The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:20:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Tue, 26 Jul 2016 07:03:51 +0000

Jeff Cavins reflects on the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

First Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Gospel: Luke 12:13-21

]]> 0
Using Faith & Reason in Scripture Study Fri, 22 Jul 2016 04:27:29 +0000 Harmony with reason is an important element of Catholic Scripture study. St. Bonaventure taught that God has given us two “books”: the book of Scripture and the book of creation. He is the primary author of both. If we follow the Church’s guidance in interpreting Scripture, we should be on track to achieve this needed harmony with reason.


“Reason” refers to our natural intellectual faculties, as distinguished from faith, which is God’s gift enabling us to respond to what he has revealed in Scripture and Tradition. The faithful Catholic understanding of reason is a balanced approach.

On one hand, there is the danger of wrongly emphasizing “reason” so much that we deny anything that reason cannot understand on its own. For example, we may try to explain away all miracles recorded in Scripture. We might also say that Scripture is simply a collection of human writings that are not inspired by God, because “reason” finds difficulties with divine inspiration.

On the other hand, there is the danger of wrongly placing so much emphasis on faith and so little on reason that we explain away authentic findings of science as tricks of the devil and insist on pure reliance on faith.

The Proper Balance

The Catholic understanding humbly accepts that our reason is good and useful but also fallen and in need of God’s light and healing. God gave us our reason, but reason was never intended to be enough to bring us to salvation; God’s added gift of faith is needed for that.

Some people wrongly think that reason and the Bible are opposed to one another. But Scripture has its own philosophical worldview discernible by reason and corresponding with reality. Today’s musicians and cinematographers may not consider themselves philosophers, but their music and movies carry philosophical worldviews with them. Often, what is portrayed is a worldview in which meaning comes from “self-creation” which is achieved by throwing off all external “constraints.” The Bible’s philosophical worldview, on the other hand, is one of an ordered world created by a good eternal God who has a plan for all creation and places moral demands on rational creatures for their own good. In this worldview, all meaning is ultimately derived from God, who is Reason itself.

Matthew Levering, in Scripture and Metaphysics, argues that Scripture is in fact metaphysical—it takes a stand on the philosophy of being which reason can discern as true, corresponding to the reality of the world. Levering connects the philosophical truths underlying Scripture to philosophical thought found in the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas, who fleshed them out. As St. John Paul II points out in Fides et Ratio, Christian philosophers such as St. Thomas took the philosophical truths found in Scripture and sought ways to reach them by human reason apart from Scripture. St. Thomas typically connected even his most philosophical articles to Scripture in an argument from authority (the Sed Contra) prior to developing his own longer logical argument, often apart from Scripture. (I followed this method in my recent book on faith and reason for those who work with young people, entitled Who Created God? A Teacher’s Guidebook for Answering Children’s Tough Questions about God.)

Natural Law: Perceivable by All

In the Catholics worldview, we claim the moral law is laid down by God in human reason and not derived from Scripture or Tradition, but from a secularist perspective this claim appeals to faith. Secularism, for the most part, rejects the Natural Law and discounts the claim that the Natural Law is binding on all.

The Gentile world in St. Paul’s day accepted and incorporated many things contrary to the Natural Law—namely idolatry, sexual immorality, and their own version of the culture of death. But still, he said with reference to them:

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:20-22).

It is much the same today. Natural Law corresponds to basic common sense, but the Western World—for a number of centuries—has been progressively rebelling against the ideas of the past, and especially Christianity.  The West has gradually infused its own philosophies into every aspect of society and people’s way of thinking. This is why the Natural Law seems foreign to many of our non-Christian contemporaries while it is clear to many Catholics.

St. Thomas Aquinas taught that while everyone has the ability to perceive the basic command to do good and avoid evil and its immediate implications, the more remote points of the Natural Law are only discernible, apart from faith, to the few wise and only with difficulty and mixed with error. For example, Aristotle and Plato, who were probably unfamiliar with any of the Scriptures, came to a remarkable understanding of the virtues, though still not perfect from the Christian point of view. The reason secularism identifies Natural Law theory so closely with Christianity is partly because faith sheds light on the Natural Law and makes it accessible to the many without error.

The Need for Reason and Natural Law

Catholics sometimes seem to think that the purpose of the Natural Law is simply so we can dialogue with non-believers; and it is indeed useful for this even among those who reject it, because traces of it are found everywhere. But even if everyone in the world lived fully in the gift of faith, reason and the Natural Law would still be very important. Reason is from God and it is meant to guide our lives and communities as well as to serve as a foundation on which faith can build. In order to have faith, we must freely and reasonably accept it with the intellectual faculties that God has given us.

So when we interpret a passage from Scripture, we are not asked to step out in a faith that is completely blind, but one that is measured with God’s gift of reason. The guidelines provided by the Church help us with this. They tell us to pay special attention to the literary forms used by the inspired human authors, understanding that the writers used various ways of speaking which were particular to their culture. For example, writers speak differently in poems than they do in histories or in epistles. If we correctly get beneath the human way of speaking in Scripture, then we have arrived at the “literal sense”—the basic and direct truth of the passage intended both by the Holy Spirit and the human sacred writer. These passages may have further spiritual meanings which point to Christ, give us moral instruction, or hint of heaven; but these spiritual senses are always grounded in that first literal sense—the direct truth— and are never disconnected from it (see CCC no. 109-119).

Reason is from God and it is meant to . . .  serve as a foundation on which faith can build.

The Church gives us three criteria for Scripture interpretation, which in addition to keeping us thinking with the Church, ensure a disciplined and balanced faith-and-reason interpretation:

  1. Read the text with a view to the content and unity of all of Scripture. Since the Holy Spirit is the primary author of all Scripture, we should view Scripture as a united whole, and not merely a collection of purely human writings.
  2. Read Scripture within the living Tradition of the Church, which helps to ensure its correct meaning as lived out through the ages by the Church under the Holy Spirit’s influence. Considering the wisdom of holy interpreters of the past also helps preserve a right continuity of understanding, and balances our tendency to superimpose our own meanings onto the sacred text.
  3. Read the text with a view to the “analogy of faith”—namely to understand its message in light of the doctrines of the Church. When we do this, puzzle pieces begin to fall into place. Along with submission to the Church’s Magisterial teaching office, these criteria seem to have the added function of keeping our fallen reason, which strays easily, on a straight course. They also build on our reason in openness to faith, which guides it further and illuminates it.

In his Regensburg Address, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that the Gospel of John begins by introducing Jesus as Logos, the Word or Reason of God, and that faith for the Catholic must be according to reason. Thus, as we see, faith and reason both come from God and are both necessary for a healthy balance in Scripture study. What is primarily required in order to achieve this balance of faith and reason is to follow the traditional methods of Catholic Scripture interpretation that have been offered by Mother Church all along.

You May Also Like…

How to Read and Understand the Bible

I Believe in One God: The Power of the Creed

Ancient Philosophy & the New Testament


]]> 0
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Tue, 19 Jul 2016 19:00:20 +0000

Jeff Cavins reflects on Abraham’s prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah and on the Lord’s Prayer, encouraging us to be persistent when we pray. This Sunday’s readings are:

First Reading: Genesis 18:20-32
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8
Second Reading: Colossians 2:12-14
Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

You May Also Like …

Rethink the Prayer God Gave You: Three Invitations to the “Our Father,” Part 1

Why Is the God of the OT Vengeful & Violent?

Follow Me: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John

]]> 0
How a Chicken Leg Can Teach Us Holiness Fri, 15 Jul 2016 04:18:19 +0000 After several weeks of grueling overtime at work, my husband had worked all day with our boys cutting up fallen trees from a recent string of storms. Hauling brush, cutting and splitting logs, and stacking firewood in sweltering heat all day, they came in for supper sweaty, dirty, exhausted, and hungry, with noses pointed toward the kitchen.


I had gone all out for my men while they labored: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, creamed corn, yeast rolls, sweet tea, and chocolate pie. The second the last syllable of the blessing was uttered they descended like vultures.

As I always feel when we are around the family table together, I was deeply pleased to see them so satisfied and content after their long, hot, hard work day. I didn’t even correct the boys for talking with their mouths full.

I could see the fatigue pulling at my husband’s frame and he’d only had a single piece of chicken, so when my oldest son, a teenager, reached for the last leg after having already eaten two I glared at him and told him to leave it for his father. My son’s arm stopped mid-air and my husband said, “He can have it.”

It’s Not About the Chicken

Immediately, I bristled. He’d been working all day, all week, for goodness sake, and if there was a last piece of anything he should get it. The overrule was about to leap from my lips when the Holy Spirit strongly checked me, and although I obeyed I asked him why he should allow such an injustice!?

“As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her . . .” (Ephesians 5:24-25).

In the moment it took for me to understand, a wave of humility washed over me and tears sprang to my eyes.

As the Theology of the Body tells us, our primary vocation as men and women is the same: to become self-gift. We give ourselves in love to God and to one another. We are, in fact, to become increasingly like God, who, in his very essence, is self-gift: Three Persons giving themselves eternally in love to each other.

The great sign of Ephesians 5 is the marriage relationship as the mysterious reflection of that between Christ and his Church. Christ is the Bridegroom. The Church is the bride. He lays down his life for her, and in doing so makes her holy.

In giving himself completely to the souls entrusted to him, a husband reflects Christ to his wife, and in some powerfully mysterious way contributes to her holiness and that of their children.

St. John Paul II said that holiness is always expressed through the body. Jesus teaches us this lesson when he pronounced the most masculine words ever spoken, “This is my body which is given up for you.” His was the gift of self through the body, not just in the Eucharist or crucifixion, but even through his whole life as a man.

I am a witness to the power of a husband’s self-sacrifice.

Expressing Holiness Through the Body

I have wrestled with a father wound my whole life. My father’s dominating parenting style provoked me to wrath and discouragement (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). I struggled with rage, rebellion against authority, and perfectionism for many years. After guarding my heart for so long, I had no idea how to give myself fully to God, much less my husband.

Since our first child made his wailing way into the world, my husband has worked in order for me to be home and give myself fully to them. We homeschooled one into college and have one in middle school. My husband’s self-gift is to the utmost. Like many men, he works a job he hates to provide insurance and a healthy, happy home environment for the rest of us.

I submitted to my husband over the chicken leg because it was his gift to our son, and I have never been so humbled by or in love with him as I was that day. I almost missed the holiness of the moment by trying to assert myself.

After a week of giving himself at work, and a day of giving himself at home, I watched him express holiness through his body over something as mundane as a chicken leg. And a life with him, receiving his ongoing self-donation, has made a safe place for me to be able to also give myself fully both to God and him.

Feminine Genius

To turn a phrase of Edith Stein’s, the world doesn’t need what men have, it needs what men are. How would we women grow personally and individually if we sought, in active demonstrative ways, to build up the masculinity of the men entrusted to us, and men in general, especially by submitting to the Lord through our husbands?

What could we become, working alongside such protective, robust leadership? We would become like Mary Magdalene, Martha, the Samaritan woman, and Mary Our Mother, women to whom Jesus entrusted some of the most profound truths of his identity and ministry and who changed the world.

You May Also Like . . .

A Christian Take on Love

The Beauty of Marriage from a Biblical Perspective

St. John Paul II’s Love & Responsibility: A Bird’s Eye View

YOU: Life, Love and the Theology of the Body


]]> 6
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Tue, 12 Jul 2016 18:00:32 +0000

Reflecting on the Gospel Reading for this Sunday, which tells the story of Martha and Mary, Jeff Cavins discusses the importance of putting Jesus first in our lives. This Sunday’s readings are:

First Reading: Genesis 18:1-10A
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 15:2-3, 5
Second Reading: Colossians 1:24-28
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42

You May Also Like…

Martha: A Disciple Jesus Loved

Getting Closer to Jesus

Follow Me: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John

]]> 1