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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.
The Basilica of Saint Mary dedicated the new Timothy P. Schmalz Homeless Jesus bronze sculpture on November 19, 2017, the World Day of the Poor, designated by Pope Francis.
The bronze sculpture of a life-size Christ figure shrouded in a blanket on a park bench has been stopping traffic on Hennepin Avenue and creating a flurry on social media. This addition to The Basilica’s sacred art collection has generated responses that have ranged from disgust to tears of compassion.
The meaning of the Homeless Jesus sculpture is to truly change hearts and minds towards people in need. The sculpture is designed to challenge and inspire each of us to be more compassionate and charitable and to see Jesus in each person we meet, and to take action to help end homelessness locally and around the world.
The dedication events included a presentation from the artist Timothy P. Schmalz who shared images and stories from his body of work. His powerful sculptures create an impact in each city and community they are installed.
Parishioners and community members then joined together in prayer for a beautiful dedication around the sculpture in front of The Basilica with music from the Schola Cantorum and StreetSong-MN, a community choir for those who have been or are currently experiencing homelessness.
For more information about the sculpture mary.org/HomelessJesus.
- Our readings today are clear that judgment is God’s business, not ours. Yet we all continue to make judgments about others. Now I rationalize this by telling myself that when I make judgments about individuals I am doing so for entirely altruistic reasons. I want to save time at the end of the world by doing a little pre-judging in the present. What rationale do you use for judging others?
- Fairly frequently we hear of people who, by their reading of certain scripture texts, have determined that the end of the world is near. So far they have all been wrong. Why are so many people so obsessed with the trying to determine when the end of the world will occur?
- Notice that in our Gospel today, both the righteous and the accursed are surprised that they either helped --- or failed to help --- the Lord in what they did --- or failed to do --- for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger the naked, the ill and they imprisoned. When have you seen or failed to see the face of Christ in others?
Several years ago I had a meeting with my spiritual director and in our conversation I mentioned an issue that seemed to crop up periodically in my life. He listened carefully and than suggested that it might be helpful if I asked myself a couple of questions on a regular basis—sort of a mini examination of conscience. The questions he suggested were simple. “Where have I been the bad guy in someone’s life the past few (or several) weeks?” “Where have I been a hero in someone’s life the past few (or several) weeks?”
These questions were and continue to be helpful to me as I look at where sin has found a foothold—or worse—safe haven in my life. They challenge me to look beyond my intentions, to the impact and effects of my words and actions on others. In this regard, it is easy for me to tell myself that since I didn’t deliberately intend to hurt someone, what I did or said couldn’t have been sinful. The reality is, though, that both intentionally and unintentionally we can be the bad guy in someone’s life.
On the other hand, it is also good to ask ourselves on a regular basis, where I might be the hero in someone’s life. Now we don’t do this to inflate our ego, or to give us something to feel good about. Rather, we do it to discover where we are doing something right or good and how we might do more of that.
Asking ourselves on a regular basis where we may have hurt someone or conversely where we may have helped someone is a good spiritual exercise. It can help us be more aware of where a pattern of sin may have entered our life, or where virtue is manifesting itself. Taking a look at the impact of our words and actions on a regular basis can spur our spiritual growth, and help us to be more attuned to God’s presence in our lives and more open to God’s grace.
Now while it is good to identify where we have perhaps grown lax in our spiritual life, or where we are manifesting virtue, it is important not to stop at that point. The next step is to ask ourselves what we need to do to root out sin, and/or where we can give better witness to our faith. In this regard, I have discovered that in my own life prayer and reception of the Eucharist are the things that help me to grow spiritually and to recognize where God is offering me God’s grace.
Now while the Eucharist and prayer have helped me to be a better person, they have clearly not eliminated sin from my life, or put me on the path to sainthood. They do help me, though, to be a better person than I otherwise might be. As importantly, they help me to remember that God is still at work in my life, calling me to do good, avoid sin, and to believe that God’s grace is always being offered to me to live as Jesus has called me to live.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111917.cfm
Our Gospel this weekend --- the parable of the talents --- is a well known story. A man decided to go on a journey and so he called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. “To one he gave five talents, to another two; to a third one --- each according to his ability.” The first two servants traded with the talents they had been given and doubled them. The third “buried his master’s money.” After being gone a long time the master returned and called in his servants to settle accounts with them. The first two were congratulated for being “good and faithful” servants, and were promised greater responsibilities. They also were invited to “share in their master’s joy.” The third was berated as a “wicked and lazy servant,” and thrown “into the darkness outside.”
What are we to make of this parable? It seems as if the master’s treatment of the third servant is unduly harsh. I think the key is to be found in the fact that he entrusted his possessions to his servants “each according to his ability.” The third servant was lazy and indifferent. He didn’t even put his master’s money in the bank where it could earn interest. As with every parable, this one also tells us something about God or about our relationship with God. Specifically this parable reminds us very clearly that God has given us the gift of faith, and we put off living out our faith at our own risk.
Our first reading this weekend from the book of Proverbs speaks of the qualities of a worthy wife. It shares the theme of the Gospel in that a worthy wife uses well the talents and abilities she has been given. In this she is like the first two servants in the Gospel.
Once again this weekend our second reading is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. In the selection we read this weekend Paul reminds the Thessalonians that because of Jesus Christ they “are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light, and children of the day.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What are you doing to develop the gift of faith you have been given?
- What inhibits you from developing the gift of faith?
- What does it mean to live as children of the light?
On November 19, this year’s class of Inquirers will go through the Rite of Welcome, also known as the Rite of Acceptance. These Inquirers have already been attending RCIA sessions since September. During that time, some of them have experienced a conversion; others have deepened and strengthened their relationships with God in Christ, and still others have come to know and understand the Catholic faith a bit better. In either case, some of these Inquirers are now ready to publicly declare their desire to continue their journey towards full initiation into the Catholic Church.
During the Rite of Welcome, Inquirers enter at the back of The Basilica, standing between the doors and the baptismal font, symbolizing their initial steps into the community. They are introduced to our community for the first time and are asked to declare their intention and desire from the Church. They are then guided forward into the church where they will be marked with the sign of the Christian to remind them we are followers of Jesus Christ.
Although the Rite of Welcome is only one of the steps Inquirers take during their process of conversion, for many of them it is still a very emotional and spiritually rich step. Some Inquirers may face a lack of understanding or even rejection by friends and family for taking this step and being formally welcomed by its members brings a surge of love and relief. As one author has written, “…the church embraces the catechumens as its own with a mother’s love and concern. Joined to the church, the catechumens are now part of the household of Christ, since the church nourishes them with the word of God and sustains them by means of liturgical celebrations.”
But as meaningful as the Rite of Welcome is for the Inquirers, it also holds rich meaning for us who are life-long members of the church, giving us a chance to reflect on our own journey of conversion and ponder the rich gift of faith. It reminds us of where our love story began with Christ and where it has taken us in our own faith lived out.
The Basilica is an especially warm community, and past Inquirers always comment on the love and support they see in the faces of the congregation as they go through the Rite of Welcome, love and support that continues as many of them receive cards and letters from members of The Basilica as they move through their RCIA journey. And even though some Basilica members may never interact with an Inquirer on a personal level, their prayers nevertheless strengthen Inquirers along their journey of faith.
The Rite of Welcome ends and begins another stage in the process and is a powerful experience for Inquirers that clearly symbolizes that they have, at long last, been welcomed into a loving and spiritually nourishing home. Please be sure to be there November 19 at the 9:30am Mass to welcome this year’s group of Inquirers to The Basilica, and to offer your support through your smile and your prayers and your welcome as they continue their journeys toward Easter. This year’s class is a wonderful group of people, and your presence would be most meaningful to them.
The Basilica of Saint Mary received a 2017 Building Energy Performance Award for outstanding energy reduction from the City of Minneapolis. Dave Laurent, Director of Buildings and Grounds accepted the award along with Peter Crain from the Basilica Landmark Board and Facilities Assessment committee, and Dennis Dillon from the Ecological Stewardship committee.
The Basilica Landmark has made significant renovations and capital investments possible for our historic building and campus to meet our ecological goals. The Landmark works with The Basilica’s Facilities Assessment and Ecological Stewardship volunteer committees to identify energy savings solutions.
The Basilica’s energy saving improvements for over the past three years include replacing the three original 1913 boilers with new more efficient equipment and renovating the Rectory and School buildings with central air conditioning to replace 35 window units. LED lighting updates have made throughout the campus inside and out including the bell towers, Church sanctuary, and lower level. These improvements have resulted in a 21% energy use reduction that has lowered our energy costs and improved our energy efficiency.