Weeks 351-360

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 351: The End of the World: A Reflection on Matthew 9: 1-8 

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’4Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. (Matthew 24: 3-8)

The end. We don’t like to think about “the end,” but we ought to.  

In the book of Revelation, John describes an apocalyptic battle between the devil and Saint Michael, in which Saint Michael, finally victorious, hurls the devil into the abyss and locks it shut. Then Revelation describes the dead rising from their graves and the souls in purgatory being released. Jesus also spoke several times about the end and urged us to be ready for the end.

Before we consider new beginnings, the new life, the dawn of redemption that we meditate on in the birth of Christ, we must first consider the end.

Hollywood and tabloid magazines have made lots of money off our belief in the end. I think in my lifetime the world should have ended four or five times now. Y2K in the year 2000. Nostradamus enthusiasts have predicted the end of the world on at least three occasions that I remember. Then there was the Mayan calendar which ran out in 2012. Funny, the Mayan’s were annihilated by the Aztec tribe long before Columbus ever sailed to this hemisphere. Whoever trusted the Mayans with the secret of  the end of the world neglected to tell them that their end would be occurring a whole lot sooner.

There is something that about the end that frightens us. Why? Why should we fear the end? I don’t. In fact, I can’t wait for the end! I wish the Mayans had been right! No more pain, suffering, problems, paying taxes--you BET I’m ready for the end!

I remember when everyone was predicting that the world would end in the year 2000. Then Father Benedict Groeschell quipped with his typical Irish wit, “For those of us who live in the pearl of Western Civilization known as the South Bronx, we’re saying, ‘Could you manage to speed it ahead another six months?' Father Benedict said the apocalypse could occur, and no one where he lived would know the difference. That’s just a typical day in the South Bronx.

So why do we fear the end? I think it’s because we fear change. We like predictability. We like to see what’s coming down the road well in advance.

We fear the end because we as human beings can be incredibly short sighted. We think ONLY in earthly terms and earthly rewards. On one level this is natural, because how we face life is based on the culmination of our experiences. As we experience things in life we grow, we adapt, and our outlook changes. Since religion is based on faith, and faith is what we cannot see, cannot prove, cannot experience first hand, belief in God becomes a real challenge. Even when someone has a conversion moment, or an experience of God that changes their lives, later on there’s always room for some doubt. “Did I REALLY experience that, or was it just my imagination?”

This is why the beatitudes are at the core of the Christian faith. This is why we should pray and meditate on the beatitudes, because the beatitudes detach us from things of this world and focus us on the next. And the more focused we become on the next world, the more tangible it becomes. This is why we should practice the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy at every opportunity, because the works of mercy take our focus off ourselves and put it on God, the source of all mercy. And the more focused we become on God, the more tangible He becomes. This is why we need to partake of sacramental Grace as often as we can, especially in the Eucharist and in confession, because these sacraments break the power of sin in us. And the more focused on Grace we are, the more tangible personal holiness becomes.

When people are all upset or afraid about when the end of the world will be, it’s a sign of a lack of faith, or weak faith. Because even if you knew when the end of the world would be, like the Mayans, you still don’t know when YOUR end will be. Any one of us could step off a curb into the street and in an instant BAM! The end. If it happened to you today, would you be ready? This is how we are called to live as Christians. We are called to live every day as if it were our last.

I saw a great plaque in a sacristy once  --  “Priest of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, as if it were your last Mass; as if it were your only Mass.”

That’s good advice for all of us. --  “People of God, live this day as if it were your first day, as if it were you last day, as if it were your only day.”

If we all live like that, none of us will ever fear the end, whether it’s the end of the world, or our personal end, because living like that would remind us that the end is simply the doorway to a new and much greater beginning. Thus, blessed be God forever!

 

– Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: At the end of our life, we shall all be judged by charity. – St. John of the Cross

Prayer: O God, great and omnipotent judge of the living and the dead, we are to appear before you after this short life to render an account of our works. Give us the grace to prepare for our last hour by a devout and holy life, and protect us against a sudden and unprovided death. Let us remember our frailty and mortality, that we may always live in the ways of your commandments. Teach us to "watch and pray" (Lk 21:36), that when your summons comes for our departure from this world, we may go forth to meet you, experience a merciful judgment, and rejoice in everlasting happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Questions for Reflection 

  1. Do you think about the end of the world? Do you fear it? Why or why not?

  2. How are you preparing for your own end? Have you left anything undone? What?

  3. How might you help someone who has a terminal illness?

  4. Discuss the quote from St. John of the Cross.

  5. Do you pray for a happy death?  Discuss the prayer “Hail Mary” in terms of preparing for a happy death.

  6. Father Sisco mentions several ways to grow in sanctity and to reduce our fears of dying, Look back over this reflection, find these suggestions, and discuss each.

  7. Discuss this quote and how your life would change, if it would change, if you lived it: “People of God, live this day as if it were your first day, as if it were you last day, as if it were your only day.”

  8. Look up Matthew 24 and read the rest of Jesus’ discourse on the end times. Discuss.

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 352: Recognizing Our Gifts and Acknowledging the Giver: A Reflection on Luke 5:4

 

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)

“Let there be no boasting about men. All things are yours…and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. Let there be no boasting.” (1 Corinthians 3: 21-23)

What’s Paul talking about in this passage from first Corinthians? The ancient Corinthians were getting a little too big for their britches, as my grandmother would say. This was because they were all boasting about what charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit they had received and because of who baptized them Christian.  “I belong to Paul. I belong to Peter. I belong to Apollos.” Paul is chiding them for this behavior. He’s reprimanding them. He tells them not to boast because the only reason any of us have anything is because of the love of God.

Look at me. I’m a rather silly figure of a man; a bit of a clown, filled with my own inadequacies and insecurities. And yet despite this; despite the errors I made in my previous life before I really came to know Jesus, despite the fact that with all the graces and benefits God has given me, that I’m still a sinner, that I still manage to find ways to hurt him; despite all that, he still called me, and continues to call me to be his priest. Do I dare boast in that? Never! Because it’s only his grace that makes any of it possible. And I think the reason he lets me still be a bit of a clown is to remind me of that.

Many people have commented that they like my preaching, and yet I always respond to that by saying, “Please pray for me,” because I need to remind myself that the only reason I can preach is because God wills it. I’m a vessel of the Lord. Cracked, chipped, leaking in spots, but still a vessel.

And so are you. With all of your gifts, with all of your strengths, with all of your faults, and all of your shortcomings, you are all vessels of God’s Grace, made by his Grace, to carry his Grace, so he may be glorified. Can you see it? Can you see it in yourself? Can you see it in others? Because if you can’t, there’s a problem. Even the most difficult person God has created for some good. And it’s not to boast. It’s to show us that we can do nothing without him.

Look at the Gospel passage about the fishermen. Peter the professional fisherman, has been working all night and caught nothing. He just got done getting the nets washed and putting everything away, and Jesus says, “Pull out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” By his own strength and talent, Peter produced nothing, but because he has the faith to trust this preacher from Nazareth and consents to his request, he caught more fish than he could have ever caught on his own. Jesus is demonstrating that with Jesus himself, and Jesus only, we can accomplish anything. On our own, we accomplish nothing.

Some people work themselves silly, worry themselves sick, have all kinds of stress related maladies, because they’re trying to accomplish any number of things without the Lord. Because they won’t surrender control to the Lord, all those things will come to nothing. Empty nets.

My brothers and sisters, relish the cracked, chipped, and occasionally leaking vessel that you are. Thank God that despite those flaws the Lord is still using you to carry his Grace. And let those cracks, chips, and flaws remind you that the only reason you can carry his Grace, is because of his tremendous love for you.

And blessed be God forever. -- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything. Our Redeemer came on earth to glorify his heavenly Father and to teach us by his example how to do the same. Saint Paul represents him saying to his eternal Father: "Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not: But a body thou hast fitted to me . . . Then said I: Behold I come to do thy will, O God." Thou hast refused the victims offered thee by man; thou dost will that I sacrifice my body to thee. Behold me ready to do thy will. -- St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

Prayer: O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, died for us. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Reread the passage from Luke, considering the personalities and occupations of Peter, James, John, and Jesus. How do you think these seasoned fishermen felt when a carpenter preacher told them to put out into the deep for a catch of fish, and this during broad daylight when fish generally have sunk down to the depths for rest?

  2. What do you read into Simon’s (Peter’s) response (“Master, we have worked all night. . . “)? Why do you suppose that he obeyed Jesus?

  3. What was Peter’s response when he saw the miraculous catch of fish? Have you ever had anything spectacular happen to you, that you knew was God’s Grace? What was your response?

  4. The Corinthians were boasting about who brought them the Gospel. What do Catholics boast about today? What flaws do you see in boasting? How can we avoid boasting about spiritual leaders, events, happenings, buildings, and spiritual gifts?

  5. In our spiritual life, Who is to be our focus? Why?

  6. Do you feel inadequate? Fr. Sisco mentioned how God uses some of Father’s quirks to remind him that God’s Grace is what makes his priesthood possible. What are your quirks? Discuss as a group how God is using each person’s quirks to advance the Kingdom. Why should we thank God for our quirks?

  7. Father Sisco says, “My brothers and sisters, relish the cracked, chipped, and occasionally leaking vessel that you are.” How might you be able to do that?

  8. Why does God use cracked pots to achieve His plan?

  9. Discuss the quote from St. Alphonsus Liguori in conjunction with this week’s reflection.

  10. Do you see yourself as a sinner? Really? Take two minutes to reflect on the ways you offend God. This is between you and God alone. At the end of two minutes, the Oratory leader will lead you all in praying together the Act of Contrition listed above.

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

 Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 353: The Greatest Commandments: A Reflection on Mark 12: 28-34

 

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! 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 this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."
 

The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, “He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

 

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions. -- Mark 12: 28-34

 

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

 

This is what Jesus says to the scribe who asked him what the greatest commandment was. Jesus said this because the scribe responded to Jesus’ answer with understanding. When this scribe poses the question to Jesus, he’s expecting Jesus to answer with one of the commandments from the Decalogue; one of the Ten Commandments.

Instead Jesus quotes the Shema, the heart of the Mosaic Law -- you shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength. In other words, love God with everything you’ve got!

 

Don’t hold anything back from God; submit everything you hold dear to the Lord’s will.

 

The second is like it; love your neighbor as yourself. Why is that commandment LIKE the first? Because if you’re keeping the first commandment, the second will naturally follow. If you are truly loving God with all your mind, all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength, you will automatically love your neighbor as yourself, because you will see God in your neighbor.

 

One of my favorite Saint Theresa of Calcutta quotes was when she said she could see the face of Christ in everyone she ever helped. Saint Theresa of Calcutta could love her neighbor as she loved herself, because she could see the face of God in her neighbor, and she loved God with all her mind, with all her heart, with all her soul and with all her strength. So, if we see upon self-examination, that we do NOT love our neighbor as ourselves, we then know that we do not love God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength. There is some piece of ourselves we are holding back.

 

So, in Jesus' words, our love of God is measured by our level of charity, and this is confirmed by other things Jesus says:

 

The parable of the prodigal son. The abundant forgiveness of the father is godlike, whereas the unforgiveness of the elder brother is condemned as earthly...

Jesus’ rendition of the last judgment where the king divides the nations like a shepherd separates sheep and goats, and what determines who’s a sheep and who’s a goat is how they responded to the needs of their neighbor; I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink…etc.

 

When the Scribe answers with understanding; when the scribe demonstrates that he sees this connection between loving God and charity towards others, Jesus praises him and says that he is not far from the kingdom of God.

 

What is understanding?

 

Understanding is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, but how does it differ from the gifts of Wisdom?

 

Wisdom is the DESIRE to contemplate the things of God, but understanding allows us to penetrate the very core of revealed truths. Wisdom is the desire to understand, and understanding fulfills what wisdom seeks.

 

Jesus praises this scribe precisely he has demonstrated his wisdom in his desire to contemplate the things of God. He accomplished this by asking the question of Jesus, “Which command is the greatest?” When Jesus gives him the answer, he demonstrates his understanding of what Jesus says. Long before Pentecost, this man has demonstrated two gifts, wisdom and understanding, of the Holy Spirit.

 

We can all be wise. We can all have that desire to contemplate the things of God. I pray today that we all take it to the next level and truly seek to understand--to penetrate the core of the divine truths. That takes time, that takes discipline, and that takes prayer, but in so doing, we will also not be far from the kingdom of God.

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote:

"Charity may be a very short word, but with its tremendous meaning of pure love, it sums up man's entire relation to God and to his neighbor." -- St Aelred of Rievaulx

 

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, come into my heart; draw it to Thee by Thy power, O my God, and grant me charity with filial fear. Preserve me, O ineffable Love, from every evil thought; warm me, inflame me with Thy dear love, and every pain will seem light to me. My Father, my sweet Lord, help me in all my actions. Jesus, love, Jesus, love. Amen. --St. Catherine of Siena

Questions for Reflection

1. Fr. Sisco, in his homily said, “...our love of God is measured by our level of charity”. We will be judged on our level of charity. On a scale of 0-10, rate yourself, overall, on your level of charity towards your neighbor. What do you think a score of 10 would look like? Is there a saint you can think of that scores a 10?

2. Which category would you put yourself in -- the prodigal son, or the elder faithful son? What is the basis of your answer? How do you feel about your answer?

3. Sin is wrong because it demonstrates a lack of charity towards God, according to theologians of the Church. How would, say, stealing money be a lack of charity towards God?

4. If sin is a demonstration of a lack of charity towards God, what would be a demonstration of charity towards God?

5. Can you name a corporal work of mercy that shows a love of neighbor? Can you see the correlation of this work of mercy toward your neighbor and a work of charity towards God?

6. Can you name one or two ways one can get to know God better? Do you see how an interest in getting to know God better is a gift? Do you see where a lack of interest in spiritual things and the Church causes one to lack wisdom?

7. Do you believe that God reciprocates this interest in Him and answers prayer? Why do you believe God answers some people's prayers more readily than others? For instance, some saints were known for their miracles on earth. Why do you think God was so generous through them?

8. God states, in Scripture, that He is most pleased when we offer a “sacrifice of praise” to Him. How is praise of God a sacrifice? Why do you think it pleases Him so much?

9. What can you add to your prayer that will show Him your love and charity towards Him? Getting on your knees to recite the Our Father? Anything else? What sort of small act of sacrifice can you make Him once a day?

 

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 354: Those Things I Used to Consider as Gain I Now Reappraise as Loss: A Reflection on Philippians 3: 7-8

“But those things I used to consider gain, I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ. I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

“Those things I used to consider gain I now reappraise as loss.” I think Saint Paul brings out a very good point. He begins this part of his letter to the Philippians by talking about circumcision, his observance of the law, and himself being a Pharisee. These were the things that Saint Paul held most dear before his conversion. In another letter, Saint Paul would describe how he was a Pharisee most zealous for the law. But after his conversion, after Paul would have his experience of the risen Christ, all of that changed. All of those things that he used to hold as dear--his social position, his name, his Roman citizenship--weren’t that important to him anymore.

This is important to point out because this is a good way to gauge whether the Holy Spirit is working in our lives. This is a good way to examine whether we are allowing the spirit of conversion to work in our lives.

Are we changing?

Are our values changing?

Are we growing in virtue, or still wallowing in vice?

Do we at least recognize the vices in our lives as vices and desire to change them?

Or do we try to rationalize our vices away?

Do we pursue goals that are spiritual, or do we still pursue vain goals, material goals, goals of the flesh?

Consider the Pharisees. Jesus finds the Pharisees so irritating. They are the masters of the law. They are the best and the brightest. However, they never allow the Mosaic Law to confront them with their own sins and vices. They’re too busy looking at everyone else’s sins. They still pursue the same empty goals.

If we are truly allowing the Holy Spirit to work through our lives by the power of the sacraments, all those goals of our younger days, all of those goals we had in the days before we started coming before the Lord and taking him seriously, we should now see as worthless. When I was a teenager, I thought I was going to be the next Robert Frost. I was going to be a writer, and a college professor. I was going to live on a boat and sail the world. I was going to be famous and have lots of money. Over time, after my conversion to the Lord, all of those goals melted away.

The biggest vain goal I was clinging to was the creative writing. Even in seminary, I still had the dream of being a famous writer. I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I could do that and still be a priest at the same time.’ After I got my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, I had a writer’s block that lasted two years. And I was frustrated over it. Whenever I tried to write anything that was not part of my seminary training, or a letter home, I just stared at a blank page. When I finally surrendered it, when I finally said, “I guess my writing skills were not of God, but an idol I was clinging to,” and gave it back to the Lord, suddenly I could start writing creatively again.

I still have about half a dozen ideas for books I could write, everything from children’s books, to spirituality books, to historical novels, but being a parish priest, I don’t have the time for that anymore. But that’s OK. If it’s of God, it will happen in its own time. It’s not important to me anymore. My goals have changed.

So--are we changing? We should be changing every day. Every day more and more of our worldliness should be shed so God can fill us with the desire for the other worldly.

It is my prayer for all of us today that all those things that the world counts as loss, we consider as gain in the light of Christ.

 

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: Don’t you long to shout to those youths who are bustling around you: Fools! Leave those worldly things that shackle the heart – and very often degrade it – leave all that and come with us in search of Love! -- -St. Josemaria Escriva

Prayer: God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Discuss the quote from St. Josemaria Escriva

  2. Pray the prayer and discuss what each petition is saying to you.

  3. What in your life did you once seek after, and perhaps even attain, that you now consider as loss? Why have your feelings about this original desire changed?

  4. Are there things you should be desiring but are not desiring at the moment? What are they? Why do you think you should desire them? How might you come to desire them?

  5. Father Sisco mentioned writing books as something he wanted to do. Obviously he was desirous of using his writing talent but perhaps for the wrong reasons (fame, glory?). Is he still using that talent, would you say?

  6. Was Paul talking about talents in the quote from Philippians? Why does God give us talents? How are we to use them? How might we misuse talents?

  7. Fr. Sisco mentions holding onto his writing talents as an idol and, when he gave them up to God, then he was able to write again. How do we avoid idolizing our talents?

  8. Are you like the Pharisees in any areas of your life, knowing what to do, talking about what to do, but not actually making the changes needed? If so, how can you get past the roadblock that is preventing your acting on your good impulses?

  9. Might you have been better at giving up worldly desires at certain times of your life but not now? What were those times? How can you rekindle your fervor?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 355: Hear, O Kings!: A Reflection on Wisdom 6: 1-11

 

Hear, O kings, and understand; learn, you magistrates of the earth's expanse! Hearken, you who are in power over the multitudes and lord it over throngs of peoples! Because authority was given you by the Lord and sovereignty by the Most High,w ho shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels.


Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom, you judged not rightly, and did not keep the law, nor walk according to the will of God, Terribly and swiftly shall he come against you, because judgment is stern for the exalted–For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test. For the Lord of all shows no partiality, nor does he fear greatness, Because he himself made the great as well as the small, and he provides for all alike; but for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends. To you, therefore, O princes, are my words addressed that you may learn wisdom and that you may not sin. For those who keep the holy precepts hallowed shall be found holy, and those learned in them will have ready a response. Desire therefore my words; long for them and you shall be instructed. Wisdom 6: 1-11

 

“Hear O Kings and understand; learn you magistrates of the earth’s expanse! Hearken, you who are in power over the multitudes, and lord it over the throngs of peoples! Because authority was given to you by the Lord and sovereignty by the Most High, who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels, because though you were ministers of his kingdom, you judged not rightly, and did not keep the law.”

 

The Lord, in this reading from the book of Wisdom, is blasting the kings and those in authority, because these people are ignoring their moral responsibility and using their positions of power to benefit only themselves. As I read passages like this, I’m so relieved that never happens anymore.

 

We’re so lucky to have politicians and leaders these days that make morality a top priority both in their personal lives and in their policies, and never misuse their office for personal gain. (Yes…I’m being sarcastic!)

 

As I read passages like this, in all honesty, I’m reminded about how little has changed over the centuries. And in one sense we can take a bit of comfort from that; the problem then is still a problem now.

 

But one thing that disturbs me, one thing that is different between then and now, is that  back then, they EXPECTED their leaders to be moral men and act morally. Even though very few of them actually were moral, or acted morally, or stayed moral once they were in power, the people still expected it.

 

Now, we not only don’t expect our leaders to be moral, but we EXPECT them to be immoral! And if someone appears NOT to be immoral, we’re even MORE suspicious of them! “What’s he hiding? He couldn’t have gotten where he is without doing some dirty deals at some point!” That worries me because that’s cynicism. And cynicism kills hope. Cynicism kills faith. And the Holy Spirit of love cannot help us grow in love without faith and hope. That is my concern.

 

So how do we combat cynicism? How do we combat negativity? Personally, I stopped watching the news. I stopped reading the papers. You know what, my stressing out about the world is not going to help the world. However, we have to pray for the world! Agreed. I can pray for the world even if I don’t know specifically what’s happening in the world. That was my decision. You have to make yours.

 

Second, we have to increase our faith and our hope. How do we do that? Look at the Luke’s Gospel (Lk 17: 11-19) where the ten lepers come to Jesus and say, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” NOTE THAT! They never actually ask to be healed. They ask for pity. They address him as ‘Master,’ so there is an element of faith. They recognize to some degree, Jesus’ authority. They are hopeful that Jesus can do something for them. Also note--Jesus, technically doesn’t heal them. He doesn’t command them to be healed. He doesn’t pray over them or touch them. He gives them a command. “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” That takes MORE faith, because you only went to see the priests AFTER you were cured of leprosy, not before. If they enter Jerusalem and they’re still lepers, they can be killed. They go and are cured. When the one leper returns to thank Jesus, Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well.”

 

What is faith? I saw a great little explanation on Facebook. Faith is giving up everything to God and receiving everything from him. That’s exactly what these lepers demonstrate to Jesus. They don’t ask for healing. They don’t try to bend God to their will. They ask for pity. They allow Jesus the freedom to decide how best to show his pity for them.

 

Jesus gives them an instruction, and they follow it without question or debate. And if we want the Lord to conquer our cynicism, our negativity, those things that block what the Holy Spirit is trying to do with us, we have to do the same thing. Jesus! Master! Pity us! What a great prayer! It leaves all of God’s options open to do whatever he needs to do! 

 

Stop trying to control your world through your prayers and rather leave control to him. God not only knows what you want, but he also knows what you need! The next great prayer we should say is, “Your will be done.” Or “What do you want me to do?” and then DO IT! No argument. No debate.

 

Make your prayers revolve around these two prayers. I can’t guarantee that you’ll always get what you want, but I can guarantee that you’ll have a lot more peace with what does happen. --Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote: “In God's plan, nothing happens by chance” .--St. John Paul II

Prayer: Eternal Father, I offer You the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world, today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home, and within my family. Amen  --St. Gertrude the Great

Questions for Discussion

1. Name three blessings you are grateful for.

2. Do you believe it is better to focus on gifts that are given versus complaining about difficulties or deficits that are present? Why do you feel that way? In what way would focusing on the positive aspects of a situation help coping?

3. Name three goals for your future that you have reasonable hope of achieving.

4. Name three things you hope can happen in the future that you are fully reliant on God for.

5. Is there a difference between what you can make happen and what you must totally rely on God's Providence for?

6. Name an achievement you have made on your own (for instance, graduated from college). How much of that achievement was effected by you versus how much assistance did you receive from the Lord?

7. Think of an incidence of misfortune or failure that as occurred to you in your life. Can you see the hand of God in this incident? What did you learn through the incident?

8. Name three strengths that you have. Do you see these as God given gifts or your own efforts?

9. Set a short term goal for an area you could improve in. Do you believe if you asked God for assistance in achieving this, He will assist you? Do you see how a cooperative effort between you and God's assistance will help facilitate reaching this goal?

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine of Love Reflection 356: The Kingdom of God: A Reflection on Luke 17:26 – 37

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: They were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all. So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, someone who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise one in the field must not return to what was left behind. Remember the wife of Lot. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it. I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.” They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” --Luke 17: 26-37

Our Gospel today follows a question of the Pharisees who asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God will come. Jesus says in our Gospel today that the day of the Lord, the second coming of Christ, is going to catch everyone by surprise. People are going to be doing their usual daily routines, and that event will come upon us with no warning. So don’t be trying to figure out when that day will occur.

The answer is not looking to the stars and natural world for signs that the time is close. That’s what pagans do, and that is what the Book of Wisdom is reprimanding them for.

The duty of the Christian is to live everyday as if it may be our last. The duty of the Christian is to always be ready to face the Lord and our judgement by having our souls well prepared. And that’s why we have sacraments.

This is one of the primary roles of the sacraments--to keep us in a state of readiness for our judgement, because using our will alone, we can’t do it. Using our own will power, we can’t resist sin forever. Most of us try to avoid sin by white knuckling it. We grit our teeth. We clench our fists. We try to distract our minds with other things. We use the same techniques when we’re trying to not to eat while on a diet, or when we try to quit smoking, or drinking liquor.

And just as those techniques fail to keep us from eating, drinking, and smoking, they also fail to keep us from sinning. In order to stop sinning, we have to change our heads and our hearts. In order to stop sinning, we have to completely change ourselves from the inside out, like buying a beat up old Ford sedan and rebuilding it into a Ferrari!

“Father Sisco, you may know theology, but you sure don’t know mechanics! A Ferrari is a completely different kind of car from a Ford sedan! It’s a completely different body frame, a completely different engine! It’s impossible to buy a beat up old Ford sedan and rebuild it into a Ferrari!”

You’re absolutely right. That is impossible. But that is exactly what the sacraments do to our souls spiritually. The sacraments take our souls like beat up old Ford sedans and rebuild them into Ferraris. Even though that is impossible to do in the physical world, the sacraments do exactly that to our souls in the spiritual world.

That’s the only way to stop sinning, or at least minimalize it, is to allow the Holy Spirit into our souls to rebuild them, to radically change them into something they couldn’t become on their own. We do that through the sacraments and the Grace they contain. And we need to use all the sacraments to change us. The Eucharist changes us. Confession changes us. Marriage changes us.

Young people. aren’t getting married in the Church anymore. They don’t see the importance of it. So, when I get my opportunities I explain. You get married in the Church to invite Christ to be part of this marriage, so he can transform it into an image of HIS marriage to the Church--self-sacrificing, life giving, nurturing.

“But FAAAAATHER we LOOOOOOVE each other!” Sometimes I want to vomit when these kids talk to me! They speak of love, as if love can exist, apart from the source of love, If you’re thirsty, you need to go to a water source to drink; the faucet, --bubbler, --fridge. You may have some water already in your glass, but when that’s gone, you got to get to a water source to refill or go thirsty. You may have a love reserve in your heart, but that will eventually run dry. Then you either go to the source of love to refill your glass, or you get cynical and jaded.

That’s why we need the sacraments; all of them. Let the Holy Spirit refill your glass, rebuild your soul, change your mind and your heart to conquer the effects of sin in your lives. Then whether the Day of the Lord happens today, tomorrow, or many years from now, you’ll face that day with no fear. And blessed be God forever.-- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: “As often I consider the day of judgement, I tremble. Whenever I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, that terrible trumpet appears to sound in my ears, "Arise, ye dead, and come to judgement."' --St. Jerome

Prayer: Most merciful Jesus, lover of souls, I pray to Thee, by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart, and by the sorrows of Thy Immaculate Mother, cleanse in Your own blood the sinners of the whole world who are now in their agony, and are to die this day. Amen. Heart of Jesus, once in agony, pity the dying. --St. Gemma Galgani

Questions for Discussion

  1. What attribute do you wish to be known most about? For instance, do you want to be remembered as a snappy dresser?

  2. Have you ever thought about asking the Holy Spirit to come into your life and transform you?

  3. Can you think of a person who completely changed from a sinner to a saintly person? What happened to make this person change, and, what role do you think the Holy Spirit played in that change? Any?

  4. Name two or three traits you think the Lord would want to see in you when you stand before Him to be judged. Do you have these traits? If not, do you think you would receive help from God to develop these traits, if you asked? Why or why not?

  5. Define holiness. Name something a person could do to grow in holiness.

  6. God dealt severely with the wife of Lot for turning back toward Sodom when it was being destroyed. What does this tell you about how serious God is when it comes to turning away from one's sins?

  7. Jesus said whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it. What do you think He meant by this?

  8. Do you believe conversion is a lifelong process, or a one time life-changing moment? Why do you think this?

-- Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine of Love Reflection 357: The Advantages of Being without Sin: A Reflection on Luke 1:38


“Be it done unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)

That statement of the Blessed Mother changed creation’s relationship to God forever. So often we put Mary on such a pedestal. Yes, the Blessed Mother should be respected and extolled with all of our hearts, but sometimes we forget what a statement of faith that is. “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

“Mary was Immaculately conceived! Mary didn’t have any stain of original sin, so it was easy for her to see God’s plan.” WRONG! Being without sin does NOT make it easier for us to see God’s plan for us.

Well, if THAT’S the case, what good does it do to be without sin? Being without sin is an advantage in a few ways. First, being sinless makes it easier to accept the events in our lives as God’s will. That doesn’t mean that we see God’s plan or know what God’s plan is. But that does mean that we have a confidence that, even when things in our lives go badly, they can still somehow serve the plan of God.

Look at the life of the Blessed Mother. It’s a life filled with trials and sorrow. Where do some people get the idea that, if they don’t sin, everything will go right in their lives? Look at Mary. She never sinned, and almost nothing went right for her, and yet how many times do we see that what was seemingly a bad situation fulfilled one of the ancient prophecies? When she said “yes” to the angel’s request that she become the virgin mother of Christ, she was put into an awkward situation with Joseph. Don’t you think a thought like this may have crossed her mind? “How can I explain this without him thinking I’m nuts!”

And she was put in a dangerous situation. For her to be found unmarried and pregnant would result in her execution. And yet this fulfilled what Isaiah had said, “The virgin shall be with child and they shall call him Emmanuel, a name that means God is with us.”

Then when it’s almost time for her to deliver the baby, Joseph has to pack them up and make a difficult journey through the desert to his native place for a census. They get there. There’s no room. Mary has to give birth in a stable, which I’m sure was cold, and dirty, and smelly unlike our romanticized images. Where? Bethlehem! Why? To fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would be born from David’s town.

Then, a few months after Jesus’ birth, the Holy Family has to flee to Egypt to escape this madman Herod who wants the child dead. Why? To fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” The scriptures are loaded with examples of this.

 Being free of sin helps us to see that the events in our lives, even the bad ones, are fulfilling some purpose in God’s larger plan. Being sinless gives us a clear sense of mission. Being without sin helps us grow in discipleship. No one was a better disciple than the Blessed Mother. From her “yes” to the angel, she demonstrated a perfect discipleship right through Calvary.

Why do we read, at Mass on the Immaculate Conception of the Sinless Mother of God, the story about the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Because God had a mission for Adam and Eve. God had a plan, but they blew it. Why? Because they wanted to be God’s equals, instead of his disciples, (that was the serpent’s temptation). Their desire blinded them to their mission, and they failed.

So many people are walking through this life wondering what their purpose is. They have no sense of mission. They feel as though they’re worthless. Or their lives have no direction. Why? Could it be that sin has robbed them of their sense of discipleship and so blinded them to their mission? Everyone has been put here with a specific purpose from God, and it may be being a good wife, or husband, or parent. Aren’t those missions enormous? Think about them for a minute.

Mary’s purpose was to be the Mother of the Savior, but because she did it perfectly and sinlessly, what followed? She became Queen of heaven and earth. We’d all like to do great and glorious things, but that may not be our call. However, we can still affect lives, and so effect the world by doing simple things. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Do few things, but do them well.” The only thing that can prevent us from fulfilling our purpose is sin.

Being sinless gives us peace. Peace comes from communion with God. Being sinless helps us experience communion with God in greater intimacy because sin blocks God. God wants communion with us. But when we sin we say “no” to God, and when we say “no” to God, we can’t have peace. Again, look at the Blessed Mother. How often in the scriptures does it say at the major events in Jesus’ life, that Mary “pondered these things in her heart”? What is that? Intimacy with God! Communion! That intimacy with God, that peace, enabled Mary to go through her son’s crucifixion without uttering a single word. She shared her son’s agony, every blood soaked step to Calvary, and yet, through that pain, never despaired, never lost her sense of peace. How many people go through life depressed, anxious, or angry, because they feel as though the world is caving in on them and there’s nothing they can do? They feel trapped. They feel as though they have no future. Why? How much of it has to do with sin? God is a God of hope. Peace comes from the Holy Spirit. Want peace? Get rid of sin.

Being sinless makes it easier for us to see God’s plan in our lives, gives us a sense of our mission, and brings us peace. “Well, that’s fine and good for the Blessed Mother, Father Sisco, but I haven’t been Immaculately Conceived so I guess I’m out of luck.” Wrong again. Being sinless is only a confession away, and, if we truly knew the power of the confessional, a lot of us would go a lot more often. Take some time and thoroughly look at your life and see what needs to be changed, because, while it is true that none since Mary has been immaculately conceived, it is also true that we have all been immaculately redeemed! Blessed be God forever! --- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from our Saint: “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” (Blessed Virgin Mary)

Prayer: Pray the Hail Mary.


Questions for Reflection:
1.    Name the three advantages of being sinless. Discuss each.
2.    Can you honestly say with Mary, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” Discuss the difficulties.
3.    Father Sisco mentioned many trials of Mary. What others can you think of that could have happened but are not mentioned in Scripture?
4.    Select one incident in Mary’s life and relate it to something you have experienced.
5.    What you think your purpose in life is?
6.    The Baltimore Catechism had this question, “Why did God make me?” The answer was, “God made me to know, love, and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next.” Discuss this question and answer in light of this oratory reflection.
7.    What are the ways you find peace in your life? How can you help others find peace in their lives?
8.    St. Joseph was not immaculately conceived , yet he went through the same experiences with Mary until his death. Discuss how he may have coped with the difficulties and questions.

-- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine of Love Reflection 358: Ezra’s Lament: A Reflection on Ezra 9:5- 9



At the time of the evening sacrifice, I, Ezra, rose in my wretchedness, and with cloak and mantle torn I fell on my knees, stretching out my hands to the LORD, my God. I said: “My God, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to you, O my God, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven. From the time of our fathers even to this day, great has been our guilt, and for our wicked deeds we have been delivered up, we and our kings and our priests, to the will of the kings of foreign lands, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to disgrace, as is the case today. And now, but a short time ago, mercy came to us from the LORD, our God, who left us a remnant and gave us a stake in his holy place; thus our God has brightened our eyes and given us relief in our servitude. For slaves we are, but in our servitude our God has not abandoned us; rather, he has turned the good will of the kings of Persia toward us. Thus, he has given us new life to raise again the house of our God and restore its ruins, and has granted us a fence in Judah and Jerusalem.” -Ezra 9: 5-9

What’s happening in this reading? The Jews have been released from exile by Cyrus of Persia, after Cyrus conquered and overthrew the Babylonian empire. Now they’re home, and they’re going to begin to rebuild the temple that the Babylonians had destroyed.

And the prophet Ezra offers up this prayer; “My God, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to you, O my God, for our wicked deeds are heaped above our heads, and our guilt reaches up to heaven. From the time of our fathers even to this day, great has been our guilt, and for our wicked deeds we have been delivered up, we and our kings and priests, to the will of kings of foreign lands…”

It’s a bitter sweet prayer because it acknowledges that God has delivered his people back to Israel, but it also acknowledges that while, yes, we’re finally back home where we belong, we’re still subject to the rule of a foreign king, Cyrus of Persia. Yes, we’re home, but the temple is destroyed and needs to be rebuilt, and it’s never going to be as beautiful and magnificent as the temple Solomon built because we just don’t have the money; we’re broke.

Ezra prays, “My God, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to you…Why? What has Ezra got to be ashamed about? What did he do? Nothing. He’s offering a prayer of reparation for the sins of the nation, and for the sins of their ancestors. As a Church we still do this. At Sunday Mass, in the prayers of the faithful, we always offer up a petition for the nation, and we always offer up a petition for the deceased.

But how often do we do this in our personal prayer? I hope we’re all praying every day, because the world sorely needs it, but in our day, how often do we pray and make little sacrifices that God forgives the sins of the nation, and the sins of our ancestors?

Think of sin as toxic waste. The last generation may have buried it deep in the ground or dumped it in the sea, and, just because it’s not in front of our faces anymore, we don’t think of it. And because we don’t think of it, we don’t deal with it, and because we don’t deal with it, the sin keeps doing damage to ourselves and the world around us, damage that we’re not even aware of.

That’s why we need to deal with the problem and tackle other people’s sins as well as our own. That’s why we need to deal with the problem and pray for the souls in Purgatory so they can at last be released from the effects of their un-repented sins, and they in turn will pray for us and join us in praying for the world.

For years now we’ve printed in the bulletin the prayer of Saint Gertrude. The Lord promised her that every time the prayer was said, a thousand souls would be released from Purgatory. A thousand souls! Imagine that! Imagine if every parishioner at one big parish alone said that prayer every day? A million souls a day would enter heaven and start praying for us in return! And if that sounds too good to be true, what do you call the Eucharist?  The ability to momentarily be in physical union with God. Confession? The ability to have any sin forgiven, no strings attached. The fact that we have access to heaven at all. Are those too good to be true?

God is all about “too good to be true.” That’s why he’s God! All he asks of us is to step out in faith and let him be God. That’s what Jesus did. I’ll give you power to heal the sick, drive out demons, and announce the gospel. ON THE CONDITION you don’t bring food, money, or a change of clothes. WHY? Because I want you to trust me. You take care of God’s business, and God will take care of you. Step out in faith, let God be God, and you will see good things happen. And God says the same thing to all of us, and I’m saying the same thing to you. Make prayers and sacrifices in reparation for the sins of the nation in the present, and the sins of our ancestors in the past, and just like Ezra and the Israelites rebuilt the temple, one brick at a time over the span of many years, we will rebuild our Church and our nation. And blessed be God forever!-- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: “What I see around me would drive me insane if I did not know that no matter what happens, God will have the last word.” — St Paisios of the Holy Mountain

Prayer of St. Gertrude (Prayer to Release a Thousand Souls from Purgatory):

“Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home, and in my family. Amen.”


Questions for Discussion

1. Things seem to be occurring today that, 20 years ago, we would never have thought possible. Do you believe this can be turned around based on what we read in Scripture?

2. What role do you believe individual members of the Church can play, if anything, in mitigating the negative consequences of abandoning God?

3. The early Christians are credited with having turned the pagan world upside down and changing the world from an attitude of survival of the fittest to one that at least attempted justice and peace. These days, the attitudes of “might makes right”, even in the sense of power through wealth or political means, seems to be returning. What do you believe was so powerful in the lives of the early Christians that this change could have been brought about?

4. Many priests, today, are lamenting that attendance at church has been dwindling the past ten years. Why do you believe this is happening? Do you think it is reversible?

5. Name one or more ways to bring the Gospel of Life to those around you.

6. The book of Exodus relays a story where the Israelites in the desert were battling a fierce enemy army trying to overtake them. As long as Moses held his arms up in prayer and supplication, the Israelites prevailed in battle. When he lowered his arms, the Amalekites advanced. Eventually, Moses had assistants to hold up his arms as he intervened. What do you believe God was saying in this scene, about intercession?

7. Jesus mentions that sometimes, fasting and prayer are the only way a spiritual battle can be won. Why do you believe fasting is so powerful, as opposed to just prayer?

8. Do you believe that publicly displayed images and pictures of Christ and other holy people are important? Why or why not? Why do you believe those opposed to Christianity are so zealous about removing objects such as the cross and the 10 Commandments from public view?

9. In what way do sacramentals such as medals and rosaries bring us closer to God? Name a sacramental that you particularly like. Why is it so important to you?

-- Lucy Fernandez, CFP

 

Oratory Divine Love Reflection 359: Rend Your Hearts: A Reflection on Joel 2:12 – 18

 

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people. --Joel 2: 12-18

 

“Rend your hearts, not your garments says the Lord…” What does that mean? To rend one’s garments is to tear them. It was a sign of penance in the ancient world, unlike today, where it is fashionable to wear torn clothing.

 

A few months ago, one of the altar servers came into the sacristy wearing denim jeans that had holes scattered throughout them. I said, “I hate to break it to you, but your jeans are ripped.” ---  She said she knew. --- I said, “You can’t afford a new pair of jeans?” --- She said those were new. --- So, I said, “You bought new jeans with holes already in them?” --- She said, “Yes.” --- I asked, “Are cheaper than the jeans that aren’t ripped?” --- She said, “No, actually, they’re more expensive.” --- I said, “Really?! How much?” --- She said “$50.”

 

“FIFTY dollars?! For ripped jeans?! Give me fifty bucks! I’ll come over your house and rip ALL your clothes!” Fifty bucks is half the cost of my entire wardrobe! (I know that probably shocks many of you. I always look so dapper!)

 

This experience made me come to the hard realization that I am not hip anymore. It is now fashionable to walk around with our garments rent. But that wasn’t case in Jesus’ day. In the ancient world, walking around in torn garments was a sign of penance because you were deliberately making yourself look poor. Well to do people would never be seen in public with ripped clothing. But the prophet Joel says, “Rend your hearts, not your garments.”

 

What does he mean? Very simply, the exterior acts of penance only benefit us if they’re changing our attitudes about things. Our acts of penance should be making us love sin less and love virtue more. This is the same point that Jesus is trying to make when he tells people to fast privately so that no one knows they are fasting and to give alms without calling attention to themselves.

 

“When you give alms don’t blow a horn,” Jesus said. Back in Jesus’ day, where the beggars were on the corner, there was a horn hanging on a post. Before you tossed your money in the beggar’s cup, you blew the horn.  Everyone would applaud as you gave your money. You did this because you were being a good example of the Law of Moses for others to follow. And the same with the fasting and the praying. You purposely DID change your appearance when you fasted, and you purposely DID pray in public to be a good example to inspire others.

 

What Jesus is cautioning us against is doing these things STRICTLY to be seen, to win the esteem of others, instead of using these things as they were intended, to change our hearts from loving sin, to loving virtue.

 

So, what sort of penance should you do? Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, shared this

 

Fast from hurting words and say kind words. --- Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. --- Fast from anger and be filled with patience. --- Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope. --- Fast from worries and have trust in God. --- Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity. --- Fast from pressures and be prayerful. --- Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy. --- Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others. --- Fast from grudges and be reconciled. --- Fast from words and be silent, so you can listen.”

 

This is what prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are supposed to accomplish in us. In the words of my spiritual director in seminary, Father Dan Mindling; “Give up sin for Lent. That’s always a good thing.”

 

- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote: And so, temper all your works with moderation, that is to say, all your abstinence, your fasting, your vigils, and your prayers, for temperance sustains your body and soul with the proper measure, lest they fail... Temperance finds no joy in the company of sinners, nor does it join in the pomp and vanity of this world; rather, it reminds people of the bitterness of punishment and perdition.-- Hildegard of Bingen

 

Prayer: O Lord, I place myself in your hands and dedicate myself to you. I pledge myself to do your will in all things: To love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength. Not to kill. Not to steal. Not to covet. Not to bear false witness. To honor all persons. Not to do to another what I would not wish done to myself. To chastise the body. Not to seek after pleasures. To love fasting. --St. Benedict

 

 Questions for Reflection

1. Penance is not always about giving something up. Sometimes it is about adding something. Can you name a spiritual exercise a person can add to their schedule, that would help them draw closer to God

2. Joel's prophecy has a serious and urgent tone. Many types of spirituality minimize the effects of sin and the importance of turning away from it. Some believe that a person can sin all they want as long as they occasionally say they are sorry to God. What Scripture passages indicate that this is false teaching?

3. Jesus stated that all sin would be forgiven, but not sin against the Holy Spirit. What do you think He means when He talks about the sin against the Holy Spirit?

4. The psalms say that God will “not spurn a broken and contrite heart”. (Psalm 51:17). How could one show God that they were truly contrite? Do you believe an act of self denial would help to show this? What do you think the penance given at the close of Confession is supposed to symbolize?

5. Do you believe one can go to daily Mass and Communion and still be attached to sin? How about Confession? What is different about Confession compared to the other mentioned Sacraments that effects change?

6. Many people avoid frequent Confession, or Confession altogether, because they do not believe they sin, or are too ashamed to admit their fault. Do you believe these people can be truly contrite? Why or why not? Is it possible to be truly sorry for one's sin, but not approach Confession?

7. Do you believe in confessing venial sins? Why or why not?

8. There are many beautiful testimonies of people who have converted from serious sin. Dr. Nathanson, the famous abortionist, is one better known sinner who converted to a holy life. Do you know of him or someone like him who has turned away from a sinful life? In what ways did these people change their lives? In what ways did their personalities and lifestyles change? How did they spend their time after as opposed to before their conversion?

9. God obviously approves of humility and rewards it with Eternal Life. Can pride hide behind false humility? In your opinion, how could one know they are truly humble? Is it even possible? How could one become more humble?

-- Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 360: The Point of Religion: a Reflection on Mark 10: 32 – 45

 

The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”


 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?” ListenThey answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, ‘We can.” Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”


 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 32-45)

 

What is the point of religion? Why do people so readily believe in a life after this earthly one is over? Because people fear death. People fear things ending. Religion offers the comfort that, even as one existence ends, another one begins.

 

That is the one thing all religions offer--something of you will go on forever. Now we experience this fear of loss all the time in little ways. Why do people get so upset when a Church closes? ‘My parents were buried from this Church. I was married in this Church. ‘My kids were baptized in this Church.’ We all know the Grace of the sacraments is present regardless of what Church building those sacraments take place in. And we know if the church closes, the Grace of the sacraments, that everyone received throughout the history of that church, is not lost, diminished, or forfeited.

 

So why do people get so upset when they hear their church is closing? Because a piece of their personal, family history is ending, and we fear endings. Sometimes I think we can be a little hard on James and John in our Gospel today, myself included, because it just seems like they have no tact. Here, Jesus is trying to tell the twelve about his impending crucifixion waiting in Jerusalem, where they’re presently traveling, and James and John make this blatantly self-serving request, ‘When you come into your glory, can we sit on either side of you?’

 

Yes, the request is completely tactless, but I think their reaction is understandable. Earlier this Gospel passage describes the apostles, “They were amazed, and those that followed were afraid.” They sense what’s coming. They fear what’s coming. And in their fear, they ask Jesus, when it’s all over, can we be the closest ones to you, because that’s safe. That’s familiar. There’s comfort in that. If Jesus agrees to this request, it means that even if our relationship to Jesus may change, it won’t end.

 

Their request is coming from fear and a lack of understanding about how the spiritual world works. Jesus redirects their thinking. He flat out refuses their request. He says those places are not his to give, because he wants them to stop thinking in worldly terms. More significantly, he wants to free them from their fear, and fear is a result of obsession with worldly things. All fear is ultimately rooted in the belief that I might lose something I really want, or I may never get something I really want.

 

The other apostles get indignant with James and John. Why? Fear. Hey! They might get ahead of me! They might get a better spot than me! So what does Jesus tell them to do? Serve others. Consider others’ needs before your own. Perform charitable deeds. Why?

 

Doing for others breaks us of the earthly temptation to put ourselves first. It fosters humility. Humility alleviates fear. Fear is completely self-absorbed. Fear is rooted in the belief that I might lose something I really want, or I may never get something I really want. Fear keeps us focused on me, me, me, me, me; my, my, my, I want, I want, I want. Fear is self-absorbed. Charity focuses us on the needs of others. When we’re focused on the needs of others, when we’re focused on serving others, instead of serving our own selfish desires, the fear goes away.

 

If you find your life is choked by fear, see what charitable deeds you can do for others. I’ll bet you’ll find in time that all the fears disappear. -- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “A sacrifice, to be real, must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves.”-St. Teresa of Calcutta

 

Prayer:Almighty God, you have generously made known to human beings the mysteries of your life through Jesus Christ your Son in the Holy Spirit. Enlighten my mind to know these mysteries which your Church treasures and teaches. Move my heart to love them and my will to live in accord with them. Give me the ability to teach this Faith to others without pride, without ostentation, and without personal gain. Let me realize that I am simply your instrument for bringing others to the knowledge of the wonderful things you have done for all your creatures. Help me to be faithful to this task that you have entrusted to me. Amen -St. Charles Borromeo

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you? Was it something you could have foreseen or prevented? What brought you through it? Were there negative residual effects on your psyche?

  2. Some people order their lives according to their fears about the future. How does focusing on these fears, to the point of spending all one's time, effort and money take away from God.

  3. Jesus counsels us not to worry about what we will eat and what we will wear. Multiple times in Scripture we are told to not be afraid, nor be anxious, but, simply to give our needs to the Lord. Do you know anyone who has done this? What did their lives look like?

  4. ame one or two distractions that keep you from praying as often or as attentively as you should. How does indulging these distractions tie into your fear?

  5. Do you agree that fear causes obsession with worldly things? Why or why not?

  6. Could fasting and self-denial can help train you to be less fearful and more charitable? How so?

  7. What can you let go of to show your trust in God?

  8. In certain countries, people have lost their homes and livelihoods and even family members because they are Christian. Do you believe God helps these people? What do you think gives them the courage to do this? Would you have the courage to risk so much? If not, do you believe that God would give you the courage if you had the will for it, and asked for it?

-- Lucy Fernandez, 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