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?