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/092015.cfm 

In our Gospel last Sunday we heard the first of Jesus’ three predictions in Mark’s Gospel of his suffering and death.  We heard the second of these predications in our Gospel this Sunday.  Jesus’ disciples, though, seem blithely unaware of the significance and seriousness of Jesus’ words.  I say this because after Jesus predicts his suffering and death, his disciples got into a discussion about “who was the greatest.”   In response to this we are told that Jesus “sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone wished to be first, be shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’”   Jesus then placed a child in the midst of his disciples and told them:   “Whoever receives one child such as this in m name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me, but the One who sent me.” 

As background to the above, it is helpful to know that at the time of Jesus, children had little status or worth.   Thus when Jesus said:  “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”  he was clearly identifying himself with the lowly and those of no account.  And he was reminding his disciples that they were not to seek after power, position and status. Rather service to and care for one another was to be the hallmark of his disciples.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom.  In the section we read today, we are presented with the figure of the “just one.”   The wicked “beset the just one” and seek to “put the just one to the test.”  Their motive for doing this is simply that the just one “is obnoxious to us;  he sets himself against our doings.”      

Once again we read from the Letter of Saint James for our second reading this Sunday.  In the section we read today James exhorts us to put aside bad thoughts and behaviors and seek the “wisdom from above.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you put someone else’s needs ahead of your own and become their servant? 
  2. What is the difference between being child-like and being child-ish? 
  3. When have you sought the wisdom from above?   

If you haven’t visited the Reardon Rectory this summer, you may not be aware of all the work that is going on. This summer we are renovating the fourth floor to create space for our art and archives storage; installing some handicapped accessible bathrooms; renovating the third floor kitchen; installing a fire sprinkler system; and adding central air conditioning. Trying to work amidst the noise and general commotion has, at times, been challenging. It reminded me of a comment some friends made many years ago when they were remodeling their home. They told me that they could have afforded it, they would have moved out while their house was being remodeled.  


Perhaps the biggest challenge during the renovation and upgrading of the Reardon Rectory has been the fact that, for various periods of time, our staff has had to vacate their offices while work was being done in them. This has necessitated relocating people to various areas of the campus. Some are temporary office-ing in our school building; others are in the ground level rooms in the church; others are in Cowley Center; and others have needed to share office space. The difficulty has been trying to remember where someone is when you are trying to locate them. At times it has reminded me of the “Where’s Waldo” game from several years ago. You knew Waldo was somewhere in the picture, but you had to look hard to find him.   


As I reflected on this experience, it reminded me of my sometimes vain attempts to find God’s presence in my life. Now I know and believe that God is present in my life. Unfortunately, there have been—and no doubt will continue to be—times, when despite my best and most prayerful efforts, I can’t seem to find or feel God’s presence in my life. Now these times don’t occur regularly or with any consistency. Most often they occur when I am trying to make a decision or come to clarity about something. At these times, I tell myself that I am trying to understand and follow God’s will. The reality is, though, that more often I am trying to “push” God to give me a sense of clarity and direction. I have discovered, though, that God does not operate on my timeline or according to my agenda.   


God is always with us in our lives. This we believe. This is our faith. At times, however, for a variety of reasons we may have a hard time finding or feeling God’s presence. At these times it would be easy to give up on God, and presume that God either doesn’t care about us or that God is preoccupied with other matters. At these times, the challenge is to trust that as God has been with us in the past, so God is with us in the present moment and will continue to be with us in the future.  


Having faith in God—believing that God loves us and is always with us—is not always easy.   But then again, if faith were easy we’d all be believers. Faith calls us to trust, though, that God’s hand is guiding us even when the way is uncertain, and that ultimately God will lead us into a future full of hope.  

        

    

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091315.cfm 


In our Gospel this Sunday a distinct change occurs.   In the first chapters of Mark’s Gospel Jesus worked so many cures that people were mobbing him. And that was the trouble. Jesus was in danger of becoming famous as a wonder-worker.  The people were coming to him at every stop, thinking that their lives would be changed for the better --- if only they got their health back, if only they got relief from poverty and death, or if only --- well, you name it.  No doubt Jesus worried that people would look to him as a messiah who could and would restore Israel to a place of prominence and power in the world.  This was not the kind of messiah Jesus was going to be, however.  And so, in our Gospel today we see Jesus began a new phase of his mission. He has turned his face toward Jerusalem --- and the cross.

In our Gospel this Sunday after Peter acknowledged that Jesus is “the Christ,”  Jesus responded by telling his disciples that “The Son of Man must suffer greatly, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.”   Worse than this, though, Jesus also told his disciples:  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”   Certainly these words must have had a sobering effect on those who heard them.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   In the section we read this Sunday Isaiah reminds us that those who trust in the Lord, despite any trials or difficulties they face, will not be put to shame.  “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.  I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”

Our second reading this Sunday is once again taken from the Letter of Saint James.   In the section we read today James reminds us that faith must find expression in works.  “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you had to carry a cross in your life? 
  2. When/how have you felt God’s grace help you to carry your cross?
  3. How has your faith found expression in works?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090615.cfm 

In our Gospel this Sunday we are told that Jesus went “into the district of the Decapolis” and people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment.  They “begged him to lay his hand on him.”   In response to their request, Jesus did something unusual, “He took him off by himself away from the crowd.”   Once away from the crowd, Jesus “put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue, then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ --- that is ‘Be opened!’ ………………  his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly” He ordered them not to tell anyone.  But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”  

There are at least three things worth noting in this Gospel.   1. The area of the Decapolis would have been Gentile territory.  This reminds us that Jesus did not see his mission as restricted to the Jews.  2.  We are not told why Jesus took the man off by himself.  I suspect, though, that Jesus knew that being deaf the man probably lived an isolated existence.  In addition to being healed, the man probably also needed simple human contact.  Jesus provided this.  3.  Often, particularly in Mark’s Gospel, we find Jesus telling people not to talk about the miracles he had performed.   The reason for this is that the people of that time were looking for a Messiah who would restore Israel to a place of prominence and power in the world.  Because of his miracles people could look to Jesus to be this kind of Messiah.  Jesus was clear, though, that he was not that kind of Messiah 

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In the section we read today the people are reminded of God’s ultimate victory even in the face of war and persecution.   “Say to those whose hearts are frightened;   Be strong, fear not!  Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”   The signs of God’s ultimate triumph are clear:  “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared.”   This is precisely what Jesus was doing in our Gospel today. 

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint James.  James’ words are clear:  “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”   

Questions for reflection/discussion:

  1. Where do you need Christ’s healing presence in your life? 
  2. When and/or where have you found hope in the face of trials and adversity?
  3. Have you shown partiality in your dealing with others?  

Leading by Example

On his recent trip to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay, Pope Francis answered questions from journalists who were traveling with him on the flight back to Rome. One of the journalists on the flight asked him if he would study American criticisms of his critiques of the global economy and finance before his trip to the United States in September. Pope Francis replied: “I have heard that some criticisms were made in the United States—I've heard that—but I have not read them and have not had time to study them well. If I have not dialogued with the person who made the criticism,” he said, “I don't have the right to comment on what that person is saying.”  


Once again I am impressed with Pope Francis. He could have responded to the journalist’s question dismissively, or suggested that those who critiqued his words were ill informed or just plain wrong. Instead, he said that now that his trip to South America had concluded he must begin studying for his trip to America and that his preparation would include a careful reading of the criticisms of his remarks about economic life. I find this enormously refreshing. In our world today it is so easy to pigeonhole people with whom we disagree and/or simply dismiss them out of hand. How refreshing it is to find someone who says he needs to study the criticisms of those who disagree with him so that he can enter into dialogue with them.   


I think Pope Francis’ non-dismissive attitude is very Christ-like. In the Gospels we often find Jesus at odds with people—most frequently with the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus, though, never dismissed them or refused to engage them. Time and time again he entered into dialogue with them. And even when they were trying to trap him with a contrived question or fabricated situation, he never rebuffed them or declined to talk with them. Instead he allowed them to be in his company and he continually sought to enter into a dialogue with them. 


In our world today where more and more often people seem to talk “at” each other rather than talk “to” each other, it is good to be reminded that this wasn’t the way of Christ. As followers of Christ, it is our responsibility to try to lead by example and to engage others in dialogue and civil discourse. I believe this is especially true about those with whom we disagree or where common ground seems lacking.  


Now the above is not to say that we need to abandon our convictions or keep our beliefs to ourselves when we engage in dialogue with others—particularly those with whom we disagree. It is to suggest, though, that as Pope Francis said “If I have not dialogued with the person who made the criticism, I don’t have the right to comment on what that person is saying.”  

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.   
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/083015.cfm 

After reading from the Gospel of John for the past few weeks, this Sunday we return to the Gospel of Mark.   In our Gospel this Sunday we find a scene that is often repeated in the Gospels.   Jesus is at odds with some of the Pharisees and the scribes, who were strict adherents to the law.  Now, in and of itself, adherence to the law is not a bad thing.  In the case of the scribes and Pharisees, however, it was problematic because in many cases their relationship with God had taken a back seat to their adherence to the law. 

The issue is our Gospel today had to do with the fact that Jesus’ disciples “ate their meals with unclean, that is unwashed hands.”    Prior to eating, Jews were supposed to purify themselves.   These and other “rites of purification” were prescribed for Jews, and yet Jesus’ disciples were ignoring them.   Jesus challenged their position and reminded them that what “defiles” people does not come from outside, but from within a person.   If our hearts are set on God the appropriate actions will follow accordingly. 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.  In it Moses reminded the people of the “statues and decrees” they had been given by God.   “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God is to us whenever we call upon him?”    For Moses, the law was to lead people to God, not take the place of their relationship with God.    

Our second reading this Sunday is from the letter of James.   We will read from it for the next four weeks.   In the section we read today, James reminds us that we are to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever allowed “following the rules” to take the place of your relationship with God?
  2. When have you called upon God and felt close to God?
  3. How do “doers of the word” act?  

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below and copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082315.cfm

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.   Often it seems like our lives are just one decision after another.   Some are minor: What should I wear today? What should I have for breakfast?   Some are major: Should I marry this person?  Should I take this job?   In our Gospel this Sunday “the Twelve” are faced with a major decision.  This Gospel follows immediately after Jesus’ words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  Many of Jesus disciples misunderstood these words and “As a result of this many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.   Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’  Peter answered him ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”   

In our first reading this Sunday the tribes of Israel also faced a decision.  We are told that Joshua gathered the people and addressed them in these words.  “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.  As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”   The people responded: “we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”   

The decisions we have to make about following the Lord are usually not as dramatic as those faced by the Twelve or by the tribes of Israel.  Yet each day we are faced with decisions both small and large that ultimately will determine whether we will follow the Lord or chose another path.   

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.   In the section we read today Paul reminds us that, as Christians, our relationships with one another must have Christ as their model.  “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever had to make a life changing decision to follow Christ?   
  2. What small decisions have helped you to follow Christ?
  3. When have you not used Christ as your model in the way you have treated someone?   

Normally this Sunday we would celebrate the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  However because this weekend we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Mass of dedication for the Basilica, we have received permission to use the readings from the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven.  Please click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for these readings. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081515-day.cfm 


The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven celebrates our belief that Mary’s body, because she was the mother of Jesus Christ, did not suffer the corruption of death.  Rather, because of her unique role in God’s plan of salvation, we believe that Mary now shares eternal life with God in heaven body and soul.  While some may wonder about this belief, it is for us, as Catholics, both a sign and a promise of the destiny that awaits all of us who believe in and seek to follow Jesus Christ. 

Our Gospel for this feast records Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and Mary’s song of praise (the Magnificat) for the wonders that God has done for her: “for his has looked with favor on his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed.”   Clearly Mary was aware of God’s gracious favor to her.  In this she is a model for us.  Because of this she is truly: “Blessed among Women.”  

Our first reading for this feast is taken from the Book of Revelation.   The book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature.   It is highly stylized and filled with vivid images and symbolic language.  It was meant to convey hope to a people experiencing trials or difficulties.   The section we read today tells us that “a great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet…….”  We are told that a dragon also appeared and “stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.”    But “her child was caught up by God ………..and the woman fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”    This vivid language is meant to remind us that God is charge and will always have the final word.  

Our second reading this weekend is from 1Corinthians 15: 20-27.    It reminds us that Christ is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, and that “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for ‘he subjected everything under his feet.’”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Many years ago on retreat my director asked me to compose my own hymn of praise to God   --- my own Magnificat --- for all that God had done for me.    It was a marvelous experience.   What would you include in your hymn of praise to God?  
  2. In light of what would happen in her life some people might question why Mary could call herself blessed.   How would you respond to these people?
  3. Why would Paul refer to death as the “enemy”?  

 

 

This past Memorial Day weekend one of my cousins organized a group of cousins to meet on Saturday morning at Calvary cemetery in Anoka to clean up the gravesites of our various relatives. All the branches of the Bauer family were represented by at least one cousin, so there was quite a group of us. All told, among the Bauer’s—and the in-laws from various families—we cleaned up twenty-six graves. And with each grave we told stories, sometimes shed a tear or two, took a picture to send to the cousins who couldn’t make it, and remembered each individual with love and gratitude.  


Tending to graves has a long history in my family. Back in the early 1930s my mother’s parents lived in Roundup, Montana, where my grandparents owned the general store. My mother had one sister and one brother. She was the youngest. Unfortunately, my uncle died of Spotted Mountain Fever when he was about twelve or thirteen years old. It was a devastating loss for my grandparents. The loss was compounded by the fact that as a result of the Great Depression people couldn’t pay their bills and my grandparents lost their store. They had to move to Minneapolis where my grandfather was able to find work—leaving behind the grave of their only son. Until her death my grandmother would send money every year to a friend in Roundup so her friend could “fix up” my uncle’s grave.  


Now, my grandmother had a deep and great faith. She was not afraid of death, and in fact I think she looked forward to what came next. She truly believed in Christ’s promise of eternal life. The reason she wanted my uncle’s grave “fixed up” each year was not because she didn’t believe that he was in heaven. Rather, I think it was her way of remembering him, as well as reminding her grandchildren that he was a part of our lives and our heritage even though we never had the chance to meet him.   
There is something consoling about visiting a cemetery or cleaning up a grave site. It reminds us that the person(s) who died, while no longer physically with us, still has a place in our lives and in our hearts. Our memories of them remind us how important they were and still are to us.  


Remembering the dead, praying for them, visiting their graves and perhaps shedding a tear for them does not diminish or negate our Christian faith. In fact, I would argue that it is part of our Christian faith. It reminds us that those who have died are still a part of our lives. They live on in our minds and hearts, in our memories and feelings. We also believe, though, that they live on in the presence of our eternal God. Wonderful as this is, though, there is even more. For we also believe that if we follow Christ in this life, so we too will come to share eternal life with all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. 
Tending to a grave is, I believe, an act of faith. It gives us consolation in the face of death, comfort in our loss, and hope that one day we too will come to share eternal 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/080915.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is once again taken from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel which is known as the Bread of Life discourse.   In the section we read today Jesus told the Jews: “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”    The people responded by saying:  “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”   Clearly their familiarity with Jesus had blinded them to believing that he could be anything other than what they knew him to be.   Jesus, though, challenged them to believe that he was sent by God and that “whoever believes has eternal life.”  Jesus also told them that:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”   

We have grown up with the belief that Jesus is the Bread of Life given to us in the Eucharist.  This would have been an entirely new concept for the people of Jesus’ time.  It shouldn’t surprise us then that they struggled to understand it.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the first Book of Kings.  In the section we read this Sunday, Elijah as fled into the desert.  As he rests under a broom tree and prayed for death, “an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.  Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water……………………strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”   This story is a prefigurement of what the Eucharist does for us.   It strengthens us and sustains us on our journey of life.   

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.  Paul reminds the Ephesians that they must be “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  What is your first memory of the Eucharist?
2.  Have you ever felt the Eucharist strengthening you to do something?
3. Where do you need to forgive, as you have been forgiven? 

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