Weeks 581-590

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 590: Unity in the Church: Matthew 28:18-20

 

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

The Pope

As Vicar of Jesus Christ, the Pope governs the Catholic Church as its supreme head. The Pope, as Bishop of Rome, is the chief pastor and shepherd of the whole Church. We believe that the Pope is the successor of Peter, and his bishops are successors of the Twelve Apostles.

 

It is clear throughout that it is a question of the bishops acting in conjunction with their head, never of the bishops acting independently of the Pope. In the latter instance, without the action of the head, the bishops are not able to act as a College: this is clear from the concept of "College." This hierarchical communion of all the bishops with the Supreme Pontiff is certainly firmly established in Tradition. (Lumen Gentium, Note of Explanation)

 

In the Acts of the Apostles, we come to know Peter is the head of the early church. When Peter is given the “keys to the kingdom,” Christ is establishing the divine office of leadership over the church. The permanence of the office of the Pope is essential to the everlasting nature of the church.

 

"The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith – he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals…The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself. (CCC 891)

 

Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent" which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. (CCC 892)

 

Christian Unity

Unity is essential for the followers of Jesus. John’s gospel reminds us, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:22-23)

 

The Catholic Church is united under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Historical breaks and schisms have left us fractured, with the Eastern Orthodox churches no longer in full unity with Roman Catholicism. Beginning with John XXIII and continuing through the papacy of John Paul II and our current pope, the movement to come together in full Christian unity has been underway.

(Reprinted from https://www.saintmarycranston.org/unity)

 

Quote from a Saint:

“If someone had told me I would be Pope one day, I would have studied harder.” – Pope Saint John Paul II

Prayer: O Lord, we are the millions of believers, humbly kneeling at Thy feet and begging Thee to preserve, defend and save the Sovereign Pontiff for many years. He is the Father of the great fellowship of souls and our Father as well. On this day, as on every other day, he is praying for us also, and is offering unto Thee with holy fervor the sacred Victim of love and peace.

Wherefore, O Lord, turn Thyself toward us with eyes of pity; for we are now, as it were, forgetful of ourselves, and are praying above all for him. Do Thou unite our prayers with his and receive them into the bosom of Thine infinite mercy, as a sweet savor of active and fruitful charity, whereby the children are united in the Church to their Father. All that he asks of Thee this day, we too ask it of Thee in union with him. whether he weeps or rejoices, whether he hopes or offers himself as a victim of charity for his people, we desire to be united with him; nay more, we desire that the cry of our hearts should be made one with his. Of Thy great mercy grant, O Lord, that not one of us may be far from his mind and his heart in the hour that he prays and offers unto Thee the Sacrifice of Thy blessed Son. At the moment when our venerable High Priest, holding in His hands the very Body of Jesus Christ, shall say to the people over the Chalice of benediction these words:

"The peace of the Lord be with you always," grant, O Lord, that Thy sweet peace may come down upon our hearts and upon all the nations with new and manifest power. Amen. (https://lourdesprayerrequest.com/prayer_for_the_pope#)

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Discuss why Jesus asked for and prayed for unity in the Church.

  2. Discuss Pope John Paul II’s quote and how it might relate to each of us. What might we learn from it regarding unity?

  3. Do you believe the Church is in unity or disunity? Explain the reasons for your answer.

  4. Make a list of topics that bring division. Explain the division.

  5. Go back over the list you just made. For each topic listed, ask “If people can not come to an agreement on this, how can unity be achieved?”

  6. Reread the quote from Matthew 28. What unity is Jesus talking about?

  7. Identify three things you personally can do to bring more unity to the Church.

  8. Discuss the phrase “The Body of Christ.”  How does this relate to unity?

  9. Think of the different parts of a human body. In a unified Church, what might each part symbolize? For example, the hands could symbolize service to others. All part of the body make one unified whole. How can the gifts given to each member of the Body of Christ contribute to unity in the whole Church? Be specific in your examples.

  10. What other passages of Scripture relate to unity in the Church? List them.

  11. What can your Oratory group do as a group to help restore unity in the Church?

    1. Among all Christians?

    2. Among all believers, whether Christian or not?

    3. Among those who have no faith?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

 
Oratory Reflection 589: Staying Awake: Luke 12:32-40

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.’” -Luke 12:32-40

 

When it comes to the pursuit of happiness, Jesus has a few countercultural ideas on how to go about it. Blessed are those servants, he says, whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Then he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. Talk about role reversal! Jesus talks about pursuing happiness, not by agreeing with the crowd, but by being servants with an attitude of watchfulness. 

 

There are two ideas in watchfulness: the first is keeping awake, and the second is looking out for something that is coming. Simply keeping awake and alert in our modern society is by no means an easy thing. Everything around us tends to lull our moral sense to sleep, so that we acquiesce to anything human advancement can do, without first asking whether it is right.

 

Christians can easily succumb to the drowsy influences around us. Our materialistic society would have us ignore all the unseen glories around us–and that might be within us–and have us live for the passing things of this present life. The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Though they have their value, human science and technology cannot show us the glorious realities that remain unseen, except through the eye of faith. 

 

People who dedicate themselves only to this present life may think of themselves as knowledgeable and active, but they’re actually half-asleep, only paying attention to that which will eventually pass away. Be vigilant, says Jesus. Be fully awake. Get some exercise in your faith, get a firm grip on God and Christ, and of all the unseen glories that are included in those two names. Otherwise, you will lose what you don’t use and fall into the sleepwalking crowd. Faith is the real world; outside of faith is only the passing world. 

 

So keeping awake is the first step in the pursuit of happiness. Once you’re keeping your eyes open, the second step is to focus them on something. One of the distinguishing marks of the Christian faith is that it shifts the focus of attention from the world to the Kingdom of God. It is faith that makes whatever is to come far more important than that which is, or has been. No one is really living the Christian faith with any profundity unless the goal of their whole life is to reach Heaven. To live for this future is the very definition of what it means to be a Christian. It is to keep awake and to look forward to the blessings that we hope for. 

 

In this present life, Jesus tells us, “Gird your loins and light your lamps” with the light of faith in our dark world. At the first Passover, Egypt was enveloped in darkness. “But that night was known beforehand to our fathers,” says the book of Wisdom. And in the houses of the Hebrews, the lamps were lit, “so that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage. Your people awaited the salvation of the just.”

 

The night of unbelief envelops everyone in our society. But inside the Church, the lamp of faith is lit, and everywhere his servants proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. At Mass, we share our meal: not unleavened bread and bitter herbs, but Christ’s own Body and Blood. They are our food for the journey of life, to strengthen us until he comes again, girds himself, has us recline at table, and proceeds to wait on us. There, we will hunger no more, but we will always have an appetite. We will thirst no more, but we will always desire to drink more deeply of the fountain of life. And the Lord will fill up every soul with love and with himself. We have only to be prepared, for at an hour we do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

-Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO

Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer: 

Lord, help me to live this day, quietly, easily. To lean upon Thy great strength, trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will, patiently, serenely. To meet others, peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow, confidently, courageously. Amen. 

-St. Francis of Assisi

 

Quote: 

“Live in faith and hope, though it be in darkness, for in this darkness God protects the soul. Cast your care upon God for you are His and He will not forget you. Do not think that He is leaving you alone, for that would be to wrong Him.”

-St. John of the Cross

 

Questions: 

  1. Think about a time in your childhood when you were excited. What was it like? How did you feel and act? 

  2. What does life become if we are missing a sense of watchfulness and hope? What might cause this to happen? 

  3. What are some of your hopes and dreams? Which ones are oriented towards this present life? Which ones are oriented towards the life to come? 

  4. How can we be sure to think of earthly goals in their proper place, and not allow them to distract us from the goal of Heaven? 

  5. If the goal of life is Heaven, what purpose does God have for us now before He comes? 

  6. How can it be that God is present to us now, and at the same time, He is not yet here? 

  7. What are some ways we can build up our hope in the world to come? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 588: Serving the Poor: Jer 26:11-16, 24

“The priests and prophets said to the princes and to all the people, 'This man deserves death; he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.’ Jeremiah gave this answer to the princes and all the people: ‘It was the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and city all that you have heard. Now, therefore, reform your ways and your deeds; listen to the voice of the Lord your God, so that the Lord will repent of the evil with which he threatens you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me what you think good and right. But mark well: if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves, on this city and its citizens. For in truth it was the Lord who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear.’ Thereupon the princes and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, ‘This man does not deserve death; it is in the name of the Lord, our God, that he speaks to us.’ So Ahikam, son of Shaphan, protected Jeremiah, so that he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.” -Jer 26:11-16, 24

 

The prophet Jeremiah does not speak on his own authority. This theme is echoed in a comment made by the prophet Amos: “I was not a prophet, and I was never trained as one. I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees. It was the Lord who took me from following the flock and sent me to preach to his people Israel.” (Am. 7:14-15) God not only called the prophet, but he also put a huge burden on him, the need to speak a message that would bring salvation to the people. God allowed the prophet to see what he saw, opening his heart and allowing him to feel the agony of suffering humanity in all its horror. The prophetic utterance is the voice that God lends to the silent agony of the poor. God reveals his compassionate love through the empathic words of the prophet. 

 

God’s compassionate love for the poor and needy was, and remains, a challenge to the rich. The word of the Lord is rooted in compassion, not compromise. The prophet speaks of justice and mercy. Living among the people and witnessing their misery, the prophet’s heart was moved to compassion. The suffering of the people around him would not allow him to keep silent. The prophet was moved to compassion because he lived close to the heart of God. Having had first-hand experience of the loving compassion of God, the prophet was commissioned to call the people to deal compassionately with the poor and marginalized. Each of us is called to be a light for those who wander in darkness. Each of us is called to be a sign of hope for those who are trapped in despair. Like the prophets, we must act from compassion. Like Christ, each of us must be willing to drink the bitter cup of suffering so that others may drink the cup of salvation.

 

The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the urgent demand placed on him by his calling. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so, hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.” (Ezek. 33:7) Jeremiah gave a rather graphic description of what happened when he tried to walk away from the call: “But if I say I will never mention his word or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It is like a fire shut up in my bones. I am utterly worn out trying to hold it in. I cannot keep silent.” (Jer. 20:9) St. Paul, apostle to the gentiles, understood the source of this urgency. “The love of Christ compels us.” (2 Cor. 5:14) 

 

The prophet's words are rooted in the heart of God. God so loved the world that He not only created us, but gave us the capacity to know and love him. He planted in our heart's a desire to seek the truth, and gave us a mission to share it with others. The Master of the Universe has called each of us by name. He wrote His Word on the tablets of our hearts. He who has spoken heart-to-heart with us has called us to speak heart-to-heart with one another. This heart-to-heart conversation will lead us to the truth in love. As we allow God’s word to echo in our hearts, we will become instruments to help others to hear the gentle voice of the Lord, and to open their eyes to recognize God’s loving presence in their lives.

-Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO

Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer: 

God our Father, you loved the world into life. Forgive us when our dreams of the future are shaped by anything other than your law of justice, peace, and compassion. God the Son, you teach us to speak out for what is right. Make us content with nothing less than a world that is transformed into the shape of love, where poverty shall be no more. God the Holy Spirit, let there be abundant life and love in us. Inspire us with the vision of your Kingdom on earth, and give us the faith, courage, and will to carry it out. 

Amen. 

 

Quote from a Saint: 

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely, and the unwanted according to the graces we have received, and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

-St. Teresa of Calcutta

 

Questions: 

  1. Who are the poor? Is it the same in every part of the world? Who are the poor in our community? 

  2. There is material poverty, and also poverty of spirit. What does poverty of spirit look like? 

  3. Why does God choose to speak through prophets in the Old Testament? 

  4. God calls each of us to serve the poor. Why does he do this instead of seeing to their needs without our help? 

  5. Why is it sometimes difficult for us to answer the call to serve the poor? What are the practical obstacles? What are the personal obstacles? 

  6. Jeremiah surrenders himself to the people, even if they wish to kill him. How could he have found the courage to do this? 

  7. What motivates us to do the will of God? How can we further cultivate this motivation? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
Oratory Reflection 587: Life in Death: 1 Corinthians 15:20-27

“Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for ‘he subjected everything under his feet.’” -1 Corinthians 15:20-27

 

What would the Assumption have been like for Mother Mary? She is finally reunited with her Son. All those years between the Ascension and the Assumption must have been hard for her. She would have missed his presence terribly. It would have been a sort of exile for her. But then they were reunited for all eternity. What a joy it must have been for both of them, given the incredible bond between them, a bond that could only be matched by the special bond between her and the Holy Spirit and the Father. The Holy Spirit was her Spouse. It was He who had overshadowed her and been the Agent of her conception of the long-awaited Messiah, the Word of God. And God the Father had chosen her from all eternity to be his special daughter. He preserved her from all traces of original sin and gave her ineffable graces to be the mother of his Only-Begotten Son. He saw her as the apex of his creation. Now, on this day, being brought into the bosom of the Holy Trinity itself, there is no happier moment for Mary. 

 

As if that were not enough, we can also imagine Mary’s joy at being reunited with her beloved parents, Joachim and Ann. Also, there had to be a special bond between the hearts of Mary and Joseph after all the many disappointments and thrills they shared together. Now they could share together the bliss of the Beatific Vision and treasure the role they were privileged to play in the nurturing and training of the Savior of the World.

 

We can imagine the Patriarchs and Prophets and all the great men and women of the Old Testament greeting Mary with beaming faces and paying this lowly handmaid homage for being the Mother of their God, the only one of our race to be completely free from sin. Our Mother Mary is so loveable. How could the joy of Heaven not be at fever pitch as she passed from Earth to heaven?

 

And this should all give us hope. We, of course, are not anywhere near Mary’s level of purity, and cannot expect the kind of welcome she received. But we still have much to look forward to. In addition to seeing our family again, we can look forward to meeting the many ancestors we've heard stories about. We’ll have all of eternity to hear those stories firsthand. We can imagine the faces of people who filled the years as we grew up. So many neighbors, teachers, and friends who left an indelible mark. We pray to God they will all be there when we arrive. There are so many Saints that we have read about and feel friendship with. What a joy it will be to embrace them and thank them for all of their aid over the years. 

 

By far, though, the main attraction will be the Beatific Vision. God is ultimate goodness and truth and beauty. It will keep unfolding, and we will never get to the end of new discoveries, new insights, new ways in which God is so much more good and beautiful and loveable and loving than we ever imagined. Our hearts long to be loved infinitely. Our minds crave infinite knowledge. Only God can satisfy those passions he put there. We will have finally arrived at our destiny.

 

A friend of mine once said, while he was recovering from an accident, that he’s not ready to die. He likes it down here. That image of sitting on a cloud and playing a harp just doesn’t do it for him. God better have something for him to do or he’ll get bored. He likes a challenge. But Heaven is going to surpass all your wildest dreams. Boredom is going to be the farthest thing from your mind. God’s realm is so far beyond anything we can imagine. 

 

It’s natural for us to want to avoid death. Some of it is our survival instinct, some of it is fear of the unknown. Some of it may be the fear of what awaits us in Purgatory. But even that will all be part of the loving plan of God. At the moment it happens, we will embrace it and not want it any other way. Ultimately, what matters is spending eternity with God. And the Assumption of Mary gives us the assurance and hope that our humanity will be able to share in God’s divinity. We do not need to dread death. Death is actually a homecoming—something to be looking forward to. 

-Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO

Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer: 

O Mary, conceived without stain, pray for us who fly to thee. Refuge of sinners, Mother of those who are in their agony, leave us not in the hour of our death, but obtain for us perfect sorrow, sincere contrition, remission of our sins, a worthy reception of the most holy Viaticum, the strengthening of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, so that we may be able to stand with safety before the throne of the just but merciful Judge, our God and our Redeemer.

Amen.

 

Quote: 

“Our life is indeed dead because we have been deprived of immortality. But the man who is aware that he lives in the midst of two lives can cross the barrier between them, such that by destroying the one he can give the victory to the other. Man by his death to the true life entered into this life of death. So too, when he dies to this irrational life of death, he is restored to life eternal. And so there is no doubt but that we cannot enter into this life of blessedness unless we die to sin.”

-St. Gregory of Nyssa

 

Questions: 

  1. Why does God allow us to suffer death instead of bringing our bodies directly into Heaven?

  2. A person’s eternal fate is dependent on whether they love God during their earthly life. Why does an eternal destiny depend on a relatively short amount of time here on earth? 

  3. Why might Jesus have given Mary time on earth without him?

  4. How did Mary’s earthly life prepare her to enter Heaven?

  5. Though we cannot fully comprehend Heaven until we enter it, what are some ways we can better understand Heaven here and now? 

  6. How can meditating on Heaven help us to make it there? 

  7. Think of Mary’s relationship with the three Persons of the Trinity. With this in mind, what are some attributes of the Beatific Vision?

-Erica Faunce​

 
 
Oratory Reflection 586: The Way of the Savior: Luke 9:51-62

“When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’ And to another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, let me go first and bury my father.’ But he answered him, ‘Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ And another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.’ To him Jesus said, ‘No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
-Luke 9:51-62

At the beginning of his gospel, St. Luke reports the angelic message to the shepherds: “This day in David’s city a savior has been born to you, the Messiah and Lord.” Throughout the Gospel, he spells out what it means that Jesus is our Savior. In this Gospel reading, the evangelist begins the account of Jesus’ final and very determined journey to Jerusalem, the journey that will bring an end to His earthly life until after the Resurrection.

St. Luke recounts four different encounters. In each, we learn something of the One we believe is our Lord and Savior. Our belief is never merely speculation or fantasy; it is very much rooted in the reality of the Incarnate One, God made flesh. We learn more about the person Jesus through his interactions with James and John, with the one Jesus invited, and with the other two who came seeking. Jesus gazed on each with love; He perceived their sincerity, He saw into their hearts and He saw their need to be instructed in the way, the Way of the Savior.

James and John had a nickname: “the sons of thunder.” Their zealous desire to annihilate the inhospitable Samaritans manifests their “thunder,” and Jesus rebukes them because they have missed the point of being His disciples. Jesus had said, “The Son of Man has come not to condemn, but to save.”

To the one who wanted time to bury his father, and to the one who wanted to say farewell to his family, Jesus’ message is that the Kingdom takes priority. Jesus loved His own and He loved them to the end; His love was never possessive. Nor did He allow Himself to be possessed by anyone, not even His own beloved Mother, who freely gave him up to perform His mission, and ultimately accept His death on the cross. His awesome freedom to love and to serve is His gift to us as Savior. He calls us to the same kind of healthy detachment, even from family and friends. 

To the one who was so willing to follow, so attracted to His goodness, Jesus made very clear what following Him would mean: no glamor, no riches, no convenience. Such is the Lord’s freedom from riches, power, and anxiety. As a hymn so beautifully puts it: “Though rich, He became poor for our sake.” Such is Jesus our Savior. 

In each encounter, Jesus gave these men something to reflect on. We can speculate that James and John took his word to heart, as they went on to become great saints. But as for the others, we are not told. Whether they learned from their moments with Jesus or not, we are given truth with which to reflect on our own lives. In all of this, there is a lesson of prayer. Notice how Jesus did not give them what they wanted: a consuming fire, time to bury, time for farewells, following without thought. Rather, Jesus gave them what they needed, though they perhaps did not know it at the time.

In our relationship with the Lord, we often present to Him our concerns, needs, and intentions, and this is entirely right. But at the foundation of every prayer is this: “Your will be done!” In our prayer, we must always say to the Lord: “Lord, grant me what I need, whether I am aware of the need or not.” In my prayer am I truly seeking Jesus to be the Savior of my whole life, of more than my wants, no matter how real or pressing those wants may be?

True salvation is conversion to our depths, the journey of a lifetime, the journey only fulfilled completely in eternity. For us, who believe Jesus is our Savior, the journey has begun. We are on our way, the Way that is Jesus Christ Himself, the Lord who knows our deepest needs–the Lord who always looks upon us with a divine, saving love.
-Fr. John Denburger, OCSO, Genesee Abbey
Edited by Erica Faunce

 

Prayer:
O good and gracious Father, who knows our deepest desires from before we are knit in the womb, see to our needs. Do so especially when our needs differ from our wants. Help us, like Christ, to submit humbly to your will, no matter how challenging it may seem. For when we die to ourselves, Christ is born in us, and we are alive again, more full of life than before. Amen. 

 

Quote from a Saint: 
“Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. Our Father will either shield you from suffering, or he will give you strength to bear it.”
-St. Francis de Sales

 

Questions: 

  1. James and John take great offense on the behalf of Jesus, their Lord. If righteous anger exists, why does Jesus rebuke them in this instance? 

  2. John Paul II said that, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” With this in mind, why would Jesus tell a potential follower to leave his family behind? 

  3. Reflect on the relationship between Jesus and his mother, especially during his ministry. How would they have acted towards each other in terms of attachment? 

  4. Why would Jesus have said something discouraging towards the man who claimed to be so ready to follow him? 

  5. What happens when someone tries to “plow a field” while constantly looking behind them? Why does this make them unfit for the Kingdom?

  6. What does the Gospel passage mean when we think of it in light of Jesus journeying towards his own death? 

  7. How does Christ help us to let go of earthly things and “die” to our own desires? 

-Erica Faunce

 
 
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