Weeks 131-140

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 131: Remembering What God Did for Us: A Reflection on 1 Joshua 24: 1-13

 

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people:  “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: In times past your fathers, down to Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor, dwelt beyond the River and served other gods. But I brought your father Abraham from the region beyond the River and led him through the entire land of Canaan. I made his descendants numerous, and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I assigned the mountain region of Seir in which to settle, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.

“Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and smote Egypt with the prodigies which I wrought in her midst. Afterward I led you out of Egypt, and when you reached the sea, the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Red Sea with chariots and horsemen. Because they cried out to the LORD, he put darkness between your people and the Egyptians, upon whom he brought the sea so that it engulfed them. After you witnessed what I did to Egypt, and dwelt a long time in the desert, I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I delivered them into your power. You took possession of their land, and I destroyed them,  the two kings of the Amorites, before you. Then Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab, prepared to war against Israel. He summoned Balaam, son of Beor, to curse you; but I would not listen to Balaam. On the contrary, he had to bless you, and I saved you from him. Once you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, but I delivered them also into your power. And I sent the hornets ahead of you that drove them (the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites,  Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites) out of your way; it was not your sword or your bow.

“I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” (1 Joshua 24: 1-13)

 

Why do go to Mass? Why should we read the Bible and do spiritual reading? Why should we talk about our faith, and our experiences of God with others?

 

Now we can answer those questions in many ways--to obtain grace, to grow in intimacy with God, to be instruments of salvation for others--and all of that is true. But there is another reason. We also do these things because it is important to remember.

 

This is what Joshua is doing in our reading. Moses has died. Joshua is ready to lead the people across the Jordon River into the Promised Land, but before he does, he recaps their history. He reminds the people, “This is the covenant God made with our Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is what he promised them. Then God sent us Moses and Aaron to free us from our slavery in Egypt.”

 

Now, why does Joshua do this? I think for a couple of reasons. First, he knows how short sighted the people have gotten, because as a youth as Moses’ attendant, he was a first hand witness to how the people kept defying Moses and God, even though God kept proving himself to them time and time again. The reason they’ve been out there in the desert for forty years is because they got the Lord so angry with their constant defiance, that He finally said “Enough! None of you are entering this land I showed you. When the last of this generation is dead, then I’ll let your children into the land.”

 

So Joshua is reminding the people of this so that they don’t make the same mistake because now they’re going to have to fight again. God did their fighting for them while they were in Egypt. God took on Pharaoh and his armies Himself. Then God let them fight for themselves but helped them, while they fought the Moabites, the Midianites, and the Ammorites while they were in the desert, but that was out in the open, desert fighting. Now the Israelites are going to have to fight more pagan peoples, who are this time entrenched behind tall, stone walls in fortified cities. This is a whole new ball game. Sure, they have slings, swords, and spears. They have archers, and maybe some cavalry. But they don’t have siege towers. They don’t have the mechanics for taking on fortified positions. And so Joshua is alleviating their fears by reminding them how God brought them victory in the past, and also by reminding that they have a Divine right to the land they are entering because they had been there first. “This land was given to our fathers by God,” Joshua reminds them. So the first reason to remember the past is to alleviate fears in the present. When we remember what God did for us in the past, it gives us the courage to face the present and to not fear the future.

 

Secondly, remembering the past protects us from being manipulated in the present. In one of the Gospel passages, the Pharisees try to trip up Jesus by using the past. “Moses allowed divorce. What do you say Jesus?” Jesus derails them however, because He knows His history better! And He says to them, “Moses allowed this because of the hardness of your hearts, but this isn’t what God intended.”

 

The question then was divorce; now it’s same sex marriage. Two examples. The news was showing the controversy at the State House when Rhode Island legalized same sex marriage, and on the screen they show this young woman holding a sign that said, (and I apologize for the language) “God hates fags.” NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! God doesn’t hate anyone! This woman doesn’t remember what Jesus taught. People who use slurs like that speak out of ignorance inspired by fear. Second example, a parishioner of ours wrote a local politician asking why this particular politician changed positions to support same sex marriage. This politician, a Roman Catholic, responded by quoting several Scripture passages and tried to make a theological justification for the decision. This politician did what the Pharisee’s attempted to do to Jesus. This politician attempted to manipulate our parishioner, by hoping that our parishioner didn’t remember Church teaching.

 

So why do we come to Church? Why do we share our faith? Why do we read the Bible and do other spiritual reading?. These things help us remember. They help us remember what God has done for us personally which combats fear. And they help us remember what Christ taught, so we are not easily manipulated.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint:

“I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if Faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself. 
--St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

 

Prayer for Trust in Jesus

 

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. When has remembering various Scripture truths or stories helped you?

2. When did remembering how God helped you in the past get you through a tough time?

3. Father Sisco mentioned examples of people not knowing what Scripture really says and misusing it. What other examples can you think of?

4. Do you think of Mass as a way to remember Scriptural truths?

5. Have you ever had to remind someone of Scripture? What were the circumstances?

6. Have you ever been the subject of someone using Scripture to manipulate you? Describe your experience.

7. How can we use Scripture appropriately in our dealings with others? Do you use it this way?

8. When and how should we share our faith? What do you have to share?

9. How can we make a grave mistake when we don’t trust God? Have you ever made such a mistake?

10. When did you trust God and find that He worked everything out to the good, perhaps in surprising ways?

 

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 132: Legalism vs. Love: A Reflection on Matthew 22:34-40

 

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 34-40)

 

Legalisms. Let’s recall the story of Ruth. I love this story, because I love the theme of this story--love trumps all. Ruth is a Gentile, a Moabite woman who married an Israelite who has died. Ruth’s brother in law, her husband’s brother, also married a Moabite woman, and he died as well. Naomi, their mother in law, a widow who has lost her husband and both her sons, has no way to provide for herself let alone her daughters in law, so she says “Go back to your own people. You’re still young enough to get married again.” One daughter in law, Orpah, goes, but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi. Ruth basically tells her, “Where you go, I’ll go. Whatever your fate is will be mine as well.” 

 

What makes this story so significant is that, while this behavior would have been expected from a Jewish daughter in law, because Ruth is a Gentile, she has no part of the covenant. But for Ruth, there is more than just a legalistic bond between her and Naomi. She’s not just going to look out for herself as her sister in law did. And because of this, God will end up blessing Ruth in many ways, not the least of which is a new husband, Boaz, who will happen, eventually, to be in Jesus’ family tree! When you read the genealogy of Jesus in the opening of Matthew’s gospel, he lists Boaz, the husband of Ruth, as an ancestor of Jesus. So because Ruth lives by the law of love, and chooses charity to her mother in law over her own self interests, Ruth has the honor of also being an ancestor of the Savior through the son that she and Boaz conceived, Obed, who became the father of Jesse who became the father of King David from whose line Jesus came.

 

The law of love. This is what Jesus is trying to get through to the Pharisees. A Pharisee asks him, “Which is the greatest commandment?” He’s looking for one of the commandments from the Decalogue. Yet Jesus gives this answer, quoting the book of Deuteronomy, “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” Don’t make your relationship with God about keeping rules. 

 

What if Jesus had said, “The greatest commandment is ‘Do not kill.’” People would have thought, “Oh, OK. That means I don’t need to stress so much about the other nine.”

 

 I get people who ask me questions like this Pharisee all the time. “Father if I’m late to Mass, as long as I get there before the Gospel, it still counts right?” In a previous assignment I had a teenager ask me, “Is it ok if I daydream during Mass as long as I pay attention at consecration?”

 

When people ask questions like that, what they’re really asking is “Father, what’s the bare minimum? What’s the absolute least I have to do to please God?” And as we know, love never asks what the minimum is. Love always wants to go above and beyond duty. From now on I think I’m going to answer these questions the same way Jesus did, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.” And how do we do that? By striving to love our neighbor as ourselves. Charity helps us grow in love; love for others, a healthy love for ourselves, and love of God. 

 

Brothers and sisters, pray with me today that we never reduce our relationship with God to legalisms.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

"My director, Jesus, does not teach me to count my acts, but to do everything for love, to refuse Him nothing, to be pleased when He gives me a chance to prove to Him that I love Him - but all this in peace - in abandonment." -- St. Therese of Lisieux in a letter to Celine, July 6, 1893

 

Prayer:

 

God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace. (Prayer to Love God above All Things)
 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Read the entire Book of Ruth and discuss how the events unfold to reward Ruth’s selfless loyalty to Naomi.

 2. Why do you suppose God used a Moabite woman, not a Hebrew, to be in the ancestry of Jesus?

 3. What legalistic questions do you sometimes have about serving God? What is the antidote to legalism?

 4. Is legalism all bad? Do we need rules and regulations? Is Father Sisco saying that we don’t need to follow Church law? What does it mean to “never reduce our relationship with God to legalisms”?

 5. Can prayer be legalistic? Why or why not? How can we keep our prayer life fresh?

 6. Ruth made a selfless decision to stay with Naomi and with wonderful results. What other selfless decisions can you think of? What were the results of those?

 7. Discuss the quote from St. Therese.

8. What other answer might Jesus have given the Pharisee? Why was Jesus’ answer the wisest?

9. What is love? How do we know if we love? How do we know if we are loved? Why do you think God says that His Name is Love?

 10. Look in the Book of Acts for ten deeds of charity performed by the early Christians. Why was charity so important to the early Christians?

 

 

 --Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 133: The Choice Is Yours: A Reflection on Deuteronomy 4: 32-40

 

Moses said to the people: “Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with his strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? All this you were allowed to see that you might know the LORD is God and there is no other.
Out of the heavens he let you hear his voice to discipline you; on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard him speaking out of the fire. For love of your fathers he chose their descendants and personally led you out of Egypt by his great power,
driving out of your way nations greater and mightier than you, so as to bring you in
and to make their land your heritage, as it is today. This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”

(DT 4:32-40)

 

I’ve preached about trusting God, and how trust is the first stage of love. So it is impossible to love someone until we trust him or her. The same is true of God. In this reading from Deuteronomy, Moses recounts their personal history with God. He doesn’t go back to Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob. He recounts what the Lord has done for this generation personally, how he freed them from slavery, destroyed Pharaoh’s army, and took care of them in the desert.

 

Then he makes this statement. “This is why you MUST NOW KNOW, and fix in your hearts, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and the earth below, and there is no other.” Now you’ve got to make a choice. The Lord has done all these things so you’d trust Him, but He’s not going to be tested anymore. It’s time to decide. You can’t serve the Lord and at the same time give yourselves over to other gods.

 

This is something the Israelites, throughout their entire biblical history, will continue to get wrong. They keep trying to straddle both worlds. They keep trying to serve the Lord just enough to allow them to satiate their animal passions. That’s not loving God, because that’s not trusting God. That’s appeasing God, and appeasing God doesn’t cut it. Pagan gods needed appeasing, but the Lord wants more. He wants our hearts.

 

The Lord proved that He was worthy of their trust because of the wonders He worked in their midst, but there’s always a give and take in that. Every time the Lord works miraculous deeds, He also reveals something new about Himself, and thus calls us to a new level of responsibility in our relationship with Him.

               

So the Lord does all these miraculous things to lead Israel out of slavery and take care of them miraculously in the desert, but what does He reveal to them about himself? Moses reiterates a statement here that’s part of the 1st commandment. “I am the Lord and there is no other.” This would have been radical. Because before the Exodus, the Jews thought, well heck, yeah, there are a lot of gods floating around up there, but our God, is the biggest and the baddest of the gods. This revelation must have stunned them. “There is no other God but me.”

 

Centuries earlier when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, it must have been heart breaking for Abraham, but not surprising. Pagan gods commonly demanded human, and particularly infant, sacrifice. But when God stops Abraham, He was revealing that he wasn’t that kind of god. The miracle was the birth of Isaac, despite Abraham and Sarah’s old age. God then revealed something of His nature to Abraham when He stops the sacrifice of his son.

 

Now let’s turn our attention toward Jesus. Jesus had worked a number of miracles in the Gospels. Then what does He say? “If anyone wishes to be a follower of Mine, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Jesus must have equally stunned His audience, as God stunned the Israelites when He said He was the only God.

 

Take up your cross? What is this guy talking about? Criminals carry crosses. Holy people don’t! From Abraham to the Exodus, God wanted obedience from His people. From Moses to the New Testament, God wanted trust from His people. Jesus then takes it to the final level, and reveals God wants love from His people. And that love takes the form of service and sacrifice.

 

Jesus’ teaching and the giving of the sacraments was His service. The cross was His sacrifice. And after He told us to pick up our cross, He picked up His first. The cross proved His love for us, and proved we could trust Him, because He practiced what He preached.

 

So what will the world do? The Lord won’t be tested anymore. It’s time for us to decide. He’s waiting. Will we give ourselves to Him, or will we give ourselves to something else? Eventually, everyone must choose.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote from a Saint: “Let us therefore give ourselves to God with a great desire to begin to live thus, and beg Him to destroy in us the life of the world of sin, and to establish His life within us.” -- St. John Eudes

 

Prayer by a Saint: “O good cross, made beautiful by the body of the Lord, long have I desired thee, ardently have I loved thee, unceasingly have I sought thee, and now thou art ready for my eager soul. Receive me from among men and restore me to my Master, so that He, who redeemed me through thee, shalt receive me through thee. Amen.” -- Saint Andrew

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. How would you rate your trust of God?

 

2. What signs and wonders of God have you seen?

 

3. What has God revealed to you about Himself through these signs and wonders?

 

4. What other “gods” tempt you?

 

5. What cross have you picked up to carry?

 

6. Is it your cross or does it belong to someone else?

 

7. In what ways have you tested God?

 

8. What choice do you make today in regard to giving yourself to God?

 

9. If you have not fully chosen God over other “idols,” what can you do to make your choice complete?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 134: Satisfied or Sanctified?: A Reflection on 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-8

 

Finally, then, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1Th 4:1-8)

 

Brothers and sisters, we cannot ever afford to sit back on our laurels and say, “I’m good enough.” That was the mistake the foolish virgins made in the gospel. “I’m in the wedding party. I’m guaranteed a spot in the wedding feast. They HAVE to let me in.” They don’t anticipate another test, another temptation, and so they end up falling victim to it and getting locked out. The temptation you DON’T expect is always the one that’ll get you.

 

The times when I get hit with temptations the most is usually right before or right after I’ve had a profound spiritual experience; or when I’m praying and I’m trying to have a profound spiritual experience. Of course. As soon as we acquire any kind of peace or understanding of God, the devil will try to rob us of that peace, or get us to forget the understanding we’ve just come to, or discourage us from attempting to go any further on our spiritual walk.

           

CS Lewis has a great book called “The Screwtape Letters.” Screwtape is a demon that was so successful in the soul tempting business that he’s been given an administrative position in hell, and the whole book is about Screwtape writing letters to his nephew Wormwood who’s just graduated from the academy, and beginning in the soul tempting business.   And he says some really great stuff in this book.

 

For instance, Screwtape writes to Wormwood, “I’m sorry to hear your patient has become a Christian.” (The person who the demon is assigned to is always referred to as “the patient”.) “There are a few things for you to do here. When he’s in Sunday services, try to get him to focus on the person behind him who’s praying faster or slower than everyone else, or the woman in the pew across from him who’s singing off key, or the child that’s crying in the back of the church…” (And as I read these things I’d chuckle to myself thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s happened to me!) But Screwtape is always reiterating to Wormwood to try constantly to convince his patient that he’s fine just the way he is. He doesn’t need to challenge himself any further. Being spiritually complacent is a common spiritual trap.

 

When I was a layman and then a young priest I made many pilgrimages to many shrines around the country and the world, but something came to me. Here is where the shrine has to be: in my HEART. We all have to build a shrine here, so wherever we go we take the Lord with us. That means being devoted to prayer. That means challenging ourselves always to be growing in virtue. That means always being on guard against temptation. It’s as simple as that.

 

Brothers and sisters, let us pray today that we always make greater progress in our walk with the Lord and not succumb to spiritual complacency.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: “The devil strains every nerve to secure the souls which belong to Christ. We should not grudge our toil in wresting them from Satan and giving them back to God.” -- St. Sebastian

Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Mt 6:13)

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with your spiritual life?

 

2. With what parts of it are you satisfied? 

 

3. With which parts of it are you dissatisfied?

 

4. How are you working toward making changes to the parts with which you are dissatisfied?

 

5. What progress do you see? 

 

6. What methods do you use to avoid occasions for temptation?

 

7. What methods do you use to resist temptation when it comes?

 

8. How do you manage distractions at prayer?

 

9. What is your favorite shrine in the world and why?

 

10. What does the shrine of your heart look like?  How can it be improved?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 135: You Can Only Take Someone Else as Far as You Have Gone: A Reflection on Luke 6: 39-42

 

He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.41Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Luke 6: 39-42)

 

 “You can only take someone else as far as you yourself have gone.” That’s a bit of wisdom my old mentor and friend Father Ray Suriani, the pastor of St. Pius X church in Westerly, Rhode Island, used to tell me his mother would often say. You can only take someone else as far as you yourself have gone. And this is a very important truth for us to remember, and it’s a truth Jesus is pointing to in our Gospel today.

 

Can a blind person guide a blind person?” The answer is obviously no. The person guiding the blind person has got to be able to see or they both fall. No student is superior to the teacher. Obviously the teacher has greater knowledge, THAT’S why they’re the teacher. The student can only hope to someday be equal to his teacher.

 

Likewise you cannot bring someone else to God unless you yourself are also seeking God.

 

I have warned parents over the years bringing in their children to be baptized, “You are the primary teachers of the Catholic faith, not me.” If you want your kids to take the faith seriously YOU have to take the faith seriously, because if they perceive, (and believe me, children are more perceptive than we give them credit for) that you think faith isn’t a big deal, they’ll end up leaving the Church. Many parents pay big bucks to send their kids to Catholic school, but won’t take them to Church. Many parents drop their kids off for religious ed classes but won’t take them to Church. It’s a gesture in futility. And so we occasionally need to look at our lives and ask, “Am I being the best witness to Christ that I can be?” Does my language, my dress, my disposition indicate that I’m a follower of Christ?

 

This is also a warning to us to be careful who WE’RE taking our example from and making sure that THEY’RE being a good witness to Christ. We have to make sure we’re not following a false prophet. How do we do that? I can tell you right now that, if you’re looking for your teacher in the faith to be perfect, you ain’t gonna find it. We’re all sinners after all. Someone can be an excellent witness to Christ and still have character flaws.

 

BUT, (and here’s indication number one,) does that person have the humility to ADMIT they have character flaws, and struggle against them, or do they always attempt to make excuses for their mistakes? Do they have a problem admitting when they’re wrong?

 

Number two; do they point others to Christ, by pointing out the path of virtuous living, or do they rather put attention of themselves? A good teacher of the faith is always going to attempt to guide their students toward virtues, and ethics, prayer life and spiritual growth. Bad teachers of the faith usually have other agendas hidden in there, personal agendas, or political agendas.

 

And number three: check what they teach against the teaching of the Church. THAT’S the biggie! “If you want to do it right do what I do!” You might hear that from a false teacher. Or you might hear this: “You’re not a REAL Catholic unless you’re following this discipline, praying this devotion, fasting on bread and water five times a week…” Now all of these things are GOOD. But what works for one may not work for another. Good teachers of the faith recognize this. To say you’re not a whole Catholic, or real Catholic, or a complete Catholic unless you do something above and beyond what the Church requires is a lie.

 

Now I often share on the pulpit observances and disciplines that have helped me in my spirituality, but I never make that a requirement. I always say, “This works for me. Try it and see if it works for you.” Because even if it doesn’t work for you, it may lead you to something that does. Because you can only take someone, as far as you yourself have gone.

 

Father Micheal Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “He who reads much and understands much, receives his fill. He who is full, refreshes others.” –Saint Ambrose

 

Prayer: Prayer for the New Evangelization

 

Heavenly Father,


Pour forth your Holy Spirit to inspire me with these words from Holy Scripture. Stir in my soul the desire to renew my faith and deepen my relationship with your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ so that I might truly believe in and live the Good News. Open my heart to hear the Gospel and grant me the confidence to proclaim the Good News to others. Pour out your Spirit, so that I might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in my everyday life through my words and actions. In moments of hesitation, remind me: If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel? If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed? If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim?

 

God, our Father, I pray that through the Holy Spirit I might hear the call of the New Evangelization to deepen my faith, grow in confidence to proclaim the Gospel and boldly witness to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Have you ever tried to take someone beyond where you have gone yourself? What happened?

 

2. Why, in the faith journey, can we only take someone as far as we have gone ourselves?

 

3. Are you trying to bring others to the faith? How?

 

4. How might parents help their children come to a belief in God? Discuss tactics that work and those that don’t.

 

5. Have you ever met anyone who is “more Catholic than the Pope?” What type of person is he or her?

 

6. How can we be sure that our thoughts on the faith are in keeping with the Catholic Church? How can we tell if what we hear or read is really what the Church teaches.

 

7. What response do you make if someone criticizes the Pope? The Church? Your bishop? Your priest? You?

 

8. Discuss the quote from St. Ambrose.

 

9. Pray the Prayer for the New Evangelization. Can you honestly say that you would like to make it your own? What might happen if we prayed that prayer daily and God granted its requests?

 

10. How far do you want to go in your faith journey? How near are you now to that goal?

 

1l. Has a priest or religious ever made a comment that you consider memorable? Share it and why it means so much to you.

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 136: Welcoming Jesus into Our Hearts: A Reflection on Luke 7: 36-50

 

 

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ (Luke 7:36-50)

 

 

 

 

This is a great story from the Gospel of Luke, but you know there is a detail in this story that often gets overlooked, and if you know me, you know I just can’t resist little details. We are all familiar with this story: Jesus is dining at the house of a Pharisee, a man of considerable prestige in his community. During the evening this woman, this sinner of the town (the implication is that she is a prostitute) enters the house, throws herself at Jesus’ feet, washes his feet with her tears, and dries them with her hair. The Pharisee, named Simon, is scandalized by this and even used the occasion to question in his mind Jesus’ authenticity.

 

Interesting tidbit number one--this Pharisee shares the same name as Peter. Peter’s given name is Simon. It is Jesus who names him Peter. But in the Gospels, Peter is only referred to as Simon when he "messes up." The only time Peter "messes up" is when he is scandalized, and Peter is only scandalized when he is confronted with the cross. The cross is the sign of God’s perfect mercy, and isn’t it Jesus’ mercy that this Pharisee is also scandalized by?

 

Now, you may think I’m stretching here, “Come on, Father Sisco, that’s a heck of a lot to assume, just because this Pharisee and Peter happen to have the same name." Maybe so, but please take note that people in Scripture are not named unless it’s for a reason. Many people in the Gospels go anonymous. The Wedding at Cana.  What were the names of the bride and groom that were getting married? No one knows. The rich young man who wanted to be a disciple until Jesus told him to give away all his possessions. What was his name? We don’t know. How many scribes and lawyers and priests and Pharisees did Jesus take on in debate and dialogue and most of them remain unnamed? And yet this one is. I’m sorry, but I cannot accept that as coincidence. I believe Luke is naming Simon the Pharisee very intentionally. Because this Pharisee and Peter have the same problem, Luke points out that they share the same name.

 

Interesting tidbit number two: Note what Jesus says to Simon the Pharisee when Jesus confronts him on what is going through his mind. “You see this woman? I came into your house and you gave me no water for my feet. She has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss; yet she has not stopped kissing my feet since she entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume”.

 

When you entered someone’s house in ancient Israel, these were the gestures of welcome. If we were living two thousand years ago in Israel and you came to my house, the first thing I’d do would be to give you water to wash your face and your feet to refresh you from the dusty desert road. Today, I would offer you a coke. Then, I would give you a kiss of welcome. Today, I would shake your hand. Finally, I would take the little jar of oil I’d keep by my door, and pour a few drops on your head. These gestures would show you were welcome in my house. Simon the Pharisee did not do these things. Why? Maybe he is not convinced that Jesus is authentic, or maybe he is just having Jesus over as a show but isn’t sincere. Whatever the case, Simon hasn’t gone through the ritual of welcoming Jesus. But the sinful woman has. She hasn’t opened her house to Jesus, but she has welcomed him into her heart, unlike Simon who has done neither. And it is that welcoming of Jesus into her heart that moves her to repentance.

 

And so the question remains of us, do we welcome the Lord into our hearts? We take him into our bodies in the Eucharist, we let him in the house, but are we welcoming him into our hearts? Brothers and Sister, make this a practice every day, to invite the Lord into your heart. "Lord Jesus, I give you permission to take charge of my life today."

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco,

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote from a Saint: Late have I loved You. O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

 

– St. Augustine of Hippo

 

 

Prayer: "Dear Lord, I pray that you will not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.  Please think of me according to Your mercy and for Your goodness' sake, O LORD.  Lord I turn from all of those sins that I committed and I ask for Your help in washing the memory and thoughts of that sin completely from my mind.   Please restore me to faithful obedience to Your Word, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit anew, so that I may keep Your commands all the days of my life."    (Based on Psalm 25:7)

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What would your response have been to the penitent woman?

 

2. Have you ever tried to do something for show without putting your heart into it? How does it feel to reflect on this? What was the result of your deception?

 

3. What is sincerity? How can you tell if a person is sincere? Do you consider yourself to be sincere?

 

4. What is the difference between serving Jesus and welcoming Jesus? Do you welcome Jesus? How can you better welcome Jesus?

 

6. What traits in Simon the Pharisee do you see in yourself? What traits in Simon Peter do you see in yourself?

 

7. Do you think names are important? How important is your name to you? How does God use a person’s name to instruct?

 

8. How do you welcome people into your home? How do you like to be welcomed into another’s home?

 

9. What ways can we approach Jesus in repentance? How can you encourage someone to approach Christ in repentance?

 

10. Can you honestly say, “Jesus, take charge of my life today”?

 

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 137: Who Do You Say that I AM?: A Reflection on Luke 9: 18-22

 

Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" And they answered, "John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen." Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God." And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (Luk 9:18-22)

 

“Who do the crowds say that I am? ...But you, who do YOU say that I am?”

 

Who is he, this Jesus of Nazareth?

 

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all lead up to this question. This is the spiritual climax of these three gospels.

 

Who is he, this man from Nazareth?

 

Who do the people say that I am?

 

Some of them think he’s a prophet. Others think he is a healer. Still others think a wonder worker. Some see him as a teacher. And these are all true. Jesus was all of these things, but more.

 

He was God. Being God meant that there’s something about Jesus we can’t wholly get a grasp on, we can’t wholly understand, we can’t wholly figure out.

 

Jesus is a mystery, and that’s the whole point of this passage. No matter how much we know about Jesus, no matter how much we understand, there’s still going be that part of him that will remain beyond our human nature to ever understand. This is the reality even when we experience the beatific vision, when we see the unveiled face of the Holy Trinity in heaven. Even then we won’t understand everything there is to know about God, but we’ll spend an eternity contemplating it.

 

It will be sort of like flowers. If you’ve ever seen rapid time filming of flowers, you see that as the sun changes position in the sky, they turn to face the sun. The flowers don’t understand what the sun is. They don’t understand why it exists or why they’re drawn to it. They just are.

 

Mystery.

 

It’s something we have to live with as Catholics. And that’s hard, especially in our secular humanist society that has trained us to reject mystery, to abhor faith, and live by reason and rational thinking alone. When we realize how little we actually know about this universe, I don’t know how the secular humanists keep from being frustrated and cynical. I don’t know how they keep from going mad.

 

We are called to embrace the unexplainable.

 

They are called to explain the unexplainable.

 

I can only imagine how frustrating that must be. Our task, I think, is far easier.

 

Now if we’re honest with ourselves we must realize that this question which Jesus asks his apostles, he also asks each one of us.

 

‘But you, who do YOU say that I am?’

 

How we answer will determine how we act and react to the gospels.

 

Some still say Jesus was just a teacher, or a prophet, or a wonder worker, or a healer. Are we willing to go beyond that? Are we willing to embrace him as the mystery of God incarnate? If we answer ‘yes’ to that question, are we willing to surrender our lives to him then, and let him transform our lives to be more and more like his? Are we willing to let ourselves be immersed in and become part of the mystery?

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote From a Saint: “When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.” - St. Ambrose of Milan

 

 

Prayer By a Saint: “I bind myself today The might of the Incarnation of Christ with that of His Baptism, The might of His Crucifixion with that of His Burial, The might of His Resurrection with that of His Ascension, The might of His Coming on the Judgment Day.” - St. Patrick of Ireland

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What do you suppose it is that intrigues people who like mysteries or confounds people who do not?

 

2. Are you personally drawn into the mystery of God or frustrated by it?

 

3. Who do you personally say that Jesus is?

 

4. Is there an attribute or image of Him to which you are particularly attracted?

 

5. Is there an attribute or image of Him you find difficult to accept?

 

6. How do you most frequently refer to Jesus when speaking to others about Him?

 

7. Reviewing the quote of St. Ambrose, where do you most easily see Christ?

 

8. Where or in whom do you find it most difficult to see Him?

 

9. How closely are you bound by His Word, His virtue, the Incarnation, His baptism, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming?

 

10. Is there something else that also binds you from which you need to be loosed?

 

11. Are you willing to fully surrender your life to Him or are you somewhat hesitant?

 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 138: Keep My Commandments: A Reflection on John 15: 9-10

 

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Live on in my love. You will live in my love if you keep my commandments, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and live in his love.” (John 15: 9-10)

 

What is love built on exactly?  

 

I’ve prepared many couples for marriage in my ten years of priesthood, and in the course of doing the paperwork, usually the bride to be asks me, “Do we have to say that part about ‘obey’ in the marriage vows?” And I assure them, that they’ve been watching too many soap opera weddings. “Obey” is not, nor has not been, part of the Catholic wedding rite. And I usually get a sigh of relief. 

Then I tell them, the word in the Catholic rite is ‘honor.’ That’s OK. ‘Honor’ seems like an inoffensive enough word. But honor is more than obey. Honor goes beyond obey. 

 

In Jesus’ own words, living in His love hinges on keeping His commandments. Note the word Jesus uses, “if you keep My commandments.” Not obey. Keep. And maybe I’m over analyzing, maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think that’s a deliberate word choice by our Lord. Because I think obedience to the commandments might get us to heaven eventually, but will it get true sanctity? Will it make us saints? No. No one ever became a saint by obeying commandments. People become saints by honoring God’s commandments, because by honoring God and His commandments; we live in His love and He lives us. 

 

Now why do I draw a distinction between obey and honor? Aren’t they in essence the same thing? I don’t think so.  

 

There are lots of different motivations for obedience. I pay taxes every year in obedience to the law. Does that mean I love my country? Does that mean I respect my country? Does that mean I support everything my country does? No. That means I don’t want to go to jail. Now don’t get me wrong. I do love my country. But that’s not why I pay taxes. Obedience can be motivated by two things: fear of punishment, or promise of reward. That isn’t honoring. 

 

Honor is motivated by respect. Honor is motivated by love. Honor is motivated by a desire to become like the object we’re honoring. That’s what honor does. Honor motivates us to become what we’re honoring. So people who honor money get greedy. So people who honor things become materialistic. That’s why Saint Augustine called children one of the primary goods of marriage. What are we saying when we say, “I want to have a baby with you?” That goes way beyond lust and physical gratification doesn’t it? To say I want to have a baby with you, means I not only want to spend my life with you--it means a want to bring another you into the world. It means we’re going to create a person that’s the best of me and best of you, and the world will be a better place because of this new person. That’s honoring, and that’s what we’re called to do with God’s commandments.  

 

None of us is called to simple obedience. That’s too legalistic. We are called to honor. We are called to honor God’s commandments so we can become like Him. If we obey God for fear of punishment or promise of reward, we are not living out our potential. Because it is only through honoring that we will live in His love, and His love will live through us, allowing us to share His joy, and bring that joy to others which is our primary duty as Christians.

 

Our primary duty as Christians is to bring Christ to others. Obedience cannot accomplish this. Our love will seem lukewarm at best. Our zeal will be wanting. Our faith, unimpressive. I would pray today that all of us thirst for the commandments of God. I pray that we keep His commandments, so His love lives us and we live in Him, to spread the joy of His truth throughout this troubled world.

 

 And blessed be God forever,

 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: In the royal gallery of Divine Love, there is no galley slave; all the rowers are volunteers. – St. Francis de Sales

 

Prayer: Hail! O Sacred Heart of Jesus, living and quickening source of eternal life, infinite treasure of the Divinity, and burning furnace of divine love. Thou art my refuge and my sanctuary, O my amiable Savior. Consume my heart with that burning fire with which Thine is ever inflamed. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Thy love, and let my heart be so united with Thine, that our wills may be one, and mine in all things, be conformed to Thine. May Thy divine will be equally the standard and rule of all my desires and of all my actions. Amen. – St. Gertrude

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. How do honor and love support one another?

 

2. Is it possible to honor someone without loving him or her?

 

3. Who can you say you honor?

 

4. What kind of love does God ask of us? List all the qualities of this love that you can think of.

 

5. What is the difference between obedience and honor?

 

6. If you feel that you don’t thirst for God, what can you do about it?

 

7. Why is the word honor in the marriage ceremony? Describe a marriage where spouses honor one another and a marriage where they do not honor one another.

 

8. Is there any difference between indifference and dishonor? If so, what is it?

 

9. Discuss the quote from St. Francis de Sales.

 

10. Fr. Sisco says that people become saints by honoring God. What does he mean by that?

 

11. If we honor someone, will we always obey that person? Why or why not?

 

12. Take 10 minutes and find all the Scripture passages you can that speak about or imply honor to God. Explain why you chose what you did.

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 139: Contrition: A Reflection on Luke 11: 15-26

 

But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons," while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first."

(Luk 11:15-26)

 

Contrition. What the world needs more of is contrition. Contrition is simply expressing sorrow for our sins. When we’re in a state of mortal sin, prayers of contrition are the only prayers the Lord will listen to.

               

We can also offer up prayers of contrition for the sins of others and even the sins of the world. The problem is that we’re living in a society that refuses to acknowledge sin. And now the next stage is well under way; we’re living in a society that refuses to acknowledge God. That is the next natural step.

 

Think about it. If you refuse to acknowledge sin, what the heck do you a need a savior for? To need a savior, you need to have sins to be saved from? Yes? Eliminate one; you de facto eliminate the other.

 

Have you noticed this going on in the world of politics? The country is adapting a philosophy of radical separation of Church and State, never intended by the founding fathers. The ACLU has declared war on all things sacred. Prayer in schools is a crime. Placing nativity sets on city property is a crime, but all kinds of foul language and degenerate behavior are perfectly acceptable on prime time TV. What’s happening?

               

The culture denied sin, so now the culture denies the savior, and the result is that society sinks further into sin. It’s the same thing that happened all through Israel’s history, but we see a climax in this gospel of Luke.

 

Jesus casts a demon out of a man who’s possessed. The crowd immediately says, “It’s by Satan’s power that he casts out demons.” The statement is ludicrous, and Jesus easily rebuts the logic behind it. But do you see how it demonstrates how hard hearted they had become? They’re grasping at straws trying to discredit Jesus.

 

How did they become so hard hearted? It happened through the denial of sin in themselves. That’s another form of it--we’re easy to spot sin in others—not ourselves. When we deny the existence of sin, we become numb to it and its influences. When we become numb to sin, we become in bondage to sin, and then our whole spiritual compass is thrown off. Then we can’t tell right from wrong anymore. Then we can no longer recognize Jesus in our midst, even when he keeps putting the evidence right under our nose.

 

So how do we combat this? Contrition. Sorrow for our own sins, and reparation for the sins of the world. OK. How do we do that? The prophet Joel tells us.

               

“Gird yourselves and weep, O priests! Wail, ministers at the altar.” That one’s aimed at the clergy. We have to be preaching against sin. “Come, spend the night in sackcloth.” That means wear penitential garb. Now I don’t expect us to be walking around in sackcloth, but we can tell our children and even fellow adults that they need to be dressing modestly.

 

“The house of God is deprived of offering and libation.” Making offerings for the reparation of sins. That comes in two forms. One form is physical offerings such as giving money to charity.  Saint James said that charitable deeds cancel a multitude of sins. Secondly, make spiritual offerings, frequenting Mass to offer up those graces for the conversion of the world, frequenting confession to make us more aware of sin in our lives, and not letting it get a hold on us.

 

“Proclaim a fast.” Make acts of self-denial. When the apostles are having trouble casting out a demon, Jesus tells them, “That kind can only be driven out with prayer and fasting.” Fasting is a powerful spiritual weapon.

 

My brothers and sisters, Jesus wants to bless the world in every way, but He can’t if the world insists on clinging to its sins. So we need to get back to prayers of contrition. Let us offer ourselves to God to pray for the salvation of the whole world.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: "How dearly we shall pay for all those faults that we look upon as nothing at all, like those little lies that we tell to amuse ourselves, those little scandals, the despising of the graces which God gives us at every moment, those little murmurings in the difficulties that He sends us!" – Saint John Marie Vianney

 

Prayer By a Saint: O my most loving Father! In the bitterness of the dolorous Passion of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, I now pour forth my complaint, indignantly accusing myself that I have served Thee so unfaithfully during this day and have offended Thee, my most amiable and loving Father, by so many and so great negligences. I grieve for them from my inmost heart, and strike my breast in the spirit of compunction, and say unto Thee, O God! Be merciful to me a sinner. And for all the negligences whereby I have extinguished Thy good and gentle Spirit within me, I offer Thee the sufferings and the tears of Thy beloved Son. I beseech Thee, in union with His most availing prayers, to grant me pardon of my sins, and to supply all my defects. Deign to hear this, my prayer, through that love which held back Thine arm from taking vengeance, when Thine only and most beloved Son, the object of Thine eternal and unspeakable complacency, was numbered with transgressors. Amen. -- Saint Gertrude

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. Describe a time when you have wept for your sins. 

 

2. What was it about that time that made you weep?

 

3. How long has it been since you have truly wept for your sins?

 

4. Have you ever wept over the offenses of others against God? 

 

5. What form does your contrition take?  Prayer? Sacrifice? Fasting?

 

6. Name a price you have had to pay for sin. 

 

7. How do you go about searching for the root cause of your sin?

 

8. How would you define the root cause of the sins or our society? 

 

9. Do you believe you are making progress in eradicating sin in your own life? Why or why not? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory Bible Study Week 140: Praising the Lord!: A Reflection on Psalm 145

 

 

1 I[a] exalt You, my God the King,
and praise Your name forever and ever.
2 I will praise You every day;
I will honor Your name forever and ever.

3 Yahweh is great and is highly praised;
His greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation will declare Your works to the next
and will proclaim Your mighty acts.
5 I[b] will speak of Your splendor and glorious majesty
and[c] Your wonderful works.
6 They will proclaim the power of Your awe-inspiring acts,
and I will declare Your greatness.[d]
7 They will give a testimony of Your great goodness
and will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.

8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and great in faithful love.
9 The Lord is good to everyone;
His compassion rests on all He has made.
10 All You have made will thank You, Lord;
the[e] godly will praise You.
11 They will speak of the glory of Your kingdom
and will declare Your might,
12 informing all people of Your mighty acts
and of the glorious splendor of Your[f] kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
Your rule is for all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all His words
and gracious in all His actions.[g]

14 The Lord helps all who fall;
He raises up all who are oppressed.[h]
15 All eyes look to You,
and You give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open Your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways
and gracious in all His acts.
18 The Lord is near all who call out to Him,
all who call out to Him with integrity.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him;
He hears their cry for help and saves them.
20 The Lord guards all those who love Him,
but He destroys all the wicked.
21 My mouth will declare Yahweh’s praise;
let every living thing
praise His holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145)

 

 

How do we praise the Lord? 

 

Praising God means acknowledging several things. 

 

Praising God means acknowledging and taking joy in His greatness, that we are nothing without Him, acknowledging what He has done for us, acknowledging His power, justice, love, goodness, and His faithfulness.  

 

That is praising God externally, and it is necessary for us to do this in our prayer because it leads us to praise God internally, which is surrendering wholly to his Divine Will so we can live lives of living praise. 

Zechariah, the high priest, failed to praise God when the archangel Gabriel announced that he and his wife Elizabeth, though very old, would give birth to John the Baptist. Because Zechariah refuses to hear the good news, he’s struck deaf, and because he doesn’t give God praise for these good tidings, he’s struck mute, and his punishment isn’t lifted until his son is born and circumcised. And then he opens his mouth and praises God. And in his praise, surprise, surprise, Zechariah acknowledges and takes joy in all these same aspects of God that Mary does in her Magnificat.  

 

King David spends his life praising the Lord. As a shepherd boy David plays on his harp and sings his praises to God. In fact, most of the psalms we say during Mass are attributed to King David. If you read the psalms they all contain one or more of those aspects of God. It’s David who strips himself down to his linen loincloth and dances before the Ark of the Covenant as it’s brought into Jerusalem. His wife Michaela is appalled at this, and chastises David when he returns home, wondering how the king could embarrass himself by behaving in such a way. And David’s responds, “Yes, and I will demean myself even more in your eyes to be great in His.” 

 

David was also concerned because his home was much more magnificent than God’s. David says, “Here I am living in a palace, while the Ark of God is in a tent! Let’s build God a great and glorious temple!” That is also an act of praise. How? Because the temple is to be glorious; it acknowledges God’s greatness. David wants to build the temple to thank God for His goodness in driving out their enemies, and His faithfulness to His covenant. More praise. Because the temple is to be built from the treasures of David’s conquests, it acknowledges God’s power. And David is completely sincere and pure in his motives. He’s not doing this to show off. His desire to build the temple is a genuine act of love for God. 

 

Now all of this, of course, is external praise, but here’s an example of God transforming external praise to internal praise. What does God say to the prophet Nathan, who initially gives David the green light on the project of building the temple? “Go tell my servant David, ‘Do not build me a house of cedar, because you have too much blood on your hands from the wars you’ve waged. But I will allow your son to build me a temple.” Think of what that did to David. That took great humility to have this idea, make it public, and then have God say, “Nope. You’re not good enough. Why? Because you were carrying out MY orders in the wars YOU’VE fought in! But I’ll let your son who hasn’t even been born yet do the job.”

 

Talk about disappointment! But now can the external praise be transformed to internal praise? Can David surrender his will to God? And he does. God wanted to make David’s heart a temple of praise, before the physical temple was built. And David so obviously wants to be part of this project, because he lays up all the materials and gold and silver bars for his son Solomon to do the job. Dad’s doing all the prep work! But David never disobeys God, and because of that God can forgive David when he really messes up, because his praise was always sincere. 

 

May our praise of God always be as constant and sincere.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco;

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote and Prayer from a Saint

 

 

Canticle of the Creatures by Saint Francis of Assisi

 

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

 

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

 

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

 

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

 

 

Questions for Reflection

 

1. Pray all 21 verses of Psalm 145 line by line. Discuss each verse and give an example from today’s world or from your personal life to illustrate the verse.

 

2. Discuss how David must have felt when, after doing God’s Will and fighting the wars God wanted, God then did not want David to build Him a house due to the blood David  had shed.

 

3. Using the example of Zechariah in the Temple, share any incident that illustrates how lack of praise for God’s goodness can have negative effects.

 

4. Using Saint Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures as an example, add a few more verses of praise to God to it.

 

5. How often do you praise God? How can you increase your praise of God?

 

6. Why is it important to praise God?

 

7. How will praise lead us to surrender all to God? How is surrender to God’s Will the ultimate praise of Him?

 

--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