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

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, though, that Jesus “did not say a word in answer to her.”    Jesus’ disciples want him to send her away.  Jesus told them, though:  “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 thought their mission should 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?    

She was one of my favorite aunts: intelligent, beautiful, and accomplished. When she walked into a room everyone took note of her. The final two years of her life she lived with dementia. I remember my last visit with her very well. I went to her room in my hometown’s memory care center, knocked on the door, and entered. There she sat, by the window. She was beautifully dressed. Her hair was lovely and she even wore a little make-up. With her elegant hands she pointed at a chair and invited me to sit down. 

She told me about her parents and her siblings. When she spoke about her favorite niece Jeanette, I mentioned that I was Jeanette’s son, Johan. “That is not possible,” she said as “Johan lives in the United States. He is some kind of a priest” she continued. “He is a very nice boy. Every time he comes to Belgium on holiday he visits me.” After that definitive statement she continued to talk about her past. 

When I was ready to leave I asked if I could give her a kiss. She agreed. As I leaned down to embrace her she whispered: “and to think I did not recognize you.” We hugged and cried. By the time I put on my coat she had returned to the world of her past, unaware of the present.

“To think I did not recognize you.”

This phrase came to mind when I read today’s Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33). The apostles had been with Jesus for a while. Yet in this passage they do not recognize him. Granted, he came to them during the night, walking on water. So, they thought him a ghost. 

But when he spoke to them they recognized his voice. Peter, the most impulsive of them all, jumped out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus. Yet, as soon as he realized he was walking on water, which is a physical impossibility he started to sink. 

There are different levels of recognition. My aunt recognized me as a nice person but not as her nephew, until she did. The apostles first thought Jesus a ghost, then they recognized him as Jesus, but not as who he truly was, the Son of God.

Jesus comes to us even today. Sometimes we recognize him, most often we don’t because he comes to us in disguise. How can we recognize him? By looking with God’s eyes, for God sees past any disguise and recognizes Christ in each one of us.

God regards us with mercy, love, and tenderness. When we do the same then we will see as God sees and recognize Christ in one another. Sometimes this is easy. Most often, it is not. And it can prove to be particularly difficult when Christ comes to us as a person who is homeless, who is an immigrant, who is different from us in terms of race or religion. And yet, it is only when we recognize Christ in those who are most different from us that we will truly know Christ.

It is our hope that at the end of time when we see Christ face to face we will not have to say: “to think I did not recognize you.”

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
Having once been in a boat when a storm suddenly came up, you can perhaps understand why, whenever I’m on a boat, I always make sure there are enough life jackets to go around and that one is  within arm’s reach.  Given this experience, I also have a great deal of sympathy for the disciples in our Gospel this weekend.   We are told that after Jesus had fed the people, he “made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side.”   Unfortunately a storm came up and the boat “was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.”  Suddenly Jesus came walking toward them, but “when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.  ‘It is a ghost,’ they said, and they cried out in fear.”  Jesus identified himself and told them not to be afraid.  Peter, though, said: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus said “Come.”   Unfortunately, no sooner had Peter started walking on the water than he began to sink like a stone.  He cried out to Jesus who “stretched out his hand and caught Peter.”   After they had got into the boat the wind died down.   The disciples then did Jesus homage saying: “Truly, you are the Son of God.”   
Not being a very strong swimmer, I can understand the disciples’ panic in the face of the storm at sea.   It is interesting, though, that their fear continued even when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water.  And ultimately it was only when Jesus got in the boat with them that the storm ceased and their fear ended.  This suggests to me that perhaps if we invited Jesus into our lives more often we would be less fearful and bolder in our efforts at living our faith.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the first Book of Kings.   In it Elijah is on Mount Horeb and God said to him; “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.”  Elijah did not find God in the strong wind, or an earthquake, or in fire, but rather in a “tiny whispering sound.”   Along with the Gospel, this story reminds us that God is sometimes found in places we wouldn’t expect. 
Our second reading this weekend is again taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.  In it Paul laments over those who refuse to accept the Gospel. 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
  1. In the Gospel and in the first reading for this weekend God is found in unexpected places.  Where have you found God’s unexpected presence in your life? 
  2. Has there been a time when you were afraid or fearful, and then suddenly realized God’s presence? 
  3. Paul lamented that some people had refused to accept the Gospel.  What would you say to someone who had rejected the Gospel?  

Join us for Mass on Sunday, August 13, as our choirs return to celebrate the Basilica’s Solemn Dedication.  

Following 7:30, 9:30, and 11:30am Masses
Stay after Mass for an ice cream social and celebration of the amazing work being done in our ministries. Enjoy Sebastian Joe’s ice cream as well as activities for children and adults, and tours of the Mary Garden.

Register to Volunteer
Volunteers are needed to scoop ice cream and pack school supplies.
Register online or contact Ashley.

A few weeks ago I spent my day off with another priest. For lunch we bought some sandwiches and beverages, and found a park where we had an informal picnic. A few yards away from us, two small children were having a great time playing on the grass, laughing, and enjoying each other. I assumed they were related or that their parents were friends. At one point, though, their mothers came to collect them, and when they arrived at the spot where the boys were playing, they introduced themselves to each another. I was surprised that they didn’t know each other, and that the boys weren’t friends or relatives. It then occurred to me that such is the innocence of youth. When we are young, we don’t have a lot of preconceived ideas about others. We don’t have to know much about them to interact with them and enjoy their company. 

As we move along the road of life, though, at some point things change. We move from a childlike openness to people we don’t know, to being suspicious of them and/or their motives. On the one hand, there is some merit to this. If we naively assume that everyone is good and kind and nice, we are going to be disappointed, and even hurt. On the other hand, though, when we lose an openness to others, we can fail to see them as God sees them—as a beloved son or daughter. 

It seems to me that we need to strike a balance between these two approaches. More importantly, in trying to find this balance we need to be willing to err on the side of love. In our world today there is much that can cause us to be suspicious and even anxious. And sometimes without even realizing it, and without it becoming a conscious choice, these feelings can move into animosity and hatred. At these times, we need to remember that in the parable of the last judgement, (Mt. 25:31-46) Jesus taught us that He is to be found in every encounter we have with the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the needy, the stranger, and the forgotten. We may not recognize him, but he is there. 

Recognizing the presence of Christ in others is a challenge. In my own life I fail at it more often than I succeed. We need to remember, though, that God created us in God’s image and likeness, and because of this, we are all beloved sons and daughters of God—no exceptions, no exclusions, no omissions. If we allow ourselves to be guided by our better angels and if we are open to God’s grace, I believe we are more apt to recognize the presence of Christ in one another. And if we are able to do this with others, maybe, just maybe, others might recognize the presence of Christ in us.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.  This Feast, which falls on August 6th, supplants the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.    Matthew, Mark and Luke all include the account of the Transfiguration in their Gospels.  The main outline of the story is the same in all three of these Gospels.  In each account, Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter, James and John, go to a mountain (the Mount of the Transfiguration.)   On the mountain, Jesus is transfigured before their eyes, his face changed and his clothes became dazzlingly white.  Then Moses and the prophet Elijah appeared next to him and he conversed with them.  Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as at the Baptism of Jesus.   In Matthew and Mark’s account, Jesus then told his disciples not to tell anyone about the experience “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  
For Peter, James and John, the Transfiguration was a glimpse of the glory that awaited them.   And while the experience of the Transfiguration was unique to them, I believe we all have had or will have “transfiguring moments” in our lives.   These are brief, fleeting moments of God’s grace where we get a glimpse of something “more” or something “beyond” ourselves.   These moments do not occur at our initiative, and are not under our control.   They are gifts from God, and like Peter, while we might want to prolong or stay in these moments, we cannot.  Rather, they are meant to give us hope for the journey and confidence that despite any pain and hardship we might experience in the present --- if we remain steadfast in our faith --- ultimately we will share in the glory of God.    
Our first reading for this Feast of the Transfiguration, is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.  We don’t often read from this book.   It is Apocalyptic literature which uses highly stylized and symbolic language to make the point that despite any troubles in the present moment, ultimately there will be a time of vindication.  
Our second reading for this Feast is taken from the second Letter of Saint Peter.  In the section we read today Peter reminds us:  “………. we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”    
Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion:
  1. When have you experienced a “transfiguring moment” in your life?
  2. What do you remember most from this experience?  
  3. Apocalyptic literature is not meant to be taken literally. It is special type of literature that uses exaggerated, symbolic language to make a particular point. Have you ever read this kind of literature other than in the Bible?   

500 years later: Luther in our times  

The Martin Luther exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) was the first of many lectures, concerts, exhibits, and prayer services that will mark the year leading up to October 31, 2017. This day is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s famous nailing of his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. These events offer opportunities to study Luther and Lutheranism against the backdrop of our 21st century and increasingly dynamic political, social and religious realities.

Occasioned by this anniversary of the Reformation, Mia organized an impressive exhibit dedicated to Martin Luther, the de facto father of the Protestant Reformation. Art and artifacts from around Germany were gathered to shed light on the life of Luther against the background of the very complex political and religious realities of his time. It was a wildly popular exhibit, especially for the many Lutherans who inhabit our state.

Very prominent in the exhibit was the pulpit used by Martin Luther. I spent quite a bit of time looking at it and listening to onlookers’ comments. Some thought it looked very Catholic, which indeed it was at one point. Others wondered if anyone else but Luther had ever preached from that pulpit, which of course they did. Someone mused if a Rabbi had ever spoken from that pulpit. Someone chimed in, “what about an Imam?” “Probably not,” I thought. “But maybe one day.”

Pulpits are very important in our houses of worship. Rabbis, priests, imams, pastors, and other faith leaders address their congregations from their pulpits. And when they speak from the pulpit they speak with great authority. It is from the pulpit that all sorts of hatred and divisions have been preached throughout the ages, a practice which even continues today. By contrast, the pulpit is best used to build bridges, to invite people in to a culture of encounter, to preach love and compassion.  Pulpits should be used to unite, not to divide.

I was happy to be a member of the group responsible for the interfaith interpretation of the Luther exhibit. Our group included representatives from Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We had candid and enlightening conversations which enriched our understanding of Luther and one another. We were able to connect with each other on a very profound level without denouncing our own faiths. We built bridges and broke down walls.

Maybe this anniversary can be an occasion to take the next step in the ongoing reform of our faith communities, a step that we can all take together.

Pope Francis has called on Catholics to preach A Revolution of Love and Tenderness and to live it out in our communities. There is nothing exclusively Catholic about this.

On the contrary, all of us- Jews, Christians, Muslims and all people of faith- can and ought to respond to the challenges posed by our divided and broken world with love and tenderness. Just imagine if all of us preached a shared Revolution of Love and Tenderness from the pulpits in our synagogues, churches, mosques, and temples all around the world.

Now that would be a radical reformation. It is time. Humanity has waited long enough.


By Johan M. J. van Parys, Ph.D.

Published BASILICA Magazine Spring 2017, A Revolution of Love and Tenderness


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

Many years ago, after my mother died, we met as a family to share some of her personal items.  There were no disagreements until we came to the crockery bowl in which my mother used to make bread.   We all wanted it.   Now certainly it wasn’t because the bowl had any monetary value.  Rather, we all wanted it, because of its sentimental value.  It reminded us not just of my mother’s bread baking skills, but also of her love for us.  After discussing it, we decided that my sister --- the only one who lived in our home town of Anoka --- would get the bowl.   To this day, though, I still cast a jealous eye on it whenever I visit my sister.  

I would guess there are things in each of our lives that are very important to us.  These things could have great monetary value, or they could be important simply because of what they represent.   In either case, they are valuable to us and it is important that we have them.   Our Gospel for this weekend contains two parables that both speak about things that have value --- a treasure buried in a field and a pearl of great price.   In both cases the individuals who discovered them sold all they had to possess them. Now, as with all parables, this one is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, it reminds us that some things are worth possessing regardless of the cost.    This is particularly true with regard to the Kingdom of God.   The parable invites us to do all that we can to take hold of that kingdom when it is offered to us.     

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the first Book of Kings.  In it God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said:  “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”   Solomon did not ask for a long life or riches, or the life of his enemies.  Instead he asked for an “understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”    In asking for wisdom Solomon clearly knew what was important and necessary.   

Our second reading this weekend is again taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   In it Paul reminds us that “all things work for good for those who love God.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In your life, is there a “pearl of great price”
  2. Have you ever pursued something and then were disappointed when you got it?   
  3. If God appeared to you and said “ask something of me and I will give it to you,” what would you ask for? 

For 22 years, the Basilica has worked on Habitat for Humanity houses throughout our community, helping to make the joy and stability of home ownership a reality for local families. The Basilica has partnered with Habitat by sponsoring a week-long annual “work camp.” Every summer, the Basilica provides a sponsorship fee and volunteers each day for five days to work on a home. Throughout the past two decades, the Basilica team has taken part in building a variety of home types including townhomes, duplexes, and single-family dwellings. 

Volunteers who participate in the “work camp” are treated to complimentary breakfast and lunch each day, provided by generous donors, and many volunteers return year after year. Basilica teams have been instrumental helping local families achieve their dream of affordable home ownership. And, Basilica groups have also played a significant role in assisting to re-build areas of north Minneapolis that were damaged by the devastating tornado which hit the region several years ago. 

Within the Habitat “work camp” there are volunteer activities for everyone of all ages—those 16 and up are welcomed to build. No experience with construction is required—we’ll train you and you may work at your own comfort level. Anyone of any age can help to greet the builders and/or make/serve snacks or breakfast/lunch. 

Dates for the 2017 “work camp” are Monday, August 7- Friday, August 11 in North Minneapolis. Contact Julia to register. Don’t miss this fun, faith-filled, and rewarding opportunity!



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

Beginning last week and for the next two weeks our Gospels will consist of parables.   Parables were simply stories that Jesus used to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God.  We use stories all the time to help us understand each other.   We say that “someone has a heart of gold” or “they would give you the shirt of their back.”   We don’t mean these things literally.  Instead they give us a picture of the individual.  In a similar way, parables were not meant to be taken literally, nor were they meant to be deconstructed, and the individual parts analyzed.   Rather they were to be taken as a whole.  The challenge for listeners/readers was to discern what the story said about God or about our relationship with God.    

Our parable this weekend is the story of a man who sowed good seed in his field and while he was asleep an enemy came and “sowed weeds all through the wheat.”   “When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.”  The man’s servants asked: “Do you want us to go and pull them up.”   The man knew, though, that if they pulled up the weeds they might uproot the wheat along with them.   So he wisely told his servants: “Let them grow together until harvest.”    The point of the parable is clear.   God is in charge.  Good and evil will co-exist until the time of judgment at the end of the world,   and judgment belongs to God alone.        

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Wisdom.    It shares the theme of the Gospel, reminding us that God, though the “master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.”

In our second reading this weekend we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In the section we read today we are reminded that “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

  1. If judgment belongs to God alone, why do so many of us feel the need to judge others?
  2. Why do you think Jesus used parables to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God?   
  3. Have you ever felt the Spirit coming to the aid of your weakness?