Weeks 441-450

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 451: All Empires Fall, Except One: Reflection on Daniel 5

“King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles, with whom he drank.

Under the influence of the wine, he ordered the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar, his father, had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, to be brought in so that the king, his nobles, his consorts, and his concubines might drink from them...Suddenly, opposite the lampstand, the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace. When the king saw the hand that wrote, his face became pale; his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook, and his knees knocked.

Then Daniel was brought into the presence of the king. The king asked him, “Are you the Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, whom my father, the king, brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you, that you have shown brilliant insight and extraordinary wisdom… But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems; now, if you are able to read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be clothed in purple, wear a chain of gold around your neck, and be third in governing the kingdom.”

“This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, TEKEL, and PERES…” That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was slain.” Dn 5:1-2, 5-6, 13-16, 30

During the diaspora, the Babylonians come to respect the Jews, and this god they worship, because they keep witnessing his power. And these stories keep spreading, so when Babylon falls to Persia, which is what happens next in this story, a power message came to Belshazzar. Belshazzar foolishly desecrates the sacred vessels brought back from the temple in Jerusalem, and so a ghostly hand writes these words on the wall, foretelling Babylon’s downfall:

MENE: God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to them. All empires fall, all nations eventually end, even the United States. Someday this country will cease to be. Before that, another nation will replace this one as the world’s superpower. Don’t invest yourself in nations and politics. Invest yourselves in God.

TEKEL: you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. We have all been found wanting because of sin. So use the Grace of the sacraments to minimize the effects of sin in your lives, because you don’t want your exile to continue after you die.

PERES: your kingdom has been divided. We are all divided between what we want, and what we know God wants from us. Jesus said a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. If your heart is divided between God and the world, you will not last. Eventually the world will win. The secret to peace in this life, and eternal joy in the next, is to stop this tug of war we constantly have with God and be submissive to his will. That means going against our fallen nature and learning to be humble.

The book of the prophet Daniel describes another vision: King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a statue with the gold head, silver chest, bronze belly, iron legs and clay feet, a vision that foretells the succession of empires. The beast, like the lion with the eagle’s wings, is Babylon because of its majesty. The bear is Persia because of its strength. The leopard is Greece because of its speed. And this indescribable iron beast that just destroys everything in its path is Rome. Earthly empires will rise and fall. This is the way of things. The Kingdom of God will endure forever. The Church is the earthly extension of the Kingdom of God. We are the Colonial outpost of God’s empire. Being on the frontier, life is going to be especially challenging for us, but our homeland is always secure. Use the Church to always be in God’s presence. Then you will have peace with whatever the empires of the world are doing. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint

“A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves. If a time ever comes when the religious Jews, Protestants and Catholics have to suffer under a totalitarian state, which would deny them the right to worship God according to the lights of their conscience, it will be because for years they thought it made no difference what kind of people represented them in Congress, and because they abandoned the spiritual in the realm of the temporal.” - Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Prayer

God of power and might, wisdom and justice, through you authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed. Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude the President and other government leaders of these United States. May they always seek the ways of righteousness, justice and mercy. Grant that they may be enabled by your powerful protection to lead our country with honesty and integrity. We ask this through Christ our Lord. – from Catholic.org

Questions for reflection

  1. Father Sisco says that if the kingdom of our heart is divided the world will eventually win. Do you agree or disagree? What is necessary to prevent the world from winning our hearts?

  2. What is especially challenging about living in exile from our homeland?

  3. How can knowing that “our homeland is always secure” help us in our earthly exile?

  4. Consider the quote from Ven. Fulton Sheen.

    1. What can we do to prevent a totalitarian state?

    2. How is our society abandoning the “spiritual in the realm of the temporal”? How can we combat this?

  5. How is the Church, the “earthly extension of the Kingdom of God,” connected to the Kingdom of God in heaven and in purgatory?

  6. Consider the prayer. Is our government currently leading us “with honesty and integrity”?

  7. How might we help our government to led with honesty and integrity?

  8. Discuss Ven. Archbishop’s Sheen’s words with regard to the following statement “Keep your religion out of politics.

  9. Do you pray for our government? For world governments? For our Church leadership? If you are not doing this, should you begin? How might you start? Why is prayer for government important?

  10. Why do you think God chose to write on the wall for King Belshazzar? Could He have gotten the message across in another way? Which way was more effective
     

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 452: Afflict the Comfortable: Reflection on 1 Mc 2:38-48

 

So the officers and soldiers attacked them on the Sabbath, and they died with their wives, their children and their cattle, to the number of a thousand persons.

 

When Mattathias and his friends heard of it, they mourned deeply for them. “If we all do as our kinsmen have done,” they said to one another, “and do not fight against the Gentiles for our lives and our traditions, they will soon destroy us from the earth.” On that day they came to this decision: “Let us fight against anyone who attacks us on the sabbath, so that we may not all die as our kinsmen died in the hiding places.”

 

They then were joined by a group of Hasideans, valiant Israelites, all of them devout followers of the law. And all those who were fleeing from the disaster joined them and supported them. They gathered an army and struck down sinners in their anger and lawbreakers in their wrath, and the survivors fled to the Gentiles for safety. Mattathias and his friends went about and tore down the pagan altars; they also forcibly circumcised any uncircumcised boys whom they found in the territory of Israel. They put to flight the arrogant, and the work prospered in their hands. They saved the law from the hands of the Gentiles and of the kings and did not let the sinner triumph.” 1 Mc 2:38-48 NAB

 

Here the Maccabean revolt begins. Prior to this the Greeks were trying to bribe, threaten, and torture the Jews into submitting to forsaking the covenant and worshipping the Greek gods. One important thing to note is that the majority of Jews acquiesce to the Greeks. MOST of the Jews do what the Greeks want and abandon the covenant. But it’s that stubborn minority that refuses to yield, and no bribery or torture can sway them. It was the stubborn minority, the minority that held fast to their faith, who started a revolution, which would liberate their country from oppression, at least for a while. That’s the way it has always been in salvation history; the Lord works through a pious minority to lead the majority back to him.

 

We look around at our country and the majority of Catholics, the majority of Christians in general, have acquiesced to the idolatry of the culture. The majority of the culture favor all forms of perverse sexual practices, abortion, greed, corruption, and if they’re not explicitly in favor of these things, they’re not opposed to them enough to try to stop them. This is precisely why Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem. The only sin that ever gets an emotional reaction out of Jesus, be that sorrow or anger, is hardness of heart, or as he would call it, sinning against the Holy Spirit. Hard heartedness is when we’ve become so accustomed to sin that it paralyzes us, makes us ineffective, so God can’t do anything with us. We become indifferent to the sin and all the pain it causes us. And I fear the majority of Catholics and Christians in our nation have become hard hearted. I fear the majority of the country has become indifferent to sin.

 

And so it is up to us, the stubborn minority. It’s up to us to keep reminding them. It’s up to us to shake them out of their complacency. We must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. We have to continue being the conscience of society, and sometimes, you, the laity, also have to be the conscience of the Church. You, the faithful minority, have to remind the Church hierarchy where our priorities truly lie.

 

Expect to be resisted. Expect to be hated. Expect the devil to do anything he can to discourage you and make you uncomfortable. Sometimes this is the price of sainthood. Throughout salvation history God has used the stubborn minority to set nations right, and he will continue to do so again. Let’s get stubborn.

 

-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint

“We turn finally to the [Franciscan] Tertiaries, both to those who are living together in regular communities and those who live in the world. They, too, should try, with truly apostolic zeal, to promote the spiritual welfare of Christian peoples. Their apostolate which, at its origins, made them worthy to be called by Gregory IX 'soldiers of Christ and new Maccabees,' will today also, with no less efficacy, succeed in promoting the common good provided they, although they have grown in numbers all over the world, become like their Father, St. Francis, by giving proof of innocence of life and integrity of morals.”

- Pope Pius XI, from the 7th centenary celebration of St. Francis of Assisi

 

Prayer

 

JESUS, Mary and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace to love the Church, as we ought, above every other earthly thing, and always to show forth our love by deeds. PATER, Ave, Gloria.

JESUS, Mary and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace without fear or human respect openly to profess, as we ought, the faith which was given to us in baptism. PATER, Ave, Gloria.

JESUS, Mary and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace to share, as we ought, in the defence and propagation of the Faith, when duty calls, whether by word or by the sacrifice of our fortunes and our lives. PATER, Ave, Gloria.

JESUS, Mary and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace to love one another, as we ought, and to live together in perfect harmony of thought, will and action, under the rule and guidance of our pastors. PATER, Ave, Gloria.

JESUS, Mary and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace to conform our lives, as we ought, to the precepts of GOD and of the Church, so as to live always in that charity which they set forth. PATER, Ave, Gloria. -Raccolta no. 458

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. How is Christianity being attacked by the culture today?

  2. When is it better to die for the faith as the first group in Maccabees and when is it better to fight for it as the second group?

  3. How do we overcome the discomfort of standing up for our faith?

  4. How can we avoid becoming indifferent to sin?

  5. How can the stubborn minority remind the church hierarchy charitably where their priorities should lie? Are enough people doing this? What can you do to help?

  6. Share examples from the lives of St. Francis or other saints who gave “proof of innocence of life and integrity of moral” to their times.

  7. Pope Pius XI commends the Franciscan Tertiaries as soldiers of “Christ and the new Maccabees” to fight to promote the Gospel. What other apostolates are available to laypeople for the same end? How do these organizations help promote “the spiritual welfare of Christian peoples?” How can you do this if you are not a part of a tertiary or other organization?

  8. Consider the five petitions in the prayer. Which of these challenges you the most? Why?

  9. What sacrifices are demanded of us in order to persevere in the faith today?

 

-Erin Wells

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 453: O Maggot Israel: Reflection on Is 41: 13-14

“For I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Do not fear, I will help you. Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you maggot Israel; I will help you—oracle of the LORD; the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.” IS 41: 13-14

 

I am the Lord your God, who grasp your right hand: It is I who say to you, “fear not, I will help you.” So says the prophet Isaiah today, and doesn’t this make us feel so warm and fuzzy? Isn’t this a beautiful image that God conveys, like a father taking a little child by the hand, so he won’t be afraid of what’s around him? Well, before we get too gushy with this, listen to the very next verse.

 

 “Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you says the Lord.” Do you think God was maybe a little bit angry when he was telling Isaiah this? Yes, the Lord IS angry because Israel had gotten themselves into this big mess by turning to idolatry and turning away from God, and got themselves conquered by the Assyrian empire. God is pretty upset with them, but he still loves them, nonetheless. He IS going to fix all this, nonetheless. He IS going to stay faithful to Israel, even though Israel didn’t stay faithful to him. That’s what parents do isn’t it?

 

That’s the image I get when I read this passage. Say your teenage son gets caught with drugs and gets himself thrown in jail, and he’s used his one phone call to call you. What are you going to say? “I TOLD YOU not to hang around with those boys! I TOLD YOU they were going to get you in trouble some day!” You might say that, and you’d be perfectly within your rights to say that, but I’m guessing that’s not the first thing you’d say. The first thing I’m guessing you’d say after hearing the fear in your son’s voice, the trembling voice, is, “OK, sit tight, we’re coming to post your bail. Your uncle knows a good lawyer. Don’t worry. We can fix this.” But when you get him home, then you’re going to say, “I TOLD YOU not to hang around with those boys! I KNEW something like this was going to happen someday!”

 

That’s kind of what’s going on in this passage from Isaiah. The Lord is letting Israel know that He is not going to disown them for what they’ve done, He is going to get them through this big mess, but he is also going to let them feel his anger.

 

I felt God’s anger once. Back when I was stationed in Woonsocket, my favorite target was Paris Hilton. She represented everything I couldn’t stand about that generation; spoiled, rich,

over indulged, self-absorbed. So, whenever I was stuck for a homily, I’d google Paris Hilton and see what she was up to, and use it as a negative example in my homily.

 

At that time, the remake of the movie “House of Wax,” was coming on TV late and I wanted to see it, because I was a fan of the original with Vincent Price, (70’s Creature double feature 56), and also because Paris was in it and I wanted to see her die, even though it was a fake Hollywood death. I didn’t care! And I wanted it to be gross and gory! So, this movie is wearing on, it’s getting late, I’m getting tired, young people are getting picked off one by one, and then I get the horrific thought, ‘What if Paris survives?!’ Because you know how in these movies one or two always get away? Well, sure enough, the psycho killer finally starts chasing Paris. She did die. It was gory. I went to bed feeling edified. A couple weeks later I’m having dinner with friends. And I’m telling them about the movie and being crude in my humor.

 

Now I’m not a mystic, but I do believe the Lord has spoken to me several times in my life and that night was one of them. This was the first time I felt his anger. Driving home I heard, “How dare you, priest of God, talk that way about my beloved daughter, whom I love and

whom I died for? How dare you, priest of God, talk that way about my beloved daughter, whom I love and whom I died for?” I went to confession the next day!

 

Don’t ever believe, my brothers and sisters, that God can’t get angry. He certainly CAN. But he’s also ready to forgive the repentant heart, so repent of your sins, brothers and sisters. But let’s make a real effort not to do anything to anger him in the first place. --Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a saint

 

“Public, notorious sinners may be spoken of freely, provided always even then that a spirit of charity and compassion prevail, and that you do not speak of them with arrogance or presumption, or as though you took pleasure in the fall of others. To do this is the sure sign of a mean ungenerous mind. And, of course, you must speak freely in condemnation of the professed enemies of God and His Church, heretics and schismatics,—it is true charity to point out the wolf wheresoever he creeps in among the flock.” -St Francis de Sales

 

Prayer

 

“HAIL, thou that art most venerable, Queen of Peace, most holy Mother of GOD; through the Sacred Heart of JESUS, thy Son, the Prince of Peace, procure for us the cessation of his anger, that so He may reign over us in peace. Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who sought thy prayers was forsaken by GOD. Inspired with this confidence, I come unto Thee. Despise not my petitions, O Mother of the Incarnate Word; but in thy loving-kindness hear and answer me, O merciful, O sweet Virgin Mary”. -Raccolta 197; 300 Days indulgence, Plenary once/month under usual conditions

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. Have you ever felt God’s anger?

  2. Is it necessary to repent to experience God’s mercy?

  3. How does God’s anger reveal more His mercy?

  4. Some people say that an “angry God” is merely a conception of the Old Testament and that the New Testament reveals God is compassionate. What is the Catholic viewpoint on this? What passages from the Gospel can you use to demonstrate God’s anger? What Old Testament passages show God’s mercy? How can an angry God be reconciled with a compassionate God?

  5. How can we be charitable in speaking about notorious sinners?

  6. How should we speak about those in the Church who have betrayed their office?

  7. How does God reveal his mercy through Our Lady?

  8. How can we be instruments of God’s mercy?

  9. St. James writes: “the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” Jas 1:20. Why is it important to control our own anger?

-Erin Wells

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