The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Sun, 29 Nov 2015 05:16:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Did Jesus Predict the End and Get It Wrong? Sun, 29 Nov 2015 05:16:40 +0000 In the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 21), Jesus seems to predict the end of all things—using such cataclysmic language as the following: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the stars will fall from heaven …” (Mt 24:29). Further, Jesus claims that these things will happen within a “generation” (Mt 24:34).


Use of Cataclysmic Language in the Prophets

The prophets often used such language to describe the judgment in history of some earthly power that had come to oppress the people of God. For example, in Isaiah 13:1 we have an oracle concerning “Babylon,” followed by cataclysmic language: “For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light” (13:10). Finally, in verse 17 the historical reference becomes clear: “Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them”—a reference to the Medo-Persian Empire (founded by Cyrus) that will end Babylonian hegemony in 539 BC (cf. Isa 44:28-45:1). Babylon had of course decimated Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and exiling the Jews in 586 BC. Cyrus sets in motion the return from exile, beginning in the mid-530s and culminating in the rebuilding of the Temple in 515 BC.

So What Did Jesus Mean?

In short, Jesus is referring—not to the end of the world—but to the end of a world, namely, the end of the Old Covenant embodied in the Temple. Jesus’ words most directly refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by the Romans, which would indeed mark the end of the Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial system—those aspects of the Old Covenant which definitively come to an end in Christ.

What Was So Problematic about the Temple?

In Jesus’ day, the Temple had come to stand for something directly inimical to Jesus’ purposes. God’s ultimate promise to Abraham was that of a worldwide family (cf. Gen 12:2-3). But in Jesus’ day, holiness was often equated with separation from all that is unclean, especially the Gentiles. In this context, the Temple embodied this Jewish nationalism and separation. While the Gentiles could enter the outer court, a sign overhung the entry into the inner courts which prohibited on pain of death the entry of any non-Jew. Thus, the Temple embodied the sequestering of God’s presence to the Holy of Holies. Jesus’ death on the Cross unleashes the presence of God for all people, a point symbolically made when the Temple veil (which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place) is torn upon Jesus’ death (cf. Mk 13:38; cf. CCC 586). And in fact, when we go before the Blessed Sacrament, we approach that of which the Holy of Holies in all its glory was merely a type.

Jesus is the New and Living Temple (cf. Jn 2:19-21; Mt 12:6). From the Cross to the fall of the Temple is a transition period—from the earthly to the heavenly, from the Old to the New. Since Jesus said these words around AD 30 just before his death, it appears he got the prophecy exactly right: about a generation later, the Romans destroyed the Temple, effectively marking the end of the Old Covenant and the definitive ushering in of the New.

Does Any of This Refer to the End of the World?

In the Jewish mind, the Temple was thought to be a microcosm of creation (and creation a macro-temple). Accordingly, the fall of the Temple does bring to mind the end of all things; in short, the destruction of the Temple prefigures the end of the world. So, yes, Jesus is indirectly and secondarily referring to the ultimate end; but his primary and most direct meaning refers to the end of the Temple.

Thus, Jesus didn’t get it wrong; we just need to be more attentive to the first-century meaning of his words, and not immediately jump to their twenty-first-century connotation.

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Giving Thanks in Good Times and in Bad Tue, 24 Nov 2015 05:33:37 +0000 Each year as Thanksgiving approaches and I start to review my blessings, I stumble on this from St. Paul:
 “In everything give thanks.” (1 Thess. 5:18).


Everything?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  When things go wrong, I’m supposed to give thanks?  When my husband is laid off and no jobs are in sight?  When the mortgage is underwater?  When illness strikes and the pain won’t go away?

Paul goes on: We are to give thanks in all situations because “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

I used to wonder whether that means it’s God’s will for me to give thanks, or that the situation is God’s will for me and it will work for my eventual good. Either way, I’ve learned that it is precisely by giving thanks in the difficult times of our lives, that our hearts are lifted above the situation.  Having a thankful heart is not only appropriate in good times, it can help us survive the bad.
 There’s a powerful example of this at the Yad VaShem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, which I wrote about in Psalms the School of Prayer:

As you leave [the museum], there is painted on the wall in red and black letters a prayer. The refrain “And praised … be … the Lord” is interrupted by a litany of the names of prison camps:

“And praised. Auschwitz. Be. Magdenek. The LORD. Treblinka. And praised. Buchenwald. Be. Mauthhausen. The LORD. Belzec. And praised. Sobibor. Be. Chelmno. The LORD. Ponary. And praised.…”

… Is the author praising God for prison camps?  Far from it.  This prayer/poem isolates those evil camps and plunges them into the midst of the praises, surrounding them in the greater power of God and his good. It is cathartic to read. The longer you read it, the more it strengthens you and gives you hope.  Try inserting your own trials in the spaces below, and praying it:  “And praised. __________. Be. ________. The Lord. _______.  Amen.”

God willing, no one reading this will ever have to confront the depth of suffering represented by that poem.  But in the dark patches of your life, think of the Jews and praise the Lord, taking care to give thanks “in everything.”  If they can do it – so can we.

This post first appeared on

Excerpt from Andre Schwartz-Bart, the Land of the Just


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Why We Celebrate Christ the King Today Sun, 22 Nov 2015 05:24:47 +0000 It is hard to contemplate the world as it existed in 1925. Less than ten years had passed since the end of World War I and most of the world was still reeling from the devastation of that “Great War.”  It was an incredibly unsettled time. This turmoil was the context in which the rise of fascism took place in Europe. Consider for a moment that it was in 1925 that Joseph Stalin took control of the Soviet Union. It was also in early 1925 that Benito Mussolini disbanded the Italian Parliament and became the dictator of that country.  Adolf Hitler, while not yet solidly in control of Germany, was on the rise. It was in 1925 that he published his work, Mein Kampf.  In many ways this rise of fascism was accompanied, and made possible, by an anti-Christian, anti-Church sentiment.

A Feast amidst Spiritual Famine


So, why the history lesson?  Because it was also in 1925 that Pope Pius XI declared that the Church would universally celebrate a new feast on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Feast of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI was an astute observer of the world in which he lived.  In his encyclical, Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI makes it clear that this feast was created in direct response to what was happening in the world. He saw a trend growing where Christ was being “excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man.”  It was the pope’s hope that, in celebrating this feast, the Church would be reminded of where authority truly is derived from.

The pope also hoped that this new feast would inspire the faithful.  He hoped that, in celebrating it, men and women would be reminded that it is to Christ we owe our fealty and that no earthly power can ever surpass that of his eternal kingship.  But it is clear, as is seen in the quote below, that the pope did not see this as a passive, personal submission. Instead, he saw a need for the people of God to stand against the wave of anti-Christian sentiment that had been rising.

This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks. But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights (Quas Primas, 24).

Pope Pius XI believed the world of his time needed to be reminded of the primacy and Lordship of Jesus Christ, and that the faithful needed to be inspired to go out into the world in Christ’s name, under his kingly banner.

The Need Hasn’t Changed

With this in mind, It would be safe to say that we still need this feast today, and that we may need it more than ever. The Church in our modern time does not necessarily face the threat of fascism and soviet communism, as it did in 1925, but instead we face the rise of secularism, militant atheism, and radical Islam.

The Liturgy of the Word from Revelation for the Feast of Christ the King reminds us Jesus is “. . . ‘the Alpha and the Omega,’… the Lord God, ‘the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.’” Our challenge today is the same as it was in 1925; to live in the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to share the joy of his reign with the world. In the words of Pope Pius XI:

He must reign in our minds… He must reign in our wills… He must reign in our hearts… He must reign in our bodies… that having lived our lives in accordance with the laws of God’s kingdom, we may receive full measure of good fruit, and counted by Christ good and faithful servants, we may be rendered partakers of eternal bliss and glory with him in his heavenly kingdom (Quas Primas, 33).

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]]> 0 Messianic Fulfillment II and The Church Sat, 21 Nov 2015 05:03:37 +0000 The Jewish experience of relative independence under the Maccabean Hasmonean dynasty was short-lived, as a new power from the west, Rome, swept through the world and the Jews found themselves once again under foreign rule awaiting the promised messiah. It is into this historical and cultural setting that Jesus Christ is born in the quiet town of Bethlehem in the hill country of Judea.


After fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s lethal command, Jesus and the Holy Family return and settle in Nazareth. With his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus’ public ministry begins and in three short years many in Judea and Galilee hear his teaching and preaching, and experience his healing power. But his message of repentance and the establishment of the kingdom of God will threaten the Jewish authorities who, rather than rejoicing at the coming of the long-awaited Davidic king and messiah, pressure Pilate to condemn Jesus to his death. Jesus offers his life as a willing sacrifice, atoning for sin, and opening the gates of heaven.

The life of Jesus will divide this period into its four acts. Act one describes the historical setting into which the new Davidic king is born. Act two describes Jesus’ public ministry and key aspects of Jesus’ teaching throughout Judea and Galilee. Act three focuses on Jesus’ passion and death, which climaxes the story of Israel. Act four recounts Jesus’ resurrection and his encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

The Church

The period of The Church follows the continuing story of Scripture in the Acts of the Apostles. Additionally, some of St. Paul’s letters will be briefly discussed, particularly as they correspond to his missionary journeys as recorded in the book of Acts.

If the cross is the coronation of Jesus as the messianic king, and if Jesus’ resurrection marks the momentous beginnings of a new creation, then the story of Jesus’ kingship needs a kingdom, and the first day of the new creation can only mean more work lies ahead. Who becomes a king without intending to rule and build a kingdom? What does the first day of a new creation mean if not the tilling of creation’s garden so that it bears much fruit? This is precisely the story that the Acts of the Apostles intends to tell.

Through his Church, Jesus extends his kingdom to the end of the earth, and all who are baptized into Christ are made new creations bearing the abundant fruit of life in the Holy Spirit. 


St. Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, sets out the three sections of this period when he recalls Jesus’ words to the apostles, “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Act one of this period will focus on Jesus’ sending of his Spirit and the apostles’ witness to those in Jerusalem. Act two will see the scattering of the early Christians due to persecution with the result that the gospel reaches into Judea and Samaria. Finally, act three will highlight the Church’s mission to the Gentiles and the expansion of the gospel to the end of the earth.

While this final period of the story of Scripture recounted in the Acts of the Apostles draws to a close, God’s story does not. It looks forward, as is clear in the book of Revelation, to the time when the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven and all that began anew in Christ Jesus will be fully realized. As history works towards that glorious moment, God calls each of us, just as he called Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Mary, Peter, and Paul, to say “yes” to his invitation to enter into his covenant and take up our role in his story as witnesses to Jesus Christ.

Let Us Pray

Dear heavenly Father,

You sent your only Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah, to fulfill all your promises: Give me new life in him.

The Church carries on your work in the world: Make me a faithful ambassador of your love.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For Further Reading

The narrative for these two time periods can be found in the books of Luke and Acts.

This is the final post in our series, The Bible in a Week. You can find previous posts in the series here.

This post is taken from Walking with God: A Journey through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins.

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Maccabean Revolt & Messianic Fulfillment Fri, 20 Nov 2015 05:51:47 +0000 alexanderAt the age of twenty, the young, educated and courageous Prince Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II, as king of Macedon in 336 B.C. His accession to the throne had an incalculable impact on the Jews whose ancestors had returned from Babylonian captivity a century or two earlier. In the course of his eastward expansion, Alexander defeated the Persian ruler Darius III in 333 B.C. and effectively ended Persian rule in Palestine, thus launching Judah into a new era.

The period of the Maccabean Revolt covers from about 175-135 B.C. While both books recount the struggle of the Maccabean Revolt, 2 Maccabees is particularly written to the Jews in Egypt (2 Macc 1:1) to alert them to the suffering of their brethren in the Promised Land.

The conquests of Alexander the Great spread Greek culture across the Near East, providing a new basis for unity in territories otherwise characterized by more diverse, regional ways of life. Greek thought and practices permeated local cultures to yield “Hellenism” (Hellas is Greek for “Greece”), a synthesis that brought about an international, cosmopolitan consciousness to the diverse peoples of Alexander’s empire. Temples to Greek gods arose throughout the region, and gymnasiums were built to disseminate the Greek ideals by training both the body and the mind of young men.

When Alexander’s empire was divided among his generals after his death, Palestine was a jewel fought over by the new, smaller, neighboring kingdoms. Initially, the Jews in Palestine found freedom to continue their religious practices under the rule of Ptolemy, who reigned in Egypt over what was the southern portion of Alexander’s empire. However, when the northern Seleucid kingdom conquered the Ptolemies and took control of Palestine, the fate of the Jews changed drastically. The Seleucid king desecrated the Temple and demanded that the Jews forsake their belief in the one true God, worship pagan gods, and eat foods forbidden by the Torah.

With the threat of death hanging over the Jews, the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees recount the different responses of God’s people to the harsh situation in which they found themselves. Some of the Jews gave in to the king’s commands, forsaking the Torah and the covenant, while others, led by the Maccabees, revolted against the oppressive Seleucid ruler, taking back the Temple and rededicating it to God’s service. Still others laid down their lives in martyrdom, a witness to their fidelity and trust in God, offering themselves as a sacrifice that cried out to heaven for God’s mercy.

Messianic Fulfillment

In this period, Scripture’s story reaches its climax and fulfillment as God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, ushers in a worldwide blessing that opens God’s covenant family to all people.


As we close the Old Testament and turn to open the New Testament, it is easy to think we are finishing one book and moving on to an altogether new story with its own characters, themes, and plot. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even though there will be new characters and even new themes in the New Testament, the same plot that began back in Genesis stretches into and through the life of Christ and his Church. The New Testament must, therefore, be read in light of the Old, and the Old Testament story finds its climax and fulfillment in the New. All of God’s words and actions, his promises and covenants, his words through the prophets, will find their “yes” in his Son, Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:20).

Let Us Pray

Mattathias and his sons stood up against the threats of Hellenization: Help me resist worldliness in the culture and follow only you.

You sent your only Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah, to fulfill all your promises: Give me new life in him.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For Further Reading

The narratives for Maccabean Revolt and Messianic Fulfillment I are 1 & 2 Maccabees and Luke.

The Bible in a Week concludes tomorrow with Messianic Fulfillment II and the Church. You can find previous posts in the series here.

This post is taken from Walking with God: A Journey through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins.

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