Weeks 171-180

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 171: To the Father through Jesus (A Reflection on John 14: 1-6)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14: 1-6)

My mom likes watching comedies, and I once caught the last few minutes of an episode of “King of Queens.” And the husband and wife were talking about sending their child to Catholic school. And the man was in effect, saying to his wife; “You know, I don’t put too much stock in religion, but I always believed in something. I have a lot of questions I want to ask Father Flannagan.” And his wife replied, “Look, do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes.” “Are you basically a good person?” He said “Yes.” Then she said, “That’s really all that matters. The rest is really just extraneous.” And he thought about it and said, “I guess you’re right. But I still want to talk with Father Flannagan.” And she said, “Well, good for you. So you’re going to Church next Sunday?” And he said, “Heck no. I meant next Easter.”

I wish I could say that this attitude was confined to the realm of comedy. I can’t. I see this attitude as being very dominant in the minds of many Catholics today, at least in this country. “If I believe in God, and I’m basically a good person, I’m OK.” I’m afraid it’s not that simple.

Note what Jesus says in today’s Gospel. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Jesus does not say ‘I am a way, a truth, and a life,’ which would imply that there are other routes to heaven one can take. Jesus is very exclusive in his statement here. And he reinforces it by saying, “No one comes to the Father, but through me.”

Now does this mean that non-Christians can’t go to heaven? No. Vatican II stated that non-Christians could go to heaven if they live lives of righteousness. It is however more difficult for these people to enter heaven because they don’t have the Grace of the sacraments. So when a Buddhist goes to heaven, it’s not because of Buddha. It’s because of Jesus Christ. When a Moslem goes to heaven, it’s not because of Mohammed. It’s because of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only way to the Father. We do have the Grace of the sacraments. That puts a larger responsibility on us. We’ve been baptized. We’ve been confirmed. So there are only two directions we can go. We’re either growing in the Lord, or sliding away from him. With God, we never stay in the same place for too long. The call of Christianity is one of self-challenge.

This is why Paul and Barnabas give up with the Jews and announce they’re going to bring the good news of salvation to the Gentiles. The Jews were making the same mistake so many Catholics are making today. They’re comfortable. They won’t move. They won’t challenge themselves. They were in essence saying, “I believe in God, and I’m basically a good person, so I’m OK.” Hear what Paul says to them, “The word of God has to be declared to you first of all; but since you reject it, and thus convict yourselves as unworthy of everlasting life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”

“…and thus convict yourselves as unworthy of everlasting life…” If we do not challenge ourselves, we will end up convicting ourselves. Don’t let yourself become spiritually lazy. Never say to you self, “I’m good enough.” It is my prayer for all of us today that we all challenge ourselves to become more like him, who is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.

Blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: “If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because He Himself is the way.” - Saint Thomas Aquinas

Prayer by a Saint: “As I arise today, may the strength of God pilot me, the power of God uphold me, the wisdom of God guide me. May the eye of God look before me, the ear of God hear me, the Word of God speak for me. May the hand of God protect me, the way of God lie before me, the shield of God defend me, the host of God save me. May Christ shield me today.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Amen.”  - Saint Patrick

Questions for Reflection:

1. What troubles your heart?
2. Is there anything about which you would like to speak with a priest, but find yourself hesitant? What makes you hesitate?
3. Make a list of all the things required for salvation or entrance into heaven.
4. Refine the list based on what can be found in Scripture.
5. Refine it again based on the teachings of the Church.
6. Refine it a final time based on the sayings of Jesus.
7. How are you challenging yourself to live up to these requirements?
8. What obligations do you have as a baptized and confirmed Christian that others do not?
9. What can you do to better conform yourself to Christ, to the Way, the Truth, the Life?

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 172: Apostolic and Eucharistic Church (A Reflection on Acts 15: 22-31)

The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. This is the letter delivered by them: “The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’ “And so they were sent on their journey. Upon their arrival in Antiochthey called the assembly together and delivered the letter. When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation. (Acts 15: 22-31)

Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” (Jn 15:12-17)

It’s really something to examine the early Church that is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. They were really not so different from the Church of today. Maybe we have a little more pomp and pizzazz, but in essence we’re the same old Church with the same old problems. We’re a Church filled with good people, having good intentions, but messing up much in the same way our father’s did.

Here in our first reading we see our first century ancestors struggling to figure out what are going to be the requirements of this new Church and what is not. Are we going to continue circumcision, or no? Are we going to keep the Jewish dietary laws or not? And each time a conflict comes up, the people consult the apostles. They turn to the Church authority, and the apostles turn to Peter. Any close examination of scripture will reveal that the apostles always deferred their personal opinions to Peter.

Then what happens? The apostles make a decision, some embrace it; others rebel against it. Nothing new. Same thing still happens today. But every time a conflict came up, the apostles judged in the spirit of God, using the law of love to measure by. The law of love dictates that we always do what’s best for the other person. So we don’t have to put Gentile converts under the burden of circumcision, or the

Jewish dietary law, because those are cultural things. And the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about imposing a culture on anyone, unless of course it is the culture of life, over the culture of death. And that is why the apostles don’t allow things like illicit sex, because love is not about tolerating that which will ultimately hurt people. Love sometimes means saying no, but with an open hand, an invitation, not a fist.

My days, especially now that I’m a pastor, are often caught up with doing things: paperwork, business meetings, talking with committees, lawyers, and the diocese. Sometimes that stuff will consume the entire day. And I notice when that happens, at the end of the day, I’m worn, I’m frazzled; sometimes I’m discouraged. Other days are sometimes just as busy or even busier with the school, ministry, visiting the sick, funerals, anointings, sometimes some really depressing stuff, and yet, at the end of those days I’m not worn out or frazzled because that’s what I was ordained to do.

On those days I’m fulfilling my function as a priest, trying to get people to take their focus off this world and put it on the next. Because it’s when we reach out with faith, in love, especially to those that are hurting and need help, that our reason for God putting us here is realized. We are here to be Christ for one another.

The Eucharist is our spiritual food, and receiving the Eucharist is a fundamental part of the spiritual life, but if we don’t take this food so we can help feed others by words of faith, spoken in love, what good is it? Eucharistic adoration is essential for spiritual growth, but if we adore Jesus in the sacrament, and ignore him in the eyes of the physically, spiritually, and emotional needy all around us, what good is it?

God is love, and the reason why he gave us his body is so that we can love more. We take God’s body into our bodies, so our hearts can attain by Grace, a love that is absolutely impossible for them to attain on their own. There are many in the Church today, just like in the ancient world, who try to twist Church teaching to a liberal or conservative agenda. Yet all of Church teaching can be summed up in Jesus’ simple statement, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

“Lord Jesus, we praise you for your great love. Forgive us the times we have neglected you in the eyes of others, and give us the Grace to honor your commandments and to love one another as you have loved us.” AMEN.

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote From a Saint: “Nothing seems tiresome or painful when you are working for a Master who pays well; who rewards even a cup of cold water given for love of Him.” - Saint Dominic Savio

Prayer By a Saint: “O Sacrament of Love! O sign of Unity! O bond of Charity! He who would have Life finds here indeed a Life to live in and a Life to live by.”- Saint Augustine

Questions for Reflection:

1. Do you fully embrace the apostolic authority or do you rebel against some of it?

2. What frazzles you, wears you out or discourages you?

3. What uplifts you?

4. Give an example of when you have been Christ for another.

5. Talk about the nourishment you experience after receiving the Eucharist.

6. How are you feeding others through this specific nourishment?

7. What good has been accomplished through you because of this Eucharistic nourishment?

8. How does this sacrament of love, sign of unity and bond of charity express itself through you? To whom or what does it unite you? Who receives that love and charity?

9. What do you think Augustine meant to convey when he said, “He who would have Life finds here indeed a Life to live in and a Life to live by.”

By Susan Boudreau

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 173: Prayer for Protection: A Reflection on John 17: 11-19

“Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
(Jn 17: 11B-19)

In the gospel, Jesus prays for his apostles, and what he prays for is their protection.

Why? Jesus is saying this at the last supper right after he’s ordained them priests! He knew what was going to happen to him the next day, and he also knew his apostles would flee. So they’re not in any physical danger.
    
Like a shepherd gathers his scattered flock, Jesus also knew that after he rose he would gather his apostles together again and explain all this to them before ascending into heaven. And Jesus knew he’d be sending the Holy Spirit after he left to continue to guide them. So why does he feel the need to pray for their protection? Because the more Grace God gives us, the more the devil increases the intensity of his attacks.

The worst way to deal with the demonic is to underestimate him or overestimate him. Recently satanists were going to hold a Black Mass at Brown University. Thank God there was a public outcry so loud that it put a stop to that. That gave me hope for the State of Rhode Island. But to even think that such a thing would be considered is frightening.
    
In Oklahoma City, they’re going to erect a statue of satan in front of the courthouse, because some group petitioned the ACLU to sue the city because the Ten Commandments were engraved on the walls inside the courthouse. I saw this statue on the Internet and I was appalled! Satan is sitting on a throne with the goat head and the inverted pentagram, but standing on either side of him are two children looking lovingly up at him. I was sickened, and I thought, how could the people of Oklahoma be OK with this?

If Jesus being God thought it necessary to pray to the Father for the protection of his apostles, how much more necessary is it then for us to pray for protection? We need to pray for the protection of our priests, our Church, our State, our Country, our world; and pray fervently and passionately. Whenever someone compliments me on my homily after Mass I always try to remember to respond, “Say a little prayer for me today and we’ll call it even.” I’m not kidding when I make that request!
    
Sometimes someone will answer me, “Oh, Father, you don’t need my prayers!” YES I DO!!! I absolutely do! You don’t think the devil tries to tempt me in any number of ways every single day?! I would say the biggest temptation I have to face all the time is discouragement. You know, when you’re a priest and you see fewer and fewer people coming to Church, and more and more people disregarding faith, and disregarding God, it’s very discouraging. Because you know that’s just giving the devil more power over creation to wreak havoc, and yet, despite how many times you warn people of this, it just doesn’t seem to change anything. Yes, I need prayers!
    
You know, years ago, they used to conclude Mass by saying the Saint Michael prayer for the protection of the Church and the world. I think it was foolish to stop that, and I’m thinking of re-introducing here.

But, my brothers and sisters, it is not only important that we pray everyday, but we also need to pray for protection everyday.

Pray for the protection of yourselves, pray for the protection of the Church, and pray for the protection of the nation.

Blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: ”When tempted, invoke your Angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him: He trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel.” - Saint John Bosco

“Trials are nothing else but the forge that purifies the soul of all its imperfections.”
- Saint Mary Magdalen de'Pazzi

Prayer by a Saint: “For The Faithful: May the Strength of God guide us. May the Power of God preserve us. May the Wisdom of God instruct us. May the Hand of God protect us. May the Way of God direct us. May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us! May Christ be before us! May Christ be in us, Christ be over all! May Thy Grace, Lord, Always be ours, This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.” -  Saint Patrick

Questions for Reflection:
1. “Keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one” Are we “one” within the Church?  Give examples for your answer.  

2. “The more Grace God gives us, the more the devil increases the intensity of his attacks.”  Describe the graces you have been given by God.

3. Describe the attacks corresponding to that grace.

4. What would be your reaction to having a satanic statue on your courthouse lawn?  

5. What would be your action?  

6. Where do you see the influences of the evil one in your life?  

7. Describe the depths of your commitment to protect your priests, your Church.  What are you willing to risk for their protection and yours?

8. Eph 6: 13-17 “Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  How well dressed are you?  

By Susan Boudreau
 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 174: The Cost (A Reflection on John 16: 20-22) 

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”  (Jn 16:20-22)

 

 “No pain, no gain.” We of the weight loss, or bodybuilding crowd know this familiar slogan all too well. And this slogan carries with it a very simple meaning. There is no such thing as a free ride. If you want the slender waist, the tight body, the firm muscle tone, it’s going to cost you. And what it’s going to cost you is PAIN! 

 

It means if you want the perfect body you have to exercise until it hurts. It means if you want the perfect body you have to deny yourself the joys of eating all the foods you enjoy, and most likely eating food you hate. And from looking at me, it is plain to see, that I have never truly embraced the “No pain, no gain” philosophy at least when it comes to my physical appearance.  

 

Rather I have embraced the “moderate discomfort, mild results” mentality. I watch what I eat, sort of, but still allow the occasional chocolate chip cookie. On my day off I’ll take a six-mile walk, but I just walk. I don’t jog. I don’t weight lift, and I definitely don’t do any kind of aerobics. And so I’ve gone from obesity class three, to obesity class two, to obesity class one, with my ultimate goal of just getting into the plain old overweight category and being happy with that. I have already resigned myself to the fact that cremation is really my last chance to have a hot smoking body, and that’s OK, because after all, whom do I have to look good for anyway?   

 

But you know, the no pain, no gain thing is also very true in spirituality because anything worth having is worth working hard for. Anything worth having is worth sacrificing for, and even suffering for. That is what Jesus is saying in our gospel when he says, “I tell you truly, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices; you will grieve for a time but your grief will be turned into joy.”  

 

Look at the life of Saint Paul and you will see a man who suffered for the gospel. What Jesus said was very true. While we weep the world rejoices. While we fight for righteousness the world indulges in self-gratification. If this world were the only reality we had to look forward to, who’d want to be Christian? But we have something better to look forward to. Just as the dieting, the exercise, the weight lifting and the aerobics result in a perfect body you can show off at the beach, our spiritual dieting and work out, our fasting and our crosses, result in us living in a glorified body in heaven.   

 

Years ago I saw an animated movie, “Over the Hedge.” I highly recommend it. It’s very funny and entertaining, and great for children. But there were also a lot of good little moral lessons within the movie. The story revolves around several woodland animals that wake up after hibernation, to find that a large housing complex has been built in their forest. So they’re now far more limited in finding food to store for the winter. Along comes a shrewd, raccoon that explains that this is the best thing that could have happened to them, because “while we eat to live, these humans live to eat.” And this raccoon gives them a tour of the town.  

 

He points out a supermarket. “This is where they store the food.” He points out a pizza delivery boy. “This is the guy who brings the food.” He points at a window where a family is saying grace at the table. “This is the altar where they worship the food.” Then he points out the garbage cans on the front walk. “And this is the food they leave for us.” He convinces them that in a week they can store more food than would previously take them months to do. But because they choose the quick, easy, route instead of doing what they were created to do, it almost causes their destruction. No pain, no gain.  The easy road is always the destructive one.   

 

Brothers and sisters, like Saint Paul, it is not always easy living how we were created to live, but the sufferings we endure now, lead to rewards that are everlasting. 

 

Blessed be God forever. 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco 

 

Quote from a Saint: “Teach us to give and not count the cost.” - Saint Ignatius de Loyola 

 

“Blessed be He, Who came into the world for no other purpose than to suffer. Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end ... and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.” - Saint Teresa of Avila 

 

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. Is there anything over which you presently weep and mourn? 

 

2. Where in your life have you taken the easy road?

 

 3. Where have you taken the moderate road for mild results? 

 

 4. Give an example of when you have taken the hard and narrow road.

 

 5. Where did each of these roads lead you?  

 

 6. What is over the hedge tempting you? 

 

 7. What have you suffered for the sake of the Gospel?

 

 8. What have you suffered for the sake of love of another?  

 

9. If the Lord were to call you to Heaven today, what might you be lacking for sainthood?

 

 10. What can you do about that now and what will it cost?

 

By Susan Boudreau 

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 175: Becoming Good Beggars: A Reflection on Romans 3: 27-28

 

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18: 1-6)

 

“What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. By what law, the law of works? Not at all! By the law of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from observance of the law.” (Romans 2: 27-28)

 

We cannot do anything to be saved. That’s a scary thought.

 

We can pray. We can give to the poor. We can fast and make sacrifices. We can even come to daily Mass. But when the rubber hits the road, nothing we do earns salvation.

 

Salvation is a free gift from God. It is God’s to give, and God’s to withhold. What we do, and what we don’t do may dictate how well disposed we are toward God’s grace. For example, as Jesus said, “The mercy which you show to others will be shown unto you.” Showing mercy is an action. Showing mercy dictates a behavior.   But that is not earning salvation. That is allowing ourselves to be disposed to God’s Grace by allowing his Divine Grace to work through us.

 

Earning salvation implies that God owes us something. And God doesn’t owe us anything. And you all might be thinking that this would go without saying, but I encounter many people these days, especially among my generation, who seem to have this notion that God owes them something. This doesn’t surprise me. My generation and the generation following seem to think everybody owes them something.

 

So do we approach the altar to demand a right or to beg a favor? And if we are approaching the sacrament to beg a favor, why don’t we act like beggars? In essence that’s all we can do for salvation; beg. That’s what the sacraments do, they beg God for salvation by disposing us to Grace.

 

Near the back of the sacramentary are the old prayers the priests used to say to prepare for Mass. I love them! I use them! All of them stress the unworthiness of the priest to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. I think everyone would do far less sinning, if we all reminded ourselves of our unworthiness to receive what we have been freely given by God.

 

The best pray’ers I have ever met are beggars. They are people who beg the Lord to help them. That’s why we kneel during consecration; we come before the Lord as beggars. This is why I am convinced that God hears the prayers of children before any of us, for two reasons; first, little children are without serious sin, but also because children know how to beg! “Please, please, please, please…”

 

Am I right? Anyone with children knows this. Why are children good beggars? Because they know they can’t get anything they want alone. Someone has to drive them, someone has to go with them, someone has to pay for it, someone has to help them. They’re helpless, and they know it. So they instinctively become good beggars. I think this is why Jesus said, “Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Because children are innocent, and children know how to beg. It is my prayer for all of us today, that we all become good beggars.

 

And blessed be God forever.

 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them. -Saint Therese of Lisieux

 

Our Lord needs from us neither great deeds nor profound thoughts. Neither intelligence nor talents. He cherishes simplicity. -Saint Therese of Lisieux

 

Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence. -Saint Francis de Sales

 

I am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything, even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God. - Saint Dominic Savio

 

Prayer:

 

Christ Jesus,

You conqured the pride of the evil one

by the humility of your incarnation:

grant also to us

to shatter the chains of pride and arrogance

by the humility of our heart,

so that we may be worthy of the gift of your glory.

With your help

Who are blessed from age to age. Amen. (St. Anthony of Padua)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Are you a “control freak”? How does it make you feel to know that you can’t control your future?

  2. Discuss this statement by Fr. Sisco: “We cannot do anything to be saved.” 

  3. Discuss the quotes from the saints. How do they apply to being a beggar before God?

  4. How can you become more childlike in your faith and trust in God?

  5. Make a list of the qualities of childhood. Which ones might appeal most to the Lord and why?

  6. How might the Lord use the less desirable qualities of childhood, if they are present in adults, to lead adults to him? Consider these: self centeredness, selfishness, high frustration level.

  7. Do you beg God for salvation? Do you find this attitude of prayer helpful or appealing? Why or why not?

  8. How do you deal with non-Catholics who believe that Catholics think that you can work or pray your way into heaven? Do Catholics believe that works bring salvation rather than faith in Christ?

  9.  How do works and faith assist each other? Discuss the Letter of James in which he discusses works and faith. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:14-26)

  10. How can you become a better begger before God?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 176: Read It and Heed It: A Reflection on 2 Kings 22:8-13, 23: 1-3

The high priest Hilkiah informed the scribe Shaphan, “I have found the book of the law in the temple of the LORD.” Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it.

Then the scribe Shaphan went to the king and reported, “Your servants have smelted down the metals available in the temple and have consigned them to the master workmen in the temple of the LORD.” The scribe Shaphan also informed the king that the priest Hilkiah had given him a book, and then read it aloud to the king. When the king heard the contents of the book of the law, he tore his garments and issued this command to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah, the scribe Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah: “Go, consult the LORD for me, for the people, for all Judah, about the stipulations of this book that has been found, for the anger of the LORD has been set furiously ablaze against us, because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book, nor fulfill our written obligations.” The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned together before him. The king went up to the temple of the LORD with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: priests, prophets, and all the people, small and great. He had the entire contents of the book of the covenant that had been found in the temple of the LORD, read out to them. Standing by the column, the king made a covenant before the LORD that they would follow him and observe his ordinances, statutes and decrees with their whole hearts and souls, thus reviving the terms of the covenant, which were written in this book. And all the people stood as participants in the covenant.

(2Kgs 22:8-13; 23:1-3)

What’s happening in this reading? Israel has strayed from the covenant. They began worshipping the gods of the Canaanites: Baal of Peor, a fertility god, whom the people worshipped through sexual debauchery. They worshipped Mammon, a gold statue, a god of money. You could cheat your neighbors and neglect your duty to charity and claim it was part of your worship to Mammon. Moloch was by far the darkest of the Canaanite gods. He was a god of power. To earn Moloch’s favor you had to perform human sacrifice, and not just sacrificing anyone--Moloch desired children and babies to be sacrificed to him. Moloch was really the last straw for the Lord.
    
In fact, there’s an obscure little detail in scripture that says the temple of Moloch was built on the hill just opposite Jerusalem. That’s significant for two reasons; first, because Moloch is about as opposite from the Lord as you can get, and two, because the hill opposite Jerusalem, where they built this temple, is also the place Jesus is going to be crucified. The blood of the Son of God is going to run down where this abomination to God once stood, so that Christ’s blood would wash away the sins of the past and give God’s people true power, the power to overcome sin.
    
Prior to the time of Hilkiah, the people strayed so completely that unscrupulous men actually destroyed every copy of the Law of Moses they could find, so people couldn’t follow the Law, and if they found anyone with a copy of the Law of Moses, they killed him or her. Because of this, the Lord caused all sorts of calamities to befall Israel, growing in severity over time, sort of what he did to Pharaoh in Egypt while trying to convince him to release the Jews from slavery.

Now we come to this scene that we have today. King Josiah has come to power in Judah. I love Josiah, because he’s trying to get Israel back on track. Then, the High Priest finds a copy of the Law of Moses hidden under the floor stones in the temple. He takes it to a scribe who takes it to the king and reads it to him. And Josiah tears his garments because it’s been a generation since anyone’s heard the Law, so everyone forgot about it. After he hears it, the King proclaims by royal decree that everyone living in Judah is bound to obey what is written in the Law.

Unfortunately, it will be too little too late. The sins of the people were so atrocious to the Lord that he can’t NOT punish them. But the Lord does promise that he won’t punish Israel until after Josiah’s death.
    
There are so many good points that come out of this reading. God’s Word is precious. We have such a gift in Holy Scripture, my brothers and sisters. God has told us exactly what he expects from us. There is no mystery here. We do not have a faith that expects us to figure out the meaning of life for ourselves. Like King Josiah, all we have to do is read it, and heed it!
    
We also have the gift of the Magisterium whose job it is to interpret it for us. And if you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you see the endless Scripture references in the footnotes. All of our teachings are Bible based. I fear our nation is getting like the ancient Israelites though; we don’t read Scripture because we don’t want to know what God wants. We’d rather do what we want, and we criticize anyone who IS trying to live as God called us.
    
I saw a great quote on Facebook, “The Gospel is meant to change the sinner. Not for the sinner to change the Gospel to suit their sin.” Pray with me today, brothers and sisters, that more people not only read and listen to the Scriptures, but that they allow the Scriptures to change them.

Blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ” -- Saint Jerome

Prayer by a Saint: “Come, Holy Spirit, Divine Creator, true source of light and fountain of wisdom! Pour forth your brilliance upon my dense intellect, dissipate the darkness which covers me, that of sin and of ignorance. Grant me a penetrating mind to understand, a retentive memory, method and ease in learning, the lucidity to comprehend, and abundant grace in expressing myself. Guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to successful completion. This I ask through Jesus Christ, true God and true man, living and reigning with You and the Father, forever and ever. Amen.” – Saint Thomas Aquinas

Questions for Reflection:
1. Aside from the scripture, what is the last book you read that made a significant impression on you?

2. What change did it make in your life?

3. What is your favorite part of Scripture?

4. Describe an occasion when Scripture initiated a significant change in your life.

5. Has that change been sustained?  If so, by what means?

6. How do you come to understand what you read in Scripture?  

7. How do you retain what you read in Scripture?  

8. Give an example of when you have received “abundant grace in expressing myself”.

9. Who in your life most needs a share of the abundant grace given to you?

---By Susan Boudreau
 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 177: The Effects of Sin: A Reflection on 2 Kings 24: 8-17

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the LORD, just as his forebears had done. At that time the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, and the city came under siege. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, himself arrived at the city while his servants were besieging it. Then Jehoiachin, king of Judah, together with his mother, his ministers, officers, and functionaries, surrendered to the king of Babylon, who, in the eighth year of his reign, took him captive. And he carried off all the treasures of the temple of the LORD and those of the palace, and broke up all the gold utensils that Solomon, king of Israel, had provided in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had foretold. He deported all Jerusalem: all the officers and men of the army, ten thousand in number, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None were left among the people of the land except the poor. He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon, and also led captive from Jerusalem to Babylon the king’s mother and wives, his functionaries, and the chief men of the land. The king of Babylon also led captive to Babylon all seven thousand men of the army, and a thousand craftsmen and smiths, all of them trained soldiers. In place of Jehoiachin, the king of Babylon appointed his uncle Mattaniah king, and changed his name to Zedekiah. (2Kgs 24:8-17)

King Jehoiakim has died and his son Jechoiachin at 18 years old assumes the throne.   Jechoiachin is the third king to follow Josiah and basically, almost immediately Jechoiachin undid all the reforms his forefather made and plunges Judah back into sin. And the Lord carries out his punishment, his final punishment on Israel. The country is invaded and conquered by the Babylonian empire, the temple is sacked, all the gold, silver, and bronze items carried away, and then the temple is burned to the ground. And finally all the people are sent into exile and scattered throughout the Babylonian empire.

So what is the result of Israel’s sin? They lose their wealth. They lose the temple, the one place on earth they could have contact with God. They lose their freedom. They even lose their identity. They lose their community and are scattered to live among foreigners. And as always, God is trying to teach us spiritual lessons through physical realities. What are the effects of sin?

When we sin, we lose our greatest treasure of all, eternal life. Trust me when I say, brothers and sisters, there is nothing on this earth worth going to hell for. When we sin, we lose OUR contact with God. God is always trying to give us Grace; whenever we sin we put up a wall between us and that Grace. Grace is precisely the ability to hear God, obey God, and become what God wants us to be. That’s why we need to go to confession often. Keep that wall knocked down so God’s Grace can do its thing.

When we sin we lose our freedom. Sin is addictive. And once we become addicted to a sin, our freedom is compromised. In extreme cases the sin begins to control us. Talk to anyone who’s addicted to alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling. People become slaves to their sin.

When that happens we lose our identity. We no longer define ourselves. Instead the sin defines us. Many times when talking with people struggling with addiction, they say things like, “Father, when I give into this sin it’s like I become a different person. I’m mean. I hate myself. I hate everyone around me.” And then finally we alienate ourselves from those we love. The last result of sin is that we feel alone. No one understands me.

What Israel experienced on a national scale is what we experience as we progressively give ourselves over to sin. That’s why we have the confessional. The confessional breaks the power sin has over us. If we’re addicted to sin we may have to go to confession frequently over a long period of time to overcome it, but that’s OK. People say to me, “Father I’m embarrassed to say this! I just confessed this last week!” Don’t be embarrassed to come to confession!

Are there medications you have to take everyday for an ongoing condition? Heck, I have to take pills for diabetes, triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, everyday! I’m not embarrassed by that! So why should you be embarrassed to take spiritual medicine every week, or even every day?

Your soul is your most valuable possession. Treat it that way.

Blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: “Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession.” -- Saint Isidore of Seville

Prayer by a Saint: “Lord, from You flows true and continual kindness. You had cast us off and justly so, but in Your mercy You forgave us. You were at odds with us, and You reconciled us. You had set a curse on us, and You blessed us. You had banished us from the garden, and You called us back again. You took away the fig leaves that had been an unsuitable garment, and You clothed us in a cloak of great value. You flung wide the prison gates, and You gave the condemned a pardon. You sprinkled clean water on us, and You washed away the dirt.” – Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Questions for Reflection:

1. Can you think of additional effects of collective sin?

2. Without naming the sin, describe the personal effects of personal sin.  

3. What effect has your personal sin had on others?  

4. What effect has grace had in your personal life?  

5. How has the grace you have been given affected others?  

6. What is risked by the avoidance of a full confession when in the state of mortal sin?

7. What are the risks of avoiding confession when in a state of venial sin?  

8. Name the things that might tempt you away from frequent confession.

9. What do you personally need to make a good and complete confession?  

10. How can you get what you need and meet those needs routinely?

11.  Describe your confidence in confession.  

--By Susan Boudreau
 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 178: We Have No King But Caesar: A Reflection on Hosea 10 

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; the more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up. Their heart is false, now they pay for their guilt; God shall break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars. If they would say, “We have no king”— Since they do not fear the LORD, what can the king do for them? The king of Samaria shall disappear, like foam upon the waters. The high places of Aven shall be destroyed, the sin of Israel; thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars. Then they shall cry out to the mountains, “Cover us!” and to the hills, “Fall upon us!” “Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety; break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain down justice upon you.” (Hos 10:1-3, 7-8, 12) 

“If they would say, ‘we have no king’—Since they do not fear the Lord, what can the king do for them? …Then they shall say to the mountains ‘cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘fall upon us!’ So says the prophet Hosea. But what is Hosea saying to the Israelites in all this? 

Our relationship to God and the eternal must be the first priority of our lives. Everything feeds from that. Unless the spiritual house is in order first, we can’t accomplish anything else worthwhile.  

Why is Hosea criticizing the Israelites?  He does so because they have forsaken worship of the Lord for the sake of politics. They have abandoned the one true King, God, for an earthly king. And Hosea says, since they do not fear the Lord, what can the king do for them? The king derives his power only because he’s an image of the all-powerful King in heaven. If the king becomes arrogant, and starts to believe he generates his own greatness, the Lord will humble him. So it’s fool hearty to follow an earthly king who’s opposing the Laws of God. 

And then a little further down, after Hosea is done describing the punishment the Lord will dole out on the Samaritans in the North for their lack of faith, Hosea says, ‘then they shall say to the mountains ‘cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘fall upon us!’ Does this sound familiar? It should! These are the same words Jesus speaks to the weeping women on his road to Calvary. Jesus is quoting the prophet Hosea. Why? 

Everyone sensed in his or her heart that Jesus came from God. Nicodemus, the Pharisee, comes to Jesus at night and says, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do the works you do unless God is with him.” Maybe they didn’t embrace the idea that he was the Messiah, but they knew he was at least a prophet. The crowd had a sense of who Jesus was.  
When Jesus asks the apostles, "Who do the people say that I am?", they respond, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, some Jeremiah, still some say one of the prophets of old.” So the crowd sensed that Jesus was sent by God. Even Pontius Pilate had a sense that Jesus had a divine nature by his questioning of him, and the dream his wife has. 

And yet when it comes time to choose, when it comes time to pick a side, what do the chief priests and elders say when Pilate asks, "Do you want me to crucify your king?" “We have no king but Caesar,” the people cry. When Jesus says to Pilate, “I am the voice of truth, and those who are on the side of truth hear my voice,” how does he respond? He says, “Truth? What is that?” 

That’s why Jesus is quoting this line of Hosea to the weeping women, saying, ‘Don’t weep for me, weep for yourselves!’ because the same situation has taken place. They had the chance to accept God as their king, but chose a human king instead. 

Ironically, all the people who had key roles in Jesus’ execution came to bad ends. We all know what happened to Judas Iscariot. Herod died painfully of a venereal disease. Pontius Pilate was executed by Rome for failing to keep Israel under control. And as for Jerusalem itself, in 70 AD it was invaded by the Roman army, surrounded, set ablaze, and completely destroyed, killing several hundred thousand people inside. It was one of the empire’s most gruesome acts. That was the fulfillment of this prophecy when the people of Jerusalem called on the hills to cover them, and the mountains to fall on them, because they were in torment, being burned alive in the walls of their city. 

“Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety,” Hosea goes on to say. It’s a good lesson for us Americans who want to build a just society, and a warning that we can have no such society without piety. Our relationship with the Lord must be the top priority, for ourselves and for the nation, and all other good things will flow from that. 

Blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco 

Quote from a Saint: “In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?” – Saint Augustine 

Prayer: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

Questions for Reflection: 

1. Explain your understanding of kingship.   

2. What qualities do you expect to see in a king or other civil ruler? 

3. What power or authority does a king/ruler have? 

4. From where is that power or authority derived? 
 
5. Jesus was recognized as one who spoke with authority, but He had no earthly power.  What is the difference?   

6. How are piety and justice related?
 
7. Give an example of an injustice and explain how piety could have made a difference in that situation.   

8. In what areas of your life do you fail to trust completely in the sovereignty of God?
 
9. What message do Hosea’s words have specifically for you? 

By Susan Boudreau
 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 179: I Stooped to Feed My Child: A Reflection on Hosea 8 and Matthew 10: 7-15

Thus says the LORD: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer. My heart is overwhelmed; my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you. (Hos 11:1-4, 8E-9)

Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts, no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words -- go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Mt 10: 7-15)

I love these readings, especially our reading from the prophet Hosea. “When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks.”
    
I love this reading because it really puts forth the paternal side of God. So when Jesus refers to God as “Abba,” the familiar form of Father (‘daddy’ for lack of a better word), and when he teaches us to do the same, when he teaches his disciples how to pray, even though this was revolutionary thinking, even scandalous to some to refer to God in such familiar terms, there is a Biblical precedent for this already in place in Hosea.
    
So what’s the problem? Why does Israel always manage to get itself into such trouble with God? Hosea’s next words; “Yet though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.” The problem was they didn’t know the Lord, because they didn’t desire to know the Lord, because the Lord kept demanding a faith response from them, and they insisted on doing things their own way.

Look at this gospel. What power does Jesus give his disciples? He gives them the power to proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand, the power to cure the sick, raise the dead, heal lepers, and expel demons. That’s pretty powerful stuff. Now some people in my past have claimed their health improved after I prayed for them, or over them, but I can assure you, I’ve never raised the dead! Why not Sisco?
    
What are the conditions Jesus puts on them in return for this authority? Don’t take any money. Don’t take any luggage. Don’t take a change of clothes. Don’t even take a walking stick. In other words, lose ALL the stuff! In other words, don’t provide ANY comforts for yourself. Why? It is because I can’t work through you if you’re relying on your stuff. And you can’t make room for me if your life is too cluttered with stuff.

I look around my room and I see a closet full of clothes: summer clothes, winter clothes, formal clothes, and casual clothes. I look at my walls and see shelves of more books than I can read in a lifetime. I see pictures, statues, stereo, CD’s, TV, movies, desktop computer, laptop computer, ipad, and stuff that’s just collecting dust and I ask myself, “Is all this stuff necessary?”  Maybe, just maybe, that’s why I haven’t raised anyone from the dead yet.

You know that lots of people today talk about downsizing. We don’t get rid of stuff anymore, we downsize. But I think we should all take a look at all our stuff and ask ourselves, “What stuff do I really need, and what stuff can I do away with?” because we don’t want anything to interfere with the Lord working through us.

Blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: “We must have a real living determination to reach holiness. I will be a saint means I will despoil myself of all that is not God; I will strip my heart of all created things; I will live in poverty and detachment; I will renounce my will, my inclinations, my whims and fancies, and make myself a willing slave to the will of God.” - Blessed Mother Teresa

Prayer: “Feed me with the food that is needful for me.” (Proverbs 30:8b)

Questions for Reflection:

1. Describe one way in which God has healed you.

2. Describe one way in which God has stooped to feed you.

3. Aside from God, to whom or for what are you sacrificing?  

4. The laborer deserves his keep. How are you laboring for God?

5. What “keep” do you receive in return for your labor?

6. Is your labor proportionate to your keep?  

7. What is the fruit of your labor?  

8. From what do you still need to detach?  

9. What food is needful for you?

10. How are you feeding yourself?  

11. In what ways are you resistent to being fed by God?  How might you change that?  

By Susan Boudreau
 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 180: Devotion as Imitation: A Reflection on Matthew 12: 1-8

 

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the "Sabbath.” He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”  (Mt 12:1-8)

 

“’It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.’”

 

We must be careful, brothers and sisters, to not stereotype the Old Testament as the gloom and doom writings inspired by a vengeful God because when Jesus says this today, he’s quoting the Old Testament, the prophet Hosea.

           

In fact, if you look up the word mercy in a Bible concordance, (a concordance is sort of a Bible dictionary. You look up a word and the concordance tells you every place in the Bible that word appears.); the references for mercy are endless, and they’re mostly Old Testament references! And if you read the Gospels carefully, you’ll see how extensively Jesus quotes the Old Testament. So don’t disregard the O;d  Testament or treat it as second-rate reading because, from the start, the Lord is trying to instill in us the importance of mercy.

           

When a scribe asks Jesus what the most important commandment is, He quotes the Shema, the heart of the Mosaic Law found in the book of Deuteronomy. “Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord alone. Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” What is that? Devotion.

           

That’s what all of our prayers and sacrifices come down to. Devotion. What is devotion? Imitation. Imitation is at the heart of devotion. Lord, I want to think like you. (Love the Lord with all your mind.) Lord, I want to love like you. (Love the Lord with all your heart.) Lord, I want to be like you. (Love the Lord with all your soul.) Lord, I want to be holy like you. (Love the Lord with all your strength.) And we exercise our devotion in our worship. Prayer, fasting, sacrifices--they are all part of our worship. That’s where we express our devotion.

 

Jesus then pulls it all together and says, “The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the sum of the Law and the prophets.” Why? What does it mean, “loving your neighbor as yourself”? Mercy. Mercy is taking our devotion and exercising it outside of our worship because; (and this is Jesus’ point in our Gospel, and Hosea’s point that Jesus was quoting), if our devotion isn’t displayed in concrete action, if our devotion isn’t shaping us, and changing us, it’s really not devotion at all is it? It isn’t devotion because that’s not true imitation. God is not holy in theory; He’s holy in fact. How do we know this? We know it because His holiness is expressed in action. We have experienced God’s MERCY

           

So if God is holy in fact, we also have to be holy in fact, and not just in theory. That is why our devotion, our exterior signs of faith, has to be drawing us deeper into God, so He can change our hearts.

 

Brothers and sisters, if you have a problem with mercy, --if you have a problem with grudges, --if you have a problem forgiving, --if you have a problem with gossip (Gossip sins against mercy. In gossip we kill another’s reputation, or good name.), -if you have a problem with charity, be that in thoughts, words, or actions; look closely at your devotion, and see in which ways you are failing to imitate God, and surrender that to Him.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “Tell souls not to place within their own hearts obstacles to My mercy, which so greatly wants to act within them. My mercy works in all those hearts which open their doors to it. Both the sinner and the righteous person have need of My mercy. Conversion, as well as perseverance, is a grace of My mercy.” – Saint Faustina’s Diary (1577)

 

Prayer by a Saint: “O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement, lust of power and idle chatter. Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humble-mindedness, patience, and love. O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother; for You are blessed now and ever and forever. Amen.” - Saint Ephrem, the Syrian

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What types of sacrifices are you making? 

 

2. The Lord does not desire sacrifice, but the saints and holy ones encourage it, so what is the purpose and benefit of sacrifice? 

 

3. How do you balance the Old Testament with the New Testament? 

 

4. List things or causes to which you have devoted yourself in your lifetime. 

 

5. In each case, of what is that devotion an external sign? 

 

6. Describe your understanding of the connection between devotion and imitation.

 

7. Where are you falling short in granting mercy?

 

8. What obstacles in your heart prevent you from receiving mercy?

 

9. How can you begin today to better imitate God? 

 

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