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For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111217.cfm
“Its mine and you can’t have it.” How often did we say those words as children, or worse, how often as adults do we still say them? They express control and selfishness. At first blush, it appears that this is the message being conveyed by the wise virgins in our Gospel today. In that Gospel we are told that there were five wise virgins and five foolish virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. “The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.” When the bridegroom arrived, “all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No for there may not be enough for us and you.’”
Were the wise virgins being selfish in not sharing some of their oil? In order to answer this question, we need to remember that parables were simple stories that Jesus used to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God. They were not meant to be taken literally. From this perspective the question, then, is what was Jesus trying to tell us in this parable. Well, I would suggest that Jesus was telling us that some things can not be acquired at the last minute, and one very specific thing that cannot be obtained at the last minute is a relationship with God. At the end of our lives we can’t turn to the person next to us and ask them for some of their relationship with God. We need to plan ahead and work throughout our lives to develop our relationship with God.
Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom is an exhortation to seek wisdom. “For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care;” And the wisest thing we can do is seek God, and to build a relationship with God.
In our second reading this weekend Paul reminds the Thessalonians of Christ’s resurrection and the promise of eternal life that has been given to all of us. He closes with the clear command: “Therefore, console one another with these words.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- The Gospel parable reminds us that we need to work now to develop our relationship with God. How does one do this?
- How does one seek wisdom?
- Belief in eternal life is one of the pillars of our faith. How would you explain this belief to someone who came from a non-Christian background?
The Catholic Spirit Feature:
For years, icons created by local iconographer Nicholas Markell have been included in the Basilica of St. Mary’s icon procession, held annually at the Minneapolis parish to coincide with All Saints Day.
It coincides, however, with the opening of “Windows to Heaven: A Visual Hymn of Praise,” a retrospective of Markell’s work and life. On display in the Basilica’s John XXIII Gallery, the exhibition will focus on Markell as an artist and theologian.
Join us November 5 for the icon processions during the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses.
My brother Hans proudly sent me a photo of the grave marker he and his children created for the tomb of one of our beloved aunts. I did not know he was doing this. In the past, we have always bought tomb stones or markers at specialty shops. This time he decided to do it himself. When I asked him why he did this, he mentioned that he wanted to create something special for my aunt and he wanted to do it himself. They had a special bond.
The marker is really striking and it is unique. It is large and covers the entire tomb. Made out of metal it frames a central cross. Carefully selected succulents were planted inside the frame around the cross. Seasonal flowers will be added throughout the year. The marker thus testifies eloquently to our belief in the resurrection.
There is something really beautiful about this marker and the fact that my brother made it. It is the perfect final gift my brother gave to our beloved aunt. And, he thoughtfully readied it in time for the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, the time when Belgians—like many others throughout the world—visit the tombs of deceased loved ones and decorate them with flowers.
Our care and continued love for our deceased relatives and friends is rooted in our belief in the Resurrection and the Communion of Saints. As to the latter, the oldest known reference to the Communion of Saints can be found in the writings by Saint Nicetas who was bishop of Remesiana, Serbia, at the end of the fourth century. He described the Communion of the Saints as the spiritual union which exists between all the members of the Church, both the living and the dead. This union is made possible through our shared membership in the Mystical Body of Christ. Saint Paul wrote in several of his letters that through baptism we become part of the Body of Christ with Christ as its head.
The fruit of this union are the blessings in which all members share. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the good of each [member] is communicated to all the others.” (CCC,947) Therefore, even sinners share in the Communion of Saints and benefit from it.
At The Basilica, we celebrate our belief in the Communion of Saints every time we gather for worship, for we believe that not only those present but all Christians, living and deceased, gather spiritually whenever we gather for worship. During the month of November, we visualize this reality by placing Icons of the Saints in the sanctuary and photos of our beloved dead on the side altars.
The very presence of these Icons and photos both expresses and refreshes our belief in the Communion of Saints, the Mystical Body of Christ with Christ himself as the head. For an Icon is not only an image of the Saint it depicts, the saint in turn is an image of Christ himself. Similarly, we believe that the photos are not only an image of our deceased loved ones but also of Christ in whose mystical body they participate through baptism.
One of the first things I do whenever I travel to Belgium is to visit the tombs of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in our town’s cemetery. I look forward to seeing the marker on the tomb of my aunt, so lovingly made by my brother and such a testimony to our faith. May my auntie and all our beloved dead whom we remember especially during this month of November rest in peace.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110517.cfm
Our Gospel this weekend comes in two parts. In the fist section, Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees because “They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.” The scribes and Pharisees were not deliberately hypocritical. From their perspective, following the law exactly and slavishly was critically important. In doing so they believed they were being true to God. Unfortunately, they had allowed the precise and detailed following of the law to take the place of their relationship with God. While their actions were correct, they did not flow from heart set on God. Like the scribes and Pharisees, sometimes we too can “do” the right thing, and think that is enough. Our actions, though, need to flow from a heart set on God. It is only in this way that we can truly grow in our relationship with God.
In the second half of our Gospel this weekend, Jesus reminds us his disciples that: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Our first reading this weekend from the Book of the Prophet Malachi, shares the theme of the Gospel. In it God, through the prophet, is critical of the priests because they “have turned aside from the way and have caused many to falter by your instruction, you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts.”
Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. In it Paul gives thanks to God because the Thessalonians: “in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees for a lack of consistency between their words and their actions. When have your actions not been consistent with your words?
- Jesus invited his disciples to humble themselves. What does that mean to you?
- Have you ever felt the word of God at work in you?
Recently I attended a lecture by author Kathleen Norris. During the course of her talk she shared a quote attributed to Philo of Alexandria, a first century Jewish philosopher: “BE KIND for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” I loved the simplicity of the words, but also the profound meaning behind them. I suspect all of us have “battles” we are fighting in our lives. They could be bad memories, addictive behaviors, physical or mental health issues, difficulties in relationships, financial problems, job concerns, etc. etc. The list could go on endlessly. Whatever battle an individual is fighting, though, it is very often unseen and in many cases known only to a few.
So, recognizing that everyone has their own personal battle they are fighting, the real question is how do we “be kind” to everyone? Well, I think this is easier than some might think. In fact, I think it can be boiled down to four simple things.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. It is easy for all of us to observe what we “perceive” to be someone’s bad mood or poor behavior, and then respond in kind. More often than I care to admit, when I think someone is being indifferent, unfriendly, or mean, I mirror that behavior in my response to them. We need to remember, though, that we are dealing with our perception, and perception doesn’t necessarily translate into reality. Perhaps the individual is just preoccupied with a difficulty or a problem they are dealing with. Or perhaps, they are feeling a bit overwhelmed and aren’t ready to deal with the world outside themselves. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is a very simple way to be kind.
- Don’t take out your bad mood on someone else. Too often when I am having a bad day, or when I’m overly tired, or when I am worried about something, I can easily share that bad mood with almost everyone I encounter. The challenge for all of us is to recognize when we are “out of sorts,” for whatever reason, and then make a conscious choice to keep our bad mood to ourselves. I have a friend who regularly gives themselves a “time out” when they recognize that they are in a bad mood. It gives them time to think about what issue/concern is the source of their bad mood, and then find a constructive way to deal with that. Not taking out our bad mood on someone else is an easy way to be kind.
- Don’t talk about people behind their backs. When we criticize or denigrate others, particularly when there is no way for them to explain or defend themselves, this demonstrates a serious lack of charity on our part. In effect, we are passing judgement on them “in absentia.” Failing to honor the name and character of someone in their absence is always inappropriate. Not talking about someone behind their back is another easy way to be kind.
- Say a quick prayer. I suggest this because it never ceases to amaze me what a difference it can make to pause for a moment to pray for someone or to pray for myself. Prayer helps to take the focus off of me and my feelings, and reminds me that God is always offering us God’s grace to help us deal with, work through, overcome or forgive whatever is causing us not to be charitable. Saying a quick prayer for someone or for ourselves is an easy way to be kind.
Being kind is not always easy, especially when we don’t know what battle someone is fighting. Perhaps, though if we are kind to others, they in turn will be kind to us. And who knows, that kind of mutual kindness could even start a trend.
Join the Wall of Conscious conversation.
The Timothy P. Schmalz Homeless Jesus bronze sculpture has arrived at The Basilica. It is currently located in the lower level and will be placed in front of the Church for the dedication on November 19, the World Day of the Poor.
The sculpture of a life-size Christ figure shrouded in a blanket on a bench is an internationally recognized symbol of compassion and awareness for the homeless, with sculptures located in major cities throughout the world.
What do you think?
The sculpture is intended to invite conversation. We invite you to share your reactions to this powerful piece of art on a post-it note or on social media posts.
From Wall of Conscious
The sculpture of the Homeless Jesus is meant to challenge people and to affirm people. It should call us out of our comfort zone and make a difference.
The message of welcome and hospitality can be expressed in words and actions as well as through the arts which are like 24 hour a day ‘visual sermons.’
When it was put on display in Davidson, North Carolina, several local homeowners called the police to complain about a homeless man sleeping on the bench.
“Some iconography is very grand and glorious. This is earthy and speaks of the fragility of the human condition.” Martyn Atkins
- What “neighbor” do you find difficult to love?
- I have a friend who says the reason we have difficulty loving our neighbor as ourselves is that we don’t love ourselves very well. What do you think?
- Who comes to mind as someone you would name as an imitator of the Lord?
One of the greatest privileges of working at The Basilica is how many members of our community I have gotten to meet and how many Basilica stories I have gotten to hear over the past nine years. The Basilica is a diverse community made up of 6,500 households, just over 12,000 parish members. Each of you has your own Basilica story—what brought you here and why you have stayed.
Two weekends ago at Mass, we heard from two of those parish members, Scott Knight and Mary Gleich-Matthews. Each shared their Basilica story and why they have chosen this community to volunteer, to attend mass, and to support with their financial pledges.
Scott and Mary are at different stages in life. Mary is a young professional who found The Basilica, like many, after “church shopping” for the right fit during graduate school, and was recently married at The Basilica in 2016. Scott came to The Basilica in 1996 and now more than 20 years later is balancing life as the Police Chief of Chaska, husband, and father. Scott was diagnosed with stage four skin cancer in 2014 and has immense gratitude to The Basilica community that prayed for him and supported him throughout this battle.
Despite their differences both Mary and Scott shared how much they appreciate The Basilica’s hospitality and Fr. Bauer’s message that “all are welcome.” I frequently hear that this message resonates with so many members of our parish community.
At The Basilica, we recognize that faith journeys take different turns. Some of us are just starting out, establishing new faith habits as we launch careers or adult lives. Others experience faith against the backdrop of young families, work demands, empty nests, or well-earned retirements. Each member of our community brings value to make us stronger together.
The Basilica’s valuable work in our community is possible thanks to parishioners of every age who have pitched in and pledged support. Mary, finding a home and getting married at The Basilica, would not have been possible without financial stewardship pledges. Scott, feeling supported during his difficult battle with cancer, would not be possible without financial stewardship pledges. These moments and so many more along with essentials like heat and lights would not be possible without each and every financial stewardship pledge we receive. When our community comes together so much is possible!
I hope you will consider a 2018 pledge today. You can pledge online, fill out a pledge form and mail it in, or bring it to mass and put it in the regular collection basket. You may also contact Stephanie Bielmas for answers to any questions you may have about supporting 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/102217.cfm
There is an old proverb that says: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” We see an example of this in our Gospel this weekend. We are told that the “Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him with the Herodians………..” The Pharisees and the Herodians were bitter enemies. The Pharisees believed the observance of the Jewish law was paramount. They defended it rigorously. The Herodians on the other were seen as collaborators with the occupying Romans. They were willing to make compromises with Jewish law. They displayed a “go along to get along” philosophy. A delegation from these two groups approached Jesus with a feigned compliment: “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” They then laid their trap with a skillfully devised question: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If Jesus said yes to paying the temple tax, he would have lost status with the Jews who were following him. If he said no to paying the temple tax, he would have been liable to being denounced to the occupying Romans. Jesus’ response is well known. He asked for a coin (which had Caesar’s image on it.) and said: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” The question that is unspoken, of course, is if a coin bears the image of Caesar, what is it that bears the image of God? The answer, of course, is that we do.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. In this reading Cyrus, a Gentile ruler, is referred to as the Lord’s anointed because the Lord used Cyrus to defeat the Babylonians and thus allow the Jews who had been in captivity to return home. The point of the reading is that God can work through anyone.
Our second reading this weekend is the beginning of the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. In it Paul greets the Thessalonians, and reminds them that they are remembered in his prayers: “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- We have all heard that we are made in the image and likeness of God, but what does this mean to you?
- God used King Cyrus for God’s purposes. Have you ever felt God using you or someone you know for God’s purposes?
- Paul told the Thessalonians that he remembered them in his prayers. Are there people you remember in prayer? Have you ever asked someone to remember you in prayer?
“I think you missed the turn.” Those words were spoken to me by my friend as we were on our way to another friend’s home for dinner. And in fact, they were right. I had indeed missed the turn. In my defense, though, I had been paying more attention to our conversation than I had been to the directions. Fortunately, the missed turn was easily compensated for and we arrived at our destination on time.
This experience came to mind a few weeks ago when I was praying about a decision I needed to make. In my prayer, while I was trying to be open to God’s will, God didn’t seem (at least to me) to be particularly communicative. It occurred to me that it certainly would have been helpful if God had simply told me: “You missed the turn.” or “You’re headed in the wrong direction.” Unfortunately, neither of these directives was forthcoming.
I suspect there are times for all of us when we wish that God was clear and unequivocal in what God was asking of us or what God would have us do. If only God would be direct and unambiguous in communicating with us, things would be so much easier. And while on one level this is true, on another—and deeper level—it would negate our free will. And our free will is what defines us as human beings and distinguishes us from the other created beings on the earth.
Because of our free will, God doesn’t issue clear edicts or direct commands. Instead God communicates with us in much more subtle ways. God communicates with us through the movements of our spirits, in the longings of our hearts, and in the ponderings of our minds. In and through these things, God helps us to understand what God would have us do, or where God would have us go. It is always our free will, though, whether or not we attend to and follow these subtle promptings.
Three things that can help us be open to God’s subtle promptings are a fierce honesty in our prayer, an openness to various possibilities, and a willingness to change direction. Honesty in our prayer is needed because it is easy to come to prayer with a decision already made. We need, though, to be truthful about our personal biases and our desires because, unless we honestly acknowledge them, they can influence our decision making. Similarly, if we aren’t open to various possibilities, it is easy to take some things off the table without ever considering that they might be from God. Finally, in order to be open to God’s subtle promptings, we need to be willing to change directions. If we have already set our course on something, we can’t really be open to what God would have us do.
Certainly it would be clearer and much easier if God simply told us when we missed a turn or were headed in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, then our choices would not really be free. Given this, the only alternative is to continue to work to be open to God’s subtle promptings and to pray that if we take a wrong turn, we will notice it, correct it, and get back on course.