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/120119.cfm 

This coming Sunday, as we celebrate the First Sunday of the season of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year.  This year we will use the “A” cycle of readings, which means that our Gospel readings will be taken primarily from the Gospel of Matthew.   

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”   In essence Jesus is saying that people will be doing normal everyday things when the end comes.   He sums up his comments by saying:  “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”   Clearly Jesus was reminding his followers that they are not to live as did the people of Noah’s time, thinking only of their present comfort and happiness, and giving no thought to the future.   Rather, we are to stay awake and be prepared for no one knows when the Son of Man will return, or when one’s own life will end.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In this reading Isaiah offers comfort and hope to the people of Israel who are under threat from their enemies.  In this reading Isaiah reminds the people that if they are true to their covenant with God, “many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.’”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   It probably was written somewhere between 55 – 60 AD, and reflects the common thinking at that time that the second coming of Jesus was imminent.   Paul says:  “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. It is easy to become lulled into thinking only of our comfort in the present moment and to forget about being prepared for the Lord’s coming.   What is one concrete thing you could do to keep better focused on being prepared for the Lord’s coming?
  2. Priests of our Archdiocese are asked to do advance planning for our funerals.  It is an interesting experience.  If you knew the end of your life was approaching what would you do to plan for it?  
  3. How would you respond to someone who claimed the return of the Lord was near?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112419.cfm

 

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  This Feast 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.  (The new liturgical year will begin on December 1st  with the Fist Sunday of Advent.)   

 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the scene of Jesus on the cross.  He is ridiculed by the rulers and jeered at by the soldiers.   We are told that the soldiers taunted him by saying “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”   There were also two criminals crucified with Jesus.  One of them reviled Jesus saying:  “Are you not the Christ?   Save yourself and us.”   The other rebuked him, however, and asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.   In reply Jesus said to him:  “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  

 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second book of Samuel.   It recounts the story of David being anointed as King of Israel.  As Christians, we see the Kingship of David as pre-figuring the eternal Kingship of Christ.

 

Our second reading this Sunday contains a wonderful Christological hymn (a hymn to Christ).   It is St. Paul’s pronouncement of Christ’s place in God’s plan of salvation.   The hymn really needs to be read in its entirety to fully appreciate it, but it reminds us that:  “He is the image of the invisible God ……………………. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross.”   

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

  1. A friend of mine likes to say that the criminal who asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom was a thief to the end, in that he stole heaven.   Hearing Jesus’ response to his fellow criminal why do you think the other criminal didn’t also ask to be remembered when Jesus came into his Kingdom?
  2. Jesus’ exchange with the “good thief” gives me a profound sense of hope that the gift of eternal life will be offered to all who are open to that gift.    What do we need to do to be open to that gift?
  3. What does it mean to call Christ our King?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111719.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.   As we come close to the end of this liturgical year, which will end next weekend with the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, our Gospel reading focuses on the end times.    It begins with Jesus reminding people that: “All that you see here --- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”   

The people naturally ask:  “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”   In response to this question Jesus tells the people not to follow anyone who comes in his name saying:  “The time has come.”  He then describes catastrophes and calamities that will occur before the end times.   He ends, though, with a note of consolation:  “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”   Notice that Jesus doesn’t promise that his disciples won’t experience pain or difficulties.  He does promise, though, that ultimately God will triumph.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the prophet Malachi.   It shares the apocalyptic theme of the Gospel.   Like the Gospel, though, it also offers a promise of consolation and hope:   “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  

For our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.  In this reading, Paul reminds the Thessalonians (and us) that while we await the end times, we are not to grow slack or idle.  Rather, Paul is clear that we are to work diligently as we await the return of the Lord and “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. There seems to be a constant ebb and flow in regard to interest in the “end times”   Why do you think this is? 
  2. When have you felt God’s comforting grace in the face of difficulties or pain? 
  3. Has there been a time when you have grown slack or been idle in your faith?   What re-energized your faith?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111019.cfm  

In our Gospel this Sunday the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, posed a question to Jesus that presumed there would be a resurrection.   Not only was their question insincere, but also it was rather implausible.  As background to their question, though, it is important to remember that for many Jewish people there was/is no clear belief in an afterlife.   Rather, it was their belief that you lived on through your descendants.   Given this, having children was very important.   In fact, having children was so important that if a woman’s husband died without offspring, it was the responsibility of the next unattached male from the husband’s family to marry the widow and try to have children.  Knowing this, the Sadducees invented a story about a woman who married seven brothers, each of whom died without producing any children.   When the woman died, the Sadducees wanted to know “at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her.”   

Jesus’ response to this question was masterful.   He implied that the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant because: “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second Book of Maccabees.   This is the only time during our three year cycle of readings that we read from this book.   It tells the story of seven brothers who died rather than “eat pork in violation of God’s law.”   The reason they were willing to die was because of their belief in an afterlife:  “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.   In it Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to continue to live a life of faith.  “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What causes or helps you to believe in an afterlife? 
  2. How would you describe the resurrection to someone who didn’t believe in an afterlife? 
  3. What causes you to live a Christian life?  Is it hope of heaven or fear of hell?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110319.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this Sunday we read the familiar story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, but more importantly the chief tax collector, and therefore a very wealthy man.   Since taxes were no more popular at the time of Jesus than they are today, Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, would have been held in low esteem, if not contempt, by the people of that time.  When it came to Jesus, though, Zacchaeus was not concerned about people’s opinion of him.   We are told that “he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus.”   

When Jesus came to the spot where Zacchaeus was, he said:  “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”   People began to grumble at this, but Zacchaeus “stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”    Clearly the encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Wisdom.   It shares the theme of the Gospel in that it reminds people that:  “you (Lord) have mercy on all, because you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent…………………Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord.”    The message of both the first reading and the Gospel is clear.  God wants the sinner to be saved and will give ample opportunity for people to turn away from their sins and back to God. 

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.    In the section we read today, Paul prays for the Thessalonians (and us) that “our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith…………”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Zacchaeus was unwilling to let his short stature keep him from Jesus.  What keeps you from Jesus?
  2. The encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life.  Where changes might you need to make in your life need for you to follow Jesus more closely?
  3. I love the image of God making us worthy of God’s calling, but how does God do this?    

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste in into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102719.cfm 

In our Gospel this weekend Jesus addressed a parable to "those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.”  The parable begins:  “two men who went up to the temple to pray:  one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.”  We are told that the Pharisee  “Spoke this prayer to himself.  ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity  --- greedy, dishonest,  adulterous --- or even like this tax collector.   I fast twice a week.  I pay tithes on my whole income.’”    The tax collector, though, “stood off at a  distance, and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”  

The difference between these two people in terms of their prayer is striking.   The Pharisee was not so much praying as he was giving a report on his “supposed” goodness.  The tax collector, though, had a clear since of his own sinfulness and his need for God’s mercy.   His prayer was honest and heartfelt.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.   It shares the theme of our Gospel in regard to prayer.   It is clear that “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds, it does not rest till it reaches its goal.”   

In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul writes very personally about feeling abandoned by those who whose support he had anticipated.   He also is clear, though, about his trust in God: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.  To him be glory forever and ever.  Amen.” 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. I don’t think many of us pray as the Pharisee did in our Gospel for this weekend.  (Few of us are that grandiose.)   I also don’t think that many of us pray as the tax collector did.  (Few of us are that honest.)   How do you approach God in prayer?
  2. How do you know when God has heard your prayer?
  3. Even though he felt abandoned, Paul was sure of God’s presence and grace.  Have you ever experienced God’s grace at a time when you have felt abandoned or betrayed.?    

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

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102019.cfm

 

This Sunday we celebrate the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this Sunday we read the parable of the unjust judge.  This parable is unique to Luke.   It is introduced with the words:  “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always.”   He then tells the story of a widow who continually comes to an unjust judge demanding her rights.    Eventually the judge said to himeself:  “While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.”   

 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus.   It tells the story of a battle between the forces of Amalek and those of Israel.   During the battle: “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.”   So “Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so this hands remained steady till sunset.” 

 

The Gospel and the first reading together remind us of two essential elements of prayer:  1. persistence; and 2. the support of others.   At times it is easy to become discouraged in prayer.   The support of others, though, can help us persevere in prayer. We persevere in prayer, though, not to change God’s mind, but to discern how God might be responding to our prayer. 

 

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul urges Timothy to “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”    

 

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

 

1.  Has there been a time when you have been discouraged in prayer?  What helped you to persist?

 

2.  When have others been helpful to you in your spiritual life?

 

3.  Are you persistent in prayer whether it is convenient or inconvenient?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101319.cfm  

The Gospel and our first reading this Sunday deal with the healing of lepers.   In the Gospel, ten lepers meet Jesus as he is entering a village.  “They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’”    Jesus told them “Go show yourselves to the priests.”    They set off “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.”    In response, Jesus wondered aloud where the other nine were.   Then he said to the one leper who returned, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”   

In the first reading Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, is cured of his leprosy.   He asked if he could give a gift to Elisha for his cure, but Elisha declined the offer.    In response Naaman said:  “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will not longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord.”   

The message of both these readings is clear.  When we realize that God has touched our lives, it should change us.   The challenge, of course, is to realize when God has touched our lives, and then to be open to God’s grace changing our lives.   

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.    Paul is suffering for the Gospel “even to the point of chains, like a criminal.”   But he reminds Timothy that “the word of God is not chained.”   And it is the word of God that brings us salvation in Christ Jesus.   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have there been times/moments when you have felt God touch your life?                       
  2. Why do you think only one leper came back to thank Jesus?
  3. Paul suffered because he preached the Gospel.  Have you ever suffered any repercussions because of your beliefs?

A few years ago some friends of mine moved their dining room table and chairs into their living room and their living room furniture into their dining room.  Putting the dining room table in the living room allowed them to accommodate a larger crowd for family dinners, especially when their children got married and started having children of their own. Since it has been this way for a few years, I suspect this is a long term arrangement. Now to be honest, this arrangement works quite well. They have a large family room off the kitchen, and with the former dining room being adjacent to the kitchen, people can easily talk and visit while a meal is being prepared, and then eat dinner without being crowded.

Now, I have to admit that at first I was a little tentative in regard to my friends’ shifting their dining room and living room. In the years since they did it, however, I have come to understand the wisdom of their thinking.  The meals I’ve shared at that table are always very enjoyable, with great humor, good food, good companionship, and lots of elbow room. And if we began to feel a little crowded at the table they could just put in another leaf, and there was always room for more. 

In reflecting on my friends’ decision to move their dining room table into the living room, it seems to me that it is a real metaphor for what church is all about: It reminds us that there is always room for more at the table of the Lord.  Church is (or should be) a place where all are welcome—no exceptions, no limitations, no exclusions.  The embrace of our Church can be no less than the embrace of our God’s love. 

Jesus was always very clear about the expanse of God’s love. We are told that he dined with sinners and tax collectors.  Moreover Jesus was even known to invite himself to someone’s house for dinner. And of course, there was also that occasion when a woman known to be a sinner, burst into the middle of dinner and washed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them when her hair. I believe that in sharing a meal with anyone and everyone Jesus was sending the clear message that God’s love is extended to everyone, and that there was always room for more at the table of the Lord.  

As someone who by necessity often eats alone, I really enjoy those occasions when I can share a meal with others. I especially appreciate when the table is filled, and the laughter and love flow freely. For me this is a wonderful image of the table of the Lord— where the table is large enough so that there is always room for more.  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100619.cfm 

The theme of faith runs through all three readings this weekend.   

The Gospel this weekend comes in two sections.   In the first section the disciples ask Jesus to “Increase our Faith.”  Jesus replied:  “If you have faith the size of a mustard see, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”   In the second section of the Gospel Jesus, used the imagery of a servant and master, to remind us that:  “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;  we have done what we were obligated to do.’”   Both of these sections deserve comment.   

For those who have never seen a mustard seed, it is indeed a very small seed.   Several years ago at another parish we gave out mustard seeds at the beginning of summer and invited parishioners to plant them and bring them back at the end of summer to see how big they had grown.   The seeds were so small that volunteers who taped them to 3 X 5 index cards complained that they nearly went blind doing so.   Yet, Jesus is clear that if we had faith the size of a small mustard seed, great things could happen.   

Jesus is also clear that God is not obligated to do things for us, or to give us heaven.  Out of love for us, God has established us in this world and given us charge over it.   Our task, our obligation is to respond in love to God and do what God has commanded.  If we do this, then God will respond to us in love, not out of obligation.   Being a faithful disciple does not obligate God to do things for us.   God does all that God does out of love for us.   

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Habakkuk.  In it the prophet laments God’s silence in the face of violence, ruin, misery, strife and discord.  God responded clearly and forthrightly.  “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint, if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”   This reminds us that God is working even when we are not aware of it.   We are called to wait patiently and in trust.  This is part of what faith is all about. 

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that we are called to persevere in faith in the face of adversity “with the strength that comes from God.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What does having faith mean to you?
  2. How do you persevere in faith in the face of adversity or hardship? 
  3. What would you say to someone who feels God is silent in the face of their prayer?      

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