Weeks 471-480

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 471: God Is in Control : Reflection on Jeremiah 25:5-14

 

Turn back, each of you, from your evil way and from your evil deeds; then you shall remain in the land which the LORD gave you and your ancestors, from of old and forever. Do not follow other gods to serve and bow down to them; do not provoke me with the works of your hands, or I will bring evil upon you. But you would not listen to me—oracle of the LORD—and so you provoked me with the works of your hands to your own harm. Hence, thus says the LORD of hosts: Since you would not listen to my words, I am about to send for and fetch all the tribes from the north—oracle of the LORD—and I will send for Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, my servant; I will bring them against this land, its inhabitants, and all these neighboring nations. I will doom them, making them an object of horror, of hissing, of everlasting reproach. Among them I will put to an end the song of joy and the song of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstone and the light of the lamp. This whole land shall be a ruin and a waste. Seventy years these nations shall serve the king of Babylon; but when the seventy years have elapsed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their guilt—oracle of the LORD. Their land I will turn into everlasting waste. Against that land I will fulfill all the words I have spoken against it, all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. They also shall serve many nations and great kings, and thus I will repay them according to their own deeds and according to the works of their hands. Jer 25:5-14

 

God is in control. I know that’s probably difficult for many people to see, and yet, that is the true test of faith isn’t it? It’s easy to say “God is in control” when things are going well, but the true test of faith is being able to say that God is in control when our lives are in turmoil. Secular power, political power, financial power, and the might of the Roman Empire couldn’t keep our Lord and Savior in that tomb, and there is no power on earth that can stop him now.

 

“Well if that’s true Father, why doesn’t God DO something about this? What is he waiting for?” How can you be sure he’s not doing it already? I saw a great meme on Facebook; “It’s like God got tired of our constant fighting and sent us all to our rooms!” I think that’s true. Not that God wills evil things to happen to us, but God can use those things to teach us valuable lessons. So what has God been teaching us since this pandemic began? Well first of all, in what ways were we falling short of God’s call BEFORE all this began? People were neglecting their responsibility to go to Church. People were neglecting their responsibility to their families.

People were not only failing to love their neighbor, but being downright NASTY to their neighbor. As that Facebook meme stated, “It’s like God got tired of our constant fighting, and sent us all to our rooms.”

 

I don’t know if parents still do that; send their children to their rooms when they misbehave. I know I got sent to MY room MANY times as a child, and it was always miserable. This was of course in the days before the internet, handheld electronic games, and TV’s in every room. All I had in MY room besides my bed and desk, was an AM transistor radio. And whenever I got sent to my room my mother would say the SAME thing; “You go STRAIGHT to your room and you THINK about what you did!” (I never understood the “straight” part. There was only one hallway connecting our bedrooms, so I REALLY don’t know where my mother thought I might take a detour on the WAY to my room, but she always said that nonetheless, “STRAIGHT to your room!”) But obeying my mother in this instance was never a problem, because, as I said, there were no side trips I could take to my room, and there was nothing I could DO in my room BUT think.

 

Quiet reflection. That’s the greatest gift the covid quarantine offered us. We ALL…FINALLY… have PLENTY of time for quiet reflection. We now have time to THINK about what we have been doing, and how we have been living. Many people say they can’t wait for life to get back to business as usual. That’s the LAST thing I want. Business as usual wasn’t working. Business as usual got us INTO this mess. When all this ends, I hope we start doing things in a new way, a different way, a better way, a more loving, holy way. And God is giving us the opportunities for this RIGHT now, and some people are taking these opportunities right now.

 

This quarantine has forced families to come together and BE together. There are stories all over the internet and the news of people coming together to help one another, and comfort one another. I love the stories about people in New York City playing music from their balconies and fire escapes and singing together. I was getting so stir crazy from being alone in the rectory all the time that I found myself talking to complete strangers at the grocery like my long-lost friends… “HEY! How you doing! OH you got toilet paper! Good for YOU! Enjoy that!” And I have personally noticed people being kinder, friendlier, and more patient with one another.

 

And many people have been telling me how much they miss Mass, and the Eucharist. I hope when all this is over, people return to Church with a renewed fervor for the sacraments. They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Now that the faithful been deprived of the Eucharist for so long it is my hope that people NEVER take the Mass for granted again. And so maybe, my brothers and sisters, just maybe, this quarantine is exactly what we all needed. But whether it is or not, one thing is certain, the empty tomb was God’s proof to the world that no force on earth can stop his Divine Will. Pray to him. Submit to him, and trust him to work his will in your life. And blessed be God forever. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

“In this manner too, we should receive whatever other crosses God sends us. “But,” you reply, “these sufferings are really punishments.” The answer to that remark is: Are not the punishments God sends us in this life also graces and benefits? Our offenses against God must be atoned for somehow, either in this life or in the next. Hence, we should all make St. Augustine’s prayer our own: “Lord, here cut, here burn and spare me not, but spare me in eternity!”” -St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity with God’s Will

 

Prayer

 

 

FIAT, laudetur, atque in æternum superexaltetur justissima, altissima, et amabilissima voluntas DEI

in omnibus.

 

MAY the most just, most high, and most adorable will of GOD be in all things done, praised, and

magnified forever. -Raccolta #29

 

 

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. How do you think the Israelites felt when they were sent into exile?

  2. How does God show through the Babylonian exile that He is in control?

  3. What lessons have you learned from the coronavirus pandemic?

  4. What do you think is the greatest lesson we can learn from the coronavirus or any other natural disaster?

  5. How has God used this “punishment” for your good?

  6. In what ways has the coronavirus forced you to grow?

  7. How can quiet reflection help in times of trial?

  8. Think of another difficult situation in your life and share what lesson you learned from it. How did God show that He was in control in this time? If you did not consider God at the time this trial took place, how does considering Him in control of it change how you see it now?

  9. Consider the prayer. Why is it reasonable to ask for God’s will to be done if He is in control?

  10. The book of proverbs says that God disciplines every son whom he loves. How do the trials God sends us show His love?

  11. Why should we willingly accept trials from God?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 472: Patience in Suffering: Reflection on 1 Peter 2:20

 

“Beloved, if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you.” 1 Peter 2:20

 

On Easter Sunday, I pointed out the first gift this quarantine is that it has given us time for quiet reflection. On the second Sunday of Easter, I pointed out the 2nd gift this pandemic has offered us is opportunities to practice mercy. Today, we learn the third gift this pandemic has afforded us; the gift of suffering so we can be united to Christ. This takes a few different forms. First and foremost, there are those who have contracted this virus. Corona has had a wide range of effects depending on the individual. Some have experienced very mild symptoms; to others it has been fatal. How is this a gift? The people who have been infected with this virus have been given an opportunity to join their suffering to Jesus on the cross. These people have an opportunity to be configured to Christ the paschal lamb, who takes away the sins of the world, by offering up THEIR sufferings for some good intention; the conversion of the world, the souls in purgatory, or specific people they wish to intercede for. These people have been invited to share a few steps of Jesus’ walk to Calvary for the purification of their own souls and a speedy entrance into heaven when they die. And that is most definitely a gift.

 

The second way this pandemic offers us a gift of suffering is through the people who are watching those they love suffer from the Coronavirus. Some have had their loved ones die, without ever being able to see them, or be with them as they leave this world. Even at funeral services that I have done, because everyone has to social distance, mourners can’t even comfort one another with a hug, an embrace of affection. It’s so sad that people can’t even express their grief or compassion to one another during this pandemic. Others experience the awful anxiety of waiting to see if their loved ones will recover from this disease. How can this possibly be a gift? Because these people are configured to the Blessed Mother, who had to watch her son die slowly from a distance. Mary was socially distanced from Jesus as he suffered on Calvary. They had one brief moment together on the road, and another at the foot of the cross. But through most of the passion, Mary had to keep a discreet distance from her son, the one she loved more than anyone else in the world, as she watched him die. What gave her the strength to endure that? Her trust.

 

Mary always trusted in the plan of God. And that is the gift that God is offering to the people in this situation; he is offering them the opportunity to trust him. I know that trust doesn’t come easy. My mother turns 87 this month, and she’s had a history of heart issues, so I worry about her. It’s hard to trust God when it comes to those we love. We’d rather take the suffering ourselves rather than see those we love suffer. But through this, we have to trust that God’s goal is to get as many of us into heaven as he can, and so he calls us when we have our best opportunity for that. God knew how and what moment each one of us was going to die before we were born. Worrying is NOT going to change the outcome. If you struggle with that trust as I sometimes do, turn to the Blessed Mother for help. There is no one better to reassure you that everything will be alright in the end, and when you reach eternity and look back, you’ll see how all these seemingly tragic events worked for the salvation of souls that you couldn’t even imagine. That trust is also a gift from God.

 

The third way this virus offers us the gift of suffering is how we have had to sacrifice all the little things we’ve taken for granted for so long. When this pandemic began, the governor went on TV and said, “This virus has a two-week period before it begins manifesting symptoms, so we all have to hunker down for a couple weeks so we can get this thing under control.” So, we hunkered down. In two weeks, the governor said, “Because too many of you didn’t hunker down the first time, we’ve all got to hunker down for another two weeks.” So, we hunkered down for another two weeks. When THAT was over the governor said, “The next two weeks is going to be the peak time of the spreading of this virus, so we have to hunker down so we can flatten the curve.” OHHHH KAY! We hunkered down AGAIN! NOW the governor got on TV this week and basically cancelled summer and told us we’ve got to hunker down for next few months! And NOW everyone’s patience is wearing thin. Everyone is plum hunkered out! Now in the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I’m not a fan of the governor, because she professes to Roman Catholic and yet supports Planned Parenthood and abortion which I personally find appalling and unacceptable, but, my brothers and sisters, GIVE THE WOMAN A BREAK! She has no idea how long this is going to last! The president doesn’t know. The surgeon general doesn’t know. The Bishop doesn’t know. The Pope doesn’t know. NO ONE KNOWS! The rules about Corona change on almost a daily basis. “Don’t worry! Your pets can’t get it! Oops! Fluffy got it. Alright, tell Fluffy she has to quarantine herself from the other cats and use a separate litter box.” “Corona started when a guy in China ate a bat. NO! It was synthetically created in a lab!” “A vaccine for Corona is at least a year away. HEY! We got a vaccine now we think might work!” And yes, some people are using this crisis for political gain and possibly financial gain. I promise you, they WILL answer to God for that someday. But the majority of people are GOOD people concerned with the common good of ALL people, and everyone is flying blind on this one. And I know that’s frustrating. So how is the Christian supposed to respond? We respond with PATIENCE.

 

My brothers and sisters, we are being called to PATIENTLY SUFFER for doing GOOD! So, we can’t do a lot of those fun activities we’re accustomed to doing. This is a suffering we have to offer up patiently, because though I am not so concerned about catching the coronavirus -I’m healthy enough to fight it off- the people I spread it to may not be so lucky! I owe it to THEM to take every precaution I can because THAT’S what CHRISTIANS DO! We look to the good of others FIRST, before we look to our own wants! You know who the latest casualties of the Corona Virus are? The network news hasn’t said much about this, but I’ve found stories on the internet of first line responders; doctors, nurses, EMT’s, paramedics that are committing suicide because of the long constant hours they have to work, while surrounded by suffering and death, and they just can’t handle the stress anymore. I owe it to them to take every precaution I can to end their suffering as quickly as possible. I owe it to them to take some of my quarantine time, and turn OFF the TV, and turn OFF Netflix and the gaming systems and spend some extra time in prayer; lifting up these people and begging Christ to strengthen and protect them as they struggle to tend to the sick and the dying, because THAT’S what CHRISTIANS DO! We look to the NEEDS of others BEFORE we look to our own wants!

 

Patient suffering is what Christians do best, because patient suffering makes saints. THAT’S what we have been called to, and THAT is truly a gift. My brothers and sisters, stop complaining, and embrace the gifts that God is offering. Know that I pray for you every day, and please pray for me. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: Patience obtains all things -St. Teresa of Avila

 

Prayer: My most beloved Jesus, I embrace all the tribulations Thou hast destined for me until death. I beseech Thee, by the merits of the pain Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy Cross, to give me the necessary help to carry mine with perfect patience and resignation. -St. Alphonsus Liguori, from the Stations of the Cross, 2nd station

 

Questions for reflection:

  1. What is the difference between suffering for doing what is good and suffering for punishment?

  2. How does patience in suffering unite us to Christ?

  3. Why does God want us to suffer with Christ?

  4. How can the Blessed Mother help you in suffering?

  5. What are some ways that you are being called upon to seek the needs of others before your own wants (coronavirus related or otherwise in your daily life)?

  6. Which of the three modes of sacrifice do you feel most keenly right now? How can you turn your suffering into a blessing?

  7. Can patience really obtain all things? Why or why not?

  8. Which station of the Cross speaks to you most profoundly? How can meditating on this station help you in times of suffering?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 473: Rejoice!: Reflection on 1 Peter 4:13-16

 

“Beloved: Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.” 1 PT 4:13-16 NAB

 

I hope that these past few months in quarantine have taught us to rejoice. “Beloved: REJOICE to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.” That is what Saint Peter tells us. “Rejoice?! Father have you blown a gasket? What on earth do we have to rejoice about?” Oh, lots of things! Has this quarantine brought your family closer together? Has it given you the opportunity to know your children or parents a little better? Rejoice! Has this quarantine given you a new appreciation for the company of others? Rejoice! I know personally the first seven weeks of this pandemic I was completely isolated. I couldn’t go home to Westerly because I had been exposed to the virus and had to stay quarantined, and all of the staff were working from home. So, after seven weeks, Tony Decrecenso was the first of the staff to start coming back to work in the rectory. I was so grateful to just be in the company of another person.

 

Has the quarantine given you a break from work? Has it slowed down your busy life? Has it maybe given you the opportunity to do more praying and enrich your relationship with God? Rejoice!

 

If you’re an essential worker, and quite the opposite has happened, you’ve worked yourself to the point of exhaustion. Has this pandemic at least given you some edification that society now appreciates exactly how essential you are? It should! Do you feel a certain satisfaction that your sore muscles, aching bones, and tired mind have helped and comforted COUNTLESS other people? It should! When all of this is over, the president or the governors should give an award, plaque, proclamation, or medal to ALL of our essential workers for their sacrifices. There should be statues in your honor in every park and public square. But even if that doesn’t happen; know that you have earned the love, respect, and gratitude of a nation, because YOU put YOUR lives on the line to keep the rest of us alive, and safe, fed and protected, and from the bottom of our hearts, we THANK you! Rejoice! All of society affirms your self-worth!

 

Did this pandemic bring suffering to you? Were you sick for a long time? Or was someone you loved sick? Or has someone you loved died? I think we all know at least one person who died from Covid-19. Rejoice EVEN in this, because this has brought you AND them closer to salvation and that perfect world where there is no suffering. And that is certainly a good reason to rejoice.

 

So, you see, my brothers and sisters, there are always reasons to rejoice, even in the midst of a pandemic. It just depends on how we choose to look at things. That’s right; how we CHOOSE to look at things. We CHOOSE to see the glass half full or half empty. We must CHOOSE to see this world with the light of faith or the darkness of cynicism. THAT is our choice.

 

Hospital coverage has changed in the face of the Covid-19 virus. Last month I noticed I was taken OFF the hospital call schedule; (all the priests in the area take turns covering Miriam Hospital and Hope Hospice for giving the faithful the anointing of the sick and last rites.) So, I called the chaplain coordinator and asked WHY I was taken off the schedule, and he said, “Because Mike, you’re diabetic.” And I said, “Yeah, so?” He said, “You’re in a high risk category for catching the Corona Virus.” And I said, “Yeah, so?” So, he said, “Mike…you realize you can die from this…right?” And I said, “Yeah, so let me get this straight. I die doing my duty as a priest. I die performing a mission of mercy to help another soul. That makes me a martyr, right? That means I bypass purgatory, I get the gold crown, the white robe, the palm branch, a front row seat in the beatific vision, the backstage pass to meet the Blessed Mother…I’m not getting the DOWNSIDE of this!” So, he said he would pass on my request. I just got an email this week telling me my request to be put back on the schedule has been denied. But you see, my brothers and sisters, it all depends on how we CHOOSE to look at things. If we choose to look at THIS life through the prism of ETERNAL life, we find that EVERYTHING that isn’t sinful provides us with an opportunity to rejoice. In fact, sin is the only thing that SHOULD grieve us, because sin is the only thing that can KEEP us from eternal life, and we even have a sacrament to remedy that.

 

My brothers and sisters, on the feast of Pentecost, we resumed public Masses IN Church. That is most DEFINITELY a good reason to rejoice. We can all rejoice that we have access to the Eucharist and our faith community once again. Blessed be God forever. – Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

And St. Francis answered him: "When we shall be at Santa Maria degli Angeli, thus soaked by the rain, and frozen by the cold, and befouled with mud, and afflicted with hunger, and shall knock at the door of the Place, and the doorkeeper shall come in anger and shall say: 'Who are ye?' and we shall say: 'We are two of your friars,' and he shall say: 'Ye speak not truth; rather are ye two lewd fellows who go about deceiving the world and robbing the alms of the poor: get you hence'; and shall not open unto us, but shall make us stay outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, even until night; then, if we shall bear such great wrong and such cruelty and such rebuffs patiently, without disquieting ourselves and without murmuring against him; and shall think humbly and charitably that that door-keeper really believes us to be that which he has called us, and that God makes him speak against us; O Friar Leo, write that here is perfect joy. -Little Flowers of St. Francis

 

Prayer

 

Response: Our Lady, cause of our joy, pray for us.

When we labor, remind us that we labor for an eternal reward. (response)

In rest and leisure, remind us that our leisure should be an anticipation of heaven and therefor spent holily. (response)

In prayer, remind us of your joys on earth, spent with your Son, and your perpetual joys in heaven. (response)

In times of trial, remind us that through trials we are united to the sufferings of Christ. (response)

In times of plenty, remind us that our true wealth is in heavenly things. (response)

At all times, remind us that it is your Son who is our true joy. (response)

Glory be…

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. What are some things that typically cause you to rejoice?

  2. In what should you rejoice?

  3. How does a Christian outlook change what we rejoice in?

  4. How is the sacrament of reconciliation a path to joy?

  5. How can you choose to look at your life situation in a more heavenly and joyful way?

  6. Why is martyrdom a cause for joy?

  7. Can you rejoice in whatever kind of death God chooses for you?

  8. How does the Mass bring us joy? What is the difference between participating in Mass by being present at it and viewing a Mass via livestream?

  9. How was Saint Francis able to rejoice in mistreatment at Santa Maria degli Angeli?

  10. How can you see mistreatment from others as a joy?

  11. Which of our Lady’s earthly or heavenly joys inspires you most? (look these up if you need to)

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 474: Sanctify Christ in your Hearts: Reflection on 1Pt 3:15-16

 

“Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.” 1Pt 3: 15-16

 

“Beloved, SANCTIFY Christ as Lord in your hearts…” What does Peter mean by that? It means we have to give Christ deference over EVERYTHING in our lives. Our jobs, our hobbies, our relationships. Everything should stem from our belief that Jesus Christ is God and king of all. In fact, every time I pray the 3rd sorrowful mystery, the crowning of thorns, I offer that decade up for everyone who doesn’t venerate Jesus Christ as God and King of all. These are people we should be praying for, my brothers and sisters. And that intention extends far beyond atheists and non-Christians. That intention includes Christians as well, because it is entirely possible to SAY that Jesus Christ is God and King of all, and yet still not sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts.

 

OK, first of all, how do you sanctify something? When we sanctify something, we set it apart for a sacred reason. So, you would never treat a cross or a crucifix on a chain as just another piece of jewelry. (At least I hope you don’t) A crucifix or a medal, when we’re not wearing it, when we take it off to bathe, or when we sleep, we set it aside from the other trinkets we wear, because we KNOW this crucifix, this medal, represents something sacred, and so has the power to help us become holy. It is a constant reminder of who we are, and what we are called to be, and it is a statement to those we encounter throughout our day, so THEY know who we are and what we believe.

 

In the very same way, we cannot keep Jesus in the junk drawer of our hearts, where we keep our concerns about our job, the car, and errands we have to get done. If we are going to sanctify Jesus Christ as Lord in our hearts, Christ must have a singular dominance within our hearts. Christ is the center of my heart and the filter of my mind. So, all those other concerns, that press upon my heart and occupy my mind, have to pass through Christ before I decide on my course of action. THAT is how we sanctify Christ in our hearts, but, as you and I well know, very few of us ever get to that point in our spirituality. Many of us suffer from “knee-jerk reaction syndrome.” We hear of something, or something happens, and we immediately respond, usually in a negative way.

 

That negative reaction stems from the sin of impatience, a sin I’m all too familiar with, or from self-loathing, reacting negatively because the situation has triggered something I’m insecure about and which I need to hide so that no one sees it. Or it can happen that we don’t give into the knee-jerk reaction, but we give into sin anyway after careful consideration. That reaction is usually rooted in fear of missing out on something, or fear of someone getting ahead of me. Or, we don’t give into the knee-jerk reaction and we don’t even give into the temptation to sin, but later are led to feelings of anger or frustration, or we condemn everyone who didn’t resist the temptation to the same sin. That reaction is rooted in pride or self-righteousness. The bad news is, if we are guilty of any of these reactions, we haven’t sanctified Christ in our hearts. So, what’s the good news?

 

The good news is that we DO have a means to fix this within ourselves, but it takes work and commitment. We want to dump everything in Jesus’ lap and go on our merry way. We want Jesus to be a safety net. “Jesus, do something about this pandemic. Jesus, do something about the poor. Jesus, do something about terrorism. Jesus, fix my wife, my husband, my job.” It’s EASY to dump everything in Jesus’ lap, raise angst about sins we’re never tempted to commit, put our donation in the basket every week, and live our lives any way we want. But to SANCTIFY Christ in our hearts means we have to allow the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and make our hearts a fitting home for Jesus to dwell in.

 

You see, the Holy Spirit isn’t about changing the world as much as the Holy Spirit is about changing ME, and after he changes ME, he empowers ME to change the world AROUND me. The Holy Spirit inspires ME to be charitable to the poor, and so the world has changed in some small way through me. Instead of praying that God fix my wife, the Holy Spirit makes ME into a better husband, and so my family changes for the better because of me. Instead of praying that God improve things at my job, which usually means my coworkers doing what I think is best; the Holy Spirit makes ME a better employee, and so the conditions in the workplace improves because of me. THAT’S the way this works, my brothers and sisters, and that’s how the world improves. But it takes work. It takes commitment. And it takes a willingness to change.

 

My brothers and sisters, it’s not enough to say that Jesus is Lord. It’s not enough to go through the motions of being Catholic. Pray to the Holy Spirit and ask him to sanctify Christ in your hearts, so that every thought you have, every word you speak, and every action you commit yourself to is filtered through him.

 

Blessed be God forever. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

“Of those who allege that the path of virtue is too difficult… The principal cause of this illusion is that we only regard the obstacles to virtue, and do not consider the grace which God gives us to overcome these obstacles. The servant of Eliseus was frightened at the numbers who were coming armed against his master, until God, at the prayer of the prophet, opened his eyes and caused him to see that Eliseus was surrounded by a still greater number of defenders. A like fear leads men to reject virtue, when they know not the succors which God reserves for it.”

-The Sinner’s Guide, Venerable Louis of Granada

 

Prayer

 

OMNIPOTENCE of the FATHER, help my frailty, and rescue me from the depths of misery.

Wisdom of the SON, direct all my thoughts, words, and actions.

Love of the HOLY SPIRIT, be the source of all the operations of my soul, so that they may be entirely

conformed to the divine will. -Raccolta #10

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. Besides wearing a crucifix, how can we show others that we are Christians?

  2. How do your job, relationships, and hobbies show that Christ is sanctified in your heart? How might you need to improve in this?

  3. What does it mean to make Christ the filter for our minds?

  4. Why do you think that very few of us get to the point in holiness where we allow every occupation to pass through Christ before committing to action?

  5. What sort of “negative reactions” are you prone to and how can you work to fix this?

  6. How does the Holy Spirit help us to “sanctify Christ as the Lord in our hearts”?

  7. Why do we need to be changed before we can change the world around us?

  8. Fr. Sisco urges us to pray and work for our own sanctification. What, then, is the purpose of praying for the sufferings of the world such as pandemic and poverty?

  9. What fears and/or illusions prevent you from relying on the Holy Spirit to help you grow in virtue?

  10. What other Scripture stories, besides the story of Eliseus’s servant, show how God defends us against our enemies? How can these inspire us to strive after virtue?

  11. What is the difference between the roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our sanctification?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 475: Handing on the Faith: Reflection on Acts 11:21-26

 

“In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
And a large number of people was added to the Lord.
Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch.
For a whole year they met with the Church
and taught a large number of people,
and it was in Antioch that the disciples
were first called Christians.” Acts of the Apostles 11:21b-26

 

We don’t know a whole lot about Saint Barnabas. Most of what we DO know about Saint Barnabas, we know because he was the traveling companion of Saint Paul.  Let’s think about that for a moment. 

 

Barnabas was Paul’s teacher in the Christian faith. It was Barnabas who guided Paul after his conversion to Christianity. Paul starts as a Pharisee and persecutor of the Church who antagonizes the martyring of Saint Stephen, and was on his way to arrest and execute other Christians when the Lord intervenes on the road to Damascus. From the experience Paul is left blind and helpless, so the Lord speaks to the Christian Ananias to meet Paul on the road and take him in. Ananias initially protests, but finally he acquiesces to the Lord. Paul is baptized and gets his sight back, but still Christians are afraid of him, and other Christians just don’t like him because of Saint Stephen.

 

It’s Barnabas who steps up and volunteers to take Paul under his wing and teach him what he needs to know. And yet, once they start doing the missionary journeys throughout the ancient world, and also because of Paul’s many letters to the ancient Christian communities, Paul gets more and more notoriety and Barnabas kind of falls by the wayside. Barnabas must have had incredible humility, to watch his student outshine him, to watch his student gain more popularity than him, especially considering Paul’s checkered past.

 

But that IS the ministry of teaching, isn’t it?  Teachers pass their knowledge on to their students in the hopes that they will build upon that knowledge and achieve new things with it. That is the reward of teaching.  That is also the reward of parenting. You work hard, and save, and encourage your children in the hopes that they will have a better life than you did. And in return they will remember you when you are gone and pray for you. That is the reward of parenting.

 

Sometimes life as a priest these days can be discouraging. We see our parishes shrinking, and society mostly ignoring us. In any level of our culture, holiness doesn’t seem to be a priority anymore. And yet the one thing I take comfort in is our two parish vocations; Dan Artega, who’s studying for the priesthood in the Dominican Order, and Aiden Blanchette, who will be starting studies for the priesthood in our own diocese of Providence. If these two young men complete their studies and embrace this vocation, I can die a happy man, even if NOTHING else in my ministry ever bears fruit, because I had some small part in inspiring this vocation in them. I pray they become priests.  I pray they become holy priests.  I pray they become better priests than me. Because that’s what every teacher hopes for  --their students will take what they have been taught and build on it.

           

Whenever you are tempted to think that you haven’t done anything meaningful for the Lord, consider this--your contribution may not have been what you have done, strictly speaking, but who you have influenced.  Saint Barnabas, pray for us.

 

-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

“Jesus came into the world for no other purpose than to light up the fire of divine love. I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled.  And the priest must labor during his whole life, and with his whole strength, not to acquire riches, honors, and worldly goods, but to inspire all with the love of God.” - St. Alphonsus Liguori

 

Prayer

 

O God, who decreed that Saint Barnabas,

a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,

should be set apart to convert the nations,

grant that the Gospel of Christ,

which he strenuously preached,

may be faithfully proclaimed by word and by deed.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. -Collect from lauds for St. Barnabas

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. How do you respond when you see the grace of God working in the lives of others?

  2. Why do you think we know more about Saint Paul than Saint Barnabas?

  3. How did St. Barnabas live the Gospel in his relationship with Paul?

  4. Who has influenced you most by his or her preaching and example? How?

  5. What hopes do you have for your children? Or, what hopes would you have for your children if you had children? Do these hopes glorify God?

  6. Who do you think you have influenced most by your preaching and example? How?

  7. Did St. Barnabas live what St. Alphonsus describes is the goal of the priesthood?

  8. How are lay Christians called to live the message of St. Alphonsus?

  9. How can you faithfully proclaim the Gospel by word and deed?

  10. What qualities in Barnabas would you like to imitate?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 476: The Trinity: Reflection on John 15:26

 

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.” Jn 15:26

 

The Trinity is part of the mystery of God we will never fully comprehend on this side of the grave. Three persons in one God, NOT three gods.  Not one God in three manifestations (POOF; now I’m God the Father, POOF; now I’m God the Son; POOF; now I’m God the Holy Spirit.) Three distinct persons, yet one mind, one nature, one essence. How do we wrap our minds around this? We don’t. We can’t. And yet, we are supposed to live a Trinitarian existence. Every family is an earthly image of the Holy Trinity. Within the Trinity, the Father sees the Son, the Son sees the Father, and the love generated between them is so intense it becomes a third person, the Holy Spirit. A man and a woman join themselves in love through the sacrament of marriage. And from the intensity of THAT love emerges a third person, a child.

 

The Church lives a Trinitarian existence. Within the Trinity the Father is the creator. The Father has the plan. The Father embodies the knowledge of God. The Son embodies the love of God. It’s the Son who continually lays himself down in sacrifice first by coming man, and then by allowing that human body to be killed on the cross to atone for the sins of humanity, giving us all access to eternal life.

 

The Holy Spirit embodies the power of God. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes things happen. It’s the Holy Spirit that effects change. It’s the Holy Spirit that inspires holiness of life. The Teaching Magisterium of the Church is an earthly representation of the Father. It’s the Magisterium that interprets the will of God for contemporary situations based on what God has revealed to us in scripture and the Apostolic Tradition. We the people, the priests and laity, represent the Son in our sacrifices. When we deny ourselves or offer up sacrifices for the good of others, we share in the ministry of the Son. And the charity of the Church is an earthly representation of the Holy Spirit. When the Church as a body engages in any of the Corporal or Spiritual works of mercy, we effect positive change in the world. That is the power of the Church, to effect lives for the better.

 

Now we as individuals cannot imitate God’s knowledge, and we as individuals cannot imitate God’s power. We are only able to imitate God’s love. That’s our mission. That is also what’s meant in Genesis when God says after making creation, “Let us make man in OUR image.”

This is what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. That doesn’t mean that God has two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, etc. Being made in the image and likeness of God means we are capable of giving and receiving love, and that separates us from the rest of creation.

 

But Father, my dog Sparky LOVES me. No, Sparky does not love you. Pets can show affection, gratitude, respect, obedience, loyalty, but pets cannot love. Why not? Because while it is true that love includes affection, gratitude, respect, obedience, and loyalty, love ALSO includes a desire to become LIKE the object we love. Love requires an intimate KNOWLEDGE of the object that we love. And pets cannot become like us, and pets cannot truly know us. And this is why we are NOT God’s pets, but his children. We share an intimate knowledge of God through scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and prayer. We have the power to become like God through the Grace he offers us in the sacraments. We are capable of loving God by loving our neighbor.

 

This is why I think we have so many problems and confusion in the world today, because people truly don’t know what love is. They confuse love with affection, gratitude, respect, loyalty, but omit the sacrificial nature of love. And love without sacrifice is a lie. This is where our culture on so many social issues has gone wrong.

 

My brothers and sisters, the family and the Church are early signs of the Trinity, so we can understand the Trinity better, and imitate the sacrificial love of the Trinity, so we can be united to the Trinity when we leave this life. I pray we all strive to learn that sacrificial love well. – Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

“My dearest brothers, let us anxiously attend to all that concerns the profession of our common life, keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the imparting of the Holy Spirit. From the love of God comes the unity of the spirit; from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ comes the bond of peace; from the imparting of the Holy Spirit comes that communion which is necessary to those who live in common, if they are to live in common.” -Abbot Baldwin of Ford, treatise 15 on the common life

 

Prayer

 

I ADORE Thee, O my GOD, one GOD in three Persons; I annihilate myself before thy Majesty. Thou alone art being, life, truth, beauty, and goodness. I glorify Thee, I praise Thee, I thank Thee, and I love Thee, all incapable and unworthy as I am, in union with thy dear SON JESUS CHRIST, our SAVIOUR and our FATHER, in the mercifulness of his heart and through his infinite merits. I wish to serve Thee, to please Thee, to obey Thee, and to love Thee always, in union with Mary immaculate, Mother of GOD and our Mother, loving also and serving my neighbour for thy sake. Therefore, give me thy HOLY SPIRIT to enlighten, correct, and guide me in the way of thy commandments, and in all perfection, until we come to the happiness of heaven, where we shall glorify Thee for ever. Amen. -Raccolta #12

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. How does the Church live a Trinitarian existence?

  2. What does it mean to be made in God’s image?

  3. What is the difference between love and affection in our relationship with God?

  4. What is the importance of being God’s children, not His pets?

  5. Baldwin of Ford is writing for Cistercian Monks. How does his advice to monks apply to your state in life?

  6. How is the working of Trinity reflected in your state in life?

  7. How do you honor the Holy Trinity in your life?

  8. How is each person of the Trinity manifested in Mary’s life?

  9. Where else in Scripture points to the mystery of the Trinity?

  10. How can we come to know God if the mystery of the Trinity is incomprehensible to the human mind? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 477: Following More Closely: Reflection on 1 Kings 19:19-21

 

“Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.”

            Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?”

            Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant.” 1 Kings 19:19-21 NAB

 

The usual motivation for coming to daily Mass is that we want to follow Jesus more closely. But I think we really need to ask, “Do I want to follow the Lord Jesus perfectly?” That’s the question we should really be asking. We need to ask ourselves that question often because worldliness is very subtle, worldliness is very insidious, and worldliness has a way of quietly working its way into our lives. And whether we realize it or not, once worldliness works its way in, “following the Lord Jesus perfectly,” becomes, “I want to follow the Lord Jesus more closely, or just closely enough.”

 

I remember in seminary, the Dean of Men, an old Irish pastor from Brooklyn, New York, used to tell us, “When you’re in the parish, don’t make friends with the laity. Make friends with your brother priests, and only hang around with them. Hanging around with the laity will only get you into trouble because the laity are too consumed with the world, and you need to follow a life of the spirit.”

 

Well, with all due respect to our old dean, I believe he was dead wrong. Among my brother priests, I have found lots of men chasing after worldly things, and playing little games, trying to get red stripes on their cassocks and cardboard hats on their heads.

On the same note, I find lots of lay people chasing after gold halos. I like to hang around with people who are pursuing holiness, and it doesn’t matter to me if those people wear collars, or habits, or business suits, or jeans and tee shirts. People who truly seek the spiritual life, I find, are a lot of fun. They usually have a very good outlook on life and have a great sense of humor. However, holiness also requires a deep commitment, to want to follow God perfectly.

 

When the Lord sent Elijah to draft Elisha as his successor, Elisha was plowing his field. Then Elijah throws his mantle over him, a profound gesture in a Hebrew culture, meaning follow me. And Elisha makes what sounds like a reasonable request: “OK, just let me say goodbye to my folks.” And Elijah seemingly rejects him for that. “Go back! What have I done to you?” “Go back! You’re still thinking like a man of the flesh. Go back! If you’re not willing to make a total commitment, you’re not worthy. Go back!”

 

But Elisha doesn’t go back. Instead, he slaughters his oxen and sacrifices them to the Lord by building a fire out of his own plow. Remember this guy is a farmer. What’s more valuable to a farmer than his oxen and plow? To prove his total commitment, he destroyed his livelihood, and with it, any possibility of turning back. This scene begins with Elisha wanting to follow God more closely. It concludes with him wanting to follow God perfectly.

 

Jesus tells us that if we’re perfectly committed to God, it’ll show even in our language. We should be so sincere in our commitment to God that our word should be impeccable, and unquestionable. What does that mean? If our word carries that much weight, it means we’re people of perfect integrity! We go to daily Mass because we want to follow the Lord more closely, but how badly do we want to follow him perfectly? How much of the world are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of the gold halo? Are we willing to be charitable until it hurts? Are we willing to be humble till it hurts? That’s the virtue I have a problem with, humility! I still want to put myself first. There’s still too much of my own ego in my ministry. There’s still too strong a desire in me for admiration and applause and praise. Pray for me, because I can never be confident of my salvation while I know I still continually fall to this sin.

 

It is my prayer for all of us today, that we always seek not just to deepen our commitment to God, but perfect it, by shedding our worldly tendencies, because what our church

needs more than anything else in this modern age, is a lot more gold halos. Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

“When a friendship has for its object the service of His Majesty, it at once becomes

clear that the will is devoid of passion and indeed is helping to conquer other passions.” -St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection

 

Prayer

O MERCIFUL GOD, grant that I may eagerly desire, carefully search out, truthfully acknowledge, and ever perfectly fulfil all things which are pleasing to Thee, to the praise and glory of thy Name. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. What is the difference between striving after perfection and following Christ “just enough”?

  2. In what ways can we get caught in thinking like men of the flesh as we try to serve God? How can we overcome these areas?

  3. Think of an example from a saint or person you admire of a radical renunciation of material possessions to follow Christ. How did that person’s life change as a result?

  4. How much of the world are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of a gold halo?

  5. What are some ways in which you might still be putting yourself first?

  6. How does your commitment to God (or lack thereof) show in your language?

  7. What sort of friendships do you have?

  8. Do your friendships help you conquer unruly passions and better serve Christ?

  9. Why is it important to ask for the grace to strive for perfection? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 478: Words a Christian Can’t Say: Reflection on James 1:26

 

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.” James 1:26 NAB

 

One of our parishioners, with whom I am Facebook friends, sent me a video in messenger by a young, Franciscan priest, Father Casey Cole, and it was so good, I decided to paraphrase this for you. In 1972 comedian George Carlin did a routine that would later be his signature act, called “the seven words you can never say on television.” It was provocative and offensive and I will NOT be repeating any of those words in this presentation. However, it did get me thinking, outside of common swear words, about those words that we as a society deem inappropriate for polite conversation and consider offensive to the general public. Are there words that we as Christians should never say? In other words, are there words that are problematic for us, not because they’re generally offensive, but because they express ideas that undermine who we are as Christians? I came up with five.

 

The first is “deserve.” In the most benign case, I often use this word in association with food, especially desert. After I’ve gone for a run or had a really good work out at the gym, at snack time I’ll say, “You know, I really worked out hard today. I deserve this piece of cake!” (Now, just as a reminder here, I’m not speaking for myself. I’m quoting Father Cole. Because I NEVER run or work out! I just eat the cake anyway!) But embedded in this word is an attitude that we’ve earned something; that because of our hard work, or our moral standing, or giving a correct answer, whatever it may be, that we are ENTITLED to something. While as human beings created in the image of likeness of God, we deserve some basic human rights and protections, Christians should ALWAYS be wary of thinking we deserve anything, EVEN in terms of human rights because we haven’t earned anything. Everything we do, everything we have, we are, is a free gift from God. We haven’t earned our lives. So, it is false to think that we DESERVE anything. We are better Christians when we give up any sense of entitlement and thank God for what we DO have, realizing that we did nothing to earn it.

 

The second word is “mine,” that favorite word of two-year-olds. That word can be helpful when delegating responsibilities and stewardship, but can lead to an attitude of possessiveness and division. If we really believe that God is the giver of ALL good gifts, and nothing we do can EARN those gifts, then this word really doesn’t carry much meaning. It’s not OUR time, OUR wealth, OUR possessions, OUR family, OUR health. None of these things TRULY belong to us. When we accept this and let go of our primal need to be in control and protect ourselves against others, we are capable of a truly remarkable thing; sharing. We begin to live realizing that everything we have is not exclusively OUR gift, but meant for the common good of all.

 

The third word is “Blessed.” Here’s a word that’s quite the OPPOSITE of a swear word. It’s a word that recognizes the presence of God in something or someone. It’s a word we use in our liturgy, our prayers, and is found all throughout scripture. So why shouldn’t the Christian say it? Because far too often, we use it in the wrong context. Almost ALWAYS used in a positive sense, people say things like, “Oh, I’m so BLESSED to have this wonderful family, this great career, this terrific house!” Never meant in a MALICIOUS sense, it basically means that I’m thankful that God has given me these things. And in one sense that’s fine, but look at what we’re actually saying; “I’M blessed! I’M favorable in the eyes of God, because, well, LOOK at all that I have!” And on the one hand, we look at the poor and those who have little and think, “Well, they’re NOT blessed,” which is completely contrary to what Jesus taught in the gospels. This word also overlooks how people GOT those things. Some people got that great family, terrific job or wonderful house, NOT because they’re BLESSED, but because they’ve done bad things and hurt other people to ACQUIRE those things. Possessions can NEVER be a measure of our blessedness.

 

The fourth word is “evil.” While being the opposite of the word “blessed,” I put it on this list for the same reason. While there’s nothing wrong with the word itself, and there IS evil in the world that needs to be called out; there is definitely a problem with the way the word is often used. More often than not, I hear this word used in reference to a criminal or an enemy; because of a heinous act or a lifetime of depravity, people will say things like, “He is just pure evil!” We believe in an ever-good God that created everything. And although we do accept that there IS evil in the world, we deny that anything, or that anyone could be evil to their core. No matter WHAT someone does, they’re still a creature of God, still loved by God, and still capable of good. Nothing can ever take that away.

 

Which brings us to word number five; “unforgivable.” Of all the things that Christians say, this is the one that gets under my skin the most. When I hear it, I just cringe in anger. How can a Christian say this and actually mean it? We believe in a God who is wholly innocent, and yet, not only came to BE like us, but DIED for us to take away our sins, not because we’re good and holy, but because HE is good and holy. And after having received this redemption, which we don’t deserve, we’re going to deny it to other people? NO! This just can’t happen. I understand that there is TREMENDOUS evil in the world. People just hurt each other and hurt God. There are people who murder, rape, steal, and cheat. These are DEFINITELY evil acts, and they ARE sinful. But when we choose to withhold the POSSIBILITY of forgiveness, and say that there is something SO bad that even GOD can’t forgive that person, we undermine who we are and what we believe. Do we REALLY want to say, “God, treat me FAIRLY?” Or are we glad that God ALWAYS gives us more mercy than we deserve?

 

Each of these words has something in common we need to fight against. When used improperly, ALL of these words lack humility. Whether it’s thinking we deserve something, wanting to be a sole owner, using it as proof of our own favor with God, dehumanizing another or denying them forgiveness, what we do when we use these words is supplant the role of God. We make ourselves more important, or more in control than we actually ARE. The way we speak MATTERS. The words we use not only reveal our relationship to others and to things but actually INFLUENCES the way that we think. The more we SAY something, the more likely we are to actually BELIEVE it. So be attentive to the words that you use.

 

Some of the words that George Carlin said could never be said on television, are now being said. These are a list of words that Christians say all the time, but should stop, because they diminish the ability of the Holy Spirit to transform us into the people that God wants us to be. -Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

How is it you dare to relax so fearlessly, since you must appear before God to render an account of the least word and thought? -St John of the Cross

 

Prayer

Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name. Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. Blessed be the Name of Jesus. Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart. Blessed be His Most Precious Blood. Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most Holy. Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception. Blessed be her Glorious Assumption.

Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother. Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints. Amen.

 

Questions for reflection

  1. Do you agree with Father Sisco’s choice of words that a Christian cannot say?

  2. What words might you add to the list?

  3. Which of these words do you find to be the most problematic for you?

  4. What does a person’s habits of speech reveal about him?

  5. What other words show a person’s pride?

  6. What sort of words show a person’s humility?

  7. How do our words influence how we think and vice versa?

  8. Why is it important to be careful with our choice of language?

  9. How can we use words like “blessed” correctly?

  10. Why do we call God blessed?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 479: No Place Like Home: Reflection on 2 Cor 5:1-8

“For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation if indeed, when we have taken it off, we shall not be found naked. For while we are in this tent we groan and are weighed down, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first installment. So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5: 1-8

How many of you have ever seen the movie The Wizard of Oz? Classic movie, and a GREAT story, because the Wizard of Oz can actually be an allegory for the Christian faith. Dorothy is a young farm girl from Kansas, who does nothing but daydream all day about what it would be like to live in a magical land somewhere over the rainbow. A tornado grants her wish. She’s swept up, and dropped off in the magical land of OZ. But as soon as she gets there, all she can think about is getting back home again! Why? Because that’s where she belongs. That’s where the people she loves are; Auntie Em, and the farm hands she grew up with. As soon as Dorothy arrives at the place she’s always DREAMED of being, where she THOUGHT she would be happy, her instincts tell her that she needs to return where she was MEANT to be.

 

We were created IN this world, but we were NOT created FOR this world. We were created for life in heaven with Christ. THAT’S where WE belong. Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians describes our lives here as a tent. What is a tent? A tent is a temporary shelter. A tent is something that can be moved. It’s fragile. He says our permanent home is heaven. That’s where we belong. He’ll say the same thing in a different way in his letter to the Philippians. There he’ll say our CITIZENSHIP is in heaven. Here we’re foreigners, aliens, transients passing through. We don’t BELONG here. We BELONG in heaven. And until we get there, we’re always going to feel inadequate.

 

Dorothy begins a journey to get back home, but she encounters an obstacle; the wicked witch of the west, obviously an image of the devil. The wicked witch wants to destroy Dorothy, because she wants Dorothy’s ruby slippers (which were NOT Dorothy’s to begin with, but were a gift from Glenda, the good witch of the North). Dorothy doesn’t understand the significance of the slippers and doesn’t find out until the end of the movie that the slippers are the very tool she needs to get back home. This is like sacramental grace; the grace of the Sacraments are our ruby slippers! Because the sacraments contain the grace we need to get back home where we belong, HEAVEN, and so the devil is always trying to steal that grace from us, and tragically, because so many Catholics don’t realize the significance of the sacraments, they freely surrender that grace for the temporary pleasures of sin.

 

Dorothy needs help to resist the temptation to give into being intimidated by the witch. Dorothy makes three friends on her way to OZ; the scarecrow, who more than anything wants a brain; the tin man, who more than anything wants a heart; and the lion, who more than anything wants courage. But when they encounter problems, who’s the one who always comes up with a plan? The scarecrow! (smartest). Who’s the one who’s always getting overcome with emotion? The Tin man! He’s the most sensitive one of the group! Who’s the bravest? The lion! ‘Oh come on Father Sisco! The lion is scared of his own shadow through the whole movie!’ True! But courage does NOT mean you’ll never be scared. Courage is precisely the ability to keep doing what you know is right DESPITE being scared! And despite being scared, the lion never abandons Dorothy because of his love for her. All of them already possessed the gifts they desired, as the Wizard points out to them at the end of the story, but it was the quest he SENT them on that unlocked those gifts.

 

The gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, knowledge, fortitude, piety, you already HAVE. You’ve had them since you were baptized. The sacrament of Confirmation unlocks those gifts, empowers those gifts for the quest YOU are going to be sent on. Starting when you receive it, you are sent into the haunted forest, so you can help others find THEIR way home and get to heaven; just like the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion helped Dorothy. And what should motivate you to want to undertake this quest is your love for God. If you truly love God you should want to do EVERYTHING you can to help others get to heaven too. THAT’S what the sacrament of Confirmation is truly about. It’s not about you, as much as it is what you have to offer to everyone else. Just like the Wizard of Oz is not ONLY about Dorothy trying to get home, it’s also about the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion HELPING Dorothy get home, and because they do, THEY are also fulfilled.

 

My brothers and sisters, PLEASE do not sluff this sacrament off. PLEASE don’t see your Confirmation as your graduation from religion. The Church needs people to witness to their faith, now more than ever. DON’T be afraid of the flying monkeys! Be smart, be compassionate, and be brave! And blessed be God forever! 

-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

“With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage. There can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples. The strength they received from the Spirit enabled them to hold firmly to the love of Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors unafraid. Very true, then, was our Savior’s saying that it was to their advantage for him to return to heaven: his return was the time appointed for the descent of the Holy Spirit.” -St. Cyril of Alexandria

 

Prayer

 

Come, O Holy Spirit, come!

From Your bright and blissful Home

Rays of healing light impart.

Bend the stubborn heart and will,

Melt the frozen, warm the chill,

Guide the steps that go astray.

Give them virtue’s rich increase,

Saving grace to die in peace,

Give them joys that never end. Amen. -From the Sequence for Pentecost

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. Why has God given us the Holy Spirit?

  2. How did you receive your own confirmation? Were you open to receiving your mission as a Christian or did you “sluff it off”?

  3. How do the trials which God allows us reveal virtues in us or help us grow in virtue?

  4. How does courage help us on our journey to our Heavenly Home?

  5. What does Christ’s Ascension teach us about our true home?

  6. What graces can you ask the Holy Spirit for now?

  7. What “flying monkeys” is God asking you not to fear right now? How can you show courage in the face of them?

  8. How can we live like we belong in Heaven? 

  9. Why do you think we feel inadequate until we get to Heaven? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 480: Cause and Effect : Reflection on Amos 3:1-6

 

“Hear this word, Israelites, that the LORD speaks concerning you,

concerning the whole family I brought up from the land of Egypt:

You alone I have known,

among all the families of the earth;

Therefore I will punish you

for all your iniquities.

 

Do two journey together

unless they have agreed?

Does a lion roar in the forest

when it has no prey?

Does a young lion cry out from its den

unless it has seized something?

 

Does a bird swoop down on a trap on the ground

when there is no lure for it?

Does a snare spring up from the ground

without catching anything?

Does the ram’s horn sound in a city

without the people becoming frightened?

Does disaster befall a city

unless the LORD has caused it?”

-Amos 3:1-6

What does the Lord expect from us exactly? That we live by faith. That we live trusting in the way God has outlined for us. That we even go against what we are naturally inclined toward and put God and others ahead of what WE want. THAT’S what the Lord expects from us. What’s the problem with that? Sin and our fallen human nature always want to act contrary to that. Our fallen nature doesn’t WANT to rely on others. Our fallen nature wants to be independent. Our fallen nature doesn’t WANT us to restrain our animal urges. Our fallen nature wants to indulge them. Our fallen nature doesn’t WANT to put the needs of others first. Our fallen nature is selfish. It wants to put ME first. And so our lives are a constant tug of war between what God wants and what we want. More often than not, we end up choosing ourselves over God.

 

Many people give into their human nature a little more, and a little more, a concession here, and a concession there, until their devotion to God is reduced to going through the motions of some ritualistic practices. This is why Jesus made statements like, “the road to hell is wide and easy and many choose to follow it,” and, “not all who cry out Lord, Lord, will be saved.” This is what the prophet Amos is trying to communicate to the Israelites. Amos basically says to the Israelites, who have had their nation conquered by Babylon and been kicked out of their own country; “God let this happen to us and we deserved it because we abandoned the way of living he outlined for us.”

 

God led us out of slavery, brought us to the Promised Land, and gave us a covenant. And he said, as long as we keep the Covenant, we’ll prosper, but if we forsake the covenant, he’ll visit disaster upon us. We forsook the covenant. First, we kept trying to find ways AROUND what God intended, and then we started breaking the commandments outright. As a result, we lost our freedom and our country. It’s simple cause and effect. “Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does the lion roar in the forest when it has no prey?” No. Will God bless us when WE choose to forsake him? NO! Cause and effect. If we reject what God has told us to do, it’s a sign that we don’t trust him. If we don’t trust him, we ultimately reject him. When we reject him, we withdraw from his protection. When we withdraw from his protection, we invite disaster. Cause and effect.

 

Why did Jesus get irritated with his disciples during the storm that they all experienced at sea? A storm at sea is a scary thing. And yet this first thing Jesus does when he wakes is to rebuke THEM, his disciples! THEN he rebukes the storm, and it quiets down. Why does he rebuke his disciples? “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Jesus rebukes them because, by now, they should have trusted him. They should have trusted that as long as they were with him, no harm would have come to them.

 

All of our tough moral stands, my brothers and sisters, teachings on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, are tough teachings to accept. While it’s easy to say, just let everyone live the way they want to live, we are called to trust God and his Word, and the teaching authority he has given the Church in areas of faith and morals. Right now, we are living in a nation that, like the Israelites at the time of the exile, no longer trusts the Lord. I pray we don’t suffer the same fate they did. Please pray for that also. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it. and faithfully put it into practice… First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection. In his goodness, he has already counted us as his sons, and therefore we should never grieve him by our evil actions. With his good gifts which are in us, we must obey him at all times that he may never become the angry father who disinherits his sons, nor the dread lord, enraged by our sins, who punishes us forever as worthless servants for refusing to follow him to glory.” - Rule of St. Benedict

 

Prayer

 

O GOD, from whom proceed all holy desires, all right counsels and just works; grant unto us thy servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be devoted to thy service, and that, being delivered from the fear of our enemies, we may pass our time in peace under thy protection. Through CHRIST our LORD. Amen. -Prayer for Peace, Raccolta

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. St. Benedict offers obedience as the best way to overcome our fallen nature and serve God. How can you practice obedience in your state in life?

  2. What else can you do to overcome your fallen nature?

  3. Why won’t all who cry out “Lord, Lord” be saved?

  4. How do we stay in God’s protection?

  5. How do we fall out of God’s protection?

  6. How has our society strayed from God’s protection and what is the result?

  7. Why can’t the world give the kind of peace that God gives?

  8. What gifts has God given us to inspire us to want to stay in His protection?

  9. How do your current trials reveal your trust in God? How do the current world events reveal if our society trusts God?

  10. How is the history of Israel also our history?

-Erin Wells

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