Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori

August 1, 2020 – Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori

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A reflection on Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Saint Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a practical model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.

Read about the life of St. Alphonsus by clicking on the link below

Source: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-alphonsus-liguori/

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola

July 31, 2020 – Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola

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Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, Ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.”

On his feast day, let’s pray St. Ignatius’ prayer for generosity

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

Amen

Source: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-ignatius-of-loyola/

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.

Memorial of Saint Martha

July 29, 2020 – Memorial of Saint Martha

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Saint Martha’s Story

Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus. He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death.

No doubt Martha was an active sort of person. On one occasion, she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner.

Yet, as biblical scholar Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.” The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “…[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a).

Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27).


Reflection

Scripture commentators point out that in writing his account of the raising of Lazarus, Saint John intends that we should see Martha’s words to Mary before Lazarus was raised as a summons that every Christian must obey. In her saying “The teacher is here and is asking for you,” Jesus is calling every one of us to resurrection—now in baptismal faith, forever in sharing his victory over death. And all of us, as well as these three friends, are in our own unique way called to special friendship with him.

Source: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-martha/

 

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.

Homily: Embrace the Gift

July 26, 2020 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 / Romans 8:28-30 / Matthew 13:44-46

I delivered this homily at the vigil Mass last night at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis and will be delivering it again at the Masses this morning. You may listen to the homily by clicking below or the text of the homily follows if you would like to read it.

 

Most of us – at one time or another – have been overwhelmed by a gift we’ve received. The gift was a surprise; it was bigger or more expensive than expected; or maybe we thought we didn’t deserve the gift.

In the early 1990’s, I became quite ill and needed to go to a specialty hospital in Chicago. I was transported to that hospital for a week’s worth of treatments. Carol, of course, wanted to be with me. Our four children were ages 4-11. We had no extra money and our low-limit credit cards were maxed out. Carol left the kids with her sister and made the trip to Chicago, deciding that she would just figure out how to pay for a place to stay once she got there. I was in no condition to argue with her. She checked into a hotel across the street from the hospital — a hotel in downtown Chicago was not going to be cheap. She had no idea how she would pay for it at the end of the week. Continue reading

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.