Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041215.cfm 

I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for poor Thomas.   One quick and ill-conceived comment and he is forever labeled “doubting Thomas.”   Perhaps even worse, because we read this story every year on the Sunday after Easter there is little chance that he will ever live down this appellation.   

In defense of Thomas, I would like to suggest that he is not so much a doubter as he is a realist. Thomas had accepted the hard and ugly fact of Jesus’ death, and he had begun to move ahead.   (I say this because our Gospel today reminds us that he was the only one who was not cowering in fear behind locked doors.)  Also, his statement:  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” --- while crude --- is merely asking for a proof similar to what the other disciples had already seen and experienced.  

When we think of Thomas, it is important to remember that we have grown up with a belief in Jesus’ resurrection.  If we can put ourselves in his shoes, however, we can perhaps begin to grasp what an unprecedented, unexpected, astonishing, miracle Jesus’ resurrection was.  From this perspective, I wonder if most of us were in Thomas’ shoes wouldn’t ask for a bit more “proof” before believing wholeheartedly in Jesus’ resurrection.  

Our first reading for this Sunday moves us quickly from the resurrection to the life of the early Christian community.  It begins with the unequivocal statement:  “The community of believers was of one heart and mind……………...” 

Our second reading for this Sunday is taken from the first letter of St. John.  (Our second readings throughout the Easter season will be taken from this letter.)  In the section we read this weekend, John reminds us that we show our love for God and the children of God, not just by knowing, but by keeping the commandments of God.  

Questions for Discussion/Reflection

  1. Alfred Tennyson once said:  “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”  Do you agree or disagree?
  2. What would you say to someone who had difficulty believing in the resurrection?  
  3. What can we do today to make the community of believers of one mind and heart?   

The readings for Easter Sunday can be found by clicking on the link below or by copying and pasting it into your browser.    http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040515.cfm 

Our Gospel for Easter Sunday is from the Gospel of John.   It records Mary of Magdala’s discovery of the empty tomb after which she sought out Simon Peter and told him.  “They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they put him.”   We should not be surprised that Mary did not immediately believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.   The resurrection was an entirely new and unimagined event.  And as we are told at the end of today’s Gospel:  “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”   

The first reading for this Easter Sunday is taken from the Acts of the Apostles and is an excerpt from a speech by St. Peter.   It really is the Gospel story in miniature.  Perhaps the most surprising thing about his speech is that it was delivered in the house of Cornelius, who was Gentile. Initially Peter understood the mission of the nascent Church being only to the Jews. Given this, Peter is perhaps prescient in this speech because he boldly declares that “everyone who believes in him (Jesus) will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”   Elsewhere in Acts we know that it took Peter a while to come to this conclusion.  

Our second reading for this Sunday is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In the section we read today Paul uses the imagery of yeast as he declares:  “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Try to put yourself in the place of Mary Magdalene as she went to the tomb in today’s Gospel.   What would be your first thought at finding the tomb empty?  
  2. How would you explain the resurrection to someone who had never heard of it before? 
  3. Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins through the name of Jesus?   

One of the things I like best about this time of year is seeing the new life that is starting to spring up all around us. That some things must die so that others may live, or that out of death comes new life, clearly is a part of the natural order. The cycle of life, death and rebirth is part of the wonder of creation. In addition to the world of nature, though, the phenomenon of death and rebirth is also found in human beings. The human spirit seems especially resilient. Time and time again I have witnessed people come back from the “grave” of trauma, loss, pain, and suffering. It is easy to look to these experiences, as well as the experiences in the world of nature, and be reminded of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is good and important. But we must always remember that, while these things may point to and be a good reminder of the resurrection of Jesus, ultimately they are not on par with the resurrection. They must always fall short of and pale in comparison to that miraculous and wondrous event.

There are many things in the natural world that are precursors of, metaphors for, and pointers to the resurrection. And yes, there are many experiences within human life that remind us of and speak to us of the resurrection. But these things are not comparable with and should not be thought of in the same way we think of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus differs from these experiences not just in degree, but in kind and type.

Now I realize that to some the above may seem like splitting hairs, but I think it is an important distinction. When we compare things in the world of nature, or within our human experience, with the resurrection of Jesus, we run the very real risk of thinking that the resurrection of Jesus is part of the this continuum. I believe, though, that this is a faulty way of looking at things. It reflects an incomplete understanding of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is completely and wholly different from any experience/occurrence in the created world. In fact, the really good news about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that it is not part of the natural order of things. It is a supernatural reality.

It is very important for Christians, who live with the natural cycle of death and rebirth, to understand how truly miraculous and how utterly different the resurrection of Jesus truly is. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you and I are invited to share a completely new and wondrous life—a life that is eternal with our God in heaven. This is indeed good news. Moreover, it gives us hope and comfort in the face of the little deaths and rebirths we bear witness to or that are a part of each of our lives.

When we place the resurrection of Jesus on par with the cycle of life, death and rebirth that occurs in the world of nature and in our human experience, we sell short the wonderful miracle of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus was not resuscitation and a return to this life, it was a resurrection to a completely new and eternal life.

As we look to the budding forth of new life around us during this season of spring, let us be grateful for the love of our God that makes this new life possible. And let us see in this new life a metaphor for the resurrection of Jesus. But let us also, though, always be mindful of the truly wondrous and miraculous event that the resurrection of Jesus was and is. In and through the resurrection of Jesus, we are offered the gift of new life—a life beyond this life—a life that begins (and never ends) in the eternal love of our God. This is the real miracle of Easter—that in His death and resurrection Christ not only shares eternal life with God, but has promised that same life to all those who believe in and follow him. Certainly we should celebrate this, but also and as importantly we should rejoice in this gift of eternal life that is offered to all believers.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032915.cfm 

Each year on Palm Sunday we read an account of Jesus’ passion from one of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).  This year we read from the Gospel of Mark.     In place of the customary introduction to the Gospel:  “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to ………..”   the passion is introduced with the stark:  “The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to ……….”   This change may seem slight or even trivial, but it reminds us of the significance of the story we are about to hear and which will unfold for us during Holy Week.       

Mark’s account of the passion is the shortest of all four Gospels.   At the same time, some scripture scholars claim that Mark’s account of the passion emphasizes the humanity of Jesus the best.   It is not that Mark forgets the divinity of Jesus; rather Mark doesn’t try to “dress up” the emotions Jesus --- and others --- are feeling.   

While we are all familiar with the story of Jesus’ passion, reading (or hearing) it in its entirety can help us appreciate anew, and hopefully at a deeper level the suffering Jesus’ endured for our sake.  

The first and second readings for Palm Sunday remain the same every year.   The first reading is taken from that part of Isaiah known as the “songs of the suffering servant.”   From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have seen these songs as referring to Christ, the suffering servant par excellence.  

The second reading for Palm Sunday is taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  It is in the form of a hymn and it speaks of Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth and back to heaven.  Its simple eloquence reminds us that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” for us.   And because of this, “every knee shall bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord………..”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. I suspect that for many people the “cross” is more “ornamentation” than symbol of Christ’s suffering and death.   Why do you think this is?  
  2. What part of Jesus’ passion and death is most disturbing for you?
  3. Can you think of a time when you “emptied” yourself for another?   

Click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for this Sunday’s readings.   
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032215-fifth-sunday-lent.cfm 

“Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”   These words from our Gospel today were spoken to Philip by “some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast.”   Notice that the Greeks only wanted to meet Jesus and not necessarily follow him.  I think we sometimes take a similar approach to Jesus.   We keep Jesus at a safe distance, most likely fearful of what he might ask of us.   And to be honest there is some validity to this fear.  I say this, because a few verses later in our Gospel today Jesus says:   “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”   These words remind us that following Jesus does not guarantee a life free of difficulties, trials, or uncertainties.   Rather in trying to follow Jesus in this life we know that ultimately we will be led to eternal life.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah.   In the section we read this Sunday the Lord promises to make a new covenant “with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”   This new covenant is necessary because the people had broken the old covenant God had made with them.   The terms of the new covenant are simple.  “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord.   I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.  I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is a short selection from the Letter to the Hebrews.   It reminds that Jesus “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Have you ever felt yourself keeping your distance from Jesus, perhaps fearful of what he might ask of you?  
2. What do you think God meant when he said he would write God’s law upon the people’s hearts? 
3.  The letter to the Hebrews spoke of obeying Jesus.  I think, though, the word “obey” sometimes has some negative connotations.  Is this true for you?  If so, what word would you use instead?    

Many years ago when I was a newly ordained priest, I gave a presentation during Advent entitled “Finding and Experiencing God’s Presence in Our Busy World.” It was not a resounding success. I was too young, and too soon out of the seminary to understand that the set schedule of the seminary did not transfer well into a parish setting. The things I suggested, while working well in a seminary or monastic setting, weren’t easy to implement in a home environment where commotion and chaos were more often the norm. This was made very clear to me when an individual came up to me after the presentation and suggested, only half in jest, that before I offered the presentation again, perhaps I needed do more practical research by spending some time at their house.

I suspect for all of us there are times when it is difficult to find and experience God’s presence in our busy world. There are probably also times when God seems more absent than present in our busy lives. At these times, we may feel like Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb who said: “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.” (Jn. 20:13) If we are honest, I think that for all of us there are times when God’s presence is more elusive than actual. We should not be discouraged or dismayed by this. I say this for two reasons.   

First, we need to remember that God has given us the wonderful gift of free choice. If it were always easily to find and/or feel God’s presence, it would not be our free choice to try to discern God’s presence. God is the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans”—the mystery tremendous and fascinating. If God’s presence were always evident and accessible we would have no choice but to continually worship and praise God. God wants us to freely choose God, though, so God “veils” God’s presence in common and ordinary things, and then gives us glimpses of God’s presence so that will be encouraged to continue to look for God.  

Second, though, I think there is something in our human nature that is fascinated with what we can experience and apprehend, but that we cannot completely grasp or understand. Certainly at times this can be discouraging, but more importantly, it also can spur on our efforts and keep us engaged in the effort to understand that which eludes our grasp. I wonder if another reason God doesn’t reveal God’s presence in clear and evident ways is that this is God’s way of encouraging us to stay with our efforts to find and feel God’s presence.    

Discerning God’s presence is an ongoing, life long activity. And we won’t know it fully and forever this side of heaven. At times, the effort to find and experience God’s presence can be frustrating. Those who have experienced God’s grace filled presence, however, know that effort is certainly worth it. 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031515-fourth-sunday-lent.cfm 

Often times at sporting events or other public gatherings you will see people holding up placards with the scriptural reference: John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.”     This verse is taken from this Sunday’s Gospel.  

While some might choose to argue the point, I think this is one of the most eloquent statements of our Christian faith.   Not only does it remind us of God’s abiding and gracious love, but also and just as importantly, it reminds us that God’s love is not limited to this life.  God wants us to share in God’s eternal life.   

God’s great love for us is the theme that runs through each of our readings this weekend.   In addition to our Gospel is also evident in our second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.   In this letter we read:  “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with God --- by grace you have been saved……….”    

This theme of God’s love for us, while finding a slightly different expression in our first reading, is also present there.  In that reading from the Second Book of Chronicles, the Israelites were reminded that: “Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them for he had compassion on his people and their dwelling place.   But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets……….” 

That God loves us, we believe and affirm.   This belief is at the core of our faith.   The ways and times we experience God’s love and compassion are many and varied.  As Christians our challenge is to recognize and be open to God’s love as that love is poured into each of lives.

Questions for reflection and/or discussion:

1.  Where/how have you experienced God’s love in your life? 
2.  Where/how have you rejected the messengers of God’s love and compassion? 
3.  What does it mean to you that God is rich in mercy?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030815-third-sunday-lent.cfm 

Although we usually read from the Gospel of Mark in year “B” of our three year cycle of readings, this Sunday our Gospel reading is taken from John.  The reason for this is that Mark is the shortest Gospel and therefore needs to be supplemented during the year with selections from John’s Gospel.  

This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of the cleansing of the temple.   John’s description of this incident is much more vivid than that of the other evangelists.   We are told that Jesus “made a whip out of cords and drove them out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’”    

Now it should be noted that initially the money changers and the people selling sheep, oxen and goats, were providing a needed service.  It would have been a hardship for people coming from a distance to the Temple to bring with them the animals needed for a sacrifice.  Further, if they wished to make an offering to the Temple treasury, they needed to change their Roman currency for Jewish currency. The problem was that what started out as a service had become a business, and worse it had invaded the temple area.   I suspect this wasn’t intentional, but had simply evolved over the years.  Jesus’ actions thought reminded them of the true meaning and purpose of the Temple.     

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Exodus.  It is the story of God giving the Jewish people the Ten Commandments.   The giving of these “laws” was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel.  In following them people showed their commitment to that covenant.  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In it Paul reminds us that Christ crucified is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. As I mentioned above, I suspect that initially providing animals for sacrifice and changing money had been a service and a good thing. It evolved, though, into something that was problematic at best and improper at worst.  Can you think of anything else that has followed a similar course?  
  2. Do you think of the Ten Commandments as restrictions or guides as to how you are to live?
  3. How would you respond to someone who thought of the crucified Christ as a stumbling block or foolishness? 

As I hope you know, last year, The Basilica Landmark was presented with an incredible challenge: an anonymous donor offered The Basilica Landmark an unprecedented $2.5 million matching challenge gift. The conditions of the grant were that new donations of at least $1000 would be matched, as well as increased gifts from current donors. The goal was to make it to the $2.5 million mark by the end of 2017.

Then, a few things happened.

  • First, The Basilica’s Facilities Committee created a spreadsheet indicating all the work that needed to be done around The Basilica campus for the next ten years. Critical needs were identified, and a ten year plan of action was developed.  
  • Second, we identified a few projects from this plan and approached you, our parishioners, asking for your support to help restore, preserve and advance The Basilica of Saint Mary.
  • Finally, people responded generously. In fact, your response and acts of faith were so clear, that we reached our goal of meeting the matching challenge grant two years ahead of schedule. This response will enable us to invest five million dollars in our campus over the next few years, allowing us cross off a few projects on our list. So far, repairs have included the removal of water-logged insulation above the ceiling in the church. This insulation was retaining moisture and not allowing the plaster to dry out. We were also able to replace the 1917 boiler with a new hot-water heating and cooling system in the church and school.

So you may be wondering, where do we go from here? And to that I would say, the work continues.

This year, The Basilica Landmark will continue to make improvements around our campus using the funds from this challenge. Most significantly, we will be making necessary improvements to the Reardon Rectory.

The Reardon Rectory was originally designed as a residence for five priests and a housekeeping staff. It also had guest rooms for visiting priests. Today, it is the center of much that goes on in our parish. It houses nearly all of our staff and ministries, as well as meeting rooms. With our growing need for additional space around our campus, this year The Basilica Landmark will convert the unfinished space on the 4th floor of this building to offices and art/archival storage space. We will also be adding central air conditioning and sprinklers to the entire building at the same time. Additionally, we will also add an ADA compliant restroom.

These are much-needed improvements. Not only will we be able to house nearly 4,000 pieces of art and archives in a temperature controlled, safe environment, we will also be able to serve you, our parishioners. 

And then, with your support, the work will continue. The Basilica Landmark is working closely with our facilities committee to continue to prioritize the repairs and renovations that are necessary to maintain our beautiful Basilica and its campus, as well as create and maintain spaces for our growing parish. While there is much work to be done, I am excited at all that we have accomplished so far. 

I am well aware that all of the above is possible only because of the ongoing support of you—our generous donors and parishioners—who believe in the importance of preserving, restoring and advancing The Basilica of Saint Mary. As your pastor, I want you to know of my great gratitude for your support and commitment. It is a blessing for our parish.  

 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030115.cfm 

On the second Sunday of Lent we always read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus.   Since this is year B in our three year cycle of Lectionary readings, we read from the Gospel of Mark.   (We read from Matthew in year A and Luke in year C.)  Mark’s account of the Transfiguration immediately follows the first of Jesus’ three predictions of his suffering, death and resurrection.    These predictions were meant to remind Jesus’ followers that he was not an imperial or conquering Messiah who had come to restore Israel to a place of power and prominence in the world.   Rather, Jesus led by example, and it is through his suffering, death and resurrection that he would set aright the relationship between God and his people. 

Coming as it does immediately after Jesus’ first prediction of his suffering and death, the Transfiguration gives Peter, James, and John a picture of the glory to come.  These three were often singled out among the other disciples for special moments with Jesus.   The figures of Moses and Elijah represent the “law and the prophets” two important voices in the Old Testament.   The “dazzling white” garments would have accentuated the fact that this was a heavenly vision.  

Our first reading this Sunday is the story of Abraham and Isaac.   God has put Abraham to the test by asking him to “sacrifice” his son Isaac, “your only son, whom you love.”    Abraham responded to God with total and unconditional trust.  As a result, God declared that “because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly………”    This story reminds us of another Father who “did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for the sake of us all………”  (These words are taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. 8.32, which is our second reading this weekend.)   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Can you remember a “transfiguring” moment(s) in your life ---- a time when for whatever reason you felt God’s presence and grace?
2. Transfiguring moments are gracious gifts from a loving God and while we might like to stay in them, (“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.   Let us make three tents.”) we are not able to do so.  Why do you think that is? 
3.  God sometimes asks a lot of us, but God also blesses us abundantly.   Where have you experienced God’s abundant blessings in your life?   

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