Weeks 191-200

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 191: God’s Banquet: A Reflection on Matthew 22: 1-14

 

 

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 

 

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’ (Matthew 22: 1-14)

 

 

Jesus told a parable about a king’s wedding and how the guests ignored his invitation. The king was infuriated. What made the king so upset? The lack of devotion in his wedding guests. Their lack of commitment to fulfill a promise.

 

 

Planning a wedding in the ancient world was more complicated than today, if you can believe that. The host had to know a year in advance how many people were coming to the wedding feast. Why? Because he had to know how much food to prepare! He had to know how many extra crops to plant, and how many cattle to slaughter. The meal alone had to begin to be prepared days in advance. So when you said you were coming to the wedding feast, you were bound to that, like a contract. And when you came, you were expected to present a gift that would cover the cost of what you ate at the banquet, and a little extra to help the bride and groom get started on their life together. So when the king sends word that the feast is ready; cattle and lambs are slaughtered, and the meat is roasting; vegetables have been planted, harvested, washed and cut; olive oil and wine have been pressed and barreled; and guests are backing out, he’s infuriated. And he has every right to be infuriated. These refusals are not only insults, but they also show a complete lack of regard for the commitment the king has demonstrated to his guests.       

 

 

So what does this have to do with us? God set up a marriage feast for Himself and us. He prepared for this from the beginning of time, from the fall of Adam and Eve. Centuries and centuries went into preparation for the coming of the Son of God. Prophets and holy men proclaimed the eventual coming. The entire Jewish nation readied itself for the Promised One. After a very long wait, God sent his only beloved child to be, not only the groom but also the food offering of the banquet. Jesus was a human sacrifice, given by the Father, from the Father, to help us in our lack of faith; so through His blood God, will hear our prayers. So through His blood God will redeem us from our sins. We don’t have to bring any gift but ourselves and our gratitude to the heavenly banquet. We come and God gifts US with His own Body and Blood. Through His blood God proves to us how completely devoted He is to us in the expectation that we will, in turn, listen to Him and be completely devoted to Him!

 

 

If we think of Christ’s human nature, how must He feel when we reject Him, when we refuse to come to the heavenly banquet, when we spurn His invitation? Saint Anthony of Padua wrote:

 

 

Few accept the invitation to the wedding feast. The reasons for the refusal are varied. Some detest the humble poverty of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Others are repelled by the harshness of penance. Still others have no desire for the joys of the heavenly wedding feast. All these people eagerly seek the things of this earth, “going about their way,” preoccupied “with their business,” driven by a desire to acquire riches.

 

 

The words of St. Paul offer sound advice to those refusing the invitation to the wedding feasts: “Keep careful watch over your conduct. Do not act like fools, but like prudent men. Make the most of the present opportunity, for these are evil days”(Ephesians 5:15).

 

 

What’s the big deal about the wedding garment? In Biblical times, people would wear a wedding garment, often beautifully decorated, to a wedding to show their power and prestige. In Jesus’ parable, a king is hosting the wedding for his son’s marriage. In Jesus’ day, guests who were invited to a wedding hosted by a king did not wear their own wedding garments. That would have been a great insult to the king, because the king provided a wedding garment for every single guest. The king made very careful arrangements to see that every guest received the appropriate wedding garment given to them by the king. Those attending a wedding given by a king did not show their own social status, wealth or prestige; rather they showed the kings’ social status, wealth, and prestige. The garment was loaned to them by the king, freely given from his own kindness. To enter the wedding banquet without this garment indicated that you did not respect the king’s gift or station in life and that you were unwilling to receive what he wanted to give. No wonder the person was tossed out of the banquet.

 

 

Brothers and sisters, holiness is not optional. It’s mandatory, because God has sacrificed His Son to get our attention, and to ignore the invitation insults Him. And holiness is attainable by constant self evaluation, and a commitment to convict ourselves to be a better person with each passing day. Holiness is attainable by reminding ourselves of our commitment to God who has demonstrated His commitment to us. And holiness is attainable by attending His banquet, by clothing ourselves with His grace, and by partaking in this sacrifice; the sacrifice of the Son that has made us all sons and daughters of God.

 

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

 

Quote from a Saint: A wedding celebrates the union of two people, a bride and groom. Many times it happens that a wedding is arranged between two contending families to produce peace between them, the man taking for a wife a girl from the rival family. The situation was similar in the case of the human race, when dissension existed between God and man. To resolve this conflict and to establish peace, it was necessary for the Son of God to effect a union between God and man. Many messengers and legates exerted great effort to solve this problem, but could not accomplish anything. Finally, God the Father consented to send his only Son, who united to himself our human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary; it was then that the Father made a wedding feast for his son. – St. Anthony of Padua

 

 

Prayer: We ask you, Lord, allow us to come to the wedding feast of your Incarnation with faith and humility; to celebrate the wedding feast of penance which will make us worthy to attend the wedding feast of heavenly glory. Amen. –St. Anthony of Padua

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

  1. Father Sisco says that holiness is not optional. How does that statement relate to the parable of the wedding feast?

  2. Why is the wedding so important? How does the heavenly wedding feast correspond to an earthly wedding between a man and a woman?

  3. How do you prepare for a wedding if you are the guest? How does this differ from preparing if you are the host?

  4. Have you ever had an invitation refused? Suppose it were refuse for no good reason? How would your relationship change with the person who turned you down?

  5. What might the wedding garment be in spiritual terms? How can we enter the banquet without it?

  6. How might the Jewish people have felt to have heard this parable, stating that those invited did not come so the king went out to the highways and byways to bring in the poor and all he could find? Why did the king select the poor when he could have selected other wealthy people who may not have made the original guest list?

  7. How does understanding about the wedding garment help us to realize that the person was not dismissed due to poverty?

  8. How do you view heaven? How is it like a banquet? How unlike, do you suppose? What are you doing to prepare to attend?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 192: Predestination? A Reflection on Ephesians 1:3-14

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. This passage from our first reading in Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians echoes a line we heard in our gospel last Sunday; many are called, few are chosen. Like yesterday, Paul is reiterating to the Ephesians that they have been chosen. He also uses the word “predestination,” in this passage which confused many people after the Protestants split with Catholicism in the mid 1500’s. “We were predestined to praise his glory by being the first to hope in Christ.” (Ephesians 1: 3-14)

 

John Calvin, whose influence formed the Puritans, the Presbyterians, and all of the fundamentalist Churches, believed that predestination meant that we were chosen for heaven or hell, even before we were born. So you spent your life living this Christian existence wondering if you were one of the elect, one of those who were predestined for heaven. And you looked for clues to this because God would send little hints. If your crops did well and you were successful, God is blessing you because you are predestined for heaven. If your wife gives birth to five sons and they all die at childbirth, you’re obviously a sinner and are going to hell. And while we can look at this and see how ridiculous it is, you’d be surprised at how much this train of thought still affects people’s thinking today.

 

Did Paul mean THIS when he used the word “predestination?” Of course not. If we were destined for heaven or hell before birth it would eliminate free will. And, of course, if you eliminate free will, the cross becomes meaningless.

 

What did Paul mean then?  Paul means what Christ meant when he said, “Many are called.  Few are chosen.”  God wills everyone be saved. God desires the best for us all, so his call goes out to everyone. But what we do with that call is up to us.  We must choose to respond. Our destiny, for those of us who have chosen Christ, has been pre-arranged. The destiny of those who do not follow Christ is unknown.

 

Can it be that easy?  I just call myself Christian and I’m saved? That sounds an awful lot like fundamentalism. And it is.  And it’s false. Being a Christian means responding to the call of Christ.

 

How do we respond to that call?  This is what Paul gets into detail about. “In him you too were chosen when you heard the glad tidings of salvation.” Where do we hear the glad tidings of salvation?  “The word of truth.” So whenever anybody hears the Gospel call, they are being chosen by God. They are being invited to participate in building his kingdom. This can come from the word of truth preached, or the word of truth read in Scripture.  But note, Paul doesn’t stop here.

 

The Pharisees heard Jesus preach, and it didn’t affect them. In fact, many people heard Jesus preach, and went unaffected. Many people read and hear the word of God today and are unaffected. Note the tag Paul puts on the end of the statement, “and believed in it.” The word of truth cannot just be heard or read; it has to be embraced. And believing in the Word, embracing that Word, allows us to be sealed with the Holy Spirit.  How is that done?  Through the sacraments.

 

Now a fundamentalist, a Calvinist, would jump all over this, and say NO! “It doesn’t say anything here about sacraments!  Paul is talking about Scripture!” Oh, yeah?  How is that possible since scripture didn’t exist yet? Paul is writing this letter before any of the Gospels had been recorded. Paul couldn’t be talking about the Scriptures.

 

When Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit in other passages, what is it always in reference to? Baptism, and the laying on of hands, which happens in Confirmation and Holy Orders, coincidently the three sacraments that incur an ontological change. Paul is talking sacraments, and the sacraments come from the Church. The Word leads us to the sacraments.  The sacraments make us partake of the Holy Spirit, who is God.

 

So remember, my brothers and sisters, that, yes, you have been chosen, but you have been chosen to know and embrace God, so that he might touch others through you.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy natoin, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (St. Peter, 1 Peter 2:9)

 

Prayer:  O Holy Ghost, Divine Spirit of Light and Love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to Thy heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the Divine Will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory for ever. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Do you feel chosen by God? Why or why not?

  2. What has God chosen us to do?

  3. What is the Catholic view of predestination?

  4. Why could the doctrine of predestination, as taught by Calvin, be disheartening?

  5. What is the danger of the notion that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people?

  6. Do you know anyone who feels cursed or abandoned by God? What can you do to help that person?

  7. Do you pray for those who do not know God or who feel that God does not care about them?

  8. Ontological means a change in the nature of our being, change in reality. Father Sisco mentions that Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders are the three sacraments that effect an ontological change. What does he mean by that?

  9. How do you view the sacraments as helping you to partake of the Holy Spirit?

  10. What is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? How might that relationship be improved?

  11. What can you say to someone who complains that bad things always happen to them or that they feel cursed?

  12. What is God’s plan for your life? How might you recognize it?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 193: Keeping Your Spiritual House Clean: A Reflection on Luke 11:24-26

 

"When an unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it wanders through arid wastes searching for a resting place, failing to find one it says, 'I will go back where I came from'.  It then returns to find the house swept and tidy.  Next it goes out and returns with seven other spirits far worse than itself, who enter in and dwell there.  The result is the last state of that man is worse than the first."  Luke 11:24-26

 

Ever read a passage like this one and ask yourself, "What the heck is Jesus talking about?"  Doctor Scott Hahn of Franciscan University calls it the "holy huh!"  He says sometimes you read scripture and you just have to go, "Huh?!"  But often when we reflect on those "huh" moments we get some of our greatest spiritual insights.

 

So let's back up here.  What's going on?  Jesus has cast a demon out of someone, and some in the crowd say, "It's by the power of satan that he casts out satan."  Now this is by far the dumbest accusation Jesus has to contend with in his career and he derails their argument effortlessly.  But it demonstrates how hard hearted some people, particularly the Pharisees, had become towards Jesus.  They're grasping at straws in an attempt to discredit him, even as the evidence to Jesus' authenticity keeps mounting before their eyes.

 

So this statement of Jesus is a warning and a reprimand to those who were hard hearted, those who were so closed to the possibility that Jesus might actually be who he was claiming to be.  So that's the warning and the reprimand.

 

When someone is possessed by a demon, they are in essence enslaved.  Their free will is compromised.  Jesus explains what happens when a person is freed from a demon.  The demon leaves, trying to find rest somewhere, but not being able to find any returns to its previous host, the person it had previously possessed.  Now this begs the question, how does a demon, once exorcised, re-enter a person?  Because the person in question didn't change their life.

 

No one knows this better than me.  Ask ANYONE who's ever dieted.  For a while I had great success with the Herbalife diet, drinking protein shakes, but as my pastor Father Zinno had said to me, "Mike, what changes are you going to make in your eating habits and lifestyle?  Because you can't live on powder forever.  Eventually you have to eat real food.  And if you don't change your lifestyle, all that weight you lost and then some will come back."  And he was right.  It did.  That truth Father Zinno pointed out is no different in the spiritual life.

 

When someone, through the Grace of God, is freed from a demonic possession, or even an addiction to a sin, they have to begin a lifestyle change, which includes first avoiding whatever temptations led them to that particular sin in the first place.  For example, if someone is freed from alcoholism, hanging around in a bar on a Friday night is probably not the smartest thing.

 

It also includes adding a regiment of sacramental grace and prayer, like someone who's dieting has to add exercise to sustain their weight loss.  And if someone who's been freed from bondage to sin doesn't do that, it's only a matter of time before they fall back into the bondage they were in, but worse.  OK, that's the warning.  Where's the reprimand?  Who is Jesus saying this to?

 

Jesus is speaking to the people grasping at straws trying to discredit him.  Jesus was in essence saying that they were possessed by demons.  God had freed their ancestors from slavery in Egypt through Moses and through Moses gave them the law.  But because they only paid lip service to the law and didn't allow it to change their lifestyle, the demon of idolatry they were delivered from returned and so it was far worse.  They were incapable of seeing their salvation standing right in front of them.  And that's the danger of idolatry.  That's the danger of sin.  It blinds us to God's presence.

 

My brothers and sisters, don't let anything in your life take priority over God.  Be willing to change your lifestyle to become a living image of him, because that and that alone brings lasting peace.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

  "The field of battle between God and Satan is the human soul.  It is in the soul that the battle rages every moment of life.  The soul must give free access to the Lord so that it may be fortified by Him in every respect and with all kinds of weapons; that His light may enlighten it to combat the darkness of error; that it may be clothed with Jesus Christ.  To be clothed with Jesus Christ it is necessary to die to oneself.  That which comes from Satan begins with calmness and ends in storm, indifference, and apathy.  In the spiritual life he who does not advance goes backward.  It happens as with a boat which always must go ahead.  If it stands still the wind blows it back." -Saint Pio of Pietrelcina 

 

Prayer by a Saint

 

"My Jesus, I place all my sins before you.  In my estimation they do not deserve pardon, but I ask you to close your eyes to my want of merit and open them to your infinite merit.  Since you willed to die for my sins, grant me forgiveness for all of them.  Thus, I may no longer feel the burden of my sins, a burden that oppresses me beyond measure.  Assist me, dear Jesus, for I desire to become good no matter what the cost.  Take away, destroy, and utterly root out whatever you find in me that is contrary to your holy will.  At the same time, dear Jesus, illumine me so that I may walk in your holy light." -St. Gemma Galgani

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. The Bible uses the term "unclean spirit".  What is another name for an unclean spirit and in what ways can this spirit impact our lives? 

  2. In modern culture it has become commonplace to speak of addiction.  After reading this reflection, do you have any thoughts regarding the reality of addiction and from where it may originate?

  3. When we are not attentive to striving toward holiness, we allow room for satan to enter in.  In what area or areas of your life do you feel you have left a window open for satan to enter in?  Where do you feel you may be unprotected?   How might you make changes in your life to address these areas?

  4. God freed our Christian ancestors from slavery in Egypt and gave them a new law to follow.  Many of them ignored or simply paid lip service to this law, which allowed them to slip back into bondage and idolatry again.  Have you experienced a similar phenomenon in your life?

  5. When we receive baptism we are cleansed from the sins of our previous lives and brought into fellowship with God and the Church.  From what sins were you freed from upon your baptism?  Have you allowed any of these sins to creep back into your life?  If so, what area or areas do you most need to work on?  

  6. A regiment of sacramental grace and prayer is necessary to counteract the influence of the devil.  What practices might you incorporate into your life (e.g. attendance at Mass, morning prayer)?

  7. We are called to conform ourselves to the image of God.  What does this mean to you and how might you implement this directive?  

  8. Father Sisco states that only by conforming ourselves to the image of God may we find peace.  Have you experienced this in your life?  Give an example.

  9. How do you see God working in your life?  How might you say yes to him?

 

By:  Kim Lohman 

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 194: The Mystery of God: A Reflection on Exodus 19

 

In the third month after their departure from the land of Egypt,
on its first day, the children of Israel came to the desert of Sinai.
After the journey from Rephidim to the desert of Sinai,
they pitched camp.
While Israel was encamped here in front of the mountain,
the LORD told Moses,
"I am coming to you in a dense cloud,
so that when the people hear me speaking with you,
they may always have faith in you also."
When Moses, then, had reported to the LORD the response of the people,
the LORD added, "Go to the people
and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow.
Make them wash their garments and be ready for the third day;
for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai
before the eyes of all the people."
On the morning of the third day
there were peals of thunder and lightning,
and a heavy cloud over the mountain,
and a very loud trumpet blast,
so that all the people in the camp trembled.
But Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God,
and they stationed themselves at the foot of the mountain.
Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke,
for the LORD came down upon it in fire. 
The smoke rose from it as though from a furnace,
and the whole mountain trembled violently.
The trumpet blast grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking
and God answering him with thunder.
When the LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai,
he summoned Moses to the top of the mountain. (Ex 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20b )
 
Everyone loves a little mystery. Everyone loves a who-done-it. The mystery of the God, however, is often a different story. In this passage from the book of Exodus, the Lord had invited the people of Israel to see his glory in the desert. Why? Because they were a nation of doubters. They were always doubting the Lord; doubting his love, doubting his power to save them, even after he parts the Red Sea for them, so they can escape slavery in Egypt.
 
So the Lord decides to once and for all, convince the people that there is no other god but him, by manifesting his glory in a powerful, dramatic way. And it was indeed powerful and dramatic as the reading indicates.
 
So what are the people going to do next? They’re going to say to Moses, “Uh, that’s Ok Moses. You go up on the mountain and talk to God. We’ll stay here and watch!” They chicken out!
 
The vision of this smoldering mountain is so overwhelming they don’t want to see God. They say right after, “If we see the Lord we shall surely die!” So they stay behind and let Moses go up onto the mountain alone.
 
I think this is probably one of Israel’s bigger mistakes. Because Moses disappears for forty days and nights, while the people see this amazing storm cloud of fire and lightning, thunder peals and trumpet blasts and they think, ‘Moses is toast! He must be! No one could live through that!’ So what do they do? They make a golden calf.
 
Because the people didn’t seek the mystery of the Lord, they never understand the glory of the Lord. And that curse will follow the Israelite people right up through Jesus’ time.
 
In the Gospels, Jesus’ disciples ask him why he speaks in parables, and notice the answer that Jesus gives. “So they will look and look but not see. So they will listen and listen but not hear.”
 
What? Is Jesus playing a cruel joke on them? No. God wants us to always be actively looking for, listening for, and pondering the mystery of God. God wants us to look for him.
 
If you’ve ever had a jealous girlfriend or a jealous boyfriend, you know what I’m talking about, because that’s how God is with us. A jealous girlfriend or boyfriend constantly seeks attention from us. So does God. God always wants us to be looking for him; praying to him, learning about him.
 
This is why we should read Scripture. Catholics on a whole are woefully negligent of reading Scripture. I don’t know why. But we have to get over it. As Catholics we are Bible believing Christians. Now we have to become Bible reading Christians. Do a little Scripture reading everyday, even if it’s only a few minutes. And don’t feel obliged to go in order. Start with the Gospels. Learn to be contemplative. Learn to ponder the mystery of God. Because in contemplating the mystery, we are guided to his truth. 
 
And blessed be God forever!
Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint “The power to bear Mysteries, which the humble man has received, which makes him perfect in every virtue without toil, this is the very power which the blessed apostles received in the form of fire. For its sake the Saviour commanded them not to leave Jerusalem until they should receive power from on high, that is to say, the Paraclete, which, being interpreted, is the Spirit of consolation. And this is the Spirit of divine visions. Concerning this it is said in divine Scripture: ‘Mysteries are revealed to the humble’ [Ecclus 3:19]. The humble are accounted worthy of receiving in themselves this Spirit of revelations Who teaches mysteries.” + St. Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homily 77

 

Prayer: Father, teach me to ponder and meditate upon your Word. Open my eyes by the power of your Spirit to understand it. May I meditate upon your mysteries as humbly as Mary did. Help me to open my heart to you so that you may tranform my life. Amen

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. What does God requires from us: obedience or sacrifice?

  2. What makes us to doubt God’s promises?

  3. What was God’s purpose of inviting Moses to the mountain?

  4. How do you escape from the curse of not seeking and understanding the glory of God as referred to by Father Sisco?

  5. How is the importance of a relationship in your life?

  6. God wants a personal relationship with Him. How do you build that?

  7. What is the danger of just being a Bible believing Christian?

  8. Father Sisco uses the words “Bible believing Christians “ and “Bible reading Christians.” How do those terms resonate in your personal life

  9. What is our attitude toward the Bible?

  10. How do you view the Word of God: mere scripture or a living Word?

  11. In what way can your attitude towards the Bible could impact your relationship with God?

  12. Recognising the value of consistent reflection upon the Word of God, how do you now envision your relationship with God?

 

--Edem Auguste Ahadjitse

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 195: The World Will Hate You: A Reflection on Exodus 1:8-14, 22

[8] Now there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph. [9] And he said to his people, "Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. [10] Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war befall us, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land." [11] Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Ra-amses. [12] But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. [13] So they made the people of Israel serve with rigor, [14] and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field; in all their work they made them serve with rigor.

[22] Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live."
 
(Jesus said to His disciples) [34] "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.[35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; [36] and a man's foes will be those of his own household. [37] He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; [38] and he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. [39] He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)
 
A couple things become clear from these readings.
 
If we choose to follow the Lord we will be different.  We will stand out. We will draw attention to ourselves whether we try to or not. And if we are different, the world around us will hate us and fear us.
 
I wish I could say something different to you. I wish I could offer you a more comforting message, but I can’t. If we accept the Lord, the world will not accept us, because the world is opposed to the Lord.
 
Jesus himself said, “I have come to take you out of the world, and for that the world will hate you.”  That is why Jesus says what he does in this reading. He knew the division that would be caused because of him.
 
The challenge of Christianity is to see and honor the sacred in ourselves, and in one another.  The world is opposed to this. The world challenges us to satisfy our animal passions, and desires. God and the world cannot peacefully coexist, and so we cannot peacefully coexist with the world.
 
And so the world says, “Have all the sex you want with no consequences, because we’ll provide you will pills and abortions.”  And so we now have a society that is enslaved to the flesh. And God’s people say, “No, you can’t do that.  Because that is not respecting the fact that you are sacred.” 
 
The world says, “Make money!  Lot’s of money.  Because money will buy you all the happiness you want.  So work overtime.  Work two jobs.  Work on Sunday.”  (cheat, steal)  And so now we have a society of workaholics that are enslaved to materialism.
 
We live in a society where many of our health problems are stress related. And right now the leading disease in our country is loneliness. In a society over concerned with over population, we have a population that is dying of loneliness.  How sad.
 
And the people of God say, “No! Work exists to serve us. We are not to become slaves of work and materialism. And to make certain we don’t, we give generously to the poor, so we don’t get over attached to material things.”
 
And the world has responded to this message of ours with persecution.
 
In this country the persecution is more subtle, but it exists. Here, the persecution exists as a sort of contempt that is quiet at times, loud at others, but always there.
 
Now a bill is being debated that states something to the effect of if any religious organization publicly protests abortion it will lose its tax exempt status. A similar bill is being debated that will make it a hate crime if any religious leader speaks out against homosexuality. Where’s separation of church and state now?
 
People can splatter pornography all over the internet where kids can access it because that’s protected by free speech.  Where’s our free speech?
 
I want you to take note of one thing in the first reading. The Egyptians began to persecute God’s people out of fear. Fear motivated that persecution then, as fear motivates all persecutions. People are afraid of the truth, and so they attack the truth.
 
We can take comfort that God’s people have been persecuted right from the beginning. It goes back to Cain and Abel.  So what makes us think we’ll fare any better? But we can also take comfort that we can endure no persecution that our savior has not already endured.  And so every injustice we suffer is joined to his. And so we live in this world that despises us, to be witnesses to a world to come. We live with our feet firmly on the ground, but our eyes fixed on heaven. In that will come our comfort, and in that will come our strength.


 And Blessed Be God forever! 
 --Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

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

- Don Bosco

 

Prayer: Oh, Lord God, your son Jesus Christ suffered and died for my sake. He himself experienced shame, pain and agonising death, as well as the glorious resurrection. I thank you for your promise that you will never leave me nor forsake me”(Josh 1:5). I pray for strength and courage for the church, myself and those undergoing persecution, and for peace that only God can bring. I thank you that your grace is sufficient for our needs (2 Cor 12:9). Grant me faith that endures, and may each suffering draw me closer to you and increase my faith .Fill me with the Holy Spirit. May your Spirit be at work in the hearts of those who persecute us. Grant me discernment, and relief from unnecessary fears. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

    1-After reading the words used in the explanation by Father Sisco, how can you define Christianity and what it means to be a Christian?

    2-According to the commentary what does it mean to be a Christian?

   3- If I were to ask you today to name some characteristics of Jesus, what would you name?

    4- If you were describing the personality of Jesus to someone, what adjectives would you use? How do they contrast with Matthew 10:34-39

    5-What is the danger of giving in to the world ideology?

   6- “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad.” In the light of this, how do you see God’s plan for his children in times of persecution?

    7-Do you pray for those who do not know God, persecute others or live contrary to the values of the Gospel?

    8-What motivated the Egyptians to persecute God’s people?

   9- How do you view your Christian life in the light of today’s reflections?

   10- What is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? How might that relationship be improved?

    11-What can you say to someone who complains or feel abandoned in the midst of trials and persecution?

   12- What is God’s call for your Christian life?

 

--Edem Auguste Ahadjitse

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 196:  Let Us Love One Another: A Reflection on 2 John 1:5

 

"But now...I would make this request of you, not if I was writing you some new commandment; rather it is a commandment we have had from the very start,  let us love one another." (2 John 1:5) 

 

I love Saint John's writings, his gospel, his epistles, because John, more than any other New Testament writer, keeps reiterating over and over, love one another, love one another, love one another.   

 

There was a story in the early Church that as John was preaching his gospel to his disciples, his disciples, after years of this same message, were getting impatient.  And they approached John and said, "OK, OK, we get it.  Yes, we have to love one another.  Tell us something else now."  And Saint John looked at them and said, "There is nothing else."  Loving God and one another is the core of the entire Christian message.  

 

When a scribe asks Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus doesn't respond with any of the commandments from the Decalogue, what we call the Ten Commandments.  Instead, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord alone; therefore you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole mind, with your whole strength, with your whole soul."  And then Jesus adds, "And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.  This is the whole of the Law and the prophets as well." 

 

And this is what John is referencing in his next line in this passage when he writes, "This love involves our walking according to the commandments."  These are the commandments that John is talking about, the commandments of love, which go well beyond any commandments in the Decalogue.  The Ten Commandments are concerned with justice.  The Ten Commandments are concerned with giving God and our neighbor their fair due, so God deserves to be acknowledged, worshipped and respected.  

 

These are God's rights.  Our parents deserve to be honored.  Human life deserves to be respected.  The marriage covenant deserves to be respected.  The possession my neighbor works for deserves to be respected.  But I think we can all agree love goes well beyond respect. 

 

This is why we have to look to the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the meek, the peacemakers, those persecuted for the faith."  The Beatitudes are the core of love, because if you reflect on the Beatitudes you realize they force us to put our focus on God or neighbor and do what's best for them, instead of what's in our personal interest.  And isn't that what love is?  Isn't love putting another's needs ahead of our own?  It's hard to love.  Meditate on the Beatitudes and you see how challenging love is.  Case in point--when we go to confession, don't our sins always focus exclusively on the Ten Commandments?  How often have we ever confessed, "I failed to be poor in spirit; I failed to carry my cross with humility; I failed to be a peacemaker among others?"  It's not easy to love, is it?  And yet that is our challenge.

 

I'm going to suggest today that we all pray that God make us better lovers.  I do that every day.  You may have noticed that during consecration I have what you might call "hang time" during the elevation of the host and chalice.  Contrary to what you might think, I'm not trying to be dramatic.  When I elevate the host I'm praying for my own intention.  And when I elevate the chalice, I'm praying for whatever intention the Mass is being offered up for. 

 

But the intention I pray for myself is always the same:  "Lord, make me every bit the priest you are calling me to be, make me every bit the pastor they need me to be, and give me the Grace for everything in between.  May I reflect your peace and mirror your love in everything I do and say today." 

 

Brothers and sisters, pray with me today that we all become better lovers. 

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:  "What is the mark of love for your neighbor?  Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul." - St. Basil the Great 

 

Prayer from a Saint:  "May we love one another as God loves each one of us, more and more each day, and forgive each other's faults as you forgive our sins." - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta 

 

Questions for Reflection 

 

  1. What does Jesus teach us is the greatest commandment, greater even that the Ten Commandments?  

  2. Father teaches that the core of love may be found in which section of the Bible?  

  3. According to Father, what is the definition of love?  

  4. Think back to the last time you went to Confession.  Did you think to confess your failures in loving others?  Or were the sins you confessed related mostly to failures in keeping the Ten  

  5. Commandments?  

  6. Do I try to love others as myself?  Do I think this is possible?  

  7. Do I spend time in prayer for others?  Do I ask God for the grace to love others as I love myself?  

  8. Do I love myself? If not, why not? How can I learn to love myself? 

  9. Do I genuinely care for others?  

  10. How might my world change if I truly love others as I love myself?  

  11. Am I willing to pray daily for God to increase my love of others?  Am I willing to pray daily for priests to increase their love for those they shepherd?    

  12. Am I willing to carve out some time in this next week to meditate on the Beatitudes?  

  13. What steps can I take this week to increase my love for others?  Is there something tangible I can do for someone else this week that will show my love for them in action? 

 

--Kimberly Lohman

 

 

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 197: Saint Barnabas: A Reflection on Acts 11: 22-24

 

The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. – (Acts 11: 22-24)
 

You know I really love Saint Barnabas for much the same reason I love Saint Joseph. They are both saints that stay in the background.
 
Barnabas was a real bull worker of the early Church. Many converts were being made in Antioch so Barnabas was sent to Antioch to oversee things. When Saul, later Saint Paul, had his experience of the risen Christ while on the road to Damascus, Barnabas was entrusted with instructing him in the faith for a year. Barnabas was Paul’s teacher. And yet, when Paul’s popularity starts to take off and he gets the reputation for being a really powerful preacher, Barnabas doesn’t compete with him. Barnabas doesn’t get jealous of him. Barnabas recognizes Paul’s gift and lets him run with it. And all on these missionary journey’s Barnabas, the teacher, takes a back seat to Paul the preacher, and lets him have all the glory and accolades.
 
So what virtues do we see in Barnabas?
 
Dedication. He worked tirelessly for God to build the Church.
 
Wisdom. He obviously had to have great knowledge of the faith as well as a profound spiritual life for the Church to constantly send him here and there to instruct and oversee new Christian communities.
 
Fortitude. Barnabas needed great strength of faith to do what he did. Can you imagine how exhausting it must have been traveling from country to country; city to city, trying the spread the faith with very little means to support yourself? Even missionaries today at least have the support of their communities, their Orders, where they can get some financial backing, and moral support. These first apostles were going out with nothing but what they could carry. That amazes me. And they changed the world.
 
Humility. Barnabas recognizes Paul’s gift of preaching and lets him run, even though Paul is getting the lime light. He doesn’t try to stifle the gift that God has given to another.
 
All of these things make Barnabas a great saint and worthy to be emulated. And like all saints, he also had his faults, but what matters is that he always acted for the good of the Church and the glory of God. And for that we can follow his example.
 
We too can be dedicated like Barnabas. The Church is always looking for volunteers to help with something. Look around.
 
We can all be wise like Barnabas. That comes through study and prayer. Wisdom needs both. We can’t study the faith without a fruitful prayer life because then the faith is all cerebral, and we can’t spend all day on our knees without learning about the God we’re praying to, or else faith is limited to the experiential. It’s all about what “I feel.”
 
We can all have fortitude, strength, like Barnabas. How do we get strong? We go to the gym. We exercise. How do we strengthen our faith? By sharing it. Sharing our faith, evangelizing, exercises the mind because we have to articulate our faith so others can understand, and it exercises the soul because when people raise objections that we can’t answer right away, when they challenge us, we take it to prayer and receive God’s consolation.
 
And finally humility. How do we get that? All virtues flow from humility. And it’s by practicing the other virtues that we get humble, because we realize ultimately, everything we have and are comes from God.
 
Saint Barnabas, pray for us. 
 
And Blessed Be God forever! 
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: Pure love ... knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love - love, and always love. (140)

--Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Faustina

 

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, help me be strong in faith, fill my heart with your presence, and enthuse me with the courage and commitment to be firm in living my personal  call of serving you in truth ,humility, and fulfill your will in my  life.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1-How do we serve God in the various ministry we are in?
2-How do I react when my service or my effort in my community is not recognized ?
3-Barnabas was so humble to recognize Paul’s gift. Am I usually willing to recognize and  be an encouragement to those having gifts that I do not have ?
4-Imagine how much the Christian Church would grow today if more of us would be willing to encourage the faith of others the way Barnabas did! Do I study and get to know my faith better in order to share with others?
5-Father Sisco focuses on the importance of prayer and study of the faith. How does that apply to my personal Christian life?
6-Fortitude: Barnabas did not relent in giving his all to God’s work with very little means of support. What is my attitude towards God’s call in time of need ? Do I go out of my way to encourage people in time of need?
7- How were the apostles able to change the world with even so little means to support themselves?

8-Barnabas was focused on God. How do I emulate his virtues?

9-How do I react when my faith is being challenged?
10-How do I remain committed to God’s work despite the challenges?
11- Barnabas remained firm in the faith though Paul was getting the glory. How do I remain firm in the faith as Barnabas?
12-Just imagine and ponder upon what could be accomplished for the Lord if you believe in people and befriend them – recognizing their gifts, ministries and sharing your faith.

 

-- Edem Auguste Ahadjits

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 198:  There is Power in the Word: A Reflection on Proverbs 30:5

 

"Every word of God is tested.  He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver."  (Proverbs 30:5)

 

 

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6: 7-13)

 

 

The power of the Word.  This is something I think we have a tendency to forget.  We're always reminded of the power of the sacraments, but we forget that there is also power in the Word of God.   There is power in the Word of God to teach, to heal, and to spiritually grow.  This is what the Word does for us personally.

 

But the Word also has power to cure diseases and cast out demons.  In our gospel, Jesus sends the twelve out to do just that, and he sends them armed with what?  The sacraments?  No.  The sacraments don't exist yet.  He sends them out with the Word.  "Go and proclaim the kingdom."

 

If that's the case, why do we have the sacraments if the Word is adequate to do the job?  The apostles didn't need the sacraments yet because they were in the presence of the living sacrament, Christ.  It was Christ, the living sacrament, who gave them the authority to do these things.  Jesus leaves them the sacraments later to use after he's ascended to the Father.

 

But even the distribution of the sacraments is accompanied by the Word of God.  A communion service still has a liturgy of the Word.  Baptism, the anointing of the sick - all the sacraments-- have scripture reading accompanying them.  Because the Word has power, just as the sacraments do.The Gospel is an example of what the Word does for us as a Church.  The Word gives us authority and strength.  

 

So what does this mean for us?  Two things.  First, we must be praying with the Word.  We must be engaging the Word personally, so God can teach us, heal us, and give us spiritual growth.

 

Second, we must be engaging the Word as a Church.  That takes new forms - first and foremost, paying attention to the readings at Mass, and hopefully a priest that preaches on the readings. It can mean attending a Bible study class to increase our knowledge of the Word.  And that also means praying over one another.  That's something many Catholics shy away from.  There is great power in laying on hands and praying over people in the power of the Spirit with the Word of God.  It can be a great source of comfort and relief to many troubled souls.

 

Brothers and sisters, we have been given a precious gift in God's Word.  I pray today that we all use that gift for our benefit, and the benefit of the world.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: "Just as at sea those who are carried away from the direction of the harbor bring themselves back on course by a clear sign, on seeing a tall beacon light or some mountain peak coming into view, so Scripture may guide those adrift on the sea of life back into the harbor of the divine will." - St. Gregory of Nyssa

 

Prayer:  Father, bring me often to your Word, the holy scriptures that you have given to us to teach us, heal us, and bring us spiritual growth.  Fill me with your Spirit that I may understand your Word and apply it to my life so that I may in turn help others to grow and to heal as well.  Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

1. The Word of God has power, authority, and strength.  Do I truly believe this?  Have I seen this reality in my life?

2. Do I spend time daily reading and pondering sacred Scripture?

3. Lectio Divina is a form of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer.  Have I heard of this method?  Might I incorporate this practice into my life?

4. Do I know what it means to pray the Word of God?  Incorporating sacred Scripture into our prayers is an excellent form of prayer.  Am I doing this? 

5. Do I have a personal program of reading and study of the Bible?  If so, is this adequate or is there something I can do to make it better?  If not, how might I begin to incorporate the reading of sacred Scripture into my life?

6. Do I take the time to memorize Scripture?  This can be a powerful tool, a way to have God's Word available at all times for our needs.

7. There is power in the Word to teach, heal and grow.  Do I teach others the Word of God? Do I use the Word of God in my daily life while helping others?  Do I teach my family the truths contained in the Bible?

8. Do I pray for others using the Word of God?  Have I prayed over others or prayed through the laying on of hands?  Would I be comfortable doing this if the opportunity arose?  Why or why not?

9. Do I listen intently to the Word of God at Mass or am I distracted?

10. Am I willing to make changes in my life to give the Word of God a more prominent place in my life?

 

--Kimberly Lohman 

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 199:  Investing in God:  A Reflection on Matthew 13: 44-50

 

     “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.  When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets.  What is bad they throw away.  Thus it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 13: 44-50, NAB)

 

“He is no fool to sacrifice what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot)
 
Jesus often speaks about the Kingdom of God. We’ve heard the image of the merchant and the pearl of great value, and the man who finds the treasure in the field. We hear about the fisherman with the dragnet.
 
Jesus used images and stories, to not only make eternity more understandable for us, but also to whet our appetite for it; to get our curiosity going, to make us want to experience this eternity with God in heaven.
 
Have you noticed the one common denominator in all of these images that Jesus used? They all involve investments. The merchant finds a pearl of exceptional value, so what does he do? He sells everything to buy that pearl. Why? He knows a good investment when he sees it.
 
The man who finds the treasure in the field sells everything to buy that field. He knows he’s going to come out ahead when he cashes in that treasure.
 
The image of the fishermen with the dragnet is a little different. They keep what is valuable in the net and they throw away what isn’t. This image is different because it concerns the end of the world, judgment day, when the angels of the Lord will separate the good from the evil. We might remind ourselves of this--‘So the moral of the story is be like the merchant and the man in the field and invest yourself in the Lord. If you do, you can be assured of being brought into heaven.’
 
Let’s translate this into modern terms. What if you knew with all certainty that a certain stock would triple tomorrow? Wouldn’t you run to the bank and invest all your savings in that stock? Of course you would. What if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that a certain grocery store had a winning lottery ticket for ten million dollars? Wouldn’t you buy every lottery ticket in that store no matter what the cost? Of course you would, because you’d know this investment would pay off.
 
So it is with God. We have something of great value in our faith, something of great value in our Church. We have the Lord. We have his presence in our sacraments. So we need to invest ourselves in that.   Coming to daily Mass is wonderful. I encourage all of you to continue. Also frequent confession, scripture reading, a daily rosary. In all of these ways we can invest ourselves in this valuable treasure.
 
He is no fool to sacrifice what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Meditate on that thought today. What does that mean? You cannot keep anything you acquire in this life. When we die, all that we have accumulated will go to someone else. So what is the wiser choice, investing in what you KNOW you will someday have to give up, or investing in what you KNOW will last forever? Well, that seems like a no brainer, and yet many Catholics are far more concerned with temporal things than things of eternity. Why is that?
 
The only conclusion I can come to is, either that they don’t firmly believe in eternity, they don’t firmly believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, or they don’t firmly believe the truths of the scriptures. It’s ultimately a lack of faith. So we first need to ask ourselves, DO I firmly believe? Is my faith solid?  Then we need to ask, am I investing AT LEAST AS MUCH of my time, talent, and treasure in eternity as I do in temporal things? Because the key to happiness and security is not to invest wisely, rather it’s to invest eternally.
 
And blessed be God forever!
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco    

 

 

Quote from a saint:

           "It is better to be the child of God than king of the whole world." --St. Aloysius Gonzaga

 

Prayer:   

Alone with none but thee, my God,
I journey on my way.
What need I fear when thou art near,
Oh king of night and day?
More safe am I within thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand. – St. Columba

 

Qusestions for reflection: 

1.  Ask yourself, “Do I believe in eternity?”. 

2.  Ask yourself, “Do I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord?” 

3.  Ask yourself, “Do I firmly believe in the truths of Scripture?”.

4.  Ask yourself, “Do I spend at least as much time in spiritual pursuits such as prayer,  

     spiritual reading, and good works as I do in worldly gain and entertainment? 

5.  If “time is money”, how much treasure have you stored up in heaven?    

6.  Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”.  What do you

     think he meant by this phrase, and what did He mean by the word treasure?

 7.  What do you think Jesus means when he says to “sell all you have, and come follow

     Me?”  If you were the rich young man, what would you have done?

8.  What do you think Fr. Sisco meant when he recommended that we invest eternally?

9.  What are some specific practices things we can do to invest in eternity and store up treasures in heaven? 

10.  What are examples of worldly treasures?  What are examples of heavenly treasures?

 

--Lucy Fernandez

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 200:  The Good Wife: A Reflection on Proverbs 31: 10-31

 

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates. (Proverbs 31: 10-31)

 

This reading from the book of Proverbs is touting the benefits of having a good wife.  What I find interesting is the three criteria that the author of Proverbs uses to critique a good wife.  So single guys, listen up!  And actually, ladies too.  Because even though the author of Proverbs lists these as the characteristics of a good wife, I think they're equally praiseworthy characteristics to look for in a good husband.

 

So what are these three criteria?  First, a good wife works hard.  "She obtains wool and flax and works with loving hands.  She puts her hands to the distaff and her fingers ply the spindle" (Proverbs 31:13, 19).  Now why should this be so laudable?  Because someone who works diligently displays commitment.  A few months ago I talked in a homily about how my Dad worked three jobs when I was a kid, but my Mom worked hard as well. 

 

My Mom always had day jobs when my sister and I were in elementary school - crossing guard and cafeteria aid - so she could always be home when we got home.  When we were older, she got a job as a phone operator at the Paragon, which was a mail order catalog that was home based in Westerly.  My Mom never really stopped working.  As soon as she retired, which was only about ten years ago, my Dad's healthy started to rapidly deteriorate and she spends most of her time taking care of him.

 

The second characteristic of a good wife that the author of Proverbs cites is that the good wife is generous to the poor.  "She reaches out her hands to the poor and extends her arms to the needy" (Proverbs 31:20).  Why should that be such a laudable characteristic that it is something we should be looking for in a good spouse?  Because generosity to the poor displays a charitable heart.  Someone who is generous to the poor has a natural tendency to kindness.  Someone who is generous to the poor isn't overly materialistic or obsessed with money.

 

Before I was born, my Mom and her cousin Ann Marie started knitting leper bandages for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and then they started inviting their friends and it evolved into the "Needy Knitters".  From leper bandages they branched into lap blankets for the elderly in nursing homes, and hats, scarves and mittens for needy children.  In fact, they donated some knitted goods for our bazaar.  They've never had to buy a stitch of yarn.  People leave it in bags on Ann Marie's porch.  Every time they think they are going to run out, new yarn arrives. 

 

My Mom's prized possession is a letter she received from Mother Teresa when I was in seminary, thanking her and Ann Marie for their years of devotion to the poor.  It's typed on light blue construction paper with a manual typewriter.  My Mom has it framed on her kitchen wall.  My Dad also was involved for many years in the Elks and the Knights of Columbus, two organizations dedicated to helping the poor and spreading the faith.

 

Finally, the last characteristic of a good wife that Proverbs lists is fear of the Lord.  Dedication to God.  Why is this so desirable?  Because people rooted in faith have the strength to persevere when the going gets tough.  What do we do when we come to Mass?  We're attending the wedding feast of the Lamb of God.  Our Groom, Jesus Christ, gives himself in his entirety to his bride, the Church, by pouring out his Grace upon her, so she can have children....all of us.  And Christ's act of complete self-giving should be inspiring us to do the same in our families.

 

I am very blessed to have come from two very devout parents, especially because I was attending religious education classes in the mid and late 70's.  In seminary I learned the various models of the Church:  the Church militant, the Church triumphant and the Church suffering.  I didn't grow up in any of that.  I grew up in Church Berserk!  Most of my understanding of God and the Church that I got in my childhood came from my parents, and I thank God for it because I probably wouldn't be a priest today if it hadn't.

 

The author of Proverbs also gives a warning.  "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting" (Proverbs 31:30a).  Now everyone always strives to look their best, and that's harmless.  But I think the reason why marriage is in such crisis these days is that too many people are basing lifelong commitments on beauty and charm, and while that's an OK place to start a relationship, for a lifelong commitment that's just not enough.

 

I read a great article a few years ago that talked about the changing trend of physical appearances.  It claimed the turning point in our culture began with the musical "Grease".  Sandra Dee, the good girl, falls for the local bad boy, Danny.  The entire musical is this struggle of wills between them.  Sandy loves Danny, but isn't willing to sacrifice who she is because of her values.  Danny loves Sandy, but isn't willing to sacrifice who he is because of his friends.  In the end, Danny wins out.  Sandra Dee sacrifices being good to be "hot".  And it's tragic, because Danny has come to the realization that he can't live without Sandy and he's willing to stop being the bad boy and strive to be a better man for love of her, which is what love should do, and instead she lowers herself to please him.  And this is a reflection of what our culture has become.  Women have sold out being good to be "hot".   This has led to self-loathing, depression, suicide, billions of dollars spent on cosmetic surgeries that are painful, expensive and even dangerous. The obsession with looking pretty has become the obsession with being initiated and experienced.

 

How can you combat this downward moral spiral? Proverbs 31 tells us. Work diligently, give charitably, and pray always.  Married people, strive to grow these three virtues in yourselves.  Single people, strive to grow these three virtues in yourselves and also look for them in your potential spouse.  Do that, and you'll be OK.  My Dad was very fortunate in that he married a good woman.  My Mom was also very fortunate to marry a good man.  In May, they will be celebrating their 52nd anniversary.  I pray that all of you are also so blessed.

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote by a Saint:  "The woman is at the heart of the home.  Let us pray that we women realize the reason for our existence:  to love and to be loved and through this love become instruments of peace in the world." - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, please help all of us to work hard, be generous to the poor, and to dedicate ourselves to God.  May all women, especially wives, strive to be the model of the Proverbs 31 wife and may you bless and strengthen all marriages.  Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Proverbs 31:13 speaks of working hard and diligently.  Do I work hard?  If married, do I contribute to my family through working diligently, whether at home or at my job?  Do I spend my time doing worthwhile activities that truly matter for the Kingdom of God? 2. Am I generous to the poor?  Do I give of my time, talents and treasure to worthy causes?  Am I willing to go out of my way to help someone in need?

 

3. Do I fear the Lord?  Am I dedicated to God?  Do I order my life in such a way that my priorities reflect my dedication to God, my family and the poor?  Do I attend weekly or daily Mass?  Do I spend time in prayer and meditation on the Scriptures?  Do I give my family quality time?  Do I spend time giving or helping those in need? 

 

Kimberly Lohman 

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