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 Reflection 464: Praying for our Enemies: Reflection on Jeremiah 18:18-20

 

““Come,” they said, “let us devise a plot against Jeremiah, for instruction will not perish from the priests, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophets. Come, let us destroy him by his own tongue. Let us pay careful attention to his every word.” Pay attention to me, O LORD, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak on their behalf, to turn your wrath away from them.” Jeremiah 18:18-20

The prophet Jeremiah today is lamenting that he has done the Lord’s bidding, and, in return, his own people are trying to kill him. In these few verses, Jeremiah does two very important things that I think many modern-day Catholics neglect. Jeremiah asks God for protection, and Jeremiah prays for those who are trying to do evil to him. These are two intentions that should be standards in our daily prayer.

Both of these petitions are built into the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. We pray for those who have wronged us, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” And we pray for protection; “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” So clearly, Jesus felt these were important enough to be included in the Lord’s Prayer, which, as I have pointed out before, is not only a prayer in and of itself, but also a formula for how to pray. And yet, I am very concerned that many Catholics are NOT praying for these things, and this is contributing to so many of our social ills.

Praying to God for protection. Why is this so important? Because the devil is real. The devil is powerful. The devil wants to destroy you, and you are NOT strong enough to stand against him, without God’s help. There are two modern misconceptions about the devil that lead us NOT to pray to God for protection from him. The first is to underplay, or underestimate him. The devil is treated as a joke these days: he doesn’t exist, he’s just symbolic, or, most commonly, he does exist, but because his power has been broken by Jesus, I don’t have to worry about him.

Yes, his power has been broken by Jesus. That is true. He’s defeated and he knows it. But because of that, the devil fights with even MORE ferocity to claim as many souls as he can, before the final judgement, and he’s still smarter and stronger than you are, so DON’T underestimate him. Pray for protection every day. Repent of your sins every day. Know your temptations and resist them every day.

The second misconception is overestimating the devil’s power. We can thank Hollywood for this, and all the foolish movies they produce which depict the devil crossing the bounds of free will, left and right. As a result, people are afraid to pray for protection against evil, because they don’t want to provoke the devil. So instead they try to placate. Just leave me and my little corner of the world alone, and you can have the rest. The devil is NOT interested in a ceasefire. He won’t be satisfied with anything short of the destruction of everything God has created, or at LEAST, damage as much of it as he can.

And THAT’S why it is also necessary for us to pray for those who DO evil to us. Aside from our own protection, we need to pray for the protection of others as well. Why? Primarily because God loves them, and so we must love them as well. And if that was the ONLY reason, it should be a good enough reason for us. If their souls are worth enough to God, that he would give his life for them on the cross, if I love Jesus, and appreciate his sacrifice for me, then their souls are worth that much to me as well.

There is another reason, though a more self-serving reason. I pray and sacrifice for the people who have wronged me in the hopes that the light of the Holy Spirit will break through their darkness, and show them the error of their ways, so they will repent and be converted to the Lord so I CAN HAVE SOME PEACE AND QUIET!! If I convert all my enemies, I can FINALLY take a rest! (My work here is done…I’m going sailing!) But still if THAT never happens, it’s STILL a worthwhile endeavor, because in my showing this spiritual act of mercy, this self-imposed penance will purify my own soul for my swift passage into heaven when I die.

My brothers and sisters, Jeremiah gives us a good example today. Pour out your troubles to God, pray for his protection, and pray for those who make your life difficult. Blessed be God forever. -Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

And the soul escapes dangers by her true humility, and, by her prudence, flies all the nets of the world and its creatures, and, with unarmed hands, that is through much endurance, discomfits the devil and the flesh with this sweet and glorious light; knowing, by it, her own fragility, she renders to her weakness its due of hatred.

"Wherefore she has trampled on the world, and placed it under the feet of her affection, despising it, and holding it vile, and thus becoming lord of it, holding it as folly. And the men of the world cannot take her virtues from such a soul, but all their persecutions increase her virtues and prove them, which virtues have been at first conceived by the virtue of love, as has been said, and then are proved on her neighbor, and bring forth their fruit on him. -Dialogues of St. Catherine of Siena

 

Prayer

LOOSEN, O LORD, we pray Thee, in thy pity, the bonds of our sins, and by the intercession of the blessed Mary ever Virgin, Mother of GOD, St Joseph, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and all saints, keep us thy servants and our abodes in all holiness; cleanse us, our relations, kinsfolk, and acquaintances from all vices; adorn us with all virtues; grant us peace and health; repel our enemies visible and invisible; curb our carnal desires; give us healthful seasons; bestow thy charity upon our friends and our enemies; guard thy holy City; preserve our Sovereign Pontiff N.; defend all prelates, princes, and Christian people from all adversity. Let thy blessing be ever upon us and grant to all the faithful departed eternal rest. Through CHRIST our LORD. Amen. -Raccolta no. 16

Questions for Reflection

1. How is Jeremiah’s suffering like Our Lord’s?

2. What social ills do you think result from Catholics not praying for their enemies/debtors and not praying for protection from evil?

3. What is the harm of underestimating the devil’s power?

4. What is the harm of overestimating the devil’s power?

5. How is our battle against human enemies different from our battle against Satan and the other evil spirits?

6. What devotions and/or other practices do you use for spiritual combat?

7. Why does Jesus want us to pray for our enemies?

8. How does humility help us overcome the dangers of the devil?

9. According to the quote form the Dialogues, how do our “enemies” actually help us?

10. Reflect on the persons or groups of people you are asked to intercede for in the prayer. Do you regularly pray for all of them?

11. What petition in this prayer stands out most strongly to you?

 -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 465: Hope in the Lord: Reflection on Jer 17:5-8

“Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

Jeremiah says, “Blessed is the man...whose hope is the Lord.” and; “cursed is the man who trusts in human beings.” Now, WHY are they who hope in the Lord, blessed?

Hope is one of the three theological virtues listed in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians; “Now abide these three; faith, HOPE, and love.” But hope is more than just; “I hope I win the lottery this week. I hope it’s a nice day for the beach today. I hope the Patriots play better than they did last year.” That’s hope, but it’s NOT hoping in the Lord. When we talk about hoping in the Lord, we are talking about three very specific things.

First of all, hoping in the Lord is having confidence that God is in control, and he does indeed have a plan. Our lives and existence here did not happen by random chance. God has a plan, and God is in control of that plan. I may or may not cooperate in that plan, but ultimately that plan will be done. Well, why does that require hope? Because I don’t know the details of that plan. I know the overall objective of the plan because of Scripture, but I don’t know the details of the plan, and in particular, what MY contribution to that plan is. THAT’S where faith comes in. Because I know GENERALLY what I’m supposed to do, I pray about the rest and step out in trust that God will guide me. But it is my certain HOPE that I fulfill my small part of his great design.

The second way we hope in the Lord, is by having the confidence that everything I suffer here, or sacrifice here, is bringing me something better in eternity. Let’s face it, nobody LIKES to suffer. Nobody LIKES to sacrifice. These are things that go against our natural instincts. But God became man. God sacrificed. And God took up the cross. God suffered. So, God sacrificed, and God suffered, so something good could happen to me. Therefore, it is my HOPE, my confidence, that when I suffer, when I sacrifice, when I imitate what God has done for me, I can also assist others on the road to salvation, and THAT in turn, insures my own salvation.

The third thing that hoping in the Lord does, is it enables us to see the good in others. “No one is perfect,” we always say. But often people use that as an excuse not to try to better themselves. “No one is perfect,” is rather supposed to remind us that people are basically good, so WE need to be patient with their imperfections. People will hurt us, so WE need to bear wrongs patiently. WE have to try to force ourselves to see the good in others, rather than pick on their faults. This person, though he annoys the heck out of me (or worse) is loved by God, and God created him with a place in his plan. So, I need to pray he fulfills that, for the good of his own soul.

That’s what hoping in the Lord is. But why is hoping in the Lord necessary? Hope, like all virtues, turns our attention away from me and onto others. Without hope, we will turn inward on ourselves, and brood about what we don’t have. That will make us cynical. Cynicism is where we stop seeing ANY good around us, which will result in us becoming bitter and hateful. And if we become bitter and hateful, we have NO hope of fulfilling our part of God’s plan, since these things are sinful, and sin is contrary to God’s plan. And that’s why those who hope in the Lord are truly blessed, because they can avoid all that. Hope in the Lord my brothers and sisters, and be blessed! -Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint

“The hope of which we speak now, attains God by leaning on His help in order to obtain the hoped for good. Now an effect must be proportionate to its cause. Wherefore the good which we ought to hope for from God properly and chiefly is the infinite good, which is proportionate to the power of our divine helper, since it belongs to an infinite power to lead anyone to an infinite good. Such a good is eternal life, which consists in the enjoyment of God Himself. For we should hope from Him for nothing less than Himself, since His goodness, whereby He imparts good things to His creature, is no less than His Essence. Therefore, the proper and principal object of hope is eternal happiness.” St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Second part of the Second part, Question 17, newadvent.org

Prayer

O MY GOD, because Thou art almighty, infinitely good and merciful, I hope that, by the merits of the Passion and Death of JESUS CHRIST our SAVIOUR, Thou wilt grant me eternal life, which Thou, most faithful, hast promised to all those who shall do the works of a good Christian, as I purpose to do by thy holy help. -Act of Hope, Raccolta

 

Questions for Reflection

1.      What is the difference between natural hope and supernatural hope?

2.      Is natural hope (such as hoping it won’t rain tomorrow) virtuous?

3.      What are the principle effects of hope that Father Sisco mentions?

4.      How is trusting in human beings opposed to hoping in God?

5.      Why is hope necessary for fulfilling God’s will?

6.      Is there a difference between hoping for God and hoping in Him?

7.      How does hope turn our attention to others?

8.      How do other virtues turn our attention away from ourselves and onto others?

9.      What does Father Sisco suggest for overcoming our dislike of sacrifices? What else would you recommend?

10.  What are the effects of hope that Aquinas mentions?

11.  What is the proper object of our hope? Should we also hope for other things from God?

12.  What is the importance of the virtues of faith and love when exercising the virtue of hope?

13.  How do we hope to attain Eternal Life?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 466: What we Need to Succeed : Reflection on Mt 21:33-46

“Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable.

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.

Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”

They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”

Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.” Mt 21:33-43.45-46

 

God has given us EVERYTHING we need to succeed. The problem is, God and humanity measure success by a different standard. In the parable of the tenants, the landowner has provided everything necessary for the success of his vineyard. All the tenants have to do is work the land and give the landlord his share of the produce at harvest time. That’s the agreement, but the tenants welch on the agreement. Why? Well, basically, greed. They’re not satisfied with their share. They want it all. They want what the LANDLORD has, even though they have no right to it. This is the difference between sin and virtue: sin convinces us we are entitled to what we are not. Virtue, by contrast, tells us we don’t even deserve what we have already been given.

 

Who is Jesus directing his parable to? The Scribes and Pharisees. Why them? Because THEY’RE the dishonest tenants Jesus is describing. God gave them everything they needed to succeed in forming a nation of justice. God gave them the land. God gave them the covenant. God gave them the Law. God gave them the prophets. And yet, instead of promoting justice, the scribes and Pharisees seem to be the best at getting around what the Law intends. At harvest time, they not only didn’t produce the landlord’s share of the harvest, but they also killed those whom the landlord sent to collect it.

           

And now God, through Jesus Christ, has once again, given us EVERYTHING we need to succeed. Succeed at what? Becoming rich? Becoming famous? No. Jesus has given us everything we need to succeed at becoming saints. He’s given us the Church. He’s given us the sacraments. He’s given us the Holy Spirit. But WE have to work the land. WE have to produce the harvest. WE have to form our souls to be saintly because this is what God demands in return for his sacrifice. That’s God’s fair share. THAT’S the return on his investment. And the only thing that can prevent this, is if we give into greed and jealousy. Greed and jealousy for what? Greed and jealousy for what the world has.

 

And just like the scribes and Pharisees, this is where most Catholics fall short. They kind of sort of want God, but they want the world, too. They’re not interested in building God’s kingdom on earth. They’re not interested in giving God his fair share, a good return on his investment. They’re more interested in finding ways around what God intends. Loopholes in the law.

 

My brothers and sisters, God has given us everything we need to become saints. Work your vineyard diligently because someday the Lord is going to come to collect on his investment. -Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

“And that we may know that this voice of God came forth with His true and highest majesty to honour and avenge His priests; when three of the ministers—Korah, Dathan, and Abiram—dared to deal proudly, and to exalt their neck against Aaron the priest, and to equal themselves with the priest set over them; they were swallowed up and devoured by the opening of the earth, and so immediately suffered the penalty of their sacrilegious audacity. Nor they alone, but also two hundred and fifty others, who were their companions in boldness, were consumed by a fire breaking forth from the Lord, that it might be proved that God’s priests are avenged by Him who makes priests. In the book of Kings also, when Samuel the priest was despised by the Jewish people on account of his age, as you are now, the Lord in wrath exclaimed, and said, “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me.” And that He might avenge this, He set over them Saul as a king, who afflicted them with grievous injuries, and trod on the people, and pressed down their pride with all insults and penalties, that the despised priest might be avenged by divine vengeance on a proud people.” -St. Cyprian, 64th epistle

 

Prayer

 

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

-Ignatius Loyola

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. What is God’s definition of “success”?

  2. What do we need to become saints?

  3. How do the tenants of the vineyard demonstrate greed?

  4. How can we make sure we are making a proper return for the Lord’s investment in us?

  5. How can greed interfere with our journey toward God?

  6. Why has God given us the priesthood?

  7. How are the examples from St. Cyprian like the parable of the vineyard?

  8. How are we called to treat authority, civil and religious?

  9. How should the faithful respond if they see greed in their own clergy?

  10. How can St. Ignatius’ prayer help you to generously return God’s investment?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 467: The Sign of Jonah: Reflection on Jonah 3:1-3

 

“The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.’ So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it.” Jonah 3:1-3

 

A SECOND time. What about the first time? Well we all know what happened then. The word of the Lord came to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian Empire, (the Assyrians were people who hated Jews, by the way) and tell them that the Lord was going to wipe out their city. Oh! Is that it? OK. No problem.

 

BIG problem! Jonah knows if he goes there, and says THAT, they’re going to kill him. Also, Jonah doesn’t want to see Nineveh repent. He wants to see them destroyed for what they did to Israel during their occupation of his country. So, Jonah decides to flee. He boards a ship. God whips up a storm so the boat can’t advance. Jonah admits that he’s the problem. The sailors throw him overboard. And Jonah gets swallowed by a giant fish who carries him to the bottom of the sea, physically the farthest place on earth from God.

 

Why a giant fish? Ever wonder about that? I mean God could have gotten Jonah to Nineveh by any number of ways. He could have just whisked him there, in the blink of an eye, like he did with Phillip, after he had baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in the Acts of the Apostles. Or he could have just forced the winds to blow the ship to the shores of Nineveh. OR just have another ship rescue Jonah that was bound for Nineveh. Why the fish? I have a few ideas.

 

First, it HAS to be something dramatic to convince Jonah that this is happening by the hand of God, and NOT random chance. Second, God can’t just whisk Jonah there, because Jonah needs some reflection time. Jonah needs some time to repent. Jonah needs some time to consider his foolishness and submit his will to the Lord. There’s a little detail in the story that’s often overlooked. From the bottom of the sea, in the belly of the fish, Jonah offers up a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for saving him from drowning! And THAT’S when the fish vomits Jonah up on the shores of Nineveh. Jonah then submits his WILL to God, but not his heart. His heart is still filled with hatred towards the Ninevites, and Jonah is furious when God doesn’t carry out his threat to destroy them because they repent. The story ends with God abandoning Jonah in his bitterness in the desert.

 

So, submitting our will to God, simply doing what the Lord wants, is not enough. We can’t reduce our faith to empty gestures and actions and profess on our lips that Jesus is Lord. We also have to surrender our hearts to God, to become living images of God, to be reflections of his love, his mercy, his patience, his forgiveness. THAT’S the goal. That’s what God’s Grace is attempting to do with each of us. It’s not simple obedience that God is after. God doesn’t want us to be servants. He wants children, and children RESEMBLE their parents. And this is why Jesus says to the crowd who are demanding a sign from him, that no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. Why?

 

Because the Jews had given their obedience to God, they had submitted their will to God, but they hadn’t given their hearts to God. And as a result, when Jesus rose from the dead as the ultimate sign of the Father’s approval and acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice, they STILL would not believe. Who would believe? The Gentiles, the pagans, us. Just as in the Jonah story, the pagan Ninevites believed the word of the Lord and repented, but the Lord’s own prophet wouldn’t repent of his hatred and unforgiveness.

 

My brothers and sisters, many Catholics go through the motions of the faith. They come to church, put their dollar in the basket, and pray their beads, but their hearts are very far from God. Don’t be one of them. We can’t just obey God.We have to allow the Grace of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts to be godlike. Repent of your sins. Use the sacraments to grow in virtue; love, mercy, patience, forgiveness, charity, chastity, kindness, for here is where salvation lies. -Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

 “The first sign of true love is that the lover submits his will to that of the Beloved. And this most special and singular love works in three ways. First, if the loved one is poor, one strives to become poor, and if scorned, to be scorned.

 

Second it makes one abandon all other friendships which could be contrary to this love, and leave behind father, mother, sister, brother, and all other affections contrary to the will of the beloved.

 

Third, one can keep nothing hidden from the other. This third action, in my opinion is the highest one and completes all the others. For in this mutual revelation of secrets, hearts are opened and bound more perfectly to one another.” -Angela of Foligno

 

Prayer

 

“Out of my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me; from the midst of the nether world I cried for help, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea, and the flood enveloped me… But you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God… I, with resounding praise, will sacrifice to you; What I have vowed I will pay: deliverance is from the Lord.” -Jonah

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. Why does God want our heart, not just our obedience?

  2. Is obedience without the heart truly obedience?

  3. Why do you think Jonah needed such a dramatic event to change his heart? Have you ever needed a dramatic wake-up call from God to learn a lesson?

  4. How does God show his love for us by means of the three ways mentioned by St. Angela of Foligno?

  5. How can we show our love for God through the three ways mentioned by St. Angela of Foligno?

  6. Father Sisco says that obedience to God’s will is not enough, but St. Angela describes love in terms of obedience. What is the difference between what Fr. Sisco is describing and what St. Angela is describing? How can we reconcile these?

  7. Pray the text from Jonah (full text available Jon 2:3-11 if you wish) and consider a time in your life when God helped you escape from a dangerous situation. How has God delivered you from danger? How did you respond? What lesson did you learn from that situation? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 468: Prepared to Pray: Reflection on Esther C:12-18

Queen Esther also, fearing the danger that was at hand, had recourse to the Lord. And when she had laid away her royal apparel, she put on garments suitable for weeping and mourning: instead of divers precious ointments, she covered her head with ashes and dung, and she humbled her body with fasts: and all the places in which before she was accustomed to rejoice, she filled with her torn hair.

And she prayed to the Lord the God of Israel, saying: O my Lord, who alone art our king, help me a desolate woman, and who have no other helper but thee. My danger is in my hands.5 I have heard of my father that thou, O Lord, didst take Israel from among all nations, and our fathers from all their predecessors, to possess them as an everlasting inheritance, and thou hast done to them as thou hast promised. We have sinned in thy sight, and therefore thou hast delivered us into the hands of our enemies: For we have worshipped their gods. Thou art just, O Lord.” (Esther C:12-18)

Jesus points out in his Sermon on the Mount that sin begins in the heart, so the heart is where we need to attack sin. Consider this example from the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard it said to your ancestors you shall not kill and anyone who kills will be liable to the judgement; but what I say to you is that anyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to the judgement…” It’s so easy for us to judge exterior actions as wrong. Murder is the extreme form of the sin of anger. Jesus is telling us, don’t wait for the sin to get to that point before you do something about it. Tackle the sin at its source. Change your heart. The extreme form of the sin of lust is committing an act of adultery or fornication. DON’T wait for the sin to get to that point before you do something about it! Tackle the sin at its source. Change your heart. “Yeah, Father, OK, you’ve said all this before, but HOW do I change my heart?”

By something else I’ve already said many times before. We change our hearts through the three classic forms of penance; prayer, fasting, and charity. Let’s focus today on one, prayer. We all pray, but what is the quality of our praying? Consider Queen Esther, who was seized with mortal anguish because her people were about to be exterminated, and she was the only person who could save them by convincing the king to change his mind. But to do that, she has to reveal to him that she is also a Jew, which could very well mean her death as well. 

So, BEFORE she presents herself to the king she puts on penitential garb, she clothes herself in sackcloth and ashes. Why? She is humbling herself before God. Then she fasts for three days. She denies her flesh food and sleep. What is she doing in all of this? She’s spiritually preparing herself. When we pray, how do we prepare ourselves first? How do we shut out the distractions of the world so we can be focused on God?

Then Esther prays. But what does she say? She acknowledges that they basically deserve the predicament they’re in because the people had turned away from God and gotten themselves exiled. This is contrition. Then she says, if it was only her life that was to be taken, she wouldn’t care, yet she’s not asking for herself but for God to save the whole people. That’s intercession, charity. Esther is willing to sacrifice herself to save the people.

This is why Esther’s prayer is powerful, and this is why God answers her. She has prepared by humility and self-denial. She has acknowledged her sinfulness and that of her people. She has been contrite for the sins of the past. Basically, she says, “I acknowledge that you don’t owe me anything, God, but I owe YOU everything, and in charity; I pray for the needs of others and am willing to get involved, willing to sacrifice myself for the good of others.” THIS is how we change our hearts. This is how we truly avoid sin.

-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco


Quote from a Saint
“Those who wish to enter upon the religious life should first of all mortify themselves for a long time, and particularly mortify their will in things to which they have the greatest repugnance.”
- St. Philip Neri


Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, by means of healthful abstinence You heal both minds and bodies; we humbly entreat Your Majesty, that appeased by the devout prayers of those who fast, You would grant us help both now and for time to come. Through our Lord Jesus Christ...Amen. -Collect prayer from Ember Saturday in September, 1961 Missal

Questions for Reflection

1.    What is the importance of changing one’s heart rather than just one’s exterior sins?
2.    When we pray, how do we prepare ourselves first? 
3.     How do we shut out the distractions of the world so we can be focused on God?
4.    Why is humbling ourselves important before entering into prayer?
5.    This Scripture excerpt is from the Old Testament. Why is it still necessary for Christians to fast?
6.    What would you respond to those who say that, since Christ came to save us from sin, it is no longer necessary to fast for our prayers to be heard?
7.    How do fasting and charity aid prayer?
8.    What are some good ways to prepare for the Mass, the highest form of prayer?
9.    Considering the example of Esther and her vocation, why do you think it is necessary for those who want to be religious to prepare themselves by mortification?
10.    Religious are intercessors by vocation, but all are called to pray. How do you think the quote from Sr. Philip Neri applies to you?
11.    How can you mortify your greatest repugnance?
12.    Consider the Collect prayer. How does abstinence heal mind and body?
13.    Why does the Church recommend and/or require fasting at certain times of the year?
14.    Is fasting the only way to change one’s heart? What are some other ways?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 468: Mercy in Action: Reflection on MT 25:31-40

 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

 

Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” MT 25:31-40

 

One gift this Corona Virus has given us is that we’ve all had plenty of time in quarantine for quiet reflection. The second gift this Corona Virus has given us is the opportunity to practice mercy. Mercy is God’s greatest attribute. It is his unbounding, endless love for us all. God expressed that love to us through mercy, by sacrificing that which was most dear to him, his only begotten Son, on the cross. Now, God asks us in return to imitate that mercy by making small sacrifices for others. So, how was your mercy BEFORE this pandemic began, and how is it now? Has your mercy gotten better, worse, or stayed about the same?

 

I have mentioned that, after this pandemic, I don’t want things to go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working. Normal was what got us into this mess. A friend of mine sent me this link on Facebook a few days ago:

 

For weeks I have heard people saying, “I just can’t wait for things to get back to normal.” But as I’ve thought about our current situation I have realized how much I DON’T want things to go back to the way they were. Here are a few thoughts…

 

I pray that the next time a friend grabs me and pulls me in for a hug, I actually take the time to appreciate the gift of their embrace. I pray that when school resumes and you are dropping off your kids, you take the time to thank the staff for the amazing gift they give to your family.

 

I pray the next time I’m in a crowded restaurant, I take the time to look around at the smiling faces, loud voices, and be more appreciative of the gift of community. I pray that when I’m in the grocery store, that I take a moment to acknowledge the necessities of life, and the amazing people who work so hard to keep it supplied. I pray that I never again take for granted the ability to hop in a car and visit a friend, go to the mall, or go to a movie. So the truth is, I DON’T want things to return to the way they once were. I pray that we take the lessons and challenges of the past few weeks and create a NEW normal. My goal is to appreciate more, love harder, and truly appreciate the abundant blessings that were so EASILY overlooked just a few mere weeks ago. If someone tells you they love you, take it to heart.”

 

Very well said. And the sum of this message is that the author hopes that she, and everyone else, through the experience of this pandemic, will grow in mercy. That’s what mercy is--appreciating the love we’ve been SHOWN, and, as a result, REFLECTING that love upon others. So how has your mercy been lately?

 

I went shopping this past week and couldn’t get coffee filters, and I was rather grumpy about it. GREAT! First toilet paper, then paper towels and napkins, then hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, and dishwashing liquid, NO Italian sausage and NOW, COFFEE FILTERS!! Some people have expressed disappointment that this “mini apocalypse” we’re experiencing hasn’t produced any zombies. My brothers and sisters, if I can’t get coffee, I promise you will see at least ONE zombie! That’s what I morph into without coffee; a walking dead, ill tempered, brain munching zombie! But when I finished brooding, and I was quietly reflecting, I thought; how many people live like this all the time? How many people can’t get the food they want because they can’t afford it, or the food just isn’t available? How many of our retired elderly have to choose between buying food or buying the medications they need? Consider that the next time the basket is being passed for a charitable cause, or our Saint Vincent DePaul members are begging at the doors of the Church after Mass for our food pantry and our local poor. So how has your mercy been lately? I must say some of you have been very merciful to me personally. After my little rant on Facebook, several of you sent coffee filters to the rectory, and I’m very grateful to you all!

 

How’s it been at home with the family? Have you discovered new things about each other? Have you had some bonding time? Or are you looking for new ways to avoid each other in the same house? Because of the anointing of the sick, I’m always being exposed to Corona, so before I have completed the two-week quarantine, I have to start another one. As a result, I haven’t been able to see my mom and sister for five or six weeks now. I call them every day, but it’s not the same. With luck, if I don’t have any Corona contacts this week, I can go home to Westerly next week. Practice mercy within your homes. Talk with each other. Be with each other. Play games together. Bond. My brothers and sisters, it is my prayer that this Coronavirus experience helps us all grow in mercy. Pray for me, and know that I pray for you. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

“For there are three ways of performing an act of mercy: the merciful word, by forgiving and by comforting; secondly, if you can offer no word, then pray - that too is mercy; and thirdly, deeds of mercy. And when the Last Day comes, we shall be judged from this, and on this basis we shall receive the eternal verdict.” (1158)--St Faustina

 

Prayer

 

JESUS, sweetest Child, who didst come down from the bosom of the FATHER for our Salvation, who wast conceived by the HOLY GHOST, who didst not abhor the Virgin s womb, and, the Word made flesh, didst take upon Thee the form of a servant; have mercy upon us.

R/. Have mercy on us, Infant JESUS, have mercy on us. Ave Maria. -From the Mysteries of the Holy Childhood

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. Which of the acts of mercy mentioned in this Gospel passage do you do most often?

  2. Do you see Jesus in those whom you serve?

  3. How are you showing mercy to others right now?

  4. How can you show mercy to others with the restrictions of the quarantine in place?

  5. How would you like to show mercy once the restrictions are lifted?

  6. What are some things you hope don’t go back to “normal” after this is over?

  7. How else can we use the Coronavirus lockdown to improve our living of the Catholic faith?

  8. How have others shown you mercy recently?

  9. How does Jesus becoming a child and a servant teach us mercy?

  10. The home is the first place we should show mercy. Consider these questions posed by Fr. Sisco:

    1. How’s it been at home with the family?

    2. Have you discovered new things about each other?

    3.  Have you had some bonding time?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 470: Confidence: Reflection on Acts 2:29-33

“My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption. God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth, as you see and hear.” Acts 2:29-33

 

I noticed an interesting thing in this passage. The early Christian community had something that we seem to lack in the modern-day Catholic Church: confidence. The early Christian community believed wholeheartedly that the Lord was guiding not only them, but the entire cosmos at every step. And that confidence made them fearless in the face of persecution and even martyrdom. We see this confidence in Peter as he addresses the crowd of people in this speech he gives outside the temple. Now you must remember one significant fact. This is taking place after Pentecost. This is happening after the apostles have been empowered by the Holy Spirit.

 

Well, wasn’t Peter confident before the empowering of the Holy Spirit? Yes. Sort of. Confidence was always Peter’s strong suit, but his confidence wasn’t perfect. Peter’s confidence was weak. It was fallible. It was shaky. Peter has the confidence in Jesus to get out of the boat and walk on water. But his confidence isn’t strong enough to keep him from sinking. Peter’s confidence leads him to identify Jesus as the Messiah when Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” But Peter’s confidence isn’t strong enough to prepare him for the scandal of the cross.

 

This points us to another interesting truth. Grace builds on nature. I still get people saying to me from time to time, “I’m basically a good person. Why do I need to go to Church?” We’re all basically good people. Genesis tells us that. Genesis tells us that everything God created is good. We have to go beyond good. We all have been given certain strengths. We all have talents. But we have to go beyond talent. And that is what the sacraments are for. Peter’s strength, Peter’s talent, was his confidence. Left to itself, that confidence might be able to sustain him, but it couldn’t build the kingdom of God. But when the Holy Spirit empowers that confidence, we see the dramatic change. Now the prophecy Jesus uttered the night before he was crucified is fulfilled.

 

When Peter swears that he’ll never deny Jesus no matter what, Jesus told Peter, “Satan has longed to sift you as wheat, but I prayed for you, that later you might strengthen your brothers.” And we see this so clearly in the Acts of the Apostles. All the other apostles draw their strength from Peter because of his confidence. That’s why we need the Church. Grace builds on nature. The Grace we receive in the sacraments builds on the gifts and talents we have been given, so that we can continue what they started and build the kingdom of God here on earth.

 

We see the confidence that the others draw from Peter by the way they react when Peter and John are released from the Pharisees with a stern warning, after Peter had cured a cripple in front of the temple. What do they do? Do they say, “Phew! That was a close one! We’d better be a little more discrete from now on!” No! They praise God! Even when the Sadducees have the apostles flogged, they rejoice because God found them worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. Why do they always have this reaction? Confidence! They are wholeheartedly convinced in the workings of the divine plan of God, so that, whatever happens to them, good or evil, they rejoice in, because they know everything that happens is working to unfold this divine plan.

 

This is something we’ve lost in our modern day. We’ve lost this confidence in God’s plan. We think that if anything needs to be fixed, we have to do it all ourselves. No. When we do that, we’re like Peter trying to walk on water. Peter begins to sink when he notices the force of the wind and the waves around him. Why should that make him sink? Because he thought he was walking on water on his own power, and he knew he didn’t have the power to endure that kind of opposition. But it wasn’t his power. It was God’s power. So, when Peter takes his eyes off God, he sinks. So, too, with us. If we try to fix things on our own, we will sink. We have to allow God, through the power of Grace found in His sacraments, to build upon our nature and transform our talents and strengths into virtues. Then we’ll make a difference because then we allow God to be in control. We simply surrender to being the instrument in His hand. That’s another reason why we need the Grace of the sacraments. The Grace of the sacraments gives us the strength and confidence to influence the culture around us rather than the culture influencing us. Now it’s time for us to get back to basics.

 

I hope this quarantine that we all are experiencing has given us all a longing for the sacraments again. Since this all began, I have been praying all 20 decades of the Rosary every day. My intention when I pray the fourth joyful mystery, the Presentation of Jesus in the temple; is “Lord, I pray that, when this quarantine is over, everyone returns to present themselves to you in your temple, and may we never again take your sacraments for granted.” God is STILL in control of creation, my brothers and sisters. God STILL has a divine plan for creation, and that plan will unfold just as He has deemed it. Trust that. Believe that. And live your life by having confidence in that. – Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

But herein lay my sin, that it was not in him, but in his creatures—myself and the rest—that I sought for pleasures, honors, and truths. And I fell thereby into sorrows, troubles, and errors. Thanks be to thee, my joy, my pride, my confidence, my God—thanks be to thee for thy gifts; but do thou preserve them in me. For thus wilt thou preserve me; and those things which thou hast given me shall be developed and perfected, and I myself shall be with thee, for from thee is my being. -Saint Augustine, from his Confessions

 

Prayer

 

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee. Amen. -Apparitions at Fatima

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. Why did Peter’s confidence fail when he tried to walk on water?

  2. How did Peter’s confidence in God grow after Pentecost?

  3. How can the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments help you to grow in confidence in God?

  4. How do we show our confidence in God?

  5. How far does your confidence go and where does it fail like Peter’s?

  6. Why is trying to solve things on our own insufficient?

  7. How can you express greater confidence in God?

  8. What is the difference between confidence in God and presumption?

  9. How does St. Augustine say that his lack of confidence in God manifested itself? Do you see the same symptoms in yourself?

  10. What reason does St. Augustine give for his present confidence in God?

  11. How does St. Augustine show humility in this passage? Why is humility necessary to have confidence in God?

  12. How do our faith and adoration express our confidence in God?

  13. How is hope related to confidence in God?

  14. What should we confidently hope for from God?

-Erin Wells

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