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/022215.cfm 

 

This Sunday we begin the season of Lent.   Each year on the first Sunday of Lent we read an account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.   This year we read Mark’s account which is the shortest.  It doesn’t have any of the details that are included in Matthew and Luke’s account.  We are told simply that “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts and the angels ministered to him.”  

 

Despite the lack of details in Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation, the point is clear.  Jesus is like us in all things, but sin.   In the desert he experienced real temptations, but unlike us he did not give in to those temptations.   The forty days that Jesus remained in the desert recalls the forty years that the Jews wandered in the desert for forty years after they left Egypt.  

 

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Genesis.  It is the story of the new covenant God made with Noah after the flood.  God tells Noah:  “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you;  I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”   The rainbow, then, was a sign that “………. the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”

 

For our second reading this weekend we read from the first Letter of Saint Peter.   In it we are reminded that “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.”  

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1. Where do you experience temptation in your life?

 

2.  What helps you to overcome temptation?

 

3.  Where and/or how are you being led to God?   

 

Several months ago, on my way to a meeting, I heard an individual on the radio use a term I don’t recall having heard before. Specifically the individual used the term “compassion fatigue.” Since I had tuned in late to the program, I didn’t hear the full context of the speaker’s comments. From what I heard, though, the individual used this phrase to describe the fact that often people can become so overwhelmed with issues, circumstances, injustices and causes that call for a response of care and compassion, that as a result they simply shut down, tune things out, and turn more and more inward.

I suspect that for all of us there are times when we are so overwhelmed by the terrible nature of something or some things, that we become paralyzed and do nothing. In part this is understandable. As humans, we can only endure seeing so much pain or so many needs before we are overwhelmed and simply shut down for a while. On a permanent basis, I don’t know that we are able to bear the pain, the sadness and the sorrows of the world. Perhaps some of us are called and are capable of doing this—Blessed Mother Teresa comes to mind—but I wonder if this is possible for the majority of us.   Sometimes we do need to simply shut down for a while. I think there is a difference, though, between  those times when we shut down and do nothing, and those times when we give in completely to “compassion fatigue” and simply stop caring. When we let ourselves stop caring by telling ourselves that we can’t deal with all the pain and hardship, something is terribly wrong.

As Christians, our call and our challenge is to be the heart, the hands, the voice, and the face of Christ in our world. We may not do this well. At times we may temporarily give in to “compassion fatigue.” The one thing we cannot do, though, is let this become a permanent condition. We can’t shut our eyes to the pain and need around us. We can’t be concerned only with ourselves.

Yes, with all the pain and hardship in the world, and indeed with all the pain and hardship that exists all around us, it would be easy to give in to “compassion fatigue” on a permanent basis. This is not an option for us as Christians, however. I believe this is the reason why this season of Lent is so important. It challenges us to see beyond ourselves to the needs of others. It calls us to be more caring and compassionate and it invites us to try harder to show and share Christ in our words and actions. We may not do this very well. (I fail at it regularly.) I also know and believe, though, that it is what we are called to do and be as followers of Jesus.

My prayer for us during this season of Lent is that it will be a time for our care and compassion to be renewed and strengthened, so that we might truly be the heart, the hands, the voice and face of Christ in our world.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into you browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021515.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday is the story of Jesus healing a leper.  There are two things deserving comment in regard to this Gospel.  First, when the leper came to Jesus and begged him to heal him, we are told that Jesus: “moved with pity, stretched out his hand, touched him and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’”    It is very significant that Jesus actually touched the leper.  Jesus knew that lepers lived lives of loneliness and isolation. By touching the leper Jesus not only cured him of his leprosy, but shared human contact with him.  As a result not only was the leper cured, but he was also healed of his isolation and loneliness when Jesus touched him and brought back into the community.   

The second thing that deserves comment in this Gospel is Jesus’ words to the leper:  “See that you tell no one anything.”  Despite Jesus words, though, we are told:  “The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.”   I suspect the reason for this was not deliberate disobedience on the part of the leper, but rather because he simply couldn’t contain his joy and happiness, and needed to share it.    

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Leviticus.  It provides background information about how lepers were to be treated.   “The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’”

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In it Paul urges the Corinthians to “do everything for the glory of God.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  I believe there is a difference between a cure and a healing.   The leper in the Gospel was cured of his leprosy, but also was healed of his isolation and loneliness.   When have you experienced God’s healing presence in your life?  
2. Have you ever had good news that you just couldn’t keep to yourself?  
3. How do you do something for the glory of God? 

Sacred Heart of Jesus stained glass window

Believe and Receive?

A few weeks ago I was driving back to The Basilica when I happened to get behind a car with a bumper sticker that read “Believe and Receive; Doubt and Do Without.” My immediate reaction to this bumper sticker was a strong sense of discomfort. It occurred to me that whoever came up with that saying must either have a very strong faith, or had learned to do without a lot of things they had prayed for. Not being very pleased with my initial response, I decided the idea suggested by the bumper sticker merited some prayer and reflection on my part.  

As I reflected on the idea behind the bumper sticker, it struck me that the author of the sentiments behind the bumper sticker had a very different notion of what belief and faith are all about than I did. For me, faith is not about believing that we will get everything we want or need from God. Rather it is about believing that in our want or need, God will be with us.

As Christians, we believe that God is always with us. Because of and in God’s providential love we are constantly watched over and cared for. We are never abandoned or left to face the vagaries of life by ourselves. God is always with us, and in God’s love we are forever held firm. God’s abiding love and care for us—God’s ongoing presence in our lives—is the bedrock of our faith. In saying this, though, I want to be clear. Even though God loves and cares for us, this does not mean that God will give us everything we want or that God will grant our every prayer request, just because we ask for something in faith. 

There have been numerous times in my life when I have prayed about something or prayed for something with great fervor and sincerity only to end up being disappointed because what I prayed for didn’t happen. I am not alone in this. I have known many good and holy people who have prayed and prayed for things, only to see their prayer go seemingly unanswered. In the face of this, what are we to say? An easy answer (and one suggested by the bumper sticker) would be to suggest that we didn’t pray hard enough or that our belief wasn’t strong enough. I have a great deal of difficulty with this. I have known too many people of strong faith, whose lives have been formed and shaped by their beliefs, and yet have suffered great disappointment and pain in their lives. To suggest that they did not believe enough is an affront to them. On the other hand, to suggest that God was somehow capricious in answering their prayers would be an affront to God. 

When prayers go unanswered it is too simple to suggest that we are at fault for a weakness of faith, or that God is at fault because God failed to hear and respond to our prayers. To make these the only responses to unanswered prayers is, I believe, a great error. Rather, I think there are times when we have to settle for simply not knowing. Now certainly “not knowing” runs counter to our cultural and personal values. We have a deep and abiding human desire to know why something is the way it is. I believe though, that it may not be possible for us, as humans to ever know and understand the will, work and way of God. In this life, especially when we are dealing with God, we may have to settle for “not knowing.”  

Now I realize that for many the above may not be a completely satisfying answer to the issue of unanswered prayers. In all honesty, though, I must admit that I am more comfortable with “not knowing” than I am with the idea that we need only believe to receive.  

 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020815.cfm 

“Everyone is looking for you.”   These words from this weekend’s Gospel remind us that when Jesus began his ministry of curing the sick, driving out demons, and preaching the Gospel, people began to seek him out.   Jesus was in such demand that the scriptures tell us that he often rose “very early before dawn ……………… and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”   Jesus knew that his ministry flowed form the time he spent in communion with his Father in prayer.  This is a good model for us.  As disciples of Jesus, our time in prayer helps us to follow Jesus more closely and lead the life of one of his disciples.   

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the book of Job.   This book, perhaps more than any other book in the Bible, has been and continues to be the source of much study and discussion.  It presents us with the eternal question:  “Why do bad things happen to good people?"   In the section we read today Job lamented his life:  “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.  Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”  To the casual observer, it must seem odd that this reading is paired with this weekend’s Gospel reading, since the first reading and Gospel are always share a common theme.   The reason the reading from Job is paired, with this Gospel is that this weekend’s Gospel invites us to remember and believe that God is always with us and for us.   God loves us and is always sharing God’s grace with us.   This Gospel invites us to look for the ways in which God is sharing God’s grace with us and helping us deal with whatever we encounter in our lives.   

In our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In the section we read this weekend Paul talks about his call to preach the Gospel.  He says: “All this I do for the sake of the Gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.”  

Questions of Reflection/Discussion:

1.    Have you ever felt like Job?  
2.    Where have you experienced God’s love and healing grace in your life? 
3.    When is the best time for you to pray --- “very early before dawn” or ??????  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020115.cfm    

I suspect we all know people who could be described impolitely as “windbags.”  These people talk a lot, but say very little.  On the other hand, we all know individuals who, when they talk, people listen.  They speak with a wisdom and authority that causes us to take them seriously.  Twice in this weekend’s Gospel we are told that the people were “astonished” and “amazed” at Jesus’ teaching because he taught with “authority.”   What this suggests is that when Jesus spoke or taught people listened because inherently they knew that his words were not mere opinion, but had a depth of meaning and power to them.   

Tucked in between the people’s words of astonishment at Jesus’ teaching is the encounter between Jesus and a man with an unclean spirit.   The unclean spirit recognized Jesus, but Jesus rebuked him and said: “’Quiet! Come out of him!’  The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.”    The exorcism of the unclean spirit helped to demonstrate Jesus’ power and authority.  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.   In it Moses tells the people “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen.”   In the Old Testament God communicated with the people through the prophets.  In the New Testament, God spoke to God’s people through Jesus Christ.   Jesus, though, was not just another prophet.  He was and is the Word of God, given form and flesh, and spoken into our world and our individual lives. 

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.    Like the section we read last weekend, this weekend’s reading seems to anticipate the imminent return of Christ.  Given this, Paul tells people he would like them to be “free of anxieties” so they can adhere to the Lord “without distraction.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you encountered someone who spoke with authority?  How did you feel when you heard their words? 
  2. Have you ever felt the words of Scripture speaking to you with authority?
  3. What anxieties do you need to be freed from?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012515.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the third Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Our Gospel this Sunday records the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and the call of the first disciples.  As Jesus began his public ministry his message was clear.  “The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”   And when he called his first disciples his message was equally clear.  “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”   This call must have been compelling for we are told: “…… they abandoned their nets and followed him.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is the story of the call of the prophet, Jonah, to prophesize to the city of Ninevah: “’Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,’   The people of Ninevah took Jonah’s message to heart for  “when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  At the time it was written there was widespread expectation of Jesus’ imminent return.  Given this mindset, Paul’s message is simple.  “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out ………………… For the world in its present form is passing away.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  While we might like to receive God’s call in a clear and direct fashion, as did the disciples in today’s Gospel, most often God’s call is quiet and subtle.  When have you felt God’s call in your life?
2.  Jonah was given a very specific call to prophesize to the people of Nineveh.   Have you ever felt a specific call in your life?
3.  Since we are still waiting for Jesus’ return, how should this affect the way we live?    

A few months ago Fr. Greg Skrypek’s brother died. For those of you who don’t know, Greg has been a presence at The Basilica for many years, first as an associate, then as a resident in the rectory, and, most recently, for the past several years, as the presider at the 7:00am Mass on Thursday mornings. Since I was away at the time of his brother’s death, I stopped in the sacristy chapel before Mass one Thursday to express my sympathy. Since both of us have lost a brother, there was a certain comfort and empathy in our conversation. At one point, though, Greg said something that really struck me. Specifically, he said: “Grieving is the privilege that comes from loving someone.”

Now I had never thought of grieving as a privilege, but when he said these words, I knew their truth. We don’t experience grief unless we had some kind of loving relationship with the individual who has died. Certainly we can feel sadness and sorrow when someone dies, but I think grief is deeper than sadness and sorrow. Grief is a profound and deep sense of loss. It leaves a hole in our lives and hearts that had previously been filled by a particular person’s presence and love. 

Grief also reminds us how important the individual was to us. It reminds us that even though they have died they continue to have a place in our lives and in our hearts. Grief calls us to remember that the love we had shared with someone is not ended with death, but continues. If we have never loved or been loved, we can feel sadness and sorrow certainly, but I don’t know that we can experience grief. Grief occurs when we experience the loss of someone with whom we have shared love. It is a privilege, because sadly, not everyone is given the opportunity to love and to be loved. 

Grieving is also a privilege for us as Christians because it gives us the opportunity to remember and renew our faith. For it is our faith that tells us that despite the sadness and sorrow that accompany death, we believe there is more. For Christians, it is the promise of eternal life that gives us hope even in the face of death. Now, in saying this, I want to be clear. The promise and hope of eternal life doesn’t take away the grief we feel when someone we love has died. Rather it moderates and tempers that grief. It softens it so it is easier for us to hold and carry.  

The pain we experience when someone we knew and loved has died is real. It is important that we acknowledge that pain. And shame on anyone who seeks to minimize it or take it away. We need to recognize and accept our grief, and remember that grief is only possible because we loved someone. Grieving is a privilege that comes from experiencing love.  

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011815.cfm

 

Having concluded the Christmas season, this weekend we return to what is known in our liturgical year as Ordinary Time.   This designation is meant to distinguish this time in our liturgical year from the other seasons of our Church year, e.g. Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.   Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of John.   It records the call of Andrew, who in turn brings his brother, Simon Peter to Jesus.  

 

There are two things to note in the call of these disciples.   First, notice it is John the Baptist who pointed out Jesus:  Behold, the Lamb of God.”   This suggests that sometimes we need others to point out God’s presence in our lives.  Second, notice that the call did  not come in a dramatic or extraordinary manner.  In fact, quite the opposite, it came in the midst of their ordinary lives.  This suggests that we need to be alert, because God’s call doesn’t always come to us in a spectacular manner. More likely it will come to us in the midst of our everyday and ordinary activities. 

 

Our first reading this weekend shares the theme of the Gospel.  It records the call of Samuel.   At first Samuel thought Eli was calling him and so he went to him.  After the third time, however, Eli realized that God was calling Samuel, and so he told him:  “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”   

 

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In it Paul challenges the Corinthians to engage in correct moral behavior.  He reminded them:  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not on your own.”

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1.  John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to Andrew who in turn pointed out Jesus to his brother, Simon Peter.   Who pointed out Jesus to you?

2.  Samuel needed Eli’s help to recognize God’s call.   Has someone helped you to recognize the call of God in your life?  

3.  What do you think it means to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit?

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011115.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.   It must seem strange to move so quickly from the celebration of Jesus’ birth to his baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.   The fact is, though, that after the infancy narratives and the story of the finding of Jesus in the temple, there are no biblical stories of Jesus’ adolescence or young adulthood.  Instead, we move immediately to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry with his baptism. 

This year we read Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism.   Mark is sparse in the details he includes in regard to  Jesus’ baptism.   We are told simply that “Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John.   On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a  dove, descending upon him.   And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”   

There are two options for both our first and second readings for this feast.  For our first reading we will use Isaiah 55: 1-11.   It anticipates the release of the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon.   Through the prophet Isaiah, God urges the people: “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.   I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.”   John the Baptist’s preaching echoes these words. 

Our second reading for this feast is from the Acts of the Apostles.  In the section we read this Sunday we hear Peter boldly proclaim:  “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. “

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  At this baptism Jesus heard the voice of the Spirit proclaiming him God’s beloved Son.  As a baptized Christian do you think of yourself as a beloved son or daughter of God? 

2.  In Jesus Christ we believe that God has entered into a new covenant with his people.  What is the difference between a covenant and a contract?

3. How would you respond to someone who believes that God does show partiality? 

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