Saturday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time | Memorial of St. Alphonsus Ligouri – August 1, 2020

Before looking at the readings of the day, I’d like to say a word about St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose memorial we commemorate today.

We are all especially indebted to this great theologian and spiritual writer, who was also the founder of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, or the Redemptorists, and so we pray for all Redemptorists on this their feast day!

We have all been praying a prayer of St. Alphonsus at one point or another over the past 5 months. If you’ve viewed a Mass online during the pandemic and haven’t been able to participate in communion physically, you have likely prayed some version of St. Alphonsus’ prayer of spiritual communion, which he composed for those who weren’t able to participate in communion either due to spiritual disposition or physical limitation.

So be sure to give thanks to God for St. Alphonsus the next time you need to pray that prayer!

We should also give thanks because of his efforts to update moral theology in his day. He was a pastoral person who would be very much at home with Pope Francis’ frequent invitations to missionary discipleship and pastoral accompaniment. He worked to respond to the real needs of the people of his day and the reflect on them theologically. He started from people’s experience, reflected on them in light of the Gospel and proposed new approaches to challenging dilemmas of his time.

Let us pray for his guidance to always be open to God’s Spirit at work.

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The readings today reflect the movement of God’s Spirit inviting new approaches through the preaching of two prophets – Jeremiah from the Hebrew Scriptures, and John the Baptist in the New Testament. The problem is – as it often is with prophets from God – that those who were in authority – both the religious authorities and the rulers of the people – didn’t want to hear of the need to change.

Jeremiah preached to the leaders of Israel that they were breaking the covenant by failing to worship God and to care for the people, including the poor. John the Baptist told King Herod that he was also violating the covenant by marrying his brother’s wife while his brother was still alive. Both those ancient leaders and King Herod were more concerned about their power and position, than about living as God wanted.

While Jeremiah’s life was spared in today’s first reading, it was only a temporary reprieve, and of course, John the Baptist was beheaded by King Herod for speaking the truth.

We live in a time where leaders and others act as if the word of God and the call of God don’t matter. The Scriptures remind us that God is always on the side of truth-tellers and on the side of those prophets who speak out for those in need, and who follow the path of justice.

Let us pray together for the courage to both listen attentively to the word that God is speaking to us, as persons and as a society, and to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.

God give you peace!

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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.