Weeks 161-170

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 161: Seek and You Shall Find: A Reflection on James 5: 1-6

 

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance. (JAS 5:1-6)

 

An American businessman went on vacation to the Azores, and one day about midmorning he came across a Portuguese fisherman cleaning his nets. The businessman said to him, “You must have a big catch to be back so early.” But when he looked in the boat, he saw that it was only about a third full of fish. The fisherman shrugged and said, “Oh you know, not too big, not too small.” And the businessman said, “Well, what are you doing back in so soon instead of catching more fish?” And the fisherman said, “This catch will make enough money to feed my family today.” “But what are you going to do with the rest of the day?” “Well,” said the fisherman, “I’ll go home and play with my children, and have dinner and siesta with my wife, and then in the evening we’ll walk down to town and I’ll play guitar with my friends, and sip a little wine, and we’ll sing and laugh and tell stories till it’s time for bed.”

 

“No, no, no,” said the businessman, “you’re doing this all wrong. You want to be fishing ALL day until you FILL your boat with fish.” “Why?” “Because then you take the extra money and save it in the bank.” “Why?” “Because when you save enough money, you can buy another boat.” “Why?” “Because then you can hire men to work your second boat and you take a percentage of what they make, and then you save that money until you have enough to buy a third boat, and a fourth boat, and so on. “Why?” “Because THEN, when you have all these boats working for you, you can buy an office building.” “What would I do with an office building?” “Well it’s there you organize and keep track of all the boats working for you, and you make deals with fish markets to get the best prices for your fish, and you build it into an industry.”

 

“And how long does that take?” “Oh, about twenty or thirty years.” “Twenty or thirty years?! Then what do I do?” “Well, when your industry gets big enough you sell it for lots of money and then you can retire.” “What would I do then?” “Well then you can play with your grandchildren, and have dinner and take siesta with your wife, and then in the evening you can walk down into town and play guitar with your friends, and sip a little wine, and laugh and sing and tell stories till it’s time for bed.”

 

Saint James says today, “You rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.”

           

Did you ever notice how rich people have a lot more problems than the average person? We never think of that. We think if we have money our problems will go away. Now money can solve a great many problems when it’s used correctly. But you will notice that people who have made money their pursuit, who have made money their god, really have no peace. They have no peace because no matter how much they have, they always have the desire to acquire more. There’s no end.

 

Really, when you think about it, what do rich people have that we don’t? They have houses; we have houses. Theirs may be bigger and more lavish, but we all have carved out a comfortable niche for ourselves. They have cars; we have cars. Theirs are faster and flashier, but mine gets me from point A to point B. I can remember when having a car phone (or pager) was a big status symbol. Only doctors and lawyers had those. Now almost everybody has them. What else do rich people have? Boats, planes, servants—toys. It all comes down to toys. Don’t spend your lives pursuing toys. Like the fisherman discovered, the rich man really didn’t have anymore than him.

 

And perhaps, we have something many of them don’t. We have the confident assurance of salvation. We have the Lord. That’s the greatest treasure of all; and that’s why Jesus tells us to cut off anything that obstructs us from that treasure because nothing is more precious than eternal life. So with the same diligence that the world seeks wealth, I pray we seek holiness.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “Let your daughter have, first of all the book of Psalms for holiness of heart, and be instructed in the Proverbs of Solomon for her godly life.”

– Saint Jerome

 

Prayer by a Saint: “Therefore, let us desire nothing else, let us want nothing else, let nothing else please us and cause us delight except our Creator, Redeemer and Savior, the only true God, Who is the fullness of good, all good, every good, the true and supreme good, Who alone is good, merciful, gentle, delightful, and sweet, Who alone is holy, just, true, holy, and upright, Who alone is kind, innocent, clean, from Whom, through Whom and in Whom is all pardon, all grace, all glory of all penitents and just ones, of all the blessed rejoicing together in heaven. Amen.”

-- Saint Francis of Assisi

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What makes you miserable?

 

2. What would you label as your wealth? 

 

3. In light of this reading, how would you explain your lifestyle to the homeless and hungry? 

 

4. Make a list of the things you are pursuing.

 

5. What do you spend the most time pursuing?

 

6. How are you pursuing holiness?

 

7. How well have you studied the book of Psalms?

 

8. Do you feel well instructed in the Proverbs of Solomon? 

 

9. How might you increase your holiness?

 

--By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 162: Jealousy Leads to Death: A Reflection on Genesis 37

 

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him. One day, when his brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem, Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem. Get ready; I will send you to them.” So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan. They noticed him from a distance, and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him. They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer! Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We shall then see what comes of his dreams.” When Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from their hands, saying, “We must not take his life. Instead of shedding blood,” he continued, “just throw him into that cistern there in the desert; but do not kill him outright.” His purpose was to rescue him from their hands and return him to his father. So when Joseph came up to them, they stripped him of the long tunic he had on; then they took him and threw him into the cistern, which was empty and dry. They then sat down to their meal. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, balm and resin to be taken down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. (GN 37:3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A)

 

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him; “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet. (MT 21: 33-43, 45-46)

 

These readings show us the results of the sin of jealousy. The sons of Jacob are jealous of their younger brother Joseph, because their father favored Joseph most of all. Now Jacob favored Joseph over his other brothers first of all because Joseph was the child of Jacob’s old age. And the youngest child is usually the one that gets the most spoiled. Joseph was also the only son of the wife Jacob loved the most, Rebecca. Jacob had married both the sisters, but he married Rebecca out of love, and her older sister out of obligation to his uncle. Joseph was also the only son who hadn’t screwed up. All the other brothers disappointed their father, except Joseph. And because of this Jacob makes Joseph a coat of many colors. It was a mark of distinction from his older brothers. And his older brothers get jealous of this, to the point where they want to kill him.

 

In our Gospel, the tenants in the parable Jesus tells are jealous over the landlord’s wealth. So when they see the son of the landlord, note their words, “This is the one who will inherit everything. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.” Now this is a parable, remember, so this story has a higher meaning.

              

The evil tenants are obviously the Pharisees, but what is the wealth they’re jealous over? Authority. They are jealous of the landlord’s authority. So when the landlord tries to exercise his authority, they show contempt for it. This is the real motivation for the Pharisees in wanting Jesus dead. They wanted their authority. They didn’t want to be challenged. They didn’t want to be questioned. And Jesus was a threat to their authority.

 

It’s the same jealous motivation that provokes the sons of Jacob to attempt to murder Joseph. It was that coat! That sign of authority. And the dreams Joseph was having, indicating that he would have authority over his brothers.

 

And if we look closely, very closely, we see that this is the same age-old motivation in people who attack the Church. People malign the Church, attack the Church, bad mouth the Church. They are jealous of the Church’s authority, of the fact that we can speak with a definitive moral voice and they can’t, and that drives them crazy.

              

So many people around the world accept the voice of the Church as the will of

God; even some non-Catholics look to the Catholic Church for moral guidance. Who else can make that claim? No one. And so what do the enemies of the Church try to do? Kill the Church.

 

Jealousy is a deadly thing. Sometimes people say in confession, “I get a little jealous.” OK. But don’t take that lightly. Jealousy can open the door to many deadly sins. A good way to combat this is to take some time every morning or night and count your blessings. Verbally thank God for everything he’s given you: your day, your job, your family, and your friends. Thank him you’re not living where Christians are murdered for their faith. Thank him because you have enough to eat, while others starve. Because if we could think of everything we have that we should stop to thank God for, you know what? No one would have the time to be jealous.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “If you share secretly in the joy of someone you envy, you will be freed from your jealousy; and you will also be freed from your jealousy if you keep silent about the person you envy.” – Saint Thalassios the Libyan

Prayer by a Saint: “Give us, O Lord, thankful hearts, which never forget Your goodness to us.  Give us, O Lord, grateful hearts, which don’t waste time complaining” – Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. How would you describe the jealousies of Jacob’s sons?

 

2. What were the jealousies of the tenants?

 

3. How many jealousies of the Pharisees can you name?

 

4. List the type of things that might tempt you to jealousy.  Power?  Wealth?  Status? Holiness? 

 

5. Describe the ways you see jealousy manifest itself around you. 

 

6. What is its effect on the people around you? 

 

7. What types of things do you tend to complain about? 

 

8. Describe ways jealousy can be overcome. 

 

9. List the things for which you are most grateful at this time. 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 163: Sincere Repentance: A Reflection on Joel 2: 12-18  

 

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, offerings and libations for the LORD, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people. (JL 2:12-18) 

 

The power of repentance. That’s what this reading from the book of Joel demonstrates. Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian Empire, who were savage to the Jews when they conquered Israel, fully deserved to be destroyed in the most horrific way imaginable by God. And yet as great as their sins were, their repentance was equally great. They went as far as to cover the animals in sack cloth and ashes! They weren’t taking any chances. And because of their repentance, God forgives them. 

 

Sometimes though, because of this story from the book of Joel, I think we misunderstand repentance, especially during Lent. We equate repentance with the doing of things. So I cheat on my wife, steal from my boss, and I’m not very nice to people, but I can’t eat that slice of cake because I gave up desserts for Lent. 

 

Repentance is not so much in the performing of actions as it is in the sincerity of the heart. So if a man abuses his wife, and when she finally can’t take it anymore, he showers her with lavish gifts--a new car, diamonds, fur coat--but when she takes him back he goes right back to being abusive again, was his repentance sincere? Did his acts of repentance correspond to the contrition in his heart? No. 

 

The reason the Ninevites are spared is not because the stuff that they did right somehow made up for the stuff that they did wrong. Rather they were spared because, when they were confronted with how deeply they had offended God, they desired to make the relationship right again. 

 

So if we struggle with sins of the flesh, during Lent we fast, not because we think the fasting is making up for the sin we succumb to, but in the attempt to discipline our flesh, so we can overcome the sin and not offend God anymore.  

 

If we struggle with spiritual sins, pride, self-righteousness, being judgmental of others, we do extra prayer during Lent, so we may become more merciful as God is merciful. If we struggle with sins of greed, or materialism, we do extra charity during Lent, to break us of our attachment to things. Repentance is not about the stuff; it’s not about actions. That’s only a means to an end. The goal is about changing our hearts. 

 

Compare the Ninevites to the good thief on the cross. Here he is, condemned to die just like Jesus, and how does he express repentance? He rebukes his friend who’s mocking Jesus. He stands for righteousness. He admits his own guilt for his sin, and concedes that his punishment is just. And finally, he asks Jesus for mercy. And that’s it!  

 

He knows he is condemned to die, the Ninevites accept they are condemned to die. The Ninevites cover themselves in ashes. The good thief is covered in the blood of his crucifixion. The Ninevites wear sackcloth. The good thief wears the cross. They both ask for mercy, and they both receive mercy, because of their sincerity. 

 

My bothers and sisters, I pray that during Lent, the acts of repentance, practiced by Christians around the world, are motivated by a sincerity of heart, to truly eliminate all attachments to sin that may be clinging to us. 

 

Blessed be God forever. 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco 

 

Quote from a Saint: “I wealthiest am when richest in remorse.” and “Where sin was hatched, let tears now wash the nest.” - Saint Robert Southwell 
 

Prayer by a Saint: “O Jesus Christ! Eternal Sweetness to those who love Thee, joy surpassing all joy and all desire, Salvation and Hope of all sinners, Who hast proved that Thou hast no greater desire than to be among men, even assuming human nature at the fullness of time for the love of men, recall all the sufferings Thou hast endured from the instant of Thy conception, and especially during Thy Passion, as it was decreed and ordained from all eternity in the Divine plan. Remember, O Lord, that during the Last Supper with Thy disciples, having washed their feet, Thou gavest them Thy Most Precious Body and Blood, and while at the same time Thou didst sweetly console them, Thou didst foretell them Thy coming Passion. Remember the sadness and bitterness, which Thou didst experience in thy Soul as Thou Thyself bore witness saying: "My Soul is sorrowful even unto death." 

 

Remember all the fear, anguish and pain that Thou didst suffer in Thy delicate Body before the torment of the Crucifixion, when, after having prayed three times, bathed in a sweat of blood, Thou wast betrayed by Judas, Thy disciple, arrested by the people of a nation Thou hadst chosen and elevated, accused by false witnesses, unjustly judged by three judges during the flower of Thy youth and during the solemn Paschal season. Remember that Thou wast despoiled of Thy garments and clothed in those of derision; that Thy Face and Eyes were veiled, that Thou wast buffeted, crowned with thorns, a reed placed in Thy Hands, that Thou was crushed with blows and overwhelmed with affronts and outrages. In memory of all these pains and sufferings, which Thou didst endure before Thy Passion on the Cross, grant me before my death true contrition, a sincere and entire confession, worthy satisfaction and the remission of all my sins. Amen! – Saint Catherine of Siena 

 

Questions for Reflection: 

1. What does repentance mean to you?   

 

2. What do you do differently during Lent?   

 

3. What is your aim in doing that?   

 

4. How would your family describe the sincerity of your repentance?   

 

5. What counsel would you give to someone who isn’t really even thinking about repentance?   

 

6. How would you advise someone seeking repentance but missing the mark?   

 

7. Share an example of when you have had a change of heart.  What made the difference?   

 

8. How do you express your repentance?   

 

9. How rich are you in remorse?   

 

10. I have often wondered about true contrition since we say even in our act of contrition that we are sorry because of the dread of the loss of heaven and the pain of Hell.  How true is your contrition?   

 

11.  How worthy is your satisfaction?   

 

By Susan Boudreau 

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 164: Not Even an Idiot:  A Reflection on Ezekial 18: 21`-28

 

Thus says the Lord GOD: If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live? And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and still live? None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, he shall die. You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. (EZ 18:21-28)

 

Here the prophet Ezekiel is emphasizing a theme: salvation is not about the point system. Salvation is not about doing good works to earn “heaven bucks,” that I use to buy my way into salvation when I die. So if I let someone get in front of me in traffic, I get a heaven buck. Then I spend some free time counseling a co-worker who needed someone to listen to them, so I get five heaven bucks. Then I give a generous donation to a charity so I get a hundred heaven bucks. But I had lustful thoughts about a woman, so I deduct ten heaven bucks. And I swore at my computer because I couldn’t get it to print the document I needed so I deduct another six heaven bucks. And if I accumulate enough heaven bucks during my life, I can afford to slack off when I’m older, because I have a whole trust fund of heaven bucks to fall back on. Sorry folks. It doesn’t work that way!

           

I can do a lifetime of good works, but if I turn to evil later in life I get nothing. NOTHING! Virtue is not about the point system. Virtue is about becoming more like God. That’s the goal. So when we do good deeds that should increase our joy, because it’s evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in us to make us more God-like. Good deeds and virtuous living are not something we retire from when we get old.

           

Likewise when a sinner turns from evil to practice virtue later in life, we shouldn’t be jealous or resentful over that. We should be joyful! Jesus continues along this same vein in the gospel of Matthew. You have heard it said you shall not kill, and any one who kills will be liable to judgment. But what I say to you is, don’t even be angry with each other!” “Don’t even say, ‘Raqa’.” Raqa was a Hebrew word that was meant to express scorn or disdain. The root of the word means ‘to spit.’ “Whoever says ‘you fool,’ will be answerable to the fiery Gehenna.”

           

Brother, are we in trouble! Who hasn’t done this on the highway? “Look at this

IDIOT!!” According to Jesus, that’s a damning offense! The point Jesus is trying to make is that the sin of murder begins by holding contempt for others in our hearts. So that’s where we have to take sin on: in the heart, in the mind.

           

We can’t be legalistic in our approach to sin. Well, I’ve been good for a while so I’m due. No. We strive to be useful instruments in the hand of God, in the hopes that we may become like God.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote From a Saint: “This deadly cancer of anger from which so much harm grows: It makes us unlike ourselves, makes us like timber wolves or furies from Hell, drives us forth headlong upon the points of swords, makes us blindly run forth after other men's destruction as we hasten toward our own ruin. – St. Thomas More

 

Prayer By a Saint: “O my God, help me to remember that time is short, eternity long. What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death? To love You, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary. Without You, there is no peace of mind or soul. My God, I need fear only sin and nothing else in this life, for to lose You, my God, is to lose all. O my God, help me to remember that I came into this world with nothing, and shall take nothing from it when I die. To gain You, I must leave all. But in loving You, I already have all good things, the infinite riches of Christ and His Church in life, Mary's motherly protection and perpetual help, and the eternal dwelling place Jesus has prepared for me. Eternal Father, Jesus has promised that whatever we ask in His Name will be granted us. In His Name, I pray:

give me a burning faith, a joyful hope, a holy love for You. Grant me perseverance in doing Your will and never let me be separated from You. My God and my All, make me a saint. Amen.” – Saint Alphonsus Liguori

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. Are you utilizing the point system for salvation? 

 

2. How does Father’s advice to avoid the point system correspond to the Gospel command to lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Mt 6:20)?

 

3. Since good works are both good and necessary, how do you avoid the trap of using them as a point system? 

 

4. Which virtue are you working on at this time? 

 

5. Discuss the concept that the acts of murder and calling someone “Idiot” are both damnable. 

 

6. How close are you to eradicating the roots of sin?

 

7. How does one cure the deadly cancer of anger? 

 

8. Are you actively pursuing sainthood? 

 

9. How are you a useful tool in the hand of God? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 165: Covenant Protection: A Reflection on Deuteronomy 4: 5-9

 

Moses spoke to the people and said: “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the LORD, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy. Observe them carefully; for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’ For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law, which I am setting before you today? However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.” (DT 4: 1, 5-9)

 

We hear Moses say from the book of Deuteronomy; “Now Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe that you may live…. Observe them carefully for thus you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations….” Moses equates obedience to the Law of God with life, intelligence, and wisdom. But I think the truth of this statement of Moses might be able to be verified just by looking at the physical evidence around us.

 

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m reaching a bit, but some of these things seem just a little too coincidental for me. When did we start, as a nation, to disregard to the laws of God? I personally believe it started with the sexual revolution back in the sixties. What have we seen since then? We’ve seen the legalization of abortion, euthanasia, and legalized suicide. Remember the first criterion that Moses gives to heeding the law of God is life. Since the 1970’s we have seen an institutionalization and legalization of death.

 

What do we benefit by the law of God? The benefits are intelligence and wisdom. The law of God teaches us not to be consumed with material things. About ten years ago a study was done that showed that the intelligence of the American youth has been on a steady decline since the mid seventies. Is that just a coincidence? It is right around the same time. The youth today are far less advanced in reading and math skills. The attention span of youth today has been seriously reduced from the attention span of youth thirty years ago.

           

I remember being in a store and buying a grinder for a few bucks and change, and because the computer cash register wasn’t working, the teenage girl behind the counter struggled to figure out how much change to give me from a five dollar bill.

 

What’s the problem? I think it’s an over consumption with material things, not heeding the laws of God, TV’s with a hundred channels, video games, the internet, calculators. Calculators just came out when I was in elementary school, and were wide spread by the time I was in Junior High. We were never allowed to have them in class. If you got caught with a calculator in math class it was taken away. Do it on paper. Figure it out in your head. Don’t rely on a gadget. Kids today have become so saturated with technological distractions that nothing challenges them to think anymore.

 

It all goes back to the law of God, and what Moses said here, my brothers and sisters. The culture is turning more and more from God because the culture doesn’t want to be reminded of its responsibility to God, each other, and us; and so the culture continues to decline.

 

It’s all cause and affect, my brothers and sisters. The more we pull away from God, because of free will, the more the Lord withdraws his protection. God doesn’t impose his protection on us. We say we want to withdraw from the conditions of the covenant because we find them oppressive. Well, fine, but then we also withdraw from the protection of the covenant. The more we do that, the more we give evil the power to wreak havoc.

 

My brothers and sisters, along with our daily sacrifices I hope we’re all praying for a spiritual awakening in the nation, but not only so we regain wisdom and intelligence. I’d be satisfied if in many cases we can just get back to common sense! Pray with me, please.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God.”
-Saint John Vianney

 

Prayer by a Saint: “Eternal God, who are the light of the minds that know you, the joy of the hearts that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; grant us so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Saint Augustine of Hippo

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. What is your understanding of “covenant”?

 

2. What protections are you afforded under this covenant with God?

 

3. Have you made other covenants with God or with others?

 

4. Is it intelligence and wisdom that leads to obedience or obedience that leads to intelligence and wisdom?  What is the difference?

 

5. From your perspective, when did this nation begin to disregard the laws of God? 

 

6. What would you pose as the reason for the lessening of of intelligence in our youth?

 

7. Do you belong wholly to God? 

 

8. What concrete steps could you take to help reverse the current trend of the downfall of our nation? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 166: God Works through Witnesses: A Reflection on John 5: 17-30)

 

Jesus answered the Jews: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.  “I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”  (JN 5: 17 –30)

 

From beginning to end, John’s gospel progresses through a stream of witnesses, people and events, that all point to the truth of Jesus’ identity.               The Gospel witnesses to the reality that Jesus is the Son of the most-high God. And through an understanding of this reality, we also come to understand something of our own identity; that we share in that Son-ship, that we have a claim on the new and perfect covenant between God and man.           

 

But the question arises, what do we do with that? What do we do with this relationship? If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that this relationship with the Father is like no other we have. This relationship is more difficult because it’s very rare we get the external stimulation we get in our human relationships. We talk to someone; we get an audible response. We look; we see. We touch; we feel. Our relationship with God demands communication on a deeper level. We’ve got to get beyond the external. It’s like a marriage. We have to pour ourselves into it in trust while discovering whom this other person is.

 

On another level this relationship is perfectly natural. What little child knows his parents on an intimate level? None really.           Little children don’t understand their parents. They trust instinctively. They love instinctively. They understand only that they need, and these people provide for those needs. But they don’t understand their parents.

 

Then around the teen years they begin to realize their parents are not infallible. The relationship changed. Then we become adults and realize our parents had more on the ball than we gave them credit for.

 

We will never understand everything about God; therefore we will never have that same level of intimacy. But we do have the instinctive love, the instinctive trust, with the occasional disobedience. So what do we do with that? Why should we believe?

              

We believe because Jesus, the second person of the Divine Trinity, knew the Father intimately. He understood everything there was to understand about the Father, and the apostles knew Jesus intimately. With all the external realities, they saw; they heard; they touched. And we believe, because they believed.

 

God works through witnesses. And God works no differently now than two thousand years ago! God has done extraordinary things through ordinary people who know him intimately, to demonstrate his love to all of us. We call them saints. External signs and wonders, with a message of interior conversion told through witnesses.

 

So the question we must ask ourselves today is: what kind of witness am I to the Lord?             How well do I live up to my witness of Jesus? Could someone tell we were Christian just by looking at us? Do our words, our actions, and attitudes point to the fact that we are disciples of Christ? Sometimes mine don’t! Just like that child, I still occasionally disobey my Father and seek his forgiveness in the sacrament of confession. But I still strive to be a good witness.

 

Jesus today points to a significant reality, that he is the Son of the heavenly Father and his Father is now our Father. We have a Father that wants a relationship with us and wants us to bring him to others.

              

It is my prayer for all of us today, that after we receive our Lord, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, that we are renewed in a spirit of witness, so we may bring him to everyone we meet today. Amen.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – Saint Francis of Assisi

 

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

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Describe the stream of witnesses, people and events, that all pointed to the truth of Jesus’ identity for you.

 

2. Who has provided you with the greatest witness of the identy of Jesus?

 

3. How was that witness provided, orally, through written word, through behavior?

 

4. What kind of witness are you to the Lord?

 

5. What has been your most effective means of giving witness? 

 

6. What has been your least effective method?  Can this be improved?

 

7. What are you doing to sanctify yourself? 

 

8. Is your witnessing strength failing?  If so, why and how is that so? 

 

9. Are you standing beneath Christ’s banner?

 

10. What is that banner and who is in command under that banner? 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 167: Recognizing Jesus: A Reflection on Luke 24: 13-35

 

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his Body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With tha, their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  (Lk 24:13-35)

 

Do we recognize the Lord? We read a familiar gospel today; the two disciples are traveling to Emmaus when they encounter the risen Lord. And the interesting thing about this story is the question with which it confronts us.

           

How could two disciples of Jesus travel the better part of a day with him and not recognize him in all that time? How do we recognize the Lord, and what keeps us from recognizing the Lord? These are questions that our readings deal with after Easter Sunday.

           

Prior to this episode it was Mary Magdalene at the tomb who is speaking to angels first, then Jesus himself, and doesn’t recognize him. She thinks he’s the gardener. Why doesn’t she recognize him? Because she has let her grief overwhelm her. She is so wrapped up in what she has lost she doesn’t realize what she’s been given. It’s not until Jesus gets her out of herself that she recognizes him. We can get so wrapped up in our own grief that we fail to recognize that the Lord is near.

 

With these two disciples on the road, it’s a different distraction. In this case the lesson is that we can get so wrapped up in worldly cares that we don’t recognize the Lord. When Jesus questions them about what’s happened in Jerusalem these past few days, what is their answer? “Those things that had to do with Jesus of Nazareth, a PROPHET powerful in word and deed.” Note, they call Jesus prophet, not Lord, not Messiah.

           

So since Jesus was crucified, he couldn’t have been the Messiah who was foretold. Messiahs don’t die. God doesn’t die. So they’ve demoted Jesus to prophet. Then what did they say? “We were hoping he would be the one to set Israel free.”

           

AH, so we thought Jesus was the Messiah, but we were obviously wrong, because the Romans are still here occupying Israel. Nothing has changed. They’re thinking of Jesus’ ministry in worldly terms only, even after Jesus kept stressing to them over and over again not to put their focus on this world. They think Jesus’ ministry was all about liberating Israel from the Roman Empire.

 

Then what do they say? “And besides all this, today, the third day since these things happened, some women in our group have brought us some astonishing news. They were at his tomb before dawn, and did not find his body, but returned with a tale that they had seen a vision of angels that declared he was alive.”

           

Wow, how about that. Funny, huh? And if you ever wonder why Jesus in essence calls them stupid, “what little sense you have,” this is why. If the women came back with that story, why did you leave town? What are you doing on your way to Emmaus instead of being with others? They obviously don’t believe the story. And this story may have ended there.

           

Jesus explains all the scriptures to them and why the Messiah had to undergo all of this, but they still don’t turn around, they still head for Emmaus. They STILL don’t recognize Jesus. They’re STILL stuck in the world. What changes things? They invite Jesus to spend the night with them.   Hey, it’s late, stay with us tonight. Charity. It’s their charity that saves them. Because when Jesus says the blessing and breaks the bread, they recognize him.

 

So how do we recognize Jesus in our midst? From Mary Magdalene, we learn that we can recognize the Lord through our grief. We can recognize the Lord through the witness of others, the testimony of the women who saw the vision of angels. We can recognize the Lord through our study of scripture; this passage says Jesus opened the scriptures for them. We can recognize the Lord through our charity, which is what enables the two disciples to recognize the Lord and what enables the crowd to recognize the Lord through Peter and John curing the crippled man. And we can recognize the Lord through the sacraments, the breaking of the bread.

 

Our challenge is to not to confine our recognition of the Lord to one of these things, but rather strive to see the Lord in all of these things, so others may see the Lord in us.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “The Most Blessed Sacrament is Christ made visible. The poor sick person is Christ again made visible. I see in my neighbor the Person of Jesus Christ.” -Saint Gerard Majella

 

Prayer by a Saint: “O Lord my God, Teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you. You have made me and remade me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you
unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire; let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you. Let me love you when I find you.” - Saint Anselm


Questions for Reflection:

1. What else might explain why the disciples on the way to Emmaeus did not recognize Jesus?

 

2. In which of the ways listed above are you most likely to recognize Jesus?

 

3. What distracts you from seeing the Lord?

 

4. How do you most often think of Jesus? Prophet? Lord? Messiah? Something else?

 

5. Have you ever had a personal encounter with a person living in eternity or do you know anyone who has had such an encounter?  Did that spirit person look like they did in life?

 

6. When you recognize Jesus, do you recognize His body or His attributes?

 

7. What is your understanding of your own body and soul after death?

 

8. What is your understanding of the ministry or mission of Jesus?

 

9. What is your own role in His ministry?

 

10. What did you learn from Jesus the last time you asked Him to stay with you?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 168: God Never Abandons His People--A Reflection on Psalm 13

 

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me for ever?

   How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I bear pain in my soul,

   and have sorrow in my heart all day long?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

 

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God!

   Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

and my enemy will say, ‘I have prevailed’;

   my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

 

But I trusted in your steadfast love;

   my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

   because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13)

 

God never abandons his people. It’s something we know with our heads but we need to embrace in our hearts. God never abandons us, even when things seem darkest. When I worked at Rhode Island hospital, I was amazed at the amount of suicides I had to deal with in December. Lots of them were young people. You know, it’s rather strange and sad that the suicide rate jumps so dramatically during the month of December, when it should be the exact opposite. This should be the most encouraging month to us on the calendar. This should be the month that has the fewest suicides. This month is the reminder for us that God didn’t abandon us 2000 years ago, when most of the world was under Roman occupation. When violence and crime and destruction seemed as though they couldn’t be any worse, a ray of light broke through the darkness and started to spread throughout the world. We celebrate that day as Christmas, the day our redemption began.

 

God has always sent lights throughout history to encourage us in the darkness. When the prophet Jeremiah lived, times couldn’t have seemed much worse for the country. The northern kingdom had fallen to Assyria years earlier, and now Babylon was poised to invade Judah. Think of this. The Israelites were looking at the end of the world as they knew it. And in the midst of that darkness, the prophet Jeremiah gives a ray of hope. He proclaims that a king will rise again, descended from David’s line. God will not forget his promise to David that an heir will sit on his throne. And in the New Testament, we see that heir. Mary and Joseph submit to God’s plan, and hope is restored. And yet nobody knew about it when it happened.

 

We all know the story of the stable at Bethlehem, but think about this. If the world had known its savior was born, wouldn’t they have housed him in a palace and given him the best of everything? God sent his light into the world, but anonymously. Why? So we’d have to look for him. So we’d have to seek him out.

 

Several years ago, the cover story of the November 11th issue of TIME magazine read, “The God Gene.” I saw the article while I was on retreat and decided to read it. And it basically said that scientists have determined, through DNA research, that there is a gene in our bodies that makes us predisposed to believe in a god and in an afterlife. I found that interesting, but as I read on, the tone of the article seemed to be that of poo pooing religion. The author seemed to imply, “You see! That’s why so many people believe these silly superstitions. There’s a gene in our bodies that makes us want to believe these things.” Please note the article never actually said that, but that was the tone I got from it.

 

If there is a God gene, it makes perfect sense to me. If you’re God, and you’re going to create beings that you want to make your children, and you want them to seek you out, wouldn’t it make sense to build that desire right into the blue print? I believe it’s entirely plausible that we have a God gene in our bodies, because, if you look through scripture, you see God always trying to draw us to him. And that’s why he sometimes lets us experience darkness--so we’ll be drawn that much more to his light. It is my prayer today, my brothers and sisters, that when we experience trials in our lives we stop asking God, “Why are you doing this to me?” And instead ask, “What are you trying to teach me through this?”  Because God never abandons His people, no matter how dark it is.

 

And blessed be God forever!

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “If this is the way You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few!” -St. Teresa of Avila

 

Prayer: Lord, my whole being longs for You. My mind desires Your peace, my heart desires the warmth of Your presence and my body aches for Your nearness and the intimacy that lovers share. But Lord, prayer has become so difficult. Silence seems so empty, words seem so dull and my mind seems distracted by many things. Yet more than anything my heart feels weighed down by fears, doubts and anxieties. I feel, Lord, as if You have left me and I am now all alone in this world, a stranger in a place I once called home.

 

Lord, I long for prayer, silence and solitude where I can just be alone with You. I feel tired with everything right now and need to rest in You. The more I try and pray the more it seems like I am not praying. The more I try to seek You, Lord, the more You seem to go away from me. Lord, I want to live in Your light but my feet seem paralyzed and unable to move towards You. Please Lord, draw me more deeply into that light, into that ocean of peace that is Your heart. I long for the time where I can just rest in You, when all of my doubts and fears will be silenced and I can just sleep in Your arms like a child with his mother.

 

Yet I must believe that I already possess that intimacy with You, even though I feel like I am in darkness. I choose to believe that You are not far away. I believe that You are close, too close even for my senses to perceive You. Please Lord, do not allow the darkness to overcome me. Without Your grace I cannot face it, but with Your grace I can rest in it and even say, “this too shall pass.”

 

Where could I go anyway if You were not here. I could not find You on my own nor could I discover something more profound or more beautiful than You. Lord, I could not discover You without You because You have discovered me, You have found me, You have revealed Yourself to me!

 

Yet so many people have come and gone in my life. So many friends have captured my heart and then have moved on, taking my heart with them. Lord, I can’t help but fear that You too will leave someday? My heart trembles at the thought of another separation. I know it is silly to compare You with people and to even doubt Your commitment to me is a sign that I do not understand Your love for me.

 

Despite all my confusion I can hear Your whisperings in my heart telling me that I am loved and that You will never abandon me. My God, I trust You with the little strength and energy I feel that I have. Thank You, Lord, for being faithful; please, in Your mercy grant me the grace to be faithful to You.

 

Br. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR (http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=317743)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Have you ever felt abandoned by God? What were the circumstances?

  2. How can Fr. Sisco be so sure that God will never abandon us?

  3. Discuss the quote from. St. Teresa of Avila, as she was speaking to God.

  4. Pray Br. Jeremiah’s prayer and discuss it paragraph by paragraph.

  5. What are your thoughts on the God gene? Would God program us to seek Him? Why or why not?

  6. If Christ were coming into the world today and people planned His entrance, what might it have been like?

  7. What are the darkest times you have experienced? How did you get through them?

  8. What would be your advice to someone who feels abandoned by God?

  9. Why does God allow us to feel abandoned?

  10. Discuss Jesus’ words on the cross (“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”).

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 169: Wages of Sin vs. Gift of God: A Reflection on Romans 6:23

 

The wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

 

 Saint Paul makes an interesting distinction today, “wage of sin,” versus “gift of God.”

 

 The devil demands a wage; God gives a free gift.

 

 All sin has a price, though it may not be apparent first, even if it’s never obvious. But just look at people who are in bondage to sin, and you’ll see the price it demands. Have you known people who are addicted to money—power—flesh? They don’t live in freedom. They’re slaves! That’s the hook of sin.

 

 While sin provides certain pleasures, those pleasures quickly turn into addictions, and those addictions turn into obsessions. People who are addicted to money become slaves to their work. People who are addicted to power become slaves to their politics. People who are addicted to the flesh become slaves to their bodies. That’s the wage of sin. That’s the payment sin demands.

 

 And that brings us to a crossroad. That brings us to a choice. People who are in bondage to sin can go in two directions. We can turn to the Lord in our addictions and ask his grace to break them, like someone who’s in Alcoholics Anonymous. A guy stands up and says, “Hello, my name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic.” Yes! That’s right! That’s healthy! He has publicly acknowledged he has a problem. Now he can begin to heal.

 

 The first way to break the bonds of sin in our lives is to acknowledge the sin. Instead, today, people would rather deny the existence of sin, rather than admit they need to repent of something.

 

 That’s the second choice people who are in bondage to sin can make; we turn away from the Lord, and allow our addictions to become obsessions. Once we allow ourselves to become obsessed with sin, we raise that sin to the status of an idol, and idolatry shuts God out completely. Idolatry shuts God out completely, because idolatry is ultimately worshipping the self. In Christianity we sacrifice some pleasure for the sake of serving others. In idolatry we indulge some pleasure for the sake of using others.

 

 The gift of God is eternal life, the gift of God is to live in freedom. Alleluia! We are slaves no longer. Through sacramental Grace, we are all truly free.

 

 And blessed be God forever!

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: Who hath sent out the wild ass free? And who had loosed his bonds? To whom I have given a house in the wilderness, and his dwelling in the barren lands. He scorneth the multitude of the city, and hereth not the cry of the driver. He looketh round about the mountains of his pasture, and seekth for every green thing. [Job 39. 5-8] The wild ass or onager is so-called from the words for ‘burden’ (onus) and ‘field’ (ager), and it signifies the penitent man, who in the field of the Church bears the burden of penance. This man the Lord lets go free, and looses his bonds, when he permits him to depart freed from the slavery of the devil and loosed from the bonds of sin. Whence in John the Lord says: Loose him and let him go [Jn. 11:44] . . . He hears not the cry of the driver. The driver or ‘exactor’ is the devil, who once offered the coin of sin to the first parent and now ceaselessly demands daily repayment with usury. The penitent does not hear the voice of this exactor, since he pays no heed to his suggestions. Alternatively, the exactor may mean the belly, which daily demands clamorously the tribute of gluttony. But the penitent does not hear it at all, because he does not obey it for pleasure, only for necessity. The wild ass looks around the mountains of his pasture because, being placed among the excellent things of life, he looks around and finds the pastures of Sacred Scripture; and he says with the Psalmist: He hath set me in a place of pasture; [Ps 22.2] and so he seeks for every green thing in the devotion of prayer, so that from the pasture of sacred reading he comes to browse on the greenery of devout prayer, of which it is said, Let the earth bring forth the green herb.

 

Prayer: O Lord, Jesus Christ, Redeemer and Saviour, forgive my sins, just as You forgave Peter's denial and those who crucified You. Count not my transgressions, but, rather, my tears of repentance. Remember not my iniquities, but, more especially, my sorrow for the offenses I have committed against You. I long to be true to Your Word, and pray that You will love me and come to make Your dwelling place within me. I promise to give You praise and glory in love and in service all the days of my life.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. What sins have you “paid” for? What is the price of sin? Of continual sin?

  2. How do we “earn” forgiveness? Or do we earn it?

  3. Why would God forgive our sins? What is sin anyway? Why does it upset God so much? Should it?

  4. Can someone be in bondage to sin? How?

  5. Why is it important to acknowledge sin?

  6. How do you deal with a sinner who has no idea that he or she is sinning?

  7. How can sin make us happy and miserable at the same time?

  8. What witness do you give for being free in God’s love?

  9. How can we show the mercy and love of God to others?

  10. How have you felt the mercy of God?

  11. How have you felt the freedom of forgiveness?

  12. Have you ever had to forgive the sins of someone else? Discuss that experience.

  13. What is your favorite “Sinner’s Prayer?”

  14. What is your favorite Praise Prayer?

 

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 170: Why Be Good?:  A Reflection on Malachi 3: 14-15

You have said, “It is vain to serve God, and what do we profit by keeping his command, and going about in penitential dress in awe of the LORD of hosts? Rather must we call the proud blessed; for indeed evildoers prosper, and even tempt God with impunity.” (Malachi 3: 14-15)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him  hatever he needs because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11: 5-9)

Why be good? What’s the motivation?

Prayer, fasting, charity, what’s the point?

My prayers never get answered anyway. I do everything I’m supposed to. I pay my taxes. I go to church. I don’t cheat anyone. But MY life is a struggle. Then I look all around me and I see people who are not trying to be holy. They don’t go to church. They live illicit lifestyles. The do cheat people. And yet for them, everything always works out great. Well this stinks. Why on earth should I be good?

This is what the Old Testament prophet Malachi is dealing with. People are asking this very question, “You have said, it is vain to serve God, and what do we profit by keeping his commands, and going about in penitential dress in awe of the Lord of hosts? Rather we must call the proud blessed; for indeed the evildoers prosper, and even tempt God with impunity.”

Now be honest, who hasn’t felt this way from time to time?

And Malachi, in his answer, gives us the first answer to that question. Yeah, sure, the evildoer prospers for a time, but they all get their comeuppance someday. Be patient. And we’ve all seen this too. Why did we hear about the corporate executives at Enron defrauding millions? Why did we hear about Bernie Madolf and his skimming scheme? Why are we now hearing about ACORN, and all the stuff they’re into? Why do we learn all the dirty little secrets of people running for public office? Because they get caught! If they didn’t get caught, we never would have known. Even if it’s things they did decades ago, it always comes back to haunt them later.

Jesus gives us the second answer to that question. Perseverance.

God is always testing our faith, because he always wants to strengthen our faith. If all of our rewards for being good happened in this life, it wouldn’t require faith.

Jesus tells a parable about a man troubling his neighbor at night for bread. Now it sounds like the guy in the house is being selfish. Hey. his neighbor only asked for a loaf of bread, and he’s giving the poor guy a hard time. Come on, you tight wad, some friend you are!

What you have to understand is that getting up after everyone’s gone to sleep was a big project in Jesus’ time. Commonly, people lived in a one room house. If you can picture you and your family living in a tent, it’s an accurate analogy. You had about that much room. You were sleeping on a mat on the floor. To get up to get something for someone means waking everyone in house up, climbing and tripping over people. But if the guy keeps knocking he’s going to wake everybody up anyway, so why not give him what he wants?

What Jesus says next loses something in the translation. In the original Greek it reads, “Ask and ask, and you shall receive. Seek and seek and you shall find. Knock and knock and the door will be opened.” There’s a reiteration of the need of perseverance.

And the third answer to our question comes from Jesus’ entire teaching ministry. We’re not supposed to be getting hung up in earthly rewards. We’re here precisely to renounce earthly rewards for the sake of attaining heavenly ones. Jesus reiterates this over and over.

“A man cannot serve two masters. He will either serve one and neglect the other, or love one and hate the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham says to the rich man in hell, “Remember my child while you were living you had every good thing and Lazarus was in misery. Now he is at rest, and you are in torment.”

All the beatitudes list earthly blessings as curses, and earthly curses as blessings.

Folks, the game we’re playing is for eternal stakes, not earthly ones.

Don’t get hung up on bad people, or dishonest people, getting ahead in earthly riches, because even if they escape justice in this life, they cannot escape it in the next.

It is my prayer today that all Christians keep their eyes fixed on the eternal goal.

And blessed by God, forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: The woman who stayed behind [at the tomb] to seek Christ was the only one who saw Him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the Voie of truth tells us: ‘Whoever perseveres to the enbd will be saved.] (Mt. 10:22)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I believe in You as my God and my Saviour. Make me more faithful to Your Gospel and commandments. By sharing in the Eucharist, may I come to live more fully in the life You have given me. Keep Your Love alive within my heart and soul so that I may become worthy of You. Teach me to value and be thankful for all of Your Gifts. Help us to strive for eternal life. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

1.    Do you ever question the value of living a moral life? If so, what caused this questioning? How do you deal with the questions?
2.    What place does perseverance have in spiritual development?
3.    How should we respond if it seems that we are spinning our wheels on the spiritual path?
4.    If God is good, why do we have to ask Him for things? Why doesn’t He just give them to us?
5.    What master are you serving? Are you serving only one master? What happens if you are serving two masters? Can you relate this to having two jobs or, as a child from a broken home, having two sets of parents?
6.    What reward should we expect for trying to follow God?
7.    Why does following the Lord often seem unrewarding? How can we combat this feeling?
8.    How do friends help or hinder us on the spiritual path? What role are your friends playing?        

 ----Madeline Pecora Nugent

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