Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 251: Wisdom—the Ultimate Artist: A Reflection on Wisdom 13: 1-9
All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan; but either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water, or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.
Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them. Or if they were struck by their might and energy, let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen. But yet, for these the blame is less; for they indeed have gone astray perhaps, though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works, but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair. But again, not even these are pardonable. For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord? (Wisdom 13: 1-9)
“All men were, by nature, foolish who were ignorant of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan; but either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water, or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world considered gods. Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how much more excellent is the Lord than these.”
So what is the author of the book of Wisdom saying in this lengthy passage? The author is saying, because ancient man was ignorant of God, they deified earthly things like fire, wind, stars, the sea and sky, because man is naturally attracted to beauty and power.
And he goes on to say that if all these things are beautiful and powerful, just imagine how much more so is the God who created all these things. And what the author says here is true. Nature IS at the heart of paganism.
When we appreciate the beauty and power of something without appreciating the beauty and power of its creator, we eventually worship or deify the object instead of the God who created it. That was the source of paganism then, and that is the source of paganism now. Paganism is a misplaced appreciation of beauty and power. Why can’t people see the creator behind the created anymore?
Because of the same reasons. On a whole we’ve become too self-absorbed. We’ve become too obsessed with what I want, instead of what’s best for everyone. I’ve said before--Christianity turns the heart outward to love our neighbor. Paganism or idolatry turns the heart inward to serve the self.
That’s why I don’t believe most of the people who claim to be atheists really ARE atheists. If they were truly atheist, they wouldn’t care what other people worship. They wouldn’t waste time and energy trying to disprove what we worship. If you don’t believe in something, you simply ignore it. You don’t construct arguments as to WHY you don’t believe it.
I don’t believe there is a giant snarling spaghetti monster in the sacristy of the Church ready to devour me after Mass. I’m not going to waste time explaining to you WHY I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! I ignore it! It’s not worth my time explaining!
So I don’t believe many of these atheists are REALLY atheists. Rather, they are people trying to justify ignoring God and his laws because they are primarily obsessed with sex, which is a misplaced appreciation of beauty, and our existence keeps pricking their consciences.
My friend Father Perri and I had lunch together recently and, in our conversation, he was telling me about a man who commented to him, “If Francis was Pope when I was younger I’d still be going to Church today.” And Father Perri responded, “He’s Pope now, so what’s your excuse for not coming back?” And that’s all it is, excuses. Just excuses.
And the other reason people have stopped worshipping the creator is that man, in his arrogance, likes to believe he is all powerful. Man is the ultimate force on earth. Give us a problem, we’ll solve it. Give us a disease, we’ll cure it. Give us an obstacle, we’ll overcome it. In time, man’s intellect, with the development of science, will be able to do anything. This is why, whenever there is a natural disaster or a catastrophe of some kind, the Churches fill up for a time again, because suddenly man’s belief in his own power is shaken. Suddenly man is confronted with the truth that he can’t do all things, at least not yet. But as soon as that fear abates, the churches empty out again.
The heart of paganism is a misplaced appreciation of beauty and power. It is appreciating beauty and power while ignoring the source of all beauty and power. And in our culture right now we have a whole lot of misplaced appreciation going on. I tell you this because being aware of the problem is the first step to solving it.
And blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
“The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.” --St. John of Damsasus (675-749)
You, Lord, created heaven and earth. They are beautiful because You are beauty. They are good because you are goodness. They exist because You are existence. However, they are not as beautiful or as good as You, nor do they have existence as You, their Creator, have it. Compared with You, they are neither beautiful nor good, nor do they exist --St. Augustine
Questions for Discussion
1. List four or five objects in nature that are especially attractive to you.
2. Based on these objects, what attributes can you give to God as reflected in these created things?
3. List four or five attributes of other people you admire. What do these attributes teach us about God?
4. List two or three attitudes or tendencies within yourself that are are negative and should be changed. In what way are they not a reflection of who God is?
5. List as many specific objects or animals, by name, which are mentioned in the Bible as you can. (The Scriptures do not just mention trees, but specific types of them). Do you get the idea God enjoys what He has made? What does it say about His attention to detail and His awareness?
6. Why do you think God made so many and varied objects? What does the scope, size and variety say about who God is?
7. Have you ever met a person who stated they did not believe in God? Who or what was the center of that person’s universe? Was it themselves, nature, scientific knowledge…? Why do you think they are unable to bring themselves to worship God?
8. People who worship nature tend to assign a moral value on how it is treated. Where are they correct? In what way are they mistaken? – Lucy Fernandez
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 252: Martha & Mary: A Reflection on Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)
The three siblings, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, represent the three ways we approach the Lord. Martha represents charity, Mary represents contemplative prayer and their brother, Lazarus, represents redemptive suffering.
Martha represents charity by what we see in the famous scene where Martha invites Jesus and the apostles to dinner and is doing all the serving while her sister does nothing. Mary represents contemplative prayer, because ignoring her social status, ignoring what society tells her that her role is, she sits in the presence of the Lord and soaks it all in. And I just can't resist a little theological irony here. It's interesting her name is Mary. Who are the other Mary's we know in scripture? The Blessed Mother, obviously, and Mary Magdalene. Aside from their names, all three of them share a common thread - Jesus is the center of their attention.
The Blessed Mother also flies in the face of social norms by allowing herself to conceive the Savior without being married, a crime for which she could have been stoned to death. And every time a significant event happens in the life of her son, the scriptures say, "and Mary held these things in her heart and contemplated them."
Mary Magdalene undergoes a radical conversion and becomes a follower of Jesus. We know this from a quick verse in the Acts of the Apostles in reference to Mary Magdalene which says that Jesus cast seven devils out of her. I don't know what Mary Magdalene was doing, but she must have been into some pretty heavy duty spiritual junk to get possessed by not just one demon, but seven!
So Mary Magdalene undergoes this powerful conversion experience and, after that, never lets Jesus out of her sight! She's always there, almost to the point of being a pest. Women didn't follow rabbis in Jesus' day! That wasn't their role! And so Mary Magdalene also steps out of cultural norms and makes Jesus her focus. That's what contemplative pray-ers do, and that's why Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better portion and it will not be denied her.
You see, we hear that, and we always think that, Jesus is reprimanding Martha. Not so. Jesus isn't berating her contribution, Jesus doesn't say that what Martha is doing is wrong, but that Mary has simply chosen something better, and Jesus isn't going to deny her that because of societal norms. And with that is also an invitation to Martha, that she could also be sharing in what Mary has been given.
Jesus isn't hungry for their food. He's hungry for their faith. He's hungry for their souls. Being a contemplative pray-er is a higher spiritual calling than doing good deeds, because to be a contemplative pray-er, Jesus has to be the center and the focus of everything we say and do. Jesus becomes our life. Most of us will never attain that level. There are some: Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Therese of Liseaux, Saint John of the Cross, Saint John the Apostle, even Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. But most of us will go to heaven by the road of Martha - doing good deeds in the name of the Lord, which is perhaps why we love her so much. We can relate to her.
But we should always be striving to be Mary, making Jesus the center and focus of everything we say and everything we do. That is hopefully where our charitable deeds are leading us. Because in being Mary, in being a contemplative pray-er, Jesus invites us into an intimate relationship with him that offers so much more.
Their brother, Lazarus, represents the highest spiritual calling, redemptive suffering. That's the highest calling because we can choose to be a Martha. We can choose to be a Mary. But God has to choose us to be a Lazarus. That's a special calling.
Saint Martha, pray for us that we may always show our love for God by the charitable deeds we do for others. And blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make his spirit, his devotion, his affections, his desire, and his disposition live and reign there." ~ St. John Eudes
Prayer from a Saint: "Jesus, destroy this chain of a body, for I shall never be content until my soul can fly to you. When shall I be completely blessed in you?" ~ St. Gemma Galgani
Questions for Reflection:
1. According to Father, what are the different ways of approaching God that are represented by the three siblings - Mary, Martha & Lazarus?
2. Which of these three ways of approaching God are most evident in your life? Have you experienced the other two in your life as well? Explain.
3. What is the common thread of the three Mary's (Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene and Mary, sister of Martha)? Do you feel you share this common thread? If not, what might you be able to change in your life so that you might be able to answer "yes" to this question?
4. Mary Magdalene experienced a powerful conversion experience and stayed close to Jesus ever after. What is the story of your conversion? Have you ever shared this story with others?
5. Describe how the three Mary's in this homily defy societal expectations.
6. Father teaches us that good and charitable deeds done in the name of Our Lord, making Jesus the center and focus of everything we say and do, and redemptive suffering are all ways that can lead us to Heaven, through the grace of God, of course. Do you perform charitable deeds? Do you spend time in contemplative or meditative prayer with God?
7. Most of us experience suffering of one form or another in our lives, whether through illness, loss of loved ones, or other difficulties. When you are in a situation of suffering, are you able to ask Our Lord to use this for your own personal redemption as well as for that of others (loved ones in need of conversion, holy souls in purgatory, etc.)
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 253: The Dynamic Duo: A Reflection on Peter and Paul
In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them.
He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. –It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.–
He had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.
On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.”
The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself. They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.” Acts 12: 1-11
The Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Saint Paul in Rome…two different basilicas, in two very different parts of Rome, built at two different times. So why do we celebrate the dedication of these two churches together? Because Peter and Paul are coupled together as apostles so often. This is despite the fact they didn’t always get along or agree on everything.
In the Acts of the Apostles when all the Christians are having their meal after Mass, Peter sits with Saint James and the Jewish converts of the faith while ignoring the Gentile converts. There was a controversy in the early Church whether Gentile converts should have to become Jewish before becoming Christian. Saint James said, “Yes, they do.” Saint Paul said, “No, they don’t.” Peter initially said, “No, they don’t,” but in this gesture indicated he was sort of back paddling, and Paul publically embarrasses Peter by calling him to the carpet on it!
And yet, the two of them have such splendid similarities. They both had dramatic conversions. Peter starts his day as usual on his fishing boat. After a luckless night of catching nothing, at Jesus’ word, Peter brings in a haul of fish so huge his boat is in danger of sinking. And immediately, Peter acknowledges his sinfulness, and Jesus invites him to change his life forever.
Paul is traveling to Damascus and gets knocked off his horse. He’s blinded by a bright light and a voice calls out to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Paul answers “Who are you?”
And the voice answers, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” And Paul’s life is changed forever. So they both have dramatic conversions.
Both of them are passionate about their causes even when they’re wrong. Paul persecuted the Church and killed Christians before his conversion. Peter is always misinterpreting what Messiah is, and what Messiah means, and Jesus has to almost always reprimand him.
But despite this, they both exhibit tremendous faith. They are both willing to go the distance for what they believe. After Paul converts, he becomes one of the Church’s most outstanding missionaries and himself suffered terrible persecution for the faith. Peter, despite his many failures, always turns back to Jesus.
Both men become outstanding leaders. Paul begins Christian communities all throughout the ancient world. Peter faces crisis after crisis in the early Church, and yet through it all, he listens to his brother apostles, he prays with his brother apostles, and he makes decisions with his brother apostles. And I think one of Peter’s greatest qualities is that he’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong and change his position on something.
Finally, both men suffer martyrdom in Rome at about the same time, though in different parts of the city. Peter is crucified up-side down in the emperor’s private garden in the center of Rome. It was Emperor Constantine who built the tomb of Peter over his place of execution some 300 years later. Paul was beheaded on the outskirts of Rome.
Peter and Paul, two very imperfect men, whom the Lord was able to extraordinary things through, through their extraordinary faith. And that should be our lesson from the two of them. We all have imperfections. We all have faults. We don’t even have to necessarily like each other! But if we give the Lord our trust, which is in essence what faith is--trust in God--he can do extraordinary things with us, and make us saints despite ourselves. Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for us.
Blessed be God forever!
Father Michal Anthony Sisco
He alone loves the Creator perfectly who manifests a pure love for his neighbor. –St. Bede the Venerable
Lord Jesus, let me know myself and, Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You, that I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself.
Let me fear for You, and let me among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only You. And, let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You, and ever enjoy You, Amen. – St. Augustine
Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think the author was inspired to add the phrase “but prayer by the Church was being fervently made to God on his behalf”, before the incredible and impossible miracle that took place in Acts 12? What do you believe God wanted us to take from this statement?
2. What do you think the significance of the angel telling him to put on his sandals, belt, and cloak is?
3. Have you heard of incredible and impossible miracles that took place after fervent prayer to God on someone’s behalf? Relate these incidents.
4. Have you ever known someone unlikely, unconventional, or unusual whom you have seen God work through? Why do you think God chose this individual over another?
5. What are some attributes that attract you about St. Peter? Why are they attractive?
6. What are some attributes that attract you about St. Paul? Why do they attract you?
7. List some positive attributes in a person you do not necessarily get along with or personally like? What qualities do you see in this person would you like to emulate?
8. List two or three areas in your life you have yet to surrender to the Lord.
9. Give an example of one thing you can change or do to prove your trust in the Lord. (For example, reaching into your wallet and putting into the basket whatever happens to be there instead of carefully calculating how much you can spare).
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 254: Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary: A Reflection on Luke 1:28
"Hail full of Grace, the Lord is with you." Luke 1:28
She is the chief saint in the Catholic Church, and she has a distinctive prayer devotion. She is also one of our biggest stumbling blocks with our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters.
She is called Mother of God, Mother of the Church, and Mother of mankind, and rightfully so.
Why do we lend so much credence to the Blessed Mother? Because, as this gospel passage tells us, she is "full of Grace". To be full of Grace is to be without sin. But this was not Mary's accomplishment. This was a gift from God himself, who would be taking his human flesh from her.
If you read a Protestant Bible, the words "full of Grace" are translated as "Rejoice O highly favored one!" They tone it down.
But Luke makes it clear that the archangel not only calls Mary "full of Grace," he actually names her "full of Grace". Think about it. If she is going to carry the physical person of the Grace of God in her womb for nine months, how can she NOT be full of Grace? She was in physical contact for nine months of her life with the Grace of God.
If we need further proof of Mary's stature, all we need do is look at the countless miracles that have been done throughout history as a result of her intercession. It starts with the wedding at Cana in John's Gospel. Jesus intercedes for a wedding couple in an embarrassing situation at the request of his mother. What good son doesn't try to accommodate his mother?
The method of obtaining the intercession of the mother of God this latter half of the Church's life has been a prayer devotion that dates back to at least the middle ages if not longer - the Rosary. How old is the Rosary? We really can't say.
The Rosary as we have it today dates back to Saint Dominic. He organized the Rosary as we have it now, broken into mysteries and decades as a result of the Holy Spirit's influence in his prayer life. But there is evidence, or at least theories, that different versions of the Rosary are actually much older than this.
One of these possible older versions is that early Christians, while going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land or another shrine, would, as a small penance, scoop up handfuls of pebbles on the road and fill all their pockets. Then, as they walked, they would take a pebble out, say a prayer with the pebble in their hand, an Our Father or a Hail Mary, and then drop the pebble back on the road when they finished the prayer. And they would continue to do this throughout their entire journey.
When Saint Dominic gave us the Rosary as we have it now, most Christians were peasants and illiterate. The Rosary became a teaching tool to help uneducated Christians learn about and remember the key moments of Christ's life and salvation history.
That is also, by the way, the reason for stained glass windows, mosaics on Church walls, and the Stations of the Cross. All of these pictures and scenes from Jesus' life on the Church walls were intended to teach illiterate people theology.
One thing though is certain - In every apparition of the Blessed Mother in history, both approved or not, Mary stresses the need for saying the Rosary. Countless miracles throughout history have been attributed to faithful Christians praying this devotion.
And that also means Mary can help us now. The Rosary can still change the course our world is taking. Pray it often. And pray it with faith.
Mary, full of Grace, pray for us.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "The Rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description." ~ Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Prayer from a Saint: "O Mother of God, we take refuge in your loving care. Let not our plea to you pass unheeded in the trials that beset us, but deliver us from danger, for you alone are truly pure, you alone are truly blessed." ~ One of the oldest prayers to Mary, author unknown
Questions for Reflection:
When Jesus was dying on the cross, at one point he looked to his mother, who was standing next to his beloved disciple, John, and said, "Woman, behold your son." He then looked at John and said to him, "Behold your mother." It was then that Jesus gave his Mother to all mankind. Do you see Mary as your Mother? In what ways? If not, how might seeing her in this light change your faith walk?
Some of us were blessed with holy, loving mothers, but some of us were not. How does your relationship with your earthly mother affect your relationship with the Blessed Mother?
The Blessed Mother is the Refuge of sinners, the Comfort of the afflicted, she who is "full of Grace". No one should be afraid to come to her with their needs - she will always listen and come to our aid - her intercession is powerful. Do you come to the Blessed Mother when you are struggling or have need? Do you see her as our Heavenly Advocate?
The Rosary is the most beloved and prevalent devotion in the Church. But oftentimes, we pray it without even thinking about the words or meditating on the mysteries. When praying the Rosary, do you rush through the decades, or do you pray fervently, with devotion?
Take a few minutes to slowly pray one decade of the Rosary. Choose a mystery and meditate on it. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and to speak to your heart. Pray with as much devotion as you can. How did this exercise make you feel? What insights did you receive? Discuss.
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 255: What’s the Use?: A Reflection on Malachi 3: 13-20
You have defied me in word, says the LORD, yet you ask, “What have we spoken against you?” You have said, “It is vain to serve God, and what do we profit by keeping his command, And going about in penitential dress in awe of the LORD of hosts? Rather must we call the proud blessed; for indeed evildoers prosper, and even tempt God with impunity.”
Then they who fear the LORD spoke with one another, and the LORD listened attentively; And a record book was written before him of those who fear the LORD and trust in his name. And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action. And I will have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. Then you will again see the distinction between the just and the wicked; between the one who serves God, and the one who does not serve him.
For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, And the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. (Mal. 3:13-20b)
What’s the use Father? We keep praying, the world keeps getting worse, the country keeps getting worse, my life keeps getting worse…what’s the use.
This is what the prophet Malachi is asking in our first reading. What’s the use? Prayer doesn’t work. Fasting doesn’t work. Penitential dress doesn’t work. Things keep getting worse. God has given up on us.
We’ve all felt this way from time to time, even me as a pastor. Been working hard, trying to sell our excess properties to pay our debts and fix up the churches, and it seems as though just when there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, another monkey wrench gets thrown in the works.
What’s the use? We have to be careful about giving into this mentality. God is always testing our faith, not to be sadistic, but to strengthen us.
Oh, I know Father! That’s why I spend all day in the adoration chapel praying the Rosary and all night watching EWTN! I can’t wait for the day when God comes to take me up to the kingdom.
That can be a trap also; getting so wrapped up in tomorrow, that we’re no good today. Jesus is telling us in this Gospel, we have a job to do.
“Friend, lend me a loaf of bread.” “Leave me alone! We’re all sleeping in here.”
Sometimes we have to be the beggar. Sometimes we have to pound on God’s door and keep asking him to fix things or give us the Grace to fix them. This increases humility, and this builds faith. Sometimes we’re the beggar, but it’s NOT the Lord’s door we pound on, it’s Caesar’s!
Sometimes we have to be pounding on the mayor’s door, the governor’s door, our representative’s door, the president’s door, and say, “HEY! We elected you to take care of US! Things are pretty messed up out here! Fix it, or we’ll send you home and find someone else to do your job!”
Sometimes we’re the guy in the house, and we’re called upon to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of charity. That’s our job today. “OK, I’ll get you a loaf of bread.” Not to try to live like contemplative nuns and spend ALL DAY praying.
We have a responsibility to take the grace we’re given in prayer and try to be a positive influence, a light in the world. Any good spiritual life is a balance between prayer and action. We pray to discern the direction God wants us to go, and then we pick up the ball and we run with it. That’s the way to become a saint. And that will also save us from giving into the “what’s the use” mentality.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
When shall it be that we shall taste the sweetness of the Divine Will in all that happens to us, considering in everything only His good pleasure, by whom it is certain that adversity is sent with as much love as prosperity, and as much for our good? When shall we cast ourselves undeservedly into the arms of our most loving Father in Heaven, leaving to Him the care of ourselves and of our affairs, and reserving only the desire of pleasing Him, and of serving Him well in all that we can? --St. Jane Frances de Chantal
O Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, I have sought you. I became weary and I labored. O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and never to cease seeking you. Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance. Give me the strength to seek you, for you help me to find you and you have more and more given me the hope of finding you. Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. Preserve the first and heal the second. Here I am before you with my strength and my ignorance. Where you have opened the door to me, welcome me at the entrance; where you have closed the door to me, open to my cry; enable me to remember you, to understand you, and to love you. Amen --St. Augustine
Questions for Discussion
-Relate an incident or day where things had not gone well for you. Did you pray at the beginning of the day or before that project or problem? Or, had you been relying on your own talents and strength?
-How often during the day do you appeal to the help of God and or His angels and saints? Do you think it pleases God when you do this? Why, or why not?
-Do you know someone who had a miraculous recovery, special grace, or other supernatural favor? What was that person’s relationship with God? Why do you think this person was favored in this way?
-List one or two moments in history or in the Bible where God heard the prayers of people and afforded them victory over an oppressor, or a problem? Why do you believe God heard their prayers?
-List one or two wealthy and powerful characters from history or Biblical times who perpetrated evil and oppression on others. What became of these people?
-The Lord warns us in Scripture that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword”. What does he promise to those who do the opposite and promote peace?
-Galatians 6:8 says that he who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life. What do you think that passage is saying?
-List two or three ways specific ways one can “sow to the Spirit”.
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 256: How Did Jesus Have the Strength to Endure His Passion?: A Reflection on Matthew 26: 1-4
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’ Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. (Matthew 26: 1-4)
Easter is the day of our redemption. And in the Lent preceding it, and particularly in the Triduum, we see many complex portraits of Jesus. One question to consider is, “How did He have the strength to go through it?”
Yes, Jesus had a Divine nature, but he was also fully human. Being fully human he experienced all the things we do: fear, anxiety, pain. In his human nature, he experienced every agonizing moment of the scourging and cross like any of us would. And in his Divine nature, he knew everything that was going to happen to him.
What gave him the strength to endure His Passion? Three things, I think.
When we go on a diet, a sort of self imposed suffering, what gives us the strength to stick with it? First, I would say the knowledge that this suffering was going to end. When we know the suffering is going to end someday, we can bear the suffering a little easier.
Jesus could see what would happen to him on Good Friday, but also saw the resurrection that would be coming on Easter Sunday. Knowing his glorification was at hand gave him the strength to endure the cross.
The second thing that I think gave Jesus the strength to endure Calvary was he knew what the end result was going to be. Jesus saw the good that would come from his cross, namely the forgiveness of all sins for all times, and our redemption.
Now that we had tainted our earthly lives through sin, Jesus made it possible for us to have an immortal life in heaven. We sacrificed something good, Eden, because we wanted sin, because we wanted to be like God. But all sin got us was misery and pain. And instead of making us gods, sin pulled us that much farther away from God. So Jesus sacrificed something good, his earthly life, to fulfill that misdirected desire of Adam and Eve, not to make us gods, but to make it possible for us to become God’s children here and so dwell with God in eternity.
And finally the third thing that gave Jesus the strength to endure the cross was love. A divine love, a love from the Father. Our sins put him on the cross, but his Divine love held him on the cross. Don’t parents make all kinds of sacrifices for their kids, even when their kids don’t show the gratitude and appreciation that their parents deserve? Why do that? No other reason but love. He showed us how to love so we could have the prime example of how to love one another.
And that’s what every Lent is about. We make little sacrifices, to share in some small way his sacrifice, and so we come to understand in some small way what love is really about.
Brothers and sisters, I pray that every season have a little bit of Lent in it for us. May every season teach us to love just a little bit more.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future. --St Fidelis of Sigmaringen
Oh my Jesus, give me Your strength when my weak nature rebels against the distress and suffering of this life of exile, and enable me to accept everything with serenity and peace. With my whole strength I cling to Your merits, Your sufferings, Your expiation, Your tears, so that I may be able to cooperate with You in the work of salvation.
Give me strength to fly from sin, the only cause of Your agony, Your sweat of blood and Your death. Destroy in me all that displeases You and fill my heart with the fire of Your holy love and all Your sufferings.
Clasp me tenderly, firmly, close to You that I may never leave You alone in Your cruel passion. --St. Padre Pio
Questions for Discussion
-Can you remember an incident where you had to anticipate something unpleasant coming in the future, a root canal, for instance, or a difficult test? Do you recall the anguish you experienced in the moments leading up to it? Imagine how Our Lord must have felt as His time was drawing near. Can you sense this angst in His tone and demeanor as you are reading the Scriptures? How strong do you think the temptation must have been to not go through with it especially in light of the behavior of the apostles and of the people around him?
-Olympic hopefuls and Navy Seal recruits endure extremely difficult and demanding training to reach their goals because of the rewards it brings. Recall the most difficult task you ever accomplished. How difficult was it, and what was the reward that came from it? Was it worth the effort? Why or why not?
-List two or more examples of self-sacrificial love you have experienced either by observation or by experience from another? What do you think motivated these people to make these sacrifices?
-List two or three ways you can show selfless caring to another, for example, making dinner for your neighbor who has been sick.
-Have you ever known someone who was afflicted with a serious and debilitating disease who inspired you with their patience and positive attitude? What was their faith life like? Did they have a relationship with the Lord? Did they recognize the value of redemptive suffering?
-List some little sacrifices you can perform which you can offer to the Lord.
-Linda Gibbons is 67 year old prisoner of conscience in Canada. She was recently arrested for about the 10th time, for breaching a court order to stop holding signs outside an abortion clinic. She knows each time that she will go to jail, yet she continues to suffer this as a sacrifice in defense of the unborn. Ask yourself how much you would be willing to do for the Lord, knowing you would suffer for it. Do you know of any saints from the past or even people you know who have chosen to suffer for the sake of moral truth? If not, can you think of something you would be willing to suffer for if you were given the chance?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 257: Making Prayer Sincere: A Reflection on Esther 4C:12
“Then she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you for I am taking my life in my hand.” (Esther 4C:12)
God’s Word has power! Jonah converted the entire pagan city of Nineveh with what are in Hebrew, seven words, “Forty days more, and the Lord shall destroy Nineveh.” With seven words, Jonah changes the course of Nineveh’s history, and changes the relationship between its people and God.
Interesting, not with seven words, but in seven days, the Lord creates the universe, so giving us all a history and a relationship with him.
And from the cross, Jesus makes seven statements, speaks seven words that gave us a new relationship to God;
“Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
“Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”
“Amen I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“It is consummated.”
“Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”
When Queen Esther prayed to God, she was not able to see the power of God directly, but we see the power of her words, in the form of prayer.
Esther and her people, the Jews, are about to be exterminated by order of the King’s royal Vizier, Haman. Esther is the queen by marriage, although the King is unaware that she is also Jewish, so she is the only one that can stop this order. But if the King learns that she’s Jewish, he may order her execution as well.
Whose side will the King take; hers, or Haman’s? She doesn’t know.
And so after fasting for three days, Esther prays these words, “Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.” And the Lord does indeed answer her for the King takes Esther’s side. Then the King orders Haman to be hung on the very gallows he had erected for executing Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.
What I used to ask myself about this story, and what you may be wondering yourself is, yeah, yeah, God answers prayers, but why does God sometimes wait until the last desperate minute to answer those prayer?
And the answer is, because very often, that’s when our prayers get really passionate, and really sincere.
Very often the only time when we get down on our knees, really down on our knees, spiritually down on our knees, is when we’re too weak and worn out to stand anymore.
Now this is not the ideal circumstance to pray under, but hey, from God’s perspective; whatever works.
God doesn’t will evil things to happen in our lives.
God doesn’t want us to go through life sad, or frightened.
But God can use those times to draw us closer to him.
Haven’t you ever had one of those times in your life when you promised God anything, as long as he’d help you out of a present turmoil? I think we’ve all done that at sometime in our lives. When you think about it; that was probably the most honest, sincere, prayer we’ve ever offered.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to ask, seek, and knock.
Ask what? Ask the Lord anything and everything, because the Lord is a generous giver. The problem is we ONLY want to ask. We only want our needs met. There’s more to it than that. We have to seek.
Seek what? We have to seek to be good children of God. Jesus goes onto say, ‘If you sinners know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give to you?’
But do parents give things to their children when they’re good, or when they’re being brats? God is Father to a lot of brats, because we ONLY ask. We’re not seeking. We’re not seeking to be good children by seeking to be good brothers and sisters to our neighbors on earth.
And finally knock. At what? Knock at the doors of heaven to explore the Divine mysteries. That means Scripture reading, meditation, sacraments. In other words, embracing a spiritual lifestyle, because it’s in spirituality that we grow in our relationship with God. Think about it.
Parents love giving to their children, but what parent simply wants to be used by their children? No one. God, like any parent, wants a relationship.
Brothers and sisters, yes we must make time to pray, but we also have to work at making our prayers sincere, so God can bless us with every good thing.
And blessed be God forever.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
If you truly want to help the soul of your neighbor, you should approach God first with all your heart. Ask him simply to fill you with charity, the greatest of all virtues; with it you can accomplish what you desire. -- St. Vincent Ferrer
Thank You, My God, for making me aware of what I am. I prefer to know my weakness than to perform miracles. That is better for me, for when people see me fall I have nothing then to nourish my pride upon. It is better for me because it makes me see You are my only strength; better for me to fall a thousand times if it makes me say to You two thousand times ” “I hope in You, O Lord.” Thank You, thank You, Lord. --St. Mary of Jesus Crucified
Questions for Discussion
1. Have you or anyone you know ever experienced a miraculous healing or delivery from harm? For instance, someone cured from cancer, or who came through an incident that should have killed them? How fervent was their or their intercessor’s prayers prior to the miracle? Or, did they have people in their lives who prayed for them?
2. Ask yourself how close a relationship would a person need to have to exact a special favor from you? Would you go out of your way for a stranger or acquaintance? How about family member or a friend? What if this person did not get along with you normally, but was very sincere and emotional, and in true need? How far would you be willing to go for this person?
3. Do you believe God cares how we look, or how we pray, or what posture/attitude we have when we go to worship Him, especially at Mass or other worship service? Why or why not?
4. What do you think is the most important aspect of your relationship with God?
5. What is your definition of faith? Why do you believe faith pleases God so that He rewards it?
6. What do you think Jesus meant when He said if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would be able to move mountains? Do you believe it is possible to do this? Why or why not?
7. Think of a character from the Bible, or the story of a saint who performed great signs and miracles in his or her lifetime. Why do you believe God listened to this person and brought about these signs and wonders? Was this person lukewarm in their faith? What were they like? How did they speak to God?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 258: Thank God for Grandparents! – A Reflection on I Macabees 1-2
Then Mathathias answered, and said with a loud voice: Although all nations obey king Antiochus, so as to depart every man from the service of the law of his fathers, and consent to his commandments: I and my sons, and my brethren will obey the law of our fathers. God be merciful unto us: it is not profitable for us to forsake the law, and the justices of God: We will not hearken to the words of king Antiochus, neither will we sacrifice, and transgress the commandments of our law, to go another way. (1 Machabees 2:19-22)
So, what's happening in our reading today? The Greek Empire, led by Alexander the Great, has conquered Israel. In fact, the reason why Alexander is called "Alexander the Great" is because he had conquered the world so fast, and he was only in his late twenties when he did it.
Alexander the Great wanted to make the world Greek: he wanted everyone in his empire to speak the Greek language, to write with the Greek alphabet, to copy the Greek system of government, and to worship the Greek gods. (Now you can understand where Jews especially would have a problem with that last one.)
And Alexander had a general, Antiocus, who enforced the laws in the area of the world where Israel is.
Some of the Jews chose to willingly embrace the new laws. They said, "What the heck? These Gentiles are doing pretty good, living pretty well. They conquered us, after all. Maybe they're right and we're wrong! Maybe their gods are more powerful than our God." And these people started to follow the ways of the Greeks. But not everyone.
There were still Jews who were determined to follow the Law of Moses and worship only the Lord and to observe all the dietary restrictions of being Jewish. Then things start getting more tense. Antiocus made it illegal for anyone to worship any god but the Greek gods. He then ordered that all scrolls of Torah, the first five books of the Bible that the Jews had up to that point, be burned. Anyone caught with a copy of the Torah or caught observing the Law of Moses was to be put to death!
And finally, Antiocus committed what the Bible describes as the "horrible blasphemy". He had a statue of the Greek god Zeus put on top of the altar of sacrifice in the temple.
Antiocus sends messengers to all the villages trying to win over the last of the holdouts. Threatening them hasn't worked. Now he's going to try bribing them. So the messengers say, "Listen, we know some of you haven't obeyed the king yet. But if you sign your name on this paper we have now and burn some incense as an offering to the statue of Zeus, the king will forgive your past disobedience. He will give you money and you'll be counted as a friend of the king. He will even do you a favor in the future, so why don't you just obey the king?"
The messenger then singles out an old man named Mattathias Maccabees. The messenger says, "Hey Mattathias, you're an old man and everyone respects you. You be the first one to step up here and obey the king."
And not only does Mattathias refuse, he starts an uprising, a revolution right then and there, that becomes known in history as the Maccabean Revolt. And Mattathias leads this revolution until he's dying of old age, and then he tells his oldest son, Judas, to continue the fight. Judas does continue on, and he manages to liberate Israel for a time from the Alexandrian Empire.
And all that was possible because Mattathias passed his values, his morals, and his faith on to his children, especially his oldest son, Judas.
Our Church and our culture are losing their sense of morality, faith, and values. Grandparents, spend time teaching the faith to your grandkids. If you don't do it, grandparents, I fear that the next generation won't know anything about our faith.
Children, your grandparents have lots of life experience. That means they've seen a lot of things and done a lot of things. They lived through some very hard times in our country's history. Listen to them. Learn from them. Pray with them. If we all make an effort to get our priorities straight, we can make our nation, our Church, and the world a great place to live. But that only works if the young learn from those who have lived before them. May it always be so.
And blessed be God forever.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: “By reason of their dignity and mission, Christian parents have the specific responsibility of educating their children in prayer, introducing them to gradual discovery of the mystery of God and to personal dialogue with Him…” ~ Saint John Paul II
Prayer from a Saint: "Heavenly Father, you have given us the model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O Loving Father, to make our family another Nazareth, where peace and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely Eucharistic, revived with joy. Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow in family prayer." ~ Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Questions for Reflection:
The time of the Alexandrian Conquest and the Macabean Revolt were difficult for the Jews. What correlation, if any, do you see between those times and the times we are living in now?
Ponder for a few moments what it might have been like to be a Jew in the days of Alexander the Great. Would you be scared? Do you think you would be one of the Jews who goes along with the new rules of Alexander? Or would you be one of the "holdouts"? Explain your choice.
Mattathias passed his deep faith on to his children, especially his eldest son, Judas. Did your parents pass their faith on to you? Are you passing your faith on to your children?
Father encourages grandparents especially to see to the moral education and religious training of their grandchildren. Why do you think this is so?
The Church teaches that the family is the foundation of society and that in it the various generations come together and help one another to grow wise. (Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World). In this context, how might you help to pass on the faith to members of your own family?
We cannot give what we do not have ourselves. We must continue to learn about and deepen our faith throughout our lives. What do you do on a regular basis to further your understanding of your faith (reading and study of Scripture, lives of the saints, papal encyclicals? Attending Bible study and Church missions? Anything else?) How do you think you are doing in your ongoing "formation"? Is there room for improvement? If so, what steps might you take in the next few weeks to improve?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 259: The Gravity of Little Sins: A Reflection on 1 Samuel 18: 6-11
As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’
Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David tens of thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?’ So Saul eyed David from that day on. The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice. (1 Samuel 18: 6-11)
God had chosen David, the youngest and most insignificant of Jessie’s sons, and decided to make him King in place of Saul, although Saul doesn’t know that at the time. With nothing more than a slingshot, David kills the giant, Goliath of Gath, who was oppressing the Israelites. As a result, King Saul practically adopts David as another son. David makes a covenant of brotherhood with Saul’s oldest son Johnathan. David is made a captain, and wins victory after victory for the Israelites. All the while, David keeps giving the credit for his success to God.
Then this incident we read about today occurs. Saul and David are returning from yet another triumphant campaign, and the people start chanting, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Now all the trouble starts. Saul gives into the sin of jealousy. He’s jealous. He’s probably thinking, “My subjects are ascribing greater victory to David! That little punk of a shepherd boy, who never would have amounted to anything if I hadn’t taken him out of the fields! Now they are putting him above me, the King!”
Saul’s jealousy leads him to paranoia. He convinces himself that David is conspiring against him, while David is probably the most loyal and devoted subject he has. Saul’s paranoia leads him to rage. He attempts to kill David, and when David escapes, Saul begins a massive manhunt to track David down. Eventually Saul’s rage leads him to insanity and death, not only his death, but the death of his sons who follow their father into a hopeless battle.
Do you see the danger in taking sin lightly? People say to me all the time, “Oh, Father, I don’t need to go to confession. I only commit little sins. I only commit venial sins.” Don’t take venial sins lightly! Venial sins are often the doorway to much graver sins! Saul began with a venial sin, jealousy, and yet look how quickly his jealousy escalated into more serious offenses.
Saul is jealous because he’s the first one to figure out, maybe even before David himself, that God has chosen David to replace him as king. “Well, Father, isn’t that a good reason to be jealous?” No. The crown doesn’t belong to Saul. The kingship is God’s alone.
I experience something similar. Every now and then I hear about another priest. “Oh, Father so and so is so handsome!” “Father so and so is such a good speaker!” “Everybody loves Father so and so!” I love especially when people show me the bulletins of another parish, “Father Sisco! Look how much money THEY take in every week!” (Yeah…thanks. That’s just what I needed to hear. Thanks for cheering me up.) I admit, I DO get a little bit jealous! So first I ask myself, “Is there anything I should be doing differently. Is there anything I could do better?” If not, I remind myself that this isn’t MY parish, this isn’t MY ministry, this isn’t even MY priesthood. It’s the Lord’s. It all belongs to him, so I have no right to be jealous over it, because ultimately everything belongs to the Lord. We can’t claim anything as our own. But I still bring it to confession, because I don’t want to take any sin lightly.
Any sin, no matter how small or insignificant we may think it is, IS in reality, a step toward destruction. Go to confession! Many people go to confession once or twice a year. That may be fine for children. But after the age of Confirmation, we really should try to get to confession at least once a month, an interval confirmed in so many private revelations. So often the Blessed Mother has told mystics to encourage the faithful to receive the sacrament of confession often, at least once a month.
If your doctor told you that your life depended on doing something or not doing something, you’d take his advice seriously, and rightly so. I’m telling you, your eternal life depends on getting to confession, so take my advice seriously; all sin is poison. Treat it like poison. The antidote is only a confession away. And if you want to be practical about it; you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose, except a few minutes of your time.
Blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
Sins that are easiest to amend bring the greatest punishment. – St. John Chrysostom
Prayer: Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and amend my life. Amen
Questions for Reflection:
Discuss the quote by St. John Chrysostom. Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?
Can you think of any times when venial sins led to greater sins?
Discuss jealousy. Helen Roland said, “Jealousy is the tie that binds, and binds, and binds.” What did she mean by that?
How could Saul have handled his jealousy?
Have you ever been jealous of anyone? How did you handle it? Have you ever prayed to be delivered from jealousy? Have you ever prayed for the person of whom you are jealous?
How can jealousy destroy? Who does jealousy destroy?
How often do you go to confession? Should you increase the frequency? Why is frequent confession important?
The seven deadly sins are pride, greed, lust, anger, jealousy, sloth, and gluttony. Discuss what lesser sins fall into each category. What major sins fall under each category? Discuss how the lesser sins can lead to greater one.
Compare sin to physical illness. Name differences and similarities. List treatments.
--Madeline Pecora Nugent
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 260: Who Do You Put Your Faith In?: A Reflection on Mark 2: 1-12)
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ (Mark 2: 1-12)
Who do you put your faith in? In this Gospel passage, the friends of the paralytic display great faith in Jesus. They are reminiscent of the leper who approached Jesus yet never actually asked him to do anything; Lord, if you will it, you can make me clean. That’s not a request. It’s a statement of fact. In this passage, the four friends don’t actually ask Jesus to heal their paralyzed comrade. They simply present their friend to Jesus. They make sure Jesus can see him.
Jesus then sets up a test of faith, not necessarily for the friends, or even the paralytic, but for everyone present. He says, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” The Scribes think Jesus is blaspheming because no one can forgive sins but God. AND they’re right! That’s the point. Jesus heals the paralytic to demonstrate his divine authority so that they will have the faith to believe that he can also forgive sins.
We see this so clearly, yet I still hear so many Catholics say they don’t go to confession because confession is one of those man made rules. No. Jesus instituted ALL of the sacraments. At the end of John’s Gospel, he said explicitly to the apostles, “As you hold men bound to their sins they are held bound, as you hold them loosed to their sins they are held loosed.” There it is. Jesus is God. Jesus has the power to forgive sins. Jesus then passed that power onto his apostles, the first bishops, who passed it onto the priests they ordained and so on and so forth. Who do you put your faith in? Why do people, especially Catholics, have such a difficult time with that one? Because people don’t like admitting they’re wrong, and people don’t like to be challenged to grow in holiness. And really, that IS what it comes down to.
It’s exactly what happened when the Israelites wanted a king. They approached the prophet Samuel and told him to appoint a king for them. Samuel protested. "God is our king." The people insisted. Samuel told them all the things that a king will do to them; he’ll tax you, take your sons to serve in his army, take your daughters to work in his palace. They don’t care. “We want a king.” Why? “We want to be like the other nations.” And there it is. That’s their reason. What were the other nations? PAGANS! They were people who lived lives of revelry, drunkenness, and sexual debauchery. And that’s what the Israelites really wanted, and we keep seeing this all throughout their history. They wanted to replace God without replacing him. They wanted the benefits of the covenant without the commitment. They wanted to put their faith in themselves, not in God.
And that’s why so many Catholics don’t go to confession. When given the choice between Jesus Christ and their sin, they choose their sin. It’s a lack of faith in Jesus Christ and the Church that he established. People want the benefits of the covenant, heaven and eternal life, without the commitment, striving to live a holy life.
And again, I hear Catholics say things like, “I don’t have to go to confession. God is my judge.” And I respond, “THAT SHOULD SCARE YOU!!” The whole reason Jesus gave us the sacraments was to save us from the judgement!
Many former Catholics now claim to be atheist or agnostic. Personally, I don’t believe it. They’re not REALLY atheists, because they spend so much time and energy constructing arguments about why they are atheist. I’ve said it before. If you don’t believe something exists, you ignore it. You don’t construct philosophical arguments as to WHY you don’t believe it exists. You just ignore it. You ask these people why they’re atheist, and they usually begin a litany of failures of the Church, often mentioning times when the members of the Church have not practiced what the Church preached. Since when do you judge a perfect God by his imperfect creations?
People say, “I’m spiritual. I’m just not religious.” Sooooo you’re an agnostic. An agnostic believes there’s some kind of God out there, but they say, “I don’t practice a particular religion because I don’t believe God cares what I do.” These people just want to live the way they want to live; covenant without commitment. Scripture has demonstrated over and over again that such an attitude ends in disaster. So who do you really put your faith in? Because to say “Jesus Christ” is a package deal. You can’t put your faith in Jesus and not the teaching of the Church he established.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
You cannot have God for your Father if you don’t have the Church for your mother. From her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her Spirit we are made alive. – Saint Cyprian of Carthage
Poor little church, tossed about by the waves of a violent storm, with no harbor of refuge. Cast your cares on the Lord, for He Himself will help you, nourishing you at the fountain of your princes, the Apostles. They were fortified with the teachings of Christ, and the grace of the Holy Spirit; draw strength from them from then until now, so that growing from virtue to virtue, you will be able to see the God of gods in Zion, to whom be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen. – St. Anthony of Padua
Questions for Reflection:
1. Do you know of any instances where people brought their needs to the Lord, and he granted them what they needed them without being asked? Do you bring your needs before the Lord with a list of solutions? Or do you let God decide on the solution because He knows what is best for you? Do you need more help praying like this, “Lord, I know You can do what I ask, but Your will be done.”?
2. Why do you think that Jesus told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven? Could it be that the man was seeking forgiveness rather than cure of the paralysis?
3. When we go to Jesus, do we seek physical cures, or do we seek forgiveness for our sins?
4. Discuss Father Sisco’s insights on atheism. Do you agree with them?
5. Discuss his insights on agnosticism. Do you agree with them?
6. Do you know anyone who is an agnostic or an atheist? How do you relate to this person?
7. Do you believe that faith in Jesus Christ is a package deal? Give the reasons for your answer.
8. Discuss the quote from St. Cyprian.
9. Discuss the insight that the Jews asked for king to be like the other nations who were pagan. Do some Catholics want to be like other people? How does this impact their faith and witness?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent