Weeks 501-510

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 511: Which Israel Will You Be?: Reflection on Jgs 13:2-7

 

There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites,

whose name was Manoah.

His wife was barren and had borne no children.

An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,

“Though you are barren and have had no children,

yet you will conceive and bear a son.

Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink

and to eat nothing unclean.

As for the son you will conceive and bear,

no razor shall touch his head,

for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.

It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel

from the power of the Philistines.”

 

The woman went and told her husband,

“A man of God came to me;

he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed.

I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name.

But he said to me,

‘You will be with child and will bear a son.

So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.

For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb,

until the day of his death.’” - Judges 13:2-7

 

So which Israel will you be? In this reading, we hear of the birth of Sampson, the mighty man of strength who slaughtered so many of the Philistines. There are so many obvious parallels between Manoah and his wife as compared with Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Both couples are old, both couples are childless, both couples are devout, and both couples are visited by an angel with the good news that God would bless them with a son, and not just a son, but a son with a significant role to play in the plan of God. Manoah’s son would be one of the most famous judges of Israel; he would free God’s people from the oppression of the Philistines. Zechariah’s son would be the most famous of all the prophets; he would herald the long-awaited Messiah. But there’s also another parallel.

 

After Manoah’s wife tells him about the angel, Manoah prays that the angel would come back so they can question him and serve him. The angel does come back. BOTH fathers question the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord is patient with Manoah, but IMPATIENT with Zechariah. Why? First of all, Manoah and his wife didn’t KNOW they were talking to an angel. They THOUGHT they were talking to a prophet, a mystic, a holy man. When they DO realize they’ve been speaking to an angel they fall down on their knees and think they’re going to die! They’re humble. Zechariah is NOT.

 

Now note the similarity in words between Zechariah’s response to Gabriel and the Blessed Mother’s response to the same angel. When Gabriel tells Mary that she’s been chosen to give birth to the Messiah, she responds, “How can this be since I’ve known no man.” In other words, “I’m a virgin, so how does God want me to do this?” Zechariah’s responds; “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” In other words, Zechariah is saying, “What you’re saying is impossible.” VERY strange, since Zechariah being a high priest would have KNOWN the story of Manoah and his wife! And because of Zechariah’s disbelief, he’s struck deaf and mute until his son John the Baptist, is born and consecrated to the Lord.

 

Zechariah represents sinful Israel, even though he and his wife are described as devout. Despite this, what is Zechariah’s sin? Faithlessness. Again, VERY strange for a priest. Zechariah represents the Israel that Moses led out of slavery in Egypt. Moses said, “God sent me to lead you to freedom.” The people respond, “Prove it!” Moses led them out of Egypt into the desert. Moses said, “Don’t be afraid of Pharaoh’s army, for after today, you’ll NEVER see them again!” They respond, “Prove it!” And Moses parts the Red Sea. “Hey! We’re free for the first time in 400 years!” So, what happens? They complain that they’re thirsty. Moses says, “The Lord will provide.” They say, “Prove it!” And Moses strikes the rock so that water flows out. After that, they complain that they’re hungry. Moses says, “The Lord will provide.” They say, “Prove it!” And God rains down manna, bread from heaven. And yet they never learn. They keep testing God and Moses over and over with prove it, prove it, prove it, prove it! And that’s EXACTLY what Zechariah did. He essentially said, “PROVE to me I’m going to have a son!” And incidentally, this “Prove it” is what Jesus is going to have to contend with from the Scribes and Pharisees ALL throughout his ministry.

 

Mary symbolizes Israel in her purity, in her humility, in her trust of God. Every day we are confronted with which Israel we will be- Zechariah’s Israel, or Mary’s Israel. Do we constantly demand God prove himself to us, or do we have the faith and humility to trust him? So which Israel will you be? -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

Do you suppose that this most holy food is not ample sustenance even for the body and a potent medicine for bodily ills? I am sure that it is. I know a person who was subject to serious illnesses and often suffered great pain; and this pain was taken away from her in a flash and she became quite well again. This often occurs, I believe; and cures are recorded from quite definite illnesses which could not be counterfeited. As the wondrous effects produced by this most holy bread in those who worthily receive it are very well known, I will not describe all the things that could be related about this person I mentioned, though I have been enabled to learn about them and I know that they are not fabrications. The Lord had given this person such a lively faith that, when she heard people say they wished they had lived when Christ walked on this earth, she would smile to herself, for she knew that we have Him as truly with us in the Most Holy Sacrament as people had Him then, and wonder what more they could possibly want. -St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection

 

Prayer

O BLESSED Apostles Peter and Paul, I elect you this day for my special protectors and advocates with GOD. In all humility I rejoice with thee, blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, because thou art the rock whereon GOD hath built his Church; and I rejoice with thee, too, blessed Paul, because thou wast chosen of GOD for a vessel of election and a preacher of the truth throughout the world. Obtain for me, I beseech you both, a lively faith, firm hope, and perfect charity, ... resignation to the holy will of GOD, perseverance in Divine grace unto death... - From a prayer to Sts. Peter and Paul, Raccolta

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. How are Mary’s questioning of the angel and Zachariah’s questioning of the angel different?

  2. How is receiving Our Lord sacramentally like these three Biblical figures receiving the angel?

  3. Referring to Zachariah, why is faithlessness strange for a priest? Why is faith important for a priest?

  4. Why is faith necessary for receiving the Most Holy Sacrament?

  5. How are Peter and Paul also models of faith?

  6. What can we learn from Peter’s failures in faith?

  7. How else can you compare/contrast Manoah to Zachariah?

  8. Are there times when it is appropriate to ask God to “prove” himself to us? Why or why not? What would those circumstances be?

  9. Do you see in yourself more Zachariah’s Israel or Mary’s Israel? Why? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 512: Marriage: Reflection on Hebrews 13:4

 

“Let marriage be honored among all, and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and the adulterers.” Hebrews 13:4

 

You know, I had the joy of doing a wedding this past Saturday for a really nice couple, and I really enjoyed doing their wedding. There were only about 15 people in the Church. And I didn’t even preach! They had a deacon who was a longtime friend of the bride’s family preach. That didn’t matter to me! I was just so overjoyed to be part of this wedding because spiritually, the bride AND the groom were in just the right place. That is so RARE these days! As a priest, you’re lucky if ONE of them is spiritually in the right place, and you pray THAT spouse is going to be able to influence the other, but to have BOTH spouses spiritually on target is almost unheard of now.

 

They are just SO in love with each other, and want to do everything the right way. They come to Mass EVERY week. They were married on Saturday, and so often when I do a wedding, I never see the couple again, until it’s time to baptize the first child, but this couple was in their pew, the very next day, at the noon Mass. They’re regulars at confession, and they insisted on going to confession after the rehearsal, the night before they were married. 

 

They wanted to add prayer petitions to the prayers of the faithful, and at first, I thought, “Oh boy, here we go,” because many times people want to pray for silly things. But THEY prayed for their future children, they prayed for their deceased relatives, and they prayed to grow in love for each other and for God. And THEN, the crown jewel, they asked me if they would consecrate their marriage to the Blessed Mother within the ceremony, which I was all too happy to do, and haven’t done for a couple in about 20 years.

 

You know, folks, generally speaking, weddings aren’t fun for priests, because everyone is so caught up in the trappings of the ceremony, but no one appreciates the SIGNIFICANCE of the ceremony, what it REALLY means. And then you get the occasional bride-zilla’s, who think it’s all about them. NO! It’s NOT all about YOU! It’s all about Christ crucified and what he’s going to transform you two INTO! THAT’S what this is about!! 

 

“Oh, we know Father, marriage is 50/50.” NO it ISN’T! DIVORCE is 50/50! THIS half is MINE, and THAT half is YOURS! THAT’S divorce! Marriage is 100/100 or it’s nothing! But just when I’m reaching the edge of cynicism, just when I start having thoughts like, “I’m doing more annulments than weddings every year” God gives me a little gift, and allows me to marry a couple like this one, that restores my hope.

 

My brothers and sisters, when you pray the second Luminous mystery, the wedding at Cana, pray for the sacrament of marriage. Pray that there’s a renewed awareness of the sacredness of marriage. Pray in reparation of the abominations against marriage. And pray that married couples truly live their vocation; to challenge each other to holiness and raise their children in the faith. And blessed be God forever! Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

The deep ecstatic love that some Christian fathers and mothers have after passing through their Calvaries is beautiful to behold. True ecstasy is really not of youth, but of age. In the first ecstasy, one seeks to receive all that the other can give. In the second ecstasy, one seeks to give everything to God. If love is identified with the first ecstasy, it will seek its duplication in another, but if it is identified with unifying, enduring love, it will seek the deepening of its mystery. -Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen

 

Prayer

 

God our Father, you created human marriage to be a sacrament of your own love, for our good and for your glory. Make holy all married couples inspire the hearts of those pursuing marriage to seek it with right reasons, and keep our children pure that they may be undefiled as they approach marriage. Convert the hearts of those who call immoral relations “marriage,” assist all who are close to falling from fidelity in marriage, and restore broken relationships, that all may see Your love again reflected in the faithful living of the Sacrament you willed to continue the human race and to raise your Kingdom on this earth.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. What is the purpose of the sacrament of marriage?

  2. What are some spiritual fruits of a life-long, faithful marriage?

  3. Why is it worth persevering in hard trials that a marriage may face?

  4. Why does 50/50 not work in marriage?

  5. What is wrong with how popular culture views marriage today?

  6. How can you lovingly propose God’s definition of marriage to unbelievers?

  7. Why do you think it is so uncommon for both spouses to be spiritually on track when they get married?

  8. Why do you think so many marriages end in divorce today?

  9. (if you are married) What can you do to make your marriage more spiritually fruitful?

  10.  (Whether you are married or not) What ways are you called to practice self-sacrificing love in your state in life?

  11. What advice would you give to a young dating couple seeking to have a good Catholic marriage?

  12.  What can you do to promote holy marriages?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 513: The Blood of Abel: Reflection on Hebrews 12:22-25

“[Y]ou have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel. See that you do not reject the one who speaks. For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven.” -Hebrews 12:22-25 NAB

What is the author of the letter to the Hebrews talking about in this passage? Who is Abel? The story of Abel goes way back to the opening chapters of the Bible. Abel is the youngest son of Adam and Eve. Both Abel and his older brother, Cain offer sacrifice to God; Abel sacrifices one of his lambs, because he’s a shepherd, and Cain offers a sacrifice of his crops, because he’s a farmer. For reasons unbeknownst to us, God accepts Abel’s sacrifice, but rejects Cain’s. There are many theories as to why, but I won’t get into those today. But whatever the particulars, it is generally accepted that the reason is that Abel is righteous, and Cain is not. And to prove this, what is Cain’s response to all this? Repentance? No. His response is to murder his brother, for which God curses him.

 

So what’s the connection to Jesus? Again, who is Abel? An innocent shepherd and the son who is favored by God. Who is Jesus? The innocent Shepherd who is the actual Son of God. Abel is the righteous one who is hated and murdered by the sinner. Jesus is the righteous one who is hated and murdered by sinners. So Abel in theology is called a “pre-image” of Jesus. What is the purpose of a pre-image? First, to foreshadow what the Messiah would be like and what he would go through. Right from the jump, God is leaving us clues of Jesus in the scriptures. He does this so we have further evidence that the Messiah is authentic.

 

Second, the pre-image is a reminder of what all of us who strive to be righteous can expect from the world around us. The persecution that Jesus experienced was NOT unique to him. Other figures in scriptures had experienced persecution because of their righteousness, so what makes us expect that we’ll experience anything different. That knowledge should give us strength. When we are persecuted for our faith we KNOW we’re on the right track. We KNOW we’re irritating the demonic so much it HAS to strike back at us. Jesus himself said, “Rejoice when they persecute you!” “When someone strikes you on the cheek, turn and offer him the other.” These are things that testify that we ARE righteous. So, don’t be discouraged by the world around you. Pray for the world, fast and sacrifice for the world, and stay the course. We are ensuring our salvation.

 

Quote from a Saint

 

God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.

--Saint Augustine of Hippo

 

Prayer

O GLORIOUS St Paul, who from a persecutor of the Christian name didst become an Apostle of burning zeal, and who, in order that JESUS CHRIST might be known to the furthermost bounds of the earth, didst joyfully suffer imprisonment, scourging, stoning, shipwreck, and every kind of persecution, and who didst finally shed thy blood to the last drop; obtain for us the grace of accepting, as divine favours, the infirmities, torments and calamities of this life, so that we may not be drawn from the service of GOD by the vicissitudes of this our exile, but on the contrary may prove ourselves more and more faithful and fervent. Amen.

-Prayer to St. Paul, 1910 Raccolta

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. How is Abel like Jesus?

  2. How does Cain show that he is not righteous?

  3. How does our acceptance of trials and punishments (or lack thereof) reveal if we are righteous?

  4. What other Old Testament figures are pre-images of Jesus being persecuted for righteousness?

  5. Why should we rejoice when we are persecuted?

  6. Why can the righteous expect to be persecuted?

  7. Does persecution always mean that we are righteous? Why or why not? Give examples.

  8. Do you receive the infirmities, torments and calamities of this life as “divine favors”? Why or why not?

  9. Does seeing Abel as a pre-image of Christ change how you view this story in the Genesis? Does it change how you understand the Gospel?

  10. Although Christians, we can often get caught in persecuting others. St. Paul was converted from one who persecutor to persecuted. How can we change our habits of persecution? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 514: Fear of the Lord: Reflection on Ps 103:17-22

 

But the LORD’s mercy is from age to age,

toward those who fear him.

His salvation is for the children’s children

of those who keep his covenant,

and remember to carry out his precepts.

The LORD has set his throne in heaven

his dominion extends over all.

Bless the LORD, all you his angels,

mighty in strength, acting at his behest

obedient to his command.

Bless the LORD, all you his hosts,

his ministers who carry out his will.

Bless the LORD, all his creatures,

everywhere in his domain.

Bless the LORD, my soul! - Ps 103:17-22

 

 

We get hung up on the concept of “fearing” the Lord, because people feel that if God is love we shouldn’t fear him. I say that people who say that, have never really been in love. Because if we REALLY love someone, the thing we fear the most is doing something to lose or damage that love. So, if I truly LOVE my wife, I’d never dream of cheating on her, because I can only imagine how devastated she’d be if she found out. Even if she forgave me, I can’t imagine the pain of living the rest of my life KNOWING she’d never trust me again. THAT’S the connection between love and fear.

 

I know I have often told you that fear is one of the ways the devil manipulates us, and that is true, but there is also a healthy fear. For instance, I have a fear of attempting to walk across Route 95 because I love my life. That is a healthy fear. And I have a holy fear that keeps me from sinning, because I don’t want to distance myself from the love God has for me. And so that fear keeps me from sinning. But it’s love that prompts me to keep growing in virtue.

 

-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

From: Whether fear remains in heaven?

 

“Servile fear, or fear of punishment, will by no means be in heaven, since such a fear is excluded by the security which is essential to everlasting happiness, as stated above (I-II:5:4).

 

But regard to filial fear, as it increases with the increase of charity, so is it perfected when charity is made perfect…. Gregory, expounding the words of Job (26:11), "The pillars of heaven tremble, and dread at His beck," says (Moral. xvii, 29): "The heavenly powers that gaze on Him without ceasing, tremble while contemplating: but their awe, lest it should be of a penal nature, is one not of fear but of wonder," because, to wit, they wonder at God's supereminence and incomprehensibility. Augustine also (De Civ. Dei xiv, 9) in this sense, admits fear in heaven, although he leaves the question doubtful. "If," he says, "this chaste fear that endureth for ever and ever is to be in the future life, it will not be a fear that is afraid of an evil which might possibly occur, but a fear that holds fast to a good which we cannot lose. For when we love the good which we have acquired, with an unchangeable love, without doubt, if it is allowable to say so, our fear is sure of avoiding evil. Because chaste fear denotes a will that cannot consent to sin, and whereby we avoid sin without trembling lest, in our weakness, we fall, and possess ourselves in the tranquility born of charity. Else, if no kind of fear is possible there, perhaps fear is said to endure for ever and ever, because that which fear will lead us to, will be everlasting."

 

-Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Secund Secundae Question 19, article 11, NewAdvent.org

 

Prayer

 

LORD JESUS, may I know myself and know Thee. And desire nothing save only Thee. May I hate myself and love Thee. May I do everything for the sake of Thee. May I humble myself and exalt Thee. May I think of nothing except Thee. May I die to myself and live in Thee. May I receive whatever happens as from Thee. May I banish self and follow Thee. And ever desire to follow Thee. May I fly from myself and fly to Thee, That I may deserve to be defended by Thee. May I fear for myself and fear Thee, And be among those who are chosen by Thee. May I distrust myself and trust in Thee. May I be willing to obey on account of Thee. May I cling to nothing but to Thee. May I be poor for the sake of Thee. Look upon me that I may love Thee. Call me that I may see Thee, And ever and ever enjoy Thee. Amen. -Petitions of St. Augustine

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. What is fear of the Lord?

  2. What is the difference between true “fear of the Lord” and being afraid of God?

  3. How does love relate to fear?

  4. Why does fear increase as charity increases?

  5. Why is there no “servile fear” in heaven?

  6. What are some other scriptural examples of fear of the Lord? (look for at least one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament)

  7. What saints are exemplary in fear of the Lord?

  8. How do the various petitions of St. Augustine, such as obedience and humility, relate to fear of the Lord?

  9. What are the effects of fear of the Lord as described here by Aquinas?

  10. How does fear keep us from sinning?

  11. How can “servile fear” -being afraid of punishment- also keep us from sin?

  12. How does the devil use fear to manipulate?

  13. How is the fear the devil uses different from fear of the Lord?

 

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 5:15: Strive for Peace with Everyone: Reflection on Hebrews 12:12-14

 

“So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.

Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” -Hebrews 12:12-14

 

This passage from Hebrews says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” What does THAT mean? It means that if we don’t strive for holiness, others won’t find Christ in us, and if others can’t find Christ in us, what hope do they have of finding him EVER? THIS is why it’s so important that we be striving for holiness, not ONLY for our sake, but ALSO for the sake of others. Our virtues can positively affect others. This is at the heart of charity.

 

I recently encountered a rather unlikely example of this. Last night on TV, I watched the Adventures of the Amazing Captain Underpants. (Yes…I was THAT desperate to find something to watch on TV.) I generally enjoy animated movies, because they’re light, fun, and innocent -there’s no cussing, using the Lord’s name in vain, or sex. I have never QUITE stooped this low before, but I WAS pleasantly surprised with the movie.The premise is two elementary school boys with a history of playing pranks FINALLY get caught by their mean principal, who intends to split them up and put them in separate classes. To prevent this, they try to hypnotize their principal, which they do, and THEN get the idea that the mother of all pranks, would be to get their principal to believe that he is really, the amazing Captain underpants. So whenever they snap their fingers, this guy runs into public in his underwear to fight crime. (Wait…it gets better!) In the course of their “adventures,” the boys learn that the reason WHY their principal is so mean is that he’s lonely. They go to his house and see ONE chair in front of a TV. They open the fridge and see a jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of bread. On the table they see ONE place setting. Then, their attitude toward him changes. And so, instead of making sport of their principal, they try to remedy his loneliness, and in so doing, they change his disposition.

 

So I thought that despite the silliness, the story had a good underlying message to it, that we should be trying to make the lives of the people around us better. That’s how we show our love for God, because that’s how God showed his everlasting love for us. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint

"Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes with which Christ looks out his compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now." - Teresa of Avila (attributed)

 

Prayer

GLORIOUS Saint [Philip Neri], who didst devote thyself wholly to the good of thy neighbour, thinking well of all, sympathizing with all, helping all; who throughout thy whole life didst ever try to secure the salvation of all, never shrinking from labour or trouble, keeping for thyself no time or comfort, that thou mightest win all hearts to GOD; pray for me, that, together with the pardon of all my sins, I may have charity for my neighbour, and be henceforth more compassionate to him in his necessities; and obtain for me grace that I may love every man with pure unselfish love as my own brother, succouring each one, if I am unable to do it with temporal good, at least with prayers and good advice. And teach me too, on every occasion, to defend the honour of my neighbour, and never to say to him a hurtful or displeasing word ; but ever to maintain, even with my enemies, sweetness of spirit like thy own, whereby thou didst triumph over thy persecutors. Blessed Saint, ask of GOD for me also this lovely virtue, which already thou hast gained for so many of thy clients ; that so we may all one day come to praise our GOD with thee in an eternity of bliss. PATER, Ave, Gloria. -Prayer to St. Philip Neri to obtain the love of our neighbor

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. How has God shown His everlasting love for us?

  2. How are we called to reveal Christ to others?

  3. How do the saints show God’s love for their neighbor?

  4. Who in your life is most in need of meeting Christ in you? How can you bring Christ to that person?

  5. When has someone’s kindness revealed God’s love to you?

  6. Can you recall any times when you have learned of God’s love in an unexpected way (like this movie)?

  7. This prayer to St. Philip Neri gives several examples of how to love our neighbor. Which of these petitions strikes you most? Which of them do you most need to grow in?

  8. Consider Fr. Sisco’s question: “if others can’t find Christ in us, what hope do they have of finding him EVER?” Are there other ways for people to encounter Christ besides through the charity of another Christian? Why or why not? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 516: Own It: Reflection on Gen 3:1-6

 

Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?”

 

The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’”

 

But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die!

 

God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.”

 

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.-Gen 3:1-6

 

Isn’t it something how easily we can talk ourselves into sin? God gave Adam and Eve ONE commandment; “Don’t touch that tree!”

 

They rationalized “Well, THAT tree is good for food..”

In the Garden of Eden, ALL the trees are good for food! “

 

It looks really good.”

 

EVERYTHING in Eden looks good, because everything in Eden was the way God intended it!

 

“I really would like to be wise.”

 

Then do what God TOLD you to do! Obeying God is at the heart of wisdom.

 

If there’s ONE thing we’ve ALL inherited from our first parents, it’s our ability to talk ourselves into sin. I hear it in confession all the time. People try to rationalize their sins away. “Well Father I did this, but it wasn’t really my fault, because of this circumstance, and that circumstance...”

 

To this I say, “If it wasn’t your fault, why are you confessing it? If it wasn’t your fault, there’s no sin involved. You can’t accidentally sin. You’re confessing it, because deep down you KNOW it’s your fault! So STOP making excuses! You screwed up! Own it.” And I say that to people because owning one’s sins is a healthy thing to do.

 

If we keep making excuses for our sins, we’ll NEVER get rid of them. We’ll just keep inventing new rationalizations for them. I realize sin is embarrassing, especially when it’s a habitual sin, but the only way we break free from these sins to OWN them! No excuses. I screwed up! I did it! It was MY decision and MY choice! I knew it was wrong, and I did it ANYWAY, and because of that, I need God’s Grace if I have ANY hope of not doing it again! That’s good, that’s healthy, and that’s the only way we can ever hope to overcome sin.

 

Own it, confess it, trust in God’s mercy, pray for God’s grace, and stop attempting to justify bad behavior. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

If the monk does not think in his heart that he is a sinner, God will not hear him. The brother said, ‘What does that mean to think in his heart that he is a sinner?’ Then the old man said, ‘When someone is occupied with his own faults, he does not see those of his neighbor.’ -Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Moses

 

Prayer

 

O HOLY LORD, almighty FATHER, eternal GOD! through thy liberality and that of thy SON, who for me endured suffering and death, through the surpassing holiness of His Mother, and through the merits of blessed Francis, and of all the saints, grant me, a sinner, undeserving of all thy benefits, that I may love Thee alone, and always thirst for thy love; that I may constantly feel in my heart the benefit of thy Passion; that I may acknowledge my misery, and desire to be trampled upon and despised by all men; that nothing but sin may sadden my heart. Amen. -Prayer of St. Bonaventure

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. What sins are you most likely to rationalize away? (reflect on this for a minute, but share only if you feel comfortable)

  2. Why are you most tempted to rationalize these sins?

  3. Can you think of any instances where someone tried to rationalize sin to you? Describe how this person attempted to do this.

  4. Our culture tries to tell us that we are perfect just the way we are. How is this in contrast to acknowledging our sins?

  5. Give several examples of how our culture rationalizes sin. What dangers come from each of these examples?

  6. Give examples of how our culture makes sin seem attractive or even necessary. What dangers come from each of these?

  7. How does rationalizing sin deaden us spiritually?

  8. Can those who rationalize sin grow spiritually? Give reasons for your response.

  9. Why is it necessary to own our sins in order to overcome them?

  10. Why don’t we see our neighbor’s faults if we acknowledge our own?

  11. If we are seeing faults in our neighbor, what does that say about ourselves?

  12. Why will God not hear us if we do not think in our hearts that we are sinners?

  13. What does Jesus have to say in the Gospels about acknowledging our sinfulness?

  14. Why should nothing but sin sadden our hearts?

  15. Why do you think St. Bonaventure suggests we should desire to be trampled upon and despised by all men? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 517: It is Not Good to be Alone: Reflection on Genesis 2:18-24

 

The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.

So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name.

The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be a helper suited to the man. So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said:


 

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

This one shall be called ‘woman,’

for out of man this one has been taken.”


 

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

-Genesis 2:18-24

 

“It is not good for the man to be alone…” God did not create us to be alone. We are social beings, created to exist in a society. God never intended us to be alone. The thing that has concerned me most about this Corona virus, more so than the virus itself, is that it has forced so many people to be alone. This has been particularly hard on the elderly, who are in nursing homes and assisted living, and are not allowed visitors from the outside, and in some cases, even can’t socialize among themselves. My Godmother in Westerly was in an assisted living facility who wouldn’t allow any of the residents to leave their rooms, for MONTHS!

 

My cousins finally took her out of there, and brought her to live with them in New Hampshire, where she’s much happier. It troubles me that I can’t bring anyone in a nursing home the sacraments. I know the Bishop has given a special dispensation because of the circumstances, but still, there’s an incredible comfort hearing the words that your sins have been forgiven, in receiving the Eucharist and knowing that the Lord is physically with you, especially at the end of your life.

 

I worry about the children. I saw on the news the other day the public pressuring the Pawtucket Public Schools to go back to in-school learning. They’ve been out of school for basically a year now. A local woman was commenting that her children aren’t focused anymore. They fight constantly. They feel cooped up. They’re frustrated. I’m glad we still have in school learning for the lower grades here at our school, and the middle school is doing hybrid, which means they get at least two days a week in school. Kids especially NEED social interaction. It is not good for them to be alone.

 

People often use this verse of scripture to argue for married clergy. I don’t agree. I can honestly say that in 24 years of priesthood, I’ve never felt lonely. I’m too busy to be lonely. I would submit that priests who DO complain that they’re lonely, haven’t fully invested themselves in their ministry. In fact, I’m always fighting to GET alone time, and the parish keeps sucking it away from me, but hey, THAT’S ministry! The only exception to this is when the quarantine first happened. At first,I was thrilled! ALONE in the rectory! NO work to do! I was doing extra praying, I was meditating, I was doing spiritual reading, and I was thinking, “This is GREAT! This is like being on an extended retreat!” And it WAS great, for a few weeks, but after a few MONTHS I was climbing the walls! Our business manager, Tony was the first one to come back to work. I don’t think he got any work done that first week because I wouldn’t leave his office! “Tony, I’ll cook dinner! Have dinner with me! “I got fish, I got roast, I got pasta, I got chicken! What are you in the mood for?” I was just starved for some human company!

 

Now social media has been a blessing for keeping in touch with people, but there IS no substitute for human contact. BE SAFE, my brothers and sisters, but extend yourselves in any way you can, especially to the old, and the young, because it is not good for anyone to be alone.

- Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint
“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." - Saint Mother Teresa
 

Prayer

God our Father, in the creation of woman, you showed that you do not will for man to be alone. You confirmed this in becoming incarnate and promising, through your Church, to be with us until the consummation of the world. Strengthen in our hearts the Spirit of Charity that, loving our neighbors as ourselves, we may radiate your love to all whom we encounter. Amen

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. When do you feel most lonely? Why?

  2. How can you help others who are feeling lonely?

  3. Among those you know, who is most in need of relief from loneliness?

  4. Why is it not good for man to be alone?

  5. Describe a time when someone helped you in your loneliness.

  6. What is the difference between isolation and “alone time,” between solitude and loneliness?

  7. How can solitude or alone time be a place of encountering Christ?

  8. How does experiencing the care of a friend or neighbor lead to experiencing the love of Christ?

  9. How did Christ respond to loneliness (his own and that of others)?

  10. Do you agree that loneliness and neglect is a greater poverty than physical hunger? Fr. Sisco says “There is no substitute for human contact.”

  11. Why can’t company of an animal (a pet for instance) or contact with others through the media substitute for real human contact? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love reflection 518: Tree of Life: Reflection on Gen 3:1-7

 

Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?”

The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’”

But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.”

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. - Gen 3:1-7

 

Today I want to talk about the old tree of life versus the NEW tree of life. In this reading from Genesis, Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge, which God forbade them from touching. Why? They wanted to be like God. They wanted to be immortal. Instead, eating the fruit brought them the exact opposite. Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge introduced sin into creation. Sin is the opposite of what God, who is pure holiness, wants. Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge introduced death. That is also the opposite of what God, who is the source of all life, intended. Eating the fruit has the opposite effect of what Adam and Eve were hoping for. So why put it in the garden in the first place? The devil made Adam and Eve three promises if they ate the fruit: You will not die, you will be like God, and you will have knowledge. These were all gifts that God intended to give Adam and Eve, but in his own time. They weren’t READY for this yet.

 

Very often we are in such a rush to acquire knowledge that often we create good things with bad intentions, or bad things with good intentions. We anxiously seek knowledge, but not wisdom to use that knowledge. Now I am not an anti-knowledge guy. I am not anti-technology. I am anti-knowledge-without-wisdom, because people for centuries have been seeking salvation through human knowledge and achievement, and these have sometimes brought death and destruction.

 

In 1861 Richard Jordon Gatling invented the world’s first machine gun; the Gatling gun. Gatling invented it as a deterrent to war. Who would be foolish enough to send troops, shoulder to shoulder, charging toward a rapid firing weapon? WWI horrifically answered THAT question. The same mentality was behind the atomic bomb. The atom bomb was supposed to make war obsolete, because who would start a war with such a weapon at our disposal? It didn’t stop war, did it? It just made war even more complicated. And I can go on and on with medical issues, such as in-vitro fertilization and cloning. Knowledge and technology MUST be married to wisdom, and wisdom is doing the will of God.

 

This is why God guarded the tree of life with a flaming sword. In the garden, this tree was forbidden to Adam and Eve, but not forever. Jesus, the author of life, died on the cross to make the CROSS the tree of life. The God, who once placed a flaming sword around the tree of life to keep Adam and Eve away from it, now allows his side to be opened by a soldier’s lance, a weapon intended to keep people away. Jesus allows his life giving blood to water the earth so that all can share its fruit. What comes from this? Because of the cross, we now can have eternal life. Because of the sacraments that have power because of the cross, we can now BE like God. The sacraments have Grace that allow us to imitate God’s holiness. And now, because of the teachings of Christ, we know how to discern good from evil. God freely gave us what the devil falsely promised Adam and Eve.

 

I saw a great meme on Facebook. “If Adam and Eve had only been Cajun, they would have eaten the serpent instead of the fruit and saved us ALL a whole lot of headaches!” AMEN!

-Fr Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint -- “The question is no longer one of the old error which claimed for human nature a sort of right to the supernatural. It has gone far beyond that, and has reached the point when it is affirmed that our most holy religion, in the man Christ as in us, emanated from nature spontaneously and of itself. Nothing assuredly could be more utterly destructive of the whole supernatural order. For this reason the Vatican Council most justly decreed:” If anyone says that man cannot be raised by God to knowledge and perfection which surpasses nature, but that he can and should, by his own efforts and by a constant development, attain finally to the possession of all truth and good, let him be anathema.” -St. Pope Pius X

 

Prayer -- INEFFABLE CREATOR, who, of the treasures of thy wisdom hast formed the nine choirs of Angels, and set them on high above the heavens in a wonderful order, and hast exquisitely fashioned and knit together all parts of the universe; do Thou, who art the true fountain and one principle of light and wisdom, deign to shed the brightness of thy light upon the darkness of my understanding, and thus to disperse the twofold darkness of sin and ignorance wherein I was born. O Thou, who makest eloquent the tongues of babes, instruct my tongue, and pour forth on my lips the grace of thy blessing. Grant me acuteness in understanding what I read, power to retain it, subtlety to discern its true meaning, and clearness and ease in expressing it. Do Thou order my beginnings, direct and further my progress, complete and bless my ending; Thou who art true GOD and true Man, who livest and reignest world without end. Amen. -St Thomas Aquinas

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why can’t we attain salvation through human knowledge and technology?

  2. Give some examples of how technological advancements have made things better and how they have made things worse.

  3. How can you use the technologies in your life to glorify God?

  4. How do the teachings of Christ make us able to discern good from evil?

  5. Why can’t we attain to all truth and good without God?

  6. How do you see man’s desire of immortality in secular thinking? How is this different than the Christian’s desire for Eternal Life?

  7. How can we combat the twofold darkness of sin and ignorance that Thomas Aquinas describes? Can you name any other “darkness” in human existence?

  8. The Cross is the new tree of Life. How can the wisdom and grace of the Cross help overcome the evils of our time? -Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 519: Intimacy: Reflection on Genesis 2:4-7

 

“This is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens—

there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the LORD God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground,

but a stream was welling up out of the earth and watering all the surface of the ground—

then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” Genesis 2:4-7

 

This passage of scripture reinforces that we were MADE for God, whereas the rest of creation was made for the world. When God creates the fish, he speaks to the sea, because the fish are made FOR the sea. Without the sea, the fish die. When God creates the animals, he speaks to the earth, because the animals are made FOR the earth. Without the earth the animals die. But when God makes US, he speaks to himself, “let us make man in our image and likeness,” because WE were made for God. We were made FROM the earth, but we do not belong TO the earth- we belong to God. This verse I quoted reinforces that.

 

Note that when God is creating EVERYTHING else, God SPEAKS it into existence. “Let there be light.” BOOM! The light appears. “Let the water recede to bring forth the dry land.” BOOM! It happens. Let the sea bring forth the fish. BOOM! There are the fish! “Let the earth bring forth the animals and creeping things’ BOOM! Done! But when God creates US, he touches us. God molds Adam out of clay. Right from the jump, God longs for intimacy with us, to touch us. We’re different from the rest of creation. We have a different role. The rest of creation was made for the earth. WE were created for God.

 

My favorite fresco in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, is the creation of Adam. God, stretched out on a cloud as far as he can extend himself reaching his finger out towards Adam, and Adam, leisurely reclining back, his arm bent, resting on his knee, his index finger extended out, and the fingers don’t touch. God is stretched out as far as he can, and if Adam would make the slightest of efforts, he could touch the hand of God, but he doesn’t do it. Michelangelo was making a profound theological observation here. God longs for intimacy with us, but WE don’t long for intimacy with him, because if we did, we wouldn’t sin. THAT’S our problem. It’s not that we don’t WANT God, we just want sin MORE than God. That has been our problem from day one (or more accurately, day six, since that was the day on which we were created). God is ALWAYS extending himself to us, he ALWAYS longs for intimacy with us.

 

When Jesus walked the earth, he could have healed people at a word, instead he chose to TOUCH them- intimacy. THAT’S why he gave us the sacraments. God placed his presence in the sacraments so he could touch us, and we would desire to touch him. So God is always stretching himself out to us as far as he can without violating our free will, and yet every time we sin, we move further away from him. Do you see why I always stress the need for confession, and for us to resist sin with all of our strength, and not make excuses for our sins? We CANNOT have intimacy with sin and intimacy with God. We can only have one or the other. Choose wisely. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

Let us work for the food which does not perish - our salvation. Let us work in the vineyard of the Lord to earn our daily wage in the wisdom which says: Those who work in me will not sin. Christ tells us: The field is the world. Let us work in it and dig up wisdom, its hidden treasure, a treasure we all look for and want to obtain. -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

 

Prayer

 

O EUCHARISTIC Heart, O sovereign love of our LORD JESUS, who hast instituted the august Sacrament, in order to dwell here below with us and to give to our souls thy Flesh as food and thy Blood as drink, we confidently trust, O LORD JESUS, in the supreme love which instituted the most holy Eucharist; and here, in the presence of this Victim, it is just that we should adore, confess, and exalt this love, as the great store-house of the life of thy Church. This love is an urgent invitation for us, as though Thou didst say to us: "See how I love you! giving you my Flesh as food, and my Blood as drink; I desire by this union to excite your charity, I desire to unite you to myself, I desire to effect the transformation of your souls into my crucified Self, I who am the Bread of eternal life. Give me then your hearts, live in my life, and you shall live in GOD." We recognize, O LORD, that such is the appeal of thy Eucharistic Heart, and we thank Thee for it, and we desire earnestly to respond to it. Grant us the grace to be keenly alive to this supreme love, with which, before thy Passion, Thou didst invite us to receive and feed upon thy sacred Body. Print deeply on our souls the firm determination to respond faithfully to this invitation. Give us devotion and reverence whereby we may honour and receive worthily the gift of thy supreme love, and of thy Eucharistic Heart. Grant that we may thus be able, with thy grace, to celebrate profitably the remembrance of thy Passion, to make reparation for our offenses and our coldness, to nourish and increase our love for Thee, and to keep ever living within our hearts this seed of a blessed immortality. Amen -Pope Leo XIII

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. What is the difference between the purpose of the animals and our purpose in creation (see the rest of Genesis 2 for more details, if needed)?

  2. Father Sisco says that we cannot have intimacy with God and intimacy with sin at the same time. What do you think “intimacy with sin” means?

  3. What does this passage from Genesis teach us about how our relationship with the Earth should be?

  4. Give some examples of Christ healing by touching people in the Gospels. Why is it important that Christ healed though his touch?

  5. How does God stretch Himself out to us?

  6. Why is using our free will necessary for having intimacy with God?

  7. How does Wisdom keep us from sin?

  8. How is our salvation the “food that will not perish”?

  9. How does the gift of the Eucharist show God’s desire for intimacy with us?

  10. What other gifts does God give us in the Eucharist?

  11. What other means has God given us to help us seek intimacy with Him?

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 520: One Thing I Seek: Reflection on Ps 27:4

 

“One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:

To dwell in the LORD’s house

all the days of my life,

To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,

to visit his temple.” Ps27:4

 

This one verse should be the theme of the life of every Roman Catholic. One thing I seek, ONE goal in life, ONE purpose for my existence -to dwell in the house of the Lord. Heaven. Eternal life. Union with God. This one verse reminds us that everything we say and everything we do should be geared toward going to heaven when we die. This is how the saints lived, and this is WHY they are saints.

 

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case for the rest of us. The rest of us have sins we just refuse to part with; we just won’t challenge ourselves to let them go, or even admit that they ARE sins. Some people are like the crowd in the gospel that want to crown Jesus king because he fed them. Some people worship God today as long as God fulfills my wish list, as long as he gives me what I want out of life, but they are quick to abandon him when he doesn’t. And some people are like the Pharisee’s in that have convinced themselves they are right and the Church is wrong, even though the Church has proven the authenticity of her teaching over and over again. They never question themselves and their own motivations, to consider the possibility they might be wrong, and the teaching of the Church just MIGHT be right.

 

These are very common traps my brothers and sisters, and many people fall victim to them. THAT’S why this verse of scripture is a good one to memorize. Write it down. Tape it to the fridge. Tape it on your bedroom mirror. Make it the screen saver for your computer.“ONE thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.” That is the ONLY thing that is truly important. That is the ONLY thing that truly matters.

 

If I win the whole world and yet lose my soul for eternity in the process, what have I truly gained? Nothing. So many people make material gain or social status the theme of their lives, but some day someone will put them in a box, lower them in the ground, and then divide all their possessions up. It’s a gesture in futility. No one cheats death. My brothers and sisters, by all means live IN the world, but don’t live FOR the world. Live FOR the Lord, and make heaven your goal first above all. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

 

Quote from a Saint

 

After Marie entered the Carmel, and I no longer had her to listen to my scruples, I turned towards Heaven and confided them to the four little angels [deceased siblings] who had already gone before me, for I thought that these innocent souls, who had never known sorrow or fear, ought to have pity on their poor little suffering sister. I talked to them with childish simplicity, telling them that, as I was the youngest of the family, I had always been the most petted and loved by my parents and sisters; that if they had remained on earth they would no doubt have given me the same proofs of their affection. The fact that they had gone to Heaven seemed no reason why they should forget me—on the contrary, as they were able to draw form the treasury of Heaven, they ought to obtain for me the grace of peace, and prove that they still knew how to love me. The answer was not long in coming; soon my soul was flooded with the sweetest peace. I knew that I was loved, not only on earth but also in Heaven. From that time my devotion for these little brothers and sisters increased; I loved to talk to them and tell them of all the sorrows of this exile, and of my wish to join them soon in our Eternal Home. -St. Therese of Lisieux

 

Prayer

 

MOST dear LORD JESUS CHRIST, who, being made an infant for us, wast willing to be born in a cave, to free us from the darkness of sin, to draw us to thyself, and to inflame us with thy holy love ; we adore Thee as our CREATOR and REDEEMER, we accept and choose Thee for our King and LORD, and for tribute we offer Thee all the affections of our poor hearts. Dear JESUS, our LORD and GOD, deign to accept this offering, and that it may be worthy of thine acceptance, pardon us our faults, enlighten us, and inflame us with that holy fire which Thou earnest to bring into the world and enkindle in men’s hearts. May our souls thus become a perpetual sacrifice in thy honour. Grant that we may ever seek thy greater glory here on earth, so that we may one day come to rejoice in thy infinite loveliness in Heaven. Amen.

-Raccolta

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. What is the theme of your life? Is it seeking heaven, or is it something else?

  2. Why do you think that longing for Heaven made the saints become saints?

  3. What excuses do you have for not thinking of heaven?

  4. Are there any sins which you refuse to part with? How do these sins keep you from seeking heaven?

  5. How are you seeking to “dwell in the house of the Lord”?

  6. St. Therese refers to heaven as our “Eternal Home.” What memories of your home can help you turn your thoughts to heaven?

  7. How does seeking God’s glory on Earth prepare us to enjoy heaven?

  8. How does the Incarnation teach us to live in the world but not for it?

  9. St. Therese’s devotion to her siblings who died young helped her to prepare for heaven. What devotions help you consider heaven?

  10. How is the Jerusalem temple, or a Catholic Church, an image of heaven?

  11. Father Sisco mentions elements of a funeral that point to the futility of earthly possessions at the time of death. What elements of a Catholic funeral point to Eternal life?

  12. Why is seeking heaven the only thing that truly matters?

-Erin Wells