Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/061018.cfm 

This Sunday we return to what is known as “Ordinary Time” in our Church’s calendar.   It is called Ordinary Time, to distinguish it from the seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent Easter.  At the beginning of our Gospel this Sunday we are told that when the crowds gathered around Jesus his relatives “set out to seize him for they said: ‘He is out of his mind’.”   In the verses that follow, Jesus responded to the people who questioned whether he was using demonic power to case out demons by telling them:  “How can Satan drive out Satan?”   He then told them:  “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.  For they had said: “He has an unclean spirit.”   The Gospel closes with Jesus’ family finally arriving.   When told his family had arrived, Jesus responded by saying: “Here are my mother and my brothers.   For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”      

While our Gospel today is a bit of a hodgepodge in regard to its meaning. It does tell us, though, that  people were suspicious and even hostile toward Jesus because he did not conform to their expectations. Their resistance to Jesus was fueled by the suggestion from the religious leaders that he was out of his mind and/or possessed by Satan.     More importantly, though, this Gospel also reminds us that those who believe in and seek to follow Jesus are in a new relationship with Jesus and with each other.   We are brother and sister, mother and father to one another.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Genesis.  It records the aftermath of the sin of Adam and Eve.   The point of the story is that when sin entered the world our relationship with God changed.  The mutuality and the close and open relationship with God that humans once enjoyed was forever changed because of sin. 

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.   In it St. Paul reminded the early Christians (and us) that when we encounter pain and difficulties --- even the pain associated with death that we are not to be discouraged.  “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comprehension, as we look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen; for we know that what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Why is it easy to think of some people as our brothers and sisters, and not so easy for us to think of others as brothers and sisters? 
  2. How do you imagine our relationship with God was before sin entered the world?
  3. Our second reading today is often used at funerals.   What do you find most consoling about it?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052718.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?”  

     

Sanctuary Supporting Congregation 

One of the values we strive to live every day at the Basilica is compassion.  As such we become aware of our shared brokenness, and we deeply respect all of God's people, and gratefully welcome-as we would Christ-all those who come to our door.  We embrace these people as our brothers and sister in Christ, and we share with them hospitality, love, acceptance and care.  We are a community serving the needs of our neighbors. Every day we provide basic tangible and physical resources such as sandwiches, clothing, toiletries, shoes, bus cards, help with I.D. cards and assistance with transportation.

For almost a year, our parish leadership has been learning about and discussing the possibility of The Basilica becoming a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation.  At the April meeting of our Parish Council, the decision was made to become a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation.  In making this commitment we will continue to do what we currently do for those who come to our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry, many of them from Ascension, our sister parish in North Minneapolis.  We would also continue our advocacy work and our prayerful support particularly for those who are on the margins and in need.  The major difference would be that we would be named as part of a network of congregations that are committed to supporting this work.  

It is perhaps most important to note, though, that becoming a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation is very different form being a Sanctuary Congregation.  Being a Sanctuary Congregation requires additional commitments that could put the Basilica at some legal risk.  As your pastor, I cannot do that.   Being a  Sanctuary Supporting Congregation has significantly fewer commitments and would serve as a way to continue to compassionately serve a community in need and as a way of living our faith. 

Now admittedly in today’s world, the word “Sanctuary” comes with some baggage. It may be helpful to note, though, that it shares the same root as the Latin word: “Sanctus,” which means holy.   Jesus has told us that “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do for me.”  Additionally, in his trip to Colombia this past September Pope Francis called on Catholics to “promote the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor and the excluded of society, those who are abandoned, immigrants and those who suffer violence and human trafficking,” Responding without judgement to the needs of those who come to our doors is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus Christ.  

I would encourage anyone who has questions or concerns about this issue to take them to prayer.  If, after praying about them, you would like to share them with me, please contact me.
 

Fr. John M. Bauer
Pastor
The Basilica of Saint Mary

 

For more information visit mary.org/sanctuarysupport

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052018-mass-during-day.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  At the time of Jesus, the feast of Pentecost was a Jewish harvest festival.   From our Christian perspective, however, this Feast celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.   Our first reading this weekend from the Acts of the Apostles describes this scene in dramatic language.  “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in the one place together.  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 filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” 

The scene described above is very dramatic.  And certainly the gift of the Spirit can be manifested in this kind of dramatic way.  I would suggest, though, that more often the gift of the Spirit is seen in less dramatic ways.   This was certainly the case in our Gospel this weekend where we read of an appearance by the resurrected Jesus.  We are told that Jesus appeared to his disciples and said: “‘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 subtlety and intimacy of Jesus “breathing” the Spirit on his disciples reminds us that the gift of the Spirit sometimes comes in a quiet and calming manner. 

Regardless of whether the gift of the Spirit is dramatic or subtle and peaceful, it is not given for our own use.  Rather as St. Paul says in our second reading:  “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How have you seen the gift of the Spirit manifested?
  2. What gift(s) of the Spirit have you been given?
  3. How would you explain the Holy Spirit to someone who comes from a non-Christian background?   
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051318-ascension.cfm     

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.   This Feast used to be celebrated as a holy day of obligation on the Thursday after the sixth Sunday of Easter.  Several years ago, however, most dioceses in the United States moved this celebration to the Sunday immediately following what would have been Ascension Thursday.    

Our first reading this weekend, from the Acts of the Apostles, contains the account of the Ascension.  “When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said:  “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way you have seen him going into heaven.”  

The Gospel reading for this weekend is taken from the Gospel of Mark.  It too contains an account of the Ascension, (albeit briefer than the one in Acts).  It contains the clear declaration, however, that even though Jesus was taken up to into heaven he “worked with them (the disciples) and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”  

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.   In it Paul prays:  “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. When I think of the Ascension I have this image of Jesus’ disciples staring off into the sky looking for Jesus.   Eventually, though, they had to learn to find his presence here on earth.   Where on this earth do you see signs of Christ’s presence? 
  2. Where have you found the grace of Christ at work in our world? 
  3. I love St. Paul’s use of the phrase:  “the eyes of your heart.”    What have you seen with the “eyes of your heart” that you didn’t recognize with your regular vision?  
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050618.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 for this Sunday 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 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 for this weekend 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 for this weekend 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 see and/or speak of God as vengeful or wrathful.   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://usccb.org/bible/readings/042918.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 not only takes an interest, but also a special set of skills to create and cultivate a garden.  Now 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. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042218.cfm  
 
Each year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we read a section of the 10th chapter of St. John’s Gospel.   This chapter contains Jesus’ discourse on the “Good Shepherd.”   In fact our Gospel for this weekend begins with Jesus’ statement:  “I am the Good Shepherd.”   In this Gospel, Jesus articulates exactly what it means to be a Good Shepherd 
  
  1. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  He doesn’t run away when he sees the wolf coming.
  2. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. 
  3. The Good Shepherd is the shepherd of “all” the sheep, not just the ones that belong to his fold.
  4. The Good Shepherd does all that he does freely and out of love. 
 
Jesus’ description of the Good Shepherd would clearly set him apart from Israel’s religious leaders in the past, as well as at that time, who did not always -- or even often -- act in the best interests of their people.  
 
Our first reading for this weekend is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  In it we hear Peter “filled with the Holy Spirit” address the Sanhedrin and boldly proclaim his faith in Jesus Christ as the one through whom salvation is offered.
 
Our second reading for this weekend is once again taken from the first letter of St. John.   In the section we read this weekend, John reminds us that we are children of God now, but what we shall be has not yet been revealed.   When it is revealed, however “we do know that we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 
 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
 
  1. Even though many people have not had any experience with sheep, they find the image of the Good Shepherd very comforting.    Why do you think that is? 
  2. The priest sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, particularly in the United States, has revealed clearly that many priests and bishops are not the shepherds we would want or hope for.   Despite this, many people still look to the church and its leaders for guidance/support/leadership.  Why is this?
  3. What do you think it means that we shall be like God?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041518.cfm  

Our Gospel this weekend begins just as the two disciples who had encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus join their fellow disciples and recount “what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known t them in the breaking of the bread.”   We are told that as they were still speaking about this, Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”   The disciples were “startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.”   Jesus calmed them by showing them his hands and feet and by asking for something to eat.  He then went on to “open their minds to understand the Scriptures.”   The Gospel concludes with Jesus’ words:  “You are witnesses of these things.”  

What are we to take away from this Gospel?  I’d like to suggest there are at least three things that are three important lessons from this Gospel.  1.  Jesus wants his disciples (and us) to know “peace.”  In this case, peace isn’t just the absence of conflict or fear; rather it is the deep peace that comes from the knowledge that God is with us.   2.  The scriptures are important for understanding that in his suffering and death Jesus was fulfilling what had been prophesized about the messiah.  3.  Our faith in Jesus Christ is not a private matter.  We are all called to be witnesses of the saving work of Jesus Christ.   

In our first reading this weekend, Peter speaks boldly and directly to the people.  He reminds them that while they had “acted out of ignorance,” they had put to death the “author of life.”  But God “raised him from the dead……………….Repent, therefore, and be converted that your sins may be wiped away.”  

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint John.   In it John reminds us that Jesus Christ is the “expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. When have you experienced the “peace” of Christ?
2. How have the scriptures helped you to understand God’s presence and action in your life? 
3. The word “expiation” has several synonyms.   (I know because I looked it up.)  What does this word mean to you?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040818.cfm 

I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for poor Thomas.   One quick and ill conceived comment and he has been forever labeled “doubting Thomas.”   Perhaps even worse, because we read this story every year on the Sunday after Easter there is little chance that he will ever live down this nickname.   

In defense of Thomas, I would like to suggest that he is not so much a doubter as he is a realist.   Thomas had accepted the hard and ugly truth of Jesus’ death, and he had begun to move ahead.   (I say this because our Gospel today reminds us that he was the only one who was not cowering in fear behind locked doors.)   Also, his statement:  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” --- while crude --- is merely asking for a proof similar to what the other disciples had already seen and experienced.  

When we think of Thomas, it is important to remember that we have grown up with a belief in Jesus’ resurrection.   If we can put ourselves in his shoes, however, we can perhaps begin to grasp what an unprecedented, unexpected, astonishing, miracle Jesus’ resurrection was.   From this perspective, I wonder if most of us --- like Thomas who, unlike the other disciples hadn’t seen the risen Lord  --- wouldn’t ask for a bit more “proof” before believing wholeheartedly in Jesus’ resurrection.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles.  It moves us quickly from the resurrection to the life of the early Christian community.   It begins with the unequivocal statement:  “The community of believers was of one heart and mind……………...” 

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the first letter of St. John.  (Our second readings throughout the Easter season will be taken from this letter.)  In the section of this letter which we read this weekend, John reminds us that we show our love for God and the children of God not just by knowing, but by keeping the commandments of God.  

Questions for Discussion/Reflection

  1. Alfred Tennyson once said:  “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”  Do you agree or disagree?
  2. What would you say to someone who had difficulty believing in the resurrection?  
  3. What can we do today to make the community of believers of one mind and heart?   

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