Weeks 221-230

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 221: Crisis of Faith: A Reflection on Matthew 5:19

 

“Therefore, whoever breaks the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

 

I am convinced that the crisis we face in our present day Catholic Church is not a crisis of vocations, or a financial crisis, or a social crisis. We don’t have an identity crisis, and we certainly don’t have a sexual abuse crisis. I believe the crisis we face is a crisis of faith. I believe the real crisis we face is that people don’t believe anymore. Either A—they don’t believe the scriptures; B—they don’t believe that God authored the scriptures; or C—they don’t believe that the Church is the authoritative body that God left us to interpret the scriptures. And by “people” I don’t mean atheists, agnostics, non-Christians, etc. By “people” I mean the rank and file everyday Roman Catholics.

 

A survey was done in OUR school in the 5th grade class and the 8th grade class. The survey wanted the students to rank all sorts of moral issues. Among the 8th graders 90% of the students didn’t think there was anything wrong with boyfriends and girlfriends living together before marriage and having sex as long as they loved each other. Now among the 5th graders, 95% of THEM said that was wrong! Encouraging? Not so fast. Because 85% of them thought it wasn’t a sin to cheat on a test. But of COURSE they thought the sex thing was wrong. They’re not tempted to commit THAT sin yet. Cheating. That’s another story.

Look at how casually people treat Mass attendance. If Catholics believed, really believed that Christ was present in the Eucharist, do you think we’d be able to keep people away? Daily Mass would be packed every day! Sunday Mass would be standing room only. The Eucharistic adoration chapel would be packed 24-7.

 

“Well, wait a minute, Father, that’s the way the Church was, 50 years ago.” You’re right. So what changed between now and then? Well, the language of the Mass changed. Maybe we should go back to Latin. Some people believe that. I personally think that’s a misguided assumption. Well, back then, the parish was the center of social activity, and now that’s been replaced by the TV, the internet, and school activities. Yes. That’s certainly part of it. The sexual revolution took place. YES. I think that’s the primary culprit.

 

Two weeks ago I had to attend a diocesan seminar about facing the future with hope. And the speaker was basically rehashing everything I learned in my first couple years of seminary. First, we need to have a vision. Then we need to have a plan. How do we present the Church’s teaching in a way that’s going to be exciting and interesting for the next generation so people come back to Church?

 

In my opinion, we keep making the same mistake. We keep assuming people don’t know what the Church teaches, or they misunderstand what the Church teaches. And if they knew, really knew what the Church teaches, they’d embrace it. I disagree. I think everyone knows what the Church teaches. Does anyone NOT know that the Church stands against abortion? Or contraception? Or gay marriage? Or sex before marriage?

 

They know this. They don’t want it. Given the choice between the gospel of Jesus Christ and 50 shades of Grey, they choose 50 shades of Grey. (For those of you who don’t know; 50 shades of Grey is a controversial movie out now about a young billionaire who takes advantage of a naïve young woman and leads her into a world of sexual deviance.)

 

 

People are openly choosing to disregard the commandments, so this is a crisis of faith. And there is only one thing we can do about that, and the answer is as clear now as then. We’re NOT going to do this by watering down or repackaging the teaching. That didn’t work for the Episcopalians, the Anglicans or the Lutherans. ALL of them watered down the gospel, and all of them are losing their congregations. By contrast radical Islam is getting converts hand over fist! And THEIR code of sexual ethics is far more stringent than ours!

In Islam a woman has no rights! She’s the property of her father or her husband. And yet women are running to ISIS from Europe, Canada, and the US to be terrorists and suicide bombers! Why? What are they doing? Praying. Fasting. Sacrificing. And delivering their message with conviction. Theologically we’re worlds apart, but in practice, there’s only one practical difference between Christianity and Islam; Islam says kills your enemies. We say love your enemies. And that’s it.

 

So if we pray. If we fast. If we sacrifice. If we deliver our message with loving conviction instead of acting like we’re ashamed of it, or apologizing for it, we’ll inspire converts too. Campaigns and catchy slogans aren’t going to do it. If we want to lure this generation from their bondage to their idol of the flesh, and that’s exactly what this is; a generation in bondage to an idol, we have to become hard core Catholics, and not casual Catholics. Are you ready for that?

 

And blessed be God forever.

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. --Saint Augustine

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, I believe: I wish to believe in Thee. Lord, let my faith be full and unreserved, and let it penetrate my thought, my way of judging Divine things and human things. Lord, let my faith be joyful and give peace and gladness to my spirit, and dispose it for prayer with God and conversation with men, so that the inner bliss of its fortunate possession may shine forth in sacred and secular conversation. Lord, let my faith be humble and not presume to be based on the experience of my thought and of my feeling; but let it surrender to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and not have any better guarantee than in docility to Tradition and to the authority of the magisterium of the Holy Church. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Do you agree with Fr. Sisco’s analysis of what is happening in the Church?

  2. Do you agree with his conclusion of how to combat this crisis of faith?

  3. What do you see as the difference between ISIS and Christianity?

  4. Why doesn’t “making faith relevant” work?

  5. What can be done to teach Christian morality?

  6. Has the flesh become an idol? Are people in bondage to the flesh?

  7. Fr. Benedict Groeschel said that the main idol people have today is themselves. Discuss this. How does the sexual revolution put myself into God’s place?

  8. What is my idol?

  9. How can we make the Catholic faith tantalizing to youth? Or can we?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 222: Having Jesus Our Way: A Reflection on Luke 11: 14-23

 

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Luke 11: 14-23)

 

Our reading today is a familiar one. Jesus casts out a demon and some people in the crowd accuse him of casting out demons by the power of the Prince of Demons and Jesus just effortlessly derails this argument. These people are obviously desperate to discredit Jesus. Jesus represents something they don’t want. He’s not the Messiah they want. They want a military messiah. They want a King David, who’s going to rally the twelve tribes of Israel and drive out the Roman Empire. And we read these passages in the gospel and think to ourselves, “Well, if I had been there, I certainly would have been on Jesus’ side.” Are you sure?

 

Because I find, even in myself, people are very good at rationalizing the sins they enjoy. And they’re also very good at rationalizing away the things Jesus said and did that contradict the sins they enjoy. Sometimes I think if I hear one more person say, “Well, that’s one of those man made rules the Church made up,” I’m going to go completely off the reservation.

 

But you know, I’m not going to clutter up this reflection with examples of the ways I see people do this. You know what I’m talking about. So I’m going to jump right to the solution. How do we stop ourselves from doing this?

 

Every time a priest introduces the gospel, what do we do? A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew…and we all sign ourselves with the Sign of the Cross on our head, lips, and chest. Did you ever wonder WHY we do that? What does that gesture mean?

 

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark... We sign ourselves with the Sign of the Cross. Forehead. Lips. Chest. It’s so habitual that we forget we’re doing it, but there is a silent prayer we’re supposed to be saying with that gesture. “May the Word of God be ever on my mind”…(when we make the Sign of the Cross on our forehead)…“on my lips” (when we make the Sign of the Cross on our lips) . . . “in my heart”…(when we make the Sign of the Cross over our heart). 

 

We invite the Word of God into these three parts of our bodies because these are the three doorways that allow sin into our souls, so we ask God in that gesture and in that prayer to GUARD the doors! “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his palace his possessions are safe!” That’s what Jesus noted. That’s what we’re asking God to do. Guard the doors!

 

Lord may your Word be ever on my mind. Guard my mind from evil thoughts. All sin begins in the mind. All sin begins with a temptation. Temptation is neither good nor evil. A temptation is just as much an opportunity to practice virtue as it is a possible occasion of sin. So Lord give me the Grace to choose the better road on those occasions.

 

Lord, may your Word be ever on my lips. You know, I did something a little different for Lent one year. I gave up complaining and negative talk. MAN, has THIS been a long forty days! And I gave the staff permission to point it out to me if they catch me. They had a field day! (“Don’t say it! DON’T say it!”) But you know what I’ve discovered? Other sins I struggle with have greatly diminished. Of course! It’s so simple I can’t believe it’s taken me this long 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? Lord guard my lips so I don’t complain, gossip, or be negative in my speech.

 

Lord, may your Word be ever in my heart. Why? Two reasons. First, so I am never hold back my forgiveness. I’ve said it before. Being unforgiving will effectively block what the Holy Spirit is trying to do with us. And second, the Word of God in my heart will keep me from becoming hard hearted. What IS being hard hearted? Basically, being cynical. Pessimism is when we ASSUME the worst will happen. And this is a venial sin. (Take note if this applies to you!) Being cynical is when we’re incapable of seeing the good in anyone or anything. If we are cynical, we can believe that even good things are bad. “He casts out demons by the power of the prince of demons.”

 

Do these things, my brothers and sisters. Ask Jesus to guard your doors of your mind, lips, and heart, and you’ll find yourself wanting more and more of him, and less and less of sin.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint

 

Another weapon the devil employs is immodesty, or more frankly, impurity. My dear children, be on your guard. The devil will tempt you with bad books, bad thoughts, or the foul conversation of a companion. When any such fellow approaches you, say to yourself, This is a minister of Satan. And let these wretches who indulge in foul conversation say to himself, I am a minister of Satan because I help him ruin souls!

 

St. John Bosco

 

Prayer -- Hear, Lord, the prayers we offer from contrite hearts. Have pity on us as we acknowledge our sins. Lead us back to the way of holiness. Protect us now and always from the wounds of sin. May we ever keep safe in all its fullness the gift your love once gave us and your mercy now restores. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. What is cynicism? Are you cynical? If so, how can you combat that?

  2. Did you know that pessimisim is a venial sin? What is wrong with pessimism?

  3. Discuss the quote from St. John Bosco.

  4. Do we see those who tempt us a ministers of satan?

  5. How can we guard our minds? Our lips? Our hearts?

  6. How do the following hinder our spiritual growth? Gossip? Unforgiveness? Complaining?

  7. How do the sins Father discusses show a lack of faith and trust?

  8. Does society call good evil and evil good at times? Give examples. How can we guard against these attitudes?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 223: Christmas and Easter: A Reflection on Genesis 2:3

 

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2-3)

 

Our two high feasts of the entire year; Christmas and Easter, are too big and too significant to contain the celebrating in a single day. Therefore our celebration of both Christmas and Easter goes on for eight days (the Octave). Why eight days?

 

How many days did it take God to bring creation into existence? Seven days. So in Scripture, seven always represents a complete span of time. The eighth day then represents an everlasting day. The eighth day represents eternity. So we celebrate Christmas and Easter in eight days because in heaven we will celebrate the Christmas and Easter that never end. But what is interesting is that within the eight days following Christmas, we are given the pattern for Christian living, explained through the feasts themselves.

 

  1. The day after Christmas we celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, because the day after Christmas we are reminded of what being a follower of Christ might cost us. On the feast of Saint Stephen we are reminded that being a Christian means we must lay ourselves down for the Lord, even to our own lives.

  2. The following day we celebrate the feast of Saint John the evangelist, because that is the second call of Christianity, sharing our faith with others, proclaiming the good news to a desperate world.

  3. Then the feast of the Holy Innocents, the children that Herod slaughtered in his attempt to kill Christ. In that feast we are reminded of the sacredness of life, and our responsibility to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

  4. Then we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. In that feast we are reminded that the family is one of the major pillars on which the Church rests, and we have a need to preserve and protect the family.

  5. Christmas ends with the Epiphany, in which we remember the wise men, the magi bringing gifts to Jesus. That feast reminds us to always seek the Lord diligently, like they did, and to give the Lord the best of ourselves, not just materially, but spiritually.

  6. And in the midst of all of these feasts, we take a moment to consider the Mother, the humble virgin, the one whose ‘yes’ to God changed history forever. We consider her because her life is the sum and perfection of all these feasts. What do I mean by that? 

 

The first feast after Christmas is that of Stephen the martyr. Mary was never martyred, you say! Oh, yes she was! Maybe not physically, but Mary had to choose to lay her life down for the Lord. When she said yes to the archangel, Mary knew the penalty for being caught pregnant without a husband -- death. That’s a martyr's spirit. She displayed that spirit again when she shared every blood-soaked step of Calvary with her Son.

 

What about the feast of Saint John? Mary wasn’t an evangelist! Oh, yes she was! What is the first thing Mary did when the angel left her? She journeyed to her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. As soon as Mary receives the Lord, she shares him with others! And in that beautiful exchange between the two women, Mary recites that wonderful prayer, giving her whole praise to God. That’s evangelism par excellence!

 

In the feast of the Holy Innocents, Mary and Joseph are willing to uproot their whole lives and start over in Egypt, to protect the life of Christ. As preserver of the family, we see something interesting. Mary is Immaculately Conceived. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. And yet both of them defer to the authority of Saint Joseph. They don’t leave Joseph out in the cold. They recognize his authority. And so does God! Please take note that before Mary and Joseph are married, the archangel speaks to Mary, but after they’re married, the angel only speaks to Joseph. Another thing, even though Jesus is ready to start his ministry at twelve years old, Jesus instead learned how to be a carpenter from Joseph for thirty years! Imagine this if you will. Jesus is the all powerful God of the universe! It was Jesus who was there before time began, saying in the book of Genesis, “Let there be light!” Boom! It was. “Let there be vegetation!” Boom! It was. Now here’s Saint Joseph saying, “Hey, Jesus! Come on over here and let Dad show you how to use a saw!” THIS IS GOD HE WAS TALKING TO!! “Cool, pop. Come on over here and let me show you how to make an aardvark.” But Mary and Jesus don’t belittle Joseph. Despite Mary being sinless, and Jesus being omnipotent, they defer to the authority of this mortal, flawed man.

 

And in being the perfect image of the Epiphany, like the Magi, Mary diligently sought the Lord her whole life long. We see it in the Gospel where the Holy Family encounter the shepherds that come to the nativity and tell them what the angel proclaimed to them. The Gospel says that “Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart.” That’s what diligently seeking the Lord means. We pray, we contemplate, we ponder, and we try to discern where the Lord is leading us. So it is very appropriate that we begin the New Year with a Feast Day considering the Mother of God. Because the Mother is, in every sense, our perfect guide to salvation.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:38

 

Prayer: Lovely Father, I thank you for  allowing Jesus, your only son, to die for me. Help me, Lord, to seek you with all my heart and serve you wholeheartedly. I surrender to you as Mother Mary did: May it be done to me according to your will. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. How do I respond to the call of God to lay down my life for Him?

  2. Do I proclaim the word of God not just by word but by being a living example of the Gospel?

  3. Do I value life and see as sacred even in the unborn children,and in the wake of contrary views of the world?

  4. Do I preserve and protect the family by holding to the sanctity of marriage?

  5. At the example of the magi, do I seek the Lord and serve Him with all that I am and have?

  6. In seeking God’s will, do I make prayer a must and a lifestyle?

  7. Holy Mary being our mother and role model, which virtues of hers do I lack in my life?

  8. Do I submit to those whom God places in authority as Mary and Jesus did to Joseph?

  9. Mary’s obedience came at the cost of her own comfort. Do I chose to obey God only when it favours me?

  10. Holy Mary being our mother and role model, which place does she hold in my life?

 

--Edem  Auguste Ahadjitse

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 224: Silver and Gold Have I None: A Reflection on Acts 3:6

 

"Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk."" Acts 3:6

 

"I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you." These were the words Peter spoke to a lame beggar in front of the temple before he cured him. I think sometimes we glaze over the significance of the miracle and this statement of Peter's. Praying over a lame man and making him walk... WOW! You gotta admit, that's impressive!

 

I said in my Easter homily, I've seen healing miracles through the power of prayer. I've seen people come back from death's doorstep through the power of the sacraments in the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick. But I've never seen anyone lame their whole life being given the ability to walk through prayer. I'm good, but I'm not that good.

 

These miracles recorded in the New Testament are not isolated incidents. The Church throughout history abounds with accounts of miracles like these. So why have they stopped? Why don't people see big, dramatic miracles anymore?

 

I think it has to do with two things. First, it has to do with a lack of faith. Everyone is so willing to believe in everything else EXCEPT Christ these days. People discount the miraculous as foolish or superstitious.

 

I watched the movie "Killing Jesus", on Good Friday night. This movie is based on the book written by Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly. One thing that struck me was that O'Reilly ignored many of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the gospels, and the ones he DID deal with could easily be explained away. For example, when they depicted Jesus curing a boy who was "possessed by demons", it was clear the boy was suffering from epilepsy. So Jesus hugs him until the fit passes, but was he really healed? We don't know.

 

The movie shows Jesus washing people with leprosy. Not healing them, but literally cleansing them, washing them. So O'Reilly takes a purely humanistic approach to Jesus. What irks me is that O'Reilly promotes this book as a "historical account". "Historical account" in terms of Christ or the Bible is always a buzz phrase meaning "we don't believe in the miraculous". So that's the first reason we don't see miracles anymore. Our faith is diminished.

 

The second reason relates to Peter's statement, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you." We've gotten too materialistic. We've become way too attached to money and things. I was having a conversation with two teenage girls from our parish, CHURCH going teenage girls, and we were talking about marriage. One of them said quite openly, "The first guy I marry is going to be rich. Then I'll divorce him, take half of everything, and THEN I'll marry for love." I thought she was joking at first. I was shocked to discover she was dead serious! I was trying to get her to see how wrong this approach was, but to no avail.

 

Folks, we have got a problem on our hands. We live in a state where we elected a governor who supports partial birth abortion, something only very few of the most rabid liberals support. You must be aware by now of what this is - taking a fully formed baby half way out of her mother's womb and stabbing her in the back of the neck with surgical scissors. I mean, I can understand some people being confused on the abortion issue with all the rhetoric out there, but this procedure goes beyond immoral - it's demonic! It is human sacrifice, pure and simple. We elected this official because she is good for the economy. Money over morals - that should be the state motto of Rhode Island.

 

This is why we don't see big, dramatic miracles anymore. We can't have God and the world both. Everyone must choose. Sadly, at this moment in our history, way too many people are choosing the world. The good news is, God never gives up on us, and He never stops giving us opportunities to choose Him again. God is all about second chances. To quote Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: "It is a poverty that a child must die, so that you may live as you wish." - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

 

Prayer from a Saint: "Eternal Father, by the blood of Jesus have mercy; deliver us from the plagues that we have deserved for our sins, as you delivered Lot from the flames of Sodom . . .  Precious Blood of Jesus, our Love, cry unto the Divine Father for mercy, pardon, grace and peace for us....and for the whole world." - St. Benedict Joseph Labre

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Read the account of Peter's healing of the crippled beggar in Acts 3:1-10. Have you ever seen a miracle like this happen?

  2. According to Father, what are the two main reasons he believes that we no longer see these big, dramatic miracles? \

  3. Do you have the faith to believe in miracles?

  4. Do you feel that you are too materialistic? Do you lay up treasures in Heaven, such as feeding the poor, caring for your neighbor, and volunteering at your parish? Or do you mostly lay up for yourself treasures on earth, such as trendy clothing, new model cars, large homes, and fancy vacations?

  5. What two examples did Father give to describe the materialism that currently plagues our society? Is there anything that you can do to help combat this in your community?

  6. Father’s example of partial birth abortion was quite graphic. Have you heard of this type of abortion? Do you know if this type of abortion is legal in your state or country? Take some time this week to research this topic, and then do something meaningful to express your opinion on this, such as write a letter to one of your elected officials.

 

--Kimberly Lohman

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 225: How to Pray: A Reflection on Acts 1

 

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred and twenty people) and said, ‘Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry. . . . For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it”; and “Let another take his office.” So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’3So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’6And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1: 15-16, 19-28)

 

The Lord always provides for the needs of his people. This is a truth we are all called to believe. Even when things seem their darkest, even when nothing seems to be going right, it is in these times we are challenged to have faith that the Lord always provides for the needs of his people. Here’s just one example from Scripture. After Jesus died, rose, and commissioned the apostles to go out and preach the good news to all the world, and after the Apostles had been annointed with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to begin their mission, Peter says to the other apostles, “Listen, we need to replace Judas Iscariot who’s dead now, so we can do the work the Lord has sent us out to do.” The others agree. They end up electing Matthias. Then, in the very next verse after this passage ends in the lectionary, it says a tongue of fire descends and lands on Matthias’ head, just as it had done to the others at Pentecost.

 


“Well, that’s all fine and good Father, but I ask God for stuff all the time and I get nothing.” OK, but what, how, and why are you asking, because that makes all the difference.  First, why is Peter initiating this? Why do they need to replace Judas? Judas’ spot must be filled so the mission that Jesus sent them on, to spread the gospel, can be completed, because Jesus told them to go out in pairs. There also must be twelve so each of the tribes of Israel can be represented. So the reason for this is to better do God’s will. That’s the first thing we need to do in our prayers, concerning our requests to God. We need to ask ourselves, “Do I want this for God’s glory or mine? Am I asking for this to better do the will of God, or am I trying to bend God to my will?”

 

 

Then, Peter confirms this position in Scripture. He says to the others, “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘May another take his office.’” So the 2nd thing we have to do is see if we can confirm what we’re asking God for in the Bible. Now there are some people who ask a question, close their eyes, randomly open the Bible, then with eyes shut point to a word, and depending on the location of the word on the page it’s a “yes” or a “no” answer. This is NOT what I’m talking about. That’s misusing the Bible, because that reduces Scripture to an oracle and it violates the first commandment. In order to confirm our request in Scripture, we have to be familiar with Scripture. Read the Bible. Turn off the TV for 20 minutes a day and read the Bible. Turn off X-box, the internet, facebook, your i-pod for 20 minutes a day and read the Bible. Why? Because once you’re familiar with Scripture, you’ll know if you are justified in what you’re requesting of God.

 

 

Thirdly, Peter and the apostles put requirements on the replacement they were seeking. They set up parameters. Well, it should be someone who was with us from early on in Jesus’ ministry. It should also be someone who witnessed the risen Christ. “Father, are you telling us we should be putting restrictions on God in our prayers?” No. But they do take some initiative in solving this problem. There’s an old joke about this guy Bob who wants to win the lottery. And he prays every day to win the lottery and every day for years his prayer goes unanswered. And one day he says to God, “You know, you said ‘ask and you shall receive.’ “For twenty years I’ve prayed every day to win the lottery and you’ve never heard me.” And through the clouds God answered, “Bob, meet me half way. Buy a ticket!” We can do this. We pray for something, but we expect God to do everything. If you’re praying for a job or a better job, that’s great, but you also gotta be sending your resume out there. If you’re praying to God to help you stop drinking, and every night you still get drunk because you’re hanging out in a bar, or going out with your drinking buddies, you can’t blame God that your prayers aren’t being heard. We do have a responsibility to take some initiative.

 

 

The next thing Peter does is gets the other apostles to pray together with him, and they come up with two potential choices. Don’t be afraid to ask other people to pray for your intention. Non-believers throw this one out all the time, “Well if God hears every prayer, why do you have to ask other people to pray for you? Is it because you think you can convince God if you get enough people on your side?” No. It’s because asking people to pray for me is humbling. It’s a humbling experience to ask for help. It’s a humbling experience to admit to weakness. And the Lord hears a humble heart. Scripture tells us that God knows our every need before we ask, so why ask then? Because in all things God is trying to get us to grow in virtue because that will ensure our salvation, and humility is the virtue from which all the others flow.

 

 

Now this is interesting. The last thing they do is draw lots! They rolled the dice! Split the deck—high card is the new apostle! They left the final decision up to God. Now think of this. I’m sure at least some of the apostles wanted the other guy over Matthias! But when the lot fell to Matthias no one said, “Maybe we should do best two out of three!” When we make our prayers, when we make our request, ultimately we have to admit God is not obliged to answer me, or answer me in the way I want. When all is said and done, we have to step back and accept his will, trusting it’s for the best. That encourages another important virtue; faith. Faith is trusting what we do not know and believing what we cannot prove.  Sometimes we are going to be disappointed in the results of our prayers. Sometimes God’s answer will be “no,” but we have faith that what he does provide is adequate for my need.

 

 

Brothers and sisters, on the whole we need to spend more time in prayer, but we also need to be praying right. We need to be praying with the Holy Spirit. The apostles have shown us how to do that.

 

Blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

 

Quote from a Saint: "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you." --St. Augustine

 

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, the Most High, teach me how to pray. I know I have been praying the wrong way and I need You to teach me the right way. And teach me the truth in all things so I can get out of the deceptions I am in and learn what the truth is from You Yourself. I want to learn from You, not man.  Father, give me discernment so I can know what is of You and what isn't. And help me to learn who You are, reveal Yourself to me so I can learn who you are. Transform me, Father, so I can become more like you.Thank you, Father, I love you. I praise your Name and seek to serve You and only You. I love You the Most High! And I ask all this in the name of Your beloved son Jesus. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

  1. Discuss the quote from St. Augustine.

  2. How do you use Scripture to pray? What is wrong with just opening the Bible and pointing randomly to a passage as a way to finding direction or an answer to prayer?

  3. Discuss Fr. Sisco’s joke about Bob. Do you ever pray like Bob? Do you know anyone like Bob?

  4. What is the first step in prayer? What would be the second step?

  5. Do you ask others to pray for you? Do you have a prayer partner?  Why is it important to pray with and for others?

  6. Does prayer try to twist God’s arm? Have you ever found yourself praying that way?

  7. What is the most serious thing to pray for right now in your life? In the world? Are you praying?

  8. The apostle James writes, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) Relate this to what Fr. Siscon has shared about prayer.

 

--  Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 226: A Change in Peter: A Reflection on Acts 3:1-20

 

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

 

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

 

While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

 

“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. (Acts 3: 1-20, NIV).

 

In this reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see quite a change in Peter from when we saw him on late Holy Thursday night, or early Good Friday morning, when he wouldn’t even admit to a slave girl that he knew Jesus. Here in Acts, after Peter heals a lame man in front of the temple, he uses it as a spring board to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For a guy who kept putting his foot in his mouth all throughout the gospels, he now makes a very coherent and convincing argument.

 

He starts, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…” So he starts by letting the people know, this is NOT some new, strange, religion. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is OUR God, 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.” Now, in every movie depiction I’ve seen of this, Peter is yelling this to the Chief Priests who are standing on top of the temple stairs while the crowd is giving them dirty looks, but in reality, Peter says this to them all! Peter is condemning all of them in that statement because everyone denied Jesus, including him. Then Peter goes into the resurrection, and we are his witnesses, you messed up, but its OK, we all messed up, so repent now and believe. Peter goes from cowardice to courage, from awkwardness to eloquence. And he did it, yes, because the Holy Spirit changed him, but more importantly, he ALLOWED the Holy Spirit to change him. And that’s the key. The Holy Spirit only changes us if we allow him to change us. And that’s where the work comes in. We often think of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles and presto! They’re this power packed, completed project, evangelizing team. Not quite. The Holy Spirit had to continually teach them things. The Holy Spirit had to demonstrate to Peter that the Gospel was intended for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The Holy Spirit had to teach Paul the same thing. The Holy Spirit had to teach them to start other ministries, like establishing deacons. Jesus never instituted deacons--the apostles did--to solve a problem in fair food distribution.

 

The Holy Spirit continued to teach them things, as he has taught the Church things over the 2015 years since, and as the Holy Spirit continually tries to teach us. Brothers and sisters, being Christian means being willing to challenge ourselves to change into a new creation, always. May the Holy Spirit make us all a new creation, to better reflect our savior and Lord.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a saint:

 

“Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.” - St. Ephraem of Syria

 

Prayer, from the Pentecost Novena:

 

O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore You, I love You, I praise You, I thank You. Enlighten, guide, strengthen, and console me. Inspire me what I ought to do, and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that You allow to happen to me; only show me Your holy will, and fill me with Your grace and love to refuse You nothing, no matter how difficult it may be. I abandon myself entirely to You through Mary. Strengthen my will to carry out all my resolutions, and give me the grace of perseverance. Teach me how to pray. Grant me the grace to pray with unlimited confidence of being heard, according to God’s holy Will.

 

Give me true humility of heart. Increase and strengthen my faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Make me an ardent adorer and lover of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Strengthen my love and confidence in our Blessed Mother.

 

Holy Spirit, I offer You the loving Heart of Jesus to repair for all my offenses and negligence. I consecrate myself unreservedly to You, through Mary, Your Immaculate Spouse. I place all my trust in You. Help me to make You better known and loved throughout the world. Give me an intense zeal for souls, to console Jesus. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Have you ever known anyone whom you knew was filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit? What were they like? What were some of their virtues, and how did they live their lives?

 

2. List some of the ways we can block the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

 

3. List some ways we can encourage and not hinder the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

4. Can you name some examples where the Holy Spirit inspired you or someone you know?

 

5. List the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11). Do you see any of these in yourself? In someone else? If someone else, who?

 

6. List the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Do you see any of these in yourself? In someone else? If someone else, who?

 

7. Meditate on each gift and think of ways this gift can be manifested, in a practical way, in your life. For instance, the gift of patience can be manifested by taking the time to listen to another in a conversation without interrupting them.

 

8. In what ways did the Blessed Mother demonstrate the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit dwelling in her? How can the Lord be manifested in us through our cooperating with the Spirit dwelling in us?

 

--Lucy Fernandez

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 227: Admonish the Sinner (A Reflection on Matthew 5: 13-20)

 

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

 

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 5: 13-20)

 

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. “You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” This is a quote from one of those Duck Dynasty guys. But he makes a good point, a point that I have said in different ways at different times. And the quote lends itself to today’s gospel. “Therefore, whoever breaks one of these least commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever teaches and obeys these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Be careful who you give your permission to. Last week I mentioned all the Church going Catholics I noticed on Facebook posting things like, “Well I don’t care what anyone else says. I support gay marriage!”

 

What is that? You may not be committing the sin yourself but you’re giving other people your permission to sin. According to what Jesus says here, that’s just as bad as committing the sin yourself. “Yeah, I know my son is living with his girlfriend, but you know Father, what can you say to kids these days?’ How about, “You’re my son. You’re always my son and I always love you. But I don’t approve of what you’re doing. If you feel this is the girl you want to be intimate with, marry her.” What’s wrong with saying that? I’m not saying you have to disown the kid, but let him know you don’t approve. “I thought I raised you better than this.” You have the right to say that. My mom said that to me a few times when I was growing up…and look at what I am now! Apparently it worked!

 

Some of my brother priests say, “People have to get used to hearing the word ‘no’ again.” I don’t agree with that. People hear the word ‘no’ all the time. It’s just the culture has taken a 180 degree turn so we apply ‘no’ to things we used to call values. For instance, remember Tebow? Tebow was constantly criticized for his public displays of faith. Nothing big. He’d bow his head for a few moments before taking the field. After a touchdown he’d get down on one knee and bow his head. That’s better than the stupid dances most players do when they score. And yet everyone made such a big deal about how this was SOOOOO inappropriate. He should keep his faith to himself and not subject the fans to it. But now, Bruce Jenner has had a sex change, been VERY public about it, and everyone’s praising him/her for being so ‘brave’. I’m sorry, brothers and sisters, that just doesn’t fit into my definition of courage. Military personnel are brave. Police and fire fighters are brave. Missionaries who carry the Word of Christ into places hostile to Christianity are brave. Inner city school teachers working for peanuts, and having their lives and well being threatened in the very classrooms where they’re trying to teach young people the tools they’ll need to survive in the world, are brave! A single mom who’s working herself ragged to support her child because her husband walked out on her, or because she wouldn’t have an abortion when she learned she was pregnant ,is brave. Courage is when you risk your life or well being, for the benefit of others, not when you make a spectacle of yourself to get the attention of others.

 

Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Yes, many opinions are going to differ with ours. No, you do NOT have to fight every battle, or make every charge up San Juan Hill, Gatling guns a-blazing. But also don’t let people intimidate you from defending what’s right. You have a voice, too, and the world needs to hear it. And blessed be God forever.  --Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

"If the Devil is making an uproar, it is an excellent sign: what is terrifying is his peace and concord with a man’s soul." -----St. Padre Pio

 

Prayer:

 

Eternal God, Creator of all things, remember that You alone have created the souls of unbelievers, which You have made according to Your Image and Likeness. Behold, O Lord, how, to Your dishonour, many of them are falling into Hell. Remember, O Lord, Your Son Jesus Christ, Who so generously shed His Blood and suffered for them. Do not permit that Your Son, Our Lord, remain unknown by unbelievers, but, with the help of Your Saints and the Church, the Bride of Your Son, remember Your mercy, forget their idolatry and infidelity, and make them know Him, Who You have sent, Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Who is our salvation, our life, and our resurrection, through Whom we have been saved and redeemed, and to Whom is due glory forever. Amen. --St. Francis Xavier

 

Questions for reflection and discussion:

 

  1. The Scriptures say woe to those who call what is good, evil, and what is evil, good. Can you think of examples of this to some of the changes in our society? If so, what are some of them?

  2. In the early 20th century, many prominent people signed their name to a document called the Humanist Manifesto I which promotes Humanism as the new religion “that can better solve the problem of human living” (P. Kurtz, ed., pg 8). Since many of the objectives of the Humanist Manifesto to change society have been met through the efforts of the progressive ideologies of today, do you believe the authors of this document were correct? Why or why not?

  3. In the past, have you had to deal with a situation where you had to confront immorality or corruption in the workplace, socially, or in your family? How did you handle it, and do you think you could have handled it differently? How so?

  4. List three specific ways you could be a witness to Christ that would require courage. (For example, a bumper sticker with a picture of the Divine Mercy, or asking a co-worker to pray with you).

  5. What would you say to a child or a friend who told you that the Church’s rules are outmoded and that God just wants us all to be nice and not hurt others?

  6. Would you feel obligated to maintain a relationship with a person who mocks Christ, especially his Sacrifice on the Cross?

  7. Recently, some famous people have suffered great personal loss for defending the Faith, family, and moral integrity. Can you recall some of these, as Father did in his homily? What would you have done in that instance?

 

--Lucy Fernandez

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 228: Reap Bountifully: A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

 

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,

 

‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
   his righteousness endures for ever.’

 

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9: 6-15)

 

“He who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully, will reap bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)

 

You know, we Christians, especially Catholics, have a chronic problem. We lack vision. We’ve lost our sense of mission. The Church militant has surrendered the field and gone home. I see this on so many levels I couldn’t possibly begin to touch on them all.

 

I see it in the attitude of parents teaching the youth the faith. We submit that little Johnny has to go to baseball practice six nights a week and games every weekend, so he can’t attend religious ed classes. And when he does come to Mass he fools around with his buddies, and when Father attempts to address this with him or his parents, he’s told he needs to ‘lighten up,’ because at least he comes. So Johnny is a great ballplayer, but he can’t tell right from wrong.

 

I see it in the attitude people have toward their parishes. Church is confined to what happens in the four walls of my parish, and if it happens outside of that, I don’t deal with it.

 

I see it in the way Catholic handle their politics. If the Church tries to make a moral statement in the political realm, everyone, even many Catholics, cry “violation of separation of Church and State.” And then they threaten us with revoking our tax exempt status if we don’t play along. That tax exempt status has been an albatross around our necks for the past thirty years. It has successfully gagged us in many moral stands.

 

I am convinced by the way this is how the whole gay marriage thing is eventually going to play out. Even though the politicians promised that there would be a clause in any such law guaranteeing that churches and faith based groups would be dispensed from preforming such ceremonies, with the rhetoric I see going on out there, I don’t believe it. I think eventually we’ll be issued an ultimatum, you marry all couples, you marry no couples, or you lose your tax exempt status. Am I’m not entirely convinced losing our tax exempt status would be a bad thing. What would it mean if we lost that status? First, it would mean that about one third to one half the parishes in the diocese would be forced into bankruptcy and have to close, and be consolidated. But that also means, no more priest shortage. That means we’d have enough priests to minister to all the remaining parishes. That also means there’s no more reason to hold back! That means we’d have the freedom to get on our pulpits and say everything that needs to be said, no holds barred! Maybe in the big, divine, picture this needs to happen.

 

As a Church we’ve been so preoccupied with trying to hold onto our little piece of the pie, we’ve forgotten our mission is to change the world!

 

Our mission is to save the world!  We can’t do that and play nice, nice when we see evil, wrongdoing, and sin. Sometimes that means we are going to be ridiculed. We are going to be mocked, but God has got to start being a top priority again. We will never save the world, if we don’t challenge the world. And we’ll never challenge the world with our mouths shut.

 

Don’t sow sparingly. Sow big. Pray big. Speak big. And reap big.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.—Pope Saint John Paul II

 

Prayer: See how many enemies I have and how viciously they hate me! Protect me! Rescue my life from them! Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge. May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you. (Psalm 25: 19-21)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Discuss “Our mission is to save the world.” Do you believe this? Why or why not? What can you do to advance this mission?

  2. Were you ever castigated for standing up for a moral truth? How did you respond? If you had to do this again, what would your response be?

  3. Do you believe that the Church is sowing sparingly? Why or why not?

  4. What other good could come if the Church loses its tax exempt status?

  5. Father advises us to “pray big.” How might we do that?

  6. Read the Scripture verse again and discuss it.

  7. How can we teach our children that God comes before the world?

  8. What temptations do you face to conform to the world? How do you meet these? How can you support others when they meet these temptations?

  9. How would you define people’s attitude toward the Church?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 229: Lord, If You Wish: A Reflection on Matthew 8:1-3

 

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8: 1-3)

 

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”

 

I was marveling at what a perfect prayer that is, that this leper offers. Leprosy was such a terrible disease. Your flesh literally rots off your bones. I think Saint Luke includes the detail “he was full of leprosy.” Full of it. It was everywhere. The sight of it was horrible, the smell was horrible, and it was, of course, painful, not only physically, but also emotionally.

 

And yet this man who is in great suffering so doesn’t say, “Please heal me,” or “Please pity me,” or “Please do something.” In fact, he makes no request at all.

 

Please note, he never actually asks Jesus to do anything. He doesn’t make a request. He makes a statement. “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”  “Lord,” not “sir,” or “Rabbi.” He recognizes Jesus as someone with divine authority. The first step of good praying is acknowledging the power and authority of God.

 

“If you wish…” If it’s in Your divine will, Lord. If this fits into your plan.

 

Sometimes we don’t realize that the pain or discomfort we’re suffering is serving a greater purpose in the plan of God. And if that’s the case, if my suffering is helping bring souls to heaven, or even one soul to heaven, or helping MY soul get to heaven, Lord, DON’T take it away! So the second step of good praying is resigning to the Divine will, and a willingness to cooperate to accomplish my small part of God’s big plan.

 

“…you can make me clean.” You CAN make me clean. Not “IF you can something please help me.” Rather, I KNOW you can do this.

 

Confidence. The third step of good praying is to pray with confidence. Or another way of saying that is to pray with faith.

 

Finally, this leper doesn’t make long winded, poetic, flowery statements. He’s short and direct. He says only what he needs to say. Sincerity is the last step of good praying. He states that which is closest to his heart.

 

Another thing to note is what he wants. He doesn’t ask for more than he needs. He doesn’t ask to be financially compensated for the years of work he’s missed. He doesn’t ask for room and board until he’s back on his feet. He only asks for what he needs to begin his life again.

 

My brothers and sisters, I would invite us to model our prayers after this leper. Because, let’s face it, spiritually speaking, we’re all lepers. Spiritually speaking, we all have sins, and sins we’re addicted to that make us unclean.

 

Let’s start there. Bring those things to prayer and say, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

'Have confidence in prayer. It is the unfailing power which God has given us. By means of it you will obtain the salvation of the dear souls whom God has given you and all your loved ones. "Ask and you shall receive", Our Lord said, be yourself good with the Lord.' (St. Peter Julian Eymard)

 

Prayer:

 

O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence and trust in Your divine mercy, and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings which bring immense goodness to our souls and that of Your Church. Help us to love You with a pure and contrite heart, and to humble ourselves beneath Your cross, as we climb the mountain of holiness, carrying our cross that leads to heavenly glory. May we receive You with great faith and love in Holy Communion, and allow You to act in us, as You desire for your greater glory. O Jesus, most adorable Heart and eternal fountain of Divine Love, may our prayer find favor before the Divine Majesty of Your heavenly Father.

 

Amen. (St. Padre Pio’s Prayer for Confidence and Trust)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Discuss the leper and his thoughts about himself and his condition.

  2. Why did the leper have confidence in Jesus? How strong was that confidence?

  3. Do you have confidence in Jesus? How strong is your confidence?

  4. Why didn’t the leper ask God to heal him?

  5. Have you ever prayed for God’s Will to be done, rather than for a specific request? Why did you choose to pray that way? What was the result?

  6. How is it possible to pray with confidence? Does praying with confidence mean that we believe God will grant every request in the way we imagine?

  7. Discuss the quote by St. Peter Julian Eymard.

  8. On what or who or both does Saint Padre Pio place his confidence?

  9. How wordy are your prayers? How do you pray?

  10. Have you ever prayed and received something totally unexpected? What was the outcome of this unexpected answer? What might the outcome have been had God answered your prayer as you requested?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 230: Doing Whatever God Tells You: A Reflection on Genesis 12 - 21

 

Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’

 

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages towards the Negeb. (Genesis 12:1-9)

 

Whenever we take matters into our own hands instead of doing what the Lord has instructed us to do, things will get pretty messed up. Take our father in faith, Abraham. The Lord calls Abraham to take a journey of faith at 75 years old. “Leave your people. Leave your father’s house. Leave your inheritance.”

 

And in return God promises Abraham that he will give him an even larger inheritance, and descendants to outnumber the stars in the sky. Sixteen years pass. The Lord has indeed given Abraham a good land for his inheritance, the country we now know as Israel, but Abraham still doesn’t have any children. So Abraham’s wife Sarah, says to him, “Listen Abe, I’m too old to have a child. Go sleep with my teenage slave girl Hagar, and she’ll bear you a son.” This was not an unusual practice in the ancient world, where the woman of the house would let her husband have sex with her servant girls to have children in her name.

 

Abraham does, and Hagar gets pregnant, and IMMEDIATELY Sarah resents Hagar for it. She  becomes jealous of Hagar and starts mistreating her. Then Sarah gets mad at Abraham! “You have brought this shame on me!” And Abraham says, “Well, honey, I only did what you told me to do!” Does that sound familiar? Every married man has used that line on his wife at some point in their marriage. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now. Guys, just because your wife gives you permission to do something doesn’t really mean she wants you to do it. I’m celibate and even I figured that one out!

 

Then GOD yells at Abraham. “What did you do that for?! I didn’t tell you to do that?!” Abraham rifles back, “Well you know YOU promised me descendants sixteen years ago! I’m still waiting!” Hagar runs away. God sends her back.

 

Hagar gives birth to Ishmael. Sarah gets pregnant. She gives birth to Isaac. An uneasy peace takes place between Sarah and Hagar for a while. Then Sarah sees Ishmael and Isaac playing with each other, and it dawns on Sarah, Ismael, Hagar’s son, is the elder son. So even though she’s a slave, Ishmael still has the right to the inheritance of Abraham. Sarah’s wrath is kindled again, and she keeps badgering Abraham to banish Hagar and Ishmael from his lands until he finally gives into her.

 

Hagar wanders into the desert, sits on a rock with Ishmael and waits for death. But God sends an angel to her to reassure her that she’ll be safe, and God will raise up a great nation for her son as well. And it’s the Arabian people who believe they are the descendants of Ishmael. And if you’ve ever wondered why the Moslems and the Jews HATE each other with such intensity, and if you’ve ever wondered why, even though the Moslems dominate the rest of the Middle East, why they are so hell bent on occupying this little strip of a country along the coast, this is why. They feel the descendants of Isaac cheated them out of their inheritance. Ishmael was the elder son of Abraham, and therefore he had the right to Abraham’s land. There are other reasons too; political reasons, strategic reasons, but that’s the theological reason.

 

So, you see what happens when we don’t do what God tells us to do and take matters into our own hands? This is an important lesson for our country to heed these days. I know I beat this drum a lot but it’s important. As a nation for the past fifty years, we’ve been moving farther and farther away from God and taking matters into our own hands. And because of this, the country and the world are becoming more and more chaotic. You can blame racism, you can blame sexism, you can blame the economy, climate change, drugs, the breakdown of the family, lack of education, you can blame Democrats, or Republicans; all those things are symptoms of the disease. The real problem is more and more people continue to turn their backs on God’s way and insist on doing things their way. And until that changes, things will continue to get worse. I hate to break it to you.

 

So it’s up to us. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” to quote Shakespeare’s Henry V. We have to set the example. We have to proclaim the message. We have to give God free reign over our lives, so he can draw others to him through us.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: The goal of all our undertakings should be not so much a task perfectly completed as the accomplishment of the will of God.  --St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

 

Prayer: Lord, if what I seek be according to our will, then let it come to pass and let success attend the outcome. But if not, my God, let it not come to pass. Do not leave me to my own devices, for you know how unwise I can be. Keep me safe under your protection Lord my God, and in your own gentle way guide me and rule me as you know best. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Discuss the story of Abraham and how God’s Will came about despite Abraham and Sarah trying to bring it about in their own way.

  2. How does patience factor into asking that God’s Will be done? Discuss our time table and God’s.

  3. Discuss the quote of St. Therese.

  4. Have you ever prayed that your will not be done if it does not meet God’s Will? How would praying this way make you feel?

  5. Have you ever tried to force God’s hand? How? What was the result?

  6. Why do you think did God spare Hagar’s and Ishmael’s lives?

  7. Can you see God’s plan unfolding in the world, despite all that the world does to thwart it?

  8. How can we know God’s Will? How can we know how to bring about God’s Will?

  9. Do you think Abraham and Sarah were saints? Why or why not?

  10. What do you see as the root of society’s ills? What might the remedy be?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

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