Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 201: Winning the World for the Lord: A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 11: 1-11
Brothers and sisters, if only you would put up with a little foolishness from me! Please put up with me. For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere and pure commitment to Christ. For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough.
For I think that I am not in any way inferior to these “superapostles.” Even if I am untrained in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. Did I make a mistake when I humbled myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the Gospel of God to you without charge? I plundered other churches by accepting from them in order to minister to you. And when I was with you and in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my needs. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. By the truth of Christ in me, this boast of mine shall not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! (2 Corinthians 11: 1-11)
This is an interesting reading from St. Paul. Immediately preceding it, Paul has been chastising the Corinthians. Now, however, he is trying to endear them to himself. And he does this in a masterful way.
Paul is truly a shepherd. He knows when to offer the carrot, and he knows when to apply the stick. Prior to this part of his letter to the Corinthians, we’ve seen the stick. Now we’re going to see the carrot. “You must endure a little of my folly. Put up with me I beg you.”
Why does Paul say this? Just in case some of the Corinthians have gotten offended at his correction. His correction was just. But now he’s going to try to sooth the bruised egos.
“I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God himself, since I have given you in marriage to one husband, presenting you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Paul uses a love image here. Yes, I’ve spoken harshly to you, but it’s because I’m jealous of you, because I love you so much. “My fear is that just as the serpent seduced Eve by his cunning, your thoughts may be corrupted and you may fall away from your sincere and complete devotion to Christ.” I’ve been harsh with you because I’m afraid for you! I’m afraid your faith is going to be corrupted!
Paul then goes on to write, “I consider myself inferior to the “super apostles” in nothing.” Who are the super apostles? The original twelve that followed Jesus. Remember, Paul was NOT one of the twelve. Paul never met the earthly Jesus. It’s Paul who has an experience of the risen Christ on his way to Damascus. How is Paul an apostle then?
There are two requirements for apostleship. One; witnessing the risen Christ. Two; being commissioned by the risen Christ. Paul fits both those requirements, but because Paul wasn’t one of the original twelve, he is going to constantly have to defend his authority as an apostle. People won’t give Paul the same street credibility as they give Peter, James, John, or the others. And so some people have said to the Corinthians, “Who’d you get that from? Paul? He isn’t a real apostle!” And Paul is defending his credibility.
Paul then adds, “Could I have done wrong when I preached the gospel of God to you, free of charge, humbling myself with a view to exalting you? I robbed other churches, I accepted support from them, in order to minister to you.” Hey, when I ministered to you I didn’t take a penny for my work. I made sure I supported myself, and I even accepted donations from other Christian communities to benefit you! I’ve proved my love for you. I’ve proved my devotion for you.
Paul here has given us all, priest and laity alike, a good model for evangelization. Yes, we all have to proclaim the truth, but how should we do it?
With passion; calling right, right, and calling wrong, wrong.
With humility; and even being willing to apologize for mistakes.
With love; always being willing to speak and act in another’s best interest.
With authority; putting forth the Church’s teaching that comes from the Pope and Magisterium, and not our own little brand of Christianity which mixes a little of this and a little of that.
And with sacrifice; putting our money where our mouth is. Acting in accord with what we profess to believe.
In this way we will win the world for the Lord, just like Paul did.
And blessed be God forever.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders." -St. Anthony Mary Claret
Prayer: O Lord Most-wise, strengthen us by Your power that we not fear the non-believing world neither when they lash us with whips nor when they insult us with words for Your sake.Teach us to proclaim your Word with Truth and Humility despite the challenges. Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your presence and the Truth of God.
Questions for reflection:
1-What do I understand by the Jealousy of God in this passage?
2-In this passage, Paul is firm in correction but does it with love as a true shepherd.What is my attitude towards those going astray?
3- According to Father Sisco, there are two requirements for apostleship. One is witnessing the risen Christ. Do I witness the Risen Christ in my life?
4- Paul uses this expression:”I betrothed you to one husband.” Do I view my relationship with Christ as that of a covenant, a serious sacred relationship or just a fashion?
5- In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, we find him speaking in a very frank way to the people whom he obviously loves. Do I always speak the truth to those I call brothers and sisters in Christ?
6- In proclaiming Christ, am I willing to apologize for mistakes when necessary?
7-Paul’s example of evangelization talks about selfless Love. How is my love?
8- How do I grow to be selfless in the Love of Christ and its mission of proclaiming the gospel?
9-Another requirement for apostleship is to preach with Authority: putting forth the Church’s teaching that comes from the Pope and Magisterium. Faithfulness to the church demands study. Do I make time to study and know more about what the Church teaches? Do I translate the Church teaching when sharing my faith?
10-Am I willing to sacrifice for the Gospel?
11- Does my life style conform to what I say or preach about God?
12- Paul is writing to challenge some of the false teaching in the church and to urge the people to remain focused on the things that matter, not turn away from the truth, but put aside all the other things that hinder us growing as disciples and seeking to grow the Kingdom of God. What is my devotion towards the risen lord Jesus and how do I live my faith?
----Edem Auguste Ahadjitse
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 202: Keeping God's Covenant: A Reflection on Tobit 3: 1-6
Then I being grieved did weep, and in my sorrow prayed, saying, O Lord, thou art just, and all thy works and all thy ways are mercy and truth, and thou judgest truly and justly for ever. Remember me, and look on me, punish me not for my sins and ignorances, and the sins of my fathers, who have sinned before thee: For they obeyed not thy commandments: wherefore thou hast delivered us for a spoil, and unto captivity, and unto death, and for a proverb of reproach to all the nations among whom we are dispersed. And now thy judgments are many and true: deal with me according to my sins and my fathers’: because we have not kept thy commandments, neither have walked in truth before thee. Now therefore deal with me as seemeth best unto thee, and command my spirit to be taken from me, that I may be dissolved, and become earth: for it is profitable for me to die rather than to live, because I have heard false reproaches, and have much sorrow: command therefore that I may now be delivered out of this distress, and go into the everlasting place: turn not thy face away from me. (Tobit 3: 1-6)
I really love the book of Tobit. If you ever get an opportunity, read this book in Scripture, because it’s a really heartwarming story. It’s an ancient episode of the television show Touched by an Angel. You might also want to read the book Tobit’s Dog, a novel by Michael Nicholas Richard (Ignatius Press, 2014). The novel, a retelling of the Book of Tobit, brings the characters to life as if they had lived in North Carolina during the Depression.
The old man Tobit is a just and upright man, but he, along with the rest of Israel, are living in exile during the Babylonian occupation. During this period, all of his countrymen living around him have forsaken worship of the Lord, and have turned even further to idolatry. Turning to idolatry is why God sent them into exile in the first place. Tobit, though stays true to the covenant, even though he’s mocked by everyone for doing it.
Tobit then undergoes a personal tragedy. While he’s doing an act of mercy by burying a dead man who had been abandoned in the road, he goes blind. Now he has to send his only son, the young boy Tobiah, on a dangerous journey to find their kinsmen, somewhere in the Babylonian empire, and get help.
But before Tobit does this, he prays. Tobit prays. Tobit prays for his son’s safety. Now think of this for a minute. Put yourself in Tobit’s shoes. You’re helpless. You can’t provide for your family in a foreign country that’s hostile to you. And now you have to send your only child, a teenage boy, to look for your relatives, somewhere in this vast empire.
How would you pray? Tobit didn’t just pray. Tobit poured his heart out to God. Tobit begged God for help. And God heard his prayer, and sent the archangel Raphael, disguised as one of Tobit’s kinsmen, to act as a guide for the boy. And in the course of their travels they find Tobit’s kinsmen, Raphael rescues a young maiden, Sarah, from being tormented by a demon, he brings young Tobiah and Sarah together and they get married, and he even finds a cure for Tobit’s blindness.
The lesson here is this: God hears the prayers of those who keep his covenant.
Once Jesus was asked to respond to the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?’ He says the greatest commandment is, “Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This statement in Hebrew theology is called the Shema. It’s the heart of the Mosaic law.
But then Jesus goes on to say, “The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The Ten Commandments are rooted in these two commandments; loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
God responds to Tobit because he kept both of these great commandments. First, he kept God’s covenant even when it was difficult and life threatening to keep God’s covenant. And he also loved his neighbor as himself by the charitable acts that he preformed. And he poured his heart out to God in prayer.
If we remain true to God, God will remain true to us. If we are single hearted for the Lord, and treat others with a charitable heart, then God will hear us in our need even in the midst of a pagan empire. It is my prayer for us all today that we become as single hearted for God as Tobit was.
And blessed be God forever,
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. "You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess. - Deuteronomy 5:32-33
Prayer: Lord of the angels, we thank you for being faithful and providing for our needs in times of trials and temptations. Teach us to be faithful to your Word . Give us the grace to love you above all and to love our neighbors as ourselves and see Christ in them. Grant us the grace to hold on to you anytime and grow in your love.
Questions for reflection:
1-What is my attitude in times of trials? Is it Faith in God or Despair?
2-Before Tobit sent his son he prayed. What place does prayer occupy in my life as a Christian?
3- Being faithful and keeping God’s covenant was of prime importance to Tobit. What about me? Am I faithful to the teaching of Christ in this constant changing world?
4- Do I lend a helping hand to others despite my trials and life challenges?
5- “Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” How do I live that in my daily life? Is God first in all that I do?
6- “The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” How do I love my neighbor as myself? Do I see their need first or mine first?
7- Tobit begged God for help. Do I trust in God when faced with problems or put my trust in man?
8- Here the innocent man suffers, and doesn't know how to explain his drama in any way except by surrendering to the greatness and wisdom of God. Am I Christ like in all and in surrending totally and believing in God?
9- What kind of image of God am I portraying to the world when faced with difficulties?
10- Am I evangelizing those around me through the example of my relationship with God as done by Tobit?
--Edem Auguste Ahadjitse
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 203: Becoming Aware of the Holy Spirit in Our Lives: A Reflection on Acts 23: 6-10
Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees,
so he called out before the Sanhedrin,
"My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees;
I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead."
When he said this,
a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the group became divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection
or angels or spirits,
while the Pharisees acknowledge all three.
A great uproar occurred,
and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party
stood up and sharply argued,
"We find nothing wrong with this man.
Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?"
The dispute was so serious that the commander,
afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them,
ordered his troops to go down and rescue Paul from their midst
and take him into the compound.
(Acts 23: 6-10)
This has always been one of my favorite passages from the Acts of the Apostles. Paul is getting rescued by the Holy Spirit, from the hands of the Pharisee’s and the Sadducees by starting an argument among them.
Now let’s contrast this for a second by the way the Lord rescues Peter from prison. Peter is chained up, guards on either side of him. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appears, the chains fall off, the door swings open, and this angel starts barking orders at Peter. “Get up!” “Put on your sandals.” And it’s not until Peter is outside the prison that he realizes what has happened.
Paul is also rescued by the Holy Spirit. Paul is dragged out of prison to appear before the Pharisee’s and the Sadducees, and it looks like this is going to be a hanging jury. But because Paul knows their weakness. The Pharisee’s believe in the resurrection of the body and the Sadducees don’t. In his defense statement, Paul is able to pit them against one another, and Paul escapes death.
Here we have the stories of two apostles, both eventually martyred in Rome, but both rescued by the Holy Spirit differently.
Peter is rescued by an extraordinary manifestation of God. An angel literally comes to his aid.
Paul’s rescue was much less mystical, but certainly no less dramatic.
Sometimes we can get so caught up waiting for God to manifest himself in some grand, extraordinary, way that we forget sometimes God works through very common means.
There’s a great scene in the movie “Bruce Almighty.” God, played by Morgan Freedman, has given his powers to a man named Bruce, played by Jim Carey. At first, Bruce is enthralled with his new powers. While sitting in a diner, Bruce parts his bowl of soup like the Red Sea, and then God appears sitting across from him. And in the course of their conversation, God says to Bruce, “Parting your soup is a trick. A single mom who works two jobs and still finds time to make for her kids…that’s a miracle.” That’s a great observation!
I remember Father Benedict Groeschel once telling a story of how a man who worked for the friars in the Bronx was dismissed for dealing drugs. The man started making threatening phone calls, said he’d burn the friary down. Father Groeschel went to the police, and they couldn’t really do anything. And as he’s telling the story, you expect him to say something like; “And I went to the chapel, and I prayed to our Lady. I made a novena. I did all night vigils in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and miraculously the man left, or was caught by the police.” No. Fr. Benedict said he got a friend of his, who was an actor, to call this guy and imitate a gangster, and scare him off. And it worked! Is that any less inspired by God?
God is working in us, and through us, and around us, all the time. But we have to train ourselves to see the way God is working in our lives through every day means. We’ve got to stop looking for the thunderbolts, and start listening for the whisper.
Some people think that if they’re not having an apparition of some kind, the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak to them. How sad! Of course the Holy Spirit speaks to them! The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone who is willing to listen. The Holy Spirit works through anyone who is willing to serve.
It is my prayer that all people develop a keener eye to see God working in their lives.
And blessed be God forever.
Quote from a Saint: "When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13)
Prayer: O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams. -- Saint Augustine
Questions for Reflection:
1-How do I react when confronted with challenges: relying on God’s wisdom or on my own?
2-Am I open to God through the Holy Spirit in prayer?
3-According to Father Sisco, through who does the Holy Spirit work?
4-How does God work in our lives?
5-Who does the Holy Spirit speak to? Am I willing to listen?
6-Am I open to the Holy Spirit through the study of the Word of God?
7-Am I patient enough in relying on God or I prefer the quick fixes?
8-Do I recognize God’s working in the simple things of life ?
9-How often do I listen to the whisper of God’s presence instead of the thunderbolts of the world?
10-Paul was rescued by God’s wisdom by the Holy Spirit. How do I develop a keener eye to see God working in my daily life? Am I willing to avail myself and surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit?
--Edem Auguste Ahadjitse
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 204: Zechariah: A Lesson in Faith: A Reflection on Luke 1: 5-20
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’ (Luke 1: 5-20)
"How am I to know this?" Zechariah asks this question to the Archangel Gabriel, after Gabriel has brought him the best of news; that in their old age, Zechariah and his wife are finally going to have a child....And not just a child, a BOY! Someone to carry on the family name. Someone to guarantee that they will have descendants to remember them and pray for them. And not just a boy, a PROPHET!
"Many will rejoice at his birth and he will be great in the eyes of God...He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel back to the Lord their God!" And if THAT wasn't ENOUGH good news, Gabriel comes right out and tells Zechariah, that his son is going to be the forerunner of the Messiah himself! "He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah..." That was foretold by the prophet who would announce the long awaited Messiah! I mean this is good news, GOOD NEWS!
So why isn't Zechariah happier than what we see here? Why does he answer this good news with, "(And) how am I to know this? My wife and I are old." Now I mentioned in previous homilies on this passage that this should not be confused with Mary's response to the same Archangel, which is almost identical in wording: "How am I to know this, since I am a virgin?" Mary is ASKING Gabriel, what does God want me to do to make this happen? Zechariah is TELLING Gabriel, "Prove it to me." And Zechariah learns pretty fast that it's not wise to anger an angel.
Just as the news Gabriel brings is joy inspiring on so many levels, Zechariah's response is stupid on so many levels. First, Zechariah is a priest. His career is based upon having faith. Second, he's the HIGH priest that year, a position of prestige, precisely because he has demonstrated living the priestly life so well. Third, when all this happens, he's doing the one task reserved to the High Priest alone--he's offering up the sacrifice of incense in the Holy of Holies, the one place and time on earth when miracles can happen! Fourth, being a priest, he would have been familiar with the story of the conception of Sampson which had similar circumstances, so he should know God can do this. So why this reaction of cynicism?
Now maybe Zechariah just had a brain death moment and that's the end of it. It happens to all of us from time to time, but I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate. MAYBE Zechariah responds this way, MAYBE he gets cynical in his old age, because he and his wife prayed for years and years to have a child and it never happened. To be childless in his day and age was interpreted by many as being punished by God. Maybe he was thinking, "I've been a priest all my life. I've done everything expected of me all my life. I've worked hard all my life, and you won't give me this one--." Maybe the years of frustration and heartbreak and humiliation just got to him. You know how it is. You pray for something you want really bad and it doesn't happen.
And this is where the test of real faith begins. Do we let those moments make us grow in faith and trust that the Lord has a larger plan I don't understand? Do we let those moments make us grow in humility and realize I don't have the right to anything, I don't have the right to the air I breathe, so God give me the grace to accept this? Or do we convince ourselves that God is somehow cheating us out of something we deserve and let that make us grow in cynicism?
Let us pray for one another today, brothers and sisters, that we all strive to live by the Blessed Mother's words, "Be it done unto me according to thy word." Amen.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: He who trusts himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things. - St. Alphonsus Liguori
Prayer from a Saint: "Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever You may do I thank You; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only Your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures-- I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into Your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to You with all the love of my heart, for I love You, Lord! And so need to give myself, surrender myself into Your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for You are my Father. - Venerable Charles de Foucauld
Questions for Reflection:
1. Read Luke 1:20. What happened to Zechariah after he expressed disbelief of what the angel Gabriel proclaimed to him? Do you think this was fair or harsh? Why or why not? How do you think you might respond if you were in Zechariah's position?
2. In Luke 12:48 we see that much is required of the person who is entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. How does this verse of scripture relate to the story of the angel Gabriel announcing the birth of John to Zechariah?
3. Sometimes it seems that just about everyone else has what we want (such as a child of our own or a particular job or a house, etc.). We may pray and pray to receive this thing, but our answer from God on the issue is simply silence. Have you ever experienced this? How did it make you feel? Did it shake up your faith in God?
4. Have you learned, as Father Sisco teaches us in this homily, that we really do not have the right to anything, not even to the air that we breathe? Are you thankful for what you have received from God and able to trust that God has a perfect plan for you that may be different from His plan for others?
5. Think of an area of your life where you may struggle with God's will for you versus your desires. Are you willing to spend the next week bringing this matter before God and asking Him for his peace and the ability to trust in Him?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 205: The Name Above All Names: A Reflection on Matthew 1:22
"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet, 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, "God is with us..."'" (Matthew 1:22).
Have you ever read this and wondered to yourself, "But they DIDN'T name him Emmanuel. They named him Jesus. So how does this fulfill the prophecy?" In the Old and New Testament Jesus is actually given many names, and all of them are prefaced by "he shall be called....". Now that's significant. The scriptures do NOT say, he shall be NAMED. The scriptures say, "He shall be CALLED."
We can call people many things. "Hey, Fatso!" You just called someone a name, but that doesn't mean it's THEIR name. However, it may still be a name that accurately describes them. So the prophets are not so much interested in what Jesus' birth name is going to be; rather they are prophesizing the NAMES that Jesus will be called. In other passages the Messiah is predicted to be called "Wonderful, counsellor, the mighty God." Jesus was called all of these things during his life.
Saint Luke tells us Jesus will be called "Son of the Highest,", "Son of God," and "Prophet of the Highest", but none of these was his actual name. So the prophets, in using all of these titles, are identifying for future ages what to be looking for in the future Messiah. They were indicating what sort of Messiah this person was going to be.
Now in Jesus' day, many people were named "Jesus". Jesus was a common name for many children. This name is chosen though by the Archangel, Gabriel, (I assume this is the name God the Father told Gabriel to relay to Mary and Joseph.) But the name "Jesus" means literally, "Yahweh saves." The name or title Isaiah identified to us in "Emmanuel," means "God is with us." And we hear these passages throughout Advent because these two names sum up the Incarnation. The purpose of the Incarnation was for God to dwell among us, so he can save us.
Names are very significant in scripture because names indicate what kind of person this is or some significant event that this person will participate in. The name "Mary", for instance, is from the Hebrew "Mara" meaning bitter. Now why would the Blessed Mother be named "bitter"? There's no indication that she was a bitter person, but the role she was chosen for by God would certainly bring her a bitter life. Mary's life was filled with hardships. The Holy Family had to flee Egypt shortly after Jesus was born to live in exile till Herod the Great was dead. She was widowed at a young age. She had to witness the brutal execution of her only Son.
Recently people have begun giving children names that bear significance to them. We name our children after our ancestors, names that were passed down from generation to generation as a way of honoring our ancestors, and also hoping that they'll watch over our children and protect them from heaven. We name our children after saints for the same reason. Every boy in my Dad's family had been named Francis, Joseph, or Anthony. My Dad broke tradition by naming me Michael, which he did because he said he wanted me to be strong, so he named me after the toughest Archangel around. Sometimes we name our children after theological virtues that we want our children to exemplify: Faith, Hope, Grace.
These days I do a lot of baptisms and it seems that people are naming their children some pretty bizarre things. Let's make it a point today to educate this new generation of parents about the significance of a name and how this can be just one more spiritual tool in the hands of our children to help them along the way to salvation.
And blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, - of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, - and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,- to the glory of God the Father. - St. Paul (Philippians 2:9b-10)
May God's holy Name be blessed! - St. Marguerite d'Youville
Prayer from a Saint: "Almighty, most holy, most high, and supreme God, highest good, all good, wholly good, who alone are good. To you we render all praise, all glory, all thanks, all honor, all blessing, and we shall always refer all good to you. Amen" - St. Francis of Assisi
Questions for Reflection:
1. The Lord God instructed that the holy child be named "Emmanuel". What does this name mean and how is this significant?
2. According to Father Sisco, what are the benefits of using strong names of saints or Biblical characters when naming one's child?
3. What are the significance and the possible benefits of naming a child after one's ancestors?
4. How might naming a child Faith, Hope, Grace or other similar virtue be beneficial?
5. Mary's name comes from the Hebrew word, Mara, for "bitter". Reflect on the hardships and bitterness of Mary's life. Can you see her as a role model for how we are to deal with the hardships we experience in our own lives?
6. There are more than one hundred different names for Jesus given in both the Old and New Testaments, such as Everlasting God, Chief Cornerstone, and Author of Salvation, among many. Look up some of these names and spend some time reflecting on several of them. Which name is your favorite? Why?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 206: Fulfilling Our Mission: A Reflection on Acts 1 :10-11
“While they were gazing up into the heavens, two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking up at the skies? This Jesus who has been taken from you will return, just as you saw him go up into the heavens.’” (Acts 1: 10-11)
This message from the angels that God sends to the apostles is often interpreted as a word of comfort and encouragement. And it is. But one thing I think that many of us can overlook about this passage is that it is also a warning. Because if we are not careful, we can fall into two common traps, and both of these traps have to do with a failure to complete our mission.
Jesus came to us on a mission. His was a mission of Redemption. His was a mission to institute the sacraments and a priesthood that would make those sacraments available. His mission was to complete the teaching that was begun in the Law of Moses. And his mission opened a door for the Holy Spirit to enter our lives. And this is why we see Jesus ascend into heaven today. With the fulfillment of his mission, Jesus takes his place before the Father so the Holy Spirit can begin his mission, to change the world.
And that’s where our mission comes in.
Through the sacraments we have been given the Holy Spirit, and our mission is to allow the Holy Spirit to change us so we can change the world around us. That is what we pray every time we say the Lord’s prayer. “Thy Kingdom come.” Thy Kingdom come where? Here!
How do we know thy Kingdom has come? When Thy will is done on earth as it is in heaven, because God’s will is responded to immediately in heaven. Our mission is to build God’s kingdom on earth with the gifts that have been given to us by the Holy Spirit.
OK, so what are the two traps I mentioned are evident in this Scripture passage?
The first trap is what the apostles are doing, gazing up at the heavens? Now sometimes we need to do this. We pray, we meditate, we dream about what heaven will be like. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, this can encourage us to stay the course. But that is precisely what it should be doing, encouraging us to persevere. But sometimes that’s all people want to do, gaze up at the heavens. They want to spend all their time in prayer, and just focus on their personal relationship with Jesus, but never extend themselves to their neighbor. We cannot become so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. If we do that we don’t build the kingdom. Our spirituality becomes selfish. God does not give gifts in a vacuum. Gifts from God are meant to be shared.
The second trap comes from people who don’t believe the angel’s statement to the apostles, that Jesus was going to be coming back someday. They’re lazy about their prayer. They NEVER gaze up to heaven. They never consider eternal consequences, because they convince themselves they’ll have plenty of time for that God stuff later. They have the “good thief approach” to spirituality. “I’ll live the way I want, and make my confession on my deathbed, and then God will forgive me right?” Maybe, if your repentance is sincere. But remember nobody makes a fool of God. And do you really want to gamble that you’ll be able to make your confession before you die? What if you die unexpectedly?
Once while visiting a church, I saw a plaque in the sacristy. The plaque said, “Priest of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, as if it were your last Mass, as if it were your only Mass.” I think that’s good advice for all of us.
Children of God, live this day as it were your first day, as if it were your last day, as if it were your only day, because we will all ascend as Jesus did, to give an account to the Father of what we did to fulfill our mission.
And blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:” God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission. I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons...
- Cardinal John Henry Newman
Prayer: Father in heaven, thank You for creating me in Your image and likeness. My God and my all, use me to continue the work of Your Son Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit ,enlighten me on what I should do to everyday in your vineyard and how to be who I am created to be. Thank you, Lord, for Your love. Amen.
Questions for reflection:
1-What are the two traps mentioned in this reflection?
2-What was the mission of Jesus?
3-How do I live my faith? For tomorrow or daily?
4-How is my attitude towards Prayer, confession?
5-What is my mission?
6-Have I discovered the gifts deposited in me by God?
7- How do I use my gifts to do God’s work?
8-How can I do the work of Christ and his Church in my daily life?
9-How do I step of my comfort zone and empathy to live my Christian life?
10-What is the use of the Holy Spirit in my life mission?
11-What is the overall purpose of me being a follower of Christ ?
--Edem Auguste Ahadjitse
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 207: Why Bother Going to Mass? A Reflection on Mark 14: 22-24
“During the meal, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. ‘Take this,’ he said, ‘’this is my body.’ He likewise took the cup, gave thanks and passed it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘this is my blood, the blood of the covenant to be poured out on behalf of many.’” (Mark 14: 22-24)
Why bother coming to Mass? Mass is boring after all. I’d rather talk to God in my own way and not have the Church put words in my mouth. I like sleeping in on Sundays. I work hard all week. I stay out late Saturdays. No one else in my family goes to Mass, so I have no one to remind me.
Over my years of priesthood these are all actual excuses I’ve heard for people missing Mass, and they all have one thing in common. They’re all lame.
So why should I go to Mass?
First of all, we should because Jesus told us to. At the Last Supper Jesus says, “This is my body. Take it! Eat it!” In the scriptures the word Jesus uses for body is sarx. It’s a Greek word. It literally means a hunk of meat. There were other words Jesus could have used. But whenever Jesus makes reference to the Eucharist he always uses words that are very graphic, because he doesn’t want his disciples to think he’s speaking symbolically. “Here! This is my blood! Take it! Drink it!” DO THIS in remembrance of me.” We’ve been commanded. Take and eat. Take and drink. Do this. We’ve been given an executive order by the CEO. This is not something you want to take lightly or ignore.
That reason alone should be good enough, but there are better reasons than that.
The second reason we come to Mass is to remember, because we have an amazing tendency to forget. Spiritually speaking, most of us have Alzheimer’s. We constantly forget what God has told us. History has shown this. We constantly forget so we need a constant reminder. So Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
And Jesus, in this, meant more than a memorial. When we come to Mass we remember what Jesus said and did in the gospels. We remember salvation history in the Old Testament readings. We remember the teachings of the Church in the homily. We remember that we are loved by God. And we remember that we are called to become like God by loving one another.
And that’s the third reason why we should be coming to Mass; to experience God’s love. Before God makes the covenant with Abraham he calls him to sacrifice his son Isaac to him. And Abraham is ready to do it. Because all the pagan gods of that region demanded people sacrifice their children to them. Baal, Moloch, Apis, Mammon. They all demanded people sacrifice one of their children. So when God demands this of Abraham, it must not have come as a big surprise. “Oh well, I guess he’s just like all the other gods.” But before Abraham can follow through, God stops him. God stops him, because he doesn’t want Abraham to prove his love by sacrificing his only son; rather, God is going to prove his love for creation by sacrificing HIS only son. That’s the greatness of God’s love.
God proves his love for us at Mass by allowing us to enter into that sacrifice of his only beloved son, over, and over, and over again.
What if I stood up here and said, “Next week, I’m going to give a million dollars to every one who comes to Mass.” Do you think anyone would miss Mass next week? People would be flying in from around the country to get to Mass! People would delay their vacations, skip the softball game, and God forbid, get to the beach a little later next Sunday because everyone would want to cash in on that million dollars, (funny thing, when you put a dollar value on it, the excuses for missing Mass really do seem absurd!). “WHAT! You’d pass up a million dollars because you feel like sleeping in?! Are you insane?!” But we get more than a million dollars every time we come to Mass!
When we come to Mass we receive unity with the all loving God of creation.
In John’s gospel, right before the last supper begins, Jesus says, “I have greatly desired to be here with you for this Passover.” And he says the same to us. Jesus greatly desires to celebrate this Passover with each of us. Jesus greatly desires to touch us. Jesus greatly desires to be close to us. Jesus greatly desires intimacy with us, and that’s accomplished through the Mass.
That leads into the fourth reason we should come to Mass; we come to experience his love so we ourselves can become better lovers! That’s what the Mass is for! To make us better lovers! We come to Mass to receive his life, but we also come to give him ours, so God can continue loving the world through us.
Jesus told us to do many things, but he only used the actual word commandment, once; and he attached it to this statement. “This is my commandment; love one another as I have loved you.”
And Jesus loved us to death. Jesus loved us sacrificially. We come to Mass to learn how to love, and how to love sacrificially.
Jesus made this statement right after he was done washing his apostle’s feet. Why’d he do that? Because, in the days of sandals and dirt roads your feet were the dirtiest, grimiest, smelliest part of your body. That’s where Jesus went first, to clean that up, as an example of sacrificial love for the others to follow. And Jesus still does it. How does Mass begin?
With the penitential rite, Jesus goes to our dirtiest part and cleans it. We place our sins before God and our VENIAL sins are forgiven. That’s a teaching of the Church. Venial sins are forgiven during Mass. Mortal sins we still have to go to confession for.
But we come here to learn how to love. How do people distinguish that we’re Christian? It’s not by how many religious medals we have on, or scapulars, or statues in our houses. Not by the plastic rosary on the rear view mirror or the plastic Jesus on the dashboard. Jesus says in another passage, “All will know that you are my disciples by the love you show one another.” That’s how people should be able to identify us! By our love! And we find that love here, and we learn how to love here through the Eucharist.
Father Dale Fusick, the founder of “Life Teen,” once told a story of when he was first ordained, and he was invited to a home where a teenage son announced he was leaving the Church. So Father Dale went to dinner, and after dinner everyone left the table, leaving Father Dale with this eighteen year old boy.
And the boy said, “I guess you’re here for me, huh?”
And Father Dale said, “Yes. So what’s the problem? Do you not believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist?”
The boy responded, “I believe that.”
Father Dale continued, “Well what is it then? Do you not believe in the authority of the Pope?”
The boy responded, “I believe that too.”
“Well, is it the intercession of the Blessed Mother?”
The boy said, “No.”
So Father Dale said, “Well what is it? Why do you want to leave the Church?”
And the young man said, “Father, I’ve gone to Church for eighteen years, and never once did I feel loved there.” Oh, what an indictment!
“They will know you are my disciples by the love you show one another.”
Let me ask you, would people know, just by watching you, that you are one of his disciples? Are you using the Eucharist to grow in love? Ask yourself, would someone want to become Catholic because of me? If the answer to that is ‘no,’ you’ve got some work to do.
I’ll give you a good way to start. John was called the beloved disciple. It was John who laid his head on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper. The next time, after you receive communion, after you receive the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, go back to your seat, close your eyes, tilt your head back as if you were resting it on Jesus’ chest and listen. Don’t say anything. If you must say something, say, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” That’s what the prophets used to say.
These days not nearly enough people say “Speak Lord for your servant is listening,” because too many people are saying, “Shut up, God. I’m talking.” But sit there and listen, and don’t be surprised if you hear the God of the universe saying to you, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
We all need to learn how to love. So learn from the best. And that is why we should come to Mass.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a saint: "If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ's love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude." Saint Angela of Foligno
Prayer: I adore You, Lord and Creator, hidden in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I adore You for all the works of Your hands, that reveal to me so much wisdom, goodness and mercy, O Lord. You have spread so much beauty over the earth and it tells me about Your beauty, even though these beautiful things are but a faint reflection of You, incomprehensible Beauty. And although You have hidden Yourself and concealed Your beauty, my eye, enlightened by faith, reaches You and my soul recognizes its Creator, its Highest Good, and my heart is completely immersed in prayer of adoration. --St. Faustina
Questions for discussion:
1. Ask yourself, “Why do I go to Mass? Is it for fire insurance, only? Or, do I gain more?”
2. Ask yourself, “Do I really believe the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, or, do I harbor doubts?”
3. What parallels can you draw between the manna God sent the Israelites and the Eucharistic bread? What was the purpose of the manna? What is the purpose of the Eucharist?
4. Ask yourself, “Would someone want to become a Catholic because of me?”
5. List some ways one can show one’s love towards God.
6. List some ways a person can show their love towards their neighbor.
7. What should one do to ensure he or she is properly disposed to receive Communion?
8. If a non-Catholic person were to ask you why you are a Catholic, what would you say to them?
9. If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
10. List some obstacles people have that keeps them from having an intimate relationship with Christ and being transformed by His love.
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 208: Filled With Grace: A Reflection on Acts 7:55
‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are for ever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.’ When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:51-60)
You know, on one level we listen to the martyring of Saint Stephen, (always on the day after Christmas as a reminder the day after the birth of our Savior of what being a disciple of our Jesus Christ might cost us), and we think of how noble and brave Stephen was, but I think there's always a little apprehension on this feast also.
I think many people feel, "What if I were in that position where I had to choose between Christ and my life - would I be brave enough to do what Stephen did?" I think about that all the time. How will I face Calvary when it comes to me? And I think, personally for me anyway, I have good reasons to be apprehensive, because I fail to carry so many little crosses with Grace all the time, what's going to happen when I'm confronted with the big one?
Historically, there are many Catholics who failed in making that choice. I believe it was during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian that many Catholics chose to renounce their faith and return to the legal, pagan religions. When Diocletian died and the persecution ended, many of these fallen away Catholics, called the lapsi, sought re-admittance to the Church. And there were many people, later canonized saints, who opposed their re-admittance, but the Church authority chose to take them back, erring on the side of mercy as the Church always does.
That's the first thing that gives me comfort. God, like his Church, always errs on the side of mercy. But is that all we can hope for - the safety net of God's mercy if we fail? How did Stephen manage to face this horrible death with such Grace? Precisely! "Steven, filled with Grace and power..." and "...but he, filled with the Holy Spirit..." That's how he did it. Just as Divine Grace can have mercy on us when we fail, Divine Grace can keep us from failing in the first place! The trick then is how do we become and stay open to that Grace?
Well, how did Steven do it? Steven was a deacon, which is why he was preaching in the first place. But that wasn't the only role of deacons. Deacons were originally instituted to make sure all the widows in the early Christian communities got their fair share of the food distribution. So the first role of the deacon was the manager of charity. So if we want to be filled with Grace the first thing we should do is check our charitable contributions. Am I honestly doing my fair share to help the poor?
The deacon's second role was to assist at liturgy and proclaim the Gospel during Mass. How's my Mass attendance? Do I get to Mass as often as I can? Do I take the time to read and reflect on the Gospels at home?
And the deacon's third role was to preach. How am I witnessing to my faith? And that doesn't mean I have to preach to people, but is my faith reflected in the language I use, in my disposition toward others, in the way I dress, and with the patience and kindness I extend to others? These are more powerful preaching than any words or clever arguments can ever be.
In all of these ways, like Steven we can be filled with Grace, and the Holy Spirit can shine through us. It is probably true that none of us will ever face martyrdom, but by using these things to be filled with the Spirit of God, we'll never be afraid of it.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: Courage, my sons. The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes. - Maximilian Mary Kolbe, martyr
Prayer from a Saint: You know, Lord, that if it be pleasing to you I am ready to bear all insults and torments and even death for you. Therefore, as you know this to be the truth, have mercy on me now, for to you I commit my soul. - St. Richard of Chichester
Questions for Reflection:
When reflecting on the lives of the martyrs, and particularly on the events surrounding their deaths, how do you feel? Are you a bit apprehensive? Do you think you would willingly say yes to Our Lord if he asked you to give your life?
Most of us will never be asked to give our very lives, but we are all called to give generously to the Lord. We may give of our time, talents and treasure. How is your giving in each of these areas? Is there room for improvement?
Father teaches that the way Saint Stephen was able to give his life willingly was that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, through God's grace. He teaches us that we can obtain more grace in our lives in several different ways. What are these ways?
How is my charitable giving? Am I doing my fair share to help the poor?
How is my Mass attendance? Do I get to Mass as often as I can (fulfilling my Sunday obligation and attending Daily Mass whenever possible)?
Do I spend time reading and reflecting on the Bible at home, particularly the gospels?
How well do I witness to my faith? Do I witness through the language I use, my disposition to others, in the way I dress, and through the patience and kindness I show toward others?
-- Kimberly Lohman
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 209: Following Where God Leads: A Reflection on Acts 13: 13-15
When Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.’ (Acts 13: 13-15)
By the instruction of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas were ordained priests and sent on a mission. In this reflection, Paul and his companions go to Antioch, and the reading says they entered the synagogue on the Sabbath Day and Paul begins to teach.
Note first, they went to the synagogue. So who were they addressing? They were addressing Jews. But God didn’t consecrate Paul and Barnabas to bring the Gospel to the Jews. Rather God intended for Paul and Barnabas to go to the Gentiles.
It’s not clear whether God had made this intention known to Paul yet. We know that after Saul has his experience of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus with the intention of persecuting the Christians there, the Lord revealed to the Christian man Ananias that he was going lead Saul to him to baptize him. “Because,” the Lord tells Ananias, “This is the man I have chosen to bring the good news to the Gentiles.”
So we know God reveals this part of his plan to Ananias even before Saul is baptized and takes the name Paul, but as to whether God revealed this to Paul himself is unclear. And it wouldn’t surprise me if God didn’t make his intentions known right away, because God does have the tendency to want us to understand things in our own time.
But whatever the case, Paul doesn’t immediately go to the Gentiles in his first evangelization mission. He goes rather to the Jews. And this is natural. Why? Paul is a Jew himself. Jesus was a Jew. All the apostles were Jews. So Paul begins with a people and a culture he’s familiar with. The thought probably never occurred to him to attempt to bring this message to the Gentiles because Paul was not only a Jew but he was also a former Pharisee. And the Pharisees didn’t just frown on Gentiles. The Pharisees despised Gentiles! So Paul begins with an audience he can relate to on a historical and cultural level. And look at how Paul addresses this crowd in the synagogue.
He gives them a brief summary of their own salvation history, and note where he starts this history. Does he start with Abraham? No. He begins with Moses. That’s significant. Paul begins with Moses because it’s Moses who leads the people out of slavery in Egypt, and Paul is going to present Jesus as the new Moses who leads us out of our slavery to sin. Paul was being clever. Pity it didn’t work. When Paul starts talking about Jesus being the Messiah the Jews reject him. And Paul can’t make any progress with the Jews anywhere he goes. Finally he throws up his hands and says, “That’s it! I’m going to the Gentiles!” That is right where God wanted him in the first place. But God lets Paul discover that part of his plan on his own.
I remember when I was an undergraduate at Roger Williams College. The Catholic chaplain on campus was the first one to approach me about being a priest. And when I finally told him “No, priesthood is not in my future,” he responded, “OK, Mike. God has a way of making your life miserable until you do what he wants.” Oh how true it was! Actually, I wouldn’t go that far. But I will say that God has a way of making your life feel unsettled or incomplete until you do what he wants. But that part of God’s plan was something I had to discover in my own time.
And he still does it. I don’t know how some people can say they’re bored. They’re bored with Church. They’re bored with prayer. They’re bored with God. How can people be bored when it’s through prayer and the sacraments that God is unfolding little bits of his plan for us everyday? That’s exciting! People are bored because they’re not even looking for the plan.
Brothers and sisters, pray with me today that a new excitement fills the people of God, by being open to the calling of the Lord.
And blessed be God forever,
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: “God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.” -St. John of the Cross
Prayer for Enlightenment
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. List 2 or 3 ways in which God has spoken to you in the past, i.e., another person, Scripture, unforeseen circumstances, a dream, etc.
2. How can one be sure inspiration is from God and not from oneself or other source? What is one or two ways this can be discerned?
3. Have you ever had an experience such as Paul and Barnabas where you thought God was taking you in one direction and you found out you were mistaken? How did you come to realize this?
4. What do you think God wants most from his children?
5. Have you ever been asked or even forced to do something you would not have chosen for yourself? For instance, a job you disliked, an errand you would rather not have done? Do you see God’s hand in this? If so, what lesson did you learn by it?
6. Name some ways we grow in virtue.
7. Do you believe God’s hand is in everything that happens, good and bad?
8. Why do you think God lets bad things happen to good people?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 210: Evangelizing Where God Puts You: A Reflection on Acts 8: 26-40
The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, "Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route." So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, "Go and join up with that chariot." Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?" So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. This was the Scripture passage he was reading:
Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.
Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, "I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself or about someone else?" Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him. As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?" Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him. When they came out of the water, he Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing. Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news to all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40)
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” It is written in the prophets: 'They shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6: 44-45)
Jesus says in this Gospel passage, “No one can come to me, unless the Father draws him.”
We all have a two fold responsibility as Catholic Christians: to be living the example of the faith and to be sharing the faith with others. And actually, living the faith plays a major role in sharing the faith, because you cannot share with others what you’re not living yourself. But there always arises that question, “What happens when the person you’re sharing your faith with is not receptive to what you’re saying?”
That’s a good question because it’s far more common to have people ignore you when you talk about your faith than to have someone actually listen to you. Some people don’t want to hear about Christianity because of our history. Or so they claim. Yes, it is true we’ve had our historical blunders, but who hasn’t? You always have to look at decisions in their historical context to at least see the motivation behind the decision before you pass judgment on it.
Others don’t want to hear about Christianity because they’ve embraced the negative rhetoric of the media or political groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU that have an agenda directly opposed to Christianity. Others don’t want to hear about Christianity because they’ve had a bad experience or experiences with people who call themselves Christian. Whatever the case, you’re always going to come upon people who won’t give you the time of day as soon as you start talking about your faith. Don’t get discouraged at this, because no one can embrace the Son unless he has been first called by the Father.
Most people feel inwardly draw to God. In fact I would say all people are inwardly drawn to God. I teach 7th grade religion at our school, and I love the kids, but they’re 7th graders! They’re a handful. And keeping them focused is always a challenge. This week I showed them a documentary on the Vietnamese Cardinal, Nguyen Van Thuan, and how he spent thirteen years in a Vietnamese prison, nine of those years in solitary confinement, before finally being released and exiled from Vietnam. This was a documentary! Not a drama. Most of it is in subtitles. And I was divided because I thought the kids might not pay attention to it. I was wrong. They were glued to the screen. You could hear a pin drop. Why? Because we’re drawn to holiness. We thirst for holiness. And when we see it, it inspires.
Now some people have been called by the Father but have rejected the call for any of the above reasons that I mentioned. Some haven’t received their call yet. You can’t worry about that. That isn’t your problem. It’s not your job to save the world. It’s your job to be living the example and presenting a witness to that example. Note the Ethiopian eunuch in our first reading. What is he doing? He’s reading the Scriptures while returning home from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The eunuch, this foreigner, is open to the call of God. He is doing godly things. He has engaged himself in spiritual practices even if he doesn’t fully understand what he’s doing. He recognizes that the mysteries of God are larger than himself.
Secondly, notice that it’s God who’s in control of the encounter. How does Phillip encounter the Ethiopian? The Spirit whisks him in the eunuch’s path. Now, I’ve never been teleported by the Spirit anywhere before, but I can tell you this, during my conversion experience I know the Lord put certain people in my path that eventually led me to the priesthood. And I know that since I’ve been a priest God has put me in the path of others who were open to spiritual growth. You don’t need to look for people to evangelize. All you need to do is grow in your faith. God will send people to you without you ever realizing it.
And finally when Phillip talks to the eunuch he speaks from his own personal experience of Jesus. And if you want to really affect people, that is the best way to witness--by sharing what God has done for you. Evangelizing is something we really need to embrace, my brothers and sisters. Why? Because the Lord is calling many people to Himself. And now they have to find their direction from us.
–Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a saint:
Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. -- St. Francis Xavier
Prayer of St. Francis Xavier
Eternal God, Creator of all things, remember that You alone have created the souls of unbelievers, which You have made according to Your Image and Likeness. Behold, O Lord, how to Your dishonour many of them are falling into Hell. Remember, O Lord, Your Son Jesus Christ, Who so generously shed His Blood and suffered for them. Do not permit that Your Son, Our Lord, remain unknown by unbelievers, but, with the help of Your Saints and the Church,
the Bride of Your Son, remember Your mercy, forget their idolatry and infidelity, and make them know Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Who is our salvation, our life, and our resurrection, through Whom we have been saved and redeemed, and to Whom is due glory forever. Amen. –St. Francis Xavier
Questions for discussion:
1. Ask yourself, “What is my state in life? (married, single, single consecrated, religious) What are your duties in relation to your vocation?
2. St. Francis de Sales warns us not to neglect the Commandments or the duties of our state in life when attempting to serve God. We must also work within our means and abilities. Ask yourself what activities are open to you in your state in life and according to your means.
3. God has given us gifts and formed us for the purpose of bringing Him glory. Some have been given a high level of education, others a knack for prayer, others are good cooks. For some, all they have to offer is prayer. We are expected to give ourselves according to the measure we are given these gifts. Make an inventory of these gifts. Ask God in what way He would like you to use each of these gifts.
4. What ways can a person know for certain that he or she is being called by God to do a certain thing, and not merely doing what appeals to oneself?
5. Is it possible that God would ask a person to do something outside his or her comfort zone or abilities as a sacrifice or to facilitate growth? List a couple of examples that would fit your answer.
6. St. Francis Xavier is an excellent example of a person who greatly expanded the Kingdom of God through his generosity and zeal. Can you list other examples of mass conversions from the recent or remote past? What were the conditions present?
7. How were you evangelized? Can you identify the most important circumstances that effected your conversion?
8. What attributes did St. Phillip have that left him open to the prompting of the Spirit?
9. List at least 3 ways you can improve your ability to evangelize your circle of influence.
10. Not everyone is called to faraway places as was Philip, though some of us are. List some practical ways we can support the Church in her evangelization abroad.
11. Summarize some ways you plan to increase your evangelical zeal and spread the Gospel in your home, neighborhood, town, city, country.