us to live devoutly and temporarily in this life, as we wait in joyful hope for the revelation of your glory.” I read it again, and then again. The third time through, I realized the word was temperately, not temporarily. I had to laugh at myself for my malapropism, as I realized I wasn’t as awake/alert as I thought I was.
Later that evening, I reflected a bit on my inadvertent substitution of temporarily for temperately. It dawned on me that perhaps there was a message for me in my malapropism. As I continued to reflect it occurred to me how easy it is for me to focus almost exclusively on what is right in front of me and forget that this life is not the end, that there is more. Our existence in this world is not all there is. It is temporary. At every Mass in the embolism the priest says after the Our Father we are reminded that “we live in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” These words call us to remember and believe that as good and blessed as this world is, it is temporary. There is something more. There is the promise and hope of eternal life.
Now certainly it is our sure and certain hope that our faith offers us the promise of eternal life. At times, though, it is easy to let this belief fade into the background, as we focus our time and attention exclusively on this world. For the vast majority of us, I don’t think this is intentional. Rather, sometimes the tasks and challenges of this world not only distract us, but can engulf us and cause us to lose focus of what ultimately matters. At these times, it is good to remember that while this world offers us many blessings, ultimately it is temporary and transitory. Our final destination is heaven.
As Christians, we are called to live devoutly and temperately in this life. We do this because we realize that this life is temporarily, and that ultimately we hope to share eternal life with our God. The hope of heaven should both challenge and incentivize us to live in such a way in this temporary and passing life, so that we never lose our focus on the life to come.
- The revelation of a star guided the Magi. When have you ever received a revelation that guided you in your life?
- If Jesus is the savior of all people, what would you say to those people who want to limit the number of those who will be saved?
- What do you need to do to let the light of Christ shine in you that you might lead others to Christ?