Weeks 21-30

Week 21:  Conversion through Surrender of Self and Reliance on God: A Reflection on Beginning Chapters of the Book of Acts

 

 

 Before beginning this reflection, read Chapter 2 of the Book of Acts.

 

God is in control. This is something I think we have a tendency to forget. We can all get so caught up in our own plans and agendas,  that we can easily forget that God is in control. We so easily lack faith. We’d rather trust in ourselves.

 

In my first parish assignment, one Easter night, I was talking to a young man until well past midnight. He was a man who was getting married to a woman of great faith, but he couldn’t bring himself to believe in any kind of an organized religion. He kept telling me “I want to believe. I wish I could believe.” I tried to convey to him that the first step in believing is letting go of your self and relying more on God.

 

I love the opening chapters of the book of Acts, because they really show us the dramatic difference that takes place in these guys after Pentecost, especially Peter. Peter, who on the eve of the crucifixion couldn’t defend his Lord and his best friend before a servant girl, is suddenly converting thousands through his preaching. Peter, who couldn’t walk on water for his lack of faith, now makes a lame man walk through the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter, who told Jesus, “even if I have to die with you I will never disown you,” could now live that promise, because now it is not by his own power that he works, but through the Spirit of God.

 

Look at what God does to these guys! Look at how he can work through them now that the Holy Spirit dwells with them! They get arrested and they praise God. They’ll get beaten, and then they’ll praise God. Peter will be arrested, chained and bound for execution, when an angel of the Lord rescues him. And he and the community praise God. They have a totally different outlook from what they had before.

 

There are people that would like to deny that we as a church have made political mistakes in our history. I thank God for the blunders we’ve made throughout history. You know why? It proves that the Holy Spirit guides this Church. Face it. If the Church was a purely human institution, and we messed up as bad as we’ve messed up, we never would have survived the fall of the Roman Empire. I think the fact that we have messed up so much in the past. and we not only survived but also flourished, is a testimony that this Church is the work of God himself. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. I also think the nice thing about all this is that each one of us is a smaller version of the Church. you know.

 

God isn’t through with the Church, and God isn’t through with us either. There is always room for improvement. There is always room to change. That’s the call of Christianity; to change and to change again. Just as the Holy Spirit changed a motley, disorganized crew into a solid evangelizing, power packed, ministry, God can change us, too.

 

It is my prayer for all of us that we truly come to realize that God is in control, and we surrender our control to Him.

 

 

 Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

“My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings.” -- St. Isaac Jogues.”

 

Prayer:

 

“Lord, if you withdraw your hand, there is no grace. If you cease to guide us, we have no wisdom. If you no longer defend us, we have no courage. If you do not strengthen us, our chastity is vulnerable. If you do not keep a holy watch over us, our watchfulness cannot protect us. By ourselves we sink, we perish; when you are with us, we are uplifted, we live. We are shaky, you make us firm. We are lukewarm, you inflame us.” – Saint Thomas a Kempis

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. In truth, which is stronger: your self-reliance or your reliance on God?

2. How would you explain to a new believer your ability to praise God in the midst of difficult times?

3. What remedy would you recommend to a person who does not possess this ability?

4. Without revealing your mistakes, share an important lesson you have learned from them.

5. How do you give testimony to the works of God in your life?

6. Toward what change in your life are you working now and how are you relying on God for your needs in this matter?

7. What areas of your life do you have to surrender to God? How might you begin to give Him control?

8. Is it frightening to give God control of your life? Why or why not?

9. Is there anything you can do to help others come to the point of surrender to God? How might you do this?

 

--Susan Boudreau and Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Week 22:  Knowledge Infused by the Holy Spirit: A Reflection on Acts 3

 

 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. Now I know, brothers and sisters, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. For Moses said: “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.” Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed. For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.” (Acts 3:13-15, 17-24)

 

 In our reading, Peter has quite an effect on the crowd standing in front of the temple. I think one of the reasons why Peter is so effective is that he uses the Scriptures to back up what he’s saying about Jesus. He uses their own historical and theological background to reinforce his claim. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob…. To bring to fulfillment what had been announced long ago through the prophets; that the Messiah would have to suffer…. For Moses said; ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me…’” Peter just keeps quoting the Scriptures and their own history. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s so successful. He makes sense.

 

 The Holy Spirit has a way of pulling things together for us. Albert Einstein was no smarter than any other physicist of his day. Einstein’s genius was being able to see the big picture. Einstein was able to see how physics worked with the rest of the universe. That’s what made him brilliant. And that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit does for us. The Holy Spirit gets us to see how the universe and spirituality fits together.

 

 So, suddenly for Peter, after Pentecost, he sees salvation history as one long drama coming to fulfillment in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Suddenly Peter is able to quote specific passages of scripture and demonstrate how they were pointing to Christ. Not bad, considering how little Peter understands before Pentecost.

 

 There are those who call Christians blind, or backwards. No. The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of confusion or ignorance, but one of understanding. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to see how creation fits together. And once we understand that, we become able to lead people to Christ.

 

 Now you may be thinking, “That’s all fine and good, Father Mike, but Protestants and fundamentalists have the Holy Spirit and they see life, the universe, and theology very different from us. If it’s the same spirit, then why all the different Churches?”

 

 There are many well-meaning Christians, who truly believe that they are doing God’s work, and yet, they are misled. Why? What are the two things Peter has of which the Holy Spirit makes use? I think the things Peter had were his knowledge of Scripture and his knowledge of his own history! Many times in the gospels we read passages like, “The disciples did not yet understand the Scripture passage that said…” It never says they didn’t know the Scriptures; it just says that they didn’t understand. They were not yet infused by the Holy Spirit.

 

 Bible Christians come across as knowing the Scriptures very well. They don’t. Most have only a dozen or so passages of Scripture committed to memory. Some sects, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons, changed the Bible. The other Protestant Churches threw out several books of the Old Testament.

 

 TV talk-show host Bill O’Reilly preaches as an evangelical minister. On the subject of the existence of hell he says, “The CHURCH teaches that everyone not baptized goes to hell…” That is the O’Reilly Catechism, not the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Dr. Scott Hahn of Franciscan University is a convert to the faith. He was formerly a Presbyterian. He says, “It is impossible to do an in depth study of the Old Testament without coming to the conclusion that the Roman Catholic Priesthood is the natural succession to the Jewish Levitical priesthood. And it is impossible to study the Gospels, (especially Matthew’s) without coming to the conclusion that the Kingdom of God is the Church.”

 

 And so this is our task. We have to strive to know more, delve into Scripture more, learn more of our history, so the Holy Spirit can grant us the understanding to pull it all together and see creation as God has intended it.

 

 Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote From a Saint:

 “No man can attain to the knowledge of God but by humility. The way to mount high is to descend.” -- Blessed Giles of Assisi

 

 

Prayer:

 “Spirit of wisdom and understanding, enlighten our minds to perceive the mysteries of the universe in relation to eternity. Spirit of right judgment and courage, guide us and make us firm in our baptismal decision to follow Jesus' way of love. Spirit of knowledge and reverence, help us to see the lasting value of justice and mercy in our everyday dealings with one another. May we respect life as we work to solve problems of family and nation, economy and ecology. Spirit of God, spark our faith, hope and love into new action each day. Fill our lives with wonder and awe in your presence which penetrates all creation. Amen.” -– Saint Augustine

 

 Questions for Reflection:

 

 1. How knowledgeable are you of the Scriptures?

2. Do you have a habit of Scripture study? What is the frequency and method of your study?

3. How qualified do you feel to discuss Church history?

4. What is your level of familiarity with the documents of the Church councils?

5. How are you making use of the writings of the early Church Fathers?

6. Do you know and live out the Precepts of the Church?

7. If your knowledge is scanty, how can you develop it?

8. How open are you to the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

9. With which of the gifts of the Holy Spirit have you been blessed? How are you using these gifts?

10. How are the fruits of the Holy Spirit evident in your life?

 

 

--Susan Boudreau

 

Week 23:  Discipleship and Apostleship

 

“No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

(Jn 6:44)

 

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

 

 

 

‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.’


The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 26-40)

 

It’s very easy to get frustrated by not just the lack of faith in the world today, but the growing phenomenon of cynicism, atheism, secularism, and agnosticism. The anti-Christian, and in particular the anti-Catholic, forces are growing in strength by leaps and bounds everyday, it seems.

 

I subscribe to “The Catalyst,” which is the newsletter of the Catholic League. As I read this monthly publication, I’m sickened by things Catholics in THIS country are asked to endure for their faith. I mean, we expect stories like this in China, the Middle East, places that don’t enjoy our freedom, our constitution, but not here. Not in America. We try to protect our children; we try to protect people that we love and care about, but still, nothing seems to quell the storm of anti-faith that has gripped us.

 

That’s why this passage of Scripture can be such a comfort to us. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.” Jesus is admitting that there are some people we won’t be able to reach. There are people who will be so closed to God that all we can do is pray for them. This shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus had to go through the same thing. No matter how much evidence Jesus supplies supporting that he is who he claims to be, the powers that be still reject him. So if JESUS had trouble trying to convince people that he was the Son of God, what makes us think it’ll come easy?

 

So how do we allow the Father to draw us? Just because we’re professing that we believe that Jesus is Lord doesn’t mean that we’re living it. If we’re not living it, we’re not allowing the Father to draw us. The Father drawing us to Jesus comes in two stages, and we see both stages in Acts 8:26-40, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The two stages are discipleship and apostleship.

 

We begin with discipleship. This Ethiopian eunuch is a model of discipleship even though he isn’t a follower of Jesus Christ yet. Why? Because he is open. He demonstrates his openness in that he’s returning from a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem. So even though he’s a man of wealth, power, and position, he’s seeking a spiritual quality to his life. His openness is demonstrated again in that he’s reading scripture and meditating on it. He’s seeking wisdom. He’s seeking to expand his understanding of the spiritual. He’s open again when he listens to and accepts Phillip’s teaching. Phillip is an apostle, so this eunuch accepts the teaching of the lawful authority of the Church. And finally, this eunuch is open to sacramental grace. When he sees flowing water, he stops and asks to be baptized.

 

Once we perfect the level of discipleship, the Lord calls us to the next level: apostleship. To be an apostle simply means that we trust God so completely that he can do anything with us. Notice how the Holy Spirit whisks Phillip away to stand in front of this carriage, and when that event is complete, Phillip disappears and the Spirit whisks him away to yet another place. THAT’S what the Holy Spirit can do with an apostle.

 

Some rare saints like Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio, have been reputed to bi-locate, that is be in two locations at once. How did they do that? Because they were so completely open to the will of the Father, they had such trust in God, that God could work the extraordinary in them.

 

And that’s what the world needs today, brothers and sisters: more apostles. The world needs people who are willing to give themselves over completely to the will of God, and so give God the freedom he needs in our lives to make us the instruments to draw others to him.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.” -- Saint Ignatius Loyola

 

Prayer:

 

 “O my God, I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine. With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much! It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love. I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it. I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve. Amen.” -- Saint Francis de Sales

 

Questions for Reflection

 

1. Where are the anti-Christian or anti-Catholic forces evident in your community?

2. What forms of persecution have you had to endure for your faith?

3. In what instances have you encountered people who seem immovably closed to God?

4. How do you allow the Father to draw you?

5. What evidences are there that you are in the discipleship stage of being drawn to the Father?

6. What evidences are there that you are in the apostleship stage of being drawn to the Father?

7. How do the two stages interface in your life?

8. How is the Holy Spirit acting through you?

9. Is your will so completely open to the Father that He can work the extraordinary through you? How so? Or how can you develop greater openness?

10. What would you imagine the Father would accomplish through you if you were completely open to His grace and His will?

 

--Susan Boudreau

 

Week 24:  Divine Love Serves: A Reflection John 17: 24-26

 

 

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ (Jesus’ words to His apostles in John 17: 24-26)

 

Isn’t it odd that Jesus concludes His last meal with his closest friends by humbling Himself, and washing their feet; a task reserved for the lowest of servants? Alone, yes, it’s odd, but coupled with what happened on the day following the Last Supper, when Jesus would display His servant’s heart in an even more powerful way; the way of the cross, it makes perfect sense.

 

Such a perfect sacrifice is love in its purest form, because it is a reflection of the love that exists within the Trinity.

 

 

I was recently asked if I could explain the Trinity. In all honesty I have to say ‘No.’ I could give any number of theological explanations, but none of them really suffice. But I think the best, and really only explanation of the Trinity is that the Trinity is a complete and all embodying love; as if love were something tangible that we could see and touch, and lose ourselves in.

 

 

The Father so loves the Son that He forever pours His life and goodness into Him. The Son, filled with love for the Father, returns that love through His humility and obedience, even to death on the cross. The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the intensity of the love between the two, completes the circle by ever glorifying the Father and the Son, revealing the goodness of God to all creation.

 

 

This love, called agape love, a continuous outpouring, is the very heart of the communion with the Trinity. Even more wonderful, it is a communion in which we are all invited to participate. We enter this communion in two ways; by allowing the Lord to serve us in His sacraments; and allowing Him, to then work through us, to serve others.

 

 

You know, everybody worries about the declining number of priests in the diocese, yet vocations are flourishing in other parts of the world and even this country. Even though we certainly don’t have as many priests in Providence as we did forty years ago, we still have enough to get the job done, don’t we? If you’re looking for a miracle, look at this: despite the way the media has vilified us, and comedians have mocked us, and our government has persecuted us, (and believe me, in subtle ways, it has,) there are still young men willing to put on the collar and serve. With no perks, and no prestige, young men are still coming forward, willing to wash the feet of their brothers and sisters, because they have felt called by Divine Love, to imitate Divine Love. That’s more than incredible. That’s miraculous.

 

 

It is no different for any one of us. We are all called to serve others as Christ served us, and to love others as Christ loved us. If we let that Divine Love touch us, we will change. Throw away your agendas. Put aside your plans. Forget your politics. Focus on Divine Love and Divine Love will focus on you.

 

 

 

 

 

If we then show that Divine Love to others by a willingness to help others, we can feel confident and be assured that they will change, too.

 

 

Pray for the young men in the seminary. Pray for young women who are entering religious life. Pray for me, and all the priests, that we may all become perfect reflections of the Divine Love that we love and serve.

 

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

“The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.” -- Pope St. Gregory the Great

 

 

Prayer:

  

“Father, I beseech You, direct the hearts and wills of the servants of Your Bride, the Holy

Church, unto yourself so that they may follow the poor, bleeding, humble, and gentle Lamb of God

on the way of the Cross. Make them angels in the shape of men, for after all, they have

to administer and distribute the Body and Blood of Your Only Begotten Son! Amen.”

Saint Catherine of Siena

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

 

1. How would you describe the Trinity to a non-believer?

2. In whom do you best see agape love exemplified?

3. What are the evidences that you have a servant’s heart?

4. Describe the evidences of agape love in your life. (Given or received)

5. By what means or through which virtues do you return the Father’s love to Him?

6. In what ways do you see our priests being persecuted?

7. What do you do when you see this?

8. How else might the persecution be confronted?

9. Who has been changed, and in what ways, because of the loving service you have given?

10. What in your life interferes with the total giving of self in service of others?

11. What is one concrete thing I could do in the near future to get past this obstacle and become a more perfect reflection of the Father?

 

--Susan Boudreau

 

Week 25: Openness to the Whisperings of the Holy Spirit

 

 Based on Acts 22:30; 23:6-11

  

When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.’ When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamour arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’ When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks.

That night the Lord stood near him and said, ‘Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.’ (Acts 23: 6-11)

  

This reading is one of my favorite episodes in the life of Saint Paul. Paul is in another tight spot; it looks like this is the end for him. But notice how being “clever as a serpent and innocent as a dove” can get one out of a bad situation.

  

Paul has been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel and is dragged before the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and they’re going to set him up to be killed, but look how he gets himself out of it. He says to them, “I’ve been dragged here for preaching the resurrection of the body,” knowing full well that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the body as an article of faith, and the Sadducees did not.

 

 This is a sore spot for them and something that the two groups had debated for years. The Pharisees respond, “Oh well, there’s nothing wrong with that. Let him go.” The Sadducees jump in, “Wait a minute! Let’s look at this.” Immediately a fight breaks out and Paul slips away in the confusion. He is pretty clever.

 

 Paul doesn’t use splendid oration to get free. An angel doesn’t come and rescue him. Paul knows their weak link and exploits it. He used ordinary means. Now, one with no faith would say, “Well, Paul got lucky.” But we know better, don’t we? Because a saint is precisely one who can see God in the ordinary. We can say of Saint Paul that the Holy Spirit inspired him to say just the right thing that would save his life when he was a goner for sure.

 

 I remember a story Father Benedict Groeschel told once about the monastery in the Bronx and a worker whom they had to let go, I think maybe for stealing, and the guy didn’t take it well. He started making threatening phone calls and said he would burn the friary down one night while the brothers were sleeping. The friars went to the police, but they were unable or unwilling to do anything. You expect Father Groeschel to then say something like, “So I got on my knees and kept an all-night vigil in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and miraculously he was arrested for another crime and sent away…” But that isn’t what he said.

 

 Instead, Father Groeschel said that a friend of one of the brothers was an actor. The actor, pretending to be a gangster in a major crime family in New York, called the guy and basically scared the guy off! Yes, Jesus did say be “innocent as a dove,” but let’s not forget that He also said “be cleaver as a serpent!”

 

 Jesus said in the Gospel, “I do not pray for my disciples alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word, that all may be one as you Father are in me and I in you.” (From Jn 17:20,21) That’s us. We are one with Jesus. We are one with the Father. We are the ones who have come to believe in Jesus through the preaching of the disciples. God will protect us in the same way.

 

 So often we’re looking for God to manifest Himself in some grand, glorious spectacle, not realizing that He is communicating with us, more often than not through very ordinary means.

 

 Have you ever been burdened with a problem that seems to have no answer, and then suddenly you wake up one morning, and the solution seems so obvious that you’re surprised that you never thought of it before? So often we forget to give God credit for those times. But that’s the Holy Spirit at work, helping us, guiding us, like He did Saint Paul.

 

 It is my prayer for all of us today that the Holy Spirit enlightens each one of us to see God at work in our everyday lives.

 

 Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

 “The Holy Spirit leads us like a mother. He leads His child by the hand…as a sighted person leads a blind person.” -- St. John Vianney

 

 Prayer:

 

 “Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.” -- Saint Augustine

 

 Questions for Reflection:

 

 1. Share an example of when you have seen someone being clever as a serpent and innocent as a dove.

2. What was the working of the Holy Spirit in Fr. Groeschel’s story?

3. What was the working of the Holy Spirit in the examples of someone being clever as a serpent and innocent as a dove shared by the group?

4. “…that all may be one as you Father are in me and I in you.” How can you assist in making this mission of such unity a reality?

5. How do you see the Holy Spirit acting within your life?

6. Where is the Holy Spirit leading you?

7. What might you do to encourage or support holier thoughts throughout the day?

8. How might you make your work more holy?

9. How might you better love only those things that are holy?

10. How might you better defend all that is holy?

 

 --Susan Boudreau

 

Week  2:  King Over Suffering: A Reflection on Acts 18: 9-18

 

Clap your hands, all you peoples;
shout to God with loud songs of joy.
For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome,
a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

 

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the king of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm.

 

God is king over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted. (Psalm 47)

 

One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.’ He stayed there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. They said, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law.’ Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters.’ And he dismissed them from the tribunal. Then all of them seized Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of these things.

 After staying there for a considerable time, Paul said farewell to the believers* and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut, for he was under a vow. (Acts 18: 9-18)

 

“God is king over all the earth.” (Refrain for Psalm 47)

 

I think this is an appropriate psalm to accompany Acts 18:9-18. In Acts, the Lord speaks an encouraging word to Paul in a vision, a word that tells him not to be afraid, a word that compels him to continue preaching the word and trying to build up the kingdom of God. Paul continues to do so for a year and a half in Corinth. This is the same community to whom Saint Paul will write two letters--those pesky Corinthians, who will have every spiritual problem in the book.

 

Reading those letters, one can understand why Saint Paul had to spend such a long time with them. They were pretty slow to catch on to things. Then after a year and a half trouble begins. The Jews realize Saint Paul’s teachings and try to get the Roman pro council to do to Paul the same thing Pilot did to Jesus, but Gallio isn’t going to be pressured. They even go so far as to beat an innocent bystander in view of the bench to try to provoke an action out of Gallio, but it doesn’t work. Paul’s ministry continues. Eventually, Paul will be martyred for the faith in Rome, but in God’s time, not by human manipulation.

 

God is king over all the earth. What is a king? A king is someone who has complete dominion. He isn’t answerable to anyone. There is no court that can convict him. There is no legislative body that can veto or override his decision. He has complete autonomy. When we say God is King over all the earth, we are saying that God has complete dominion. Do things happen to displease God? Of course, they do. But God’s plan cannot be outdone. God’s plan cannot be thwarted.

 

Saint Paul lived as long as it was necessary for him to complete his mission. His mission was not without suffering. Saint Paul suffered tremendously throughout his life. His life and death glorified God and inspired generations of Christians to come. Yet through these trials Paul wrote time and again of the inspiring joy in his heart that came from God.

 

God never promised that the way he showed us would be easy. God never promised that, as long as we did what he said, everything would come up roses for us. God promised that he would never abandon us. Jesus said, “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will turn to joy.”

 

We need to understand that things like suffering are part of God’s plan, not because God is a sadist; not because God couldn’t figure out a way to leave suffering out of creation, but because we chose suffering when we chose sin. But now through the cross, God has taken our sufferings and spiritualized them. God has given them a productive end. God has made our suffering a means to purify ourselves and those we love. Jesus told us to expect it. He said, “You will weep while the world rejoices.” Alleluia!

 

Isn’t it comforting to know that no little ache or pain, no heartbreak endured, or physical or mental or emotional ailment that we have offered up for the glory of God has ever gone to waste? Isn’t it wonderful that the next time we stub our toe, or the car won’t start in the morning, or those kids just don’t listen, and we say, “Blessed be God,” instead of cursing our rotten luck, we’ve moved a step closer to heaven?

 

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of true joy, comes to dwell in each of our hearts, and, with Saint Paul, we may praise with our lives the King of all the earth.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents 

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

“If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured.”

-- Saint Colette

 

Prayer:

 

“My Savior! I cheerfully accept all the painful dispositions, in which it is Thy pleasure to place me. My wish is in all things to conform myself to Thy holy will. Whenever I kiss Thy cross, it is to show that I submit perfectly to mine. Amen” -- Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

1. Have you given God kingship over your life or are there areas over which you continue to reign? Name these.

2. To whom has the Lord given authority over you and do you allow them to reign in your life under His authority?

3. What types of pesky spiritual problems remain prevalent in your life?

4. The Corinthians were “pretty low to catch on”; what might speed your spiritual advancement?

5. What suffering do you now endure that you might offer to God?

6. Is this suffering in any way helping you to advance in holiness? How or why not?

7. Is your suffering productive or purifying for others?

8. How do you unite your sufferings to Christ’s?

9. How might you begin now to prepare for a potential call to martyrdom? How did St. Paul prepare?

 

-- Susan Boudreau

 

Week 27:  Knowledge Protects Faith: A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 11: 2, 3

 

 

 

“I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God himself, since I have given in marriage to one husband, presenting you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 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.” (2Cor 11: 2,3)

 

 What is Paul saying in this reading? Why is he saying he’s jealous? Isn’t jealousy a sin? Paul is saying he’s jealous in the same way a husband would be jealous if his wife who was flirting with another man. In that case one has a right to be jealous, because in a marriage a man and woman make a life long commitment to one another.

  

Paul is comparing our relationship to God with that marital relationship between a husband and wife because that is the stuff of which a covenant consists. Our baptism in the Lord carries that exact kind of responsibility, a life long marital commitment to God. Paul is concerned because the Corinthians, after embracing the Gospel and accepting baptism, are now turning away from the faith to follow different flavors of Christianity. Some men were putting their own little spin on the gospel, outside of the authority of the apostles and the bishops the apostles had appointed. The Corinthians were breaking away from the Church and following these teachings.

 

 

Paul is being very strong here. He defends his apostleship in saying, “I consider myself inferior to the ‘super-apostles’ in nothing.” He’s saying, “Hey! I’m an apostle too! I know what I’m talking about.” Later in this letter he’ll say, “Even if an angel appears to you preaching a different Gospel to the one we gave you, anathema sit! (Let him be cursed!)” (Gal1:8) The meaning of the letter is clear; there is no Gospel outside of the Church. There is no authentic Christianity other than the one that was handed down from the apostles to us.

 

 

Now what I find amusing about all of this is how little has changed in 2000 years. We can find any number of people who teach their own little brand of Christianity and we don’t have to look far to find it. We can find this stuff in our own back yard. When people have come to me with a moral problem and I’ve given them the teaching of the Church, I get a response like, “Well, I’ll gather some other opinions and make my own judgment.” So the Lord communicates with you directly? Or when I counsel a couple who are living together outside of the sacrament of marriage, and I tell them that this is morally against God’s commandments, they say, “Oh, Father, God will understand.” How do you instruct someone who is his or her own little Magisterium? And this isn’t confined to laity. Plenty of priests fall into this category as well. Plenty of priests and religious are teaching their own brand of Catholicism and not what the Church teaches.

 

 

Suffice to say, this is why you must have a Catechism in your possession. This is why you can’t be afraid to look things up in it when something doesn’t sound right to you. There are many people out there under the auspices of the faith, who will try to deceive you. Don’t even take me at MY word! If something I say strikes you as odd, or off base, check what I say against the Catechism, and if you feel I’ve said something that doesn’t jibe with the Churches teaching, show it to me.

  

This is why I write out my homilies. It’s not that I can’t preach off the cuff, but, if I do, I might say something that could be misconstrued. If I write down my homilies and read them when I preach, I can make sure that I’m not inadvertently giving the wrong message.

  

I take some degree of comfort in the knowledge that this problem is not a new problem. It’s as old as Saint Paul, but with that said, it’s something for which we need to be prepared. Our faith is something we need to work at. Our faith is something we need to protect. The way we protect it is by growing in our knowledge of it so that we can’t be led astray.

  

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

“But what is also to the point, let us note that the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning was preached by the Apostles and preserved by the Fathers. On this the Church was founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called, a Christian.” --St. Athanasius

 

Prayer:

 

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

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Name ways in which your relationship with God is like a marriage covenant.

2. What grace makes this likeness a reality?

3. How can you foster that grace?

4. Saint John Bosco instructs, “Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?” Is what you are reading and viewing pure and nourishing or poisonous?

5. What are you studying to increase your knowledge so as to protect your faith?

6. What references are you using when you study?

7. How do you instruct someone who is his or her own little Magisterium?

8. How might the methods differ for those outside the faith? Practicing the faith? Religious or clergy?

9. How else might you protect your faith?

10. Practically, how might you encourage or assist others in growing or protecting their faith?

 

--Susan Boudreau

 

Week 28:  Doubt Alleviated by Experience, Theology and Grace: A Reflection on Matthew 28: 16, 17

 

“The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him they worshipped, but they doubted.” (Mt 28:16, 17)

 

The eleven. The apostles. When Jesus meets them in the upper room in Jerusalem after his resurrection he orders them to go to Galilee. They arrive. They see Jesus. They worship Jesus. Jesus is about to ascend into heaven. But they doubt. What could they doubt? They saw him die. They saw him resurrected. Thomas put his finger in the nail marks in his hand and his hand into Jesus’ side. What’s left to doubt?

 

We have to be careful not to be too hard on the apostles. After all, how many of us doubt all the time? How many people walk around with an, “it’s too good to be true,” attitude? So even though things are going just fine in my life, I’m hedging my bets because I know the bottom has to fall out soon. So even though the apostles have seen, heard, touched, experienced the Lord, like many people, they don’t trust their senses. They don’t trust what they’ve experienced.

 

Many people fall into this as well. People have a powerful experience of God, either from a pilgrimage to a holy place, or a Catholic conference with really inspirational energetic speakers, like the youth experience at Steubenville East, or a personal miracle, a dramatic healing perhaps. We run around and tell everyone of our powerful experience of God, and “praise Jesus; Alleluia; Lord, I lift your name on high!” But as soon as we’re off the high, because we can’t sustain that emotional high forever, and we begin to encounter some difficulty or trial in our life, suddenly we forget the dramatic experience we had of God, or we begin to doubt that it was ever genuine. That’s why we cannot confine faith to the experiential. Faith cannot be based exclusively on the experiential or the theological, but must be a balanced marriage of the two, or faith won’t last.

 

 

 

 

Well, that STILL doesn’t explain what’s going on with the apostles! They had first hand experience of Jesus! They were on the Mount of Transfiguration. They saw him heal. They saw him walk on water, and multiply loaves of bread and fish with their own eyes. They got the teaching of Jesus first hand! They heard his Sermon on the Mount. They heard the beatitudes, the parables, his condemnation of hypocrites, and his mercy toward sinners! They had the experiential and theological! How could they doubt now, after experiencing and learning all of that first hand?

 

There’s one more element; there’s one more ingredient that’s still missing. Grace. They still hadn’t received any Divine Grace, because the Holy Spirit hadn’t come yet, and that’s why Jesus HAD to leave! The Holy Spirit couldn’t come until Jesus left! That’s why Jesus couldn’t respond to that temptation of satan in the wilderness before his ministry began when the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said, “All of these are mine, and I’ll give them all to you if you bow down and do me homage.”

 

 

 

If Jesus had said yes to that, he could have set himself up as a benevolent dictator. Because he had a divine nature, he may have never died naturally. He could have stayed as king over the earth forever, and established peace and prosperity for everyone living on earth for all time, and the devil would have been just fine with that, because the devil would know our souls would have been his after we died. The devil is willing to give us what we want here as long as he can have us later.

 

We must understand the function of the Son before we understand the function of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ function, his vocation, was twofold. His first and primary function was to cleanse away the past, sin and all of its effects on the cross, with his blood. His second function was to establish the Church. He did that by preaching the kingdom to prepare people to receive the Holy Spirit. So Jesus’ function was to repair the damage made by sin in the past, and to lay the foundation for a bridge between us and God –the foundation being the Church--so the Holy Spirit could shape our future with God.

 

 

 

That’s why Jesus had to leave. If he had stayed, if he had never died, we’d still be in our sin, with no possible way to change our hearts. We may have all lived a very rich, rewarding, peaceful life here, but we would have no hope for eternity, no matter how good we were. Jesus’ time on this earth ends with his ascension into heaven.

 

Pentecost begins the time of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit completes what Christ began, by giving us the power to actually resist and overcome sin, and change into living images of Christ.

 

And that’s why the apostles doubted, even as they stood watching Jesus ascend into heaven, even while having the benefit of the experiential and the theological. They needed the Grace of the Holy Spirit to pull it all together. And so do we.

 

 

 

These are the necessary ingredients of faith; experiential, theological, and Grace. We encounter the experiential by living in the Lord’s love; charity, interceding for the needs of another, a pilgrimage, contemplative prayer, a conference, anything that’s going to confront us with the reality that Christ is near us.

 

We encounter the theological through study; spiritual reading, scripture reading…anything that is going to form the intellect to recognize Christ when we do encounter him.

 

 

 

And Grace we experience in the sacraments. Grace removes any blocks that may hinder us in the spiritual journey.

 

So if we’re experiencing a crisis of faith, if we doubt, it’s probably because we’re deficient in one of these areas.

 

 

 

Either we’re not praying enough, meditating enough, studying—feeding the intellect enough, or not partaking often enough in the sacraments especially confession and Eucharist.

 

My prayer today is three fold; first, that all people having a crisis of faith have all their doubts alleviated though these means, second, that all people foster a relationship with the Holy Spirit everyday, and, lastly, that all someday ascend into heaven, just as the Savior did.

 

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

 “I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.” --Saint Bernard

Prayer:

 

 Lord Jesus, Saint Thomas doubted Your resurrection until he touched Your wounds. After Pentecost, You called him to become a missionary in India, but he doubted again and said no. He changed his mind only after being taken into slavery by a merchant who happened to be going to India. Once he was cured of his doubt, You freed him and he began the work You had called him to do. As the patron saint against doubt, I ask him to pray for me when I question the direction in which You are leading me. Forgive me for mistrusting You, Lord, and help me to grow from the experience. Saint Thomas, pray for me. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

1. Where do your doubts lie?

2. In which of these areas do you think you might be deficient: experience, theology, Grace?

3. Have you had an experience that ought to fuel faith? What would that be?

4. On a daily basis, how do you experience the reality that Christ is near you?

5. What wisdom of theology could you share to strengthen faith and alleviate doubt?

6. How do you increase your theological understanding in order to form the intellect to recognize Christ when you do encounter him?

7. What grace do you seek to complete this threefold formula to ensure faith over doubt?

8. In view of this homily, how might you understand the quote, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."? Jn 12:32

9. In what ways do you see the gifts of the Holy Spirit empowering you to resist temptation, overcome sin, and change into a living image of Christ?

 

-- Susan Boudreau

 

Week 29:  Not All Who Cry Out, “Lord, Lord,” Will Be Saved: A Reflection on Matthew 7:21

 

 “Not all who cry out ‘Lord, Lord’ will be saved.” (Mt 7:21)

  

That is a scary thought, isn’t it? It is also a good warning for us to heed. “Not all who cry out Lord, Lord, will be saved!” That blows away the fundamentalist claim that all you have to do to be saved is profess on your lips that Jesus is your Lord and savior! Not according to this passage of Scripture.

 

 I was saved once, you know. I was saved and I didn’t even realize it. I was in college down the road here at Roger Williams University. A dear friend belonged to an Assemblies of God parish and took me to one of his services. This was my first exposure to any kind of a charismatic gathering. Needless to say I was a bit culture shocked. And everyone MUST have known I was Catholic at a glance.

 

 The minister approached the pulpit and preached for about fifty minutes. When he finished his sermon he asked the congregation, “Have you been saved?” Everyone let out a loud, “YES!” He said again, “Have you been saved?!” Again everyone let out a loud, “YES!” Then he said, “Is there anyone here who has NOT been saved?” And everyone looked at me. Then he pointed to me, and said, “Do you want to be saved?” I said, “Yeah?” Then he said, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and savior?” Again, I answered, “Yeah?” Then he said, “Will you say the words? Will you just say the words?” And I said, “Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and savior?” Everyone cheered! People around me were slapping me on the back, and some very attractive young ladies were hugging and kissing me! (I liked that part! Whoa! Now this is CHURCH! Catholics only shake hands.)

 

 

 

 

At the coffee an’ afterwards, I was walking up to every pretty woman in the hall saying, “Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior!” What a pick up that was!

  

About a week or so later, I was with this friend again and another evangelical friend asked me in a matter of fact way, “Mike, have you been saved?” I said that I hoped I would be saved when I died, to which my first friend got very surprised and said, “What are you talking about, Mike? You were saved last week, don’t you remember?” Ohhhhhh! Then it all clicked.

 

So I had been “saved” for a week and never even realized it! Now that I have a bit of theology training under my belt, I know how to answer that question. Saint Paul tells me that I have been justified by faith. But I am in the process of being saved. That’s a distinction we need to make.

 

Salvation is a process. It’s not a matter of saying the magic words, and to be fair, it’s also not a matter of just eating the magic Communion Host. Some Catholics treat the Blessed Sacrament that way.

“Not all those who cry out Lord, Lord, will be saved.” Many people interpret this Scripture as meant for people who say they believe in Jesus but don’t walk the walk, don’t go to Mass or don’t practice the faith. That doesn’t hit the mark either because this isn’t the group Jesus is addressing.

  

Look what he goes onto say; “When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, perform many miracles in your name?’ Then I shall tell them to their faces; I have never known you. Away from m, you evil doers!”

 

 

 

 

 All of those works mentioned: prophecy, casting out demons, performing miracles, are works of faith. You can’t do these things without faith! Casting out demons! How can you do that without faith?!

 

So the people who did these works obviously had faith, but that didn’t stop them from doing evil. So what can we conclude? Faith, in and of itself, is not enough. Faith is a starting point, not a finishing point.

What did Saint Paul say in his letter to the Colossians? We hear that famous passage at weddings all the time; “Now abide these three, faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

 

Professing our belief in Jesus justifies us in the eyes of God. God in return, through the Holy Spirit, grants us the gift of faith. Faith then leads us to hope in the Lord, in His salvation, His goodness, His promises, and that, in turn, helps us to grow in love.

 

 Faith is the ability to see God in creation.

 

 Hope is the ability to see God in ourselves.

 

 Love is the ability to see God in others.

 

Unless our faith takes us to that point, it’s useless. Love: That’s our finish line. That’s our goal; to become great lovers, to become Divine lovers.

  

How do we know if we love the Lord? It is simple. Jesus said, “What so ever you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.” We show our love for God by showing our love for his creation. That includes a larger responsibility to humanity: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless. It means living the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. That also means not gossiping about others, not passing judgment, being patient. The secret of being a saint is seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. A saint is one who prefers to listen to others instead of desiring to be heard. A saint is one who prefers being a follower of God rather than a leader of people. In a word, saints are those who see others as more important than themselves. Saints are great lovers. May we all strive to do likewise.

  

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

 

 

 

 “The faith of those who live their faith is a serene faith. What you long for will be given you; what you love will be yours for ever. Since it is by giving alms that everything is pure for you, you will also receive that blessing which is promised next by the Lord: the Godhead that no man has been able to see. In the inexpressible joy of this eternal vision, human nature will possess what eye has not seen or ear heard, what man's heart has never conceived.” -- Pope St. Leo the Great

 

 Prayer:

 

“I adore Thee, my God, Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three Persons and one only God! I firmly believe all that Thou hast deigned to make known to me by means of the Holy Scripture and Thy holy Church, because Thou has said so; and I am ready to give my life a thousand times for this faith. I place all my hope in Thee. Whatever good I may have, whether spiritual or temporal, either in this life or in the next, I hope for from Thee, through the merits of Jesus Christ, O God, my life and my only hope! I love Thee, Infinite Goodness, with all the affection of my heart and of my soul, because Thou dost merit all my love. I wish I knew how to love Thee as the Angels, the Saints, and just men love thee. I unite my imperfect love to that which all the Saints, Most Holy Mary, and Jesus Christ, bear to Thee.” --Saint Alphonse de Liguori

 

 

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

 

 1. Describe any encounters you may have had with evangelicals who would like to convert you or “save” you.

2. What does it mean to you “that I have been justified by faith, but I am in the process of being saved”?

3. What is the distinction between “justified” and “saved”?

4. How is your faith evidenced?

5. In what does your hope lie?

6. Which of the Corporal Works of Mercy do you regularly perform?

7. Which of the Spiritual Works of Mercy do you regularly perform?

8. Using Father Sisco’s description of a saint, would others describe you as saintly?

9. Describe something different you will do to become more saintly.

 

 

--Susan Boudreau

 

Week 30: Reactions to God or Faith: A Reflection on the Birth of John the Baptist

 

 Birth of John the Baptist (See Luke 1:5-80)

 

 

 

John the Baptist was the bringer, the messenger, the herald of the Good News. He is the first witness to the gospel. Here is an interesting question to ponder. How do people respond to the news surrounding John?

 

 

 

 

For instance, when the angel Gabriel first appears to Zechariah in the Holy of Holies in the temple, and announces that he and his wife are to be the parents of the prophet of the Messiah, Zechariah, the priest, responds with disbelief. His wife, Elizabeth responds with caution. When Mary, after conceiving Jesus, visits Elizabeth, and John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of her voice, Elizabeth praises God. In the Gospel when Elizabeth gives birth to John, and Zechariah regains his speech and praises God, some respond in fear, some respond in awe. When John begins his ministry, preaching and baptizing at the Jordon, tax collectors and sinners respond with repentance and joy while the Pharisee’s respond with contempt.

 

 This is how it always has been with God’s message, and this is how it always will be. The people reacted the same way to the prophets before John the Baptist. The people reacted the same way to Jesus. The people reacted the same way to Saint Paul and the Apostles after Jesus. And the people react the same way now to the Church.

 

Why is the Catholic Church so hated? Why is the Catholic Church mocked? Why is the Catholic Church singled out for disdain? Because we bring God’s message! We bring God’s good news!

  

Father Benedict Groeschel once told a story about John Cardinal O’Conner. A group of homosexual activists, protesting the Church’s stand, got into the Communion line at Mass, and after receiving the Host, spit Jesus out on the floor or back in the Cardinal’s face. Cardinal O’Conner was in tears after the Mass, and Father Benedict Groeschel went to comfort him and said, “At least they know where Jesus is.” Somewhere deep inside, they know we speak the truth, and that’s why they hate us so much.

 

 

So the message is good news for some, and bad news for others. It is good news for those that believe a better world is waiting for us. It is good news for those who believe we are our brother’s keeper in the world. It is good news for those who really want to be children of God. The Gospel is bad news for those who want to live for the self: self gratification, self indulgence, self-absorption. So there will always be a mixed reaction.

So, if John the Baptist was surrounded by mixed reactions, and the prophets before him were surrounded by mixed reactions, and Jesus and his apostles after him were surrounded by mixed reactions, and the Church, to this day, is the center of mixed reactions, how are people reacting to you?

 

 Do people react strangely to you if you have more than two or three kids? If you have four or five kids, sometimes people react with hostility. If you let your faith shine around you, not necessarily by being preachy, but even in little ways, some people will admire you, and others will scorn you. When I’m out in public with my collar on, complete strangers will smile at me, or say, “Good morning, Father,” and I get others who shake their heads or give me dirty looks, and they don’t even know me! But they know what the collar means, and they know what it stands for. So if we are living out our faith, even without trying, we will be noticed.

 

 

Today I would invite us to look at ourselves and ask, is my faith obvious enough to get a reaction from people?

 

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

“Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.” -- Saint Charles Borromeo

 

 

Prayer:

 

“Father, keep us from vain strife of words. Grant to us constant profession of the Truth! Preserve us in a true and undefiled faith so that we may hold fast to that which we professed when we were baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we may have Thee for our Father, that we may abide in Thy Son and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.” -- Saint Hilary of Poitiers

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

1. Is your faith obvious enough to get a reaction from people?

2. Describe the various reactions you receive.

3. What is your response to each of these types of reactions?

4. Does each of your reactions continue to demonstrate your faith in Jesus Christ?

5. How might you respond to negative reactions in a way that would invite conversion?

6. St. Paul of the Cross says, “When you feel the assaults of passion and anger, then is the time to be silent as Jesus was silent in the midst of His ignominies and sufferings.” In what situations might silence be the best approach?

7. How do you distinguish between when to be silent and when to speak boldly?

8. Is your own reaction to the Good News consistent?

9. What would you need to make it consistent and how can you meet this need?

 

 --Susan Boudreau

 

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