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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/072317.cfm
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:
- If judgment belongs to God alone, why do so many of us feel the need to judge others?
- Why do you think Jesus used parables to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God?
- Have you ever felt the Spirit coming to the aid of your weakness?
This summer marks the 10th anniversary of my appointment as pastor and rector of The Basilica of Saint Mary. And while I know I will never surpass Msgr. Reardon’s record of 42 years as pastor/rector of The Basilica, from my perspective 10 years is still a significant amount of time.
Much has happened these past 10 years. On the Archdiocesan level we have had three Archbishops. The sexually inappropriate behavior of many priests has been embarrassingly public, and our Church has had to candidly acknowledge our failings and errors of judgement. On the positive side, however, we have put in place safeguards to ensure that the mistakes of the past won’t be repeated. And while the Archdiocesan bankruptcy continues to be an issue, our hope and our prayer is that it will be resolved in the near future. Additionally, Archbishop Hebda is providing leadership that is practical, consultative, and pastoral.
In regard to our parish, during the past 10 years our parish has grown and remains stable at almost 6,500 households. Our membership reflects the diversity of both our city and our state. And although we no longer have an associate pastor, we are blessed by the services of Fr. Joe Gillespie as well as several retired priests who help us on weekends and during the week. Further, we have experienced remarkably little turnover in our senior staff these past 10 years. In fact, the majority of our senior staff have been at The Basilica longer than I have. Additionally, our parish has been blessed by the many, many people who have occupied leadership positions these past 10 years. They represent the best of The Basilica. These past 10 years, we have also continued to maintain, repair, and renovate the various buildings on our parish campus. We have also worked to build our savings, in case a financial emergency occurs. Additionally, with the help of a set percentage of the rental income from our school building, we continue to balance our budget every year.
During these past 10 years, the ministries, services, and programs at The Basilica have continued to grow, evolve, and develop. In a few instances, though, we have had to terminate some things that weren’t prospering, or were not doing what they had been designed to do. Additionally, we are always looking to improve what we do, as well as try to discern what new programs, ministries, and services are needed in our community. Perhaps most importantly, we continue to see the number of people volunteering to share their talents and abilities with our parish grow.
On a personal level, as I look back on these past 10 years, I must admit that being pastor of The Basilica is very different from being pastor of my two previous parishes. And in all honesty, these past 10 years have not been without their challenges, pain, and disappointments. Yet, more often by far, have been the times when I have been impressed by people’s generosity of spirit and humbled by their faith. More often by far have been the times when I’ve been witness to great hope in the face of a difficult situation, and great love in the face of indifference and even hate. And more often by far I have seen people live out their spirituality and faith in ways I can only hope to one day emulate. At these times, and many others, I have to admit that being pastor at The Basilica was not always what I had anticipated, but it has been more rewarding than I could have possibility imagined.
So, for weal or woe, whether it was by God’s design or the oversight of the Holy Spirit, I have been pastor of The Basilica these past 10 years. It was with great self-confidence and a sense of brash fearlessness that I undertook this responsibility 10 years ago. Now with the hindsight of 10 years, I realize that a little less self-confidence and a little more reliance on God might have been in order.
I am not sure what the future will hold for me or The Basilica, but I do believe in and have come to rely on God’s providence and grace. And I hold close and take great comfort in the words our God spoke centuries ago through the prophet Jeremiah: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord.” (Jer. 29:11-14) Holding firm to this promise, I believe our future is bright.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071617.cfm
I have never been much of a gardener. I am lucky if I can remember to water the few plants I have. Our Gospel parable today, though, seems to suggest that there really isn’t much of an art to being a gardener/farmer. In fact, in this Gospel, the process of sowing seeds seems almost haphazard. We are told that when the sower went out to sow “some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up.” Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep and when the sun rose it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.” Given this random and seemingly chaotic sowing process, you wouldn’t expect much of a harvest. We are told, though, that the seed which fell on rich soil “produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” This is an extraordinary harvest. What are we to make of this?
First it is important to remember that parables were simple stories that Jesus used to teach his disciples something about God. They were not meant to be taken literally. Given this, we need to ask what was Jesus trying to tell us in the parable of the sower and the seeds? Well, we know from the interpretation of this parable that the seed represents the message of the Kingdom of God. The message of the Kingdom goes out to all people, but is received in a variety of ways. Ultimately, though, the Kingdom of God will flourish, despite any obstacles to its growth.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It shares the theme of the Gospel and reminds us that the word of the Lord “shall not return to me void, but shall do my will achieving the end for which I sent it.”
In the second reading this weekend Paul reminds us that “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
Questions for reflection/discussion:
- In our Gospel parable I was impressed with the size of the harvest for such a haphazard sowing process. Usually sowing in the manner indicated in the parable would only produce a harvest of about 7%, but in this case Jesus talked of a harvest a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. What does this suggest to you?
- Have you ever experienced the message of the Kingdom taking root in your life?
- A friend of mine is fond of saying: “No crown without a cross.” Certainly we all experience some measure of pain and suffering in our lives. Does believing in the “glory to be revealed for us,” help you when you experience suffering?
Changing Hearts, Changing Minds, Recognizing Christ
The Basilica of Saint Mary announces the commissioning of Homeless Jesus sculpture
The Basilica of Saint Mary has recently commissioned a Timothy P. Schmalz Homeless Jesus bronze sculpture. The sculpture of a life-size Christ figure shrouded in a blanket on a park bench will take several months to create. Schmalz’s Homeless Jesus is an internationally recognized symbol of compassion and awareness for the homeless with sculptures located in major cities throughout the world.
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 sculpture will be a vibrant piece in The Basilica’s sacred art collection.
We are currently working with our landscape architects to prepare the installation space on The Basilica campus. This sculpture has been funded by a select group of anonymous donors who are passionate about art and The Basilica community.
Leading up to the arrival of the sculpture The Basilica will engage the community with educational presentations addressing the issues of homelessness. We look forward to sharing with our community the installation and dedication of the sculpture on November 19, the World Day of the Poor, designated by Pope Francis.
You should defend those who cannot help themselves. Yes, speak up for the poor and needy and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8
More information about the sculpture-Q&A
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070917.cfm
When I was growing up in Anoka, above the sanctuary in old St. Stephen’s Church were the words: “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” As a small child I remember reading those words week after week and thinking “What a wonderful God we must have who will give us rest when we are weary.” As an adult I have come to know the truth of those words on occasions too numerous to mention. When we are weary or feeling burdened, God gives us the grace we need to carry on and not to give up or give in.
In our Gospel this weekend, though, not only does Jesus offer us rest in our weariness, he also invites us to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me ……………….. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” According to Miriam Webster’s Dictionary, a yoke is a wooden bar or frame by which two animals are joined at the heads or necks for working together. What this suggests to me that when Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon us it means that he will work with us to help us carry what ever burden we are called to carry. I find this thought very comforting.
Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah. In it Zechariah prophesized that the King will return to Jerusalem and that the “warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.” We believe this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus who is meek and humble of heart.
Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. In it we are reminded that “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Have you ever felt Christ giving you rest? How would you describe the experience?
- Can you recall a time when you have taken on Christ’s yoke? Did you feel Christ’s grace helping you to carry a burden?
- When have you felt the Spirit dwelling in you?
Since the season of Lent came to a close a few short months ago, I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on our call to peace as Catholics, especially with all of the unrest that has filled our world in the past months. Lent was a wonderful time to reflect on our faith and actively called us to re-center our lives around the Gospel. The reality is that this reflection is something we could be doing throughout the whole liturgical year instead of limiting it to a few months.
Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days being called away from his message of peace and love towards domination, doubt, and despair. Through his death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled his message. Time and time again, we are called by the Gospel to be fountains of peace and to “love our enemies.” In Matthew 5:9, we are called to a new identity, “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they will be called children of God.”
Creating peace with our very lives is possible. Although it is easier said than done; it goes against the grain and, therefore, is something that requires work and discipline. Some ways we might make our lives more peace-filled is through meditation on the words of the Gospels, being mindful of the presence of God within us, and breathing in deeply of the Holy Spirit. Being conscious of the peace and serenity within us as we encounter Jesus in another person is one of the more powerful ways of spreading that peace.
Along with creating peace, there is a great need for silence if we are to hear God’s voice. You might commit to some quiet time with God as you bask in the sunlight of summer. Life sometimes slows down a bit in the summer and that can allow us extra time to enjoy God’s presence and peace. Through holy solitude we are able to refocus our life amidst the noisiness of our world and to respond to our call to peace and non-violence just as Jesus responded with love, forgiveness, and peace through his death on the cross.
One of the most powerful channels for peace is, of course, the Eucharist. By showing up each week, we are reminded again and again what it truly means to live as Jesus did: to forgive those who have wronged you, to love where no love is felt, and to bring peace in the midst of conflict wherever you are called to be. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “In the end what matters is not how good we are but how good God is. Not how much we love God, but how much God loves us. And loves us whoever we are, whatever we’ve done or failed to do, whatever we believe or can’t.” We are all made in the image of God and through that we reach for the peace which only God can give.
Peace be with you during these summer months
For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070217.cfm
Many years ago when I was in college, one of the books I had to read for a class was “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In the book Bonhoeffer argued that in many ways Christianity had become secularized, accommodating the demands of following Jesus to the requirements of society. In doing this, he argued, the Gospel had been cheapened, and following Christ had become easy and without pain. And while following Christ doesn’t mean that our lives will be full of difficulty and pain, Bonhoeffer argued that there will be times when being a disciple asks something of us that we may not want to do. There is a cost to discipleship.
I thought of Bonhoeffer’s book when I read our Gospel for this Sunday. In the opening lines of that Gospel Jesus is clear that being his disciple means loving him above all, and then taking up our cross and following him. Jesus is also clear in the second half of today’s Gospel, that while following him may involve some pain or difficulty, we will also be rewarded. Jesus does not promise, though, that the reward will occur in this life.
Our first reading for this Sunday is taken from the second Book of Kings. We are told that whenever Elisha came to the town of Shunem, a woman of that town offered him hospitality. Because of her kindness and hospitality Elisha asked his servant, Gehazi if he could do something for her. His servant told him that she had no son, and her husband was getting on in years. Elisha then promised the woman: “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.”
For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. In the section we read today Paul reminds us: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? ………. so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When have you experienced a “cost” in following Christ?
- Like the Shunemite woman, it would be nice if we were rewarded in this life for our good acts. Unfortunately, most often that is not the case. What helps you believe that we will see the reward of our goodness in the life to come?
- What does it mean to live in the “newness” of Christ’s life?
The Sixth Annual Mental Health All Parish Blessing and Ice Cream Social
Sunday, June 25, Following 9:30 and 11:30am Masses, West Lawn
It was an idea that came at the end of a Mental Health Committee meeting six years ago: let’s end the programming year with a blessing of the entire parish for good mental health and then celebrate with ice cream on the West Lawn.
The committee had been working for six years prior mostly providing educational workshops for the parish and community. New people had joined the committee and they were interested in providing social opportunities as well as educational ones. People with a mental illness often feel limited in participating in social gatherings so this event, joyfully combining prayer, social interaction, and ice cream fit the bill. So this weekend, after the congregation stands for a blessing for others’ and their own mental health, they will exit the church and be greeted by servers with flavor after flavor of ice cream and sorbet as well as resource tables with representatives from mental health agencies and organizations in the Twin Cities.
This truly demonstrates the role of the Church in assisting those affected by mental health issues. As stated by Franciscan Sister Mary Fran Reichenberger, the Church’s role is “The creation of an environment of safety and welcome, offering the spirituality and traditions that give the sense of well-being and of being cared for. Churches can be a place of friendship and understanding.” See you this weekend on the West Lawn for ice cream and making new friends.
Mental health organizations will have resource tables and information available. For more information about the Mental Health Ministry, contact Janet at 612.317.3508.
It seems to me that in our world today there are often two competing visions of “Christianity.” On the one hand there are those who see Christianity as a set of beliefs and rules that believers are expected to accept and adhere to in order to live a good and righteous life, and so be fit for heaven (this is known as orthodoxy). On the other hand there are those who see Christianity simply as a loving way of life, in which we are called to live in common care and concern for one another (this is often referred to as ortho-praxy).
I think both of these visions, in and of themselves, are incomplete. It is not enough simply to give allegiance to a set of beliefs and rules. Somehow what we believe must have an impact on and find expression in the way we live. Likewise, while it is good and important to manifest a loving way of life, our lives must be grounded in faith, and in a set of beliefs. Without this anchor, it is too easy for a “loving way of life” to become whatever suits one’s fancy at a given moment in time.
Now certainly the above is not a new issue. It has been around since the beginning of the Church. In the letter of Saint James we read: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone may say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works” (James 2: 15-18).
When we talk about a vision for Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular we need a both/and, not an either/or approach. It is too simple to profess a set of beliefs without giving witness to those beliefs in the way we live. I have encountered too many people who were steadfast in the profession of their beliefs, but who were cranky, judgmental, and in some cases, downright mean. On the other hand, I have also encountered people who identified themselves as Christians, and who lived good and loving lives, but who, when pressed, couldn’t tell you exactly what they believed and/or why their beliefs made a difference in the way they lived.
Both orthodoxy and ortho-praxy are good, important, and necessary. We need to remember, though, that they go together. They are inseparable from one another. Whenever we overemphasize one, or worse, pit them against one another, we are going down a dangerous path. Jesus knew this. I think that is why, when he was asked which was the greatest commandment, he gave two and yoked them together. Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular require that we believe and profess our faith, and then give witness to it through our words and actions. This is what Jesus asks of and expects from all of us.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062517.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. (Ordinary Time is that time between the major seasons of our Church year --- Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter.) In our Gospel this Sunday, Jesus instructs “the twelve” about their mission and ministry. There are three things to note in this Gospel. 1. Three times Jesus tells the twelve not to be afraid. 2. Rather, they are to be bold in their witness and fearless in their preaching. 3. For “even the hairs of your head are counted.”
Jesus knew that his disciples would face stiff resistance and even persecution as they sought to continue his mission and ministry. Given this, he wanted to be honest with them in regard to what was to come, while at the same time assuring them, that they would not be alone as they went forth. God would be with them
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. In the section we read today, Jeremiah has been imprisoned and beaten. He hears “the whisperings of many; “Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him” And yet, even in this terrible situation Jeremiah is able to say: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.”
In both our Gospel and our first Reading we are reminded that God never promised us a trouble free life of ease and comfort. God did promise, though, that He would be with us in the midst of our trials and sufferings.
Our second reading today is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. In the section we read today Paul reminds us that although sin is a part of our world, “how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When have you experienced God’s grace in the face of difficulties or trials?
- During difficulties, has there been a time when --- only in retrospect --- that you were able to see God’s grace in your life?
- Where are you called to give witness to God in your life?