Fr. Bauer's Blog

Pastor's Column April/May

[This column was written prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.]

 

For Fr. Bauer's most recent message visit: Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Connected.

 

With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.

1. Connect Desk: In case you missed it, in addition to our Hospitality and Information Desk in the lower level, we now have a new “Connect Desk” near the Hennepin Avenue interior doors of The Basilica. The idea behind this desk is to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with The Basilica. Whether an individual wants to become a member, volunteer, or just wants some basic information, the person at the Connect Desk should be able to respond to any queries quickly, easily, and personally. It is our hope that the Connect Desk will help facilitate people’s “connecting” with The Basilica easily and simply. 

2. An Update on Current Parish Initiatives: A little over 10 years ago I co-chaired a Task Force on planning for our Archdiocese. One of the things that became clear to me when I co-chaired this Task Force was that as pastor, I needed to keep an eye on the future, and not focus exclusively on the present. Fortunately, I also realized that looking to the future was a task that would need the keen eyes of many people in addition to myself. Given this, I am pleased to report that in the last several months, due to the hard work of many of our parishioners, we have developed a new five year Strategic Plan (Our Parish, Our Future). Further, for the past few months we have been working with a Change Management Consultant to help us identify those ministries, services and programs, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community and need to continue, as well as those that need to change or end.

Additionally, in consultation with our Parish Council, The Basilica Landmark Board established a Master Planning Committee to work with HGA Architects and their team to develop a Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. The Plan is very comprehensive and includes recommendations to support a broad vision for the campus, as well as solutions to identify needs to better perform our day-to-day ministries and works. The Plan did not filter against a budget or a financial target to ensure we addressed all opportunities. The Master Plan included 15 “groupings” of work and expense to reflect potential projects or campaigns for The Basilica to consider. These likely project groupings and the included detail will allow The Basilica flexibility in defining the scope of each project we pursue in the coming years. 

The detail in the Master Plan will be used as a starting point and will help guide us as we begin the work to determine the appropriate scope and phases of implementing the Master Plan. These project priority decisions will be reflective of the needs of our Parish community as well as the interests, budget and giving capacity of our Parishioners and donors.

In conjunction with the Master Plan, The Basilica Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz, Whaley, Flessner to conduct a Feasibility Study to help determine the fundraising capacity of any potential Capital Campaign that would be needed to implement elements of the newly developed Master Plan. 

As the work of the Campus Space Planning, Master Plan Development, Feasibility Study and potential Capital Campaign have broad implications for our Parish, we have been actively engaged with The Basilica Landmark Board, Parish Council, and Finance Committee to ensure our leaders are informed and appropriately involved in providing guidance and approval. 

3. Easter Giving and Our Parish Finances: At the present time, we are holding our own financially, but the extra income we receive at Easter is a great help to our budget. For this reason, I invite you to be generous to The Basilica at Easter. Also, a big THANK YOU to all those who so generously support our Basilica parish. Your financial support makes it possible for us to continue to offer the programs, ministries, and services that are the hallmark of our parish. 

4. Archdiocesan Synod: On the weekend of January 18 and 19 members of our Parish Synod Committee spoke at all the Masses on the upcoming Archdiocesan Synod. As I have mentioned previously, a synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is Archbishop Hebda’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today—and into the near future.

The synod process began this past fall and continues during the winter and spring with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod. In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process. On Pentecost weekend May 21-22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly. Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the archdiocese and will meet to discern Synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop. The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.

I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese. It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions, and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end—since I first informed you of the synod—we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward. There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session on our website mary.org/synod. You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead. 

5. The 2020 Catholic Services Appeal: This yearly appeal helps support many of the ministries, services, and programs within our Archdiocese. I am fully aware that many people are concerned that contributions to the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA), will be used for purposes they didn’t intend. In this regard, it is important to note that The Catholic Services Appeal is an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. This was done, to insure that all the money that is collected through the appeal would go directly and solely to the ministries, services and programs supported by the CSA. No CSA funds go to the Archdiocese. 

By pooling the financial resources from generous donors throughout our diocese, much important and necessary work is funded by the Catholic Services Appeal. As your pastor, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of the Appeal; I encourage you to make a gift to support these important ministries, services and programs. Please look for the Catholic Services Appeal information in pews, or learn more at csafspm.org.
6. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate: The Bishops of the United States have launched a year-long initiative that invites Catholics to model civility, love for neighbor, and respectful dialogue. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate will ask Catholics to pledge civility, clarity, and compassion in their families, communities, and parishes, and call on others to do the same. 

The initiative is built on the recognition that every person—even, and perhaps especially, those with whom we disagree—
is a beloved child of God who possesses inherent dignity. Civilize It is an invitation to imitate the example of Jesus in our daily lives in our encounters with one another through civil dialogue. 

In talking about this initiative, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, of Venice, and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development emphasized the importance of Civilize It in the context of the current divisive climate: “Conversation in the public square is all too often filled with personal attacks and words that assume the worst about those with whom we disagree. We are in need of healing in our families, communities, and country. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate is a call for Catholics to honor the human dignity of each person they encounter, whether it is online, at the dinner table, or in the pews next to them. I invite all Catholics to participate in Civilize It. In doing so, they can bear witness to a better way, approach conversations with civility, clarity, and compassion, and invite others to do the same.” You can find out more about Civilize It at CivilizeIt.org. 

I also invite people to take the Civilize It pledge of: 
1. Civility
2. Clarity and 
3. Compassion
and to pray for civility in our conversations. Let our Basilica community know you are taking the Civilize It pledge at mary.org/civilizeit.

7. Second Collections: While no one likes special collections, it is heartening to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last special collections here:

  • On the weekend of November 30 and December 1, $9,525 was collected for our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. 
  • On the weekend of January 11 and 12, $9,768 was collected for our visiting Missionary from the Franciscan Mission Service. 

On the weekend of January 25 and 26, $7,528 was collected to help defer the cost of heating The Basilica during the cold winter months.
The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude and prayer for your generous and caring response.

 

Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary

For this Sunday’s readings Click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040520.cfm  

Each year on Palm Sunday we read one of the accounts of the Passion of Jesus Christ.  This year we read Matthew’s account.   While the accounts of Jesus’ passion share much in common, each one has some unique elements.   In this regard, Matthew’s Gospel contains a more detailed account of the betrayal of Judas and his tragic end.  Another element unique to Matthew is the request of the Chief priests and Pharisees that Pilot help them make sure Jesus’ disciples do not steal Jesus’ body and then later claim that he had been raised from the dead.   Also, since Matthew wrote for a primarily Jewish audience, he was writing to convince them that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophets’ promise of a Messiah. 

Perhaps the most important element that is unique to Matthew, though, occurs when Pilot asked the crowd about the fate of Jesus.  Specifically Matthew adds the verse that Jesus’ blood “should be upon us and on our children” (Mt. 27.25).   Unfortunately through the centuries this verse (and others) have been used to suggest that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.   This idea was definitively rejected by the Second Vatican Council in its document: “Nostra Aetate,” and more recently by Pope Benedict XVI in his book:  “Jesus of Nazareth – Part II.”

For Matthew, Jesus’ death is the result of living a life of forgiving love, and teaching others to follow his way of forgiveness.  The question for us is whether we, like Peter, will be able to accept the forgiveness, that Jesus offers, or whether we will be like Judas and not be able to accept that forgiveness.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from that section of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah known as the “Suffering Servant Songs.”  We see these words as prefiguring the suffering and death of Christ. 

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.  It is a hymn to Christ’s divinity.   In it he holds up Jesus as one who “became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  And “because of this God greatly exalted him……….” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Believe it or not, I once had someone complain about reading the passion on Palm Sunday.  They didn’t like it because it was such a “downer.”   Why is it important to read the passion on this day? 
2.  Why is it so hard for us to believe that because of Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven?  Or perhaps the question really is: why is it so hard for us to accept this forgiveness?  
3.  What part of the passion narrative strikes you most deeply?  

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Connected. 

A message from Fr. John Bauer, Pastor

 

 

Basilica Community,

I hope you and your families are staying well. As you know, we have suspended all public Masses and gatherings; however we are still connecting via conference call, Facebook, and Zoom. 

We are live streaming Mass Monday-Friday at noon and Sundays at 9:30am at facebook.com/BasilicaMpls. The videos are available at here after each Mass.

We are also posting Stations of the Cross and Vespers. Many people have let us know how much they appreciate having access to these Basilica services. 

Please let us know if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions to better serve you. 

We know this is a challenging time financially for everyone. If you are able to continue to support The Basilica financially, we thank you. You may make a gift online at mary.org/donate.

If you find yourself needing financial support, we invite you to connect with our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry

Together, we will get though these challenging times. The threat of the Coronavirus has forced us to acknowledge that we need each other. As a community of faith we need to look after each other, to care for each other, to respond to the needs of each other, and perhaps most importantly to pray for each other.

 

 

Our newest Icon at The Basilica is Mary Untier of Knots. I would like to close today with a prayer to Mary, modeled after a prayer of Pope Francis.

Holy Mother of God and our Mother, to you who untie with a motherly heart the knots in our lives, we pray to you to receive into your hands all those impacted by the Coronavirus. 

Through your intercession and your example deliver us from all evil. Untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that free from sin may find God in all things, may have our hearts placed in him, and my serve God always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.

 

Mary Untier of Knots
Mary Untier of Knots, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032920.cfm 

“Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  These words from our Gospel this Sunday were spoken by Martha in response to the death of her brother Lazarus.    I would like to suggest, though, that they represent the feeling (if not the actual words) of many of us when we encounter difficulties.   It is very easy to think that because we live a good life, because we pray and go to church regularly, that bad things shouldn’t happen to us.   The reality is, though, that sometimes bad things happen to good people.  We don’t know why this is.   We just know that it does happen.   More importantly, though, we know that even when bad things happen, God is with us.   God suffers with us in our pain.  God rejoices with us in our happiness.  And God grieves with us in the face of death.   I say this because in our Gospel for this weekend we are told that when they brought Jesus to the tomb of Lazarus he “wept.”    

In this Sunday’s Gospel, it is also important to note that while Jesus did raise Lazarus from the dead, it is important to note that this was a resuscitation --- a return to this life.  While it pre-figures the resurrection, the difference is not just one of degree, but of kind.   The resurrected life, is not just this life forever and ever.  Rather it is a sharing in the very life of our God.   We don’t know what the resurrected life will be like, but we do know and believe that in the resurrection we will be happy forever with our God.    

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.   Ezekiel was a prophet during the Babylonian captivity.   This reading opens with the words:  “Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.”   These words should not be taken as a prophecy of the Resurrection, (At the time of Ezekiel the Jewish people did not have a firm belief in an afterlife.) but rather as a promise of restoration, e.g. eventually the Jews would be brought back to the land of Israel.     

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Letter of Saint 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 dwelling in you.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:   
1.  Is it easy or difficult for you to believe in Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of eternal life?  
2.  What helps you or what stands in the way of believing in eternal life? 
3.  How do you know when God’s Spirit is dwelling in you?  

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

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032220.cfm  

 

“What’s the matter?  Are you blind?”   I would guess most of us have used this phrase at some point in our lives.  Usually it’s when someone has missed something obvious, or nearly harmed someone.   Not noticing something is one thing.  Physical blindness is another.   In our Gospel today, for the 4th Sunday of Lent, Jesus healed a man “blind from birth.”  Unfortunately, since Jesus had healed the blind man on a Sabbath, some of the Pharisees criticized Jesus because “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.”    Others, however, said: “How can a sinful man do such signs?”  As a result, “there was division among them.”    In an effort to resolve the issue the Pharisees asked the blind man about Jesus.  He responded:  “he is a prophet.”   The Pharisees (or at least some of them) obviously didn’t like his answer because they replied:  “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” (At the time of Jesus, misfortune or hardship were thought to be a punishment from God for some personal sin or the sin of one’s relatives.)  “Then they threw him out.”   When Jesus heard what happened he sought out the blind man and informed him that he was the “Son of Man.”  We are told that the blind man then worshiped Jesus.    

 

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the first book of Samuel.   In it Samuel is sent to “Jesse of Bethlehem for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”   Jesse then brought 7 of his sons before Samuel, but the Lord rejected all of them.  Then Samuel asked Jesse: “Are these all the sons you have?”   Eventually David, the youngest son, who was tending sheep, was presented.  The Lord said:  “There --- anoint him, for this is the one!” 

 

The message of both the Gospel and the first reading is clear.   God “sees” things differently than we do.  

 

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.    In it Paul urges the people of Ephesus to “Live as children of the light………”

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1.  In the New Testament, physical blindness if often a metaphor for spiritual blindness.   Can you recall a time when you were spiritually blind?   How did you come to see?

2.   Has someone or something ever caused you to see things in a new way or to see things from God’s perspective?   

3.   What do you think Paul meant when he invited people to live as children of the light?    

Mary baldachin web banner_general

HMMMMMM...

In the Catholic Church every five years diocesan bishops travel to Rome to meet with the Pope and members of the Curia to report on the state of their dioceses. It is a formal trip known as the “ad limina.” It is usually made together by all the bishops of a single region. The bishops of Minnesota and North and South Dakota made their “ad limina” visit to Rome this past January. On February 10, 2020, Pope Francis met with the bishops from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming as part of their “ad limina” visit to Rome. 

After the meeting at least two of the bishops, who were present, spoke anonymously to the Catholic News Agency (CNA is owned by The Eternal Word Television Network. It provides news related to the Catholic Church to the global English speaking audience.). These bishops said that as part of their conversation Pope Francis indicated that while he had accommodated a request for a meeting with Fr. James Martin, S.J. he was clear with them that he did not intend for it to convey any significance. One of the bishops was quoted (anonymously) as saying that Pope Francis “made his displeasure clear” about the way the meeting was interpreted, and framed by some journalists.’ Another bishop said: "He told us that the matter had been dealt with; that Fr. Martin had been given a 'talking to' and that his superiors had also been spoken to and made the situation perfectly clear to him.” One of the bishops went on to say; “I do not think you will be seeing that picture of him (Martin) with the pope on his next book cover." 

As background to the above, it is important to know that Fr. James Martin, S.J. is a best selling author who advocates for and ministers to LGBT Catholics. In 2017 he authored the book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.” On September 30, 2019 Fr. Martin met for 30 minutes in a private audience with Pope Francis and had his picture taken with the Pope. While Fr. Martin did not reveal what the Pope said to him in the course of their conversation, he did say that “among other things, I shared with Pope Francis the experiences of LGBT Catholics around the world, their joys and their hopes, their griefs and their concerns. I also talked about my own ministry to them and how they felt excluded.” Fr. Martin concluded by saying “I saw this audience as a sign of the Holy Father’s care for LGBT people.”

Now the above would not be all that newsworthy except for the fact that Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, recently responded publicly to the CNA account. In his statement Archbishop Wester said: “I wish to address the article that appeared in CNA regarding the meeting of the bishops of Region XIII and Pope Francis on Monday, February 10, 2020. The article puts forward a series of statements supposedly made by Pope Francis regarding Fr. James Martin's meeting with the Holy Father on September 30, 2019. The bishops who reported these statements to CNA remained anonymous throughout the article.” Archbishop Wester went on to say: "Our meeting with the Pope lasted almost two hours and forty-five minutes, so it is difficult for anyone to remember with precision anything that was said. "However, the general tone of the Pope's responses to issues raised with him was never angry, nor do I remember the Pope saying or implying that he was unhappy with Father Martin or his ministry." He also said that while Martin and his ministry were discussed, it was not the pope who raised it but rather some bishops. “My recollection is that it was not Father Martin the Pope was talking about, but the way others tried to use that encounter, one way or the other. In my view, the language subtlety, yet incorrectly, leads the reader to believe that Father Martin was the issue while, in fact, it was how others used their meeting that was in play. Furthermore, I have no memory at all of the Pope being angry, upset or annoyed. He spoke gently and patiently throughout our meeting.” Archbishop Wester ended his statement by saying: “Ordinarily, I would not be sanguine about offering these recollections of our wonderful meeting with Pope Francis. However, I believe that I have an obligation to offer my perspective on those matters contained in the CNA article about Father James Martin, SJ, since my understanding of the facts differs from what was reported anonymously.”

After Archbishop Wester’s statement, a second bishop also spoke up to counter allegations that Pope Francis expressed displeasure with Fr. Martin during the meeting with bishops of the southwestern United States. Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming, said he supports the recollections of Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bishop Biegler said in part: that “Wester's response accurately describes the tone and substance of the short dialogue regarding Fr. James Martin," 

Hmmmmm, we have two bishops speaking publicly about their recollections of a meeting with the Pope, and at least two bishops speaking anonymously about their recollections of that same meeting, And interestingly and remarkably their recollections differ dramatically. What are we to make of this? Who are we to believe? Well, since I believe that the privilege of anonymity belongs only to God and people who are doing good works, my money is on Archbishop Wester and Bishop Biegler as being truthful and honest in their recollections. 

I am truly saddened and deeply disappointed, both personally and for our church, by those bishops who chose to make anonymous allegations about Fr. Martin. I believe the example of those bishops who made these anonymous statements is yet another instance of a failure in leadership in our Church. While I do believe that some of our bishops “get it,” this instance is clear evidence that some do not. More importantly, it causes me to wonder if the majority of our bishops will ever understand that truthfulness, integrity, transparency, and accountability are requirements for their job, and not just pious platitudes. 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031520.cfm    

In Minnesota we are proud of calling ourselves the land of 10,000 lakes.   Owning, or at least having access to, a cabin on a lake seems like a birthright to native Minnesotans.   In many parts of the world, though, access to water is severely limited.   This is certainly the case in Israel, where people rely on the yearly rains for a significant amount of their water supply.  At the time of Jesus, cisterns were used to store water from the yearly rains, and wells were public places where people gathered to draw water for their daily use.   Now I mention this because in our Gospel this 3rd Sunday of Lent Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at “Jacob’s well.” 

There are a couple of details in this Gospel that are significant.   First, notice that the Gospel tells us that it is about noon.  Most people would have come to draw water early in the morning when it was cooler, as opposed to mid-day.  This suggests that perhaps the woman didn’t want to bump into other people. Possibly (as we discover later in the Gospel) this is because the woman had 5 husbands and was currently living with another man.   Second, it would have been highly unusual for a man (and a Jew) to talk with a single woman (and a Samaritan).  The reason for this is that there was a great deal of hostility between Jews and Samaritans, and at that time there wasn’t any fraternization between men and women, most especially when they were strangers.

Although the woman initially misunderstood Jesus and his offer to give her “living water,” after talking with Jesus we discover that she was transformed by the encounter.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the book of Exodus.   It is the story of the Jews in the desert grumbling against Moses because of their thirst for water.   God instructed Moses to “Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”    The connection to the Gospel is evident.  The difference, though, is that the water Moses provided only satisfied the people’s physical thirst.   Jesus satisfies our spiritual thirst.  

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   It reminds us that “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.   I suspect we have all been physically thirsty at some point in our lives, and we know what that feels like.    What does it feel like to be spiritually thirsty?   
2.  Can you remember a time when Jesus has quenched your spiritual thirst? 
3.  While it is easy for me to acknowledge that I have sinned, it is hard for me to see myself as a sinner.    Our second reading today, though, reminds us that Christ died for sinners.   Do you, like me, have difficulty seeing yourself as a sinner?   

 

A few weeks ago I made an attempt (which ultimately was only minimally successful) to clean off my desk. In some ways my cleaning attempt was like an archeological dig. The deeper I got, the more interesting things I discovered. Now I used to feel bad about how my desk looked. Several years ago, though, I went to a talk about how to be better organized. The presenter said one thing in particular that really spoke to my heart. Specifically she said: “Some people file things to find them. If you are one of those people your desk is always neat and clean. Other people, though, file things when they are finished with them. If you are one of those people you almost always have piles on your desk. The reason for this is that you need to keep everything you are working on in plain view. If you put something away you are done with it.” These words immediately brought me a sense of comfort and peace. And while I don’t brag about the appearance of my desk, I no longer feel bad about it either.

I suspect that most of us have had similar experiences—times when someone has said something that calmed our fears, eased our distress, or lessened our guilt. These times are islands of peace amid the often stormy sea of life. There are other times, though, when someone says something that can cause us to feel uneasy or even anxious. For me, the words of Jesus often do both of these things. 

At times, Jesus’ words can be enormously comforting as when he reminds us that God loves us and forgives our sins. At the same time, though, Jesus’s words can also challenge us as they remind us that we are to love others as we have been loved and to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus’ words are often a two-edged sword. They comfort and console us, while at the same time challenging us and perhaps making us feel a bit uneasy about how we are living. 

While I definitely like living in my comfort zone, I find I function best when I am on the edge of my comfort zone as opposed to being in the middle of it. Most often Jesus’ words challenge me to move out of the middle of my comfort zone and live on the edge of it. They remind me that if I want to experience God’s love and forgiveness, then I need to work to extend these to others. This isn’t easy and in fact I fail at it regularly. If I look to Jesus’s words for comfort and consolation, though, I must also hear and be open to the challenge in them. The promise, as well as the challenge of Jesus’s words can not be separated. Being a disciple of Jesus is not just about recognizing this, but also living so as to give witness to it with our lives. 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030820.cfm  

Each year on the 2nd Sunday of Lent we read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Christ.   This weekend we read Matthew’s account of this event.  The basic details are the same in each of the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration.  Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain.  (In the scriptures, mountains were often the place for an encounter with God.)  While there, Jesus was transfigured before their eyes --- “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold Moses and Elijah appeared to them conversing with him.”   After Peter voiced his desire to stay in the experience, a voice from a cloud announced:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”   After the experience was over, Jesus charged his disciples:   “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  

I believe there are moments in each of our lives that are moments of great grace --- times when we see or experience things on a deeper level and feel God’s presence.  These moments don’t occur regularly and certainly not often.  They are not under our control, but they are “transfiguring” moments, nonetheless.  Our “transfiguring’ moments may not be of the same intensity as that of Peter, James and John, but I believe they are no less real.    

For our first reading for this 2nd Sunday of Lent we always read a section of the story of the call of Abram (soon to be Abraham).  God told him:  “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.”  

Our second reading this weekend is from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In the opening sentence of our reading for this weekend Timothy is admonished:  “Beloved:  Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.   As I mentioned above, I believe we all have “transfiguring” moments in our lives ---- certainly not as intense or to the same degree as Peter, James and John, but no less real.   When have you had a “transfiguring” experience in your life?  
2.   How many people have you told about your “transfiguring” experience?   If you’re like most people, it is a very limited number (if anyone at all).   Why is it hard for us to talk about these experiences?
3.   When you have had to bear a hardship did you find the strength that comes from God? 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030120.cfm 

This weekend we begin the season of Lent.   Now as you may have heard me say previously, when I was growing up I used to look forward to Lent with all the excitement of a trip to the Dentist.  (My apologies to the dentists in our congregation.)  As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve come to realize how important and how good the season of Lent is for our Church, as well as for me personally.   It is a time to step back from the usual activities of life and focus on our relationship with God.   We do this through the primary activities of Lent:  Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.    In our prayer we attend to God.  Through our fasting we deny ourselves what we want to discover what we really need.   And in our almsgiving, we offer from our surplus, to those who have little or nothing.  

Each year on the first Sunday of Lent we read one of the accounts of the Temptation of Christ in the desert.  This year we read from the Gospel of Matthew.   The basic details of the temptation are the same in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  In these Gospels Jesus faces three temptations:  The temptation to take care of his own needs (turn stones into loaves of bread); the temptation to a grandiose display of power (throw yourself down from the parapet of the temple); and finally the temptation to worldly power and might (all the kingdoms of the world I shall give you, if you only worship me).   We all face similar temptations in our lives --- certainly not to the extent that Jesus did --- but temptations that are similar in kind, if not strength and intensity.   Jesus has shown us, though, that God’s grace is sufficient to resist these temptations.    

In our first reading this weekend we read the scriptural account of the temptation of Adam and Eve.   It serves as a counterpoint to the Gospel.   Unlike Adam and Even, Jesus does not succumb to temptation.  

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   It follows the theme of the Gospel and first reading and reminds us that “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  We all face temptations in our lives.   Now certainly the temptations we face aren’t nearly as intense or as powerful as those faced by Jesus.  Would you agree, though, that in one way or another we all face temptations similar to those faced by Jesus?   
2.  Christians did not invent temptation.  We do believe, though, that we have found the remedy for temptation in Jesus Christ.   When has God’s grace helped you to resist temptation?  
3.  Why do some people seem better able to resist temptation than others?    

Pages