Weeks 321-330

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 321: Saint Juan Diego: A Reflection on Isaiah 41:13-14

“I am the Lord, your God, who grasps your right hand; It is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41: 13-14).  

These words very appropriate when considering the saint Juan Diego. We know Juan Diego as the visionary of the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  

I love Juan Diego because he’s this simple Indian boy doing his thing. He’s not looking to change the world. He’s not a priest or a theologian. When we first meet him, when his life is about to change forever, he’s an average Joe participating in an act of charity. He was on his way to visit and tend to the needs of his sick uncle. 

Suddenly the Blessed Mother appears to him on the top of a hill. She gives him a mission. “Go tell the Bishop that I want a chapel built here.” 

Now Juan Diego has to take a step of faith. He has already demonstrated that he is a young man of virtuous quality by the act of charity he is intending to do. But the Blessed Mother, as God often does, challenges him out of his comfort zone. Go see the Bishop, and, in essence, give him an order, a mandate.  

Now this doesn’t sound all that extraordinary to us because in our age we’ve grown up challenging authority. But put yourself in Juan Diego’s world. A young, uneducated, Indian boy. The native peoples were already mistrustful of these outsiders, these Spaniards. And there’s also the anxiety of not being able to complete what Juan Diego initially set out to do, namely to take care of his uncle. So this is a huge step of faith that the Blessed Mother is asking of Juan Diego. 

Here is where I think most people today fall short of the mark. God so often calls us out of our comfort zone. So often God gives us a vision, a mission, a mandate he wants us to do, and we don’t respond. I would say that the common sin in Americans right now, rooted in the sin of pride, is wanting spirituality on MY terms. I want to call fair and foul. I want to determine right and wrong. Therefore, we limit ourselves. We limit our charity. We limit our faith. And perhaps THIS is why we see our world in such a rapid deterioration. We don’t believe or trust these words from Isaiah, “I am the Lord your God, who grasps your right hand; It is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” 

Thankfully, Juan Diego did as he was told, but, as he probably expected, the Bishop thought he was nuts. Again, he tries to complete his original mission…HIS plan. Again, the Blessed Mother appears to him, even though he purposely took a route to avoid her. Now be honest. Haven’t we all done this? Haven’t we all tried to spiritually sabotage ourselves out of fear that God is going to ask us to do something we don’t want to do? So we commit an old favorite sin, or we act in a way that’s not fitting of a Christian, because we THINK we’re going to convince God that we’re not up to the task. But, really, we’re trying to convince ourselves not to try and not to trust. 

What I really love about the story is that Juan Diego’s weakness, Juan Diego’s fault, doesn’t hinder God’s plan. AGAIN the Blessed Mother appears to Juan Diego. But because she knows his concern, she assures Juan Diego that his uncle would be fine. Once more, Juan Diego had to trust that word. Therefore, our Lady sends Juan Diego back to the Bishop, this time with a gift, roses that bloomed in December. When they fall from his tilma, they leave on the tilma a perfect image of the vision of Our Lady that he saw. 

It is no coincidence I think, that Juan Diego’s Aztec name in English means “talking eagle.” He certainly was the deliverer of a lofty message. He’s a saintly example to all of us that the Lord will indeed grasp us by the hand and help us, if we but let him.  

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint:

Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Do not fear this sickness of your uncle or any other sickness, nor anything that is sharp or hurtful. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.

 

Our Lady’s Words to Juan Diego

Prayer:

Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Prayer Given by Jesus to Saint Faustina Kowalska

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Do you trust God? Why do you answer as you do?

  2. When have you felt that God was asking something of you that you felt you could not do? What was your response to the call? Do you wish you had responded differently?

  3. Have you prayed to God for something and not have received an answer? What has been your response?

  4. Think of a time when God broke into your well-planned day and completely changed your plans. What was your response?

  5. Discuss Fr. Sisco’s insight: the common sin in Americans right now, rooted in the sin of pride, is wanting spirituality on MY terms. I want to call fair and foul. I want to determine right and wrong. Therefore, we limit ourselves.

  6. How would following our plan instead of God’s limit ourselves?

  7. How can God use or get past our human weakness to achieve His Will?

  8. Discuss Our Lady’s words to Juan Diego?

  9. Why does Juan Diego deserve the title of saint?

  10. Discuss how God’s directives are seldom convenient or comfortable or well timed, from our point of view. Why do you suppose this is true?

  11. Discuss the quote from Isaiah. Do you feel that God is grasping your hand? Is He doing so, whether or not you feel it?

  12. How can we trust God more? Is it possible to trust God completely? What holds us back from trusting Him this way?

  13. How can you help others to trust God?

  14. Do you pray the prayer that Jesus gave to Saint Faustina? What might happen if you used it when you are under stress, in doubt, or grieving?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 322: Recognizing Legitimate Authority: A Reflection on 1 Corinthians 15: 1-8

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15: 1-8) 

In the early days of the Church, Saint Paul had to deal with a crucial problem that has arisen in ancient Corinth. Saint Paul says to the Corinthians, “I was resolved to preach only Jesus, and him crucified.” That basically sums up most of Paul’s preaching. All he preaches is the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All of the moral issues that Paul deals with are in relation to this. 

However, a problem arose. Some Christians in ancient Corinth were spreading the story, “Well, Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead. It was only a symbolic resurrection.” And this is why Paul’s language is so strong. He throws down a challenge to them. ‘Look, I saw the risen Christ, but don’t believe me. He was seen Peter, James, the other apostles, and five hundred people besides. Some of them have died, but many of them are still alive. If you don’t believe me, go and check my story with them!’ 

That’s bold, but Paul doesn’t want there to be any doubt about the gospel. Paul doesn’t want there to be any doubt about our salvation. And that’s the key. Our salvation hinges on the resurrection. If Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead, then Jesus was not the Messiah. And if Jesus was not the Messiah, we have not been redeemed. 

This also raises another good point about this passage. Note what Paul says in the beginning of this passage; “Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and in which you stand firm. You are being saved by it at this very moment if you retain it as I preached it to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain.” 

Some very important truths come out in this passage. First, it is belief in the authentic gospel that saves. Not a distorted or false gospel. 

Secondly, the authentic gospel comes from authentic authority. Paul is going to clash with lots of people throughout his ministry who take upon themselves, their own authority in the name of Jesus. The group of Corinthians that claimed Jesus didn’t bodily rise from the dead is only one of them. Paul clashes with the Gnostics. Paul clashes with the Judaisers. Paul clashes with all kinds of individuals and groups who assume their own authority in the name of Jesus. 

And what Paul keeps pointing out over and over is that the authentic gospel comes from authentic authority. Who is that authentic authority? The apostles that were commissioned by Jesus, and the bishops that were commissioned by the apostles to succeed them. That’s authentic authority. And that authentic authority continues to be handed down to the bishops through apostolic succession. That means that groups who pressure the Church into acquiescing to their political agendas--be that women’s ordination, or married priests, or whatever--are wrong! I don’t care how sympathetic you are to their cause. They’re wrong, because they don’t have authentic authority. Because they do not have authentic authority, the gospel they preach is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Finally, the last truth that comes out in this passage is that the gospel continually saves. The authentic gospel is active, and continues to save those who believe in it. Salvation is a process. Salvation takes time. And salvation happens when more and more of the gospel truth unfolds before us, as we listen to it, and pray about it, and hear it preached, and absorb it, and allow it to change our behavior. 

The crisis of our age is the crisis of recognizing legitimate authority. It is my prayer today for the whole world that everyone comes to embrace and accept the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote:

Men desire authority for its own sake that they may bear a rule, command and control other men, and live uncommanded and uncontrolled themselves. – Saint Thomas More

 

Prayer:

 

Heavenly Father, in these trying times when the spirit of the age threatens Christian values, give our bishop holiness of life and wisdom to direct and guide our (arch)diocesan family so that we may grow in your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Do you pray for your bishop? Should you begin to do so? Why?

  2. Discuss this statement: The crisis of our age is the crisis of recognizing legitimate authority.

  3. How should we deal with legitimate authority? With illegitimate authority?

  4. How can we tell if authority is legitimate or authentic?

  5. What should be our response to government leaders and policies that are in conflict with God’s laws?

  6. Discuss “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.”

  7. Discuss how all moral issues should be viewed in relation to Jesus’ message and His resurrection.

  8. What does the Resurrection prove about Jesus’ authority? What can we say to unbelievers who do not believe in Jesus?

  9. Give some examples of what happens when people follow authority that is not legitimate.

  • Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 323: The Link between Worship and Service: A Reflection on Hebrews 10:24-25 

“We must consider how to rouse each other to love and good deeds.  We should not absent ourselves from the assembly as some do, but encourage one another.”   (Hebrews 10: 24-25)

“We should not absent ourselves from the assembly as some do.” You see, even two thousand years ago the Catholic Church was having a problem with Mass attendance. The Catholic attitude from day one seems to have been, “I don’t have to go to Mass on Sunday.” 

The author of the letter to the Hebrew’s, Saint Paul’s letters, and Saint John’s writings, all carry this underlying theme of the importance of the community.  

Even in the other three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all of the evangelists stress the importance of the twelve. Jesus had hundreds, maybe thousands of disciples, but the twelve were set apart. The twelve were special.  Jesus separated them from the larger group. And throughout their three years together, Jesus tries to teach them, among other things, how to be a community.   

And the one consistent truth we see in all the gospels, and all the epistles, is that a community worships together, and serves one another. 

The author of the letter to the Hebrew’s stresses this several times, even in this small passage quoted above. Let’s look at that passage more closely. 

“We must consider how to rouse each other.” That’s service.

“…to love.” That’s worship.

 “…and good deeds.” That’s service again.

“We should not absent ourselves from the assembly.” Worship again.

“…but encourage one another.” Service again.

Worship and service must go together.  Anything less is lacking. 

How often I encounter the attitude, ‘You don’t have to go to church, at least not always. As long as you’re a good person, God will let you into heaven.’ What do they mean by ‘a good person’?  Basically, they mean service.  That is, as long as you’re a good person; as long as you give to the poor, as long as you’re nice to people, as long as you’re helpful, and pray privately, God will take you into heaven. 

But according to Scripture that’s not enough. Scripture stresses the importance of giving God worship with the assembly in the community. That attitude of “I don’t have to go to church as long as I am a good person” denies the spirit of the community. 

Likewise, I also encounter the opposite attitude. These are people who go to church all the time, even daily Mass, and who think that their Christian responsibility ends there. No, it doesn’t. That attitude says, “It’s just me and God because I have a personal relationship with Jesus.” It’s great that you have a personal relationship with Jesus, but you can’t deny your responsibility to the community. The attitude of “It’s just me and God” denies the body of the community. 

Just as we are made up of body and spirit, so is the mystical body of Christ.  Just as we have a responsibility to the health of our bodies, as well as our spiritual health, we have a responsibility to both the physical and spiritual health of the mystical body, so worship and service must be linked. 

Now we all know Catholics who don’t go to Church anymore. Sometimes all people are waiting for is an invitation. Some people have simply forgotten their responsibility. 

Three things happen when we come to Mass; first, we give God his rights. God has the right to be worshipped.  God has the right to be acknowledged publicly.  Second, we are nourished with Grace through the sacraments. Third, we are strengthened by the community. 

Let’s commit ourselves to reaching out to one inactive Catholic this week, and invite him or her back to Church. Don’t be surprised if they blow you off, or get on their soap box and preach about why they don’t go to Church anymore. But a few just might accept the invitation. It is my prayer for all of us today that we always rouse one another to love and good deeds. 

And Blessed Be God forever!  

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint:

Faith in action is love, and love in action is service. – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Prayer:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of the Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians, and the intentions of our Holy Father, the Pope. Amen. (Morning Offering)

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Discuss the quote from St. Mother Teresa.

  2. Do you make a Morning Offering? Should you? How do worship and service play a role in the Morning Offering?

  3. Did you ever try to rouse someone to good deeds? What was the result? If it was not successful, what might you have done differently? If it was successful, what do you think caused the success?

  4. What do you say when someone says they believe in God but don’t go to church?

  5. What is your response to someone who says, “I believe in God, but I’m not religious”?

  6. Why is it important to attend Mass at least every Sunday?

  7. What role does community play in our faith?

  8. How does your parish support you in your faith journey? How does it lead you in the journey?

  9. Discuss this phrase: that a community worships together, and serves one another. 

  10. How can we strengthen our parish community?

  11. How can you invite an inactive Catholic back to Mass? What techniques might work? How should we respond if the person does not respond?

  12. What role does patience play in evangelization?

  13. Discuss the three things that happen when people go to Mass. Which is most important, do you think? Why?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 324: Angels: God’s Gift: A Reflection on Matthew 18:10

Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

It is so difficult to write about the angels, because there is so little we know about them from Scripture. There’s plenty of information based on private revelation and popular piety, but I try to stay away from those things on the pulpit. 

What do we know about them from Scripture? First, we know they exist. Scripture makes several references to angels, good and bad.

Second, we know they have functions. Angels have different responsibilities. Some are healers. Some are protectors. Some are messengers. Some are guides. 

Third, we know they all answer to God, even the fallen angels. In the beginning of the book of Job, the angels all have to report to the Lord, and the devil has to get permission to tempt Job. Even the devil, a fallen angel, cannot act entirely independently. One thing is very clear in Scripture--the angels are subservient to God. 

We also know that angels are not physical beings, but like God, are pure spirits. When the Pharisee’s try to trip Jesus up by asking him a question about marriage and whose wife would a widow be who had married several husbands in the course of her life, Jesus responds by telling them that people do not take husbands and wives in heaven but live like the angels. Marriage belongs to the world of physical reality, not spiritual. 

Finally, we know that an angel is given to each soul, to pray for and to guide him or her. This truth we have revealed in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says, “See that you never despise one of these little ones. I assure you, their angels constantly behold my Father’s face in heaven.” (Matthew 18: 10) 

Jesus uses the possessive pronoun, “their,” in reference to our relationship with these angels. They have been given to us. They are a gift to us from God.

We, for our part, are called to imitate the angels. 

The most endearing characteristic of the holy angels is that they immediately and completely do the will of God. So, angels are given to us to protect us from demonic spirits and pray for our growth in holiness, and we in turn strive to imitate them in the way they respond to God, because they respond to God perfectly. 

It is so sad that we reduce angels to greeting card images of angels sitting on clouds with harps. It’s sad that we trivialize angels. We really don’t give them much thought at all. The angels are valuable allies whom God has given in our struggle to be free from the corruption of the world. Let’s make use of these allies then. 

It’s a good practice to form a relationship with our guardian angels. How do we do that?

Pray to them. Every morning, ask your guardian angel to watch over your day. Give your guardian angel permission to interfere with your day, to keep you on the straight and narrow path. 

Another way to form a relationship with your angel is to invite your angel to pray with you. If it’s the job of these angels to pray and protect, how much more power can we add to our petitions by asking our angels to join us in our prayers when we say our rosaries, novenas, and meditations. 

And the third way to make use of your guardian angel is to ask your angel to show you what areas of your life need improving. Your guardian angel knows you better than you know yourself. This is logical since he’s been watching you from your birth. And since your angel knows you so well, and your angel sees the throne of God constantly, who better to ask for help in bringing you to that place? 

My brothers and sisters, let us thank God today for his many gifts, but especially today for his gift of angels.

And blessed be God forever! 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: "Since God often sends us his inspirations by means of his angels, we ought frequently to offer him our aspirations through the same channel. ... Call on them and honor them frequently, and ask their help in all your affairs, temporal as well as spiritual." - St. Francis de Sales

Prayer: Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. From sinful stain, keep me free, and in death’s hour, my helper be. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What truths about angels do we know from Scripture?

  2. Why did God make angels? What functions do angels serve?

  3. How are devils and angels similar? How are they different?

  4. Do you pray to your guardian angel? Why or why not?

  5. Do you ever ask your guardian angel to pray with you? Why or why not?

  6. Have you ever asked your guardian angel to show you how to improve? Why or why not?

  7. Might it be smart to ask our guardian angel to teach us what to pray for and how to pray more effectively?

  8. Do you ask the angels to bring your petitions to God?

  9. Name some angelic appearances in Scripture and tell what each of these reveal about God’s relationship to humanity and the role of angels in God’s plan.

  10. What do angels teach us about following God’s Will?

  11. Discuss this statement: “we know they [angels] all answer to God, even the fallen angels.”

  12. How can we explain angels to someone who does not believe in their existence?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 325:  A Heart Fixed Entirely Upon God:  A Reflection on Matthew 5:22


“Whoever says to his brother ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘you fool’ will be liable to the fiery Gahanna.” (Matthew 5:22)

You know, this reading comes up every year on the Friday of the first week of Lent.  Every year I preach on this reading and every year I say the same thing:   I’m DOOMED!  Jesus is telling us here that using disdainful language towards others carries the same punishment as killing them!  And my mouth is one of those last spiritual frontiers I have left to conquer.

 In reference to liturgists, they just changed the rite of marriage for this year, and when I read it, what did I say?  “Idiots!  These guys spent too long working behind a desk in the chancery and have no idea what life is like out in the parish!” In fact, half the mail I open from the chancery I react, “morons!”  I’m sinning!  

The word Raqa in Hebrew is the equivalent to calling someone a block head, a simpleton, a moron. And heck, when I’m driving on Route 95 I say a whole lot worse than that to my fellow travelers!  “Look at this IDIOT!  Get off the (expletive) phone, and get out of the (expletive) passing lane!”  And so I say again, I’m DOOMED!  I keep confessing it.  I keep praying against it.  I try to catch myself before I do it. But come on, Jesus, you gotta admit that killing someone is a whole lot worse than calling them a bad name!  WHY is this such a big deal?  
 
 Because it says that even though I do lots of good deeds, even though I work hard for the parish and by extension the kingdom of God, even though I may be for the most part a really great person, my heart still doesn’t belong to the Lord.  The mouth goes where the heart is, and so if my mouth is going to these places, I haven’t fully given my heart to God, and that is a big, big problem. Because we’ll never truly experience peace until we give our hearts to God. Not giving our hearts to God means that, on some level, we still don’t trust God. And not giving our hearts to God means that we’re still too attached to things of this world.

 The reason why Jesus was so successful, the reason why Jesus could keep his peace in the midst of terrible frustration and suffering, was because he always had his eyes on the Father. And there’s another indication that my heart is not fully with God. When I’m frustrated, when I’m angry or upset, where do I go?  What’s my happy place?  Do you have a happy place?   A daydream, a pleasant place in your mind that calms you? My happy place is on a sailboat, somewhere warm, like the Florida Keys, or the Caribbean, or the South Pacific, ALONE!  ALL ALONE! Now some say that’s just a harmless daydream, but where does that in any way glorify God?  How does that help build up kingdom, or save lost souls? My heart is not entirely with God. If it were, my happy place would be Jesus, and meditating on him, and heaven, and holy things.  If my heart were completely with Jesus, those would be the thoughts that bring me peace. So in my spiritual life I still have lots of work to do. You can also gauge how much spiritual work you have to do by observing your language. Because the mouth always goes where the heart is.

- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint:  “The man of impure speech is a person whose lips are but an opening and a supply pipe which hell uses to vomit its impurities upon the earth.”  - St. John Vianney  

Prayer from a Saint:  “Set a guard, LORD, before my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.” - Psalm 141:3, King David

Questions for Reflection:

1.    According to today’s Scripture, saying a word against your brother is a grave sin.  In fact, Father goes on to teach that this sin of the tongue carries the same punishment as actually killing your brother.  Does this seem harsh?  Why do you think sinning in this way is such a grave sin?   What does Father say about this?  Discuss.

2.    Where do you go when you are upset or angry?  Do you automatically go to God in prayer?  Or do you go someplace else?  Discuss.

3.    In James 1:26 we read that, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is in vain.”  What is meant here by bridling one’s tongue?  How might you work towards this in your life?

4.    Do you struggle with any of the “sins of the tongue” in your life?  If so, what steps can you think of that might help you to begin to weed this sin out of your heart?

5.    Oftentimes, sins of the tongue can be habitual actions.  One excellent method of training yourself not to sin by your speech is to pray three Our Fathers when you become aware that you have sinned by your speech.  What other actions would be helpful in stemming the habit of bad speech in your life?  Are you willing to begin using one of these actions/methods to help eradicate this sin from your life?

6.    Father teaches that, even if we do lots of good deeds, our hearts can be far away from the Father.  What types of things can keep us from being close to Our Heavenly Father?  How might you ensure that your heart is close to God?

7.    In the book of James, the tongue is portrayed as a rudder of a ship and a bit in a horse’s mouth.  A rudder steers a ship, determining where it will go.  Similarly, a horse’s bit helps control him.  Father says that the mouth always goes where the heart is.  Can you see how our words, whether good or evil, can determine our course?  

8.    A good way to help to curb a sin in one’s life is to begin to practice the corresponding virtue.  In order to stop sinning in the area of speech, one can adopt the habit or virtue of speaking kind and true words, rather than harsh words.  Spend some time thinking about how you might use the virtue of good and kind speech to counteract the sin of harsh speech.

9.    The Bible teaches us that if we draw near to God, that He will draw near to us.  What can you begin to do over the next few weeks to draw nearer to God?

    Kimberly Lohman

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 326: Voicing Complaints: A Reflection on Jeremiah 18: 18-20

 

The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said, "Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah.
It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word."

Heed me, O LORD, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them. (Jeremiah 18: 18-20)

 

Today the prophet Jeremiah is complaining about his situation. “No one likes me. Everyone is trying to kill me.  I’m being punished for doing what’s right.”

 

But a couple of things separate Jeremiah from the rest of us. The first thing is that all of these things really ARE happening to Jeremiah! Everyone really IS trying to kill him, no one likes him, and he is being punished by doing what is right and speaking the word of the Lord. When we’re feeling this way, it’s usually not as bad as all that, although it can feel like it.

 

The second thing that separates Jeremiah from most of us is who he complains to…GOD! Jeremiah takes his issues to the Lord and places the situation before him. Most people have a tendency to complain to everybody else except God. Or if we do take it to God, it’s to blame him for our current situation. “See, I did what I was supposed to do and now everyone is mad at me.  This is all your fault, God!”

 

Thirdly, Jeremiah prays to the Lord for protection. That’s another thing I think many Catholics neglect. We should always ask God for protection. I always ask God to protect me, and protect the parish. We’re good at asking God for stuff, ‘Lord make me successful; Lord help me find a job; Lord please let me win the lottery; Lord make it possible for me to date or marry this person.’  But how often do we ask God to protect us? ‘Lord protect me and my family from evil; Lord, protect me from temptation; Lord protect me from MYSELF, and my own unholy desires! If anything I ask you for is in conflict with your plan for me, DON’T give it to me!’

 

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies…like James and John. Without really considering what was involved, the apostles James and John had their mother ask Jesus, “Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom." In other words, “When you come into your glory, let us sit on your left and right.” That must have sounded pretty cool when they thought about it. However, they had no idea what Jesus would have to go through to come into his glory. So, they had no idea what would be involved to be able to sit on his left and right. The request is completely selfish.  It doesn’t glorify God, and it doesn’t benefit anyone else.

 

So often we do the same thing.  We make selfish requests of God without realizing the cost. So, we should also always ask God to protect us from our own selfish desires. 

 

Finally Jesus had a reason for telling us to pray for our enemies. Praying for those who oppose us for whatever reason can be a powerful act of conversion, not only for them but also for us. Praying for our enemies opens our hearts completely to the love of God and, with that, to the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Brothers and sisters, I pray today that we model our prayers after the prophet Jeremiah.

 

And blessed be God forever,

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few.” – St. Teresa of Avila’s words to God when she suffered a difficulty.

 

Prayer: Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;

My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.

For my life is spent with sorrow

And my years with sighing;

My strength has failed because of my iniquity,

And my body has wasted away.

Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach,

Especially to my neighbors,

And an object of dread to my acquaintances;

Those who see me in the street flee from me.

I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind;

I am like a broken vessel.

For I have heard the slander of many,

Terror is on every side;

While they took counsel together against me,

They schemed to take away my life.

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,

I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in Your hand. (Psalm 31: 9-15)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1.       Do you ever complain to God? Do you think it is respectful to complain to God?

2.       Write a prayer about a complaint you currently have. Use Psalm 31 as an example.

3.       Do you ever feel like St. Teresa of Avila, questioning why God at times treats those who love and serve Him so badly? Why do you think God does this?

4.       Jeremiah’s complaints were based on what was actually happening. Do you ever complain about things that may happen but haven’t happened yet? What is the result of that to your spirit?

5.       Jeremiah complained because he knew that his life was in danger. So, he asked God for protection. Do you think to ask God for the answer to your complaints?

6.       Do you ever ask God to protect you and your family?

7.       Have you ever had the experience of asking for something that was not granted and complaining about that, then later realizing that what you asked for wasn’t good for you?

8.       Have you ever prayed for something, had it granted, and then found that it was not what you expected?

9.       Father Sisco notes that “Jeremiah prays for those people who are making his life miserable!” Do you do that? What might be the result if you did?

10.   Who do you consult if you need advice? Have you been able to find help? Do you ever turn to prayer?

11.   To whom do you go if you need to vent? How understanding is that person? Do you ever vent to God?

12.   How can the psalms show us what to do with our complaints?

13.   Jeremiah complained that he was being punished for doing what was right. Has this ever been your experience? Why is this especially difficult to handle? Can you think of any current situations where people are being punished for doing what is right?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 327: Touching God: A Reflection on Mark 2: 1-12 

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.

They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”

Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” –he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once,  and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (Mark 2: 1-12)

“Father Knows Best.” I have a vague recollection of that show in the early seventies. It was sandwiched between “My Three Sons” and “Leave it To Beaver.” And I think the plot was almost always the same; there was always some little family problem, actually a minuscule problem by 21st century standards; and Dad always had the right solution, the right answer, the right thing to say, and all family crises were resolved in thirty minutes, including commercials.

I often wonder what that paralytic’s reaction was when Jesus told him his sins were forgiven. If he was anything like me, his reaction would have been, “Oh crud! I’m hot, I’m tired. My friends come and tell me about a miracle worker who can make me walk. They carry me from another village. We can’t get in. They hoist me on the roof and cut a hole in the roof to lower me down. He’s walking over. I think to myself, ‘This is it!’ And he tells me my sins are forgiven.”  

We don’t deal with disappointment well. That’s because we’re always trying to inflict our plan on God, instead of trying to find out what God’s plan is for us. The Pharisees are a classic example. They knew what THEY wanted in a Messiah. They had THEIR plan. But Jesus didn’t meet their qualifications, even after he proves over and over again that he MUST be from God.  

And so often we are no different. We still want things our way. I was all ready to be ordained a priest on May 31st 1997. Plans were made. A month before the ceremony I got a call from the vocations director. He said, “Mike, I don’t how to tell you this, but the date of the ordination has been changed to June14th.” My reaction, “Oh crud!” On the outside I was smiling, “That’s OK, Father. A-Ha Ha. I understand. A-ha ha. These things happen. Ha Ha Ha.” But in my mind, I was having less charitable thoughts. And what was I worried about; rebooking a hall, a photographer? Little stuff, not worth getting upset about. But we get upset with disappointment. 

Jesus knew what he was doing when he first told that paralytic his sins were forgiven. Because that was the real miracle. What is there in healing the body? Let’s be honest. Is there any one of us who can claim their body has no defects? Aren’t we always too fat, too thin, too tall, too short? We paint the face, and color the hair, read up on Rogaine so we can get back our receding hairline. We buy the latest miracle diets, call Jenny Craig, renew memberships at the gym.  

In a previous assignment, I visited a beautiful eighteen year old girl, a parishioner where I was stationed, who was in Rhode Island Hospital, -- for anorexia. I visited this same young lady that previous summer for the same thing. She thought she was too fat for the world, too fat for her friends, too fat to attract a boyfriend, and she was a beautiful, beautiful young woman.  

I remember a statistic from about ten years ago. It said that, in that particular year, teenage girls spent an excess of 80 billion dollars on cosmetics and cosmetic surgery, and the bulk of that money was spent on breast augmentation. Teenage girls! Shame on us! We teach our girls the most important thing is to look sexy. We teach our boys to use steroids to enhance their bodies because the most important thing for boys is to win. Girls have to look hot, and boys have to win. That’s what makes you worth anything in our culture today. Look at what our obsession with the body has driven our children to! 

What is healing a defect in the body, compared to bringing a dead soul to life? You tell me what the real miracle was! Our Church abounds with miracles! You don’t have to go to Medjugorje! You don’t have to see apparitions! You want to see a miracle? Receive communion. Go to confession. Witness a baptism. These are miracles, because they bring life to the soul. The body is almost trivial by comparison. Yet whenever we have a little ache or pain, whenever we have a little disappointment, we moan, never considering that maybe God is trying to use that tiny suffering to bring a soul to him.  

Jesus did heal the paralytic’s body, but first he healed his soul, because that was more important. So instead of complaining when we have to endure our little crosses, why don’t we resolve to offer our sufferings, trials and disappointments to the Lord, to help bring about his plan, because truly, our eternal Father knows best.  

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: “I wasn’t able to give this suffering to Jesus right away. It took a little time to recover.” – Blessed Chiara Luce Badano

Prayer: Dear Father, How my heart aches as I bow before you. I thought I knew best, but it didn’t happen that way. Now I feel so disappointed. In the situation… In the outcome… In life. Negative thoughts are swarming my mind; I need trust in your plan to replace them. Weakness engulfs my spirit; I need you to flood it with strength. Joy has been hijacked from my heart; I need filled as only you can. May praise return to my lips for you never disappoint. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Remember a time when you were disappointed. What were your emotions? What was your response? What was your relationship with God like at that time?

  2. Would you consider yourself disappointed now? Why or why not?

  3. How is God working in your life right now?

  4. How did God work through your disappointment?

  5. Discuss the quote by Blessed Chiara Luce Badano. Blessed Chiara died from cancer at the age of almost 19. How can you apply her thoughts to your life?

  6. Father Sisco discusses Christ healing the soul of the paralyzed man. Did Christ heal your soul through your disappointment? Why do you respond as you do?

  7. How can you encourage someone who is going through a period of disappointment?

  8. Father Sisco discusses miracles all around us. What miracles in addition to his can you name?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 328: Overcoming Jealousy: A Reflection on Genesis 37 

 

(Read Genesis 37 before beginning this reflection.)

 

Jealousy is a dangerous sin, because jealousy can lead us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. Jealousy leads us to compromise our own values, because we want what someone else has, because we’re afraid of not being able to keep up with the Joneses. 

 

Joseph had ten older brothers, and the ten brothers grow jealous of Joseph because he was daddy’s favorite, because Joseph was the child of Jacob’s old age, and because Joseph was the eldest son born of his second wife, Rebecca.

 

Jacob had also married Rebecca’s older sister, but that was out of obligation. Rebecca was the woman he really loved, and finally, after years of being barren, she bore him a son, Joseph, and it was obvious Jacob favored Joseph over all his other sons, even to go as far as to make his son a coat of many colors, obviously a mark of distinction and authority over his brothers.  The coat is really the last straw. 

 

The jealousy and resentment boils over into this murder plot to kill Joseph, but when they see a caravan travelling to Egypt, the other brothers figure, well, opportunity knocks, and they sell their brother as a slave. 

 

But what results from this?  Nothing goes right for any of the brothers after that. They make up a story that Joseph was killed and eaten by a wild beast to tell their father, and they have to deal with Jacob’s grief, who sobs over the loss of Joseph almost every day. 

 

They encounter misfortune after misfortune and they blame it all on the fact that they betrayed their own blood. So even though they thought their lives would be so much better without Joseph, even though they thought they would get the attention and the esteem from their father that Joseph had, even though they thought the silver they got by selling Joseph would make them happy, none of it happens. The only thing their jealousy brings them is more misery. 

 

The tenant farmers in the parable Jesus tells are jealous of the landowner. They want his vineyard, but they didn’t work for it.  The landowner did. It was the landowner who prepared the soil, and put up the hedge and the tower. It was the landowner who made the investment of time and money. But their jealousy blinds them into thinking they’re entitled to something they’re not. 

 

That’s what jealousy does.  Jealousy tricks us into thinking we’re entitled to things that other people have. I saw a meme once on Facebook, “Newsflash, the world doesn’t owe you anything.”  That’s not entirely true.  What does the world owe us? We owe each other justice.  People have a right to what they have earned. People have a right to make their own choices. People have a right to live in peace. People have the right to survive; they have the right to be protected from aggression. And if that can’t be provided by a valid authority, then people have the right to protect themselves. People have a right to work.  We have a right to make a living. And aside from justice, we also owe each other the dignity of being children of God. 

 

No matter how rich or poor, educated or not, healthy or handicapped, elderly or in the womb, religious or atheist, everyone has the right to have their sacredness acknowledged and respected.   Beyond THAT, the world doesn’t owe us anything. Beyond THAT, you do not have a right to what your neighbor has. So how do you protect yourself from jealousy?  By giving thanks to God every day for what you DO have. 

 

An old proverb says, “I used to cry that I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.” There’s always something to be thankful for.  Make a list. Physically write down everything you can think of to thank God for, and don’t forget to put on that list that you’re alive another day to make that list. Take your time with it.  Put it down for a while and come back to it again. And I’m betting, when you’re done, after you see the length of your list, you’re going to realize how much God has really given you, and there won’t be room in your heart for jealousy. 

 

- Father Michael Anthony Sisco 

 

Quote from a Saint: Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius. – Venerable Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen 

 

Prayer from a Saint: Loving Father, forgive me for my feelings of jealousy which I know are not righteous and very detrimental to my well-being, my health and my relationships. Keep me from looking at the attributes and achievements of others and wishing I had their gifts and graces. Help me, Lord, to develop an attitude of contentment and peace, which I know only comes from You. Lord, sometimes my stupid jealousy has caused rifts between dear friends and me – and even has contributed to problems with my own family.. and this desire to have what belongs to others – or to enjoy the popularity and charisma that others seem to have, has become at times so stifling that I don’t know which way to turn – and I know that this is not Your will for my life. Forgive me for my jealousies and help me to develop an attitude of gratitude for all that I am and all that I have. And Lord, I pray that You would give me the grace to change my thoughts from those of envy and jealousy to right thinking and pure thoughts. Lord, I know that it says in scripture to think about whatever is true, and good, whatever is right and pure, whatever is lovely and admirable, and whatever is excellent and praiseworthy and to fix my mind on such things. Amen. – St. Therese of Liseaux 

 

Questions for Reflection: 

1.       Jealousy is something most of us have experienced at one time or another. Take a few minutes and think back to the last time you experienced jealousy. Why were you jealous? How did you react? Were you able to overcome it? If so, how?

2.       The scriptures teach us that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice (James 3:16). In today’s story of Joseph and his brothers, what sins did the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers lead to? 

3.       After the brothers sold Joseph into slavery, did their father, Jacob, love them any more? Did their lives become better or worse? Explain.

4.       Do you think that it is even easier to fall into the sin of jealousy in our day than it was in the time of Joseph? Why or why not? Explain. 

5.       Do you ever find yourself trying to “keep up with the Joneses?” What part do you think the internet and, in particular, social media play into this? 

6.       According to the Parable of the Landowner, jealousy can cause us to believe that we are entitled to something that we haven’t worked for. Have you ever felt this way? If you have children, has any of them ever exhibited this sense of entitlement? What did you do to help counteract this? 

7.       Go over the list of rights Father teaches that we each have by the very virtue of our human dignity. Is there anything you think could be added to this list? 

8.       For every vice, there is a corresponding virtue that can remedy it. What is the virtue to remedy jealousy? 

9.       Father suggests listing everything that you are thankful for as a remedy for jealousy. Are you willing to try this? How about spending a little time each day over the next week to create such a list? You can even get a little notebook and begin a gratitude journal. The rewards will be well worth the effort! 

-Kimberly Lohman 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 329: Loving God: A Reflection on Luke 10:27

“The greatest commandment is this; ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Luke 10:27) 

Now I’ve preached on this many times. And in one homily I gave on this passage, I broke down this statement that Jesus makes into practical points on how to love God. 

How do we love God with all of our heart? Through the sacraments, because the sacraments exist precisely to form us in love. 

How do we love God with all of our soul? Through prayer, because in prayer we surrender our will to God’s will. (Or we should be doing that anyway.) 

How do we love God with all of our mind? Through reading and studying scripture, because scripture is where God shapes our minds to His. We get inside God’s head through scripture. 

And how do we love God with all of our strength? Through fasting, because, like exercise develops physical strength, fasting develops spiritual strength through discipline.  

But today I want to deal with ‘why?’ Why should we be committed to loving God so completely as Jesus says here? Well, because we can’t go to heaven otherwise. Maybe. But even if that is the case, it’s not a good reason. 

Real love can never be motivated by fear of punishment or promise of reward. And Jesus is talking here about real love. So, what should our motivation be? 

We should love God all of these ways because God has loved us all of these ways. 

God has loved us with His whole heart. He did this through His blood that flowed from the cross, which gives the sacraments their power. The sacraments could not exist if it were not for God’s sacrificial love on Calvary. 

God has loved us with his whole soul, through the Resurrection. The Resurrection was not for Jesus’ benefit. It was for ours. If there had been no Resurrection, Jesus, being the Word incarnate, still would have ascended back to the Father to inherit his Father’s kingdom. But in the Resurrection, Jesus gives us His soul, to make it possible for our souls to be elevated to Him. In the resurrection, Jesus has now paved a road to eternity that we can follow when our bodies die. 

God loves us with Hs whole mind, because, if He didn’t, we wouldn’t exist. We only exist because God constantly has us in the forefront of His mind. If God were to stop thinking of us, even for an instant, (POOF!), we would cease to exist. And it’s staggering to meditate on--that God has every element, every living thing, every soul that has been and every soul that hasn’t even been born yet until the end of time, actively in the forefront of His mind, at once. You want to be blown away? Meditate on that one for a while. 

 

And God loves us with his whole strength by sending us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the active force of God, that strengthens us in our weakness. God loves us with all His strength by sending the Spirit of His love to give us strength. 

And that, my brothers and sisters, is why we should love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Because God has loved us all of these ways and perfectly, first. May we all live, breathe, and exist, by His example. 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the Will of God.” – Saint John Paul II

 

Prayer: God, I praise you for the victory that awaits in the situation that I am facing today. Lord, I love you!

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1.      What did Jesus say is the greatest commandment? Why did he liken the second to it? Discuss how these two commandments are really one. Is it possible to keep one and not the other?

2.      Can atheists truly love their neighbor as themselves? Discuss.

3.      Why does loving God with all our heart involve the sacraments?

4.      Why does loving God with all our heart involve the soul?

5.      Why does loving God with all our mind involve reading and meditating on Scripture?

6.      Why does loving God with all our strength involve fasting?

7.      How does God love us with all His Heart?

8.      How does God love us with all His Soul?

9.      How does God love us with all His Mind?

10.  How does God love us with all His Strength?

11.  Why does God love us at all?

12.  Why does St. John the Evangelist say that God is Love?

13.  Discuss the quote from Pope Saint John Paul II.

14.  Discuss the prayer.

15.  Where is love strongest in your life?

16.  Where is it weakest?

17.  How can you reinforce the strengths and shore up the weaknesses?

18.  Is it important to love? Why or why not?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 330: Whose Glory Are We Seeking? A Reflection on Ecclesiastes 1

“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity....” So bemoans Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes 1.

 

I have two words for Qoheleth, the author of this text. ‘Lighten up!’  

Qoheleth is struggling with the meaning of life. In this passage, he seems to be saying, “What’s the use?” Well, we should work hard, but for what? When we die someone else takes what we worked so hard for. Nothing ever changes. The river tries to fill the sea, but in vain. The sea never fills. When something new is discovered, we find that it is really something old. What’s the use? Qoheleth can sound pessimistic, jaded, and cynical. But what Qoheleth will come to realize in his reflection, is that there is only one constant in the universe, and that constant is God. God remains faithful. God is trustworthy. God is reliable. 

God desperately tried to communicate that idea to so many people. The Old and New Testaments are replete with God attempting to let people know that they can trust Him and depend on Him. Let’s take just one example. Herod the Tetrarch who had John the Baptist beheaded because John spoke against his illicit marriage with Herodius. Actually, Herod didn’t want to kill John. His wife did, so she tricked him into John’s execution by having her daughter do an erotic, seductive dance to win his favor at his birthday celebration. When the drunken king offered to give the girl whatever she wanted, up to half his kingdom (he must have been really soused), her mother told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. The girl added her own touch to the request by asking for it “on a dish.” Maybe she was afraid the executioner would bring in the head and dump it into her lap.  

Consider this scenario. What is Herod’s problem? He’s ruled by his flesh. He’s consumed by the pleasures of this world, and that blinds him to God. Herod killed John while God was trying to say to him, “You see, Herod, despite your power and corruption, you cannot stop me. I will have my way. My plan will be done.”  

Herod is given so many opportunities to convert his life and be saved by God, but he misses them all. I find him one of three tragic figures of the Gospels. The other two are Pilate and Judas Iscariot. The Scriptures say that Herod was fascinated by John’s preaching, and that John’s words spoke to his heart, but, because Herod is ruled by his flesh, his flesh wins the struggle.  

The Gospel tells us that Herod was ‘anxious’ to see Jesus. Could this be the possibility of a conversion? Could this be another chance for Herod to change his life? Herod doesn’t seek Jesus out. Jesus will come to him. When Jesus is arrested initially, Pilate doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, so he sends Jesus to Herod. The Scriptures say that Herod was pleased, because ‘he was hoping that Jesus would work some miracle for him,’ and disappointed when He doesn’t do it, so Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. Herod blew it again. God gave him an opportunity of conversion, but he misses it because he wants to be entertained. He’s still ruled by his flesh. 

What about us? Are we so consumed by the world that we miss opportunities of conversion in our daily lives? Do we miss the little things that Jesus tries to show us, because we can’t see anything beyond the moment; the present situation? Are our lives all about how I feel, what I want, my agenda? Are we chasing vanities, as Qoheleth put it? Are we seeking God’s glory or our own? That’s an important question.

Sometimes we can do things in the name of God, but really, it’s our own glory that we’re seeking. We should bring this thought to God in prayer so that we can discern our motives. Prayer should help us reflect on our lives. We pray for God to give us the grace to conform ourselves to Him.  

Let’s examine our lives today and ask ourselves, “Am I more a Herod, always seeking to satisfy myself, always putting my needs first? Or am I more a Qoheleth, who comes to the conclusion that, rather than doing good for others, I should do good things to others for the Lord?” True peace lies in journeying to be recreated in God’s image and not in trying to create God in our image. 

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote:

 

Dilemma of a Modern Christian:
We know enough words to make us Argumentative, but not enough to help ourselves Change.
We have enough Knowledge to make us Religious, but not enough to make us Godly.
We have enough Reasons for being Critical about others, but never enough to be Compassionate.
We have enough Wisdom to say that we are Right, but never enough to say "God, I'm Sorry".
We have enough Friends who leads us astray, but never enough who build us Spiritually.
We have enough Talents to score points over others, but never enough to Serve one another.
We have enough Achievements to fill ourselves with Self-Glory, but not enough to make us Holy.
We have enough Time to attend all our Needs, but never enough to Seek God in Worship.
 

Prayer: God please help us to have enough but even more than enough to please You in all the ways of our life. (prayer and quote by Santosh Thankachan)

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1.       Qoheleth struggles with the meaning of life. What do you feel is the meaning of life?

2.       Read Ecclesiastes 1. What various things are mentioned as vanity?

3.       Other than meaning a “dresser for clothing,” vanity has two meanings: “excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements” and “the quality of being worthless or futile.” How do both of these relate to the word “vanity” as used in Ecclesiastes?

4.       What evidence does Scripture present to justify Fr. Sisco’s conclusion that Herod was ruled by the flesh? How can you tell what role the flesh plays in your own life?

5.       What evidence does Scripture provide that shows a conversion of heart in Qoheleth?

6.       Read the above Dilemma of a Modern Christian. Do any of these lines resonate with you? Take the Dilemma line by line and discuss how we can correct faults pointed out.

7.       Evaluate what you “do” for God. Is it for God or is it for your own glory? How can you tell the difference? If you are doing things more to be noticed and approved by others, what can you do to change yourself? Where does prayer fit in here? What virtues should you pray for?

8.       Fr. Sisco mentions God trying to communicate with His people. How is God trying to communicate with the world today? How is He trying to communicate with you? What is your personal response?

9.       Herod was “anxious” to see Jesus. Have you ever been anxious to see someone? Did that person fulfill your expectations? How did you feel about that? What should be our response if someone does not live up to our expectations?

10.   Who do you seek to satisfy in the following areas: Food? Clothing? Shelter? Faith practices? Charity toward others? Job? Parenting? Caring for parents? Church activities? Does anything need to change in who you are satisfying?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

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