Weeks 81-90

Week 81: Correct Religion: A Reflection on Amos 8: 4-6, 9-12

 

 

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! "When will the new moon be over," you ask, "that we may sell our grain, and the Sabbath, that we may display the wheat?" We will diminish the containers for measuring, add to the weights, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!"



On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentations. I will cover the loins of all with sackcloth and make every head bald. I will make them mourn as for an only son, and bring their day to a bitter end.
 


Yes, days are coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east In search of the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. (Amos 8: 4-6, 9-12)

 

 

Several themes are repeated in Scripture. One of these is this: our good works; our prayers, our fasting, our sacrifices, our deeds of charity, do us no good whatsoever, if they are not forming our hearts to mercy; if they’re not convicting us to grow in virtue. Listen to Amos’ criticism and see if you know anyone who might fit this description. “Hear this, you who trample on the needy and destroy the poor of the land! ‘When will the new moon be over,’ you ask, ‘so that we may sell our grain, and the Sabbath that we may display the wheat.’”In other words, when are we going be done with our religious observances so we can back to what’s important-- making money?

 

 

Know anyone like this?  They come to church every week but do it begrudgingly because they have work they want to do, or they can’t wait for Mass to be over because they have a picnic, or a party, or a sports event they want to attend? You know, if that’s the attitude, they really are wasting their time, because the Grace of God can’t affect such a person.

 

 

Everything we do, brothers and sisters, everything we do, should be geared toward making us grow in virtue, and in grace.  Anything less than that is sinful.

 

 

I was having this conversation with someone a few years back. She asked me, “I woke up one morning in time to go to daily Mass, and I felt the Lord calling me to go to daily Mass, but I went back to sleep instead, and felt terrible all the rest of the day. Did I sin?” And I answered, ‘Yes.’        If at anytime we feel God is convicting us to do something, or not do something, and there’s no question as to whether it’s moral to do in that circumstance, and we intentionally turn our back on it, it’s most definitely sinful. Now I also said I didn’t think it was mortally sinful.  It was venial, because we are not required to attend daily Mass, but still, all sin in some way blocks what God is trying to do with us.

 

 

So on that note, if we attend Mass every day, and fast twice a week on bread and water, and pray all twenty decades of the rosary daily, and tithe everything we earn, but in so doing we become arrogant, self righteous, judgmental, merciless; all of those pious deeds are not pious at all, but are actually vices, because they have made us grow in pride and sin, instead of virtue and Grace.

 

 

Examine yourselves on this brothers and sisters, because it has been a stumbling block to well intentioned people for centuries. People who thought they were pleasing God by their actions, but weren’t because they weren’t allowing God to change their hearts.

 

 

Here’s a good exercise to combat this.  Make a list of everyone you don’t like. This includes people who have hurt or offended you personally, as well as people that generally disgust you or just annoy the heck out of you. In my case for example; almost everyone in Hollywood, almost everyone in the news media, priests who are lazy, Bishop’s who are crazy, mean people, rude people, people who play rap music in their cars so loud you can hear it three blocks away, the Board of Trustees of Mobile-Exxon, Democrats, Republicans, non believers who try to shame me into their agendas, believers who think their worthy cause is the ONLY worthy cause, and non Catholic Christians who think I have nothing to do all day but listen to them tell me what they think is wrong with the Church…to name a few.  (If you think your list is long be comforted, God still has lots of work to do on me, too.)

 

 

You make a list of all these people, and pick one day out of the week, (I say Friday, since that is the day that Jesus atoned for all OUR sins,) and offer up all of your prayers, and fasting, and works of mercy that day for one of those people, or groups of people.  What should you pray for?

 

 

            GOD call down a plague of locusts on their heads for the pain they’ve inflicted! No.

            GOD show them the error of their ways and they repent in sack cloth and ashes! No

            HOLY SPIRIT drop kick them into Mass where they belong!  Noooo.

            Rather, pray that God grants them all the happiness they desire.

            Pray that God gives them peace and prosperity, and at some point in their lives, even if it’s only moments before their death, that they turn to the Lord and embrace his peace, and safely enter eternity.

 

 

You want ME to pray THAT for THEM?!  Yup.

 

 

Because this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.’”It’s not that sacrificing is wrong, but sacrifices are intended to help us grow in mercy. They are not intended to puff us up with pride and self- righteousness. And once we can pray like that for people we dislike and mean it, we know we’re growing in humility.  And when we grow in humility, we’re well underway to becoming saints.

 

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents

 

 

Quote from a Saint:

Almighty God, have mercy on N. and on all that bear me evil will and would me harm, and on their faults and mine together, by such easy, tender, merciful means, as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen. – Saint Thomas More

 

 

Prayer for Enemies:

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst command us to love our enemies, and those who defame and injure us, and to pray for them and forgive them; Who Thyself didst pray for Thine enemies, who crucified thee: grant us, we pray, the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, that we may heartily forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies. Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offences of people with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor. We further beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. And help us repay evil with goodness, and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil and from all the perils which threaten us, in the form of visible and invisible enemies. Amen.

 

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

  1. Read the reading from Amos. Make a list of all the sins enumerated therein. How many did you find?

  2. Have you ever gone to Mass because you had to? Did you want to get done so you could be about the important things of life? Did you outgrow this attitude or is it a normal pattern for you?

  3. Follow Father Sisco’s suggestion and make a list of everyone you dislike. How long is your list? Now follow his suggestion to pray for one of those people each week. How might that make you feel?

  4. The quote from a saint is a prayer of St. Thomas More who was martyred by his enemies. Discuss this prayer in light of his martyrdom.

  5. Father Sisco says that everything that we do has to be directed to helping us grow in virtue and grace. Discuss this.

  6. How to mundane things help us to grow in virtue and grace? How do alarming things work this way? How can joyful things assist in this?

  7. What will keep us from growing in virtue and grace? How can we avoid those pitfalls?

  8. What are good tests of actual piety? In other words, how can you tell if a person is walking the walk and not just talking the talk?

  9. What are sins of omission? Are you habitually guilty of any of these? Which ones?

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

Week 82: Hope Focused on Jesus: A Reflection on Mark 1: 40-45

 

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.  (Mark 1: 40-45)

 

Hopelessness. How do we handle hopelessness? If we believe what we profess to believe, “hopeless” should not be in our vocabulary. That’s easy to say, and when I say it we all nod our heads in a reverent ‘Amen.’ But honestly, haven’t we all felt at some time or another that something or someone in our lives was hopeless? Haven’t any of us children of God, people of faith, bordered on despair, maybe even toyed with the idea of suicide at some point in our lives because we’ve felt completely trapped by our circumstances and could see no way out?

 

Maybe that situation was social. Maybe it was financial. Maybe it was medical. Have you ever thought of that? What if your doctor called you today and told you that you have a terminal disease and won’t be here this time next year?

           

Why is hopelessness such a sin? Because it denies the sovereignty of God, because it denies that God is control, because it denies that God loves us. It’s even prideful, because hopelessness says, “my problem is bigger than God”.

 

The Israelites were faced with hopelessness when the King of the Babylonian empire invaded the land and captured Jerusalem. There was no way out. The King of Babylon executed the sons of the King of Judah while the king of Judah was forced to watch, and then he had the King of Judah blinded and brought back to Babylon in chains as a slave. Babylon then burned Jerusalem, and destroyed the temple after plundering the riches from it. Finally, Babylon exiled the people from Israel and scattered them throughout their empire.

 

If there were any people that had the right to feel hopeless, they were the Israelites. And they did feel hopelessness, but they also felt that they were being justly punished. They knew that what befell them was the result of their sins of idolatry and turning away from the Lord. But their situation wasn’t really hopeless.

 

First, God used Babylon to shock the people into repentance by seeing the error of their ways. Second, the Lord used the exile to spread the faith through the Babylonian exile. Third, the Lord raised more prophets to comfort the people and tell them that they would return to Jerusalem someday and rebuild the temple. And it all happened as God said.

 

In the Gospel passage for this reflection, a man with a hopeless disease approaches Jesus. In Jesus’ day, when you got leprosy, if you didn’t get rid of it quickly, within a few months, your life was basically over. You were exiled while you helplessly watched this disease slowly eat your body. Leprosy was so horrid that the Israelites were convinced that anyone who contracted it was being punished by God so you were also branded a sinner.

           

Yet this leper, a hopeless man by definition, shows great faith and hope in the way that he approaches Jesus. He doesn’t say, “Please cure me.” or, “Please make me clean,” or “I want to be clean.” Rather he puts everything in Jesus’ hands, “If you will it, you can make me clean.” A little grammar lesson: Jesus is the subject of his sentence, not the leper. I think that’s why the man doesn’t give into hopelessness-- because he didn’t put the focus on himself. He put the focus on Jesus. “You.” “You can do this, if you wish.”

           

If we want to avoid the trap of hopelessness, we’ll do the same. If we’re always focusing on me, we will eventually succumb to feelings of hopelessness, because we’ll always see our own defects, things we want to change, or are not happy about in ourselves. But if we focus on Jesus in prayer, we’ll have hope. We’ll see his perfection, we’ll trust his love, and, even if we can’t understand the reason, we’ll know that creation will unfold just as he has deemed it, whether we worry about it or not.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: “We can never have too much confidence in the good God who is so powerful and so merciful. We obtain from him as much as we hope for.  
-- Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, OCD

 

Prayer By a Saint: “My God, I believe most firmly that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee, and that we can want for nothing when we rely upon Thee in all things; therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties, and to cast all my cares upon Thee. People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors; sickness may take from me my strength and the means of serving Thee; I may even lose Thy grace by sin; but my trust shall never leave me. I will preserve it to the last moment of my life, and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me. Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents; let them trust to the purity of their lives, the severity of their mortifications, to the number of their good works, the fervor of their prayers; as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope. "For Thou, O Lord, singularly has settled me in hope." This confidence can never be in vain. "No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded." I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness, for I firmly hope for it, and all my hope is in Thee. "In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded." I know, alas! I know but too well that I am frail and changable; I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue. I have seen stars fall from heaven, and pillars of firmament totter; but these things alarm me not. While I hope in Thee I am sheltered from all misfortune, and I am sure that my trust shall endure, for I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope. Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty, and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee. Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations; that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assults of the evil one, and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies. I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me, and that I shall love Thee unceasingly. "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded." – Saint Claude De La Colombiere

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. What do you learn from the experience of the Israelites?

 

2. Describe hopelessness that you have either experienced or witnessed.

 

3. What was the source of that hopelessness?

 

4. How does hopelessness trap a person?

 

5. What good did God produce from the hopelessness you experienced or witnessed?

 

6. What turned the tide against hopelessness?

 

7. For what do you hope?

 

8. What sustains your hope?

 

9. How does that hope effect your life? 

 

10. In the Gospel reading, the man proclaims that Jesus cured him and people began to mob our Lord. What does their reaction show about hope?

 

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Week 83: Return To Me: A Reflection on Hosea 14: 2-3

 

“Return O Israel to the Lord your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words and return to the Lord. Say to him, ‘Forgive all iniquity…’” (Hos 14:2,3a)

 

Return to me. This is a consistent theme in the scriptures starting right in the book of Genesis. Return to me. This message is echoed by all of the prophets; return to me. This is what Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew’s Gospel when he said, “The

Son of Man did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus is constantly saying, “Return to me.”

 

We are very blessed to be in a covenant with a God who allows us to return when we break the covenant. You will not see this in many other religions. In many religions, defiance is punished by getting kicked out. In some religions, defiance is punished by death. In Islam, even speaking against Allah, or the Koran, is punishable by death. Even in some Christian religions, if you don’t obey the rules of the church you’re removed from the congregation.

 

Years ago, a neighbor of my parents in Westerly had a son who converted to Born Again Christian. This young man had been in prison but while in jail was approached by these ministers who convinced him to leave his faith and join theirs. He was so impressed because they came to visit him in prison, and they brought him a Bible, and they prayed with him every week.

           

Months after he was released from prison and living with his mother, she noticed that he wasn’t going to his church anymore. When she asked him why, he said, “I can’t afford it.” Because he had been out of work for a while and wasn’t able to find another job, he hadn’t been able to pay his tithes so they cancelled his membership.

 

I told her to tell him that the Catholic Church still doesn’t put a price tag on membership. We expect people to give what they can. We ask people to give from their hearts. We want people to use their envelopes so we know that they are supporting their parish. But we don’t sell the sacraments. Some non-Catholic churches take attendance to make sure you are going!

 

Even when someone is kicked out of the Catholic Church; when someone is excommunicated, because they have committed a grievous, public, sin, like Maryann Sorentino who was excommunicated because she ran an abortion clinic, all someone needs to do is to ask the Bishop for forgiveness to be readmitted to the Church. An excommunication is for the benefit of the person being excommunicated, so they understand how serious an offense they’re committing against God. But in an excommunication is the hope that the person will repent of their sin and return to the Lord.

 

So why is Maryann Sorentino still an excommunicant? Because she still insists that she’s right and God is wrong! She still insists that abortion is not only OK but should be encouraged. She still defies Church teaching and the commandments of God openly. That’s tragic. Because Jesus is still continuing to say even to Maryann Sorentino, “Return to me.”

 

Now, admittedly, most of us won’t be excommunicated from the Church. Excommunications are for the most extreme offenses and so are very rare. But we still offend God in lesser ways. Hopefully we don’t commit mortal sins. But even venial sins are still sins. Yet we have been given a means by God to return to him in the confessional. How sweet is this, when we can talk to a priest and in a few minutes have the sins of a lifetime forgiven?

 

We constantly and easily get distracted from God. That’s because we’re human. We’re like boats on the ocean. We’ve fixed our course on the North Star, but the currents in the sea keep pulling us this way and that, so we always have to make course corrections. That’s what confession is for. Through confession we return to the course that leads us to God.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: “He loves, He hopes, He waits.  If He came down on our altars on certain days only, some sinner, on being moved to repentance, might have to look for Him, and not finding Him, might have to wait.  Our Lord prefers to wait Himself for the sinner for years rather than keep him waiting one instant.” – Saint Julian Peter Eymard

 

Prayer By a Saint: “O my most loving Father! in the bitterness of the dolorous Passion of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, I now pour forth my complaint, indignantly accusing myself that I have served Thee so unfaithfully during this day and have offended Thee, my most amiable and loving Father, by so many and so great negligences. I grieve for them from my inmost heart, and strike my breast in the spirit of compunction, and say unto Thee, O God! be merciful to me a sinner. And for all the negligences whereby I have extinguished Thy good and gentle Spirit within me, I offer Thee the sufferings and the tears of Thy beloved Son.” -- Saint Gertrude

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1.  What distracts you from God? 

 

2. How do you routinely examine yourself for both sins of commission and negligence?

 

3. How far off course do you allow yourself to get before becoming uncomfortable and making a correction?

 

4. How do you prepare to make a return to the Lord?

 

5. Rend your hearts, not ayour garments, and return to the Lord, your God.  For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.  (Joel 2:13) How do you rend your heart?

 

6. “What can one give in exhange for his soul?”  What do you/would you give in exchange for this gift of God?

 

7. "To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St. Thomas Aquinas   Who took you by the hand and guided you?

 

8. Who could you take by the hand and guide back to God?

 

9. Identify any obstacles to this conversion and how they might be overcome.

 

By Susan Boudreau

Week 84: Eucharistic Food: A Reflection on John 21: 1-14

 

 

21After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,* Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

 

 

 

 

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

 

 

 

 

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21: 1-14)

 

 

 

One of my favorite lines in the post-resurrection appearances is; “When they landed they saw a charcoal fire there with a fish laid on it and some bread.” And then Jesus said, “Come and eat your meal.”
 
Jesus is always feeding people. So often when we see Jesus, it’s in association with food.

 

Mary lays him in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough for animals. 

 

Jesus’ first miracle is changing water to wine.

 

Jesus multiplies loaves of bread and fish.

 

Jesus commissions Peter, James and John, after a miracle when their fishing nets caught so many fish they were in danger of breaking.

 

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

 

Jesus described heaven as a banquet.


So often Jesus is surrounded by, or associated with food. That’s probably why everyone in my hometown thinks that Jesus was Italian. Jesus is always feeding people. Why? Why food? Isn’t food such a functional part of our existence?

 

Yeah, yeah. The purpose of food is to supply nutrition to the body, but let’s face it; food goes way beyond its biological purpose. 
 
When we get together with friends we say, “Let’s have lunch,” or “Let’s get some coffee.” Whenever we go over to someone’s house, the first thing they do is break out the food. “Here, have something to eat.” Whenever a couple starts dating, the first step of a courting ritual is to take your date out to a nice restaurant. There’s a bonding experience that comes from breaking bread with someone. There’s an intimacy that gets formed. 


I think that’s why we get so many food images with Jesus. Jesus longs to be intimate with us. Jesus wants to get close to us. Jesus longs to feed us! So Jesus comes to us as food. What a gift! What a joy! We have a God that longs to be intimate with us. We have a God that longs to get close to us. We have a God that longs to feed us, with a desire so great that he’s willing to be the food himself. 
 
It is my prayer for all of us today that we, and all Catholics everywhere, come to appreciate the unique and precious gift that we have in the Eucharist. 

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: “For even as our bodily food is changed into our substance, so the Holy Eucharist transforms us into Jesus Christ.” -- Saint John Baptist de la Salle

 

Prayer By a Saint: “Divine Saviour, we come to Your sacred table to nourish ourselves, not with bread but with Yourself, true Bread of eternal life. Help us daily to make a good and perfect meal of this divine food. Let us be continually refreshed by the perfume of Your kindness and goodness. May the Holy Spirit fill us with His Love. Meanwhile, let us prepare a place for this holy food by emptying our hearts. Amen.” -- Saint Francis de Sales

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. How would you define intimacy?

 

2. What do you think it is about food that builds intimacy?

 

3. Why might God long to be intimate with you? 

 

4. In what ways, besides the Eucharist, is God intimate with you?

 

5. You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one bead of your necklace.  (Song of Songs 4:9) How does your intimacy with God compare with this intimacy?

 

6. Is your intimacy with God mutual?  When you receive Him in the Eucharist, does He also receive you?  How so?

 

7. How are you changed by reception of the Eucharist? 

 

8. How do you make a place for this Holy Food? 

 

9. How do you share this Food with others?

 

By Susan Boudreau

Week 85: Wise Investment : A Reflection on Matthew 6: 19

 

“Do not lay up for yourselves earthly treasures.”(Mt 6:19)

 

I think this is a good word for our country today, because we are all kinds of people spending all kinds of energy building an earthly legacy. Jesus tells us none of that matters, because whatever treasure we can build for ourselves can be taken away by any number of circumstances beyond our control. Look at how easily the price of gas can throw the mighty United States of America into a tizzy. Look at how easily an oil spill, or the stock market, or civil unrest in a country on the other side of globe, can, in one fell swoop, destroy what we’ve worked so hard to save. These are some examples of what happens when we trust too much in an earthly treasure.

 

Now, Jesus is not saying that we have to live from hand to mouth every day. Jesus is not telling us that we cannot provide a future for our family and ourselves. Jesus is saying, “Don’t get carried away. Do what you need to do to get by, but don’t get so consumed with this world that you neglect to invest in your eternal future.”

           

Now this would seem to go without saying, but you will be surprised at some of the lame excuses I hear from people because they weren’t at Sunday Mass. Oh, we missed Mass because the kids had a sporting event; a soccer game, or baseball game. Oh, we skipped Mass this week to go to the beach. I like to sleep in on Sunday. Or Sunday is the only day I have to work in the yard or around the house. What are all these things? Earthly treasures! And someday, like all earthly treasures, they’ll be dust.

 

Now I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I’m telling you this so that if you know any people like this in your life, you can pass this on. The Catholic Church has made salvation relatively easy. We don’t put a lot of burdens on people. They don’t have to earn their way into heaven.

 

Basically, the requirements are, attend Mass on Sunday, fast two days a year, (Ash

Wednesday and Good Friday), give what you can to charity, go to confession regularly, and make a little time for prayer, so the Lord can form your conscience. That’s it! Doesn’t get much easier than that.

 

Go out and tell your families, go out and tell your friends and your co-workers, not to get so caught up in their worldly concerns that they neglect their spiritual treasures--because life is fleeting, and there’s not a moment to waste.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: “Give me ten truly detached men and I will convert the world with them.” -- Saint Philip Neri

 

Prayer By a Saint: “O my God, help me to remember that time is short, eternity long. What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death? To love You, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary. Without You, there is no peace of mind or soul. My God, I need fear only sin and nothing else in this life, for to lose

You, my God, is to lose all. O my God, help me to remember that I came into this world with nothing, and shall take nothing from it when I die. To gain You, I must leave all. But in loving You, I already have all good things, the infinite riches of Christ and His Church in life, Mary's motherly protection and perpetual help, and the eternal dwelling place Jesus has prepared for me. Eternal Father, Jesus has promised that whatever we ask in His Name will be granted us. In His Name, I pray: give me a burning faith, a joyful hope, a holy love for You. Grant me perseverance in doing Your will and never let me be separated from You. My God and my All, make me a saint. Amen.” – Saint Alphonsus Liguori

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Describe an earthly treasure you have lost.

 

2. What did you learn from that loss?

 

3. Describe an earthly treasure you gave up.

 

4. What did you learn from detaching voluntarily? 

 

5. Within the Church, what do you find burdensome?

 

6. To what are you attached that creates this burden?

 

7. What attachments do you have that are obstacles to your holiness?

 

8. How might you break those attachments?

 

9. With whom can you share the blessing and good news of detachment?

 

10.  In what can you invest to advance your holiness?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Week 86: The Consummation of a Covenant: A Reflection on 1 Peter: 4:7

 

The end of all things is near;* therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.8Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.9Be hospitable to one another without complaining.10Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.11Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4: 7-11)

 

“The consummation of all is close at hand.” (1Pt 4:7)

 

What is consummation? Consummation means two things. First, consummation is the completion of the marital covenant. The marriage ceremony is complete when the couple consummates their union on their wedding night. Why is that the completion of the marital covenant? Because it is in the consummation that blood is exchanged, that body fluid is exchanged, that life is transmitted, that the two really become one body.

 

And that’s the second meaning of consummation—transmission of life. The ordination ceremony for a priest is completed when he says his first Mass. That is the priestly consummation, when the priest confers the blood of the lamb from the altar to the congregation, --the transmitting of spiritual life. Where the congregation becomes one body with one another, and with God.

 

So consummation means a completion of a union, resulting in the transmission of life. Saint Peter says, “The consummation of all is close at hand.” Note, he doesn’t say just, ‘The consummation is close at hand.’ Why not? Because the consummation has already taken place on Calvary, when Jesus gave his life on the cross, and uttered the words, “It is consummated.”

 

What did Jesus mean? He meant the marital act between him and his Church was complete. Jesus had given his blood to transmit his life to his bride the Church. Peter says, “The consummation of all….” meaning the day when the gospel would be spread to all peoples, the day when everyone, everywhere, would share the same blood of the Lamb.

 

Immediately after Peter makes this statement, he goes into a sort of mode of proper behavior for Christians. Remain calm, pray, let your love be constant, be hospitable, don’t complain, put your gifts at the service of one another. Why? Because this is the only way the consummation of all will take place. The only way others will want to be part of our body, is if we act above reproach.

 

How many Catholics are guilty of giving scandal? I’ll give you names of three famous Catholics: Hitler, Stalin, and Tito. They all went to Catholic school—got kicked out. Obviously none of them lived the Catholic ideal, but because they were Catholic in name only how much pain, and shame, and suspicion have they brought upon us all? How many Catholics treat God and Church and Sin like casual things?

               

This is what prevents the consummation of all. Because when people see Catholics who act hypocritically, why would they want to be one with us? Being part of God’s covenant family means that we have a responsibility to act beyond reproach. We have a responsibility to continually strive to be more like God, because through the sacraments our union with God has been consummated. God has transmitted his life to us.

 

The Gospel of Mark has a strange scene in it. (11:11-26) I am referring to the cursing of the fig tree. And it wasn’t even the fig tree’s fault! The passage says that it wasn’t the season for figs. Yet Jesus curses it to death! Why? Because we, who are in Jesus’ covenant family, are expected to bear fruit always. Not just when it’s convenient. Not just when it’s in season. All the time.

               

Because we have been consummated in a union with the Lord, and God has transmitted his Divine Life to us through the sacraments. That Grace has the power to burst through human limitations. So we are not restricted by what is in season or out of season. Grace—always.

 

Because our union with God has been consummated by sharing the blood of the Lamb, let us now be the living witnesses, the doting wife of our Lord, so the whole world wants to share that with us.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “The union of Christ with the members of the Mystical Body is obtained only by membership in the Church, for outside this chaste Spouse there is no union with the Bridegroom. She alone has the advantages of this divine union, and she alone has received the keys, which are a mark of the power attached to the union. She alone is united to the Bride- groom, and she alone possesses the fecundity, which is the fruit of this union. There is no life outside the Church because all the life that is to be had can come only from her, and no one possesses this life unless he belongs to her. Outside the Church there is no salvation.” -- Ven. William Joseph Chaminade

 

Prayer By a Saint: “Precious Blood, Ocean of Divine Mercy: Flow upon us! Precious Blood, Most pure Offering: Procure us every Grace! Precious Blood, Hope and Refuge of sinners: Atone for us! Precious Blood, Delight of holy souls: Draw us! Amen.” – Saint Catherine of Siena

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. How do these two meanings of consummation relate to your own life? 

 

2. How is the consummated covenant between Christ and His Church lived out in your daily life?

 

3. How have you consummated your relationship with the Church?

 

4. How are you bearing fruit?

 

5. What do you see as the biggest obstacle to the “consummation of all”?

 

6. Describe your understanding of “close at hand”.

 

7. How might you help to bring about the consummation of all?

 

8. Discuss the quote from Blessed William Chaminade in light of this quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

 

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

 

By Susan Boudreau

Week 87: Four Virtues for Times of Persecution: A Reflection on 2 Timothy 4: 1-5

 

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:2proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.3For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires,4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.5As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. (2 Timothy 4: 1-5)

 

Saint Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, mentions four virtues to live by; fidelity, patience, love, and endurance. Why these four? Paul is talking to Timothy about having to endure persecutions, and these four virtues build up spiritual strength.

           

Fidelity, faithfulness: Fidelity is confidence that everything happens for a reason.  Fidelity is confidence that God is in control, even when our lives seem out of control.

Fidelity is the confidence that God has a plan, and nothing is going to thwart that plan.

 

Patience. Patience is the confidence that even bad things can work for good. Patience isn’t just putting up with stuff. If that’s what our patience is based on, we will eventually lose our patience. Patience isn’t avoiding a confrontation because I don’t want to fight. We have to take a stand in the face of immorality. Patience goes beyond that. Patience suffers persecution without complaint because we know that our suffering is in some way bettering the Church--either by purifying our own souls of sinful attachments, speeding the souls in purgatory along their way to heaven, or giving those in bondage to sin here on earth, opportunities of Grace to convert. Remember it was the martyring of Saint Stephen that enabled Saint Paul to have an experience of God on the road to Damascus.

 

Love.  Love is of course the virtue that all the other virtues flow from because God is Love. And this is precisely what love is for--to become like God. Love is the virtue that enables us to see others as God sees them. God sees us all with all our potential and all of our shortcomings at the same time.  We can endure persecution and endure it patiently while still harboring a grudge or resentment toward our persecutors. Here’s where love comes in. Love enables us to see the sacredness of Christ in everyone, even in those who cannot see it in themselves, because God loves them, too.

 

And finally endurance, or as we say, perseverance. Perseverance doesn’t give up. Perseverance is the Grace to hold out in all virtues until the end, because perseverance protects us from despair. Many times, we initially accept suffering or persecution with great Grace, but as time wears on, we begin to despair because we’ve begun to focus too much on this world. Perseverance is the Grace that reminds us that everything in this world is only temporary, so don’t invest all your treasures in this world. Live in this world, but invest in the next where the rewards are far greater.

 

So here they are, the four virtues to get us through persecution: fidelity, patience, love, and perseverance. They are four virtues we really need to cling to in our modern age, because even though its forms may be subtle, the Church is under persecution again.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “Truly, matters in the world are in a bad state; but if you and I begin in earnest to reform ourselves, a really good beginning will have been made.”
-- Saint Peter of Alcantara

 

Prayer by a Saint: “Lord, if Your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if You bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of Your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work You entrust to me. While You command, I will fight beneath Your banner.” – Saint Martin of Tours

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1. Describe a time when you have seen or experienced personal persecution.

 

2. Share examples of national persecution.

 

3. Give historical examples of how the Church has been persecuted. 

 

4. How is the Church being persecuted now? 

 

5. How is the Church persecuted even from within, not only by the hierarchy, but by Catholics in the pews?

 

6. How do these four virtues provide you with weapons against persecution?

 

7. How well prepared are you for times of persecution?

 

8. How willing are you to stand up and fight for Christ and the Church?

 

9. How well prepared are you for martyrdom? 

 

10. How would you demonstrate that you have begun in earnest to reform yourself?

 

By Susan Boudreau

Week 88: Recognize and Heed the Prophet: A Reflection on Matthew 13: 54-58

 

“He came to his home town and began to teach the people* in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? 55Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?’57And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.’ 58And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13: 54-58)

 

The Lord tells the prophet Jeremiah to go and prophecy in the temple that, if the people don’t amend their ways, the Lord will allow to befall the temple what he allowed to befall Shiloh. In Shiloh there was a holy altar to the Lord that Abraham or Jacob had erected. But because the Israelites of the North had given themselves to idol worship, the Lord allowed the altar and the sacred shrine to be destroyed by the Assyrian Empire. Now, through Jeremiah, the Lord warns the people that the same fate is awaiting the temple of Jerusalem in the South for the same reason.

           

Instead of heeding the warning, the people choose to discredit the messenger. They want to lay hands on and kill Jeremiah for blasphemy, of all things. Because Jeremiah prophesied against the temple, he was considered a heretic.         So they ignore the Lord’s warning because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

 

It is the same problem that Jesus encounters in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus delivers a message of hope and a message of repentance. But the scribes and Pharisee’s didn’t want to hear about repentance, so they also sought to discredit the messenger. You can almost hear the mocking in their words. “Hey, check it out everyone! Isn’t that the carpenter’s son? Where did he get all this wisdom?” But when Jesus persists in his message, and worse, starts saying things like being a descendant of Abraham doesn’t insure one’s salvation--well then, this guy must be a false prophet and he must die.

 

There are other connections between Jesus and Jeremiah. Both Jeremiah and Jesus are underestimated for sensory reasons. Jeremiah is dismissed because he’s a boy. Tradition holds that he was a teenager. Jesus is dismissed because he’s preaching to his hometown. They knew Jesus’ family; they saw him grow up, so they don’t take him seriously. So because these people are consumed by their worldly vision, their senses, they are blind to the spiritual reality that is around them.

 

Another similarity is that neither Jeremiah nor Jesus alters his message for the sake of appeasing the crowd. They let the truth stand, and they don’t accept excuses. Because of the lack of faith which they both experience in the crowd, they cannot bring about any conversions of heart. The temple will be destroyed by the Babylonians just as Jeremiah predicted. The Gospel says that Jesus could not work any signs because of their lack of faith. Finally, both Jeremiah and Jesus predict the destruction of the temple.

           

As I mentioned, in Jeremiah’s time, the temple will be destroyed by the

Babylonians. After the Babylonian captivity is over though, the temple is rebuilt. But Jesus predicts the destruction of that temple. While people are admiring the precious stones that adorn the temple, Jesus says that a day is coming when not one of these stones will be left on another. Again, the people scoff at Jesus, yet the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD, within that generation of listeners to whom Jesus prophesied, and the temple has never be rebuilt again to this day.

 

You know, it’s easy to look back and see these similarities and say, “Why didn’t those stupid people listen to Jeremiah and to Jesus?” But you know, we have been given a prophet in our generation who gives us a message of hope and repentance, and he is largely scoffed at; he is largely ignored. Pope John Paul II continually delivered a message that the world still doesn’t want to hear.

           

Yet he never altered his message. The opposition made him even bolder. To read this man’s life, it’s nothing short of miraculous that he survived the Communist occupation of Poland and an assassination attempt. There are those who tried to discredit him by mocking his nationality or claiming that he’s “old school” in his thinking. Many make the same mistake, as did the people of Jeremiah’s day and Jesus’ day.

           

I pray that we do not, and that we all heed the voice of this 21st century prophet, and find Christ through his words and his writings.

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint: “The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince, to a peasant." -- Saint Anthony of Padua

 

Prayer By a Saint: “Eternal Father, it is Your will that all should be saved. Great is Your mercy. Your Son, Jesus Christ died for all. Teach all people to recognize You and love You. With deep faith in Christ's death and resurrection we pray: 'Send Forth, O Lord, labourers into Your vineyard and spare Your people.' Eternal Word, Redeemer of all creation, convert all souls to You. You have been obedient for all, even to death on the cross. Look upon the merits of Your Mother and of all the angels and saints who intercede for us. Send forth, O Lord, labourers into Your vineyard and spare Your people. O Holy Spirit, through the infinite merits of our Lord, Jesus Christ, enkindle in all hearts Your ardent love that can do all things, that all may be one fold and one Shepherd, and that all may arrive in heaven to sing Your Divine mercy. Queen of Apostles and all the angels and saints, pray to the Lord of the harvest: Send forth, O Lord, labourers into Your vineyard and spare your people, that united with you, and the Father and the Holy Spirit, we may all rejoice forever. Amen. -- Saint Vincent Pallotti

 

Questions for Reflection:

1. What attributes would you look for to identify a modern day prophet of God?

 

2. Who would you identify as a prophet of God in our current time?

 

3. What is the message being delivered? 

 

4. What was the message of John Paul II?

 

5. Does each prophet deliver the same message?

 

6. What does the message require of you?

 

7. What has been your response to the message?

 

8. Is there something you need to do differently to better respond?

 

9. What does a full response to the prophetic message look like to you?

 

10. You are being sent into the vineyard as a laborer at the end of every Mass. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another; the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.” (1Cor 12:7-10) What gift have you been given and how are you using it for some benefit?

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

Week 89: The Marriage of the Lamb: A Reflection on Revelations 21: 9-14

 

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And in the spirit* he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21: 9-14)

 

Our reading today comes from the book of Revelation. I’ve listened to Dr. Scott Hahn’s series on Revelation, and let me say it’s a complicated book. In seminary we spent a whole semester on Revelation and that was inadequate. It’s very easy for us as American Catholics to get confused by Revelation, because we have been so heavily influenced by Protestant thinking. The Protestant view is that Revelation, or the Apocalypse as it’s also called, is a book of mysteries that won’t be revealed until the end of time. This is a view that Hollywood has made millions of dollars from in all these movies like “the Omen,” “The seventh Seal,” “End of Days,” etc.

 

On the contrary, Revelation is a book of Scripture and therefore it has relevance today and can be applied to all ages.

 

A few things are happening in the book of Revelation. John is discussing what is happening in his Church at that moment in history. The Christian Church is under persecution, and John is writing to encourage its members. But he’s writing in a veiled language, so that only other Christians will understand him. So this is a very symbolic book. We see many symbolic images. We see symbolic animals—lamb—dragon—beast. (oh my!) We see many symbolic numbers—3, 7, 12. We see this 12 angels, by the 12 gates, on which are written 12 names, and there are 3 gates facing in every direction.

 

Now there’s no way I have time to get into all the symbolism of this book, in one reflection. So what I want to do is give you the central vision of Revelation and let you figure out the rest for now.

 

This passage starts, “An Angel said to me, ‘Come and I will show you the woman who is the bride of the Lamb.”And instantly we cut to this vision of a city, the New Jerusalem. How some non-Catholics manage to hijack Revelation for their own purpose is beyond me, because this book wreaks with Catholic imagery.

 

The other word for the book, the Apocalypse was a familiar term in Hebrew society. It was called Apocalypsoose, and it was a term associated with marriage. In ancient Israel, weddings were seven days long, because covenants were formed in seven days. This is where we get our tradition of the honeymoon. The last day, the seventh day, was the culmination of the celebration. The bride and groom were dressed like a king and queen, and carried by the groomsmen, the ushers, out of the house to a special tent a distant away called the ho-pa. And in the inner room of the ho-pa, the Apocalypse took place. Apocalypse literally means “unveiling.” This is where the bride would remove her veil and the couple would consummate their marriage.

 

The Apocalypse was the anticipated moment for the couple, when the two would become one, and THAT is what the Book of Revelation is about. God has come for his bride. It promises that God will crush the enemies of the Church, and those that are in the Church will enjoy, not just a fruitful relationship with God, but an intimate relationship with God. What John is revealing in this book is what the prophets centuries earlier had dreamed to see. Now we can have an intimacy with God on earth and have that intimacy fulfilled in heaven.

 

So when you hear these televangelists saying that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon that John prophesied, remember, that’s a lot of whooie. We, the Catholic Church, are the bride of the lamb.

 

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

"Jesus was suddenly standing before me, stripped of His clothes, His body completely covered with wounds, His eyes flooded with tears and blood, His face disfigured and covered with spittle. The Lord then said to me, "The bride must resemble her Betrothed." – Saint Faustina

 

Prayer:

 

Heavenly Father,
look upon our community of faith
which is the Church of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Help us to witness to his love
by loving all our fellow creatures without exception.
Under the leadership
of the Holy Father and the Bishops
keep us faithful to Christ's mission
of calling all men and women
to your service so that there may be
"one fold and one shepherd."
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1.       Discuss the quote by Saint Faustina.

2.       Pray the prayer and discuss its words.

3.       How is the Catholic Church the Bride of Christ?

4.       Discuss the meaning of Apocalypse as discussed by Fr. Sisco.

5.       How can one develop intimacy with God?

6.       How can the Church foster intimacy with God?

7.       Make a list of misconceptions about the Catholic Church. How can you combat each?

8.       If the central message of the Book of Revelation is that God has come for His bride, how do the other parts of the Book fit into this main theme? In other words, what has the bride undergone to be ready to be wed? What has the groom undergone?

9.       What should be the fruit of the marriage feast of the Lamb?

 

 

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

 

 

Week 90: Is Scripture Reliable?: A Reflection on Matthew 16: 24-28

 

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

 

 ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’ (Matthew 16: 24-28)

 

70 AD.

 

I think many priests who preach on gospels like this one overlook the significance of “70 AD”. In this gospel, Jesus talks about carrying our cross, and the necessity of this for discipleship. Then Jesus says something a little off the mark.  Jesus begins by saying; The Son of Man will come with his Father’s glory, accompanied by his angels. OK, fine.  I understand that.  When he does he will repay each man according to his conduct.  OK, I understand that, too. After all, that is what Matthew wrote about Jesus earlier in his gospel how on the last day the King will come to judge the nations and divide the sheep and the goats, depending on what each of them did in their lives.

 

           

But then Jesus says something we can’t quite understand. I assure you, among those standing here, there are some of you who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man come in his kingship. Say what?!  What can Jesus mean here?  Is he talking about the Resurrection? Obviously, he is not.  While in the resurrection people did see Jesus in the Father’s glory, this passage is also talking about issuing judgment. But it can’t be the end of the world, because Jesus said that some people standing there would not die until they had witnessed it.

 

           

There’s another passage like this one in Mark’s gospel, when Jesus is sending out the seventy-two disciples. When they return all excited Jesus speaks of spreading the Good News and people rising from the dead, and he tells them, “You will not have gone to all the villages of Israel and Judea before this occurs.”

 

           

Now we can understand a little bit why Paul and many of the other apostles believed that Jesus would be returning in their own lifetime. Also we can understand why some people are skeptical about the authenticity of the scriptures. Was Jesus wrong?  Or did the evangelists put these words in Jesus’ mouth? Neither. All of these things happened in 70 AD.

 

 

If you were living in Jerusalem in 70 AD and up to two years previous, you would have seen a time that was filled with supernatural occurrences. What lends credibility to these stories is that they were not just observed and recorded by Christian witnesses, but also by Josephus, a Jewish historian and Gallius, a pagan Roman public official, both living in Palestine.

 

           

What was the big event of 70 AD?  The Romans had previously, under Nero, launched a severe persecution against Christianity.  We know the stories of Christians being burned, mutilated, and fed to wild beasts in the Coliseum. 

 

 

It is also recorded in Scripture these early persecutions against the Church were antagonized by the Jews. (Paul’s letters) Suddenly in 70 AD, the tables turn and Rome launches a persecution against the Jews and this persecution is climaxed by the Roman destruction of the temple of Jerusalem.

 

 

 

From 67 to 70 AD, all kinds of visions and supernatural occurrences are happening in Jerusalem as a warning that this is coming.  Among these supernatural occurrences, Christians who were killed in the Roman persecutions are seen walking in the streets of Jerusalem. Ghostly visions were seen of armies in the night sky circling a city in flames. There were also recorded apparitions of Jesus as a king, passing judgment on Jerusalem. All of these things were recorded in the early months of 70 AD.

 

           

One of the most convincing facts as to the authenticity of these visions is that when the Romans do destroy Jerusalem and about a million Jews were killed (they were roasted alive in their own city) but not a single Christian was killed. They all knew to abandon the city before it was attacked.

 

           

You see, many people don’t understand that some of the prophecies made in the gospels have already taken place and that’s why they seem confusing. Remember that fact when people try to tell you that Jesus or the Scriptures are not a reliable source of information.

 

 

Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

 

Quote From a Saint: “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ -- Saint Jerome

 

Prayer by a Saint: “Eternal God, who are the light of the minds that know you, the joy of the hearts that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; grant us so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Saint Augustine

 

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

 

1. In your heart, do you really, fully believe that Scripture is the Truth, the Word of God?

 

2. What apparent contradictions or things that seem to conflict with your understanding of who God is can you identify in the Scriptures?

 

3. What accounts for these?

 

4. What do you do when you encounter one of these?

 

5. What part of Scripture do you find most difficult to understand or accept as God’s Word?

 

6. What resources can you use to better inform yourself about Scriptural times and events?

 

7. Where can you find these resources?

 

8. Choose a starting point to become more knowledgeable and make a commitment to begin this week.  Where and when will you begin?

 

9. Describe a time when you have experienced the light of mind, joy of heart and strength of will described by Saint Augustine.

 

By Susan Boudreau

 

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