Weeks 141-150

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 141: Age of Hope: A Reflection on Luke 12: 54-59

 

He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, 'A shower is coming.' And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat,' and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny." (Luke 12:54-59)

 

“You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, why do you not know how to interpret this present time?”

               

That was Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees in this gospel, but it was also one of Pope John Paul II’s outstanding virtues; he knew how to interpret the age in which he lived. He interpreted the age in which he lived as an age of hope.

 

Think about that for a moment. John Paul II interpreted the age he lived in as an age of hope. This was a man who grew up under the oppression of the Nazi occupation of his native Poland. This was a man who lost his mother as a young man. Then he had to live under the communist regime, and was forced as a young man to work in a chemical factory. He had to go to seminary in secret because Catholicism was illegal at the time. As Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow he opposed the communist oppression of his people and was instrumental in organizing the solidarity movement. Then shortly AFTER he was made Pope, he was shot by a Moslem extremist whom we later learned was recruited by the KGB. The effects of that bullet wound caused John Paul discomfort for the rest of his life, yet he visited his would-be assassin in prison and publicly forgave him. The young man later converted to Catholicism.

 

John Paul’s life was marked by pain, oppression, and struggle, and yet the theme of his life was always hope. The negative things he experienced never dimmed his hope. Rather, that hope gave him extraordinary strength in the face of his difficulties. When most people saw only bad around them, John Paul’s hope allowed him to see opportunities that other people didn’t notice.

               

As dark and as bleak as this world has gotten, with so many turning away from faith and ignoring the Church, John Paul was wholeheartedly convinced that this new millennium, this 21st century was going to be a springtime of evangelization and growth for the Church.

               

John Paul was a man of hope, because even through his pain, he realized that everything he suffered brought him that much closer to God. That was his secret. That was his magic. Because he saw the hand of God at work all around him; he could read the signs of the times. And his hope was contagious. His optimism caught on. A whole world bought into his vision, and it gave all of us hope, too.

 

In his Inaugural homily as Pope, John Paul referred to a tale from Catholic Tradition about Peter in Rome. When Peter sensed that things were getting hot for him in Rome, he decided to high-tail it out of town. On the road outside Rome, Saint Peter encountered Christ walking on the road into the city. And Jesus convinced Peter to return to Rome and embrace his cross. I’d like you to read this excerpt from his homily.

 

“Peter came to Rome! What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord could have guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the empire? Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee didn’t want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of the Lake of Genesareth, with his boats and his nets. Yet guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!

 

According to ancient Tradition, Peter tried to leave Rome during Nero’s persecution. However the Lord intervened and came to meet him. Peter spoke to him and asked, “Quo vadis Domine?”—‘Where are you going Lord?’ And the Lord answered him at once; “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter went back to Rome and stayed until his crucifixion.

 

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself. He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the carpenter’s son (as he was thought to be) the son of the living God, (as confessed by Peter) came to make us all a “kingdom of priests.”

 

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power and of the fact that Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole people of God, shares in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past the tiara, that triple crown placed on the Pope’s head in order to signify by that symbol the Lord’s plan for his Church, is nothing other than service, service with a single purpose; to ensure that the whole people of God shares in this three-fold mission of Christ and always remains under the power of the Lord: a power that has its source, not in the powers of this world, but insteadin  the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection.

 

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of the intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

 

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants.

 

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who seek to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.

 

Do not be afraid. Open, I say, open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power, open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “that which is in man.” He alone knows it.

 

So often today man does not know that which is in him, the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has the words of life, yes, of life eternal.

 

So what was John Paul’s secret formula to spiritual success? The tiara. The 3-tiered crown the popes used to wear to symbolize priest, prophet and king. So, according to John Paul, by embracing these three ministries, we, all of us, throw open wide the doors of our hearts for Christ to come in and dwell.

 

  • Priest—prayer and sacrifice,

  • Prophet—witnessing to our faith. That’s why Jesus stopped Peter as he was leaving Rome. Peter was walking away from his opportunity to witness to his faith for the benefit of all of Rome.

  • King—placing our selves at the service of others, charity.

               

Here we have the key for increasing our hope, coming from the man of hope, the man of vision. I want to hope as he hoped. I want to see what he saw, because in that hope is the power to see the world as God has intended it to be, and to make that vision a reality. I pray today that all of us and all of Christendom long to share that vision also. Blessed Pope John Paul II…pray for us!

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco,

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: "Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.” -- - St. Augustine

 

Prayer by a Saint: “O my God, I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine. With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much! It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love. I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it. I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve. Amen.” -- Saint Francis De Sales

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. In your every day conversations with other Christians, how do you describe the present time? 

 

2. How do those around you interpret the signs of the times?

 

3. In your opinion, do most Christians see this as an age of hope or fear or anger or courage or something else entirely?

 

4. What are the signs of the springtime of evangelization? 

 

5. What are the signs of the growth of the Church?

 

6. John Paul said that our time obliges us to meditate on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.  What have you learned or understood about that power?

 

7. How are you living out your duties as priest, prophet and king?

 

8. Fr. Sisco wants to see what Pope John Paul saw.  What do you imagine John Paul saw that gave him such hope? 

 

9. What do you think God intended you to be? 

 

10. Do you live with hope or with her two daughters: anger and courage? 

 

11. Is there a cross you fear that you might pick up and carry with the veneration, gratitude and joy of St. Francis de Sales? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 142: Intimidation and Bribery: Satan's Two Weapons: A Reflection on 2 Maccabees 7: 24-29

 

Antiochus was sure that the mother was making fun of him, so he did his best to convince her youngest son to abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He promised not only to make the boy rich and famous, but to place him in a position of authority and to give him the title  Friend of the King.  But the boy paid no attention to him, so Antiochus tried to persuade the boy's mother to talk him into saving his life, 26 and after much persuasion she agreed to do so.  Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her native language, “My son, have pity on me. Remember that I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I have taken care of you and looked after all your needs up to the present day.  So I urge you, my child, to look at the sky and the earth. Consider everything you see there, and realize that God made it all from nothing, just as he made the human race.  Don't be afraid of this butcher. Give up your life willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by God's mercy I may receive you back with them at the resurrection. (2 Maccabees 7: 24-29)

 

Have you considered the sacrifices you may be called upon to make? Have you considered the obstacles that might be put in your path? 

 

In the Book of Maccabees in Scripture, we hear of the Jewish people who have been bearing much suffering. The long and the short of it is this--the Greeks have conquered the world, they’ve implemented their own gods in Israel, and they are forcing the Jews to worship them. Some readily comply. Many choose torture and death. Many choose unbearable suffering rather than deny Moses and the covenant. If you read the book carefully, you’ll notice that these pagan leaders try to sway the people in two ways--intimidation, and bribery. 

 

A Jewish mother watches her seven sons tortured to death, and when they get to the youngest, he’s promised all kinds of riches and honors if he’ll just eat the pork. Intimidation and bribery. 

 

We read of the reverend old man Eleazar, who was first physically forced to try and eat pork. When he spat it out, he was offered all kinds of rewards if he’d relent. Intimidation and bribery. 

 

Then the pagans offer Mattathias all kinds of rewards if he’ll comply with sin. And he does not. Instead, he revolts.  

 

What does satan offer Jesus when he tempts him in the desert? Flesh, fame, and power. In a word, all three of those temptations were bribes. 

 

How does the devil tempt Jesus in the garden on Holy Thursday night? Intimidation. “Whew! Jesus! Just look at what they’re going to put you through tomorrow. Are you sure these people are worth all that?” 

 

And I got news for you, folks. Intimidation and bribery are the same two weapons the devil is using today to sway us into sin. 

 

Pick almost any sin, and, if you examine it closely you will see that it is rooted either in fear (intimidation) or bribery.  

 

Fear: “My God, I got to look out for me. What will they think if I don’t? If I don’t, I’ll be left behind. I might lose out on something I deserve.” What is that but intimidation? 

 

Or the sin is rooted in a bribe. It will make me feel better. It will bring me comfort. It will give me satisfaction. It will give me security. All of these are, of course, illusions. Sin ultimately makes us feel empty, not fulfilled. But what are those things? Bribes!  

 

And of course the devil is perfectly willing to bribe us with the things of this world if it means sacrificing eternity. Intimidation and bribery. 

 

And remember, the closer to God you get, the more temptations you will face. Temptation does not decrease the more you grow in the Lord. It increases! When that happens, oddly enough, rejoice. You’ve got the devil nervous. Rejoice in your victories. Quickly confess your defeats. It’s when we stop experiencing temptation we’ve got something to worry about, because that means that the devil is already confident that he has us. Or it means that we’ve become so anesthetized by a sin that we’re not even aware we’re doing it anymore or else we have brushed sin aside as “normal behavior” in our conscience.

 

Intimidation and bribery are the age old weapons of the enemy. Be on the lookout. The salvation of sinners, the conversion of the world, and the protection of the Church, are the three fronts that this war is being waged on. Prayer, fasting, and works of charity are the offensive weapons we have been given to fight back on these very same fronts. Take them up and keep using them for those three intentions I just mentioned. The sacraments are the shields that protect us. 

 

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid of the dark, because each of us is, in reality, a child of the light!  

 

And blessed be God forever!

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: Do not grieve over the temptations you suffer. When the Lord intends to bestow a particular virtue on us, He often permits us first to be tempted by the opposite vice. Therefore, look upon every temptation as an invitation to grow in a particular virtue and a promise by God that you will be successful, if only you stand fast.
--St. Philip Neri

 

 

Prayer: Our Father, Who art in heaven, 
Hallowed be Thy Name. 
Thy Kingdom come. 
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Read all of 2 Maccabees 7. Pick out the passages that reflect intimidation and bribery.

 

2. Read Matthew 4: 1-11, the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Discuss each of the three temptations and whether they are rooted in intimidation or bribery.

 

3. Go through the Ten Commandments. How does satan use intimidation and bribery to cause us to sin against each? Give examples of intimidation and bribery that would entice someone to break each commandment.

 

4. Think about a temptation you have endured. Would you say its root was intimidation or bribery or both? Explain your answer.

 

5. Take a major sin in today’s world (greed, abortion, sexual impurity, deceit, atheism, prejudice, etc.). How do intimidation and bribery relate to this?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 143: Saint Michael and Satan: A Reflection on Revelation 20: 1-3

 

”I John, saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent which is the devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss, which he locked over it and sealed so it could no longer lead the nations astray. After that, he must be set free for a short time.” (Revelation 20: 1-3)

 

 

I love this passage from the Book of Revelations!

 

The angel, spoken of here is commonly held to be Saint Michael. We are all familiar with contemporary statues of St. Michael -- Saint Michael standing over the dragon, one foot on the devil’s head, sword poised over his head, ready to strike the death blow.

 

 

But the older depictions of Saint Michael are very much influenced by this passage from Revelation. It’s almost the same, but with some notable differences. First, Saint Michael’s foot is not on the devil’s head pressing him down, rather Saint Michael is straddling the lower half of Satan, sword poised in the same position, but in his other hand he’s holding a chain that’s attached to a large iron collar around the devil’s neck, and he’s pulling back on it, as the devil holds himself off the ground with one hand, and has the other hand pulling on the collar trying to free himself.

 

 

So in contemporary depictions, Saint Michael’s foot is pressing down on Satan’s head showing him where’s he’s going. In the older depictions, he’s pulling back on the devil’s neck, forcing him to look up at what he’s lost. And in the older depictions, around Saint Michael’s belt is a metal ring with a key on it, to lock the abyss that’s spoken of here.

 

 

And different theologians and different faith traditions bat back and forth what John means here. Is he speaking literally or metaphorically? To me, none of that is really important. What is important then?

 

 

Important detail number one, we win the fight in the end so hang in there.

 

 

Important detail number two, God hasn’t left us to fight this fight alone. We have allies. Our first ally is the Church, specifically the teachings and prayers of the Church. The teachings of the Church protect us from going astray, much like the key that is mentioned here.

 

 

What do keys do? They keep things in or they keep things out. They lock and unlock. In Scripture, the last time before this that we heard a reference to keys is when Peter is given the keys to the kingdom by Jesus after Peter professes that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

 

 So who is Peter? Our first Pope. The one entrusted with the teaching of Christ. So the teachings of the Church unlock the mysteries of God for us so we can better understand and have a relationship with this savior we profess to believe in, and they help lock out temptation, by warning us of danger.

 

 

Our second ally is the Body and Blood of Christ. The sacraments. What do the sacraments give us? Freedom. The sacraments break the bonds of sin the devil uses to hold us captive, and at the same time, bind HIM, and render HIM powerless, much like an iron collar and chain would. (You begin to see why I like the old statue better, it was far more theological.)

 

 

And our third allies are the angels themselves. I’ve often said on the feast of the guardian angels, they are the most underused weapon in the arsenal God has given us. All through Revelation we’ve seen angels worshipping, doling out punishments, and carrying out fierce battles with the evil one. They follow God’s every command, and God has commanded them to protect us. Their vocation is to assist us in our vocation.

 

 

And that’s important detail number three. We see a lot of the archangel Michael, throughout Revelation, and we see a lot of Gabriel during Advent. The name “Michael” means, God’s strength. “Gabriel,” God’s message. And “Raphael,” God’s healing. Our common vocation is to mimic theirs. We must now be Gabriel’s, and bring God’s message to others through witness. We must now be Raphael’s and bring God’s healing through our charity (forgiveness). And we must now be Michael’s, and defend our faith in word and deed.

 

 

And blessed be God forever!

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

 

Quote from a Saint: Oh Raffaelina, what a consolation it is to know one is always in the care of a celestial spirit, who does not abandon us (how admirable!) even when we offend God! How sweet is this great truth for the believer! Who, then, does the devout soul fear, who tries to love Jesus, having always close by such a great warrior? Oh, was he not one of the many who, together with the angel Saint Michael, up there in the heavens, defended the honor of God against Satan and against all the other rebellious spirits, and finally reduced them to perdition and bound them in hell?

 

 

 

Well, know that he is still powerful against Satan and his minions; his charity has not diminished, nor will he ever fail in defending us. Develop the beautiful habit of always thinking of him; that near us is a celestial spirit, who, from the cradle to the tomb, does not leave us for an instant, guides us, protects us as a friend, a brother; will always be a consolation to us, especially in our saddest moments.

 

 

 

Know, O Raffaelina, that this good Angel prays for you; offers to God all the good works you accomplish; your holy and pure desires. In the hours when you seem to be alone and abandoned, do not complain of not having a friendly soul to whom you can unburden yourself and in whom you can confide your sorrows. For pity's sake, do not forget this invisible companion, always present to listen to you, always ready to console you.

 

 

Oh delicious intimacy, oh blessed company! O if all men could understand this great gift that God, in His excess of love for man, assigned to us, this celestial spirit. Often remember his presence. You must fix on him the eyes of your soul: thank him, pray to him; he is so refined, so sensitive. Respect him, be in constant fear of offending the purity of his gaze. ( no. 64) (Saint Padre Pio to Raffaelina, one of his spiritual daughters)

 

 

Prayer: Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

 

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What relationship do you have with your guardian angel?

 

2. Can you improve that relationship?

 

3. Where in your life do you seem to have experienced the power or intervention of angels?

 

4. Discuss Padre Pio’s counsel to Raffaelina.

 

5. Do you pray the Prayer to Saint Michael when in temptation or difficulty? St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

 

6. Refer to the book of Tobit in Scripture. Find the role of Raphael there and discuss it. Do you believe that Raphael is still at work in today’s world?

 

7. What is the specific duty of Saint Michael? How might we assist him?

 

8. Where is Gabriel mentioned in Scipture? Do you think he is still at work today? If so, where?

 

9. How do the angels assist us in the spiritual life? List the ways and back up the list with Scripture references.

 

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 144: From Reason to Faith: A Reflection on Wisdom 13: 1-9

 

All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan; But either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water, or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods. Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them. Or if they were struck by their might and energy, let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them. For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen. But yet, for these the blame is less; for they indeed have gone astray perhaps, though they seek God and wish to find him. For they search busily among his works, but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair. But again, not even these are pardonable. For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord? (Wis 13: 1-9)

 

In this reading the author of the book of Wisdom is making a very important point. Human knowledge and observation of the natural world can only take us so far. There comes a point, where if we want wisdom to be perfected we need help from God.

           

The author says, “For all men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen, did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works, did not discern the artisan.” The author of the book of Wsdom is speaking of the pagans.

           

The pagans by observing the stars and the actions of nature gave them divine qualities and presumed they were gods. What the pagans ended up doing was creating gods in their image. So the pagan gods had all the human vices and character flaws we have, but they’re far more powerful, therefore capable of doing far greater damage. And the author of Wisdom explains that because the pagans were ignorant, they have less culpability than us.

 

The Lord has revealed himself to us, so we are held to a higher standard. Saint Thomas Aquinas would later develop this concept into the “Natural Law.” Saint Thomas Aquinas said that we can come to certain truths by human intellect alone, just by observing the world around us. He also called these truths, the “preambles of faith,” meaning these truths can lead us to faith, and we can use these truths to argue with intelligent pagans. For example, by human intellect alone we can come to the conclusion that there is a God. Even the pagans accomplished that much.

 

But as the author of the book of wisdom points out, without divine assistance that concept of God can become very skewed. Eventually two things must happen. First we have be willing to make a leap of faith. Second, God has to touch us with Divine Grace. Unless those two things occur, we will never have a true understanding of God.

 

For example, this story is old, but it’s pertinent. The Providence Journal a few years ago ran this story on Paris Hilton in “Lifebeat.” Quoting the story directly: “Paris Hilton is being praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India. Activists say a celebrity endorsement such as Hilton’s was sure to raise awareness of the plight of pachyderms that get drunk on farmer’s homemade rice beer then go on a rampage.”

 

       “’The elephants get drunk all the time. It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them,’ the 26 year old socialite said in a report on World Entertainment News Network’s Web Site and newspapers around the globe. “Last month, six wild elephants were electrocuted after drinking and then uprooting an electricity pole.”

 

Now, brothers and sisters, please DON’T misunderstand me. I don’t mean to sound cold hearted toward the plight of the drunken elephants of northeastern India. I’m not a hard man. And yes, Miss Hilton is trying to do a charitable thing here, but with all her money, couldn’t she find a bigger fish to fry than THIS? I mean, are there no starving children, no homeless, no elderly people who can’t afford to buy their medications, that Miss Hilton has to get upset over the elephants of northeastern India who apparently need a 12 step program? You know if Paris Hilton is concerned with saving someone from the dangers of alcohol, why doesn’t she start with her own friends? Lindsay Lohan leaps to mind!

 

This is what happens when we don’t have a true understanding of God; our value system gets all screwy. And that’s one example of what we see happening in the world at large. Pray with me today, that everyone in the world makes the progression from informed reason to faith, and God respond with his Divine Grace, so all people may come to a full knowledge of the truth.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: "All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly." -- Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

Prayer By a Saint Lord, increase my faith, bless my efforts and work, now and for evermore. Amen.” – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What categories of people in our age might be described as having informed reason, but not faith? 

 

2. If the pagans of the time writing of the book of Wisdom had less culpability, whom would you put in that less culpable category in our age? 

 

3. Give an example of when you saw a good, but did not at first see God? 

 

4. What helped you to later see God in this good? 

 

5. How does a person move from reason to faith?

 

6. Can this be done by human means or is this progression to faith only received as a gift from God? 

 

7. What initiate or action is required of the seeker?

 

8. How does one cooperate with the Divine Grace? 

 

9. Is there knowledge you possess to which you might apply these principles of faith to gain a better understanding of God? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 145: Selfless Love: A Reflection on Romans 13: 8-10

 

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom 13:8-10)

 

“Owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another.” So says Saint Paul in his letter to the Roman’s. Then Paul goes into the commandments; “you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, murder, covet, etc.” Paul is pointing out that all sin is ultimately a failure to love. That’s why the Law is fulfilled in the commandment “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Sin is, loving the self more than anything else. Virtue is, loving others more than myself. That sums up the Christian ethic. Look at any sin, look at any virtue; it all comes down to that. Where’s the love?

 

When we realize that, then what Jesus says makes perfect sense. “If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower.”(Lk 14:26)

           

We hear these words and they disturb us, because it seems like Jesus is asking us to make a choice between him and the people we hold most dear, and in a sense, he is. But who is Jesus? Jesus is the word made flesh. Jesus is the physical incarnation of the selfless love of God. And that’s why we can’t be his disciples and at the same time, turn our backs on him because we love someone or something else. If that love would require us to turn our back on Jesus, that love would be selfish, not selfless.

 

For example, I fall in love with a girl, leave my priesthood and run away with her. My justification for this is, “but I love her.” Is the love selfless, or selfish? It is selfish, because in the process I’ve turned my back on the selfless vocation to which the Lord has called me to fulfill a personal need, want, or desire that I have. Even if I have genuine feelings for this girl, it’s still selfish, because I’ve chosen that love, over love of God.

           

For another example, I decide to go to seminary to join the priesthood, because priests have a pretty good life. Hey, you can get away with being lazy as a priest. Or, the priesthood still carries an air of prestige in some circles, and I like that. Or, I want to be ordained to the “transitional priesthood,” which means I don’t really want to a priest. I really want to be a bishop. And the priesthood is a necessary steppingstone to get to that position. So I’m going to work hard at the priesthood only because I want to climb the clergy corporate ladder, and get the miter and crosier. Or I want to be a priest because I like the pomp and ceremony, the trappings, the clothes. Is this selfless, or selfish? I think it’s obvious. Selfish.

 

Jesus makes this statement because it is entirely possible to do an apparently good thing for the wrong reason. Does Jesus really want us to turn our backs on our parents, siblings, spouses, and children? Of course He does not, as long as our love for these people isn’t trying to make us choose between them and our love of God. And if they are trying to force us to make that choice, we must choose the Lord.

 

Love is selfless when it’s in accord with the will of God. Love is selfless when it serves others. Love is selfish when it revolves around me and around what I want.

 

Brothers and sisters, the Lord loved us selflessly. He loved us to death. The only debt we owe is to love him and others the same way.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: "On the question of relating to our fellowman – our neighbor’s spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love." -- Saint Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)

 

Prayer By a Saint: “Dear Lord, the Great Healer, I kneel before You,  since every perfect gift must come from You. I pray, give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart. Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift up a part of the burden of my suffering fellow men, and a true realization of the privilege that is mine. Take from my heart all the guile and worldliness that with the simple faith of a child, I may rely on You. Amen.” – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. How many debts would you estimate you owe?  money…  gratitude… a favor?

 

2. Is it possible to eliminate every debt except the debt that binds us to love one another?

 

3. How do you describe the debt that binds us to love one another? 

 

4. With whom in your life do you have only this type of debt and bond?

 

5. How can you expand that circle?

 

6. Think back on when you chose your vocation in life.  With hindsight, would you say the reasons for your choice were selfless? 

 

7. Were the reasons holy?

 

8. If the reasons for your present vocation are less than selfless, how might you make them more like the selfless love of Jesus?

 

9. Given that love is selfless when it’s in accord with the will of God, describe the will of God in your life today.

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 146: What Christ Has Accomplished through Me: A Reflection on Romans 15: 14-21

 

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience-by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God-so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, "Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand." (Rom 15:14-21)

 

“For I dare not speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” So says Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans. Paul, in these few words, has just given us the key to witnessing, the secret of evangelizing. When we had our evangelization day in September, many parishioners didn’t want to participate because they didn’t know theology, or they didn’t read the Bible.

 

Saint Paul didn’t have a Bible. The gospels hadn’t been written yet. Saint Francis of Assisi didn’t know theology, and yet he converted thousands. Witnessing and evangelization isn’t about theology or memorizing Scripture passages, rather it’s just about what Paul says here, speaking of what Christ has accomplished in me.

 

What has God done for you? What’s your spiritual story?

 

Let’s say you go to Mass every day. That’s above and beyond the call of duty! What?! You go to church every day?! Why on earth would you ever want to do something like that?! I thought the RULE was you only had to go to church on Sunday!

 

How would you answer such a person?  Your answer may be nothing more than “Going to Mass makes me feel good.” Or, “When I don’t go to Mass something in my day just doesn’t seem complete.” Or, “When I think about everything God has done for me in my life, how can I possibly stay away from Mass?”

 

Any of those are perfectly valid answers. There was no theology in there. There were no Scripture quotes. But in just saying that little bit you’ve witnessed, you’ve evangelized, because that makes the other person think, “Why does Mass make him feel good?” “Why does she feel incomplete if she hasn’t gone to Mass?” “What has God done in his life that he feels he has to go to Church everyday?” That makes people think. And that’s all witnessing and evangelizing is--making people think.

 

When I was in college I was a typical college student, which means my life revolved around girls, parties, and hanging out with my friends. If you had seen me in college you’d never think “priest.” What did God do to take a person like that, and make him want to be a priest? In that journey from A to B is an interesting story. And looking back I can say in all honesty, I am happier in my life now than I ever was as a layman, and I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. My only regret is that I didn’t get on board with God sooner than I did. But one of the major things that did draw me is when I became acquainted with people of faith and I saw the joy and peace they had in their lives. I saw that and I wanted that.

 

Let your joy shine. Let people see it. Believe me, they’ll question you about it, and when they do you’ll have your opportunity to speak of what Christ has accomplished through you.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: "Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders."

-- Saint Anthony Mary Claret

 

Prayer By a Saint: “Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy. “

-- Saint Augustine

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Answering Father’s questions, What has God done for you?

 

2. What’s your spiritual story?

 

3. Why are you here?

 

4. Would people describe you as a joyful Christian? 

 

5. (1Pe 3:15)  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. Would others describe you as a person of hope?

 

6. What would be the reason for your hope?

 

7. How would you defend that reason if challenged by a non-believer?

 

8. Describe an experience when you have been called upon to speak out and defend your faith. 

 

9. Describe a time when you have been challenged to speak out, but have not? 

 

10. What is the difference between when you are comfortable speaking out and when you are not?

 

11. How do you evangelize without speaking?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 147: Rededicate the Temple

 

Judas and his brothers said, “Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.” So the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion. Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they arose and offered sacrifice according to the law on the new altar of burnt offerings that they had made. 


On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it, on that very day it was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of deliverance and praise. They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priests’ chambers and furnished them with doors. There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed. Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev. (1 MC 4:36-37, 52-59)

 

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. (LK 19: 45-48)

 

We see an interesting contrast in the readings we will examine today. In our first reading we see the jubilation of the Jews after they repair and rededicate the Temple of Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the Greeks, which provoked the Maccabean revolt. What was the great desecration? A statue of the Greek god Zeus was placed upon the altar of holocausts. But now the temple has been repaired and rededicated and there’s a real celebration here, that their spiritual home had been restored. In fact, this event is what gave birth to the Jewish feast of Hanukah, the festival of lights.

 

Rededicating the temple took eight days. They didn’t have enough oil for the lamps to burn for eight days, but miraculously, none of the lamps went out until the ceremony was complete. Why is there such joy? Because often, we don’t appreciate the freedom to worship, until it’s been denied.

 

The contrast to this is in the Gospel. Israel is again under foreign occupation, but religious freedom under the Romans is tolerated. Yet, the Jews desecrate the temple themselves, by allowing animals and money changing to be going on in the outer court. The outer court was still part of the temple. It was the place Gentiles were allowed to worship. So there’s discrimination going on here. And there’s fleecing going on here. The moneychangers and merchants are in cahoots with the priests, and they’re cheating the pilgrims.

 

The irony here is that this is a worse desecration. What the Greeks did to the temple was bad, no doubt, because they were using violence and intimidation to try and replace the Jewish faith with theirs. Why? They wanted a unified people. They wanted the Greek empire to include everyone as equal citizens, and so wanted to stir a sense of nationalism through religion.

 

It was basically the same as what the communists did in establishing the Russian Orthodox Church. Here is a religion under the auspices of Christianity but controlled by the State. This is also what King Henry the VIIIth did when he named himself head of the Church of England and broke from Rome.

 

But what the Jews did was worse, because they were using people’s faith for profit, and in so doing, were destroying the faith of the people internally. We’ve all experienced this; whenever we’ve heard of a scandal surrounding a priest, it devastates the faith of the people.

 

What happened to the Jews under the Greeks is what happens when an outside power tries to suppress religious freedom; the exterior Church gets desecrated, but the interior Church gets strengthened. In contrast, what the Jews did in the Gospel is what happens when the faithful themselves desecrate the interior church. When the interior Church gets desecrated, the exterior Church is reduced to ritual observance only, or irrelevance. And this is what we see today.

               

We enter the exterior Church, to come before this altar and receive from the exterior Church the Lord Jesus himself and eat him, ingest him, and digest him, so he can make a Church, a temple, within us. Once we receive the Lord in the Eucharist we become walking temples. But if we are not making every effort to purify the interior Church through penance, prayer, and detaching sin from our lives, we desecrate that interior Church. If that goes on long enough, it’s only a matter of time before the exterior Church is desecrated by mocking and profaning it, or is desecrated by taking the rank in our hearts as irrelevant or obsolete.

               

Take a good look at our culture today and this is exactly what you see happening. It’s because our culture stopped shunning sin, and started embracing it. Fortunately, we can always re-consecrate our interior temple as easily as going to confession. Keep the temple of your heart pure and free from sin. Then the graces from the temple of the altar can make you a saint.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.”  -- Saint Paul of the Cross

 

Prayer by a Saint: “My Jesus, l love Thee with my whole heart. I repent of having in the past so many times displeased Thine infinite goodness. I purpose with the help of Thy grace never more to offend Thee in the future; and at this moment, wretched as I am, I consecrate myself wholly to Thee. I give to Thee and utterly renounce my entire will, all my affections, all my desires, and all that I possess. From this day forth do with me and with all that is mine whatever is pleasing in Thy sight. I ask and desire only Thy holy love, final perseverance and the perfect fulfillment of Thy will.” – Saint Alphonsus Mary de Liguori

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. How do you see this contrast evidenced in our present day and local community?

 

2. Distinguish between the exterior and the interior Church. 

 

3. Does the same contrast noted in these readings exist within the Church?

 

4. Where within the Church today do you see the behavior or attitude of the Greeks described in this Old Testament reading? 

 

5. Where would secular society see the Greeks within the Church?

 

6. From either your perspective or that of secular society, does the attitude of the Jews of Jesus’ time exist in His Church today? 

 

7. Within the Church today, where do you see the exuberance of the Jews who rebuilt and rededicated the Temple? 

 

8. Does the same contrast between these three attitudes exist within your heart?

 

9. How might you unify your mind, heart and soul to exemplify for the rest of the world the joy of faith experienced by the Jews of the Old Testament reading?

 

10. How might that be done by your faith community?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 148: Destruction of the Temple, but Not the Church

 

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘the time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Jesus said to his disciples: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city, for these days are the time of punishment when all the Scriptures are fulfilled. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Jesus told his disciples a parable. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (LK 21: 5-33)

 

In this one long continuous passage from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem. It started when people were admiring the stonework and precious jewels that adorned the temple, and Jesus said to them that the day would soon be coming when not one stone was left on another. Jesus continued by foretelling the persecutions that His disciples would have to endure because of His name. Then, Jesus said that when you see Jerusalem encircled by soldiers, you know the time for her destruction is near. Finally, Jesus says something that confuses many people. He says, “The present generation will not pass away until all this takes place.”

 

Now the reason this is confusing is that many people, mostly evangelicals, mistakenly think that Jesus was talking about the end of the world in this passage from Luke. He was not. He was foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, which did happen within that generation. In 70AD, less than forty years, (one generation) from when Jesus died and rose from the dead, the Roman army completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple by burning the city to ashes. It was one of the greatest acts of atrocity by the Roman army. Some several hundred thousand Jews were slaughtered because they attacked at a festival time in the city, and yet, there is no account of a single Christian being killed. Because of this prophecy of Jesus, they all knew when to leave. (This is the final destruction of the temple. The temple had been destroyed and rebuilt twice before this, but after 70AD it will never be rebuilt again, even to this day.) This final destruction of the temple signifies the final close of the old covenant.

 

The temple was only intended to be a model of God’s kingdom on earth. The temple was supposed to prepare people for the day when Christ would come among us, and we would truly have his presence within us, and not only within the Ark. Now in the new covenant, God has established his kingdom on earth, and His Presence within us through the sacraments, so the model is no longer necessary.

That is why, my brothers and sisters, they can’t and never will succeed in destroying the Catholic Church. The forces of secularism, and downright paganism, are out to destroy or discredit the Church in any way they can. This is nothing different from the slander we incurred in the ancient world, when it was told to the Roman Emperors that Christians were involved in wild sex orgies, and cannibalized their children. So I still feel at peace when I watch the news or read the papers, because no matter how much they rail and distort, and outright lie, they cannot destroy the Church, because the Church, though administered by flawed human beings, is still a Divine Institution. So even if they take the statues, the buildings, the trappings, if they sue every diocese into bankruptcy, they cannot destroy us, as the Romans did the temple, because thanks to the Holy Spirit dwelling in the sacraments, Christ also exists in the heart and soul of every member of the faithful. I’m greatly comforted by that, and I hope you are too.

 

Blessed Be God Forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote From a Saint: “Either Christ has a Church in the world continually and until the end of the world, or else He has a Church sometimes, and sometimes not at all. Could we think that He had a Church while He was here Himself, and perhaps awhile after, but  --- mysteriously --- none since? ... No ... that can in no way be, since He must necessarily still preserve His Church somewhere; otherwise, how could He be with His followers continually until the end of the world?” -- Saint Thomas More

 

Prayer By a Saint: ‘Oh my Redeemer, will that terrible moment ever come when but few Christians shall be left who are inspired by the spirit of faith, that moment when Thy indignation shall be provoked, and Thy protection taken from us? O Jesus, author and finisher of our faith, permit not the fair light of faith to be extinguished in us. Turn Thine eyes in compassion upon the vineyard planted by Thine own right hand, and watered by the sweat of the Apostles, by the precious blood of countless Martyrs, and made fruitful by the prayers of so many confessors. O Divine Mediator, look upon those zealous souls who raise their hearts to Thee and pray without ceasing for the maintenance of that most precious gift of Thine: The True Faith. Oh, keep us safe in the true Catholic and Roman faith! Let sickness, vexations, and misfortunes overwhelm us, but preserve in us Thy holy faith; for, if we are rich with this precious gift, nothing shall ever be able to alter our happiness. Otherwise, without this great treasure of the faith, our unhappiness would be unspeakable and limitless. O good Jesus, Author of our Faith, preserve it pure within us; keep us safe in the Barque of Peter, faithful and obedient to his successor, Thy Vicar here on earth. Humble and convert the enemies of Thy Church; strengthen and preserve us in Thy holy service so that we may live and die in Thee! Amen. -- Saint Clement Mary Hofbauer

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. The temple was intended to be a model of God’s kingdom on earth. Is this true of Christ’s Church?

 

2. The temple was supposed to prepare people for the day when Christ would come among us, and we would truly have His presence within us, and not only within the Ark. Is this true of Christ’s Church?

 

3. In the new covenant, God has established His kingdom on earth and His presence within us through the sacraments. In what ways is the Church successful in delivering that Good News?

 

4. What are our hesitancies in delivering that message?

 

5. Where are our failures in delivering the Good News?

 

6. What does this question of St. Thomas More say to you?

 

7. How would you respond to the question of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer?

 

8. By whom and how is the modern Church threatened with destruction?

 

9. Name your fears or concerns about these efforts to destroy the Church.

 

10. In what do you find your peace and consolation?

 

--By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 149: Images of Christ: A Reflection on 1 John 4:8

 

8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.(1 John 4:8)

 

I read a book in seminary by the great spiritual writer Fr. Alfred McBride entitled, Images of Christ. I found it was a very enlightening and insightful spiritual book and I highly recommend it for spiritual reading if you ever come across it. In the book, using the scriptures, McBride paints different aspects or portraits of Jesus for us to meditate on. I’d like to do something similar on a smaller scale using some of the gospels, because this is precisely what the lectionary attempts to do for us everyday--give us different portraits of God to meditate on.

           

In one sense God will always be a mystery to us. God is something we will never fully comprehend in this life, most likely also in the next. There is just too much of God for the human mind to fully digest. All we can really hope to do is meditate on the aspects of himself that he’s revealed to us in scripture, and try not to confine God to one image or another that we’re personally comfortable with.

 

I would like to start with the gospel when the men lower their crippled friend through the roof to meet Jesus. Here we see Jesus the teacher, and Jesus the healer.

 

First we encounter Jesus the teacher; as the passage begins Jesus is teaching in a synagogue. What does this say about Jesus? First it says that Jesus is the God who wants to instruct his creation. Jesus doesn’t want ignorance, or blind obedience. He wants his people to follow him because they understand him.

 

Then the two friends lower the cripple through the roof and we see another aspect of Jesus: Jesus the God of mercy.

 

What does Jesus say when he sees the cripple? “Rise, pick up your mat and go home?” No. That’s later. First he says, “Your sins are forgiven.” The most merciful thing we can do for another is forgive them, even before we provide for their physical needs. Why? Because what good is preserving the body to damn the soul? To be truly merciful we should see to another’s spiritual needs as well as their physical needs. This is something we lack in our modern culture. So Jesus is a teacher, but a teacher who leads by example, as well as by word.

 

Secondly, let’s look at the gospel about the good shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to seek out the lost one. Jesus is someone who places incredible value on us. This is not a monetary value; if that were the case Jesus would keep a tight reign on his ninety-nine and cut his losses. NO shepherd in his right mind would abandon ninety-nine sheep where they might get attacked and eaten by wolves, or stolen, to look for a single sheep. The value Jesus places on us is a personal value. Jesus has an intimate knowledge of us and he wants us to in turn have an intimate knowledge of him. So in this image Jesus is protector.

 

And finally, Jesus says, “Come to me all of you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give you rest.” Jesus is our prize at the end of the race. Jesus is the one who has prepared a place for us in his Father’s house. Jesus is our intercessor. Jesus is the one who we can call upon for strength. Jesus is the one we can call upon for healing. Jesus is the one we call upon for wisdom. All we have to do is follow him.

 

We always say, “God is love, God is love”, to the point where it’s become a cliché. It is true that God is love, but love has many aspects to it, and if our spirituality is going to be balanced, and our lives are going to be complete, we need to take all the aspects of love into our prayer and meditation.

 

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.” -- Saint Ambrose of Milan

 

Prayer By a Saint: “O Only-Begotten Word of the Father, Jesus Christ, who alone are perfect: according to the greatness of your mercy, do not abandon me, your servant, but ever rest in my heart. O Sweet Jesus, Good Shepherd of Your flock, deliver me from the attacks of The Enemy. Do not allow me to become the prey of Satan's evil intent, even though I have within me the seed of eternal damnation. Instead, O Lord Jesus Christ, Adorable God, Holy King, while I sleep, protect me by Your Holy spirit, through Whom You sanctified Your Apostles. Enlighten my mind by the light of the Holy Gospel, my soul by the love of Your Cross, my heart by the purity of Your teaching. Protect my body by Your sacred passion, my senses by Your humility, and awaken me in due time for Your glorification. For You, above all, are adorable, together with Your eternal Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.” -- Saint Antiochus

 

Questions for Reflection:        

 

1. What is your favorite image of Christ?

 

2. How does that image help you better understand Christ? 

 

3. Are there other images of God you find helpful? 

 

4. Are there images of God to which you find it difficult to relate?

 

5. Incorporating these attributes of Christ into your own life, how are you a teacher?

 

6. How are you a healer?

 

7. In what ways are you a protector?

 

8. Give an example of your awareness of Christ’s personal value of you.

 

9. How do you show on a daily basis that you, like Christ, personally value the others you encounter?

 

10. How do you project a holy image of God?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 150: Your Responsibility: A Meditation on Matthew 11: 16-19

 

“To what can I compare this breed? They are like children squatting in town squares calling to their classmates: ‘We piped you a tune but you did not dance! We sang you a dirge but you did not weep.’” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds." (Mat 11:16-19)

 

People in sin are usually good at justifying themselves for staying in their sin. You can have all the right theology down. You can be skilled in debating and apologetics. You can do all the right things, and still not win some people over. Some people are content to spiritually stay right where they are. Don’t let that discourage you, because Jesus dealt with the same thing.

           

What is he saying in this gospel passage? ‘There’s just no pleasing you people. John the Baptist came practicing extreme penance; he fed himself on locusts and wild honey; he dressed in camel skins, and he preached repentance. And yet, you called him crazy. Then I come along, eating and drinking freely, preaching love and forgiveness, and you call me a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Just what the heck are you people looking for?

 

Brothers and sisters, our responsibilities are simple. We live the truth. That means we set an example. We have to show by our actions that we believe this Christian message of ours even if we fall short of the mark at times. We have to try to be a living beatitude for all to see.

 

Second, we have to speak the truth. When we see injustice we have a responsibility to speak up. When we see sin, we have a responsibility to speak against it. We have a responsibility to charitably and patiently correct those we see doing wrong. But that’s all.

 

If after we’ve done this, people are still bent on going the path to perdition we have to let them. We can’t change anyone’s free will. And when people put us in no win situations, like they tried to put Jesus in many times over, either because they don’t like the message or they don’t want to change, we can’t stress over that. Even Jesus told his disciples that, when they went somewhere and were rejected,  to “shake the dust from your feet and move on.”

           

We all know that one person who keeps trying to provoke us into a confrontation. They want to debate us, and debate, and debate, but no matter what you say, they’re never swayed. Stop trying so hard. When they start on you say, “I’ve explained all this before. You didn’t listen then, why should I think you’ll listen now?” Because the only reason they keep confronting you is to attempt to ease their guilty conscience and rattle you. The mindset is this: if I can fumble them up just once, I justify my position.

 

Live the truth. Speak the truth. And pray for those who don’t accept the truth. Leave the rest to God.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote From a Saint: “Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.” -- Saint Charles Borromeo

 

Prayer By a Saint: “Eternal Father, it is Your will that all should be saved. Great is Your mercy. Your Son, Jesus Christ died for all. Teach all people to recognize You and love You. With deep faith in Christ's death and resurrection we pray: 'Send Forth, O Lord, labourers into Your vineyard and spare Your people.' Eternal Word, Redeemer of all creation, convert all souls to You. You have been obedient for all, even to death on the cross. Look upon the merits of Your Mother and of all the angels and saints who intercede for us. Send forth, O Lord, labourers into Your vineyard and spare Your people. O Holy Spirit, through the infinite merits of our Lord, Jesus Christ, enkindle in all hearts Your ardent love that can do all things, that all may be one fold and one Shepherd, and that all may arrive in heaven to sing Your Divine mercy. Queen of Apostles and all the angels and saints, pray to the Lord of the harvest: Send forth, O Lord, labourers into Your vineyard and spare your people, that united with you, and the Father and the Holy Spirit, we may all rejoice forever. Amen.” -- Saint Vincent Pallotti

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Define where you see yourself spiritually. 

 

2. Are you one of the people described as content to stay where they are? 

 

3. Concisely define “the truth”, the Christian message of Good News we are to live. 

 

4. How does that truth impact your daily life?

 

5. How are you living that truth so as to impact the lives of others?

 

6. Are there contradictions in the way you live that would bring about the cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head described by Saint Charles Borromeo? 

 

7. What are your opportunities for speaking this truth? 

 

8. Who would you most like to have hear the truth? 

 

9. Is there anyone with whom you should stop trying so hard? 

 

10. Are you praying to the Lord of the harvest for labourers in the vineyard?

 

11. What is your favorite tool to use in your own labors in the vineyard of the Lord of the harvest? 

 

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