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