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This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us of the two most important commandments which summarize Jesus’ teachings: love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor like yourself.
Most of us embrace this, at least to a point. The important question is, who do we believe to be our neighbor? Sure, it is easy to love those we interact with on a daily basis and those we are comfortable with. It is, however, clear that Jesus does not want us to stop there, neither does the Church.
Today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus clarifies who our neighbor is. Our neighbor is the foreigner, the widow, the orphan, the poor person. This reading also makes it quite clear how God feels about failure to do so. God’s punishment for those who oppress a stranger, wrong a widow or orphan, or extort a poor neighbor is quite simple: “I will kill you with the sword.” Even if we do not take this literally, the message is clear: this kind of behavior is unacceptable to God.
The biggest temptation and greatest danger to Christianity is the ease with which we water down its meaning and white-wash its message. History clearly teaches how this has led to the abuse and high jacking of Christianity by outside interests. History also confirms how Christians at times have been manipulated to support ideologies that are paradoxical to Christianity.
A very poignant example is the Holocaust. The holocaust is the antithesis of the first and second commandment. The Holocaust was able to happen because people were made to believe that Jews, Roma, people with disabilities, and homosexuals are not our neighbor. This very thought still supports the discrimination of these and many other people, even today.
Another horrific example is the justification and support of slavery by Christians which led to unconscionable atrocities in this and many other countries. The erroneous and evil thought that allowed slavery to exist is still reverberating in the deeply rooted sin of racism that rears it ugly head over and over again in our society and in our institutions.
If we are indeed followers of Christ we are to love ALL people as our neighbors and we are to love them as ourselves. That is exactly what Christ asks us to do.
Our mission as Christians is to protect and support unborn children, but also those children who have been born. Our mission is to make sure all children have access to education. Our mission is to make sure everyone has housing, clothing, food. Our mission is to eradicate all discrimination and to work for justice and equality for all regardless of race, gender, creed or way of life. Our mission is to welcome the stranger rather than to put them in cages or to build walls to keep them out. Our mission is to provide healthcare for everyone especially those suffering due to COVID 19 during this current pandemic. Our mission is to make sure that our planet is safe from human exploitation and destruction and is preserved for future generations. Our mission is to end and prevent wars. Our mission is to abolish the death penalty.
In sum, our mission as Christians is to love our neighbor; every neighbor; all neighbors, without exception, no matter how different they are from us, for it is what God commands us to do, no more, no less. That is true Christianity.
What adjective would you choose to describe the curve balls 2020 has thrown us? Unexpected, topsy turvy, isolating, crazy, frustrating? (And probably some not fit to print) This list could go on and on.
In the face of these challenges, one unshakeable experience for me has been working with our team of staff at The Basilica. Their commitment to continue to offer opportunities for worship and ministry has never waivered. We may have changed, but we never stopped.
In March, we started with an iPhone camera to offer Mass virtually on FaceBook Live. That quickly evolved with a great camera crew from Qwickcast who made us feel like we were in The Basilica during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday, even as we watched from our living room sofas. Your generosity kept us going.
This summer a six camera system of our own was made possible by a Basilica Landmark donor. Since bringing this system online, over twenty Basilica staff members have been trained to use it. We’re still learning, but today livestreaming liturgies like Masses, weddings, funerals, baptisms, confirmations is a regular part of daily life at the parish. Former parishioners and friends from around the country are finding us online and joining these livestreamed liturgies.
We’ve been able to re-open for the public too—now offering two weekday Masses at 7:00am and Noon (also livestreamed), and Sunday Masses at 11:30am and 4:30pm (with 9:30am livestreamed), and Reconciliation at 9:00am Saturdays. To keep everyone safe in this world changed by COVID-19, new Mass protocols are in place and routine including pre-registration, limited numbers, sanitizing our hands, wearing masks and social distancing. Together, staff and volunteers are working to welcome people into The Basilica as safely as we can.
Coffee and sandwiches are still available daily for those who are hungry. Volunteers, book clubs and speaker series are all meeting virtually. Speakers offer perspectives from our faith in presentations and discussions on immigration, nationalism, citizenship, mental health, and more.
Employment Ministry Mentors are meeting with job seekers over Zoom. Mentors of Minneapolis College students who have experienced homelessness continue their work and offer their support. St. Vincent de Paul volunteers are doing outreach by phone. Faith Formation for children and teens is being offered virtually too, with families receiving a home prayer kit and supplies. Young Adult Bible Study and Pathways for those looking to build skills to stabilize their lives are active as well. The response to these offerings has been amazing and we are grateful.
Day to day ministries continue as volunteers share the gift of their faith in so many ways, albeit often virtually. These ministries and offerings can only continue to happen with your financial support. Will you commit to a recurring gift to The Basilica Fund in the coming year?
We need your help to empower our mission and our ministries. Consider what gift works for you weekly or monthly. Ideally, set this up electronically for automatic withdrawal. It’s easy, and if you need to, you can change this at any time. Giving electronically helps us plan, saves money and makes your contributions go even farther. We are grateful for your support in these challenging times.