Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 441: Attend to Yourself; Save yourself: 1 Tim 4:13-16
“Until I arrive, attend to the reading, exhortation, and teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate. Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone. Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” 1 Timothy 4: 13-16
This line from Paul’s letter to Timothy jumped out at me today, and I never really thought hard about what Paul is saying to Timothy in this verse before: “Attend to yourself, and to your teaching.”
Now all throughout this passage, Paul has been encouraging Timothy about keeping up with his duties as Bishop, but the words, “Attend to yourself,” got my attention. And I thought, “as priests, how do we attend to ourselves?” And I answer myself, physically, mentally, intellectually and spiritually. And I started thinking of myself and my habits and routine, and then I started thinking of my brother priests, and it hit me; most of us are good in one of these areas, or two of these areas, some are even good in three of these areas, but I could only think of one priest, who’s good in all these areas, and it wasn’t me!
Physically tending to ourselves: eat right, exercise, regular visits to the doctor. Why? Because we want to live as long as we can, and stay physically functional as long as we can, to help as many souls get to heaven as possible, because ultimately, that’s our job! The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and so we have a duty and a responsibility to take good physical care of that temple.
Mentally tending to ourselves: giving our minds rest. I got a lot better at this once I became a pastor. When I first took this assignment, I’d have insomnia at least two, three times a week from obsessing over the parish problems that needed to be solved. After the first year, I learned to turn my mind off. OK, you’ve done enough work for one day. Let yourself get absorbed in this movie or TV show, or book, or Facebook, or playing scrabble on the i-pad. Stop thinking about parish work now. That IS important, because if you don’t, stress can cause all kinds of health issues.
Tending to ourselves intellectually: meditating, reading, and learning more about scriptures and
church teaching so we can better teach you. This also includes taking proper time in our homily preparation because the homily is the primary teaching tool of the priest. Sadly, many priests neglect this. They get up on the pulpit with no preparation, and wing it, and everyone knows they’re winging it, because there’s no central theme, they’re all over the place, there’s a lot of “ummms”, and “ahhhs”. There are some priests, who can look at a passage of scripture five minutes before Mass, get up, and preach eloquently on it, but those guys are few and far between. Most priests, myself included, need preparation time. Then there are some that don’t preach at all on the weekdays, because it’s optional. But note the words in canon law; “the homily MAY be omitted for weekday masses, although it is highly recommended.” Highly recommended. The reason for that clause is to give Father an out, if he had to spend his time preparing a funeral homily, and didn’t have time to write a weekday homily, or he was up all night tending to a dying person and their family, and was too exhausted to write a homily in the morning. It’s not an excuse for laziness. “Highly recommended.”
Tending to ourselves spiritually: of course, prayer, reflection, going to confession regularly, going on retreat once a year, because again, how can we guide others spiritually, if we’re neglecting our own souls?
On all these points, evaluating myself; I find I’m good at tending to myself mentally. I’m OK at tending to myself spiritually and intellectually, although I could stand some improvement in those areas. I’m TERRIBLE at tending to myself physically. I don’t eat right. I don’t exercise, I don’t sleep enough, and drink too much coffee. I never really thought of this as confessional matter before, but now I think I’m going to start confessing it. Paul knew how easy it was for priests to neglect themselves. That’s why he warned Timothy. In neglecting ourselves, we ultimately neglect our effectiveness in ministry, and as is so often; what applies to us, applies to you. Are you neglecting yourselves in any of these areas? And if so, what are you going to do about it? Think about that. -Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
“Frequent combing gives the hair more luster and makes it easier to comb; a soul that frequently examines its thoughts, words, and deeds, which are its hair, doing all things for the love of God, will have lustrous hair.” St John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love
O God, you have given us our lives to radiate your own, our bodies to be temples of your Holy Spirit, our minds to reflect your glory, and our souls to love you. Help us to use what you have given us always for your glory and to love it rightly, as a means of expressing our gratitude and love to you. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
Holiness is in living your state in life. How would attending to yourself positively affect how you live your state in life? How would neglecting yourself negatively affect how you are able to live your state in life?
Father Sisco gives us four areas in which we should care for ourselves. What are they? To which of these four areas do you give the best attention? To which do you give the least? How can you improve?
Consider the quote from St. John of the Cross. How else is caring for our souls comparable to caring for our bodies?
Is there someone in your life who is a good example of how to properly tend to oneself? How does Christ give us example of how to attend to ourselves properly?
Saint Paul also says to “not neglect the gifts you have” received. What gifts have you received from God? How can you cherish them?
We’ve seen many fad diets and food philosophies from various world-views. What is the right reason for tending to ourselves and paying attention to what we eat? What are some of these other philosophies? Are they compatible with the Gospel?
Are there particular forms of recreation that are more restorative than others for you? What are they and why do you find them particularly useful?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 442: Conceit: A Reflection on 1 Timothy 6:3
“Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the religious teaching is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes. From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth, supposing religion to be a means of gain.” 1 Tim 6:3-5
You know, it’s really amazing how Paul can just nail things right on the head. Observe opponents of the Church sometime. They don’t agree with the religious teaching, and so what do they do? Always try to draw us into arguments and verbal disputes! And even though it’s the religious teaching they find unpalatable, what they choose to argue about is the failures of the Church throughout history. They bring up the inquisition, holy wars, the clergy sex scandals, NONE of which invalidate the religious teaching of the Church. And why do they do it? It comes down to conceit.
It comes down to, ‘It’s all about me,’ because I don’t want to follow the teaching, I don’t want anyone else to follow the teaching either because that validates me. That eases my conscience. Because if no one acquiesces to me, I might be forced to admit that I’m the problem. This is why so few people have a “live and let live” attitude anymore when it comes to religion. This is why so few people say, “Well you do your thing, and I’ll do mine.” This is why atheists are militant now, aggressively trying to destroy
religion. It all comes down to conceit.
Because I don’t want to believe, I don’t want anyone to believe. And what has evolved from this? Everything Paul lists here. Envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupt minds. Rivalry, not only between the Catholic Church and other denominations, but now rivalry within Catholic parishes themselves! Insults: I think every Catholic has had to put up with insults for being Catholic, if from no one else, late night talk show hosts and comedians.
Evil suspicions: do you know that just because I’m a priest, some people automatically suspect I’m some kind of predator? A family I’m dear friends with asked me to be godfather to their youngest son, and when the mom was telling her friends how excited she was that their priest was going to be their son’s godfather, one of her friends (a FORMER Catholic) said, “You trust a priest with your children?!” And even for years after that kept telling her, “Don’t ever leave him alone with your son!” Planting evil suspicions. Just because I’m priest, I’m seen as a predator who hasn’t been caught yet.
ALL of this stems from the fact that they reject the religious authority of the Church. OK, but it’s not OUR teaching! It’s HIS! WE just preserve it and transmit it. Do THESE things, and don’t do THOSE things and your salvation is guaranteed. You want to do your own thing? Fine, but I can’t guarantee your salvation. And that’s all there is to it.
So don’t let anyone upset you or distract you from the real issue. The real issue is that people who reject the teaching want YOU to reject the teaching, and they reject the teaching because of conceit. And because of THAT, they need your validation.
-Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
“To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live but to ‘get along’; we must never just ‘get along’.” Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati
Prayer: Litany of Humility (available in print form from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, cfpholyangels.com )
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
Questions for Reflection
Why is it not conceit to cling ardently to the Catholic Faith as opposed to other viewpoints?
How can we evangelize in a way that is not conceited?
Jesus said that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are truly blessed. How should we respond, then, when we are treated in the way Fr. Sisco describes because of our faith?
What point in the Litany of Humility do you find the most challenging? What point would be most helpful to someone trying to evangelize with humility?
What can we do to heal rivalry between Catholic parishes?
Consider the following from the second paragraph of Father’s reflection: “It comes down do, ‘It’s all about me,’ because I don’t want to follow the teaching, I don’t want anyone else to follow the teaching either because that validates me. That eases my conscience.” Even believers can have this attitude towards certain pet sins. How can we overcome this selfish attitude towards even minor sins?
Consider Bl. Pier Giorgio’s point. How can we avoid just “getting along” in our faith?
Have you ever met anyone who was conceited about matters not involving the Church? What were your dealings with this person? Any idea of how you might better deal with him or her?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 443: I Will Give You Rest: A Reflection on MT 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” -MT11:28-30 NAB
Every time I read this verse of scripture, I’m reminded of a song that was on the radio endlessly when I was growing up in the 1970’s: “I beg your pardon! I never promised you a rose garden!” I think that many times we have this notion that our relationship with Christ is supposed to relieve us of the cross. No. Jesus gives us REST from our crosses. Jesus HELPS us carry our crosses. But Jesus is not going to take away our crosses. Our crosses, though unpleasant, are necessary for our salvation, because our crosses teach us self-denial.
We all have crosses. Some have physical crosses: handicaps, sicknesses, diseases, the discomforts of old age. Some have emotional or psychological crosses. Some have financial crosses: poverty, debt. Some have sexual crosses: trying to live chastely in a world obsessed with the flesh. Before Christ, these crosses were just that, sufferings and nothing more. Now, because of Christ carrying HIS cross, all of our crosses are a means for us to attain eternal life. Our crosses allow us to be united with Christ, intimately. NOW our crosses have meaning. NOW our crosses have purpose. So why WOULD you want Jesus to take them away? Every temptation is just as much an opportunity to grow in virtue, as it is an occasion to fall into sin. Temptation merely presents the opportunity.
And many times, our crosses are linked to our vocations, as Moses learned. Moses has been living a pretty good life; the first 40 years as an adopted Prince of Egypt. The next 40 years as a shepherd of his Father-in-law’s flocks in the land of Midian with his wife and children. But the last 40 years of Moses’ life are going to be filled with crosses. Moses will endure the frustration of dealing with Pharaoh. THEN he’ll have the cross with dealing with his own people, who prove to be far more frustrating that Pharaoh ever was! They don’t like Moses. They don’t trust Moses. They’re constantly questioning his authority and his motives. A couple of times Moses prays for DEATH because they’re so frustrating! And yet, notice that God PREDICTS to Moses what Pharaoh’s reaction to him will be. God did that to demonstrate to Moses, I KNOW what’s going to happen. So I’m in control of this situation. All you have to worry about is doing what I tell you to do.
That’s one reason why Jesus carried his cross, so he could help all of us carry ours. We can now have confidence that since Jesus carried his cross, I never have to bear any burden alone. He is with me, and he can give me rest. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisko
Quote from a saint
“At that very moment, my intellect was strangely illumined. A vision passed before the eyes of my soul; it was like the vision Jesus had in the Garden of Olives. First, the physical sufferings and all the circumstances that would increase them; [then] the full scope of the spiritual sufferings and those that no one would know about. Everything entering into the vision: false suspicions, loss of good name. I’ve summarized it here, but this knowledge was already so clear that what I went through later on was in no way different from what I had known at that moment. My name is to be: “sacrifice.” ...And the Lord gave me to know that the whole mystery depended on me, on my free consent to the sacrifice given with full use of my faculties.” -Diary of St. Faustina
Help me to remember in these troubled times
The cross you carried for my sake,
So that I may better carry mine
And to help others do the same,
As I offer up (whatever your concern or problem here) to you
For the conversion of sinners
For the forgiveness of sins
In reparation for sins
And for the salvation of souls. Amen
Questions for Reflection:
How is suffering different with Jesus versus without him?
Have you experienced how a particular cross has helped purify you of some fault?
Have you experienced temptation as a means of growing in virtue?
How can carrying our crosses faithfully lighten our burden?
Share an experience you have had, or one someone close to you has had, of Jesus helping to carry your burden.
How can we help lighten each other’s burdens?
Like Moses, St. Faustina had an experience of knowing what she would have to suffer beforehand. How are our crosses different when we know, or at least suspect, them beforehand?
While sometimes we can perceive suffering ahead of time, other times we are caught off guard. How can we prepare for unknown sufferings so that we can bear them in union with Jesus?
Many times, suffering is unavoidable. What is the difference between our willing consent to sufferings and reluctant acceptance of them in unavoidable suffering?
How can the crosses linked to our vocation be especially fruitful for us?
The culture of death proposes abortion and euthanasia as means to end suffering. How can you use your understanding of the value of the cross to combat this?
How can we be compassionate to those who suffer while still honoring the spiritual value of suffering?
What meditation would you recommend to someone who is suffering to help him or her to be able to bear the cross?
Father Sisko mentions several types of suffering. Is there a particular type of suffering you find easier to bear than others? A particular type that is more difficult?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 444: Hunger for God: Reflection on Ex 16:2-7
“Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!”
Then the LORD said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in, let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.
So Moses and Aaron told all the Israelites, “At evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, when he hears your grumbling against him. But who are we that you should grumble against us?” (Exodus 16: 2-7)
Why did the Israelites have to experience hunger in the desert? Have you ever wondered about that? Why did God let them experience hunger instead of just providing them with food right away? I mean, was this an oversight on God’s part? Did he not expect people were going to get hungry after their food ran out? Couldn’t he anticipate this? Of course, he did. God wants them to experience physical hunger in the desert because for four hundred years in Egypt, they haven’t hungered for God. It was only the last eighty years in Egypt, that the Egyptians began to abuse them.
Until then, they had lived very peacefully in the land of Goshen, and they had become
Egyptianized. They adopted many Egyptian practices, including idolatry. So now, God wants them to experience hunger. He wants them to cry out to him in their need, so he can provide for that need, and in doing so, what God hopes to accomplish, is that the Israelites will come to rely on him for everything. God is trying to get the Israelites to trust him, and yet what will be their solution every time a difficulty arises? “Let’s go back to Egypt. Let’s go back to being slaves. This way is too hard.”
And that is true. The Lord’s way is hard. It seems as though God’s way is always for us to deny our natural impulses, to deny our animal passions, to deny ourselves, and simply allow ourselves to be a tool, a means to an end, to do good for other people. YUP! That about sums it up! But if it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t require trust would it? If it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be worth doing, would it? If it wasn’t hard it, wouldn’t be carrying the cross, would it? And if we can’t bring ourselves to trust God, which is in essence what faith is, we cannot possibly have a share in his eternal life. -Father Michael Anthony Sisko
Quote from a Saint
“Moses, too, thought the treasures of Egypt to be his loss, and thus showed forth in his life the reproach of the Cross of the Lord. He was not rich when he had abundance of money, nor was he afterwards poor when he was in want of food, unless, perchance, there is anyone who thinks he was less happy when daily food was wanting to him and his people in the wilderness. But yet manna, that is, angels' food, which surely none will dare deny to be a mark of the greatest good and of blessedness, was given him from heaven; also the daily shower of meat was sufficient to feed the whole multitude….
“Riches, then, give no assistance to living a blessed life, a fact that the Lord clearly shows in the Gospel, saying: "Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst now, for they shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh." Thus, it is stated as plainly as possible that poverty, hunger, and pain, which are considered to be evils, not only are not hindrances to a blessed life, but are actually so many helps toward it.” -St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy
“I ADORE Thee, Eternal FATHER, and I give Thee thanks for the infinite love with which Thou didst deign to send thy only-begotten SON to redeem me, and to become the food of my soul. I offer Thee all the acts of adoration and thanksgiving that are offered to Thee by the angels and saints in heaven and by the just on earth. I praise, love, and thank Thee with all the praise, love, and thanksgiving that are offered to Thee by thine own SON in the Blessed Sacrament ; and I beg Thee to grant that He may be known, loved, honoured, praised, and worthily received by all, in this most divine Sacrament. -Raccolta
Questions for Reflection
What “Egypt” are you tempted to return to when things get difficult?
In times of plenty, how can we foster hunger for God?
Which beatitude requires the most trust to live fully?
Sometimes our anger towards others is really an expression of our anger towards God, as it was when the Israelites complained against Moses. How can the beatitudes help us to overcome anger towards our neighbor?
St Ambrose says that “Riches, then, give no assistance to living a blessed life.” What gives us the most assistance to living a blessed life?
The Blessed Sacrament is called the Eucharist, which means ‘thanksgiving’. How does the prayer from the Raccolta show this? How can the Eucharistic celebration help us to give thanks to God for all of our blessings?
How can giving thanks help turn our hearts away from idols and towards God?
Take 5 minutes and write down all the things you are thankful for as they come to mind. Do this by making your list in columns so that you can readily see what you have written. Then go back over your list and circle the things you are MOST thankful for. Then order these in order of thankfulness. What are you mot thankful for? Why? What does this exercise teach you about gratitude and about God’s graciousness?
Is there someone you need to thank? Contact that person in some way to thank him or her. Offer a prayer to God for him or her, in gratitude.
Why is thankfulness so crucial to a strong spiritual life?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 445: No Occasion for Boasting: Reflection on Rom 3:27
“What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith.” Romans 3:27 NAB
There is no occasion for boasting. There is no reason for any of us to take pride in anything, because ultimately all good things are gifts from God. The reason we are good at anything is because of God. The reason we meet with any kind of success is because of God. Many people have told me through the years I’m a gifted preacher. Whenever someone compliments me on a homily I always try to remember to respond, “praise God,” and the reason I do that is to remind myself that the only reason I can do ANYTHING well is because of God. Boasting is a sign of ingratitude. Boasting gives us the illusion that we have made some accomplishment by ourselves. That’s folly. The only thing we can successfully do by ourselves is sin. That’s it!
And this is why Jesus so often condemned the scribes and pharisees. The Scribes and Pharisees prided themselves on their observance of pietisms, but none of that translated into personal holiness. The Scribes and Pharisees were quick to point out and condemn the sins of others but refused to acknowledge the sin in themselves. Jesus was not saying the pietisms were wrong; there was nothing wrong with these religious rituals. The problem was the Scribes and Pharisees made the rituals ends in and of themselves.The equated the keeping of the pietism with holiness, and not interior conversion. So paying tithes on everything you own is fine, but not if you’re neglecting financially supporting your parents in their old age; which was required by the Law. So they were using the paying of tithes to mask their greed.
So two things are necessary for us to keep from falling into the same trap. First, give God constant thanks for everything, because everything good in our lives is God’s gift to us. Gratitude is a fruit of the virtue of humility, while boasting is a fruit of the sin of pride. Gratitude fosters humility. Learn to show your gratitude to God every day. Openly give God credit for all the good things in your life every day. That’s another point, our gratitude can’t be private. If we are truly grateful to God for all he’s given us, we should have no problem expressing that gratitude publically.
Secondly, pietisms are great; medals, scapulars, statues, icons, devotionals, little prayer rituals. Pietisms are useful for reminding us of the presence of God in our lives. But all pietisms are a starting point, not a finish line. Pietisms are supposed to be encouraging us to go deeper in our prayer life, increasing our virtues, and helping us to better overcome our desires for sin.They’re not magic tricks. My favorite example is the brown scapular. Our Lady promised whoever wore the brown scapular would not suffer the fires of hell. Great! But there’s a whole devotion that goes along with the brown scapular that includes; monthly confession, going to Mass every First Friday or First Saturday, praying the rosary every day, and living a life of sexual purity in whatever state of life God has called you to; religious, married, or the Holy Single Life. The brown patch of cloth around your neck is simply a reminder of the commitment you’ve made to living this devotion as a 3rd order Carmelite.
So salvation is a matter of keeping things in proper perspective, and when we keep things in proper perspective we realize none of us has anything to boast about.
-Father Michael Anthony Sisko
Quote from a Saint
“The fourth degree Boastfulness...[The monk’s] care is not to teach you or to learn from you things which he does not know, but that the extent of his learning may be made known. If the subject under discussion is religion, he is forward with his vision and his dreams. He upholds fasting, prescribes vigils, and maintains the paramount importance of prayer. He enlarges at great length but with excessive conceit on patience, humility and all the virtues in turn, with the intention that you on hearing him should say, Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, and that a good man out of his good treasure bringing forth good things...In this you have the name and description of the fourth degree of pride.” -The Steps of Humility, St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You,
And desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You,
And ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself, let me fear You,
And let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You,
And for ever enjoy You.
-St. Augustine of Hippo
Questions for Reflection
What “pietisms” do you find helpful for your spiritual journey? Are there any ways you need to improve your use of such things so that they bear fruit rather than being mere signs?
Making the sign of the cross and wearing a visible crucifix are examples of sacramentals that are obvious to others. What do these pietisms demand of us so that they do not become empty like those of the pharisees?
St. Bernard wrote the steps of humility to caution his monks from falling into pride. How is St. Bernard’s reflection on the monk in the fourth stage of pride similar to Jesus’ description of the scribes and pharisees?
How is boasting about knowledge different than instructing?
Consider the prayer by St. Augustine. How can self-knowledge be a remedy against boastfulness? How can it increase gratitude?
Which petition in St. Augustine’s prayer strikes you most?
How do you express gratitude? How could you improve in this? -Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 446: Authority: Reflection on Luke 13:1-5
“Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them— do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!’” - Luke 13 1:5
What has happened here? Jews are complaining to Jesus about Pontius Pilate, who mixed the blood of Galileans who were killed in a riot, with the blood of animals the Roman’s had used in their pagan sacrifices. Now on a human level, this act is disturbing enough, but spiritually, to a Jew, this is a sin of desecration as well. I think sometimes, because we tend to focus on the passion, where Pontius Pilate is trying to rescue Jesus from condemnation, we may be tempted to think that Pilate wasn’t such a bad guy. Folks, Pontius Pilate was a monster. There’s no denying that. The only reason Pilate’s trying to save Jesus from crucifixion is the same reason he commits this horrible act. Pontius Pilate was always trying to assert his undeniable, unshakable authority over the Jews. And so, after he has these rioters killed, he mixes their blood with the Roman’s sacrifices to their pagan gods, which he knows will infuriate the Jews, to demonstrate, ‘Don’t mess with me, because nothing is beyond my power.’
It’s this same reason why Pilate tries to rescue Jesus from crucifixion. It’s not out of pity. It’s not out of piety. It’s not out of any sense of justice. Pilate doesn’t want to condemn Jesus, because he knows the Sadducees and Pharisees want him to condemn Jesus. And Pilate wants to assert again, ‘You have no power over me. I have power over you.’ When is the only time in the Passion, Pilate gets angry with Jesus? When Jesus stops answering his questions. And how does Pilate react to that? “What? You will not speak to me? Do you not know I have the power to release you, and the power to have you crucified?” With Pilate it’s always the same thing. Recognize my authority. He craves it.
Where did we see this before? Satan in the desert shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says, “All of these are mine, and I’ll give them all to you if you bow down and worship me.” Recognize my authority. He also craves it, just like Pontius Pilate. And just as Jesus answers Satan by putting the focus back on the Father, so Jesus answers Pilate by saying, “You would have no power over me at all, if it did not come from above.”
And just as Jesus’ response to Satan rattles him and makes him leave, Jesus’ response to Pilate rattles him as well. It says then “Pilate became afraid.”
So, getting back to the Gospel, why is the crowd telling Jesus this? They want him to condemn Pilate. Again, it’s a power play. ‘Come on Jesus, pronounce some condemnation on Pilate like you did on the Pharisees.’ But Jesus didn’t, which probably upset the crowd to no end. Why didn’t he? Here’s the irony. Here’s the punch line. Here’s the payoff. Jesus and Pilate have the exact same problem. They can’t get these people to acknowledge their authority, but here’s the difference: Pilate has authority over the flesh only, and so he punishes the flesh to prove that. Jesus has authority over heaven and earth, and so sacrifices his flesh and restores it again, to prove that. Pilate’s authority came from an earthly kingdom that ended. Jesus’ authority comes from a heavenly kingdom that is eternal.
And so how does Jesus respond to the crowd? “Hey, don’t think those people who suffered that were any more sinful than you.” WHAT?! “And don’t think that tower that fell on those people in Siloam were any more sinful than you.” WHAT?! Jesus, are you nuts? What are you saying? Let me translate this in modern terms; “Don’t think the people who suffered and died in the fires out west, or the floods down south, or the snow in Colorado, were any more sinful than anyone of you reading this right now. And don’t think the people who were burned alive in the tragic West Warwick fire, or the Twin Towers on 911 were any more sinful than anyone of you reading this right now.”
Folks, sin is toxic, and toxins affect everyone, not just the individual doing the polluting. The more our world sins, the more spiritual toxins we dump into creation, and the more creation will react negatively. It’s simple cause and effect. And this, my brothers and sisters, is why we need confession! When we sin, we surrender to the flesh, and we give the devil influence over us. When we don’t confess the sin, we give the devil what he craves the most--power. When we don’t confess sin, when we rationalize sin, when we say to ourselves ‘Why bother? I’ll just end up doing it again later anyway.’ When we surrender to the flesh, the devil responds, “YES! Acknowledge power. YES! Acknowledge that I’m too big for you, too big for Him and His grace! YES! Acknowledge that I am lord over some part of your life, even a small part!”
And that, brothers and sisters, is why we need confession, and need it often. Because when we confess, we give God back what is rightfully his—authority--and we render the devil powerless. It is my prayer today, that all of Christendom gives complete authority to Jesus, and Jesus alone, who has proved He is worthy, by His sacrifice on the cross. -Father Michael Anthony Sisko
Quote from a Saint
“[Jesus] is the one who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning. He is the One who smote sin and robbed iniquity of offspring, as Moses robbed the Egyptians of their offspring. He is the One who brought us out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be his own forever. His is the Passover that is our salvation.” -From an Easter homily by St. Melito of Sardis, Bishop
O, my God, help me to make a good confession. Mary, my dearest Mother, pray to Jesus for me. Help me to examine my conscience, enable me to obtain true sorrow for my sins, and beg for me the grace rather to die than to offend God again. Lord Jesus, light of our souls, who enlightens every man coming into this world, enlighten my conscience and my heart by Thy Holy Spirit, so that I may perceive all that is displeasing to Thy divine majesty and may expiate it by humble confession, true contrition, and sincere repentance. -St Alphonsus Liguori
Questions for Reflection
How is Pharaoh like Pilate? How is God’s victory through Moses like Jesus’ victory with Pilate?
How does confession give victory and authority back to Jesus?
How else can we give authority to Jesus in our lives?
What areas of your life may yet need to be given over to Jesus’ authority?
Based on this reflection of Jesus’ authority, what response would you give to someone who complains to you about abuses of power in government today?
How does the toxin of sin affect those around us? Reflect on specific examples such as theft, gossip, or immodest dress.
St Paul says that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. So, too, St. Alphonsus invites us to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to confess our sins. How are these two actions of the Holy Spirit related?
How does Jesus show his authority during his life and in his death and resurrection?
The enemies of the soul are typically listed as three: the world, the flesh, and the devil. How does Jesus show his authority over all three?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 447: Cleanness of Heart: Reflection on Luke 11:37-41
“After he had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.” Luke 11: 37-42 NAB
Jesus says something very similar in Matthew’s Gospel when he says, “The measure with which you measure out will be measured back to you.” Both these verses mean the same thing --we can say we’re Christian all the livelong day, but God is going to judge us by our actions. Is our behavior befitting a Christian or not? In this Gospel, Jesus begins pronouncing condemnation upon the Pharisees. This happens just after a Pharisee invites Jesus to his house to dine. OK. So far, so good. Then the Pharisee is stunned to see that Jesus doesn’t go through the ritual washing ceremony before eating.
So, Jesus responds to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish inside you are filled with plunder and evil! You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?” Keep in mind that Jesus has just said this to his HOST! Jesus just called the guy who invited him into his house for dinner, a thief, evil, and a fool! (I’m betting Jesus never got a second invitation to go over this guy’s house!) And Jesus was just getting warmed up, because he continues by saying woe to them four times! That’s four curses Jesus uttered against them! And he’s going to be throwing MORE woes at them as the Gospel continues!
We may be tempted to say, “The Pharisee was just surprised you didn’t wash up for dinner! Lighten up, Jesus!” But you see, Jesus had been lightening up previously. In the beginning of his ministry, you see Jesus trying to win the Pharisees over. But the more Jesus keeps revealing to them, the more obstinate they become, and the less patient Jesus becomes with them. The turning point was when Jesus casts a demon out of a man and the Pharisees say, “It’s by the power of the prince of demons that he casts out demons!” It’s just a ridiculous statement. And after that incident, Jesus starts playing hardball with them.
The predominant lesson that stems from this Gospel is “Don’t tempt the Lord.” God’s patience with a certain sin DOES have limits. And what sin is that? What sin consistently provokes Jesus to anger or sorrow? Hardness of heart. When people consistently cling to their sins despite sign after sign that it’s wrong. Over and over Jesus kept demonstrating to the Pharisees that holiness was not in the external rituals they kept over-emphasizing. The external rituals were only supposed to assist them in shaping their interior disposition. The external rituals were an aid to their giving their hearts to God, much like the Catholic Mass and the devotionals are for us.
The Mass and devotionals are supposed to give us the grace we need to turn away from sin and toward God, but grace only does us good if we use it. And, so, it is possible for someone to go to Mass regularly and still be mean, selfish, lust filled, any number of sinful things, if the Mass is only an external ritual to them and not a means to interior conversion. And the way we tell if our hearts are being converted is by our works; the charity we extend to others; not just money, but kindness, patience, understanding. Understanding…there’s a severe shortage of this these days. Everyone is so wrapped up in his own point of view that anyone who differs with him is cut off.
The Lord will give back to everyone according to his works. Brothers and sisters, I pray the way we act is in accord with what we profess to believe.
-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisko
Quote from a Saint
“Accept the sacrifice of my confessions by the agency of my tongue, which Thou hast formed and quickened, that it may confess to Thy name; and heal Thou all my bones, and let them say, "Lord, who is like unto Thee?" For neither does he who confesses to Thee teach Thee what may be passing within him, because: a closed heart doth not exclude Thine eye, nor does man's hardness of heart repulse Thine hand, but Thou dissolvest it when Thou willest, either in pity or in vengeance, “and there is no One who can hide himself from Thy heat." But let my soul praise Thee, that it may love Thee; and let it confess Thine own mercies to Thee, at it may praise Thee.” - St. Augustine of Hippo
O Lord, take away my heart of stone, my hardened heart, my uncircumcised heart and grant to me a new heart, a heart of flesh, a clean heart! O Thou who purifieth the heart and loveth the clean heart, possess my heart and dwell in it, containing it and filling it, higher than my highest and more intimate than my most intimate thoughts. Thou who art the image of all beauty and the seal of all holiness, seal my heart in Thine image and seal my heart in Thy mercy, O God of my heart and the God of my portion in eternity. Amen. (from Catholic.org)
Questions for Reflection
St. Paul says to the Romans that God’s patience is intended to lead to our repentance. How is this reflected in this Gospel? In Father’s reflection? In the quote from St. Augustine’s confession?
How does a hardened heart prevent one’s works from reflecting his beliefs?
Since it is a clean heart, not clean hands, that God loves, how do we attain a clean heart? (consider the prayer and the Gospel quote)
How can we make proper use of the grace that God gives us in the Mass and other sacraments?
Fr. Sisco says that there is a severe lack of understanding these days. Why might he say this?
Are you understanding toward your neighbor? How can you grow in this?
Do you know anyone who is exemplary at this virtue?
What is the effect of not being understanding toward our neighbor?
How does our understanding toward our neighbor reflect our openness or hardness of heart toward God?
How does understanding differ from agreeing with? Can we understand yet disagree? -Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 448: Grace: Reflection on Romans 7:20-25
“For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin.” Romans 7:20-25
This passage from Paul’s letter to the Roman’s is describing his frustration with a very simple reality: the flesh and the spirit are at war with one another. Paul says, “I know what I should do, and yet I don’t do it, and I know what I shouldn’t do, and those things I do!” Now this statement of Paul’s, especially when he goes onto say, “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” gave rise to the misconception that the body is evil, and people are basically evil.
For centuries, a heresy, Gnosticism, taught that the spirit was good and the body evil. This is incorrect, because when we go back to Genesis, we learn that God made our bodies, and everything God makes is good. God only makes good things. “Well, Father, God made the devil didn’t he? Then how can God only make good things?” God made the Archangel Lucifer, and God made Lucifer good. Lucifer allowed his free will to pervert his desires, and that transformed him into Satan. And we are no different. God made us good. We are good. Our bodies are good. We are good people who have been infected and affected by sin. When you’re infected with a virus it has a negative effect on the body. That doesn’t mean your body is bad. It means your body is ill. So, don’t think because you struggle with sin, you’re a bad person. We struggle with sin because we’re spiritually ill. Fortunately, God, through Jesus Christ has now provided us with the remedy.
First of all, what is sin? The catechism tells us that sin is a lack of Grace.
What is Grace? Grace is literally God’s life within us. So, Grace is the ability to act Godly. Grace allows us to become what God wants us to be.
There are three kinds of Grace; Sanctifying Grace, Actual Grace, and Efficacious Grace.
Sanctifying Grace is the Grace we get through the sacraments. Sanctifying Grace is the Grace that allows us to go to heaven when we die.
Actual Grace is Grace God gives us in response to our prayers for a particular need. So, we’re confronted with a temptation, we pray for help to overcome the temptation, and God responds by giving us Actual Grace. God ALWAYS responds. God ALWAYS gives us Actual Grace in those temptations.
If we USE that Grace and avoid the sin that we’re being tempted with, the Actual Grace we’ve been given becomes Efficacious Grace. The Actual Grace we were given had the desired effect and the sin was avoided.
So those are the three kinds of Grace. And the Church that Jesus Christ has built for us is a reservoir of Grace. God pours his Grace into the Church, and the Church in turn dispenses that Grace through the sacraments.
So, we have a responsibility, my brothers and sisters, to come to Church to receive the Grace that’s being offered us, and then through our personal prayers, use that Grace to avoid sin.
I saw a good meme on Facebook recently where a man asked a priest, “If God is everywhere, why do I have to go to Church?” And the priest responded by saying, “Water is everywhere. Water is in the atmosphere. But to take a drink, you have to go to a fountain.” I thought that was a great answer. So yes, God IS everywhere, but God’s presence is concentrated in the sacraments.
So, my brothers and sisters, if you struggle with habitual sins, and most of us do, don’t get down on yourself anymore than you would get down on yourself for being sick. But if you were sick, you’d go to the doctor, you’d take medicine. Come to the sacraments and get healed!
Sin is a lack of Grace; thirst is a lack of water. If you were thirsty, you’d go to the fountain and drink. If you’re struggling with habitual sins, come to the fountain of the Spirit, the sacraments, and drink. But always remember: you’re good, because God made you good.
-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisko
Quote from a Saint
“In order, then, to our performance of good works, let us not have hope in man, making strong the flesh of our arm; nor let our heart ever depart from the Lord, but let it say to him, “Be Thou my helper; forsake me not, nor despise me, O God of my salvation.” --Augustine of Hippo, On Grace and Free Will
O Lord, who didst command us when you taught us to pray, to ask, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” help me now, in my hour of temptation! You alone are my strength and my aid. I trust in You to deliver me, by Your grace as I echo the words of the psalmist, sung throughout the ages, “O God, come to my assistance, oh Lord make haste to help me!”
Questions for Reflection:
Why did God give us the Sacraments?
Why do you think that the Divine office begins each time with the words, O God, come to my assistance, oh Lord make haste to help me?
How do you reach out to God in time of temptation? How has this helped you?
What other prayers do you recommend in time of temptation?
Is the error of Gnosticism still around today? Where do you see it?
What is the best remedy against the error of gnosticism, in your opinion?
Do you truly believe that God always provides actual grace in time of need? What might prevent you from receiving the grace at hand?
How is the quote from St. Paul like the one from St. Augustine? How are they different?
Father Sisko says that the sacraments give us sanctifying grace. How can they also give us actual grace?
Do you frequent the “fountains” provided you by God for receiving His grace?
Since God made us all good, and since He always provides all necessary grace, why is it that we sometimes choose evil?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 449: Ark of the Covenant: Reflection on Luke 21:29-33
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening know that the kingdom of God is near. Amen I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:29-33
“OK, Father I’m confused. You said we cannot know when the end of the world will happen. You quoted Jesus when HE said, ‘as to the hour or the day you cannot know.’ And NOW Jesus is telling us to look for these signs as to when the end of the world will happen! So what gives?”
Jesus isn’t talking about the end of the world here. He’s talking about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which the Romans did destroy in 70 A.D., 37 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. A generation is forty years, so the destruction of the temple occurred within that generation, just as Jesus foretold.
Why was the temple destroyed? Well, there were political reasons, namely the constant uprisings in Palestine. The Romans finally had enough of those and felt a message needed to be sent to the Jews. So, they laid siege to Jerusalem, and destroyed the temple, never to be built again. But there is also a theological necessity for this. You use a model of a building as a guide until you build the real thing. Once you’ve built the real thing, the model is no longer necessary.
The Ark of the Covenant is a pre-image, a model, of the Blessed Mother. The Ark of the Covenant held the stone fragments of the Ten Commandments. It also held Aaron’s staff that budded and flowered in the desert and some of the manna that the people ate in the desert for forty years before they entered the Promised Land. So, the Ark of the Covenant physically held the Word of God, the priesthood of God, and the bread of God. The Ark was a model of the Blessed Mother. The Blessed Mother held the Word of God, the Priesthood of God, and the bread of God in her womb in the person of Jesus Christ. Once we have the Blessed Mother, the model is no longer necessary.
The temple was also a pre-image, a model of the Church, the Kingdom of God. The temple was a place where the High Priest could be in the physical presence of God, one day a year, after a long purification ritual, when he offered up the sacrifice of incense during the feast of Yom Kippur. While he was in the presence of God, he petitioned God for the needs of the people. Now everyone can be in the presence of God every day at the consecration of the Eucharist as Mass, where the priest prays for the intentions of the people which the people present themselves while in his presence! Once you have that, you don’t need the model anymore.
-Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
“Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers, have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified"; and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord's temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven.” Ven. Pope Pius XII, Defining the Dogma of the Assumption
Holy Mother of God, Pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins, Pray for us.
Mother of Christ, Pray for us.
Mother of the Church, Pray for us.
Mother of Divine Grace, Pray for us.
Mirror of justice, Pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, Pray for us.
Cause of our joy, Pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, Pray for us.
Vessel of honor, Pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, Pray for us.
Mystical Rose, Pray for us.
Tower of David, Pray for us.
Tower of ivory, Pray for us.
House of gold, Pray for us.
Ark of the Covenant, Pray for us.
Gate of Heaven, Pray for us.
Morning star, Pray for us.
Health of the Sick, Pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, Pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, Pray for us.
Help of christians, Pray for us.
Queen of all saints, Pray for us.
Queen conceived without original sin, Pray for us.
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
-Excerpt from the Litany of Loreto
Questions for Reflection
Why was it theologically necessary for the temple to be destroyed?
Fr. Sisco states that there were also political motives for the destruction of the temple. What is another scriptural or historical example of human or political motives fulfilling God’s plan?
How would you respond to someone who claims that the various present crises in the Church are signs that the end times are near?
How is the destruction of the temple a type of the end of the world?
How can we be prepared for the end times when we do not know when they will be?
Look at the titles of Mary in the excerpt from the Litany of Loreto. Which other titles are prefigured in the Old Testament? Which titles do you see portrayed in the Gospels? In the book of Revelation?
Why do you think the high priest was only able to enter the Holy of Holies once a year?
How else does the Temple prefigure the Church?
Mary is also a type of the Church. Which of the titles in the Litany of Loreto fit the Church well, too? How?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 450: Exiles in a Foreign Land: Reflection on Jeremiah 30:1-3
“The following message came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write all the words I have spoken to you in a book. For behold, the days will come, says the Lord, when I will change the lot of my people (of Israel and Judah says the Lord), and bring them back to the land which I gave to their fathers; they shall have it as their possession.” Jeremiah 30:1-3
Jeremiah the prophet comes from a time that is called, in salvation history, the great “Diaspora,” which literally means dispersion, the great exile. When the Babylonian Empire conquered Israel, they destroyed the temple, plundered the land, and then they took the flower of the Jewish people, the young people, the bright people, and they dispersed them throughout their empire. Why? So, these people can be re-educated in the way of the Babylonians.
Conquering a territory is easy. Holding onto it is another story. If you take the youth from their homes and bring them to YOUR country, you ensure that the people left in Israel aren’t going to start a revolt, because they know you might kill their children if you do. And after you re-educate their youth with YOUR customs, once you secularize them, so to speak, THEN when THEY become adults you send them back to their native land and put them in positions of authority. THEY’RE grateful, because they have good paying jobs; so, you insure their loyalty. The population is pacified because they’re being ruled by their own; again, you reduce the chances of a revolt starting. So, there IS a logic to this. What happens in reality though, is quite the opposite.
During the diaspora, the Babylonians come to respect the Jews, and this god they worship, because they keep witnessing his power. And these stories keep spreading, so when Babylon falls to Persia, which is what happens next in this story. After Belshazzar foolishly desecrates the sacred vessels brought back from the temple in Jerusalem, a ghostly hand writes prophetic words on the wall, words that describe Babylon’s downfall. Belshazzar dies that very night, and Darius of Persia invades and conquers Babylon quite easily. Darius’ son Cyrus hears of these stories and a prophecy from Jeremiah a hundred years earlier which foretold that a Persian named Cyrus would end the diaspora. Cyrus, thankfully, is a lot smarter than Belshazzar and his father.
When Cyrus hears all these stories, he figures this God of the Israelites is no one to mess around with, and so he basically gives the Jews anything they want. You want to go back to Israel? Fine! You’re free! You want to rebuild your temple? Sure! And in fact, here, I’ll make a financial donation to get the project started! So, the great diaspora had the opposite effect of what the Babylonians were hoping for. The Jews went back home, with all their customs intact and the government sponsoring them!
My brothers and sisters, the Christian is called to live as if we are also living in exile. Even though we are citizens of a country, we are called to live as if no country is our own. Our citizenship is in heaven; that’s our true home. And we are supposed to live and act and work and witness to the fact that heaven is our true home. That’s how we affect the lives of the people around us.
What God said to Belshazzar through the prophet Jeremiah, he still says to every nation on earth, and to us individually. “Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.” (Jeremiah 13:18)
Brothers and sisters, the modern-day Christian is living in the second great diaspora. We can cower in fear and allow ourselves to be secularized, or we can use this opportunity to sanctify the secular.
-Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
“Sometimes I allow the world to show them what it is, so that, feeling its diverse and various passions, they may know how little stability it has, and may come to lift their desire beyond it, and seek their native country, which is the Eternal Life” Our Lord to St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogues
O MARY, who, crowned with stars, hast for a footstool under thy feet the moon, and for thy throne the wings of angels; turn thy eyes upon this valley of sorrows, and listen to the voice of one who puts his hope and refuge in thee. Thou dost now enjoy the infinite sweetness of Paradise, but in the midst of joy and splendour thou bearest always in thy inmost heart the recollection of what thou didst suffer in this life. Thou hast tried the needs of this exile, and therefore knowest how bitterly flow the days of those who live in sorrow. Ever in thy remembrance rises up a mount covered with armed men and the dregs of the people ; thou hearest ever a voice, so well known by thee, which says to thee: "O Lady, behold, in my place, thy son." And these thoughts move thee to profound tenderness, and thou dost realize, O blessed one, that on that mountain and with those words thou wast destined to be the Mother of the living... O Mary, mother of all, enlighten our minds, soften our hearts, so that this most pure love which streams from thy eyes may be poured forth on every side, and produce those marvellous fruits which thy Son prepared for by shedding his Blood, whilst thou didst suffer the most cruel pangs at the foot of the Cross. - Raccolta 211, abridged
Questions for Reflection
How can we sanctify the secular in our lives?
Do you see any parallels between the Babylonian society and our own?
How can living in a secular, or even hostile, environment bring out the best in the Christian as the exile did for the Jews?
How can we avoid being "re-educated" by secular society?
Consider the quote from the Dialogues of St. Catherine. How can today’s troubles turn our gaze to heaven?
Consider the prayer from the Raccolta. Mary and all the saints endured the hardships of earthly exile. How can they help us reach heaven?
The prayer says, “O Lady, behold in my place, thy son.” Can you see Jesus in your place? How can seeing Jesus in your situation help you to be virtuous?
Why did God allow the Jews to be sent into exile? Why does He allow us to struggle through our earthly exile?
Fr. Sisco reasons, “If you take the youth from their homes and bring them to YOUR country, you insure that the people left in Israel aren’t going to start a revolt, because they know you might kill their children if you do. And after you re-educate their youth with YOUR customs, once you secularize them, so to speak, THEN when THEY become adults you send them back to their native land and put them in positions of authority. THEY’RE grateful, because they have good paying jobs; so, you insure their loyalty. The population is pacified because they’re being ruled by their own; again, you reduce the chances of a revolt starting.” Does anything in secular education and/or media make you think that this is currently happening? If so, what?