Fr. Bauer's Blog

On more than one occasion, I have discovered that sometimes people assume that because we share the same religion, we share the same understanding of what our religion requires of us. While most of the time this is the case, it is not universally true. Within our church there are differences with regard to the acceptability of the death penalty and our obligations to the poor and marginalized. And if you really want to see differences, just bring up the issue of immigration among a group of Catholics. 

Now I believe it is important that we not gloss over our differences or pretend they don’t exist. It is equally important, though, that we don’t allow our differences to be a source of division and anger. In this regard, Jesus is a good model for us. In the Scriptures, we often see him disagreeing with people—particularly the Scribes and the Pharisees. For his part, though, he never let these disagreements become a source of bitterness or hostility. Sadly, the same thing cannot be said of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Most often they were very antagonistic to Jesus. What accounts for the difference between Jesus and the Scribes and the Pharisees? Well, clearly it helped that Jesus was divine. I think, though, that as important, Jesus most often had recourse to prayer when he encountered difference and disagreements.  

In my life, I have discovered that prayer changes things—and the thing it changes most is me. When I have a difference or a disagreement with someone, and I take it to prayer, this often helps me to see things from a different perspective or to take into account new information. Now as I say this, I need to be clear. I don’t always take differences and disagreements to prayer. There are times when I want to hold on to my anger and resentment. There are other times when I take them to prayer, and my prayer is more a monologue about why God should see things my way. When I am able to honestly and humbly take things to prayer, though, it does make a difference. 

Prayer can help us understand that while our differences and disagreements are real, they don’t have to be a source of anger and division. Rather, with Jesus as our model, and prayer as our weapon of choice, we can remain in contact with each other and engage in a dialogue that is frank, honest, and ongoing.   

We may share the same religion, but that doesn’t mean that we necessarily share the same understanding of what that religion requires of us. This doesn’t have to separate us, though. Through prayer and respectful dialogue we can challenge each other to hear anew, and strive to live out the challenge of Jesus to love our neighbor as our self.

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

This Sunday we celebrate the Second Sunday of our Season of Advent.   In our Gospel this Sunday we encounter the figure of John the Baptist.  We are told that he “appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.”   John was clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist.  “And this is what he proclaimed; ‘One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”   

Clearly John knew both his place and his role.   He knew he was not the Messiah; rather he was to prepare the way for Christ.   On this Second Sunday of Advent, John challenges us not just to repent of our sins, but also to prepare our hearts that Christ might find a welcome home there. 

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It is prophecy of comfort and hope for the Israelites who were in captivity in Babylon.  “Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord god, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the second letter of Saint Peter.   At that time, people were expecting the imminent return of Christ.   In the section we read this Sunday Peter reminds them (and us) that the delay in Christ’s return is for our benefit.  “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  What do you need to do this Advent to prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas?  
2.  When you hear Isaiah’s prophecy, do you feel a sense of hope and/or comfort?  
3.  Have you ever felt that God is “delaying” in response to your prayers?   

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

This Sunday, as we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, we also celebrate the beginning of a new liturgical year.   The focus of the season of Advent is on the two comings of Christ --- the first at his birth and the second at the end of time.   The promise fulfilled and the promise of what is yet to come are both part of our Advent celebrations.  

Our Gospel for this first Sunday of Advent is from Mark.   In the section we read this Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples:  “Be watchful! Stay Alert! You do not know when the time will come.”   This might seem like a call to be spiritual insomniacs or to always be on the alert.   Jesus, though, follows these words with a parable about a man traveling abroad who takes care that his house is properly cared for and guarded while he is away.  This parable reminds us that if we are diligent and prepared, we will be ready to meet the Lord whenever and in whatever manner he comes.   

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It shares the theme of the Gospel.  It is a prayer for God to reveal God’s the Israelites who are being held in captivity in Babylon.  Isaiah also prays that the people would be properly disposed for God’s revelation.  “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in all our ways!”  

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In the section we read today, Paul gives thanks for the gifts of God that have been manifested in the Church at Corinth.   “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  What helps you to be prepared to meet Christ?
2.  In retrospect have you ever realized that you missed recognizing the presence of Christ?
3.  Where have you seen the grace of God at work in your life?  

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

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King.  This Feast closes the current liturgical year.  Next Sunday we begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent.  The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925.   Seeing the devastation caused by World War I, Pius established this Feast as a way to remind people that Christ is Lord of both heaven and earth.  Initially this Feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October, but when the Roman Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar in 1969 it was moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  

Our Gospel this Sunday is the last judgment scene from Matthew’s Gospel.  We are told that “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”   Those on the right were told they would “inherit the kingdom prepared or you from the foundation of the world”  because when they offered food, drink, welcome, clothing, and care to those in need, they did it for the Lord. Those on the left were sent off to eternal punishment because “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”  

An element common to both groups is their surprise:  “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?”   This reminds us that we are called to serve those in need not only because they are in need, but also because we recognize Christ in them. Perhaps more importantly, though, we are called to respond to those in need because our salvation depends on it.  We don’t get to pick and choose who is worthy of our charity and love.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.   Ezekiel reminds us that the Lord God is our Shepherd and he will “look after and  tend his flock,” but he will also “judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.”     

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Paul is clear about the necessity of Christ. “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.    Have you ever recognized Christ in one of your least brothers or sisters? 
2.    When have you failed to respond to the needs of one of your least brothers or sisters?
3.    How are people brought to life in Christ?  

May They All Be One

As he lay dying of cancer, Pope John XXIII reportedly continuously whispered Jesus’ prayer: “May they all be one” (John 17:11). As a priest, diplomat, and finally as Pope, one of John XXIII’s aims was to reach across denominational barriers to re-establish the unity of God’s people. He once said: “Whenever I see a wall between Christians, I try to pull out a brick.” Along with Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII was canonized (named a saint) on April 27, 2014.    

I think John XXIII’s words about removing bricks from the walls that separate Christians are perhaps more important now than when he first uttered them. In our world today, there is much that would/could separate Christians. Divisions exist on almost every moral issue, and there is ongoing debate about major issues in our Christian faith—the ordination of women being perhaps the most notable.  

In addition to the differences that exist among Christians, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that differences also exist among Catholics. I don’t believe, though, that we should be alarmed or threatened by differences. Rather, I believe it is the divisions that arise from our differences that are the real source of shame and scandal. There is something wrong if we allow differences to turn into disputes and divisions.   

In regard to the above, I want to be clear. Acceptance of others doesn’t mean we agree with them. Dialogue with others doesn’t mean that we abandon our principles, and respect for others doesn’t mean endorsement of their beliefs. To lack respect for the differing position of others is to be haughty, ignorant, or both.   

Many years ago Dr. James P. Shannon was President of the then College of St. Thomas. He later became an auxiliary bishop in our Archdiocese and eventually left ministry. While President of St. Thomas, he wrote an essay in 1962 entitled: “The Tradition of Respectful Argument.” In that essay he wrote:  

The ability to defend one’s own position with spirit and conviction, to evaluate accurately the conflicting opinions of others, and to retain one’s confidence in the ultimate power of truth to carry its own weights are necessary talents in any society, but especially so in our democratic culture.

There is some evidence that these virtues are in short supply in our land. The venerable tradition of respectful argumentation, based on evidence, conducted with courtesy and leading to greater exposition of truth is a precious part of our heritage in this land of freedom. It is the duty of educated men to understand, appreciate, and perpetuate this tradition.  

If we can remember and put into practice the ideal of respectful argument, perhaps some day Pope John’s prayer: “May they all be one,” will become a reality.   

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

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.   Our Gospel this weekend is the arable of the talents. We are told that a man decided to go on a journey and so he called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  “To one he gave five talents, to another two;  to a third one --- each according to his ability.”    The first two servants traded with the talents they had been given and doubled them.  The third “buried his master’s money.”   After being gone a long time the master returned and called in his servants to settle accounts with them.  The first two were congratulated for being “good and faithful” servants, and were promised greater responsibilities.  They also were invited to “share in their master’s joy.”   The third was berated as a “wicked and lazy servant,” and thrown “into the darkness outside.”  

What are we to make of this parable?  It seems as if the master’s treatment of the third servant is unduly harsh.  I think the key to understanding it is to be found in the fact that he entrusted his possessions to his servants “each according to his ability.”   The third servant was lazy and indifferent.  He didn’t even put his master’s money in the bank where it could earn interest.   As with every parable, this one also tells us something about God or about our relationship with God.   Specifically this parable reminds us very clearly that God has given us the gift of faith, and we put off living out our faith at our own risk.  

Our first reading this weekend from the book of Proverbs speaks of the qualities of a worthy wife.  It  shares the theme of the Gospel in that a worthy wife uses well the talents and abilities she has been given.  In this she is like the first two servants in the Gospel. 

Once again this weekend our second reading is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.  In the selection we read this weekend Paul reminds the Thessalonians that because of Jesus Christ they “are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief.  For all of you are children of the light………”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

1.    What are you doing to develop the gift of faith you have been given? 
2.    What inhibits or prevents you from developing the gift of faith?  
3.    What does it mean to live as children of the light?   

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

This weekend we celebrate the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.   When this Feast falls on a Sunday it replaces the normal celebration for that Sunday, in this case the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.    The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Cathedral Church of Rome.  It is where the Pope presides as Archbishop of Rome.   The more well known, St. Peter’s Basilica, is the Church were the Pope presides as head of the universal Church.  

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is the story of the cleansing of the Temple.   This is one of the few stories that is found in all four Gospels.  We are told that Jesus went to the temple area and ”found those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as money changers seated there.”   Now to be fair, these people were providing a needed service.   Often people came from a distance to offer sacrifice at the Temple.  For them to bring their offering with them would have been a hardship.  It was much easier to buy what your needed when you got to the Temple.  The difficulty was that it had gotten completely out of hand.   The Temple had become a marketplace and not a house of prayer.   On this Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, this story reminds us that our churches are places of God’s presence and our prayer.   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.  The Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, but Ezekiel offered a vision of the Temple’s restoration and a lavishness of new life streaming forth from the Temple.   

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In the section we read this weekend, Paul tells us:  “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Questions for reflection/discussion:

1.  At times my prayer feels like the Temple in this Sunday’s Gospel --- filled with a lot of commotion and little quiet.   Is that true for you as well?
2.  Have you ever experienced God’s new life pouring into your life?
3.  Have you ever thought of yourself as the temple of God in which God’s Spirit dwells in you?  

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

This Sunday we celebrate The Commemoration of All Souls.  This Feast is always celebrated on November 2nd,  and this week it displaces the celebration of the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. On this day we remember and pray for our deceased relatives and friends, but also for all those who have died marked with the sign of faith.   

Our readings for this feast remind us that our God is a God of life and love, and that God wants to share God’s life and love with us not just in this world, but in the life to come.   This is the clear message of Jesus in our Gospel today.   “And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father,  that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him, may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom.   Although this Book was written about one hundred years before the time of Christ, it clearly reflects a belief in some kind of eternal life. The opening lines of today’s reading speak clearly of this belief:  “The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them.   They seemed in the view of the foolish to be dead, and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction. But they are in peace.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In this reading, Paul is clear about our belief in the resurrection of the dead.  “For if we have grown into union with him (Christ) through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  What helps you to believe in eternal life?   
2.  How would you explain eternal life to someone who didn’t believe in it?  
3.  Do you believe people can lose the opportunity to enjoy eternal life? 

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

In our Gospel this Sunday, like our Gospel last Sunday, we once again see two groups --- who would not have been considered allies --- come to Jesus with a question.   In this case the Pharisees and the Sadducees, come to Jesus and one of them “a scholar of the law” asked Jesus: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  Now this would not have been all that unusual a question.   There were over 600 precepts or commandments in Judaism, and Rabbis and Teachers were often asked by their followers to offer some kind of order to them.   The scholar of the law must have been at least somewhat surprised at Jesus’ answer.   For Jesus didn’t give just one commandment, but two.   “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”   

In linking these two commandments Jesus is clear.  We cannot say we love the God we do not see, if we do not love the neighbor we do see.   Love of God and love of neighbor go hand in hand.   And as the old song has it: You can’t have one without the other. 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus.  In the section we read this weekend the people are warned that they are not to mistreat or oppress aliens, widows or orphans.  These groups were among the weakest and most vulnerable, and God was clear that the mistreatment of them would bring dire consequences. While not explicitly a call to love your neighbor, it is clear that the people are called to care for those who are less fortunate.   

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. Paul congratulates the Thessalonians for imitating him and the Lord, and thus spreading the faith.  “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  How do you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?   
2.  It is easy to love our neighbor in the abstract, but how do we do this in concrete and practical ways?   
3.  How can we lead others to Christ, by the witness of our lives?   

Try as we might to prevent it, every now and again during one of our Masses someone will put leaflets or flyers on the windshields of cars in our parking lots. Now this hasn’t happened recently, but with elections around the corner, it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. I think two things need to be said in regard to these leaflets and flyers.

First, I am convinced that the people who leaflet cars during Mass do so out of a sense of commitment to their cause or candidate. From a certain perspective, this is commendable. It reminds us that we have the right to participate in the political process on all levels. The problem is that someone could infer that because the leafleting occurred on Basilica property, that The Basilica was endorsing a particular cause, or candidate for that cause. In this regard, we need to be clear. While The Basilica—like all Catholic Churches—has the right and the responsibility to commend and endorse positions on moral issues, it cannot, has not, and will not endorse a particular candidate for any political office at any level, even if that candidate espouses our values and moral principles.  

Walking the line between clearly stating our moral principles and beliefs, and appearing to endorse a particular candidate, can be very difficult. On the one hand, our Church has a fundamental commitment to stand for justice. This commitment demands that the Church, as an institution, just like its individual members, must involve itself in fashioning and maintaining the common good. However, a distinction needs to be made as to how this is done. One way is to get involved in advocating for particular issues, e.g. respect for life, housing, jobs, economic issues. Another option is to support particular candidates or political parties. Individual Christians may do either or both. The Church as an institution may only do the first. The Church needs to remain apart from partisan politics in order that it can speak more clearly, freely and in an unbiased manner for fundamental moral values.  

While I think we do a good job of this at The Basilica, we need to be honest that at times the Catholic Church in the United States has failed in this regard. At times we have all heard U.S. priests and bishops become so strident about an issue at election time that it seems they are endorsing a particular candidate or party. We need to remember, though, that for the Church, values are what is most important and what is at stake. Endorsing particular candidates or a particular party limits our Church’s ability to speak with authority to all the issues. The Church needs to refrain from partisan politics in order to speak more effectively and from the perspective of justice, to all the issues. 

I’m hoping that no one leaflets any cars at The Basilica during this election season. But in case it happens, please know this was not done with our permission. If it does happen, though, may it spur all of us to participate in the electoral process and give witness to our beliefs and values by voting.