Weeks 271-280

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 271: Exact Obedience: A Reflection on Numbers 20: 1-13

 

The whole congregation of the children of Israel arrived in the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled at Kadesh. It was here that Miriam died, and here that she was buried.

As the community had no water, they held a council against Moses and Aaron. The people contended with Moses, exclaiming, “Would that we too had perished with our kinsmen in the LORD’s presence! Why have you brought the LORD’s assembly into this desert where we and our livestock are dying? Why did you lead us out of Egypt, only to bring us to this wretched place which has neither grain nor figs nor vines nor pomegranates? Here there is not even water to drink!” But Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the meeting tent, where they fell prostrate.

Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD said to Moses, “Take your staff and assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron, and in their presence order the rock to yield its waters. From the rock you shall bring forth water for the congregation and their livestock to drink.” So Moses took his staff from its place before the LORD, as he was ordered. He and Aaron assembled the community in front of the rock, where he said to them, “Listen to me, you rebels! Are we to bring water for you out of this rock?” Then, raising his hand, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff, and water gushed out in abundance for the people and their livestock to drink. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you were not faithful to me in showing forth my sanctity before the children of Israel, you shall not lead this community into the land I will give them.”

These are the waters of Meribah, where the children of Israel contended against the LORD, and where the LORD revealed his sanctity among them. --Numbers 20: 1-13

 

“Moses did EXACTLY as the Lord had commanded him” (Exodus 40:16). I think this is probably Moses’ strongest attribute. Moses always does exactly what the Lord tells him to do. The one time he doesn’t is the time he gets into the most trouble.


The Lord tells Moses to strike the rock once with his staff so water will flow out from it, and Moses strikes it twice. That’s it. Why did he strike the rock twice? It’s not quite known. Maybe it was his lack of faith in the Lord that he felt he needed to help God’s plan along by chipping away a little extra rock with an extra strike? Maybe it was his frustration with the people who had gotten him SO worked up that he strikes the rock twice in anger. We don’t know. Scripture doesn’t tell us.


What we do know is that because of this one instance where Moses didn’t do EXACTLY what the Lord commands him, he’s not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Seems rather harsh don’t you think? I mean for someone who always did EXACTLY what God told him to do aside from this one, minor, infraction. Is God that cruel? Is God that demanding? Or perhaps did God do this for our sake?


Maybe the Lord did this to stress to future generations the importance of doing  EXACTLY what God instructs us to do, because if we don’t, even if the infraction is minor, it can have serious and devastating consequences. Because there is no such thing as a little sin. All sin is dangerous.


Sometimes someone will go to confession after a long period of time, like a year, and I’ll ask why they haven’t been in so long and I’ll get an answer like, “Oh Father, I only commit venial sins.” OK. Great. But don’t take venial sins lightly. Venial sins won’t condemn us to hell, but they’ll keep us in purgatory a good long time. Like Moses’ venial sin didn’t cost him his life, or his relationship with God, but it kept him out of the Promised Land.


Doing exactly what the Lord commands also means embracing the whole teaching and not cherry picking. Look at what Jesus says. “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Ever wonder what that means?

 

First of all, what is a Scribe? A scribe was someone who studied and interpreted the Law. They were NOT priests. Today we’d call them theologians.


Jesus says, every scribe, who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old. The new and the old WHAT? The new and the old Testaments! The new and the old Law! A scribe, a theologian, who’s been instructed in the kingdom of heaven doesn’t leave anything out. He doesn’t try to bend God’s truths to a liberal or conservative agenda. He doesn’t stress one teaching to the exclusion of others.


We have all too much of that happening in the Church today. Those who want to re-create the Church into a mass of glorified social workers. And those who want to re-create the Church into a massive contemplative religious order, where we pray from dawn till dusk but do no earthly good. Both extremes are wrong. To do EXACTLY what the Lord commands must involve worship and work.


In the confessional, many people confine themselves to the Ten Commandments and
never examine their consciences about what Jesus commands. How well do I love my neighbor? Do I forgive my enemies? Did I miss opportunities to be helpful or charitable? And others don’t go to confession at all because Jesus died for my sins. Why do I need to tell a man? Both extremes are wrong.


Doing what the Lord commands means incorporating the whole of Church teaching into our lives. My brothers and sisters, my prayer today is a simple one; I pray that all of us here, our Church, and the world begin doing exactly what the Lord has commanded us.

 

And blessed be God forever. –Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote:

 

My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications.  --St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul

 

Prayer:

 

Jesus, I promise to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me.  Make me only know your Will. My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls, and in a particular way, of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm, which You carry with special tenderness between your Divine Arms. I come to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart, the grace to comprehend and to do always, Your holy Will, the grace to confide in You, and the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving Divine Arms.  Amen. -- St. Gianna Molla    

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Think of at least three incidents where you have failed to do what you know God has wanted.Going over the speed limit, for instance. or, telling a “little white lie”.What does Moses’ experience tell you about how God feels about what we think are very small matters?

  2. What do you think is meant by the Scriptures when it says that a person faithful in small things will be given more?

  3. Give an example of “due diligence” when it comes to worship.For instance, do youbelieve it is of small consequence to God if you fail to genuflect properly?

  4. Does the experience of Moses speak to you about the seriousness of the role of leadership in the Church?In what way?Do you think it is possible for those in charge to lead others to heaven while not reaching it themselves?Why do you think this is so?

  5. What do you think the water from the rock represents?What do you think Moses’ tapping the rock meant?

  6. Why do you believe he tapped twice?Was it impatience?Was he angry at God, bitter, tired of the whole thing?

  7. Why do you believe God was angered by his behavior?

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 272: Plant, Pray, and Relinquish: A Reflection on Acts 18-5-6

 

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’ (Acts 18: 5-6)

 

To those with faith no proof is necessary.  To those without faith no proof will suffice. The longer I live, the more I discover the truth of that statement. Our first reading today is a continuation of yesterdays; Paul in Antioch.

 

Paul has been invited to preach to the synagogue, and Paul is very clever that he does a brief recap of their salvation history, and tries to show what happened to Jesus was a fulfillment of the prophets, and God has done all of this to make us his children. So Paul quotes Scripture. Paul quotes their history. It doesn’t work. They’ll end up rejecting Paul and his message.

 

 You know, we can have all the clever arguments in the world.  It won’t help. I have atheists and non-believers tell me, “If I just saw a miracle that would be enough for me. I’d believe.”  But that’s not really the case. There was a Eucharistic miracle in Poland on December 25th, Christmas day, 2013. A communion host fell on the floor.  It was taken by the priest and placed in a container of water. (That’s the proper disposal for a soiled host.  It’s dissolved in water and poured into the earth.)  After the host was placed in water a red spot appeared in the center of it. The host was removed and placed on a corporal, and the Bishop ordered it tested. Forensic science concluded that the red substance was from the muscle of the human heart. Now, over two years later, the Bishop has confirmed this is a Eucharistic miracle.

Will it convince the skeptics? No.

 

There is new scientific evidence that confirms the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Christ. Will it convince the skeptics? No. Some skeptics will never be convinced, no matter how many “miracles” appear before them. No matter how much logic we present.

 

Isn’t it funny how people who are pro-abortion say, well I believe in science, not religion, but as science keeps verifying more and more that the unborn child is an independent life, suddenly they don’t believe science anymore! People will believe what they want to believe no matter what the evidence to the contrary says. So what do we do about them?  Do what Paul did … walk away. When you’ve done all you can do, when you’ve said all that you can say, sometimes you just have to walk away. With some people all you can do is pray for them and be a good example, because what they need only the Holy Spirit can give.

 

 You see in the Book of Acts how, after the Jewish crowd rejects Paul, he says, “That’s it! I’m through with you! I’m going to the Gentiles.” And it is written that the Gentiles received the gospel with joy. We can’t get hung up or discouraged by the non-believers. Plant what seeds you can, give them some food for thought, pray for them, and move on. After that, they’re the Holy Spirit’s problem.

 

Blessed be God forever,

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

“Enrich your soul in the greatness of God:  The Father is your table, the Son is your food, and the Holy Spirit waits on you and then makes His dwelling in you.”   ---- St. Catherine of Siena

 

Prayer:

 

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy. - St. Augustine

 

Questions for Reflection:

1.         Reflect on the strength of your faith. Have you ever doubted to the point of needing proof? Discuss how you felt at that time and what you did to return to your belief.

2.         Throughout the history of the Catholic Church there have been Eucharistic Miracles. Why do you think we were shown these miracles? How can they strengthen our faith?

3.         Why do you suppose that people choose not to believe even when the proof is right in front of them? Could it be that they are afraid of change? Could they be afraid of how difficult it is to walk the walk of faith? Discuss ways you might help them accept the truth.

4.         Many of us have loved ones who do not attend Church. They have no faith and live as they want. It is so difficult to watch this, and we feel helpless in our efforts to lead them home. Discuss how we are to go about bringing them back. What 3 ways does Father suggest to bring someone to belief?

5.         We know to pray to the Father and we look to the Cross of Jesus to help us get through life, but many forget about the Holy Spirit. Discuss what the Holy Spirit’s role is in our faith journey.

6.         In non-believers there is one common flaw … PRIDE! They believe in themselves rather than in the faith. How might you begin to help them see the light? If you can’t reach a person by example and prayer, what are you to do?

7.         Discuss how watching no believers go on trusting in themselves affects our lives. What should we do to protect ourselves from becoming overwhelmed with grief in not being able to help them?

8.         Ultimately we can pray and set an example for non-believers. Who is really responsible when we fail to reach them?

--Rhea Schoettner, CFP

 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 273: Being Alone: A Reflection on Genesis 2:18

 

“It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)  

  

It’s a really touching scene we have in Genesis 2, because this chapter illustrates one of the characteristics that separated ancient Judaism, and then Christianity, from all the pagan religions in the ancient world. In the pagan religions, the gods didn’t care about humans, or if they did, it was in an owner/pet relationship. If you read the myths of ancient Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia, the gods toy with humans. They’re fickle. They’re benevolent one minute, and destructive the next. Judaism was the first religion to break from that mentality, and it comes across so clearly in the creation story. 

 

 God cares about us.  

 

 First, God creates the universe for us. Then God is worried that Adam will get lonely. God is worried that Adam might be unhappy. And so God creates a partner for Adam. And note how he does it. He puts Adam to sleep. God is going to perform surgery on Adam. He doesn’t want him awake for this. This is going to hurt. So he puts Adam to sleep so Adam won’t feel any pain. 

 

 Now many people don’t like the Genesis story in the Bible. They claim it’s a chauvinistic tale, written by a chauvinistic society, about a chauvinistic God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Genesis, perhaps more than any other book in the Bible, gives us insights into the relationships between men and women.  

 

 In presenting Adam with Eve, God gives to both of them his greatest gift, the gift of one another. In this gift, God gives them both the means to fulfill one another.  

 

 When God puts Adam and Eve to work in his garden it’s a sign of his love. God gives us function and purpose through work.   

 

When God gives Adam and Eve one another, he gives fulfillment. “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two become one body.” Take note, no one is given authority over the other here. This is not a master/servant relationship between Adam and Eve. The two become one. They complete each other. They fulfill each other. And that fulfillment is complete in children.  

 Immediately following this passage God will tell them, “Go forth, be fruitful and multiply.” Only God can create life, but in this way, God allows us to share in the creation process. So God gives us purpose. And God brings that purpose to fulfillment.  

  

The whole rest of the Old Testament will be God preparing us for the third, final, and greatest gift; immortality, for eternal life, heaven and salvation. 

 

 None of the gifts that God gives us negates the other gifts. How can celibacy and the married life both be gifts then? Celibacy is the fulfillment of sexuality. If we reduce sexuality to a genital act, we don’t properly understand sexuality. The Church has taught that a married couple has the primary function of helping one another get to heaven primarily through sharing their faith with their children. A priest or religious abstains from having biological children so we can spread the faith to the larger human family.  

 As married people, your vocation is not a hierarchy. It’s not a matter of who has authority over which. It’s a partnership. The human family is a smaller version of the Church family whose primary vocation is to help as many members as it can get to heaven. This is why we can’t ignore abortion. This is why we can’t ignore the divorce rate, and other moral and social issues.  Because we have a responsibility as a loving family, who has a loving God, to help as many people as we can get to heaven, because it is not good for any of us to be alone. 

  

And Blessed Be God forever!  --Father Michael Anthony Sisco 

 

Quote:  

The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. 

--St. John Chrystostom 

 

Prayer: 

Mother of the Church, grant that the Church may enjoy freedom and peace in fulfilling her saving mission and that to this end she may become mature with a new maturity of faith and inner unity. Help us to overcome opposition and difficulties. Help us to rediscover all the simplicity and dignity of the Christian vocation. Grant that there may be no lack of “laborers in the Lord’s vineyard.” Sanctify families. Watch over the souls of the young and the hearts of the children. Help us to overcome the great moral threats against the fundamental spheres of life and love. Obtain for us the grace to be continually renewed through all the beauty of witness given to the cross and resurrection of your Son. Amen 

--St. John Paul II 

 

Discussion Questions 

  • Imagine yourself alone stranded on an island with everything you need but companionship. How long do you think it would take before you got lonely?    

 

  • ive an account of one or two ways God made special provisions for you, specifically.  For instance, a new job just as your unemployment has run out.  Or, someone pushing you out of the path of an oncoming car.   Does this indicate to you that someone is watching out for your needs?  

 

  • Do you believe that Eve coming from Adam’s side is an indication of inferiority on her part?  Why do you think this is misunderstood?   

 

  • What do you think is symbolized by God putting Adam and Eve to work in the garden?  Do you believe the Garden of Eden was a real garden, or does it symbolize something else?  Describe what you think is meant by the garden and what God meant by “work”.  Since they were in a state of grace, do you believe that work was difficult, strenuous or stressful?   

 

  • List 3-4 ways you can share in the creative process through your vocation.  Would an apostolate (work of evangelization) be considered a creative process?  What is meant by an apostolate?  Give some examples of some you are aware of.   

 

  • How would doing good works bring another to Christ and His saving power and mercy?  What brought you to Christ, or formed you positively in your faith?   Was it not the example and work of others?  Name a person in your life who influenced you to be faithful, or brought you back to faith.  What did they do to encourage you?   

 

  • Name 3 ways you can help another person get to heaven.  For instance, praying for your family members, wearing a bumper sticker on the car that promotes the faith, volunteering at a food pantry and doing other corporal and spiritual works of mercy.   

 

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 274: Withdrawing from God through Gadgets: A Reflection on Acts 20:35 

“In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)

One sin we always need to be guard against is laziness, both physical and spiritual. Our call is always to be working hard to build the kingdom of God on earth. That’s the key to our salvation.  So this isn’t something we can approach passively.  

Forty, fifty years ago, organizations like the Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, Saint Vincent DePaul, the Holy Name Society, Saint Anne Sodality, and many others like them boasted memberships in the hundreds in every parish. And they did fantastic works!  Now most of these organizations have dwindled in memberships to about a dozen or less. And I have to commend the people still involved in these organizations because they are very faithful people, working very hard to bring Christ to others.  

But what happened to everyone else?  Where did everyone go? Granted Church attendance has declined by 75% over the past fifty years, and so it naturally follows that memberships in such organizations should suffer a similar decline. That just adds another question. Why has Church attendance declined so? And different people blame all kinds of different circumstances that I’m sure have contributed to this reality. But I think the core of the problem is that most people just don’t see the need for God. People are not committed to their relationship with the Lord like they were in years past. And as we got lazy in our prayer, then lazy in our Mass attendance, and finally lazy getting involved with the lives of others and trying to make this world better.  

I blame the gadgets. First the TV, then the internet, then the computer games, now the phones and tablets.  Why do I blame these things? The gadgets have reprogramed us to withdraw inside ourselves instead of reaching out to others. Now instead of forming relationships with other people, kids and even adults now, can lose themselves in the fantasy world of gaming. All this has numbed us to the real world, and with that, the purpose God created us for.  

I have a Pirates game on my computer that I enjoy, but I don’t play it every day, or even every week.  But when I get a free evening, I do enjoy playing a couple hours. But I do that after I make myself attend every parish meeting and committee and organization that I can. I know some of my brother priests don’t do that. And I’m not saying this to toot my own horn. I attend all these things because I know I personally NEED to, because it would be very easy for me to fall into this trap of technology and withdraw from people. I need to have that contact to remind me what’s really important.  

So the first thing we need to do is break away from the gadgets and toys and limit our time with them. Second we need work on our prayer lives and maintaining that intimate contact with the Lord. And finally we need to get involved. Now I understand some people are financially strapped and working two jobs. Other are taking care of elderly parents or a sick relative. But special circumstances aside, examine how much time in a day gets wasted on meaningless things, and see if you can dedicate some of your time to join an organization that works for the good of others. 

Blessed be God forever, Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco  

QUOTE FROM A SAINT

“Do you want to outwit the devil? Never let him catch you idle. Work, study, pray, and you will be sure to overcome your spiritual enemy.”     --- St. John Bosco 

PRAYER: AGAINST LAZINESS 

Good Jesus, Lover of my soul, I beg of You by Your five precious wounds, by the weariness of Your passion, by all the toils and watchings of Your life, deliver me from the hideous sin of sloth and especially from spiritual laziness. I am by nature, like all poor children of Adam, inclined to seek my own ease, to avoid exertion, to shun hard work, and especially to be disinclined to effort for spiritual things. Stir my soul by the thought of Your great love for me and of the bounden duty, to be diligent in Your service and love. 

Teach me to overcome distractions in prayers, distaste of spiritual things, dislike of good reading, and make me love and esteem all holy exercises for Your sake. Encourage me with the thought of the eternal reward which You have prepared for those who serve You diligently. Make me fear my sins of omission and grieve for them, and grant that while I attend so carefully to the necessities of my body, I may not, through a foolish idleness, neglect the health and nourishment of my soul. Amen. -Taken from “Moments With God” by Rev. Edward F. Garesche, S.J. 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.                   Think about how often you use the computer, cell phone, tablet, etc. as a means of communication. Discuss how these things might interfere with your spiritual life. 

 

2.                   Have you ever considered that you might be using these things as a means of escaping from the trials of everyday life? Discuss how this might be true in your life and how you think it might affect others. 

3.                   How much time do you “waste” playing video games on your computer, phone, or tablet? Discuss how this can become sinful. Discuss ways you can begin to remedy this problem. 

4.                   Do you belong to any of the groups Fr. Sisco mentioned (or any like them)? Discuss what options are available to you and the possibility of “getting involved” in one of these groups. 

5.                   If joining a service group is not an option, think about and discuss ways you could go about doing good works and breaking the bond of entrapment that technology holds over you. 

6.                   Many are so entrapped by technology that they not only withdraw from the outside, “real”, world, but their children are following in their footsteps. Think about your own situation and discuss the need for setting a better example for your children and loved ones. 

7.                   In Scripture our Lord is constantly seen praying, serving, healing, etc. Discuss the need to let go of things that have a hold on you. How might you begin imitating Jesus instead? 

 

8.                   This withdrawal from society due to the excessive use of technology can indeed be very sinful. Discuss how frequent confession can help us to begin needing God instead of our toys. How can confession help us overcome our weakness?  

 

--Rhea Winger Schoettner 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 275: One with Christ: A Reflection on John 17:25

Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.  I have known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”  (John 17:25)

You know, sometimes reading John’s gospel is like reading a Dr. Zeus book! ”And I have given them the glory that you gave me, so that they may be one and we are one, I in them, and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, and  the world may know that you sent me, and you loved them even as you loved  me” …”I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am!”  

Sometimes you just wish John had hired an editor before he sent this manuscript to print! But John writes this way for a reason.  The world he’s living in is still a very oral society.  That means people memorized things as opposed to writing them down, because most people were illiterate.  

So John keeps reiterating the important points, so people will more easily remember. So what are the important points?  In the passage I JUST quoted, we are one with the Father through Christ. Because we belong to Jesus Christ, we now have intimacy with God that we cannot have ANY OTHER WAY BUT through Christ.  

In the passage I quoted, John is stressing that we now know the Father through Christ. Because of that knowledge, we have the job of sharing that knowledge with the world.  “Righteous Father, the world does not know you.” So the Father is righteous.  The Father is holy.  And the world doesn’t know or doesn’t care about this.  

But I know you.” The Son knows the Father because the Son has been with the Father from the beginning of time.  From the beginning of time! Jesus was not created.  So Jesus is not an angel, as the Mormons believe. Jesus was not a prophet as the Moslems and some sects of Judaism believe. Why? Because angels and prophets are created beings. 

 The Son knows the Father because the Father and Son are “consubstantial,” as we say in the Creed on Sunday. That means, “of the same substance.”  That separates Jesus from everyone else who ever walked the earth.  “And they know that you sent me…”  The disciples now have the faith to believe that Jesus is who he has claimed to be. But now with this knowledge goes a responsibility to share it with others, so they may be part of Christ, too.

“I made known to them your name…”  I have taught them what I know about you. “And I will make it known…”  That means there is still more left to learn. THAT will be revealed through the Holy Spirit. In other words, “The Holy Spirit will complete the teaching that I have begun in you. The Holy Spirit will take what I have taught you and pull it all together.” Why? So “[t]hat the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  

Because we are united with Christ through the sacraments of the Church, the Father can love us, as he loves the Son, which he couldn’t do before because we had no way of being redeemed from our sins. This is the message we are called to share with the world, my brothers and sisters:  God loves us so much. He became one of us in Jesus Christ to teach us what God expects from us and to redeem us from our sins. Because of that, through the sacraments of the Church, we may become one with Christ, and so also, one with the Father. Being made one with them, we can be eternally joined to them in heaven when we die. That is message of salvation.  That is the message we need to make known to the world again.  

Blessed be God forever! --Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: 

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend.  --Saint Teresa of Avila  

Prayer:

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, and 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. Pio of Pietrelcina 

Questions for Discussion  

1. List three blessings in your life that indicate God’s love for you.

2. Describe an incident or moment of suffering that has occurred in your life. For instance, a serious illness, or affliction. Do you believe it brought you closer to God or the opposite? Did you use the moment to reach out to God for assistance or to offer the situation to Him for use in His plan? 

3. List at least 2-3 ways you can enhance your relationship with the Lord. For instance, do you attend Mass more than just on Sunday? 

4. Name 2-3 attributes of God that are revealed to us through Scripture. Do you know a person or persons who reflect these attributes? What type of people are these people, and what is their relationship with God?  

5. What do you think is meant by intimacy with God? Do you believe God wishes to have a more intimate relationship with you, or do you believe you are not worthy of this? If so, ask yourself if this lack of confidence is coming from God or the counter inspirer. What attitude do you think God is looking for in you? Keeping distant due to lack of worthiness, or humble confidence in His loving care?  

6. Name 3 specific activities you can do to make God more known in the world, in your everyday existence. Some examples may be placing a picture or religious symbol on your desk, wearing a crucifix, giving thanks to God during a casual conversation.

--Lucy Fernandez

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 276: Love Intensely: A Reflection on 1 Peter 4:8

“Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  

Right there, in those few words, is the crux of Saint Peter’s first letter. Let your love for one another be intense because love covers a multitude of sins. Here we see the logic of Christianity.  

Non-Christians and non-believers alike will chime “Why should I love my enemy?  If I love my enemy I’m putting myself at his mercy.” That mentality betrays someone who is completely worldly minded. The Christian knows the world is NOT the end all and be all. The Christian knows this world is a testing ground; this world is a forge where metal is tempered, and shaped into a useful tool; the world is a womb, where we are all growing and waiting to be born into our REAL life. Let my enemy takes what he wants of me in this world, because it will do neither him nor I any good in the next.  

Heaven is always the goal of the Christian. Heaven should always be the sum of why we exist, and we all fall short of that mark. Sometimes heaven is NOT the sum of why we exist because  we pursue other pleasures and worldly treasures. All this is vanity as the prophet Quoheleth wrote. We call that sin. Ultimately, sin is whatever distracts us from heaven, and we all have something. And that is why we need to train ourselves to love intensely. Peter tells us here that loving intensely not only helps keep us from sin, because all sin is in some way a failure to love, but love also “covers a multitude of sins.”  What does that mean? A couple things.   

First, love heals the wounds that sin leaves in our souls. About once a month I visit the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade religion classes at the school and answer the theological questions they have for me. Many of them have trouble grasping the concept of purgatory. Who goes to purgatory?  Purgatory, I tell them, is where people go who have un-repented venial sins, or mortal sins that they’ve confessed. Then ultimately the questions that follows is, “But if the person confessed the mortal sin and it was forgiven, why do they have to go to purgatory?”  

I explain it this way. Back in 1991, I was in a bad car accident that injured my shoulder, and right arm. I went to the hospital. My arm was in a cast for six months and the arm healed. But now, 25 years later, whenever it rains, or it’s going to rain, my right arm aches. I will go through the rest of my life effected by the injury that I sustained in that car accident.  

When we commit a mortal sin, we injure our soul. We go to confession, get the sin absolved, and the soul is healed.  Confession is like the cast that healed my arm. But the soul is always going to have a weak spot because of that sin that will affect me for the rest of my life, like my right arm aching when it rains. That weak spot on my soul must be healed in purgatory before I can enter heaven. BUT, loving intensely COVERS a multitude of sins, so my intense love for God and others can also heal that weak spot on my soul without purgatory. That’s the first advantage to loving intensely.  

The second way loving intensely covers a multitude of sins is that it also heals the effects of the sins of OTHERS! I’ve said before, “Sin is like pollution. One person does it and it effects everyone.” The world is so dysfunctional because multitudes of sins are being committed by multitudes of people around the world.  Loving intensely can heal that.  

If you doubt me, look at the life of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. There was a woman who loved intensely, and look at what an impact she made on the world! Saint John Paul II was a man who loved intensely. Look at the impact he made upon the world. It can be done.  

What is love? I told you many times before. Love begins when we want what’s best for others. Love grows when we’re willing to DO what’s best for others, but love reaches perfection when we’re willing to sacrifice ourselves for what’s best for others. That’s loving intensely, and that will protect you from sinning. That will heal you of the wounds caused by past sins. And that will heal the effect that sin is having upon the world.

  

Lord Jesus, give us all the grace to love intensely. 

Blessed be God forever, Father Michael Anthony Sisco 

 QUOTE FROM A SAINT:  

 

“Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity – the fire of the love of God and neighbor – it will work wonders.”   St. Anthony Mary Claret  

PRAYER … ACT OF LOVE:   

 

O my God, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon for all whom I have injured. Amen. 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: 

 

1.                   All of us, at one time or another, have asked, “What is love?” and most of us think of it in terms of emotional feelings. But love is more than that! It is action for the love of God … helping those in need, even if we don’t like them … it is never an emotion! Discuss why it is more loving to help someone who you don’t like than it to help someone you love. 

2.                   “Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2) How does this piece of Scripture relate to loving intensely? Discuss how it ‘fulfils the law of Christ.’ 

 

3.                   Humility is one of the Franciscan and Catholic virtues. Think about how humility can help you to serve even those you may find revolting. Discuss how intense love of God and neighbor helped St. Francis overcome his fear of the lepers so he could serve them. Could he have accomplished this without loving God as he did? 

 

4.                   Loving others is often very difficult. We as human beings, are just that … human! We tend to be judgmental and we tend to ignore or turn away from all we don’t understand or want to deal with. How could this turn into sin? Discuss how this can be corrected. 

 

5.                   Jesus showed intense love both for his Father and for us by dying on the cross so that we might have eternal life. He also shows intense love for us in the confessional where he has mercy and forgives our sins. How you can return this love? Can service to others be one way of thanking God for His mercy? 

 

6.                   Think about those you have met or have to deal with who rub you the wrong way. How can you show your love of God when having to interact with those people? Discuss how this might change them someday. 

 

7.                   When you give to others it should be from your daily supplies, not from the surplus. Why do you think that if you only give from your surplus, it defeats love of neighbor? Think about times you may have been guilty of this and discuss why you should have done it differently and how you can do better in the future. 

 

8.                   There is much evil in the world today. In Romans we are told to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil by good. Discuss how this relates to love. Can it be done without love or does it take an intense love of God to overcome evil by good?  

 

9.                   Think about how you could change the world if only you were to live as scripture instructs you. Find places in scripture where you are given examples of intense love and discuss how you might begin to implement them in your life.  

 

--Rhea Winger Schoettner

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 277: Good Conduct: A Reflection on 1 Peter 2: 11-12 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2: 11-12)

I love the first letter of Saint Peter because, unlike John who can get very deep and philosophical, and Paul, who’s just a great speaker with very flowery language, Peter’s letter is just “meat-and-potatoes” good, common sense advice.  

You can tell this is being written or narrated by a simple, uneducated, fisherman. And this entire passage, and indeed the entire encyclical, can be summed up in one simple sentence: “We have a responsibility to set a good example.”   

If our conduct is no better, or worse, than the pagans living around us, what good are we? How is THAT ever going to convince people our message is worth listening to?  How is THAT ever going to inspire people to put worldly things as a lower priority than spiritual things? How will that ever bring people to Christ?  

Even worse, what if our message says one thing, but we live in a manner contrary to that message?  Then instead of leading people to Christ, we push them away. We discredit the message.   

Peter tells us that we were chosen for this task, to bring Christ’s message and example to the world.  Peter says, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners…” An alien or a sojourner (someone on a journey) doesn’t belong to the land they’re travelling through.  

So by addressing his audience this way, Peter is telling us we don’t belong to this world in which we live.  When we visit or travel through another country, we don’t stop being Americans and start acting like the people who live in the places we visit. So if we’re only travelling through this world, but are citizens of heaven, we have a responsibility to act like citizens of heaven while travelling here.   

How do we do this?  Peter gives us two bits of advice.  First, keep away from worldly desires. Why?  Because they wage war against the soul. Worldly desires make us forget who we really are. It’s as if we start speaking the language and adopting the local customs of those countries we’re travelling through.  Do that long enough and you’ll start to confuse your identity.   

The second thing Peter tells us to do is good works--charity. ”Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Peter makes a very interesting point here.  We do charitable works not only for the good of our own souls but also for the good of the souls of non-believers.  How?  

Well, the first is obvious.  When the non-believer sees the good we do, that may inspire them to believe the message that we preach.  But also, when they speak of you as an evildoer, when they accuse you falsely, or when  they call you hateful things because you prick their consciences, when Jesus returns and all truth is revealed, your name will be vindicated, and they will  repent. 

Brothers and sisters, there is no way the Christian can get around doing good deeds. Because before anything, we are called to set a good example for others. 

 

And blessed be God forever. –Father Michael Anthony Sisco 

Quote: 

Good example is the most efficacious apostolate. You must be as lighted lanterns and shine like brilliant chandeliers among men. By your good example and your words, animate others to know and love God. --St. Mary Joseph Rossello 

Prayer: 

O Lord, who hast mercy upon all, take away from me my sins, and mercifully kindle in me 
the fire of thy Holy Spirit. Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore Thee, a heart to delight in Thee, to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ's sake, Amen --St. Ambrose of Milan

Questions for Discussion

--Name three people in your life who have influenced you to be a better person. It could be a parent, a relative, a teacher, coach, or celebrity. What common attribute or attributes did these people have? Why do you think it touched you so deeply? 

 --Often Christians are accused of being judgmental and prejudiced. Why do you think that is? Have you ever acted in this way or been accused of this? What did you say or do to effect this? Could you have handled it differently, or, is it simply that the people involved felt convicted of their sin?

-- Pope Francis has placed great emphasis on Christians showing mercy to other sinners. What do you think he means by this? List three ways a Christian can show mercy to sinners without condoning the sin.

--Have you ever had acquaintance of a person with a bad reputation, especially as a child? If so, did the other person have more influence over your behavior, or did you influence that other person?

--We are warned to avoid “the near occasion of sin”. Name an example of a near occasion of sin that you have experienced, or know someone else has. An example would be to watch a movie with immoral content to please a friend.

--Think of an example of how a person can get cornered in to committing a sin, or a near occasion of sin. List some alternative ways this person could handle the situation.

--List two or three practical ways you can increase in holiness of life. An example would be to add a prayer at the beginning of the day for help, or going to Mass more often than once a week.

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 278: Trust in God: A Reflection on 2 Timothy 4

 

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18)

 

In the year 2000, a nationwide survey was taken among generation X. Generation X is that group who are children of the baby boomers, my generation. They did the survey so they could try to classify what characterizes this generation.  What they discovered was unexpected and startling. The common denominator found all throughout this survey was not apathy. They in fact found that the younger generation is concerned with many issues. The common denominator was irresponsibility, or a feeling of hopelessness. The common denominator found all throughout that survey was fear. 

 

Fear and hopelessness characterize generation X. They described being afraid that they would not succeed. * fear that they would not live up to their parents’ expectations. * fear that they would contract a sexually transmitted disease. * fear that they would be shot in school or work, or on the way to school or work. * fear that they would never find love or be fulfilled in life. The generation of the millennium lived in fear, and that’s dangerous, because fear stems from a lack of trust in God, and so does every sin. We sin because we’re afraid we’re missing out on something or we don’t trust that God is going to provide for our needs. And once we stop trusting, we isolate ourselves from God and one another. And that’s the trap, because once we isolate ourselves, we’re vulnerable. 

 

If you watch these nature shows, whenever predators [lions, hyenas, wolves] stalk a herd, they begin the chase the herd, run it down, until one of them can’t keep up. And once that beast is isolated from the herd, it’s vulnerable, and then the predators close in for the kill. The devil uses the same tactic, because once we isolate ourselves from God and one and one another, we’re vulnerable. First the devil confronts us with our fear.  He makes us tired and weary. If we let that fear diminish our trust, it leads us to sin. That sin causes us to be isolated from God, and if that isolation continues, we’ll find ourselves in bondage, or addicted to that sin. 

  

Generation X is NOW the 30-50 yea-old age group. Generation X is now running the country. Generation X is now the generation having families and raising children of their own.  Explains a lot doesn’t it? Because right now we seem to live in a world that is ruled by fear, and ruled by people who are skilled at manipulating those fears. 

 

In contrast, consider the two pillars of our Church – Saint Peter and Saint Paul. They both show an amazing amount of trust in God throughout their lives. Peter is one who identifies Jesus as the Messiah. Everybody thinks it, but Peter trusts enough to speak. Peter trusts Jesus enough to walk on water. Admittedly, he does trust Jesus enough to keep him from sinking, but, nonetheless, Peter was the only one who got out of the boat. Paul showed an amazing amount of trust in God throughout his life. When you read the accounts in the Acts of the apostles, you see that Paul had an extremely difficult life. In his letter to Timothy, Paul says, “I am already being poured out like a libation.”  (Libation means sacrifice) 

 

But because Peter and Paul trust in God so completely, they have unity with God, they have peace with the things they have to endure. They don’t give into fear, and Peter and Paul had plenty of things to be afraid of  during their ministry.  That’s why we need them today. Consecrate our nation, consecrate your children to Saints Peter and Paul. And pray for generation X, that we may turn to God as they did, and in so doing we can set our nation right again.

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

I am afraid that if we begin to put our trust in human help, some of our Divine help will fail us.
- St. Teresa of Avila

 

Prayer:

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things. – St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Do you trust God? How much? Why do you or don’t you trust God?

  2. How is mistrust of God, or failure to trust God, the root of all sin?

  3. What situations in the world call for trust in God? What in your own life calls for trust in God? How can you encourage yourself and others to trust in God?

  4. Discuss the quote from St. Teresa of Avila

  5. Do you ever pray to trust God? What is your prayer like?

  6. How does isolation from God lead to spiritual destruction?

  7. What part does evangelization play in bringing people to trust God more?

  8. How might we evangelize Generation X?

  9. What is the greatest act of trust that you or someone else has experienced? Why did you select this incident?

  10. How does fear paralyze us? What are your fears? What fears does the world seem to facing now? How do you combat fear?

  11. Discuss the martyrs, their fears, and their trust.

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

 Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 279: Be Holy: A Reflection on 2 Timothy 1:9 

“God has saved us and has called us to a holy life.” (2 Timothy 1:9) 

So says Saint Paul in the beginning of his letter to Timothy.  Now Paul is an apostle, and he’s writing to his protégé, Timothy, who is now a bishop, but this line applies not just to the clergy but to all of us. God has saved all of us, and he calls all of us to a holy life.   

You may think that’s obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people accept that God has saved us, but at the same time think that holiness is reserved to the clergy and religious, and the laity are simply called to ‘goodness.’  

That’s a lie.  Creation is already good.  God made everything good. That much is clear from Genesis.  Jesus didn’t have to die to make us good. Jesus didn’t have to die to make us just.  We are capable of goodness and justice without Grace. Thus there are atheists who are good people.  There are atheists who have a keen sense of justice, and act justly.  They’re doing that without the help of Divine Grace.  

Jesus had to die, so he could send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had to come to enter into us so we could have Divine Grace, and Divine Grace is what we need to become holy. OK fine.  How do we cooperate with Divine Grace to become holy?  Whether he intended it or not, Paul gave us the answer to that question in this same passage. “I thank God, the God of my forefathers, whom I worship with a clear conscience, whenever I remember you in my prayers—as indeed I do constantly.”  

 

So where does cooperation with Divine Grace begin? 

“I give thanks…”  Cooperation with Divine Grace begins with thanksgiving. You know, how often do we save thanksgiving to the end of our prayers, if we even remember to thank God at ALL! We should BEGIN prayer with thanksgiving!  We should start praying by thanking God for everything we can think of because that puts us in the proper mindset for the next stage.   

“…whom I worship with a clear conscience…”  Cooperating with Divine Grace to become holy continues with worship, but how?  With a clear conscience. That means two things. First it means going to confession. That enables us to have a clear conscience.  And it also means making an examination of conscience in our prayers. While we’re thanking God, we should also be thinking of any ways I’ve been unappreciative of what God has given me. While I’m worshipping God I should also be thinking of any ways I have failed to acknowledge him in my life.   

“…whenever I remember you in my prayers—which I do constantly…”  After we worship, we should be praying and interceding for the needs of others. Our prayers must never be selfish.  Part of cooperating with Divine Grace is praying that others are open to Divine Grace. Holiness longs to be shared.   

“Never be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake.”  To cooperate with Divine Grace, we must never be afraid to share our faith, despite the fact we may get negative responses for that. Nor should we be ashamed of the successors of the apostles, the Pope and the Magisterium, and the teaching they have passed onto us.  In our culture today there is a concerted effort to make Christians and especially Roman Catholics ashamed; ashamed of our beliefs, ashamed of our moral stands, ashamed of our leaders. We cannot cooperate with Divine Grace while being ashamed of the vehicles God has chosen to dispense that Grace.   

“I am confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until the final day.” Above all, to cooperate with Divine Grace we must have confidence in Divine Grace. We are confident that, whatever may be happening around us, God is in control, and ultimately, creation will unfold just as he has deemed it.   

So be thankful, worship, repent, intercede, witness, and be confident. That is how we cooperate with Divine Grace. Don’t be satisfied with being good.  My brothers and sisters, cooperate with Divine Grace, so God can make us holy.

 

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: Pray with great confidence, with confidence based upon the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray. --St. Louis de Montfort 

 Prayer: O 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 suffering, 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. I ask only for a place of rest in Your Heart. Amen. --St. Pio of Pietrelcina  

Questions for Discussion 

1.       Name 3 or more things you are grateful for. When was the last time you thanked God for these three things? Was it recently? Has it been a while? Have you never thanked God.?

2.       Name three difficulties you have in your life. Have you thanked God for these difficulties? Can you think of any reason why you should thank God even for the difficulties in your life? Think of one of these. What insights, or “blessings in disguise” have you received through these perceived problems? Do you believe, as Scripture says, that all things are ordered for the good in those who love God? Why do you believe as you do?

 

3.       Do you know anyone who is truly holy? If not, think of a saint of the Church that is well known. Name two or three attributes that make this person holy.

 

4.       Think of someone you have encountered who shared their faith, be it Christian or otherwise. How did this person indicate his faith? Was it through conversation, something they wore, their demeanor, or behavior? List at least three ways a Christian can witness their love of God. For instance, wearing a Crucifix.

 

5.       How did you come to know about God, and specifically about Jesus Christ? What tools were used to instruct you about who He is and His attributes and salvation? List at least one or two ways you can increase in knowledge of God and His Will. For instance, reading Catholic newspapers, or attending a conference.

 

6.       Do you believe a sacramental such as an icon, or an object such as holy water, can help you in growing in holiness? Name at least three other sacramentals. If so, how do you think these objects help us? What is a common attribute of these tools?

 

7.       List three actions you can incorporate into your life to assist in becoming closer to God. For instance, waking up with a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for holiness of life. Do you believe God will help you if you ask?

 

8.       The word “holy” comes from Greek words that denote separation and sanctification. It means being set apart for Divine service. On a scale of 1-10, where would you say you stand in this area, and what behaviors can you incorporate to bring you closer to a 10?

 

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 280: Avoiding Idolatry: A Reflection on Luke 16: 16-31 

  

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”’ (Luke 16: 16-31) 

 

I have preached many times on the danger of idolatry, both in the ancient world, and its newer forms in modern times. I know sometimes people can become confused by exactly what constitutes idolatry and what doesn’t. That’s not an easy distinction to make, but a good rule of thumb is, idolatry is when we give anything priority over God. 

 

The prophet Jeremiah says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Why is such a man cursed? Because such a man is on the road to idolatry. Because such a man has not given God priority in his life, so he puts his trust in human flesh that can fail him, instead of on God who will never fail him. 

 

The Hebrew word for ‘sin’ literally means to “miss the mark.” That is why we sin when we do not make God our priority. We miss the mark. We miss the mark because we were given this life precisely to form a relationship with God that will be fulfilled and amplified in the next life. If we give our trust and attention to other things, we miss the mark. We go unfulfilled in this life, and unfulfilled in the next. 

 

The rich man in the gospel today trusted in his wealth, and not the word of the Lord. If he had trusted in the word of the Lord, he would have seen Lazarus at his gate. If he had trusted in the word of the Lord, he would been mindful of Deuteronomy, that reminded the rich of their duty to share their blessings with the poor. If he had trusted in the word of the Lord, he would have hearkened the words of all of the major prophets, that warned the rich what would become of them if they neglected their responsibility to the poor. I wonder if this rich man went to the synagogue every Sabbath day to hear the word of the Lord and meditate on it. Or was he like so many Roman Catholics who only went to worship on the high feast days? 

 

I was at a party once, and whenever I go to a party usually somebody has to engage me in a debate on Church teachings and practices. And usually when it starts everyone else leaves the room. And some people were challenging me on Church teachings and I was doing a good job of explaining those teachings. But why don’t they trust the teachings? Because they don’t trust the Lord. Because they have missed the mark, and enjoy it, so they don’t want the teaching!   

 

“Now Father Sisco, that’s not necessarily so, just because someone disagrees with the Church, doesn’t mean they don’t trust God.” Oh, yes it does! Because God’s and the Church’s teachings are one in the same. The teachings come from the Word. And the Word comes from God. 

 

You see, my brothers and sisters, we will never trust the Lord, until we hear the Lord. And we will never hear the Lord until we hear his word in Scripture and meditate on that word. It is wonderful that so many of you come to daily Mass to hear the word of God. That is so great, and I commend you all for it. I encourage you to continue. Now, take the next step, and take the readings you hear in Church and meditate on them throughout the day. Take a few minutes to think about them. Keep calling them to mind all day long. Because then you will start to understand the word of God. And when you understand the word, you will trust the Lord who gave it to us. And then you will be protected from all forms of idolatry. 

 

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from A Saint: “In prosperity, give thanks to God with humility and fear lest by pride you abuse God’s benefits and so offend Him.”   ------ St. Louis, King 

 

Prayer from a Saint:  Grant, O Lord, that my heart may neither desire nor seek anything but what is necessary for the fulfilment of Thy Holy Will. May health or sickness, riches or poverty, honors or contempt, humiliations, leave my soul in that state of perfect detachment to which I desire to attain for Thy greater honor and Thy greater glory. Amen. ---- St. Ignatius Loyola

 

Questions for Reflection: 

 

1.                   The first commandment says “I am the Lord, thy God, thou shalt have no other God’s before me.” How often we forget this commandment1 Everything becomes important to us but God. Discuss how seriously this offends God and how you might begin to change this part of your life. 

2.                   What are some of the things in our lives that become ‘idols’? Discuss your attitude toward these things and decide your need of making changes. 

3.                   “Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who was sitting also at the Lord’s feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? Speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But the one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.”   ---- Luke: 38-42   This passage is a perfect example of ‘idolatry’ or choosing the world over God. Discuss this passage and how it might resemble your own life. 

4.                   St. John Vianney tells us: “We must always choose the most perfect. Two good works present themselves to be done, one in favor of a person we love, the other in favor of a person who has done us some harm. Well, we must give preference to the latter.” Discuss how choosing the person we love could be a form of idolatry. Why should we choose the person who has done us harm? How does it make it more favorable to God? 

5.                   Find other places in Scripture that show idolatry. Discuss these. Relate them to modern life.

 

6.                   Think about ‘things’ you have. Are there any that distract you to the point of not putting God first? What are they? Discuss how you can change your way of viewing the ‘things’ that distract you. 

 

7.                   Addiction is a real problem and takes the place of God in many lives. How could cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs be considered idol? Discuss how these things may be interfering in your spiritual growth. How could addictive things become more important than God in your life? What is the remedy? 

 

8.                   Riches are in themselves not evil. What makes them good or evil? 

 

9.                   One thing that is not usually looked upon as an idol is a person. We do not stop to think that many times we put people before God. Discuss relationships with people and how a relationship can be considered idolatry. Discuss how you can begin to detach from this kind of idolatry. 

 

10.               What do you need to detach from? How can you put God first? 

 

--Rhea Winger Schoettner, CFP

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