Weeks 151-160

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 151: Zeal for God: A Reflection on John 20: 1-8

 

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. (Jn 20:1A and 2-8)

 

With the feast of Saint Stephen, we witness the first aspect of Christian discipleship--self sacrifice, laying oneself down for love of God, and the good of others. Immediately following, we celebrate the feast of John the Evangelist. And in this feast we encounter the second aspect of Christian discipleship. It can be called several things--single heartedness, devotion, zeal.

 

John is called the “beloved disciple” throughout the Gospels. But have you ever wondered why John alone gets this special title? Tradition holds that John was a teenager when he was following Jesus. And John was totally tuned into the Lord. If you’ve ever witnessed a teenager when they’re really tuned into something, you know that they can be devoted to the point of recklessness. We see that in John. He’s the only disciple at the foot of the cross. The others had the good sense to lay low, but not John. Typical teenager. ‘I’m going to stand right here and dare them to do something about it.’

 

Now, John is not the perfect disciple by any means, or his title would have been ‘the perfect disciple’ and not ‘the beloved disciple.’ John’s recklessness does get him into trouble. It’s John, along with his brother James, who wants to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan town when Jesus is denied passage. It’s John and James who request to sit on Jesus’ left and right when he comes into his kingdom, and this creates a stir among the other disciples. It’s John and James whom Jesus nicknames the ‘sons of thunder’ precisely because they’re all fire and brimstone.

 

But what makes all of this forgivable in John is that his recklessness is motivated by love of the Lord. John is full of zeal, but his zeal is sometimes reckless, because it hasn’t been tempered with prudence. And so personally, speaking as one who loves youth ministry, I can see why Jesus considered John ‘the beloved.’

 

Teenagers do get very excited over things, and that makes them easy to love. The trick of youth ministry is getting all that reckless energy focused in the right direction, because if there is one thing that we need in our Church right now, it’s zeal. We need people to get excited over their faith again. And believe it or not, I see it stirring.

 

We are like a sleeping giant that’s beginning to awaken. Before, when people used to mock our beliefs, even those we held most sacred, we just took it lying down. But in recent years an organization called “The Catholic League” headed by William Donahue has formed, that takes individuals and groups to task for bigotry against Catholics. Like the beloved disciple, sometimes Will Donahue’s zeal can get a little reckless, but for the most part I think he’s doing a fine job.

 

The “Thomas More Society” is an organization of Catholic judges and lawyers who are now protecting Catholic Civil Liberties in court.

 

These are organizations that were started, organized, and continue to operate by the Catholic laity! The laity themselves initiated these things, not the clergy. This is zeal in action. This is discipleship. And this is what makes us the beloved of God.

 

Blessed be God forever.

 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote From a Saint: “Zeal, considered from any of its aspects, flows from an intensity of love . . . The love of friendship seeks the good of the friend. When it is intense, then, it impels the one who loves to act against anything that might impede the friend’s good. Thus, those are said to be zealous for their friends if they strive to repress words or deeds contrary to these friends’ good.” -- Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

"The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.” -- Saint Maximilian Kolbe

 

Prayer By a Saint: “For Thee, then, O my God, shall I lack zeal? To win the blood of my God, shall I not stir from my place?” -- Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

1. Would those with whom you share your days describe you as single hearted, devoted, or zealous?

 

2. If so, would that single heartedness be directed toward God?

 

3. Is it proper to your vocation to be totally devoted to God? How so, or why not?

 

4. Have you ever been described as “reckless” in matters of faith?

 

5. How do you temper zeal with prudence without diminishing its flame?

 

6. What form does your “zeal in action” take?

 

7. How can the light of faith be heated to the flame of zeal if you are not yet stirred from your place?

 

8. Describe the ways in which you praise God.

 

9. Have you maximized your powers for praise as recommended by Saint Maximilian?

 

--Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 152: Perfect Love Casts Out Fear: A Reflection on 1 John 4: 11-18

 

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1Jn 4:11-18)

 

After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened. (Mk 6: 45-52)

 

Meditating on the love of God. It is our starting point; it is our finish line. The danger is if we misunderstand love, or let our meditation of God’s love become shallow or trite. There is a danger if we mistake love for permissiveness of sin, or lack of conviction. That’s dangerous.

 

So we need to meditate on God’s love to understand God. We need to embrace God’s love and share God’s love. Why? So, as Saint John says, we will not be afraid. OK. How do we do that? We have to meditate on and embrace God’s love in context.

 

This Gospel reading is a continuation of the gospel from Mark, where Jesus multiplies the loaves of bread and fish. Immediately after this incident, this miracle, Jesus sends the disciples ahead of him in a boat and later he approaches them walking on the water. Note their reaction. Understandably, they’re afraid. Jesus chastises them for that. But what’s interesting is Mark’s commentary on their reaction.

 

“They were taken aback by these happenings…” Why? “…for they had not yet understood about the loaves. On the contrary, their minds were completely closed to the meanings of the events.”

 

Wait a minute! Hold the phone! What the heck did the multiplication of the loaves have to do with Jesus walking on water? What was the apostle’s reaction? Fear. What did John say about perfect love? “Perfect love casts out all fear.” Being in the presence of Jesus is being in the presence of perfect love. Why were they afraid then? They didn’t understand. They didn’t understand what?

 

What was the sign of the perfect love of the Father? It was allowing his only Son to be crucified. What was the sign of the perfect love of the Son? It was allowing himself to be crucified so he could what? So he could be made into food, the bread of life. The Eucharist is the continuing sign of the perfect love of the Son. And that’s what the disciples didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that Jesus did not perform miracles in a vacuum. Every miracle was intended to teach a deeper lesson.

 

And so the multiplication of loaves was a sign, a prefiguring, and a foreshadowing of God sharing with us, the hungry multitudes, his perfect love --Eucharist. So because the apostles didn’t understand perfect love, they feared, even when perfect love demonstrated that he had power over the forces of nature And if our love was perfect, we could do the same.

 

If you look at sin objectively, you will find that most sins root back to fear. Fear of rejection. Many young people say they’re sexually active because they’re afraid of never finding someone to love them. Greed--fear there won’t be enough for me. Materialism—fear of dependence. The list goes on. To conquer sin, you first must conquer your fears. To conquer your fears, you need to meditate and embrace perfect love. And to meditate and to embrace perfect love, start by meditating on the Eucharist.

 

We are blessed that we have a parish where Eucharistic adoration is available. Now maybe you’re going somewhere else for adoration. That’s fine. But if you’re not adoring the Eucharist somewhere, start, because to understand the Eucharist, is to understand God’s perfect love. To understand God’s perfect love is to understand God. And to understand God is to live in freedom from fear.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: "The many wonders of creation can only fill us with astonishment and admiration. But when we speak of the most holy Eucharist we can say that here is to be found the miracle of divine love for us.... Has there been, or will there ever be, a nobler or more magnanimous love than that which He has shown us in the sacrament of love?" – Saint John Marie Vianney

 

Prayer By a Saint:

“Soul of Christ, santify me.

Body of Christ, save me.

Blood of Christ, inebriate me.

Water from the side of Christ, wash me.

Passion of Christ, strengthen me.

O good Jesus, hear me.

Within your wounds, hide me.

Never let me be separated from you.

From the malignant enemy, defend me.

At the hour of death, call me; and bid me come to you.

That with your saints I may praise you forever and ever. Amen.”

-- Saint Ignatius Loyola

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. “In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world.” How much confidence do you have for your day of personal judgment?

 

2. Is your relationship to the world just as His is?

 

3. Where does fear manifest itself in your life?

 

4. Name a fear you have overcome.

 

5. How did love play a part in overcoming that fear?

 

6. How can you increase or activate love to cast out a particular current fear?

 

7. Outside of Mass, how often do you place yourself in the presence of the Eucharist?

 

8. What is your favorite miracle of those performed by Jesus? Why is that your favorite?

 

9. What is the deeper lesson you see in that miracle?

 

10. What miracles have you performed by means of perfect love?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 153: Good Prayer: A Reflection on 1 Samuel 3

 

During the time young Samuel was minister to the LORD under Eli, a revelation of the LORD was uncommon and vision infrequent. One day Eli was asleep in his usual place. His eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see. The lamp of God was not yet extinguished, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep. Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.” At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So Eli said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect. Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the LORD. (1SM 3:1-10, 19-20)

 

“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening…”

 

This prayer that Samuel prays on the advice of the old priest Eli, is probably one of the best prayers we can pray. Good prayer submits our will to God’s will. Bad prayer tries to bend God’s will to my will. Good prayers are simple. Good prayers are direct. Bad prayers are cluttered up with words that aren’t really saying anything.

               

God knows what we want and what we need before we ask, so there’s really no need explaining every detail of the situation, trying to convince him why he should do what we want him to do. Keep it simple. “Lord ,the situation is my son. What should I do?” Or even better, “Lord, the situation is my son…YOU deal with him!” “Lord, the situation is my job, (or lack of a job). Your will be done.” “Lord I, don’t know what to do. So speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

 

That’s another thing we all need to get better at: listening. Why didn’t God speak to Samuel the first two times he called? It was because Samuel wasn’t listening. Samuel wasn’t listening because he assumed Eli was calling him. Isn’t it the truth? The Spirit of God moves us because he wants to speak to us, and we immediately assume God is telling us to do something, so we run off and do any number of good things, but that’s not what God wanted. God just wanted us to listen. OR, the Spirit of God moves us because he wants to speak to us and we run off and do any number of good things because we don’t want to listen, because we’re afraid of what God might tell us.

               

Sometimes good prayer is just sitting in the presence of the Lord and listening. Sometimes good prayer doesn’t say anything at all. It just basks in the presence of God. Samuel is in the presence of the Lord when this happens. He’s sleeping in front of the Ark of the Covenant. Sometimes good prayer is just coming into the Church or the Eucharistic chapel, sitting before the Lord and listening.

               

When I tell people to do this, if they don’t hear an audible voice saying something to them, they think it didn’t work. Not so! The Lord could be speaking to you on levels you’re not even aware of. So you won’t hear a voice. You won’t be given a directive, but over time you may start to notice you don’t get as stressed about things as you usually do. You’re weirdly at peace with things. The Lord has spoken to you.

               

Try that sometime. Sit before the Blessed Sacrament and try to say NOTHING. (That doesn’t mean daydreaming either!)  Think about how God can be fully present in a small wafer of bread, and be present at the same time in heaven, and in all the other tabernacles all over the world simultaneously. And if you find your mind drifting into daydreams just bring yourself back with, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

 

My brothers and sisters, I pray today that our prayers may be good prayers, because they involve listening for the voice of God.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “The most potent and acceptable prayer is the prayer that leaves the best effects. I don't mean it must immediately fill the soul with desire . . . The best effects [are] those that are followed up by actions---when the soul not only desires the honor of God, but really strives for it.” - St. Teresa of Avila

 

Prayer by a Saint:

“Father, in Your goodness grant me the intellect to comprehend You, the perception to discern You, and the reason to appreciate You. In Your kindness endow me with the diligence to look for You, the wisdom to discover You, and the spirit to apprehend You. In Your graciousness bestow on me a heart to contemplate You, ears to hear You, eyes to see You, and a tongue to speak of You. In Your mercy confer on me a conversation pleasing to You, the patience to wait for You, and the perseverance to long for You. Grant me a perfect end, Your holy presence. Amen.” – Saint Benedict of Nursia

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Describe your prayer life.

 

2. What percentage of your prayer would you describe as direct? 

 

3. What percentage of your prayer would you describe as submissive to the will of God as opposed to asking Him to do your will?

 

4. If Eli watched you pray as he did Hannah, would he describe your prayers as cluttered?

 

5. Would your friends and family describe you as a good listener? 

 

6. How well do you listen to God? 

 

7. How do you distinguish His voice from your own or from Satan’s?

 

8. For how long can you sit in silence and wait for God?

 

9. Are the effects of your prayers followed by actions as St. Teresa suggests is best?

 

10. How are you striving to honor God? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 154: Faith in Jesus: A Reflection on Mark 2: 1-12

 

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” –he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (MK 2:1-12)

 

In this Gospel we see a beautiful example of faith, and intercessory prayer. Look at these two men, who are not going to let anything stop them from bringing their crippled friend to Jesus. OK. What does this say about them? Note, none of these men ever says a word to Jesus, but their actions speak volumes. In them we see perseverance. In them we see charity; that they are willing to go to such lengths for their friend. In them we see faith. This is a little more subtle: in them we see a statement of confidence in Jesus’ authority. Again, without saying a word, they testify to Jesus’ authority simply by going through the lengths they do to ensure their friend will encounter Jesus.

               

Now contrast this with the scribes that are present. When Jesus sees the faith of the friends, He tests the faith of everyone else by saying to the crippled man, “Your sins are forgiven.” The scribes immediately react. They say, and correctly say, “He blasphemes, because no one can forgive sins but God alone.” I say again, they’re correct. No one CAN forgive sins but God alone. But did Jesus blaspheme? No. Jesus IS God. And so to demonstrate that, to demonstrate that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins, Jesus heals the cripple. The friends of the cripple already acknowledged Jesus’ authority by their perseverance. The miracle is so that everyone else might acknowledge that authority as well, because in that authority is the power to save us from sin, which was the purpose of Jesus’ mission. Does it work? Partially.

               

The reading ends by saying how everyone praised God, but these scribes, despite seeing what they did, will later conspire against Jesus. Again and again throughout the Gospels, the scribes and Pharisees will demand that Jesus prove his authority to them. This is why Jesus says to Thomas after the Resurrection, “You believe because you have seen, blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe.” The friends of this cripple believed before they saw. That’s a perfect faith. Many, like Thomas, and some in that crowd, believed after they saw. That’s not perfect faith, but its adequate faith. God can work with that. Some, like the scribes and Pharisees, will never believe no matter what they see. That’s no faith. And that’s what we have to be wary of.

 

We have to be wary of this on two levels: first, in others: There will always be people of no faith trying to discourage us in our beliefs. There will always be skeptics and cynics who will attempt to make us look foolish or downright evil because of what we believe. We must pray for them, because ultimately they’re puppets on a string. The devil uses the ungodly to discourage, intimidate, and persecute the godly. Pray that God will soften their hearts and open them to his grace, because if we don’t pray for them, who will?

 

The second level we have to be wary of is in ourselves. We have to be careful, brothers and sisters, that in our prayers we are not constantly demanding that God prove himself to us. Remember that prayer is supposed to form our hearts to his, and not the other way around. When someone asks me if it is sinful to ask God for a sign, I say, “Of course not, as long as we understand that God doesn’t owe us a sign.”

 

My brothers and sisters, it is my simple prayer today that the whole world comes to realize the authority of the Savior, and the freedom it brings.

 

Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “Faith is the beginning of human salvation. Without faith no one can pertain to the number of the sons of God, because without it neither will anyone obtain the grace of justification in this life nor possess eternal life in the future. If anyone does not walk now in faith, he will not arrive at the actuality.” - St. Fulgentius

 

 

 

Prayer by a Saint:

You are Christ,

my Holy Father,

my Tender God,

my Great King,

my Good Shepherd,

my Only Master,

my Best Helper,

my Most Beautiful and my Beloved,

my Living Bread,

my Priest Forever,

my Leader to my Country,

my True Light,

my Holy Sweetness,

my Straight Way,

my Excellent Wisdom,

my Pure Simplicity,

my Peaceful Harmony,

my Entire Protection,

my Good Portion,

my Everlasting Salvation.

 

 

Christ Jesus, Sweet Lord, why have I ever loved, why in my whole life have I ever desired anything except You, Jesus my God? Where was I when I was not in spirit with You? Now, from this time forth, do you, all my desires, grow hot, and flow out upon the Lord Jesus: run... you have been tardy until now; hasten where you are going; seek Whom you are seeking. O, Jesus may he who loves You not be an anathema; may he who loves You not be filled with bitterness. O, Sweet Jesus,may every good feeling that is fitted for Your praise, love You, delight in You, adore You! God of my heart, and my Portion, Christ Jesus, may my heart faint away in spirit, and may You be my Life within me! May the live coal of Your Love grow hot within my spirit and break forth into a perfect fire; may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart; may it glow in my innermost being; may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul; and in the days of my consummation may I be found consummated with You! Amen.” -- Saint Augustine of Hippo

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Think of a time when you did not persevere and with the benefit of hindsight, describe what stopped you.

 

2. How might the outcome be different if you had persevered?

 

3. Describe a time when you have caught yourself asking God for proof? 

 

4. How has your faith been strengthened so as not to need proofs?

 

5. Would you describe your faith as perfect, adequate, inadequate or nonexistent?  What might improve it? 

 

6. How is your faith demonstrated by your actions?

 

7. Answer for yourself the questions of St. Augustine.  Where was I when I was not in spirit with You?  … Or where am I when I am not in Spirit with you?

 

8. Why have I ever loved, why in my whole life have I ever desired anything except You, Jesus my God?

 

9. How can you strengthen others who are searching for proofs of the authority of God?

 

10.  In this time of persecution, what are you doing to support he faith of those being tested?  What are you doing to bring others who do not know Him to faith in Jesus?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 155: The Only True Freedom: A Reflection on Romans 17: 7-8

 

“None of us lives as his own master, and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as his servants.” (Romans 14: 7-8) 

 

This passage from Paul’s letter to the Roman’s is one that goes against the grain for us, especially us Americans. Our whole country and culture was founded on a “don’t tell me what to do attitude.” We’re Americans. We’re free. We do our own thing. We don’t want to be told that we are not our own master. 

 

Heck, we fought three wars on that premise-- the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War. The American Civil War, was by far the bloodiest American conflict. Just to put in context, if you were to add up all the American casualties from every other war America was involved with together, those numbers wouldn’t come close to the numbers of casualties lost in the Civil War. The Civil War was fought over the very question where do the rights of the State end and the rights of the Federal Government begin. How much is the Federal government allowed to interfere in the affairs of the individual states? So we as a nation have spilled much blood over this question of freedom. 

 

And I think that, as Americans, the notion of freedom, while one of our strengths, if we’re not careful, can also be our Achilles heel. The notion of freedom taken to its extreme can be disastrous. If we were completely free, if we were truly independent, where we could do anything we wanted whenever we wanted, we wouldn’t have a country. We’d have anarchy.  

 

The roads have speed limits, and traffic lights. Why? Because large numbers of vehicles have to be governed by a certain order for public safety. What if I decided that I’m tired of driving on the right side of the highway, and want to drive instead on the left side of the highway into oncoming traffic?  Am I free to do such a thing because it suits me? Of course not. Because such an act would result in the injury and death of many people. 

 

How about paying taxes? What if I were to decide that because I’m free, and America is a free country, I don’t have to pay my taxes? Is it safe to say the IRS would beg to differ? On the best of reasoning we pay taxes because we know we have a responsibility to the larger community to provide necessary services; military, police, firefighters, social security for the sick and elderly. On our worst possible reasoning we pay our taxes because we know we’ll go to jail if we don’t!  

 

So we accept our freedom is limited. We concede that for the common good, we are not completely free. We cannot choose to ignore laws that govern the country, because we all concede that freedom, to be good, must be given boundaries. 

 

Conveniently, we seem to ignore this simple truth when it comes to the abortion issue. Everyone concedes the fetus is alive. Everyone concedes the fetus will be born as a human being and not a turnip. We don’t need morality to fight this one. Simple logic is on our side, yet this atrocity goes merrily on unchecked. That’s basically for two reasons. First, we live in a hedonistic culture that doesn’t want to take responsibility for its sexual practices. Number two, we live in a capitalist country, and abortion is a multi-million dollar industry, so the abortion industry can afford lots of lobbyists. The disadvantage to living in a capitalist country is instead of living by the golden rule, the ones with the most gold make the rules. Unfortunate, but true. 

 

So how do we deal with all of this as Christians? Paul is giving us a simple reminder. “None of us lives as his own master, and none of us dies as his own master.” We own nothing. Everything we have is on loan from God. We control nothing. Because at any moment God can say to us, “Time’s up!” The freedom God has given us is the freedom not to be controlled by sin. That is the only true freedom, and we have a responsibility to use it, to grow in Grace, to do his will, and to help as many as we can along the way.

 

And blessed be God forever.

 Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society. Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace.. –Pope John Paul II

 

Prayer: Litany for Liberty

For use during the Fortnight for Freedom

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Christ the Lord has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Let us turn to him in humble but fervent petition, seeking the grace to root out from our hearts all trace of darkness, and all that holds us back from walking in the full freedom of the children of God. As Christ is our great model for that inner freedom, which enables us to do the right, let us turn to him with confidence that we, too, may follow him to the fullness of spiritual freedom.

Lord, have mercy;  --Lord, have mercy.  --Christ, have mercy; --Christ, have mercy.--Lord, have mercy; --Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, victor over sin and death… Free our hearts. ----Jesus, source of light and hope… Free our hearts.

Jesus, fullness of truth and mystery… Free our hearts.---Jesus, teacher of seeking hearts… Free our hearts.

Jesus, healer of body and soul… Free our hearts.---Jesus, bringer of mercy and justice… Free our hearts.

Jesus, who humble the heart and mind… Free our hearts.---Jesus, release of captives… Free our hearts.

Jesus, voice against violence… Free our hearts.---Jesus, courage for the lowly/downtrodden… Free our hearts.

Jesus, origin of all authority and power… Free our hearts.---Jesus, true lawgiver… Free our hearts.

Jesus, unity of order and passion… Free our hearts.---Jesus, freedom of the Spirit… Free our hearts.

Jesus, obedient Son of the Father… Free our hearts.---For the freedom to love… Give us your grace.

For the freedom to believe… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to hope… Give us your grace.

For the freedom to worship… Give us your grace. ---For the freedom to serve in charity… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to care for the suffering… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to comfort the sick… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to feed the hungry… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to shelter the homeless… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to proclaim the Gospel… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to walk in chastity… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to live in peace… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to work in good conscience… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to stand in solidarity… Give us your grace. ---For the freedom to seek justice… Give us your grace.

For the freedom to reject sin… Give us your grace. ---For the freedom to reject coercion… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to reject falsehood… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to reject evil temptations… Give us your grace.---For the freedom to reject injustice… Give us your grace.

 

O God, who gave one origin to all peoples and willed to gather from them one family for yourself, fill all hearts, we pray, with the fire of your love and kindle in them a desire for the just advancement of their neighbor, that, through the good things which you richly bestow upon all, each human person may be brought to perfection, every division may be removed, and equity and justice may be established in human society. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. How would you define freedom? How does freedom relate to slavery?

2. How is it possible to be enslaved yet believe that you are free? Have you ever experienced this?

3. What can we do to bring people out of slavery into freedom?

4. Discuss the quote from Pope John Paul II.

5. Go through each of the petitions in the Litany and discuss the aspect of freedom prayed for in each.

6. Do you believe that your nation embraces the right concept of freedom? Why or why not?

 

---Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 156: The Least in the Kingdom of God Is Greater Than John the Baptist:  A Reflection on Matthew 11:11

 

  “I solemnly assure you, history has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptizer.  Yet the least born in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)

 

 Sometimes we just don’t know quite how to take this passage. I mean, John the Baptist was  the greatest witness to Christ throughout his life. From his mother’s womb, John is proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah. And now Jesus is saying that the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John? Does he mean that John didn’t make it to the kingdom? Or does he mean that I have to be better than John to get into the kingdom myself?  Either way I’m sunk! Because as good as I can be, I’ll NEVER be as good as John the Baptist.

 

 Relax.  Jesus isn’t saying either of those things.  John was indeed great.  Jesus acknowledged this.  None of us will ever be better witnesses to Christ than John the Baptist was.

 

 Pope John Paul II, as great a man as he was, did not witness to Christ better than John the Baptist did, and none of us ever will, because we can’t.

 

 So what is Jesus saying?  Why will John be called the least in the kingdom? Because as great as John was, he never received the Eucharist.   As great a witness as John was to the presence of Christ, he never had Christ dwelling in him.

 

 We can infer a couple of things from this passage of Scripture. First, it is possible for us to witness to Christ, even dedicate our whole lives to Christ, and enter the kingdom of God without the sacraments! John the Baptist got into heaven with no sacraments at all. Good news for our non Catholic / Christian brothers and sisters. John the Baptist was the herald of the Word of God, and so it is entirely possible to get to heaven by witnessing through word and deed, to the Word of God alone.

 

 OK, but with that said, no one did this better than John the Baptist, and he’s still called least in the kingdom.  Granted, getting in is all that matters. But wouldn’t you want the best spot you can get? Wouldn’t you want as much Grace as you could possibly handle and use in this life, so to build as much of God’s kingdom on earth as you possibly could, so you could get as close to Jesus in the kingdom as you can?

 

That what the sacraments do.  They unite us to God here on earth, by making him physically present in us.  They strengthen us against temptation.  And they empower us to build God’s kingdom on earth by witnessing to that presence in our lives.

 

Think of the sacraments like a turbo charger on a car. The car will run just fine without the turbo charger, but when you need extra power in extreme weather conditions, you’re stuck! But when the turbo charger is attached to the engine, it really makes the car fly so you can cover a much greater distance in a shorter amount of time, and you can still make progress, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

 

I find it both comforting and humbling that, despite my brokenness and inadequacies, if I am fortunate enough to reach the kingdom, I can be considered greater than this impeccable witness to Christ, John the Baptist, certainly, through no work of mine, but rather because of the work of Christ in me through the sacraments.

 

And blessed be God forever.

 Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

 

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

A man cannot receive any thing, unless it be given him from heaven. You yourselves do bear me witness, that I said, I am not Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride, is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth with joy because of the bridegroom's voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.

 

--Saint John the Baptist in John 3:26-30

 

Prayer While Visiting the Most Blessed Sacrament:

 

My Lord Jesus Christ, for the love which You bear to men, You remain night and day in this Sacrament full of compassion and of love, awaiting, calling, and welcoming all who come to visit You. I believe that You are present in the Sacrament of the Altar: I adore You from the abyss of my nothingness, and I thank You for all the graces which You have bestowed upon me and in particular for having given me Yourself in this Sacrament, for having given me your holy Mother Mary for my advocate, and for having called me to visit You in this chapel. I now salute Your most loving Heart: and this for three ends: 
1. In thanksgiving for this great gift; 
2. To make amends to You for all the outrages which You receive in this Sacrament from all Your enemies; 
 I intend by this visit to adore You in all the places on earth in which You are the least revered and the most abandoned. 

My Jesus, I love You with all my heart. I grieve for having so many times offended Your infinite goodness. I promise with Your grace never more to offend You in the future. 
Now, miserable and unworthy though I be, I consecrate myself to You without reserve; 
I give You my entire will, my affections, my desires, and all that I possess. From now on dispose of me and of all that I have as You please. All that I ask of You and desire is Your holy love, final perseverance, and the perfect accomplishment of Your will. I recommend to You the souls in purgatory; but especially those who had the greatest devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I also recommend to You all poor sinners. 

My dear Saviour, I unite all my affections with the affections of Your most loving Heart; and I offer them, thus united, to Your eternal Father, and beseech Him in Your name to vouchsafe, for Your love, to accept them.  Amen. – Saint Alphonsus Liguori

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. Before you read Father Sisco’s explanation of this passage in Matthew, what did you think it meant?

2. Why does Father Sisco’s insight make sense?

3. How does receiving the Blessed Sacrament set us apart from those who do not receive It?

4. What makes you believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament?

5. Discuss the words of John the Baptist. How do these show his greatness?

6.  What does the prayer by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri tell us about the love of God for humanity?

7. What can you do to foster respect for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament?

8. How can we explain the Real Presence to non-Catholics?

9. Do you ever participate in Eucharistic Adoration? If not, should you begin? Are there opportunities to participate in your area? In light of the prayer above, why is Eucharistic Adoration important?

 

 

---Madeline Pecora Nugent 

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 157: The End of the World: A Reflection on Luke 17: 22-24

 

 “A time will come when you will long to see the days of the Son of Man and you will not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Make no move. Do not set off in pursuit; for just as lightning flashes from one part of heaven and lights up the other, so will the Son of Man when his day comes.” (Luke 17: 22-24)

 

Have you heard? Did you know? The world is coming to end, so pack your things! We’re off.

 

This was a general cry among some groups in the year 2012. Apparently the ancient Aztec calendar ended in the year 2012 so that MUST be the end of the world. Although why God would reveal this to the ancient Aztecs and not his own Son is beyond me, since Jesus himself admitted the Father hadn’t revealed the time of the end to him.

 

There are many people today, including many Catholics who are swept up in private revelations and end of the world prophecies that are happening all over the world. I’ve had faithful Republican Catholics ask me if I think president Obama is the anti-Christ, which I find amusing, since not too long ago I had faithful Democratic Catholics ask me if George Bush was the anti-Christ!

 

Remember when everyone thought the end was going to happen in 2000? I was stationed at Saint Francis Xavier in East Providence at the time, and we were having Eucharistic adoration to bring in the new millennium, and when we heard the bells chiming midnight, everyone kind of held their breath for a few seconds, before letting out this universal sigh of relief.

 

I remember another prediction when I was in high school that the world was going to end in 1982. This prediction of the world ending has happened all through history.

 

Do I believe any of things? I’d like to. In fact, the end can’t come fast enough for me! “Father Sisco, the world’s going to end next year!” “Really? Is there any way we can push it up to this year?” The more I witness the deterioration of the world, the more I’m prepped to go to the kingdom!

 

I’d like to believe these things but I can’t. Shepherds aren’t allowed the luxury of following every pied piper that whistles down the road. The Church always views such things as end time prophecies with an eye of scrutiny and discernment, even those prophecies that come from Catholic visionaries and mystics. And this is very wise. Because then we know when the Church does approve something, it’s solid, and it’s safe. Thus I get very concerned when I see Catholics get obsessed with private revelation.

 

This is not the first time in our history such predictions have taken place. They’ve all proved to be false.

 

Remember the words of Jesus. “The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit for observation, and there will be no one to say ‘Look here! ‘Look there.’ ... If they say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ make no move; do not set off in pursuit.”

 

In other passages Jesus says, “Solemnly I assure you, you cannot know the hour or the day the Son of man will return.”

 

Should you be spiritually prepared if the world should end at some predicted time? Yes, by all means. We should be spiritually prepared if the world ended today. And even if the world doesn’t end, none of us knows when we’ll meet our end. The world might just end at the predicted time, but the day before that predicted event, anyone of us might get behind the wheel of a car, or take a bad step on a flight of stairs, or dismiss signs of a serious cardiac condition as heartburn or fatigue, and BANG! Game over. We should be prepared that any moment of every day might be our last.

 

My advice is threefold. First, don’t worry about when the end will happen. Christ will come back in his own good time whether you worry about it or not. Two, always be prepared by going to confession and receiving the Eucharist to insure a speedy trip to the kingdom whenever your end or THE end might occur. And finally, don’t fear that day. Look forward to it with great expectation. Because that’s what you were made for. We were created in this world, but we were created for eternity with Christ.

 

And blessed be God forever.

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

It would, be easier for the damned to bear the torments of hell than the presence of the Lord.' – St. Jerome

 

Prayer:

Father, hear our prayers for the salvation of the world. Grant mercy to all souls that turned away from you. Open their hearts and minds with your light.

Gather your children from the east and the west, from the north and the south. Have mercy, O God, on those who do not know you. Bring them out of darkness into your light. You are our saving God Who leads us in our salvation. Protect us from evil.

We bless and praise you, O Lord. Hear our prayers and answer us. You, our Savior, are the hope of all the ends of the earth and the distant seas. May your way be known upon earth. Among all nations Your salvation.

We put the world in your hands. Fill us with your love and grant us peace through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

-Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Philidelphia

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Discuss this quote from Matthew 24:30: And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty.'  Who are ‘they’? Why the ‘clouds of heaven’? How might God’s power and majesty be evident? Who is the Son of man? Why does Jesus use this term instead of ‘Son of God?”

 

2. Do you know of any predictions regarding the end of the world? What are they? What makes them plausible or implausible?

 

3. What are you doing to prepare for your own “end”? Do you look forward to it?

 

4. How does the Church help us to prepare for our own end? Have you taken advantage of these ways?

 

5. Discuss the quote from Saint Jerome.

 

6. Pray Archbishop Chaput’s Prayer. How does this prayer correspond to Fr. Sisco’s reflection?

 

7. Father Sisco discusses being obsessed with private revelation. How can someone tell if he or she falls into this category?

 

8. What is private revelation? What is its place in Catholic belief? How can you tell if private revelation is valid? What is your response if you receive a private revelation? What is the Church’s role in private revelation?

 

9. Discuss the words of Jesus quoted by Father Sisco.. How can they provide a measure of comfort?

 

---Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 158: Who Will Separate Us from the Love of Christ? : A Reflection on Romans 8:31

 

“If God is for us, who can be against us? Is it possible that he, who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for the sake of us all, will not grant us all things besides?...Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial or distress, or persecution or hunger, or nakedness or danger or the sword? As scripture says: ‘For your sake we are being slain all day long; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.’ Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us.” (Romans 8: 31-32, 35-37)

 

In this reading, from his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul gives a great little pep talk, perhaps, a pep talk that is much needed in the Church today.

 

 

Rome was of course, the capitol of the empire, an empire that was, bent on destroying Christianity. And here was a tiny Christian community, living secretly in the shadow of the emperor. A community that worshipped in hiding. A community that had little codes and signals, to let other Christians know where they’d be meeting. And they lived in fear of being discovered.

 

 

“If God is for us, who can be against us? Is it possible that he, who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for the sake of us all, will not grant us all things besides?...Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial or distress, or persecution or hunger, or nakedness or danger or the sword? As scripture says: ‘For your sake we are being slain all day long; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.’ Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us.”

 

Persecution and Christianity go hand in hand.

 

Jesus died to redeem creation, and to prove the love God had for us. His Church has been being crucified ever since. Now we share his crucifixion. Now it’s our turn, to prove our love for him.

 

I’ve mentioned before that more Christians have died worldwide for their faith in the 20th century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. In Warsaw, Poland, during the Communist occupation there was a hill where a massacre had taken place. So the Polish people placed all homemade crosses on the hill to remember those who had died. It was called in fact, Cross Hill. The Communists hated it, and would tear down all the crosses. But the Poles would sneak there at night, and put them all back up again. From time to time people got caught, and they were killed, which only resulted in more crosses appearing on the hill the next day.

 

We can count ourselves blessed, that we as Americans really don’t have it that bad. Nobody is lining us up and shooting us for our beliefs, at least not yet.     I think our persecution lies more along the lines of injustices in the legal system, being made uncomfortable, being laughed at, being mocked, being judged, sometimes by people within our own Church.

 

In the grand scheme of things, these are little persecutions, little crosses. Whenever worldly people see holiness, it makes them uncomfortable. If we are doing our jobs as Christians, our existence is an unpleasant reminder to them of responsibilities they just as soon do without.

I had brothers in the seminary who were disowned by their families for wanting to be priests. One of them told me he was told by his father never to come home again as he left for seminary. I was blessed that I never had a cross like that. My parents were always very supportive of my vocation.

 

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer is, no one can separate us from the love of Christ butourselves. Christ’s love is always there, for us to receive. The question is not then, who will separate us from the love of Christ, but who among us are willing to embrace to the love of Christ, even if that means being persecuted, even if that means being made uncomfortable?

 

What is the Roman Empire today? A few crumbled buildings. A few pages in a history book. Some statues in a museum. Some roads and aqueducts that are still in use. But in Rome today there is a Catholic Church on almost every corner. All that began with a tiny Christian community that worshipped in hiding. It is my prayer for all of us today that our example of Christian love in the face of persecution from the worldly, converts our nation and converts our world. 

 

And blessed be God forever!

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: "All past persecutors of the Church are now no more, but the Church still lives on. The same fate awaits modern persecutors; they, too, will pass on, but the Church of Jesus Christ will always remain, for God has pledged His Word to protect Her and be with Her forever, until the end of time." (Saint John Bosco)

 

 

Prayer: “Today we pray in a particular way for Christians who undergo discrimination because of their witness to Christ and the Gospel,” he said. “We are close to these brothers and sisters who, like St Stephen, are unjustly accused and made targets of violence of various kinds. I am sure that, unfortunately, there are more of them today than in the early days of the Church. There are so many.

 

“This [persecution] happens, especially where religious liberty is not yet guaranteed and fully realised,” Pope Francis said. “But it also happens in countries and societies that protect liberty and human rights on paper, but where, in fact, believers, especially Christians, encounter abridgements of liberty and discrimination.”

 

 

The Pope then led the crowd in the square in prayer for  persecuted Christians, first with a moment of silence and then with a recital of the Hail Mary. (Pope Francis, December 26, 2013)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Do you really believe that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ?

 

2. What solace does this statement bring?

 

3. Discuss the quote by Saint John Bosco.

 

4. Do you pray for persecuted Christians? How do you pray? When?

 

5. What persecutions can you see in the world today? What is the Church doing about them? Can it do anything? What can you as an individual do?

 

6. Have you been discouraged about the state of the world? Why or why not? If you are discouraged, what can bring encouragement?

 

7. Have you experienced the little persecutions which Fr. Sisco discusses? Name some of them.

 

8. Have you ever participated in little persecutions against others? Against other Christians? How can we deal with Christians of different denominations and doctrines?

 

9. Does name calling or casting judgment have a rightful place in the heart of a Christian? Why or why not?

 

10. Do you need a pep talk regarding the state of the Church today? Where might you find it? Can Scripture help?

 

---Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 159: God Willing: A Reflection on James 4: 13-17

 

Beloved: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”– you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.” But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin. (JAS 4:13-17)

 

James makes reference to an interesting sin. I say it is interesting because it is a sin that is most often overlooked by people. The sin is presumption. Listen to what James says here: “Here is the answer for those of you who talk like this: ‘Today or tomorrow, we are off to this or that town; we are going to spend a year there, trading and making some money.’” Don’t we talk like this all the time? I sure do. So what are you doing this week? Oh, I’m going here and there, and I’m going to do this and that.

           

Listen to how James responds to that.  “You never know what will happen tomorrow: You are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears. “The most you should say is: ‘If the Lord wills, we shall be alive to do this or that.’”

 

Why is this way of speaking such a big deal? It is a big deal because presumption is rooted in pride. The sin of presumption leads us to believe that we can accomplish things on our own without the help of God. But the scriptures and Church teachings remind us we can do nothing outside of God. If we accomplish anything it is because God has graced us to accomplish it.

           

What do you think you can do on your own? Work? Look at the unemployed. They don’t have work. They haven’t been given that gift by God.

 

Well, we’re all pretty self-reliant. We can dress ourselves. We can feed ourselves. Go to a nursing home, and often times you will see the saddest sight. Grown adults who need help eating, dressing, and even cleaning themselves. The fact that we can feed ourselves and dress ourselves is a gift from God.

           

Well, at least I can pray without any help right? Wrong. Jesus said in the Scriptures we don’t even know how to pray, as we should, but the Holy Spirit knows what we need and asks for us. We rely on God for everything. We can trust our own strength to do nothing. And I think the older folks, my parent’s and particularly my grandparent’s generation were more in tuned to this than we are.

 

James said in this passage that the most we should ever say is, “If the Lord wills, we will be alive to do this.” How often I would hear someone of my parent’s or grandparent’s generation say something, and then on the end tag on, “God willing.” Those two little words say a great deal. Those words say, “I submit my plans to God and His will.” That’s important because that is a reminder of this truth. Whenever we’re discussing some future event the older folks will sometimes say, “That is if I’m still alive, by the Grace of God.” There’s a wisdom there that the younger generation has missed.

 

Why have we missed it? I think we’ve become too secure by our technology.       And that has led us to be overconfident in our own abilities. And that has led us to sin. It has led us to sins of presumption and pride. If there is anything that 9-11 and the current cost of gas and oil should have taught us is that we are far more vulnerable than we think. Seeing that vulnerability should make us rely, not on more technology, but more on God. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not anti-progress. Technology can produce many useful things. But our dependence should always be on God.

 

Let us pray today for the humility to submit everything in our lives to the Lord, and to realize that everything good in our lives comes from His Grace. And in the future we may become more like Him, God willing.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “No one should ever say that it was my ignorance if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God's good pleasure; but let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought, that - as is the perfect truth - it was the gift of God.” – Saint Patrick

 

Prayer by a Saint: “We pray to You, O Lord, who are the supreme Truth, and all truth is from you. We beseech You, O Lord, who are the highest Wisdom, and all the wise depend on You for their wisdom. You are the supreme Joy, and all who are happy owe it to You. You are the Light of minds, and all receive their understanding from You. We love, we love You above all. We seek You, we follow You, and we are ready to serve You. We desire to dwell under Your power for You are the King of all. Amen.” – Saint Albert the Great

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What plans have you made for the next week? 

 

2. What will happen if you are unable to complete them? 

 

3. When you plan, are you making allowance for flexibility for the will of God or do you presume you will accomplish your plan pretty much as you’ve designed it? 

 

4. What have you discovered you can no longer do that you used to be able to do? 

 

5. Why do you think we are less dependent on God? 

 

6. On whom or what do you most often depend?

 

7. What is the most recent gift you have gotten from God? 

 

8. Do you praise and thank God for His every day, every minute gifts? 

 

9. Has today changed your plan for the week ahead?  How and why? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 160: Choose to Love: A Reflection on James 5: 9-12

 

Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, because the Lord is compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No,” that you may not incur condemnation. (JAS 5:9-12)

 

“Do not grumble against one another… lest you be condemned.”

 

You know, brothers and sisters, let’s be honest, how often do we do this? How often do we grumble against someone in the family, a fellow parishioner, the boss, co-worker, or a neighbor? There’s always going to be someone in our lives that we don’t like for whatever reason. OK. That’s understandable. We can’t LIKE everybody.

           

Jesus never told us to LIKE everybody. That would be impossible. But he did tell us to love everybody. There’s a difference between love and like. Who we like is often based on an emotional response. We often use the phrase that we got a good “vibe,” from someone, or a bad vibe. Well, what is that? It’s an emotional response based on feelings. The world of whom we like and don’t like is confined to the emotions.

 

Love, contrary to popular belief, is NOT based on emotions. The problem is that people confuse love with a variety of different emotional responses: infatuation, admiration, or lust. We attach the word “love” to all of those things, and it’s incorrect.

           

Love is not based on feelings at all. Love is an act of the will. Love is a choice. We choose to love, just like we choose to hate. Loving someone means wanting what is best for them, even if we don’t like them. That’s why Jesus tells us to pray for our persecutors. Because if we’re praying for people we don’t like, what we’re doing is asking God to give them sufficient grace to save their souls, so they can join us in heaven, where there is no division, or dislike. That is how you love someone without liking him or her.

 

But now I want to deal with the question, WHY don’t we like some people? Why do have these negative emotional responses? Very often it’s people who do things, or have habits or personalities that annoy us. So I don’t like this person because they always have to draw attention to themselves, or they think they know everything, or she’s always got to brag about her kids, or he always has to talk about how much money he makes, or they always come into Mass late, whatever.

           

That’s the reason on the surface, but that’s not the real reason. The real reason is usually that this person’s habits, or traits, or personality reminds me of something I don’t like about myself, or reminds me of someone or something that really hurt me in my childhood. So whenever I’m around this person I’m confronted with this unpleasant memory on a subconscious level, and thus we have the “bad vibe” feeling. Then we grumble against them because we need to be reaffirmed by others. If I don’t like this person and I can get others to agree with me, well then I must be justified in my dislike. It’s only when we grumble against someone that our dislike becomes sinful, because then we are choosing not to love.

           

Well, so what do we do about it? First we need to confront it in ourselves. We need to challenge ourselves, to ask ourselves, “Why don’t I like this person?” We need to ask the Lord, “Jesus, show me what’s at the root of this dislike. Bring my mind back to the past to show me what pain is causing this dislike.” Because really, when we dislike someone, it’s more our issue than theirs.

Secondly, if someone has hurt us we need to confront that person in all charity. “You know you really hurt me when you said that. I felt insulted when you did that.” That’s a much better approach than grumbling about them. Because maybe they think they’re being funny, or they don’t realize the effect of what they are doing, and if they’re never confronted, they’ll never know.

 

My brothers and sisters, there are always going to be people who rub us the wrong way. It is my prayer today that we always choose to love everyone, and we are never complacent with our dislikes.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: "What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

– Saint Augustine
 

Prayer by a Saint: “Does our life become from day to day more painful, more oppressive, more replete with sufferings?  Blessed be He a thousand times who desires it so.  If life be harder, love makes it also stronger, and only this love, grounded on suffering, can carry the Cross of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I believe, O Lord, but strengthen my faith; Heart of Jesus, I love Thee, but increase my love.  Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee, but give greater vigor to my confidence. Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee, but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee.  Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine, but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.”

– Blessed Michael Pro, S.J.

 

Questions for Reflection:
 

1. Make a mental list of the people and things you dislike.  How long is that list?

 

2. What does the list tell you about yourself?

 

3. Describe in your own words the difference between liking and loving.

 

4. Are there people in your life that you do not love?  re there people in your life that you do not love well enough?

 

6. How does it make you feel that love is a choice?

 

7. How well do you confront yourself on the things you dislike in others?

 

8. How good are you at confronting others?

 

9. What does love look like in your life? How could it be improved? 

 

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