Eat and Share

…eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.
So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat.
I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.
He said: Son of man, go now to the house of Israel,
and speak my words to them. (Ezekiel 2:8-3:4)

Three days a week, my wife, Carol, and I offer a livestream show on our parish Facebook* page called, God Needs Storytellers. In today’s first reading from Ezekiel, we hear the rationale for such a show.

As believers, we are called to read or hear Scripture – eat this scroll – and then share the good news with others – speak my words to them.

The depiction of taking in Scripture as eating a scroll is a bit graphic, but it speaks to what is really being asked of us. We are not to be passive when reading Scripture or be inattentive when hearing the Word proclaimed at Mass. On the contrary, we should take it in or consume the Word of God.

What is the difference? When we simply read something, it may or may or may not be put to use. It could possibly be dismissed or “skimmed” without regard to its beauty or meaning.

However, if we consume God’s Word – if we eat this scroll –  it becomes a part of us. It feeds us and nourishes us. It provides us with the needed energy to go out into the world and preach the gospel — sharing the good news in both word and deed.

In this way, the Word of God becomes a Eucharistic meal – “Take and eat, this is my Body…take and eat, this is my Word.”

(*) God Needs Storytellers can be viewed on the St. Pius X Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/spxparishindy

“It is good that we are here”

August 6, 2020 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:1-9)

There are several Scripture passages on my Fly-on-the-Wall list — those passages that lead me to say, “Wow, I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that!”

Today’s account of the Feast of the Transfiguration is such a passage. Peter, James, and John went up the mountain with Jesus. While there, they saw His face turn dazzling white, and suddenly Moses and Elijah were there, too. As if that wasn’t already sensory overload, God spoke from the clouds, affirming that Jesus was His Son.

The passage ends with Jesus telling them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone” Well of course they weren’t going to tell anyone! Who would have believed them?

But wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on the wall when the three of them talked about it amongst themselves?

“Now, this is what I saw. Is that what you saw?”

“Someone talked…it sounded like it came from the clouds. That was God, right?”

“The voice said, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” I don’t know about you, but I’m going to listen!”

What a gift these disciples were given, to be there on the day of the Transfiguration and with Jesus throughout His ministry on earth – to see the story unfold firsthand, to hear the Word of God as it was spoken.

The gift the disciples received was a gift that keeps on giving. When we go to Mass, we come together as disciples of Christ. We hear His divinely inspired Word in the reading of Scripture. We experience His real presence in the Eucharist.

Every Sunday, we are given the same gift the disciples were given on the mountain that day. The only difference seems to be our response to the experience. The disciples were awestruck, left speechless by what they saw. I fear we often take for granted what we experience in the Mass.

I want to be a fly on the wall on the day a congregation leaves the church fully embracing all that the Mass has to offer.

They will look a bit dazed, awestruck even, but incredibly joyful. And they will likely be mumbling to one another, “Did you see what I saw?”

The Prayers of a Faith-Filled Heart

August 5, 2020

She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! (Matthew 15:21-28)

I have never been much of a fan of the “squeaky wheel” mentality. Being a squeaky wheel does seem to be effective, but I have been on the receiving end of some of that squeaking and it can be very annoying! There were a number of times I caved in to the squeaking just to make it to stop.

In today’s Gospel, the Canaanite woman tries to approach Jesus to request His help and is turned away by the disciples, but she persists. Even Jesus seems to be dismissing her, but that does not deter her. She believed her daughter could be cured, and she believed Jesus was the one to do it.

Jesus was able to filter out the squeaking. He knew that no one would continue to fight through that much rejection unless she truly believed he could grant her request. Ultimately, this belief, this faith, was rewarded and her daughter was cured.

Jesus hears the prayers of a faith-filled heart.

He Will Immediately Reach Out to Help Us

August 3, 2020

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter… (Matthew 14:22-33)

Peter ran into problems despite his initial confidence and courage. He had only taken a few steps when his fear caused him to sink into the water. Fear kept Peter from successfully responding to God’s call.

How will we respond to God’s call? Will we start out courageously like Peter, only to let fear and uncertainty cause us to sink?

It is likely that we already have some fears, and that we already doubt our ability to do God’s work. We may start off with confidence, but fear creeps in. There are few of us, if any, who feel 100% confident that we can do all that is asked of us.

The good news in all of this is that Peter did not drown. Despite his weaknesses, Peter went on to become the rock of Jesus’ Church.

This was possible because Jesus was with him every step of the way. He never gave up on him. When Peter faltered, Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and caught him.

We must respond to God’s call with confidence. If fear creeps in and we begin to sink, God will immediately reach out to help us. The courage needed to stay the course should come from knowing that.

I’d Like to Know When God is Fishing

July 30, 2020

The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. (Matthew 13:47-53)

I am a visual learner, so I generally work with Scripture by closing my eyes after reading, and visualizing what I have read.

God, the Great Fisherman, casting His huge net across the waters of the whole world and pulling in fish of every kind.

I know that day will come. I know I will end up in His net some day. What worries me is not knowing when. I would like to be ready when that time comes. I want to swim into the net fully prepared rather than get caught unexpectedly, or worse still have the net pull me in when I am trying frantically to swim away!

What if he catches me on the day I get angry with Carol, one of the kids, or someone at work? Or on a day when I am being extra self-centered? What if the net scoops me up when my mind is drifting to the un-Godly? How about on a day when I fail to help someone in need?

I guess that is why Scripture tells us that God collects “fish of every kind.” He is pulling in fish that are prepared and willing to be caught, those caught unexpectedly, and those trying to avoid getting caught.

I am but a weak human being. I pray that I have the courage to live each day in preparation for my day in the net. May I be one of the fish swimming toward the net, confident that I have lived a life that has glorified Him.

Audio Homily: Mustard Seed of Faith

July 28, 2020

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’” (Matthew 13:31-33)

The above passage is taken from the gospel reading at yesterday’s Mass. Here is the audio of the brief homily I offered on the reading:

Preparing for the Kingdom of Heaven

July 27, 2020

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'” (Matthew 13:31-35)

I think when we hear the phrase ‘Kingdom of heaven,’ our thoughts immediately turn to the gift of eternal life. Jesus is certainly preparing us for eternal life by encouraging us to live out the Gospel message.

However, I believe Jesus had more in mind than the next life. I believe that if we truly prepare as He instructs us, we are in reality creating a Kingdom of heaven right here on earth.

If we plant our mustard seed of faith (tiny as that may be), nurture it with loving service to others, and shine our light on it daily, it will grow. Our witness will be life-giving, and others will seek refuge in it (live in its branches). They in turn will plant their own seed…and on, and on.

Eternal life is definitely our goal, but joyful preparation for the Kingdom of heaven will help create our own heaven on earth.

Why I Blog, Tweet, and Tell Stories

July 24, 2020

The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”
He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted…This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” (Matthew 13:10-17)

I once attended a workshop focused on meeting people where they are, particularly with the use of social media. For better or worse, data shows that people spend an average of 24 hours per week online. Social media is “where people are.” There are fewer people in the pews (especially now!), but they are definitely online.

Pope Francis certainly understands the power of social media. He has over 40 million followers on Twitter (a few more than me) and each of his tweets is re-tweetd an average of 9,000 times. Given that data, how many times is the word “God” being sent out over the internet?

Jesus offered us an even better example of meeting people where they are. Evidence:

*First, Jesus was a prolific preacher, but how many times do we read about Him actually preaching in a synagogue? Not many. The majority of His teaching was done “on the road.” He went to small villages, hillsides, mountaintops, private homes, etc. He went to where the people were.

*Second, we reflect on the occupation of Jesus – the job that paid the bills. Jesus was a carpenter. Jesus told dozens of parables in His teaching, but how many of those parables were about carpentry? None that I know of. Carpentry would have been a specialized occupation, so instead He told stories about sowing seed, tending sheep, and fishing. His stories were relatable; the stories spoke to people about THEIR lives and THEIR struggles. He brought His message into THEIR world. He met them where they were.

Our role as evangelists (not only the ordained, but ALL the baptized) is to bring the gospel message to “the ends of the earth.”

There is no more powerful and effective way to do this than with personal contact (virtually if face-to-face is not possible) and to tell our stories of God actively engaging in our lives. We should take every opportunity we have to do just that.

However, to take the message to as many people as possible, we need to go to where the people are as well. And for now – until the next new thing comes along – that is on social media.

Note: If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @DeaconRWagner

I need well over 39 million more followers to catch Pope Francis.

 

Do We Desire Kinship with God?

July 21, 2020

“For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)

Jesus made a commitment to His followers. He let them know that if they did as He instructed them, they would receive the gift of eternal life. It would not be an easy road and there would be crosses to bear, but for those who committed in return, what a beautiful gift.

In today’s Gospel, there is another gift put on the table. Jesus offered the gift of kinship. Whoever does God’s will, becomes part of the family – a member of the heavenly community.

This image of kinship with God was in sharp contrast to the aloof, angry, distant God of the Old Testament. Jesus was continuing to shake up the way people thought of God, heaven, and how to live their lives.

Do we desire kinship with God? Do we want to be the brothers, sisters, and mothers of Jesus? Is the way we live our lives worthy of such a gift?

Simple, Yet Challenging Message

July 20, 2020

You have been told, O man, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do the right and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)

Micah: Do the right thing. Love goodness. Walk humbly with God.

Jesus: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.

God’s message to us, whether conveyed by prophets such as Micah or through His son, Jesus, has been consistent over time – consistent and simple.

We are constantly searching for happiness. We seek answers that will explain the evil in our world. We look to fill the void in our lives. Where do we begin? Fr. Jim said it best in his homily yesterday: We begin by looking inward. Peace has to start in our own hearts.

Are you willing to follow God’s simple directives to love, do the right thing, and walk humbly with Him?

Saying “Yes” means setting aside your hatred, anger, bitterness, resentment, prejudice, and jealousy. It requires setting aside your own needs and focusing on others.

So…are you willing?

The message is simple; living the message is challenging.