Weeks 111-120

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 111: Knowing, Loving, and Trusting  the Father: A Reflection on John 8: 54-55

 

“If I glorify myself, that glory comes to nothing. He who gives me glory is the Father, the very one you claim for your God, even though you do not know him. But I know him. If I were to say that I did not know him, I would be no better than you—a liar!” (John 8: 54-55)

 

What is happening in this Gospel?

 

Jesus is explaining why he is God. “Anyone who is true to my Word shall never see death…. Before Abraham was, I AM.”

 

That’s the first consolation I take from this passage. Jesus is Lord. That’s great news! Because if Jesus is Lord, that means I don’t have to be! I don’t have to be omnipotent. I don’t have to have all the answers. My first and foremost responsibility is to be faithful.

 

And Jesus is challenging the skepticism of the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees. He’s saying, “Look, if I’m glorifying myself, everything I’ve claimed and done will amount to nothing. I’ll die. People will forget me. Life will go on. But if I’m not glorifying myself, then the Father is glorifying me, the very same Father you claim to be your God. And if this is the Father glorifying me, you can’t win. You can’t stop it. People may be able to slow down or temporarily hinder the Father’s plan, but eventually His Will shall be done. It can’t be stopped.”

 

That’s the second consolation I take from this Gospel passage. I can’t mess up God’s plan. At best, I’ll slow it down a bit, but creation will never come unraveled by anything I say or do. So when I make a mistake, I try to correct the mistake, and move on. Also that means that anything I say or do that IS of God, will eventually grow and flourish without me getting anxious about it.

 

Next, Jesus is saying, “I can’t lie. I can’t pretend I don’t know what I know just to make your lives comfortable. I know the Father. You don’t. That means I have something to teach you.”

 

I remember in my third year of major theology, the academic dean, Father Mindling, a Franciscan Capuchin priest, and one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever met, said to my class, “Gentlemen, right now, after three years of major seminary, you know approximately fifteen percent of what the Church teaches. When you leave here, hopefully, you’ll know approximately twenty five percent of what the Church teaches. Then you’ll have to spend the rest of your lives learning the rest.” Now, after all these years of my priesthood, I understand what he meant. I know a great deal about God, but I’m still learning. Even so I have to be true to what I do know. I can’t ignore teachings that make people uncomfortable. I can’t be untrue to who I am. I have to trust that God has called me for a reason.

 

And so you also have to be true to who you are. We cannot be who we are not, and none of us has all the answers. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Our conscience is our last best judgment.” That doesn’t mean when our conscience is in direct conflict with Church teaching, but when a course of action is unclear, that we go with our conscience. But he also said that we have to make sure our conscience is informed. That means we always have to be learning, studying, seeking, growing. If we don’t do that, if we don’t inform our conscience, if we never challenge ourselves to better ourselves, we are liars. We lie to ourselves and, ultimately, to God.

 

We only come to the Father through the Son. We come to the Son through the Spirit, and the Spirit we receive from the Church. The Father’s teaching comes from the Scriptures which the Church in her teaching authority explains and clarifies. His Grace comes from the sacraments which the Church in her priesthood makes present. It is my prayer today that we all truly come to love, trust, and know the Father.

 

And blessed be God forever!

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “Man’s salvation and perfection consist in doing the Will of God, which he must have in view in all things and at every moment of his life. The more he accomplishes this Divine Will, the more perfect he will be.” – St. Peter Claver

 

Prayer: “Grant, O Lord, that my heart may neither desire nor seek anything but what is necessary for the fulfillment of Thy Holy Will. May health or sickness, riches or poverty, honors or contempt, humiliations, leave my soul in that state of perfect detachment to which I desire to attain for Thy greater honor and Thy greater glory. Amen.” – St. Ignatius Loyola

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Discuss the Scripture quote. How does one glorify oneself? How does one glorify God? How can one keep from glorifying oneself? Is it possible to glorify oneself and not realize it?

  2. Pray the prayer of St. Ignatius. Can you say that you can pray it, fully meaning what it asks?

  3. Are you willing to accept whatever happens as a fulfillment of God’s Will? What can help us see God’s Will in our circumstances?

  4. How might God’s Will be working through and in spite of evil?

  5. How do we keep God’s Will in mind?

  6. Is it possible to “mess up” God’s plan? Why or why not?

  7. What are some of the spiritual and psychological advantages to recognizing Jesus as Lord?

  8. Give some examples of God’s Will being accomplished despite human efforts to prevent it. Have you seen this happen in your own life? If so, share this experience.

  9. How much can a person really know about God? Where can we learn about God? Should we try to know Him? What are the advantages of knowledge about God over ignorance or indifference toward Him?

  10. How can we know God’s Will so that we can do it?

  11. How does conscience factor into living the spiritual life? Is it possible to have a malformed conscience? What would be the culpability of someone who follows a malformed conscience?

  12. How can we make sure that our conscience is formed well?

  13. What roles does the Church play in: Helping us form our conscience? Helping us discern God’s Will? Teaching us about God? Bringing us to heaven?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love 112: Why Did Jesus Weep?: A Reflection on Luke 19: 41

 

“As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept over it, saying,
“If this day you only knew what makes for peace–
but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.
They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19: 41-44)

 

Jesus weeping. There are a few times when Jesus displays the strongest of emotions; anger and sorrow in particular, and every time he does it is always when he is confronted with a lack of faith.

 

When Jesus goes to the temple, and he sees the merchants and money changers doing business in the temple precincts and even worse, cheating people, he becomes infuriated, and drives them all out. Jesus got angry. Jesus displayed a strong emotion.

 

In Matthew, Chapter 23, Jesus pronounces twenty nine verses of curses upon the Pharisee’s. “Woe to you Pharisees! You hypocrites!” For twenty nine verses, woe, woe, woe. Jesus was confronting their lack of faith. And Jesus was angry.

 

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies, we see Jesus cry. It is the shortest verse of scripture in the New Testament, only three words, “and Jesus wept.” Many people misinterpret that verse. They think that Jesus is mourning. No. Why would Jesus mourn if he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead in a couple minutes? Some think that Jesus wept because he was touched by the grief of Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ two sisters. Again, that doesn’t hold water. Why would Jesus be so moved if once again, he knew that he would be changing their grief to joy in a few minutes? So why would Jesus weep? Again, he’s weeping at the lack of faith of the crowd. The people who are saying things like, “He opened the eyes of that blind man-- why couldn’t he have done something to stop this man from dying?” It’s the crowd that causes him grief. These people demand that he prove who he is again and again and again. They have no faith.

 

And in this Gospel passage, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem for the same reason. Jesus foresees his crucifixion, but even worse, he foresees that, despite his crucifixion, Jerusalem will not be spared. The forces that be, will still try to squash this new Church under their heel. The forces that be, will not be converted by the resurrection. And Jerusalem will be destroyed and the temple gone forever.

 

Now the first thing we need to take from this, is that Jesus is perfect and yet still displayed emotions, even what we call “negative” emotions; like sorrow and anger. But again, what provoked these emotions? Seeing the lack of faith around him.

 

Some people think that having faith means walking around with a dopey smile on your face all day. (There’s nothing wrong with smiling.) But faith is not walking through life in a cloud of self denying bliss.

 

Some people think that having faith means you’re never going to lose your temper, or we have to stand quietly in the face of injustice, and take it. No. That’s incorrect thinking. There are times when even negative emotions are justified and even called for.

 

There are appropriate times to mourn. When someone close to us dies, our lives are significantly changed. It’s appropriate to mourn that loss, but we can’t let our grief obscure our hope in eternal life.

 

There are times when we are justified in getting angry. We should get angry in the face of injustice! We should get angry when we see evil in our society and our world. As long as that anger motivates us to try to effect changes in our world, even if that is only, “I’m going to pray harder against this evil.” Or, “I’m going to fast more and make little personal sacrifices to combat these evils.” These are things all of us can do, and they can change the world.

 

The second thing we need to take from this is that we must never show a lack of faith ourselves, because we can see what this does to our Lord. Life will get discouraging at times; we’ll feel overwhelmed; we’ll feel as though evil always triumphs. But remember that God is in control, and creation will inevitably unfold as he has deemed it one way or another.

 

Brothers and sisters, there is a shortage of faith in the world. Pray today that the world always finds faith by looking to us and our example.

 

And Blessed Be God forever! 

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

“There is only one thing to be feared . . .only one trial, and that is sin. . . All the rest is beside the point, whether you talk of plots, feuds, betrayals, slanders, abuses, accusations, confiscations of property, exile, sharpened swords, open sea, or universal war. Whatever they may be, they are all fugitive and they will perish. They touch the mortal body, but wreak no harm on the watchful soul. –St. John Chrysostom

 

Prayer:

 

Hear, Lord, the prayers we offer from contrite hearts.
Have pity on us as we acknowledge our sins.
Lead us back to the way of holiness.
Protect us now and always from the wounds of sin.
May we ever keep safe in all its fullness
the gift your love once gave us
and your mercy now restores.

Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Why was Jesus weeping over Jerusalem?

  2. Do you weep over the sins of others? Should you?

  3. Do you weep over your own sins? Should you?

  4. Discuss the quote from St. John Chrysostom.

  5. Jesus says, in the Scripture quote, “If only you knew what makes for peace.” What kind of peace is He talking about? What makes for that peace? How is it possible to attain that peace?

  6. What happened to Jerusalem within a generation of the crucifixion of Jesus?

  7. Name some incidents which show Jesus being human and showing emotion.

  8. Do you embrace your emotions or do you try to avoid them? How can emotion be frightening? How can it be good? Why do you think we feel emotions? If we are made in the image of God, what do our emotions teach us about God?

  9. Jesus is perfect and yet showed emotion.  What does this say about the value of emotion to our spiritual life? Why might we feel emotion?

  10. What would be the strongest emotion, in your opinion? Relate that to God. How does He exhibit that emotion?

  11. Fr. Sisco talks about what faith is not. What is faith? How should we display our faith to others? How can we have faith when everything seems to be going wrong? Is it going wrong? Or might it be going right in God’s plan? Is it possible to know which is happening and, if so, how?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love 113: Three Tragic Figures: Judas, Pilate, Herod: A Reflection on the Passion of Christ

 

I think that probably the three most tragic figures in the New Testament are Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, and Herod the Tetrarch.

 

I say tragic, not just because they played key roles in our Lord’s crucifixion, but because each of them had the potential of being so much greater.      Each of them had the potential to be a great follower of Jesus.

 

If Judas Iscariot could have gotten beyond his materialism; if he could have gotten beyond his greed, he probably would have been a great apostle. But Judas desired wealth above truth. Jesus did not choose Judas Iscariot to fail. Jesus did not choose Judas Iscariot to be a betrayer. Jesus must have chosen Judas, because he saw in him great potential, but Judas is too consumed with the world.

 

Pontius Pilate could have been a great follower of Jesus. Perhaps, Pilate could have been the patron saint of politicians, or judges. Pilate is no fool. When Jesus is brought before Pilate he knows the Pharisees are setting him up. He knows this is a sham, and he does his best to get Jesus off. Why? Because of truth? No.  Pilate himself says to Jesus, “Truth, what is that?”  Pilate was history’s first moral relativist. Pilate tries to get Jesus off the hook because he doesn’t like the position the Pharisees have put him in, by inciting the crowd to a near riot. Pilate could have listened to truth. Pilate could have chosen the side of what he knew was Justice, but he doesn’t. Why? Because of fear. The scriptures say, “And Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, handed Jesus over to be crucified.” Pilate betrays truth because he fears the crowd, because he fears a riot, because he fears if there’s a blood bath, his superiors in Rome will judge him unfit to be proconsul, and remove him from office. Pilate is gripped by the devil, because fear is the weapon the devil uses to keep us from aspiring to greatness. Always he is there whispering, ‘You can’t do it. You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not strong enough.’

 

Finally Herod. Herod also has the potential to be a great follower of Christ. Herod was moved by the words of John the Baptist. They had a strange relationship; Herod, and John. Herod imprisoned John in his dungeon yet was strangely drawn by his message of repentance. Herod wants to be a follower. He wants to be a believer. What holds him back? The flesh. Herod is a slave to his flesh. Herod lusts after his brother’s wife, so he takes her unlawfully as his own. Then he lusts after her daughter, his niece, and it was after his niece does this erotic dance at Herod’s birthday party, that she incites him to execute John the Baptist. Scripture says that Herod was anxious to see Jesus, but why? Because Herod desired truth? No. Herod had heard that Jesus was a miracle worker and he wanted to be entertained. Herod wants Jesus to do a little light show for him. Herod again chooses the flesh over truth.

 

The world, the devil, and the flesh. The three temptations, from which all sins are born. From the world we get materialism and greed. From the devil we get pride and fear. And from the flesh we get lust and over indulgence.

 

What about us? Is our tale of discipleship any more or less tragic than these three men? Today we are challenged to examine ourselves, and see if we allow these same temptations to keep us from becoming great apostles of the Lord.

 

 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor to the Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “We who are slaves of Christ make our bodies serve and our minds govern so that the flesh receives its orders and accompanies our will, which is guided by Christ our Maker.” – St. Paulinus of Nola

 

Prayer:  “Lord Jesus Christ, by humility, uproot the hypocrisy of our pride; by poverty, drive out greed; by patience, shatter our anger; by the obedience of your passion, repress our disobedience, that we may deserve to rejoice always with you, with your help who are blessed through all ages. Amen.”  -- St. Anthony of Padua

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Would you agree that the three most tragic figures in Scripture are Judas, Pilate, and Herod? Who else in Scripture are tragic figures? What makes them tragic? How could their tragedy be turned into triumph?

  2. Who living today could be called a tragic figure? Why would you call this person tragic? Is there hope for this individual?

  3. Who in history would you consider to be a tragic figure and why?

  4. Father Sisco says that Judas is too consumed with the world to trust Christ. What do we know of Judas that proves this point?

  5. Father Sisco points out the Pilate acted as he did out of fear.  How does fear keep us from following Christ? What fears, if any, are holding you back at this time?

  6. Father Sisco points out that Herod was a slave to the flesh. What in Herod’s life shows this? How can one overcome slavery to fleshly desires?

  7. Discuss the quote by St. Paulinus of Nola.

  8. Pray the prayer of St. Anthony. What virtues of Christ, that St. Anthony did not mention, can combat vices? Can you add to St. Anthony’s prayer with these?

  9. How can you keep from becoming a tragic figure?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love 114: Test of Our Love for Christ: How Much Are We Willing to Share Him?: A Reflection on John 20: 1-18 

 

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

 

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 1-18)

 

Mary Magdalene is one of the most interesting characters in the New Testament. Because wherever Jesus is, Mary Magdalene isn’t far behind. Now even though it’s not explicitly stated in scripture, it is commonly held that the woman caught in the act of adultery, the woman who bursts into the house of the Pharisee and begins to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair, Mary who is the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene, are all the same person.

 

 

It does explicitly say in the scriptures, that Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. So whatever the case we know that spiritually, Mary Magdalene was in pretty bad shape before she encountered the Lord. And perhaps that is why we always see her so close to Jesus throughout the scriptures.

 

 

People who have lived lives in serious sin, and then have a profound experience of God tend to live lives of rigid, almost austere piety afterwards. Because people who were steeped in sin know what it’s like to live in bondage. People who lived in steeped in sin know what slavery truly is. And so when these people have a conversion experience, they know how desperately they have to cling to God. We see this many times as priests, when we as instruments of God help bring someone back to the faith and then they kind of latch onto us. It’s flattering. It’s humbling. It’s scary because we realize what power we have over another person at times. And to be very honest, sometimes it’s also annoying. Nobody likes to be smothered, and Mary Magdalene smothered Jesus.

 

 

It becomes very clear in the scriptures that Mary Magdalene loves Jesus, but she loves him selfishly. Look at our gospel today. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb before dawn. She’s early. It’s still dark. This is symbolic because her reasoning is still darkened. She doesn’t understand yet what Jesus is about, but she’s about to be enlightened.

 

 

Why is Mary Magdalene there? To anoint the body of Jesus, which she and the other women couldn’t do when they laid him in the tomb because of the Passover. But this isn’t her place. She’s not a relative. This was the place of Jesus’ mother. 

 

 

Mary finds the tomb empty, and she’s upset. She sees the angels who ask her why she’s weeping. She responds, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.” Now translations vary, but the original Greek text is very clear, Mary uses the possessive, ‘They have taken MY Lord away.’ MY Lord. He’s mine. She then encounters Jesus but mistakes him for the gardener. And look what she says next. “Sir, if you have moved him, show me, and I will take him away.” Now can you just picture this? A little Jewish woman dragging a man’s dead body down the road. She doesn’t care. Mary is willing to look like a fool for Jesus. Even in death she longs to possess him. It shows the depths of her love.

 

 

And then Jesus reveals himself to her. And as soon as he does, what’s his very next statement? “Do not CLING to me!” I can only imagine Mary threw herself on him again. And Jesus sends her to tell his disciples. In that mission he gives her he is trying to teach her, “I know the depth of your love, but you cannot love me like this. I wasn’t sent here only for you, but for everyone. Do you love me enough to share me with others?” Because that is the role of true discipleship, not just embracing the Lord in our lives, but bringing him to others. And Mary Magdalene does go to tell the others, but when she does she doesn’t say, “I have seen my Lord,” rather she says, “I have seen THE Lord.” She doesn’t use the possessive form anymore.

 

 

And there is the lesson Mary Magdalene represents for each of us. We love the Lord. We want to embrace him in our lives. But the real test of our love is how much we are willing to share him with others.

 

 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “I have seen the Lord!” –Mary Magdalene

 

Prayer: “Lord, you told us to ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation.’ Help me to do that, Lord, beginning in my own home and neighborhood, in my school and work place, in my church and in the streets. Let me not miss the opportunities to witness and give me the courage to use them. Amen.”

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Why do you think Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene before He appeared to the other apostles?

  2. What problems did Mary encounter when she witnessed to Jesus? How were these resolved?

  3. What problems might you encounter if you witness to Jesus? How might these be overcome?

  4. What part does prayer play in our being witnesses to Jesus? Do you pray to be a witness for Him? If not, pray the prayer above daily.

  5. Can you say, in any way, “I have seen the Lord”? Explain your answer.

  6. Father Sisco notes that Mary Magdalene wanted to possess Jesus. Do you agree? If so, do you think this was conscious or unconscious?

  7. Father Sisco notes that, after Jesus appeared to Mary, He helped her realize that she could not possess Him. He belonged to everyone. What did Mary do that shows her understanding?

  8. Do you ever try to possess Jesus, keep Him for yourself? What is good about that? What is wrong with it? How can you keep secret any special graces He has given you while witnessing to the world about the Lord?

  9. Do you fear that Jesus might love someone else better than He loves you? If so, what is the basis of that fear?

  10. Read the Gospel account again. Why do some people have to see for themselves? How can you deal with those types when you are trying to witness to the Lord?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 115: “How Can I Understand unless Someone Explains It to Me?”: A Reflection on Acts 8: 26-40

 

 

26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ 30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ 31He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
   and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
     so he does not open his mouth.
33In his humiliation justice was denied him.
   Who can describe his generation?
     For his life is taken away from the earth.’


34The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’* 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip* baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8: 26-40)

 

“How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?”

 

This is the Ethiopian eunuch’s compliant to Phillip. “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” What can we say of this Ethiopian?

 

Well, first of all, he’s riding in his own carriage, so he’s obviously wealthy.

 

He’s reading the text from the prophet Isaiah, to him, a foreign religion in a foreign language, so he’s obviously educated.

 

Also, this guy is in charge of the entire treasury of Candace, so he’s a person of great importance in his country.

 

Is that all we can say about him?

 

No. He’s a eunuch. What does that mean? That means this man is committed to a life of celibacy. This man lives a life of detachment from pleasures of the flesh. He’s coming from Jerusalem after a pilgrimage. So this man wants something spiritual in his life. He has a seedbed of faith.

 

And finally he asks the question, “How can I understand it unless someone explains it to me?” This man is not afraid to admit that he needs help. That despite his great position and importance, he has the humility to admit he needs help.

 

I think we have many people like this eunuch in our world today.

 

Let’s face it; most American’s are pretty well off. Even those that live below the poverty line in our country are still better off than the poor in Ethiopia, or India. Most everyone in this country has at least a twelfth grade education, and a better than average percentage have college degrees. Most people in this country seek some kind of spiritual union with a God. Even though atheism has been on the rise, the majority of Americans believe in a God, or some kind of higher intelligence. And many people in our country are asking the question, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?”

 

How do I know this? Because everyone is looking for answers.

 

People these days are putting their faith in science, education, and technology.

Now, science, education and technology are all noble pursuits, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on them. I wouldn’t put my faith in them. Look at the floods in RI, the volcano eruption in Iceland, the earthquake in Haiti. Despite our knowledge and technology, we’re still very vulnerable to the power of nature, aren’t we? Despite our medical knowledge, we can’t stop people from dying can we?

 

Did you notice how popular psychic’s became in the 90’s till about ten years ago? Have you noticed how popular cults like Wicca are now, especially among young people? They’re all saying, “explain to me.” Unfortunately they’re asking all the wrong people.

 

The Lord put Phillip in this Ethiopian’s path, so Phillip could respond to his question, so Phillip could fulfill in him what this man was seeking. Well, why doesn’t he do the same for all these lost souls today? He has. He put you in their path. It’s the difference between a disciple and an apostle.

 

A disciple is one who follows. An apostle is one who has been sent.

 

All confirmed Catholics are apostles. We have all been sent. We have been sent by the Lord to bring the good news to others.

 

Evangelization is not the primary job of the clergy. Our job is the administration of the sacraments. Evangelization is your job. It’s you, by how you act, and what you say to people that draws others to the Church.

 

I believe it was CS Lewis who said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and get on with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

 

It is not enough to talk the talk. We must be willing to walk the walk.

 

It is my prayer for all of us today that we all may be good apostles of the Lord, for a world asking the question, “Explain to me.”

 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents 

 

Quote from a Saint: “No one is truly poor but except the one who lacks the truth.” – St. Ephraem the Syrian

 

Prayer: Prayer to Know Jesus Christ: O Lord Jesus, like Saint Paul, may I count everything as loss in comparison with the supreme advantage of knowing you. I want to know you and what your passion and resurrection can do. I also want to share in your sufferings in the hope that if I resemble you in death I may somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead. Give me grace to make every effort to supplement faith with moral courage, knowledge with self-control, self-control with patience, patience with piety, piety with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. May these virtues keep me both active and fruitful and bring me to the deep knowledge of you, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Note how this whole incident happened because Philip was attentive to the prompting of the Lord and obeyed Him. Name other incidents in Scripture where someone was attentive to God’s promptings and obedient to them.

  2. Has there ever been a time in your life when you feel you were prompted by God? Did you obey the prompting  or not? What was the result?

  3. How can we attune ourselves to the prompting of God?

  4. Discuss how Father Sisco came to his conclusions about the personality and background of the eunuch. Do you agree with his assessment?

  5. Why might the eunuch have been reading Scripture? What forms of media might people be using today that open them to hearing more about God’s word?

  6. Have you ever had an opportunity to evangelize? What was the result?

  7. Father Sisco says that the world is hungry for knowledge of God. Why does he come to this conclusion?

  8. Pray the above prayer. Why are those virtues necessary in an evangelist for Jesus?

  9. Why should we bother to spread the message of Christ?

  10. What are some modern ways to evangelize that were not open to the apostles?

 

---Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 116: That All May Be One: A Reflection on John 17:20-21

 

“Jesus looked up to heaven and said: ‘I do not pray for my disciples alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me because of their word, that all may be one as you Father are in me, and I am in you.” (John 17: 20-21)

 

Let’s consider the Gospel of John, Chapters 16 and 17. In these chapters, Jesus keeps stressing that he was not of the world, and his disciples were not of the world. Jesus said, “Father I have made your name known.” He also said, “Father protect them with the name you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

 

So far Jesus has told us that his followers live in the world, but are not part of the world, and through the name of the Lord, we have protection, because being part of the Son is also being part of the Father. So the followers of Jesus are called to live in the world while at the same time being a sign of heaven. And the followers of Jesus are going to have a Divine protection to complete that mission.

 

In the passage we are considering, Jesus expands that. Now Jesus says, “I do not pray for my disciples alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me because of their word, that all may be one as you Father are in me, and I am in you.”  This passage speaks volumes.

 

I pray also for those who will believe because of their word, their testimony.  US. We, the Church, are the ones who believe in Jesus because of the testimony of the apostles that have been recorded in the gospels. We accept the truth that Jesus is the Messiah based on their testimony, and not just their words, but the testimony of the actions, that they went as far as to allow themselves to be martyred rather than deny that Jesus was the Christ.

 

In this statement Jesus reveals that God’s plan of salvation is not intended for one group of people but the entire world. And that is reiterated in Jesus’ next statement; “that all may be one as you Father are in me and I am in you.”  That ALL may be one.

 

God desires the unity and salvation of all, but through who?  Jesus’ name, and the word he has given.

 

This means a couple of things for us.  First, yes, God does love all people and desires the salvation of all.  But there is a “live and let live” mentality in our society today. I can’t be too loud about my religious beliefs, especially if I’m Roman Catholic, because this may offend someone, and if they’re another religion God will save them anyway. 

 

Be careful. 

 

Even though the Church teaches it is possible for people of other faith beliefs to attain salvation, it is more difficult for them because they don’t have the grace of the sacraments or all the sacraments. That means we have to call sin, sin.  We just can’t mind our own business and hold our tongues on the big moral issues of our day. “Admonish the sinner” is still one of the spiritual works of mercy. That means we must tell people when they are doing wrong out of love for their souls and a desire for their salvation.

 

And finally this means that we can’t let scandal destroy our faith. We all know a story of someone who left the Church because of a particular priest or bishop.  The individual actions of a priest or bishop are not a valid reason for losing faith. Having your parish close is not a valid reason for losing faith. Because our faith is not based on a priest, or a bishop, or a building, and if it is, that’s broken.

 

Our faith is based on the word of the apostles, who accepted death, rather than deny the truth that Jesus is the Christ.

 

That is our faith, and it is that faith, through the name of Jesus, through his word in the Gospels that have been left to us, and through the sacraments given their power by the Holy Spirit whose feast we celebrate on Pentecost, that we become one with the Father.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents 

 

Quote from a Saint: “If people would do for God what they do for the world, what a great number of Christians would go to heaven.” – St. John Vianney

 

Prayer: 

Not the goods of the world, but God.

Not riches, but God.

Not honors, but God.

Not distinction, but God.

Not dignities, but God.

Not advancement, but God.

God always and in everything. – St. Vincent Pallotti

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Jesus prayed that all may be one. What did He mean by this? Do you believe His prayer will come true? Give an explanation of your answer.

  2. What is our role of witness with non-Catholic Christians?

  3. What is our role of witness with fellow Catholics?

  4. What is our role of witness with believers of non-Catholic religions?

  5. What is our role of witness with unbelievers?

  6. How do you deal with scandal in the Church? Is this the right way to deal with it?

  7. Who is our faith based on? How can our faith stand if scandal arises?

  8. Do you believe that Jesus is praying for you? What comfort does that bring? What responsibility?

  9. Do you pray for unity among believers? Should you? Why or why not?

  10. Discuss the quote from St. John Vianney.

  11. How would the cause of unity be advanced if Christians prayed the prayer of St. Vincent Pallotti and meant it?

  12. How does the example of the apostles fit into your faith?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 117: Clothed with Power from On High: A Reflection on Luke 24:49

 

“Remain here in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

 

Amazing isn’t it? These eleven guys who spend the better part of three years with Jesus, listening to him teach, watching him perform miracles--these guys who witness the crucifixion, experience the resurrection, and who are with Jesus for an extra forty days having him explain the significance of everything that has occurred--at Jesus’ climactic moment, when he’s ascending into heaven, still have no clue what it was all about.

 

As Jesus is being taken up into heaven, they ask him, “Lord, are you going to restore the rule to Israel now?” Even after all of this, they were still expecting an earthly kingdom. They were still thinking in terms of military or secular power. They thought Jesus was going to reestablish the throne of King David. And Jesus says to them, “Remain here in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.” 

 

Little do they realize that Jesus has already reestablished the throne of David, Jesus has begun a kingdom, but not the way they expected. Jesus has established a kingdom of the Spirit, now making it possible for us to be united to God again. Our human nature, wounded by the presence of sin, can now be restored to glory.

 

We really have no place being critical of the apostles, when we see how slow they are to catch things, because really, we’re no better. We’re also backwards in our thinking. We think that sin is fun, and God made up a bunch of commandments to ruin it. So we try to figure out, “Well, how much fun can I have and still get to heaven?” We forget that sin wounds us. Sin destroys us. 

 

But now we have a means to fight back. Now we have a means to resist sin and its effects in our lives. The ascension of Jesus into heaven closed a chapter of our salvation and began a new one.

 

“Remain here in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.” 

 

Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit but we rarely think of the Holy Spirit in those terms; clothed with power. We think of the big bird Holy Spirit; the dove with the olive branch we see on all the Christmas cards. 

 

I ask the Confirmation candidates I interview, “What is the Holy Spirit?” And sometimes I get answers like, “The Holy Spirit is a feeling…” The Holy Spirit is not a feeling! The Holy Spirit is God! The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity! And being God, the Holy Spirit clothes us with power. All confirmed Catholics have been clothed with power from on high. Whether they use it or not is another story, but the power is there.

 

That power is nourished through the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. That power is given to strengthen us, so we can strengthen others. It’s power that’s meant to be shared. That’s why there is really no such thing as a “fallen away Catholic.” If that power from the Holy Spirit is not being shared with others, it withers. If that power from the Holy Spirit is not being nourished through the sacraments, it withers. But thankfully, that power is never forfeited. It’s never taken away. You can’t lose that gift of God unless you intentionally and publicly renounce it. So it’s always there, but like an old car battery, it needs to be constantly charged up, and that’s why we’re here. That’s why we have Holy Days of Obligation, because every now and then we need a little extra sacramental boost. It’s a subtle way to get us refocused on why God put us here. Because in coming here, to the sacraments, we are fed--get charged. Coming here we are clothed with power from on high, so we can help build that kingdom that Jesus started, a kingdom that began with eleven rather clueless men, and now spans every corner of the globe. 

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “Christianity is the profession of the life of Christ.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen

 

Prayer:  “With humility and devotion, O Holy Spirit, we ask you to pour out your grace upon us, so we can celebrate the feast of the Spirit by keeping your commandments and mortifying our senses. Fill us with sincere sorrow, kindle over us the light of your presence, so that in your radiance we can see almighty God in the splendor of your saints. With your help, you who are one God in three, blessed throughout all ages. Amen.” – St. Anthony of Padua

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Do you agree that the apostles were clueless regarding the real mission of Jesus? What enlightened them?

  2. Are you clueless about your mission in life? Or have you been enlightened about it?

  3. Discuss the quote by St. Gregory Nazianzan.

  4. Discuss the prayer by St. Anthony. What virtues does the saint feel are necessary for the Holy Spirit’s power to have effect in us?

  5. Father Sisco says the Holy Spirit is not a feeling. Who is the Holy Spirit? Have you experienced the Holy Spirit in your life? If so, how and when?

  6. If you have not experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, do you want to? Why or why not?

  7. Can following Christ be scary at times? Why or why not?

  8. What is the kingdom of Christ? How do we enter it? Who is the king? Where is the kingdom? What role do we play in this kingdom? Are you fulfilling that role?

  9. Father Sisco says that Jesus had already reestablished the Kingdom of David. When did He do that?

  10. Note that one kingdom can’t be established unless the previous kingdom is overthrown or abolished. How does this truth fit in with the Kingdom of God and its establishment?

  11. What kingdoms are in opposition to the Kingdom of God? Is there any way to help people change their allegiances?

  12. Fr. Sisco says that our human nature, wounded by sin, can be restored to glory now. What is this glory he speaks of? How is it restored? What had caused this glory to be lost in the first place?

  13. How do you feel knowing that God wants to give you this glory?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 118: Zealousness Channeled: A Reflection on the Conversion of Saul  (Acts: 9:1-20)

 

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

 

 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

 

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ (Acts 9: 1-20)

 

In this reading we find that Saul was an extremist, a zealot, a crusader. Saul is willing to kill a group of his own countrymen in the name of God. Saul was both feared and hated by the first Christians, because his persecution was relentless. So why would God choose him, a murderer, to preach his word to the gentiles? First, precisely because he was so opposed to the Church.

 

I have spoken of how giving our own testimony, witnessing to what God has done in our lives can effect and convert non-believers. And it’s Paul, sharing of his dramatic conversion story, giving his testimony, which spreads the faith all throughout the ancient world.

 

You see, Saul was not an evil man. He wasn’t persecuting the Church because he was blood thirsty, or through political motives, or because there was some profit in it for him. Saul was persecuting the Church because he loved the Lord, and he saw these new Christians as heretics and schematics. As Saul saw it, he was stopping an affront to God.

 

How often we’ve seen this throughout history: the burning of heretics, the crusades, the thirty years’ war and the hundred-year war. How much killing has the world seen in the name of God? And it continues today. Yet the Lord doesn’t reject Saul for this, because Saul’s love for God is great but it’s misdirected. And because Saul’s love is misdirected, the Church suffers, at least for a time.

               

But then, when God reveals himself to Saul, Saul has a choice. He could be defeated from the experience. Note that Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” He did not tell Paul how to react to what he had been doing. Saul could have said, “I was wrong. Everything I’ve ever believed has been discredited.” He could have despaired and killed himself like Judas Iscariot. But instead, Saul grows from the experience. He has the courage to admit his past, get past his past, and move forward in a new, positive direction. Once Paul knows the Truth, he channels all that zeal and energy into building the Church instead of destroying it.

 

Brothers and sisters, like Saul, there are many people who believe that they have to kill in the name of God; they have to destroy lives to achieve their agenda. This is why it is critical that we do not hate or fear them, but pray for them. Take, for one example, the radical factions of Islam. Islam is an extremely disciplined religion. Muslims pray five times a day. They memorize whole texts from the Koran. Imagine if they were Christian, what an asset they could be! Pray for their conversions. And pray that the zeal of converts sparks a new life of faith for the rest of the Church.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: "There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church. Which is, of course, quite a different thing."
-- Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen

 

“To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them."

-- St. Thomas Aquinas

 

Prayer by a Saint: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.” – Prayer inspired by Saint Francis of Assisis

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What emotions does Saul’s zealous nature evoke in you? 

 

2. Does his zealousness evoke a different emotion when he is Paul?

 

3. List zealots of our modern world.  Do you know any personally?

 

4. Narrow that list to those who you think need conversion to the Truth.

 

5. What part, if any, does motivation play is judging whether zealous behavior is right or wrong?

 

6. What positive things can you learn from zealots, whether they are viewed as “good” or “bad”?

 

7. List examples of people who have loved those who persecute them.

 

8. How can you better imitate these saintly men and women? 

 

9. How can you best help convert a misdirected zealot? 

 

10. Are there ways in which you might be viewed as a misdirected zealot? 

 

11. Are there things you could be doing to enflame your own spiritual zealousness?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 119: God’s Agenda:  A Reflection on Acts 5: 27-32

 

Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.’ When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.

 

When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, ‘We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’ Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. Then someone arrived and announced, ‘Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!’ Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

 

 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

 

 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, ‘Fellow-Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’

 

They were convinced by him, and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. (Acts 5: 27-42)

 

Doing good and resisting evil.  It’s the most basic premise of our faith. But what happens when the evil is coming from a source we know and trust? Then it becomes a little harder to discern what is evil and when it’s evil.

 

The apostles were brought before their religious authorities of the day and ordered to stop preaching Jesus and his resurrection. It is not a just command, because Jesus did what he promised to do. He rose from the dead, and that should have convinced everyone concerned, especially when the Pharisees had to go so far as to bribe the Roman guards to concoct a story to try to keep Jesus’ resurrection secret. Why were their hearts so hardened to the truth? Because they didn’t want anyone or anything challenging their power. And if Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, he was indeed God. And if Jesus was God, then all of his criticisms of the Pharisees and the Sadducees were valid.  They couldn’t accept that.

 

What’s funny about this whole situation is that now the Pharisees and Sadducees don’t know what to do about the apostles! The apostles preach Jesus.  The Sadducees let them off with a warning. The apostles preach Jesus.  The Sadducees have them thrown in jail. An angel releases them from jail.  The apostles go back to preaching Jesus. The Sadducees have them re-arrested, threatened, and scourged. The apostles leave rejoicing, and go back to preaching Jesus.

 

To see what the apostles were willing to endure and sacrifice for the sake of preaching the good news should have also been a sign to the unbelievers of the authenticity of the message and of the man Jesus who delivered it. One member of the Sanhedrin speaks a wise and prophetic word, “If their purpose is human in origin it will die out.  But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy it without fighting God himself.”That’s a real word of wisdom, but, unfortunately, the rest of the assembly doesn’t see it because they’ve reduced their faith to politics and temporal power.

 

This is a good word for all of us today, because we all have our political alliances. We all have our favorite parties, and politicians, and agendas we support. But, brothers and sisters, we should never, NEVER become so wrapped up by a political position that we blind ourselves to truth. Some Democratic Catholics do this, and some Republican Catholics do this on different issues; sometimes even the same issues.

 

I know good Church going Catholics, who are so devoted to their political party that they’re willing to turn a blind eye to injustices that party may be supporting because it may suit the party’s overall agenda. That’s wrong, and that’s not of God.  Whenever we see injustice, whether it’s my party or not, we should be opposing it. Because if we don’t, we become like the Sadducees and the Pharisees.  We become so afraid that our team might lose some influence, or we justify ourselves by rationalizing; “Well, the ends justifies the means, so I’ll turn a blind eye to these wrongs my political party does for the sake of the overall agenda.”

 

There is a basic concept in moral theology that we cannot accomplish a good through evil means. And if we attempt to do so, we blind ourselves to God and the work he is doing in creation, and we might even end up opposing him. We should always work toward God’s agenda first which is to establish peace and justice on earth for everyone.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: Lord, what is Your will that I do? I am completely open to Your plan for me. I desire to live only in You and to be guided by You forever. Grant that Your holy will may be carried out perfectly in me. ~~ St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1572-1641)

 

Prayer: O Lord, regulate all things by Your wisdom, so that I may always serve You in the manner that You will rather than in the manner that I will. Do not punish me by granting what I will if it offends against Your love, for I want Your love to live always in me. Help me to deny myself in order that I may serve You. Let me live for You--Who in Yourself are the true life. Amen. ~~St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1584)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. How did the Pharisees and Saducees treat the apostles? Why were they so fearful of them?

  2. How did the apostles treat the Pharisees and Saducees? Why was their treatment this way?

  3. How did Jesus teach us to treat our enemies? Why should we do this?

  4. How should we act when God’s Will is clearly different from the current social outlook? How does one receive the grace and courage to act against the culture?

  5. What political philosophies today take the view that the end justifies the means? Why is this attitude opposed to God’s Will?

  6. How is it possible to right wrongs in today’s society if we don’t use certain ends?

  7. Is it ever possible to justify wrong doing?

  8. Why do political parties take some morally correct views and others that are morally bankrupt? How does one vote when a party has mixed moral views?

  9. Read the quote from St. Jane Frances de Chantal. Can you honestly pray that? Why or why not?

  10. Discuss the prayer from St. Teresa of Avila.

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 120: The Catholic Priesthood: A Reflection on Luke 22: 14-23

 

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this. (Luke 22: 14-23)

 

On Holy Thursday, the Church celebrates the birthday of the priesthood. Everybody has an opinion about the priesthood, even non-Catholics.

 

“Well, I think priests should get married.” Why? “We’d get more vocations.” Then why aren’t Eastern Rite Catholic priests, who do marry, doing any better for vocations than we are? Why is the highest divorce rate in the country among Protestant clerics?

 

When I was stationed in East Providence and Woonsocket, I was a cable news junkie, so I tied a lot of my homilies into current events. So there were a lot of sermons on abortion, promiscuity, homosexuality, wars, domestic violence, elected officials, etc. And I was criticized for being too political in my preaching. “We come to Church to hear about God. We come to Church to learn how to be holy, not hear how bad the world is.” And I’ve never been afraid of self evaluation, and re-evaluation, so I took that to prayer and thought, maybe they may have a point. So the themes of my homilies shifted to prayer, spiritual growth, charity, etc. Then in my last assignment in Bristol I was criticized with, “Father you don’t preach enough on abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage…” (SIGH—OY!)

 

There are approximately 400,000 Catholic priests ministering to 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. So the Catholic priests in the world number less than half the population of the State of Rhode Island. And for such a small group of people, we seem to command a great deal of attention, and mostly negative attention. But why?

 

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist and a 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner. Shortly after our new Pontiff, Pope Francis I, was elected, my hometown newspaper “The Westerly Sun,” ran one of her editorials about the Catholic Church and the media. I’d like to share some quotes from that editorial with you.

 

                No one needs a primer on the scandals that have plagued the Church the past few decades—or the more recent discoveries of financial mismanagement and the so-called “gay-cabal”. Pope Francis I will immediately have to yolk himself to these burdens.  Amid such troubles, not to mention managing a world religion, an assortment of eccentric personalities and a vast charitable and diplomatic empire, he will need a sense of humor .. . .

                The Church faces enormous challenges obviously, but none so daunting as communicating the Good News, which translates to helping millions around the world. . . . Without the Catholic Church—the largest charitable organization in the world—millions of the world’s less fortunate would suffer. Catholic Relief Services works in nearly 100 countries and reaches 100 million of the world’s poorest with emergency aid and health care, including 280 HIV and AIDS projects. Catholic Charities USA provided food services to 6.5 million people last year according to Vatican sources.

                Scandal has certainly diminished the Vatican’s moral authority, but 2,000 years of history will suggest it will adapt and survive. In the meantime, any evaluation of its present situation must also include recognition of the immense good that individual Catholics and the church do.”(by Kathleen Parker, syndicated columnist)

 

Not bad for non Catholic! And THIS is why such a small group of men, which make up the Roman Catholic priesthood, draw such a large amount of attention and a large amount of criticism. Because the Church matters.

 

I remember being a teenager in the early 80’s and hearing about how “irrelevant” and “obsolete” the Catholic Church is. I remember in college in the late 80’s, the predictions of some of my professors, that the Catholic Church would be all but extinct by the year 2000. Well here we are, and here we remain, because we matter! If we were truly irrelevant, if we were truly obsolete they wouldn’t care what we did or didn’t do! They wouldn’t care what we say and don’t say! If something is irrelevant, you don’t waste your time and energy attacking it--you simply ignore it, because you know whatever it does is ineffective!

 

Of course we matter. Of course we make a difference. We challenge people to a higher mode of behavior. We inspire people to build a better world here, and hope for a better life when they leave this world. We are the voice of the voiceless, the consolers of the distressed, the champions of the poor and forgotten. And although our personalities, and our strengths and weaknesses are as diverse as the original apostles the Savior ordained on Holy Thursday night 2000 years ago, like them, we strive to be living images of Christ. We are the Roman Catholic Priesthood. There’s nothing else in the world I’d rather be. I thank my parish for allowing me to be its pastor and I to thank God for the privilege of allowing me to be his priest. Pray for me, as I pray for you…Amen.

 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: When people want to destroy religion, they start by attacking priests, because where there are no priests, there is no sacrifice; and where there is no sacrifice, there is no religion. – St. John Vianney

Prayer: O Jesus, our great High Priest, hear my humble prayers on behalf of your priests.  Give them a deep faith, a bright and firm hope and a burning love which will ever increase in the course of their priestly life.

In their loneliness, comfort them.  In their sorrows, strengthen them.  In their frustrations, point out to them that it is through suffering that the soul is purified, and show them that they are needed by the Church; they are needed by souls; they are needed for the work of redemption.

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Why do people have such high expectations of priests? Why, in today’s culture, do some people have such low expectations of priests? What should be our expectation of them?

  2. Why did Jesus institute the priesthood? Would you say that His goals are being met? Why or why not?

  3. How can we help others understand that the good the Catholic Church is and does far outweighs the scandals that have plagued it throughout history and especially in our times?

  4. How do you deal with problems in the priesthood? What problems are you personally familiar with? How have these influenced your faith?

  5. Why has the Roman Catholic Church and the priesthood persisted all these years?

  6. What can you do to encourage your parish priest? Do you do this?

  7. If your priest is not living up to his calling, what can you do to help him raise the bar?

  8. What can you do on a diocesan level to encourage good priests?

  9. Do you pray for your parish priest and for the priesthood in general?

  10. What do you see as the main functions of a priest?

  11. Why do you go to church?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

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