Weekly Catholic Bible Study
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Oratory of DivineLove Weekly Bible Study Reflections Weeks 261-270
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 261: David versus Saul: A Reflection on 1 Samuel 24: 3-21
Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel and went in search of David and his men in the direction of the wild goat crags. When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he found a cave, which he entered to relieve himself. David and his men were occupying the inmost recesses of the cave.
David’s servants said to him, “This is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘I will deliver your enemy into your grasp; do with him as you see fit.’” So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s mantle. Afterward, however, David regretted that he had cut off an end of Saul’s mantle. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him,
for he is the LORD’s anointed.”
With these words David restrained his men and would not permit them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul, “My lord the king!”
When Saul looked back, David bowed to the ground in homage and asked Saul: “Why do you listen to those who say, ‘David is trying to harm you’? You see for yourself today that the LORD just now delivered you into my grasp in the cave. I had some thought of killing you, but I took pity on you instead .I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed and a father to me.’
Look here at this end of your mantle which I hold. Since I cut off an end of your mantle and did not kill you, see and be convinced that I plan no harm and no rebellion. I have done you no wrong, though you are hunting me down to take my life. The LORD will judge between me and you, and the LORD will exact justice from you in my case. I shall not touch you. The old proverb says, ‘From the wicked comes forth wickedness.’ So I will take no action against you. Against whom are you on campaign, O king of Israel? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog, or a single flea! The LORD will be the judge; he will decide between me and you. May he see this, and take my part, and grant me justice beyond your reach!”
When David finished saying these things to Saul, Saul answered, “Is that your voice, my son David?” And Saul wept aloud. Saul then said to David: “You are in the right rather than I; you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm. Great is the generosity you showed me today, when the LORD delivered me into your grasp and you did not kill me. For if a man meets his enemy, does he send him away unharmed? May the LORD reward you generously for what you have done this day. And now, I know that you shall surely be king and that sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession.” (1 Samuel 24: 3-21)
What makes David such an interesting biblical figure is not his defeat of Goliath, or the killing of the two hundred Philistines, or even his becoming king. It’s moments like this one. Really, taken as a whole, David is NOT an impressive figure. He makes some real whoppers for mistakes. He’s not even an effective administrator. But he has moments like this, where he has the perfect opportunity to exercise vengeance, but instead chooses to show mercy. And why does he choose to show mercy? Because Saul was anointed by God to be king. It’s really out of piety, it’s out of reverence for God, that David shows mercy, because he doesn’t show mercy at other times.
When David fells Goliath with a stone from his slingshot, he doesn’t kill Goliath initially. He stuns him. He knocks him out. After Goliath is lying prostrate and helpless on the ground, David takes Goliath’s own sword and cuts his head off with it. David didn’t show mercy then. When Goliath comes, he didn’t say, “OK, I beat you. You and your Philistine friends pack up and leave Israel and never come back!”
This situation is different. Saul was anointed by God to be king of Israel, so no one can touch Saul, even though Saul has sinned against the Lord, even though Saul has become a bad king, even though Saul’s gone insane. God put him here, and only God can take him out.
Ironically, the reason WHY Saul is IN this situation, the reason WHY the Lord took the kingdom from him and gave it to David, is because Saul also showed mercy. But Saul showed mercy for the wrong reason. When Saul defeated the Amalek people, the Lord told him that the Amalek’s had become so evil that he wanted Saul to commit an act of genocide: kill everything, men, women, children, even the livestock. Saul didn’t do it. He showed mercy.
But it wasn’t mercy for mercy's sake, and it certainly wasn’t mercy for piety sake. Saul wanted to keep the livestock because of greed. He spared the king, women, and children to be sold as slaves. Greed again. And this is what God wanted to avoid. He wanted Saul to carry out this genocide to send a message to his own people: "I’m letting you do this because we have to do this, so the faith can prosper in the land, NOT so you can profit from it!" And God was sending a message to the neighboring pagan nations: "These Jews aren’t like the other tribes of people we’ve had to deal with. We can’t bribe them. They’re not after our money or our women. They want to annihilate us. Our only options are to leave the land of Canaan and let them have it, or we have to surrender, become Jews ourselves, and submit to their way of life." THAT was God’s plan! Saul blew it, and not for mercy's sake, although it was under the guise of mercy, but rather for greed. And so now after Saul tries to kill David, and chases David relentlessly through the deserts and wastelands, when David has an opportunity to exact vengeance, he doesn’t take it.
It’s not so much mercy, as it is faith. David trusted God THAT much. He knew if he was patient, God would take of the problem for him. THIS is what makes David unique, and this is what we can do to emulate him. So often we get ourselves into trouble like Saul because WE want to control, WE want to profit, WE want everyone to conform to our plan instead of exercising faith that God will take care us AND our problems if we only trust him. And that takes patience, and that means not taking matters into our own hands. And that is the example we can learn from David.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
A man makes the most progress and merits the most grace precisely in those matters wherein he gains the greatest victories over self and most mortifies his will. (St. Francis de Sales)
Prayer -- Act of Abandonment
O my God, I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine. With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much! It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love. I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it. I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve. Amen. (Saint Francis De Sales)
Questions for Discussion
1. Many people are shocked when they discover that God had ordered the annihilation of some of the peoples conquered by the Israelites. Why do you think God would find it necessary to eliminate them completely?
2. List three or more attributes of David that you think God was pleased with.
3. Give two or three reasons why you think Saul went insane and began to hunt David down. Saul later repented of his treatment of David, but he ended with an untimely/unhappy death. Saul had started out on fire for God and in His good graces. What do you think happened to change this disposition?
4. Have you ever been or known another person to have been in a position where control had to be let go and given to God, such as an illness? What happened in that instance? Did God take care of the problem?
5. Typically, when we intend to surrender to God, we only mostly surrender, that is, there is usually that one thing (or two) that we just can’t give up. For example, Ananias an Sapphira of the book of Acts (5:1-11) aimed at selling all they had to pledge to the Church, but they held just a little of it back. God used them as an example, striking them dead for it. What do you think this says about the seriousness with which God takes our fidelity to Him?
6. What do you think this passage says about spiritual warfare and not making allowances or compromises with the world?
7. Who or what is Caanan to us? Is it the television, the nightclub, our job? Who or what needs to be eliminated (avoided) in order to please God?
8. List three attitudes or habits that keep you from being closer to the Lord. For instance, for some people it is inordinate amounts of time on social media. List three exercises you can think of that will counteract those bad habits, for instance, limiting your time on social media to 20 minutes a day, or similar.
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 262: The Perfect Prayer: A Reflection on Luke 5: 12-13
While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5: 12-13)
"Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."
What makes this such a perfect prayer is that this poor leper never actually asks Jesus to do anything. What makes this such a great prayer is that the leper makes a simple statement of faith. Not, “Jesus, will You please do this?” Rather, “Jesus, I know it is in Your power to do this.” That’s why Jesus responds so readily to it. Jesus always responds readily to faith.
The secret to the spiritual life, when we know our spirituality is truly advancing, is when we stop trying to bend God to our will, but rather seek to know His.
This is the exact opposite of what the Israelite army did. Listen to this:
In those days the Philistines mustered for war against Israel, and Israel went out to battle against them; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle was joined, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. When the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, so that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.’ So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
When the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?’ When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, ‘Gods have come into the camp.’ They also said, ‘Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, in order not to become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.’
So the Philistines fought; Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home. There was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot-soldiers. The ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died. (1 Samuel 4: 1-11)
I get questions on this. “But Father, they displayed faith in God through the Ark of the Covenant, and yet God not only didn’t grant them victory, but allowed them to be defeated!” Exactly! Because yes, they had faith in God and in the Ark but they attempted to use the Ark to manipulate God, not to do His Will. The Israelites thought that God would never allow Himself to be disgraced by falling into the hands of pagans. THAT’S why they get the Ark! So what are the sins here? Pride, in thinking they could force God’s hand to grant them victory. Laziness. They wanted God to do all the work for them so they could have an easy victory. Irreverence. You just didn’t move the Ark like you jump in your car. The Ark wasn’t supposed to be moved from the Holy of Holies, and when it was, there was a long liturgical process that took place to do it, and it had to be for a very good reason. A prophet had to tell you God wanted the Ark moved for a specific purpose.
Ironically, the Philistines display more faith in the Ark than the Israelites do. When they hear the Ark has entered the Israelite camp. they all begin to despair and recall stories. “This Ark is the same thing that destroyed the Egyptians in ages past.” And because the Philistines show greater awe for the Ark than his own people, God grants them the victory instead of the Israelites.
We need to remember people that God is not subject to our agendas. Yes, we all have circumstances in our lives we would like to change. Is it wrong to ask God to change those circumstances? Maybe. “Oh, come on. Father! What’s wrong with asking God to win the Powerball lottery?” OK, so what if you win the Powerball but lose your soul as a result of it? Was it worth it? Maybe there’s even nothing inherently wrong with you winning the Powerball, but what if God wanted to teach you a valuable lesson about simplicity that would have not necessarily enriched your soul but enriched the souls of others, who now will never benefit from that lesson? Was it worth it? What if I had won the Powerball twenty-five years ago? What if did many good things with that money; saved Catholic schools, and built hospitals and research centers, and fed many poor people, but I never became a priest? I never taught the gospel. I never confected a sacrament. And none of you ever would have met me. What if I, through the Powerball, saved many bodies, but never touched a soul. Was it worth it?
That’s why the best way to pray is like this leper, “Lord, if YOU will it, I know You can do this.” And whatever the outcome, trust that His Will is for the best. That is the key of walking the path of the Spirit.
And blessed be God forever. –Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: What was the first rule of our dear Savior’s life? . . . To do His Father’s Will . . . Well, then, the first end I propose in our daily work is to do the Will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner He wills it; and thirdly, to do it because it is His Will. -- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Prayer: “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (from the Our Father)
Questions for Reflection:
1. Do I pray to do the Will of God? Am I afraid to ask God that His Will be done? If so, what does this say about my faith?
2. Discuss Father Sisco’s insights into the taking of the Ark of the Covenant. Have you ever tried to manipulate God? What was the outcome?
3. Have you ever prayed for something you did not receive? Can you look back at your life and think about the good that came from the refusal of your prayer? Do you believe that God always answers prayer by saying either “yes”, “not yet”, or “I have something better for you?”
4. What should be our attitude when we go to pray? What should be our response if our prayer is not answered in the way we wish?
5. What is your favorite prayer? How often do you pray it?
6. What would you say to someone who says that God does not answer their prayers? How would you pray with this person?
7. List 10 things that you feel are worth praying for. Why did you select these items? How do you pray for them?
8. Have you ever prayed the prayer of the leper, “If You wish, You can do it”?
9. Have you ever experienced the answer to requests that you did not specifically pray for? In other words, God seemed to anticipate your faith in advance and granted your unspoken prayer. Discuss those times.
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 263: Your Precious Name: A Reflection on Genesis 17:5
“No longer shall you be called Abram: you will be called Abraham, for I am making you the Father of a hosts of nations.” (Genesis 17:5)
There is nothing more personal to us than our names. Our names are how we are identified. Next to our social security number, our name is how the government officially recognizes us. Our family names carry with them a significant part of our personal history, our ethnic background, sometimes the trade or profession our ancestors made their mark by, for example Miller, or Smith, or Fisher. We only allow certain people to call us by our first names. We name our children after relatives in our past, to keep the past alive in our present. We allow close friends to call us by nicknames. One of the worst crimes we can fall victim to is identity theft, because the thief has not only stolen our money, but has also stolen and damaged our good name and possibly also the credit rating we earned over years by being responsible with our spending.
At times in Scripture we see God change someone’s name. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. God also changed Abram’s wife Sari’s name to Sarah. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. Why?
When God changes someone’s name, it’s because their relationship to God has changed. This is where we get the custom of the baptismal name, and Confirmation name. When we baptize a child, we add a new name, a middle name, because this name is supposed to reflect this child’s relationship to God. So then preferably the middle name should be a saint’s name or a virtue, like “hope,” “faith,” or “chastity,” because this is the aspect of God that you want your child to emulate.
My baptismal name is “Anthony,” because that name has been handed down to the men in my father’s family for generations. Saint Anthony is also the patron of lost things, so when we lose our car keys we pray to Saint Anthony. But Saint Anthony is the patron of lost things because, while he was alive, Saint Anthony was very skilled at finding lost souls and bringing them back to Christ, a virtue I would surely like to emulate in my life. I kept my baptismal name as my Confirmation name, because I really hadn’t taken time to consider the significance of the name, but now I wish I had chosen my father’s name, Francis, because Saint Francis, like Saint Anthony, was a powerful preacher, but also because he was such an example of humility and gentleness, two other virtues I wish I emulated better.
When people join a religious order, they often take a new name, and even drop their birth name for the religious name to make the statement, “even my name is not my own anymore. Now everything I have belongs to God.”
When the Bishop came to do our Confirmation, he took the time to talk with every Confirmation candidate that came up, and took a few minutes to tell them something about that saint, and the virtues they exemplified in their lives. The Bishop encouraged those kids to exemplify those virtues also, and it was beautiful. The Confirmation took almost two hours, and no one cared!
Like God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, in the baptismal name and the Confirmation name, we are given a new identity in Christ, an identity through which we are supposed to attempt to reflect His presence in the world.
I tell you this for two reasons; first, to remind your children and grandchildren of this when it’s time for them to name their children, because I have to tell you, lately the baptismal names have been getting pretty interesting. Don’t deprive children of the privilege of having a saint to look up to and emulate. And secondly, what is your baptismal name? What saint or theological virtue are you named after? Consider the saint or virtue that you are named after and ask yourselves how well you’re doing emulating that saint or that virtue.
Blessed be God forever,
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
For the name of Christ is on the lips of all: It is invoked by the just man in the service of justice; by the perjurer for the sake of deceiving; by the king to confirm his rule; by the soldier to nerve himself for battle; by the husband to establish his authority; by the wife to confess her submission . . . All invoke the name of Christ, the Christian with true reverence, the pagan with feigned respect; and they shall all undoubtedly give to that same Person whom they invoke an account both of the spirit and of the language in which they repeat His name. – St. Augustine
Prayer: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus."
Questions for Reflection:
1. Consider obtaining a story of your patron saint, or the patron saints of your family members or friends, by ordering Saints’ Stories through the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop (cfpholyangels.com) The stories are printed on parchment like paper, personalized with the person’s name, and suitable for framing in an 8 x 10 inch frame. These make excellent Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, and RCIA gifts.
2. What do you know about your patron saint? Do you try to emulate that person?
3. If you could select a name for yourself now, what would it be? Why?
4. How can we honor people through how we use or select their names?
5. Do you feel that nicknames are respectful? Demeaning? Why do you feel this way?
6. What is your response if someone uses your name disrespectfully? What is your response if you hear another’s name used disrespectfully? What is your response if you hear Jesus’ name used disrespectfully?
7. Do you know why your parents chose your baptismal name for you? If you don’t know the reason, is there any way that you can find out?
8. By what name do you want to be known in eternity?
9. How can you honor people through the use of their names?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 264: Family in the Trinity: A Reflection on John 5:20
“For the Father loves the Son, and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed.” (John 5:20)
So often Scripture uses family imagery to communicate divine truths. The prophet Isaiah speaks the word of the Lord, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child in her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” Scripture uses family imagery because God has been trying to build a family from the very first account we have in Genesis.
God IS filled with tenderness and compassion toward us, just like a mother is filled with tenderness for her little baby, and is quick to respond to that baby’s every need. There was a short video on Facebook of a mother otter with her newborn, “cub” (I guess you’d call it.) The mother was floating on her back down a stream with her newborn on her belly. And it was kind of comical, because it looks like all this cub wants to do is sleep, but the mother otter keeps fussing with it, petting it, kissing it, snuggling it. And you can almost hear this cub thinking, “Yeah, ma, I love you too, but I just really want a nap right now!”
That’s the kind of reality that Isaiah is trying to communicate. God not only loves us. He fawns over us, like a mother over her newborn. That’s the level of affection God has for us. Saint John, in his Gospel, records Jesus communicating a different level of family relationship. The Father reveals everything to Jesus whom we can think of as the “elder” son. Like earthly fathers, the Eternal Father teaches his eldest son his trade, the family business, and he does this so that eldest son can in turn teach his younger siblings, because some day the eldest son will be the head of the clan. We are God’s adopted children, Scripture tells us. We, the younger “adopted” siblings of Jesus, have to heed and learn from our elder brother, so that we can know the will of our Father.
We have everything backwards in our society today. People see the Church as oppressive, antique, not relevant, out of touch. I think people no longer understand the Church because the family is broken down so much. Kids don’t communicate with their parents much anymore because they do all their communicating through gadgets and electronic devices. I think communication has become a lost art. Parents aren’t communicating with their kids. Spouses aren’t communicating with each other because everyone’s working so darn hard. And yet, they have to work hard to pay all the bills.
Maybe we need to get back to simplicity. Maybe we all need to take a close look at our lives and families. Is my life too cluttered up with stuff? What can I do away with to make time for the really important things, like my family?
Let’s take time to slow down, look around, and get rid of the junk. It’s always the season to do some spiritual spring cleaning. If we looked at what God is offering us, if we understand the privilege of being a member of God’s family, we wouldn’t look at the Church in a negative way. We’d all be banging down the door to get to Mass, confession, adoration, novenas, benedictions. We’d never want to leave Church.
Brothers and sisters, pray for healing and renewal in our families, because that’s the key to restoring the family of God.
Blessed be God forever, Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
“Love begins at home; love lives in homes, and that is why there is so much suffering and so much unhappiness in the world today. If we listen to Jesus, He will tell us what He said before: ‘Love one another, as I have loved you.’ He has loved us through suffering, dying on the Cross for us, and so if we are to love one another, if we are to bring that love into life again, we have to begin at home.” ----- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Dear St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father to our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen our families, so that we may once again begin to pray together and love one another as Jesus loved us. Let us treat each other with kindness and compassion and always be the first to forgive. In this way may our family be an example to other families, a witness to the faith, and a beginning of the restoration of our country.
Questions for Reflection:
1. When is the last time you thought about praying with your family?
2. What is the one thing, right now, that is keeping you from being close to your family members? Could it be that Christ is not the center of your family?
3. Does your family attend Mass together?
4. Parents, are you teaching your children the faith?
5. Is your home filled with electronic devices that keep you from communicating with one another? Do these devices keep you from having a spiritual life? What are some ways you might rectify this problem?
6. Do you and your family members do spiritual reading together?
7. What things might you and your family do to relax and have fun together and focus on God?
8. How can the example of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus help your family life to improve?
9. Read about St. Monica and St. Rita of Cascia. They both had very difficult family lives and struggled through the difficulties and became great saints!
10. Think of ways you can make Christ the center of your home life. Also think about how keeping Christ at the center can strengthen your family and your faith. Meditate on how much Christ-centered families can help renew our country and restore faith to the world.
---- Rhea Winger Schoettner, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 265: Our Citizenship Is in Heaven: A Reflection on Philippians 3: 20-21
But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. (Philippians 3: 20-21)
“Brothers and sisters, our citizenship is in heaven …” That’s what Saint Paul tells us. This is one of those statements that we sort of piously nod to when we hear it and say our dutiful “amen,” much in the same way we respond when someone says, “Jesus is Lord.” These statements take on an almost cliché quality.
But have you really stopped to consider the ramifications of that statement, “our citizenship is in heaven,” and what that really means? Paul is saying that we don’t belong here. Our home is somewhere else. We’re foreigners in this land. We are aliens, transients, passing through.
Now when people ask me what nationality I am, I usually don’t say “American.” I usually say “Italian,” because I assume the person asking me KNOWS I’m American, and what they’re REALLY asking me is what cultural background I come from. I’m proud of my Italian ancestry, just as I’m sure all of you take pride in your ancestry.
We still observe some of the Italian customs in my family, the fish dinner on Christmas Eve, and eating frittata on Easter morning. At a family wedding, we all dance the drunken tarantella before the reception ends. (The tarantella is so much easier to dance when you’re half in the bag!) But really, aside from the cuisine, some Italian slang words, and little tradition, I’m American. I think like an American, and I do things in an American way.
Not so with some of my grandparents and all of my great grandparents. They came from Italy. Italian was their first language. They still spoke Italian most of the time and only spoke English when they had to. They kept all the customs and traditions of the old country. For all intrinsic purposes, even though they became American citizens, and resided in America, in their hearts, they were still Italian, and they still lived like Italians. They never became Americanized. That happened with their children and grandchildren.
Back to Saint Paul. When Paul says, “our citizenship is in heaven,” that means we are supposed to be living and speaking right now as we would live and speak if we were home in heaven. Because that’s what aliens do.
Why do neighborhoods exist in so many of our American cities like, “little Italy” in Baltimore, “Chinatown” in New York, “little Havana” in Miami, and “Federal Hill” in Providence? These are places where immigrants of the same culture congregated, where they could insulate themselves from the influences of other nationalities. In these ethnic neighborhoods, the people of the same nationality could still speak their native tongue and observe their native customs. The Church is supposed to be a “neighborhood” for us. The Church is supposed to be “little heaven.”
Coming to “little heaven” should remind us of what it is to be a citizen of heaven so we don’t forget our cultural identity and let ourselves succumb to the sinful practices of the people we have to mingle with outside of church. Rather OUR behavior should be influencing THEM, so THEY want to become citizens of OUR nation, rather than us wanting to become citizens of theirs. Our citizenship is in heaven.
Examine yourself today. Ask yourself, “Would I use the language that I’m using if I were in heaven? Would I dress the way I dress if I were in heaven? Would I treat others the way I treat them now if I were in heaven?” If the answer is “no” then you know you need to fix some things in your life.
For a few years, I’ve done the same thing for Lent. I’ve given up negativity, complaining, criticizing, pessimism. I’m trying to not even have an uncharitable thought. I’m trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Usually, I fail every day! But I’m going to keep trying. I’ll keep trying till I get it right because in heaven everyone lives in perfect charity. So that’s how I want to live here in this world, in perfect charity.
Our citizenship is in heaven. Brothers and sisters, my prayer for all of us today is that we live on earth remembering where our citizenship really lies.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
“During our sojourn in this world, we should learn from the saints now in heaven, how to love God. The pure and perfect love of God they enjoy there consists in uniting themselves perfectly to His will. It would be the greatest delight of the seraphs to pile up sand on the seashore or to pull weeds in a garden for all eternity, if they found out such was God’s will. Our Lord himself teaches us to ask to do the will of God on earth as the saints do it in heaven: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” ----- St. Alphonsus de Ligouri
Prayer from a Saint:
Grant me grace, O merciful God, to desire ardently all that is pleasing to Thee, to examine it prudently, to acknowledge it truthfully, and to accomplish it perfectly, for the praise and glory of Thy name. Amen -- St. Thomas Aquinas
Questions for Reflection:
How often do we think about what we are saying and how it might affect the salvation of our souls?
Look around your home! Are there things surrounding you that bring you happiness for a short time and then leave you feeling empty inside? Do you have endless collections of worldly things that interfere with moving forward in your spiritual life?
Do the things in your home say to others “Hey! … I am a Catholic and I live my faith?” Or is there no sign of Jesus in your home?
When you attend church on Sunday do you try to look your best knowing you are going to receive Jesus in Holy Communion? Do you try to remember that you are a guest in His house and put on your best attire and behavior?
When you talk to your friends do they get the message that you are a Christian? Do you use profane language? Do you laugh at or even tell off colored jokes? Do you ever speak of your faith to others or ask them to join you at Mass?
Do you pray with your family or friends … and when you are alone? Do you think of Jesus often during the day and ask yourself how you can better your spiritual life?
Examine your conscience every night and ask God for a greater faith and the grace to live a virtuous life. Ask Him to show you what you need to change in your life in order to live as He wants you to live.
Do you do God’s will without question or do you complain about the difficult things He asks of you? Do you willingly or begrudgingly do His will? Or do you not do it at all? Ask yourself … do I try and get out of doing those things ask of me or complain about having to do them … or do I willingly say All for Thee?
Go through your home and find all of the things that deprive God of the glory and praise owed to Him such as bad books, pictures, clothing, etc. and get rid of them. Begin watching your language and actions so as not to offend our Lord. Make changes in your life that say “Hey … look at me … I am a Catholic! I am a Christian! I am free of the burden of the world and am living as Christ wants me to live. I am happy!
Add to your library some good spiritual reading about the Saints, our Lord and the Blessed Mother. Add a Crucifix to your home and maybe some pictures of Jesus and Mary … reminders of heaven … our true home! Begin finally to live as though heaven was the only home you ever knew!
Rhea Schoettner, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 266: Whom Will You Serve?: A Reflection on John 8: 31-42
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!”
So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.” (John 8: 31-42)
“No slave has a permanent place in the family, but the son has a place there forever.” So says Jesus to the Pharisees in our reading today. What makes a slave? A slave is someone who does not have the freedom to do as he wants. A slave is bound to do the will of another.
In the old Testament, Daniel and his companions were slaves of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian empire. They became slaves when the Jews were sent into exile by the Babylonians. And as a mark of their slavery, Nebuchadnezzar changed their names to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Imagine if someone just up and changed your name? To change someone’s name in scripture is a sign of the authority of the person changing the name, and a sign of submission from the person getting his named changed. So it is when Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter.
But even though Daniel and his companions are slaves of Nebuchadnezzar, they refuse to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s god. So as a punishment, Nebuchadnezzar inflicts the ultimate punishment that a master can inflict on a slave--death. That’s the ultimate sign of the master’s authority. If you disobey, he can take your life. Yet what happens? The men are thrown into a fiery furnace, but they don’t die. They’re not even singed.
This is because God is the ultimate authority. God is the ultimate determiner of life and death. Therefore, a servant of the Lord cannot truly be the slave of another. Someone may serve another. They may have other earthly freedoms restricted. They may even lose their lives as so many Christian martyrs did.
But since God gives eternal life, we can never truly be slaves to anyone again. The only thing we can be slaves to is sin, and that slavery can only be inflicted by our choosing it. No one can inflict it on us. That’s the only slavery we have to be wary of. This is what Jesus is trying to get the Pharisees to understand and as usual, they’re being very obstinate. “We’ve never been slaves to anyone!” they say. How soon they forget their own history: four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, conquered by the Assyrians, exiled by the Babylonians!
Jesus is trying to tell them that anyone who does not accept Him is a slave. Why? Because He’s the only one with the power to break the bonds of sin, and sin is the only thing that can ever truly enslave us, because sin is one thing that can keep us from eternal life.
And while we Roman Catholics, like everyone else, need to be wary of becoming slaves to sin, we never have to fear it, because we have the sacrament of Confession. We have a sacrament that breaks the chains of slavery we bind ourselves to every time we sin, and we can use this sacrament as often as we need it. So why don’t people use this sacrament more often? I don’t know. But I pray that we all use it more, so that we will truly be slaves to no one, but will enjoy the freedom of being children of God.
Blessed be God forever, Father Michael Anthony Sisco
God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul: “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.” “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” God has made the attainment of our happiness, his glory. Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls. --St. Alphonsus de Ligouri
Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Give us a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect charity, so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen. --St. Francis of Assisi
Questions for Discussion
Jesus referred to the Pharisees as sons of their father. To whom was He referring? List some behaviors of the Pharisees that would lead Him to say that.
Do you believe in your heart that Jesus is from the Father and that He is who He said He is? Why or why not?
Have you ever questioned the Faith, or parts thereof? If so, list some reasons for this. Does some of its message seem contradictory or paradoxical? For many, the Cross is too disagreeable to accept. Do you know anyone like this? Do you agree with them?
to St. Thomas, sin is failure to act in a way which is defined by God who is all good. It is a moral evil to not conduct oneself in accord with reason or Divine Law. Do you see how this separates us from God? Satan was banished from heaven because he refused to serve God. He tempts us to sin so that we too, will be forever separated from God. Knowing this, can you see our dependence on Christ for reconciliation?
List some ways Christ showed us how to conquer sin through obedience through love of God and neighbor. What are some things Jesus did not do? For instance, He did not do harm to those who sought to harm Him. List at least three acts of mercy we can do to show love for God and our neighbor.
The Scriptures imply that we, as humans, must serve someone or something. It gives the choice of serving God versus serving creation. What are the natural ends of each? Which end do you prefer?
Many like the Pharisees, balk at the thought of service, much less becoming another’s slave. List some ways how failing to serve God is puts oneself at the service of satan.
Have you made a decision to serve God in spite of the Scripture’s promise that it will mean following Jesus to Calvary? List some reasons why it is better to serve God than to serve the world.
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 267: Have Recourse to the Lord: A Reflection on the Book of Esther
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD. She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you. Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O LORD, my God.
“And now, come to help me, an orphan. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.” (Esther C, 12, 14-16, 23-25)
“Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish had recourse to the Lord.”
It doesn’t matter if we’re royalty or commoners, rich or poor. Inevitably all of us get into predicaments where we are seized with mortal anguish. We all face times when we look around and it seems like our world has come crashing down or is in danger of crashing down. Maybe it’s the death of someone we love. Maybe we ourselves got bad news from the doctor. Maybe we lost our job after years of loyal service. Maybe our spouse walked out on us, and we can’t figure out why. Maybe we have to take a moral stand that we know is going to cost us friends, family, or co-workers. We all experience those days. When we do we are seized with mortal anguish.
Then it’s time for us to do what Queen Esther did and have recourse to the Lord. When we experience those moments we’re tempted to think that God is responsible for our predicament. God is punishing me for something or getting even with me for something I said or did. That’s foolish, and yet, even though we all know it’s foolish, we still do it, don’t we? “Well THANKS A LOT GOD! This is what I get for going to Church and putting my envelope in the basket every week!” Come on! Admit it!
You’ve said those words at one time or another, or at least thought them. That’s the first thing we have to give Queen Esther. Despite her humble origins, she acknowledges the sin of her people that led them to exile in the first place. Their punishment is just. The Jews turned their backs on God and the covenant, and without the covenant there was nothing to stop them from being conquered by Babylon. But Esther also recognizes that her particular circumstance is because of evil men and NOT God. That’s what she asks protection from the tyranny of evil men.
Like Esther we also need to acknowledge that sometimes God allows things to happen because we’ve turned our backs on him, and he’s trying to draw us back. Our problems are a result of bad choices we’ve made. OK. We learn from them. Ask God to bail us out, and try to make better choices next time. Look at every saint. God allowed all of them to suffer and they all responded by drawing closer to God, not by pushing him away.
A while ago, a priest did a wonderful mission on Saint John Paul II. He explained all the personal tragedies and sufferings that Saint John Paul II went through. All those made him a saint and allowed the Lord to work so powerfully through him. Sometimes bad things happen to us because of evil people and their evil desires. We need ask protection from those evils.
I saw a post on Facebook; “God doesn’t give us what we can handle. God helps us handle what we are given.” There’s a lot of truth in that. It’s not that God gives us bad things to try to break us or force us to love him. Bad things happening are a result of sin in the world. When the influences of those sinful things indirectly affect us, God responds by giving us the grace we need to persevere.
Don’t blame God for the misfortunes in your lives, brothers and sisters. Turn to him instead and let him strengthen you. Blessed be God forever, Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: “If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love.” ~St. Gemma Galgani
Prayer from a Saint: Grant to me, O Lord my God, that I may not falter in times of prosperity or adversity, so that I may not be exalted in the former, nor dejected in the latter. May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to you; may I not be saddened by anything unless it turns me from You. St. Thomas Aquinas
Questions for Reflection:
1. When bad things happen to us, it is human instinct to blame God. You ask, ‘How could God let this happen to a child, or my family, or someone who is so good?’ How can you begin to understand that whatever God allows to happen in your life is meant to make you seek help from Him?
2. How does sin affect our lives in terms of health, quality of life and even our relationships? Find places in Scripture that demonstrate the results of sin. Discuss ways of overcoming sin and the harm it has done.
3. In the New Testament Jesus healed many people. When He healed them, there was always a common theme. What was it? How does this relate to the sacrament of Reconciliation? And how can it help you overcome your sins and begin to turn to God?
4. Do you understand why bad things are allowed by God to happen to good people? Do you understand that it is for the good of your soul?
5. When Jesus died on the cross for us, God was pleased with His son. It pleased Him that Jesus had accepted the suffering that was allowed for Him without fight or impatience. He simply did the will of His Father. How can you practice humility and patience when afflicted with those terrible trials?
6. Begin to thank God for being so merciful to you. Say to Him, “I may not understand why this has to happen, but I accept it, Lord, because I know it is for my own good.” Are you able to pray this way?
7. Read about the Saints! One book, ‘A Kiss from the Cross’ by Ronda De Sola Chervin is full of stories of Saints and their sufferings. It is a great example of how the Saints accepted their trials rather than blaming God. How might your trials have sanctified or be sanctifying you?
8. Jesus and the Blessed Mother are perfect examples of acceptance of the evil that happens to us. They are perfect examples of doing God’s will and NEVER blaming Him. Find examples of this in your Bible, and discuss how you can imitate them.
9. Discuss how you might be able to help others understand that they should not blame God but rather that He is calling them to Him through their suffering. Use your knowledge as a way to begin to evangelize!
-- Rhea Schoettner, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 268: Why Do I Have to Go to Church?: A Reflection on Deuteronomy 30:15
“Today I have set before you, life and prosperity, death and doom.” (Deuteronomy 30:15)
I have a lot of people, especially young people, many teenagers and young adults, ask me, “Why go to church? Can’t I have a relationship with God and not go to church?”
I think God, through Moses, said it best in this passage from Deuteronomy. “I set before you, life and prosperity, death and doom.” Moses said this to the people after he had read them the book of the Law in which he expounded upon and defined the Ten Commandments in detail. And he said, “Here it is. The choice is yours. You can heed the Law and have life and prosperity, or disregard it and court death and doom.”
"Why go to church?" We go to Church to have life and prosperity. We have life and prosperity not by just following a rule book, but by engaging God in a relationship, which before the Christian era was something only reserved for the select few God had chosen. "Well, can’t I have a relationship with God without going to church?" Let’s look at that. What’s involved in a healthy relationship? Healthy relationships involve three things.
Every healthy relationship has boundaries. In healthy relationships we have with other people, we know there are zones we don’t go into. For example, if a group of co-workers go out to a bar for a drink after work, and one of the men starts coming on to one of his female co-workers who’s married, she ought to tell him to back off. That’s a boundary. This far may you come, but no farther. If you don’t go to Church, how are you going to know the boundaries God has laid down in the relationship? You can’t use the Bible alone to teach you the boundaries. You can use the Bible to justify any sin you want to commit. Hitler used the Bible in his attempt to commit genocide against the Jews! To know the boundaries, you have to hear them from the ones who have been given the authority to interpret the Bible, the successors of Peter and the apostles.
Every healthy relationship involves listening. We can’t be doing all the talking. During Mass, we hear the voice of the Lord in the Scriptures and in the teaching of the Church communicated in the homily. That trains our spiritual ear to listen for the voice of the Lord when we pray. Now if you skip the training part, going to Church, and just do the prayer on your own, you may well hear spiritual voices speaking to you, but how can you be sure those are from God? Saint Paul tells us that the world is filled with spiritual forces, and not all of them are good. So, yes, we have to listen. But we have to listen with a trained ear, and that gets developed from Mass.
And finally, every healthy relationship involves personal contact. Pen pals can be just that—pals--but we wouldn’t call that a relationship. I have married several people who initially met through the internet and then came to meet each other in person to develop a healthy relationship. But some of my priest friends tell me that they have had people come to book a wedding and start marriage paperwork, but when the priest asks where the other fiancé is, the person says, “Well, he lives in Oshcosh, Wisconsin. We haven’t met. We know each other from the internet.” What’s wrong with that? People can project an image of themselves in letters or on the internet that doesn’t accurately reflect their person. That’s why personal contact is necessary in a healthy relationship. We are given personal, physical contact with God through the sacraments. And we have access to the sacraments through the Church.
So, can we have a healthy relationship with God outside of the Church? Sure we can have a relationship, but not a healthy one. “Today I have set before you, life and prosperity, death and doom.” We are all free, of course, to make our own choice.
And blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: “No human tongue, can enumerate the favors that trace back to the Sacrifice of the Mass. The sinner is reconciled with God; the just man becomes more upright; sins are wiped away; vices eliminated; virtue and merit gain growth and the devil’s schemes are frustrated.” ---- St. Laurence Justinian
Prayer from a Saint:
O Lord my God,
Teach my heart this day where and how to see you,
Where and how to find you.
You have made me and remade me,
And you have bestowed on me
All the good things I possess,
And still I do not know you.
I have not yet done that
For which I was made.
Teach me to seek you,
For I cannot seek you
Unless you teach me,
Or find you
Unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you in my desire,
Let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you,
Let me love you when I find you.
Questions for Discussion:
The first three commandments refer to our relationship with God. They tell us first that we must love and serve Him above all else. Second they tell us never to use His name in vain and third they tell us to keep holy the Sabbath. Discuss how keeping holy the Sabbath demands that we attend Holy Mass on Sunday. Discuss what degree of sinfulness it is to miss Mass on Sunday without a good reason and why.
ook up John 6: 48-58. Discuss how this relates to our attendance of Sunday Mass. How important is reception of Holy Communion to our spiritual well-being? How can this strengthen us both morally and physically?
In John 63 Jesus says “it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. Here Jesus is telling us it isn’t important for us to “see” him in the flesh; His words ARE spirit and life! How can this statement encourage you to attend Mass?
hat are two ways you receive spirit and life during Mass? How can these help you to live a better life?
he Church is God’s house! If someone says they have a great relationship with God, but that they do not attend Mass, does this ring true? If we don’t visit our parents, do we have a good relationship with them? Discuss why not visiting God’s house yet claiming to be on good terms with God can’t be true.
e all have family and friends who have strayed from the church and who claim they are fine and do not need to attend Mass to love God. Discuss ways you can begin to help those around you understand the need to attend Mass.
ach of you are in different places in your spiritual lives. Discuss what attending Mass means to you. Discuss how it enriches your life. Ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t have Mass available to you.
As a group, say some intercessory prayers for those who have fallen away or haven’t yet begun the journey of faith. Say after each prayer “in Jesus’ name, we pray” and respond with “Lord, hear our prayer.” End with St. Anslem’s prayer, asking the Lord to teach you how and where to find Him.
--Rhea Winger Schoettner, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 269: Kind Words: A Reflection on Matthew 5:20-26
“You have heard it said to your ancestors, ‘you shall not kill, and whoever kills will be liable to the judgement,’ but I say to you whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement, and whoever says to his brother ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says ‘you fool,’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna --Matthew 5: 20-26
I read this passage of Scripture and I think to myself, “Sisco, you are sooooooo fried on judgement day!” Because this is one sin I repeat over and over and over again, habitually. No, I haven’t killed anyone, and while I was guilty of holding grudges in my youth, (we Italians after all, have raised holding grudges to an art form), I really don’t do that anymore either.
That’s what Jesus is referring to when he says, “whoever is angry with his brother.” He’s not talking about things that make us mad, because it’s impossible to avoid those. Things WILL anger us. Sometimes things SHOULD anger us. When we see injustice, corruption, innocent people victimized or taken advantage of, these things SHOULD make us angry, and hopefully that anger motivates us to press for change in our society and our world, to make life better for everyone.
Jesus himself got angry. He got angry in the temple when he witnessed injustice. He got angry with the Pharisees when they place a crippled man in the front of the synagogue to see if Jesus will heal him on the Sabbath so they can have something to accuse him of. Jesus’ statement here would be more accurately translated, “whoever keeps anger with his brother,” or “whoever holds anger against his brother.”
Jesus is talking about holding grudges, refusing to forgive those who have wronged us. And as I said, at this stage in my spiritual life, I’ve pretty much gotten over all that. But I have certainly called people ‘fools’ and ‘block heads’ and truthfully, I have used far more colorful adjectives than that. (That’s what “Raqa” translates closest to in our language by the way, “block head,” or “simpleton.”). It is so easy for me to give into the knee jerk reaction.
The parish council and I are reading the parish surveys that came in, and I KNEW, going into this project, this would invite criticism of decisions I’ve made, and the way I do things; yet despite KNOWING this in advance, what’s my first reaction when I see a negative comment? RAQA! “Well, they’re just STUPID!” And it has to sit with me a while before I start to think, “Maybe they have a point. Maybe I could have done that better.”
Somebody cuts me off in traffic, or they’re blocking the passing lane because they’re fooling with their cell phone…RAQA! I saw a meme on Facebook, “You call it road rage. I call it aggressive maneuvering around people who don’t know what the LEFT LANE IS FOR!” BUT, I’m still angry when I’m doing it, so “road rage” is still an applicable term.
Dealing with diocesan officials, whom I occasionally disagree with…RAQA! “The only reason he’s in a chancery job is because he could never handle a parish!” Please take note, Jesus never qualified his statement based on whether it was true or not! He didn’t say the person in question is NOT a fool. He very well may BE a fool, but you STILL can’t call him one!
I’m doing the same thing for Lent this year as last year. I’ve given up negativity, complaining, criticizing. I’m trying to not even have an uncharitable thought. I’m trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. And like last year, I’ve blown it every day so far! But I’m going to keep trying. And I’ll keep trying till I get it right. “But Father, that’s such a minor sin!” Is it? Because Jesus says here that sin can land me in hell. That’s what Gehanna is--hell. And so if Jesus takes it seriously, I have to as well. Why is THAT sin so serious?
Because abusive speech conditions us to devalue others, and once we devalue others, it becomes easier to accept things like abortion, sexual promiscuity and pornography, euthanasia, defrauding the elderly, ignoring the poor. Never underestimate the power of sin by taking any of them lightly. And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” --Mother Teresa
Prayer from a Saint:
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve You as You deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for reward save that of knowing I am doing Your Will. –St. Ignatius of Loyola
Questions for Reflection:
1. Think back on your day, so far. How many times have you used a derogatory term to describe a person or situation either to another, about another, or to yourself? How many times have you complained in general? Is it more than once or twice? Ask yourself if you have an attitude that is critical or negative. Do you express this attitude, or do you attempt to hold back your true feelings?
2. Many times, people will not come out and call someone a name, but, engage in a subtle subversion of character in people they do not like. This is done also through gossip. Do you know of someone’s reputation being ruined through idle gossip? Do you believe it is a serious sin? How do you think God feels about it? Why?
3. Can you see how this attitude could turn the atmosphere of a home, an employment situation, or even a church, into a very toxic environment? Do you know of any that have such an environment? Describe the quality of the product of such environments. Do you know of loving homes or positive places of employment or churches? Describe the quality of the product of this positive environment as opposed to the previous. Do you believe you have the ability to influence your home, place of business or church? In what way?
4. The leadership of a venue is typically responsible for the general atmosphere, either by tolerating bad behavior, or by example. Can you see the trajectory of such policies? How has the current toxic culture been influenced by the encouragement of coarseness and derisive comments, which seem to be in vogue, in even the top positions of government? Do you believe there should be rules governing behavior in various institutions? Do you believe there should be consequences for those who violate basic etiquette/manners? Why or why not?
5. Based on the severity of the penalty for even small slights, what is the Lord revealing about how He feels as regards our attitudes, and how we treat others, even in the small things? Evaluate yourself in this. Do you need improvement?
6. Describe an incident from your life when someone you respected called you a name or belittled you, regardless of whether or not you (or they) felt it was justified. How did it make you feel? Did you feel you were treated fairly treated or abused? Did it motivate you to positive change, or did it discourage you in what you were doing, or ruin your day?
7. Think back on this same incident or others. What could the other person have said or done that would have been constructive or kind? What different outcomes would there have been for you? Similarly, have you seen or experienced an incident where the person did respond with restraint or kindness when a mistake was made? How different was your interior disposition?
8. To restrain from anger or give kindness is an act of mercy and confers grace on both the person giving and receiving it. Knowing this, list at least one reaction you can make, or thing you can say, which will show mercy to another, as opposed to anger. What different outcomes do your think there would be, for yourself and for the other?
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 270: Be Fertile and Multiply: A Reflection on Genesis 9:1
“Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)
These are the words that God speaks to Noah after he and his family have left the ark and begun to settle the land again. Why does God say this to them at that moment? Because they have just endured the greatest test of faith the Lord had given creation to that time. And they passed. And so the Lord tells them to be fruitful and multiply because having descendants was a sign of God’s blessing, because where there is God there is life.
And this is not the first time the Lord spoke these words. He says these same words first to Adam and Eve, “Be fertile and multiply.” Later God will promise Abraham that his descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky. Historically and theologically, children have always been viewed as God’s greatest blessing, because children represent the continuing of a family name, the continuing of the history of a people.
I’m friends with a family who have five children, ranging in age from college sophomores to a three-year-old. They miscarried one child, and they’re pregnant again. They have taken God’s mandate to be fertile and fill the earth quite seriously. This is a family who works hard and has little. They live very humbly. And they were using Natural Family Planning, trying not to get pregnant again. When I found out they were pregnant, I braced myself. I thought they’d be angry, or upset. No. They’re laughing about it. They say, “God must have a wacky sense of humor.” Their six old son said he’d get up in the middle of the night and feed the baby. And the father, who I consider one of my dearest friends, said, “Father, the psalms say, “children to a father are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. I have my own army!” And when my children start having children, I know when I get old, I’ll have plenty of people to take care of me.” Wow! That’s faith!
Biblically, the greatest blessing God could bestow was the promise of children. How many times in Scripture do we hear of an elderly couple who had no children, and the great joy they felt when God blessed them with a child? There’s the obvious case of Elizabeth and Zechariah, who become the parents of John the Baptist. Recall Abraham and Sarah who have Isaac in their old age. Hannah, who only has one son in her old age, consecrates him to the Lord, and he grows up to become the prophet Samuel. Sampson was the only child of elderly parents. In each case, the child was seen as a blessing, and the child went on to do great things for the Lord.
The opinion that children are a blessing has held true, ironically enough, until our present age of contraception and abortion. This is the only age in history where children have not been seen as God’s blessing. And also, ironically, where has that mentality led us? Now we have legalized suicide in some states. We’ve seen a dramatic rise in violent crimes over the past thirty years, and recently, some of the most horrific crimes are being committed by children killing their classmates as they sit in school. We exploit the poor in this country for political agendas, instead of helping them better their lives. We cheat the sick, by convincing them they need procedures and medications they don’t need, so doctors fleece insurance companies. And in turn, insurance companies try to tell doctors how to practice medicine. We ignore the elderly, and the values and lessons they’ve handed onto us. In a word, life is cheap.
God’s blessings are given to preserve and nurture life, not destroy it. Sometimes, in one’s defense, violence is necessary. The Church concedes this. But it’s only to be used when all other options have failed.
At the end of this passage in Genesis, the Lord puts his bow in the sky, a rainbow, as a sign of his covenant with Noah, and as a reminder that he would never allow all life on earth to be destroyed again. I remember working as chaplain at Rhode Island hospital right after 9-11. It was the national night of prayer, and a great rainbow stretched across Providence harbor. And I thought of this passage from Genesis, and I still find this comforting as our role in the Middle East gets more complicated. I find this comforting as tensions mount between us and North Korea. I find this comforting in our age of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. God promised the world will not be annihilated again.
But let us pray today that all nations and all peoples see all human life as sacred, because we have all been created in the image and likeness of God.
And blessed be God forever!
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: Our bodies are shaped to bear children, and our lives are a working out of the processes of creation. All our ambitions and intelligence are beside that great elemental point. --- Saint Augustine
Prayer: Father, we look to your loving guidance and order as the pattern of all family life. By following the example of the holy family of Your Son, in mutual love and respect, may we come to the joy of our home in heaven. Amen
Questions for Discussion:
The 1960’s brought us the sexual revolution and with that all kinds of other evils--an all-out war against the family and the sanctity of life. How you might begin to turn things back towards God?
Our children are growing up in a selfish world. They see adults who do what they want and do not care about moral implications. There is no sense of God, no sense of shame; it is me … me … me! What changes you can make in your own life that would influence others toward understanding that family and marriage are most important? How can you show them that without God there is no life?
Father Sisco gave us several quotes from Scripture showing us that we are to multiply and fill the earth. Our world tells us different. It tells us to cut back on having children. It tells us to have money and a nice house before you have children. It tells us that to use birth control so the children we have will have a better quality of life. Discuss how this goes against God’s word. Discuss why limiting the number of children so you can have more things is choosing the world over God.
When God said be fruitful and multiply, in what context did he mean it? Today no one thinks they have to get married to have children. Did God mean for the earth to be filled in this way? Discuss the value of marriage and raising children within the law of God rather that the way of the world.
Women want careers. They may choose to have a child and completely omit the father image. Discuss the harm this does to both the woman and the child.
There are also people who choose not to have children. They use birth control/abortion so they can live freely with no ties to hold them back from their success. Does this attitude impact the ability to truly love others? How might it stop us from doing good works or sharing with those less fortunate?
People who see having no children as freedom have no idea of what it means to love as God loves us. Discuss how God’s plan for family is truly freeing!
Mary became pregnant outside of wedlock. Joseph didn’t have to marry, her but he did because he trusted in God. Jesus was born in a stable … born into poverty. He was obedient to Joseph and Mary and most of all to God. He later showed us the ultimate love … a love most of us don’t have the courage to show. How can you learn from the Holy Family? How can the Holy Family show us that the world doesn’t matter … life matters! Discuss how you might begin to imitate them.
--Rhea Schoettner, CFP