Weekly Catholic Bible Study
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Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 211: Everyone Is Looking for You: A Reflection on Mark 1: 35-37
"Rising early the next morning, he went off to a lonely place in the desert; there he was absorbed in prayer. Simon and his companions managed to track him down, and when they found him they told him, 'everyone is looking for you.'" Mark 1:35-37
"Everyone is looking for you." How true it is. If we look at the world, everyone is looking for satisfaction, everyone is looking for the peace and joy that can only come from God. Whether they realize it or not, people are all looking for Jesus, and like the people in this Gospel today, they just don't know where to find him.
Spirituality in this age can be summed up by the title of that old Ronnie Milsap song from the 70's, "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places." People are searching for peace and joy in self help books or New Age mysticism. People are looking for peace and joy in other people; teenagers and young adults are good for this one. They're willing to sacrifice everything and anything for the new love of their life, only to realize too late that Mr. Perfect or Miss Perfect isn't so perfect after all.
Catholics do this with their priests, too, you know. People gravitate toward a certain priest for whatever reason; he's young, he's interesting, he's a dynamic preacher, or he's very compassionate or empathetic toward my problems. They base their faith on HIM. And then when he gets transferred they either follow him from parish to parish or their faith falls by the wayside. That's also a problem.
“Everyone is looking for you.” And most people are looking in the wrong places, because there are only three places we'll find the Lord. How does this Gospel passage begin? "Upon leaving the synagogue..." That's the first place we'll find the Lord, in his Church, specifically in the sacraments he left us. A saint once said that if we realized how close we were to Christ in the sacraments, we'd never leave the Church. My greatest joy as a priest is saying Mass, hearing confessions, and anointing the sick. If I could do it all day long I would, because that's when I know I'm closest to Christ.
The next thing we see Jesus do is heal Peter's mother-in-law and the other sick people that were brought to him that night. And that's the second place we find Jesus. We find him in the sick, the suffering, and the poor. We find him in all people who need to be served, who need to be taken care of. These can be complete strangers or people in our own families. So we find the Lord in our charity.
The last place we find Jesus is in this line I quoted: Jesus rises early in the morning to pray. We find Jesus in our prayers and sacrifices. So many people tell me when I challenge them, "I don't have time in the day to pray." And so I suggest, how about getting up a little earlier. Now we've combined prayer and sacrifice. I also advise praying with the Scriptures, reflecting on Scripture, since the Lord has revealed himself through his Word in Scripture.
Finding things like peace and satisfaction isn't difficult. It's just a matter of looking for the source of all love in the right places.
And blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthon Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to look upon Him present within us. - St. Teresa of Avila
Prayer from a Saint:
I desire to love you, my Lord, my Light, my Strength, my Deliverer, my God, and my All. What have I in heaven, O God, and what do I want besides you on earth? My spirit and my body languish with yearning for your majesty. You are the God of my heart, you are my portion, my inheritance for eternity. Amen. - St. Paschal Baylon
Questions for Reflection
1. People search for peace and joy in many different ways, such as through relationships, material possessions or fame, though none of these ways can be ultimately satisfying. In what ways have you "looked for love in all the wrong places"? Did you find the satisfaction and peace you desired in these places? If not, what did you find?
2. Christ is ever so close to us in the sacraments. How often do you receive Jesus in the Eucharist?
How often do you make a good confession? After receiving the Eucharist, do you take time to appreciate and experience the closeness of Our Lord?
3. Jesus may be found in the sick, the suffering and the poor. When you come across these individuals, do you see Jesus in them? Are you willing to serve the "least of these"?
4. Jesus can be encountered through prayer and a prayerful, meditative reading of the Scriptures.
Do you take time to pray on a regular basis? To read the Scriptures, especially the Gospels?
5. What steps might you take in the next few weeks to become closer to Our Lord and to experience more peace and satisfaction in your life?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 212: Father Knows Best: A Reflection on Matthew 9:2
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven." Matthew 9:2
"Father Knows Best." I have a vague recollection of that show in the early seventies. It was sandwiched between "My Three Sons" and "Leave It to Beaver." And I think the plot was almost always the same; there was always some little family problem, actually a miniscule problem by 21st century standards; and Dad always had the right solution, the right answer, the right thing to say, and all family crises were resolved in 30 minutes, including commercials.
I often wonder what that paralytic's reaction was when Jesus told him his sins were forgiven. If he was anything like me, his reaction would have been, "Oh crud! I'm hot, I'm tired. My friends come and tell me about a miracle worker who can make me walk. They carry me from another village. We can't get in. They hoist me on the roof and cut a hole in the roof to lower me down. He's walking over. I think to myself, 'This is it!' And he tells me my sins are forgiven.”
We don't deal with disappointment well. That's because we're always trying to inflict our plan on God, instead of trying to find out what God's plan is for us. The Pharisees are a classic example. They knew what THEY wanted in a Messiah. They had THEIR plan. But Jesus didn't meet their qualifications, even after he proves over and over again that he MUST be from God.
And so often we are no different. We still want things our way. I was all ready to be ordained a priest on May 31st, 1997. Plans were made. A month before the ceremony I got a call from the vocations director. He said, "Mike, I don't know how to tell you this, but the date of the ordination has been changed to June 14th." My reaction, "Oh crud!" On the outside I was smiling. "That's OK, Father. A-Ha Ha. I understand. A-ha ha. These things happen. Ha Ha Ha." But inside I was saying, 'If I owned a gun, you'd be very, very afraid right now.' And what was I worried about; rebooking a hall, a photographer? Little stuff, not worth getting upset about. But we get upset with disappointment.
Jesus knew what he was doing when he first told that paralytic his sins were forgiven. Because that was the real miracle. What is there in healing the body? Let's be honest. Is there any one of us who can claim their body has no defects? Aren't we always too fat, too thin, too tall, too short? We paint the face and color the hair, read up on Rogaine. We buy the latest miracle diets, call Jenny Craig, renew memberships at the gym. In Sweden, you can buy a facial crème guaranteed to make you look ten years younger, made from crushed up, aborted fetuses. (Just when you thought that issue couldn't get any worse!)
In a previous assignment, I visited a beautiful eighteen year old girl, a parishioner where I was stationed, who was in a Rhode Island Hospital -- for anorexia. I visited this same young lady that previous summer for the same thing. She thought she was too fat for the world, too fat for her friends, too fat to attract a boyfriend - yet she was a beautiful, beautiful young woman.
What is healing a defect in the body, compared to bringing a dead soul to life? You tell me what the real miracle was! Our Church abounds with miracles! You don't have to go to Medjugorje! You don't have to see apparitions! You want to see a miracle? Receive communion. Go to confession. Witness a baptism. These are miracles, because they bring life to the soul. The body is almost trivial by comparison. Yet whenever we have a little ache or pain, whenever we have a little disappointment, we moan, never considering maybe God is trying to use that tiny suffering to bring a soul to him.
Jesus did heal the paralytic's body, but first he healed his soul, because that was more important. So instead of complaining when we have to endure our little crosses, why don't we resolve to offer our sufferings, trials and disappointments to the Lord, to help bring about his plan, because truly, our eternal Father knows best.
And blessed be God forever,
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote From a Saint:
Grand us, O Lord, not to mind earthly things, but rather to love heavenly things, that while all things around us pass away, we even now may hold fast those things that abide forever. - St. Leo the Great
Prayer From a Saint:
My God, just as I wish to love nothing more than you, so I wish to live only for you. I offer you all my thoughts, all my words, all my actions, and all my sufferings this day; please bestow your holy blessing upon them. Amen. - St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort
Questions for Reflection:
1. How well do you deal with disappointment? Do you become frustrated when your wants and desires, your plans do not materialize? Or are you able to trust God that HIS plan is better?
2. Are you overly concerned with your body or with your physical appearance? Do you place your physical needs above your spiritual needs?
3. When you have physical aches and pains, do you offer these up to God as sacrifices to further his work, such as to save souls?
4. Do you spend time nourishing your soul through receiving the sacraments, prayer, reading the Scriptures, etc.?
5. Do you truly believe that our Heavenly Father knows best?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 213: Complete Abandonment to God: A Reflection on Luke 9: 1-6
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. (Luke 9: 1-6)
Complete abandonment to God. I know that’s a theme I tackle often, but it comes up so frequently in the scriptures.
In today’s gospel Jesus summons the twelve, pairs them up and sends them out to do three things; proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand, cure the sick, drive out demons. Jesus sends them out with a mission. Jesus sends them out with incredible spiritual powers. And Jesus sends them out with almost nothing from the world.
Don’t take any food. Why not? Because you should hunger for God’s word and thirst for the salvation of souls.
Don’t take an extra tunic. Why not? Because you are clothed in the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome any spiritual opposition against you.
Whenever you enter a house stay there until you leave. Why? Because your home is with the children of God, and you bless them by giving them the opportunity to practice charity.
If they reject you, shake the dust from your feet. Why? Because if they won’t accept the gift you offer, the kingdom of God in their midst, you don’t want anything else from them, even the dust that clings to your feet.
And according to scripture they are successful. They cured the sick, and they drove out demons. Why? Because they proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God? Not necessarily. Because they trusted God. They trusted God enough to leave behind all worldly attachments. And these attachments can hardly be called opulent! Food, clothes, some money. These were basic survival items. By leaving without them they had to rely soley on God to take care of them. And because they did, they were given supernatural authority from God over the physical and spiritual world, a taste of what the Kingdom of God was going to be like.
So why now is the world so sick? Why now is the demonic running so ramped again? I think the blame falls mostly on the clergy. We have become too distracted with toys and gadgets, that we fool ourselves will help us in our ministry, but in reality only distract us from God. I need to re-evaluate myself and see what areas of my life I can simplify. I think it will be a good Lenten exercise or an exercise for any time of the year. Ask yourself today, what can I do, to rely more on God?
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
'I have never worried about our temporal affairs, and I have seen by experience that God has always provided for us. When we were two, Providence provided enough for two; for four when we were four; and when our number increased the needs of all were supplied, thus verifying the divine promise: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. vi. 33.) "Be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on." (Matt. vi. 25.)' St. Paul of the Cross
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,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Charles de Foucald
Questions for reflection:
1-What are the three things Jesus sent his disciples to do?
2-Are these above three assignments evident in my life?
3-The disciples were sent to mission with virtually nothing: food, clothes and walking stick. What does this specific instruction say about my relationship with materials things and possessions?
4-Why were the disciples successful in their mission?
5-What are some of the barriers that, according to Father Sisco, lead to distraction?
6-What are the signs of how the Kingdom of God will appear?
7-Why is it necessary for me to trust God and rely on Him in all things?
8-What is the result of abandoning myself totally to God?
9- Why is the world, myself included, so sick and not feeling God’s power in our daily lives and ministry?
10-What can I do to rely more on God?
--Edem Auguste Ahadjitse
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 214: Christian Community: A Reflection on Hebrews 3:13
"Encourage yourselves daily while it is still "today", so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin." Hebrews 3:13
The author of the letter to the Hebrews makes a good point today. We are the Christian community. We are the family of God. But we so often don't live like community or family. Our faith exists in a vacuum. We go to Church, weekly or daily. We see the people we're accustomed to seeing. Then we leave Church and we get on with our lives and we don't see these people again until the next time we go to Church. That's not family. That's not community. Families invest in each other. Communities take care of each other.
You know the reason why so many young people go on these crazy and sometimes dangerous fads, or that each generation gets more creative in their style of dress or appearance? It is because there's a longing to BE-LONG. I can't help but smile at the Goth kids, who claim to be such non-conformists, but in their style of dress and music that they listen to they ARE conforming to one another! So they have formed a sort of anti-community community!
It all comes down to the same thing - everybody wants to belong to something bigger than themselves.
A generation ago that was the Church. Everyone identified themselves by which parish they belonged to.
That's the reason for all the parish organizations: Legion of Mary, Knights of Columbus, Saint Vincent dePaul, Pro-Life Group, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts - all of these groups exist to make us family, to make us community, because families and communities take care of one another.
That's the reason we have Our Lady of Fatima and Saint Jude Novena on Tuesday evening, and first Friday Rosary and Benediction and the Adoration Chapel, because families and communities pray for one another. And yet the membership in many of these organizations is dwindling. I offered Rosary with Exposition and Benediction every Friday during December and only a small handful of people came. Why?
"Oh Father, I'm so busy!" I'm sure you are. We all are. But as the Letter to the Hebrews says, we need to encourage each other. And we encourage one another by helping one another, and in doing that we also encourage ourselves. Because when we know we're making a difference - when we know we've made someone's life a little bit better or we've brought comfort to another soul - that encourages us.
There's a woman I know that I first met when I was sub-teaching in the high schools, while I was working on my graduate degree, and she was a junior in one of my classes. She and her boyfriend got pregnant and she had an abortion. I was always encouraging her to get healing from that and go to confession, but she didn't want anything to do with God or the Church. I worked on her all through seminary and the early years of my priesthood but no luck. We stayed friends though, but we lost touch over time as many people do.
I ran into her recently. We visited a bit, and come to find out she's very active in her parish, her oldest son is an altar boy and talks about wanting to be a priest, and SHE ENCOURAGES IT! She wants him to be a priest! You know for years I thought nothing I said made a difference to her. Apparently something did. And when I go before God, if I do nothing else in life, at least I can say I had something to do with steering this woman back toward the light. That encourages me. When we realize we've had a positive impact on someone, it encourages us.
Did you notice how that line I quoted from Hebrews seems a little obscure? "Encourage yourselves daily while it's still 'today.'" Does that mean encourage one another, or encourage myself? Yes! Exactly! I think the Holy Spirit left that a little obscure on purpose, because by encouraging one another we do encourage ourselves. Get involved. Invest in your faith by investing in people. If you can go to your grave knowing you brought one soul from darkness to light, you can rest in confidence that it was a life well spent.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier." - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Prayer from a Saint: "May God the Father who made us bless us, may God the Son send his healing among us, may God the Holy Spirit move within us and give us eyes to see with, ears to hear with and hands that your work might be done. May we walk and preach the word of God to all. May the angel of peace watch over us and lead us at last by God's grace to the Kingdom." - St. Dominic
Questions for Reflection:
Do you see yourself as part of the Body of Christ, the community of believers?
Do you have friends at Church that you see during the week? Are you a part of a group at Church, such as a Bible study, the Legion of Mary or the Knights of Columbus? When your parish has events, such as a festival or Advent mission, do you attend?
Are you an encourager? Do you help to make people a better version of themselves?
Do you share your faith with others? Do you invest in the lives of others?
Do you feel you are "too busy"? If so, what steps might you take over the next few weeks to change this? Are there any activities in your day that are time wasters?
When we help and encourage others, we lift ourselves up as well. Do you believe this?
Can you identify one or more people in your life who need to be encouraged? Vow to spend some time with them this next week to bring them encouragement.
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 215: Strive For Peace: A Reflection onf Hebrews 12: 14-15
"Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one is deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled." Hebrews 12:14-15
Now this passage from the letter to the Hebrews is a hard one to listen to, and yet it's so necessary for us to hear. We often need to ask ourselves, "Where is my faith?" If faith is indeed acceptance of what cannot be proven and belief in what cannot be seen, we need to ask ourselves, "Do I let what Jesus said and did, and do I allow the teachings of the Church, which came forth from what Jesus said and did, challenge me to change my life for the better?" With this in mind, let's unpack this passage line by line.
"Strive for peace with everyone..." Everyone. People you don't like. People who are mean to you. People who think differently than you. Everyone. No, it does not say, "Like everyone.” It says “Strive for peace. “ Strive, work toward, living in peace with everyone.
Now sometimes, realistically, that just isn't going to work. Peace is just not going to happen. For instance, these ISIS people. It seems the more we try to appease them, the more violent they get. I'm sure you saw the story on the news of them burning the Jordanian pilot alive. I saw another story on the internet of them rounding up Catholic men and hanging them, shooting their sons, many of them children under twelve years old, and then raping and enslaving their wives and daughters. This is evil, pure and simple. Evil must be opposed, with force if necessary. Personally, I think we've reached that point, but to the credit of the United States and the Vatican, we did make every attempt to STRIVE to live in peace with them. People can do evil things, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility of striving for peace.
"...and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Did you catch that? If we're not striving to live in holiness, we may be the reason that others do not see the Lord! YIKES! I don't want to have to answer for that on judgement day!
Calling ourselves Christian is a grave responsibility. Accepting the sacraments is a grave responsibility. It means we're agreeing to act a cut above the rest of the world. It means we're agreeing to live by a moral standard that goes beyond what any culture or government could require of us. But if we agree to live it, if we profess to live it, but ignore it in our day to day lives or even outwardly defy it, we testify to the world that our faith is a lie, and who would want to attach themselves to that? We then could actually prevent people seeing the Lord, because we give them the excuse to write off the Church as nothing but a bunch of hypocrites who say one thing and do another, and so they would be deprived of the grace of God, which is the next line: "See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God..."
The author then says, "...that no bitter root may spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled." Why bring up bitterness now? Because bitterness is the primary enemy of peace.
And note, he says "bitterness" and not "anger". Why not? Again, it would be unrealistic to suggest that we're never going to get angry at times. In fact, there are some times we SHOULD get angry! When we see injustice, evil, immorality--these things should anger us. That's not sinful, if the anger motivates us to oppose, or attempt to correct, these things. But when anger metastasizes into bitterness, when we start seeking vengeance, when we give in to hate, when we want to see an individual or a group of people like the ISIS terrorists "burn in hell for all eternity", that's when we sin.
Hatred and bitterness block what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in our lives more than anything else, because they are directly opposed to the nature of God Who is love. So let's strive for peace with everyone, even with ourselves, by heeding the teachings of our Savior, that we may be proper vessels of God's grace and so change the world. Because that's what our faith tells us God's grace can do.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "Opting for peace does not mean a passive acquiescence to evil or compromise of principle. It demands an active struggle against hatred, oppression and disunity, but not by using methods of violence. Building peace requires creative and courageous action." - Pope John Paul II
Prayer from a Saint: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy." - St. Francis of Assisi
Questions for Reflection:
Do you "strive for peace with everyone"? Or are there people in your life with whom you are at odds? Would you rather be at odds with them? Is it possible to make peace with them? Have you tried? Should you try?
God desires that none perish and that all inherit eternal life. Are you able to look past the faults of others, to separate the sin from the sinner? Can you see them as children of God, as those whom the Lord desires to bring into His kingdom?
Do you understand the difference between being angry and being bitter? Explain.
Identify someone in your life with whom you are not at peace, whether the two of you have had a longstanding conflict or if this individual simply "rubs you the wrong way". Are you willing to strive to be at peace with this person? What steps can you take in the next week to move towards peace with this individual?
-- Kimberly Lohman
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 216: Do Everything for the Glory of God: A Reflection on 1 Corinthians 10:31
“Brothers and sisters, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Saint Paul tells the Corinthians, whatever you do, do for the glory of God.
So do we glorify God in everything we do?
“Oh Father, come on! “How do you glorify God when you’re eating or drinking?!”
How about saying Grace at meals? This scripture is why we say Grace at meals. It was a Jewish custom before Christianity, but this passage of Paul insured the custom would continue in us. Before we partake of the food we eat, we pause to thank God whose goodness has provided the food we’re about to eat.
I think if we were to take an impromptu poll of how many people say Grace before eating, we’d be sadly surprised at the result. It is something that has largely fallen by the wayside. Why? I blame multitasking. It’s becoming rare that we just sit down as a family and eat a meal anymore. Now everyone is on a different schedule. We’re eating on the fly. We’re eating as we’re coming or going. We’re eating while we do different things. We eat while we drive. We eat while we do homework. We eat while watching TV. We eat at the desk so we can eat and work at the same time.
“Father Sisco, why are you going on about this? Yeah, OK, we’ve gotten away from saying Grace at meals, but aren’t there more important moral and social issues to tackle?”
Sure there are, but I bring this up, because it’s a symptom of the larger problem. Instead of doing what Saint Paul is telling the Corinthians to do, and glorifying God in everything, we’re doing the opposite, and glorifying God in nothing. We’ve pushed God out of every aspect of our lives and culture. We pushed God out of government. We pushed him out of our legal system. We’ve pushed him out of our schools.
THAT is a serious, spiritual problem. Because what has that led to? Now many couples, CATHOLIC couples, really don’t seek to get married in Church anymore, or married at all. Parents don’t seek to get their children baptized anymore. Children don’t see the importance of giving their parents a funeral Mass anymore.
By the way, folks, important spiritual safety tip: specify it in your will. Insist you have a Mass of Christian burial in writing. Don’t assume your children will just do it. Because now, even the Mass itself, has become in the minds of so many Catholics, optional. It’s something we can do if there isn’t anything else to do.
I was having a conversation recently with an elderly gentleman who was complaining about his children and he said, “They’ll drive up to Gillette stadium in the snow and rain, to freeze their butts off for three hours watching a football game, but they won’t go to Mass because they complain the church is too cold!”
Saint Francis of Assisi, along with his newly formed brothers, used to walk down the roads singing, chanting as they went, giving thanks to God for anything they encountered, or anything they could think of. So as they walked they thanked God for brother sun, and sister moon; brother wind and sister rain; brother bee and sister flower; brother tree and sister leaf. And the point of that was to do just what Saint Paul was telling the Corinthians.
Take nothing for granted. Accept everything as a gift from God but also acknowledge everything as a gift from God. That trains the mind to be patient, the soul to be humble, and the heart to be joyful. Try it sometime. Take some quiet time to thank God for everything you have. You’ll be amazed how that can lift your spirits. I tried it this week. As I was shoveling snow…again…I was chanting to myself, “For brother snow, we give thanks. For sister wind chill, we give thanks!” It helped…a little!
Well, OK, Father, but how are we going to get God back in the schools and government and society again? One soul at a time. Start with yours. Start by saying Grace at meals again. You know why Saint Paul starts this passage by saying, “whether you eat or drink”? Because eating and drinking are the most basic voluntary functions we do. So even the smallest, most basic thing you do, give God glory for it!
Make Mass a priority again, and thank God for the blessings he’s given you every day, even when you’re not happy with your life. YOU do that, and teach your children to do the same, and eventually, the world will begin to make God a priority, too.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: “I am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything, even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God.” -Saint Dominic Savio
Prayer: Father I thank you for my life. Forgive me anytime I did not bear witness to you in my deeds. By the power of your Spirit, strengthen me in all things to give you glory. Thank you, Father, for listening to my prayer. In Jesus name to you be the glory. Amen.
Questions for reflection:
1- Do I glorify God in everything I do?
2- Do I give thanks to God for the food He gives me by offering prayer at my meals?
3-Why has the habit of offering prayer at meals been difficult?
4- What is the result of pushing God out of our society?
5- Do I attend Mass often?
6- Do I receive the Sacraments of the Church often especially Penance and Eucharist)? What is my attitude towards the various Sacraments of the Church?
7-Why did St Paul start the passage by saying “whether you eat or drink”?
8-List some of the results and benefits of acknowledging everything as a gift of God.
9- Do I make time to thank God for all his gifts and goodness? If not, how can I do that?
10-Father Sisco urges us to start from ourselves. ”YOU do that, and teach your children to do the same, and eventually, the world will, too.” Can this be a resolution?
--Edem Auguste Ahadjitse
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 217: Now Is the Time for Forgiveness: A Reflection on Matthew 5:20-25.
Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa’, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:20-25)
“Lose no time.” Jesus says this in our Gospel today. Lose no time in what? Becoming righteous. Lose no time growing in holiness. Lose no time in embracing the way of the Lord. Jesus begins this Gospel by saying, “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God.” And then immediately Jesus begins talking about forgiveness.
I paraphrase. “You know the commandment don’t kill, but I say don’t even hold a grudge. Don’t use abusive language, and even if you are getting ready to make your offering, before you put your envelope in the basket, go and reconcile with your brother or sister, and then make your offering.” Jesus jumps from holiness to forgiveness, because holiness has nothing to do with exterior actions, but has everything to do with interior dispositions. And forgiveness shows the greatest interior disposition of all. Forgiveness shows a heart that is open to love, and a heart that is open to love is a heart that is closest to God.
That’s why, when the Lord speaks through the prophet Ezekiel, he says, “If the wicked man turns from his sins and become righteous, I will forget his former wickedness. But if the righteous man turns away from his righteousness and becomes wicked, none of his previous righteous works are remembered.” Whoa! Ezekiel even predicts his listeners’ reaction to this. “You say the Lord’s way is not fair? Is it my ways or yours that are not fair?”
What does this passage mean? Salvation is not about a point system. Salvation is not about the Lord putting a checkmark in my good column when I do a virtuous deed, and a checkmark in my bad column when I sin. Salvation is about changing the heart and the mind. Virtue begins with a proper sate of mind. Virtue begins with a heart of love. And if we are going to be open to love, we have to be willing to love. And to be willing to love is to be willing to forgive.
And there is no time. There isn’t a single moment to waste in this, my brothers and sisters, because the more we harbor grudges, the more we push ourselves away from God. If the sacraments exist to help shape us to becoming more like Christ, we have to ask who and what Christ was. That’s not an easy question to be sure. Theologians and historians have been batting this around for centuries. Christ was teacher. Christ was healer. Christ was intercessor. Christ was miracle worker. Christ was social activist. Christ was a cultural rebel. Christ was a nomadic preacher. Christ was a carpenter. Christ was God. All of these things are true. But Christ was predominantly a forgiver.
But, you object, Jesus doesn’t say, “I forgive you,” or “Your sins are forgiven,” nearly as much
as he said other things. Also true. But Christ’s whole ministry was one of forgiveness. His ministry was to die on the cross so we could be forgiven.
So if we are called to be like Christ, and we are called to use the sacraments to become more like Christ, and yet we insist on holding grudges, yet we insist on not forgiving, no matter what great things we may do in this life, we fail our vocation. We lie to ourselves, and we lie to God. God is Love, and Love forgives limitlessly. Go and do the same.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
“We cannot, with all our heart, forgive someone who does us wrong unless we possess real knowledge. For this knowledge shows us that we deserve all we experience.” --St. Mark the Ascetic
Pardon me, O perfections of my God, for having preferred imperfect and evil inclinations to Thee!
Pardon me, O justice of my God, for having outraged Thee by my sins.
Pardon me, O holiness of my God, for having so long stained Thy sight's purity by my sins.
Pardon me, O mercy of my God, for having despised so long Thy mercy's voice.
In deep sorrow and contrition, I cast myself at Thy feet: Have mercy on me.' --St. Ignatius Loyola
Questions for discussion:
What do you think Jesus meant when he said we would be liable to judgment for being angry with and insulting our brother? Who or what did he mean by the Sanehdrin? What is meant by fiery Gehenna?
Why do you suppose the Lord exacts such severe penalties for seemingly harmless or minimally damaging faults? Are insults and petty squabbles as innocuous as they appear to be?
List 2 or 3 ways can a person reconcile with a person who may be angry with him.
List 2 or 3 incidences from Scripture where reconciliation has taken place. What was the outcome in each case?
Dr. Laura Schlesinger has given the opinion that a person is not obligated to forgive the person who has harmed them unless that person asks for forgiveness. Would Jesus agree? Can you think of a time when you have taken the first step towards reconciliation with someone, when you feel you were not the one at fault? Was the outcome good or bad? Do you think the one who has been harmed by the other should seek to be reconciled? Or should he wait until approached?
How often do you feel Confession is necessary, and why?
What is meant by the “guard”, and “prison” mentioned at the end of the Gospel reading? What is meant by the phrase “you will not be released until you have paid the last penny”?
What virtue or virtues should be cultivated in order to minimize anger and foster an atmosphere of peace? How can these virtues be practiced in every day life? List one or two examples.
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 218: Rose Colored Glasses: A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)
On the fourth Sunday of Lent, Gaudate Sunday, and the third Sunday of Advent, Laudate Sunday, the pink vestments come out. Why? Because our waiting for Easter or Christmas is almost over. Now many of my brother priests would get very irritated if they heard me calling the vestment “pink.” And they say, “It’s NOT pink! It’s ROSE!” Well, roses are also yellow, white and red, but I don’t hear us calling the white vestments or the red vestments ROSE colored vestments. And I gotta tell you, these vestments look pretty pink to me! But all kidding aside, this color is supposed to represent a “happy” purple. So we always wear this color on the Sunday when we’ve passed the half way point of a penitential season. The rose vestment is a reminder to us not to lose hope. The rose vestment encourages us not to give up.
When the world is dark, when the world is depressing, when the world seems to be caving in all around us, we need to remember that God has a plan. And even if the world is not cooperating in that plan, and even if we have to share in the negative consequences with the rest of the world for NOT following that plan, hope reminds us that God still HAS a plan, that the plan is a good plan, and one way or another, it will unfold as it should.
Consider two main characters in the Gospel. The only real difference between Saint Peter and Judas Iscariot is that Judas lost hope. Peter didn’t. Judas betrayed Jesus once. Peter betrayed him three times. But Peter, even though he runs away and sobs, even though he’s lower than he’s ever been, he has the faith not to lose hope.
I did something a little different this year for Lent. I gave up complaining, and negative talk. And it was a loooooooong forty days! Let me tell you, the Almighty’s been having a field day with this one! And what’s worse, I gave the staff permission to point out to me when they spotted me breaking my Lenten penance and starting to complain. So our secretary Kathy, at least once or twice a day would say, “Don’t say it! DOOOOON’T!”
I’ve discovered something. Since I started this penance, other sins I regularly struggle with have greatly diminished effortlessly! Yes, I hate to disillusion you, but your pastor is a sinner, too. Of course! It’s so simple I can’t believe it’s taken me this many years to see it! How can the Holy Spirit work effectively in us if we’re constantly complaining and being negative about others or our circumstances? Being negative, pessimistic, and cynical, sins against the virtue of hope. The challenge of Christianity is the challenge to try to see the best in people. Anyone can see the bad. That’s easy!
Consider the exile of the Israelites as recorded in the Book of Chronicles. The people stopped worshipping the Lord and started worshipping false gods of money, sex, and power. The prophets warned them to stop. No one listened. As a punishment, God allowed the Babylonian Empire to invade and conquer Israel, burn down the temple, and exile the people, scattering them throughout their empire. All the priests and elders of the people said, “Don’t worry. God will deliver us soon.” Only the prophet Jeremiah said, “Wrong. Plant gardens. Build houses. Give your sons and daughters in marriage because we’re going to be in exile for a long time.” But Jeremiah also prophesied, “In 70 years, a Persian King will come to power, and he will let the people return to Israel and rebuild the temple. So most of US will never see Israel or the temple again, but our children will return to Israel.” You have to understand how devastating this was for the Jews. You can imagine them saying, “The land God gave to Abraham, and the temple, are our only two connections to God. And you’re saying we’ll never see that again?” What if I told you there was no way you could ever receive the sacraments again? Sure, you’re gonna live, but that’s difficult.
Jeremiah was right. The time frame was correct. In 70 years, Cyrus, King of Persia, defeated the Babylonian Empire, and Persia became the new superpower of the region. And Cyrus did allow the Jews to return home and rebuild the temple. And that was the hope. The Jewish people thought, “Yeah, we all have to suffer because so many people turned away from God to pursue idols, and not enough good people tried to stop them. We have to endure the consequences of that. But the good news is that our children, when they’re old, will be allowed to go home. They’ll have another shot to do this right.”
Fortunately we have something better than they did. For us, God’s presence is not confined to one geographical location on the other side of the globe. For us, God is present wherever there is a tabernacle. For us, God is present whenever we open a Bible and read it. For us, God is present in every act of charity we participate in. So we have hope! Do some Eucharistic Adoration. Pray a novena. Go to confession. Find a charitable cause and participate. Help your brothers and sisters in need. These things will keep you from losing hope. These things will help protect you from being negative, and pessimistic, and cynical. These things will help keep your life and your world…pink.
And blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "We shall steer safely through every storm so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God." -- St. Francis de Sales
Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me to have my eyes, intentions and actions filled by your presence. Help me to have my mind renewed by your Word so that in each action that I do, I may impact the world positively for your glory.Amen
Questions for reflection:
1-How do I see others when faced with challenges?
2-How do the actions Father Sisco suggest help me to draw closer to God?
3-What differentiates Peter from Judas?
4- Do I always keep the faith and hope in times of trouble?
5- What prevents the Holy Spirit from working effectively within us?
6-How can the next month help me in getting closer to God?
7-What are some additional activities (besides those mentioned by Father Sisco) that could help me and keep me from losing hope?
8-What is my involvement in spiritual activities or groups?
9- For us, God’s presence is not confined to one geographical location on the other side of the globe. Where can I see God today? Go beyond those mentioned by Father Sisco.
10-Which one of the activities discussed appeals to me, to keep my life and my world focused on God?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 219: Getting Angry: A Reflection on Matthew 5: 21-22
“You have heard it said, you shall not kill, and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But what I say to you is whoever is angry at his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother ‘Raqa’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says ‘you fool,’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
Now THIS is a scripture passage we’ve heard a hundred times if we’ve heard it once. But do we really take the time to consider what Jesus is saying here?
‘Oh sure, Father! This is easy! Jesus is saying the Law says, ‘Don’t kill,’ but Jesus is telling us we shouldn’t even hold a grudge.’ That IS the common interpretation, but is that REALLY what Jesus is saying? Jesus didn’t say ‘whoever holds a grudge.’ Jesus said, ‘whoever is angry.’
‘Well, yeah, Father, but that’s what a grudge is. A grudge is when we’re angry at someone and we won’t let it go.’ Granted. But look at what Jesus says in the next verse. “Whoever says to his brother ‘Raqa’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says ‘you fool,’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.”
What is ‘Raqa’? Raqa is a bit of Aramaic slang which is the equivalent of calling someone a block head, or the village idiot. So is Jesus really saying “don’t hold a grudge,” or is Jesus saying just plain old “don’t get angry”? And if you get angry, you’re putting your soul at risk!
If this is the case, I’m scared to death, because I gotta tell you, I’ve called many people far worse things than blockhead and fool just driving on route 95! And I haven’t held any grudge against them. Usually in a few minutes I’ve forgotten it. But I still hurled some nasty names at people I share the road with. AND THEY DESERVED IT! People driving carelessly, people driving recklessly, people not paying attention to the road because they’re talking on their phone or texting,-- --people who think just because they have an all-wheel drive they can fly through snow and ice like they’re auditioning for a remake of the Dukes of Hazzard, or just people who are plain, old rude! They deserved the names I hurled at them! But Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t get angry with your brother unless he deserves it.” He said, don’t get angry.
Why did he say that? Because we are called to be as perfect as we can be. Jesus said we should be “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If God gave us what we deserved none of us would be going to heaven. And so if God is willing to give US what we DON’T deserve, he also expects us to giving each other what THEY DON’T deserve.
You know, people say to me they can’t think of anything to go confession for. What about that? I can’t be the only one with this weakness of getting angry!
Brothers and sisters, let’s use strive to seek vengeance on no one and to hold grudges against no one. But let’s go beyond that. Let’s strive to try to train ourselves not even to get angry. Lord Jesus, give us the Grace of peace and tranquility, secure in the knowledge that you are always in our midst.
And blessed be God forever.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
"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. O holy silence, rich in great virtues! O holy silence, which is a key of gold, keeping in safety the great treasure of holy virtues!”
--St. Paul of the Cross
O Lord, must I fear Your wrath?
Retribution is Yours by right!
May I never dishonour Your Divinity,
My soul seeking to maintain Your love.
Shape my being into earnest kindness,
A reflection of Your perfection.
Grant me the grace of self-control,
That I may not display any anger.
Should I have such an outburst,
Instantly remind me to seek redress,
For such is offensive to You.
Anger is Yours alone to avenge!
Questions for Reflection:
Do I get angry easily?
What makes me angry?
Can I avoid situations where I will become angry? How?
What can I do if I feel anger suddenly coming on? Why does “count to ten” work? Or does it?
Discuss St. Paul of the Cross’s remedy for anger.
Do you feel that Fr. Sisco is correct to put this much emphasis on anger?
What names do I call people I’m angry with?
Discuss “they deserved it” in light of God’s treatment of us.
What do you think angers God? Does it anger you?
How does a peaceful spirit keep anger at bay?
Do you pray for a peaceful spirit?
Examine your life to determine if you are holding grudges or wishing vengeance on anyone. If you so, how can you deal with this?
What do you have to confess the next time you go to confession?
Do you know anyone who never seems to get angry? Can you figure out why?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 220: Turning to the Lord in Mortal Anguish: A Reflection on the Book of Esther
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord. She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O Lord, always free those who are pleasing to you. Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord, my God. "And now, come to help me, an orphan. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness. (Esther C: 12, 14 - 16, 23 – 25)
“Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish had recourse to the Lord…” Now the first question to ask is, WHY is Queen Esther seized with mortal anguish? Esther is seized with mortal anguish because she must take her life in her hands.
Esther is a Jewish maiden living during the Babylonian Exile, when many Jews were expelled from Israel and scattered throughout the Babylonian empire. Esther’s parents are killed and she is raised by her uncle, Mordecai. The King noticed Esther, and seeing how beautiful she was desired to make her his Queen. At the advice of her uncle, Esther kept her nationality secret.
The King also ordered that whenever his Grand Vizier, Hamon, entered a room or went somewhere like the market place, everyone was to bow down to the ground before him. So Hamon is out one day and who is the only guy NOT bowing? Mordecai! Why? Because Mordecai is Jewish so he cannot show a gesture to a human being that is reserved only to God.
So, now Hamon, realizing that no good Jewish person is going to venerate him, wants to exterminate all the Jews living in their province of the Babylonian Empire. He brings it before the King for permission, but he phrases the situation in a way that he knows will enrage the King. He doesn’t tell the King, “Hey, this guy won’t bow to me.” Instead he says, “There are certain people living in your land called Jews, whom your father exiled when he captured the land of Canaan. These people think that they don’t have to obey your laws. If you let me, I’ll put them in their place!” So of course the King agrees. They pick a date when all the Jews in their province will be put to death.
Mordecai finds out about this program for mass slaughter. He sends word to Esther to intercede and stop the King. And here’s where this reading comes in. Even though she’s the Queen, if Esther goes into the King’s presence without him summoning her, he can have her killed. That’s the law of the land. So this is the first way she’s taking her life in her hands. THEN, in order to save her people, she’s going to have to expose at some point that she’s a Jew. And the people of the kingdom don’t like Jews. Why. “They are a conquered people, they’re living in our land, and they’re breaking our rules.”
And so Esther, seized with mortal anguish, turns to the Lord in prayer. But how does she do that? She doesn’t just say, “Hey, God, save my people.” Before she prays, she fasts for three days, and will eat nothing. She wears sackcloth and ashes. She does not approach the Lord until she prepares her soul with penance first, and she hasn’t even done anything wrong. Because penance purifies the soul. She also tells her uncle Mordecai to have all the Jews in the region fast for three days with her on her behalf. Interesting in that she seeks the intercession of others before she intercedes for them.
THEN Esther prays, and what does Esther say in her prayer? She tells the Lord if it were only her life at stake she wouldn’t care, but it’s the lives of all the people she’s worried about. This shows charity. Seeking the good of others. She says that she hates the ways of the pagans. Piety. She only agreed to be Queen to help her people. Service. Humility. And she said maybe it was for this reason God let her become Queen, to risk her life to save her people. Faith. Faith is the ability to see our circumstances in the light of God’s plan. And her prayer is heard. She and her people are saved.
You know, there are times we are all seized with mortal anguish, and we turn to the Lord in prayer, but I would recommend at those times following Queen Esther’s model, and make our prayers as effective as they can be. Prayer. Fasting. Penance. Solicit the prayers and penances of friends. Bring your request to the Lord in humility, charity. piety, service, and faith. Then trust God to act. And accept what He does.
And blessed be God forever.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer. --St. Teresa of Avila
Behold me, my beloved Jesus, weighed down under the burden of my trials and sufferings, I cast myself at Your feet, that You may renew my strength and my courage, while I rest here in Your Presence. Permit me to lay down my cross in Your Sacred Heart, for only Your infinite goodness can sustain me; only Your love can help me bear my cross; only Your powerful hand can lighten its weight. O Divine King, Jesus, whose heart is so compassionate to the afflicted, I wish to live in You; suffer and die in You. During my life be to me my model and my support; At the hour of my death, be my hope and my refuge. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
Have you ever been seized with mortal anguish? What are your memories of that time? How did your spiritually respond to that time?
Do you know anyone who is seized with mortal anguish at this time? How might you help them?
Discuss the quote from St. Teresa of Avila. Have you ever felt that your suffering was so great that you could not pray?
What was Esther’s pattern of prayer? When you have strong prayer requests, do you follow Esther’s pattern?
Have you ever had to confront a situation that could potentially harm you physically or emotionally or that could cost you a job or your reputation? How did you handle that?
What advice would you give to someone who is suffering from a situation that is beyond their control?
How would you deal with someone who is suffering unfairly or unjustly?
Do you have concern for those in prison, especially those on death row? Should you be concerned for them?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent