Weeks 401-410
 

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 401: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: A Reflection on Exodus 34: 29-35

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him. (Exodus 34: 29-35)

“When Aaron, then, and the other children of Israel saw Moses and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become, they were afraid to come near him.”

Moses became radiant after conversing with God, but after he and the Lord were through talking, Moses’ face continued to be radiant, so much so that Moses has to start wearing a veil. In my life, I’ve known many Christians, and I’ve known people who ARE Christian, who BE Christian, who LIVE Christian.

People who are Christian in name go through the motions; they do their duty, live relatively moral lives, they go to church, say their prayers, they work hard, they’re honest, but they never really enter a relationship with God. And because they don’t have a relationship with God, they’re not happy, and they don’t really affect anyone else’s lives around them for the better, or, if they do, they only have a minimal impact.

But you can pick out the people who BE Christian, who LIVE their Christianity. You can see the peace on their faces. You can hear the joy in their voices. There is a radiance about them, and that radiance comes from their time being in the presence of God.

Moses was physically changed from being in God’s presence. His skin became radiant. He literally glowed. You, too, can glow, because you can also be in the presence of God every day. It’s wonderful that people go to daily Mass, and Mass is essential in the spiritual life, but there is also one other thing you can do, and that is sit in the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament. One of the first things I did when I started as pastor was to look for a spot to make an adoration chapel, which we did.

Why? Because when you read the lives of the saints, almost ALL of them had a profound devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. When you read their stories, they testify to how they drew their strength, their peace, their consolation from being in the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament.

Saint Theresa of Calcutta spent three hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament every morning, and she often said there was no way she could do the things she did if she didn’t have that time with the Lord. When you read the lives of the saints many of them tell similar stories, and they share this common theme; being in the presence of God transformed them.

Even though I am far from being a saint, I can give the same testimony. When I was a young man, I was arrogant, angry, and miserable. The only people who ever wanted to be around me were also arrogant, angry and miserable, and we wallowed in our anger and our misery together. God changed that in me over many, many years, and I owe it to his presence in the Blessed Sacrament, the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and the prayers of other people who genuinely cared about me. God transformed me, and God continues to transform me, a little piece at a time. God can transform you, too.

I think many people don’t let God transform them because they’re afraid of change, like the people in the Scripture reading. When they see the transformation in Moses, they respond in fear. We’re afraid of change. We don’t like change. Don’t be afraid. Go before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and be with him.

People say they get bored in front of the Blessed Sacrament. That’s because they’re trying to control the experience. Don’t think you have to do anything or say anything. Just be there. When asked what he did in adoration, Saint John Vianney said, “Do? I don’t do anything. I look at him, and he looks at me.”

Go before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and he will heal your past, he will transform your present, and prepare for you a glorious future.

 

--Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: "I throw myself at the foot of the Tabernacle like a dog at the foot of his Master." - St. John Vianney

Prayer: Eucharistic Adoration Chaplet: A chaplet of 33 beads ecclesiastically approved by the Catholic Church. May be prayed during Eucharistic Adoration or at any time.

Here is how to pray the Chaplet of Adoration (available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop at www.cfpholyangels.com):

 

"Lord, remember me in Thy Kingdom" [on the medal].

"Living Bread, nourish my soul" [on a series of 3 clear beads]

"Sweet Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, I adore You" [on a series of 7 red beads]. 

Total prayers: 33 for the 33 years of Jesus life on earth.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How does the quote from St. John Vianney summarize Eucharistic Adoration?

  2. Pray the Chaplet of Adoration.

  3. Have you ever known anyone who seemed to be a truly holy person? Did that person seem to radiate holiness?

  4. What do you think Scripture meant when it recorded that Moses’ face was so radiant that people were afraid of him? Why would his face have been glowing?

  5. Can people be afraid of holiness? Give reasons for your answer.

  6. Do you ever attend Eucharistic Adoration? Why or why not? If not, can you think of some reasons why you should attend? Should you begin attending Eucharistic Adoration? How can you make attendance happen?

  7. Much as Eucharistic Adoration is important to spiritual growth, there may be times when it is holier not to attend. Can you think of some examples?

  8. What is the difference between people who ARE Christian and people who LIVE Christian? Think of people you know who fall into one or other of these categories.

  9. What should a person pray at Eucharistic Adoration? What should a person do? Is it acceptable simply to attend and to be attentive to the Presence of God? Why or why not?

  10. How do you think Mother Teresa could spend 3 hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament daily and still find time for her ministry?

  11. If time is an impediment to your practicing Eucharistic Adoration, review your schedule along side the Church’s schedule. Are there any times you can fit this in.

  12. If you can’t attend Eucharistic Adoration, pray daily the Chaplet of Adoration.

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 402: Why Jesus Had to Return to the Father: A Reflection on Ephesians 1: 16-19

I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. (Ephesians 1: 16-19)

“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him." People often wonder why Jesus had to return to God the Father. Wouldn’t it be great if He still walked the earth?

If you’re wondering why Jesus had to leave us and ascend into heaven, this Scripture passage tells us why. He ascended so we could have knowledge of the Father. You see, as long as Jesus remains with us, he can teach us and demonstrate the power of the Father, but that’s it. Jesus in his humanity cannot change our hearts to RESEMBLE the Father. But the Holy Spirit can, and the Holy Spirit cannot come until Jesus leaves.

If we want to understand God, we always have to keep reminding ourselves that God is a Father trying to raise children; not servants, not slaves, not pets. Children. Parents WANT their children to know them. Parents WANT their children to understand them. Parents are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary  for the good of their children. So we call God “Father.” Not every religion does this. In fact, in some religions, it’s blasphemous to refer to God as Father.

I was watching the remake of the movie “Clash of the Titans” on TV, and in one scene, Zeus, who is played by Liam Neilson says, when speaking of human beings, “I am their Father. I created them.” NO! This was NEVER a concept in Greek mythology. The gods were our masters. We were pets, play things for them. That’s it. The concept of God as Father comes in with us Christians, because God perfectly served us by perfectly sacrificing Himself for us. That’s why we call God Father. The Father sends the Son, so the Son can teach us about the Holy Spirit and sacrifice Himself on the cross to atone for the sins of our past, and to repair the damage that was done with Adam and Eve. When the Son completes that task, He ascends into heaven so the Father AND the Son can send the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit comes from the love of the Father and the Son, both the Father and the Son have to send the Holy Spirit. That’s why we say in the Creed, “The Holy Spirit proceeding FROM the FATHER AND the SON.”

Now with all past sins forgiven, the Holy Spirit can dwell within us and change us from the inside out, to KNOW the Father, UNDERSTAND the Father, and be changed from within to RESEMBLE the Father from the inside out like children resemble their parents. This is what Paul is talking about when he goes on to say, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might,…”

The only thing that prevents this process from happening is sin, which is why the Father had to send the Son to deal with the sin first before the Holy Spirit could come. Sin damages our resembling God; sin prevents us from knowing and understanding God. Sin bars us from wisdom and makes us foolish. Folks, you cannot fathom how damaging sin is. Sin damages our relationship to God. Sin damages our having peace within ourselves. Sin damages our relationship with nature. Sin damages our relationships with each other.

 

I keep banging this drum, because if one thing defines this generation, it is that they do not take sin seriously, and that’s dangerous. My brothers and sisters, Jesus showed us the way. It’s a challenging way, no doubt, but, because of the Grace He gave us in the sacraments of the Church, it is possible to live it. It is my prayer that we all use the tools He has left us, His Word, the Sacraments, to follow that way, and come to resemble our heavenly Father, so we may be joined to Him in eternity.

Blessed Be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: The person who has surrendered himself entirely to sin indulges with enjoyment and pleasure in unnatural and shameful passions - licentiousness, unchastity, greed, hatred, guile and other forms of vice - as though they were natural. The genuine and perfected Christian, on the other hand, with great enjoyment and spiritual pleasure participates effortlessly and without impediment in all the virtues and all the supranatural fruits of the Spirit - love, peace, patient endurance, faith, humility and the entire truly golden galaxy of virtue - as though they were natural. -- St. Symeon Metaphrastis

Prayer: Spirit of wisdom and understanding, enlighten our minds to perceive the mysteries of the universe in relation to eternity. Spirit of right judgment and courage, guide us and make us firm in our baptismal decision to follow Jesus' way of love. Spirit of knowledge and reverence, help us to see the lasting value of justice and mercy in our everyday dealings with one another. May we respect life as we work to solve problems of family and nation, economy and ecology. Spirit of God, spark our faith, hope and love into new action each day. Fill our lives with wonder and awe in your presence which penetrates all creation. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Discuss the quote by St. Symeon Metaphrastis. Do you categorize people as falling into one or other of these camps, or are many or even most people somewhere between them?

  2. Pray the above prayer and then add other petitions to the Holy Spirit to it.

  3. Discuss Fr. Sisco’s insight that this generation does not take sin seriously. Do you believe this is true? Why or why not?

  4. What techniques can be used to teach about sin? Is sin just a guilt trip? Why or why not?

  5. Father Sisco says that we cannot imagine how damaging sin is. What are some of its damages? How can people be engaged in sin and not realize it? What is our obligation in instructing people to recognize what is sinful?

  6. Who is the Holy Spirit? How does one recognize the Holy Spirit?

  7. Why did Jesus say that the Holy Spirit could not come unless Jesus went back to the Father?

  8. Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to us. What did He mean by that? How does the Holy Spirit come to us?

  9. If Jesus had remained on this earth, how might our faith be different? Would our faith be complete? Would we know about the Holy Spirit? Would we be united to the Father?

  10. When you pray, to which Person of the Blessed Trinity do you most often address your prayers? Why that Person? Which Ones seems to get the least attention from you? Why? Is there a way to balance out your prayers?

  11. Jesus said that true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth. What do you think He meant by that?

  12. Have you had an experience of the Holy Spirit in your life? What was it? How do you know it was due to the Holy Spirit?

  • Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 403: Afraid to Take a Stand: A Reflection on Isaiah 41: 11-16

Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Now, I will make of you a threshing-sledge, sharp, new, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. Then you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory. (Isaiah 41: 11-16)

Fear not O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the Lord.”

Not a very nice thing to call someone, but it’s far worse to let them go merrily on in their sin and have them lose their souls later. It’s OK to tell people when they’re doing something wrong. I’ve often said that the devil only very rarely attacks in a full frontal assault. His attacks come mostly from the blind side, where we least expect it. And so, for the past fifty years or so, in the realm of sexual ethics, one by one, starting with contraception, then pornography, then fornication, then abortion, now homosexuality, it’s become politically incorrect to tell anyone that they’re doing something wrong.

And now THAT’S the only sin that remains in the realm of sexual ethics -- telling someone that what they’re doing is wrong! Intolerance. Ironically, you won’t find the sin of intolerance anywhere in the bible. Intolerance is the only man made sin!

Intolerance. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we should tolerate sin. It’s ok to tell people they’re wrong. Yes, they’ll get mad. Yes, they may disown us, even our own family members. Jesus promised as much. “Every household will be divided two against three and three against two. Father will be against son, and a mother, her daughter…” OK. So be it. But at least we were warned.

Why is the Catholic Church so hated among all other religions? Because we just can’t mind our own business! We don’t change what God has given us when it becomes inconvenient or politically incorrect to do what God commands.

Recently, on my day off, I went to the movies, which I don’t think I had done in a year. I went to go see Robin Hood, thinking it would be a light and entertaining film. What a waste of time and money! Guess who was oppressing the people of England. King John? Nope. He’s never even seen in the movie. It was the Catholic Church! The Catholic Church staged the crusade as a means to confiscate the wealth of the people and then use that wealth to usurp the thrones from the monarchs and take over the world. Not even remotely historically accurate, nor is it even implied in the Robin Hood legend. And as always, the Church figures are depicted as scheming, murdering, sexual perverts.

This concerns me so much because Heidrick Himmler used the exact same tactic in Nazi Germany. Before Himmler, the Nazis put out a number of propaganda films disparaging the Jews. The films were laughable. When Himmler took over the ministry of propaganda, he said, “This is all wrong. We’re going to make good movies, like Hollywood does, but in all of them we’re going to have a Jewish character, who’s always the bad guy.” And by doing that subtle subliminal reinforcement, the Nazis demonized the Jews and set the climate for Hitler’s final solution.

I see Hollywood doing the exact same thing to us Catholics Christians now. Think about it. When was the last time you’ve seen a priest or the Catholic Church depicted in a positive light in a film? Bing Crosby, in “Going My Way?”

The second thing that concerns me is that this tactic seems to be working. The Church is getting smaller, which means people are leaving. And many of the Church authorities are getting shamed into silence. This cannot be. We have a responsibility to be true to the Lord and his teaching. We have a responsibility to tell people when they’re wrong, and not to fear the backlash that may come from it, because we have faith, that the Lord will not abandon us. Read that passage again from the prophet Isaiah. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Now, I will make of you a threshing-sledge, sharp, new, and having teeth. We know we have enemies. Do we know Who’s on our side?

 

-- Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: Jesus is with me. I have nothing to fear. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati 

Prayer: Lord, give me courage in my everyday life. Courage to speak your truth and to defend the faith. Courage to follow your commandments and to live your beatitudes. Courage to live a moral life, even if it means losing friends. Courage to pray. Courage to love others, especially the poor. Courage to visit the sick and the lonely. Lord, may I not fall back in fear, but may I do your will, strengthened by your love.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Discuss this quote: There is a big difference between a church saying, “We welcome all persons” and “We welcome all behavior”. -- Father Thomas Williams

  2. Discuss this quote: In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course. -- Saint Boniface

  3. Fr. Sisco asks if you have seen any recent movies depicting the Catholic Church in a good light? Eliminate any Catholic company made movies about the saints in this discussion.

  4. Discuss Fr. Sisco’s concern that Catholics are being portrayed in a negative light and that this is swaying public opinion against them. What examples of this to do you see?

  5. Can anything be done to reverse the trend of negative publicity against Catholics?

  6. Read the encouragement from the prophet Isaiah. Can you take it to heart?

  7. How can Catholics engage the culture in a positive light?

  8. What is good about taking a moral stand?

  9. Discuss the “sin” of intolerance. Do you agree that intolerance seems to be the major “sin” in the secular world? Suppose we did tolerate all behaviors. What would be the outcome?

  10. Discuss the relationship between tolerance and choice. What choices do you see looming as ones we will be asked to tolerate?

  11. How can Catholics present the Church teachings on controversial topics and avoid the objection, “You have to believe that because your Church teaches it”?

  12. Are there any non-religious arguments against abortion, fornication, homosexuality, pornography, and other controversial issues? What are those/

  13. If a movie or tv show or song depicts Catholics in a negative light, what can be done about it? How does freedom of speech fit into this picture?

  14. Investigate the Catholic League and the Saint Thomas More Society and how each of these are working to protect Catholics from abuse and discrimination.

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 404: Parents and Grandparents, Take Note: A Reflection on 1 Maccabees 2:1-22

About then, Mattathias son of John, son of Simeon, a priest of the line of Joarib, left Jerusalem and settled in Modein. He had five sons, John known as Gaddi, Simon called Thassi, Judas called Maccabaeus, Eleazar, called Avaran, and Jonathan called Apphus. When he saw the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem, he said, 'Alas that I should have been born to witness the ruin of my people and the ruin of the Holy City, and to sit by while she is delivered over to her enemies, and the sanctuary into the hand of foreigners. 'Her Temple has become like someone of no repute, the vessels that were her glory have been carried off as booty, her babies have been slaughtered in her streets, her young men by the enemy's sword. Is there a nation that has not claimed a share of her royal prerogatives, that has not taken some of her spoils? All her ornaments have been snatched from her, her former freedom has become slavery. See how the Holy Place, our beauty, our glory, is now laid waste, see how the Gentiles have profaned it! What have we left to live for?' Mattathias and his sons tore their garments, put on sackcloth, and observed deep mourning. The king's commissioners who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein for the sacrifices. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart. The king's commissioners then addressed Mattathias as follows, 'You are a respected leader, a great man in this town; you have sons and brothers to support you. Be the first to step forward and conform to the king's decree, as all the nations have done, and the leaders of Judah and the survivors in Jerusalem; you and your sons shall be reckoned among the Friends of the King, you and your sons will be honoured with gold and silver and many presents.' Raising his voice, Mattathias retorted, 'Even if every nation living in the king's dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. May Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its observances. As for the king's orders, we will not follow them: we shall not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left. (1 Maccabees 2:1-22)

The historical background of this reading is this: The Greek Empire, led by Alexander the Great, has conquered Israel. In fact, the reason why Alexander is called “Alexander the Great” is because he had conquered the world so fast, and he was only in his late twenties when he did it. One of the things Alexander the Great wanted to do was to make the world Greek. That means he wanted everyone in his empire to speak the Greek language.

He wanted everyone in his empire to write everything with the Greek alphabet. He wanted everyone in his empire to copy the Greek system of government. And he wanted everyone in his empire to worship the Greek gods. Now, you can understand where Jews especially have a problem with that last one.

After Alexander died, his kingdom was divided into four parts under four generals. In this reading, a descendant of one of these generals, Antiocus, was enforcing Alexander’s laws in the area of the world where Israel is.   

Some of the Jews willingly embrace the new laws. They say, “What the heck? These Gentiles are doing pretty good and living pretty well. They conquered us after all. Maybe they’re right and we’re wrong! Maybe their gods are more powerful than our God.” So these people start to follow the ways of the Greeks. But not everyone does. There are still Jews who are determined to follow the Law of Moses, and worship only the Lord, and observe all the dietary regulations of being Jewish. Then things start getting more tense. Antiocus makes it illegal for anyone to worship any god but the Greek gods.

Then Antiocus ordered that all scrolls of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible which was all the Bible they had up to that point, be burned, and anyone caught with a copy of the Torah or caught observing the Law of Moses to be put to death!

And finally, Antiocus commits what the Bible describes as the “horrible blaspheme.” He has a statue of the Greek god Zeus, put on top of the altar of sacrifice in the temple. And here’s where this reading begins.   

Antiocus sends messengers to all the villages, trying to win over the last of the hold outs. Threatening them hasn’t worked. Now he’s going to try bribing them. The messengers say, “Listen, we know some of you haven’t obeyed the king yet. But if you sign your name on this paper we have now and burn some incense as an offering to the statue of Zeus, the king will forgive your past disobedience, and he’ll give you money, and you’ll be counted as a friend of the king, and he’ll do you a favor in the future. So why don’t you just obey the king?”

A messenger singles out an old man Matthias Maccabees. The messenger says, “Hey, Matthias, you’re an old man, and everyone respects you. You be the first one to step up here and obey the king.”

Not only does Matthias refuse, but he also starts an uprising, a revolution right there and then, that becomes known in history as the Maccabean revolt. Matthias leads this revolution until he’s dying of old age, and then he tells his oldest son Judah, to continue the fight, which he does, and he manages to liberate Israel for a time from the Alexandrian Empire.  

All that was possible, because Matthias passed his values, his morals, and his faith onto his children, especially his oldest son Judah. Our Church and our culture is losing its sense of morality, faith, and values. That why I want parents and grandparents need to spend time teaching the faith to your children and grandchildren. If you don’t do it, the next generation won’t know anything about our faith. Children, your parents and grandparents have lots of life experience. That means they’ve seen a lot of things and done a lot of things. Your grandparents especially have lived through some very hard times in our country’s history. Listen to them. Learn from them. Pray with them.

If we all make an effort to get our priorities straight, we can make our nation, our Church, and the world a great place to live. But that only works if the young learn from those who have lived before them. May it always be so.

 

And blessed be God forever. –Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: "Remember that knowledge without morals is the soul’s ruination." – Saint John Bosco

Prayer: O Lord God, we ardently recommend to your holy protection of our dear children. Preserve them; make them grow as Jesus did, in grace before God and people. Implant in their hearts so great a love for you that they would prefer death to grievous sin. Teach them to put all their trust in you and to walk warily amidst the temptations of youth. Give them a filial devotion to your Holy Mother, that she may keep them free from sin. We consecrate to you, O Lord, the children you have given us. If it pleases to call them to follow you more closely, give us enough faith to make the sacrifice of them with our whole hearts. Grant that our sins may not be visited upon them. Look upon our prayers and sacrifices on their behalf, and bless them all their days, so that together with them we may be gathered round your throne in heaven for all eternity. Amen

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Pray the prayer for your children and/or grandchildren. Do you pray for them daily?

  2. Discuss the quote by St. John Bosco.

  3. Make a list of five ways we can pass the faith on to our children.

  4. What place does example play in passing on the faith? What place does the Catechism play? Christian education? Recreation?

  5. How can we teach our children to stand up to an immoral, anti-religious culture?

  6. What can we do to bring our culture back to knowledge of and belief in Christ?

  7. Re-read the above Scripture passage and then read the 1 Maccabees 1. Do you see parallels in today’s culture?

  8. Discuss the lack of faith in our culture. What role does the Church have in reversing this trend? What role do you, as an individual have? What role does your family have?

  9. Do you think Matthias got discouraged? How might he have combatted that?

  10. How can a strong prayer life help us keep spiritually strong?

  11. In the time of the Maccabees, a ruler imposed his rule on Israel. Who and/or what is imposing its rule over our nation? Our world? What should be our response if asked to compromise with the current godless trend?

  12. Discuss how you might have responded if you were a good Jewish person living at the time of the Maccabees. Would you have gone along with the government program? Would you have fought back, putting yourlife on the line as Matthias and his sons did?

  13. What is to be our response when our faith is -- mocked? -- tested? -- forbidden? -- encouraged?

  14. How can we give God glory in our culture? How can we give Him praise? How give him obedience?

  • Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 405: Two Josephs: A Reflection on Genesis 37: 3-4 and Matthew 1:18-25

 

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. (Genesis 37: 3-4)

 

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1: 18-25)

 

I really admire Saint Joseph because, in so many ways, he goes above and beyond the call of duty. He finds out that his fiancé is pregnant, and he KNOWS it isn’t by him. Yet the Gospels imply that Mary tells him why she’s pregnant, and he believes her, because Joseph is an upright and devout man, yet was unwilling to expose her to the law. Turning Mary over to the law would have meant Mary would have been stoned to death. If Joseph did NOT believe her story, this is exactly what he should have wanted, because, being a devout and upright man, he would have wanted to see the Law of Moses fulfilled. Joseph doesn’t want to turn Mary over to the law because he is a just and upright man.  He realizes having Mary condemned as an adulteress would be a miscarriage of justice.

 

So Joseph decides to divorce Mary quietly to get out of the way of what God is planning. He did not realize at first the HE was part of what God was planning!

 

It’s no coincidence that Mary’s husband is named Joseph, because, in many ways, Saint Joseph mirrors Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob in the Old Testament. The Old Testament Joseph is his father’s favorite because he was he was the youngest until Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin was born some years later. In addition, the Old Testament Joseph is righteous while all his older brothers were not. Therefore, Jacob sets Joseph apart from his other brothers by making him a special coat. It was a badge of distinction, meaning that Jacob had a special role reserved for Joseph. In a similar way, the New Testament Joseph is favored by God the Father, because of his righteousness, and he is chosen for a special role -- to be the foster father of the Messiah.

 

In the Old Testament, Jacob’s other sons are jealous of their brother Joseph, so they plot to kill him, but instead sell him as a slave in a caravan going to Egypt. In the New Testament, because of the insane jealousy of King Herod, Joseph, husband of Mary, has to take his family and flee to Egypt to live there in exile until Herod dies.

 

Because Old Testament Joseph stays faithful to the Lord, even when it seems like everything and everyone has forsaken him, the Lord blesses Joseph, speaking to him in dreams and enabling him to rise to second in command in all of Egypt. This puts him in a key position to save his family and ultimately all the people of Egypt. In a somewhat parallel situation, because Joseph, the husband of Mary stays faithful, the Lord speaks to HIM in dreams, instructing him in what HE needs to do, which ultimately makes HIM a key element to saving his family and all of the people of the world.

 

How did Old Testament Joseph become a key in saving the people of Egypt? The Lord kept sending Pharaoh a nightmare that no one could interpret. But Joseph interpreted the dream to mean that Egypt would be blessed by seven years of bounty, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph concluded that, if the Egyptians would save ten percent of the produce every year during the years of bounty, they would have enough to carry them through the seven years of famine. How does New Testament Joseph become a key to saving the world? You all know the answer to that! By doing everything the Lord instructs him in his dreams, Joseph saves the life of Jesus, whom Herod wanted to destroy. Jesus lives to become the bread of life to spiritually feed the world.

 

In our spirituality, Saint Joseph often seems overshadowed. How about bringing him front and center into consideration today and come to understand what a pivotal role this upright man played in God’s divine plan?

 

Blessed be God forever! Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: St. Joseph was chosen among all men, to be the protector and guardian of the Virgin Mother of God; the defender and foster-father of the Infant-God, and the only co-operator upon earth, the one confidant of the secret of God in the work of the redemption of mankind. - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

 

Prayer: Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who implored your help and sought your intercession were left unassisted. Full of confidence in your power I fly unto you and beg your protection. Despise not O Guardian of the Redeemer my humble supplication, but in your bounty, hear and answer me. Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  1. Fr. Sisco lists parallels between the Old Testament Joseph and St. Joseph. Can you think of any other similarities?

  2. What can you do to foster devotion to St. Joseph?

  3. Discuss why St. Joseph is the patron saint of: -- the Universal Church -- unborn children -- fathers -- workers -- travelers -- immigrants -- a happy death

  4. The story of Joseph, son of Jacob, in the Old Testament is told in Chapters 37 and 39 to 50 of the Book of Genesis. What do you remember of his story? Check your memory against Scripture. What part of his story resonates most with you? Why?

  5. St. Joseph’s story ends with the finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Scholars conclude that he must have died before Jesus began his public ministry. Why might God have taken St. Joseph to heaven before Jesus’ ministry and not the Blessed Mother? Why might she have had to wait until she was elderly before going to be with the Lord?

  6. Scripture records no words of Joseph, but we do have a record of his actions. Discuss how, in his case, actions speak louder than words.

  7. Joseph had to make many decisions regarding the Holy Family. What would you say was his most critical decision? Why did you choose that one?

  8. Discuss what might have happened to the Blessed Mother if Joseph had not been supportive.

  9. We know that Joseph was parenting Jesus at least until Jesus was twelve. Are there any incidents in Jesus’ ministry, or any of his words, that would indicate his awareness of Joseph’s influence?

  10. Why did God give each child a male and female parent? What are the distinctive roles of father and mother? What are their overlapping roles?

  11. Why is God called Father? Is there a “mother” aspect to God as well? Give reasons for your answer.

  • Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 406: Keeping the Demonic at Bay: A Reflection on Hebrews 8

Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’ But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.

God finds fault with them when he says: ‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, “Know the Lord”, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.’ In speaking of ‘a new covenant’, he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8)

“Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus, the necessity for this one also to have something to offer.” The author of the Letter to the Hebrews is pointing out the differences between the sacrifices offered by the High Priest of the Jewish Levitical Priesthood, and Jesus Christ. The job of the high priest was to offer the sacrifice of atonement once a year on the feast of Yom Kipper. The High Priest offered two sacrifices; the first for his own sins, the second for the sins of the people. Why did he have to offer a sacrifice for his own sins first? Because if he didn’t, the sacrifice he offered for the people would be unacceptable, because the priest offering the sacrifice would be tainted.

The difference is then, because Jesus Christ is God, and thus sinless, he had nothing to atone for in himself, and also, Jesus Christ doesn’t offer a sacrifice of a lamb, but is himself THE lamb. So, Jesus offers the perfect sacrifice that atones for all sins that took place before him, and because he IS God and God is outside time and space, that sacrifice also atones for all the sins that will happen AFTER him. All WE need to do is tap into that Grace and that forgiveness, and that is exactly WHAT we do when we participate in the sacraments, especially the Mass.

We don’t have a high priest in Catholicism. The Pope is NOT our high priest, which is why, if you notice, when the Pope is saying Mass, when he begins the consecration, his miter and crosier (his hat and staff) are taken away. His symbols of office are removed, because when the Pope begins to consecrate the Eucharist, he’s no different from any other priest. Now here’s the tricky part.

When a priest consecrates the Eucharist, he is not replicating what Jesus did. If that were the case, the Eucharist would only be symbolic. Jesus said to the twelve at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me,” and the line of succession from Peter to Pope Francis has remained unbroken. Because God is outside of time and space, whenever a priest offers up the Eucharist at Mass, the sacrifice is re-presented, not replicated, not imitated, but re-presented. THAT means that all the Grace that was present at Calvary when our High Priest offered up this one perfect sacrifice is made present again. The Mass is a spiritual doorway, a portal between heaven and earth, which allows the Grace, that came from an event 2000 years in the past, to come rushing into the present.

That’s why we need the priesthood, and that’s why we need the sacraments. Why is the world getting so dysfunctional? To me the answer is so clear. So many have turned their backs on God and the sacraments, which means Grace is not flowing into the present from Jesus’ sacrifice in the past, and as a result, demons are running rampant. Yes, demons are running rampant. When people have no moral issue with killing a child in the womb, when the beauty and purpose of sexuality has become distorted beyond recognition, when children as young as twelve years old, want to change their gender, and their parents are OK with it, when homosexuality is held up as courageous and Christians are condemned as evil, and the media will spin the news any way they can to make Christians look bad, the demons are running the show. And people stop coming to Church under the auspices of mock outrage, at the failures of a handful of priests and bishops, when the REAL truth is that they prefer the darkness to the light.

This is the world we live in. So, what do we do about it? Simple. Be the best Christians we can be. Witness to our faith whenever we can. Don’t let yourself grow slack in getting to Mass and confession. Encourage as many others as you can to do the same. That is the lowest common denominator to keeping the demonic at bay.

 

And blessed be God forever. – Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: The devil does not bring sinners to hell with their eyes open: he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labors to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God. After we commit sin, he seeks to make us dumb, that, through shame, we may conceal our guilt in confession. -St. Alphonsus Liguori

 

Prayer: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. 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 evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Read all of Hebrews 8 and discuss.

  2. Fr. Sisco mentions demonic influences in the world. What others can you name?

  3. How can you tell if an attitude or behavior is demonic?

  4. Contrast the High Priest’s sacrifice under the Jewish law with Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. Now contrast both with the Sacrifice of the Mass.

  5. Why have many Catholics abandoned Mass attendance? Why have many abandoned faith in God?

  6. Father Sisco mentions keeping our own faith strong, being good examples, and encouraging others in their faith as ways to combat the demonic influences in our times. What other ways can you think of? What would be the most important ways, would you say?

  7. Discuss the quote from St. Alphonsus Liguori.

  8. Do you pray the St. Michael prayer often? The Pope has suggested that this be prayed after every Mass. Is this being prayed in your parish? If not, might you suggest it to your priest?

  9. Have you considered starting or joining a prayer group to pray for a resurgence of faith in the world?

  10. How can we help Catholics understand the beauty, power, and necessity of the Mass?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 407: Making an Effort: A Reflection on Genesis 2: 4-7

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2: 4-7)

I think in the whole of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, my favorite fresco, that Michelangelo painted, was the creation of Adam. You see God the Father, stretched out on a cloud, reaching out as far as he can go, and Adam, reclined back on the cloud, his arm casually resting on his knee, his finger pointing up to God, and God’s finger and Adam’s finger don’t touch.

I think Michelangelo was making a profound theological point in that fresco. If Adam would just make a little effort, if he would extend himself slightly, he could touch the Creator. God has already done his part. God has reached out to us as far as he can, without corrupting our free will. The rest is up to us, but so often, we won’t make the slightest effort to reach up to him.

Remember the Gospel account of the man with the withered hand? “He [Jesus] left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him. He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.’ Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. (Matthew 12: 9-14)

“Stretch out your hand.” That’s what Jesus says to the crippled man in the Gospel. Why tell him to stretch out his hand? That could have been painful for him to do. It most certainly would have been embarrassing for him to display his handicap in front of everyone in the synagogue. Why put him through that?

Jesus does the same thing to Bartimaeus, the blind man. Listen to the account: “Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

Jesus essentially tells the blind man, “Come here.” That’s what you expect someone to do when you call them. What did Jesus mean, ‘Come here?’ The man is blind! This is a busy city street, in downtown Jericho, with a large crowd of people. A blind man can easily fall and get hurt. Why doesn’t Jesus go to him? Because Jesus wants us to make some small effort. Jesus is always trying to get us to step out in faith. Jesus is always challenging us out of our comfort zone. Jesus wants the children of Adam, to NOT make the same mistake their father did, and expect God to do everything for them. God will do the bull work, but we have to make an effort. We just can’t sit passively and expect God to make all of our dreams come true.

For instance, some people are lonely. Some people are shy. Some people are looking for a spouse. So they pray, “Lord, please give me someone…Lord, please take away my loneliness.” But if they sit at home all the time and never go out, that’s never going to happen. When people tell me that they are lonely and praying for God to send someone, I encourage them to get involved in some parish organizations. Get into a prayer group.     Since my reversion back to faith in 1988, I’ve found my spiritual friendships were far richer and more intimate than any I had with secular friends. People pray for employment. People pray for a job, but if you’re not beating the pavement and scouring the newspaper and on-line, you’re not going to find one. I pray to lose weight, but until I have the fortitude to stop eating food that’s bad for me, it ain’t going to happen.

Pray, absolutely. Pray confidently. Prayer is essential. I’m sure that crippled man prayed every Sabbath in that synagogue for healing, but Jesus asked him to do one thing more, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ I’m sure Bartimaeus was praying for healing, but Jesus asked him to do one thing more. “Call him [to me].”

It doesn’t seem like much and yet it is. Let go of your fear, your doubts, your self-loathing, and step out in faith. My brothers and sisters, I pray we never let our own insecurities, or attachment to sin, bar us from touching the finger of the Creator. – Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: Actions speak louder than words. Let your words teach and your actions speak. – Saint Anthony of Padua

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the people You have divinely placed in my life who speak holy truth, love and words of wisdom. Give me a heart of discernment to know when You are using someone to speak instruction into my heart and my circumstances and give me the strength and courage to follow through with that advice, even when it’s hard. Fill me with peace in knowing that even if I take a wrong turn, Your purpose will prevail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Discuss Fr. Sisco’s reflection that Adam was basically not attempting to reach His Creator. Do we not attempt to reach God when God is within close reach? Why might we not attempt to reach out to God?

  2. Discuss Fr. Sisco’s insights into why Jesus often asked those He cured to make some small effort. Think of other Gospel miracles where Jesus asks for something small before working the miracle.

  3. Read the Gospel passage about Bartimaeus. Note how he threw off his cloak to come to Jesus. What did that gesture show about his faith?

  4. What are you praying for? What are you doing to assist your prayer?

  5. What is your view of God? Do we make a mistake in seeing God as a sugar daddy who will give us whatever we want if we just act needy?

  6. Why does God not grant all our prayers even if we believe He will grant them?

  7. Discuss the quote from St. Anthony of Padua.

  8. Pray the prayer and discuss it.

  9. Consider a major problem in today’s world. Are you praying that it be morally resolved? What else are you doing to bring that about?

  10. What is more important—prayer or action? Share the basis for your answer.

  11. Discuss this concept. “God is just waiting for us to act.”

  12. Who do you consult to gain guidance regarding actions you might take? Why have you chosen that person? What do you do to gain guidance? Why have you chosen that tactic(s)?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 408: Let the Lord Enter!: A Reflection on Isaiah 7:10-14

Yahweh spoke to Ahaz again and said: Ask Yahweh your God for a sign, either in the depths of Sheol or in the heights above. But Ahaz said, 'I will not ask. I will not put Yahweh to the test.' He then said: Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying human patience that you should try my God's patience too? The Lord will give you a sign in any case: It is this: the young woman is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:10-14)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favour! The Lord is with you.' She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favour. Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.' Mary said to the angel, 'But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. And I tell you this too: your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.' Mary said, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.' And the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)

“Let the Lord enter! He is the King of Glory!” So we proclaim as a refrain for the Responsorial Psalm at Mass at certain times of the year. “Let the Lord enter!” The seasons of Advent and Lent are meant to prepare us for the entry of God into our lives. Christ became one of us and entered our time and space at the Nativity, and He suffered and died for us on Calvary so that we could enter heaven. But to receive the grace from these glorious events, we have to let the Lord enter our hearts. We need to be open to God. In December, we hear about the war on Christmas and the Keep Christ in Christmas mantra. I’d be happy if we could just keep Christ in Christians! Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies.

Consider the contrast between powerful King Ahaz and powerless Mary. One has no faith, and the other has tremendous faith. King Ahaz is an adulterer and a murderer. He’s an idol worshiper. And he’s about to make a mistake that could enable the northern kingdom of Israel to be invaded and conquered by the Assyrian Empire. The prophet Isaiah is trying to talk him out of it. Isaiah says, “Look, ask for a sign, ANY sign, and the Lord will do it for you, to prove to you I’m telling you the truth.” And Ahaz won’t do it. He says, “I will not ask. I will not tempt the Lord.” But this is fake piety. Ahaz doesn’t REALLY mean that he does not want to tempt God. If he was as pious as he pretends to be, he wouldn’t be behaving so badly in all the other aspects of his life. He doesn’t ask for a sign because he doesn’t want the answer. He doesn’t want to have to concede that Isaiah is right. He wants an excuse to do what he wants to do. He won’t let the Lord enter. And because he doesn’t, Israel falls to Assyria.

Contrast that with Mary. Her name in Hebrew, “Mara,” means bitter. She was probably named that because of the bitter oppression Israel was suffering under the Roman Empire. Hebrew parents often named their children to reflect the personal or political circumstances of the time, so many Hebrew girls of this era were named Mara. It was a very common name because it was a very bitter time. But the name Mara also reflects the bitter life the Blessed Mother would have in store for her by allowing the Lord to enter her life. She’s going to be suspected of adultery. She’ll give birth to her child in a smelly stable, in the cold night. She’ll have to live for several years in exile in Egypt. She’ll be widowed at a young age. She’ll live most of her life in poverty. And she’ll have to watch her only child endure the cruelest execution devised by man. The name Mara certainly fits, and yet, despite these circumstances, there is no indication that Mary was ever a bitter person, even though she certainly could find cause to be. Mary wasn’t bitter, because of her faith, because she let the Lord enter.

Faith enables us to trust that my existence is only part of a much larger plan. Faith reminds us that life is not all about me. Faith reminds us that everything we experience, good or bad, is serving a greater purpose. Mary had this faith because she let the Lord enter. She didn’t just pay the Lord lip service like Ahaz. Quite literally, Mary let the Lord into her body at the Incarnation. However, her whole life long, Mary let the Lord into her heart. That’s what enabled her to be the saint and the model that she is. How can anyone, who allows the Lord of all love and goodness to enter, possibly be bitter?

King Ahaz pretends to be pious and trust the Lord, but his faith really lies in his wealth, his political power, and his military power. That all failed him. He ends his life with nothing. Mary begins her life with nothing, but because of her unfailing faith becomes queen of heaven and earth for all eternity. So which example would you rather follow? Focus on refining your faith, and let the Lord enter.

 

– Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint:

Everything that has being comes from God. Nothing, therefore, that happens to us—trouble or temptation or injury or torment or slander or anything else that could possibly happen to us—can or will disturb us. Rather, we are content and hold these things in reverence, reflecting that they come from God and are given to us as good favors, not out of hatred but out of love.--  St. Catherine of Siena

 

Prayer:

God, help me to get my eyes off of the mountain before me and put my eyes on You, the God who moves the mountains. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

1.         Do you have anything in your life that is keeping you from allowing God full entry into your life? What is that? How can you overcome this spiritual blockade?

2.         How do we know that Ahaz was dishonest about his reason for not asking God for a sign?

3.         The prophet Isaiah came to Ahaz and told him to ask for a sign. The angel Gabriel came to Mary, who did not ask for a sign, yet God freely gave her a sign. Have you ever asked for a sign from God? Why did you ask for it? Did you receive a sign? What did you do upon receiving the sign?

4.         Is it wrong to ask God for a sign? Can it be dangerous to do so? Does asking God for a sign show a lack of faith on the part of the person asking?

5.         Have you ever felt that God was asking something of you that you could not accept or do? What was it? What was the outcome of that situation?

6.         Who do you know who now is facing a difficult situation that requires trust? What is your response to that person? How can you help alleviate stress for them?

7.         How do you know if God is asking something of you? How can you tell this is from God and not from your own desires or the influence of others who are not being moved by the Lord?

8.         Pray the prayer, then discuss how you can apply it in your life.

9.         Discuss the quote from Catherine of Siena. How can you implement this way of thinking?

10.       Do you ever feel that God is torturing you or is sadistic in your regard?

11.       What can you say to someone who believes that God is “out to get them”?

12.       What do people trust in when they don’t trust in God? What are the pitfalls of these crutches?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 409: Saying No Can Be Saying Yes: A Reflection on 2 Timothy 1:7

God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. (2 Timothy 1:7-14)

 “God did not give you a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self control.”  (2 Timothy 1:7) This is what Paul wrote to Timothy. Timothy was Paul’s disciple and protégé, who accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journey’s. Now Paul is in prison, awaiting his execution, and Timothy is a bishop.      And Paul is writing Timothy, giving him fatherly advice. This verse I just quoted is part of that advice.

“Power.” “God did not give you a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power...” In other words, Paul is telling Timothy to be bold. Be fearless in standing up for the truth and defending what is right. That is the power we have been given, to be witnesses of the Lord.

Remember that old anti-drug commercial from the 1980’s, “Not saying no to your kids is saying yes”? That applies to all sin. Silence is consent. We don’t have the luxury of being silent in the face of immorality. And keep in mind, Paul is saying this to Timothy while Paul is on death row for being a Christian. And so if Paul says this to Timothy, when following these instruction could lead to his execution, do you think Paul would say any different to us?

“Love.” Love is wanting what’s best for another person. Paul is telling Timothy to act in charity. That’s what charity is: love manifested in a physical action. Many people misconstrue love these days to mean letting everyone do what they want. That isn’t love. That’s license. Paul never said to do that. If we truly love others, if we truly want what’s best for others, we absolutely have to let them know when they are acting in a way that could jeopardize their souls. Whether they listen to us or not is another story, but we’re obliged to tell them.

“Self control”. In other words, we have to practice what we preach. We can’t be speaking out against immorality, we cannot be telling other people what they should or should not do, if we’re not living the example ourselves. We have to convict our own consciences before anyone else’s to live in a moral, upright, way. We have to control ourselves. We have to control our words, our actions, our attitudes, and we need to be convicting our consciences regularly. And when we sin, we shouldn’t give ourselves a pass. We need to get ourselves to confession as soon as possible.

My brothers and sisters, we have not been given a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power, love and self control. It is my prayer today that we always use that Spirit.

Blessed Be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: It is only we who brood over our sins. God does not brood over them. He dumps them at the bottom of the sea. – St. Benedict

Prayer: Father, I come to you today in need of self-discipline. My heart feels weak and my mind is disturbed. I come in need of your grace and power. Holy Spirit, come and be present in my life. Where there are temptations help me to deliberately walk away from them. Where there are distractions help me to stay focused and true to the things you have called me to. Where there are obstacles before me, may your light shine a way through. Lord, I ask that with your strength and love to guide me I might live a simple and holy life. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Pray the prayer for self-discipline. Do you feel the need for self-discipline in your life? Which areas are most in need? If you pray for self-discipline in this area, what does God tell you? What might you do to change your life?

  2. What advice would you give someone who is seeking more self-discipline?

  3. Discuss the quote from St. Benedict. Why is it important to remember that truth?

  4. Read the advice from St. Paul to Timothy. Then rephrase it in your own words.

  5. How do our actions show if we are ashamed of the Gospel?

  6. How should we react if we see someone committing immorality? Discuss what steps should be taken and how to take them.

  7. Discuss this quote: Charity is love in action.

  8. What does power mean in the spiritual life? Where does that power come from? How are we to use that power? What should be our response if we feel powerless?

  9. “God did not give you a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self control.” Note that in this statement, cowardice is contrasted with power, love and self control. Discuss the following:

    • Cowardice vs. power. How are they opposed? How would cowardice affect power?

    • Cowardice vs. love. How are they opposed? How would cowardice affect love?

    • Cowardice vs. self-control. How are they opposed? How would cowardice affect self control?

    • The opposite of cowardice is bravery. How does bravery relate to power? To love? To self control?

  10. Of the three qualities—power, love, self-control—which do you feel is most lacking in the secular world? In the Christian world? Give reasons for each answer. What can be done to help strengthen the weak points? List at least three ideas.

  11. Write your own prayer for self-discipline.

  12. Ponder St. Paul’s thoughts while in prison. List his concerns as might be evident in the Scripture reading from his letter to Timothy. How did St. Paul deal with his concerns? What can we learn from his example?

  13. Discuss this quote from the man whose place Saint Maximilian Kolbe took at Auschwitz. St. Maximilian was condemned to death by starvation in place of this man.“For a long time I felt remorse when I thought of Maximilian. By allowing myself to be saved, I had signed his death warrant. But now, on reflection, I understood that a man like him could not have done otherwise. Perhaps he thought that as a priest his place was beside the condemned men to help them keep hope. In fact he was with them to the last.” – Franciszek Gajowniczek

  14. “Everything that is done out of Love acquires greatness and beauty.” Thus wrote St. Josemaria Escriva. Do you believe that this is true? Why or why not?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 410: Forgiveness and Forgiving: A Reflection on Zephaniah 3:15

“The Lord has removed judgement for against you, he has turned away your enemies; The King of Israel, the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.” (Zephaniah 3:15)

God is eager to forgive and rescue his people. Why? Because that’s the real measure of love isn’t it? It’s easy to love those who love you. Jesus says that in his sermon on the mount.

“If you only love those who love you, what merit is there in that? Don’t the pagans do as much? If you only greet those who greet you, what merit is there in that? Don’t sinners do as much?”

The real measure of love is forgiving those who have hurt you. The real measure of holiness is loving those who don’t love you back.

Everything the Lord has done, he has done out of love for us; from creation to the crucifixion, from giving us life to giving us the Holy Spirit. That puts two responsibilities on us if we are to truly be his children --we cannot take his love for granted, and we have to imitate that love with one another.

We cannot take his love for granted, so when we do, which is what sin is; (all sin is taking the love of God for granted), knowing the Lord is eager to forgive us, we must come to confession to avail ourselves of that forgiveness. “Well, what do I need to do that for? Why can’t I just tell God I’m sorry myself?” Because then you’re STILL taking God’s love for granted! You’re still presuming on his mercy. “But confessing to a priest is embarrassing!” EXACTLY! Every sin is a failure in humility on some level, so in confession we are forced to humble ourselves, which in and of itself, acts as a remedy for sin.

When I was on retreat a couple weeks ago with Father Caron and Father Santilli, at supper one night, they were asking me about the merger of the two churches which make up our Saint John Paul II parish. They asked how we came to decide to close Saint Leo, and how difficult this whole merger has been with all the old, hurt feelings that people won’t go of. And I expressed how angry I was at many of my predecessors, pastors who had died, who had fostered animosity between Saint Leo and Saint Cecilia all those years. And I said that, whenever I’m offering up a Mass for the deceased pastors of Saint John Paul II parish, as I’m elevating the chalice, which is the time I pray for the intention the Mass is being offered for, I’m saying; “You all better be praying like the dickens to repair the damage you did to this place or you can just stay in purgatory where you belong!” Now, I have to say that this is very Italian (which I am). Italians can carry grudges beyond the grave.

Father Caron was scandalized. He said, “Mike! You’re harboring unforgivness for your brothers at the most sacred moment of the Mass! You’re committing the sin of sacrilege!”

Yikes!

So, I had to go to confession and own up to my sins of unforgivness, and sacrilege. And when it was my turn to be main celebrant, I offered the Mass for those pastors and said out loud at the elevation of the chalice, that I prayed by the merits of this Mass, that all defects of sin would be washed away and those pastors would all be admitted into heaven. And then I looked at Father Caron and said, “Happy?” But he was right, and I knew it.

We cannot take God’s love for granted, and we have to imitate that love with one another. Those are fundamental conditions for our salvation. And while we hear that, and we mentally consent to it, as I learned on retreat, sometimes our failure to do what we know should be done is so insidious that we don’t realize it. So, the Lord either directly, or through someone else, points those failures out to us, so we can get them absolved, and change our hearts.

It is always the right time to make a good examination of conscience and then get to confession. Because we never know when we might go the way of all those pastors of Saint Leo’s and Saint Cecelia’s churches. May our confessions bring us pure hearts.

Blessed be God forever. – Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: That your enemies have been created is God's doing; that they hate you and wish to ruin you is their own doing. What should you say about them in your mind? "Lord be merciful to them, forgive them their sins, put the fear of God in them, change them!" You are loving in them not what they are, but what you would have them to become. -- Saint Augustine

Prayer: “Our Father, Who art in heaven, . . . forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Why is it so difficult to forgive? List five reasons why people find forgiveness difficult.

  2. Why did God tell us to forgive?

  3. Do we have to forgive ourselves? In which ways?

  4. Think of someone who has hurt you. Have you forgiven that person? If so, how did the forgiveness come about? If not, what can you do to foster forgiveness?

  5. How do we forgive someone who has never apologized to us or who is still hurting us?

  6. Discuss how Jesus taught us to forgive.

  7. Discuss the quote from Zephaniah 3:15. Why does it tell the reader not to fear?

  8. Write down 10 things to reflect up when making an examination of conscience.

  9. Discuss the quote from Saint Augustine.

  10. Discuss the petition for forgiveness in the Our Father.

  11. Discuss Fr. Sisco’s prayer during the Mass. Have you ever prayed for your enemies with the same disposition? Might you be praying this way for them now? What needs to change about this sort of prayer?

  12. Fr. Sisco mentions that being embarrassed when we go to the sacrament of reconciliation is a good thing because it teaches us humility. How is a lack of humility related to these sins: Impatience. Anger. Jealousy. Lust. Greed. Sloth. Lack of faith. Power struggle.

  13. Fr. Sisco says that sin is taking God for granted. In which ways?

  14. Why can’t we just tell God we are sorry and be forgiven? What is the value of the sacrament of reconciliation?

  15. How do you feel if you forgive?

  16. What happens to a relationship once we forgive? What might happen? What can we not be able to guarantee?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

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