Weeks 121-130

Oratory of Divine Love 121:  God is King: A Reflection on Acts 18: 9-18 

 

One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.’ He stayed there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

 

But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. 13They said, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law.’ Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters.’ And he dismissed them from the tribunal. Then all of them seized Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of these things.

 

After staying there for a considerable time, Paul said farewell to the believers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. (Acts 18: 9-18)

 

The Lord speaks an encouraging word to Paul in a vision; a word that tells him not to be afraid, a word that compels him to continue preaching the word and trying to build up the kingdom of God. Paul continues to do so for a year and a half in Corinth. This is the same community to whom Saint Paul will write two letters - those pesky Corinthians, who’ll have every spiritual problem in the book. Reading those letters, one can understand why Saint Paul had to spend such a long time with them. They’re pretty slow to catch on to things.

 

After a year and a half trouble begins. The Jews realize Saint Paul’s teachings and try to get the Roman pro council to do to Paul what Pilot did to Jesus, but Gallio isn’t going to be pressured. They even go as far as to beat an innocent bystander in view of the bench to try to provoke an action out of Gallio, but it doesn’t work. Paul’s ministry continues. Eventually, Paul will be martyred for the faith in Rome, but in God’s time, not by human manipulation.

 

“God is king over all the earth.” (Ps 47:8a) That is the refrain of the responsory psalm that accompanies this reading from Acts and I think it’s appropriate. God is king over all the earth. What is a king? A king is someone who has complete dominion. He isn’t answerable to anyone. There is no court that can convict him. There is no legislative body that can veto or override his decision. He has complete autonomy.

 

When we say God is king over all the earth, we are saying that God has complete dominion over all things. Do things happen to displease God? Of course they do. But God’s plan cannot be outdone. God’s plan cannot be thwarted.

 

Saint Paul lived as long as it was necessary for him to complete his mission. However, his mission was not without suffering. Saint Paul suffered tremendously throughout his life. His life and death glorified God and inspired generations of Christians to come. Yet through these trials Paul wrote time and again of the inspiring joy in his heart that came from God.

 

God never promised the way he showed us would be easy. God never promised that as long as we did what he said everything would come up roses for us. God promised that he would never abandon us. Jesus said, “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will turn to joy.”

 

We need to understand that things like suffering are part of God’s plan, not because God is a sadist; not because God couldn’t figure out a way to leave suffering out of creation, but because we chose suffering, when we chose sin. But now through the cross, God has taken our sufferings and spiritualized them. God has given them a productive end. God has made our suffering a means to purify ourselves, and those we love. And Jesus told us to expect it. He said, “You will weep while the world rejoices.”

 

Alleluia! Isn’t it comforting to know that no little ache or pain, no heartbreak endured, or physical or mental or emotional ailment that we have offered up for the glory of God has ever gone to waste? Isn’t it wonderful that the next time we stub our toe, or the car won’t start in the morning, or those kids of mine just don’t listen to me, and we say, “Blessed be God,” instead of cursing our rotten luck, we’ve moved a step closer to heaven?

 

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of true joy comes to dwell in each of our hearts, and with Saint Paul we may praise with our lives the King of all the earth.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: "If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured.” -- Saint Colette

 

Prayer By a Saint: “O Lord, You received affronts without number from Your blasphemers, yet each day You free captive souls from the grip of the ancient enemy. You did not avert Your face from the spittle of perfidy, yet You wash souls in saving waters. You accepted Your scourging without murmur, yet through your meditation You deliver us from endless chastisements. You endured ill treatment of all kinds, yet You want to give us a share in the choirs of angels in glory everlasting.

 

You did not refuse to be crowned with thorns, yet You save us from the wounds of sin. In your thirst You accepted the bitterness of gall, yet You prepare Yourself to fill us with eternal delights. You kept silence under the derisive homage rendered You by Your executioners, yet You petition the Father for us although You are his equal in Divinity. You came to taste death, yet You were the Life and had come to bring it to the dead. Amen.” – Saint Gregory the Great

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What has God asked you to suffer?

 

2. By what means have you received the grace of perseverence during suffering?

 

3. Give an example of encouragement you have received during this suffering.

 

4. What word of encouragement have you received from God?

 

5. What have you gained from making an offering of that suffering?

 

6. What good for others has been wrought by your suffering?

 

7. Give an example of grief turned to joy.

 

8. What do you perceive as God’s plan for your life?

 

9. Have you given God dominion over your life?

 

10. How do you proclaim and praise God as King of all the earth?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Week 122: Will You Follow Me?: A Reflection on John 21: 15-22

 

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

 

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

 

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 2 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21: 15-22)

 

“Follow me.” At the end of this post-Resurrection discourse Jesus has with Peter at the shore of Galilee he says, “Follow me.”

 

That’s an odd thing to say, isn’t it? If I had been in Simon’s Peter’s shoes and Jesus said that to me at this stage of the game, my reaction would have been, “What do you mean Jesus? What the heck do you think I’ve been doing these past three years?”

 

I do believe this passage is the sole instance where Jesus says these words AFTER the resurrection. (I might be wrong…) Before the resurrection, Jesus uses this phrase all the time. This is the only time Jesus says this after the resurrection, and he says it to whom? Peter.

 

The last time Jesus said these words to Peter was at the beginning of his ministry when Jesus told Peter and his crew to lower their nets for a catch in the middle of the day when all the fish were at the bottom of the sea where it was cool. Even though Peter knows this is a useless gesture, he does it anyway, and they catch so many fish the nets are bursting. That was Peter’s act of faith. He trusts Jesus’ judgment even though Peter is the professional fisherman. Then Peter says, “Depart from me Lord. I am a sinful man!” That was Peter’s humility. “I do not deserve to be in the presence of holiness.” Then Jesus says to him, “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.”

 

The scene we are examining today happens immediately after what? Jesus has replicated that same miracle, where he drew Peter as an apostle. They drag the net ashore; Jesus has bread and fish on a charcoal fire. When was the last time we saw a charcoal fire? It was on Holy Thursday night. It was when Peter was warming himself over a charcoal fire while Jesus was being questioned by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, and someone asks Peter, “weren’t you also with Jesus the Galilean?” Thus begins Peter’s threefold denial that Jesus foretold.

               

All of these little elements of the past are coming into the present. They eat breakfast, and Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?” Why? Peter has to make up for denying Jesus three times on the eve of the crucifixion, not because God is petty, or Jesus wants to get even. This is for Peter’s sake, so his mistake doesn’t haunt him for the rest of his life.

               

Everyone has an inner need to atone for a wrongdoing to alleviate our guilt. And it’s also to teach Peter a valuable lesson-following Jesus is not restricted to a one-time decision. Following Jesus is not restricted to the evangelical claim, “Just say that you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and savior and you’re saved.” No.

 

Following Jesus is a daily decision. We must constantly choose to follow Jesus. On the eve of the crucifixion, Peter chose not to follow Jesus. When he stepped out of the boat and walked on water, he did.

 

“Follow me.” Follow you? Follow you where, Jesus? You rose from the dead. You’ll be ascending into heaven soon? How am I supposed to follow you? By following my example. Tend my lambs. Follow my example of love. Feed my sheep. Follow my example of service. Tend my sheep. Follow my example of sacrifice. Follow the example I left you, and you will follow me to heaven.

 

What Jesus said to Peter he says to each and every one of us. Follow me. Are you willing to love as I have loved? Will you try to make this world a better place? Will you pray to submit yourself to the Father in humility, as I did? Will you serve as I have served? Will you take care of your brothers and sisters, no matter in what country they live; no matter what government they follow, no matter what the color of their skin is? Will you take up your cross as I took up mine? Do you love me more than anything else? Will you follow me?

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: "I tell you that you have less to suffer in following the cross than in serving the world and its pleasures.” -- Saint John Marie Vianney

 

Prayer By a Saint: “Lord, if Your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if You bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of Your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work You entrust to me. While You command, I will fight beneath Your banner.” -- Saint Martin of Tours

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Describe an instance in which you have been asked to follow Jesus where you would rather not go.

 

2. Are you willing to love as He has loved you?

 

3. How will you try to make the world a better place?

 

4. Will you pray to submit yourself to the Father in humility, as He did?

 

5. Will you serve as He served?

 

6. Will you take care of your brothers and sisters, no matter what?

 

7. Will you take up your cross as I took up mine?

 

8. Is there any cross you would not pick up?

 

9. Do you love Him more than anything else?

 

10. Will you follow Him anywhere?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 123: Figuring Out God: A Reflection on Matthew 13: 53-56

 

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13: 53-58)

 

We often speak about the danger of putting our faith in people instead of in God. In this passage from Scripture, we learn that we need to be careful about thinking that we have God all figured out, and so we unwittingly put our faith in a false god.

 

In this reading, the crowd today thinks that they have God figured out. ‘Hey, this guy can’t be the Messiah, because we know his origins, and no one can know the origins of the true Messiah.’ And, as regards Jesus’ humanity, the crowd is correct--they do know his origins. He is Jesus the Nazarene, the son of Joseph the carpenter of the house of David.

 

But in his divinity, they don’t know his origin, because he was eternal as the Father and the Holy Spirit are eternal. And when Jesus makes this claim, they wig out, understandably so, because for Jesus to make this claim, makes him God’s equal. They think they have God, Jesus, and the Messiah all figured out, and they don’t. Why? Because they were looking strictly at Jesus’ humanity and not at his divinity, and because of that, their vision was skewed, and they really didn’t know Jesus. They just thought they did.

 

Really, brothers and sisters, you cannot do any kind of in depth reading of the Scriptures and not come to one of two conclusions; Jesus either was who he claimed to be, the eternal God, or he was a madman. And not just an ordinary madman, but the most extraordinary madman history has ever seen. I’ve made my decision. Have you made yours?

 

I ask that because many people in the world haven’t made that choice yet, and some of them are Christians. There are many people today who do not know who Jesus is, even though they think they might. The problem is that they’ve pigeonholed Jesus. They’ve put Jesus in a box. They’ve painted an image or a mythology about Jesus by reading certain passages of Scripture and ignoring others, and, because of that, their vision is skewed. They don’t really know Jesus. They know a fictional person, an imaginary friend, who they’ve named Jesus. This is why it is important, my brothers and sisters, to be reading the Scriptures, ALL of the Scriptures, and not just the passages we like best. This is also why it’s important to be reading the catechism, which quotes Scripture extensively, but more important, interprets and explains the Scriptures, so our vision of Jesus is accurate, and we can truly come to know him.

 

Why go through all this? Because the opposition is here, and they won’t stop at anything to break us. That’s the meaning of this Scripture passage:. “The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: ‘Let us beset the just one, because his way is obnoxious to us; (don’t we see this sort of thing in the news, in entertainment, in music?) “he sets himself against our doing, reproaches us for transgressions of the law (especially in the area’s of sexual and medical ethics, because we remind society that we are not the masters of life and death.) “and charges us with violations of our training. (like not going to Church on Sunday, and turning away from the Christian values that this country was built on). “He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. (Because we are connected to the authority of the Church that extends back to Peter and the twelve, which gives us authority and adopted sonship.) To us, he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us.’”          (So let’s make it difficult for Christians to even acknowledge God in public.)

 

It’s like this passage from Wisdom was written for the world today! And if you’re not striving to know the real Jesus, then, when the wicked attack, you’ll walk away from Jesus because your faith isn’t grounded in a reality. But if you do read Scripture, the catechism, and other spiritual books, coupled with the grace of the sacraments, you’re striving to know the real Jesus, and, when the attacks come, your faith won’t be shaken. Rather, it will be that much more strengthened.

 

Brothers and sisters never think that you have God all figured out. Rather always seek to learn more, and you’ll be surprised at how much you don’t know.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: If  you desire to know, ask grace, not instruction; desire, not understanding; the groaning of prayer, not diligent reading; the Spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity; not light but the fire that totally inflames and carries us into God by ecstatic unctions and burning affections. – St. Bonaventure

 

Prayer:

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
    toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
    forgive my iniquity, though it is great. (Psalm 25: 4-11)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. What is the danger of thinking we have figured out God?

  2. God is a God of surprises. What surprises has God meted out to you? How did you feel about them? What happened because of them?

  3. Read the prayer from the Psalms. How is the prayer for forgiveness linked with the prayer to know God and to follow Him?

  4. How do you deal with someone who thinks he or she has figured out God?

  5. Discuss the quote from Saint Bonaventure.

  6. What is the danger of believing in a “fictional” Jesus (one who does not measure up to the Jesus portrayed in Scripture)? How do you deal with someone who holds a skewed idea of Jesus?

  7. How can we form a true idea of Jesus? Is it possible to get too comfortable with this Jesus?

  8. What about the real Jesus as portrayed in Scripture is frightening to some people?

  9. How do we deal with opposition if we try to be righteous?

  10. What part does prayer play in coming to know Who God really is?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 124: The Greatest Commandment: A Reflection on Matthew 22: 34-40

 

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

 

 “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  A scribe approaches Jesus with a question, and Jesus gives him two answers. But looking at it closely, can we say that they’re really two answers, or do they just appear to be two answers?

 

“The first commandment is this: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength.’” Well, fine, Jesus, thanks a whole bunch, but how do I do that? I mean, to love God with my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole soul, and my whole strength means that God has to be the center of my every thought, constantly; be the center of my life, constantly; be the center of my being, constantly.  That’s impossible!  How do I do that?

 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s how you do it.

 

When Jesus is telling his famous parable about Judgment Day, and the King dividing the nations like a shepherd divides sheep and goats, and the King says to the sheep, “Come into the kingdom prepared for you, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink…,” how does he end that statement?  “Amen I tell you, whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did for me.” And when the goats protest about being cast into hell, after they have failed in charity, the King says to them, “Amen I tell you, what you did not do for the least of my brothers, you didn’t do it for me.” Jesu’ meaning is clear--our relationship with others directly affects our relationship with him.

 

OK, so we fulfill the first commandment of Jesus, by perfecting the second. As we perfect growing in love for our neighbor, we also perfect our growing in love for God.  But we’ll never love our neighbor perfectly either. I mean we come up with the same problem that we came up with in the first commandment about loving God. How do I love my neighbor perfectly, at all times? 

 

Note Jesus’ words. He doesn’t say, ‘Love your neighbor perfectly,’ does he? He says rather, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Why word it that way? Think about this.  What is narcissism?  It’s also called being egotistical. Narcissism is the desire to always put me first; my wants, my needs, my desires. Narcissism is, basically, self love. So if I love my neighbor as myself, I’m focusing that narcissistic energy on another person. So instead of acting in selfishness, always focusing on me, me, me, I act rather in selflessness, and my deeds become charitable, because now I’m focused on your needs, your wants, your desires.

 

So Jesus, in saying love your neighbor as yourself, isn’t saying that we have to love our neighbor perfectly. He also didn’t say, “Love your neighbor and hate yourself.” There are all kinds of people filled with all kinds of self loathing and think it’s virtuous.  No.  Jesus says love your neighbor AS yourself. Jesus is saying that the key to salvation is to put our selfish tendencies aside and put the desires we have for ourselves on others. We need to be as keen to fulfilling the needs of others as we are keen to fulfill our own. And if we can do that, if we can turn our selfish love outward to others, then loving God naturally follows.

 

The two commandments are really one commandment, and the greatest commandment. That is what Jesus said.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: Love alone distinguishes the children of God and the children of the Devil. They may all sign themselves with the sign of the cross of Christ; they may all respond “Amen” to prayers and sing “Alleluia”; they may all be baptized, and come to church, and even build the church themselves. But we can discern the children of God from the children of the Devil by their love alone. – St. Augustine of Hippo

 

Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,

We beg you to give us love for you and for our neighbor,

Make us children of light,

Defend us from falling into sin,

And from the temptations of the evil one,

That we may deserve to ascend to the

Glorious light of your face.

With your help,

Who are blessed and glorious

Throughout all ages. Amen. – St. Anthony of Padua

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Jesus says we must love God. Who is God? Why should we love God?

  2. Jesus says we must love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Why should we love our neighbor?

  3. How should we love God? How do you love God? How do you prove your love of God?

  4. How should we love our neighbor? How do you love your neighbor? Howe to you prove your love of your neighbor?

  5. How does love of God and of neighbor fulfill the entire law?

  6. Discuss the quote from St. Augustine. Can those who do not believe in God love? St. Augustine says that love distinguishes the children of God from the children of the Devil. Whose children are those who don’t believe in God but who do love? Is it possible to love a neighbor fully without knowing and loving God?

  7. Why do some people make  show of religion but without embracing the teachings of Christ?

  8. Pray the prayer of St. Anthony. What is he petitioning God for? Why might he have selected these petitions?

  9. Discuss the difference between “love your neighbor perfectly” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

  10. Do you love yourself? If not, what can help you to love yourself?

  11. How can we help someone else to love himself or herself?

  12. If you don’t love yourself, is it possible to love God and to love your neighbor? Why or why not?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 125: Sincere Love: A Reflection on Romans 12:9

 

“Your love must be sincere. Detest what is evil, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

 

I find it very appropriate that this passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans was chosen on the feast of the Visitation of Mary. I find it so appropriate because, perhaps more than any other person on earth, Mary’s love was sincere. How can we say anything else about this woman? The sincerity of Mary’s love is seen over and over again throughout scripture.

 

We see it in the gospel for this feast. Mary learns of Elizabeth’s pregnancy through the archangel Gabriel, and, knowing her cousin is old and probably needs help, even though Mary has just conceived a child herself, she sets out immediately to Elizabeth to help her. That is a sincere love, because a sincere love seeks to help others. Sincere love is willing to sacrifice for others.

 

We see this trait in Mary again at the wedding at Cana, when Mary intercedes on behalf of the marriage couple. A sincere love seeks to serve.

 

We also see the sincerity of Mary’s love in her interaction with the archangel Gabriel. She says to him, “How can this be, since I do not know man?”

Mary was not contradicting or challenging the angel’s word to her. Her statement is properly understood as, “What does God want me to do to bring this about?” A sincere love seeks the truth. A sincere love is not afraid to question.

 

We see this in Mary again when she and Joseph find Jesus in the temple of

Jerusalem. Mary is very honest with Jesus, “Son, why have you done this to us?

You see your Father and I have been searching for you in sorrow.”

Mary is honestly seeking the truth. She’s not laying a guilt trip on Jesus.

She seeks to understand. A sincere love seeks the truth.

 

Finally, we see the sincerity of Mary’s love when the scriptures say that Mary, “held these things in her heart.” Or sometimes it says that Mary “contemplated these things in her heart.” Mary is always mulling over the key events in her life with Jesus. A sincere love is open to self-examination.

 

You know, a lot of times we’re afraid to look at ourselves objectively because, if we do, we might have to change. And yet, if we are to possess a sincere love, we must change, because a sincere love automatically challenges us to become more like the source of our love, the Lord Jesus.

 

Service, seeking truth, and self-examination. These are the three keys to developing a sincere love. May our love always be as sincere as that of the Mother we strive to imitate.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: "The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.” -- Saint Gregory the Great

 

Prayer by a Saint: “Immaculate Mother of God, Queen of the Apostles, we know that God's commandment of love and our vocation to follow Jesus Christ impels us to cooperate in the mission of the Church. Realizing our own weakness, we entrust the renewal of our personal lives and our apostolate to your intercession. We are confident that through God's mercy and the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, you, who are our Mother, will obtain the Strength of the Holy Spirit as you obtained it for the community of the apostles gathered in the upper room. Therefore, relying on your maternal intercession, we resolve from this moment to devote our talents, learning, material resources, our health, sickness and trials, and every gift of nature and grace, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of all. We wish to carry on those activities, which especially promote the catholic apostolate for the revival of faith and love of the people of God and so bring all men and women into the Faith of Jesus Christ. And if a time should come when we have nothing more to offer serviceable to this end, we will never cease to pray that there will be one fold and one shepherd Jesus Christ. In this way, we hope to enjoy the results of the apostolate of Jesus Christ for all eternity.  Amen.” – Saint Vincent Pallotti

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. A sincere love seeks to help others. Who did you help this week?

 

2. Sincere love is willing to sacrifice for others. Describe a sacrifice you made of another.

 

3. A sincere love seeks to serve. Who do you serve on a regular basis?

 

4. A sincere love is not afraid to question. What would you say is the most important question you have asked out of love?

 

5. A sincere love seeks the truth. In what ways are you seeking the fullness of truth?

 

6. A sincere love is open to self-examination. How often do you examine yourself?

 

7. How has the quality of your love changed over the past year?

 

8. What role does the Virgin Mother play in your daily life?

 

9. What would you consider to be the greatest proof of your love?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 126: Earthen Vessels in Need of Repair: A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4: 7-15

 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  (2Co 4:7-15)

 

There is an Indian fable that tells of a man who used to have to carry two heavy metal pots down to the stream every day, and carry them back to his master’s house so there would be water for his family every day. One of these pots had a crack in it, and every day after the old man filled it from the stream, water would trickle out through the crack, until by the time he reached the house, half the water had leaked out. For years this man went through this unaltered ritual, until one day, the pot spoke to him. “I’m sorry,” it said. “Sorry for what?” the old man inquired. “For years I have watched you labor in the hot sun carrying water from the stream, only to have half my water leak out before you reach the house. Because of me, your efforts are wasted. Because of my defect, your life is more difficult.” The old man answered, “Have you ever noticed all the beautiful flowers that decorate the master’s table? I’ve always known about your defect. And so I planted those flowers on your side of the path, and every day you have faithfully watered them, because God can use even our defects to make something beautiful.”

 

We are all crackpots! That’s what Saint Paul is saying in this reading. “This treasure we possess in earthen vessels, to make it clear that its surpassing power comes from God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way but we are not crushed; full of doubts, we never despair. We are persecuted, but never abandoned; we are struck down, but never destroyed. Continually we carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed.” In summary, Paul is saying that we’re crackpots! We are a broken people, full of defects, full of faults and shortcomings. What is an earthen vessel? It is a clay pot. Something cheap. Something fragile. Easily chipped. Easily shattered. That’s what we are. And that is what God wants us to be. Why?

 

Why would God design us with defects? Three reasons. First, so we have to rely on others to be strong where we are weak. If we become too strong, it leads to pride. If we get too strong, we start to think I can do anything on my own. I don’t need God. That’s a recipe for disaster.

 

The second reason God designs us with defects is so that we have obstacles to overcome. Holiness is achieved in the striving for perfection, not necessarily the attaining of perfection. Let’s say that again. Holiness is achieved in the striving for perfection, not necessarily the attaining of perfection. Look at the lives of the saints. All of them had their struggles, many of them with sin. Saints are not people who did not sin. Saints are people who never gave up trying.

 

The third reason God designs us with defects is so that we can witness to others. When we struggle to overcome our defects, it keeps us from being judgmental of others who are struggling with their defects. It enables us to be empathetic and sympathetic.

 

Bishop Sheen once had to do a Lenten retreat in a maximum-security prison. He said, “There I was in a locked room with four hundred hardened criminals guilty of the most unspeakable crimes against their fellow man. What could I possibly say to them? I began, ‘Gentlemen, there is only one difference between you and me. You got caught. We’re all sinners in the eyes of God.’”

               

There is no excuse for Church people to be judgmental of others. We, before all, should realize that we are all poor sinners. So when someone criticizes you for something, don’t get defensive. Thank them! “Thank you! I never realized that about myself. I’ll try to work on that!” And if they keep it up, you may want to bring a few faults to their attention! Then we can ALL improve a little!

               

You know what the great thing about being an earthen vessel is? An earthen vessel allows people to see the light of Christ shining—shining through the cracks.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.” -- St. Ignatius Loyola

 

Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” – Jesus

 

“O loving Pelican! O Jesu, Lord! Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood; of which a single drop, for sinners spilt, is ransom for a world's entire guilt.” -- Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. Make a short list of your weaknesses or defects.

 

2. On whom do you rely to be strong when you are weak?

 

3. What obstacle are you working to overcome to advance toward perfection?

 

4. Is there a saint you particularly desire to emulate?

 

5. Give an example of how your defect or your struggle to overcome it has aided another.

 

6. Pope Saint Clement said, “We must accept correction, beloved, and no one should resent it.  The exhortations by which we admonish one another are both good and highly profitable, for they bind us to the will of God.” How well do you think you accept correction?

 

7. St. Francis de Sales said, “To be pleased at correction and reproofs shows that one loves the virtues which are contrary to those faults for which he is corrected and reproved. And, therefore, it is a great sign of advancement in perfection.” Give an example of a way in which you could be corrected and reproved that would make you pleased to accept it.

 

8. What change might you make to help you advance toward perfection in this way?

 

9. St. Basil the Great said, “Reprimand and rebuke should be accepted as healing remedies for vice and as conducive to good health.  From this it is clear that those who pretend to be tolerant because they wish to flatter--those who thus fail to correct sinners--actually cause them to suffer supreme loss and plot the destruction of that life which is their true life.” What personal defect or character flaw would you have to overcome in order to correct others with grace and help them advance?

 

10. Saint Josemaria Escriva said, “Never rebuke while you're still indignant about a fault committed--wait until the next day, or even longer.  Then calmly, and with a purer intention, make your reprimand.  You'll gain more by a friendly word than by a three hour quarrel.” What advice would you offer others about giving or accepting reprimand?

 

11. Who is your favorite earthly potter to repair your earthen vessel?

 

 

By Susan Boudreau

Oratory of  Divine Love Reflection 127: It’s Not About Me!: A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 11

 

Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.  (21)  To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of-I am speaking as a fool-I also dare to boast of that.  (22)  Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I.  (23)  Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one-I am talking like a madman-with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.  (24)  Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  (25)  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;  (26)  on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;  (27)  in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  (28)  And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  (29)  Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?  (30)  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.  (2Co 11:21-30)

 

Saint Paul says in our first reading; “Since many are bragging about their human distinctions, I too will boast. To my shame I must confess that we have been too weak to do such things. But what anyone else dares to claim … I too will dare.”

 

There was a power play going on in ancient Corinth. There was a power play going on for who was going to control this newly formed Christian community. Among some of these groups were people called the Judiaizers. They were the ones telling Gentile converts that they had to become Jewish and be circumcised before becoming Christian. They were vying for control over the Corinthian community by saying that, because they were of Jewish descent, they outranked the Gentile converts to the faith. Therefore they should be the ones to lead.

 

There were others in the Corinthian community who had charismatic gifts. Some spoke in tongues; others were getting words of prophecy. There were some dynamic charismatic preachers. We have at least one named in the letter: Apollos, who is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. And some of these people were vying for control of the community as well.

 

And so all these power plays are going on in ancient Corinth, and Paul is saying all of this is foolishness. Paul calls himself a fool in this letter when he lists his accomplishments, or his credentials, because he knows everything comes from the Lord and not by our will, but, in calling himself a fool, Paul is also calling them fools because he knows boasting is foolishness. They don’t.

               

Paul is saying, “I have all of these things that you people are boasting about. I’m Jewish, I’m a descendant of Abraham, I’m an apostle, a minister if the Lord, I’m a teacher and a preacher. And besides all of that, I’ve suffered for the gospel. I’ve been beaten, stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, and have had several brushes with death. And if I’ve gone through all of this and don’t have the right to boast, neither do any of you.”

 

The ego, my brothers and sisters, is a dangerous enemy to Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality strives to make us see the sacred in others, not exalt the status of ourselves. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that she could see the face of Christ in every poor leper she helped. That’s the goal of the Christian life; not to control, not to center on me. The goal of the Christian life is to empower us see Christ in the faces of everyone around us. That’s why God gives spiritual gifts and gives different gifts to different people. So we can all see Him in one another.

 

Rev. Rick Warren wrote an excellent book on relationship building with the Lord called, “The Purpose Driven Life.” It was on the NY Times bestseller list several years ago. The first line of Rev. Warren’s book is, “It’s not about me.” That’s the meaning behind the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Poor in Spirit means it’s not about me.

               

That attitude is the heartbeat of Christian existence, “It’s not about me. It’s about  Him. I am only significant insofar as I allow myself to be the instrument in God’s hand to bring others to Him.”

               

Brothers and sisters, pray with me today that all people everywhere, in and out of the Church, clergy, religious and laity alike, all learn to let go of our own agendas, our own insecurities, our own fears. Pray we can all let go of me, to make more room for Him in our hearts, because once we do that, we truly begin to build His kingdom on earth.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “The proud person is like a grain of wheat thrown into water: it swells, it gets big. Expose that grain to the fire: it dries up, it burns. The humble soul is like a grain of wheat thrown into the earth: it descends, it hides itself, it disappears, it dies; but to revive in heaven.”  Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified, "The Little Arab"

 

Prayer by a Saint: “O my God, help me to remember that time is short, eternity long. What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death? To love You, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary. Without You, there is no peace of mind or soul. My God, I need fear only sin and nothing else in this life, for to lose You, my God, is to lose all. O my God, help me to remember that I came into this world with nothing, and shall take nothing from it when I die. To gain You, I must leave all. But in loving You, I already have all good things, the infinite riches of Christ and His Church in life, Mary's motherly protection and perpetual help, and the eternal dwelling place Jesus has prepared for me. Eternal Father, Jesus has promised that whatever we ask in His Name will be granted us. In His Name, I pray: give me a burning faith, a joyful hope, a holy love for You. Grant me perseverance in doing Your will and never let me be separated from You. My God and my All,make me a saint. Amen.” – Saint Alphonsus Liguori

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. What is it that makes you distinct? 

 

2. Complete this sentence; I feel better when I am in control of …

 

3. What gifts of the Spirit have you received?

 

4. What have you suffered for the sake of the faith or the good of another?

 

5. What are your weaknesses?

 

6. In whom or in what type of person would you find it most difficult to see the face of Christ? 

 

7. Examine your conversations of the past two days.  Is more of it about yourself, others or God? 

 

8. To what earthly thing or attitude are you clinging that God asks you to give up? 

 

9. Talk about one way in which you are building up His kingdom.

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 128: The Sign of the Covenant: A Reflection on Genesis 17

 

Gen 17:1, 9-10, 15-22  When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.  (9)  And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.  (10)  This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.  (15)  And God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  (16)  I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her."  (17)  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"  (18)  And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before you!"  (19)  God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.  (20)  As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.  (21) But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year."  (22)  When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

 

“I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless.”(Gn 17:1, 9-10, 15-22)

               

As soon as the Lord says this to Abraham, a few things happen. First, the Lord commands Abraham to circumcise himself and all his kinsmen. Secondly, God changes Abraham’s wife Sari’s name to Sarah. And lastly, they begin dealing with Abraham’s big mistake, Ishmael. Why do these things happen and why do they happen in this order after God tells Abram, “Walk in my presence, and be blameless”?

 

First, let’s consider circumcision. Why on earth would THIS gesture signify a special relationship with God? We know now that it’s common to circumcise baby boys for health reasons. But they didn’t have that knowledge in the ancient world. So think about it, why this gesture, this mutilation? It seems a bit perverse!

               

This is all tied to Abraham’s mistake. Abraham’s faith faltered twice in his relationship with God. The first was when Abraham went to Egypt, and, fearing that Pharaoh would desire Sarah and kill him to make Sarah his wife, Abraham concocts this story that Sarah is his sister. Pharaoh did indeed become enamored with Sarah; he believed Abraham’s lie and married Sarah. Because it is an illicit marriage, even though Pharaoh is unaware of that, calamities begin to befall Egypt. When Pharaoh learns the truth, he expels Abraham and Sarah from Egypt and forbids them from ever returning. So Abraham messes up by not trusting in God.

 

Abraham’s second fall of faith occurs when God makes Abraham the promise that he will raise him up a great nation and many descendants. Sarah says to him, “Abe, I’m too old to have children now. So here, take my teenage slave girl Hagar and have the child of the promise with her.” Abraham does, and thus Ishmael is born. God reprimands Abraham again. “Why did you do that? Sarah will be the mother of the child of the promise.” So a second time Abraham messes up by not trusting in God.

 

Please note that BOTH those failure have to do with marriage and the marital act. And what is covenant but a marriage? Marital imagery is always used in describing God’s relationship with his people.

 

So God tells Abraham to circumcise himself as a sign of the covenant between them.

Does that take faith? Speaking strictly as a guy, HECK YEAH! I can only imagine if that was me He spoke to. “Excuse me sir, your last transmission was somewhat garbled. WHAT did you exactly say you wanted me to do?”

               

So this act certainly takes faith to carry out, but it’s also a permanent visible sign. It is a permanent sign of what? Every time Abraham SEES his own body from that day on, he’s going to be reminded of two things: the time he failed in faith to the Lord by fathering Ishmael, and the time he succeeded in faith.

 

This is not the only time that someone is permanently marked in scripture. Cain is marked on the forehead after he kills his younger brother Abel. Why? When God banishes Cain to be a nomad, Cain protests, “My punishment is too great. People will learn of my sin and murder me.” And God marks Cain on the forehead for two things: first, so Cain, whenever he sees his reflection, will always be reminded of his sin, and, secondly, so other people will know that, if they harm Cain, they’ll have to answer to God. So again, the mark has a duel meaning, a reminder of failure, but a promise of protection. It denotes a special relationship.

 

We are also permanently marked, not with a visible sign, but with a sacramental sign. In the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and in my case Holy Orders, we are permanently marked for the Lord. The sacraments are the sign of OUR covenant with God.

               

“Walk in my presence and be blameless.” How do we do that? Through the Eucharist we walk in His presence because we come into His presence and physically consume His presence. And through the confessional we keep ourselves blameless. In the past God challenged his people to physically mark their flesh as a reminder of their failure so they’d be motivated not to fail again, but with the sacraments, in which our souls are invisibly marked, we’re actually given the GRACE to resist and overcome sin. Now we can really BE in His presence. Now we can really BE blameless.

 

I pray today that all Catholics realize the gift, the power, and the responsibility that we’ve been given in the sacraments.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “What is more insane than to be partakers of the Sacraments of the Lord and not partakers of the words of the Lord? These men truly have to say: ‘In Thy Name we have eaten and drunk,’ and they will have to hear: ‘I do not know you!’ (Luke 13:26-27). They eat and drink His Body and Blood in the Sacrament and do not recognize in the Gospel His members spread over the whole world, and for this reason they are not numbered among them at the Judgment.” -- St. Augustine

 

Prayer by a Saint: “O Lord, grant us that love which can never die, which will enkindle our lamps but not extinguish them, so that they may shine in us and bring light to others. Most dear Saviour, enkindle our lamps that they may shine forever in your temple. May we receive unquenchable light from you so that our darkness will be illuminated and the darkness of the world will be made less. Amen.” -- Saint Columba of Ireland
 

Questions for Reflection:

1. Discuss the distinction between “covenant” and “contract”.

 

2. List the covenant(s) that exist between God and yourself. 

 

3. How is God obligated to you through these covenants?

 

4. How are you obligated by these covenants? 

 

5. What sign exists of each covenant?

 

6. What is the significance of Sari’s name change?  You might also consider other biblical name changes such as Abram or Simon.

 

7. As Sari was changed to Sarah, how were you changed by the making of the covenant?

 

8. How are you changed by the living of the covenant?

 

9. What is the “gift” of the sacraments you have received?

 

10. What are the power and your corresponding responsibility received in these sacraments? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 129: I AM Still in Control: A Reflection on Genesis 46

 

So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes." Then Jacob set out from Beersheba. The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters. All his offspring he brought with him into Egypt. He had sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to show the way before him in Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen. Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive." (Gn 46:1-7, 28-30)

 

In this reading we begin the conclusion of the Joseph story in the book of Genesis, and a couple of things jump out at me. First, even when Jacob is overjoyed to hear that his long lost son Joseph is still alive after all these years in Egypt, he’s still reluctant to leave the Promised Land to go see him. The land, the physical country of Israel, was the tangible sign of the Jews’ covenant with God, which is why to this day, the Jews won’t compromise with Moslems on the possession of the West Bank.

 

This is why they can’t just set up a separate Palestinian State within the land. The land of Israel is the physical sign of the covenant the Jews have with God. Without it, their connection to God is broken.

 

The only equivalent I can think of is if the USA outlawed the Eucharist. If they passed a law that said, “Look, you Catholics can have all the other sacraments, just not the Eucharist…what’s the problem?” Big problem! The Eucharist is the physical sign of our covenant with God. Through the Eucharist, we are physically connected to God. So here in Genesis, God has to reassure Jacob not to worry about leaving the land. Why? Is it because the land isn’t important? No. Because in Egypt I will rise up descendants for you and make you a great nation, and THEN I will bring you all back here to the land!

 

The second thing that occurs to me in this reading is how God can bring good things out of bad circumstances. Out of all the evil things that happen to Joseph--his brothers betray him and sell him into slavery--then Joseph is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned--no matter how bad things get, God keeps working good through those bad circumstances, and that eventually enables Joseph to save all of his people.

 

The Lord continually does this throughout scripture. Because people won’t heed God’s will, bad things happen to those who try to heed God’s will, but God still manages to bring good things out of those circumstances.

 

Remember that. Sometimes someone has an unexpected pregnancy, or a pregnancy in less than ideal circumstances. Remember that when life gets tough; you lose your job, or you or someone you love has contracted a serious medical condition. Often times when we come upon these things, we immediately assume God is punishing us for some sin, and we beg God to take the circumstance away.

 

That’s usually our first, knee jerk reaction, and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with asking God to take some suffering or cross away. But we should also add, “But if this circumstance is your will for me, to teach me something, or to save someone else’s soul, or to release a soul from purgatory, then help me to live it well, and trust in You.”

 

Often times that’s the reason God allows us to experience difficult circumstances--to increase our trust, to increase our faith by showing us; “See, even now I am still God, and I am still in control.”

 

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “When shall it be that we shall taste the sweetness of the Divine Will in all that happens to us, considering in everything only His good pleasure, by whom it is certain that adversity is sent with as much love as prosperity, and as much for our good? When shall we cast ourselves undeservedly into the arms of our most loving Father in Heaven, leaving to Him the care of ourselves and of our affairs, and reserving only the desire of pleasing Him, and of serving Him well in all that we can?” -- Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

 

Prayer by a Saint: “Frail is our vessel, and the ocean is wide; but as in your mercy You have set our course, so steer the vessel of our life towards the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at length to the quiet haven of our heart's desire, where You, O God, are blessed, and live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.” – St. Augustine

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. For many, control of their environment or their lives is crucial to their sense of wellbeing. How important is it to you?

 

2. Describe a time when something good has come from some event or circumstance that was apparently bad.

 

3. What is your most likely first reaction to bad news?

 

4. What covenantal sign have you received from God?

 

5. What would happen if this sign were taken from you?

 

6. What would the loss of the Eucharist do to you?

 

7. Who is really in control of your life? How comfortable are you with leaving full control to God?

 

8. What can you do to increase your trust in Him?

 

9. How would you answer the questions of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal in the above quote?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 130: Cry Out for Freedom: A Reflection on Exodus 11:10-14

 

Although Moses and Aaron performed various wonders in Pharaoh’s presence, the LORD made Pharaoh obstinate, and he would not let the children of Israel leave his land. The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It shall not be eaten raw or boiled, but roasted whole, with its head and shanks and inner organs. None of it must be kept beyond the next morning; whatever is left over in the morning shall be burned up. “This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD. For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every first born of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you. “This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.” (Ex 11:10-12:14)

 

The Passover. In the book of Exodus we hear the story surrounding the most central feast of the Jewish faith: Passover. Passover is the feast commemorating this event, when the angel of death went through the land of Egypt, striking dead the first-born male of every house, but “passed over” the homes of the Jews.

 

In previous homilies I’ve talked about how the blood of the lamb was necessary for death to pass over them; therefore the blood of the perfect lamb was what gave them life. I’ve explained how Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who thus saves the whole world from sin. But today I want to focus on slavery.

 

The reason the Jews need the Passover is because they’re slaves. They’re in bondage to the Egyptians and they have no way out. God gives Pharaoh signs; God puts the Egyptians through plagues; God finally sends the angel of death to claim the first-born son in every Egyptian household, all to free Israel from slavery. This is ironic, because, when Israel is finally free from slavery, all they want is to go back to Egypt and be slaves again. Isn’t that always the way?

 

Here in America we boast of our freedom, but then we squander that freedom on indulging every sinful desire of the flesh. People openly criticize God. “Well if God is so loving, why is there poverty?” And how much have you given to the poor? You don’t look like you're sacrificing much with your new car, and your nice clothes. “If God cares so much, why doesn’t send doctors to find cures for AIDS, cancer, and other horrible diseases?” Maybe he did, and you aborted them all.

           

That’s how people prefer slavery. God told us what to do to make everything work right. But people prefer slavery rather than heed God’s commands. Then to justify their own lack of faith, they blame God for the very problems he warned us would occur if we didn’t heed his commands. So what do we do?

 

The Jews were enslaved to the Egyptians for quite a while before God sent Moses to liberate them. What finally makes God act? When God first confronted Moses in the burning bush, He said, “I have heard the cry of my people and have seen their affliction.”

           

Wel,l my brothers and sisters our nation and our world is enslaved to sin again. I’m sure the Lord has seen our affliction, but are we crying out? It’s not until Israel cries out as a nation that God responds. So now it’s time for us to start crying out as a Church. It is time for us to start actively asking God to free us all, ourselves, our nation, our Church, and our world from slavery.

           

When we have teenagers addicted to Internet pornography, we are slaves. When we have apathy, where people just don’t care what happens to others, we are slaves. When we become narcissistic and all we care about is me and what affects me, we are slaves.

 

I would make this suggestion. During Mass when the host is elevated at the consecration, there, at that moment, pray for your own intentions. But when the chalice is elevated, pray that the Lord pour his precious blood over the earth and free the world from slavery. Call down the fire! Pray God break the devil’s hold over this world, and God protect His people from all spiritual attacks. We see so many things spiraling out of control in this world. Maybe the Lord is just waiting for us to cry out.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: "Pray with great confidence, with confidence based upon the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray." -St. Louis de Montfort

 

Prayer By a Saint: “We beg you, Master, be our help and strength. Save those among us who are oppressed, have pity on the lowly, and lift up the fallen. Heal the sick, bring back the straying, and feed the hungry. Release those in prison, steady those who falter, and strengthen the fainthearted. Let all nations come to know you, the one God, with your Son Jesus Christ, and us your people and sheep of your pasture. Do not keep count of the sins of your servants, but purify us through the bath of your truth and direct our steps. Help us to walk in holiness of heart, and to do what is good and pleasing in your eyes and in the eyes of our rulers. Master, let your face shine on us to grant us every good in peace, protect us by your powerful hand; deliver us from every evil by the might of your arm. Grant us and all who dwell on this earth, peace and harmony, O Lord.” – Prayer of Saint Clement I, Pope
In The Name Of The Whole Christian People

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. Give examples of slavery in your community.

 

2. What distinguishes your community from that of the Israelites of old? 

 

3. What are you doing to eradicate slavery?

 

4. How can you cry out to God as an individual?

 

5. How can you cry out to God as a community? 

 

6. Who might God send to free your community from slavery?  Is He sending you?

 

7. Where would you begin if it were in your power to eliminate slavery? 

 

8. Who would be your “Aaron”?

 

9. How do you celebrate this perpetual institution of Passover? 

 

10. Are there littler, more private, Passovers you celebrate?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

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