Fr. Bauer's Blog

Many years ago I visited a parishioner in the hospital who had been diagnosed with advanced cancer. I had been told by the family that she didn’t have more than a few weeks to live, and would be moving to hospice when she left the hospital. When I stopped at the nurse’s station to see if it was okay to visit, the nurse said that would be fine. I noticed, though, that they were just beginning to bring around the lunch trays, and so, I indicated that I could stop back later. The nurse replied that my timing was actually good as people usually ate better when someone was with them. I entered my parishioner’s room just as an aide had brought in the lunch tray. I told my parishioner to go ahead and eat, and that we could talk while she ate. While she ate, we had a lovely visit as she told me about her husband and family and her life. After about 25 minutes I indicated that I probably should be going. She thanked me for visiting and then almost as an afterthought said that she hated eating alone so the timing of my visit couldn’t have been better. 

The two things I remember about this visit were the nurse’s words that people usually eat better when someone was with them, and my parishioner’s words that it was nice to have someone with her while she ate because she hated eating alone. Over the years, I’ve come to realize how important these things are. Being with someone and conversing with them while they eat can be the difference between just ingesting food and sharing a meal. Eating with someone can also help us better appreciate the food. It can also fill us up—not just physically, but in other ways as well. 

I believe the above is the reason why, when Jesus’s time on this earth was coming to an end, he chose to share a meal with his disciples and then to command them to “do this in memory of me.” Jesus knew the importance of sharing a meal with others. He knew that this wasn’t just a way to nourish their bodies, but also a way to nourish their spirits. I suspect he also knew that people ate better when there was someone with them. 

We believe that in the Eucharist that Jesus left us, that Jesus is really and truly present. Further, we believe that when we receive the Eucharist it strengthens us and sustains us that we might become more like Christ. As St. Augustine said many years ago: “Behold what you are. Become what you receive” The Eucharist is not a reward for life well lived. Rather it is to help us live life well. It helps us to better follow Christ and to better bring Christ to the world around us.  

In addition to being a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, though, the Eucharist is also a communal event. As we gather to celebrate and share the Eucharist we are reminded that as we seek to follow Christ, we do so within a community of faith. It is the community that strengthens and sustains us when our energy begins to wan and our efforts feel unproductive. In the Christian community, we are reminded that there is no private dining at the table of the Lord. We are all in this together, and we need the encouragement and support of one another as we seek to be and to bring the presence of Christ in our world.  

The Eucharist is a great gift and blessing. It is a sacred communal meal we share and that empowers us to follow Christ and to be Christ in our world. For this gift let us never fail to give thanks. Because of this gift let us pray that we might become what we believe. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111515.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time.  Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King which is the end of this liturgical year.   As always, as we come close to the end of a liturgical year the readings focus our attention on the end times.   This is the case with our Gospel reading today.   In that reading we hear Jesus tell his disciples that after some time of tribulations “they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”   Jesus then tells his disciples:  “when you see these things happening, know that the is near at the gates.”  After this dire warning, the Gospel closes with the somewhat enigmatic statement that "of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”   

What are we to make of this Gospel?   Well I think it reminds us that while we do believe that Christ will return at the end of time in the glory of the final age, we also need to be aware that Christ is still present in our midst today.   And while we need to be aware of and prepared for the end times, one of the best ways to do this is to strive to be aware of and prepared to meet Christ in our daily lives.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.   It is apocalyptic literature, which was written to a people who were experiencing trials or tribulations.  It uses vivid language and images to remind people that despite any trials or difficulties ultimately good will triumph.   In today’s reading we are told there will be a time “unsurpassed in distress.”   At this time, though, “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament.”   

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.  It reminds us that “But this one (Jesus) offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God.   Now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. If only the Father knows when the end times will occur why are some people so fascinated with trying to discern the signs of the end times?
  2. What helps you to be aware of Christ’s presence on a daily or regular basis? 
  3. Have trials/tribulations ever caused you to think about giving up on God?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110815.cfm

Our Gospel this weekend comes in two sections.  In the first section Jesus criticized the scribes “who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers.”   

The second part of today’s Gospel is the story of the “widow’s mite.”   A “poor widow put in two small coins, worth a few cents.   Jesus praised her because the others “contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”   Many years ago I heard a speaker use this parable as an example of the difference between “justice” and “love.”   He said “justice” is when we share from our surplus; “love” is when we share from our substance.   I’ve never forgotten what he said.  I still struggle to give from my substance and not just from my surplus.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the first Book of Kings.  It is the story of Elijah the prophet visiting the town of Zarephath.   He asked a widow to bring him a cup of water and some bread to eat.  She replied that she only had a “handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug.”   Elijah told her not to worry, and then made a promise in the name of the “Lord, the God of Israel, that the jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”  As a result the widow and her son were able to “eat for a year.”  

We continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews in our second reading this Sunday. In the section we read this Sunday, we are reminded that “Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”   

Questions for reflection/discussion:

  1. The scribes weren’t the first, nor were they the last, to use religion as a pretext for their sometimes corrupt actions.   What can we do to prevent this? 
  2. I’ve met a few people who remind me of the widow in today’s Gospel, but only a few.  Why is it so hard for us to give from our “poverty?”  
  3. How would you explain Christ “dying for our sins” to a non-Christian?   

 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110115.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints.  Since this Feast falls on a Sunday this year it supersedes what would have been the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.   This Feast celebrates all those holy women and men who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.   While we know the names of many of these saints, those who are unnamed far outnumber those who are named.  This takes nothing away from the sanctity of their lives.  Rather it reminds us of the life of holiness to which we are all called and the eternal life that awaits those who respond to that call.   

Our Gospel for this Feast is the Beatitudes from St. Matthew’s Gospel.   Each Beatitude begins with the familiar words:  “Blessed are.”   These words remind us that we are blessed when we strive to live the Beatitudes as Jesus lived them and conform our attitudes and conduct to his will.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Revelation.   This book is written in the style of Apocalyptic literature.  It uses vivid images and symbols, as well as intense language to convey its message.   It is not meant to be taken literally.  Instead, Apocalyptic writing was intended for people who were experiencing some difficulties or trials.  It was meant to comfort, console and encourage those who were undergoing these trials or tribulations. 

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint John.   John reminds us that even now we are children of God.   “Beloved:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.   Yet so we are.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Which of the Beatitudes speaks most directly to you at this time in your life? 
  2. Apocalyptic literature is not meant to be taken literally, and yet many people do take it that way.   Why do you suppose that is? 
  3. What do you think St. John meant when he described us as “children of God?”

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102515.cfm 

Just prior to my birth my maternal grandfather fell down a flight of stairs and suffered detached retinas in both eyes.   While they tried surgery, it wasn’t successful and as a result he was blind for the rest of his life.   Now as a small child, I just assumed that everyone had a grandfather who was blind.  It didn’t dawn on me until I had started school that this was not the case.   Once I realized that not everyone had a blind grandfather, I also began to realize the challenges and problems that being blind presented.   While my grandfather accepted his situation with great grace, I suspect, given the opportunity, he would have chosen to have his sight restored.    Such an opportunity was given to Bartimaeus, the blind man, in our Gospel today.    

At the time of Jesus those who suffered from blindness or other physical ailments were almost always condemned to life as a beggar.   Bartimaeus had obviously heard of Jesus and thought this might be the way out of his beggar’s life.  So as Jesus was leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus seized the opportunity and cried out:  “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”    While the disciples rebuked him,  Bartimaeus called out all the more:   “Son of David have pity on me.”    Jesus responded to his faith and told him:  “Go your way, your faith has saved you.”    Faith --- here and elsewhere in the Gospels --- is a key ingredient for Jesus’ action.    In this regard, even before his sight was restored Bartimaeus could “see” better than most.  

Our first reading for this weekend is from the Prophet Jeremiah.    In this reading the Lord promised to deliver his people from their exile and return them to the land He had given them.   The people had “departed in tears,” but the Lord promised to “console them and guide them.”  And among those who returned were “the blind and the lame.”     

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   In the section we read this weekend the author of the Letter to the Hebrews compares Jesus to the high priests of the Old Testament.  The difference is clear, though, Jesus is the High Priest begotten by God.   He was not chosen or taken from among men.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When I was learning to drive, my instructor had a “mantra” for changing lanes:  “signal, mirror, blind spot”------  turn on your signal; check your mirrors, and then look over your shoulder to check your blind spot.    Have you ever become aware of a spiritual “blind spot” in your life?  How did you deal with it?  
  2. Physical blindness is obvious, but we can also be blind in other ways.  Have you ever become aware of areas of blindness in your life?  
  3. It is comforting for me to know that Jesus is like us in all things but sin.   As high priest, he is always patient and forgiving with us.   Is it possible, though, that we can take advantage of this?   

For this Sunday’s Readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101815.cfm  

Some times it takes us a while to “get it.”   That was certainly the case with the disciples in our Gospel this Sunday.   In the verses immediately preceding this Gospel Jesus has told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem where the chief priests and the scribes will “hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit at him, flog him, and finally kill him.”  These are difficult words, made more so by the fact that this is the third time Jesus had predicted his passion and death.   And yet his disciples, in particular James and John, still don’t “get it.”    Even after hearing these words we are told in this Sunday’s Gospel that “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’    Jesus replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?’  They answered him, ‘Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left’”    
Jesus rebuked them and then reminded them that his disciples will find their greatness in suffering and service.    

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah.   As was the case several weeks ago, the section read this weekend is part of the Song of the Suffering Servant.   This “song” provided an important basis for our Christian understanding of the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death.  The section we read this Sunday reminds us that life can come out of suffering.   “Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days, though his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   It reminds us that, although Jesus is our high priest, he is able to “sympathize with our weakness” because he “has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How would you respond if someone asked you why innocent people suffer?
  2. Have you seen life, or some other good come out of suffering?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus can sympathize with our weakness? 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101115.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday is very familiar.  A man came to Jesus and asked:What must I do to inherit eternal life?”   Now --- if we are honest --- I suspect we would all like an answer to that question.   And again --- if we are honest --- I suspect what we really would like to know is the one thing we have to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus is clear, though, that inheriting eternal life involves more than doing just one thing.  Certainly inheriting eternal life involves following the commandments.   In addition to following the commandments, though, there are things that are specific to each of us that we are called to do if we want to inherit eternal life.  For the young man in the Gospel today not only was he called to follow the commandments, but also:  “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, the come follow me.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Wisdom.   In the section we read today, the author prayed: “and prudence was given me, I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.”  The connection between this reading and the Gospel is clear.   What is important in following God is not power or wealth, but the desire to know God and the wisdom to do what God calls us to do.  

In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the letter to the Hebrews.  We will read from this letter for the next few weeks.  In the section we read today we are reminded that the “word of God is living and effective………...” and that “No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.”   

Questions for Reflection and Discussion: 

  1. Following the Commandments is important and essential to inherit eternal life. However, if you were to ask Jesus what else you needed to do to inherit eternal life, what do you think he might he ask of you?  
  2. What are the qualities of a wise person?   What wise people have you known in your life?  
  3. We believe that the word of God is living and effective.   Where has the word of God had an impact in your life?   

As someone who identifies himself as pro-life, I have, over the years, attended numerous pro-life demonstrations/rallies. Almost without exception these events have been peaceful and orderly. I have to admit, though, that there have been a few times when I have felt uncomfortable with the emotionally charged atmosphere which, on rare occasions, occurs at these events. I am not someone who thinks loud chanting and waving placards with sometimes graphic pictures and questionable slogans is the best way to get across our message that all life is sacred. I also believe that we cannot call ourselves pro-life when we do not respect others—most especially those with whom we disagree. 


While I am concerned about how the pro-life message is communicated, I also am very concerned with the words and tone used recently by representatives of Planned Parenthood. In many public statements they have sought to portray pro-lifers as extremists whose beliefs are radical, ill-informed, and dangerous. I found this to be especially true the past few weeks with the publicity surrounding the release of several videos regarding Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs—the tissue being procured from abortions. In response to a demonstration in St. Paul against this practice Planned Parenthood posted an online statement. In part it read: “The more we learn about this, the clearer it is that it’s part of a much bigger pattern of harassment by extremists whose real goal is to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood. The people behind this attack will stop at nothing in their quest—including breaking the law themselves and willfully misrepresenting the facts to the public. The protesters here today are simply an extension of that effort.” 


I am concerned about the use of the words: “harassment,” “extremists,” “attack,” “stop at nothing,” and “breaking the law.” Now certainly there are some in the pro-life movement who could be described as extreme in their views. In this instance, though, Planned Parenthood painted all pro-lifers with the same brush. This is not fair. It is not just. It is not right. Almost all of the pro-life advocates I know are reasonable people who hold firm to their beliefs, but at the same time are not mean-spirited or malicious. They are simply people who believe in the sanctity of life and who want to share that belief—not just with their words, but with their actions. In this regard, I think it is important to mention that today there are about 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the United States, compared to 1,800 abortion clinics. For the most part these clinics are privately funded. Their mission is simply to help those who are experiencing a pregnancy in difficult circumstances. These 2,500 centers give concrete witness to the fact that pro-life people do care about individuals facing a difficult and unplanned pregnancy. The aim of these centers is life—for women, for children, for fathers—both now and in the years to come.


For many years now the month of October has been designated by the Bishops of the United States as “Respect Life Month.” Our observance of this month reminds us that, as Catholics, we believe and proclaim that human life is a precious gift from a loving God. Consequently every individual has an obligation to respect and protect life from the time of conception to the moment of death. Further, our respect for life must be evident in the way we treat each other, perhaps most especially those with whom we disagree. Those of who identify ourselves as pro-life need to give concrete witness to this belief in our words and actions. Where we have failed to do this we need to apologize, and we need focus our efforts more clearly, not on demonizing those with whom we disagree, but on finding better and more effective ways of communicating our message regarding the sacredness of life. 
It seems to me that most concretely and specifically we, who identify as pro-life, can do the above by taking the lead in toning down the rhetoric that surrounds the issue of abortion. We need to be open to respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree and invite them to do the same. Using language that is simple, direct, and non-inflammatory is a step in this direction. If we can do this, perhaps those with whom we disagree will reciprocate, and civil discourse will prevail. I believe that ultimately it is only in this way that we can help each other come to understand the value, dignity, and worth of every human life.

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100415.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is one that always makes at least some people cringe when it is read.  It is also the stuff of most preachers’ nightmares.   It deals with the difficult issue of divorce.   It begins with the Pharisees’ approaching Jesus with the question:  “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”   Jesus responded by asking them what Moses had commanded.  They replied:  “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.”   Jesus then told them that Moses had done this because of the “hardness of their hearts.”   He then quoted from the book of Genesis (our first reading today) and concluded with the statement.  “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”    

Since most of our lives have been touched by divorce in one way or another, Jesus words in this Gospel can be hard to hear.  It is important to note, though, both what Jesus said, as well as what he didn’t say.   In this regard, Jesus was reaffirming our belief that God blesses the union of two people who commit themselves to one another in marriage.  God offers them the grace they need to make and live out the commitment of marriage.   Sometimes, though, for whatever reason people are not able to live out the marital commitment and divorce ensures.  In this regard, it is important to note that Jesus does not say that is our place to criticize them or worse to sit in judgement of them.   Prayer for and with married couples and those who have gone through or are going through a divorce is the appropriate response.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Genesis. It is the story of the creation of a “suitable partner” for Adam.   Jesus referenced this story in our Gospel today.  

For our second reading this Sunday we move from the Letter of St. James, which we have been reading from the past several weeks to the Letter to the Hebrews.   In the section we read this Sunday we are reminded of Jesus’ divinity as well as his humanity.  “He ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels,’ that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. How many people do you know who are divorced?   
  2. How can someone who is divorced find good news in today’s Gospel?  
  3. How would you respond if someone who was divorced asked you about today’s Gospel? 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092715.cfm 

In our Gospel last Sunday Jesus’ disciples didn’t come across very well as they argued about who was the greatest.  They continue that pattern in our Gospel this Sunday.    They complain to Jesus because “we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”   Notice they didn’t say “because he does not follow you,” but rather “because he does not follow us.”   Clearly, their idea of discipleship was far more restrictive than that of Jesus.   The fact is that Jesus had a far more expansive and inclusive view of discipleship than his disciples did.  We know this because He tells them: “whoever is not against us is for us.”     

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus’ words seem a bit harsh.  He speaks of cutting off a hand or a foot, or plucking out an eye if any of these cause you to sin.   Clearly Jesus is not suggesting amputation or blinding one’s self.  Rather he is reminding his disciples that we need to be aware of those things that lead us to sin, and seek to eliminate them from our lives.

Our first reading this Sunday, from the book of Numbers, shares the theme of the Gospel.  It raises the question of who can speak/act in the name of the Lord.   In this reading God shares some of the Spirit God gave to Moses with “seventy elders.”   Two of the men were not at the gathering where this occurred, yet they too received the Spirit.    Joshua wanted Moses to stop them, but Moses replied:   “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets.” 

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter of St. James.   While at first blush this reading appears to condemn those who are rich, a deeper reading reveals that James is reminding the early Christians (and us) of the danger of trusting in wealth as opposed to God.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Limiting the people through whom God works, or failing to recognize God working through certain people seems to be part and parcel of the human condition.  When have you done this? 
  2. To borrow an old phrase, what are the “occasions of sin” in your life?
  3. It is easy to put our trust in something other than God.  When have you done this? 

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