The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Sun, 24 May 2015 13:42:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Acts 2: Rush of a Mighty Wind Sun, 24 May 2015 04:03:37 +0000 The story of Pentecost is familiar and it should be. We need to know the story. Pentecost changes everything. In a moment the entire order of humanity changes. Beloved creatures become not just creatures, but instead children of the loving Father. It is through the Spirit that we cry “Abba!” (Rom 8:15) In that moment God, the living God, comes to inhabit human creatures.

Marvel at that!Anthony_van_Dyck_-_Pentecost_-_WGA07442

It is not the idea of God, or a sliver of God, but the real presence of the Living God. The Spirit is God, like the Father is God, like the Son is God. On Pentecost the Spirit invades creation in a new way. The Almighty comes to inhabit our human flesh! He does not do it secretly or gradually. He overwhelms.

Place yourself in the story. It might be helpful to open your Bible to Acts 2:1-4. It is a dramatic scene. The Apostles are gathered together in one place and suddenly from Heaven there is a sound “like the rush of a mighty wind.” It does not start as a whisper, or as a gentle breeze. It is not gradual. Scripture says “Suddenly.” The Hebrew word for spirit, ruah, translates to wind or breath. In Pentecost the Ruah of God exploded into reality, filling the room with the sound of a hurricane. It is possible the Apostles, upon hearing the wind, immediately associated this with the Spirit, but, ready or not, there must have been a certain amount of terror.

As if the wind was not enough there then appears “tongues as of fire.” Note, Scripture does not relate to us “flames as those on a candle.” A tongue of fire can not be found on a candle. The flame is too small. A tongue is how flames leap out of a bonfire and lick into the air. Watch a large fire and you will see that it has a certain wild, unruly danger to it. These tongues of fire do not safely appear in the midst of them, but instead are found “distributed and resting on each one of them.” The Spirit is not distant. His fire is not to warm us from the outside but comes directly to us.

Awe, or fear of the Lord, is one of the gifts we associate with the sacrament of Confirmation. It is not an abstract thing. It is not an intellectual concept. Awe is the natural state when a person encounters the living God. In that moment it was definitely anything but abstract to the Apostles. Even if they understood immediately that this was the presence of God I do not think that would take away the incredible awe. In this moment the Lord reveals that His Spirit is not a tame force. It is wild and unpredictable. It is also clear that this is not a little portion of the Spirit that is being poured out, but that instead it is an overwhelming release of the Spirit, “like the rush of a mighty wind. . . tongues as of fire.”

The story of Pentecost is there for a reason. God wants us to know that He is with us, and that his presence in our lives is not a small portion. It is his fulness, His awe-inspiring, world-shattering fulness.

Considering what we learn of the Spirit through the story of Pentecost, the challenge for the modern Christian is this: Do I believe this same, terrifying, powerful Spirit still resides in the Church? Do I believe this Spirit resides in me? (He does!) Will I allow the Spirit lordship in my life so that I can encounter and experience awe? Will I invite God to be dangerous and uncontrollable in my life? (Tweet this.)

The Holy Spirit is God. He can not pretend to be anything else. Unless we will give the Lord permission to be who He is, Lord of our lives, Pentecost will be just a wonderful story. When we give him permission, it becomes our reality.


Painting by Anthony Van Dyck, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

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Register Here

Thomas Smith, presenter of The Prophets and member of The Great Adventure Bible Timeline team encourages people to attend the National Catholic Bible Conference at Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pa. June 19-20.

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Mary’s May Crowning: Part 5 Wed, 20 May 2015 18:06:51 +0000 This is the fifth part of a series that will follow the biblical story of Mary throughout May. To honor her during her month, we are diving deeper into eight key mysteries of the Rosary offering reflections on the Blessed Mother’s role through the Gospels and New Testament. Need to catch up? You can find the other parts of the series here.

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

The account of the boy Jesus being lost and then found three days later in the Temple is the only scene of Jesus’ childhood reported in any of the Gospels. Now twelve years old, Jesus is old enough to enter the Court of Israelites. For the first time, he will be permitted into the area where the respected teachers of the Law convene to discuss the Scriptures. So much insight can be gathered just by reflecting on how Mary and Joseph can lose their boy at this time.

Mary5 - Finding Jesus

This must have been a trying experience for Mary, and it foreshadows another time when she would be separated from her son: at his death on Good Friday.

The Holy Family was returning from their annual journey to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. This is one of the most important yearly feasts, and Jews from all over the ancient world would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate.

It is easy to wonder today how Mary and Joseph could leave their son behind in the big city of Jerusalem. What does this story story tell us that might shed light on how these holy and responsible parents could lose their child so easily?

When Mary finally finds her son three days later, she asks why Jesus has treated his parents this way. But Jesus replies, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) The Scriptures say that Mary did not understand this response from her son, but “kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)

Mary’s example here can teach us about how to respond when we do not understand why God allows us to experience moments of trial, uncertainty, or darkness. God may be trying to teach us through these difficulties.

Mary’s experience of losing Jesus is one we might experience in our spiritual lives. We face trials that cause us anxiety. Prayer becomes dry. We wonder why these troubles have come upon us. We seek God and wonder where God is in our lives. Jesus may seem lost and far away, but in reality, he is doing the will of the Father in the temples of our souls.

Read Luke 2:41-52


Why do you think God sometimes seems distant? What does Mary’s experience of losing Jesus teach you about what God is doing in these moments and how you might respond?

This reflection was taken from Mary: A Bibilical Walk with the Blessed Mother and modified by David Kilby.

Painting by William Holman Hunt (1860), sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

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Mary’s May Crowning: Part 4 Sun, 17 May 2015 04:29:26 +0000 This is the fourth part of a series that will follow the biblical story of Mary throughout May. To honor her during her month, we are diving deeper into eight key mysteries of the Rosary offering reflections on the Blessed Mother’s role through the Gospels and New Testament. Need to catch up? You can find the other parts of the series here.

The Presentation

In the fourth Joyful Mystery we see how Mary is a beautiful example of faithfulness. In the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, we see her faithfully fulfilling all the necessary steps of a Jewish woman after giving birth to her first born son. The Law of Moses prescribed that the firstborn male needed to be redeemed by a sacrifice. This harkened to the time of the first Passover, when the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites who had blood from a sacrificed lamb over their doorways. From the time of Moses onward, the tradition of redeeming the firstborn son continued as a perpetual reminder of the saving grace of God. How fitting that Mary and Joseph brought God the Deliverer of Israel to the Temple to fulfill all righteousness.

Just as later Jesus would be baptized by John in the Jordan, though he needed no salvation, Jesus was redeemed in the Temple as the first born son. Mary’s faithfulness to obey God’s command did not go unnoticed by Simeon and Anna who were waiting for Mary to bring Jesus to the Temple. Obviously they knew the Temple would be the first stop for the Messiah to appear on his mission to redeem the world. Perhaps it was with great anticipation Mary entered the Temple, expecting a sign of confirmation from God during this significant ritual. She was met by two prophets, who recognized the gift she brought to the Temple and ultimately brought to the world.

La_Pr_sentation_au_temple_effect_2_But this sign would also be mingled with grief. St. John Paul II reflected on the significance of Simeon’s prophecy to Mary that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also…”:

Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.

– St. John Paul II, Redemptioris Mater, 16

As we go to Mass to receive this amazing gift that has been given to us through the hands of Mary and the prophets, let us also go in anticipation of what we can receive through the reading of the word, through the prayers and through the miracle of the Eucharist.


Do we present our souls to the Eucharist with the same reverence that Mary presented Jesus in the Temple?


Painting by Luca Giordano

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He Ascended into Heaven Thu, 14 May 2015 04:50:01 +0000 “…He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

When we recite this line in the Creed at Mass, it may simply seem like a tidy but not especially important bookend to the more important doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, and Resurrection.

When the Feast of the Ascension rolls around, we may be tempted to think the Ascension is a “second-tier” event.  If so, we are out of step with the New Testament writers and some of the Church’s greatest theologians.


Saint Luke thought the Ascension was so important that the event served not only as the fitting climax to Jesus’ victory over sin and death in his Gospel, but is retold again at the beginning of the Church’s story in Acts (Luke 24; Acts 1).

In an ancient homily on this Feast, St. Augustine pointedly said, “[The Feast of the Ascension] is that feast which confirms the grace of all the feasts together, without which the profitableness of every feast would have perished. For unless the Savior had ascended into heaven, his Nativity would have come to nothing…and his Passion would have borne no fruit for us, and his most holy Resurrection would have been useless.”  Let’s look at four reasons why the Ascension is so important to us:

  1. The Ascension gives us access to our Heavenly Father’s house and our eternal happiness.  “Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too shall go where he, our Head and our Source, has preceded us” (Catechism, No. 661; John 14:2)
  2. As it did for his first disciples, the Ascension is intended to produce joy and worshipful obedience in the lives of Christ’s disciples. Since Christ is reigning at the right hand of his Father over his Kingdom, we joyfully work to spread that reign within us and around us (Catechism, No. 669, Luke 24:52-53).
  3. The Ascension means that Christ and His Father could now send the Holy Spirit to fully reveal the Trinity, to guide the Church into all truth, and to unite us to Christ’s mission, “if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7, 13; Catechism, No. 690, 737).
  4. Finally, the Ascension is a source of daily hope because it reminds us that Jesus is coming back again, the same way he departed, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11b). His return will mean the final triumph of good over evil, a new heaven and and a new earth.  “That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him: Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!” (1 Cor.16:22; Rev. 22:17, 20).

Stained glass by François Denis, sourced from Wikicommons

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