Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081819.cfm 

What happened?  I suspect that might be the question on some people’s minds when they read/hear the opening sentence of this Sunday’s Gospel.  “Jesus said to his disciples; “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.”    Jesus goes on to say:  “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”   He then speaks of the divisions that will result because of him.  When we hear these words I suspect many of us wonder what happened?  Why the change of tone.  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that we heard Jesus tell us to love God and our neighbor as ourselves?     

To understand this Sunday’s Gospel we need to remember that in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is always on his way to Jerusalem.   And it is in Jerusalem that Jesus will face his passion and death.   Chapter 12 is the halfway point in Luke’s Gospel so Jesus is starting to prepare his disciples for these events.   Jesus is not suggesting that his disciples seek out conflicts and division.  Rather he is trying to help us understand that following him might at times put us at odds with or even separate us from others.   Discipleship is not always easy and at times it may even cause division.  

Our first reading this Sunday, from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, shares the theme of the Gospel.  The princes of the people said to King Zedekiah:  “Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city and all the people by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.”   Clearly Jeremiah’s words as a prophet had put him at odds with the princes, and because of this they sought his death. 

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the letter to the Hebrews.   In the section we red this weekend the author exhorts the people: “let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Has there every been a time when you have seen someone give witness to their beliefs even though it has set them at odds with others? 
2.  Has there been a time when your beliefs as a Christian have set you apart from others?
3.  What burdens/sins to you need to rid yourself of in order to “persevere in running the race that lies before us?” 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081119.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.    Our Gospel and our first reading this weekend focus on the need for preparedness.   In the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be “like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”     Those who are prepared will be well rewarded for their master will “gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”    While this last sentence clearly is an exaggeration, the point is important.   Those who are prepared for the master’s coming will be rewarded.  While it would be nice to know the precise day and hour when the master will return, this information is not and will not be available to us.   So instead of wasting our time and efforts trying to determine when the end will come and the master will appear, it is far preferable simply to be prepared.   This doesn’t mean that we have to be “spiritual insomniacs.”   Rather we are called to live our lives in such a way that we will be ready whenever the master comes.   

Our first reading this Sunday shares the theme of preparedness --- not for the master’s coming, but for the Passover --- when the Jews were led out of Egypt.   The opening sentence of this reading, though, seems to suggest that this night was known beforehand: “The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.”   This sentence is not meant to suggest that they knew the exact date, rather that they were sure of their eventual deliverance.   

The opening sentence of our second reading this Sunday is one of my favorite scripture quotes.  “Brothers and Sisters: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seem.”   This is an eloquent description of faith, and a reminder that faith is about things beyond our senses and outside of our logic and rational explanations.   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. How does one be prepared for the master’s coming?
2. How would you describe faith?
3. When have you “known” something by faith?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/080419.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   The Gospel for this Sunday begins with someone asking Jesus to “tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”    Jesus balked at this idea and replied:  “Friend who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”    Initially this response may seem harsh, but from the parable Jesus told next, it could be argued that Jesus was inviting the individual to approach the disputed inheritance in a different way.   That parable is the story of a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.   “He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’  And he said, ‘This is what I shall do; I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now, as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’  But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you, and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’”   

 The problem with the man in this parable was not his wealth (he was already rich before his bountiful harvest); rather the problem was that his wealth was his sole source of security.   He thought of nothing and no one else --- not even God.   At times we too can make this same mistake when we look to things other than God to be our ultimate security.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes.   This weekend is the only time in our three year cycle of Sunday readings when we read from the Book of Ecclesiastes.  This reading shares the theme of the Gospel reminding us that “All things are vanity!”   While this message sounds distressing, it is meant to remind us that striving to amass material wealth is futile and pointless. 

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians.  In it Paul reminds us that because we have put on Christ, we are to “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Has there been a time when you have put your trust in something other than God?
2.  My grandfather once said that when he was young he felt safe and secure when he had $200 in savings.   When the depression came he had to look to something else to provide that sense of safety and security.   He found this in the church.   Has there been a time when what you thought would provide safety and security failed to do so?
3.  I find it hard to keep focused on “what is above.”  What helps you to keep focused on “what is above”?

 

 
Fr Bauer
Dear Parishioners: 
 
With this letter I would like to update you on several areas of our parish’s life. 
 
1. In regard to Staffing in our Learning Department. As I hope you know Paula Kaempffer, has left our staff to work for the Archdiocese. While we received several resumes from people interested in the position of Director of Learning and coordinator of the R.C.I. A. process at The Basilica, we were not able to make a hire for this position. This left us with the choice of continuing to look for someone to fill this position or to consider other options. Since we didn’t think there would be any increase in the pool of qualified candidates if we continued to search, we decided to consider other options. 
Given the above, a few weeks ago I met with Cathy Edwards, who recently retired as our coordinator of caring ministries. She has agreed to coordinate the R.C.I.A. Process for the coming year. Cathy knows The Basilica and I am sure is familiar to many of you. Cathy will step into a program that is well structured and a team that is very committed to the R.C.I.A. We are also blessed in that prior to departing for her new position with our Archdiocese, Paula Kaempffer had done much of the work of scheduling and lining up speakers for R.C.I. A. this coming year. Cathy will also be assisted by other members of our staff. 
Additionally, we have hired a familiar face to serve as Coordinator of Children’s Learning and Sacramental preparation. Christine Moore who previously served in this position will once again assume these responsibilities. She will begin work this summer. 
Finally, with the retirement of Nancy Keller, our Coordinator of Marriage Ministries, Ben Caduff will assume the responsibilities of this position. Ben will continue to coordinate family and young adult ministries, in addition to these new responsibilities.
 
2. I would also like to update you on the work of our Campus Space Planning Committee. Beginning in January of 2018 this diverse group of parishioners worked to establish a vision for our campus to prepare us for the next 100 years of service to the Church and the city. Earlier this year this group completed its work in providing a vision and set of priorities to ensure our buildings and campus serve both our current needs and the needs of future generations engaged at The Basilica and serving the community. Their efforts have helped us move into the future with confidence and hope. I am enormously grateful for all the time and effort they put into this important work. 
As a next step, we began a process to select a team of talented individuals and organizations to assist us in creating a new more specific Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. This team will provide expertise in key areas such as Architecture, Historical Preservation, Urban Strategy and Landscaping. The process, included “Requests for Qualifications” and later “Requests for Proposals” ” and in person interviews. In these requests we wanted architectural firms that could work as a team with urban planners, historical preservationists, and landscape architects. We eventually interviewed three teams and ultimately recommended to The Basilica Landmark Board that the team, led by the Architectural firm HGA be hired to develop a Master Plan for our Basilica Campus. The Landmark Board approved the funding of this recommendation and we began negotiations for a contract with HGA. 
Our next step was to form a small Master Planning Committee to work with HGA and their team in the development of the Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. This Committee has begun meeting and will continue to meet for the next several months. We will set up some smaller subcommittees to examine some specific issues, e.g. accessibility, music, parking and liturgy. 
 
3. Feasibility Study: As I have mentioned previously, The Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz Whaley Flessner to conduct a feasibility study to help determine fund raising capacity for a potential Capital Campaign 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. 
 
4. Our Strategic Plan: Our Parish, Our Future: As I have mentioned previously, several months ago we began the process of developing a new strategic plan for our parish. (Our previous plan carried us through spring of 2018.) This plan will serve as a road map to guide and direct our efforts for the next three to five years. 
The reason we engage in strategic planning is simple. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29.18) If we don’t consciously and prayerfully plan for our future, we are at risk of drifting into a future not of our choosing and certainly not of our making. 
I am pleased to report that at the October 2018 meeting of our Parish Council our new Strategic Plan was approved. The new Strategic Plan retains our core Vision, Mission, and Values, and builds on instead of replacing, the previous strategic plan. There are three new Strategic Areas of Focus in our Strategic Plan: The Arts: to move, inspire and transform individuals and communities through excellence in the arts and creative practices. Inclusivity: to build a culture where people feel valued, welcome, integrated, and included. Homelessness: to respond to the needs of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness
We continue to work with a team of volunteer leaders and The Basilica staff to assist in both executing the strategic plan and ensure we develop the right metrics and governance to ensure the outcomes desired are achieved.
 
5. Our Parish Finances: As I write this missive we have just ended our fiscal year. The good news is that thanks to the generosity of our parishioners, we ended the fiscal year with a much less than anticipated deficit. (The deficit is covered by a portion of the rental income from our school building.) The bad news is that the income from our financial stewardship is not keeping pace with the increase in our expenses. While we are not at a critical juncture yet, we are at the point where if we don’t do something, the issue will only get worse. 
  Given the above, and to support the implementation of our Strategic Plan, our Parish Council and Finance Committee approved funding to hire a Change Management Consultant to help us identify those ministries, programs, services, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community, and help us determine what services, ministries and programs will continue, change or end. Our new Strategic Plan will provide the foundation to guide our decision making process and prioritization.
 
6. Archdiocesan Synod: On the Vigil of Pentecost (June 8, 2019), Archbishop Hebda formally announced that our archdiocese will be embarking on a synod, our first since 1939. A synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is the Archbishop’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.
Archbishop Hebda described the local pre-synod and synod process as following Pope Francis’ “listening Church” model. “It’s the confidence that comes from believing that the Holy Spirit works in the faithful, and it’s in sharing those things that are most important to us that we’re able to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit,” 
The synod process will begin this fall with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the spring/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. I will share more information about the synod in the near future, as our parish organizes for our involvement and input. I wanted mention it now, though, so that it will hopefully be in your minds, hearts and prayers. 
 
7. 150th Anniversary of our Parish: As I hope you are aware this year our parish celebrates its Sesquicentennial. 150 years ago the Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Minneapolis. The first Mass was celebrated on October 4, 1868 in a shed church. A stone church followed and was dedicated in 1873. When the parish outgrew this building, seven lots were donated at 16th and Hennepin Ave. in 1904. The cornerstone for what is now known as The Basilica of Saint Mary (The Basilica of Saint Mary was originally known as the pro-Cathedral.) was laid in 1908, and the first Mass was celebrated in The Basilica on May 31, 1914. 
We kicked-off our year long celebration of our 150th anniversary on Sunday September 30th, 2018 with Archbishop Hebda presiding at the 9:30 am and 11:30 Masses am. We also held a marriage reunion celebration for all couples who were married at The Basilica. This Marriage Reunion took place on Saturday February 23, 2019, at the 5:00 pm Mass and was followed by a reception. It was a wonderful celebration with couples married a variety of years in attendance. 
There will be other events in the next few months to help us celebrate our Sesquicentennial as a parish. I invite you to attend as many of these as you are able as we celebrate 150 years of faith. In particular I would like to mention a School Reunion for former students of The Basilica School. This reunion will take place on Saturday September 7.
The celebration of our Sesquicentennial will conclude at our liturgies on the weekend of September 28 and 29 when we will celebrate our St. Vincent de Paul outreach ministries. Our auxiliary bishop, Andrew Cozzens will be our guest presider at the 9:30 am and 11:30 Masses pm that weekend. We are also inviting everyone to participate in “Basilica Serves,” a variety of volunteer experiences to help others in our city. More information about the activities and events surrounding the 150th anniversary of our parish can be found on our website at www.mary.org.
 
8. Parish Council Elections: I am pleased to inform you that in the recent elections for our Parish Council, Nadia Weber (representing Liturgy) and Donna Bonicatto (representing Learning) were elected to our Parish Pastoral Council. I am also pleased to report that Dr. Deirdre Palmer will serve as the liaison to the Parish Council from The Basilica Landmark. And Katelin Richter Davis has accepted appointment as an at-large member of the Council. Finally, Trevor Adamek will serve as the Finance Committee Representative to the Parish Council. I am very grateful to each of these individuals for their willingness to serve on our Parish Council. 
The members of our Parish Council represent a cross section of our parish. The Parish Council meets monthly and works with me and our staff to determine the needs, aspirations, and direction of our parish. As such it plays a vital role in our parish community. I am enormously grateful to our Council members for sharing their insights and expertise as we work together to carry out the mission of our parish. 
 
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/072819.cfm    

This weekend we celebrate the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The Gospel for this Sunday comes in three parts.  In the first section, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray just as John taught his disciples.   Jesus responded by giving them the Our Father.   In the second section, Jesus tells the story of a man whose friend comes to him at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread.  The story closes with the words:  “………he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”   The third section of our Gospel contains the familiar words “……….ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”     

Our First reading for this weekend shares a theme with the Gospel.  In it, Abraham intervenes with God over the fate of Sodom.   He asks asking God not to destroy Sodom if God found 50 innocent people.  After God agrees, Abraham persists:  how about five less than fifty, then forty, then thirty, then twenty.  Finally Abraham says: “What if there are at least ten (innocent people) there?”   God responds that:  “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”   

Our Gospel and our first reading both deal with the complex and sometimes difficult issue of petitionary prayer.   On the surface, they seem to suggest that if we just keep badgering God, eventually God will respond to our prayer.   On a deeper level, though, I think these readings invite us to be persistent in prayer in order that we can come to know how and where God is responding to our prayer.   I say this because Jesus does not say:  “Ask and you will receive exactly what you are asking for.”  Nor does he say: “Seek and you will find exactly what you are seeking.”   I am more and more convinced that by being persistent in prayer, we come to understand that God has responded to our prayer, but perhaps in a way we had not anticipated or initially recognized.   

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians.   In it Paul proclaims the power of Christ’s cross.   Christ has obliterated any “bond against us with its legal claims……………..nailing it to the cross.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever felt that your prayers of petition have gone unanswered?
  2. Have you ever seen your prayers of petition answered in a way you hadn’t expected?
  3. What would you say to someone who is struggling with prayers that seemingly go unanswered? 
     

For this Sunday’s readings click in the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072119.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary.   We are told that Martha was busy with the details of hospitality, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.   Martha came to Jesus and said:  “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”   In reply, Jesus said to her:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.   Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”    

Since I identify much more with Martha than Mary, I had always struggled with this particular Gospel.   Many years ago when I was on retreat, my retreat director asked me to meditate on this passage.  I resisted, but my retreat director insisted.   And so, I took the passage to prayer and in my prayer it suddenly occurred to me that from my perspective three words were missing from Jesus response:   “at this moment.”   I inserted these three words after “There is need only of one thing, at this moment…………”   Mary had realized that at that moment the important thing was attend to the Lord.   Martha, rightly concerned about hospitality, had allowed that concern to become dominant, and as a result she missed the opportunity to attend to the Lord.   This same thing continues to occur in each of our lives.  We can become so focused on something --- sometimes things that are good and important --- that we can fail to be conscious of and attend to God.   The challenge for us is recognize the moments of God’s presence when they occur and then, like Mary, to attend to them. 

In our first reading this Sunday Abraham extends hospitality to three visitors who were passing by.   At some point, Abraham recognized that God was one of his visitors.  As a result, as often happens after a divine visitation, there is an announcement: “One of them said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.’”   Abraham’s generous hospitality had resulted in the announcement that in her old age, Sarah would have a son.  

In our second reading this Sunday Paul wrote from prison to the Colossians.   Paul is clear that even in our suffering Christ is “the hope for glory.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Can you think of a time when you have been so preoccupied that you almost missed a moment of God’s presence? 
  2. Has there been a time when in extending hospitality you have felt the presence of God?
  3. In times of pain or suffering have you ever found hope in Christ?   

God Never Forgets Us

A few weeks ago I did some much needed grocery shopping on my day off. (My refrigerator and pantry were bearing a strong resemblance to Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.) I stopped at the local CUB store and was surprised at how many people were there in mid-afternoon on a Monday. Pleased that it took me only about 30 minutes to find everything on my list, I approached the checkout lanes. Unfortunately, I was dismayed to see at least three people in each line. I made my best guess at which would be the fastest and for once I was right. The line I picked moved very quickly. When it came my turn to check out, I dutifully pulled out my reusable bags and tried to keep up with the checkout person. Unfortunately, she was much faster than I was, and I only had half my items packed when it was time for me to pay. I took out my wallet with my credit card and went through the usual process. I continued packing but I noticed that the person behind me didn’t have that many items and they were speedily packing them. The person after them started to check out, and it was obvious that my side of the counter was needed for their purchases. I hastily piled my remaining items in my bags, and finished just as their first few items started down the conveyer belt toward the bagging area. Pleased that I hadn’t caused any major disruption, I headed for home.

Unfortunately, when I got home I realized I had left my wallet at the check out counter. I immediately called CUB and asked for customer service. After describing my predicament, the person at custom service told me that indeed my wallet had been turned in. After a big sigh of relief and a quick prayer of thanksgiving, I headed back to the grocery story to pick up my wallet. After waiting my turn I explained that I had called about a lost wallet. The customer service representative asked me to describe it, and after locating it in a box in the safe, said: “Can I see some I.D?” I immediately burst into laughter, since my I.D. was, of course, in my wallet. Since this must have been a standard question, the customer service rep didn’t immediately realize the absurdity of their question. It wasn’t until I suggested that they look at the driver’s license in the wallet to confirm that it was mine, that they finally got it. A slow smile spread across their face as they handed my wallet back to me. 

Over the years, I have known parishioners and friends who have lost their I.D. or had it stolen. Not only is this enormously inconvenient, it can be very frightening and time consuming to try to “recreate” one’s life with a new I.D. and new credit cards. Given this, in my prayer that evening I definitely expanded on my earlier and briefer prayer of thanksgiving. 

Also in my prayer that evening, as I reflected the events of the day, I was reminded how fortunate we are that we never have to worry about losing our identity when it comes to God. In Isaiah 49:15-16 we read: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have carved your name.” The words remind us very forcefully that God knows us through and through, and even if we should forget God, God will never forget us. 

As I closed my prayer that night I was struck once again at how blessed and fortunate we are that God loves us so much that God never forgets us and never needs to ask for our I.D. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071419.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of the Good Samarian.   Now as background to this parable, it is important to note that Jews and Samaritans had no contact with each other and in fact were very  hostile to each other.  What elicited the parable of the Good Samaritan was a question raised by a “scholar of the law” as to what he must do to inherit eternal life.   Jesus responded by asking him:  “What is written in the law?”  The scholar of the law replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”   Jesus told him that he had answered correctly.  We are told, though, that “because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”   In response, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.   

There are at least three things worth noting in this parable.  First, the logical people to help the injured man should have been the priest and the Levite.  We are told, though, that they passed by.  Perhaps the best face we can put on their refusal to help was that they feared the man was dead and if they had come in contact with him it would have rendered them ritually impure.   Second, notice that the Samaritan not only was an unlikely person to offer assistance, but the assistance he offered went above and beyond what anyone would have expected.  Third, note that at the very end of the parable, Jesus asked the scholar of the law “Which of these three………..was neighbor to the victim?”   The man couldn’t even say it was the Samaritan.  Instead he answered: “The one who treated him with mercy.”  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.   In it Moses invited the people to “heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statues……………. for it is already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”  

For our second reading this weekend we switch from the Letter to the Galatians, from which we have been reading the past several weeks, to the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians.  The section we read today is an early Christological hymn.  It begins: “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Who is your neighbor?
  2. When have you failed to help your neighbor?
  3. What do you think Paul meant when he said that Christ is the image of the invisible God?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070719.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this weekend Jesus “appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.”   They are to greet the households they enter with the words: “Peace to this household.”  and say to them: “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.”    

Clearly these 72 were to “prepare the ground” so that people would be receptive to the message of Jesus.  As I thought about this, it occurred to me that the practice of people “preparing the ground” for Jesus has never stopped.  Perhaps people have not been as intentional as the disciples in this Gospel, yet in my own life, I can think of countless people who by their lives, by their words and actions, have “prepared the ground” so that I would be receptive to the message of Jesus Christ.   I would guess this is true for all of us.   The challenge for us is to be aware that we too are called to “prepare the ground” so that those we encounter will be receptive to the message of Jesus.    

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It is a vision of Jerusalem at the end times.  Isaiah tells the people:  “Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent………………… in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.”    

In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians.   Paul is clear and eloquent that if he has anything to boast about it is not status or rank, but the crucified Christ:  “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the Lord had been crucified to me and I to the world.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Who “prepared the ground” for you, so that you were receptive to the message of Jesus? 
2. To whom are you called to “prepare the ground” so that they might be receptive to Christ?  
3. Why was it so important for Paul to boast in the cross of Jesus?  

 

The 16th century mystic, Saint John of the Cross, once wrote: “God’s first language is silence.” In commenting on this insight of Saint John of the Cross, the late Trappist monk, Thomas Keating, in his book Invitation to Love, said: “Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.” 

Now certainly the above words sound good, pious and important. Let us not fool ourselves, though, Silence is not easy. We live in a world that is filled with noise and distraction. From the moment we get up on the morning, to the time we go to bed at night, we are bombarded with a variety of stimuli. Our phones talk to us and remind us what we are to do, whom we are to call, where we are to go, and how we are to get there. Siri and Alexa address us like old friends, and are ever present in our lives. In the face of this stream of noise and distractions, finding time for silence is more than important; it is a necessity. For it is in silence that God speaks to our hearts, our minds and our spirits. 

With all the extraneous noise in our lives and in our world today, though, how do we learn to enter into silence and allow God access to our lives? Well, it seems to me the solution is simple. Unfortunately simple does not equate to easy. It is simple. in that we merely need to learn not to be held captive by our electronic devices and other stimuli. We need to train ourselves to grow quiet on a regular basis and simply be at peace in the silence of God’s love. 

But the above is by no means easy. In a very real sense we are victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media-driven society. Unfortunately, we are not unwilling victims. Given this, we need to take control of our devices and not let them control us. Now to be honest, this is clearly a case of “do like I say, and not do like I do.” I constantly struggle to find silence in the midst of the noise and hustle of the world. And when I do find it, it is fleeting at best. And yet, when I can turn off my phone, sit in silence, and quiet my mind, my heart and my spirit, I feel the presence and peace of God. And I am reminded that God abides with me. 

Silence is important. Because it is in the silence that God comes to us and dwells with us. Silence; provides the space for God to enter into our lives. That is why it is so important to be silent so that we rediscover the abiding presence of God. For it is only in silence that we discover that God alone can satisfy the longings of the human heart. God’s first language is silence. And it is in the silence that God waits to reveal God’s Self to us. 

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