Archives: February 2017

For this Sundays readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021917.cfm 

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find Jesus words in our Gospel today to be among his most difficult.   In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples: “offer no resistance to one is evil;”  “turn the other cheek;”  “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow;”  “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;”   These are hard words to hear, and harder still to live out.  Yet Jesus doesn’t qualify them or offer a context for them that might make them more palatable.  Instead he concludes these remarks by saying:  “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  

What are we to make of these words of Jesus?   Four things come immediately to mind.  1.  Jesus was serious.  He meant what he said.   2.  As disciples of Jesus we are called to give witness to these words by the way we live.   3.  Clearly we don’t always do this. Sin and failure are a part of each of our lives.   4.  Ultimately, it is only with God’s grace that we can live them out.     

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Leviticus.   It shares the theme of the Gospel.  In the section we read this weekend, we are told:  “The Lord said to Moses:  ‘Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: ………………... You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart ………………... Take no revenge and cherish no grudge again any of your people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”    

Our second reading this weekend once again is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In it Paul reminds the Corinthians that as “the temple of God,” they are called to be holy.    

Questions for reflection/discussion:

  1. If we believe in Jesus Christ, and take his words in today’s Gospel seriously, why do we have such difficulty putting them into practice?  
  2. When you have given witness to these words of Jesus in your life?
  3. Have you ever thought of yourself or someone else as a “temple” of God? 

Sharing a spirit of helpfulness-

How many of us, as we were growing up, were told “patience is a virtue”? Perhaps we did not get something at a store we were begging for. Maybe we had uncontained excitement for an upcoming holiday. Or we were en route to a summer vacation up north, and we could not wait to arrive. We have all heard this saying numerous times in our lives. It is among the best lessons our parents, caregivers, and teachers could have taught us. Frequently we are confronted with situations where we have to exercise patience. It is not until adulthood where we realize how important it is to be patient, and yet how truly challenging it can be.

As part of our Christian tradition, the Spiritual Works of Mercy help guide our behavior. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy include the following: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead (www.usccb.org).

In a time where we are bombarded with divisive rhetoric from our media, when tensions in our city seem to be rising, and everyone seems to have a strong opinion about our pending presidential election, demonstrating compassion, empathy, and patience with one another can be very difficult. Yet, the alternative is to live with anger and frustration filling our hearts, rather than the love Christ called us to have for each other.

At the root of patience is the ability to either help or hinder another human being. Without patience, we can cause others frustration, discomfort, or even suffering. The Basilica of Saint Mary is committed to providing equal access to services and resources for all its parishioners. For example, an individual with celiac disease can receive low-gluten host at Eucharist. The Basilica also provides hearing devices for individuals suffering from hearing loss. A person who is visually impaired may request a large print program at Mass.

Peggy Wolfe, an 86-year-old parishioner who has attended The Basilica for 11 years, serves on the church’s Disability Awareness Committee. Working on behalf of the church, the committee takes their role of ensuring the church is adhering to all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements very seriously. For the last 16 years, Wolfe has experienced gradual vision loss as a result of macular degeneration.Further, Wolfe is also hearing impaired.

Though she was initially drawn to The Basilica because of the beautiful music she heard at Mass, she said she “loves the spirit of helpfulness.” She is especially appreciative of the wonderful ushers who volunteer their time at The Basilica, but she also values the many parishioners and fellow committee members who help her. She acknowledges that it is difficult to ask for help, and says this can be a hurdle to overcome when you are initially experiencing some type of loss. Yet, in order to deal with barriers, one must be able to ask for help.

Wolfe does not view her losses as limitations. Rather, with an optimistic and positive attitude, she admits she cannot change the course of action her health has taken and would prefer to use her experience as a way to help others. She has published a book about her experience titled Vision Loss: Strategies for Living with Hope and Independence. Wolfe’s mother and uncle also experienced vision loss. She taps into her experience in helping them cope, along with her personal insight, to shed light on how to successfully live with vision loss. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 14 million people above the age of 12 are living with vision loss in the United States (www.cdc.gov).

LaVail Valentines is another instrumental member of the Disability Awareness Committee and recently participated in an accessibility audit of The Basilica’s buildings and grounds. LaVail has limited mobility due to a stroke and now uses a wheelchair. In order to thoroughly assess The Basilica campus he traveled every pathway and opened every door. The concluding report brought to light several accessibility issues that will be addressed by the Parish Council executive committee. LaVail said being a part of such an important group makes him feel like he is helping people have a easier time accessing one of the most import part of their lives.

We are called to be patient, kind, forgiving, and loving towards one another. The resources and services provided by The Basilica can certainly assist those of us in need of help and support. However, we can also help one another on an individual basis. Often times, it is in small ways, things that we often take for granted, when we can make a big difference. Smile. Laugh. Help guide someone down a flight of stairs. Offer to drive your fellow parishioner to Mass. Share a meal or a cup of coffee. An extended hand of support can make a world of difference to someone in need. After all, are we not all in need at some point in our lives? 

 

Ann T. Deiman-Thornton has been a member of The Basilica for 16 years and is a resident of North Minneapolis. She is deeply concerned about making our community a better place.

Photo
Members of the Disability Awareness Committee, Peggy Wolfe and LaVail Valentines.


From BASILICA Magazine Fall 2016, The Spiritual Works of Mercy—Practicing mercy in our lives

There is both a long form and short form of our Gospel this Sunday.  The remarks below are based on the short form of the Gospel.  For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021217.cfm

I suspect we have all encountered people who could be described as “holier than thou.”  This oft used phrase paints a picture of an individual who’s words and actions suggest an attitude of religious superiority and/or self righteousness.   Such were the scribes and Pharisees at the time of Jesus.    They were not necessarily bad people.  The problem was they thought that by knowing and following the law to the letter, they were models of holiness and righteousness.   The difficulty with this was that they had allowed the following of the law to become an end in itself and not a means by which they could grow in and develop their relationship with God.     That is why Jesus’ opening words in our Gospel today are important:  "I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”    Jesus then goes on to challenge those who would be his disciples to go beyond the law in their words and actions.  This continues to be our challenge.   We may not have born false witness or harmed a neighbor, but have we truly tried to love our neighbor as our self.   Following the letter of the law is far easier than giving witness to the law by the witness of our lives.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.  In the section we read today the author reminds us of the importance of following God’s commandments. The commandments, though, are given to help us live justly and uprightly.   Following them is not an end in itself.  

Our second reading this Sunday is once again taken from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   It reminds us of God’s mysterious and hidden wisdom.  It closes with the wonderful promise:  “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:   

  1. Has there been a time when you have followed the letter of the law, but have stopped at that point? 
  2. Do you think your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees? 
  3. What do you think God has prepared for those who love him? 

It seems way too easy to fall into conversations that expose confusion, tension or fear, these days. We are living in a time of uncertainty—encountering transition on every level of our public lives. Change is happening. The question is: How do we respond?

Gathering inspiration and wisdom from our Church and Scripture, we can consider five guideposts for our lives. These guideposts offer us strength and direction, as we respond to the challenges and opportunities of our time.

Ground our lives and actions in hope. 
Conflict, pain, and suffering seem inevitable in our life. We can be challenged by situations beyond our control—experiences that often have roots in fear, hatred, or ignorance. Our faith gives us perspective and balance. Incredibly, our faith has the fundamental promise of new life and wholeness through the experience of suffering or death. Can our faith help us find hope in the struggle?

Engage with those who are different than you. 
Pope Francis frequently challenges us to encounter the other. He specifically calls us to cross over and get to know those who have differing experiences and viewpoints, advising “one is always more at ease in the ideological system that he is built.” He challenges us to “talk among yourselves, talk to one another.” I have found this openness-to-difference to be very difficult unless I ground myself in the hope offered by faith. How often do I reach across the isle to engage?

Listen deeply. Practice humility. 
One of the cornerstone concepts of The Basilica Emmaus Ministry is the practice of mutuality. Mutuality is defined as “A respectful give-and-take between and among two or more persons. Each person in the relationship is worthy of dignity and respect.” The Emmaus material states, “Mutuality is the expression of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Every one of us has our Samaritans; people who we believe do not have a right to respectful give-and-take from us. Yet, this important story in our Christian tradition calls us to be transformed by them.” 

Because of our unique life experiences, we all see the world differently—although we experience it in the same place, at the same time. A mutual relationship requires us to listen deeply and understand another’s experience and frame of reference. We must be willing to hear and understand the story from that person’s perspective. Am I open to be changed?

Be bold. Respond. 
Just as people in scripture were called to lead in prophetic ways—creating a loving, forgiving community—so are we called to get involved today. And just as people in Scripture try to say “no thanks” (Moses declined God’s call eight times before accepting!) we often find ways to stay uninvolved or quiet. We are called to get engaged: Be bold. Make a difference. Pope Francis says, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” He states that politics “is one of the highest forms of love, because it is in service of the common good.” We may get involved through actions that accompany another, serve, or defend. How do you hear the call to get involved and create a community of love and forgiveness? 

Trust. 
We are called to perseverance and faithfulness. We are responsible for our efforts. Yet, we can trust that God is present and in charge. Indeed, our God can move mountains and will be responsible for the results of our efforts. Are we able to trust? 

Our times call us to deep and loving engagement. Let us, as a Basilica community, find ways to accept this call and engage together. Let us seed a revolution of love and tenderness!

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