The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:15:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Meet the Messengers: Isaiah Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:15:04 +0000 Meet The Messengers Isiah“Here I am! Send me!”

When it comes to the Old Testament prophets, one could argue that Isaiah is without peer.

He’s been called by many “the Fifth Gospel” because his prophecies predict so many aspects of the life of Jesus, from his birth to his enthronement in heaven. He is quoted over 90 times in the New Testament and represents three-quarters of all the prophetic readings we hear during Advent and Christmas seasons. His writings are vast (66 chapters), powerful and poetic.

Isaiah was faced with a daunting challenge: His voice was to be raised during the period of the Divided Kingdom, in the late 8th century (700s BC). His audience was the southern kingdom of Judah who seemed blind to the dangers of covenant unfaithfulness.

Most men would shrink at the task of preaching for decades to a people so deaf to his message, but not our prophet.

What was the secret of his consistent courage?

  1. He focused on the Lord. Isaiah is given a vision of God on the throne (Isa. 6:1-4). God was perfect in holiness, high and lifted up, in control of his universe.That vision of God’s power and presence was the source of Isaiah’s strength. It certainly sustained him when he saw the state of his own people’s sinfulness. He knew his task to preach was a God-sized one, but his powerful God would help him to fulfill it. In fact, one translation of the name Isaiah is “The Lord is my helper.”
  2. He recognized and acknowledged his own sinfulness and inadequacies (the truth about himself). Faced with the holiness of the Lord, he cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). This helped to keep him humble before the task at hand. And the Lord responded by cleansing and preparing his prophet.
  3. He responded with availability and generosity to God’s call, “Here I am! Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). Availability is no small virtue. Think of how many acts of love, mercy, or service we never perform, all because we are “too busy” or “unavailable.” Or consider how many times we have hesitated to share the Good News because we “leave that to the professionals” or we feel inadequate.Pope Francis said, “Our falling short of perfection should be no excuse; on the contrary, mission is a constant stimulus not to remain mired in mediocrity but to continue growing” (Evangelii Gaudium, No. 121). Another put it this way, “God does not ask for our ability or our inability, but our availability.”

The life of Isaiah can become a great spiritual check-up for us. In light of his life, ask yourself these questions:

  • What great task is before you?
  • How can focusing on God’s presence and power sustain you?
  • Are you honest about your own sinfulness before the Lord and believe he desires to cleanse you and make you whole?
  • Finally, do you have a generous and willing spirit to respond to the needs before the Church?

Isaiah’s story begins with courage in the face of great challenges, and he was faithful to the very end. Jewish tradition tells us that Isaiah was martyred by being sawn in two by the wicked King Manasseh (an event that may be referenced in Hebrews 11:37).

Through his intercession and God’s grace, may we face the particular challenges of our life with courage and consistency.

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Meet the Messengers: Hosea Tue, 30 Sep 2014 04:15:16 +0000 Meet The Messengers HoseaIn this first post, we will meet the messenger Hosea. Our prophet lived in the 8th century BC, during the reign of King Jeroboam II. His audience was the Northern Kingdom who had abandoned covenant faithfulness with the Lord. Their spiritual lives were marked by idolatry, injustice and oppression of the poor.

God’s first command to Hosea wasn’t to simply call people to repentance, but to embody in his own life, the broken relationship between the Lord and his people, Israel.

What was his terrible to-do?

Hosea was called to marry a prostitute named Gomer, who would symbolize Israel’s own unfaithfulness. His marriage and family became a living parable to his audience. This dramatic embodiment was intended to awaken Israel to their true spiritual condition and call them to return to the Lord and his life-giving law.

Like the ancient prophets, we are called not only to share our message but to embody it. It is not enough to simply present an armload of “faith facts.” The world needs more than words. They need to see a Gospel that is lived and embodied in our relationships, marriages, families and professions.

What is the fundamental message we are called to embody?

While there are many parts to the “Good News,” Pope Francis, led by the Holy Spirit, has been emphasizing, in particular, the Message of Mercy. He has demonstrated that it can be an open door to welcome not only new believers but those who may have felt estranged or distant from their faith.

So, let’s ask ourselves In what ways can we “embody” that message?

There are many ways, but let me propose three. They involve interior conversion, prayer and concrete actions.

  1. Become a student of Mercy. Commit to memory the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy and the 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy (see Catechism, Nos. 2447). Use them as a regular “spiritual checkup” or examination of conscience. Ask yourself, “How am I regularly performing or supporting with my prayers or almsgiving these 14 works?”
  2. Pray daily for God’s mercy to be upon our world, especially war-torn countries. Ask for God to have mercy upon your nation and enkindle mercy within it’s citizens so we will be the guardians and protectors of those in most need of our mercy, especially the unborn and aged. The chaplet of Divine Mercy is a wonderful way to gather this intention to the Heart of Jesus.
  3. Most importantly, BE mercy! Look for every opportunity to speak and demonstrate God’s merciful love in your daily encounters. This is one of the most powerful ways to evangelize because it is revealing the face of the Merciful Father revealed in Jesus to others. Include in your morning prayer this intention, “Lord, help me this day to embody your merciful love in word, deed, and prayer. Give me your eyes of mercy to see the needs of those around me and respond with generosity, compassion and love.
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Spiritual Dimensions of the Consumer Instinct Wed, 24 Sep 2014 04:15:18 +0000 KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOur parish has a newly ordained priest as the parochial vicar, and it has been a delight to watch him work his way through the Mass, carefully finding his spot in the lectionary and looking wide eyed as he forgets the final words of the send off.

Because he is less familiar with the Eucharistic prayers than our seasoned senior pastor, he takes particular care to say the words properly.

As he spoke the words of consecration, “This is my body” I was listening more intently than usual, and it struck me how much I wanted to consume the host. I wanted Jesus to be part of me as he promised he would be.

Humans are natural consumers. As babies it’s all about eating. It’s the baby’s survival instinct to make it known that he is in need of nourishment.

The Feed Goes On…

This desire continues on, and we chuckle as kids gobble Halloween candy and Christmas cookies. Put a pizza in front of a teenager and before you can turn around, it vanishes. As adults we still consume. You can name your own food or drink obsession. As I knelt in Mass a prayer formed in my mind, “Let our desire to consume lead us to consume the body and blood of Christ.”

Ultimately, the desire for Christ is the root of why we desire anything. The Christ-sized hole in our hearts won’t be satisfied by anything else but Him, although we spend much time and energy consuming other things to see if they fill the hole.

In ancient times, people were more tuned in to the idea that to get something worthwhile, a considerable amount of time, energy and sacrifice went into it.

In order to have a roasted goat for dinner, it took years of raising a herd of goats first.

To have bread meant planting, harvesting, grinding and baking.

Is It Bad to Be a Consumer…Or Was It Intended?

For us it’s as easy as a drive to the store to come home with sacks of food. It’s very easy to consume, but rarely do we stop and consider why we want to eat. What is the natural desire in us that points us to a supernatural desire?

Could it be that our natural desire to consume is the training ground for spiritual consumption?

Taking our innate desire to consume food, which God has built into us, and placing that desire into the realm of the supernatural, we can understand why we should want to come back again and again to eat the body and blood of Jesus.

It’s a continual desire and a continual feeding.

We can use our natural desire for food to help us focus on our need to desire spiritual food. Next time you are hungry, ask yourself, do I need this as much as I need Jesus?

Channel Your Hunger

Jesus also spoke to this issue while he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to turn stones into bread because he was so hungry. Jesus’ reply is a familiar phrase to us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We in turn can say, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but upon the true bread that came down from heaven, Jesus Christ.”

I’m not trying to come up with a new diet scheme, I’m just advocating that we take a cue from our natural desire to eat and pass it over to our supernatural side as we desire to partake in Jesus Christ.

Let’s be ravenous to receive Him.

Let’s be filled with anticipation as we walk toward the altar at Mass.

Let’s savor his goodness in our lives.

Let us kneel with thankful and satisfied heart and go out into the world to share with others how they too can come to this table to be fed.

Image sourced from Wikipedia

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You Were Made for Narrative, But Do You Know Which One? Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:00:47 +0000 alicja_colon_unsplashOur desire and fascination with stories suggests that there is an ultimate story of which we are an integral part, a story to which we are drawn that is bigger than ourselves.

As man’s longing for God provides evidence for His existence, so the ultimate story, written by God, is evident by our endless search for a plot in which we can envision ourselves participating that will make sense of our lives.

St. Augustine once said concerning our need for God, that “our heart is restless until it rests in you.” We could also say that no story will leave us with a sense of completeness and belonging until we enter His story. For His story provides the comprehensive story-line by which every life finally makes sense.

Ironically we often find ourselves resisting our heavenly Father much like a teen resists being identified with parents at a high school function. We wrestle with those who are there to nourish and teach us.

A Biblical Problem

The challenge we face today is reading the Bible so the basic story line of salvation history is clearly seen and understood. We are not talking at this stage about understanding detail, but about grasping the scope of the divine story, the “big picture.”

It is important to keep in mind that, while the Bible is a book of seemingly obscure details, it is also a letter written by our heavenly Father. Letters are written to be understood. (Tweet this.)

The Bible, although made up of many stories, contains a single story within its pages. Though not evident at first glance, the story is about God and His relationship with His creation, the universe.

As the creator of the universe, God could certainly have said much about the beauty and complexity of the galaxies. However, He limits the field on which this divine story is played out primarily to planet earth. While the earth is marvelous and in itself speaks of His power and glory, its role is to be a glorious stage for the greatest story ever told.

At center stage stands man, the most complex creation in the universe and the true object of God’s love and affection. It is this man that would betray God, and yet God in turn would die for man, and by means of a covenant bring man into the family life of the Trinity.

This is the world’s story, invented, orchestrated and executed by God. By inviting mankind to be His friend, companion and most importantly His son and daughter, He has made His story man’s story.

Never Give Up the Search for Happiness

From the very beginning it was God’s intention to walk with mankind in a love relationship, but this relationship was severed through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The fall of Adam and Eve introduced sin into the human race and has had devastating repercussions down through the centuries. Out of balance with his Maker, yet with the “desire for God written in the human heart,” man struggles to find meaning in life.

Starting with the very early chapters of Genesis all the way through the book of Revelation, God gradually reveals His plan to re-establish the broken relationship between Himself and His treasured creation.

It is only in God’s revealed plan that man once again finds his intended purpose for being “because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.”

We Are Family

It is important for the modern Catholic to understand that, when they read the Bible, they are reading a book of history. History becomes very important to the Christian, for it was within actual human events that God revealed himself. (Tweet this).

There should be no misunderstanding – this is true history as opposed to cleverly devised tales. Pope Paul VI said, “the history of salvation is being accomplished in the midst of the history of the world.” The Bible gives a wide range of examples of how through word and deed God has entered the life of His people.

Although God greatly loved all of mankind, we see early on in the Scriptures that His strategy to redeem all of humanity was to start with one family first and then progressively influence more and more people to the point where all of mankind would have the opportunity to be a part of His worldwide family.

He Will Provide Everything

Interwoven throughout the family story is a divine method of teaching.

God communicates himself to man gradually by this method as if to welcome us by stages. The primary theme throughout the Bible is the mighty deeds of God as they relate to the salvation of man. These great deeds of God are understood in and through the lesser deeds of the various Bible characters.

For example, the sacrificial nature of God’s love is graphically illustrated and better understood in the story of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac, found in Genesis 22.

It is here in this passage that we learn one of the revelatory names of God, Yahweh Jireh, “the Lord will provide.”

This excerpt comes from Jeff Cavins’ article, “His Story is Your Story,” and was originally published in Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) July 23, 2013.

Photo by Alicja Colon from Unsplash.

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Do You Look Like Hope? Thu, 21 Aug 2014 04:15:22 +0000 road_tripAs I write this, I’m fresh off the experience of an epic five-week road trip with my son Adam.

While the art and science of traveling 7,500 miles with a 19-year-old in a MINI Cooper is fodder for a blog post, I spent much of our adventure pondering a single bible verse.

In 1 Peter 3:15, the apostle offers encouragement to the faithful of his time:

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

In the following verse, Peter teaches that their evangelization be tempered with gentleness and respect, and delivered with a clear conscience.

As we drove across this magnificent country and into Canada on our excursion, Adam and I met literally scores of new friends along the road. It often happens that within a line or two of introduction, I share that I am a Catholic.

I don’t do this to proselytize. My faith is simply as central to my being as my brown eyes or my vocation to motherhood. It defines me as a person, informs my actions, and lays foundation for my life’s greatest goals.

And over the past few weeks I’ve found that venturing outside my comfort zone and into new venues provides a fresh perspective on those three words at the heart of 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready”. (Tweet this.)

Are You Ready?

With so much national news attention on our Church these days, I met folks in certain parts of the country who didn’t know a single Catholic, but were intrigued by what they’d heard of late about us.

In separate conversations, I chatted with new non-Catholic friends who were following Pope Francis on Twitter or had heard about the Church’s humanitarian responses in Iraq, Syria and along the southern borders of our country.

These opening salvos, often delivered in a somewhat defensive manner, were an opening for me to share a bit about the Church I love and the God I serve.

But I’ve learned to tread carefully in such moments. (Tweet this.)

It’s easy, when someone asks us questions like this, to misperceive the motivation behind it.

Avoid Those Social Media Smack-downs

In some cases, we may hear their question as an attack and respond in similar fashion.

If you’ve ever been involved in sharing your faith in a venue such as Facebook, you know how unproductive these types of dialogues can be. (In these moments, I try to remind myself of St. Peter’s instruction towards gentleness and respect.)

We might hear a question about our faith and understand that behind it wait many other questions – deeper and more subtle – from new friends who are lost and seeking something in their lives. They may recognize in us something they desire for themselves: a sense of the peace, happiness and grace that we experience as Christians. A simple, “What’s up with that Pope of yours?!” delivered with a laugh could actually be an invitation to share the true reason for our hope.

But we may be sorely tempted to laugh back, dodge the bullet, and simply move the conversation along to safer pastures. In those moments, we fail to “always be ready”. We may avoid the temporary discomfort that accompanies sharing our faith, but we have also lost a golden opportunity to win souls for Christ.

You Weren’t Made for Fear

The words that proceed my favorite three (“always be ready”) in 1 Peter 3:13-15 hold the key ingredients to being ready when such opportunities present themselves:

Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.

Often, in praying with these verses, I marvel how St. Peter could have written something thousands of years ago that could be so relevant to the challenges I face today as a believer.

Mocking_Bird_ArgumentIt’s almost as though he foresaw twenty-first century “Evangelism 101” moments: the messiness of a Facebook faith smackdown, a Catholic combox war on a blog, or even the ugliness that can come up at a family dinner when one present has a disdain for our Church.

And in these verses, Peter provides exactly what I need to enable me to “always be ready”. By reminding me to “sanctify Christ as Lord” in my heart, St. Peter helps me to lay a firm foundation for these moments. For me, such sanctification isn’t an easy one-step process, but rather a day-to-day journey of prayer, reception of the sacraments, and trust in God’s ultimate wisdom and providence.

I won’t claim that I’m successful every time an opportunity to share my faith presents itself, but these days I am making it a high priority to “always be ready”.

Now Over to You:

Have you ever had a friend or relative ask you a question that gave you the chance to share your faith? How did you reply?

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