Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 301: Perfection Through the Cross: A Reflection on Jeremiah 18:1-6
"This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 'Rise up, be off to the potter's house; there I will give you my message.' I went down to the potter's house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: 'Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done' says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.'" (Jeremiah 18:1-6)
What does the Lord show Jeremiah in our first reading? A potter who keeps recreating a clay pot until he has it perfect. Why this image? Because this is what God is always doing us individually. We’re not finished products yet. Through all our lives, God constantly creates and re-creates us until we’re perfect.
This is also what God is doing with his Church. God is constantly recreating the Church. God continually shapes us, molds us, and works out our imperfections. And the way God does this is through the cross. We all have crosses, my brothers and sisters. Some of us have physical health struggles. Some of us have psychological health struggles. We struggle with loneliness, or depression or anxiety. Some of us have spiritual struggles; we’re addicted to sin. We don’t want to sin anymore, but we’re too weak to say no to it. Some of us have financial crosses--we just can’t make the ends meet no matter how long and hard we work, or maybe we’ve been unemployed for so long that we can’t climb out of the debt we’ve accumulated.
And when we focus on the cross, it can be easy for us to get discouraged. And we want to throw in the towel and say, “The heck with it!” But it’s through these crosses that the Lord is molding us and shaping us and recreating us, just like that potter.
When Michelangelo was asked how he carved such beautiful sculptures, he answered that, even before he began, he could see the finished statue in the stone, and all he had to do was chip away the loose pieces. This is how God also sees us. We look at ourselves and each other, and we see a shapeless hunk of stone. God sees a beautiful work of art. God sees our potential. And so, using our crosses, he chips away the loose stones, until others can see in us what he sees in us.
And this is not only what God does with individually, but also as a Church. All the mistakes we’ve made, persecutions we’ve had to endure, obstacles we’ve had to overcome; all these things have made us a better Church over the centuries. Thank God, we don’t have the same Church we had in the Middle Ages. Thank God, we don’t have the same Church we had in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. We’ve grown since then. We know more now. And I think we’re better for it.
If you ever get discouraged with your own cross, read Church history. Read about the struggles that the Church had to contend with over the centuries, and you’ll be consoled. Because if God carried the Church while the Church struggled with that cross, he will certainly carry me as I struggle with my cross.
That is why I have said, and continue to say, that it is an exciting time to be Catholic, even with this new crisis with ISIS and Islamic Extremism. You may recall that Father Jacques Hamel was murdered in France, beheaded by members of ISIS as he celebrated Mass in his own parish. Someday ISIS will be gone, but the Catholic Church will still be here. And through this crisis, we will become a better Church.
Don’t let your crosses discourage you. You will fall. You will fail. You can do two things with that. You can let yourself be defeated, or you can realize that, every time you fall, every time you fail, it’s the Lord who picks you up and encourages you to press on for one more day. And in that persevering, the Lord will perfect you.
- Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
"The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His Holy Name, anointed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God." - St. Francis de Sales
"O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence and trust in Your divine mercy, and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings which bring immense goodness to our souls and that of Your Church. Help us to love You with a pure and contrite heart, and to humble ourselves beneath Your cross, as we climb the mountain of holiness, carrying our cross that leads to heavenly glory. May we receive You with great faith and love in Holy Communion, and allow You to act in us, as You desire, for Your greater glory. O Jesus, most adorable heart and eternal fountain of Divine Love, may our prayer find favor before the Divine Majesty of Your Heavenly Father, Amen." - St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Questions for Reflection:
1. How do you feel about the image of being clay in God's hands? Does it bring you peace to know that God so intimately works with us? Discuss your feelings about this imagery.
2. We often want things to go smoothly and to not have to go through difficult times. But Father teaches that God gives us each our own personal crosses to bear. What are the particular struggles or crosses that you have in your life? Are you able to see these as gifts from God? Why or why not?
3. Have you ever considered that the Church may have her own crosses to bear in order to shape and mold her, to work out her imperfections? Discuss.
4. What are some of the struggles that the Church has had to deal with over the centuries? What has been the outcome of some of these struggles?
5. Are you able to see yourself as a work in creation? As a piece of art with which God is chipping away the imperfections to expose the beauty within?
6. When you encounter someone who is difficult, are you able to look through the exterior to see the beautiful soul which lies within, as God does?
7. Do you allow your crosses to discourage you? If so, how might you begin to look at them in a different light?
8. How might you be more patient and understanding with yourself and with others who are struggling? How might you help to encourage others who are struggling to bear their own personal crosses?
-- Kimberly Lohman
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 302: Turning Our Country Back to God: The Three Steps of Repentance: A Reflection on Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth! A man of strife and contention to all the land! I neither borrow nor lend, yet all curse me. When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O LORD, God of hosts. I did not sit celebrating in the circle of merrymakers; under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation. Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide! Thus the LORD answered me: If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand. If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece. Then it shall be they who turn to you, and you shall not turn to them; and I will make you toward this people a solid wall of brass. Though they fight against you, they shall not prevail, for I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD. I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent. (Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21)
What’s happening in this reading? Jeremiah is lamenting the state of his country. The northern kingdom of Israel has fallen. Babylon is poised to invade Judah, and it doesn’t look like anything will stop it. And while this is happening, the people are in denial. Many of the Jews are drinking and carousing and carrying on because they reason, "The temple and the Ark of the Covenant are in Judah. God will never embarrass himself by letting us fall to a pagan empire. We’re safe. God stopped the Assyrian Empire from invading us. He’ll do the same now.”
But what they failed to take into account is that the Lord stopped Assyria for the sake of King Hezekiah, who was a righteous king and did his best to bring reform to Judah, and the people back to the Lord. NOW, Hezekiah is dead, and the prophet Jeremiah is doing his level best to call people away from their drunken debauchery and back to righteousness.
And even now, at the eleventh hour, with the Babylonian Empire approaching the borders of Judah, the Lord says to Jeremiah, “Tell the people, even NOW, if the people repent, I will save them.” That’s the key: “If we repent, the Lord will help us.” Because of that whole free will thing, God has to wait for us to respond to him before he can help us.
What is repentance? First, repentance is an awareness that we sin. We cannot repent if we stop calling sin, sin; when we start using phrases like, “my body, my choice,” to justify the sin of infanticide, or “alternative lifestyles” to justify sins of lust. So the first step of repentance is admitting that we sin. Just like an alcoholic CANNOT begin to recover until he admits he’s an alcoholic, we cannot repent of sin until we’re willing to admit that we are sinning, and stop making excuses for sin.
The second step of repentance is seeking God’s forgiveness for our sins. This is of such importance that the Church has an entire sacrament dedicated for this purpose. I’ve seen the numbers of confessions drop off in my twenty years of ministry now, and from my conversations with my brother priests, I find this is not unique to me. When we have a population that is not seeking the forgiveness of God, that means three things; either the population no longer can tell right from wrong, the population no longer believes in God, or the population IS aware that it sins, and DOES believe in God, but just doesn’t care. Those are ALL disturbing trends.
The third step of repentance is a willingness to change. We don’t even have to be successful at changing! We just have to be willing to change. We have to want to change. We have to try to change. That’s what repentance is.
So how do we accomplish repentance? Jesus gives us that answer. He shared parables about people making a complete investment. The person who finds the treasure in the field sells EVERYTHING he has so that he can buy the field, because he knows what he gains is going to be worth far more than what he’s sacrificing. The merchant sells EVERYTHING he has so that he can buy the pearl of great value because he KNOWS he’ll be gaining far more than he invests.
Sin offers temporary pleasure but eternal pain. Virtue means sacrifice in the short term, but offers a peace and a joy beyond compare in eternity. So we need to invest ourselves completely in our faith. Catholic is more than what we do in Mass on Sunday, or even in Mass daily. Catholic is something we have to emulate in everything we do. Catholic is something we are with everyone we’re with. That is repentance. That is how we need to deal with those in the world, so they can learn from us what repentance is, and follow our lead. Repentance starts with us.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote of a Saint: "Let us therefore give ourselves to God with a great desire to begin to live thus, and beg Him to destroy in us the life of the world of sin, and to establish His life within us." - St. John Eudes
Prayer of a Saint: "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.
1. Many of the common sins of our day are similar to those common in the day of Jeremiah. Why do you suppose that is? What are some of these sins? Discuss some of the similarities between our present day and that of Jeremiah's time.
2. The people of Judah seemed to assume that they were under the protection of God, that He would take care of them no matter what their actions. Do you think that we have a similar assumption in our day? Discuss.
3. What is repentance?
4. Father lists three steps to repentance. The first step is awareness of sin. Do you feel that you are aware of the times in which you sin? Do you ever try to downplay your sin?
5. Step two of repentance is seeking God's forgiveness for our sin. Do you make regular use of the sacrament of reconciliation in order to obtain God's forgiveness? Do you faithfully perform the acts of penance given you by the priest?
6. The third step of repentance is a willingness to change. Do you feel a Godly sorrow or contrition for your sin? Do you have the mindset and desire deep in your heart to sin no more?
7. Father teaches that building virtue requires a temporary sacrifice but offers eternal peace and joy. Think of a particular virtue that you would like to increase in your life, for example the virtue of patience. How might you incorporate this virtue into your life?
8. Father talks of being invested completely in our Catholic faith so that others may see our good works and follow our lead. Do you feel that you are completely invested in your faith? Why or why not? If not, what steps can you take this week to begin to invest yourself more fully?
-- Kimberly Lohman
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 303: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit: A Reflection on Luke 6:20-26
Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” (Luke 6: 20-26)
“Blessed are you who are now poor…blessed are you who are now hungry…blessed are you who are now weeping…blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, insult you, and denounce you as evil because of the Son of Man.”
Why are these groups of people blessed? They are blessed because their condition has forced them to be detached from the goods of this world in some way.
You cannot be attached to money and material possessions if you’re poor. If you’re poor, you have to make do on what you can scrape together. You cannot be a glutton and a drunkard if you’re hungry. If you’re hungry, you must accustom yourself to self-denial. You cannot be attached to the joys of this world if you’re weeping. You can be the richest person on earth, but, if you’re grieving, if you’re mourning a loss, none of that matters. Your riches offer you no consolation. And when you’re hated, insulted, and excluded, for standing up for your faith, you cannot be attached to status and praise. So, each of these conditions are blessings because they offer us an opportunity to grow closer to God.
Those who are poor and hungry have the opportunity to turn to God and accept the charity of others to survive. When people are weeping, when people are mourning, they have the opportunity to join their suffering to Christ, and have God use that suffering for the good of other souls. The mourning can also use their grieving to build up their hope, to be consoled by the thought that they will someday be joined again in eternity with the people they lost, and let that motivate them to pray for the souls of their lost loved ones. Mourning while hoping in eternal life is also a motivation to keep ourselves on the narrow road. And those that are hated, insulted, and excluded because of their faith in Jesus, have an opportunity for an intimate relationship with God like the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New Testament, and the great saints of the Christian age, many of whom were persecuted for their faith
Now as always, for every good there is a bad, for every blessing there is a curse. People in the conditions mentioned are blessed because of the opportunity that is offered them by their conditions, but that doesn’t mean they have an automatic in to heaven, nor does it mean that other people, who do not share these conditions, can’t get into heaven.
The poor and the hungry may give into the temptation to steal what they want, or to give into the sin of laziness, and live off the good nature of others. The weeping may give in to the temptation of despair, lose hope, and let their sorrow make them bitter and angry at God and the world. And those that are persecuted for the faith can give into the sin of pride, and let their righteousness be perverted to SELF righteousness, where the focus is no longer the glory of God by the glory of themselves.
There is always the need to exercise caution. For us, the message is, “Don’t get attached to the goods of this world.” Worldly wealth is to be used to provide for our needs and the needs of our families. The rest should be used to practice charity. Charity detaches us from the love of money. We have to let go of those friends and relatives that we love so dear, but we pray for them, we remember them, and we keep our own souls clean in the hope that we will spend eternity with them in heaven. We even have to be willing to part with our own good name, our reputation, and our status, because, if we’re living our faith, it will prick the consciences of the ungodly, and they’ll use whatever means they can to discredit us. When this happens, we can console ourselves with the thought that our reward in heaven will be great. I pray today, brothers and sisters, that we are all truly blessed. --Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you. --Saint Augustine
Prayer: Grant me grace, O merciful God, to desire ardently all that is pleasing to Thee, to examine it prudently, to acknowledge it truthfully, and to accomplish it perfectly, for the praise and glory of Thy name. Amen. --St. Thomas Aquinas
Questions for Discussion
What do you believe is meant by “poor in spirit”? What is the difference between economic poverty and spiritual poverty? Can you name a person who was economically well off, but did not act as such? If so, how did that person live their life? Do you admire that person?
Humility comes from the word humus, or humilitas, which means low, insignificant, near the ground. Compare and contrast the difference between pride and humility in one’s lifestyle. Do you believe a person of great importance can conduct one’s self in a humble way? Does a high position preclude humility? If not, give two or three examples of how a person of wealth and prestige can model humility and meekness.
We know from Scripture that God shows great tenderness to the meek and the sorrowful. What does this say about the Heart of Jesus? What does this say about how He wishes our hearts to be?
Can you think of an incident where someone criticized you or corrected you in a way that was prideful or arrogant? How did it make you feel? In cases where it is one’s duty to supervise or correct another, such as a parental role, teacher’s role, or supervisor’s role, list two or three ways that correction can be given in a way that demonstrates humility and charity, as opposed to pride or arrogance.
Do you know someone, perhaps even yourself, who has lived an especially difficult life? For instance, a person who has been through a severe illness, or tragic loss. Do you believe these experiences have contributed positively to this person’s character? If so, list some positive attributes of this person that these experiences may have contributed to. Can you see how these attributes would also be pleasing to God?
In what way do you think poverty detaches us from attachment to the world? Do you believe that having less brings us closer to God? How or why do you think this is so? List two or three ways you can enhance your detachment to the created things of this world. For instance, purchasing a more modestly priced model of car, even though you could afford something more luxurious.
List some ways you can be a peacemaker in your circle of influence. For instance, modeling kindness and charity towards a person who is being gossiped about at work, or supporting refugees and other underprivileged people in your community by word and deed.
The common people desired to make Jesus a worldly king in response to His miracles and teaching, but He rejected those sentiments. Instead, He offered Himself up to the insolence, calumny, and abuse of those in power who were jealous of Him. What does this say about how important humility and meekness is to God in the life of a person who claims to be a Christian? How powerful does this make our prayers to practice self-denial on even a smaller scale?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 304: Lukewarmness: A Reflection on Psalm 1
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1)
“Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on that law day and night.”
One of the great dangers to the spiritual life is tepidity, or lukewarmness. Now I have in the past defined the greatest sin as hardness of heart. Hardness of heart is the sin that provokes Jesus to sorrow and anger. Where does lukewarmness, tepidity, fit into this? Tepidity conditions us to become hard hearted. We don’t get hard hearted overnight. Lukewarmness has to set in first. Lukewarmness leads to indifference, and indifference leads to hardness.
Note what our psalm says today. Does it say “Happy is the man who is not wicked himself? No. It says, “Happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked.
Does Psalm 1 say, “Happy the man who is not a sinner?” No. Psalm 1 says happy is the man who does not take the path that sinners tread.
Does it say “Happy is the man who is not insolent?” No, it says “happy is the man who does not sit in the seat of scoffers,” that is, who does not sit in the company of scoffers and those who are insolent.
This psalm isn’t even dealing with the wicked, the sinner, and the insolent. Rather this psalm is saying happy is the man who doesn’t even allow himself to be influenced by the wicked, the sinner, and the insolent.
And this is a message the Church, especially in America, really needs to embrace, because there’s been this unspoken mentality that we can dance with the devil and not be tainted by it. We’ve gotten permissive toward all forms of deviant behavior.
There seems to be a permissive attitude toward venial sin. A common theme in my preaching is the importance of frequent confession, yet I still get many people who only go once or twice a year. And when I try to convince them to go more often, many times I hear, “But Father, I only commit venial sins!” Well what does that mean?
Venial sins can damage the soul as effectively as mortal sins if they’re left unrepented. A nosebleed isn’t nearly as dangerous as a gunshot wound, but if left untreated, a nosebleed can still be fatal. Atilla the Hun--died from a nosebleed! Getting the flu isn’t nearly as dangerous as getting cancer, but if left untreated, the flu can still be fatal. Taking venial sin lightly is a sign of being lukewarm.
Every day we should do an examination of conscience, hopefully at night before we go to bed. We should take some time to review the day and see in what ways we may have offended God. And then we need to take those offenses to confession.
Don’t take any sin lightly, because all sin separates us from God, and being comfortable with sin is the first step toward being lukewarm. Being lukewarm leads to hardness of heart where even the grace of God has great difficulty penetrating.
Blessed be God forever. Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: What else do worldlings think we are doing but playing around when we flee what they most desire on earth, and desire what they flee? We are like jesters and tumblers who, with heads down and feet in the air, draw all eyes to themselves. -- St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Prayer: O my God, I know well that so negligent a life as mine cannot please Thee. I know that by my lukewarmness I have closed the door to the graces which Thou dost desire to bestow on me. O my God, do not reject me, as I deserve, but continue to be merciful toward me, and I will make great efforts to amend and to arise from this miserable state. In the future, I will be more careful to overcome my passions and to follow Your inspirations; and never through slothfulness will I omit my duties, but will strive to fulfill them with greater diligence and fidelity. In short, I will from this time forward do all I can to please Thee, and will neglect nothing which I know to be pleasing to Thee.
Since Thou, O my Jesus, hast been so liberal with Thy graces toward me and have deigned to give Thy Blood and Thy Life for me, I am sorry for having acted with so little generosity toward Thee, Who are worthy of all honor and all love. But, O my Jesus, Thou knowest my weakness. Help me with Your powerful grace; in Thee I confide. O Immaculate Virgin Mary, help me to overcome myself and to become a saint. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
Do you agree that lukewarmness is a deadly attitude? What does it lead to? How does one overcome it?
What are the signs of lukewarmness in you? In others?
Discuss the quote by St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
Is it possible to be zealous and not turn people away by our enthusiasm? How?
How can you avoid keeping company with the insolent? How can use distance yourself from those who cause you to sin?
How can venial sins lead to mortal sins?
Think of a time when you did something that was less than honorable. Did you think, “Oh, it’s just a little thing?” Was it just a little thing? Did it lead to others bigger sins or omissions?
How can we make others aware of their lukewarmness? How can we get them to care?
How does society encourage lukewarmness? Name at least three ways.
How can we keep our family members, especially our children, from becoming lukewarm? What words does society use for zeal? Discuss these: opinionated, close minded, intolerant. What words does society use to foster lukewarmness? Discuss these: tolerant, open-minded, liberal. How does one combat vocabulary and its influence?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 305: Saints Simon and Jude
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. --Luke 6: 12-16
Today we discuss the feasts of two saints; both of them apostles, one very well known, the other not so much.
Saint Jude is very well known as the patron of hopeless cases. There is the famous children’s hospital, built by Danny Thomas in Saint Jude’s honor, to honor a favor received when Danny Thomas was a poor man, an undiscovered actor, and his wife began to experience difficulty in her pregnancy but no hospital would take her because they couldn’t pay.
Danny Thomas, always a devout Catholic, went to Church and prayed for Saint Jude’s help, and promised Saint Jude that if his wife and child were spared, he would build a hospital in his honor and no family would ever have to pay for the treatment of their child. The prayer was heard and answered, and Danny Thomas made good on his promise. To this day, Saint Jude’s Research Hospital doesn’t charge for the care of any of the children that come to them. Saint Jude’s hospital is one of the charities that I support.
Saint Simon is a little more obscure. We don’t learn much about him from scripture. We only know about him through his political affiliation; Simon is identified as a member of the zealot party. The zealots were political terrorists and religious fanatics.
The Herodians believed that the Jews should not only cooperate with Rome, but also adopt Roman law and philosophy. The Sanhedrin believed that Jews should cooperate with Rome but maintain their Jewish culture and heritage. The Pharisee’s believed that Jews should not cooperate with Rome, but their resistance should take a civil disobedience type of model.
But the zealots wanted every Gentile in Palestine, dead. So the zealots carried out assassinations of Roman officials while they slept. The zealots attacked Roman caravans and set store houses on fire. When Rome finally had had enough, they set out to destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D..
The Jews had fortified themselves inside the city and could have held out for months and even years, and outlasted the Romans. That wasn’t good enough for the zealots. The zealots wanted the Jews to leave the city and attack the Romans in a straight fight. When no one supported them, the zealots burned the grain supply in the city that the people were relying on for their food, to try to force the people to leave the city and fight. But as a result, a few weeks later, when the Roman army attacked, they met with little resistance, because all the defenders were so weak with starvation. Those were the zealots- shoot first and ask questions later.
I would propose that we all start praying for the intercession of these two saints. Pray to Saint Jude, the patron of hopeless cases, for our country that has hopelessly lost the light of Christ. Pray that our fellow citizens may start making God a priority in their lives again. And pray to Saint Simon for all the terrorists of radical Islam. Pray that Saint Simon teach them, as he learned, that the peace of Christ is infinitely preferable to violence and bloodshed.
Saints Simon and Jude, pray for us.
– Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Fortify me with the grace of Your Holy Spirit and give Your peace to my soul that I may be free from all needless anxiety, solicitude and worry. Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to You so that Your will may be my will. --St. Francis Xavier
“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” --St. Jude
Questions for Discussion
1. Can you think of a hopeless case that took a miraculous turn, thanks to prayer? What was the attitude of those involved? Faith? Surrender? Doubt? Fear? Which attitude do you think would please God?
2. What role do you believe charity and good will play in prayer? Can you name of a charity, other than St. Jude’s Hospital, whose work could literally be an answer to prayer?
3. A novena is nine days of prayer for a specific intention such as the Novena to St. Jude. Do you believe that novenas are efficacious? If so, what do you think makes them so powerful? How do novena prayers coincide with Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow petitioning the judge? How much more just and merciful do you believe God is compared to even what would be considered a righteous person?
4. List two or three incidences that provide evidence that God cares for His children. For instance, have you ever received a needed item or service at the last minute? Do you believe faith is more prevalent in poor nations than wealthy ones? If so, why? Does needing to rely on God cause Him to work more actively? What insight does this provide into why God permits what we see as misfortune?
5. St. Simon traded his Zionist loyalties for Christianity. Can you name one or two traits that would have attracted a person, willing to use manipulation and violent tactics to further what would be considered a righteous cause, to Jesus’ Gospel message?
4. Two or three decades ago, zealous prolifers felt justified to enter abortion clinics and block doors, causing restrictive laws to be passed. Still today, some use what would be considered offensive or contentious means to protest. Do you believe it is ever moral or just to use this level of force to further a righteous cause? Justify your response. What do you believe the Lord expects of people who belong to His Church when it comes to furthering a just cause?
5. The homily mentioned several different points of view towards Roman occupation by the various Hebrew sects. Which of these views, do you think that Jesus Christ favored? Which do you think, given the circumstances of the Jews and how it turned out for them, would have been the most prudent?
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 306: Church Suffers Violence: A Reflection Matthew 11:12
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)
The Church suffers violence from the forces of evil, and every human soul, with its weakness toward evil as a result of original sin, either suffers from that violence, or participates in it. There is really no in between. There is no neutral ground. We either participate in violence against God and the Church, or we suffer as a result of that violence.
Abortion; violence against a child and God. The child obviously suffers from it. The mother suffers emotionally from it, sometimes physically. Society suffers from it, and the Church suffers from it. There is one less soul to complete part of God’s plan that had a part in God’s plan.
The disturbed individual who shoots up an abortion clinic. Violence against people and against God. The victims obviously suffer. Not only physically, but also spiritually. Yes, they were participating in a grievous sin, but now they couldn’t repent of that sin before they died. Now, MAYBE, they’re suffering even worse. I can’t say that definitively, but we cannot deny it is a distinct possibility. The loved ones of those victims are suffering. And now the Church suffers too. Because this enables enemies of the Church with one more weapon to attempt to shame us, silence us, and damage our credibility.
Terrorism; Islamic extremism. Victims suffer horrible abuse and death. The Church suffers, not only because many of these victims are Catholic, but also because people use religion to justify their desire for violence, all religion is viewed as suspect by unbelievers. How often have we heard that Christian extremism is even more dangerous than Islamic extremism! And as ludicrous as that statement is, people believe it!
Jesus promised it would happen. Maybe not these specific events to this specific time, but generally, this is what happens when we get permissive or comfortable with sin. Our lives are a constant battle to free ourselves of sin and sinful influences. The Christian life is simply not compatible with being mediocre in our pursuit of holiness. We can’t be half-hearted about freeing ourselves from sin.
I’ve trumpeted many times that the clergy sex abuse scandals constituted only a very small percentage of the overall clergy, and that’s true. But look at how much damage those few clergy inflicted on the people of God. And the whole Church has suffered great damage to our moral credibility because of the sins of a few. And yes, that is unjust, but it is equally unjust to sluff it off and say, “Well, sin is always going to happen and the priesthood is no exception.” That is unacceptable! We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard than that. And not just the clergy but all the Catholic faithful.
When we do not actively, passionately, tirelessly strive for holiness of life, we will ultimately either participate in or consent in doing violence against others. The violence may be very subtle, a word of gossip, a hateful attitude toward a person or a race, but that violence will ultimately damage the Church and hurt God.
During the seasons of Advent and Lent we focus particularly on the humanity of Jesus, in Advent, God coming in flesh, and during Lent, God surrendering his flesh on the cross. But in Ordinary Time, we see Jesus in the flesh at work among the people. Let’s meditate upon God clothing himself in humanity and let us pray that humanity clothes itself with God, to break the cycles of violence that our world has been enslaved to.
And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
Christ and the Church are two in one flesh. – St. Augustine
Poor little church, tossed about by the waves of a violent storm, with no harbor of refuge. Cast your cares on the Lord, for He Himself will help you, nourishing you at the fountain of your princes, the Apostles. They were fortified with the teachings of Christ, and the grace of the Holy Spirit; draw strength from them from then until now, so that growing from virtue to virtue, you will be able to see the God of gods in Zion, to whom be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen. – St. Anthony of Padua
Questions for Reflection:
Name at least two others ways the Church suffers violence in society.
What can we, as faithful Catholics, due to combat this violence?
How does our witness counteract violence?
What behaviors undermine the Church?
Why is it important to support the Church? How can we support her?
How can focusing on the humanity of Jesus help us to support the Church?
What can we do, regarding our neighbor (and neighbor refers to all those people other than ourselves) to help them to see the Church in a good light?
What activities build up the Church? Which are you engaged in? How have these activities built up you?
Why do you think the Church is the object of violence? Do you think this will ever change? What can we do, if anything, to lessen the violence?
What role does education about what the faith really teaches, factor into society’s reaction to the faith?
Why do you think society has become so hostile to Christianity?
Sometimes we read about Christian clergy who promote activities and ideas that are contrary to the teachings of the Church and of Jesus. How do these people undermine the faith? What can you do about this?
What part should Catholics play in bringing peace into the world?
Discuss St. Anthony’s recommendation to turn to the teaching of the Apostles to combat violence.
Discuss the quote by St. Augustine.
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 307: Recognizing Idolatry: A Reflection on Ezekiel 36: 24-25
“For I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all the foreign lands, and bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from your idols I will cleanse you.” (Ezekiel 36: 24-25)
The Lord is speaking through the prophet Ezekiel to the Jews who are in exile and in captivity, after their nation falls to Babylon. And the Lord is encouraging the people; ‘Yes I had to punish you for your sins. Yes, I allowed foreign armies to invade and conquer you. Yes, I allowed these pagan kings to kick you out of your own land and scatter you throughout their empire. I had to do this because for years I was speaking to you, but you didn’t listen. For years I warned you, but you wouldn’t change. But I promise I will never forget you. I promise this punishment will not go on forever. Someday you will return and re-build the temple. And someday you will return to me, and then I will cleanse away the past and we will begin anew again.’
Israel’s sin was idolatry. What is idolatry? Money, flesh, power. But why are these things idolatrous?
First, they’re the universal desires of our human nature. Money: we all want security. Flesh: we all desire pleasure. Power: we all desire control, at the very least, control over our immediate surroundings. And are these necessarily bad things?
Money--is security wrong? I’m a priest and I have some money in savings because you never know what might happen and when you might need it.
Flesh--pleasure. I’m a priest and I must confess I don’t work 24 / 7. I know, I know, I’ve scandalized you! ‘You mean, you really don’t work around the clock?” Yes, really. Priests are not robots. I don’t work 10 hours a day, pray 10 hours a day and sleep 4 hours a day. I enjoy watching a little TV at night, a comedy or action movie or something historical. Is that wrong?
Power--control. We all need to have some kind of control over our lives, or we’d all live in anarchy. When I teach the 7th grade religion class, I have to exercise a degree of control over the class, or the kids will walk all over me and they’d never learn anything.
So why are these things wrong? They’re not wrong per se. They only become wrong, they only become idolatrous, when we stop using these things to draw ourselves and others closer to God, and instead use them to draw ourselves and others away from God. Then God is no longer the center. I am.
Jesus told a parable about a King who is throwing a wedding banquet. The King, the man of ultimate authority, is throwing a wedding banquet, the ultimate celebration. Look at all the hoopla everyone made of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. This would have been on par with something like that; no expense spared. If you had been invited to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, would you have ever dreamed of not going? Whatever your politics are, it’s irrelevant! I’m betting you would have gone just based on the curiosity factor alone! And yet in Jesus’ parable, the guests not only don’t go the banquet, but they also show contempt and scorn for the King by how they treat his messengers. In fact, they beat them and kill them for even inviting them to the banquet!
When the evangelist Luke relates this parable, he tells a different version. In Luke’s gospel, the guests all send polite excuses back. I just got married. I just bought some land. I just bought some cattle. I say it’s interesting because, in Luke’s gospel, since the invited guests are occupied with lesser goods, they miss something so much better that’s being offered them by the king. That’s idolatry. Cattle=money. Marriage=flesh. Land=power. Because their idolatry draws them so much into themselves, they’re blinded to what they’re missing.
In Matthew’s version, because the invited guests treat the King’s messengers with contempt, they suffer the ultimate loss, their lives.
Luke and Matthew share two different stages of the effect of the same sin. Luke’s version is the first effects of idolatry--we get our priorities messed up. God takes a backseat to everything I want out of life. Matthew’s version is the final effect of idolatry, when people show utter contempt for God and his messengers, the Church, and ultimately lose their eternal life over it.
Isn’t that what we’re seeing today? An utter contempt for God, for religion and for the Church? And if Scripture has shown us one thing, it’s this. God has a way of tolerating our idols for only so long before he smashes them, often violently.
What do we do about this? First, as I’ve also said many times before, the spiritual life is one of constant self-evaluation and re-evaluation. We always have look to see where idolatry may be creeping into our lives. We always have challenge ourselves to see if I am using the goods of this earth that God has given me to lead others to God, or am I using them for my own ends, or my own selfish desires? And when we discover that, we need to take it to confession. As Ezekiel points out, God’s forgiveness is always there.
Finally, we have to pray hard for the world, that the spirit of God break the hold that sin has on so many so that the Lord can cleanse everyone and bring us all into unity and peace. May God make it so.
And blessed be God forever.
Father Michael Anthony Sisco
What can the world promise you? Let it promise you what it will; it is making that promise to someone who may die tomorrow. – St. Augustine
Prayer for Increased Faith
Almighty God, every good thing comes from you. Fill our hearts with love for you, increase our faith,
and by your constant care, protect the good you have given us. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN
Questions for Reflection:
What is idolatry? Why is idolatry so dangerous?
What idols does Fr. Sisco name? Give examples of how these are evident in the world.
What other idols can you name? Give examples of how these are evident in the world.
How can challenge ourselves to smash our idols and serve God alone?
Where does prayer fit into dealing with and confronting idolatry?
How can concern for lesser goods turn us away from eternal goods?
What idols do you struggle with? How do you overcome the struggle?
How can you help someone you love overcome their own types of idolatry?
Can work, recreation, people become idols? Discuss this idea.
How does idolatry oppose the first commandment? How can we put God first?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 308: Touching God: A Reflection on Mark 1: 40-45
A leper came to him and, kneeling down, begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere. (Mark 1: 40-45)
“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and said, ‘I do will it, be cured.’” So often, almost exclusively, Jesus heals with a touch.
But what strikes me first about this Gospel, is how this leper approaches Jesus. First, the passage says, the leper kneels down. Kneeling down is a sign of humility. It’s a sign of submission. This is why we kneel during the consecration prayers at Mass. At the time when Jesus physically comes upon the altar, we greet him with our humility. We greet him with our willingness to submit to him. That’s why kneeling is such a significant gesture in the liturgy.
Then the leper speaks. He says, “Lord, if you will it, you can cure me.” Please take note. He doesn’t say, “Cure me, Lord.” He doesn’t say, “Please, Lord, give me what I want.” The leper surrenders control of the situation to Jesus. “If YOU will it, Lord…”
That statement says two things. First, it’s an acknowledgement of Jesus’ power. ‘I know you have the ability to heal me.’ Secondly, it’s a surrendering of the will to Jesus. ‘Not what I want Lord; rather what YOU want.’ That shows incredible trust. That shows incredible faith.
And so Jesus touches this leper because the leper displays the two things necessary to be touched by the Lord; humility and faith.
And so what do we say to the Lord when he comes to touch us? We touch the Lord every day in the Eucharist. And every day the Lord allows us to touch him because he wants to heal us.
Heal me? But I’m not sick! Really? After all, we are all like this leper. We have all been marred and disfigured by sin. This leper was lucky in one sense. He could see his sores. He could see that he was unclean. We’re not so lucky. Our leprosy is invisible to our eyes. We have to dig to see our leprosy.
So, what do we say to the Lord before and after he touches us? We always should pray, as we’re coming forward in the Communion line to receive, and after we return to our pew. It doesn’t have to be long, or elaborate. We don’t have to use flowery language. But our prayers should be prayers of humility and faith.
“Lord Jesus, I lay my will down to yours.”
“Lord Jesus, have pity on me a sinner.”
“Lord Jesus, be the ruler of my life, and the guardian of my soul.”
“Jesus, I love you. I give my life to you.”
“Lord Jesus, show me my sins, and give me the grace to repent of them.”
Pray with me today, my brothers and sisters, that all of us, you and I, and all the members of the Catholic Church, may realize in a profound way, who they are touching when they receive Communion, and more importantly, who is touching them.
And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence. - St. Francis de Sales
Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your Church, and grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory. (Eucharistic Prayer IV of the Holy Mass)
Questions for Reflection:
What thoughts may have been going through the leper’s mind as he approached Jesus? What sort of man do you believe he was, judging by how he approached Christ?
When you pray, do you pray, “If YOU will it, Lord”?
Why is it always good to pray for God’s Will?
Fr. Sisco mentioned some ways to pray before and after receiving the Eucharist. Read those prayers again. Then write 3 more of your own.
Have you ever thought that Jesus is touching you when you receive the Eucharist? How does this make you feel? What should be your response to this?
What is your physical posture when you receive the Eucharist? Does how you receive impact others around you in their faith? Why or why not?
How can you encourage others to commune with Christ after receiving the Eucharist? Discuss each of these: words, instruction, posture, example. Can you add any other ways?
Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas (inflammation caused by a collection of immune cells) of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain and thus loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present. Father Sisco discusses the leprosy of sin. Using this information about leprosy, decide if the comparison is accurate.
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 309: Jesus Rose, and So Shall We!: A Reflection on 1 Corinthians 15: 12-20
"But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." I Cor 15:12-20
This reading indicates one of the problems that St. Paul had with the Corinthians. These people really did have every spiritual and social problem in the book. If you ever get discouraged with anything that’s happening in your parish, look at the bright side - no parish could be worse than ancient Corinth.
What’s the problem today? Some of the Corinthian Christians are denying that Jesus actually rose from the dead. They’re claiming that it must be some kind of symbolic or spiritual resurrection. Others are claiming that Jesus could have risen from the dead because he was God, but we won’t rise from dead, or, if we do, it will only be spiritually. Paul is refuting these heresies with all his strength and will devote more ink to addressing this problem than to any of the other problems that the Corinthians had. Why? Because our whole faith hinges on this reality.
Previously Paul addressed the first problem that the Corinthians had about Jesus’ resurrection. Paul told them that if there is no resurrection, our faith is pointless, and we’re still in our sin. Why? Because the resurrection of Jesus is the Father’s testament that everything Jesus said and did was authentic. The resurrection is the proof that we have indeed been redeemed, that our debt of sin that we were powerless to atone for was instead atoned for by one who had no spot or stain of sin.
Paul threw out a challenge to the Corinthians, a bold challenge. He said that Christ was seen by Peter and the twelve, then by some five hundred other brothers at once, most of whom were still alive. He was then seen by some of the apostles again, and lastly by Paul himself. So there are plenty of witnesses to this event. If you don’t believe me, Paul said, check my story with them! That’s a bold challenge, a challenge one wouldn’t make unless he was sure of the outcome.
In this reading, Paul is continuing with the question of our resurrection, and he is being as blunt here as he was previously. Paul says, if you claim there is no resurrection for us, then you also must claim that there is no resurrection for Christ. Why? Why can’t I believe that Christ rose from the dead because he’s God, but I can’t rise because I’m a sinful human being? Because now through the Eucharist, now through the
new covenant, we are in Christ, and Christ is in us. That’s the whole purpose for the incarnation. He who was all holy became sin, so we who are sinners, might become holy. The son of God became the son of man, so the sons of men might become sons of God. He who was all divine became human, so we who are fully human might become divine. That is the meaning of covenant. We’re one now. So if Jesus rises from the dead, we who are bound to him through the covenant rise from the dead also. Deny that we rise from the dead, and we deny that he rose from the dead.
Interesting, the evangelists in telling their stories about Jesus have some discrepancies. Matthew is the only one who mentions the magi at Jesus’ birth. Luke makes no mention of magi. Luke tells us shepherds were there. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is probably the most dramatic of all Jesus’ miracles, and yet John is the only one who makes mention of it. When Jesus multiplies the loaves of bread and fish, one evangelist tells us there were five thousand in the crowd, another says only three thousand.
But when it comes to the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, all the evangelists record the events in almost identical detail. That should tell us something. Now as for those discrepancies I just mentioned, there are reasons for these, but that’s a reflection for another day. For today, let us all be inspired and be confident, that, as Jesus rose from the dead, we too will also rise, because that is our faith, that is our hope, that is our covenant with God.
-- Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto
ages of ages." -- St. John Chrysostom
Prayer from a Saint:
”Dear Father, by Your wondrous condescension of Loving - Kindness toward us, Your servants, You gave up Your Son. Dear Jesus You paid the debt of Adam for us to the Eternal Father by Your Blood poured forth in Loving - Kindness. You cleared away the darkness of sin by Your magnificent and radiant Resurrection. You broke the bonds of death and rose from the grave as a Conqueror. You reconciled Heaven and earth. Your Resurrection has washed away our sins, restored our innocence and brought us joy. How inestimable is the tenderness of Your Love! Amen. -- Saint Gregory
Questions for Reflection:
1. Do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and have faith that you will be raised as well after death? Why or why not? Discuss.
2. A heresy is a belief or opinion that differs from the teaching of the Church, and there were many among the Corinthians in Paul's day, especially relating to the Resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of believers. Name those mentioned in today's reading.
3. How are the heresies of the Corinthians similar to some of the heresies we are currently experiencing in our day and age?
4. When you come across beliefs or opinions which are contrary to the teachings of the Church, what do you do? Do you keep quiet? Speak up? Do you think it is important to correct heresies? What might be some ways in which you can do this? Discuss.
5. Spend at least 5 minutes meditating on the Resurrection of Jesus and God's love for us. How does it make you feel to know that God loves you so much that he sent his son to die for your sins? Spend a few minutes in silent prayer, thanking God for His great love for you!
6. Many people fear death, but as Saint Gregory prayed, Jesus has broken the bonds of death. How does this make you feel?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 310: Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica: A Reflection on John 2: 13-22
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me”. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. --John 2: 13-22
We celebrate a feast in honor of the dedication of Saint John Lateran in Rome. Why celebrate the feast of the dedication of a basilica in another part of the world? Saint John Lateran was the first official Catholic Church ever built after Christianity became legal under Emperor Constantine. How did this come about?
Constantine challenged his rival, Emperor Maximus, for control of the Roman Empire. Constantine’s forces were greatly outnumbered. Constantine was a pagan, but his wife and daughter were Christians, and Constantine’s wife begged him to pray to Jesus Christ for help. Constantine wouldn’t. It’s not that he was necessarily opposed to Christianity, but being a pagan, his reasoning was, “I’m going into battle. I don’t need a god who tells me to love my enemy. I need the help of a warrior god, like Mars.”
But, Constantine’s wife prayed to our Lord Jesus Christ for him, and the day before the decisive battle, Constantine had a vision of the Chi-Rho, (that’s that funny little PX symbol you see on lots of vestments and liturgical things, which are Jesus’ initials in Greek,) and he also heard a voice that said, “In this sign, conquer.”
So Constantine ordered his men to paint the Chi-Rho symbol on their shields, and the next day, he won an overwhelming victory. THEN, Constantine rounded up the surviving Praetorian Guard, who had fought for Emperor Maximus, and ordered all their throats cut on the bank of the river.
Now why bring that up? Because, Saint John Lateran was built on the land where the barracks of the Praetorian Guard was. That land belonged to the Praetorian Guard. Constantine seized it, and in gratitude to this Christian God who brought him victory, legalized Christianity for the first time in the Roman Empire, and gave the Pope the seized land to build a Church honoring God.
But Constantine was still a pagan, and if you go to Saint John Lateran today, and go in the baptistery, you see the huge baptismal font in the center of this circular room, and all around the walls, you see these murals, commissioned by Constantine himself, commemorating his victory over Emperor Maximus, and the last mural is a scene of the Praetorian Guard getting their throats cut!! Rather bizarre scene to have in the baptistery of a CHURCH! But Constantine was sending a subliminal message to the Pope, “Remember who got you here, and what I’m capable of doing.” Constantine is a fascinating figure to study! He always kept one foot in the world and one foot in the spirit.
It was Constantine who called the second Church council in history, the council of Nicea in 325 AD, in response to the Arian and Gnostic heresies. Arius was teaching that Christ was inferior to the Father and the Spirit. The Gnostics were teaching that everything earthly is evil; only the spirit is good. They also taught that God the Father is an evil God, Jesus Christ is the good God, and you can’t be saved until God imparts on you a secret knowledge you can only achieve by complete detachment from the world.
Constantine called all the Bishops across the empire to a council together to decide what we believed as a Church, and out of that council came the Nicean Creed, which is still said at Sunday Mass to this day: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…” That came out of the council of Nicea. We have Constantine to thank for that, and yet, he was never baptized in the faith himself until his death bed, because again, his pagan reasoning, ‘I can’t be a Christian and emperor at the same time, because to remain emperor, I still have to kill people.’ And that’s why Constantine, despite his generosity to the Church, has never been canonized a saint. He always kept that one foot in the world. He did great things for Christ, but he never fully gave his heart to Christ. And that’s what Jesus is angry at in the Gospel reading. The merchants and the money changers in the temple area were keeping one foot in the world, and one foot in the spirit.
Don’t make the same mistake. Some people are Democrats or Republicans first, God second; or Americans first and God second; or business people first and God second. That doesn’t cut it. Only putting God first guarantees salvation. I’d like to think Constantine made it to heaven by now, but just in case he’s still in Purgatory, remember to say a prayer for him every now and then, because the Church we enjoy today all started with him, and Saint John Lateran.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
While we try to amass wealth, make piles of money, get hold of the land as our real property, overtop one another in riches, we have palpably cast off justice and lost the common good. I should like to know how any man can be just, who is deliberately aiming to get out of someone else what he wants for himself.
O, Jesus…I no longer wish to live by my own life, but be transformed in You, so that my life may be more divine than human, and that, inclining unto me, the Father may recognize Your image, the image of His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased.
-- St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
1. Reflect on your day so far. Have you put God first in everything? Or have you allowed something or someone impede to your relationship with God?
2. Does God have the right to our time, let alone the first and most important parts of our day? Is it really “our” time? Why or why not?
3. Scripture tells us that baptized Christians become a temple of the Holy Spirit, (1 Cor 6:19). Do you believe this? If so, how should this impact us? Name several ways this knowledge should order our day and decisions.
4. Realizing that Jesus greatly desires and expects His temple to be a house of prayer and separate from concerns of the world, can you think of one or two ways this expectation can be reconciled in a society that demands so much of our time and energy? What would need to be sacrificed to achieve this goal?
5. Try to name a holy person whom you have either known or studied. What holy characteristics did this person have? Did this person show affection for God above anything else? What were this person’s special gifts?
6. Imagine Jesus coming to visit your home. Go through it, room by room. What changes would you make?
7. St. Teresa of Avila, along with Scripture, likens the soul to a garden, which we cultivate in anticipation for the Lord to dwell there. She recommends that we cultivate this garden by removing the weeds and rocks (sin and personality flaws), and replacing them with the flowers and trees of good works and virtue. What are some practical ways to achieve this? For instance, which fault can you replace with the opposite virtue?
8. Name two or three things that drive you further from Christ rather than closer. How can you replace or eliminate these? For example, instead of spending each Saturday morning at the mall, joining a Saturday morning Bible study.
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP