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Blocking God's Grace

A few weeks ago I got a call from a priest in another diocese who asked if I had received an email he had sent a month earlier. I told him I hadn’t and asked what email address he had sent it to. He replied that he didn’t have my email address and had sent the email via our website. I checked through my various email folders and finally found his email in my junk email folder. Unfortunately, I also found about twenty other emails in that folder that needed a response. As a result, I spent an entire morning sending apology emails to those twenty emails that unbeknownst to me had been sent to my junk email folder.

When I checked with our IT person, we discovered that any and all emails that had been sent to me via our website were being blocked and unceremoniously consigned to my junk email folder. Since I don’t know how to block emails, I didn’t have any idea how this could have happened. At this point, the problem has been corrected and I am once again receiving emails that are sent to me via our website. And while I tried to be careful when I went through my junk email folder, I hope I didn't miss an email I should have responded to and ended up offending someone.

As I reflected on this situation, it occurred to me that at times we may be aware when something is blocking our communication efforts. On the other hand, there may be other times when we are completely unaware that something is blocking them. I think this is probably especially true in regard to God’s attempts to share God’s love with us. Our faith tells us that God is constantly revealing God’s love to us and offering us God’s grace. At times, though, because of our sins, we may not be open to God’s love and grace. In effect and in fact, our sins block us from being open to God.

The above is exacerbated by the fact that, while there are times when we are aware that we are estranged from or at a distance from God, there are times when our sins have put us at a distance from God, and as a result we are unaware that the grace and love our God wants to offer us is being blocked. This is the corrosive and numbing effect of sin. It can block God’s grace without our being aware that this is happening.

Fortunately, while Christians didn’t invent sin, we do believe that in Jesus Christ we have found the remedy for sin. In chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, we find the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. Both of these parables remind us that when we are lost—even and perhaps especially when we don’t know we are lost—Jesus seeks us out. And he is not satisfied and won’t stop looking until he finds us.

Sin can block the love and grace God wants to offer us. But in and through Jesus Christ we know and believe that this situation is usually temporary. Because of Jesus Christ, there is nothing—save the hardness of our own hearts—that can block God’s love. Of this we can be sure and because of this we will be saved.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/083114.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday follows immediately after last Sunday’s Gospel in which Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?”  Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.   In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus tells his disciples the “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”  When Peter objected to this Jesus told him:  “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”   Jesus then went on to tell his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. “  

In this Gospel Jesus is clear that his disciples should not expect a life free of difficulties or pain simply because they were his disciples.   Rather, we can expect our reward or punishment at the end of our lives. This is made clear in the last line of this Sunday’s Gospel.  “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”   

Our first reading this Sunday dovetails nicely with the Gospel.  The prophet Jeremiah is upset that his words of chastisement and rebuke have caused him to be beaten and put into stocks.  In a famous lament he says:  “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me and you triumphed.  All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.”   Given this, Jeremiah vows not to prophesy any longer.  “But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”    Clearly for Jeremiah, responding to God’s call was no picnic, yet he realized that ultimately in responding to that call he would find his salvation.

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  It shares the theme of the Gospel and the first reading.  Paul tells the Romans: “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. When have you had to take up your cross and follow Jesus?
2.  Have you ever felt like Jeremiah in our first reading?
3. What helps you discern the will of God in your life?  

Megonia, an ensemble featuring strings and voices,  will offer sounds of Appalachia at The Basilica's 4:30 and 6:30 pm Masses on Sunday, August 24.  Together since 2009, sisters Carolyn Gleason and Maureen Koenig, join Kellie Nitz and Sam Rhodes to play old time Tennessee mountain music.  You'll hear them play traditional instruments like accordion, banjo, bass, guitar and vox as they blend their voices, personalities, experiences and musical abilities as Megonia, an Appalachian folk group.    To  hear them, find Megonia on Facebook.

Tenor Bill Bastian will sing at The Basilica on Sunday, August 24 at the 7:30 and 9:30 am  Masses.  He has sung over 40 opera roles and 75 different oratorio roles as tenor and countertenor.  A frequent soloist and a guitarist, Bill also teaches at the College  of St. Scholastica in Duluth.  Bill and his wife Laurie found Northern Opera Theatre Experience to bring professional opera to the Twin Ports through the 1990s.

Basilica volunteers are leading the way again by helping us evaluate and reduce waste at our parish.

The Basilica is located in Hennepin County, and they set new goals as part of a “Zero Waste” initiative to reduce waste and increase recycling next year. They hope to achieve this waste reduction by increasing recycling rates to 45% and to 6% for organics (which include food and non-recyclable paper.) 

We want to do our part at The Basilica. Thanks to the leadership of volunteers Donna Krisch and Dennis Dillon and staff members Janice Andersen and Dave Laurent, we are in the process of evaluating how to reduce waste and increase recycling. We are also considering starting an organics recovery program at The Basilica. 

To help organizations like The Basilica, Hennepin County provides funding and assistance to businesses and institutions to start or improve programs to divert recyclables and organics.  Grants of up to $10,000 are available from Hennepin County to fund things like the purchase of containers, equipment, hauling service charges, start up funds for new programs, compostable plastic bags and more. These grants are available to for-profit and non-profit businesses, organizations and institutions, including multi-family housing. Grants can be used to start or improve recycling programs at facilities located within Hennepin County. 

Larger grants of up to $50,000 are also available for businesses. The county estimates that half of the waste generated in the county comes from businesses and nearly two-thirds of that waste is recyclable. If you’d like to learn more, contact www.hennepin.us/businessrecycling.

Parish volunteer leaders, our staff and Aspen, our current trash/recycling vendor, are working in partnership to examine our past recycling levels, and they are looking at ways to increase these efforts. This work helps both our environment and our financial bottom line.

The idea of starting an organics program at The Basilica is being researched. According to Hennepin County Public Works, almost 30% of waste is food and food-soiled paper. The next Hennepin County grant deadline is October 15, and we are working to submit a grant request at that time. 

The Basilica’s volunteer Eco Team is also looking at how to increase the visibility and effectiveness of recycling on our parish campus. How can we improve the location of containers for recycling trash and organics composting? What signage and practical approaches would help all of us understand how we can each participate and help increase our recycling efforts on The Basilica campus? 

If you’d like to help with this important environmental project, or are interested in learning more about The Basilica’s Eco Team and its efforts, contact Donna Krisch at 952-939-0308 or email her at rdkrisch@gmail.com.

 

 

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


http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082414.cfm

What do you think I should do?  Is this a good color on me?  What did you mean by that?  We often ask questions of one another.  Most of the time these questions are relatively simple and benign.  At other times, though, our questions ask for more than a simple opinion.  I think this was the case in this Sunday’s Gospel.   Jesus was in the region of Caesarea Philippi when he asked his disciples:  “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  His disciples must have been pleased that they could fill him in on the local gossip.  “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”   Jesus, though, wasn’t interested in what others were saying, and so he asked his disciples:  “But who do you say that I am?”   Peter replied:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”    Jesus then told Peter that this had been revealed to him by “my heavenly Father”   Jesus then told Peter he was the “rock” up which he would build his church.  At the end of the Gospel, Jesus “ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.”  

I suspect the reason Jesus asked his disciples:  “But who do you say that I am?”  was because he wanted them to know him --- and his mission --- on a deeper level.  I also think he was challenging them not just to know about him, but to come to know him, personally and intimately.  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   In the section we read this Sunday, Shebna, the master of the palace of King Hezekiah, has opposed Isaiah’s council.  In response, Isaiah prophesies Shebna’s loss of position and power.  “Thus says the Lord to Shebna, master of the Palace; ‘I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.’”  

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In the section we read this Sunday Paul reminds us that the ways and work of God are beyond our comprehension. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  How would you respond to Jesus question:  “But who do you say that I am?”   
2.  What helps you to come to know someone?   Does this also work with Jesus?
3.  I need to continually remind myself that the ways and work of God are beyond my comprehension.  Is this true for you as well?   

Photo Person Jill Olson violinist summer soloist

On Sunday, August 17th, violinist Jill Olson will play at the 9:30 am Mass.  Jill plays with the Hennepin String Quarter and is a substitute violinist for the Minnesota Orchestra  She is also an Adjunct Professor of violin at Gustavus and is a regularly feature soloist at The Basilica.  

 

My grandfather was a professional cyclist. I inherited many pictures of him riding his bike or standing on the winner’s podium. In my favorite photo he models a hat. A taped-on inscription suggests that he wore only this kind of hats. When asked about this early advertisement experiment he said that he was made to do it. He seems to have been a reluctant model advertising his favorite hat. This is how I often feel about spreading the Good News. Though it is my favorite topic and message, I am somewhat reluctant to advertise it or model it, especially in our world today where religion is often viewed with suspicion and believers are considered naïve, antiquarians or worse, extremists.

As a community of believers we can react to this in a number of different ways. We can ignore the truth and act as if it were not so. We can close our doors on the world as we hunker down with like-minded people and seek comfort in our cherished traditions. Or we can open our minds and hearts and engage in a dialogue with the many challenges this world offers while speaking the language of faith appropriate for our times, rather than of times past.

Since his election on March 13, 2013 Pope Francis has repeatedly warned against options one and two and quoting the documents of the Second Vatican Council he has asked all of us to be evangelizers. The Greek word Euangelion means Good News. It is used 41 times in the New Testament to refer to the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the mystery of God’s unconditional love. This mystery is God’s mystery and it is to be our mystery, our message, and our task. Ask yourself, what gifts have been given to me as a means of spreading the Good News.  How can I discover what my gifts are? Listen and see how God is calling you. We are called to bring this Good News, this mystery of God’s unconditional love to the whole world, in deed and if necessary, in word. And when we have to speak we are to do it in ways the people of every time and place can understand and embrace.

I keep my favorite photo of my grandfather on my desk. The photo reminds me that though he was a reluctant model of hats, he did it. Likewise, though we are often reluctant models of Christ, we are called to do it, even in our ever changing and challenging world. 

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

 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081714.cfm

Our Gospel this weekend presents us with what --- at least initially --- looks like an unflattering picture of Jesus.   We are told that a Canaanite woman came to Jesus and called out:  “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”   We are told that Jesus “did not say a word in answer to her.”    Jesus’ disciples want him to send her away.  Jesus response to them was: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”   But the woman “came and did Jesus homage, saying Lord, help me.”  Jesus tried to brush her off with the rather abrupt response that: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”   In reply the woman said: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”   Jesus responded to her by telling her:  “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”     

What are we to make of this strange conversation?   First, it must be noted that historically Jews had little to do with Canaanites.   Jesus’ response, then, would have been in line with the spirit of the times.  Second, while eventually Jesus commissioned and sent his disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations, initially he wanted their mission to begin with the Jews.  Thirdly, though, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus as he does elsewhere in the Gospels, responded to the woman’s obvious faith.   It is the woman’s faith that is the most important element in this Gospel. 

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It shares the theme of the Gospel.  In it Isaiah prophesizes:  “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord ………. All who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer………. for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”    

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  In this section, Paul, while identifying himself as the “apostle to the Gentiles,” also preaches to his fellow Jews and reminds them that “the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:    
1.    When you have prayed about something, have you ever felt that initially your prayer was rebuffed?    
2.    Has your faith ever drawn you to deeper prayer? 
3.    If God wants God’s house to be a house of prayer for all peoples, why do some want to limit access?    

Our guest soloist at 9:30am Mass on Sunday, August 10th is oboeist Mark Seerup.  Mark has performed, recorded and toured for 25 with the Minnesot Orchestra and has also play with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and other Twin Cities groups.  

Trio Filpino are the featured guest musicians at the 4:30pm Mass on August 10th. Members include Dr. Jose D. Uriarte, Isabella Dawis and Francesa Dawis.  Dr. Uriarte has performed around the world in Canada, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China and the Philippines.  Presently, he teaches at MacPhail Center for Music.  

Isabella Dawis returns from summer studies at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and SongFest in Los Angeles.  She has stage credits with the Minnesota Opera, Children's Theatre Compnay, Chanhassen and the Guthrie.  Francesca Dawis just completed her freshman year at Stanford University.  She recently placed 1st in three divisions (Aria, Art Song and Musical Theater) at the NATS vocal competition in the San Francisco BAy area.  Francesca has perform locally at the Guthrie, Children's Theatre Company and the Ordway. 

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