Weeks 561-570

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 570: Christ’s Hands: A Reflection on the Last Supper

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

“This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.  “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14: 22-24)

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13: 2-5)

When one studies paintings, sometimes you have what is called a “detail”. It is just a portion of the whole painting. So for instance, in one issue of MAGNIFICAT there is an article on the painting “The Agony in the Garden” by Andrea Mantegna and there is a detail of just the angel coming down to strengthen Jesus.

Many important things happened on Holy Thursday. We have the institution of the Eucharist, the origin of the ordination of priests and bishops, the washing of the feet, the farewell discourse, and the agony in the garden—to name some of the highlights. I would like to see that as the large painting and do a detail of the hands of Christ in all of these events.

We can see the hands of Christ on the Shroud of Turin. They are nice hands with fairly long fingers. Because Jesus was Jewish, I see him speaking with his hands. I believe he was an animated speaker and would gesture with his hands when he was unfolding a parable. His listeners would be drawn to his face, for sure, when he was talking; but I think they would have also sometimes just watched his hands.

And so we come to the Last Supper. As Catholics, one of our biggest treasures is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence that comes from it and is reserved in our tabernacles. Jesus knew he was about to leave this world and return to his Father and he wanted to leave behind a way that he could be physically present to us, although in a veiled way. He also wanted to find a way to perpetuate, in an unbloody way, the tremendous event he was going to accomplish the next day and enable us to present it to the Father time after time until the end of the world. Therefore, we see his majestic hands picking up a large piece of bread, with his apostles looking on, and saying, “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” We can see this moment captured by the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens. Jesus’ hands are so expressive. They realize, like we will never be able to, the incredible depth of the gift that is being passed on to us.

Likewise, those same holy hands took up the cup as Jesus pronounced, “This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Those same hands would be sticky with blood within 24 hours, that same blood which he is now offering in perpetuity to those whom he loves.

In hindsight, we can say that Jesus was instituting a sacrament. So in the course of the meal, he also instituted the ministers of this sacrament and the six other sacraments that would unfold as the Church grew in understanding. He endowed his twelve apostles with the power to do what he had just done and change common bread and wine into his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In effect, he was ordaining the first bishops of our Church and at the same time giving them the authority to pass on that ordination to other bishops, priests, and deacons. It was an intimate moment with his closest friends, and I see his hands gesturing toward the Sacred Species as he says, “Do this in memory of me.”

What incredible power he has just given to a select group of human beings! To keep them from getting puffed up from their newly bestowed authority, we see Jesus’ hands slowly taking off his outer garments, wrapping a towel around his waist, and pouring water into a basin. The all-powerful hands of a Being who had participated in the creation of the universe and literally keeps all things in existence—those same hands are now taking the role of a slave and washing and drying the feet of his disciples. Those hands are demonstrating in a very concrete way that the ministry of the New Covenant is principally a ministry of service rather than authority.

Next, after Jesus had used his hands to put his outer garments back on, he reclines and starts speaking in a very intimate way with the eleven apostles who are left. They must have been spell-bound as they watched the expressions of his face and the gesturing of his hands. The words were so poignant. Little did they know that Jesus was giving his Farewell Discourse. Many spiritual-minded individuals see John’s Gospel as the cream of the Gospels, and the Farewell Discourse as the “creme de la creme.” It starts with chapter 14 and culminates with the Priestly Prayer of chapter 17.

Finally, in our meditation today, we focus our attention on the hands of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Many artists have given their rendering of the event. I mentioned earlier the elaborate creation of Andrea Mantegna in a recent issue of MAGNIFICAT. We see in the face and hands of Jesus the anguish of his soul as he pleads with his Father to let this cup pass him by. Those same hands which had healed and relieved so many who were in distress during his public ministry are now themselves in distress and begging for relief.

What a lot to ponder regarding the hands of Christ, and our own hands. -- Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO, Abbey of the Genesee

Quote from a Saint:

“Lay all your cares about the future trustingly in God’s hands, and let yourself be guided by the Lord just like a little child.” -- – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (St. Edith Stein)

Prayer:

Father, let me hold your hand, and like a child walk with you down all my days, secure in your love and strength' (Prayer of Thomas à Kempis, c.1380–1471).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Fr. Muller mentions how Christ used His Hands at the Last Supper. Name several other instances in the Gospels where He used His Hands.

  2. How can we use our hands to glorify God?

  3. Think of instances in Scripture where God the Father used His “Hands.”

  4. How do our hands help us to participate in God’s creative work?

  5. How do you use your hands best?

  6. How can “talking with your hands” be a powerful means of communication?

  7. What ways can you use your hands for good that you are not employing? Can you begin?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 569: Mercy from the Divine Beggar: A Reflection on John 19:25-30

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:25-30)

In listening to the Gospel accounts of the Lord’s passion and death, we hear again of Jesus’ horrendous suffering and as someone noted “His ghastly death”. And in all this pain and terrible suffering our God reveals His love, a love like no other - in reality, beyond our words, beyond any description, infinitely beyond our comprehension. In revealing His love “to the end” - to quote Jesus’ own words - our God shows Himself as a beggar - the Divine Beggar.

In his commentary on St. Matthew’s gospel Fr. Simeon - a Trappist of Spencer abbey - writes: “...love, especially divine Love (because it is so radical) always is a beggar, and God’s love, extreme and uncompromising like no other, begs for our faith and love in the most extreme manner, by revealing to us the wounds the eternal Son has sustained on our behalf.” - certainly, an inspired insight.

Our God calls us, invites us, truly begs us to open our hearts to His Word, to the Holy Eucharist, to Himself for our good, our eternal good. God has no need, His divinity does not depend on you/me but we have need of Him, a need deep within us, a need, a desire, a hunger that is a divine gift from God’s heart to our own.

Sadly, this need, this hunger can be overshadowed. Our Baptismal life calls us to flee from selfishness, in fact, to detest (a strong word) all narrowness, all evil even though, sadly, they can give us pleasure, control - like a god. We can hang on to them, feed them like the rich man in the Gospel taken up with his wealth, his harvest - these so-called riches that he could not take with him when death came - “a fool” as he is named in the Gospel.

Let us pray to be enlightened, to see the Crucified Christ as our Divine Beggar who begs us to live a life of union with Him - the life for which we have been created - the life He begs us to receive and willingly bestows on us through His passion and death.

As I was preparing this homily, a prayer came to my mind that was said at the end of each Station of the Cross in my home parish - perhaps it was the custom in yours: “Jesus Christ crucified, have mercy on us, have mercy on us O Lord, have mercy on us.” It was and is a prayer of begging - prayed because in our hearts we knew the Lord Himself was begging us to receive His mercy and so He does at every moment. “Jesus Christ crucified, have mercy on us, have mercy on us O Lord, have mercy on us.”

--Fr. John Denburger, OCSO, Abbey of the Genesee

 

Quote from a Saint:

Once the Lord said to me,

Act like a beggar who does not back away when he gets more alms [than he asked for], but offers thanks the more fervently. You too should not back away and say that you are not worthy of receiving greater graces when I give them to you. I know you are unworthy, but rejoice all the more and take as many treasures from My Heart as you can carry, for then you will please Me more. And I will tell you one more thing: Take these graces not only for yourself, but also for others; that is, encourage the souls with whom you come in contact to trust in My infinite mercy. Oh, how I love those souls who have complete confidence in Me. I will do everything for them. –From the Diary of Saint Faustina Kowalska

 

Prayer: Pope Francis' Jubilee Year of Mercy Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him. Show us your face and we will be saved.

 

Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: "If you knew the gift of God!"

 

You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

 

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

 

We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Discuss the concept of God as the Divine Beggar.

  2. Discuss the quote from St. Faustina’s Diary.

  3. What thought in Pope Francis’ prayer seems especially meaningful to you? Why?

  4. Could Jesus’ gift of the Blessed Mother to John be seen as an act of the Divine Beggar? How?

  5. What are your thoughts on Jesus’ call from the Cross, “I thirst.”

  6. What is God begging from us today?

  7. How can we give to God Who wants to give to us?

  8. Do you see yourself as a beggar before God or do you see God as a beggar before you? Discuss each viewpoint.

  9. What might God be begging from you personally?

  10. What is your most persistent request from God? Should this have the preeminence it has in your life? Why or why not?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 568: Christ Learned Obedience: A Reflection on Hebrews 5:8

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honour, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

‘You are my Son,

   today I have begotten you’;

as he says also in another place,

‘You are a priest for ever,

   according to the order of Melchizedek.’

 

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:1-10)

“Son though he was he learned obedience from what he suffered.” What is meant by “obedience” here, and how did Jesus learn from suffering? Clearly it’s not the reflexive obedience of a horse or dog being trained. It is not the result of force or coercion: not the obedience of a child being spanked by a parent, or a soldier punished by a drill sergeant…although both the Sanhedrin and the Romans might have thought they were ‘teaching him a lesson.’

 

What is made perfect in Jesus’ death on the cross is his freedom ; he goes to death willingly, embracing the cross/despising its shame… for the sake of the joy that lay before him, that is, the joy of seeing us set free.

 

John’s gospel underlines the agency of Jesus: when the soldiers come for him, when he is questioned by Pilate, even when he is struck by a guard, he is clearly in charge. Jesus performs his death as a prophetic sign, he allows himself to be lifted up as the bronze serpent in the desert was, so the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

 

Like the prophets who often performed absurd and demeaning actions in obedience to God, all that mattered to him was allowing God to speak through him, to speak even and especially through his brokenness and failure. The free and deliberate quality of Jesus’ submission to the cross is seen when in the eucharist, the night before, he provides the ritual interpretation of his suffering and death.

 

“He learned obedience from what he suffered”: not passively, not from what was inflicted, but from what he chose to suffer, what he accepted and took to himself to save us. “He learned obedience,” that is, he became totally free, he realized his heart’s desire, to give himself away without remainder, by surrender to the way of God, by accepting injustice, pain and rejection…without retaliating: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

 

This freedom to respond to the world’s violence without reacting in kind, without being controlled by it in any way, shows forth in the world the in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus ‘is made perfect’ in obedience by his willingness to suffer and forgive.

 

Our verse, “Son though he was he learned obedience from what he suffered,” has a similar shape to the one in Philippians: “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus…emptied himself…even to death on a cross.” Jesus emptied himself of himself; he did not try to grasp at life or status to substantiate his identity…instead he surrendered completely to the Father in going to the cross, letting go of the outcome, trusting that God would somehow make his gift fruitful beyond anything he could imagine. One of the fathers said, “If a person obeys God, God will obey that person.”

 

Even through the experience of abandonment, Jesus trusted in the mutuality of obedience, that having given everything, God would vindicate him in his own time and way and raise him up. It was to share in this freedom that Christ set us free: Free to live beyond the fear of death and suffering that veils the world; Free to not reciprocate violence, but to overcome evil with good; Free also to become the person God made us to be, open to joy in the midst of suffering, peace in the midst of conflict. Fr. Isaac Slater, OCSO, Abbey of the Genesee

 

Quote from a Saint:

It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey. – St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

Prayer:

Lord, we have received a spirit of sonship not slavery. “So let us confidently approach Jesus crucified, the throne of grace, to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” -- Fr. Isaac Slater, OCSO, Abbey of the Genesee

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How does suffering free us?

  2. Fr. Slater mentions several ways that we can learn obedience through suffering. List those ways. Then think of one real life example to illustrate each of those means. Then evaluate the situations you have mentioned. Determine how each one taught obedience.

  3. Why is acceptance necessary for obedience?

  4. Might there be merit in enduring but without accepting (the ‘I can’t do anything about it’ attitude)? Discuss your answer.

  5. How can God possibly learn obedience? Whom would He obey? Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity –God the Son. How did He learn obedience? Why was this necessary?

  6. Think of a difficult situation in your past or present life where you had to make a choice as to your response. Do you feel that your response showed obedience? If not, what did it show?

  7. Discuss this phrase: “The secret of sanctity is surrender.”

  8. Spend a few moments of silent introspection, mulling over how much you trust God. Where is your trust strongest? Weakest? How might you bolster your trust?

  9. Have you ever asked God to grant you the grace to trust Him totally? If not, why not begin today to pray for this?

  10. Jesus emptied Himself of His majesty to become a human being born into poverty. He lived as a traveling preacher. He died the death of a mocked criminal. What do these examples teach you about emptying yourself and growing in humility?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP  

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 567: Being Better Than Others 

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 

‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus,

 

“God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”

 But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’ (Luke 18: 9-14)

The Pharisee in the Gospel prided himself on being virtuous and despised the tax collector. But there’s more than one way of being a Pharisee. Another way is to make excuses for yourself for not being virtuous, and then find fault with someone else for not being perfect. That’s a way of exalting yourself by cutting someone else down to size, and it’s no less a sign of the Pharisee.

Charles Péguy talks about this kind of Pharisee in his book, The Mystery of the Holy Innocents. He presents God as saying to Himself:

The Pharisees want other people to be perfect.

They insist upon it and demand it and speak of nothing else. But I’m not so demanding.

Because I know what perfection is, I don’t demand so much of it from human beings. Because I am perfect because I alone am perfect.

I am All-Perfect. I am also less difficult, less demanding.

I am the Holy of Holies.

I know what holiness is. I know what it costs. I know what it costs, I know what it’s worth.

The Pharisees are always calling for perfection, for other people. In other people.

But the saint who wants perfection for himself, in himself, and who searches for it and labors for it in pains and tears, and who sometimes obtains a certain degree of perfection, the saint is not as difficult as others are.

He makes fewer demands of others. He understands. He demands a good deal of himself, is hard on himself.

It is a little more difficult than being hard on others.

--Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO

Quote from a Saint:

This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. . . . It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. . . .  Let your old age be childlike, and your childhood like old age; that is, so that neither may your wisdom be with pride, nor your humility without wisdom.  -St. Augustine

Prayer:

O God, who resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble: grant us the virtue of true humility, where of Your Only-begotten son showed in Himself a pattern for Your faithful; that we may never by our pride provoke Your anger, but rather by our meekness receive the riches of Your grace. Amen.

Litany of Humility:

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Pray the Litany of Humility reverently. Pick the petition that means the most to you and discuss why.

  2. Re-pray the Litany again. Can you mean every petition? Which one(s) cause you most difficulty?

  3. Discuss the quotes from Saint Augustine.

  4. How can one have humility with wisdom and wisdom with humility?

  5. How do we find out our own imperfections?

  6. Father Sheehan suggests that God is less demanding of others than we can be, because God knows that He is perfect so that makes Him patient with us who are not perfect. Does this make sense to you? Why or why not?

  7. What has been your experience with critical people? Do they seem to feel that they are perfect?

  8. Have you ever met someone who seems to be the very personification of humility? Share a bit about your experience with this person. How might this person inspire others? Do you think that this person recognizes his or her own humility?

  9. How does one tell the difference between genuine and false humility?

  10. What might you do to foster humility in yourself?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

 

Oratory Reflection 566: Hunger of the Spirit: Reflection on Luke 4:1-13

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, One does not live on bread alone.’ Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, ‘I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’ Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’ When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” -Luke 4:1-13

 

In the desert, God learned to be a hungry man. He learned the craving for food, the faintness, and weakness, the nagging emptiness. He watched the flesh melt away from the bone, and he never forgot that hunger. But Christ remembered hunger, not with bitterness, but with compassion. He never forgot that others are hungry. He fed the four thousand. Christ fasted to show us that God never forgets that we are hungry, even though we forget that God is hungry.

 

Christ’s hunger did not come just from a famished body. It was also a hunger of the soul. It was an eternal, divine hunger for the salvation of humanity. If he had a longing to feed hungry mouths, his desire to satisfy those who hunger and thirst for the living God was even greater: “I am the Bread of Life. The one who comes to me will hunger and thirst no more.” He gave himself to satisfy the hunger in the soul, and he did so under the form of food for the body.

 

“One does not live on bread alone.” These are the words of a man who was famished as he spoke them. He knew bodily and spiritual hunger, and he knew which was more important. Bread is not the only food of the human race. And yet before he revealed himself as the living bread, he fed the multitude. He was able to feed the body in such a way as to satisfy the true hunger of the soul.

 

But Christ is not alone in the desert. The devil is there too, to tempt him. Whoever heard of a hungry God? What is the use of being a God unless you get something out of it? Or to us, what is the use of religion unless you get something out of it? What do we get for leaving our lives behind and following Christ? 

 

We get the joy of having given everything. The reason you love is in order to give everything, not in order to get anything. If you are able to love utterly and completely, you will have given everything. The devil can fast, but it’s only in order to fill his belly more. Christ fasts in order to give of himself.

 

The devil knows Scripture, and tries to twist it to his own designs. “Throw yourself down.” But abandoning yourself to divine Providence does not mean abandoning the human condition. The Providence of God is concerned with people’s needs. Moving with that Providence means concerning yourself more deeply with the real needs of humanity. God has nothing up his sleeve. He holds nothing back from us. We should not dare to test the Lord. 

 

Christ’s choice reveals what is involved in each decision of ours. We worship either God or the devil by each of our free acts. In the struggle between Good and Evil, there is no neutral territory. “Anyone who is not with me is against me.” Light or darkness, the two are mutually exclusive, though sometimes hard to distinguish. 

 

The devil retreats temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity. Although he will crucify Christ, he will accomplish nothing but his own destruction. And the devil will keep on tempting the followers of Christ, even though he should know by now that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” We have only to keep praying, “Deliver us from evil...for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are the Lord’s, now and forever.”

-Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO, Genesee Abbey

Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer: 

Jesus, my love! who for love of me didst hang in agony upon the Cross, and with such readiness and bounty didst respond to the faith of the good thief, who in thy humiliations acknowledged Thee to be the Son of God, and didst assure unto him the Paradise prepared for him; oh, pity all the faithful who are in their last agony, and pity me when I too shall be in mine. By the merit of thy most Precious Blood, wake up in our souls such firm and steadfast faith as shall never waver at any suggestion of the evil one; that out of pure love of thee, we also may obtain the prize of holy Paradise. Amen

-Raccolta

 

Quote from a Saint: 

"When one loves, one does not calculate."

-St. Thérèse of Lisieux

 

Questions:

  1. What does it mean to have a hunger of the Spirit? 

  2. How can we satisfy this hunger in ourselves? In others? 

  3. The Lord hungers for the salvation of humanity. How can we satisfy his hunger?

  4. What is the difference between testing the Lord and relying on Him? 

  5. What does the Lord do when we give everything over to him in love?

  6. How can we keep our fasting from becoming a point of pride? How can we fast and hunger the way that Christ did?

  7. The devil has already been defeated. How can we keep this truth before us when he tempts us?

-Erica Faunce​

 
 
Oratory Reflection 565: Word of Life: Reflection on Sirach 27:4-7 & Luke 6:39-45 

 

“When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do people’s faults when they speak. The furnace tests the potter’s vessels; the test of a person is in conversation. The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so speech discloses the bent of a person’s heart. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.” -Sirach 27:4-7

“Jesus told his disciples a parable, ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,” when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye. A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.’” -Luke 6:39-45

The Scriptures have something important to say about conversion, our personal Baptismal commitment, turning from what is sinful to turning to God, our supreme good. We are called to know ourselves at a deeper level, which might prove frightening for some. We are called to listen to our own hearts, to seek to know the real place of God in our lives. In doing so, our Baptismal journey is truly one of grace into grace, of coming to know ourselves and the One God. The Scriptures leave no room for the idea that our faith life is just empty pieties; Jesus’ own words are most clear: “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Sacred Word spells out for us what surpassing holiness looks like. Sirach calls us to investigate our speech, which is more than mere words. Our conversations “disclose the bent of one’s mind.” Our talk can flow from inherent goodness, from inherent malice, or from something in-between. We can bless, and we can curse. As men and women who are baptized in Christ, who believe in His abiding presence within us, our speech clearly reveals whether Christ's presence is at work or whether He has been silenced.

St. Paul calls us to, “be firm, steadfast, always devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” This labor of grace is not just restricted to the 40 days of Lent, but meant for each day, each moment of life. Left to ourselves, such labor would be a terrible burden, so heavy that no one could carry it. But we are not left to ourselves. Jesus, our strength, said, “I am with you to the end.” Trusting in His words and His presence, we make our way. The question is, how much do we trust in His words, His promise?

St. Luke calls us to resist the temptation to look for and remove beams from the eyes of others, and to instead examine ourselves. We must reflect on whether we act from a store of goodness or from one of evil. Often, it is a confusing mix of both, and finally recognizing our weaknesses can stop us in our tracks. However unsettling, this can become a moment of light, a moment to seriously seek the grace of conversion. God can make all things, even our flaws, work for good. He is omnipotent, ever-merciful. 

Conversion, turning more and more to God, demands a strong motivation, an excellent reason, a faithful movement, a power outside oneself. And we have that. St. Luke wrote: “...for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” This certainly describes our Lord. The word “fullness” in the original language means a superabundance, an abundance over and above. This is God’s love, a measure that has no measure!

At every Mass, we hear the Lord Jesus speak from that fullness of love. Through the priest, we hear the Lord say: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is My Body, which will be given up for you,” and, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of My Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is given up for you, poured out for you. How can we hear of such love and not seek conversion? How can we receive the Holy Eucharist and not live conversion willingly, gratefully, steadfastly? What other motivation, what other reason could we need?
-Fr. John Denburger, OCSO, Genesee Abbey
Edited by Erica Faunce

Prayer: 
Most holy Mary, to thee I have recourse with sincere confidence. I know, on the one hand, how much I stand in need of being converted from my very heart; yet, on the other, the heinousness of my crimes strikes me with terror. I betake myself to thee who art our sovereign mediator with thy dear Son Jesus, as He is with his Eternal Father. 
O Mother of Mercy, obtain for me the grace of a true and lasting conversion. I wish to change my life entirely. Grant it to me in spite of my unworthiness. I throw myself at thy feet, sorrowful and repentant. My sins have taken from me the strength which grace imparts, cast me out from among the adopted sons of God, and deprived me of the right to everlasting happiness. 
Tell me what I must do to regain the friendship of thy Son Jesus. Beg of Him, by his Precious Blood, his bitter Passion, and cruel death on the Cross, to pardon my offenses, and He will pardon them. Tell Him thy desire for my salvation, and He will save me. Instill into my heart a lively faith, a firm hope, an ardent charity, and all the virtues suitable to my state of life. Be thou my loving Mother here below, and my advocate at the hour of death, that I may come to know the Lord face to face. Amen.
-Raccolta 

Quote: 
“To escape the distress caused by regret for the past or fear about the future, this is the rule to follow: leave the past to the infinite mercy of God, the future to His good Providence, give the present wholly to His love by being faithful to His grace.”
-Jean-Pierre De Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence

 

Questions: 

  1. How can we be better about consistently examining our hearts, minds, and actions? 

  2. How can we examine ourselves without being overwhelmed by our own imperfection and weakness? 

  3. How can we celebrate the good fruit in our lives without becoming proud or complacent?

  4. In what ways can a good act or intention be turned to evil? What do we do when we find we have erred?

  5. What force motivates you in your daily life? Is it from a source of goodness? 

  6. It is often painful to “remove the beam from your own eye.” What comfort does God offer to us in those times?

  7. How can penance and conversion help us to recognize the outpouring of God’s love for us?

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 564: Strength of Faith: Reflection on Matthew 16:13-19

“When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’” -Matthew 16:13-19

In the Catholic faith, we celebrate the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, which can sound a bit strange to the literal-minded, but it’s not about a literal chair at all. In chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew, Our Lord says that, “the scribes and the Pharisees sit on the chair of Moses,” meaning that they teach with the same authority as Moses and his successors. The chair of Peter would then refer to the teaching authority of Peter, and it implies that there will be successors who will sit on the chair of Peter.

The basis for a teaching authority in the Church is clear from the Gospel reading. Simon made a confession of faith, “You are the Christ.” And Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” In the Collect from the liturgy on the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, we hear what this rock is: “Almighty God, you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.” So the Church is built on the rock of Peter’s faith, not on his strength of character. Judging from the Gospels, he was often stumbling, impetuous, intense, and at times uncouth.

It was Peter who attempted to walk on the sea, and began to sink; it was Peter who impulsively wished to build three tabernacles on the mountain of the Transfiguration; and it was Peter who, just before the crucifixion, three times denied knowing his Lord.

But it was also Peter who, after Pentecost, risked his life to do the Lord’s work, speaking out boldly of his belief in Jesus and the Resurrection. It was also Peter, the Rock, whose strength and courage helped the young Church in its questioning about the mission beyond the Jewish community. Though he was at first opposed to the baptism of Gentiles, he had the humility to admit a change of heart, and he himself baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household.

Although the New Testament makes no mention of it, the tradition connecting Peter with Rome is very ancient. According to that tradition, Peter fled from Rome during the persecution under Nero. On the Appian Way, he met Christ, and asked him, “Quo Vadis, Domine?” - “Where are you going, Lord?” The Lord replied, “I am going to be crucified again.” So Peter returned to Rome and shortly afterward he himself was crucified, head downwards.

As we watch Peter struggle with himself, stumble, deny his Lord, speak rashly and act impetuously, his life reminds us that our Lord did not come to save the virtuous and strong but to save the weak and the sinful. Simon, an ordinary human being, was transformed by the Holy Spirit into the “Rock,” and became the leader of the Church. May we who share his weakness of character also share his strength of faith, so that we may one day share his reward.

-Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO

Prayer: 
Oh, preserve us in the true Catholic Roman Faith. Infirmities afflict us, annoyances wear us away, misfortunes oppress us: but preserve to us thy holy faith; for, endowed with this precious gift, we shall willingly bear every sorrow, and nothing can affect our happiness. On the other hand, without this supreme treasure of the faith, our misfortunes will be unspeakable and immense. O good Jesus, author of our faith, keep it pure; keep us safe within the bark of Peter, faithful and obedient to his successor, thy Vicar here on earth, that so the unity of holy Church may be preserved, holiness fostered, the Holy See kept free and protected, and the universal Church extended, to the advantage of souls. O Jesus, author of our faith, humble and convert the enemies of thy Church ; bestow on all Kings and Christian Princes, and on all the faithful, peace and true unity; strengthen and maintain all in thy holy service, to the end that we may live by Thee and die in Thee. Oh! my Jesus, author of our faith, in Thee I would live, and in Thee would I die. Amen. 
-Raccolta

Quote from a Saint:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
-1 Peter 1:3-7

 

Questions: 

  1. How does a person receive the gift of faith? 

  2. Once we have the gift of faith, how can we use it to the full?

  3. The Gospel recounts Peter saying to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Why do we have the instinct to separate ourselves from the Lord who loves us? 

  4. What does the Lord do with our weaknesses when we offer them to Him? 

  5. How should we act in the times we know we have hurt or offended the Lord? 

  6. Think of how Peter’s life ended and the person he had become. What changed him? How did that change occur? 

  7. The Lord asked Peter to give everything over to Him for the sake of the Church. Are there parts of yourself that you have not handed over to Him yet? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 563: Lord of Abundance: Reflection on Isaiah 62:1-5 & John 2:1-11

“For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep still, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her salvation like a burning torch. Nations shall behold your vindication, and all kings your glory; You shall be called by a new name bestowed by the mouth of the Lord. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No more shall you be called “Forsaken,” nor your land called “Desolate,” But you shall be called “My Delight is in her,” and your land “Espoused.” For the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be espoused. For as a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” -Isaiah 62:1-5

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.’ So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” -John 2:1-11

Our world has been inundated with bad news, “fake” news, politically manipulated news. What the world needs now is the Good News: the love of God is greater than the hatred that is tearing the world apart. God is One, and the love of Christ is stronger than anything that divides us. The Light of Christ is brighter than the darkness that envelops us. Because the world has been deafened by shouts of anger and sounds of violence, each of us needs to extend a reassuring hand to our neighbors in order to make God’s unfailing love real and tangible. 

Through us, Jesus extends compassion to all who are overwhelmed, those who are weary and burdened with anxiety, those who “have no wine.” Christ has made himself our resting place and rock of refuge. In him, the words spoken by Isaiah find fulfillment, “He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and release from darkness for those in bondage.” (Is. 61:1)

God takes great delight in us and rejoices to be our Father. It is with the assurance of God’s infinite and abundant love that I will not be silent. My brothers and sisters, as members of this world, we are called to be watchmen on the walls of the Heavenly Jerusalem. “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem. They will never be silent either by day or by night. While they live, they will give themselves to unabated toil in proclaiming the wonders of God.” (Is. 62: 6) 

We have kept the watches of the night, and now we must awaken the world to the dawning of a new day, the day of the Lord’s Banquet. The people who had been “Forsaken” will come to realize that they are the objects of God’s delight. The land that was “Desolate” will find itself espoused and vibrant with hope. God keeps seeking out the lost and extending mercy and forgiveness. He desires intimacy with us in order to save us from ourselves. God has given us a new name as his beloved children, and so let us sing a song that blesses his name in return.

We have been invited by Christ to partake of the wedding feast of the Lamb. Unlike the limited fare at the wedding feast of Cana, the food and drink at the Banquet of the Lamb are superabundant. Christ becomes our food and drink, sufficient to satisfy our every need. The wine at Cana was intended to gladden the revelers' hearts. The Banquet of the Lamb is intended to draw all into communion with the Triune God, where Christ becomes the supersubstantial bread that allows us to live forever. 

The world needs to know that God is a generous and prodigal lover. As the messenger of the Father’s love for the human race, the Only-begotten Son has stretched out his nail-scarred hands to us. The God of Love has prepared a banquet for us and sent his servants to invite everyone to the feast. The Bread of life has been baked in the fire of Divine Love. The wine has been trodden in the winepress of the Sacred Heart.

Let us lift up our eyes to Christ with hope in our hearts. May we be so enlightened by the glory of God that the words of John XXIII will be reflected in our lives. “I put my eyes in your eyes. I put my heart close to your heart”.
-Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO, Genesee Abbey
Edited by Erica Faunce

Prayer: 
In this season of Lent, we’re reminded of our own difficulties and struggles. But in the midst of our weakness, we ask that you, O Lord, will be strong on our behalf. Rise up within us and send us your Spirit. Allow your power to be manifest through our weakness, so that others recognize it is You who work through us. We ask that you trade the ashes of our lives for the beauty of your Presence. Trade our mourning and grief for the joy and gladness of your Spirit. Trade our despair for hope and praise. We give you thanks and believe that this season of darkness will fade away. You are with us in whatever we face, and you are greater than all trials. We recognize that you are Sovereign, and thank you for the victory over death that is ours because of Christ. We are confident that you have good in store for us even now. We praise and thank you, for you make all things new. Amen. 

 

Quote from a Saint: 
"Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God's ear to yourself." 
-St. Peter Chrysologus

 

Questions: 

  1. What does the Lord promise for those who come to Him in times of trial?

  2. If the Lord has goodness in store for us, then what is the value of suffering, especially in the Lenten season?

  3. How can our Lenten journey “comfort the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives, and release from darkness for those in bondage”?

  4. What sort of responsibility do we as Catholics have towards the world? 

  5. How can we be sure that we are fit and able to proclaim the Word of God? 

  6. What steps can we take in this season of transformation in order to become better messengers of God’s love? 

  7. How can we begin to worry less about satisfying our own will, and instead let God work His will through us? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 562: Gift of Grace: Reflection on 2 Cor 5:20-6:2

“Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” -2 Cor 5:20-6:2

There is a pre-Christian idea of repentance, which unfortunately, is still very much active. In this version of repentance, we “sacrifice” something and purchase what we want from a godly figure in a quid pro quo: I do a rain dance and the god sends rain; I give up my firstborn to the volcano and the harvest is abundant. If we proclaim a fast, weeping and mourning hard enough, then God will relent.
 
The Gospel turns all of this on its head. Jesus reveals a God who takes the initiative: “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” This makes Christianity a kind of anti-religion in comparison to those that came before it: God gives first. He gives the totally undeserved free gift of grace, hoping to elicit a similarly free and gratuitous response. 

First comes the shattering awareness that we are loved unconditionally, that the Lord is willing to forgive… and then comes our repentance. First we discover that “the Lord is all tenderness and compassion,” then our hearts are torn, not just our garments. So we give alms, pray, and fast, not to buy God’s forgiveness or to impress other people, but as a grateful and gratuitous response to his free gift of mercy.

Jesus assures us that every hair on our head has been numbered, and that the Father knows what we need before we ask. This Lent, in a new way, he is giving us, day by day, moment by moment, exactly the grace we need to draw near to him. He rewards us in secret with the greatest reward, namely, to love without the expectation of any reward at all. As St. Bernard writes: “Love is sufficient for itself; it gives pleasure to itself, and for its own sake. It is its own merit and own reward. Love needs no cause beyond itself, nor does it demand fruits; it is its own purpose. I love because I love, I love that I may love.”

In the season of Lent, we don’t need to work ourselves up into a froth of willpower and asceticism, making arbitrary, self-imposed penances we’ll either let slip as the weeks go by or woodenly insist on; these often serve only to reinforce our self-will and prop up our “religious ego” anyway.

The good news is that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” His grace goes before us, we have only to immerse and steep ourselves in his presence, to “remain in his love.” And the right way to pray, fast, and give alms will flow naturally from each moment…

And the present moment is exactly where we receive this grace. “Now, now…turn back to me with all your heart”; “Now is the favorable time, this is the day of salvation.”

Giving up our desire to control God, to lock in the desired outcome by some fool-proof magic formula, we enjoy the freedom of the children of God by responding to the freshness of grace in each moment. The book Abandonment to Divine Providence describes it this way: “without rules, nothing more orderly; without preparation, nothing better planned; without thought, nothing more profound; without skill, nothing more accomplished; without effort, nothing more effective; and without precaution, nothing better adjusted to whatever may happen.”
-Fr. Isaac Slater, OCSO, Genesee Abbey

Prayer:
Our sins, O Lord, darken our minds, and we lose the benefit of loving Thee as Thou deservest. Enlighten us with a ray of thy bright light. Thou art Friend, Redeemer, Father of all who turn repentant to thy Heart; and we return to Thee sorrowing. Save us, O Jesus; provide out of thy infinite bounty for our miseries. O Jesus, we hope in Thee because we know that our salvation cost Thee thy life sacrificed upon the Cross, and induced Thee to dwell continuously in the Blessed Sacrament, in order to be united with us as often as we desire. We, O Lord, to thank Thee for the great love Thou bearest us, promise with the help of thy grace to receive Thee in the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible; to declare thy praises in church and in every place, without human respect. O Lord, confiding in thy Sacred Heart, we beseech Thee, to preserve in thy love those who love Thee, and to invite all to receive Thee daily at the altar in accordance with thy burning desire. Amen. 

 

Quote from a Saint: 
“Whenever we think of Christ, we should recall the love that led Him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of His love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love Him.”
-Teresa of Avila

Questions: 

  1. How can we tell if our intentions, especially for Lent, are of our own making instead of God’s? 

  2. St. Paul writes that we should not “receive the grace of God in vain.” How can we tell when we are not open to receiving the grace of God? 

  3. God is offering help and salvation at all times. What can make us forget this? 

  4. What habits can we form that remind us of God’s constant love and mercy toward us? How can we better orient our hearts to accept his grace? 

  5. What can we do to better surrender each moment of our day to Christ, who surrendered himself for us? 

  6. What does it mean to be an “ambassador for Christ”?

  7. What aspects of our society reinforce the idea of a “vending machine god” who only gives if we sacrifice something to him? How can we counteract this belief? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 561: Building the Church: Reflection on Haggai 1:1-8

 

“On the first day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak: Thus says the Lord of hosts: This people says, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.’ Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
“Now thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways! You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; And whoever earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways! Go up into the hill country; bring timber, and build the house that I may take pleasure in it and receive my glory, says the Lord.”
-Haggai 1:1-8

Haggai reminds us that places of worship can be a problem, and the problem is not necessarily architectural. It is not uncommon for people to be dismissive of places of worship by saying, “A church is not a building; it’s the people,” or, “I prefer to worship God in the great cathedral of the outdoors.” These pronouncements are often accompanied by the scriptural punchline, “The God who made the universe doesn’t live in dwellings made by hands,” which is supposed to end the discussion. God doesn’t live in buildings - period. That’s what we can sometimes hear.

But then there is the prophet Haggai to account for. His single task, carried out in a three-and-a-half-month mission, was to get God’s people to rebuild His Temple, which had been destroyed seventy or so years earlier. Compared with the great prophets who preached repentance and salvation, Haggai’s message doesn’t sound very “spiritual.” On the surface, his message is simply about doing manual labor. 

But in God’s economy, it may not be a good idea to rank whatever work he gives us as either more or less spiritual. We are spiritual beings, and yet we are material as well, flesh and blood. We are connected with the ordinary world in which we necessarily live out our extraordinary Christian beliefs. 

In Haggai’s time, the people of Israel were working, eating, drinking, and doing all of the ordinary things that people should do. Yet they were unsatisfied. They lacked the spiritual life. And so the Lord beckoned them to work, eat, and drink with and for Him, to remember the end to which their lives should be oriented. The material works of our hands need to point to the spiritual. Our works are not ends in themselves, or they become idols. Our creations should lead us to the Creator. 

Haggai keeps us in touch with those material representations of the spiritual reality. If we don’t take care of our church, as the Israelites neglected the Temple, and concentrated on adorning their own houses, then our priorities are out of order. God does live in buildings. He lives in every tabernacle in every Catholic Church around the world. And when we use our material means and abilities to build Him a beautiful house, we are that much more able to connect with the Spirit and see the beauty of God. 
-Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
Edited by Erica Faunce

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Savior of the whole human race, "who reigns from sea to sea and from the river unto the boundaries of the world," open thy most Sacred Heart in mercy to those wretched souls who still sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, thy immaculate Mother, and of blessed Joseph her most glorious spouse, they may abandon their idols, and prostrating themselves before Thee, be admitted into thy holy Church. Amen. 
-Raccolta

Quote from a Saint: 
“So about the eating of meat sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘there is no idol in the world,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ Indeed, even though there are so-called gods in heaven and on earth (there are, to be sure, many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’), yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist.”
-St. Paul (1 Cor 8:4-6)

Questions: 

  1. Why is the place that we pray important? 

  2. What might lead people to believe that the church building is not important? 

  3. Why are we sometimes hesitant to approach the Lord in His house? 

  4. Why are we as human beings drawn towards beauty? 

  5. How can we tell when our work becomes an end in itself instead of being oriented towards the Lord? How can we correct this? 

  6. What are we to do when the Lord’s will doesn’t seem to make sense to us? 

  7. How can everyday living and working keep us connected to the Lord?

-Erica Faunce