Fr. Bauer's Blog

At a consistory on Saturday, February 14, Pope Francis created 20 new Cardinals from around the globe. On Sunday, February 15, Pope Francis presided at Mass with these new Cardinals. As part of his homily at that Mass, Pope Francis addressed the 20 new cardinals in the words below.

Dear new Cardinals, my brothers, as we look to Jesus and our Mother, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians—edified by our witness—will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it. I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is marginalized, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or say that they are atheists; to see the Lord in who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper—whether in body or soul—who encounters discrimination! We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized! May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast. Truly, dear brothers, the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is at stake, is discovered and is revealed!

I was and continue to be amazed at the clarity and breadth of Pope Francis’ vision for our church. He is clear that because no one is beyond the reach of God’s love, so too no one can be beyond the reach of our Church. For Pope Francis, reaching out to the marginalized, the outcast, the excluded is not just a good thing to do, it is essential and fundamental to our Church. 

Now clearly, we have not done this well. At times people have sought to restructure the Catholic Church into what they see as a far smaller, simpler and more spiritual entity. I think this is not just unfortunate, but also and more importantly it fails to follow the example of Jesus. In the Gospels, Jesus was always reaching out to those that others referred to as “tax collectors and sinners”—to the people on the margins. And we know that these tax collectors and sinners not only became his followers, but also eventually became those who would continue the mission and ministry of Jesus and bring his message to the world. 

Clearly it is safer and simpler and it certainly takes less effort to try to restrict our Church’s mission only to those who are already “in the corral,” so to speak. I believe, though, that Pope Francis’ has laid before us a profound and exciting challenge. And challenges can be scary. Our Church, and particularly The Basilica, though, will more clearly be the church of Christ when we strive to reach out to the marginalized, the outcast, the excluded. We don’t have to go far to do this, these people are all around us. They are our relatives and friends, our neighbors and co-workers. They are all those who—for whatever reason—feel at a distance from God’s love. Our call and challenge are to welcome and invite them into our community, and share with them the inclusive, universal and unending love of God made visible in Jesus Christ and given expression in our care and concern.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060715.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.   Those of you who are of my vintage will remember that the Latin name for this Feast was:  Corpus Christi.    This Feast reminds us of our belief that the bread and wine that are consecrated at Mass really and truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.    We refer to this as the “Real Presence.”     We offer no proof for this; we cannot logically reason to it; there is no rationale explanation for it.   As Catholics, it is for us a matter of faith.  We believe that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist we celebrate and share in his name and memory.   And, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us:  “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction about things we do not see.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus.  In this reading Moses reminds the people of the words and ordinances of the Lord, and then has them re-commit themselves to their covenant with the Lord.    As a sign of their commitment, Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of the sacrifice.   This sprinkling reminded the Israelites of God’s fidelity to them despite their repeated infidelities to their covenant with God.

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter to the Hebrews.  It reminds us that Christ is the “mediator of a new covenant.”   Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ no other sacrificial offerings are needed.   

Finally, in our Gospel this weekend we read Mark’s account of the institution of the Eucharist.    Mark’s account is sparse, but it reminds us that because of Jesus Christ we have a new covenant with God, a covenant that cannot and will not end.    

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. How would you explain the “Real Presence” to someone who isn’t Catholic?
  2. We believe that the Eucharist strengthens us and nourishes us in this life, but also that it is the foretaste and the promise of eternal life.    If we believe this why do studies show that people are attending Mass less frequency?   
  3. All three readings this weekend remind us that God has made a covenant with us.   How is a covenant different from a contract?            

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.         
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/053115.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.   This celebration reminds us that the God we worship has revealed God’s Self as Creating Father, Redeeming Son and Sanctifying Spirit ---- three persons, yet one God, undivided and of one essence.   The preface for this Feast states:  “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God.  For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit you are one God, one Lord; not in the unity of a single person, but in a Trinity of one substance.”   While we may not be able to explain how this can be --- that it can be has been our faith since the beginnings of the Church.  

Our Gospel for this Sunday is the last four verses of Matthew’s Gospel.   In it Jesus commands his disciples:  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  

In our first reading this Sunday, from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people of all that God has done for them.  He then says:  “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  It reminds us that we have received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  This reminds us that God is not removed from our world and our lives.  Rather, because of Jesus Christ, we are able to call on God with the intimate term of “Father.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
    1.  In the seminary, we had to take a class on the Trinity.   Despite this, (or maybe because of it) at times I still struggle for words to explain/describe the Trinity.   What words would you use to explain/describe the Trinity?  
    2.  In the first reading this weekend, Moses reminded the people of all God had done for them.  What has God done for you?
    3.  When does it mean for you to call on God as “Father?” 

I sometimes catch myself fantasizing about how wonderful it would be to be a monk in a Trappist monastery where I could spend lots of time in prayer and reflection. In this fantasy, I would be much holier, much more tolerant and understanding, and certainly kinder and more caring than I am. The reality is, though, that most likely within a couple of months at the monastery, the Abbot would be calling me in to his office to chastise me for talking excessively and breaking silence, sleeping in and missing Lauds, and hiding a cell phone in my room. While some people are called to be a Trappist monk, I am not one of them. And my fantasy about being a better and holier person if I were a Trappist monk is just that—a fantasy. It is my way of justifying those times when I fail to live and act as a follower of Jesus.  

I suspect all of us have our own version of the: “I would be a much holier and better person if only ----” (You can fill in the blank). In part, these fantasies are understandable. There are times for all of us when pettiness, meanness, or even spitefulness finds expression in our lives, and we tell ourselves that it would not have happened—“if only.”  

The above is not a new problem. It has been around at least since the beginnings of our Church. We even have a name for it. We call it sin. Now we need to be clear. Christians didn’t invent sin. We do believe, though, that because of and in Jesus Christ, we have found the remedy for sin. In Jesus Christ, God is continually offering us the grace we need to resist sin and/or to repent of our sins. The only hitch is that God never forces God’s grace on us. Rather God offers us God’s grace. It is always our free choice to accept that grace or to reject.

To be a better and holier person we only have to accept the grace God offers us. Now some days, I do this fairly well. There are other days, though, when it is a real struggle. I suspect the reason for this is that there is a certain attractiveness about sin. The reality is, though, that the attractiveness of sin is short lived, and it merely distracts me from the more difficult task of accepting my faults and failings, and acknowledging my need for God.  

I don’t have to become a Trappist monk to be a better person. I do need to be open, though, to the grace God is continually offering me. I used to think this would get easier as I got older, but sin runs deep in our lives and isn’t easily rooted out. God’s grace, though, is constant and ever present, and this gives me hope that some day I will be that better person I want to be. 

For this Sunday’s reading click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052415-pentecost-day.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.  This Feast reminds us of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the early church.    It also celebrates our belief that the Holy Spirit continues to guide our Church. 

There are different options for the Gospel and the second reading for this Feast.   The first reading, though, is always taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It recounts the descent of the Holy Spirit on the first disciples.   “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.   And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…………”  

The Gospel we will use for this Feast is a resurrection appearance by Jesus.   We are told that Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them:  “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.   And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”   

The first reading reminds us that sometimes the Spirit comes to us in a powerful and dramatic manner, but our Gospel reminds us that sometimes the Spirit comes in a more subdued and quiet manner. Regardless of how the Spirit comes, it is given to us for a purpose.  This was Paul’s message in our second reading today from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When and/or how have you felt the Holy Spirit working in your life?  
  2. When have you seen the Holy Spirit working in someone else’s life?
  3. What gifts of the Spirit have you been given? 

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051715-ascension.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.   Both our first reading and our Gospel tell the story of the Ascension.   In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we are told that “………. as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”   Similarly, in our Gospel today we are told that:  “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.”  

Now while this Feast celebrates Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, it is also celebrates what the disciples did after the Ascension.  Both our reading from Acts and our Gospel tell us of the commission that Jesus gave his disciples before he ascended into heaven.   In Acts we are told:  “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  And in our Gospel Jesus told his disciples:  “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”    And we know that empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, this is just what the early disciples did.   The task of being witnesses of Christ and proclaiming his Gospel now falls to us.   

Our second reading for this Sunday is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.  In it Paul prays for the people of Ephesus “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the  surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Who was the first person to tell you about Jesus Christ?
  2. What is one concrete and specific way you could be a witness for Christ and proclaim his Gospel?
  3. I love the words: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened.”  What do these words mean to you?   

I have been using the same books to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (formerly the Breviary) for over 35 years, and yet on a regular basis a word in the psalms or scripture readings, or one of the prayers, will catch me by surprise and be a source of prayer and reflection for me. Most recently this happened with one of the prayers of intercession for Thursday of the fourth week of the psalter. The prayer was simple:  “Grant, Lord, that we may see in each person the dignity of one redeemed by your Son's blood, so that we may respect the freedom and the conscience of all.” 

As I reflected on this prayer it struck me how easy it is for me to not to see the dignity in each person, let alone respect their freedom and their conscience. More often than I care to admit I view someone do something or I hear someone say something, and I assign a negative meaning to their words or actions, without ever bothering to check to see if there was any accuracy to my interpretation.    

Perhaps I am looking for company in this particular failing, but I suspect this is something we all do—at least occasionally. Someone will say something or do something and we take offense, without bothering to check to see if our interpretation of their behavior or their words was correct. When we do this, we fail to see in that person the dignity of one redeemed by Jesus’ blood. And instead we have sat in judgment of them.  

In addition to respecting the dignity of others, though, it is also important to remember that even if we disagree with their behaviors and/or words, we are still called to respect their freedom and their conscience. In saying this there is a need for clarity. Respecting someone’s freedom and conscience does not mean we are giving assent to their behavior or words. Nor does it mean that we can’t voice our disagreement. Rather, respecting someone’s freedom and conscience means that we must strive to see and love in them what God sees and loves in them. Certainly this is not always easy. And clearly from time to time we all fail at it. As followers of Jesus, though, it is a task from which we cannot shrink.     

Christ did not come to redeem only a select few. He came to redeem all of us. None of us by dint of our own effort can achieve our own salvation. We all stand in need of the salvation that is offered us through Jesus Christ. This is one of the fundamental truths of our faith. I believe we only begin to understand the depth of this truth when we are able to see in each person the dignity of one redeemed by Jesus’ blood and respect the freedom and the conscience of all. 

 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051015.cfm

“I love you:” Three simple words, but words that can carry many meanings.   Saying “I love you” to a spouse has one meaning, another when said to an offspring, still another when said to a friend or acquaintance.   In our Gospel today we hear Jesus say:  “…I also love you.”    To understand what Jesus means by these words we need to read the five words that precede them:   “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”   The Father’s love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for the Father is not a romantic love (Eros) or the love of one friend for another (Philios), but rather an intense, absolute, and unwavering love (Agape).    

Jesus’ love for us is not dependent on our ability to recognize and respond to it, nor is it conditioned on our acceptance of it.   Rather, Jesus loves us as we are, simply because we are. As importantly, Jesus loves us with the same love with which the Father loves him.    It is an intense, absolute and unwavering love.   Because of Jesus’ love for us, we are chosen and invited to be his friends, and called to love one another.   

Of course, we always have the choice whether or not to accept Jesus’ love for us.   The question is, though, why wouldn’t we accept it?   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles shares the theme of the Gospel.  In that reading we hear Peter proclaim:  “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”    

Our second reading this Sunday elaborates on this theme as St. John reminds us that we are called and “to love one another because love is of God.”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Perhaps I am deliberately naïve, but it seems to me that Jesus is eminently clear that God loves us.  Yet many people believe in a seemingly vengeful and/or angry God.   Why do you think this is?  
  2. If we truly believe that God shows no partiality, why do some people try to restrict God’s love?    
  3. What prevents us from loving one another? 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050315.cfm 

I have never been much of a gardener.  Keeping a couple of house plants alive is about as much as I can handle.   I do appreciate, though, those who create beautiful flower gardens and those who grace our tables with fresh fruits and vegetables.  I suspect it takes not only an interest, but also a special set of skills to create and cultivate a garden.  I mention this because the image of a garden is evident in our Gospel today as Jesus tells us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.”  

Friends of mine who are gardeners tell me that if a plant is to produce beautiful flowers or abundant fruit, a certain amount of pruning is necessary.   I suspect this is why Jesus told us that his Father “takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”    In addition to pruning, though, if a plant is to bear fruit it must also receive the proper nutrients.  Jesus reminded us of this when he went on to say:  “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”   

We continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles for our first reading today.   Today’s section is the wonderful story of how Paul (Saul), who had previously persecuted the early Christians, tried to join the disciples.  We are told that they “Were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.”  Finally “Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord……”  

Our second reading today is from the first Letter of Saint John.  In the section we read today, John reminds us that we are to “love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.   What do you need to allow God to prune in your life in order to become a better Christian?  
 2.  When have you been suspicious of someone’s words or actions only to discover that they were acting in good faith and with charity?
3.  How and/or where do you need to love in deed and truth?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042615.cfm

The fourth Sunday of Easter is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday because in our three year cycle of readings, the Gospels for this Sunday are always taken from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd.  In fact in the opening lines of today’s Gospel Jesus says:  “I am the Good Shepherd.”   

In this Gospel Jesus articulates three qualities of the Good Shepherd.  1.  The Good Shepherd “lays down his life for the sheep.”   2. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep:  “I know mine and mine know me.”    3.  The Good Shepherd is inclusive:  “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is again taken from the Act of the Apostles.  In the section we read today Peter, speaking of Jesus, says: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”   In the past, some have interpreted these words to suggest that only Christians go to heaven.   Those who espoused this idea, however, failed to realize that salvation is God’s work.  And if God wants people to be saved, God will find a way to do it.   For those of us who know and believe in Jesus Christ, however, it behooves us to follow Him who is the sure way to salvation.   . 

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint John.   John reminds us:  “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he it.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Which quality of the Good Shepherd do you most appreciate?
  2. What do you think St. John meant when he referred to us as a children of God?
  3. What do you think St. John meant when he said we will be like God? 

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