Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 521: We are Witnesses: Reflection on Acts 5:25-32
“Then someone came in and reported to [the Sanhedrin], “The men whom you put in prison are in the temple area and are teaching the people.”
Then the captain and the court officers went and brought them in, but without force, because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
When they had brought them in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders [did we not?] to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him.” Acts of the Apostles 525-32
The Sanhedrin questions Peter, “Why should we, the scholars of the Law believe you, an uneducated fisherman?” Peter responds, ‘Because we are witnesses of these things; we witnessed what Jesus did while he was alive, we witnessed how you put him to death, and we witnessed that God has raised him from the dead. THAT’S why you should believe us. And that’s why WE should believe also.”
When we ask the teenagers why they should believe, many of them say, “Because of the miracles that Jesus and the apostles did.” Yeah, you can say that. The problem is that miracles can be faked, and skeptics readily point that out. We see magicians today, like David Copperfield, who can make us believe we’re seeing the impossible. The REAL proof of authenticity are not the miracles that Jesus performed. Rather, the real proof is that the apostles all chose death, (or in John’s case, exile) rather than deny what they witnessed. The apostles witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit from their own hands. Peter himself makes a lame man walk, which was the incident that ultimately led them before the Sanhedrin who did not know what to make of this. And so, Peter, who was so afraid to even be associated with Jesus on the eve of the crucifixion, now boldly says to the Sanhedrin, “Better for us to obey God rather than you.”
That’s the REAL proof. They witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus, they witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit in themselves and they died for what they witnessed. That’s what makes their story believable. Then why do so many NOT believe? Jesus said in the gospel to Nicodemus, “The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.” People don’t believe because their heads are too stuck in earthly things. That’s why during Lent we try to wean ourselves, detach ourselves from earthly things, so we can better hear the Spirit of God and be more effective tools for the Spirit of God to use. Now, people have to believe through our witness, and we will NOT be effective witnesses if we are obsessed with the goods of this world. My brothers and sisters, pray that God make us effective witnesses to the Christian life, in a world that sorely needs the example of Christians. Blessed be God forever! – Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint:
Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. – Saint Pope Paul VI
Gracious and merciful God, we pray that through the Holy Spirit all Catholics may hear the call of the New Evangelization and seek a deeper relationship with your Son, Jesus.
We pray that the New Evangelization will renew the Church, inspiring all Catholics to “go forth and make disciples of all nations” and transform society through the power of the Gospel.
We pray for all members of the Church, that we heed the words of Christ—“do not be afraid”—and strengthened by the Holy Spirit’s gift of courage, give witness to the Gospel and share our faith with others.
We pray that we may become like the father of the prodigal son—filled with compassion for our missing brothers and sisters—and run to embrace them upon their return.
We pray that all people yearning to know Christ and the Church may encounter him through the faithful who witness to his love in their lives.
Loving God, our Father, strengthen us to become witnesses to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. –US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Question for Reflection:
What reasons do you give for having faith in Christ?
What is the best reason, in your opinion, for such faith?
If you had to witness to a fellow Catholic about Jesus, what would be your starting point?
If you had to witness to a Christian about Jesus, what would be your starting point?
If you had to witness to a non-Christian about Jesus, what would be you starting point?
If you had to witness to an atheist about Jesus, what would be your starting point?
What reactions might you get to each of the witnessing scenarios presented above?
List some helpful ways to deal with people who:
Hint that you might be unbalanced?
Agree with everything you say?
Blow up when you talk to them?
Seem bored with your witnessing?
Discuss the quote by Saint Paul VI.
Pray the Witness prayer above nightly.
Consider these ways to witness and discuss which could work for you and why:
Talking to (texting, emailing) someone
Writing a letter to the editor or other writing
Mailing religious material or placing it where it will be found
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 522: Praise Him: Reflection on Daniel 3:52-57
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever.” Daniel 3:52-57
Everything has been made with a purpose from God. Everything given to you has a purpose to glorify God with your lives. The PRIMARY purpose of our voices is FIRST to give glory to God, SECOND to promote and defend the faith, THIRD, to encourage and console others, and LAST, EVERYTHING else we use our voices for; the communication that’s part of our daily living. THINK about that! The PRIMARY purpose for our voices is to give praise and thanks to God! That’s what this entire passage from Daniel is about-it’s a litany of praise.
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers…blessed is your holy and glorious name…blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory…”
How much time do you devote using your voice for its primary purpose, its secondary and third purpose, as opposed to its fourth purpose? I’m guessing it’s NOT proportional, and don’t feel too bad about that, because God doesn’t EXPECT it to BE proportional. Strict proportions would look like this, “I spent five hours today taking care of the business of daily life, so I have to spend five hours praising God, five hours encouraging others, and five hours promoting the Catholic faith…ok, guess I can go without sleep today.” We can’t do that, but we DO need to devote SOME time to each of these.
When Nebuchadnezzar throws Daniel and his friends into the fiery furnace, from WITHIN the furnace, he hears them singing and praising God! When we’re in distress, that’s when we should ESPECIALLY praise God.
NOW think of all the times we use our voices for DISORDERED purposes. How often do we use our voices to cuss, to gossip, to demean and insult others, instead of encouraging and building them up? The reason I bring this up is that this sin so often gets overlooked. It’s not just what we DO with our voices that can be sinful, but also what we DON’T do with our voices. The primary purpose of our voices is to give praise and thanks to God! If we don’t consciously take some time to DO that every day, the second and third purpose of our voices will NOT follow. NOW, the bright side, is that coming to Mass is the HIGHEST form of
praise and thanksgiving to God. So we all have THAT going for us. But devote some time every day to praising and thanking God. Do it while you’re driving to work. Do it while you’re doing your daily mundane chores. You’ll be amazed at the effect it has on your disposition and your outlook on life. Try it. And Blessed be God forever. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
Being, then, for the present established in this hope, let us do what the Psalmist further indicates, and become in our measure angels or messengers of God, declaring His will, and praising His glory and His grace. For when he had said, “To place my hope in God,” he goes on, “that I may declare all Thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Zion.” This is the most glorious city of God; this is the city which knows and worships one God: she is celebrated by the holy angels, who invite us to their society, and desire us to become fellow-citizens with them in this city; for they do not wish us to worship them as our gods, but to join them in worshiping their God and ours; nor to sacrifice to them, but, together with them, to become a sacrifice to God.
-St. Augustine, City of God
Prayer before the Divine Office:
O Lord, open Thou my mouth that I may bless Thy Holy Name;
cleanse my heart from all vain, evil, and wandering thoughts;
enlighten my understanding;
kindle my affections, that I may worthily, attentively,
and devoutly recite this office,
and may deserve to be heard before
the presence of Thy divine Majesty.
Through Christ our Lord.
Questions for Reflection
What are the four purposes for which God has given us our voices, according to Fr. Sisco?
How well do you use your voice for each of these purposes? Where do you most fail?
Do you praise God every day?
Why is it important to praise God?
What can we learn from the three young boys in Daniel that praised God amid the flames?
What is the purpose of praying the Divine Office?
What are some other ways we can praise God?
St. Benedict says that we should pray so that “our minds are in harmony with our voices.” Why is it important to be attentive in our prayers?
How does St. Augustine describe heaven in this quote? How is this different from the secular view of what heaven is?
How does praising God in this life affect how you view heaven? -Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 523: Be the Light: Reflection on Acts 3:11-21
As he clung to Peter and John, all the people hurried in amazement toward them in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety? The God of Abraham, [the God] of Isaac, and [the God] of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you. Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” - Acts 3:11-21
When you can’t find the light, BE the light. That is the basic theme of this passage. We see this ongoing exchange between the apostles and the Chief priests because Peter and John cured a lame man in front of the temple. No matter what the Chief priests do to try to silence the apostles--threaten them, beat them, lock them up in jail--nothing stops them from going right back to the steps of the temple and preaching again. And this was just the beginning! The rest of their lives were going to be defined by rejection, abuse, and death. What kept them going? What kept them coming back for more? What kept them from giving up? The empowering of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It WASN’T their experience of Christ that kept them faithful, because all the time they were WITH Christ they kept messing up! It was the effect of the Holy Spirit on them at Pentecost that changed them. While they were with Christ, before and after his resurrection, HE was their light. AFTER he ascended into heaven, that light was gone. Then they had to allow the Holy Spirit to shine through them to continue HIS work. Then THEY had to be the light for everyone else to see.
Isn’t everyone discouraged and disheartened because the world is so dark right now? YES! Agreed! It is VERY hard to find light in this world right now. But could it ever be as bad as the apostles had it, when it was literally them against the entire world? The same Holy Spirit THEY received at Pentecost YOU received at confirmation. But if you continue to focus on and be discouraged by the darkness that spirit will never be effective in you. You will mute the spirit that God has given you. So stop focusing on the darkness and instead LOOK for the light. Look for the light here in Church; in the readings and the Grace of the sacraments. Look for the light in the good that other people do. Look for the light in your prayers, in music that inspires you to holiness, in faithful friends that rally you and encourage you.
Secondly BE the light. Be charitable whenever opportunity presents itself. Keep challenging yourself to grow in virtue and weed out sins and vice. This is how we survive living in a dark world without letting the darkness overcome us. And this is how we draw others, who will gravitate to the light in us, to salvation. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
There is no way that I could possibly render a just account of how great was the joy and sweetness I was feeling, especially when I heard God tell me: “I am the Holy Spirit who enters into your deepest self.” Likewise, all the other words he told me were so very sweet. -Saint Angela of Foligno
VENI, Sancte Spiritus, COME, Holy Ghost,
et emitte caelitus send down those beams,
lucis tuae radium. which sweetly flow in silent streams
from Thy bright throne above.
Veni, pater pauperum, O come, Thou Father of the poor;
veni, dator munerum O come, Thou source of all our store,
veni, lumen cordium. come, fill our hearts with love.
Consolator optime, O Thou, of comforters the best,
dulcis hospes animae, O Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
dulce refrigerium. the pilgrim's sweet relief.
In labore requies, Rest art Thou in our toil, most sweet
in aestu temperies refreshment in the noonday heat;
in fletu solatium. and solace in our grief.
O lux beatissima, O blessed Light of life Thou art;
reple cordis intima fill with Thy light the inmost heart
tuorum fidelium…. of those who hope in Thee….
-From Veni Sancte Spiritus, Sequence for Pentecost
Questions for Reflection
Why was it necessary for the apostles to receive the Holy Spirit before they could evangelize?
How can you “be the light” if you can’t see it?
How does the Holy Spirit help Peter and John be the light for others?
How does St. Angela of Foligno experience the Holy Spirit?
How can each of the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit help you be a witness to Christ?
Since we receive the same Holy Spirit in confirmation that the apostles did at Pentecost, why do you think we don’t see the effects of the Spirit to the same degree in the newly confirmed today as we see in the apostles?
Can you describe an experience of the Holy Spirit giving you light?
The Holy Spirit is described using a variety of images in the Pentecost sequence. Which of these images speaks most strongly to you? Are there any you have not heard or reflected on much before? You may search the full text online.
Which of the gifts of the Holy Spirit do you think you need most right now? Make a resolution to pray for that gift.
How else is the Holy Spirit active in the Church? -Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 524: Joseph and Judah: Reflection on Genesis 37:3-8
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic.
When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.
Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers, they hated him even more.
He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had.
There we were, binding sheaves in the field, when suddenly my sheaf rose to an upright position, and your sheaves formed a ring around my sheaf and bowed down to it.”
His brothers said to him, “Are you really going to make yourself king over us? Will you rule over us?” So they hated him all the more because of his dreams and his reports.
What causes the friction between Joseph and his older brothers in this passage, so much so they conspire to kill him? They want what he had, namely, the favor of their father. And because they are SO jealous of that relationship, they’re willing to kill him over it. Boy! Talk about your sibling rivalry!
Now WHY does Joseph have their father, Israel’s favor? First, because he was the only brother that hadn’t messed up. It’s too long to tell the whole story in an oratory reflection, but to make a long story short, the other brothers keep disappointing their father by doing their OWN will instead of God’s (and their father’s will). Second, Joseph was favored because he was the child of Israel’s old age. And Joseph was the child born of the wife that Israel loved, whereas the other brothers were born of the wife Israel married out of obligation. So for all these reasons Joseph is favored by his father Israel above all his other brothers.
So, first they plot to kill him. THEN they decide to sell him as a slave in Egypt. Through a series of circumstances that the Lord guides, Joseph keeps rising in the ranks until he’s Pharaoh’s right hand man. And later a famine that strikes that entire region puts Joseph in a place to save his family when they come to Egypt looking for help. At every step Joseph acts virtuously. Even when Joseph is the perfect position to exact vengeance on his brothers for what they did to him, he refuses. He treats them with mercy.
So, one would expect that when Israel is at the end of his life, that the Blessing, that was passed from God to Adam and then all through the generations that would determine which of Israel’s sons would be the ancestor of the Messiah, the blessing would go to Joseph. But it doesn’t! Instead the blessing goes to Judah; the second oldest son! That’s why one of Jesus’ titles is, “the lion of Judah.” And here’s the kicker! Of all the brothers, Judah is the WORST! It was Judah who instigated selling Joseph in the first place! And of all the brothers, Judah is the warrior. THAT’s why all the Jews of Jesus’ day expected the Messiah to be a warrior Judah was a warrior, and another descendant of Jesus was a warrior; King David. So they fully expected the Messiah to be a warrior.
So Judah was jealous of his younger brother Joseph because he thought Joseph was going to get something he wanted, but Judah got it anyway, despite his faults. There was really nothing for him to be jealous of! And yet, while everyone THOUGHT that God instructed Israel to bless Judah because HE was a warrior. In reality, God instructed Israel to bless Judah in SPITE of the fact that he was a warrior. Because even though Jesus was a descendant of the tribe of Judah, in every way, Jesus REFLECTS the patriarch Joseph. He’s unjustly treated, betrayed by his brothers, and yet he has unshaken trust in God. I’ve said before, my brothers and sisters, that it is NO coincidence that Joseph is the name of Jesus’ foster father, and that he’s described as a just and upright man, because despite Jesus’ bloodline, his spirit reflects that of Israel’s favorite son. The moral of the story I, “Don’t be jealous of what others have. Trust in the Lord, and he’ll take care of you.” -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
For, with respect to envy, many of them are wont to experience movements of displeasure at the spiritual good of others, which cause them a certain sensible grief at being outstripped upon this road, so that they would prefer not to hear others praised; for they become displeased at others’ virtues and sometimes they cannot refrain from contradicting what is said in praise of them, depreciating it as far as they can; and their annoyance thereat grows because the same is not said of them, for they would fain be preferred in everything. All this is clean contrary to charity, which, as Saint Paul says, rejoices in goodness. And, if charity has any envy, it is a holy envy, comprising grief at not having the virtues of others, yet also joy because others have them, and delight when others outstrip us in the service of God, wherein we ourselves are so remiss.
-St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul
I ADORE Thee, O my GOD, one GOD in three Persons; I annihilate myself before thy Majesty. Thou alone art being, life, truth, beauty, and goodness. I glorify Thee, I praise Thee, I thank Thee, and I love Thee, all incapable and unworthy as I am, in union with thy dear SON JESUS CHRIST, our SAVIOUR and our FATHER, in the mercifulness of his heart and through his infinite merits. I wish to serve Thee, to please Thee, to obey Thee, and to love Thee always, in union with Mary immaculate, Mother of GOD and our Mother, loving also and serving my neighbour for thy sake. Therefore, give me thy HOLY SPIRIT to enlighten, correct, and guide me in the way of thy commandments, and in all perfection, until we come to the happiness of heaven, where we shall glorify Thee for ever. Amen. -Raccolta
Questions for Reflection
How did envy cause Judah to treat Joseph?
Why do you think God allows Judah to receive the blessing instead of Joseph?
How does God use Joseph’s brothers’ envy for His own glory and their good?
What are some other examples of people acting out of envy?
How can you combat the vice of envy in your own life?
Why is Jesus called the “lion of Judah”?
Do you think that Jesus was still a “warrior-messiah”? How?
What is the difference between the vice of envy and holy envy?
What virtue can you practice that is contrary to envy?
Where do you find yourself struggling with envy?
What remedies does this prayer to the Trinity offer against envy? -Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 525: A Wooden Beam: Reflection on Luke 6:36-42
Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
And he told them a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye. - Luke 6:36-42
Leave justice to God, because we CANNOT know what is going on inside someone’s head. We CANNOT know what people went through in their childhood that helped shape them into the people they are today. Only God knows that. Only God knows what someone is TRULY responsible for. So let God judge them.
Now, I do not deny that for a civilized society, we need a JUSTICE SYSTEM. Every society needs a code of conduct for what is acceptable behavior and what is NOT acceptable behavior, and for the safety and prosperity of its citizens, those rules need to be enforced. AND when those rules are broken a scale of punishment needs to be in place to deter others from breaking the rules. Granted! Christians do not advocate anarchy. But that’s where it should end. We shouldn’t try to judge what other people’s motives are. We shouldn’t just brush them aside as “bad people”, because we don’t know what’s going on in their minds or their hearts.
Adolf Hitler is probably everyone’s favorite villain. When we really don’t like someone, we compare him to Hitler. When Hitler was a boy, he attended Catholic School. He was an artist, a painter, and even toyed with the idea of becoming a priest. (I wish he had! Might have saved a lot of lives!) So how did he go from THAT, to a fascist dictator who was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions- not just six million Jews, but also two million Catholics died in those camps, and not just them, but all the people that died as a result of the war in Europe, military AND civilian, even his own people who he ordered killed?
What brought about that transition? Was it what he suffered as a foot soldier in WWI? Was it the Versailles treaty, which was meant to punish Germany, but which made it impossible for Germans to feed themselves? Was it the propaganda Hitler was fed--that Jewish businessmen sold out Germany and caused them to lose the war? His own ego? When the Nazi party discovered this young war veteran had a gift for oration, and convinced him that HE was the savior of Germany? His own misguided ideals? Hitler was not only convinced that he was right, but believed he was doing something VIRTUOUS! This is NOT well publicized, but Hitler was a devoted fan of Charles Darwin, and because he was so taken with the theory of evolution, Hitler firmly believed that natural selection had chosen the Aryan race to be the SUPERIOR race, and therefore eliminating all INFERIOR races was making the world a better place for everyone! You can’t say anything against evolution, though, because Darwin is sort of a golden calf in the scientific community- he’s untouchable. People are always saying that Hitler was evil, but who can judge WHAT goes on in a mind like that, except God alone?
How about an example that hits a little closer to home. We have lots of panhandlers on the streets of this city. How many times do we drive by them and think, “Lazy! Con artist! Junkie!” How do YOU know what they’ve been through, or what their motives are? “Father, there are places these people can go!” I know that. But that doesn’t answer my question, does it? How do YOU know where someone is mentally, emotionally, spiritually? Isn’t that the same excuse Ebeneezer Scrooge gave in a Christmas Carol? “Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?” I’m sure some of them ARE con artists or too lazy to work, or addicts, maybe even MOST of them. But Jesus said, “Give to those who ask.” He DIDN’T say, “AFTER you’ve done a background check on them.” If they’re con artists, God will deal with them according to their deeds, because only God can judge what goes on in someone’s mind and heart. So don’t judge. Just focus on being virtuous yourself. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
Because the virtues you have in mind do not shine in your neighbor, do not think that your neighbor will not be precious in God’s sight for reasons that you have not in mind. -St. John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Questions for Reflection
Why should we not judge our neighbor?
What is the difference between judging a sin and judging the sinner?
Why is it necessary to remove the “beam in our own eye” before helping another remove his or her “splinter”?
Do you think we can ever become holy enough to judge our neighbor rightly? Why or why not?
Think of a time when someone misjudged your motives. How did you feel when this happened?
Why is it important to have laws in society?
It is a work of mercy to admonish the sinner. How is this different from judging someone?
What reason does St. John of the Cross give for not judging one’s neighbor?
Though we are not permitted to judge our neighbor, should we judge ourselves?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 526: Lord, Save me in Your Kindness : Reflection on Psalm 17:6-9a
I call upon you; answer me, O God.
Turn your ear to me; hear my speech.
Show your wonderful mercy,
you who deliver with your right arm
those who seek refuge from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who despoil me. -Psalm 17:6-9a
“Save me O Lord in your kindness.” This the response for this section of Psalm 17 when it appears in the liturgy for Wednesday of the second week of Lent. And that’s a good prayer. Save me O Lord in your kindness. How often do we pray that? ‘Well, what do you mean, Father? What do I need to be saved from?’ All of us need to ask God to be saved from three things.
First and foremost, we all need to ask God to save us from the devil. The devil is real. The devil has an agenda to destroy us, and so this is something we CANNOT take lightly. Too many Catholics do not take the devil seriously, because they don’t take SIN seriously. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating; I give you EVERY situation comedy on TV as my example. How often is SIN a source of humor? You don’t take something seriously if you’re laughing at it. I remember a commentary from nearly 40 years ago, telling us to turn off the TV. The devil was hypnotizing us through the TV. And this was back in the 80’s, when TV was still pretty clean cut! And NOW we live in a culture where sin is being depicted as HEROIC! People who are homosexual, transsexual, or abortion advocates are COURAGEOUS! They’re HEROS! All this tells me we live in a culture that doesn’t take the devil seriously, and many souls are being lost because of it. So that’s the first thing we need to ask God to save us from, the influence of the demonic. “Lord, always help me to see your way clearly.”
The second thing we need to ask the Lord to save us from is the influence of the world. We need to ask God to save us from the desire to acquire vanities. When we have a wandering eye that looks to what others have, we become discontent with our own lives. This is the equivalent to ARSENIC in the spiritual life! “Lord help me be content with what I have.” “Lord deliver me from feelings of inadequacy. Reassure me that you have given me everything I need.”
And the third thing we need to ask God to save us from is ourselves. My brothers and sisters, without a doubt, we ARE our own worst enemies. Because we always put the “I want” before “what GOD wants.” We all have this screaming ego that wants to put ME first. We all have that little green monster, deep within our souls, that wants people to praise us, and to recognize our greatness, like James and John in our gospel today. We need to learn to shun the limelight. If we get too caught up in our own talents, gifts or ambitions we shut ourselves off to the direction the Lord is leading our lives. “Lord, make me humble of heart.” “Lord YOUR will be done, not mine.”
The devil, the world, and ourselves. These are three things we all need to ask God constantly to save us from. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
I said, “ the Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.” - St. John Henry Cardinal Newman
O JESU, Son of Mary the Virgin, full of mercy and kindness! O sweet JESU, according to thy great mercy, have pity on me! O most merciful JESU, I entreat Thee by that Precious Blood of thine, which Thou didst will to pour forth for sinners, to wash away all my iniquities, and to look upon me, poor and unworthy as I am, asking humbly pardon of Thee, and invoking this holy Name of JESUS. O Name of JESUS, sweet Name! Name of JESUS, Name of joy! Name of JESUS, Name of strength! Nay, what meaneth the Name of JESUS but SAVIOUR? Wherefore, O JESUS, by thine own holy Name, be to me JESUS, and save me. Suffer me not to be lost me, whom Thou didst create out of nothing. O good JESU, let not my iniquity destroy what thy almighty goodness made. O sweet JESU, recognize what is thine own, and wipe away from me what is not of Thee! O most kind JESU, have pity on me while it is the time of pity, and condemn me not when it is the time of judgment. -From a prayer in honor of the Holy Name of Jesus, Raccolta
Questions for Reflection
Do you take sin seriously?
What are the consequences of not taking sin seriously?
What is the problem with sitcoms today?
What alternatives are there (if any) for entertainment on television that edify rather than
How do the devil, the world, and the self lead us away from God?
Where do you see the devil active in our society? Where do you see the Holy Spirit active to overcome him?
Why do you think Fr. Sisco calls envy and discontent “arsenic” to the spiritual life?
What is the danger of being in the “limelight”?
Why does Cardinal Newman see it as such a big deal for even one venial sin to be committed?
Invoking the Holy Name of Jesus is a powerful help in times of temptation. What other helps are there?
In what areas of your life to you prefer “what I want” to “what God wants”?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 527: Using the Fruits of the Spirit: A Reflection on Acts 9:17-19
“So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.” -Acts 9:17-19
Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit. WOW! What a greeting! What if a perfect stranger walked up to you and greeted you like that? You’d probably think he was crazy! I wouldn’t advise you to just greet strangers this way. The reason why Ananias can say this is because God had prepared Saul to HEAR Ananias. Saul was persecuting Christians. Christ appeared to Saul and struck him blind. But as always with God, the punishment is medicinal. Saul is struck blind because he has failed to see. He has failed to see that Christ and his Church are one. He has failed to see that these Christians are no threat to him or Judaism. He has failed to see that this new way is the will of God. And so, because he has failed to see all these things, God deprived Saul of his physical sight as well, but only as a means to an end, so his physical AND his spiritual sight might be healed.
God goes to Ananias to be his instrument, and note, Ananias initially protests. “Lord, I’ve HEARD of this guy! He’s bad news! You SURELY don’t want HIM!” “Yeah. I surely do. In fact, I’ve got big plans for him.” And Ananias submits.
Now I can only imagine that Ananias had mixed feelings about this job. He MUST have been bitter towards Saul! He’s heard of the martyrdom of Steven. He probably KNEW Steven. Christianity was NOT that big at this time in history. It’s a strong possibility that most of the Christians of this time were friends or at least acquainted with one another, especially Steven as he was a deacon. And now God wants Ananias to go and help his friend’s murderer. YEAH…I think it’s safe to say that Ananias had some mixed feelings. And yet, he greets Saul by saying, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me”
Now, what if Ananias had greeted Saul with, “Oh, so you’re the Christian-killer huh? Don’t look so tough now, do you? Guess what? For reasons I can’t figure, God sent me to bring you to Damascus, because he has a way for you to redeem yourself. Personally, if it were up to me, I’d leave you out here for the wolves to eat you. That’s what you deserve after all. Steven was a friend of mine.” If Ananias had said something like THAT, do you think Christian history would have turned out the same? Do you think Saul would have made that transformation to Saint Paul and spread Christianity all throughout the Roman Empire? You know my brothers and sisters, there’s a difference between rote obedience to God’s commandments and being Christlike. Obedience isn’t enough. Rote obedience MIGHT get us to purgatory, but it’s NOT going to build the kingdom of God.
I’ve had many experiences praying the rosary in front of abortion clinics, and (not always, but often) you get that one zealot who is dressed up like the grim reaper, or that person who’s holding a sign that says, “Your soul is going to boil for eternity in the blood of your baby!” That’s not helping! I realize they mean well, but they’re NOT helping! The fruits of the Holy Spirit are gentleness, kindness, compassion, mildness. We have to USE these things when dealing with other people, EVEN if our anger is justified, because we have no hope of saving their souls otherwise. My brothers and sisters, I pray we treat others, the way Ananias treated Saul. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint”
“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” -St. Mother Teresa
O MOST blessed Virgin Immaculate, the beauty and splendour of Carmel, thou who regardest with eyes of special love those who wear thy blessed habit, look kindly upon me and spread over me the mantle of thy maternal protection. Strengthen my weakness with thy power, illuminate the darkness of my mind with thy wisdom, increase in me the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. Adorn my soul with such graces and virtues that it may be ever dear to thy divine Son and to thee. Assist me in life, console me in death, with thy dear presence, and present me to the Holy Trinity as thy child and devoted servant, eternally to praise and bless thee in Paradise. Amen. -Raccolta
Questions for Reflection
Why is kindness important?
Why is severity not helpful in spreading the Gospel? Are there times when it is appropriate to be severe?
Consider a time when you were corrected. Was it kind or severe? How did this affect your reaction?
What is the right way to handle righteous anger? Give examples.
How does Mary treat us similarly to how Ananias treats St. Paul?
When has someone’s smile helped you? Or when has your smile helped someone?
What does Jesus have to say about cheerfulness in the Gospels?
What is the difference between rote obedience and being Christlike?
Why is rote obedience not enough to build the Kingdom of God?
How can Mary help us to be Christlike?
How did God prepare Saul to hear Ananias? -Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 528: Time of Persecution : Reflection on Acts 8:1b-8
There broke out a severe persecution of the Church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered
throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles.
Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.
Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.
Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Thus Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city. Acts 8:1b-8
In this passage from Acts of the Apostles, a severe persecution rose against the Church in the city of Jerusalem, which was started by Saul, who would later become Saint Paul. But meanwhile, the faith is spreading throughout the rest of ancient Israel through the work of the apostles. It mentions here that Phillip was having great success in Samaria. And this pretty much sums up the history of the Church. We grow in places, we’re persecuted in places, and we’re just ignored in other places. Just look at our world today.
New England used to be the heartbeat of Catholicism in the country. Now the faith here is just ignored, some say, persecuted. In small ways perhaps it is persecuted, but I think the faith is largely ignored here. People don’t want to hear it, they don’t want to be bothered with it. Now, in the Bible belt down south, Catholicism used to be persecuted. Catholics were widely discriminated against right up until the 1980’s. If you talk to some Catholics that move down south, they will say that there is STILL a prejudice against Catholics; it’s just not as obvious. And yet, for the past twenty, thirty years, the Catholic Church has experienced its greatest growth down south. In New England, we’re closing Catholic churches and building Mosques. Down south, they’re building Catholic Churches, and HUGE, magnificent, Churches, with Catholic schools and convents as well. They’re booming down south!
And in some places in the world the Church is STILL being persecuted, mostly in the Middle East, Indonesia, some parts of Africa, North Korea and China. They don’t show this news on the usual network stations, but on the internet I find the occasional story of Christians being brutalized, murdered, raped, arrested, and having their property confiscated. THAT’S persecution. We need to acknowledge this, and challenge the mainstream media to acknowledge this. We need to pray and fast for persecuted Christians around the world. And we need to try to convince our elected officials to do something about this in the political arena, to put pressure on countries who persecute their citizens for their religion. And MOST importantly, we need to make sure we DON’T do the same thing here ourselves. Hate begets hate.
These are ALL things we can do, and I encourage you to do them, but above all don’t lose hope when you hear stories of the Church suffering. In some way, in some part of the world, the Church has ALWAYS been persecuted. It’s been this way since the beginning. And from these persecutions many graces have been granted, many souls have been saved, and many saints have arisen, like Saint Paul. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
Clement of Alexandria subsequently inferred, that if God himself had not upheld the Christian faith, it never could have withstood the efforts of so many philosophers who endeavored to obscure it with sophisms, or the violence of so many kings and emperors who labored to extinguish it by persecution. The number of Christians, far from having been diminished by the slaughter of the saints, became so wonderfully increased, that Tertullian said: “Our number grows in the same measure that you decimate us; the blood of the Christians is a sort of seed.” He used the word seed because the blood of the martyrs was that which multiplied the faithful. -St. Alphonsus Liguori, Victory of the Martyrs
HEART of Mary, Mother of GOD and our Mother, vouchsafe to thaw our icy hearts, that they may be wholly changed to the likeness of the Heart of JESUS. Infuse into them the love of thy virtues, inflame them with that blessed fire with which thou dost ever burn. In thee let the Holy Church find safe shelter; protect it and be its sweet asylum, its tower of strength, impregnable against every inroad of its enemies. Be thou the road leading to JESUS; be thou the channel whereby we receive all graces needful for our salvation. Be thou our help in need, our comfort in trouble, our strength in temptation, our refuge in persecution, our aid in all dangers ; but especially in the last struggle of our life, at the moment of our death, so that we too may join with thee in Paradise in blessing that same Heart of JESUS forever and forever. Amen. -Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Mary, Raccolta, Abridged
Questions for Reflection
Do you think that Christians are being persecuted in America today? Why or why not?
How can you best help Christians who are suffering persecution worldwide?
Is there anything we can do to prevent Christians from being persecuted in the USA?
What do you think is the cause of Christianity being ignored, or even persecuted, in parts of the USA?
Why do you think God allows the Church to be always persecuted somewhere in the world?
What does persecution do for the Church?
Have you ever felt persecuted for your faith? If so, how? How did you react?
Consider the life and death of any martyr. How does his or her life inspire you?
Why is Mary called the “queen of Martyrs”?
How can Mary help you in time of persecution?
What did Jesus say about persecution of the Church?
- Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 529: Heal Our Defection: Reflection on Hosea 14:5-9
I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.
His splendor shall be like the olive tree
and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine,
and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols?
I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.
“I am like a verdant cypress tree”–
Because of me you bear fruit! -Hosea 14:5-9
I will heal their defection, says the Lord. In the book of Hosea, Israel’s idolatry is compared to defection from the country. Our faults and defects can separate us from God like that. Part of our daily prayer routine should be to ask the Lord to heal our defects, and I’m not talking about our physical defects. We should be asking God to heal us of our emotional, psychological, and spiritual defects; because we ALL have them. Emotional defects; Lord heal me of my need to feel appreciated. Lord heal me of my need to be praised, and admired. Lord heal me of my need to feel needed. Psychological defects; Lord heal me of my insecurities. Lord, heal me of my feelings of inadequacy. Lord heal me from all my fears and anxieties. Lord help me love and appreciate the creation you have made in me. Spiritual defects; Lord heal me from my desires to satisfy my flesh. Lord heal me from the tendency to want to reward myself carnally when I’ve had a bad day. Lord, heal me from my own ego, and my desire to put myself first. These are just a few examples of defects we should ask the Lord to heal us from.
When the prophet Hosea speaks these words though, this isn’t what he’s talking about. Hosea is talking about the Lord healing the defection of the country, Israel. That’s ANOTHER good intention we should all pray for every day. We should all be praying that God heals the defects in our nation! Lord, heal our country of greed. Heal our country of lust. Heal our country of its irreverence. Heal our country of violence. Heal our country of hatred and division. My brothers and sisters, the first step of the spiritual life is admitting there are defects in ourselves and in our world; defects that only God can heal. Blessed be God forever. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
HOWEVER much we may admire and crave for light, it is apt to dazzle our eyes when they have been long accustomed to darkness; and on first visiting a foreign country, we are sure to feel strange among its inhabitants, however kindly or courteous they may be. Even so, my child, your changed life may be attended with some inward discomfort, and you may feel some reaction of discouragement and weariness after you have taken a final farewell of the world and its follies. Should it be so, I pray you take it patiently, for it will not last, -it is merely the disturbance caused by novelty; and when it is gone by, you will abound in consolations. At first you may suffer somewhat under the loss what you enjoyed among your vain, frivolous companions; but would you forfeit the eternal gifts of God for such things as these? The empty amusements which have engrossed you hitherto may rise up attractively before your imagination, and strive to win you back to rest in them; but are you bold enough to give up a blessed eternity for such deceitful snares? Believe me, if you will but persevere you will not fail to enjoy a sweetness so real and satisfying, that you will be constrained to confess that the world has only gall to give as compared with this honey, and that one single day of devotion is worth more than a thousand years of worldly life. -St. Francis de Sales
ETERNAL GOD, the Maker of all things, remember that the souls of unbelievers have been created by Thee, and that they have been made after thy own image and likeness. Behold, O LORD, to thy dishonour, with these very souls hell is filled. Remember, O GOD, that for their salvation thy SON JESUS CHRIST underwent a most cruel death. O LORD, suffer not that thy SON be despised by unbelievers; but, appeased by the prayers of holy men and of the Church, the Spouse of thy most holy SON, remember thy own pity, and, forgetting their idolatry and their unbelief, bring to pass that they may at length acknowledge thy SON JESUS CHRIST, who is our salvation, life, and resurrection, through whom we are saved and set free; to whom be glory from age to age without end. Amen. - Prayer of St Francis Xavier for the Conversion of Infidels
Questions for Reflection
What defects should we ask God to heal in our nation?
What defects can you ask God to heal in yourself?
What are the consequences beginning a life of conversion?
Why is Israel’s worship of idols so dangerous?
St. Francis de Sales compares conversion to going to a new country. The Lord speaks to Hosea of idolatry as defection. How are these related?
How does the sweetness of conversion that Francis de Sales describes compare to the healing the Lord promises to Israel?
What do you imagine America would be like if she is healed of her defects?
Which of the defects mentioned by Father Sisco do you think is most prevalent in the USA? What remedies are available for this?
Why can only God heal us from our defects?
Why should we care that other people be converted from unbelief or idolatry?
How does the world try and entice us back to defection after conversion? -Erin Wells
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 530: Listening to God: Reflection on Jeremiah 7:23-28
Thus says the LORD:
This is what I commanded my people:
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.
But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them, they will not answer you.
Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech. -Jer 7:23-28
OK. HOW do we listen to the voice of God? People sometimes say to me, “Father I pray, and pray, and pray, and I NEVER hear the voice of the Lord.” If you’re waiting for an audible voice, it’s likely never going to happen. Sure, God spoke audibly a few times as He did to Moses in the burning bush and to the apostles from a cloud at the Transfiguration, but those instances are extremely rare. If you want to hear the voice of God, you need to develop SPIRITUAL ears. The theological term for that would be “forming your conscience.” We cannot reduce LISTENING for God to prayer alone, because you never REALLY know if the voice you’re hearing IS God’s, the devil’s, or your own. Even the scriptures say that the devil can appear “as an angel of light in order to deceive men.” OK, so how do you protect yourself then? How do you keep from being deceived? Form your conscience. Good discernment is the byproduct of forming your conscience.
Alright then. How do we form our conscience? First, read your Bible. Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of God. And with scripture I would recommend reading a good Bible study guide. Which one? The Navarre Bible Study series is generally considered the best, but be warned, it’s VERY cerebral for the average lay person. It’s a hard read. I think any of Doctor Scott Hahn’s materials out of Franciscan University is a good choice. They’re solid and they’re more “user friendly” than Navarre. After you read your bible, read the catechism of the Catholic Church. If you truly want to hear the voice of God, you need to know what teachings developed and how they developed as a result of his word in scripture. Next is frequent reception of communion and reconciliation. You can’t hear the voice of God if you’re not being touched by his Grace, or if the effects of that Grace are being hindered by sin. Finally, do charitable deeds. I’ve said it many times, charity opens our hearts to God. If you open your hearts to God, your ears will follow.
Well wait a minute Father, all this is the same stuff you’ve been telling us for the past ten years! YUP! You’re exactly right! The formula for hearing the voice of God or guaranteeing salvation is not a complicated one; but it does require effort, perseverance, and constant diligence. So hop to it. And blessed be God forever. -Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco
Quote from a Saint
“Prayer is the beginning and the end of all good. Prayer illumineth the soul, and by it all good and evil is known. This prayer every sinner should offer to the Lord - that He may give him to know his own misery and his sins, and His benefits. He who knoweth not how to pray doth not know God.” -Blessed Giles of Assisi
HEART of JESUS in the Eucharist, sweet companion in our exile, I adore Thee.
Eucharistic Heart of JESUS,
Heart solitary, Heart humiliated,
Heart ignored by men,
Heart, lover of our hearts,
Heart desirous of being loved,
Heart patient in waiting for us,
Heart eager to hear us,
Heart longing to be prayed to,
Heart source of new graces,
Heart wrapped in silence, desiring to speak to souls,
Heart, the sweet refuge of the hidden life,
Heart, teacher of the secrets of union with GOD,
Heart of him who sleeps, yet ever watches,
Eucharistic Heart of JESUS, have pity on us.
I unite myself to Thee, and sacrifice myself with Thee
I annihilate myself in thy presence.
I would be forgotten and despised for love of Thee.
And be neither understood nor loved, unless by Thee.
I will silence myself to listen to Thee,
I will abandon myself to lose myself in Thee.
Grant that I may thus appease thy thirst, the thirst for my sanctification and salvation, and that being purified I may bestow on Thee a pure and true love. I offer Thee all my actions, my intellect to be illuminated by Thee, my heart to be guided by Thee, my will to be made strong, my soul and body to be nourished, my misery to be lightened. Eucharistic Heart of my JESUS, whose blood is the life of my soul, may it be no longer I that live, but do thou alone live in me. Amen. -Prayer to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Raccolta (abridged)
Questions for Reflection
How can you hear the voice of God?
Why do you think God only rarely speaks audibly?
Why is it important to form your conscience?
Why is prayer necessary to hear the voice of God?
How does prayer illumine the soul to know good and evil?
What are some ways you can form your conscience?
How do the sacraments help you to hear the voice of God?
What desires does the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus have for us?
How can you listen to God when you receive Jesus in the Eucharist?
What resources do you find most helpful in reading scripture?
How can you protect yourself from deceptions of the devil appearing as “an angel of light”?
What obstacles prevent us from hearing God better? -Erin Wells