Weeks 461-470

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 461: Failing in our Vocation: Reflection on 2 Sam 11

 

“At the turn of the year, the time when kings go to war, David sent out Joab along with his officers and all Israel, and they laid waste the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. David himself remained in Jerusalem.

 

One evening David rose from his bed and strolled about on the roof of the king’s house. From the roof he saw a woman bathing; she was very beautiful. David sent people to inquire about the woman and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and wife of Uriah the Hittite, Joab’s armor-bearer.” 2 Sam 11:1-3

 

It was David’s vocation to be King, and the vocation of kingship meant that it was David’s duty to drive out the pagans from the Promised Land. It was his vocation as king to make sure that the poor, widows, and orphans of his kingdom were provided for. In this passage, we see David’s great failure in his vocation; his affair with Bathsheba. Let’s unpack this. How does this illicit love affair come about?

 

“At the turn of the year, when the kings go out on campaign, David SENT JOAB along with his officers and the army of Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. DAVID, HOWEVER, remained in Jerusalem.”

 

What is David’s vocation? To drive the pagans out of the Promised Land. David is a warrior-king. Why isn’t DAVID leading his army? Why does David delegate HIS vocation to someone else? Whenever we lose our sense of vocation, whenever we begin to shirk what we owe God, it will ALWAYS lead us into sin. David fell into this sin because he grew lax in his vocation. And when we grow lax in our vocation, God no longer satisfies us, and when God no longer satisfies us, we seek to fill that void with other things; usually pleasures of the flesh; gluttony, drunkenness, or sex.

 

We have all heard stories of priests who committed sexual sins, sometimes unspeakable sexual sins. Why did it happen? They grew lax in their vocation. They began to shirk their responsibility to God either in their prayer, or their priestly duty of service to their parishioners. When we grow lax in our vocation, God no longer satisfies us, and when God no longer satisfies us, we seek to fill that void with other things; usually pleasures of the flesh.

 

Why do married couples have affairs? They grow lax in their vocation to help their spouses get to heaven and impart the faith to their children. When we grow lax in our vocation, God no longer satisfies us, and when God no longer satisfies us, we will seek to fill that void with other things; usually pleasures of the flesh.

 

Why do young people have illicit sexual encounters with each other? Because they fail in their vocation to be lights in the world, witnesses that we are NOT just beings of crude flesh and matter, but rather we possess a soul made purely in the image of God that we are supposed to emulate in our bodies, and strive to see that pure image of God in every other human being. And when we grow lax in our vocation, God no longer satisfies us, and when God no longer satisfies us, we will seek to fill that void with other things; usually pleasures of the flesh. It’s all the same problem. It all stems from a failure to live our vocations; to be what God has called us to be.

 

Bathsheba gets pregnant, so David tries to cover up his sin; and, when THAT doesn’t work, he conspires to kill Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. So, David’s initial sin, adultery, and his failure to repent of that sin, leads him to a more serious sin, murder. Now I know I’ve answered this question before but it bears repeating; how did David think that God would let him get away with this? Probably because Uriah is not a Jew. Uriah is a Hittite who serves David and the Israelites. Uriah, though loyal to David, is NOT part of the covenant. So, David probably thought, ‘God’s not going to care if I arrange the murder of this pagan. What the heck, I’ve killed thousands of pagans.’ But as we learn if we continue reading, David couldn’t be more wrong. When we grow lax in our vocations, when we stop trying to please God in all we do, it becomes very easy for us to rationalize our sins away, doesn’t it?

 

‘Oh, God doesn’t care that I do this. I only commit LITTLE sins. God doesn’t care about the sins I commit.’ And so, we have a society that’s all up in arms about using plastic straws and plastic bags but thinks it’s perfectly OK to kill a child in its mother’s womb. That’s what happens in a society full of people that have lost their sense of vocation, what is owed the Lord, and that is also why I keep stressing we should never take any sin lightly, because all sins, even little sins, lead us to bigger and worse sins.

-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” -St Catherine of Siena

 

Prayer

“MOST holy and immaculate Virgin Mary, our most tender Mother, and powerful Help of Christians, we dedicate ourselves entirely to thy most sweet love and holy service. We consecrate our minds with all their thoughts, our hearts with all their affections, our bodies with all their senses and powers, and we promise to desire always to work for the greater glory of GOD and for the salvation of souls. Meanwhile do thou, O incomparable Virgin, who hast always been the Help of the Christian people, continue to show thyself such, especially in these days. Humble the enemies of our holy religion and frustrate their evil purposes. Enlighten and strengthen bishops and priests and keep them ever united in obedience to the Pope, their infallible master. Preserve incautious youth from irreligion and vice. Promote holy vocations and increase the number of thy sacred ministers, that by means of them the Kingdom of JESUS CHRIST may be preserved among us and extended to the farthest boundaries of the earth.”

 -from Raccolta 277

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. Why do you think David’s failure in his vocation leads him to sin with Bathsheba?

  2. What are the principle demands of your vocation?

  3. What little sins are you most likely to brush off as though God doesn’t care? What is the remedy for this?

  4. Why do you think society cares more about little “sins” like plastic straws than about unborn babies? How does this relate to failure to live their vocation?

  5. Does secular society have a sense of vocation at all? What is the remedy for this?

  6. Reflect on the quote from St. Catherine of Siena. How do you think living your vocation fully can set the world on fire?

  7. How well do you live your vocation?

  8. How can Mary help you be faithful to your vocation? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 462: A Good Measure: Reflection on Mk 4:21-25

 

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.  To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Mk4:21-25

 

“The measure with which you measure, will be measured back to you…”

What is Jesus telling us in this verse from Saint Mark’s Gospel?  Jesus begins by saying, “You don’t light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket do you?”  Why not?  It defeats the purpose!  A lamp is intended to spread light. So if you light a lamp and cover it, you’re wasting oil, and you’re not accomplishing anything.  You’re not letting the lamp fulfill its purpose. You’re going through the motions and effort to light it, but you’re deliberately frustrating its function.  If you’re going to light a lamp, you put it on a stand.  You elevate the lamp, so the light

can reach its maximum potential and fill the room.

 

Jesus is the light of the world, and he has come into the world, to share that light with us.  Why?

So that we can cover him with a basket?  So that we can hide what he taught us, keep it to ourselves?  Or does Jesus want us to elevate him, so everyone can see his light? THEN Jesus says, “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”  We will be given only what we have invested.  In other words, our salvation depends on how well we have elevated Jesus in our lives.  There are many other passages in the gospels that carry this same theme.  The rich man who divides his wealth among his servants and tells them to invest his money while he’s away; the first servant doubles his master’s money, the second increases it by half, and the third buries it in the ground.  And so, because the third servant hasn’t increased his master’s wealth, he’s kicked out.

 

It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t LOST his master’s money.  He didn’t produce anything.  The parable of the fig tree.  A man comes out looking for figs on his tree.  He doesn’t find any, and so he tells his servant to cut it down.  But the gardener asks the master to give him permission to prune, and fertilize the tree for one more season, and if no figs appear the following year; he’ll cut it down.

 

My brothers and sisters, God expects us to produce.  God has given us ALL a job.  And that job is to elevate him with our lives.  That job is to allow other people to see his light shining through us, so they may also be drawn to the light.  So, this means in the way we behave, people should be able to see Christ’s light shining in us.

 

I always tell the confirmation kids this when they come in for their interviews, “people should be able to tell just by observing you; that you believe in Jesus Christ.  The way you dress, the language you use, the respect you show others, your patience with others, should all indicate that you believe in Jesus Christ.”  That goes for all of us, my brothers and sisters.  Living lives of virtue is how we elevate Christ in our lives.  Living lives of virtue is how we let the light shine for others to see.  I pray today we all shine brightly before the Lord.  And blessed be God forever. -Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

 It is a common matter of observation that, so far as we can judge here below, the better is the life of the preacher, the greater is the fruit that he bears, however undistinguished his style may be, however small his rhetoric and however ordinary his instruction. For it is the warmth that comes from the living spirit that clings; whereas the other kind of preacher will produce very little profit, however sublime be his style and his instruction. For, although it is true that a good style and gestures and sublime instruction and well-chosen language influence men and produce much effect when accompanied by true spirituality, yet without this, although a sermon gives pleasure and delight to the sense and the understanding, very little or nothing of its sweetness remains in the will. As a rule, in this case, the will remains as weak and remiss with regard to good works as it was before. Although marvelous things may have been marvellously said by the preacher, they serve only to delight the ear, like a concert of music or a peal of bells; the spirit, as I say, goes no farther from its habits than before, since the voice has no virtue to raise one that is dead from his grave. -St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, in Christ our Son you have shown your glory to the world.

Guide the work of your Church: help it to proclaim your name, to persevere in faith and to bring our salvation to people everywhere.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. -From the Breviary

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. How do we elevate Christ in our lives?

  2. How does virtue show forth Christ?

  3. How do your habits right now show that you are a Christian?

  4. Father Sisco says, “It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t LOST his master’s money.  He didn’t produce anything.” Is it possible to not produce anything if we are truly in possession of God’s gifts? Why or why not?

  5. Why is holiness of necessary to back up preaching?

  6. In your opinion, which is more important, preaching or example?

  7. Is it necessary for us to preach to be lights for Christ?

  8. How has the example of others’ holy lives impacted you? Try and give specific stories.

  9. Consider the prayer from the breviary. What is the mission of the Church? How are you a part of that mission?

 -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 463: Trust the Lord: Reflection on Mk 4:35-41
 

“On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”” Mk 4:35-41 NAB

 

How well do we trust the Lord? Ultimately all sin is a failure to trust the Lord.

           

So, if we want to avoid sinning, my brothers and sisters; we should work on trusting God more. Why? Because trust is rooted in faith, and faith is the remedy for sin. The more faith we have, the less inclined we are to sin. Look at this Gospel passage. Jesus and his disciples get in a boat to cross to the opposite shore; Jesus falls asleep, a storm kicks up, the boat is filling up with water, the disciples panic, they wake Jesus up. Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves and immediately everything calms down. Then Jesus says to them; “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

 

Interesting detail here --what is Jesus referring to when he asks why they’re terrified? Note, he asks in the present tense; “Why ARE you terrified,” not “Why WERE you terrified?” The storm is over when Jesus asks this question. So, was Jesus referring to their fear of the storm, or was Jesus referring to their reaction to him calming the storm? I think we have a clue to that answer earlier in this passage.

 

When they decide they better wake up Jesus, how do they address him? Teacher! “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Teacher, not Lord! They didn’t have the faith yet to believe that Jesus was God. So yes, they were afraid of the storm, but I believe the fear that Jesus is referring to here, is their fear of him, because they don’t know what to make of him yet. “Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?”

 

And I find, my brothers and sisters, that this is the root of many of our fears. We become afraid when we don’t quite know what to make of God; or what God expects from us, or if God REALLY cares what happens in my day to day life. Those doubts lead us to fear, those fears lead us to sin. And so, the way to combat that fear is to build ourselves up in faith. The way we build ourselves in faith is to train ourselves to trust God more. And the way we build up our trust in God is to put everything we care about in God’s hands.

 

It’s something I’ve said again and again and again in my almost nine years as pastor: surrender your illusions of control. And the reason why I preach this so ardently is because it’s the lesson I’ve learned here as pastor many times over in my almost nine years here. Every time I have failed, every time I have stressed out, is when I’ve tried to control my parish instead of just doing my job and trusting God to do the rest. So, I know what I’m talking about. And despite this knowledge, I still fail occasionally! Control is a difficult thing to surrender! And yet it is very necessary.

 

Let go of your fears. Trust in the Lord, and watch your favorite sins start to disappear.

-Father. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

“My Jesus, support me when difficult and stormy days come, days of testing, days of ordeal, when suffering and fatigue begin to oppress my body and my soul. Sustain me, Jesus, and give me strength to bear suffering. Set a guard upon my lips that they may address no word of complaint to creatures. Your most merciful Heart is all my hope. I have nothing for my defense but only Your mercy; in it lies all my trust” -Diary of St Faustina

 

Prayer

 

O HEART of love, I place all my trust in Thee: for though I fear all things from my weakness, I hope all things from thy mercies. - Ejaculation of B. Margaret Mary from the Raccolta

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. How well do you trust the Lord?

  2. Do you agree that all sin is a failure to trust in God? Why or why not?

  3. What are some sins in your life that you would like to resolve? How would an increase in trust in Jesus help you to overcome those sins?

  4. What “illusions of control” are you holding on to right now?

  5. What areas of your life do you need to entrust more to God?

  6. Trusting in God does not mean that we must do nothing in hard circumstances. How do we trust God to take care of things while taking necessary action?

  7. Consider the disciples’ relationship with Jesus at the time of the storm and after the miracle. How does your faith compare?

  8. Do you see Jesus more as “teacher” or “Lord”?

  9. Who in your life is a model of trust in God?

  10. How can you be a model of faith to those around you?

  11. Consider the quote from St. Faustina’s diary. She prays that she will have the grace to not complain to anyone of her sufferings. Do you think that complaining betrays a lack of trust in God? Why or why not?

  12. How does knowledge of our own weakness affect our trust in God?

  13. What other prayers would you recommend for those who want to increase their trust in God?

  14. Take a few moments to compose your own prayer regarding trust in God. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Then pray your prayer daily for a month and see if you find any changes in your spiritual life.

 

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Weekly Bible Study, c/o Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA  OratoryDivineLove@gmail.com   260-739-6882