Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 281: Salvation and Public Sinners: A Reflection on Matthew 9: 9-13
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9: 9-13)
It’s interesting in the Gospels, how people, who through human eyes, seem beyond salvation, respond to Jesus, and those who, through human eyes look virtuous, don’t. As a tax collector, Matthew would have been seen as a public sinner and beyond all hope of salvation. And yet, when Jesus offers him the opportunity of salvation, he responds immediately. He jumps at the opportunity.
But the Pharisees, who are so consumed in their own righteousness, shun Jesus for reaching out to those who have been estranged from God. And yet, as we see the Gospels progress, the Pharisees are anything BUT righteous. They are self-righteous. They are far more concerned with their own self-glorification than God’s glory. The Pharisees, for condemning Matthew for conspiring with the Romans, have no problem conspiring with Rome themselves when they want Jesus killed.
The question is, “Why does Matthew, a public sinner, jump so readily at a chance to be Jesus’ disciple, and the Pharisees, who know the law, who know the prophets, who know that the long expected Messiah is near, don’t? I think the answer lies in self-examination. When somebody is a “public” sinner, that is, when somebody commits a sin so obvious to everyone because it’s out there in the open, it’s easy to be convicted of your sin. It’s easy to be convicted of your sin because you’re always confronted it. You can’t escape it. If you were a public sinner in Matthew’s day, you were ostracized by everyone. No one wanted anything to do with you.
Not like today. “Oh ,well, you know people! You can’t tell them anything!” “What can you do? “I can’t impose MY morals on another person.” Ok, granted. But the very least we can do is demonstrate our disapproval for their actions. That’s why people who pray in front of abortion clinics IRRITATE the left so much, because they are a reminder of the evil that our society is allowing.
But because Matthew had the advantage of self-examination, because there was no way he could escape the reality of his sin, being confronted with it every day by his community, when Jesus offers him the opportunity to change his condition, he gladly leaves everything, to jump at it!
The Pharisees also were publicly convicted of their sin, not by everyone, but by John the Baptist and Jesus, and yet they do not repent. Why? Even though the Pharisees were publicly convicted of their sins, their self-righteousness barred them from self-examination. They had convinced themselves, “I’m OK the way I am.” There was no room for the Spirit of God to work in them.
So first, we need to call sin, SIN! Stop whitewashing wrongdoing in our language. If we don’t let people know what they’re doing is wrong, how can they even have a chance of repenting? Second, and most importantly, we need to examine our own consciences often, and use the sacrament of confession. We cannot let ourselves fall into the trap of “I’m OK just the way I am.” Saint Matthew and all other sinners before him, public and private sinners, didn’t have the advantage of the sacrament of confession. It is nothing less than tragic that so many people these days ignore receiving the forgiveness of God.
What if the world learned that all the security systems at Fort Knox had been disabled, and all the guards went home? What would happen? Every thief in the world would be there filling their pockets with gold, and yet that is what God has done for us. God said, “I know you can’t get into heaven on your own, so I’m giving you this Sacrament, where you can have all your sins forgiven, as often as you need, so you never need to be ostracized during your life, and more importantly, in eternity. Since there is no way you can earn your way into heaven, I’m giving you this sacrament so you can steal it.” My brothers and sisters, I pray that we become a Church of holy thieves.
Blessed be God forever, Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from A Saint:
You cannot please both God and the world at the same time. They are utterly opposed to each other in their thoughts, their desires, and their actions. _____ St. John Vianney
Prayer of A Saint:
Take, O Lord, all my liberty. Receive my memory, understanding, and entire will. Thou hast bestowed on me whatever I have or possess; I give all back to Thee, and deliver it to Thee to be entirely subject to Thy will. Only grant me Thy grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. Amen. –Based on a Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Questions for Reflection:
1. Matthew knew he was a sinner and chose to accept the salvation Jesus offered. The Pharisees however didn’t see their own sins. How would you react to Jesus’ offer of salvation if you lived at the same time as He? Do you think you would be like Matthew or would you be a Pharisee? Why do you say this?
2. We see in Matthew the virtue of humility and in the Pharisees the sin of pride. Where do you need more of one and less of the other? Do you see in yourself pride that keeps you from seeing or accepting your own sinfulness or do you see in yourself humility that allows you to see and confess your sins so that you might have eternal life?
3. Father mentioned that so many think “I’m OK the way I am.” Do you feel you are OK the way you are or do you recognize your sins and use the sacrament of Penance? Discuss how frequent confession can change us.
4. All of us know people who give no thought to God. Our Catholic faith teaches us to instruct the ignorant and to admonish the sinner. Discuss how this is NOT judgement but rather an act of love.
5. Do you have the courage to say to those you love, “This is wrong”, or “I love you enough to tell you this for your own good?” Discuss ways you can try to reach others without offending them.
6. We are faced with homosexual behavior, adultery, abortion, premarital sex, etc. in today’s world. Many of us look the other way because we don’t want to offend someone. If we don’t correct them because we are afraid of losing their love, are we choosing a human being over God? Is there a way to present God’s teaching in a way that will allow your relationship to continue with the person so that, down the line, they may be open to change? Discuss how choosing to overlook these grievous sins, so that life can be easier now, could affect your own salvation.
8. Do you ever think, “That person not worth my time and effort”? Do you get angry with others in the wrong? Do you judge anyone who befriends them? This is what the Pharisees did. Had they recognized their own sinfulness and looked at other sinners through the eyes of humility they could have seen that they, too, were in need of Jesus’ help. Discuss your own feelings towards the sins and sinners of today. Can you put aside your distaste for these horrible offenses and befriend the sinner in order to possibly bring about conversion? Pray for the grace to be a Matthew and not a Pharisee. Make use of the sacrament of Penance so that you can have that eternal life with Jesus!
Rhea Winger Schoettner, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 282: A Double Portion of Your Spirit: A Reflection on 2 Kings 2:9
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?" "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit," Elisha replied. (2 Kings 2:9)
“May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” That is the request Elisha makes of Elijah before he was taken up into heaven. I have always had a fondness for this scene, and particularly this line of Scripture.
When I was in seminary about to be ordained a deacon, there was a seminarian a couple classes behind me, Blaine D’Acci. Blaine was a character. That’s the only way to describe him. Very spirit filled. Very charismatic. A graduate of Franciscan University. Blaine would often get so excited during class, while one of the professors was lecturing on some theological point, Blaine would just burst out, AMEN!” And before the ordination ceremony as the deacon class was getting ready, Blaine, who was one of the Acolytes serving the Mass, came up to me and said, “Mike, when the Bishop comes to lay hands on you, pray for a double portion of the Spirit like the prophet Elisha did.” It sounded like a good idea at the time so I did it. What I forgot was Elijah’s warning to Elisha when he made that request, “You have asked for something that is not easy.” Why did Elijah respond that way?
Because to ask the Lord to work so powerfully through us means also accepting the trials and persecutions that go with that Spirit. No prophet ever had it easy. They were all persecuted. They all died before their times with the exception of Moses, and Moses WANTED to die! Moses PRAYED to die! Moses had to live until Joshua was strong enough and mature enough to lead the people after him. If you ask God for a double portion of his Spirit, get ready for an interesting ride.
I recently celebrated the 19th anniversary of my ordination, and I could only summarize these years with the words of the Grateful Dead song “Truckin,” “What a long strange trip it’s been!” Now I do not have a persecution complex. I would not be so arrogant as to claim that I have suffered significant persecutions for the faith. At best I’ve suffered inconveniences. The real battles I have experienced have not been against the dark forces of evil, but rather the weakness of my own humanity. The battles I have had with my own desires. The battles I have had with my own ego. The battles I have had with my own judgementalism, and uncharitable attitudes, my temper and unforgiveness. I’ve had to battle laziness, pride, insecurity, and much more. These are the common battlegrounds where holiness is won and lost.
So my punishment, for asking for a double portion of the Spirit, has been the Spirit’s constant conviction of how inadequate I am to receive a double portion. I look at myself and I think, “How could God have called ME to be a priest?” I still don’t know. Some of the seminary faculty were pretty baffled, too.
I recall St. Theresa of Avila’s book, The Interior Castle. In this one passage she was talking about how difficult it is to receive praise from people. She said when people praised her, it made her uncomfortable, because she could also see what a sinner she was! When I read that I thought to myself, “Yep! I’ve experienced that.” But then she said she grew out of that because she realized all praise ultimately goes to God. I haven’t advanced to that room in my interior castle yet.
So what do we do with the Holy Spirit that we’ve been given? We only have two choices; give up, or press on. Why did Elisha get that double portion of the Spirit he asked for? He persevered. Each time Elijah told him to stay put, he answered, “I will not leave you.”
How did the saints become saints? They persevered. When we’re convicted by the spirit of God to a personal fault or failing, we can wallow in self-pity or see it as challenge and opportunity for advancement. The choice is always ours. But the Spirit of God is always moving. That means the Spirit of God is always moving us. If you want the Spirit in your life, all you have to do is ask, then strap yourself in and get ready for a ride!
Blessed be God forever! Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "All saints began their conversion by prayer, and through prayer they persevered. All the damned were lost because they neglected prayer." --The Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney
Prayer: “I pray to God to give me perseverance and to deign that I be a faithful witness to Him to the end of my life for my God.” – Saint Patrick
Questions for Reflection:
If you had not read this reflection, what would you think “a double portion of Your Spirit” might mean? What do you think Elisha meant by asking Elijah for this?
Do you have any desire to obtain a double portion of God’s Spirit? Why or why not?
How does prayer fit in with the double portion, other than by asking to receive it?
Have you ever asked for something and then were surprised by what you received? What was it? How did the gift differ from what you had imagined?
Has your life been “a strange trip”? Why or why not would you say that? What happened that you anticipated? What happened that you never dreamed of?
Father Sisco wrote about battles with his own ego: The battles I have had with my own judgementalism, and uncharitable attitudes, my temper and unforgiveness. I’ve had to battle laziness, pride, insecurity, and much more. These are the common battlegrounds where holiness is won and lost. What are your battlegrounds? Do you think you are winning or losing the battle or are things at a draw? Why do you say that?
What are our options when the Holy Spirit reveals a fault or sin in us? What enables us to choose the right course of action?
Is perseverance one of your virtues? Why do you answer as you do?
How can you persevere in prayer?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 283: God Works through Little People: A Reflection on Amos 7: 10-17
Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'”
And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
“Now therefore hear the word of the Lord. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.” Therefore, thus says the Lord: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'” --Amos 7:10-17
So often God works through the little people, and he does this to humble the arrogant and the powerful. The king of Israel, Jeroboam, wants to get rid of the prophet Amos.
Now, Jeroboam is not the rightful king. King Solomon was the son of King David. When Solomon dies, his son Rehoboam becomes king, but he’s such an idiot that ten of the twelve tribes of Israel reject their allegiance to the house of David and elect Jeroboam to be their king in the north, which is called Israel.
Rehoboam is still king in the south, and the tribes of Judah and Levi stay loyal to him. The tribe of Judah stayed loyal to Rehoboam, not because he’s a good king, but because he belongs to their tribe. The tribe of Levi stayed loyal to Rehoboam, not because they think he’s a good king, but because the temple that Rehoboam’s father Solomon built is in the south. The tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe. They were the priests so the temple is of intense concern to them. They stay loyal to Rehoboam only out of gratitude to his father, Solomon.
All the prophets of the Old Testament condemn Jeroboam, and all the kings of Israel in the north, not only because they all broke allegiance with the House of David, but also because the temple was in the south, and the kings of the north were afraid that if the people continue to go south to the temple to worship every year, they may shift their allegiance BACK to the house of David. So to prevent this, all of the kings of the north promote idolatry.
Jeroboam’s first act as king is to set up two golden calves for his people to worship; one on the northern border of his kingdom, and one on the southern border. Where have we seen this before? Moses and the Exodus, where the people make a golden calf to worship in Moses’ absence. And we all recall that God’s reaction to that wasn’t good.
So the prophet Amos is condemning Jeroboam for all this. Amaziah, Jeroboam’s pagan priest, says to him, “Off with you, visionary! Flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesizing!” And what does Amos respond? “I was no prophet. Nor did I belong to a company of prophets.”
Meaning, I’m not a priest or a Levite. I’m not a professional theologian. “Rather, I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.” Meaning, I was a rancher and a gardener before I started doing this. I’m not a prophet because I needed a job. I had a job. I had a career. I’m doing this because it needs to be done. I’m doing this because the Lord told me to warn the people up here of their impending doom if they continue down this road.
You know, I hear the most inane things said about priests; like we do this because we couldn’t get a job doing anything else. I was a teacher and a writer before I went to seminary. My friend, Father Dean Perri, down the road at Our Lady of Loretto, was a chemical engineer, making a six figure salary, which he left to become a priest. Many of us left careers to serve as priests. I also hear we became priests because we couldn’t find a woman to marry us. I had girlfriends before I went to seminary. My friend Father Perri was engaged. We chose to do this because it needed to be done. We chose to do this because we felt the Lord calling us to call this land back to holiness.
God often works through the little people, because the kings, the powerful, and wealthy ultimately have to listen to the little people because they need us. Without us doing our jobs and driving the economy, they can’t survive. That was true in Amos’ day. It was true in Jesus’ day. And it’s true now.
There is no excuse for immorality and injustice in this country because if we all say “no,” they HAVE to listen to us. But we have let our leaders lull us to sleep. We have let our leaders convince us to embrace idolatry and immorality like Jeroboam convinced the Israelites.
So how do we take it back? We do it with our voices, to speak out against immorality when we see it. We do it with our hands, in charity for the poor, so no one can question our integrity or sincerity. And we do it with our knees, bent in prayer, in the knowledge that we can accomplish nothing without the Grace of God. And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: No man can attain to the knowledge of God but by humility. The way to mount high is to descend. --Bl. Giles of Assisi
Prayer: Christ has no body now, but yours, no hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Those who have God find they lack nothing; God alone suffices. --St Teresa of Avila
Questions for Discussion
1. List two or three current problems in society that you feel may have come about due to lack of vigilance on the part of society. An example may be lead poisoning. Can you name others?
2. Think of some person or some organization, local or international, from the past or the present, that has done something proactive against an injustice in society. For instance, in 19th century England, William Booth founded the Salvation Army to militate against poverty,
homelessness, and other injustices. The Salvation Army is now known as one of the most prolific and effective humanitarian organizations in the world today. Do you believe God calls us to make similar efforts on behalf of a just cause? Can you think of a second or third party that has done similar work, even if it has been on a small scale?
3. Of these people or organizations that you have named, list two or three common attributes of the people who participate in these activities.
4. Acts 2:17 (NIV) says the following: "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Do you believe that God appoints prophets in this day and age? If not, why not? If so, can you list an example of one or two prophesies that have come about?
5. List two or three organizations or clubs you have belonged to, such as the Knights of Columbus. Do you believe these activities have benefitted society? If so, in what way?
6. List one or two ways you can participate in God’s call to be an agent of positive change in society or the Church. If you haven’t been involved with any apostolates, ask yourself why this is so.
7. Name one or two activities you can incorporate into your life that would begin or enhance your efforts in these areas. For instance, can you join a ministry at your church, such as the food pantry, or your community, such as attending school board meetings?
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 284: I Am A “CATHOLIC”: A Reflection on 2 Timothy 2:14
“Remind people of these things, and charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen.” (2 Timothy 2:14)
Saint Paul is telling Timothy to remind people of what their priorities are. Why? Because sometimes, even as Christians, we lose sight of the forest for the trees. Since the foundation of the Church, people have a habit of mixing Church with politics. Even today, we label each other “liberal Catholics,” “conservative Catholics,” “I’m an ORTHODOX Catholic,” which really means I’m an uber Conservative Catholic. “I’m a progressive Catholic,” which translates, I’m an uber LIBERAL Catholic.
Elements of the Church have to be complaining that Pope Francis is too liberal. For such a liberal Pope, he’s made some very conservative statements about marriage, abortion, and homosexuality. Recently Pope Francis totally ditzed the whole transgender issue. This isn’t a direct quote. I’m paraphrasing, but in essence Pope Francis said that ‘God made you the gender you are, as part of his plan. ‘Our job is to find how we fit in God’s plan. ‘Our job is not to change his plan, and by changing your gender, you change God’s plan’ … That doesn’t sound like a very liberal position to me.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, liberal and conservative are political designations; therefore, they have no place in the Church. The Church is not about liberal or conservative; the Church is about truth. The Church is about holiness. The Church is about becoming a living image of Jesus Christ, and therefore finding ourselves with Christ in heaven when we die.
Different Popes focus on different aspects of truth, but it’s all truth. But when people stick labels, when they dispute about words, they hurt the faith of others. So sometimes it becomes necessary for us to refocus ourselves. Sometimes we need to center ourselves on the core of what the faith is all about. And that’s what St. Paul reminds Timothy of.
Paul says “Remind people of these things.” Remind people of what? “Beloved, remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead, a descendant of David--such is my gospel for which I am suffering.” That’s the core! That’s the center! That’s the truth we need to remember so we don’t get discouraged.
Remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead. If someone is raised from the dead, that means they’re alive! Jesus is alive! Even death could not stop Jesus Christ! The conservative Pharisees, the liberal Sadducees, and the secular Herodians all tried their hardest to put Jesus Christ to death, and they failed! Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. And if he was raised from the dead, everything he said was true. Therefore we have his example to follow.
“…a descendant of David…” What’s so important about that? God promised David that the Messiah would be born of his line. So by Paul mentioning this detail, he reminds us that God keeps his promises. God is true to his word. We can trust him. So we can trust that we who follow the way that Jesus Christ showed us, also have a place in heaven waiting for us, because he promised us that also.
“…such is my gospel for which I am suffering…” Alright, it’s not going to be all peaches and cream. This gospel we profess to believe is going to be a source of suffering for us on this earth. But that suffering made Paul a saint, and so none of that suffering matters if it’s getting us closer to our ultimate goal, an eternity in bliss.
Brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged by the rhetoric. Don’t get caught up in liberal or conservative agendas. And if you do get discouraged, go back to the core, remember what it’s all about and be renewed again.
Blessed be God forever,
Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
QUOTE FROM A SAINT:
Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. Though all things pass, God does not change. Patience wins all things. But he lacks nothing Who possesses God for God alone suffices. ---- St. Teresa of Avila
PRAYER: THE APOSTLE’S CREED
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the living and dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
Take a few minutes and think about your own faith. Ask yourself if you are guilty of labeling yourself “liberal”, “conservative”, “orthodox”, or “progressive”, in terms of your faith. Discuss among yourselves how this might affect other people’s beliefs.
Above is a quote from St. Teresa of Avila. It speaks perfectly to the point that Father Sisco made about complaints about the Holy Father. Arguments about what the Pope says are not going to win anyone over to the faith and may well turn faithful people away from the Church. Talk about how the quote above might be helpful when you disagree with elements of the Holy Father’s speech.
The Apostle’s Creed is a summation of our faith. Think about and discuss how this prayer, in particular, can help one stay on track when it comes to the faith. How can it keep us from becoming “political” in our faith?
Take a look at your life. Do you think you suffer for the faith? Discuss how you handle this suffering. Do you complain about it, or do you accept it, knowing it can help you achieve sainthood?
Catholicism isn’t easy! If you profess what you believe, you probably sometimes get made fun of or told you are a little obsessive. Discuss how this makes you feel. Do you feel ashamed when this happens, or do you rejoice because you are living up to God’s expectations?
Silence is much overlooked. Sometimes certain situations make us want to argue or even scream at people. The political side of faith can be one of those situations. Discuss how silence might be the best alternative at times. Do you think it could win people over with your silence?
If someone is really stating wrong information about the faith … not from a liberal or conservative view … simply not the truth … we have an obligation to correct it (to instruct the ignorant). We should however, tell them once only, and then it is up to them to accept or deny the truth. Whether or not they accept the correction should not make a difference in our acceptance of the person. Discuss ways you could handle this and win the person over to the truth.
How can rejecting the political descriptions of Catholics increase our faith in God? Discuss how describing ourselves as “Catholic” can bring a sense of peace. How can it bring about the possibility of conversion of others?
Finally, how can describing ourselves as “Catholic” instead of putting a label in front of the word, heal the wounds of Catholics around the world? How could it bring us together again?
Rhea Winger Schoettner, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 285: Following the Rules: A Reflection on Isaiah 38
When Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him: “Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD:
“O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go, tell Hezekiah: Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you: in three days you shall go up to the LORD’s temple; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; I will be a shield to this city.”
Isaiah then ordered a poultice of figs to be taken and applied to the boil, that he might recover. Then Hezekiah asked, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the temple of the LORD?”
Isaiah answered: “This will be the sign for you from the LORD that he will do what he has promised: See, I will make the shadow cast by the sun on the stairway to the terrace of Ahaz go back the ten steps it has advanced.” So the sun came back the ten steps it had advanced. (portions of Isaiah 38)
The rules of the Church are all designed to help us love God, and love our neighbor, which is at the core of our salvation. This is why we should never disregard the rules of the Church, because they are all designed with this in mind, AND whether we follow the rules or not, dictate our relationship with God. This is what Hezekiah learns in this reading.
I love King Hezekiah, I really do, because he was so genuine. Hezekiah is king of Judah, in the South. The kingdom of Israel, in the north, had fallen to the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrian Empire TRIED to conquer Judah, but the Lord stopped them. On the day when Assyria was poised to invade Judah, as the massive Assyrian army took to the battlefield against the paltry army defending Judah, a massive earthquake took place, the ground split open and swallowed most of the Assyrian army. Those Assyrians that weren’t consumed in the earthquake, got the hint really quick and ran all the way back to Assyria!
The reason why the Lord allowed Israel to fall to Assyria but not Judah, was that Israel had given itself over to the worship of false gods and pagan practices, and Judah didn’t. You’d think all of this would have entrenched Judah deeper in faith. But no. The people of Judah think from all this; “That’s right! The temple and the Ark of the Covenant are here with us in Judah! God would never embarrass himself by letting the Ark fall into the hands of pagans! He’s GOT to protect us!”
So the people of Judah start worshipping pagan gods and acting with all the immorality of pagans, thinking that because they have the temple and the ark, they’re safe. And with each succeeding king in Judah the situation gets worse, so bad that the Lord tells the prophet Jeremiah, “Don’t even pray for Jerusalem! I won’t listen to you! I’ve already given my city to the Babylonians and my temple over to destruction!”
Because in the meantime, since the Assyrian army had become so diminished by their failed invasion attempt of Judah, it left them vulnerable to be conquered by Babylon, so now the Babylonian Empire is the new superpower. And in the midst of this is King Hezekiah. Hezekiah tries to undo the damage his predecessors did. Hezekiah tries to bring reform to Judah, but it’s too late. The Lord already swore his word. And when the Lord swears his word, he can’t go back on it. But what he does, for Hezekiah’s sake, is delay it. He adds years to Hezekiah’s life. And he doesn’t allow Babylon to invade Judah, until after Hezekiah dies.
That’s an example of how following the rules effects our relationship with God; in Hezekiah’s case, his following the rules and attempt to make his countrymen do the same, effects his relationship with God for the better. Israel and Judah’s disregard for the rules effects their relationship with God for the worse.
But there is also a danger in following the rules that we lose focus of WHY we follow the rule; to help us grow in love of God and neighbor; and as a result, we just follow the rule because of custom, or habit. This is what Jesus attempts to teach the Pharisee. The rule, “Keep Holy the Sabbath day” was established because God knows we need a day to forgo labor, to rest, and to pray. This is a rule designed to help us to love God in that we have a day to worship and pray. AND it’s designed to help us love neighbor because no one can work us to death. The rule was not intended to starve people. The Pharisees protest because the disciples are getting something to eat. That was an abuse of the rule.
So many people say that they read the Bible, and that’s great! But how many read the Catechism of the Church, or watch EWTN, or listen to Catholic talk radio, or go to daily Mass, or go to a Bible study? These are useful tools. Because, yes, it’s important to know the rules and follow them. But it’s equally important to know WHY we follow them. It’s important to know how the rules help us love God and love our neighbor. Why? Because knowing how the rules work, will keep us from being manipulated by those with ulterior agendas.
Blessed be God forever. –Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
The teaching of the Church . . . is both the starting line and the finish line for the race; it is the bridle of a tightly reined horse. – St. John of Damascus
Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. (Psalm 25:4)
Questions for Reflection:
Discuss the quote from St. John of Damascus.
What would you say are the five most primary “rules” of our Catholic faith? Why did you select these? Why does the Church promote these?
How would you explain each of these rules to a Christian of another denomination? To a non-Christian but still a believer in another faith? To an atheist?
You are part of a Bible study if you are reading this reflection. How have these reflections helped you to understand the why of the “rules” of the Church?
Is it possible to follow all the rules of the faith and still be eternally lost? Why do you answer as you do?
What “rules” cause you difficulty. Discuss why and what you can do to ease the problem.
Can you think of any abuse of rules of the faith? What might they be? What can you do if you see someone taking a “rule” too far?
King Hezekiah influenced God by his prayer and fasting. Do you ever use these to appeal to God? Have you persisted in these practices even if you see no results?
Have you seen God intervening in history or your life or someone else’s? How?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 286: Who’s in Charge?: A Reflection on Isaiah 10
Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain? For all this, his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.
Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger— the club in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But this is not what he intends, nor does he have this in mind; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few. For he says: ‘. . . As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols whose images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols what I have done to Samaria and her images?’
When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says: ‘By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding. . . .”
Shall the axe vaunt itself over the one who wields it, or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it? As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up, or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood! Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire. . . .
On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. (Isaiah 10: 1-23)
We were created to serve God. That is part of the meaning of life. The meaning of life is “to know God, to love God, and to serve God in this life so we may have the fullness of joy with him in the next.” That’s the meaning of life. That’s why we are here. To serve God is to serve others. Jesus makes this very clear in the gospels. Whatever you did for these least ones you did for me. Jesus equates himself with the poor, the suffering, and the needy, precisely so we couldn’t misunderstand what our service to God is; that our service to God is accomplished in helping others, not killing them, as other religions believe.
And yet, throughout history, God has often used the pagan, the unholy, to remind his people when they have consistently failed to serve him. That’s what’s happening in this reading by the prophet Isaiah. What’s happening here? Whenever you’re reading the prophets, you have to remember that all of them are writing after the nation has been divided into two kingdoms, thanks to the stupidity and lack of foresight by Reheboam, the son of King Solomon. Ten out of the twelve tribes go north to form the kingdom of Israel. The remaining two tribes stay in the south to form the kingdom of Judah. And Israel in the North immediately goes bad, in that they turn away from the Lord and start worshipping idols, pagan gods, that require things like sex orgies and human sacrifice. Judah eventually succumbs to idolatry too, but it takes them longer.
And that’s where we enter into this reading today. God has allowed the Assyrian Empire, to invade and conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but stopped them before they could invade Judah, because Judah hadn’t turned away from God yet. And Isaiah is saying to the conquered people in Israel in the north, “See! This is what happens when you turn your back on the covenant. You withdrew from the covenant, so God couldn’t protect you like he protected Judah.”
“Thus says the Lord, woe to Assyria! My rod in anger, my staff in wrath. Against an impious (that means unholy) nation I sent him, and against a people under my wrath I ordered him to seize plunder, carry off loot, and tread him down like the mud of the streets.”
God is saying to Israel, I allowed Assyria to do this to you, because you were foolish enough to believe that your greatness was from your own doing and not my Grace. “Will the axe boast against him who hews with it? Will the saw exalt itself above him who wields it?” But God also promises to punish Assyria and restore Israel, IF they repent. And that’s key! Israel HAS to repent.
People say they don’t need the sacrament of confession. ‘Only God can judge me.’ The sacrament of confession is precisely to AVOID being judged by God! We are living in a very obstinate nation that’s making the same mistakes as ancient Israel. We have become so arrogant to think that we don’t need God anymore. We kicked God out of politics. If a politician is a committed Christian, it works against him, not in favor of him. We kicked God out of school. We kicked God out of entertainment. How often do we see inspiring movies about faith? Look at the few people that come to Mass, first daily Mass, now Sunday Mass too. We don’t need God. We have adopted all the pagan practices of ancient Israel, sexual excess, human sacrifice, (what is abortion if not human sacrifice from loving sin?) And we look around and see unprecedented violence in our country and around the world and we ask why? We’ve withdrawn from God’s protection. And it will continue to get worse until we repent.
How do we repent? First by acknowledging our sin in confession. Bishop Sheen used to say, “A Catholic may sin, and sin as badly as everyone else, but no genuine Catholic ever denies he is a sinner. A Catholic wants his sins forgiven, not excused or subliminated.” Don’t look for excuses for your sins. Confess them. Second, we repent by serving God again, and we serve God by serving our neighbor. It’s not too late to turn our country around. But it’s going to take commitment, and it has to start now.
Blessed be God forever, Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
To one who still remains in the world, no repentance is too late. – St. Cyprian of Carthage
Prayer: Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
What in the reading from Isaiah seems similar to attitudes in the modern world?
Do you believe that God uses some people and nations to punish others? What makes you answer this way?
What is something terrible happens to a good person or nation? Is God punishing? Might there be another reason for the trial? Consider the book of Job in Scripture and then reframe your response.
Do you think it is possible for the world as a whole to repent? Why do you answer as you do?
In casting out a certain devil, Jesus said, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer and fasting.” What place does prayer and fasting hold in your life?
Do you think more people praying and fasting could have a positive influence on the moral direction of the world? Discuss your response.
Discuss the quote from St. Cyprian.
List the sins of the world from what you feel is the greatest to what you feel is the least important. Why do you order them this way? Discuss each and how the opposite virtue might be learned or modeled.
Is there any way to make virtue and holiness attractive to the modern mind? If so, what might those ways be?
Our Lady asked at Fatima for daily recitation of the Rosary as a way to convert sinners. The children at Fatima were given a vision of hell and told that many people go there because they have no one to pray for them. Are you praying for sinners? What part does the Rosary play in your life?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 287: Youthful Devotion: A Reflection on Jeremiah 2:1
“I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved me as a bride.” -- Jeremiah 2:1
This is what the Lord says to his people, through the prophet Jeremiah. The Lord always uses two consistent images to describe his people--marriage images and children images. These are the predominant images because these are the relationships that God longs to have with us. Newlyweds are all over each other! You can’t pry them apart! And parents are always fawning over their children, especially when they’re babies.
Adults parents never stop worrying about or trying to take care of their kids. Even me. I’m fifty years old, and my father still worries to death about me. A friend in Westerly asked me if I wanted an oak roll top desk, for the rectory. Of course, I said YES! So my friend, Father Dean Perri and I were taking it back here Tuesday afternoon with Father Perri’s pick up truck.
My dad; “Mike, don’t try to lift the desk by yourself…Mike, make sure you get plenty of help…Mike, don’t hurt yourself, and be sure to call us as soon as you get back.” I’m like, “Pop. I’m fifty years old. I’m not a teenager. Don’t worry about it.”
But parents still worry. It never stops because they never stop loving us. That’s the kind of relationship God wants with us. He wants the newlywed relationship. He wants the parent / child relationship.
Now what happens when couples are no longer newlyweds, but after years grow apart? They don’t get divorced, but they’re really strangers living in the same house. Or, the case where children are continually defiant and disobey their parents--what do we call that? We call that a dysfunctional family.
And we have many situations like that today; many dysfunctional families, many families broken and in pain. And as is often the case, it is also true spiritually. We have many Christians who are ignoring God and many who outwardly defy him.
Around the early 1980’s people started figuring that they didn’t need the Church anymore. “I don’t need to follow a church. I can pray to God all by myself.” “I don’t have to live by any man made rules.”
Now, almost forty years later, the attitude is that we don’t need God anymore. We’ve taken him out of most aspects of social and public life. It’s now in vogue, it’s cool to be an atheist. And we live in a society that celebrates living in sin. We just don’t tolerate sin; we applaud it. How else do you explain Bruce Jenner being named woman of the year by Vanity Fair?
And society as a result is breaking down. Police officers are being hunted now. I saw a great meme on facebook, “The fact that we have to point out ANY lives matter should alarm us.” And that’s true. Black lives matter. White lives matter. Blue lives matter. ALL lives matter. The fact that we have to remind society of this means society is in trouble. Our families became dysfunctional as a result of letting our relationship with God become dysfunctional, and now society is dysfunctional.
Jeremiah was dealing with the same thing 2500 years ago when the Lord said to him, “Shudder with sheer horror . . . Two evils have my people done; they have forsaken me, the source of their living waters. They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.”
The Lord was telling Jeremiah that, because the people had forsaken him, society will fail at even the most basic tasks. Don’t believe it? Look at who we got running for president in 2016!
Concerning the upcoming presidential election, it was Fox News commentator Greg Gutfield who said, “It’s like you need brain surgery. You can choose between Hillary Clinton, a licensed physician, but every patient she ever had died on the table, or Donald Trump who isn’t a doctor, but has watched lots of General Hospital.”
I thought that was a pretty good analogy. Society needs to put God first again. Because when our relationship with God comes first, everything after that falls into place.
Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: In this house, all must be loved, all must be friends, all must be held dear, all must be helped. --St. Teresa of Avila
O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church. And you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be love. -- St. Therese of Lisieux
Questions for Discussion
1. At what time of your life were you closest to God? How old were you? What events surrounded this closeness? Do remember the consolation you felt at the time? Discuss this compared to current feelings.
2. When were you furthest away from God? How old were you? What events surrounded this distance? Had you left home, had a traumatic event, know people who led you away? Do you remember the desolation you felt at the time? Discuss this compared to current feelings.
3. What image do you have when you think of God? Is he a distant, angry judge who waits at the ready to strike you with lightning if you give Him a reason to? Is He a benevolent and loving Father whom you consider your equal and take for granted? Is He somewhere in between?
4. What were your parents’ attitudes towards God? Were they indifferent? Did they hold Him up as a threat to you? Do you see their attitudes and how they raised you as influencing your concept of God? If so, do you think they were accurate?
5. How accurate is this concept of God, compared to the way Scripture reveals Him, a just but loving God who is willing to forgive and shower graces if only you repent and turn to Him? Are you able to see God as infinitely merciful and just at the same moment? Are you aware of God’s love for you, or do you struggle with this concept?
6. List one or two activities you can incorporate to increase your trust and indicate your desire to be a child of God. For instance, carrying a cross or holy card in your pocket or wallet to remind you frequently of your relationship with Him.
7. Do you ask for the gift of faith and understanding of who God is and His love for you? If you have done so, have you been open to the answer? If so, what did He reveal to you? Did He speak to you in Scripture, a family member, or an unusual or coincidental event?
8. Compose a short prayer to God in your gratitude for making you His child. Write a promise of fidelity and obedience to Him. Recite these daily before getting out of bed. List one or two areas you think would be affected by the graces you would receive for your intentions.
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 288: You Can Never Have Too Many Friends: A Reflection on Sirach 48
Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You brought a dead man back to life from the nether world, by the will of the LORD. You sent kings down to destruction, and easily broke their power into pieces. You brought down nobles, from their beds of sickness. You heard threats at Sinai, at Horeb avenging judgments. You anointed kings who should inflict vengeance, and a prophet as your successor. You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship. For we live only in our life, but after death our name will not be such. O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind!
Then Elisha, filled with the twofold portion of his spirit, wrought many marvels by his mere word. During his lifetime he feared no one, nor was any man able to intimidate his will. Nothing was beyond his power; beneath him flesh was brought back into life. In life he performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds. (Sirach 48:1-14)
See how the prophet Sirach is touting the accomplishments of the prophet Elijah! He speaks of how Elijah was a devout servant of the Lord. He speaks of how Elijah stood up to kings and rulers. He speaks of Elijah’s zeal. Then Sirach touches on the Elijah’s successor, the prophet Elisha. He only devotes a few verses to Elisha, but what he says at the end here is interesting. “In life he performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds…” And after death marvelous deeds? How can someone perform marvelous deeds when they’re dead?
This verse is one of those scripture passages that reinforces the Catholic belief of the Intercession of the Saints. Many non-Catholic Christian and Evangelical Churches scoff at our belief of the intercession of the saints, claiming it has no scriptural basis. Well, here’s one passage right here! If holy people, when they die, can’t intercede for us, what are these marvelous works that Elisha preformed AFTER he died, that Sirach speaks of?
I think on a whole, Catholics in America, or at the very least in our section of America, have gotten away from devotion to the Saints, and in so doing we are disregarding a very valuable tool God has given to assist us. I base this on the fact that I see so few people come to the Saint Jude, Our Lady of Fatima Novena on Tuesday evening…at 5:30…here in Saint Leo Church. When we began the Divine Mercy chaplet Novena on Friday afternoon at three o’clock, also here in Saint Leo, we were getting about forty people a week, now, only about six months after we began that number has reduced by half. Why is this not a good thing?
The saints are useful to us for a number of reasons. First, they demonstrate to us that it IS possible to live a holy life while on this earth. Jesus has not set an impossible task before us. That builds up our faith. That builds our trust in God, because the saints remind us that God is not unreasonable in his expectations of us.
Second, when we read their stories, we are inspired! People are automatically inspired when they hear stories of people overcoming impossible odds, or triumphing in the face of opposition. We love a good rags to riches story! We love to see people achieve their dreams. We love these things because they build us up in hope. When we hear stories of other people’s triumphs, it gives us hope that we will also, someday, triumph. The stories of the lives of the saints encompass all these qualities. In some, we see them triumph over impossible odds. In others, we see them embrace great suffering and persecution for them to be honored forever in eternity. In others, we see riches to rags stories, in that they gave up worldly wealth for even greater riches in heaven.
And finally the Saints also teach us how to love by interceding for us in our needs. Now one question non-believers always throw at me is, “Why does God need saints to intercede for us? Can’t he get the job done himself?” Of course he can. The question misses the point. True love longs to be shared, and God is perfect love. Being perfect love, God shares his power with the saints to show his love for them. They exercise that power by interceding for us in our need, so we grow in love them, because we more easily identify with the saints, because they were formerly like us, and that in turn helps us grow in love of the God who shared his power with them. So the saints help us to grow in the three theological virtues; faith, hope, and love through these means.
My brothers and sisters, if you don’t have a devotion to a saint, get one! Because as the saying goes, “you can never have too many friends.”
And blessed be God forever. Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: Follow the saints, because those who follow them will become saints. (Pope Clement I)
Prayer: My heavenly brothers and sisters, from those most renowned to those of greatest obscurity, I come before you now in all humility and commend myself, and all who are dear to me, to your intercession. Pray for us always, that we may awake each day with a burning desire for the Lord whose Face you behold, that we will maintain an intimate personal relationship with Jesus, our Savior and Head, and that we will not hesitate to proclaim God’s greatness to others, and love them as the Lord loves us. As you offer your continual praise before the throne of God, I raise my heart to you now to implore your powerful intercession for these special needs: (………). I am confident that your prayers on our behalf will be graciously heard by our loving and merciful Lord. By his grace, may we someday join you in the glory of the Father’s house. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
Who is your patron saint? If you don’t know, ask about your patron saint at PatronSaintStories.com or call 260-739-6882.
Why is it important to know about your patron saint? What might your saint inspire you to be?
Who is your favorite saint? Why?
Share the qualifications for a saint which Father Sisco enumerates. Can you think of other qualities? What would they be?
Do you ask the saints to pray for you or for others? Why or why not?
What do you think you need to do to become a saint? Are you working toward that end? Why or why not?
Do you know someone who has saintly qualities? What is your relationship to this person? Why would you call this person a living saint?
Do you pray for those who have died? Or do you assume that, because they are good, they are in heaven? Since the Church declares only the saints to be in heaven, why is it important to pray for those of our loved ones who have died? Why might it be even more important to pray for those who were unloved and who have died?
How can you promote devotion to the saints? – Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 289: Winning Souls for God: A Reflection on Jeremiah 1: 4-10
The word of the LORD came to me thus: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. "Ah, Lord GOD!" I said, "I know not how to speak; I am too young." But the LORD answered me, Say not, "I am too young." To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying, See, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, To root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant. Jeremiah 1: 4-10
This is a beautiful verse from the book of the prophet Jeremiah. What makes it beautiful is how the Lord responds to Jeremiah who tells God that he’s too young to be a prophet because no one listened to a youth in his culture. His culture listened to men who had age and wisdom. Jeremiah’s a teenager. God answers him, “Don’t worry about your age. Wherever I tell you to go, GO. Whatever I tell you to say, SAY it! Don’t be afraid, because see, I’m going to place my words right in your mouth!”
Don’t we always look for excuses not to share the message of the Lord? Jeremiah tried to use his youth as an excuse. The Prophet Amos wasn’t a scholar. He was a farmer and a shepherd. The Prophet Daniel was another youth, as was the prophet Elisha. So what keeps us from sharing the word of the Lord? What excuses do we use to keep our mouths shut? Best not to start trouble. They won’t listen to me. They won’t be my friend anymore.
Now I do agree that you can’t beat the God drum every time you’re in mixed company because then people will stop listening to you. So how do we communicate the World of God in a way so that people will listen? First, I find that people are more prone to listening, to considering getting God back in their lives when they’re dealing with some problem, frustration, or crisis. So bide your time, and wait for your opportunity.
Second, in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rev Rick Warren talks about sharing your Life Message with others. What’s your life message? Your life message is your testimony, the story of how you began a relationship with God. Your life lesson consists of four things--the most important lessons that God has taught you; your godly passions; the issues God has shaped you to care about; and the Good News [Scripture, the Bible].
Everyone thinks they have to be a Scripture scholar or a theologian in order to point people in the right direction, but that’s false. Scripture is only one quarter of the solution. With that said, reading and studying Scripture can be an invaluable tool in helping you help others, but the majority of how you bring others to Christ is based on your own experience of him. THAT can be more effective than any theological argument, because if you say, “Well, this is what God has done for me,” no one can really argue with that. They can’t say “No ,he didn’t.”
Deep down, people really are interested in God and what God can do, even if they’re not living a godly life themselves. So the real questions we need to be asking ourselves are: What is my testimony? What is the story of my relationship with God? What is my life lesson? What has God taught me over the years? What are my godly passions? What has God given me a passion to care about? Am I reading Scripture or going to Bible studies? Get the answers to these questions, and you’ll be able to lead others to Christ when the opportunity arises.
Blessed Be God Forever, Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
QUOTE FROM A SAINT:
“Be sure that you preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.” ---St. Charles Borromeo
Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me.
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise.
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me.
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me.
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord, Salvation is of the Lord, Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us. --- Taken from St. Patrick’s Breastplate
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
How comfortable are you with sharing your faith with people who are not leading a Christian life? Are you afraid? Embarrassed? Unconfident? Discuss ways you might be able to overcome these feelings. Then discuss some ways to reach people who are lacking in faith.
A deep prayer life is the beginning of gaining confidence and the desire to bring souls to Christ. Consider your prayer life. Where am I lacking? How can I improve? How can prayer deepen my desire and ability to share the faith with others?
God knows our human inability to get things right all of the time. Sometimes He speaks through us instead of allowing us to make a mistake when guiding someone towards the faith. Has this happened to you? Did you recognize it? How did it make you feel?
Each of us has felt the hand of God in our lives. Discuss how they have brought you closer to Christ. How can our own experiences help bring someone else to the faith?
Example is extremely important. Discuss the quote from St. Charles Borromeo and how it relates to your own life. Can you say that you live as you speak?
Discuss St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Does your own countenance exude Christ? Does it make other’s want what you have? If not, what needs to change in your heart and life?
Reflect on all of the above and begin winning souls for Christ!
-- Rhea Winger Schoettner, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 290: The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor (A Reflection on Isaiah 26)
The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level. Yes, for your way and your judgments, O LORD, we look to you; Your name and your title are the desire of our souls. My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you; When your judgment dawns upon the earth, the world’s inhabitants learn justice. O LORD, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done. O LORD, oppressed by your punishment,
We cried out in anguish under your chastising. As a woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so were we in your presence, O LORD. We conceived and writhed in pain,,giving birth to wind; Salvation we have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth. But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust. For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth. (Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19)
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. That’s how this reading can be summed. “Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust, for your dew is the dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.”
These words were spoken by the prophet Isaiah, who preached in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The prophets always end on a note of hope. Even when they’re warning the nation that disaster is imminent, they always end on a note of hope.
Hope. It’s one of the three theological virtues. And just like the word ‘love,’ our word hope gets very confused in our modern day language. When we speak of hope in reference to our faith, it’s a completely different thing from, “I hope my team wins this year.” “I hope the concert is good.”
Hope is the confident expectation that God hears and answers our prayers. It also includes the expectation of possessing God in heaven by obtaining the necessary grace to reach this destiny. Hope.
This is why, throughout the Scriptures, we hear the prophets making reference to the poor. The prophets in the northern and southern kingdoms are always reminding the kings to remember the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Why?
This was more than a social justice issue, although it was that also. The prophets were reminding kings to remember the poor because the poor were sacred to the Lord, because the poor had hope. Hope was all they had. Because they had no material wealth, they had to live by faith.
This reading falls on one of my favorite feast days of the year, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This devotion to our Lady under this title began in the thirteenth century, when a group of hermits dwelt on Mount Carmel in Galilee and founded the Order of Carmelites devoted to the contemplative life under the patronage of Mary.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is also a very special devotion among my people, the Italians, particularly the southern Italians. There was a great drought in Italy that threatened the lives of everyone in the country. The drought had lasted three years and devastated crops and livestock.
The people prayed to Our Lady for relief and, on the feast day of our Lady of Mount Carmel, the rains came. I grew up with this devotion. In fact, our parish’s big procession is on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Those people in Italy had hope. They had a confidence expectation that the Lord would deliver them.
When the German concentration camp Dachau was liberated by American troops, the soldiers found a word painted on the lintel of the gate post, spes. It was the Latin word for hope. It was probably painted there by a priest, long since dead. One out of every ten people that died in Dachau was a Catholic priest, brother, or seminarian. Yet in that hell, there was hope.
Today so many people go through life as though it were hopeless. So many people do not pray everyday, or bother coming to Mass because they do not believe that God is able or willing to help them. Those are the people we need to reach out to. Those are the people you should invite to come to Church with you. Those are the people we should pray with, and pray for. For as our Savior said, “Come to me all of you who are wearied and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest.” As bleak as the world seems to be we still have much to hope for, because God is still present to us.
Blessed be God forever!
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt. -- St. Ambrose of Milan
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy Fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy Spirit and Love. Penetrate and possess my being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine in me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be the light to others. --St. Teresa of Calcutta
Questions for Discussion
1. When had something you hoped for came true? Had you prayed for this to happen?
2. When had something you hoped for not come about? What were your feelings about this? Did you resent God for not giving you what you asked for?
3. Do you believe there is any sin that cannot be forgiven? What disposition of the mind and soul do you believe is necessary to be forgiven and attain heaven?
4. Have you known anyone who has expressed complete despair? What was their attitude of God? Did they lack belief in God, or stubbornly refuse to ask Him for help? Do you think God was rejecting that person, or rather that the person was rejecting God? Why do you believe the person rejected hope? What about this person would make them feel this way--for instance, lack of formation, a difficult childhood?
5. Why do you think God favors the poor over the wealthy, since it is by Him that a person gets his wealth or lack thereof? How can a wealthy person attain humility?
6. What is the value in self denial such as fasting? Do you believe God is pleased with small sacrifices, especially when they benefit the poor, such as giving alms during lent? Why do you feel as you do?
7. Is it necessary to give up all one’s wealth to please God and attain salvation? Why or why not? In Scripture, Jesus tells the rich young man that in order for him to be perfect, he must sell all he has and follow Christ. What do you think He meant by that statement? What did Jesus mean by being perfect?
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP