Weeks 41-50

Week 41: Keeping the Word: A Reflection on Luke 11:28

 

“Rather, blest are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Lk 11:28)

 

Hearing the word of God is easy enough. Keeping the word of God is where the challenge comes in. The way of life God calls us to in Christianity isn’t an easy one because keeping the word of God means loving those who are difficult to love. Keeping the Word of God means being patient with those who test our patience. Keeping the Word of God means putting others’ needs before your own. Keeping the Word of God means acting justly with others to whom we are in debt, and acting in mercy toward those who are in debt to us. Keeping the Word of God means doing all of this with no expectation of praise, recognition or reward. It means we do all this just because God has asked us to, and that’s good enough for us.

 

So how do we keep the Word of God? First we have to remember that the purpose of the Word of God is to train us to be other-worldly. The whole purpose for the word is to break us from the attachments to this world and put our focus on the next, to get us out of the physical and into the spiritual. Sometimes I watch televangelists on TV. Sometimes they have some really good spiritual insights I adopt and Catholicize, or build on. Other times they say things that are just plain nutty.

 

I remember one televangelist who told everyone in the congregation to hold up their wallets; he told everyone at home to hold their wallets against the TV screen. They were all going to pray that God fill up their wallets. That’s silly! Yes, God wants to provide for our needs, but he also wants us to walk by faith and not by sight. He is not just going to randomly stuff your wallet (especially by holding it up to a television screen). Magically filling your wallet from the TV screen would defeat the purpose of the Word of God in breaking you of earthly treasures and setting your heart on spiritual treasures. And as we know, God does not contradict himself.

 

OK, that’s the first way to keep the Word of God, by reminding ourselves of the purpose of the Word of God. The second way we keep the Word of God is by reading the Word of God. Don’t read it like a novel, or a history book, or a philosophy book. Don’t use the Word of God like an oracle, meaning I ask a question like, “Should I marry this person I’m dating?” Then you open the Bible randomly and see if it’s a ‘yes,’ word or a ‘no’ word. People have done these things for centuries and have been spiritually bankrupt.

 

Prayerfully read the Word of God. That means read the Word of God and try to draw connections as to how this relates to life today. That’s how I write homilies. I look at the readings and see how they can apply to situations happening here and now, because the Word of God is eternal, so it has applications for every age. Now maybe that means you have to do some supplementary reading to help you do that, like “The Word Among Us,” or “Magnificat,” or another Bible commentary or reflection book.

 

Read the Word of God and listen to how that word may be speaking to you.

 

In these ways we keep the Word of God, and we will be truly blest.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

 

“Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?” -- Saint John Bosco

 

Prayer:

 

“Creator of all things, true Source of light and wisdom, lofty origin of all being, graciously let a ray of Your brilliance penetrate into the darkness of my understanding and take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, an obscurity of both sin and ignorance. Give me a sharp sense of understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally. Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations, and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm. Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in completion; through Christ our Lord. Amen.” -- Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. How frequently are you really hearing the word of God?

2. What does “keeping the word of God” mean to you?

3. What purpose does the word of God serve in your life?

4. What earthly treasures are obstacles to setting your heart on spiritual treasures or obtaining spiritual goals (spouse, family, work, health, possessions…)?

5. Are you using Scripture to advance your spiritual life? How so?

6. Give an example of a recent connection you have made between your daily life and Scripture?

7. Is there any current situation to which you have not yet, but could apply some use of Scripture?

8. What resources do you use to supplement your Scripture reading?

9. To what authors do you return again and again? Why?

10. Are there particular saints to whom you turn for wisdom?

11. How could you be best supported in your efforts to keep the word of God?

 

--Susan Boudreau

 

Week 42: Wisdom Through Faith: A Reflection on 2 Timothy: 3: 15, 16

 

“Likewise, from your infancy, you have known the Sacred Scriptures, the source of the wisdom which through faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation. All Scripture is inspired of God, and is useful for teaching, for reproof, correction, and training in holiness…” (2Tim 3:15, 16)

 

Saint Jerome was really the Church’s first Scripture scholar. Saint Jerome was the first to translate the Scriptures from their original Greek and Hebrew into Latin, which was the language of the common man at the time, because Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. So Latin was NOT the original language of the Mass or the New Testament. Greek was the original language of the Mass and New Testament. (Just a little history to reflect on, for those who insist Mass must be in Latin.) Latin was NOT first. Latin came later. In fact if we REALLY want to get back to the original language of the Mass, we’d have to say Mass in Aramaic, because that was the language of Jesus and the apostles. The Latin text did remain the standard translation of Scripture for about a thousand years, however.

 

Saint Jerome not only translated the Scriptures, but he also encouraged the study of the Bible. His famous quote is “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of God.”

 

This reading from Paul’s letter to Timothy verifies this teaching of Jerome.

 

What is the first way Paul identifies Scripture to Timothy in this passage?

 

Paul calls Scripture, “…the source of wisdom which, through faith in Jesus Christ, leads to salvation.” Now why is that important?

 

Many of our non Catholic, Christian brothers and sisters use this passage to bash over our heads and say, “You see! Paul doesn’t talk about tradition! Paul doesn’t talk about sacraments! Here Paul is saying the Scriptures lead to faith in Jesus which brings salvation!”

 

Well, first of all, Paul does talk about tradition and sacraments in other passages. But even so, that isn’t what this passage of Scripture says. Look at it closely. Scripture is the source of what? Of faith? No. Scripture is the source of wisdom. What is wisdom? Wisdom is that which seeks God. Paul says, “. . . wisdom, which through faith in Jesus Christ, leads to salvation.”

 

Paul not only separates wisdom and faith, but he also seems to imply here that faith must come first, before we can acquire wisdom from reading the Scriptures! This makes sense because, without faith, we can read the Bible as just another book of myths, or collection of stories, which is what many scholars and even theologians do!

 

The faith has to come first if we want the wisdom. Well, if faith doesn’t come from Scripture, from where does it come? It comes from the Holy Spirit, via the Church, and the sacraments. Why? What did Christ leave us? He left us the Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Sacraments. Who left us the Scriptures? The apostles and the Church did.

 

Faith comes from the Church and the Sacraments, because the Church and the Sacraments are older than the Scriptures, and they were Christ’s direct gift to us. The Scriptures came later. “But Father, the Catechism and the Code of Canon Law say that the first step of faith comes from the Word!” Is that what it says? Or does it say that the first step of faith comes from the preaching of the Word? The preaching of the Word comes from the Church.

 

My canon law professor in seminary, Dr. Pamela Houton, used to stress to us constantly, “The words of the Church; no more, no less, no different!” What she meant by that was the wording of Canon Law and Catholic doctrine is very precise, so do not add to the words of the Church, do not take away from the words of the Church, and do not change the words of the Church because if you do, you may unintentionally misrepresent what the Church teaches.

 

Now, this is not to under rate or devalue the Scriptures by any means. In the very next breath, Paul says that all Scripture is inspired by God, and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in holiness. In short, teaching, reproof, correction and training in holiness mean what? They mean growing in wisdom. Wisdom is that which seeks God. Folly is that which does not seek God. Sin is that which seeks the self over God.

 

So, my brothers and sisters, be careful. I’ve noticed especially on public access TV, evangelical ministers who are outwardly attacking Catholicism; one is a former Dominican priest! I get especially angry at him because I KNOW he knows better! Note their words and quotations of Scripture carefully, because I guarantee you, they’re misquoting Canon Law or the Catechism or pulling things out of context. The way to protect yourself is to know your faith. Know the Catechism, and know the Scriptures, because ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of God. Saint Jerome, pray for us.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote From a Saint: 

 

“I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if Faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself.” -- Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

 

 

Prayer:

 

“Gracious and Holy Father, give us the wisdom to discover You, the intelligence to understand You, the diligence to seek after You, the patience to wait for You, eyes to behold You, a heart to meditate upon You, and a life to proclaim You, through the power of the Spirit of Jesus, our Lord.” -- Saint Benedict

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. When did you first become aware of your gift of faith?

2. When did you first begin to use the Scripture?

3. How often and how much time do you spend with the Scripture?

4. How do you approach the Scripture (praying, reading, studying, meditating, contemplating)?

5. What does this use of Scripture provide for you?

6. Share an example of wisdom you have gained through Scripture.

7. Why is it important that faith precedes wisdom?

8. How able are you to defend the faith or the Church?

9. What resources do you have on hand to access when you have questions on faith, morals or other Church teaching?

10. What reasonable and practical thing could you do to be better prepared to seek God and defend His Church and the faith He has given you?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Week 43: Quotable Hypocrisy or Charity?: A Reflection on Luke 12:1

 

While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. 38The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.

 

 

42 ‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:37-42)

“Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy.” (Lk 12:1)

 

This reading is one of the favorite passages quoted by many of our Protestant, and particularly Evangelical, brothers and sisters, because the passage appears to not only to be extolling faith, something we do also, but also appears to denigrate good works.

 

So let’s look at this. Jesus said, “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisee’s which is hypocrisy.” (Lk 12:1) Fine, what is hypocrisy?

 

Hypocrisy can take two forms. First, saying something is wrong for you to do, but OK for me to do is hypocritical. So when an alcoholic gets up with a few of his AA buddies and speaks at a high school assembly about the dangers of drinking, is that hypocritical? No. In that scenario the alcoholic is telling the teenagers that drinking is not only wrong for them, but it’s also wrong for him, even though he struggles with the addiction and even occasionally still succumbs to it. Giving into a temptation that we know is wrong and need to repent of is not hypocritical; it’s human weakness. If an alcoholic is lecturing his teenage son about not drinking while he has a beer in his hand, and has no intention of stopping himself, that is hypocritical. This is wrong for you, but not for me.

 

The second form of hypocrisy is doing good things, not for goodness sake, not for virtue’s sake, not for the sake of building the kingdom of God, but for the sake of a show, for the sake of winning the praise and approval of others under the auspices of being virtuous, or godly. That’s also hypocritical. So, say for instance a big Hollywood star gives publicly to a charity, not out of any sense of brotherly love, or sense of responsibility for one’s neighbor, but simply because it’s a good public relations tactic. That would be hypocritical.

 

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were guilty of both forms of hypocrisy. We have to remember this when we read Scripture so that we keep from falling into an error, because it’s very easy to pull some Scripture out of context, and think that doing charitable deeds is optional. It is not. Charity is a requirement of the faith in so far as charity expresses the faith we have. If our charity is weak, our faith is also weak.

 

When Jesus sends the seventy-two disciples out to preach the gospel, cure the sick, and drive out demons, why does he send them out in pairs? First, there is a practical reason: so the two can encourage one another. But there is a more important reason: He sends them out in pairs because charity is two-fold--what we give to God, and what we give to neighbor.

 

Paul, in various letters, will underscore the need for charity. Saints John and James, in their epistles, make mention of the importance of charity and good deeds. Jesus Himself, after blasting a Pharisee, says to him, “But if you give what you have in alms, your sins would be wiped clean.” (Lk 11:41) That means that, according to Jesus, a level of charity can absolve our sins. That sounds pretty important to me.

 

Then why does Paul make this statement? “But when a man does nothing, yet believes in him who justifies the sinful, his faith is credited with justice. Thus David congratulates the man to whom God credits justice without requiring deeds.” (Rom 4:5,6) Paul says this very simply because he doesn’t want people to be hypocritical. He doesn’t want people mistakenly thinking that they can purchase their way into heaven, and he doesn’t want them being charitable for show.

 

All charity must come from the heart as an expression of love. So we give to the relief efforts of the hurricane victims, and earthquake victims. How can that be an expression of love? I don’t even know those people! You don’t have to know someone to show empathy, to show compassion. How about deferring to someone else in traffic? That’s a small act of charity. How about being polite in our speech and modest in our attire? That’s showing charity, too, because we are respecting the sensitivities of others.

 

God gives us opportunities for charity all the time, to show love, and help us grow in love so that our love may be perfected. It is in perfecting that love that our hearts become more like His.

 

Blessed be God forever,

Father Michael Sisco

Visitor to the Confraternity

 

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

 “True virtue has no limits, but goes on and on, and especially holy charity, which is the virtue of virtues, and which having a definite object, would become infinite if it could meet with a heart capable of infinity.” -- St. Francis de Sales

 

 

Prayer:

 

 “Give us a heart as beautiful, pure, and spotless as yours. A heart like yours, so full of love and humility. May we be able to receive Jesus as the Bread of Life, to love Him as you loved Him, to serve Him under the mistreated face of the poor. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.” -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Describe a time when you have had to defend the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to the necessity of good works.

2. What would be the hypocrisy in thinking that charitable works were unnecessary?

3. How is the strength of charity directly linked to strength of faith?

4. What reasons can you list for going out in twos?

5. Discuss the implications of Luke 11:37-42.

6. What does it mean to you to be credited with justice?

7. What is the value of good works?

8. What good work or work of mercy do you do habitually?

9. How and why have you chosen that particular work?

 

--Susan Boudreau

 

Week 44: Overcoming Sin Through Grace: A Reflection on Romans 7:18-20

 

“I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; the desire to do right is there but not the power. What happens is that I do, not the good I will to do, but the evil I do not intend. But if I do what is against my will, it is not I who do it, but the sin that dwells within me.” (Rom 7:18-20)

 

 

Saint Paul in this passage is describing a very common problem. We know what God expects from us, and we want to do it, but our minds, our bodies, our flesh, don’t cooperate. It is what Saint Augustine would call concupiscence; the downward pulling of the soul as a result of original sin. So we know what is right. We desire to do what is right, but as Paul says here we don’t have the power to do what is right, because sin is such a powerful influence.

 

 

I provide one small example: I’m trying to lose weight. I’ve been trying to lose weight my whole life. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not. So my weight see-saw’s. It goes down, it goes up. My problem is that I’m a night binger. The hours between nine and midnight are deadly to me. I know if I eat during those hours what’s going to happen. I know I’m going to hate myself in the morning when I get on the scale and see I’m up two pounds, three pounds, whatever, especially since it takes me a week to lose that much. I know it’s going to happen as I walking to the kitchen to get the food. I know it’s going to happen as I’m eating it. So why do I do it? I don’t know.

 

That’s the same thing Paul is talking about in our reading. So what do we do about it? First, we can take great comfort that even Paul struggled with sin, as did all the saints. In a passage from Corinthians, Paul will say that he was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat him and keep him humble, and three times he begged the Lord to take it away from him. That is generally understood as a sin that Paul was struggling with.

 

I’ve said it many times before--what makes a saint a saint, is not that they never sinned, but rather they never stopped struggling to overcome their sins. They never threw in the towel. They never surrendered. When they fell, they got right back up again. If we want to be saints, we have to do the same.

 

How many people roll over to their sins and just spout the attitude, ‘Well, nobody is perfect.’? How many people are content to wallow in their sins convinced that, ‘It’s OK. I don’t need the Church. I don’t need the sacraments. I don’t need confession, because God will forgive us all in the end anyway.’? How many people purposely stay away from Church because they don’t want to be told what’s right and wrong, and ignorance is bliss?

 

Just because we are inclined to sin doesn’t mean we have to surrender to sin. Paul says here that the only way to overcome our tendencies toward sin is through Christ. Sin is not something that is there that shouldn’t be there.

Rather, sin is caused by a lack of something that should be there, and that something is Grace. Sin is caused by a lack of Grace. So how do we increase the Grace we receive? The answer is something I’ve said all along. Sacraments.

 

Sacraments are our primary source of Grace, especially the Eucharist and Confession. We are bombarded with Grace every time we go to Mass. But the Sacraments are not magic tricks. We need to use the Grace we are given. How do we do this? First, we do this through prayer. Through prayer we submit our minds to God’s Will, making us more receptive to His Grace.

 

Fasting is another means. Through fasting we discipline our flesh, and so build our spiritual strength to resist sin, which blocks the Grace God is trying to give us. Another means to use Grace is Charity. Through Charity we form our hearts to God’s heart, which is the source of all goodness and grace. This is how we fight the fight of faith, and this is how we change the world.

 

Blessed be God forever,

Father Michael Sisco

Visitor to the Confraternity

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

 “In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.” -- Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

Prayer by a Saint:

 

 “Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings, You have power over life and death. You know even things that are uncertain and obscure, and our very thoughts and feelings are not hidden from You. Cleanse me from my secret faults, and I have done wrong and You saw it. You know how weak I am, both in soul and in body. Give me strength, O Lord, in my frailty and sustain me in my sufferings. Grant me a prudent judgment, dear Lord, and let me always be mindful of Your blessings. Let me retain until the end Your grace that has protected me till now.” -- Saint Ephrem of Syria

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

1. Explain your understanding of the passage, “I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”

2. Explain your understanding of the passage, “the desire to do right is there but not the power.”

3. Where have you set the bar for your own standard of excellence? (For example: “I’m okay, you’re okay” or “I do my best” or “As long as I make it to Purgatory, I’ll be satisfied” or “I’d suffer even martyrdom to be with God at death” or “I want perfect union with God on this side of death.”)

4. In your opinion, what makes a saint a saint?

5. What belief, attitude or attribute is an obstacle to your being a saint?

6. What will make you a saint?

7. By what means do you seek Grace?

8. How do you use this Grace?

9. How does that Grace affect your daily life and your life over time?

 

-- Susan Boudreau

 

Week 45: The Heart of Goodness: A Reflection on Romans 15:14

 

Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

 

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’ (Luke 16: 1-13)

 

 

 

 

“I am convinced my brothers, that you are filled with goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” (Rom 15:14)

 

 

 

This is what Paul says to the Romans. Paul is a little more guarded in his speech toward the Roman’s than in his other letters. Why? First, he’s figured out this is probably the last letter he’s going to write before he’s executed. Second, and more significant, the Church in Rome was the only Christian community Paul wrote to that he himself had not founded.

 

Paul started the churches in Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi, so when he wrote them, he had clout. He had street credibility. That’s not the case in Rome. The church in Rome had heard of Paul, but didn’t know him on that same level of intimacy. So Paul is more cautious when writing them. He doesn’t harshly reprimand the Roman community for anything like he does the communities in some of his other letters.

 

And he says to them, “I am convinced you are filled with goodness.”

 

What does he base that on? Two things. “You have complete knowledge.”

 

And, “you are able to advise one another.” That’s Paul’s criteria for being filled with goodness, and when you think about it, it makes sense.

 

Complete knowledge. Complete knowledge of what? They had complete knowledge of the faith, of course. The ancient Christian community in Rome, were always thirsting to know more about the faith. That’s why they invited Paul there. They were very zealous about this “new way.”

 

If we want to be filled with goodness, we always have to be learning more about the faith. I’m always encouraging people to read Scripture, read the Catechism, read books about the faith, read about the lives of the saints, read Scott Hahn and Benedict Groeschel. There are so many good books about the faith out there. Immerse yourselves. Spend twenty minutes for God. We all have twenty minutes to do a little reading. Because as our knowledge of God grows, so does our desire to be like Him, Who is the source of goodness.

 

Advise one another. When faith is mature, it spreads. It grows. When a plant is mature, it pollinates. It reproduces itself. When people are mature, they mate; they reproduce themselves. The same is true of faith. When faith matures, it pollinates. It reproduces. We do that by sharing faith with one another. In my vocation as priest, I do that through preaching. Religious do that through teaching and ministering. In your vocation as laity, you do that through witnessing. Friends come to you with problems, and you advise them. That advice should be influenced by your relationship with God.

 

This is also charity. Advising others is something we do for the good of their souls.

 

Does all this mean some personal sacrifice will be involved? Yes. Look at the Gospel. A man is about to fire his chief steward because he’s dishonest. So what does the dishonest steward do? He calls in his master’s debtors, and waves the portion of their debts that would have been his commission. Heck, why not? If he gets fired he can’t collect it anyway, and this way, lots of people owe him a favor when he’s in need. That’s why his master is impressed with him. He is no fool to sacrifice what he cannot keep to acquire what he cannot lose. Whatever earthly treasures you acquire, you can’t take with you. When you die, all that stuff will go to someone else. And so we sacrifice part of our time, talent, and treasure, to acquire a treasure that cannot be lost. That is not only wise, but it is also at the heart of goodness.

 

Blessed be God forever,

Father Michael Sisco

Visitor to the Confraternity

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

“We can't have full knowledge all at once. We must start by believing; then afterwards we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves.” -- Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

 

“Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?” --Saint John Bosco

 

 

Prayer by a Saint:

 

“Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.” -- Saint Charles Borromeo

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. How complete is your knowledge of the teachings of the Church and how might you increase this knowledge?

2. How complete is your knowledge of Scripture and how might you increase this knowledge?

3. How complete is your knowledge of moral matters and how might you increase this knowledge?

4. How are you spreading the faith and to whom?

5. What is the personal sacrifice required of you in spreading the faith?

6. How might you preach without the use of words?

7. What are you reading now and how does it help complete your knowledge or increase your goodness?

8. How do you measure goodness?

9. Are you filled with goodness? If not, is there anything else you could be doing to help you make progress?

 

-- Susan Boudreau

 

Week 46: The Heart of Prayer: A Reflection on Luke 18: 1-8

 

“Jesus told his disciples a parable on the necessity of praying always, and not losing heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.”4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’*6And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (Luke 18:1- 8)

 

It’s funny that this chapter of the Gospel begins this way because the reason we pray always is not to lose heart and not losing heart is the fruit of constant prayer.

 

So many people misinterpret prayer as getting a spiritual wish list fulfilled. Petitioning the Lord, or petitioning a saint for favors, is only a small part of prayer. Prayer, real prayer, deep prayer, puts us in contact with God. From that contact we are strengthened. From that contact we are encouraged. From that contact we are given hope.

 

Other people don’t pray because they underestimate the power of prayer.

 

They judge prayer only by their own weak, subjective experiences of prayer.

 

Their prayer usually consists more of daydreaming than actual communication, or the prayer is unfocused, like praying the rosary as a mindless litany of Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s without focusing on the mysteries they represent. Because they don’t feel anything when they pray, they stop praying, judging prayer to be a waste of time, or deciding “God doesn’t like me,” or “prayer is only for holy rollers” or any other number of excuses.

 

A very wise old priest, Monsignor John Struck, God rest his soul, once said to me, “It is better to pray one Hail Mary with focus and meaning, than an entire rosary mindlessly.” The secret of prayer does not lie in the repetition but in the sincerity. The secret of prayer does not lie in the amount of time spent but in the time well spent.

 

So Jesus tells us in the Gospel when we pray we do not lose heart. Why? Because when we pray, God gently reassures us that, as chaotic as the world around us gets, He is still in control. When we receive that reassurance in prayer, we are naturally encouraged. But notice the meaning of the parable Jesus tells in the next few lines of this chapter. Why does this old widow finally get justice from the corrupt judge? She gets it because of her perseverance! She succeeds because she doesn’t give up. The message is the same for us.

 

Our prayer must be continuous if we are to reach this state of peace. It’s something we have to work at. But if we are sincere, and if we work at it, the benefits of that prayer will keep us from ever losing heart.

 

Blessed be God forever,

Father Michael Sisco

Visitor to the Confraternity

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

“How often I failed in my duty to God, because I was not leaning on the strong pillar of prayer. -- Don't imagine that, if you had a great deal of time, you would spend more of it in prayer. Get rid of that idea; it is no hindrance to prayer to spend your time well.” --Saint Teresa of Avila

 

 

Prayer by a Saint:

 

“O supreme and inaccessible Light, O complete and blessed Truth, how far You are from me, even though I am so near to You!

How remote You are from my sight, even though I am present to Yours!

You are everywhere in your entirety, and yet I do not see You; in You I move and have my being, and yet I cannot approach You. O God, let me know You and love You so that I may find my joy in You; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love, and joy come to me in all their plentitude. Amen ” -- Saint Anselm

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. What is your favorite prayer or type of prayer?

2. What is it about that prayer or type of prayer that is most attractive to you?

3. What makes that prayer effective for you?

4. Describe a time when you felt you had lost heart.

5. How did that feeling affect your prayer?

6. How did your prayer affect that feeling?

7. What means can be used to acquire or sustain meaningful communication with God, Our Lady and/or the saints?

8. Are you genuinely at peace, that is, do you have the type of peace that is the result of continuous prayer?

9. How can this peace be acquired or sustained?

10. Discuss the quote from St. Teresa of Avila. Do you think you would pray more if you had more time? What is Teresa saying?

11. Jesus asked His listeners if they thought He would find faith on the earth when He comes again. What do you think and why?

 

-- Susan Boudreau

 

Week 47: Loyalty to Our King: A Reflection on 2 Machabees 6:18 through 7:42

 

 

“But I, like my brothers, offer up my life and my body for the laws of our fathers, calling upon God to be speedily merciful to our nation, and that thou by torments and stripes may confess that he alone is God.” (2 Machabees 7:37)

Oratory of Divine Love groups should read 2 Machabees 6:18 through 7:41 before beginning this sharing.

 

All throughout scripture and history, we are constantly confronted with the choice of worshipping God or the State. Each time we choose the state, there’s a consequence to be paid.

 

World War II is replete with examples of this. During WWII, the Japanese people worshipped their emperor as a god. If you ever wonder what inspired the fanatical devotion of the Japanese troops and pilots that led them to commit suicide for the empire, that was it. If your god is the emperor, then dying for his war makes you a saint.

 

Hitler and Stalin did something similar. Hitler didn’t make himself the god, but rather he made his dream the god; the dream was the ideology that Germans were a superior race, and therefore had a responsibility to dominate the world. Stalin didn’t make himself the god, but he made the communist party the god.

 

What the result each and every time? It was human sacrifice. From the Kamikaze’s of the South Pacific, to the six million Jews and two million Catholics killed in Nazi occupied Poland, to the forty million killed in the gulag of Siberia by the direct order of Stalin, it’s human sacrifice.

 

This can be applied to the terrorists that destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11. It showed how those terrorists were worshipping a deified Islam political state. When the State becomes our god, one thing always and inevitably happens. The state will, in turn, try to destroy the lives of those who don’t worship it.

 

In the book of Maccabees, we see the situation in Israel get progressively worse. First the people are threatened if they don’t obey the state’s instituted religion. Next we see the pious old man Eleasar put to death, because he refused to defile himself with the state’s religion. After that, an absolutely horrifying scene takes place. A woman watches all seven of her sons put to death because they refuse to obey the law of an earthly king.

 

Notice how eagerly the state needs to justify itself. In the case of Eleasar, we see some of the state’s representatives pleading with Eleasar, “Just pretend to eat the pork and then you’ll save your life.” “Oh, come on, it’s just a little compromise.” Then we see the representatives of the state promising the youngest of the brothers all kinds of wealth and favors if he just forsakes the Lord.

 

Do you see how desperately the state needs the consent of the people of God? If the people of God consent, they feel justified. Their conscience is placated.

Several times during the Clinton administration, the United States tried to get the Vatican banned from the UN because the Vatican continually opposed the Clinton agenda to have abortion and birth control distributed to third world countries on a global scale. Conservative news commentators and politicians ridiculed Blessed Pope John Paul II when he told President Bush that invading Iraq could not be morally justified.

 

Franciscan University of Steubenville is one Catholic College that didn’t comply with compromising the moral teachings of the Church to get government financial aid. Now President Obama is trying to force Franciscan University to indoctrinate its students into using contraception and abortion. How this isn’t a direct violation of separation of Church and State on its most fundamental level is beyond me. The State cannot force a religious institution to adopt a practice contrary to its teaching.

 

These are all small examples of worshipping the state over God. In many small ways we’re called to make similar choices all the time. On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, in which we are reminded that we do have an eternal king that demands and deserves our loyalty, a King that has complete power and sovereignty over heaven and earth and a King that alone has the only power to save.

 

Blessed be God forever,

Father Michael Sisco

Visitor to the Confraternity

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

 “Refusing further service as a Roman soldier: I am a soldier of Christ: combat is not permitted to me.” -- Saint Martin of Tours

 

 

Prayer by a Saint:

 

“Does our life become from day to day more painful, more oppressive, more replete with sufferings? Blessed be He a thousand times who desires it so. If life be harder, love makes it also stronger, and only this love, grounded on suffering, can carry the Cross of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I believe, O Lord, but strengthen my faith; Heart of Jesus, I love Thee, but increase my love. Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee, but give greater vigor to my confidence. Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee, but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine, but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.” -- Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. How have you personally been confronted by the state with the choice of worshipping God or the state?

2. How have you been confronted with a similar choice by other organizations or individuals?

3. How did you respond to the challenge at the time?

4. What might you have done differently with hindsight?

5. How well prepared do you feel now to stand up to that type of challenge?

6. What can you do to prepare spiritually for such a challenge?

7. What consideration have you given to the possibility of having to give your life for the sake of the faith?

8. What can you do to reduce the power of the state to succeed in such a challenge?

9. What are you willing to do now?

10. What does it mean to be a soldier of Christ?

 

-- Susan Boudreau

 

Week 48: Saint Joseph: Ready to Respond to God: A Reflection on Matthew 1: 18-25

 

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:



Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus. (Matthew s1: 18-25)

 

I think what I love most about Saint Joseph, is his immediate response to the will of God. If there was an aspect of Saint Joseph I’d like to emulate most, it would be that.

 

When Saint Joseph receives a message from the angel, there’s no hesitation in his response, there’s no questioning, there’s not even a request for a clarification; he just does it.

 

And if you look closely, you see every time the angel comes to Joseph with a message, it’s to deliver him or his family from something.

 

The first time that the angel appears to Joseph is to deliver him from his distress. “Have no fear about taking Mary as your wife.” The angel’s first message to Joseph is one of comfort and reassurance.

 

The second time the angel appears to Joseph is to warn him of danger. “Joseph! Rise quickly and flee with your family to Egypt, for Herod means to destroy the child.”

 

And the third and last time the angel appears to Joseph is to tell him that it was safe to return home again. So the last time the angel appears to Joseph to deliver the Holy Family from exile.

 

And because Joseph’s response is always immediate, they are always delivered.

 

This is in contrast to Israel. The Holy Family is a smaller model of what Israel should have been as a nation, but wasn’t.

 

Mary, the sinless one, the pure one, is an image of the temple, and what the temple was supposed to be; pure, and sinless. That’s why Jesus flies into a rage when they use the temple as a marketplace.

 

Joseph, the just and devout one, the descendant of David, is an image of the king. Joseph is what the King was supposed to be; humble, honorable, hard working, and ready to do the will of God without question.

 

And both of their lives revolve around Jesus, God, but also their child. The Israelites failed so often throughout their history to teach their children the ways of the Lord, because they failed to lead by example, and center their lives around the Lord. And so the Lord could not deliver them.

 

We find three predominant themes around the preaching of the prophets.

 

The prophets attempt to deliver the people from distress by speaking words of comfort and reassurance to the people, as Jeremiah does when he says, “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.”

 

The prophets attempt to deliver people of danger, especially when they start straying into idolatry, making alliances with pagan nations, and forgetting their responsibility to the poor, the widow, and the orphaned.

 

And the prophets also kept reminding people during their exile in Babylon that the Lord would someday deliver them, and allow them to return to the Promised Land.

 

So the prophets attempt to deliver Israel in the same ways that the angel delivers the Holy Family, but the prophets fail, because Israel doesn’t respond to God’s will with the same readiness the Holy Family does.

 

And if we look closely, we see that the Lord continues to deliver us of the same three things.

 

How does the Lord deliver us from distress? Through His word and the teaching of the Church, we know we’re doing his will, so we have nothing to be anxious or fearful of.

 

How does the Lord deliver us from danger? The sacraments, which protect us from sin and its effects.

 

And how does the Lord deliver us from exile? Through the Church. Through the community of believers, wherever we go in the world, we have family, we belong.

 

The only thing we need ask ourselves is, do I respond to the Lord with the same readiness as Saint Joseph? Think about it.

 

And blessed be God forever.

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

St. Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied to do great things. He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do, in each and every event that went to make up his life. – Blessed Josemaria Escriva

 

Prayer:

 

ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses I offer myself, soul and body, to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice and the might of Your love. You are the Strength of Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light and listen to Your voice and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.” Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. What about St. Joseph is most appealing to you? Why?

2. Why do you think Scripture records no words of Saint Joseph?

3. How might salvation history be different if St. Joseph had not been obedient to God’s promptings?

4. How do you know if God is asking you to do or say something? When you know, what is your response?

5. How can we open ourselves to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

6. Suppose someone asked you, “How do I know what God wants me to do?” What would be your response?

7.  Have you had any experience of God delivering you from danger? What was it? How did you know that God had intervened?

8. What can you do to increase your trust in God’s providence?

 

----Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Week 49: Faithful from Prophecy through Fulfillment: A Reflection on Daniel 7: 2-14

 

I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then, as I watched, its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a human being; and a human mind was given to it. 5Another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, had three tusks in its mouth among its teeth and was told, ‘Arise, devour many bodies!’ 6After this, as I watched, another appeared, like a leopard. The beast had four wings of a bird on its back and four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the visions by night a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth and was devouring, breaking in pieces, and stamping what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that preceded it, and it had ten horns. 8I was considering the horns, when another horn appeared, a little one coming up among them; to make room for it, three of the earlier horns were plucked up by the roots. There were eyes like human eyes in this horn, and a mouth speaking arrogantly.

 

9 As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousand served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 11I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. 14 To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.(Daniel 7: 2-14)

 

In chapter 7 of Daniel, we get another one of those confusing dream / prophecies by the prophet Daniel, but this really isn’t that difficult to understand, once you know the context. This dream of Daniel’s actually corresponds to the dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had about the statue (see Daniel 2: 31-45).

 

Daniel’s dream here is a confirmation of his interpretation of that dream. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he saw a statue with a gold head, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay. The gold head represented the Babylonian empire because of its vast wealth and impressive cities and monuments. The silver chest was Persia, which overtook Babylon, but, while powerful, could never match the splendor of Babylon. The bronze thighs represented the Greek empire under Alexander the Great; the Greeks were famous for their bronze weapons, even though the Greek empire rose well into the Iron Age. The legs of iron represented Rome, because the Roman Empire seemed unstoppable. All armies broke against Rome as if it were made of iron. Finally the feet of clay represent the barbarian tribes that would cause Rome’s fall.

 

The same empires are represented in Daniel’s dream. The first beast is a lion with eagle’s wings. This again corresponds to Babylon. What are the two animals that represent majesty, even today? They are the lion and the eagle. We still call the lion ‘king of the beasts.’ The eagle is also seen as majestic.

 

The second beast in Daniel’s dream is a bear with the orders to devour much flesh. That would be the Persians. The Persian empire was famous for its archers, who could shoot their arrows from horseback with amazing range and accuracy, even when shooting their arrows behind them, which inflicted astronomical casualties on their enemies.

 

The third beast, the leopard, corresponds to Greece, because the leopard is the fastest of animals, and no one conquered the world with the unprecedented speed of Alexander the Great. He swept through the ancient world like wild fire.

 

Daniel can’t even come up with an earthly likeness for the last beast. It’s just this massive destructive force with iron teeth, which decimates everything in its path. This beast, of course, corresponds to Rome. Again, iron is used in association with the Roman Empire because it was the Roman war machine that allowed them to conquer so effectively. Rome was great at inventing various tools of war that made them unstoppable.

 

Note that all of these beasts come up out of the sea. The sea in ancient writings is often a symbol for evil, disorder, confusion, and the unnatural. In the book of Revelation, the beast of the apocalypse rises out of the sea. And this last beast can’t be undone by any human power, so it’s outdone by divine power.

 

Daniel describes the arrival of the Ancient of Days, which is an old reference to God the Father. He destroys the beast, and then what happens? One like the Son of Man, riding on the clouds of heaven approaches the Ancient of Days, and receives all power, dominion, kingship, and glory that had been taken away from the beasts. Who is the son of Man? It is interesting that in scripture no one ever calls Jesus the Son of Man, but Jesus almost always refers to himself this way, because he is plugging into this prophecy of Daniel.

 

Where’s the Roman Empire now? It is gone. Where is the capitol of the empire that the Ancient of Days put in its place? It is in Rome, in the Catholic Church that has extended itself to the borders of the ancient Roman Empire and beyond, where Jesus, the Son of Man, has received all power, dominion, kingship, and glory. And Daniel foresaw it all, five hundred years before it happened.

 

When the world looks discouraging or bleak, I am always reminded by this prophecy and fulfillment that creation will unfold just as God has deemed it. All we need to do is remain faithful to him.

 

Blessed be God forever,

Father Michael Sisco

Visitor to the Confraternity

 

Quote From a Saint:

 

“The faith of those who live their faith is a serene faith. What you long for will be given you; what you love will be yours forever. Since it is by giving alms that everything is pure for you, you will also receive that blessing which is promised next by the Lord: the Godhead that no man has been able to see. In the inexpressible joy of this eternal vision, human nature will possess what eye has not seen or ear heard, what man's heart has never conceived.” -- Pope St. Leo the Great

 

Prayer by a Saint:

 

 “O God of truth, grant me the happiness of heaven so that my joy may be full in accord with your promise. In the meantime let my mind dwell on that happiness, my tongue speak of it, my heart pine for it, my mouth pronounce it, my soul hunger for it, my flesh thirst for it, and my entire being desire it until I enter through death in the joy of my Lord forever. Amen.” -- Saint Augustine of Hippo

 

 

 Questions for Reflection:

 

1. For what are all of creation and the Body of Christ waiting?

2. For what are you waiting personally?

3. What did the Israelites do during their waiting period?

4. What are you doing with your waiting period?

5. When the wait is long, how can we best remain faithful?

6. What supports do you need to remain faithful?

7. How can you support others in their efforts to remain faithful?

8. What remedies were employed by the Israelites when they realized their lack of faithfulness?

9. What remedies are available to you should you need them?

 

-- Susan Boudreau

 

Week 50: Praise God Always: A Reflection on Luke 1

 

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

 

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father.60But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’61They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’62Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him.63He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed.64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.65Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea.66All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1: 57-66)

 

In our Gospel today, Elizabeth, the aged kinswoman of the Blessed Mother, gives birth to her only child, John the Baptist. The Gospel picks up with the scene where they’re trying to figure out what to name him. Elizabeth wants to name him John. The people protest that no one else in her family has this name, so it’s a break in tradition, but when they signal Zechariah the baby’s Father, to indicate his name, and he writes down, “His name is John.” Suddenly Zechariah can hear and speak again.

 

Let’s do a little recap. You may remember that Zechariah was struck deaf and mute by the archangel Gabriel because he refused to believe the message that Gabriel has brought him, that he and his wife will have a son in their old age.

 

What’s wrong with this picture? Who is Zechariah? The high priest! What is he doing when Gabriel appears to him? He’s offering a sacrifice of incense in the Holy of Holies before the Ark of the Covenant! He was as close to God as any human being could have been. If there was a place for visions, that was it! If there was a place for miracles, that was it! And Zechariah, being the high priest, should have known this. Being a priest, Zechariah should have also been familiar with the story of Samson, whose mother conceived him in her old age. And he must have known the story of Abraham and Sarah, who have a son in their old age. So Zechariah really has no excuse for his lack of faith, and Gabriel knows it, which is why he punishes Zechariah by taking his hearing, because he would not receive the good news with joy, and by taking his speech, for his failure to praise God when he received that news.

 

So what happens next? Elizabeth conceives, then Mary conceives. Mary visits Elizabeth, and when Mary arrives, the baby leaps in Elizabeth’s womb for joy. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and does what? She praises God. Mary then also filled with the Spirit praises God. Finally Elizabeth gives birth, and, after Zechariah fulfills what the angel instructed him to do by naming his son John, what does Zechariah do? He praises God. Zechariah the High Priest, the first to be visited by the angel Gabriel, and the first to be told the good news, is the last one to praise God.

 

In this story from Scripture, we hear Mary’s Magnificat, her prayer praising God, and from that prayer we can conclude that praising God means acknowledging several things.

 

    • Praising God means acknowledging and taking joy in his greatness.

    • It means acknowledging we are nothing without him

    • It means acknowledging what he has done for us.

    • It means acknowledging his mercy, his power and his justice.

    • And it means acknowledging his faithfulness.

 

Whenever we do these things in prayer we are praising God. And praising God like this externally leads us to praise God internally by surrendering our wills to him, and thus our lives become living praise.

 

The whole Zechariah story underscores this and reminds us of a few important truths.

 

  1. Book knowledge of God while helpful, is not in and of itself, adequate. Remember Zechariah was a high priest, which meant he had plenty of book knowledge about God, as did the Sadducees and the Pharisee’s.

 

  1. We cannot surrender our lives and wills to God; we cannot praise God internally, unless we are also praising him externally in our prayers, in acknowledging these things I just mentioned.

 

 

  1. When we don’t praise God even externally, when we refuse to acknowledge one or more of these aspects of praise, we will become jaded, and cynical, and we will not be able to recognize God working in our midst. That’s what cynicism is after all--an inability to recognize God’s work.

 

Brothers and sisters, don’t make Zechariah’s mistake. Our ears were made to hear God’s word. Our mouths were made to praise him. Praise him always.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

If there is anyone who is not enlightened by this sublime magnificence of created things, he is blind. If there is anyone who, seeing all these works of God, does not praise Him, he is dumb; if there is anyone who, from so many signs, cannot perceive God, that man is foolish. --St. Bonaventure

 

Prayer by a Saint:

 

You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love. You are wisdom.
You are humility. You are endurance.
You are rest. You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage. You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord,
God Almighty, Merciful Savior. -- Saint Francis of Assisi

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

Read all of Luke 1 before discussing these questions.

1. Do you praise God? When? How? How often? Should you praise God more or differently?

2. For what does God deserve the highest praise?

3. Father Sisco says that "book knowledge is not adequate" for praising God or even knowing Him. Explain this.

4. Why must we praise God externally if we are to praise Him internally? Is it possible to be "a closet Christian"? Explain your response.

5. How does our refusal to praise God lead to cynicism? Would you classify the world as cynical? Why or why not?

6. Read the prayer of St. Francis and then compose your own prayer, praising God.

7. Discuss the quote from St. Bonaventure.

8. Discuss Fr. Sisco's phrase that our mouths were made to praise God and our ears to hear His word. Do you believe that these are the primary functions of these parts of our body? What if we all believed this statement of Fr. Sisco's?

9. Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah experienced God's Presence in remarkable ways. What remarkable ways have you experienced His Presence? How do you know it was His Presence?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

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