Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 491: Don’t Stop Praying: Reflection on IS 38:1-8
When Hezekiah was mortally ill,
the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him:
“Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order,
for you are about to die; you shall not recover.”
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord:“O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly
I conducted myself in your presence,
doing what was pleasing to you!”
And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go, tell Hezekiah:
Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David:
I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.
I will heal you: in three days you shall go up to the Lord’s temple;
I will add fifteen years to your life.
I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria;
I will be a shield to this city.
“This will be the sign for you from the LORD
that he will do what he has promised:
See, I will make the shadow cast by the sun
on the stairway to the terrace of Ahaz
go back the ten steps it has advanced.”
So, the sun came back the ten steps it had advanced. -Is 38:1-8 NAB
Our piety CAN change the course of events. That’s the message of this reading. The Assyrian Empire conquered the Kingdom of Samaria, the North of Israel. This was a punishment for Israel’s idolatry. But then the Southern Kingdom, Judah, became just as bad as the North. And Assyria is now poised to invade Judah.
King Hezekiah spent his life TRYING to bring Judah back to the Lord. He met with some success, but the Lord can’t ignore the sins that Judah has already committed. And it’s kind of a sad scene, because Hezekiah is on his deathbed, and he’s seeing his life’s work as a failure. “I couldn’t save Judah.” He couldn’t turn the people from their idolatry, and he couldn’t stop the Assyrian Empire from invading. So Hezekiah, on his deathbed, turns his face to the wall, and weeps, and as he weeps he prays and basically tells God, “I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t enough.” And God responded to Hezekiah’s prayers. God gave Hezekiah another 15 years of life, and the Lord prevented the Assyrian Empire from invading.
Unfortunately, Hezekiah does eventually die and then the people of Judah turn back to their idolatry with a vengeance when Manasseh succeeds Hezekiah as king. Manasseh is the polar opposite of Hezekiah. Manasseh promotes Moloch worship to the people, which demanded infant sacrifice. And then the Lord had enough. So, while Hezekiah could not STOP the punishment that the Lord would inflict on Judah, his piety certainly delayed it. NEVER think your prayers don’t matter. NEVER think your prayers DON’T have an effect.
We live in a time much like ancient Israel, where many hearts of our fellow citizens have turned from God to idols, where many exploit others instead of treating them as brothers and sisters, where many act in pride or treat their bodies like toys. It can be very discouraging. But this is NOT the time to give up and STOP praying. This is the time to step up our prayers, devote MORE time to prayer, because our prayers CAN make a difference. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote From a Saint
“At three o’clock, implore my mercy, especially for sinners and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world… In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion.” -Jesus to St. Faustina
You, expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.
Questions for Reflection
Share a time when you saw the effect of your prayers or the prayers of another.
What are some instances in history in which prayer changed the course of events? (Look it up online if you need to)
What are some other instances in Scripture of prayer changing the course of events?
What is your favorite prayer to pray for others?
What is your favorite prayer for your own intentions?
Why is Our Lord’s Passion especially important for intercessory prayer?
Have you ever been tempted to stop praying for someone or some cause? Did you give up or persevere?
Why is it important to persevere in prayer even for a seemingly lost cause?
What would you tell someone who doesn’t believe in the power of prayer or who has given up on praying for an important cause?
What are the most important things to pray for in our times?
What parallels do you see between the story from Isaiah and our time? -Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 492:God Loves Us: Reflection on Mt 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” -Mt 11:28-30 NAB
Way back when I was a deacon, and Father Mancini, the rector of the Cathedral, was only an assistant pastor, he once said at the dinner table, “Where did people ever get this idea that God loves us?! God doesn’t love us! He tolerates us!” Father Ed Peronni, the pastor of Saint Raymond’s in Providence, when HE was assistant pastor at Saint Ann’s in Woonsocket once said, “God doesn’t love us. He hates us! And we pray to make him feel guilty for the lousy way he treats us.” Now BOTH these priests were joking, but reading the Old Testament, it’s easy to see how such ideas can occur, and maybe even be taken seriously by some. There are so many stories of God destroying someone or punishing people for disobedience, pride, or idol worship, but today we get a refreshing change. This Gospel can be summed up as this: “In the Lord is our rest and refreshment.”
God REALLY does love us. The world tends to forget that. Some people believe in God the ‘hit man;’ the guy who’s just WAITING for us to mess up so he can hurl fire and brimstone at us. So, they pray to APPEASE God, to hold back his wrath. Others believe in God the ‘garbage collector,’ that is, God made me worthless, and takes some kind of sadistic pleasure in watching me suffer; they pray to God like they’re garbage, but don’t really expect him to answer. Then there’s the other extreme; those that hold that God is all love and no justice. God is the sweet, snowy bearded, rosy cheeked old grandfatherly man, who would never possibly ask me to do anything that I wouldn’t want to do. And it doesn’t matter if I sin because God will just forgive me when I die anyway. ALL of these positions are wrong. We need to understand the balance between God’s perfect love and perfect justice.
First, we must always remember that the SAME God exists in both Old and New Testaments. Second, we must remember that examples of God’s mercy and wrath can be found in BOTH the Old and New Testaments. And third, we must remember that God’s wrath is part of the mystery of his holiness. God is so phenomenally holy, so completely holy, that he radically separates himself from anything that’s sinful. Adam and Eve HAD to get kicked out of the garden of Eden. They had contaminated themselves, and would contaminate everyone after them, so they HAD to leave God’s presence. God’s perfect justice is part of his holiness.
But God also HAD to send his Son to repair that damage, and build us a bridge so we could touch him again; which is what we have in the sacraments. The sacraments are that bridge. God’s perfect mercy is ALSO part of his holiness. So, God’s wrath is twofold; when we sin, God separates himself from us, because the all-holy God cannot come in contact with evil. If that state of sin continues throughout our lives, we risk eternal damnation, hell, which is the ultimate separation from God. That’s WHY hell is hell. Hell is the one place in creation where God is not.
But God also gave us the sacrament of confession, so we can be rescued from the burden of sin. God’s perfect mercy. So, use the confessional often. Sin weighs down the soul and pulls us further from God. Jesus gave his priesthood the power to relieve that burden. USE that gift. Listen to what Jesus said in the Gospel today; “Come to me all of you who are labored and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” The Lord is always inviting us to come to him, to get closer to him, to rest in him, because above all else, he truly does love us. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
In this manner too, we should receive whatever other crosses God sends us. “But,” you reply, “these sufferings are really punishments.” The answer to that remark is: Are not the punishments God sends us in this life also graces and benefits? Our offenses against God must be atoned for somehow, either in this life or in the next. Hence, we should all make St. Augustine’s prayer our own: “Lord, here cut, here burn and spare me not, but spare me in eternity!” Let us say with Job: “Let this be my comfort, that afflicting me with sorrow, he spare not.” Having merited hell for our sins, we should be consoled that God chastises us in this life, and animate ourselves to look upon such treatment as a pledge that God wishes to spare us in the next. When God sends us punishments let us say with the high-priest Heli: “It is the Lord, let him do what is good in his sight.” -Alphonsus di Liguori, uniformity with God’s will
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy. -Fatima prayer
Questions for Reflection
Why is it necessary to suffer in this life?
What is the Christian view of suffering?
How does Christ bring rest in suffering?
How should you view the stories in the Old Testament about God’s wrath in light of this?
How does suffering in this life show God’s mercy?
Have you encountered any of the false notions of God that Fr. Sisco mentions?
Have you encountered any other false notions of God that you would like to share?
How does the sacrament of confession reveal that Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light?
How can suffering be both punishment and manifestation of God’s mercy?
How is Jesus the bridge that allows us to touch God again?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 493: Pride: Reflection on Isaiah 10:12-15
“But when the LORD has brought to an end all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
I will punish the utterance of the king of Assyria’s proud heart, and the boastfulness of his haughty eyes.
For he says: “By my own power I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am shrewd.
I have moved the boundaries of peoples, their treasures I have pillaged,
and, like a mighty one, I have brought down the enthroned.
My hand has seized, like a nest, the wealth of nations.
As one takes eggs left alone, so I took in all the earth;
No one fluttered a wing, or opened a mouth, or chirped!”
Will the ax boast against the one who hews with it?
Will the saw exalt itself above the one who wields it?
As if a rod could sway the one who lifts it,
or a staff could lift the one who is not wood!” Isaiah 10:12-15
What does the prophet Isaiah see as the root of Israel’s problem? If we recall the prophet Hosea, we see that Hosea saw the nation’s problem as being idolatry. Isaiah, if we read him carefully, has made a shift. So, what does HE see the problem as?
“For he says, ‘By my own power I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am shrewd.” So, Isaiah sees the problem as being Israel’s PRIDE. But how can that be, Father? If ALL the prophets are being inspired to speak by God, how can they come up with different identifications to the problem? Really, they’re NOT contradictory. Rather, problems evolve. First we get attracted, and then attached to money, flesh, or power. We feel guilty and we try to resist it; but our desire is greater than our love for God. So, we either justify our desire, or we deify our desire, we actually convince ourselves that our desire is REALLY a GOOD thing, rather than a sin.
For example, take a teenage girl who has gotten pregnant. She didn’t want to have an abortion, but if she DIDN’T, her parents would disown her, or her boyfriend would leave her, or her pastor would be so disappointed in her, so she has the abortion. Then she convinces herself that this was REALLY the best thing for herself AND her child, because if she did have the baby, what kind of life could she have given it, but now, the child is with God in heaven, so they’re both better off. Then she starts working in the abortion industry or politically advocating the abortion industry, because she feels that she’s empowering women! And that’s a “good” thing!
It’s starts with the idol, the desire- she wants to take sex out of the context of marriage, and fulfill her cravings too soon. That leads to murder, which is all abortion is. And that leads to the rationalization, because she can’t face the fact that she murdered her child, and she actually wants MORE women to do this so that she feels justified in her choice. And, finally, THAT evolves into, “I don’t need God.” “By my OWN power I have done it, and by MY wisdom, for I am shrewd.” I am God. I decide what’s right and wrong. MY body, my choice.
THAT’S how idolatry evolves into pride- because we just can’t admit we screwed up. So, Isaiah is dealing with the same spiritual problem that Hosea was, just at a different stage of development. As for us, my brothers and sisters, we just can’t be pleasing to the Lord unless we’re willing to surrender ALL areas of our lives to HIS control. This life has nothing to do with MY power or MY wisdom. Holiness begins with the admission ‘I have no power. I have no wisdom.’ Rather, ANYTHING good that comes from me is inspired by God. And anything good that comes TO me, is a gift of his Grace. And Blessed be God forever.
-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
“If I keep my eyes open and my spirit alert, I will live in continual thanksgiving. I am overwhelmed by the memory of so many graces… I will need an eternity to thank you unceasingly. How can I repay you, Lord, for filling my life with so many good things?”
-Venerable Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Not to us, LORD, not to us
but to your name give glory
because of your mercy and faithfulness.
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven
and does whatever he wills.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths but do not speak,
eyes but do not see.
They have ears but do not hear,
noses but do not smell.
They have hands but do not feel,
feet but do not walk;
they produce no sound from their throats.
Their makers will be like them,
and anyone who trusts in them.
Psalm 115:1-8 NAB
Questions for Reflection
How are idolatry and pride related?
Consider the example of the girl whose desire leads to abortion, which leads her into pride. How is this manifest in other socially accepted sins? (for example, homosexual acts)
Father demonstrates how pride responds to a fall into sin. How does humility respond?
What are other remedies to this form of pride?
How does Fr. Sisco’s reflection show that idols are “the work of human hands”?
Do you think that idolatry evolves into pride or that pride evolves into idolatry? Why?
How do the makers of idols come to be like the idols they create?
What are some ways that pride can slip into the life of the Christian who has already rejected the major idols of the world?
How can the Christian combat these more subtle manifestations of pride?
How is thanksgiving a remedy for pride?
What are some other passages in Scripture which demonstrate the problem of pride?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 494: May the Lord Rebuke You: Reflection on Jude 1:5-9
I wish to remind you, although you know all things, that [the] Lord who once saved a people from the land of Egypt later destroyed those who did not believe. The angels too, who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains, in gloom, for the judgment of the great day.
Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Similarly, these dreamers nevertheless also defile the flesh, scorn lordship, and revile glorious beings. Yet the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses, did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment* upon him but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!” Jude 1:5-9
There is an interesting story in this short epistle written by Saint Jude. Why we don’t quote from that epistle as the first reading on his feast day I don’t know. I don’t make those decisions. Anyway, Saint Jude quotes here an apocryphal tale from Jewish folklore about an argument between Saint Michael and Satan over where to bury the body of Moses:
Satan is arguing that Moses should have a glorious tomb, with a great monument that everyone can see for miles, and Saint Michael is arguing that Moses’ burial place should be kept secret. What for? Saint Michael knows all too well that at this fragile stage of Israel’s spiritual growth; (remember it was Moses who led the people to freedom after being slaves in Egypt for 400 years,) if they KNOW where Moses is buried, it will become a worship site, a shrine, but that will eventually be perverted into a place of idolatry, which is precisely WHY the devil pushes for a very public burial spot. Saint Michael finally gets tired of arguing and says, “May the Lord rebuke you!”
And, my brothers and sisters, that is the PERFECT way to handle the devil! DON’T try to argue with the devil; he’s smarter than you. DON’T try to outwit the devil; he’s craftier than you. DON’T try to overpower the devil; he’s stronger than you. DON’T compete with the devil, like Johnny in the Charlie Daniels song, “The Devil went down to Georgia,” and try to win his golden fiddle! The best way to deal with the devil is by NOT dealing with him at all.
When you’re feeling tempted to sin say, “May the Lord rebuke you, Satan!” That’s all! It’s not your job to fight the devil. It IS your job to fight SIN. THAT’S your job! You fight sin by accessing sacramental Grace, persistent prayer, practicing virtue and encouraging others to do the same, but going head to head with the devil is NOT your job. It’s God’s job. So, let God DO His job.
“May the Lord rebuke you, Satan!” That’s all you have to say when you’re tempted to sin. Whenever you’re feeling anxious, “May the Lord rebuke you Satan!” Because fear and anxiety are of the devil. Whenever something causes you to lose your peace, “May the Lord rebuke you, Satan!” Even in the midst of turmoil and darkness, the Christian should always have peace, because no matter what disease is ravaging the country, no matter what natural disaster has damaged or destroyed livelihoods, no matter what civil unrest causes dismay or whoever the president is or might be, God is STILL God, and He STILL has dominion, so there is no reason for the Christian to lose his peace. The Saints acted thus; they never lost their peace even as they were being martyred.
So, you can also invoke the intercession of the saints; Saint Michael, your guardian angel, the Blessed Mother, your patron saint, or ANY of the saints like Saint Simon and Saint Jude. Let THEM fight the devil. They’re good at it. All we have to do is trust God, stay faithful, and be the best people we can be. Saint Simon and Saint Jude, pray for us. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
The sign of the cross is the most terrible weapon against the devil. Thus the Church wishes not only that we have it continually in front of our minds to recall to us just what our souls are worth and what they cost Jesus Christ, but also that we should make it at every juncture ourselves: when we go to bed, when we awaken during the night, when we get up, when we begin any action, and, above all, when we are tempted. -Saint John Vianney
MOST holy Mary, Queen of Heaven, I who was once the slave of the Evil One now dedicate myself to thy service for ever; and I offer myself, to honour and to serve thee as long as I live. Accept me for thy servant and cast me not away from thee as I deserve. In thee, O my Mother, I place all my hope. All blessing- and thanksgiving be to GOD, who in His mercy giveth me this trust in thee. True it is, that in past time I have fallen miserably into sin; but by the merits of JESUS CHRIST, and by thy prayers, I hope that GOD has pardoned me. But this is not enough, my Mother. One thought appalls me; it is, that I may yet lose the grace of GOD. Danger is ever nigh; the devil sleeps not; fresh temptations assail me. Protect me, then, my Queen; help me against the assaults of my spiritual enemy. Never suffer me to sin again, or to offend JESUS thy Son. Let me not by sin lose my soul, heaven, and my GOD. This one grace, Mary, I ask of thee; this is my desire; this may thy prayers obtain for me. Such is my hope. Amen. -Raccolta, prayer for Monday
Questions for Reflection
Why shouldn’t you try to argue with the devil?
How can the sign of the Cross help us in temptation?
What other means of aid do we have for times of temptation?
What other passages of scripture or anecdotes from the lives of the saints give good example of how to react in time of temptation?
What is the difference between fighting the devil and fighting sin?
It is a common saying amongst the saints that God send us temptation for our good. How can temptations work for our good?
Do you ever consider that it is still possible to lose the grace of God? How can this thought help you to avoid sin? - Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 495: Duties of a Priest: Reflection on Eph 3:7-10
“To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.” - Eph 3:7-10
Saint Paul has in a single line summed up the role of Christ’s priests. A priest’s first function is to proclaim the infinite treasure of Christ. A priest’s second function is to safeguard and dispense the sacred mysteries, that is, the sacraments.
Proclaiming the infinite treasure of Christ is an insurmountable task for any human being. How can a priest even begin to scratch the surface of the infinite treasure of Christ? It’s so far beyond us, and yet it is made present to us at every Mass.
Father Benedict Groeschel, whom some of you may be familiar with if you watch EWTN, has said on more than one occasion that he is not impressed with portrayals of the risen Christ, because there is nothing remarkable about the resurrection. If Jesus was truly God, he would have to rise from the dead. That’s a given. That’s expected. What is truly remarkable, what is truly beyond comprehension, is that the all knowing, all loving, all powerful God, would suffer. That God would die. That God would allow himself to be made into food- that’s remarkable. Yet the infinite treasure of Christ is all contained in that sacred bread. From that Body and Blood flow all gifts, graces, and spiritual power beyond our wildest imaginings.
And that power is contained in the second role of the priest, ‘dispensing and safeguarding the sacred mysteries as found in the sacraments.’ We all protect precious things, don’t we? We lock in safes, we deposit in banks, we buy insurance. The sacraments are also precious and contain an awesome power. That’s why we should frequent them as often as we can, to be empowered.
I’ll give you some examples of the power of the sacraments. I met a couple once who were married outside the Church, and when I suggested they try to get their marriage sanctioned, the wife got indignant with me and said, “Why? Can’t we love one another just as well without a ceremony, and a piece of paper? Are you saying God won’t love us until we jump through the hoops?” And I explained, “The sacraments aren’t for God. They’re for you! The sacrament of matrimony is the means by which God dispenses that powerful grace so you can keep loving one another just as well even when things aren’t so great!” You want to give the devil a migraine? Pray the rosary! Read scripture! You want to give the devil ulcers? Receive the Blessed Sacrament! You want to give the devil a back ache? Go to confession! These are the weapons God has given us.
I can sympathize with Saint Paul when he calls himself the least among the apostles. There were men in my seminary class that would have made far better priests than me that washed out. To this day I don’t know why I made it and some of them didn’t. But now I am being entrusted with the special grace to proclaim the infinite treasures of Christ, and soon to dispense the sacred mysteries. Please pray for me that I do it well, and pray that other young men step up to this challenge.
-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
“A certain priest in Rome felt great fears at death for his eternal salvation, although he had led a life of retirement and piety. Being asked why he was so much afraid, he answered ‘I am afraid because I have not labored for the salvation of souls.’ He had reason to tremble, since the Lord employs priests to save souls, and to rescue them from vice. Hence, if a priest does not fulfil his duty, he must render to God an account of all the souls that are lost through his fault.”
- St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Dignity and Duties of the Priest
God our Father, please give us holy priests, all for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, all for the Immaculate heart of Mary, in union with Saint Joseph.
Questions for Reflection
How is Saint Paul a model of the Priesthood? What other saints give good examples of the priesthood?
Why did God give us the priesthood?
Why is it important to pray for vocations to the priesthood?
Besides prayer, what can we do to support vocations to the priesthood?
How can you assist your priest’s labor for the salvation of souls? (ask your pastor if you are not sure about this)
Why is it so critical that a priest labor for the salvation of souls, and so dangerous for his own salvation if he doesn’t?
How is the Mass the “infinite treasure of Christ”?
In our culture where cohabiting before marriage is so common, how would you defend the importance of sacramental marriage?
Why should we frequent the sacraments as often as we can?
Do you agree with Fr. Groeschel that the Resurrection is unimpressive compared to God suffering and dying for us?
How would our faith suffer if only the Resurrection or only the passion of Our Lord were taught? In other words, why do we need to reflect on both mysteries?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 496: The Earth is Full of the Goodness of the Lord: Reflection on Ps 33:1-5
“Rejoice, you righteous, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise.
Sing to him a new song;
skillfully play with joyful chant.
For the LORD’s word is upright;
all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right.
The earth is full of the mercy of the LORD.”
“The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” The earth IS full of the goodness of the Lord. That is a fact. So, do you see goodness, or do you only see badness? Right now, we have a highly contagious virus that is active in the world, but 99% of people who contract it will survive. In our country we DO have some racists; but 95% of the people you meet are color blind and don’t have a racist bone in their body. We have some BAD police officers, but 90% of them would lay down their lives to protect yours. And we have some BAD priests, (and I’m not just talking about sex predators, they’re a VERY small percentage, but I’m also including lazy priests, indifferent priests, mean priests, selfish priests, materialistic priests, and priests that just promote agenda’s contrary to the Church,) but 80% of them are hardworking, dedicated, disciples of Christ, trying to help as many souls to heaven as they can. My brothers and sisters, if you choose to SEE evil, then evil is ALL you will see. And I fear that among US, the daily Mass goers, the people who REALLY invest themselves in their faith, this is a very REAL temptation; to see only evil around us. The problem with that is that it leads us to become jaded and cynical.
Everyone is calling 2020 a bad year, myself included. It has been challenging no doubt. But in the midst of all these trials and difficulties, God has given us food. He’s given us a roof over our heads. He’s given us clothing. He’s protected us and our families. The earth is FULL of the goodness of the Lord. See the goodness around you and be encouraged. There are good people everywhere doing many good things for no personal gain whatsoever. So be a reflection of what you would like to receive.
If you want love, GIVE love. If you want truth, BE truthful. If you WANT respect, GIVE respect. That doesn’t mean that IF we give these things, they will automatically be returned to us.
I always try to be truthful, yet people lie to me all the time to get what they want or try to manipulate me to their agendas. As Christians we do NOT believe in Karma, that what we give will come back to us. But IF we give what we would also like to receive, it does help us recognize the goodness of the Lord that is all around us. And THAT will help us maintain our peace and keep us from getting discouraged.
My brothers and sisters, the earth IS FULL of the goodness of the Lord! SEEK that goodness, and always attempt to REFLECT that goodness, and then others will start to reflect it as well.
Blessed be God forever. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
-St Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Lord, help me to see your goodness present all around me, in creation, in my neighbor, in myself. Then help me to love You in my neighbor, even when he is being a poor reflection of You, and help me to let your light shine through me that I may become a better reflection of you to my neighbor.
Questions for Reflection
How are mercy and goodness related?
What is the moral problem with becoming jaded and cynical?
How is the attitude Fr. Sisco describes similar and different to the world’s concept of “optimism”?
How can you combat the tendency to see the worst around you?
Which of the lines from the quote from Mother Teresa challenges you most?
How does giving what we would like to receive help us to recognize the goodness around us?
How can seeking the goodness of the Lord help you to reflect it?
Mother Teresa highlights how our efforts to do good often don’t reward us in this life. How should we respond when this happens?
Social media platforms are often the worst place for spreading negativity. What is one concrete way to combat the “bad news” constantly present there? If you don’t use social media, what is a concrete way that you can combat the “bad news” that reaches you?
What other passages in scripture reflect this theme?
Can you think of any instances from the lives of the saints or from someone in your own life that exemplifies being a light in dark or bad times? How can this example inspire you?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 497: Pride of Thought: Reflection on Job 42:1-6
1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 I know that you can do everything and no thought is hidden from you. 3 Who is the man who foolishly hides his plan without your knowledge? So I have spoken foolishly about things which far exceed my knowledge. 4 Listen, and I will speak, I will question you and answer me. 5 My ear heard you; now however my eye sees you. 6 Therefore I reproach myself and I do penance in dust and ashes. -Job 42:1-6
Trust in the Lord. In the book of Job, Job, a righteous man, has lost everything in a day. He lost his wealth, his children, his health, and his friends have come to console him, and they’re trying to figure out how this happened. And they keep trying to convince Job that he’s done something to offend God and he deserves this, and Job keeps maintaining his innocence.
So, Job says, “How can a man be justified before God,” meaning, “Aren’t ALL of us sinners? No one can claim to be pure before God, and God can’t be deceived. He sees everything, he hears everything, he KNOWS everything. He has power over everything.” And Job is TRYING to trust the Lord, but he struggles with it. He struggles with it because he can’t see any justification for what he’s going through. But as this situation keeps wearing on Job, as he continues to suffer, as his friends continue to badger him, we see another side of Job. He recounts all of his good deeds and says now people are laughing at him.
He says how the elders all used to bow with respect when he approached, and now they hold him in contempt. And NOW Job’s sin becomes apparent. He’s PROUD of his righteousness! And then Job REALLY messes up! In his pride, he challenges God. He says if he could just appear in the Lord’s court, he could PROVE that he’s right and God is wrong. And THAT’S when God finally shows up to straighten Job out. And the Lord points out to Job that he has no right to question why God does the things he does, because God has the advantage of seeing the big picture. Job never would have discovered this flaw in his character if God had not allowed him to go through this. Basically, the Lord says to Job, “If your righteousness had any depth, you should have trusted me.” That’s so easy to say when we see it in someone else, or even in ourselves in retrospect. But it’s HARD to see that in the moment, isn’t it? When we are the ones in suffering, it’s so HARD to trust God, and instead say, “God, WHY are you letting this happen to me?”
Jesus reiterates this message. A man wants to follow Jesus, and how does Jesus respond? “Foxes have dens, and the birds have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” “So, what are you saying? You want me to rent you a room at the Radisson? NO. If you’re going to follow me, you’ve got to trust God, because I can’t even provide a place for you to stay.” Another agrees to follow Jesus, but he wants to bury his father FIRST. Reasonable request. Burying the dead is an act of mercy. Jesus rejects him for it. Why? He doesn’t trust God. Jesus should be first. Answering God’s call should be first. But if he DOESN’T go home to bury his father, it will be seen as a mark of shame and disgrace by his family and his neighbors. Yup. “So, do you trust me or not?” Same thing with the third guy. “I’ll follow you, just let me go and say goodbye to my family FIRST.” “No. If you want to follow me I have to be first, last, and everything in between, because if I’m not, you don’t trust God.” You see my brothers and sisters, Jesus can be pretty demanding, but he demands that we trust God.
Let’s put this to the test. We all have an idea of who we want the next president to be. But instead of praying that YOUR candidate win, are you willing to pray that the candidate GOD favors win the election? And if the candidate you vote for DOESN’T win, are you willing to accept it as God’s will? That’s what I’m doing, because I trust God. How about you?
-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
After the Lord reproved Job for his intemperate speech which seemed to smack of pride because he asserted that he was just so much that it seemed to some people to lead to the derogation of divine justice, Job humbly answers considering himself convinced. First, he confesses the divine excellence with respect to power, and so the text says, “Job answered the Lord and said: I know that you can do everything;” also as to knowledge and so he says, “and no thought is hidden from you.” ...From the consideration of the divine excellence he proceeds to consider his own fault when he says, “So I have spoken foolishly,” in not showing due reverence for divine excellence in my words, “about things which far exceed by knowledge,” in discussing divine judgments. Because, “I have spoken foolishly” in what remains I will speak wisely, and so he says, “Listen and I will speak,” and confess my fault... “I will ask you,” by asking, seeking and knocking, (Matt. 7:7) “and answer me,” by instructing me interiorly. He shows why he has so changed saying, “My ear heard you,” once when I was speaking foolishly;” now, however, my eye sees you,” that is, I know you more fully than before, just as things which are seen with the eyes are more certain than what is heard with the ear. He truly has grown both from his suffering and from divine revelation... he continues, “I do penance in dust and ashes,” as a sign of the frailty of corporeal nature. For humble satisfaction befits the expiation of pride of thought. -Saint Thomas Aquinas
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus. - from the litany of humility
Questions for Reflection
1. What did Job do well in his time of trial? What did he do poorly?
2. How did Job learn from his trial?
3. How do you handle trials?
4. Job is considered by the Church Fathers to be a type of Christ, as are David, Moses, Abraham and Adam. How can these figures, all of whom are imperfect, be types of Christ?
5. How can we learn from the flaws of the Old Testament patriarchs? How can we learn from their virtues?
6. Why does following Jesus demand radical trust?
7. Reflect on the obstacles that prevented the three men from following Jesus. Are any of these obstacles similar to blocks in your own life which keep you from more totally following the Lord?
8. Father Sisco proposes that “trust” is the theme of both the book of Job and the instance of the men who nearly followed the Lord, yet their situations are very different. How is it different trusting the Lord before following Him versus in the midst of the trials associated with following Him?
9. How does trust in God counter pride? What are other remedies to pride?
- Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 498: Prove Yourself: Reflection on Luke 11:14-19
He was driving out a demon [that was] mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute person spoke and the crowds were amazed.
“By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. -Luke 11:14-19
Our gospel today reminds us that it is a sin for us to continually ask God to prove himself to us.
Jesus is healing people and driving out demons, and some make the ridiculous claim that Jesus does this by the devil’s power, while others ask Jesus for a sign. Jesus has already DONE a sign. Healing the sick and driving out demons IS a sign! So, what’s their problem? Their problem is they don’t like Jesus’ message. And because they don’t like the message, they have to discredit the messenger. So, they keep asking for signs hoping that Jesus is going to mess up or not be able to provide one, because THEN that justifies their unbelief. THEN they have an excuse to reject the teaching.
Looking around today, we see people do the same thing to the Church. They disapprove of the Church’s message and so they look for anything they can to discredit the Church. THAT’S why the clergy sex abuse cases did such tremendous damage to our credibility, even though we were only talking about one percent of the overall clergy. That gave them all the excuse they needed. “LOOK, the Church tells all of US we have to behave when they don’t even do it themselves!” And all of us active Catholics know that claim is inaccurate, but they don’t care. All they want is to be justified in rejecting the Church’s message. (I find it interesting that many of the politicians and Hollywood elites that condemned the Church most vocally during the sex scandals are now themselves under investigation for sex abuse because of their connections with Jeffrey Epstein and his island. I call that poetic justice.)
Another example is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. She stated that Judge Amy Coney Barrett couldn’t be placed on the Supreme Court because she couldn’t be objective, being a Christian. Well, wait a minute- Joe Biden is running for president and he’s “Catholic”, Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House and she’s “Catholic”. Why can’t Judge Barret, a Catholic, sit on the Supreme Court? Oh, because Judge Barret actually follows the rules of the Catholic Church, unlike the other two examples. Judge Barret isn’t Catholic in name only. Actually, feminists should be doing cartwheels that Barret was nominated, because she has fulfilled what feminists CLAIMED is all they wanted right from the jump. Barret has a family, children, AND a successful career. THAT’S what feminists always claimed is all they wanted for women. Women should be able to have a family AND a successful career. So, what’s the problem? Judge Barret’s life is proof that a woman can have a successful career WITHOUT abortion, which is what the Catholic Church has been saying for years. Judge Barret’s life validates the teachings of the Catholic Church, and those who hate the teaching of the Church just can’t abide that. Can you imagine if Senator Hirono had said that about someone of the Jewish or Moslem faith? The outcries of racism would have shook the heavens!
And so, my brothers and sisters, WE must be careful that we never challenge God to prove himself to us. Every time we pray for something and don’t get it; if we react with anger, or decide not to pray to punish God, aren’t we asking God to prove his love to us? Now it’s ok if we’re at a crossroads in life to ask God for a sign to what we should do next, because we want to act in accord with his will. But if we keep asking and asking and asking because we don’t like the answer we’re getting, NOW we’re asking God to PROVE himself to us. God has ALREADY proven himself to us. If you want to see it, look at a crucifix. No more proof is needed.
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
“O my God, defend Thyself! See how men misunderstand Thy words: permit no weakness in Thy servants… The real servant of God , to whom He gives light to see the true way, when beset by these fears only tries to hasten on.” - Saint Teresa of Avila
Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me true faith, certain hope,
and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command. -St. Francis of Assisi
Questions for Reflection
What is the difference between asking for a sign at a crossroad in life and asking for God to prove himself?
Have you ever put God to the test? What was the result? How could you have handled the situation more virtuously?
Why do you think that people are biased against the Christian faith (particularly the Catholic faith)?
Which of Jesus’ teachings provoked the most anger from his opponents? Which of the Church’s teachings provoke the most anger in her opponents today? Compare the two.
How do we “hasten on” in times when Jesus’ teachings seem confusing or difficult?
Why is it important to ask for enlightenment from the Holy Spirit?
Why is it impossible to drive out demons by demonic power?
How should you combat the demons of temptation in your life?
Is the Crucifix sufficient proof for you of God’s love? Why or why not?
How can you explain to another the importance of the Crucifix as proof of God’s love?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 499: Fruits of the Flesh: Reflection on Galatians 5:16-23
I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. - Galatians 5:16-23 NAB
We’re all familiar with Paul’s list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It’s something that’s taught in ALL religious education programs. But today, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul gives us a list that I think should be taught in every religious education program also; he lists the fruits of the flesh. The fruits of the flesh that Paul mentions can be divided into three categories; sexual sins, sins against the sovereignty of God, and sins against charity. So, let’s look at these.
Sexual sins. In the category of sexual sins Paul lists first, lewd conduct. What does this sin consist of? Here are some examples. When an adult attempts to have sex with a minor. Incest. Rape. Now the AVERAGE person isn’t guilty of any of these, thank goodness. But what about dressing seductively? Please note this goes BEYOND immodesty. We’ll deal with that sin in a moment. I’M talking about dressing with the intent to lure someone into a sexual encounter, (between two people who are NOT married of course.) Married couples are allowed to seduce each other, because having sex is PART of your vocation…lucky you! I think we can all agree dressing seductively is a pretty common sin these days.
Paul also lists impurity. Now we can look at dressing immodestly. Unlike dressing seductively, dressing immodestly isn’t aimed at luring a particular person into a sexual encounter, but it’s dressing in a way that we allow ourselves to be viewed as a sexual object. Why is this a sin? Because you’re MORE than a sexual object. You’re a child of God. That means you have dignity, and that dignity should always be apparent. What ELSE consists of impurity? Pornography. Masturbation. They teach children in health class in the public schools (or at least they were when I was teaching in the public schools a hundred years ago,) that these things are healthy fantasy, and a natural part of your sexual development. But we say these things cheapen you, and they teach you to cheapen others. They’re also dangerous in that they can actually reprogram your brain to become addicted to sexually deviant behavior. SCIENCE is recently coming around to OUR way of thinking on this topic, as they have discovered the rise of violent sexual crimes, which corresponds to the availability of internet pornography. Studies show that EVERYONE who has been guilty of some kind of sex crime has also been in possession of hoards of sexually deviant pornography.
What else can be listed as impurity? Inappropriate comments and jokes. Well, Father, compared to what you were just talking about this seems like small potatoes. Granted, but it’s STILL a sin. Why? Again, you’re cheapening other people. You’re causing people’s minds to go somewhere they shouldn’t go. Finally, I will mention orgies. That was very popular in the pagan Roman world, and now is again. Licentiousness, which means being unprincipled in sexual matters. For example, having sex with your boss to advance your career. I also put drunkenness in this category, even though it’s not a sexual sin per se, because it usually leads to sexual sins. When we’re drunk, we let go of our inhibitions and do things we wouldn’t normally do.
Moving on to sins against the sovereignty of God: Idolatry. Sorcery. Idolatry I’ve talked about extensively in the past. No need to rehash that. And sorcery should be obvious, too.
And finally, sins against charity: If you notice, this is the biggest category. Hostility. Bickering. Jealousy. Outbursts of rage. Haven’t we seen a lot of THIS lately! No one seems to have any patience anymore! Selfishness. Rivalry. Dissensions- which means disregarding authority. Even the Catholic Church is rife with dissensions. Even children disregard their parents. Factions- which means causing divisions, like so much of what we see in the world of politics. The news media is trying to keep everyone divided, liberal, conservative, etc. And envy - wanting what someone else has, and being willing to destroy what someone else has because we can’t have it.
Folks, is there ANYTHING on this list that isn’t alive and well in our society right now? It can be argued that they were ALWAYS there, but in previous generations this behavior was shunned, not celebrated. In almost every way we have become like ancient Rome, and the empire did NOT end well. If we don’t want to suffer a similar fate, we need to pray for our country’s conversion back to Christianity. Blessed be God forever. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
A modest demeanor is a silent sermon; it is a virtue that St. Paul recommends most especially to the Philippians, saying, “Let your modesty be known to all men.” And when he tells his disciple St. Timothy that “ a bishop must be adorned,” he means not with rich clothing but with modesty, so that by his modest bearing, he may encourage all to approach him, avoiding alike rusticity and levity in such a way that, while giving liberty to worldlings to come to him, they may not think that he is worldly like them. -St. Francis de Sales
Jesus, Lover of chastity, Mary, Mother most pure, and Joseph, chaste guardian of the Virgin, to you I come at this hour, begging you to plead with God for me. I earnestly wish to be pure in thought, word and deed in imitation of your own holy purity.
Obtain for me, then, a deep sense of modesty which will be reflected in my external conduct. Protect my eyes, the windows of my soul, from anything that might dim the luster of a heart that must mirror only Christlike purity.
And when the "Bread of Angels becomes the Bread of me" in my heart at Holy Communion, seal it forever against the suggestions of sinful pleasures.
Heart of Jesus, Fount of all purity, have mercy on us. -Catholic.org
Questions for Reflection
Why is it important to learn the “fruits of the flesh” along with the fruits of the Spirit?
How are the fruits of the Spirit contrary to the fruits of the flesh?
How can dressing modestly guard against sins of impurity?
What is modesty in demeanor? How can this help guard against impurity?
How has our society become like ancient Rome? Why is this problematic?
How does the news and other media contribute to the moral decline of society? Is there any way to combat this as individuals?
St. Paul says that there is no law against the fruits of the Spirit. How can you exercise the fruits of the Spirit in a culture increasingly hostile to the Gospel?
Besides modestly in clothes and demeanor, how can we combat the moral evils so prevalent today?
- Erin Wells
1 Mercy- from the Hebrew “hesed,” which is used here, has in other translations been called “goodness” or “kindness”
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 500: Longing for God: Reflection on Psalm 84:2-6
How lovely your dwelling,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and flesh cry out
for the living God.
As the sparrow finds a home
and the swallow a nest to settle her young,
My home is by your altars,
LORD of hosts, my king and my God!
Blessed are those who dwell in your house!
They never cease to praise you. Psalm 84:2-6 NAB
Do we long to see the Lord? I’m not just saying do we have a fleeting desire. Do we have a longing to see God, speak to God, and be in his presence? Sometimes, usually at the coalition of the funeral of a relative or friend, especially for someone who was really faithful during his life, I express how I envy the deceased, how I’d gladly trade places with him. And people look at me with horror in their faces! They think I’m nuts! And I have to explain to them that I’m not morbid. I just want to be in the presence of God. Sometimes I’ve spoken like this and people have mistaken me for being suicidal! NO! I’m NOT going to do myself in! I just can’t wait to experience heaven! And people say to me, “Well, yeah, Father, I want to go to heaven, just not right now.” WHY NOT?! What’s wrong with right now? What could you POSSIBLY have to look forward to that’s better than HEAVEN?
They don’t get it! Just as they’re confused by ME, I’M confused by THEM! I don’t understand why anyone would cling to this life a second longer than he absolutely had to! I look forward to seeing my dad and all my relatives again. I want to give my guardian angel a big hug for all the grief I’ve put him through and thank him for all the times he saved my neck without me even realizing it! But mostly I just want to be in the presence of God. I want to be relieved of the constant temptation to sin! You know the person I empathize most with in scripture? Lazarus! The brother of Mary and Martha, Lazarus, gets sick, he suffers, he dies, and he’s buried. He’s resting in the bosom of Abraham, and then Jesus resurrects him! I’ve often wondered what his reaction was when they got the burial wrappings off his face; “Oh no! Not THIS place again!!” Poor Lazarus! And THEN at some point in the future, Lazarus had to die AGAIN!
Saint Paul describes himself as a prisoner for Christ. In a sense, we’re ALL prisoners! We ALL have what Saint Augustine will describe as concupiscence, this downward pulling of the soul as a result of Original Sin, that makes us all so vulnerable to sin. I can’t WAIT to be relieved of that! I can’t WAIT to experience what it’s like to be a state of perfect peace with God, others, and myself. We are all prisoners of so many things. Our fears. Our desires. Our dreams. Is it REALLY so odd to want to be in a place where NONE of those things affect us anymore?
One of the hardest things to experience or see in those we love is suffering. I would say that is one of our most basic and profound fears. Again, this is baffling for people with no faith, but WE know suffering serves three purposes. First it purifies the soul of sin when the person offers up their sufferings to Christ. Second, it gives US opportunities of charity, when we comfort those in suffering. Third, it detaches us from our first and last earthly possession; our own bodies. Think about it; our flesh is the first thing we’re given in this life, and it’s the last thing we cling to. Suffering helps us let that go and makes us LONG for God. That is the gift of suffering.
My brothers and sisters, pray with me today that all the world, LONGS to see the face of God. Because with that longing comes the desire for holiness of life. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
O Lord, if Your holy will has not yet been entirely fulfilled in me, here I am, ready for everything that You want, O Lord! O my Jesus, there is only one thing which surprises me, namely, that You make so many secrets known to me, but that one secret- the hour of my death- You do not want to tell me. And the Lord answered me, Be at Peace: I will let you know, but not just now, Ah, my Lord, I beg Your pardon for wanting to know this. You know very well why, because You know my yearning heart, which is eagerly going out to You. You know that I would not want to die even a minute before the time which You have appointed for me before the ages. -St. Faustina’s Diary
O JESUS, while adoring thy last breath, I pray Thee to receive mine. In the uncertainty whether I shall have the command of my senses, when I shall depart out of this world, I offer Thee from this moment my agony and all the pains of my passing away. Thou art my FATHER and my SAVIOUR, and I give back my soul into thy hands. I desire that my last moment may be united to the moment of thy death, and that the last beat of my heart may be an act of pure love of Thee. Amen. -Raccolta
Questions for Reflection
Should a Christian fear death?
What counsel would you give someone who greatly fears his death or the death of a loved one?
How does Christ’s death change our view of death?
How does Christ’s resurrection change our view of death?
Why should we long for heaven?
What is keeping you prisoner right now?
Reflect on a recent experience of suffering. How do you see the three purposes of suffering which Father Sisco mentions reflected in you experience?
What is the goal or meaning of our life on Earth?
Do you have any reasons to want to linger on Earth? Are these good reasons?
What should our reasons be for wanting to continue to live on Earth?
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