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- Fr. John Shea is a theologian and poet. One of his poem’s is entitled: “A Prayer of Wholehearted Commitment.” It ends with the words: So it is to You, that my most resounding “yes” is a maybe, and it is with one eye on the door that I say ‘Behold, Lord, your servant waiteth!’” Trusting in God isn’t always easy. What helps you to trust in God as Mary did?
- Our First reading reminds us that God doesn’t operate on our timetable or according to our ideas. Can you remember a time when you realized the truth of this?
- If you wrote a prayer of praise for God what would it contain?
- Bonus Question: Can you find the stained glass window depicting the Annunciation in the Basilica?
As we walk through Advent, we are invited to prayerfully consider how we prepare for and welcome Jesus into our lives. Looking back on the Christmas story, it is easy to fall into an idealized version of our actions: “If Mary and Joseph past by my door, of course I would have made room for you in my inn, Lord!” But where are those choices in our life today? Where are we closing the door to God in our life and community?
Each day, we are called to be disciples of Christ. We are called to make choices and act so that God’s love is made known in our world. How is that going?
The U.S. Catholic Bishops describe a disciple as those who “make a conscious, firm decision, carried out in action, to be followers of Jesus Christ no matter what the cost to themselves.” This definition makes the strong assumption that there will be a cost. We will each experience some disadvantage from living our life as disciples. Where is this most true in your life?
Pope Francis, in The Joy of the Gospel says, “An authentic faith—which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it” (#183). This gives the challenge of discipleship a profound social dimension. It is impossible to live out one’s faith and not get caught in the web of politics—local or global. We are called to enter this arena, and maneuver it with grace and love. We must not avoid it—personally or collectively.
In my experience, one of the biggest obstacles to discipleship today is fear. Fear drives division. Division drives exclusion and oppression. Oppression drives violence.
We can see the challenge of discipleship when we look at some of the hottest issues today. These issues call us to put our faith first—to start and end with a prayer to open our hearts and minds to the love of Christ, and close the door to fear, division, or exclusion. This sounds good, until we get specific.
Issues include: immigration reform, care for the environment, taxes and what Pope Francis calls an “idolatry of money,” health care, globalization and trade, racism, care for the most vulnerable, the seamless garment of life, and on and on.
As Catholics, at this critical moment in history, we cannot afford to proceed with business as usual. We must ground ourselves in our faith and join with people of goodwill throughout the world to transform society through the Gospel of love.
God has taken the initiative. God has come to us this Christmas.
Let us open our lives to the Spirit of love and reconciliation. Let us find a way to talk together and work together on the important issues of our day—to welcome God into our midst and experience the love of Christ transforming our life and community. And yes, we may put ourselves at some disadvantage. After all, we are disciples.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121717.cfm
This coming weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of the Season of Advent. For those old enough to remember, this Sunday was known as Gaudete (Rejoice!) Sunday, because our time of waiting would soon come to an end
On this Third Sunday of Advent our Gospel reading is from the Gospel of John and, like last week, we once again encounter John the Baptist. In this week’s Gospel, some priests and Levites ask John who is he. John is clear that he is not the Christ, that he is not Elijah, that he is not a prophet, but rather a “voice crying out in the dessert: Make straight the way of the Lord.”
I have a friend who likes to say that John’s response is an example of the “grace of place.” John knew who he was and what he was about. He didn’t have an inflated sense of himself, nor did he display any false humility. John knew what he was called to be and to do, and he found God’s grace in this.
Our first reading this weekend is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. It shares a similar theme with the Gospel in regard to knowing one’s mission. At the time it was written, the Jewish people were still in exile in Babylon and the prophet, Isaiah spoke to them about his mission. He had been anointed and sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor by our God.” In essence he was called to tell them that their time of captivity would eventually come to an end and that the Lord God would make “justice and peace spring up before all the nations.”
Our second reading for this weekend is taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In it Paul reminds that early Christian community --- and us --- to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing and to give thanks” so as to be “blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- Can you recall a time when you “knew” you were called to do or say something? Do you remembering experiencing God’s grace at this time?
- In what ways have you prepared the way of the Lord this Advent? Who or what has prepared the way the way of the Lord for you this Advent.
- How are you called to rejoice this Advent?
On Sunday December 3 we celebrated the first Sunday in the Incarnation Cycle thus starting a new liturgical year. As every New Year, be that liturgical or other this is a time for new resolutions and new beginnings. The Incarnation Cycle comprises Advent, Christmas and Epiphany ending with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Advent comes from Adventus Domini, Latin for the “coming of the Lord.” Thus Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of the Lord. Often, this is understood to refer to the first coming of Jesus, meaning his birth. However, Adventus Domini refers not only to the advent of the Lord in the past, but also his presence today, and especially his appearance at the end of time. The season of Advent, therefore is a season filled with anticipation, not just for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus but also anticipation of current, future and final manifestations of Christ in our midst. Admittedly, the current manifestations are the most challenging. Our new sculpture of the Homeless Jesus is a true witness to that.
Christmas of course is the heart of the celebration of the Incarnation. The Word Christmas is derived from the Old English Cristes Maesse which means the Celebration of Christ or Christ’s feast. This implies that at Christmas we celebrate the mystery of Christ in its fullness, i.e. his birth, life, death and resurrection. Some Icons place the baby Jesus in a small sarcophagus inviting the beholder to contemplate the mystery that this little child brought salvation to the world.
The Solemnity of the Epiphany marks the last Sunday of this year’s Christmas Season. The word Epiphany is the English translation of the Greek epiphaneia, meaning appearance or manifestation. Three of the great moments of said revelation are the visitation by the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord and the Wedding at Cana when Jesus performed his first miracle. On this feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate how Jesus’ was revealed as The Christ in the past and how he continues to be revealed to us in the present.
This year, the Incarnation Season ends on January 8 with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, one of the above mentioned manifestations of Jesus as the Christ.
The next day we will return our crèches to their bins and place the Advent wreaths and Christmas trees on the curb with a mix of sadness and relief. Let us encourage one another though to keep the enthusiasm and joy at the birth of Jesus and his manifestation as The Christ alive in our hearts and in our communities.
Even more importantly, let us commit ourselves to be the hearts and hands of The Christ in the world today revealing his message of love and compassion to all. This message is very much needed in our world today. Instead of being agents of anger, hatred and division let us be angels of love, hope and peace. After all that is the message of Christmas and it is our message.
Have a blessed Advent and Christmas!
The Basilica of Saint Mary proudly releases BASILICA Magazine, Fall 2017: The Basilica Community, Our history and our future.
Thank you to the volunteer Magazine team for their dedication creating this issue.
Melissa Streit, Carol Evans, Rita Nagan, Elyse Rethlake
Inside this issue
Ascension: A Shelter from the Storms of Life
by Margaret Nelson Brinkhaus
Kristian Mauel Nguyen’s Next Milestone
Building a passion for The Basilica
by Steve Rudolph
Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation
The 500th Anniversary: 1517-2017
by Dirk G. Lange
Reflections on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
Local faith leaders share their perspectives
Introduction by Johan M.J. van Parys, Ph. D.
Welcoming Dr. Sharon Pierce
Leading collaboration in our community
by Janice Andersen
Come As You Are
Creating connections through Pathways Ministry
by Elyse Rethlake
Hearing Jesus’ Call
Basilica Young Adults - faith, fun, and service
by Melissa Streit
The Life of a Swiss Guard
Vatican Museums exhibit stops in Minneapolis
by Johan M.J. van Parys, Ph. D.
Reflecting what matters most in life
by Peggy Jennings and Monica Stuart
The Basilica Block Party and Landmark Ball: Captured in images
by Mae Desaire
The award-winning BASILICA magazine is sponsored by The Basilica Landmark, a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is the preservation and restoration of the historic Basilica of Saint Mary and it campus. BASILICA is published twice a year (spring and fall) with a circulation of 20,000.
For advertising information please contact Peggy Jennings.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121017.cfm
In our Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent, we encounter the figure of John the Baptist. (We will also hear about John the Baptist next Sunday.) We are told that “John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey.” John’s mission was simple. He came to prepare the way of the Lord.
Now certainly it would be difficult to say that John was a “handsome figure.” Camel’s hair and leather are not fashion statements. And a steady diet of locusts and wild honey can’t have been appealing. And yet we are told that “the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him.” What could have attracted them? I suspect it was the force of his personality and the power of his message. He proclaimed “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
While I have never met a “great” sinner, I have met lots of people who (like me) need to repent of particular sins, as well as entrenched patterns of sinfulness. Because of this, I need to hear the Baptist’s message. And when I hear and heed this message, I understand anew the meaning of and need for the season of Advent.
If you have ever heard Handel’s Messiah our first reading for this weekend will be very familiar. It begins: “Comfort, give comfort to my people.” It is taken from that part of the book of Isaiah referred to as the Book of Consolation. It was intended to console Israel as their time of exile was coming to an end.
Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the second Letter of St. Peter. It reminds us clearly that God’s time is not our time and that God does not operate on a human timetable.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- During this season of Advent, who or what is calling you to prepare the way and repent of your sins? How are you called to do this?
- Sometimes messengers --- like John the Baptist --- come in unlikely guises. Who has been a “messenger” of God for you? In what unlikely guise did they appear? What was their message? Were you consoled or challenged by this message?
- In retrospect, can you think of an instance when God’s time was not your time?
For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120317.cfm
This weekend we begin a new liturgical year as we celebrate the First Sunday of the Season of Advent. The season of Advent has a threefold character. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, it is a time for us to remember Christ’s first coming. Also, though, it is a time for us to prepare our minds and hearts as we await Christ’s second coming at the end of the world. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it calls us to be ready to meet Christ as he comes (in a variety of ways) into each of our daily lives.
Two important figures during this season are John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. John heralded Jesus’ coming, and Mary models what it means for us to recognize and respond to Christ.
The words most often associated with this season are: waiting, anticipation, preparation, longing, expectation, joyful, and hopeful. The joyful expectation of Advent distinguishes it from the penitential character of Lent.
The First Readings for the first three Sundays of Advent are all taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. They speak of the consolation that will await Israel when it returns to the Lord. “No ear has heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.”
The second reading for this Sunday is taken from the opening words of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. In it, Paul greets the Corinthians, but then reminds them to let God keep them “firm to the end.”
Finally, in our Gospel today, Jesus calls his disciples to “Be watchful! Be Alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- In calling us to be watchful and be alert what is Jesus calling us to do or be?
- What great deeds has God done for you in your life?
- How does one stay firm to the end?
Waiting. We’re not very good at that anymore. Perhaps we never were. In this “instant gratification” “gotta have it now” “why is that website taking forever to download” modern age, we get frustrated and irritable if we have to wait for any length of time. The other day I found myself not so silently criticizing the driver of the car in front of me because the light had turned green three seconds earlier and they had not moved. I mean really, I am sure most people would agree that three seconds is a long time for any sane person to wait.
I think the problem with waiting is that it feels like time wasted. And who can afford to waste time these days? We have way too much to do. Every minute counts. It feels like we are squandering a precious resource if our schedule isn’t jam packed, and we aren’t racing from one good and important thing to another. And that is part of the problem. If we were engaged in frivolous or unimportant activities, it would be easy to cut back on them. But for most of us, the things we do have value and significance. We wouldn’t be doing them otherwise. And yet—at times I wonder if all this activity isn’t a way for us to avoid some of the deeper issues and concerns of our lives. Very specifically, I wonder if it isn’t a way for us to avoid having to pause and wait so we can become aware of God’s presence and open to God’s grace.
Now I know that most of us would not intentionally or deliberately try to avoid God. It’s just that God isn’t really good at small talk. Moreover, it takes a while, as well as some real effort, to tune everything else out so we can “tune in” to God. We all have schedules. So, it would just seem to make sense that if we could just sync up God’s schedule with our schedule everything would be so much easier. The difficulty is that God doesn’t work on our schedule, and so we need to find the times and tools that help us to slow down and wait on God. Advent is such a time.
The season of Advent is all about waiting. During advent, we are reminded of all those centuries when God’s people awaited the fulfillment of God’s promises, the years of uncertainty, the times of doubt. This side of Christmas, it’s easy to think that this season is all about “arrival” e.g. the birth of Jesus. And that’s partly true. But let’s not forget the waiting that preceded Christ’s birth, the waiting that marked the time before Christ’s birth, the waiting that the people of old experienced.
And so, maybe a little waiting is a good thing. I know that’s a difficult concept for some of us to get our minds around, but I think there is a profound truth to be found in waiting. And that truth is that God also waits for us. God waits for us to discern God’s presence, to be open to God’s grace; to respond to God’s love; and to let God find a home in our lives and in our hearts.
I think the season of Advent is a great opportunity to think differently about waiting. Perhaps the waiting we do during Advent won’t change the way we feel as we get caught in a traffic jam and have to wait, and wait and wait, but maybe, just maybe, it will give us the chance to view that time differently—possibly as a time to turn off the radio, put down the cell phone and spend a little time with God in prayer.
Every once and a while, it is important to reflect on one’s actions: What am I doing, and why? Taking time to intentionally access and evaluate direction, goals, and behavior has value. One can correct course, strengthen commitment, refine productivity, and identify weakness and strength.
Over the past nine months the Christian Life staff, volunteers, and leaders have been engaged in evaluation and assessment of Christian Life Ministries at The Basilica. Through surveys and interviews, we have intentionally and prayerfully evaluated what we do at The Basilica and how we do it. What does our world and community need today? How are we meeting those needs?
It has been a sacred and meaningful journey. We have learned a lot and raised a lot of new questions. We will unpack what we have learned over time. Some changes may be subtle. Others may be bold. Together, we seek to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to build a community of love.
At the heart of our work, affirmed and clarified in our assessment, is Catholic Social Teaching (CST).
CST is rooted in scripture and includes writing of popes and other Catholic leaders to the Church and the world about social issues that affect society. Issues like hunger, conflict, worker’s rights, environment, migration, trade—basically every issue that intersects with our life.
CST reads the sign of the times in light of scripture. This is why our popes often speak out about the environment, world hunger, or immigration. They are teaching us to live a life rooted in scripture—showing us, tangibly, how to follow Christ.
While CST has its roots in scripture, Modern CST began in 1891 as oppressed workers demanded justice and rich employers objected. In response, Pope Leo XIII said, “The state should watch over these…citizens banded together in accordance with their rights.” As the Church calls for society and business to attend to the rights of the workers, the church is living out its prophetic mission of upholding basic human dignity and basic human rights. Today, CST still challenges our world.
Key principles underpin CST. While there are several ways of articulating the principles, they include the dignity of every human person, a plea for solidarity among diversity, a surrender toward the common good, trusting subsidiarity in community, upholding the rights and responsibilities of all people, a call to attend to the needs of the most vulnerable first, finding ways for all to participate in and benefit from society, a commitment to promote peace, and a priority to care for creation.
In many ways, CST is radical. If everyone put CST into action, the world would be transformed. If we are honest, we know that CST can turn society upside down. Indeed, CST is the tinder of the revolution of love and kindness. Consider engaging with our Immigrant Support Ministry, Mental Health/Justice work or Emmaus and Grief Ministry at The Basilica. Personally and collectively, let us all weave CST into our work and our life, and transform our world, in love.