Weeks 581-590

Oratory Reflection 585: A Lion’s Roar: Amos 3:1-8

“Hear this word, Israelites, that the Lord speaks concerning you, concerning the whole family I brought up from the land of Egypt: You alone I have known, among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Do two journey together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den unless it has seized something? Does a bird swoop down on a trap on the ground when there is no lure for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground without catching anything? Does the ram’s horn sound in a city without the people becoming frightened? Does disaster befall a city unless the Lord has caused it? (Indeed, the Lord God does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets.) The lion has roared, who would not fear? The Lord God has spoken, who would not prophesy?” -Amos 3:1-8

 

The passage from the prophet Amos is made up of rhetorical questions. Rather than simply reading each question and going on to the next one, we need to ponder each question in turn as an attempt to uncover the reality behind each scenario. Let us begin with the lion and its roar. 

 

The lion is the most social animal of all the wild feline species. They live in groups called prides. Roars can be heard from five miles away when conditions are right. The sound is deafening and awe-inspiring when heard from nearby. Roars are used to signal territoriality and to locate distant pride members. Amos also presents roaring as a part of the hunt. Supposedly, a male lion roared to incite panic in a herd. This would create a stampede and the prey would run headlong into a trap set by the lionesses of the pride. The lion roars to protect the pride and to feed it. The lion’s roar terrifies the prey and reassures the pride.

 

The Lion of Judah roars, who will not listen up? The God of Israel speaks, who will not testify to His glory? When the Lion of Judah roars, what is his message? “You are my people. I made you. You belong to me.” When the God of Israel speaks, what does he say? “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your offspring after you” (Gen. 17:7). Once we have seen the Lion of Judah and heard his message, we have one thing to do: spread the message. The content of this message does not come from extensive theological research. Rather, it flows from an encounter with the living Lord. 

 

God has revealed his heart to us, who will not prophesy? This simple verse can serve as a window into the prophet’s understanding of his vocation and the place of prophecy in God’s salvific plan for the world. The lion’s roar and the Father’s voice are observable phenomena, which communicate hidden realities. The prophet has heard the voice of the Lord and shared sweet converse with Him. Filled with the flame of divine love, the prophet is sent to declare God’s loving mercy to the world. His full-throated proclamation is: “God has exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2: 9-11). 

He who laid down his life in lamb-like surrender took it up again as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. When the Lion roars, may we find comfort in being under his watchful eye. When God speaks, may we tell others of his infinite love and mercy. May the Lord grant us the grace to be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord.

-Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO, Genesee Abbey

Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer: 

Almighty God, our Father, your infinite power and glory resound throughout all creation. As a roaring lion do you send forth your word to us, that we may hear you from afar, and recognize the voice of our protector and provider. May your divine word echo loudly in our hearts, so that, filled with the Holy Spirit, we may venture forth and spread the good news of your mercy and justice. Amen. 

 

Quote: 

“Is not Christ called ‘the Lamb’? Is not Christ ‘the Lion’ too? Among wild beasts, and cattle, a lamb is simply a lamb, and a lion, a lion: but Christ is both.”

-St. Augustine of Hippo

 

Questions: 

  1. Why would God use the image of a lion in his warning against the unfaithful Israel? 

  2. What purpose is there in punishment from the Lord, particularly in the Old Testament?

  3. How does the arrival of the Incarnation and his Passion fulfill the Lord’s covenant with his people? 

  4. What does God say to us when we are unfaithful? How does he act?

  5. How can we respond to God’s message when we hear the Father’s loving voice?

  6. What sort of message could inspire someone to speak out in the name of the Lord? 

  7. When we are filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, how can we pass it on to others?

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 584: Mother & Child: Is 66:10-14 & Gal 6:14-18

“Thus says the Lord: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,  all you who love her;  exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her! Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts! For thus says the Lord: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,  and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. When you see this, your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass; the Lord's power shall be known to his servants.” -Is 66:10-14

 

“Brothers and sisters: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.” -Gal 6:14-18

 

The liturgy shows us that sometimes God himself wishes to come across as our mother. No one can comfort like a mother, because no one else had such an intimate relationship with us even before we were born, and continued to nourish us after our birth. The spiritual life is like that: a life of intimate relationship with God, who continues to nourish us with the Body and Blood of Christ.

 

Just as a child, for the first nine months after conception, is at peace because it is totally surrounded by its mother and continually draws life from her, so we are totally surrounded by God, who continually gives life to the depths of our soul. So long as a child remains in the womb, a mother cannot stop giving life and fostering growth; nor can God withhold any love from us. In God’s eyes, every human being is a wanted child, because it was God who created every soul and guides our every step, overshadowing us at all times and in all places with the loving care of a mother. 

 

Even our weaknesses and spiritual miseries, our obstacles and difficulties, cannot prevent our union with God or the peace that it brings. On the contrary, God uses them as a means to bring about the realization of the divine plan for us, which is the plan of the only One who loves us infinitely. Even Christ was no stranger to human suffering. He underwent the cross with all of its shame in order to become the first-born of all creation, the first-born of many brothers and sisters.

 

St. Paul in the second reading speaks of the marks on his body as being like the wounds that Jesus suffered on the cross. And they cannot disturb his peace or separate him from God. “Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule”, he says, who belong to a new creation, “the Israel of God.” Like Jesus and Paul, we too have been marked by our own life experiences. But if we allow God to act as mother, we will discover that there is peace all around us, providing the climate in which we can assimilate our experiences and grow into a new creation, a brother or sister of Jesus.

It is Christ who plants the seed of the Word Inside the walls of our Church, which are like the walls of a womb. They enclose a protected environment, a sacred space, in which God nurtures the growth of those who are in the process of being born again. Although every vocation is different, all go through stages of spiritual development, stages of continuous formation, until we are ready to be born into eternal life. 

 

During this time we eat and drink what is offered to us at Mass, the Body and Blood of Christ, circulating in us just as it did in Christ; for the kingdom of God is as near to us here as a mother is to her preborn child. At our death, we leave the womb of the Church Militant and are born into a glorious light, the Church Triumphant. God remains like a mother, takes us up into everlasting arms, and rejoices that our names are written in Heaven.

 

Let us then come to the altar and “eat and drink what is offered to us”: food for the souls of those who are growing close to the heart of God. As we receive from the altar the sacred Body and Blood, let us be filled with that peace which the world outside cannot give. Nourished by this food, may we grow spiritually stronger day by day, so that when our time comes, God may receive us into our everlasting home.

-Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO

Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer:

Oh God, you give the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Mother, to nurture and guide us. You give us our own earthly mothers, who carried us within the walls of their body, as Mother Church carries us along, safe from the turbulence and the many currents of this stormy world. Help us always to cherish the life given to us through them, and to embrace the guidance and the comfort which they offer to us. May we see in their acts of love, the work of your own tender heart. Amen. 

 

Quote: 

“Motherhood then becomes a kind of priesthood. She brings God to man by preparing the flesh in which the soul will be implanted; she brings man to God in offering the child back again to the Creator….she is nature’s constant challenge to death, the bearer of cosmic plentitude, the herald of eternal realities, God’s great cooperator.”

-Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen

 

Questions: 

  1. How does earthly motherhood reflect the love of God? How does this change as a child grows older? 

  2. What can we learn about God’s love from the example of the Blessed Mother? 

  3. Each of us is a beloved child of God. What sort of things might prevent us from remembering this? 

  4. How do we make sure to treat each person we encounter as a precious child of God? 

  5. In what ways does the Church act as our Mother? 

  6. Nicodemus asked the Lord, “How can a man be born again?” and Jesus replied, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” What does the Church teach us about this idea? 

  7. How are birth and death related in the life of Christ, and in the life of a Christian? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 583: The Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:7-15

“Jesus said to them: ‘In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

‘This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. 

‘If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.’” -Matthew 6:7-15

 

Jesus taught us to begin our prayer with the words “Our Father.” Just these two words contain a profound and challenging teaching that affects the way we live, think, and pray.

 

This prayer contains both the vertical (our relationship with God) expressed in the first part, and the horizontal (our relation with one another) expressed in the second part. In listening carefully to Jesus’ words, we find that prayer is never a matter of just God and me. God is not my Father alone, but the Father of all. If there is an all-inclusive prayer, this is it!

 

Notice the plural throughout the prayer beginning with the first word: “Our.” The plural continues to the end: “give us,” “forgive us,” “lead us,” “deliver us. ” In this ultimate prayer, never does Jesus use the words “me,” “my,” or “mine.” Through Jesus’ words, we are told clearly that calling on “Our Father” means being sensitive to others, living charity in all its forms. It means that being willfully ignorant, deliberately rude to another, or choosing to treat another poorly is to make a lie of this prayer. 

 

Can prayer, no matter how pious, no matter how frequent, become dishonest? Of course, dishonesty can exist anywhere. What is in my heart determines true prayer and false prayer, good prayer and bad prayer, honest prayer and dishonest prayer. Hatred, disdain, and arrogance still retain their potency, even when covered over by pious words. 

 

When we use prayer as a way to affirm our own shortcomings, it deadens the heart, and actually distances us from God. He is the maker of the human heart, and knows when we are praying in true humility, and when we are using humble words to feed our own pride. A good way to know the difference comes in the second part of the prayer: Forgive us as we forgive others. If our prayer distances us from our brothers and sisters, elevating us above them, this prayer will also distance us from God, the Father of us all. 

 

We will stand before God in judgment one day and hopefully, the Lord will not say to us: “You called on Me, but your heart was not with Me. When you prayed ‘Our Father’ and excluded another in any way, I did not listen, because you did not listen to the Lord Jesus’ teaching. You heard what you wanted to hear. You used His words, but your heart was far from Him!” Rather, let us have great hope that He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have treated others as I would, listening to them and forgiving their debts. I heard you. I am your Father.” 

 

The Lord’s teaching is “spirit and life.” Isn’t that why we seek, listen, and obey? Isn’t His teaching, His word, the desire of our hearts? So let us open our hearts truly to the Lord and to his children as we pray, so that we may be heard. 

-Fr. John Denburger, OCSO

Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer: 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen. 

 

Quote: 

“Among all other prayers, the Lord's Prayer holds the chief place. It has five excellent qualities which are required in all prayer. A prayer must be confident, ordered, suitable, devout, and humble.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas

 

Questions: 

  1. Do you ever find yourself “babbling” in prayer? Why? 

  2. In Matthew’s Gospel, part of the Our Father reads “do not subject us to the final test.” What does this mean? 

  3. How can we discern whether we pray with a true heart? What are some signs that we are starting to be hardened of heart in prayer? 

  4. We all sometimes need to be alone with the Lord in prayer. How does this differ from excluding others? 

  5. What does Jesus’ use of the plural (“we,” “us,” etc.) tell us about our own human needs?

  6. Why can’t God forgive us when we don’t first forgive others? 

  7. If Our Father already knows what we need before we ask Him, why do we need to pray at all? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 582: Comfort In Exile: Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

“On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. In the square in front of the Water Gate, Ezra read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion; Ezra opened the scroll so that all the people might see it, for he was standing higher than any of the people. When he opened it, all the people stood. Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, “Amen, amen!” Then they knelt down and bowed before the Lord, their faces to the ground. Ezra read clearly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then Nehemiah, that is, the governor, and Ezra the priest-scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: ‘Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not lament, do not weep!’—for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He continued: ‘Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord is your strength!’” -Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

The people of Israel had been in exile for 70 years. They were estranged from their faith roots and never taught the ways of the Law. The reading recounts how the people gathered in the Temple area to listen to Ezra read the Book of the Law. This was a very solemn event. The people assembled at the Water Gate where a special platform had been erected for the occasion. On that day, the people’s hunger for the Word was satisfied. The floodgates of grace and mercy were opened for them. Having lived in a foreign land, they found themselves at home again in the House of their God.

Like the people in the reading, we find ourselves living in an alien land. Our land of exile is a secular society. All personal relationships are supplanted by the accumulation of wealth and possessions. The interior life is overshadowed by superficial values. We are not allowed to see ourselves as creatures made in the image and likeness of God. Wherever we turn, we are told that we can create ourselves in any way we want. We can be whatever we want to be. The longer we work the clay, we become more and more frustrated, even depressed, because nothing works the way we want it to. This causes us to become more and more hateful towards ourselves and towards everyone else.

Like the people of Israel, we have been scattered, isolated, and enslaved. Because we have lost sight of the Holy One who loves us, we have become a fragmented community. Having set ourselves up as the sole arbiters of truth, we no longer seek the truth in loving and open dialogue. Having become enslaved by our wants, we no longer have the patience or will to support one another in times of need and weakness. 

It is into this valley of darkness and division that the Word Made Flesh descended. Like Ezra, Jesus announces the acceptable time of restoration and life. The shepherd of the flock has come seeking those who have gone astray. When he finds them, he does not scold them. Rather, he lifts them to his shoulder and carries them home.

Even though we have been scattered and separated from one another, God himself seeks us out and speaks a word of loving compassion to our hearts. Because we are lost and don’t know how to help ourselves, the Son of God became our way, our truth, and our life. Like Ezra speaking to the people, Christ reminds us that the love of the Lord must be our strength. Sorrow, guilt, and shame must not be allowed to keep us apart. The closing words of the reading put it quite eloquently: “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!” 

The Creator of the universe became a man to assure us that we do not have to remake ourselves, because what he made is already “very good.” (CF. Gen 1:31) The Eternal Word became visible and tangible so he could speak tenderly to our overburdened hearts (CF. Is. 40: 1-2). When Ezra read God’s Word, the people were struck to the heart. Jesus is the Father’s Word to us. He has the power to change our hearts by the outpouring of his Spirit. To re-establish our identity as the children of God, we need to be reminded of the Father’s superabundant love. We should think about the place of God’s Word within our own lives. Perhaps we need to rediscover God’s Word in a fresh way. Ezra’s preaching, as well as Israel’s commitment to read, listen, and understand Scripture, allowed for spiritual renewal among them. When we turn to Scripture, we will find that that same renewal is waiting for us as well.
-Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO, Genesee Abbey
Edited by Erica Faunce

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Word, which is our light and life. Help us to ponder your Word every day and share it with those we encounter. Give us courage and wisdom to make your Word visible and tangible so that we might become conduits of your grace to others. Amen.

Quote from a Saint: 
"It must be said that Sacred Scripture is divinely ordered to this: that through it, the truth necessary for salvation may be made known to us."
-St. Thomas Aquinas

Questions: 

  1. In what way do we as Catholics experience “exile” today? 

  2. Why would the Israelites have been weeping at the Word of God? Do we ever experience something similar?

  3. How does the faith help us when we become frustrated or depressed at the state of the world? 

  4. God makes no mistakes in the people he creates, but sin and death have entered our world. How can both be true? 

  5. How does the Word of God draw us out of exile and back into community with one another? 

  6. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. How does he make this known to us?

  7. What are some ways to constantly rediscover God’s infinite Word? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory 581: Listening Faithfully: Matthew 5:20-26

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, “Raqa,” will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, “You fool,” will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.’” -Matthew 5:20-26

 

The love of God and neighbor begins with listening. Our love for God begins with listening to his Word. We don’t start off the Mass with the Consecration of the bread and wine. Rather, we begin with the Liturgy of the Word. We must listen in order to recognize God’s voice, to understand him. Only then are we able to have full communion with him. Our love for our neighbor begins in the same way. “Go first and be reconciled with your brother,” says Jesus. To do that, we first have to listen to what our brother has to say. Listening well is the foundation of loving well. 

 

When Jesus speaks about being reconciled with one’s neighbor, about loving them, he speaks of the way that God loves us. God doesn’t limit himself to just speaking to us; he also listens to us. Often in the Old Testament, we read that God has “heard your cry,” or “heard my people’s cry.” And then he acts with mercy. The coming of Christ is the ultimate response to the cries of God’s people. 

 

So if we learn to listen to our brother, we’re doing for him what God has already done for us. And listening is often more reconciling than speaking. Truly taking the time to see things from our neighbor’s point of view fosters love of that neighbor, which leads to reconciliation and forgiveness. If we can’t listen to our brother, we often end up not being able to listen to God either, and our prayer to God becomes us talking at him. 

 

If that’s where you are in your prayer life, Jesus says, “leave your gift there at the altar, go first, and be reconciled with your brother.” Set aside any anger or personal offense, and learn to listen to your brother. If you think your time is too precious to waste on listening to others, then you’ll build a habit of never making time for God either; you’ll only have time for yourself and your own concerns. And this is a lonely way to live. 

 

Your attitude to your neighbor is a reflection of your relationship with God, and vice versa; and that’s what God sees when you come before the altar. Learn to listen to your neighbor while you are still on the way to the Last Judgment with him. By doing so, you will learn to listen to God. Listen to God in silent prayer, and you will learn to listen to your neighbor. In both instances, listening well builds up the ability to love well. 

-Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO, Genesee Abbey

Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer: 

“Eternal Spirit of the living Christ, 

I know not how to ask or what to say;

I only know my need, as deep as life, 

And only You can teach me how to pray.

 

Come, pray in me the prayer I need this day; 

Help me to see Your purpose and Your will - 

Where I have failed, what I have done amiss; 

Held in forgiving love, let me be still.

 

Come with the strength I lack, bring vision clear

Of human need; O give me eyes to see 

Fulfillment of my life in love outpoured, 

My life in You, O Christ; Your love in me.”

-Frank von Christierson, poet

 

Quote: 

“In reality, only in silence does man succeed in hearing in the depth of his conscience the voice of God, which really makes him free.”

-Pope St. John Paul II 

 

Questions: 

  1. How does Christ show us that God is listening to us? In scripture? In your own life? 

  2. What are some ways to seek out the silence needed to hear God’s voice? 

  3. How is listening to God related to listening to our neighbor? How does one help and inform the other? 

  4. How can anger or pain prevent us from hearing God or our neighbor clearly? What are some ways to “unblock our ears”?

  5. What sort of attitude must one have to listen well? What sort of attitude results in listening poorly? 

  6. What happens if we continue to come to the altar without first being reconciled with our neighbor? 

  7. What can we do if our neighbor refuses to be reconciled with us? 

-Erica Faunce