Weeks 361 – 370
Oratory of Divine of Love Reflection 361: Blessed Are They Who Trust in the Lord: A Reflection on Psalm 1:1–6
Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on his law, day and night. He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers. Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes. (Psalm 1: 1-6)
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Did you ever think that the words hope and trust are interchangeable? Why are people who hope (trust) in the Lord blessed? Because people who hope (trust) in the Lord know that whatever life throws at them, no matter how bad things may get, something better is waiting for them in eternity. When we hope in the Lord, we are trusting him to do good in our lives.
“Oh, Father please, not that same shtick again!” Well, yeah, it’s true. Why do people lose hope? Because they’re short sighted. People lose hope because they measure things only in the rewards this world has to offer. People, with the faith to believe that something better is waiting for them in the next life, are also bolstered by the hope that everything they suffer through this life is only bringing them closer to that eternal reward.
“But Father, is it wrong to want to have some rewards in this life?” If those rewards aren’t sinful, or going to lead you to sin, no, it’s not wrong, but if you pin your hopes on them, you’ll only be disappointed when you don’t get them, and that can damage your faith.
After twenty years of priesthood, and six and a half years of being a pastor, I’ve learned to set the bar pretty low. “Lord, just give me one week without drama.” Apparently, even THAT’S asking too much! Drama’s gonna follow me to the grave! But Jesus told us to expect this. “If anyone”…ANYONE “wishes to come after me, he must DENY himself, take-up-his-cross, and follow me.” Jesus could not have been anymore plain or explicit than that.
Televangelists like Joel Olsteen have huge churches, like stadiums, and they have congregations of thousands, and millions watching on TV, and they get rich preaching that you can make the gospel work for you. If you just pray right, if your faith is strong enough, God will fulfill every one of your dreams and desires right here and now. You can have the world AND heaven. But that isn’t what Jesus said. That isn’t what Jesus promised.
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Some of my brother priests never challenge their congregations in the homily. The homily is a five minute stand-up comedy routine. Now I’ve used humor in homilies but to make a point, or help the congregation remember the point, but priests who don’t preach the cross aren’t doing their flocks any favors. Because when trials come, and we know they inevitably will, what’s to keep people from losing faith if all they’ve ever gotten is feel good spirituality?
If you measure life in only the rewards this world has to offer, you will have no hope, and you will eventually lose faith. But if you measure life through the prism of eternity, you realize how miniscule many problems here are, and the reward that’s waiting for us is so much better. That truth contains our Faith, and that truth will bolster our hope.
-- Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: "We can never have too much hope in God. He gives in the measure we ask." --St. Therese of Lisieux
Prayer: O my God, help me to remember that time is short, eternity long. What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death? To love You, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary. Without You, there is no peace of mind or soul. My God, I need fear only sin and nothing else in this life, for to lose You, my God, is to lose all. O my God, help me to remember that I came into this world with nothing, and shall take nothing from it when I die. To gain You, I must leave all. But in loving You, I already have all good things, the infinite riches of Christ and His Church in life, Mary's motherly protection and perpetual help, and the eternal dwelling place Jesus has prepared for me. Eternal Father, Jesus has promised that whatever we ask in His Name will be granted us. In His Name, I pray: give me a burning faith, a joyful hope, a holy love for You. Grant me perseverance in doing Your will and never let me be separated from You. My God and my All, make me a saint. Amen. -St. Alphonsus Ligouri
Questions for Discussion
When trials come, most people, at least initially, feel abandoned by God. They may feel that God is angry and punishing them. But, James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This and many other passages indicate that trials are sent to prepare us to be closer to God. Might trials actually be a grace from God? Why or why not?
Worldly success may not necessarily mean success spiritually. What choices should a Christian focus on? Why shouldn't trials and failures make us despondent?
Many young people are raised with faith only in human achievement. Many who do not “measure up” in a human way are despairing and turning to desperate measures such as drugs, violence, and suicide. What is our obligation to these young people?
Communist Karl Marx is often paraphrased as saying, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” He argues that people's faith in God caused them to tolerate many social injustices. Is there truth in this statement? Is life supposed to be perfect for everyone? Is faith in God a hindrance to a fulfilling life or a conduit to it?
Don Dolindo Ruotolo is said to have been spiritual director to Padre Pio at one time. He had a very close relationship with Jesus Christ, having led a life of profound humility, rejection, and hardship. He is credited for promoting a novena prayer of trust to Jesus which concludes by saying 10 times, “Jesus I surrender myself to you, take care of everything!” Do you believe that Jesus not only can take care of everything but also wants to do so for us? Why or why not?
What does it mean to surrender ourselves to God? What is it we are not surrendering?
What does the word “blessed” mean? Does it mean always happy? Does it mean something else? If we bless someone, what are we wishing for them?
Name one thing you are attached to other than God. This could be an object, a habit, a person, an idea. In what way does this attachment hold you back from your relationship with God?
Scripture, corroborated by Jesus, says... “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it--Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Name one way that a person can love God with their whole heart. Name a way a person can love God with one's whole soul. Name a way a person can love God with all their mind. Name a way a person can love their neighbor as themselves.
-- Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 362: I Am the Vine; You Are the Branches: A Reflection on John 15:1 – 7
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:1 – 7)
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing.” There are so many implications in what Jesus is saying today.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Implication one, we are attached to Jesus. Because of the covenant, because of the sacraments, we are one with Jesus, as Jesus is one with the Father.
Implication two. We cannot live without Jesus. The vine is the source of life for the branches. Without the vine, the branch dies. What happens to those branches? According to Jesus here, they’re pruned away by the Father. They’re cut off and thrown away.
Implication three; if dead branches are pruned off the vine, how do we become living branches? What are living branches supposed to do that the dead didn’t? Bear fruit. The living branches receive nourishment from the vine. We receive grace from the sacraments. Now the branches have to produce something with that nourishment. In order to be a living branch, we have to use the gifts God has given us to help further build his kingdom. Maybe that’s a financial gift. Maybe it’s the gift of teaching, or counsel, or healing, or consoling, or evangelization. Whatever it may be, we have all been given gifts we are expected to use.
Implication four; what can we expect from this? Jesus says his Father cleans and trims every good branch to make it bear more fruit. We’re still works in progress. Don’t ever think you know everything you need to know. Don’t be afraid to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself or explore new avenues in spirituality. And don’t be afraid of crosses, or trials. Sometimes the cleaning and the trimming is painful, but through that trial God is making us better people.
Implication five; without me you can do nothing. Nothing. It is entirely possible to do many good things that are NOT part of God’s plan for us, and they will ultimately come to nothing. And there are lots of people these days, doing lots of things that are not part of God’s plan and that’s precisely what they’ll come to; nothing. We need to be constantly submitting ourselves before the Lord in prayer. We need to acquire that humility, because without it, we’re just going to spin our wheels, and never accomplish anything of lasting significance.
Implication six; “if you live in me, and my words stay a part of you…” Observing Jesus’ teaching is a fundamental part of living in him. Again, we need to be reading and studying his word, because the scriptures are a good bench mark to access our progress and make sure we’re staying on the right course. We cannot pick and choose what we like in Christianity and disregard the rest. We have to stay true to the WHOLE teaching.
So a whole lot of theology comes out in this short passage, but a very good grass roots plan for doing the will of God and bearing fruit that will last. And blessed be God forever.-- Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
“Learn to abide with attention in loving waiting upon God in a state of quiet. Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which, if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.” -- St. John of the Cross
Dear Father, who art in heaven, thank You that YOU are my heavenly Husbandman and that You tend my life with such care and concern. Cleanse me and prune me and take away anything that you discover in me that does not glorify Your holy name.
Thank You Father that I am a heavenly branch that is united to my heavenly Vine, the lovely Lord Jesus Christ. May His life flow through mine as sap flows through the branch that is engrafted into its parent stem. Fill me with and inflow Your fullness so that I may live and move and grow and bear fruit as I abide more and more in You, Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
Have you ever pruned anything to increase its fruitful harvest? If so, what was it? What type of fruit did you obtain in quantity and quality?
Has God pruned you in your life style? If so, how? What did the pruning feel like? What spiritual result in this pruning bringing about?
Do you think that God needs to prune you? What in your life might be holding you back from a deeper relationship with God? How can you deal with these obstacles?
Do you really believe that you can do nothing without God? What is your basis for your answer?
Atheists get a lot done in life. How are they doing it if they don’t believe in God?
What happens when we pick and choose what to believe from Scripture? Can you think of any examples of someone picking and choosing what to believe regarding God’s word? What is the deeper spiritual implication of picking and choosing?
Do you think God is working in your life to produce fruit? Do you have any proof for this? Or is it a feeling or the way God is directing your life? What sort of fruit is God looking for, do you suppose? Do you feel capable of producing that fruit?
Father Sisco mentions the sacraments as attaching us to Jesus. Can you think of any other ways that we are attached to Jesus? What might those be?
Discuss how you are like God’s vine. What adjectives come to mind to describe a vine? How might each of these adjectives apply to you?
Would God really prune us off the vine if we don’t produce fruit? What is the basis for your answer?
Discuss the quote from St. John of the Cross.
Pray the prayer above.
Are you willing to be pruned by God or are you frightened of this? Why or why not?
Reread Jesus words about the vine. What section of this teaching seems most important to you? Why?
-- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 363: Have Mercy: A Reflection on Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: "Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight."
That you may be justified in your sentence, vindicated when you condemn. Indeed, in guilt was I born, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart, and, in my inmost being you teach me wisdom. Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be purified, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear the sounds of rejoicing and gladness, then the bones you have crushed shall rejoice. Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my guilt. A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence and your Holy Spirit, take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. I will teach transgressors your way, and sinners shall return to you. Free me from blood guilt, O God, my saving God, and my tongue shall revel in your justice. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. -Psalm 51
A heart, contrite and humble O God, you will not spurn.” That about sums up the meaning of conversion. A heart, contrite and humble O God, you will not spurn. God will not spurn, God will not refuse a person whose heart is humble and contrite.
People with humble and contrite hearts are saints. Heaven is filled with souls that are humble and contrite. Purgatory is filled with souls that were kind of, sort of, humble and contrite, but not enough. And hell is full of souls that are void of humility and contrition.
What is humility? The admission that I am nothing but for the Grace of God, therefore I owe all that I am to the Grace of God, and I try to recognize that Grace in everyone else. Contrition is the recognition and repentance for the times I have not been humble. After all, every sin is ultimately rooted in a lack of charity or a lack of humility. A humble and contrite heart is a saintly heart because it’s the heart that most closely resembles the heart of Jesus. Jesus had a humble heart. He laid his will down completely to do the will of the Father.
Well, OK, Father, but what about contrition? Jesus didn’t need to be contrite because he was sinless. Jesus was sinless, true enough, though he did experience contrition, but not because HE had sinned. Rather, Jesus experienced contrition over our sins. When Jesus weeps over ancient Jerusalem, and he weeps at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus is expressing contrition over the sins of the people, their hardness of heart.
Jesus’ fullest expression of contrition is on the cross, where he takes all our sins on himself and atones for them through his sacrifice. Jesus accomplishes the perfect contrition for our sins, so our contrition doesn’t have to be perfect.
Penitential seasons are supposed to increase our humility. They are supposed to increase our contrition. So, I’ll increase my prayer during those seasons, to increase my awareness of my sins and to further lay my will down to the will of the Father. So I’ll increase my fasting during those seasons, to deny myself, to discipline my flesh, to express contrition for my sins. So, I’ll increase my charity those seasons , in my thoughts, words, and deeds, because after all, we’re all just poor sinners, so if I can ease someone else’s burden a little, or be patient with someone difficult, I’m training my spiritual sight to see God’s presence in them. After all, a heart contrite and humble, O God, you will not spurn. ---Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: “To do penance is to bewail the evil we have done, and to do no evil to bewail.” --Pope St.Gregory the Great
Prayer: “O my God I offer thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works by uniting it to Its infinite merits, and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of His merciful Love”. -St Therese of Lisieux
Questions for Discussion
1. Can you think of a person you have yet to be reconciled with? Sibling, coworker, parent, friend? What was the nature of the offense? What action can you take to bring you a step closer to forgiveness?
2. Can you think of someone who is close to coming into, or returning to the Church, but something is keeping them from taking that step? If so, do you believe attachment to a certain sin plays a part in this continued separation?
3. Name a fault in yourself you would like to improve upon, (for example, throwing one's clothes on the floor instead of hanging them back up or putting them into the hamper, or something more serious). What is the cause of this fault? For instance, laziness, or exhaustion, or simple form of habit, etc.
4. The three root sins are said to be pride, vanity, and sensuality. An example of pride is impatience with those who are not as smart, efficient, diligent as you. An example of vanity is being overly concerned with what other people think of you, or your appearance, and wanting to be the center of attention. An example of sensuality is a tendency to overindulge in something that is comforting or pleasurable. Which of these are you most prone to? Can you do anything to combat this?
5. What part do you think habitual negativity of thought plays in encouraging sin? Name one thing you can do in your home or workplace to uplift your family/coworkers?
6. A definition of faith is confidence in the absence of immediate empirical proof. Faith is usually proven over time. Can you think of an incident where others required a certain faith that you would do well or pull through? What role did their positive attitudes, or, where applicable, negative attitudes play in the end results? For example, what role did your coach play in how well you played a game, or the teacher in how well you performed on a test?
7. Christianity has been around for 2,000 years. The faith of the early Christians was strong enough for them to give up all they had to join, knowing they would be persecuted and likely, even killed. Today, Christians in the Middle East, in the face of annihilation, have been shown to have great faith, compared to us in the western world. Why do you believe faith is declining in countries where even the poor live well and in freedom?
8. Contrition flows from humility of heart which, we know, pleases God who rewards us with Grace and peace, and increased faith. Can you name an act of humility you can perform to bring about true contrition? (For instance, making a good Confession, giving to the poor, etc.).
-- Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 364: Solomon’s Folly: A Reflection on 1 Kings 11: 1-13
King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the Israelites, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods;’ Solomon clung to these in love. Among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.’ (1 Kings 11: 1-13)
In his earlier days, King Solomon asked God for wisdom and God granted his wish. Solomon’s great wisdom governed Israel and was so well known that the Queen of Sheba visited him to learn if what she heard were true. After her visit, she said, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10: 6-9)
However, in his older years, Solomon descended into to utter folly. What happened? Sin. Solomon gave himself over to greed and lust. It naturally follows that idolatry is next, and he allows all these pagan wives he’s married to build temples in the land to their pagan gods. Sin dulls our spiritual senses, my brothers and sisters, to where we start to think; “Oh sure. God won’t have a problem with this. It’ll be OK.”
The reading makes it a point to mention the temple of Moloch which was built on the hill just opposite Jerusalem. That’s an important detail. The hill was just opposite Jerusalem because Moloch was about as opposite from the Lord as one can be. All the pagan gods demanded human sacrifice, but Moloch was particularly sinister in that he demanded infant sacrifice. This is offensive enough to God, but when Solomon’s descendant, King Manasseh and his wife actually promote and mandate Moloch worship, that’s when the Lord says to the prophet Jeremiah, “I have had enough! Don’t even pray for Jerusalem anymore because I won’t listen to you. I’ve already given my city to the Babylonians and my temple to destruction.”
The lesson here is we have to always be diligent to stay as far from sin as possible. If we allow ourselves to be lax with one sin, it always dulls us spiritually to start accepting other sins, and the cycle continues.
There is another lesson here, however. As bad as we get, God can still bring good out of it. Consider the hill opposite Jerusalem. What else happened on the hill opposite Jerusalem? Jesus’ crucifixion. The temple of Moloch had been built on the hill of Calvary. When the Jews finally returned from exile, they tore the temple down, but they considered the spot cursed, because of the infant sacrifices that had happened there. So, they used the spot to execute criminals.
You know what else happened on that hill? That was the spot where the Lord told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac but stopped him before he could complete it.
You know what else happened on that spot? That is the spot where supposedly Adam was buried. In fact, if you look at very old crucifixes or icons, at the base of the crucifix is a skull and crossbones. That’s supposed to represent the bones of Adam.
So, on the spot where the fallen son of God, Adam is buried --- is the same spot that God called Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of faith, but Abraham ends up sacrificing a ram instead, to begin a new covenant with us to repair the damage that the fallen son of God, Adam created – this is the same spot where Israel in the ultimate act of faith-LESS-ness, builds a temple to a pagan god where they sacrifice their children, completely rejecting God – this is the same spot, where Jesus Christ, the true son of the Father, and the Lamb of God, sacrifices himself, and allows his blood to flow down from the cross and into the earth to wash away all that past history, and initiate a new beginning for us all.
Never think your sin is too heinous, to be beyond God’s reach to heal you, to renew you, to forgive you, to allow you to start again. Use that grace. Be transformed.
Blessed be God forever. Father Michel Anthony Sisco
Quote: Where sin was hatched, let tears now wash the nest. --St. Robert Southwell
Prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)
Questions for Reflection:
Discuss the rise and fall of Solomon and how the progression of sin, as described by Father Sisco, brought about his downfall. Can you think of another person who has fallen from grace to sin?
Discuss how God’s providence was shown in what happened on the hill of Moloch.
Discuss how sexual sin can lead to other sins. Why does this happen?
Why do people reject God? How much of a role does sin play in this rejection, do you think? Can you think of examples to back up your response?
Have you ever confessed a serious sin and felt cleansed afterwards? How was God’s grace working in your life at that point?
Name some ways you can help others to recognize sin in their lives. List some ways you can encourage others to go to confession. How regularly do you go to confession? Do you need to increase the frequency?
Relate infant sacrifice to abortion and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
-- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 365: Unclean Hearts: A Reflection on Mark 7:14-23
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person, but the things that come out from within are what defile.”
When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus, he declared all foods clean.)
But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” -Mark 7: 14-23
The Pharisees are upset about the apostles because they were eating without going through the customary purification rituals. So, Jesus answers them; “Hear me all of you and understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile that person; but the things that come from within are what defile.” Well, what comes from within? Sin!
Sin comes from within. Sin defiles. Sin corrupts. Sin destroys. Because sin puts me first, everyone else second. Virtue puts everyone else first and me last. Jesus was making this point in reference to the Mosaic dietary law which really has no impact on us. Let me translate Jesus’ point into a modern scenario.
Some people like attending Mass in Latin. OK. Doesn’t do any harm. But an attitude is growing among laity, and some of my brother priests, that Mass in Latin is somehow better, holier, or confers more Grace than having Mass in English. This is a ridiculous notion. The language of the Mass has no bearing whatsoever on its ability to confer Grace. What matters is what you DO with Grace after you’ve received it. Grace comes from an outside source, God, to change us from the inside out.
That’s what makes a person holy; using the Grace of the sacraments to grow in virtue and detach from sin. The language that the Eucharist is consecrated in is irrelevant.
Take, for example, the Queen of Sheba. Why was she so impressed with Solomon’s court? It wasn’t just its magnificence. All kings had magnificent courts and palaces. Solomon had something other kings lacked. Wisdom. Solomon’s wisdom impressed her. Wisdom doesn’t come from conquering nations or building palaces or leading huge armies. Wisdom doesn’t come from without. It comes from within, Wisdom came from within Solomon, because of a special Grace he had been granted by God.
Virtue moves people. Virtue impresses people. Virtue will win the hearts of people, because virtue comes from within, because of a special Grace that is granted to us by God through the sacraments.
Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
Chastity, or cleanness of heart, holds a glorious and distinguished place among the virtues, because she, alone, enables man to see God; hence Truth itself said, 'Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God'". -St. Augustine
Lord, inflame our hearts and our inmost beings with the fire of Your Holy Spirit, that we may serve You with chaste bodies and pure minds. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. -St. Alphonsus Ligouri
Questions for Discussion
1. Jesus pointed out specific sins that come from the heart. What virtues are the opposite the sin of chastity? Of the sin of Theft? Of Murder? Deceit? Blasphemy? Folly?
2. Saint John Vianney preached firmly about the evils of foul speech, and its detrimental effect on our souls. What does carelessness about our speech and foul language say about what is in our hearts?
3. Some holy people advise us to work on virtue in our souls on a daily basis by identifying the opposite sin or vice and asking God to remove it from us. Do you see this as sound advice? Why or why not?
4. It is generally thought that each person has particular tendencies towards one of three types of sin. These are pride, vanity, and sensuality which are sometimes referred to as the “root” sins. Can you identify one of these in yourself? What can you do to overcome it?
5. By the same token, people generally have a virtue that is well developed. What virtue do you believe people would identify you with? For instance, some people are known for their prudence. Others for their generosity.
6. Name a way one could recognize the gift of Sanctifying Grace in themselves or someone else. For instance, have you ever known or heard of a great sinner who has repented and come into the Church? These people are remarkable by the change in their affect. What would you expect to see change in yourself as grace was increased in your soul?
7. Name one or two ways a person can increase grace in the soul, especially that which is conferred at Mass. For example, do you think prayerful preparation prior to Mass would help a person receive the graces more effectively?
8. The Church teaches the importance of “custody of the eyes” by being careful what we see on television, read in books, and the venues we attend. Do you believe seeing and hearing something that is unchaste or sinful can change our hearts? Why or why not? Do you believe God holds us responsible about the things we can control in this regard?
9. In the Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross teaches that the Holy Spirit can only possess the soul in proportion to the soul's detachment from sin and created things. Given this, how important do you think it is to avoid occasions that cause defilement or distraction from God?
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 366: Jesus’ Healing: A Reflection on Matthew 10:1
And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. (Matthew 10:1)
Healing the sick is one of the mandates that Jesus gives his disciples. Jesus chooses 72 of his disciples to go ahead of him to all the towns and villages he intends to visit, and he tells them to do three things; proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand, drive out demons, and heal the sick.
In all four Gospel renditions, healing the sick is the one thing that Jesus does most frequently. However, healing the sick isn’t why Jesus came. Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom and die on the cross, so he could heal all creation, but he heals the sick when he encounters them anyway. He heals because being the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus is perfect mercy, so how can he possibly turn his back on people who are suffering?
Jesus heals people in a variety of ways. Sometimes he touches them, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he just tells them to do something; like when he tells the ten lepers, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And on the way they discover they’re cured. Sometimes he uses props, like when he spits on the ground, makes mud, and smears it on the eyes of the blind man. Sometimes he heals someone more than once, like when he prayed over a blind man and asked, "Can you see anything?" And the man responded that he saw men, but they looked like walking trees, and so Jesus prayed over him a second time until he saw clearly. Jesus healed in a variety of different ways, but they all had one common thread--faith.
Whenever Jesus heals someone he says, “Your faith has healed you.” Why does he say that? Some believe Jesus was trying to take the focus off himself because he didn’t want to get a reputation for being a miracle worker, because that’s not why he came. As I said, he came to die on the cross and save creation. He came to heal our souls not our bodies. But that explanation doesn’t answer everything. Faith does. When Jesus visits his home town, no one believes what he’s saying. “Isn’t this the carpenter's son? Where did he get this teaching?” The scriptures say that Jesus couldn’t work many miracles there, so great was their lack of faith. Faith definitely has a bearing being healed by God.
I’ve been a priest for almost twenty years now. I was in hospital chaplaincy for two years at Rhode Island Hospital where I administered the sacrament of the sick almost constantly, and I have been privileged to see miraculous healings happen because of this sacrament and faith.
When we ask for healing, we need to remember that God has the advantage of seeing the big picture. The big picture is getting us to heaven. You may be suffering because Jesus is inviting you to share a few steps of the walk he made to Calvary. Jesus might be making you into a saint through this suffering. OR, this suffering may be getting someone you love out of purgatory.
When you attend a healing Mass or a healing service, pray silently for healing. Something like, "Lord Jesus, I ask you to heal me. I know you can heal me. I know you want to heal me. I place my illness down at the foot of the cross and trust it to the will of the Father. But if this suffering is for the salvation of my soul or the good of someone else’s soul, I ask you to give me the Grace to carry this cross for you.”
At a healing service, you may experience healing at once or you may experience a healing over the next several days. You may not experience healing for what you came for, but you may experience a healing for something you didn’t expect. For example, you may suddenly be able to forgive someone you’ve been angry at for a long time, or you might suddenly experience peace over the loss of a loved one you’ve been grieving for. But if you don’t experience the healing you want, don’t be discouraged. Accept in faith that God wants you to carry this cross for some reason, for the good of your soul, or the good of someone else’s, and be at peace.
And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little and suffered that little so badly. St. Sebastian Valfre
Dear Lord, I come before You today in need of Your healing hand. In You all things are possible. Hold my heart within Yours, and renew my mind, body and soul. I am lost, but I come to You with grace. You gave us life, and You also give us the gift of infinite joy. Give me the strength to move forward on the path you’ve laid out for me. Guide me towards better health and give me the wisdom to identify those you’ve placed around me to help me get better. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
Compare bodily healing with spiritual and emotional healing. What similarities and differences are there? Which do you think would be more difficult to bear? Why?
What role does faith have in healing? What might be the reasons if a person is not healed but has faith? Does God heal someone without faith? Explain your answer.
A father prayed very much for his daughter in her years long battle with leukemia. He was certain that God would heal her because he his faith was so strong. At the age of eleven, his daughter died in his arms. What might you say to this father who could not understand why she had died when he had such strong faith that God would heal her?
See how many Gospel passages you can find that mention Jesus healing. Make a list of similarities and differences between these instances. Do you see any pattern?
Some people believe that everyone needs a healing of some sort. If you feel comfortable, share with the others in your group what your healing might be. Have you asked for this healing? Should you? Why or why not?
Discuss the quote from St. Sebastian.
Discuss how the healing prayer shown above is a prayer of surrender to God’s will. What is the person praying for in this prayer? Do you believe that God will answer this prayer?
Discuss ways we can bring a healing presence to people who are sick, such as those in a nursing home or hospital.
Have you ever prayed over anyone or with anyone who was sick or hurt? What was that experience like? If you have never done this, do some research on praying over someone or praying with someone for healing. What might you learn to do if you wish to enter this type of ministry?
If everyone in your group is comfortable with this idea, gather in a circle and take turns being prayed over for healing and other needs by the other members in the group. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your prayers and sharing. Ask the Holy Spirit to touch each person being prayed over. Then discuss everyone’s reaction to being prayed over by the others.
Have you ever been to a healing service? Can you describe it and your experience of it? Did you ask for healing? Did you receive a healing? How did that happen, if you did receive a healing?
Compose a prayer for healing. How might you use this prayer?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 367: Why the Church?: A Reflection on Ezekiel 47: 1-12
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.
Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish,
For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47: 1-12)
The Church does not generally celebrate the feast of a specific church, but we do celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. We celebrate this feast because Saint John Lateran was the first official Catholic Church ever built in history, dedicated in 324 AD. Its dedication commemorated the end of more than three centuries of persecution against the Church because the Church was now able to enjoy legal status in the Roman Empire.
The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of the temple. In his vision, water trickles from under the south wall of the temple, and this trickle becomes a great river. What comes from the river? Fresh water. Fish. Along its bank grow trees that provide fruit and medicinal leaves for healing.
The vision poetically explains what comes from the Church. Life. Water is necessary for life. Food is necessary for life, characterized by the fish and fruit in the vision. Healing is necessary for life, indicated by the medicinal leaves. Water. Food. Healing. These preserve and sustain life. All of these flow spiritually and sacramentaly from the Church.
Water flows from the Church in the sacrament of Baptism to give life. Baptism cleanses us from original sin and gives us membership in God’s family, so we can have eternal life in heaven. The Eucharist is our spiritual food. The Eucharist strengthens us to resist sin, as food strengthens the body to resist sickness. Healing comes from the Church in the sacraments of confession and the anointing of the sick. These sacraments break the hold that sin has on us. They heal us of the effect of sin in our lives. Baptism. Eucharist. Spiritual healing. All of these come from the Church.
And just to quell any confusion people may have, Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, clarifies for us: “Brothers and sisters: You are God’s building. . . . Do you not know that YOU are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” The Church isn’t about the buildings. The Church is YOU. As long as we exist, so does the Church. The buildings are of no consequence.
Many dioceses are closing churches. I can understand why many people are sentimental about their particular church buildings; my parents were married in this church, my kids got all their sacraments in this church, I want to be buried from this church. I understand. Truly I do. What I DON’T understand is people who stop going to church after their parish closes. Salvation is NOT about the building. It’s about the Grace of God, delivered by the Holy Spirit, through the sacraments. The Holy Spirit now dwells in each one of us. WE are the Church. WE are the temple. To give that up over a building is misplaced devotion. It’s idolatry really. You’ve made the building more important than the Grace of God that came from it. All buildings eventually outlive their usefulness. All buildings eventually have to be replaced. That shouldn’t bother you.
When the Church celebrates the feast of the dedication of a church, it's not the building we celebrate. It’s the message the building conveyed. The Catholic Church is here, and here to stay. Whether that message is true depends wholly on two things: the Holy Spirit and our reception of him. It is my prayer today that all of our Catholic brothers and sisters are receptive to the Holy Spirit every day, so others may be encouraged to join us, and in so doing, instead of closing churches, in future years we have to build more. --Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: There are but two way, the way to Rome and the way to atheism. – Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
Prayer: Poor little Church, tossed about by the waves of a violent storm, with no harbor of refuge, cast your cares on the Lord, for He Himself will help you, nourishing you at the fountain of your princes, the Apostles. They were fortified with the teachings of Christ, and the grace of the Holy Spirit; draw strength from them, from then until now, so that, growing from virtue to virtue, you will be able to see the God of gods in Zion to whom be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen. –Saint Anthony of Padua
Questions for Reflection:
Discuss the concept that the people of God are the Church of God. What does WE are the Church mean? How can we live this meaning?
Discuss the relationship of the church building to the Church. What should our response be if the parish church is closing?
Father Sisco states that the water in the vision of Ezekiel represents baptism. What else might it represent?
Father Sisco states that the fish and fruit represent the Eucharist. What else might the fish and fruit represent?
Father Sisco suggests that the leaves used for medicine represent the healing of the soul in confession. Referring to the Church, what else might they represent?
Father Sisco suggests that the Catholic Church will exist only because of the Holy Spirit and our reception of him. Discuss how both of these are needed for the continuation of the faith.
Read the vision of Ezekiel and discuss other possible meanings for it.
Discuss the quote from Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
Discuss St. Anthony’s prayer. Is the Church following his advice?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine of Love Reflection 368: Love Does No Evil: A Reflection on Romans 13:10
“Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)
Saint Paul, in this one line from his letter to the Romans, has just summed up Christianity. "Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law."
All sin, no matter how small, does evil to one’s neighbor. There is no such thing as a victimless sin.
Well, what about swearing, cussing? That doesn’t hurt anyone. Sure, it does because all cuss words in some way profane the sacred, since all cuss words revolve around the body, bodily functions, or the name of God, and these things have been sacred from the beginning of time and were not forfeited with the fall of Adam and Eve. So, when we cuss and swear around others, we’re desensitizing them to the sacred. We are doing evil to them.
Well, what about masturbation? That doesn’t hurt anyone else. Sure, it does because it trains us to see other people as objects of gratification. I have to gratify myself because I don't have someone else to gratify me right now. That attitude diminishes the dignity of others as children of God. We are doing evil to them.
There is no such thing as a victimless sin. There is no such thing as a harmless sin. All sin, no matter how small, does evil to someone else. That’s why we always must be using the confessional to repent of our sins and give us the Grace to resist sin.
How do we prevent sinning in the first place, or at least keep it to a minimum? Jesus gives us that answer. “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. . . . Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. . . . . everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
Now we have to understand when Jesus uses the word “hate” in reference to family members, he’s using hyperbole. He’s exaggerating for the sake of impact. What Jesus is saying to us here is that God has to take top priority. If there is a choice between God and my parents, God and my wife, God and my kids, God and my siblings, God and my stuff, even God and my own life, God wins every time. Whenever God gives me a challenge, I have to embrace it and not run from it. God gets top priority in all things, all the time.
If there is ever a choice between God and my family members, it’s because those family members have chosen to sin; they have in some way chosen to do evil to their neighbor, and I have a responsibility not to consent to that. We all have possessions, but if my possessions are leading me to sin, if my wealth has made me greedy, if my television or computer lures me into sins of the flesh --then I have to make God my top priority and get rid of them.
By the time I was twenty-five, I knew that God was calling me to the priesthood. What did I want? I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to get married and have kids. I wanted to own my own house. I want, I want, I want. If I did what I wanted, I would have ignored the plan God had chosen for me, which was to lead others to him.
The only way to avoid doing evil to our neighbor, the only way to truly love, is by making God our top priority. And that might mean taking a different path than someone you love once you to take. It might mean getting rid of something, or even someone, that is keeping you from closeness to God. Making God top priority might mean picking up your cross and carrying it no matter what you want to do.
Blessed be God forever, Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: With regard to doing the will of the Lord, even if someone should be scandalized by what we do, we must not let that hamper our freedom of action.-- St. Basil the Great
Prayer: “My Lord, I cannot place the treasure of a sinless life on the scales of your judgment. Do not impute this debt to me, O good God. Indeed, according to your just judgments, Lord, I deserve to be condemned and deprived of my life, since I did not safeguard the treasure of my heart and my life which you have entrusted to my care.” -- St. Anthony of Padua
Questions for Reflection:
Consider these sins which people often say don’t hurt anyone else. How do each of these victimize other people? Pornography? White lies? Overeating? Vanity?
Discuss the quote from St. Basil the great.
Pray the prayer from St. Anthony and then discuss it.
Have you ever done what you wanted and then realized that it kept you from God’s plan for your life? What was this situation? If you feel comfortable, share it with your Oratory group. What could you have done differently at that time?
We could rewrite Romans 13:10 “Love does no evil to one’s neighbor,” to read, “Love does only good to one’s neighbor.” Both quotes end with the words “hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Compare the two variations of the first part of Romans 13. Are they saying exactly the same thing, or is there a slightly different meaning to the two variations? Explain your reasoning for your answer.
Is God top priority in your life? What makes you answer the way you do? If God is not at the top, what is? How can you bring God to the top?
Do you cuss and swear or know someone who does? What can you do to more charitably yourself? What can you do to help someone else develop more charitable speech? If cussing and swearing is a problem your home or workplace, how can you become a force for minimizing this problem?
What crosses are you carrying? What is your attitude toward them? Do you feel that they are helping you to put God first? What would your life be without those crosses? What would your spirituality be without them?
Do you have any possessions that you would say possess you? What actions can you take to be free of this bondage? If you are freed, what could this do to your spirituality?
-- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 369: Who Is a Saint?: A Reflection on Matthew 5: 1-12)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven." Matthew 5: 1-12
A saint is any soul that is in heaven. If you’re in heaven, you’re a saint, which means. in all probability, you have saints in your family tree, your ancestry. On All Saints’ Day, every year, we always hear the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which we call the beatitudes. The beatitudes are the core of Christ’s teaching. Everyone in the world is always telling us, “Have a good attitude. Have a positive attitude.” GOD tells us to have a BE-attitude.
Holiness is a way of BEING. Holiness is a way of living, and the beatitudes tell us how to do that. The rest of the Sermon on the Mount is a fleshing out, an elaboration on the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Poor people have little or nothing and have to rely on the charity of others to survive. To be poor in spirit is to admit that I am nothing without God. Everything I have, everything I am, is a gift from him.
Blessed are they who mourn. When we’re sad and we turn to God he will comfort us. And that word “comfort,” in Latin cum forte, literally means to strengthen. Blessed are they who mourn, because they will be strengthened by God. Every time we suffer through something, we become a little bit stronger, like working out at a gym. It hurts while you’re doing it, but it makes muscles grow stronger.
Blessed are the meek. Meekness is the ability to lay your will down to God’s will, and do what HE wants, rather than what YOU want.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Why? Because when you want something SO bad you hunger and thirst for it, you’ll inspire other people to want it, too. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to spread righteousness; to evangelize.
Blessed are the merciful. Mercy is when someone gets what they don’t deserve because they haven’t earned it, or they DON’T get what they DO deserve because they’ve done something wrong. Mercy requires someone to give up what they deserve, for the sake of someone who doesn’t deserve it. That’s why it’s holy.
Blessed are the clean of heart. In some translations, it says, “Blessed are the single hearted.” Same thing. The clean of heart are people who always make God their top priority, so they would never do anything to offend him. Their hearts are not divided between God and worldly desires. They’re single-hearted.
Blessed are the peacemakers. The peacemakers are those who can convince other people to be merciful with each other.
And Blessed are the persecuted, those persecuted for the sake of righteousness and when people tell lies about you because you follow the Lord. You are blessed because God will reward you greatly in heaven.
That’s the formula to become holy, and the saints did it. The saints remind us that holiness may be difficult, living these beatitudes is challenging, but it is NOT impossible. In the Book of Revelation, Saint John says he had a vision of a great multitude of people in heaven standing before the throne of God, so big, it was impossible to count them all; people of every language, and every corner of the world. Saint John was having a vision of all the saints in heaven. Right now, in the Catholic Church, there are about 11,000 canonized saints. When someone is canonized, that’s the Church saying we KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this person, because of the life of holiness they led, is in heaven.
But the Church also admits, that there are far more saints in heaven than we know about. That 11,000 only makes up a fraction of the actual saints in heaven. We also know that are a large number of souls of people, who have died, that are still waiting to GET into heaven; the souls in purgatory. They’re in purgatory because they didn’t live the beatitudes as well as they could have or should have, but they still didn’t do anything bad enough to go to hell.
On the day after All Saints Day, the Church dedicates a whole day to ask us, the faithful, to pray for the souls in purgatory, because our prayers can get them into heaven faster. And praying for the living and the dead is an act of mercy, and so, by doing this, we are participating in one of the beatitudes, and helping ourselves get to heavemn too. Pray for the souls in purgatory!
God gave Saint Gertrude the Great a prayer for the souls in purgatory. The Lord promised Saint Gertrude that every time the prayer was said, 1000 souls would be released from purgatory. Now, I realize this is private revelation. That means it’s NOT part of the public teaching of the Church, so you are NOT obligated to believe it, but MY attitude is, what can it possibly hurt? So, maybe Saint Gertrude misheard, or the person SHE told misquoted her, and it’s NOT 1000 souls, maybe it’s only 100 souls, but even if it benefits only one soul, it’s worth it! Because that’s one saint, added to heaven, because of your prayer! What if that soul had no one else to pray for them? Think of how grateful that soul will be to you! Think of how that soul is now going to watch over you and pray for you and your intentions and help you get to heaven! That’s what we call, “The Communion of Saints.” That’s how all this works. We pray for the souls of the deceased, so they can become saints in heaven. And then they pray for us, so we can do the same, because in the Catholic Church, we’re always helping each other, we’re always pulling for each other. Our faith comes down to this. We help each other in this life through the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy, and we even help each other in the next life with our prayers and sacrifices, because that’s what Catholics do. That’s what saints do. Be Catholic. Be a Saint. In the name of the Father, and of the Son…. – Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: “The joy promised by the Beatitudes is the very joy of Jesus Himself. A joy sought and found in obedience to the Father, and in the gift of self to others.” -St. John Paul II
Prayer: O most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the overwhelming grief you experienced when you witnessed the martyrdom, the crucifixion, and the death of your divine Son, look upon me with eyes of compassion, and awaken in my heart a tender commiseration for those sufferings, as well as a sincere detestation of my sins, in order that, being disengaged from all undue affection for the passing joys of this earth, I may sigh after the eternal Jerusalem, and that henceforward all my thoughts and all my actions may be directed towards this one most desirable object: Honor, glory, and love to our divine Lord Jesus, and to the holy and immaculate Mother of God. Amen.
Questions for Discussion
1. King St. Louis of France was known and revered for his humility and compassion, caring for the poor and sick subjects of his kingdom, and living a simple life of generosity and sanctity. Do you believe that the wealthy can be “poor in spirit”? Can you name one or two ways those in wealthier countries can be “poor in spirit”?
2. Many people are poor by no choice of their own. Is it possible to be poor in the worldly sense, but not poor in spirit? Which do you believe would be harder? Having wealth and living as the poor do, or, being poor and accepting what comes?
3. The beatitudes can be summed up in one word: Humility. In the spiritual sense, why do you believe humility is so attractive to God? In what ways do humiliations that are imposed on us help us attain spiritual humility?
4. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will lead us “to all truth”, yet many who claim to have been led by the Spirit hold to error in faith and sometimes morals. How do the Beatitudes show us how to discern what is truly from the Holy Spirit?
5. Go through the Beatitudes as Fr. Sisco explained each and discuss.
6. Jesus told Christians to expect persecution. A popular saying that has made the rounds for years, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”, still holds true. Where do you stand on this?
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 370: Apollos: A Reflection on Acts 18:24
“A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria and a man of eloquence, arrived by ship at Ephesus. He was both an authority on scripture and instructed in the new way of the Lord.” (Acts 18:24)
I think Apollos is one of the most interesting characters in the New Testament. What do we know of him? We know he’s a Greek convert to Judaism.
“Apollos” is not a Hebrew name. It’s Greek. We are told right up front he is an eloquent speaker, and full of fervor for God. He was an authority on Scripture, and, when the Acts of the Apostles says this, it means the Old Testament, because the New Testament hadn’t been written yet. We know he’s received some instruction about the teachings of Christ, and he fearlessly defends Jesus’ teachings in synagogues.
However, his knowledge of Christianity is incomplete. Here’s a detail that’s often overlooked; “. . . he spoke accurately about Jesus, although he only knew of John’s baptism.” He only knew of John’s baptism! John the Baptist! Apollos hasn’t even been baptized a Christian yet! Now there’s a glaring omission. Baptism is THE central sacrament of the Christian faith!
What can we learn from this? God can work through people who love him, at whatever stage of spiritual development they may be. Where did Apollos’ love for Christ come from? It wasn’t sacramental! His love for Christ came from his knowledge of the Scriptures.
Apollos must have studied the Old Testament passionately and intently. And when he heard of this Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching, it made perfect sense as the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law. So he converts on his own, and, on his own authority, starts preaching. When Priscilla and Acquilla hear him, they take him home and tell him that he doesn’t have the whole story yet, and they teach him more.
What’s the difference between Apollos and those Judaizers we hear about in the Book of Acts, those converted Pharisees who are telling Gentiles they have to be circumcised before becoming Christian? A couple things.
First, the Judaizers were taking the Old Law and imposing it on the New. Apollos was taking the teaching of Christ and showing how it fulfilled the Old.
Second, when Apollos was told that there was more he needed to know, and that he needed to be baptized, he submitted to the authority of the Church. The Judaizers didn’t. They continued in their false teachings even after the Apostles told them to stop.
I think of this with our Protestant brothers and sisters. We must recognize our need to pray for them. Apollos comes to Christianity through reading and studying the Old Testament. Without the help of the Grace of the sacraments, and without formal teaching in the faith, Apollos was converted.
Dr. Scott Hahn, a Scripture scholar at Franciscan University, and a Catholic Apologist, was a former Presbyterian pastor and anti-Catholic. As he kept delving into the Scriptures and history of the early Church to find arguments against Catholicism, the more he discovered that Catholics are right. Other ministers have had similar experiences. We need to pray for our non-Catholic, Christian brothers and sisters, that, like Apollos, their sincere and true love for God, coupled with their fervor for reading and studying Scripture, will lead them to the fullness of the truth as taught by the Church. Pray for this. They need to know what we know. And we could surely use their zeal and enthusiasm.
Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if Faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself. --St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Prayer: Lord, I believe: I wish to believe in Thee. Lord, let my faith be full and unreserved, and let it penetrate my thought, my way of judging Divine things and human things. Lord, let my faith be joyful and give peace and gladness to my spirit, and dispose it for prayer with God and conversation with men, so that the inner bliss of its fortunate possession may shine forth in sacred and secular conversation. Lord, let my faith be humble and not presume to be based on the experience of my thought and of my feeling; but let it surrender to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and not have any better guarantee than in docility to Tradition and to the authority of the magisterium of the Holy Church. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
List similarities and differences between the Catholic Church and non-Catholic Christian churches. What do you feel are the most important differences and similarities?
Are you a convert to the Catholic faith or do you know any converts? What do you believe is the most important factor in their (or your) conversion?
Have you ever been able to lead anyone into the Catholic Church? If so, how did that come about? Identify someone whom you would like to tell about the Catholic faith
Identify at least three stumbling blocks for non-Catholic Christians to come into the Church. Discuss how each of these might be overcome.
What might be some reasons that Apollos was open to hearing more about Christianity while the Judaizers were not? What you can do to encourage open-mindedness?
What do you see or whom do you see as authorities in the Church?
Pray the above prayer and then discuss it.
Explore the conversion of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. How did she come into the Catholic Church? How does her story illustrate the ways of God in the tragedies and trials of our lives?
Read more about Scott Hahn’s conversion. What objection did he have to coming into the Catholic Church? How were those objections overcome? Scott’s wife also became a convert. What were her objections? How were those overcome?
-- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP