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/031515-fourth-sunday-lent.cfm 

Often times at sporting events or other public gatherings you will see people holding up placards with the scriptural reference: John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.”     This verse is taken from this Sunday’s Gospel.  

While some might choose to argue the point, I think this is one of the most eloquent statements of our Christian faith.   Not only does it remind us of God’s abiding and gracious love, but also and just as importantly, it reminds us that God’s love is not limited to this life.  God wants us to share in God’s eternal life.   

God’s great love for us is the theme that runs through each of our readings this weekend.   In addition to our Gospel is also evident in our second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.   In this letter we read:  “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with God --- by grace you have been saved……….”    

This theme of God’s love for us, while finding a slightly different expression in our first reading, is also present there.  In that reading from the Second Book of Chronicles, the Israelites were reminded that: “Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them for he had compassion on his people and their dwelling place.   But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets……….” 

That God loves us, we believe and affirm.   This belief is at the core of our faith.   The ways and times we experience God’s love and compassion are many and varied.  As Christians our challenge is to recognize and be open to God’s love as that love is poured into each of lives.

Questions for reflection and/or discussion:

1.  Where/how have you experienced God’s love in your life? 
2.  Where/how have you rejected the messengers of God’s love and compassion? 
3.  What does it mean to you that God is rich in mercy?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030815-third-sunday-lent.cfm 

Although we usually read from the Gospel of Mark in year “B” of our three year cycle of readings, this Sunday our Gospel reading is taken from John.  The reason for this is that Mark is the shortest Gospel and therefore needs to be supplemented during the year with selections from John’s Gospel.  

This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of the cleansing of the temple.   John’s description of this incident is much more vivid than that of the other evangelists.   We are told that Jesus “made a whip out of cords and drove them out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’”    

Now it should be noted that initially the money changers and the people selling sheep, oxen and goats, were providing a needed service.  It would have been a hardship for people coming from a distance to the Temple to bring with them the animals needed for a sacrifice.  Further, if they wished to make an offering to the Temple treasury, they needed to change their Roman currency for Jewish currency. The problem was that what started out as a service had become a business, and worse it had invaded the temple area.   I suspect this wasn’t intentional, but had simply evolved over the years.  Jesus’ actions thought reminded them of the true meaning and purpose of the Temple.     

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Exodus.  It is the story of God giving the Jewish people the Ten Commandments.   The giving of these “laws” was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel.  In following them people showed their commitment to that covenant.  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In it Paul reminds us that Christ crucified is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. As I mentioned above, I suspect that initially providing animals for sacrifice and changing money had been a service and a good thing. It evolved, though, into something that was problematic at best and improper at worst.  Can you think of anything else that has followed a similar course?  
  2. Do you think of the Ten Commandments as restrictions or guides as to how you are to live?
  3. How would you respond to someone who thought of the crucified Christ as a stumbling block or foolishness? 

As I hope you know, last year, The Basilica Landmark was presented with an incredible challenge: an anonymous donor offered The Basilica Landmark an unprecedented $2.5 million matching challenge gift. The conditions of the grant were that new donations of at least $1000 would be matched, as well as increased gifts from current donors. The goal was to make it to the $2.5 million mark by the end of 2017.

Then, a few things happened.

  • First, The Basilica’s Facilities Committee created a spreadsheet indicating all the work that needed to be done around The Basilica campus for the next ten years. Critical needs were identified, and a ten year plan of action was developed.  
  • Second, we identified a few projects from this plan and approached you, our parishioners, asking for your support to help restore, preserve and advance The Basilica of Saint Mary.
  • Finally, people responded generously. In fact, your response and acts of faith were so clear, that we reached our goal of meeting the matching challenge grant two years ahead of schedule. This response will enable us to invest five million dollars in our campus over the next few years, allowing us cross off a few projects on our list. So far, repairs have included the removal of water-logged insulation above the ceiling in the church. This insulation was retaining moisture and not allowing the plaster to dry out. We were also able to replace the 1917 boiler with a new hot-water heating and cooling system in the church and school.

So you may be wondering, where do we go from here? And to that I would say, the work continues.

This year, The Basilica Landmark will continue to make improvements around our campus using the funds from this challenge. Most significantly, we will be making necessary improvements to the Reardon Rectory.

The Reardon Rectory was originally designed as a residence for five priests and a housekeeping staff. It also had guest rooms for visiting priests. Today, it is the center of much that goes on in our parish. It houses nearly all of our staff and ministries, as well as meeting rooms. With our growing need for additional space around our campus, this year The Basilica Landmark will convert the unfinished space on the 4th floor of this building to offices and art/archival storage space. We will also be adding central air conditioning and sprinklers to the entire building at the same time. Additionally, we will also add an ADA compliant restroom.

These are much-needed improvements. Not only will we be able to house nearly 4,000 pieces of art and archives in a temperature controlled, safe environment, we will also be able to serve you, our parishioners. 

And then, with your support, the work will continue. The Basilica Landmark is working closely with our facilities committee to continue to prioritize the repairs and renovations that are necessary to maintain our beautiful Basilica and its campus, as well as create and maintain spaces for our growing parish. While there is much work to be done, I am excited at all that we have accomplished so far. 

I am well aware that all of the above is possible only because of the ongoing support of you—our generous donors and parishioners—who believe in the importance of preserving, restoring and advancing The Basilica of Saint Mary. As your pastor, I want you to know of my great gratitude for your support and commitment. It is a blessing for our parish.  

 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030115.cfm 

On the second Sunday of Lent we always read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus.   Since this is year B in our three year cycle of Lectionary readings, we read from the Gospel of Mark.   (We read from Matthew in year A and Luke in year C.)  Mark’s account of the Transfiguration immediately follows the first of Jesus’ three predictions of his suffering, death and resurrection.    These predictions were meant to remind Jesus’ followers that he was not an imperial or conquering Messiah who had come to restore Israel to a place of power and prominence in the world.   Rather, Jesus led by example, and it is through his suffering, death and resurrection that he would set aright the relationship between God and his people. 

Coming as it does immediately after Jesus’ first prediction of his suffering and death, the Transfiguration gives Peter, James, and John a picture of the glory to come.  These three were often singled out among the other disciples for special moments with Jesus.   The figures of Moses and Elijah represent the “law and the prophets” two important voices in the Old Testament.   The “dazzling white” garments would have accentuated the fact that this was a heavenly vision.  

Our first reading this Sunday is the story of Abraham and Isaac.   God has put Abraham to the test by asking him to “sacrifice” his son Isaac, “your only son, whom you love.”    Abraham responded to God with total and unconditional trust.  As a result, God declared that “because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly………”    This story reminds us of another Father who “did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for the sake of us all………”  (These words are taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. 8.32, which is our second reading this weekend.)   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Can you remember a “transfiguring” moment(s) in your life ---- a time when for whatever reason you felt God’s presence and grace?
2. Transfiguring moments are gracious gifts from a loving God and while we might like to stay in them, (“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.   Let us make three tents.”) we are not able to do so.  Why do you think that is? 
3.  God sometimes asks a lot of us, but God also blesses us abundantly.   Where have you experienced God’s abundant blessings in your 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/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?   

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