Oratory of Divine Love Weekly Reflection 371: Changing the Law: A Reflection on Matthew 5:17-19
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have NOT come to abolish but fulfill. Amen I say to you, unless heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter, or smallest part of the letter will pass from the law…” (Matthew 5:17-19)
We always want to change laws. We tailor laws to fit the times in which we’re living. We change laws to accommodate our change in morality. This can be good or bad. In this country we fought the bloodiest war in our history to change a law, to make slavery illegal. That was certainly a good change to our law. In the 1970’s we recognized abortion as a legal right; NOT a good change. Right now, a debate is raging about the 2nd amendment, the right to bear arms, and what that entails, and what it doesn’t entail. So, we’re always changing laws to fit what our society perceives as moral and just. That’s what makes a democracy work; citizens elect leaders to represent the law. If the leaders make laws people don’t agree with, those citizens elect different leaders.
This mentality becomes a problem though, when people think it applies to God’s law. Now note what I say, GOD’S law, not necessarily Church law. There are three types of law that govern the Church; Divine Law, Natural Law, and Ecclesial Law. (Ecclesial means Church).
Divine Law: those laws handed to us directly by God.
Natural Law is defined as; a body of unchanging moral principles regarded as a basis for all human conduct. What does THAT mean? The Natural Law are moral laws that can be understood by the human intellect alone, without Divine assistance.
Ecclesial Law; are the laws regarding the disciplines and practices of the Church.
Of these three types of law, the only ones that can change are Ecclesial laws; the laws governing the disciplines and practices of the Church. Example, not eating meat on Friday. When my mother was growing up, that meant every Friday, 52 weeks a year. Then in the 70’s it was done away with all together for a while. Saint John Paul II brought it back, but only made it mandatory during the Friday’s of Lent. Not eating meat on Friday’s is an Ecclesial law, a discipline or practice of the Church. It can change.
The Ten Commandments are both Divine AND Natural law. We didn’t need God to tell us that killing, stealing, and lying were wrong. We could pretty much figure that out on our own. But in the Ten Commandments, God puts his seal of approval on how we should be morally acting, and with that comes a promise: if you break these, you may escape human justice, but you’ll still have to answer to me, the LORD.
The first three of the Ten Commandments; “I am the Lord your God, you shall not have any other gods before me”; “Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” and “Keep holy the Sabbath Day”, ARE Divine Law. We wouldn’t have known that, if God didn’t tell us.
The problem is that people often mistake Divine and Natural Law with Ecclesial Law and assume that these teachings can change. Or they might see the Church is a democracy where, if enough people voice their objection, the Church can change Divine or Natural Law. The Church can’t change Divine or Natural Law! The Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, CANNOT change. It doesn’t matter if EVERYBODY is doing them. Divine and Natural Law don’t change.
Whether or not priests can get married CAN change. That’s an Ecclesial Law. Celibacy is a discipline of the Western Catholic Church. Eastern Rite Catholic priests are allowed to be married. It’s always been that way since the apostolic age.
So, when you hear people talking about changing Church teachings; it’s important for you to know what can change and what can’t.
In the Old Testament, the children of Israel left worship of the Lord to worship the Canaanite god Baal. The Book of Kings tells us, “Elijah approached the people and said, “How long will you not decide between two choices? If the Lord is the true God, follow him, but if Baal is the true God, follow him!” But the people said nothing.” (1 Kings 18:21) Why Baal? He was a fertility god. Why were the people silent? Part of the worship of Baal was having group sex. One can understand the appeal. Some people might think that sounded a heck of lot more interesting than their liturgy! Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal while the people watch. God makes Himself present in action, thus demonstrating to everyone that, just because we THINK we can change things, that doesn’t mean we really can.
We may not have an Elijah in person today. But we have an Elijah in print. Read your Catechism. Know the what AND the why, so you will never be misled.
--Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: “Christ is the center of the universe and of human history…”—Saint John Paul II
Prayer: We pray You, O almighty and eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Your glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Your mercy, that Your Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of your name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
Obtain a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You may want to refer to it for this lesson.
Father Sisco mentions Church law regarding married priests and abstinence from meat on Fridays as Ecclesial Laws that can change. Can you think of other Ecclesial Laws that the Church would be able to change?
Father Sisco mentions abortion, homosexuality, and contraception as involving Natural Law. What are the Church teachings on these three topics? What other topics can you think of that would fall under the category of Natural Law? Why do you think these topics involve decisions of the Church that cannot be changed? How does Natural Law work? How do Church teachings in these areas correspond to Natural Law?
Father Sisco mentions the first three commandments as Divine Law. Who may Divine Law? Why can’t Divine Law change? Can you think of other Divine Laws? Where are these in Scripture?
Father Sisco mentions that the worship of Baal had an attraction to certain people. Think of a controversial topic where some people want to change the teachings of the Church. What about the proposed changes seems attractive to certain mindsets?
Discuss the quote from St. John Paul II.
The prayer above mentions unchanging faith. What about our faith is unchanging? Would faith change?
Discuss changes in the Church in the past century. What were the reasons for making these? Do you think they were good reasons? Why or why not?
-- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 372: Controversial Faith: A Reflection on 2 Timothy 4:1-5
“In the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power, I charge you to preach the word, to stay with this task whether convenient or inconvenient—correcting, reproving, appealing, constantly teaching, and never losing patience. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears. They will stop listening to the truth and wander off to fables. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
I could stop right now and say, “Insert your own homily here,” because I don’t think Paul could have been more blunt than this. It seems to me like Paul could have written this passage last night. Talk about hitting the nail on the head. Are we not living in this age? Hasn’t the time come when people, won’t just not listen to sound doctrine, won’t just ignore sound doctrine, but won’t even tolerate sound doctrine? Aren’t we living in an age when anyone who stands up for what is moral is vilified, and demonized? Aren’t we living in an age when people have happily abandoned the truth to chase false doctrines because they don’t want to be bothered with the challenge of Christianity?
I’ve told you before, I go over to the school regularly to answer the religion questions of the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, which they can anonymously put in baskets. Lots of the questions are very basic like, “But why did Jesus have to die for our sins?" Catholicism 101. But I notice every time the question of homosexuality comes up, and it’s ALWAYS in the basket, suddenly these thirteen year old kids become theologians! I state the teaching of the church, and half the hands in the class go up! “There’s only ONE passage in the book of Deuteronomy that prohibits homosexuality, and Deuteronomy also prohibits the eating of shell fish and pork. We did away with those. Why not homosexuality?”
Well, actually, there are actually New Testament passages that prohibit homosexual behavior as well, and I quoted some of them. “But Jesus told us not to judge, so how can we tell these people they’re doing something wrong?” Jesus never told us we couldn’t judge actions as right or wrong. When Jesus told us not to judge, he was saying don’t presume you know someone’s motivations as to why they do what they’ve done.
And as I’m answering all the challenges as they come I’m getting the pouts and the eye rolls, and the gasps of exasperation. They don’t want to hear it.
If you ever wonder why I preach the way I do, it’s based on this passage. “I charge you to preach the word, to stay with this task whether convenient or inconvenient—correcting, reproving, appealing—constantly teaching and never losing patience.” I know this is probably going to come as a shock to most of you, but I really don’t enjoy being controversial. I don’t like stirring things up. Growing up, I was the quiet kid. Live and let live. Don’t get involved. Mind your own business. And then the Holy Spirit made me into something quite different.
Sometimes when I write something in a homily, I ask Jesus, “You’re not really going to make me say this, are you?” I can only describe it by saying, I am compelled to preach the way I do even when I don’t want to. And I know it sometimes makes some people upset, and I know it makes some people uncomfortable. If it’s any consolation, it makes me uncomfortable too, but that’s OK. It’s healthy to get a good swift kick in our complacency every now and then. But if you ever wonder what compels me; read Paul’s second letter to Timothy, particularly chapter four. I preach like my salvation depends on it, because I truly believe my salvation does.
Immaculate Heart of Mary…pray for us. –Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: Don’t be afraid of the radicalness of His demands… If He asks much of you it is because He knows you can give much. -- Saint John Paul the Great
Prayer: Lord, God, I find myself surrounded by values that have no place in Your kingdom. That which is most sacred to You is trivialized and made common. Lord, help me to recognize right from wrong. Keep my heart tender that I might recoil from evil rather than adapt and make room in my life for what offends You. Give me discernment, Lord, and the courage to say yes to good. Give me the strength to speak your truth in charity and to live what I preach. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
In light of this reflection, discuss this quote by James Crook: “To lead an orchestra you must turn your back on the crowd.”
Would you agree with Fr. Sisco’s assessment of modern humanity and the faith they want to have? Do you think this is true of all countries in the world today? Why or why not?
Father Mike Schmitz asks, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when? When it comes to following Jesus it’s usually not more information that we need, but more guts.” How do these thoughts relate to this Oratory reflection?
Have you ever tried to present an unpopular idea or Church teaching? What prompted you to do this? What was the result? Were you encouraged or discouraged? Will you ever present something controversial again? Why or why not?
Father John Parks stated, “Jesus promises two things for those who follow Him: 1. Trouble 2. Victory.” Discuss this in light of this reflection.
Do you think St. Paul’s advice to Timothy was meant for priests alone or for laity also? How can we get the courage to follow St. Paul’s advice to Timothy?
Blessed Titus Bradsma wrote, “They who want to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come into conflict with it.” Father Bradsma was a Dutch Carmelite friar, priest, and philosophy professor who was violently opposed to Nazi policy and spoke out many times against it. He was eventually imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp where he died as a martyr for the faith. Discuss Fr. Sisco’s article as it relates to Blessed Titus’s life and death.
Discuss Mark Hart’s observation: “Thy Kingdom come’ means ‘My Kingdom go.’ There are two main things I’ve learned about following the Holy Spirit: It will never be easy. It will never be boring. You can’t do God’s will and satisfy everyone. If you want to live as a Christian, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Preaching Christ’s truth always bears fruit. Of course, some people will probably end up wanting to throw that fruit at you…”
Malcom Muggeridge observed, ”Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.” Relate that to what Fr. Sisco is saying in this reflection.
How does this truism relate to Fr. Sisco’s reflection: “Speaking the truth with love will not always change minds and hearts. Sometimes all you can do is plant a pebble in someone else’s shoe”. Can you think of someone who needs a pebble in their shoe? What would that pebble be? How can you plant it there? Are there ways to plant pebbles without speaking a word or having a confrontation? What might those ways be? What tactics might be comfortable for you?
Read all of 2 Timothy 4. What other tips does this present? Which are especially challenging?
Is this true--Withholding the truth of Christianity would be even more uncharitable than withholding a cure for cancer. If it is true, what should each of us be doing about it?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 373: This Momentary Light Affliction: A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4:15 through 5:5)
“Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God. Therefore we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:15-17)
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
This momentary LIGHT affliction, is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond ALL comparison. Paul was writing this to Christians who were being tortured and killed for their faith. That’s the LIGHT affliction he’s describing here. Paul is saying to them anything --- ANYTHING --- we have to suffer here is worth it, because what is waiting for us in eternity is so phenomenally better!
Then Paul goes on in this passage to describe our lives here as a tent. This is an image I love to use at wakes and funerals. What is a tent? A tent is a temporary shelter. A tent can be struck down and moved. A tent is extremely fragile. In Paul’s day a tent had to be constantly patched and repaired.
Paul says our permanent home is in heaven. Don’t get attached here. Don’t get obsessed with the things of this world. Focusing on this world will only discourage you, because inevitably, in this world, we will always tend to focus on what we do NOT have, rather than what we do have. That’s why our focus has to be on what’s waiting for us in heaven.
I live in a tent now, and the people next door might have a nicer tent, but it’s still only a tent! But I know a mansion is waiting for me when I get to heaven. That’s the difference between the goods of this world and the goods of the next, the difference between a tent and a mansion.
So first we have to keep our eyes fixed on the goal. Second, we need to work on getting to heaven, which means carrying the cross that we have been given, because, when we don’t carry our cross, if we choose the things of this world over the cross God has given us, we sin.
Every couple of months I visit the middle school classes in the school and answer all their religion questions. And always, the homosexual question comes up. “It’s not fair that homosexual couples can’t get married in the church. “It’s not fair that they were born this way. They didn’t choose it.” Agreed. It’s not fair. But what in this world IS fair? It isn’t fair that some people are born with physical or
mental handicaps. It isn’t fair that some people are born into wealth and others born into poverty. It isn’t fair that some people go to jail for crimes they didn’t commit, or some get minimal sentences for the same crimes because they had better lawyers. It isn’t fair that some couples keep trying to have a child and can’t, while others abort perfectly healthy babies and discard them like trash. What’s fair in this world?
If the world was fair there would be no holiness. Holiness can only exist if the cross does. And we all have at least one cross; whether that cross is physical, or mental, or social, or financial, or spiritual, or sexual, we have all been given a cross. Am I willing to forgo the temporal pleasures of this world, am I even willing to forgo what’s fair, for the sake of something better in eternity?
Thankfully, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has given us a means to recover from those times we have failed to carry our cross, in the sacrament of confession, because in using that sacrament we are forced to admit to someone else that we failed to carry our cross. And it is imperative we do this, because God cannot work with us unless we develop humility. This was Adam’s problem in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had a cross. Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They failed.
But why does God go through this discourse with Adam? “Adam, where are you?” “I’m hiding.” “Why are you hiding?” “I heard you walking in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked.” “Adam, who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the fruit of the tree that I forbade you to eat?” God KNOWS what Adam has done. Why go through this dialogue? Because God is TRYING to draw Adam into a confession. And God fails. Adam never confesses. Even when God corners him, Adam starts blaming everyone else for his mistake; it’s Eve’s fault, it’s the serpent's fault, it’s even YOUR fault, God -- I mean you put this chick here with me! I didn’t ask for her! But it’s not my fault. (Isn’t that just like a guy?! We don’t need to ask for directions! I know exactly where we are! I didn’t make a mistake!) God can’t do anything with him.
I wonder sometimes, would things have turned out differently, if Adam had come clean? What if Adam said instead, “I really messed up. I saw the serpent tempting my wife and, when she needed my support, I kept my mouth shut. I failed in my vocation as her husband, and I failed in my vocation as your son, and I am sooo sorry.” How differently may creation have unfolded, if Adam had just confessed his sin?
Confession forces us to confront the times we have failed to carry our cross. Confession helps us grow in humility, because it reminds us of how much we need the Grace of God that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” We need confession, because we need humility. We need humility, because we need grace.
And that’s exactly what’s wrong with the Scribes in the time of Christ. They are void of humility. They are so convinced that they’re right and Jesus is wrong. Even Jesus casting out a DEMON does not convince them that Jesus just might be more than they want him to be. The Scribes start grasping at straws, trying to discredit Jesus. “He casts out demons by the power of the prince of demons,” they declare. REALLY? You’re really going to try to make that argument? And this is EXACTLY what’s happening right now to our culture. We have become so proud that we are becoming less and less capable of recognizing sin. We’re becoming less and less capable of telling right from wrong. Everything is acceptable, unless of course you’re a devout Christian. THAT’S unacceptable.
Keep your eye on the goal. Don’t get consumed with the pleasures of this world. Examine your conscience and go to confession often. Don’t let sin control you. Accept whatever cross God has given you, and do your best to carry it. I promise, what is waiting for us in eternity is worth it!
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:
How does sin disrupt God’s plan? Where does repentance fit in? Discuss the value of confession.
What might have happened if Adam had ‘fessed up? Can you find a scriptural basis for your response?
Make a list of 25 crosses people bear. Which are the most difficult, do you think? Why?
What is the value of bearing one’s cross? How does bearing our cross assist in redemption?
What is our final goal of life? How can we discuss heaven with others?
Is it possible to present suffering in a positive light to people who are not Christian? How?
How can a Christian be a moral witness in our culture of shifting values?
Think of someone who is bearing a heavy cross as a true Christian. How does this person inspire you?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 374: Saint Michael Prayer: A Reflection on Luke 16:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples, "A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, 'What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.'
The steward said to himself, 'What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.'
He called in his master's debtors one by one. To the first he said, 'How much do you owe my master?' He replied, 'One hundred measures of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.' Then to another he said, 'And you, how much do you owe?' He replied, 'One hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.'
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light." --Luke 16: 1-8
In the United States, Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11 as a day to honor all men and women who have served in the military during a time of war. Even as a Church, it is right and proper that we honor veterans and remember the sacrifices they made protecting freedoms we take for granted every day.
It is also proper, as a nation, and a Church, that we make sure our veterans are getting the medical care and attention they need, now that their days of combat are long behind them. Why? Because, many veterans, who were fortunate enough to return from war alive and with no physical injuries, still have to contend with the mental and emotional scars from their days of combat. This can continue, sometimes, for the rest of their lives. So, Veterans’ Day reminds us not only of their courage and their sacrifices because they answered their country’s call, but it also reminds us that we are now obligated to take care of them as a sign of our gratitude.
It’s interesting that, on November 10th, the day before Veterans’ Day, the Church celebrates the feast, of Pope Saint Leo the Great, the patron of this Church. Let me talk a little about St. Leo and then make the connection with Veterans’ Day. Then we will weave in this story about the dishonest steward, which seems to have little connection to either St. Leo the Great or Veterans’ Day. Saint Leo is a doctor of the Church. Many passages of his homilies and other writings are mandatory reading in the Divine Office. Saint Leo combated two heresies in his time, the Pelagians and the Manichaens, by defending the two natures of Christ. The Church teaches that Christ had two natures. Christ was fully human and at the same time fully divine. Many heresies were born over the centuries by someone claiming that Christ was more human than divine, or more divine than human. Saint Leo fought these heresies, and in his writings clarified Church teaching. Saint Leo the Great also prevented Rome from being sacked by the infamous Atilla the Hun. Now, the story goes that the Huns were outside the gates of Rome and Leo went out to meet them. At first Leo politely asked them to leave. They refused to comply. So, Leo prayed and a vision of Saint Michael the Archangel with a Legion of angels appeared, armed with flaming swords that began to descend from heaven on the Huns which sent them all running for their lives. A few contemporary historians suggest that Leo bribed the Huns to leave. Whatever the case, it cannot be disputed that Saint Leo the Great spared Rome from being plundered and burned.
How does St. Leo the Great and Veterans’ Day come together? God’s military, through the angels, defended the Church through the intercession of St. Leo. Did you ever consider that the angels are veterans of many spiritual battles, and they will intercede for those engaged in battle on the human front? I would suggest, as a way of commemorating Saint Leo the Great and Veterans Day, that we pray the Saint Michael Prayer, together, for the protection of the Church, our military personnel serving around the world, and the protection of our veterans.
Saint Michael, the Archangel, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls…AMEN.
Finally, how does this Gospel fit with St. Leo the Great and Veterans’ Day? Strategy! Military battles are more than people attacking each other. The commanders have tried to ascertain the enemy’s strategy and have planned strategic counter moves. Sometimes they have sufficient time to do this. Other times, they have to think and move quickly. St. Leo’s strategy was to try a peaceful request and then, when that failed, to rely on God. The strategy worked. The unjust steward might have been planning strategies in case he lost his job, so when he did, he knew just what to do. Jesus did not commend his dishonesty. He commended his foresight. The steward had a strategy for his future welfare. He was the military commander of his own life. What’s your strategy? Better have one! --Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: “Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife”. --St. Leo the Great
Prayer:Grant to us, O Lord, not to mind earthly things, but rather to love heavenly things, that while all things around us pass away, we even now may hold fast those things which last forever. --St. Leo the Great
Questions for Discussion
1. In your opinion, can a person own an object of high value or beauty just for the sake of possessing it, and still be detached from it?
2. Spiritual combat is a common theme in the writings of St. Leo the Great. He uses words such as the enemy, victory, conflict, and other similar words. What do you believe he is referring to when he talks about the enemy? What victory is he talking about?
3. A coach will place certain players in positions that will best serve the needs of the team against their rivals. For instance, he will not put his pitcher in the outfield, and he will line up his best hitters in the front. Can you give an example of how the Church uses a similar strategy?
4. The weapon used in this conflict is primarily prayer and the Sacraments. How do you believe prayer brings about victory over sin?
5. In the Gospel, Jesus says the Master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence in having a strategy. What’s your strategy for your future? For your eternal future?
6. In another passage, Jesus calls on his disciples to be … “cunning as snakes, but gentle as doves”, when it comes to evangelizing and dealing with the world. By way of example, a public school teacher, while avoiding overtly religious content, in her reading class, taught the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe in depth and detail, bringing out the virtue and moral lessons, and fostering higher level thinking. Can you give another example of how a person can be cunning yet gentle?
7. St. Leo the Great was known as a peacemaker. This seemed to be a special gift that he had been given by God. Everyone has a special gift from God. What special gift or set of gifts do you believe God has given to you?
8. Can you name two or three ways these gifts are or can be utilized? For example, if you have a special love and talent for singing, how can this be utilized to the praise and worship of God and assistance to your neighbor?
9. What can you do to assist military veterans? Name at least 3 ways.
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 375: Hastening the Day of the Lord: A Reflection on 2 Peter 3:11-13
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. (2 Peter 3:10-15)
“Look for the coming of the day of the Lord and try to hasten it,” Peter says in our first reading. What is he referring to in this ‘day of the Lord?’ The Second Coming of Christ.
Why should we try to hasten it? Peter’s next line, “Because of it, the heavens will be destroyed in flames and the elements will melt in a blaze.” Oh well, why didn’t you say so?! That sounds like fun! Absolutely we should hasten the coming of the day of the Lord, because who wouldn’t look forward to being barbecued?
It’s easy to interpret this passage in such a way, and it was interpreted that way for many centuries, and is still by many Christians today.
The Day of the Lord is going to be a day of gloom, doom, and destruction. What does Peter say next though? “What WE await are a new heavens and a new earth, where according to his promise, the justice of God will reside.”
You see, whenever we think of fire, we always think in negative terms. In scripture, fire is used in negative contexts, such as when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed with fire raining from heaven. But in scripture, fire is also used in positive contexts as well. The Psalms describe God’s Spirit as a “refiners fire” that burns the impurities out of gold to make it more valuable. So what context is Peter using this reference to fire? Both. To the wicked, the Day of the Lord is going to mean complete destruction. But to the righteous, the Day of the Lord is going to be when the physical world is purified, when all the effects of sin, the impurities, from Adam and Eve forward will be burned away and creation will be restored to the beauty and perfection it had before the fall. THAT’S why we should be joyfully anticipating the Day of the Lord, because it’s the day everything will be made right again.
This is all true of course, as long as we stick to the faith that we have been given. What does Peter say next? “So beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found without stain or defilement…” Why? According to Peter, so WE can have peace! According to Peter here, as long as we keep ourselves free from sin, we have every reason to joyfully anticipate the Day of the Lord. The only people who have to fear it are people in bondage to sin.
How do we keep ourselves free from sin? Ironic this passage ends with this. “Grow rather in Grace, and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” How do we grow in grace? Sacraments and prayer. Grace comes through the sacraments and being open to influence of Grace comes through prayer, because prayer is supposed to be opening ourselves to the will of God.
How do we grow in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? By reading and studying scripture. God has revealed himself through scripture.
Scripture, sacraments and prayer. It always comes back to those three things, because that is how we keep ourselves free from bondage to sin and be prepared for the Day of the Lord when it comes. Don’t be afraid of it! Look forward to it, pray for it, and pray it comes sooner rather than later.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” -St. Francis
Prayer: Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen. Lord Jesus Come.
Questions for Reflection
1. Discuss some negative ways that the “heavens could be destroyed in flames and the elements melt in a blaze.”
2. Conversely, discuss some positive ways that the “heavens could be destroyed in flames and the elements melt in a blaze.”
3. “What do we mean by “the day of the Lord”? What does it mean to hasten that day? How is that possible...how can we, mere human beings, in fact, hasten it?
4. Each time we pray the Lord’s prayer, we pray that His kingdom will come. What does this mean? Discuss how His kingdom comes now and will come again in the future.
5. What is the bondage of sin? How do we keep from the bondage of sin? Name 5 ways.
6. Discuss how Sundays are days of the Lord. What are some ways we can joyfully anticipate Sundays? What are some ways we can joyfully anticipate the “day of the Lord at the Second Coming”? How do you faithfully prepare for holy Mass? How can we faithfully prepare for “the day of the Lord” at the Second Coming?
7. Do you long for Jesus to come? Do you long for the hastening of the day when the purification of the world will be burned away in the flames of the love of the Lord through His Church?
8. How has your sinfulness destroyed or melted God’s love in your heart? How does sinfulness in the Church destroy or melt His love within the people, the Body of Christ? How does sinfulness cause destruction in the world at large?
9. How have your body or spirit been renewed in the flames God’s love? Or how have the elements of your body and spirit melted in the blaze of His love? How can the Church and the world at large, be renewed and melt in God’s love? How do the sacraments renew us and help us melt in the love of the Lord?
10. St. Francis has said: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” How can we keep aflame God’s love burning in our hearts amidst the darkness of our world?
11. What is grace? How do we grow in grace? Name 5 ways.
12. How do we grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? Name 5 ways.
--Dianne Joslyn CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 376: Delivered from the Power of Darkness: A Reflection on Colossians 1:13
“He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.” (Colossians 1:13)
How did God deliver us from the power of darkness? He did so by giving us a means to have our sins forgiven! That’s the deliverance! Note, Paul did NOT say that God delivered us from darkness. The darkness still surrounds us! Sin is everywhere! In our humanity we still commit sins. We have been delivered from the POWER of darkness. Darkness has no power over us anymore because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross atoned for all the sins that happened from the beginning of time until Calvary, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross empowered the sacraments so we could continue to be forgiven for our sins after Calvary.
This being true, why don’t more Catholics partake of confession? Several reasons. First reason; People are not convinced that they have to go to a priest to get their sins forgiven. I can just tell God I’m sorry myself. All fine and good but Jesus never said that. The power of absolving sins Jesus gives to his priesthood at the end of John’s gospel.
Second reason; people don’t think they sin seriously enough to confess them. I would blame that on a lack of prayer. I go to confession every week, and I can’t be all THAT bad. Saint John Paul II used to go to confession daily.
When we pray we are confronted with what we are, and at the same time what God is. In that intimacy we are immediately faced with our own inadequacy and our need to change. I would submit that many active Catholics don’t go to confession because they don’t pray, or their prayers are superficial. Even if you don’t think your sins are that serious, confess them anyway, because in doing so you may discover sins that you never realized were there.
Third reason; sins of habit. People fall into the same sin so often they’re embarrassed to keep coming into the confessional to say it. Don’t be. Sins are habit forming. Sometimes it takes years to break a habitual sin. Don’t get discouraged. Think of it as an exercise in perseverance. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. There are only Ten Commandments. You can’t invent any new sins. All sins are variations on those commandments.
Finally, the last reason; people don’t go to confession because they don’t believe in sin anymore. I saw a statistic on Facebook recently from a Catholic Study that said sixty some odd Catholics polled didn’t believe in the devil or thought the devil was merely symbolic. This alarms me. Because if you don’t believe in the devil, you don’t believe in sin. If you don’t believe in sin, what the heck do you need a savior for?
Scripture makes it VERY clear these things are real. “Then the King will say to those on his left, out of my sight you accursed! Into that fire prepared for the devil and his angels…” So in Jesus’ own words there is a hell, there is a devil, and people get sent there. “The road to perdition is wide and easy and many choose to take it.” Jesus’ words, not mine. Saint Peter, our first Pope and the head of the apostles (after Jesus, of course) had one, endearing, quality. The quality that makes him worthy of being an apostle; he has no problem admitting he’s a sinner, and because of that, despite all his other faults, Jesus takes him, because Jesus can work with someone like that.
That’s what confession is. We admit we’re sinners, we humble ourselves before God and a brother priest, and through that we not only receive forgiveness but the Holy Spirit can effect changes in us. Be like Peter, and don’t let the darkness have any power over you.
Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: "In failing to confess, Lord, I would only hide You from myself, not myself from You." -Saint Augustine
Prayer: I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael, the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints and to you, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed Micahel the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, Father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.
Questions for Reflection:
What powers of darkness do you recognize in your life? In the world?
Can God forgive sins without us going to confession? Give reasons for your answer.
Why should we go to confession? What assurance does confession provide? What spiritual benefits come from confessing our sins to the priest?
Have you ever confessed your transgressions to another person other than a priest? Give instances of when it’s prudent and charitable to do this. Could it sometimes be more charitable not to confess to another person, although we should still confess to a priest/ For example, would it be charitable to confess to Mrs. Smith that you always feel irritated when she phones you? Would it be better to confess that only in the confessional? Can you think of other examples?
How does prayer, or lack thereof, influence our ideas about sin? Do you believe that people who don’t pray believe in sin? What are some modern terms for sin (like missing the mark, for example)? How can each of these euphemisms be dangerous to our spiritual growth?
Discuss the seven capital sins (pride, envy, glutton, lust, greed, anger, sloth). What specific sins does each of these lead to? Do you agree that everyone has at least one of these that is a very difficult sin to conquer in his or her life? Where do we obtain the grace to deal with these?
Fr. Sisco mentions some Scripture passages which discuss hell and indicate its reality. Can you name other passages? Why don’t people believe in hell any more?
Discuss the quote from St. Augustine.
Discuss the Confiteor. Why are we confessing to certain saints and angels in this prayer as well as to the priest?
How do confession and intercession relate? Look at the Confiteor for some examples.
How can you promote the sacrament of confession in your parish? Among your family and friends? How often do you go to confession? Is that a good frequency? Why or why not?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 377: My Home Is in Heaven: A Reflection on Luke 19:41-44
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
Jesus wept over ancient Jerusalem and foretold of its destruction. Nothing is forever my brothers and sisters. All things end. Someday the United States of America will be no more.
“Oh Father, stop being melodramatic! The United States isn’t going anywhere.” You know, no one believed the Roman Empire could fall until it happened. No one believed the Titanic could sink. Everything eventually ends. No exceptions.
And we see Jesus moved with sorrow over Jerusalem. It’s OK to grieve losses. We lose loved ones. We becomes slaves to our own bodies. Eventually our bodies cease to work properly anymore and we have to go to a nursing home. We lose our freedom. It’s OK to grieve our losses.
Why do things have to change? Why do things have to end? It is all part of God’s master plan to keep us from getting too attached to anything of this earth. God allows these things to remind us that nothing here is permanent, so cling to the one thing that is, him! This is why all the beatitudes point us to detachment. This is why all virtues require us to let go of some worldly good. Because then, when this fallen world takes it from us, it won’t traumatize us. We’ll be sad, no doubt. We’ll weep. But it won’t devastate us, it won’t cripple us, because we’ll know we are still part of something eternal. And if we know those we love also share our faith, we have confidence we’ll be reunited with them again in eternity.
That’s even behind the reason why they transfer priests every several years. The church doesn’t want us getting attached to any one place, or faith community, because we’re only supposed to be attached to God, and therefore the challenge of the parish priest is to find God in EVERY parish he goes, until he also goes home to heaven.
I can’t wait for it my brothers and sisters. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see my grandparents again; uncles, aunts, cousins, old friends who’ve gone before me to the kingdom. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to experience what heaven looks like, smells like, feels like. What is it like to be in a constant state of joy? What is it like to be completely at peace with oneself? What is it like to experience perfect unity with God and every other soul in heaven simultaneously, while at the same time be able to look upon, pray for, and intercede on behalf of the loved ones we’ve left behind on earth? That’s just mind blowing! I can’t wait.
I am blessed at fifty years old to still have both my parents. Most priests my age have lost at least one of their parents by now. But my parents are getting old. My parents are getting weak. And I know it’s sooner than later when it will be time to say goodbye. So on my day off, I spend as much time with them as I can. I do as much as I can for them to make them comfortable, and be a good son. And I know when they’re gone it’s going to leave a big hole in my life. I don’t think I’ll know what to do with myself on my day off anymore. I’ll probably stop taking one. But I hope the knowledge that we’ll be united in eternity will give me the strength and the courage to face that day. And I hope it will make me look forward to heaven that much more. Because nothing in this world is forever, but heaven is. Can’t wait to see you there too! – Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote: “Without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. The gift of grace increases as the struggle increases.” St. Rose of Lima
Prayer: O Jesus, Who chose a life of poverty and obscurity, grant me that grace to keep my heart detached from the transitory things of the world. Be my only treasure from this day forward, for You are infinitely more precious than all other possessions. Amen.
1. Who were the people that made up the city of ancient Jerusalem? Why did Jesus weep, or why was He moved with sorrow, over that city? Why did He foretell of its destruction? Did His foretelling of its destruction seem to make a difference in the lives of those living there?
4. What are your most important treasures. Imagine their destruction. How would you feel? Would it devastate you? Why or why not?
5. Why is it that all things must come to an end? Why is it good for us to give up things that we have?
6. If you lost one important person in your life today; how you would feel?. Would it traumatize you?
7. Why must all people on earth die? Why is it good to become more loving but less attached to the people in our lives? How can we become ever more loving, yet less attached, to family members?
8. Now imagine that all of your close relatives live together in one city. Losing sight of God, they involve themselves in unlawful, unnatural, and sinful activities. How would you feel if you had to inform them that their sinful activities would bring about their eventual destruction? How would you tell them?
9. How can we tell the people of the world that their unlawful, unnatural, and sinful ways, if unchanged, would bring about their eventual destruction? Do you shed tears as Jesus did, as you pray for our nation?
10. How is God telling us in our world today that our sinful ways, if unchanged, may bring about our eventual destruction? Does His foretelling make a difference to you in your life today?
11. Imagine dying and then the Lord informing you that you must come back to your place on earth because your mission here isn’t finished. How would you feel about the material things you once owned; will they matter as much to you? How do you think you would feel about the people you once loved in your family; would their souls matter more to you? How would you spend your time on earth differently?
12. How do you feel about leaving your family and going to heaven? Try to imagine what being in the presence of Our Loving, Merciful, Lord in heaven is like. Try to imagine how it looks, feels, smells…. Can you wait to get there? If you can wait, how can that change?
14. Take a minute and invite the Lord into your heart. Recall a person in your life, past or
present, who is or has been hurtful to you, and imagine the one loving you as you return that love. Imagine being completely at peace with yourself and all people (souls) in heaven. Can you wait?
15. St. Rose of Lima has said, ““Without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. The gift of grace increases as the struggle increases.” How can you detach yourself more from your possessions and the people in your life, so that you may attain the grace of heaven?
--Dianne Joslyn, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 378: The Everlasting Church: A Reflection on Matthew 16:17-19
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-18)
In this reading from Matthew, the focus generally is on Peter as the first Pope and the authority given him by Jesus. But today let’s reflect on the permanence of the Church.
As a starting point, consider the city of Rome where the Vatican is located in its own city, Vatican City. The rest of Rome is in the nation of Italy. Outside Vatican City, Rome is home to many churches, cathedrals, and basilicas including Saint Paul’s Basilica. Saint Peter’s Basilica is located in the center of Rome, built on what was Emperor Nero’s private garden, over the spot where Peter was crucified. Saint Paul’s Basilica is built on the outskirts of what was the ancient city where Paul was beheaded.
It is said that when Paul was beheaded his head bounced three times, about ten feet apart, and from the three spots where his head bounced appeared three springs of water. Possible I suppose. But if you visit the Basilica there are three fountains outside the building about ten feet apart. If you go inside Saint Paul’s Basilica in Rome though, you see something very interesting; all around the walls of the Basilica, just below the ceiling, are medallion paintings of every Pope from Saint Peter, to Pope Francis, showing the unbroken line of succession. I say that’s interesting because this is something one would expect to see in Saint Peter’s Basilica, not Saint Paul’s. Paul was never Pope.
And yet, I say it’s entirely appropriate that these medallion paintings appear in Saint Paul’s Basilica, because in Paul’s earlier letters his theme is one of, get ready, be prepared, the Lord will be coming back to earth soon. As Paul gets older though, he’s figured out the second coming won’t be happening in his lifetime, so the theme of Paul’s later letters, especially his letter to the Romans, shifts to the continuation of the Church, and faithfulness to her teaching. And so, Saint Paul can always look with a sigh of relief on the upper walls of the Basilica that bears his name, and witness that indeed, the Church has persevered throughout the centuries, and we will continue to persevere.
It gets discouraging when we see Church attendance decline. We see a decline in Church weddings, funerals, and baptisms. I’ve seen a decline in the numbers here from when I started just five years ago. Usually over the summer, church attendance declines as people go away, or attend Mass nearer the beaches. But attendance used to pick up again when school started. In 2016 it didn’t. I waited. September. October. Attendance wasn’t picking up. Then at the end of October, we had a big bump, and I thought, “Oh good! They’re back!” Then it was back down again, and I asked myself ‘Why?’ Then it dawned on me. The ELECTION! Everyone came to Church to pray that their candidate would win! Then of course after the election, we don’t need God for another four years, or the next event that throws a scare into us.
How I wish Catholics were as committed to their faith as they were to their politics! And so, yes, the Church in this state or that state, in this nation or that nation, may someday be no more, but the CHURCH will endure. The basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul are testimonies to the endurance of the Church during times of persecution and decline. They proclaim the faith that we believe. What is that faith?
We believe that Jesus of Nazareth is actually the Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, because that’s what they believed, who built those basilicas and prayed in them. We believe that certain real live people lived with Jesus, ate with him, spoke with him, and saw him in his risen body after he was crucified. They made great personal sacrifices and endured great sufferings even to the point of giving up their own lives rather than deny what they experienced. They are our proof that everything Jesus said and did was real.
And because of that, even if all the trappings and properties are someday swept away, even if the numbers of believers is greatly diminished, the Church, the people who hold these things in their hearts to be true, who believe because the apostles believed, will remain a part of this world until the end of time. May Jesus Christ, Son of God, bless and protect all who believe in him. Amen.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: It is the peculiar property of the Church that when she is buffeted, she is triumphant; when she is assaulted with argument, she proves herself in the right; when she is deserted by her supporters, she holds the field. -- St. Hilary of Poitiers
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.-- St. Anthony of Padua
Questions for Reflection:
What problems are facing the Church today? Which problem do you think is the most important? What ways might we address it? Do you think this problem can be solved? Do you think God wants it to be solved? Why or why not?
What makes a Catholic committed to the faith? How might we encourage more commitment?
What is the new evangelization? How do we evangelize the young generation?
How are the times of Peter and Paul different than the times today? Do different times call for different tactics in spreading the faith?
How did the Apostles spread the faith in their day? What were their successes and failures? Can the same tactics work today? What successes and failures can we expect?
How can Catholics explain the authority of the Pope? Think about the popes pictured in St. Paul’s Basilica. Some of them were saints. Some of them were known sinners. What does this say about the continuance and permanence and validity of the Church? Give reasons for your answer.
What would be your response when someone mentioned some of the sinners in that line of popes in St. Paul’s Basilica?
Why are there sinners in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church? How can we deal with the scandal these people cause?
Discuss the quote from St. Hilary.
Pray the prayer of St. Anthony. What part should prayer play in the moment to moment workings of the Church? In the moment to moment workings of your own life?
Do you pray for the Church? Should you? How often?
What different meanings might Jesus have had in mind when he said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church?
-- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 379: Faith vs. Pietistic Practices: A Reflection on Galatians 3: 8-10)
The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and foretold the gospel to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on works of the Law are under a curse. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3: 8-10)
So what is Paul saying here in his letter to the Galatians?
Is he saying that people who perform good works aren’t going to heaven? No. When Paul refers to “works of the Law,” he’s referring to the Law of Moses that the Jews lived under. And Paul is saying keeping all the precepts of the Law, like the dietary regulations and purification rituals, isn’t going to save your soul. Only faith will save your soul.
There IS a Catholic equivalent to what Paul is warning the Galatians about. There is a danger in Catholicism of lowering our devotional practices to the level of superstition, for example, the Brown Scapular. Now I come from an Italian family who lived in an Italian neighborhood, in an Italian parish, and we all wore our Brown Scapulars, when I grew up, because our Lady promised that anyone who wore the scapular would never suffer the fires of hell. The patroness of my home parish in Westerly is Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In fact, I’m wearing my scapular right now as I speak. But in my home parish, I grew up with people who wore their brown scapulars faithfully every day and marched every year in the four-mile procession on the feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel every July, but never set foot in the Church any other day of the year, and never attempted to live any kind of a life of faith. THIS type of reliance on pietistic practices is what Saint Paul is warning us about in this passage from Galatians! I got news for those people; the Brown Scapular ain't gonna help you on judgement day!
With the scapular goes a commitment that, on top of keeping all the other Catholic disciplines like going to Mass every Sunday, one is required to also go to Mass on every first Friday, or first Saturday of the year. One is also committed to going to confession once a month. One is also committed to praying the Rosary every day, and within that Rosary, praying for the intentions of the Holy Father. And one is also to be committed to sexual purity, in whatever walk of life one may be: single, married, or religious. And if one does all these things, I would imagine one has a great shot of entering heaven when they die whether they’re physically wearing the scapular or not. The scapular is simply an external reminder of an internal commitment.
Now some Protestants will take this passage from Galatians out of context and accuse Catholics of believing that, by our charitable works, we claim that we can earn or buy our way into heaven. They say that Paul says here that those people who rely on charitable works are going to hell. That’s false. Consider the charitable works in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: feeding and clothing the poor, caring for the sick and oppressed, consoling the sorrowing, praying for the living and the dead, teaching others about God. These are not works of the Law. They are precisely works of FAITH! What’s the difference?
Works of the Law are pietistic practices to remind us to have faith, but they cannot save us in and of themselves. For example, not eating meat on Friday’s during Lent is a pietistic practice intended to remind us to sacrifice throughout the year, deny ourselves some small goods for the good of others, and to discipline our flesh for the sake of purifying our souls.
Works of charity, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, are NOT works of the law. They are works of Faith, because Jesus told us to do them, and so we do them because our faith tells us that he is trustworthy, because he is the Son of God. So doing works of charity EXPRESSES our faith. We do them BECAUSE of our faith, because we love God, and we want the joy of knowing that we acted as he would.
Simply put, faith is striving to imitate Jesus in every aspect of our lives, because we trust and believe he was everything he claimed to be.
Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint: The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one’s vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfill one’s mission. …The lay faithful, in fact, are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially in this way of life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others.” – Pope Saint John Paul the Great in Christifideles Laici
Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten my mind and direct my will, that I may do what is pleasing to Thee and conductive to my salvation.
Questions for Reflection:
9.Father Sisco mentioned the spiritual and corporal Works of Mercy as acts of faith rather than works of the law. The Spiritual Works of Mercy are: Instruct the ignorant --Advise the doubtful -- Correct sinners --Be patient with those in error or who do wrong --Forgive offenses --Comfort the afflicted -- Contemplate God’s world -- Pray for the living and the dead. How are these works of faith?
10. The Corporal Works of Mercy are: Feed the hungry -- Give drink to the thirsty -- Clothe the naked -- Shelter the homeless --- Visit the sick and imprisoned -- Ransom the captive -- Care for Creation -- Bury the dead. How are these works of faith?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Name five pietistic practices. Discuss the benefits of each. Discuss the pitfalls of relying on these for salvation.
Have you been enrolled in the Brown Scapular? Do you wear your scapular? Do you participate in the conditions necessary for the promise to be valid, as Father Sisco delineated? If not, how can you do better?
Discuss the differences between works of faith and pietistic practices.
Discuss the differences between relying on faith to get to heaven or relying on works. Can one do good works without having faith? Can one have faith without doing good works?
How can you tell if you are engaged only in pietistic practices instead of ways to deepen your own faith walk? How can pietistic practices lead to a deepening of one’s faith? How might they prevent such deepening?
Make a list of all the pietistic practices you can think of. Which ones seem more important? Why?
Discuss this statement: “Simply put, faith is striving to imitate Jesus in every aspect of our lives, because we trust and believe he was everything he claimed to be.” How can we imitate Jesus in every aspect of our lives? Is this even possible? What is your trust level in Christ? Do you believe Jesus was everything he claimed to be? If you don’t trust enough or believe enough, what can you do about it? Is there any way you can encourage another to come to Christ and follow him?
Which is easier-- to believe that pietistic practices will get you into heaven or to strive to imitate Jesus in every aspect of your life?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 380: Away with Vice: A Reflection on Colossians 3:5-17
Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming [upon the disobedient]. By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way. But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. --Colossians 3: 5-17
“Put to death then, the parts of you that are earthly: immortality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and the greed that is idolatry…. But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language from your mouths. Stop lying to one another…”
If we are to call ourselves Christians, we must realize this way of life we are called to is in complete contrast to our animal instincts. There are many today who try to find a happy medium, a compromise between the spirit and the flesh, and I assure you there is none to be had. People have attempted this all throughout history and have fallen into one heresy or another. Listen to Paul’s language; “put to death…” “Put to DEATH, the parts of you that are earthly.” He didn’t say control, limit, reduce. Put to death! You don’t get language much stronger than that.
Jesus reiterates this point. “Blessed are you who are poor, blessed are you who are hungry, blessed are you who mourn, blessed are you when all speak ill of you.” Why are they blessed? Because every human comfort and consolation has been stripped from them. Now we hear this, and we all nod our ascent and say a pious “amen.”
But what Jesus says next rattles us. “Woe to you rich, woe to you who are filled, woe to you who laugh, woe to you when all speak well of you.” That disturbs us. Because now, it’s not just the poor who are blessed, but the rich who are cursed. Now it’s not just the hungry who are blessed, but the filled are cursed. Disciplining the flesh is not an option. It’s vital to our salvation. We must put to death in us all that is earthly.
In the second century of the Church the priest Arius begins a heresy that will last for centuries. Arius fell into heresy on two points of his teaching; one, that the Son was inferior to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Two; that it was not necessary to sacrifice for salvation. You didn’t have to discipline your flesh, you didn’t have to give to charity, you didn’t have to deny yourself anything, because Christ did all that for us on the cross. You can live the way you want, go to confession before you die, and go to heaven. And it’s because of the teaching of Arius, that Emperor Constantine, has never been canonized a saint.
Emperor Constantine was the one who made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire, and later made it the empire’s official religion. Emperor Constantine gave the Pope the land to build its first official Church, Saint John Lateran, in Rome. Emperor Constantine initiated the second council in the Church’s history, the Council of Nicea, in 325 A.D., because Constantine said we need to gather all the Bishops in the world, to decide on, and put down on paper what we believe as a Church; the Nicean Creed, which we still say at Mass every Sunday, “I believe in one God, the Father all mighty…” And it was also, at Nicea, that they officially compiled the Bible, and out of all the many gospels floating around out there; the gospel of Mary Magdalene, the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Barnabas, the gospel of the Blessed Mother, they decided which gospels were authentic, and which ones weren’t.
Despite all these accomplishments of Constantine that benefited the Church, he’s never been canonized a saint, because he fell into the Arian heresy. He thought he could still live his opulent lifestyle and not sacrifice for charity or discipline his flesh. And I would wager to guess that we have many, many, Catholics out there who are guilty of the Arian heresy without even realizing it.
I have given many homilies on the importance of prayer, and acts of charity for salvation. But equally important to salvation, is fasting and acts of self-denial, because they put to death anything in us that is earthly. –Father Michael Anthony Sisco
'He who wishes to find Jesus should seek Him, not in the delights and pleasures of the world, but in mortification of the senses.' -St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
Oh my Jesus, give me Your strength when my weak nature rebels against the distress and suffering of this life of exile, and enable me to accept everything with serenity and peace.
With my whole strength, I cling to Your merits, Your sufferings, Your expiation, and Your tears, so that I may be able to cooperate with You in the work of salvation.
Give me strength to fly from sin, the only cause of Your agony, Your sweat of blood, and Your death.
Destroy in me all that displeases You and fill my heart with the fire of Your holy love and all Your sufferings. Clasp me tenderly, firmly, close to You that I may never leave You alone in Your cruel Passion. I ask only for a place of rest in Your Heart. Amen.
-- St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Questions for Discussion
1. Modern life is quite comfortable compared to that of even a hundred years ago, yet, the saints of ancient times and the Middle Ages mortified themselves to a degree that seems hard for us to believe is possible. Do you believe there could be a correlation between our lifestyles, and the increase in vice we see in our culture (addiction, overeating, pleasure-seeking lifestyles). Why or why not?
2. Mortification can be interior and exterior. Name two or three ways a person can mortify themselves interiorly. How about exteriorly?
3. Can you think of two or three times you have given in to vice? What could you have done then, or what can you do now, that would bring about the opposite effect, or virtue?
4. Some people, who have led past lives of great sin, have difficulty believing they are forgiven by the Lord, and revisit their past lives frequently. While remorse for past sin is a good thing, how could this prevent a person from going forward living a life that has been, as Scripture calls it, “created new”?
5. People who have returned to the Faith attribute their return to the prayers of their relatives, friends, and others. Do you believe that a concerted effort in prayer, fasting and sacrifices to this end can bring about a change in people's hearts? Why or why not?
6. Many adults today, as children, had a strong faith, or were raised to have a strong faith, but have fallen away. How has our culture contributed to this? How can we turn this around?
7. Many saints who have received revelation from God write that the Lord has indicated He is pleased more with mortification of the will than anything else. This is supported by both Scripture and Church teaching. In your life, what would giving up your own will look like? This can be in small things or big decisions.
8. Reflect on an incident in your life where God, in His mercy, has permitted you to undergo a humiliation, or suffering, for instance, through a serious illness, or catastrophic event, or even just the loss of a job, divorce, or similar happening. Do you believe that this was done for your ultimate benefit, or was it just an unfortunate event? Perhaps it even left you angry and bitter. How can your response to this and other similar events bring about greater holiness and closeness to God?
--Lucy Fernandez, CFP