The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:06:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rethink the Prayer God Gave You: Three Invitations to the Our Father, Part 2 Thu, 24 Jul 2014 04:15:02 +0000 our_father_2In my last post, I spoke about the inexhaustible riches that can me mined from the Our Father prayer. I proposed three “invitations” at the heart of this pre-eminent prayer. The first was the Invitation to Purification.

In this post we will look at two more invitations.

#2: The Invitation to Filiation

Filiation refers to the power that God has given us, in Christ, to become his daughters and sons. We are adopted into the Divine Family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), are partakers in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and by his Spirit can cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Mark 14:36,Romans 8:15,Galatians 4:6)

You see, the opening words of this prayer, “Our Father” is not only revealing a profound truth about the very nature of the First Person of the Trinity, it is revealing us to ourselves! (Catechism, No. 2783).

Because we are deeply loved as his own, we can come to our Father with a fundamental disposition of a child to a loving parent. This disposition is called parrhesia: “the straightforward simplicity, filial trust, joyous assurance, humble boldness, [and] the certainty of being loved” (Catechism, No. 2778). There are few paragraphs in the Catechism I love more than this one because I regularly have to “sit” in the mystery of that truth. This is how my Father wants me to approach Him.

By the way, this disposition (sometimes called holy boldness) is what fueled the faith of the first followers of Jesus. It threads it’s way through the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:29; 4:13, 29, 31; 28:31).

#3: Invitation to Imitation

imitationFinally, a third invitation of the Our Father is the Invitation to Imitation. When we have faith in the Father’s character as a loving parent (Invitation #1), and love him with filial boldness (Invitation #2), it gives us the hope we need to face the challenges of life. But, it also comes with an incredible responsibility: making the Father and his love known to the rest of humanity. It cultivates a desire for us to become like him, to be living icons in the world that can counter the idols of God that have been created by some parents and religious teachers.

I regularly ask people in large audiences, “How many of you are catechists?”

About 10% will raise their hands.

I then say, “That was a trick question. Everyone is a catechist, because we all teach people every time we open our mouths or act in the world.”

The question I then often pose is, “What is your life teaching about the Lord?” (Tweet this.)

Following Up on Your Invitations

One of the key ways we can accept the Invitation to Imitation is by showing kindness, generosity and mercy to those around us. St. John Chrysostom made the point strongly, “You cannot call the God of all kindness your Father if you preserve a cruel and inhuman heart; for in this case you no longer have in you the marks of the heavenly Father’s kindness.”

Imagine how our families, parishes and dioceses would change if every Catholic walked in these three invitations of the Our Father? (Tweet this.)

Let’s close by gathering these last two invitations into a final prayer:

Father, you restored us to your likeness by grace. Help us, by that same grace to become a living icons of your love to a world looking and longing for your face. In your Son and by your Spirit, we will live in the joyous assurance and certainty of your love, while bearing that love clearly and courageously to those we will encounter. Amen.

Now over to you:

How do you see yourself imitating the Our Father, and living as catechist in your everyday life?

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Rethink the Prayer God Gave You: Three Invitations to the “Our Father,” Part 1 Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:15:46 +0000 our_father_1The “Our Father,” or “The Lord’s Prayer,” stands without peer among the prayers found in Sacred Scripture.

St. Augustine said, “Run through all the words of the holy prayers [in Scripture], and I do not think that you will find anything in them that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer.”

There is probably no prayer more widely known than the Our Father. It’s the “go-to” prayer of most Catholics. Like a well-worn and favorite piece of clothing, we can wrap ourselves in the comfort of this prayer during times of difficulty, uncertainty or grief.

Sadly, that familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. (Tweet this.)

We often rattle off the Our Father without even thinking about the words we are saying. So it’s wise to regularly check-in with this powerful prayer to renew our appreciation of it.

And because of it’s divine origin, it is inexhaustible in how it can speak to us. In fact, the Catechism dedicates over 100 paragraphs to unfolding it’s beauty (Catechism, Nos. 2759-2865). In the next two posts, I’m going to propose three “invitations” of the Our Father prayer.

#1: The Invitation to Purification

purificationThis is not a purification from sin (that comes later in petition #5), but rather a purification of our heart from any obstacles to experiencing the full measure of the Father’s love for us.

It “has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area ‘upon him’ would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us” (Catechism, No. 2779).

For example, if early in your life someone carved out an image of God for you, that portrays him as a cosmic Santa Claus keeping a list of all your good deeds and bad, or a capricious god who cannot be trusted, then that is an idol.

Tear Down Your Idols

The Church implores us to pull it down, get rid of it, because that is not the Father revealed by Jesus Christ. So, before we even speak a syllable of the Lord’s Prayer we need to ask the Lord to cleanse us of these interior obstacles to his love. I put this intention in a very simple prayer,

“Father, you know my life. For much of my life, I saw you as a distant deity ready to judge me for being an imperfect son. Help me, by your grace, to tear down that idol and behind it find you waiting for me with the loving arms of a Father. Through Christ, in the Spirit. Amen.”

In the next post, we will explore the Invitation to Filiation and the Invitation to Imitation.

Now over to you:

What are your reflections on the Our Father in your life, and on this first “invitation”?

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Who Are “They”? Beautiful Reasons for “Insignificant” Moves and Actions Thu, 03 Jul 2014 07:00:08 +0000 St. Peter's BasilicaOne seemingly insignificant act can change the world. (Tweet this.)

During one of our recent to the Holy Land, our group gathered in Capernaum, where Jesus healed the paralytic man after the man’s friends lowered him through a hole in the roof. Near that spot, Jeff gave an encouraging talk about those friends, referred to simply as “they,” who brought the man to Jesus for healing.

(They are not named in the Bible, and so are only known as “they.”)

His talk made me think about a person in my life whose simple acts and decisions made a considerable impact in bringing people to the hope of the gospel through Great Adventure Bible studies.

A very quiet and reserved person who has never spoken in front of a group, or initiated an evangelization program or stood, on a street corner to the preach the gospel, has impacted the world by his quiet life.

That person is my father.

The Quiet Adventurer

ToblersHe is an adventurous man who was a fearless mountain climber, skier, hiker and traveler in his prime. He was born in Switzerland and came to the US in his twenties, ending up in college in Minnesota where he met my mother.

Or should I say, she met him.

My mother was a vivacious, proverbial social butterfly with no problem engaging my shy father at a party as she practiced her German language with him and he his English.

In a matter of months they were so in love that they decided to marry and live in Switzerland after my father’s visa ran out. My older brother was born there during the four years they lived near Basel, but they returned to St. Paul, Minnesota to settle down and I was born there. My father worked in manufacturing, and when I was a teen, he found a new job in a suburb of Minneapolis, so we moved to Bloomington, MN where I eventually started attending college near our home.

Love in Anthropology Class

That was where I met Jeff, who is unlike my father in most every way, except they both enjoy mowing the lawn.

The seemingly insignificant decisions my father made to visit the U.S., and later to settle in Bloomington, are what brought Jeff and I together. The day our eyes met in Anthropology class, a relationship formed that, in time, would become centered on the desire to spread the gospel.

I see my dad as one of those called “they,” who by his quiet, honest, loyal life has affected many people.

Dad is a big supporter of Jeff and me through the daily prayers he prays with my mother. He is always filled with joy when we share with him our latest adventure, book or Bible study.

My parents recently celebrated 60 years of marriage, and Jeff and I are extremely grateful for their faithfulness, prayers and encouragement for all these years.

My mother is still a vivacious and social woman, and has taught Bible and preached and encouraged so many in her life. But my dad, definitely one of the “they” crowd, has also impacted the world with his quiet presence.

The Power of Quiet People

If you feel you aren’t doing enough for the Kingdom of God because you don’t talk openly about the gospel to everyone you see, then be a supporter, encourager and faithful prayer warrior for those who do. Live a life faithful to the gospel, which is an important role in the Kingdom of God.

For every person that proclaims the gospel, there are people called “they” who showed Christ to them in the first place.

It could have been an act of love.

A kind word.

The example of a holy life.

A shared book or CD that directed them to the gospel.

Every action counts toward the Kingdom of God, so in all you do, do it in service to Christ. (Tweet this.)

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How to Share Your Faith with Friends and Family Who Lost Theirs Thu, 26 Jun 2014 07:00:34 +0000

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” - John 4:13-15

creation-of-adamPerhaps you have them in your life just as I do: loved ones who are good people, but who either by choice or by life circumstances don’t share your Catholic faith.

And perhaps like me, you’ve encountered interesting moments with these family members or friends since the commencement of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

Whether because of mainstream media coverage, or simply to make conversation with me, many of my friends who have been away from the Church (or who never knew Her to begin with) are suddenly asking questions. Over the past several months, I’ve had my spiritual antenna raised for such encounters where the movements of the Holy Spirit create a moment of opportunity to minister with love.

I sense in these fleeting conversations the opening of a window through which great grace can pass. But I also often fear that something I wrongly say or do in these interactions will again slam shut that window and further distance my loved one from the power of Christ’s embrace.

Look For Those “Well Moments”

There is not an easy “one size fits all” approach to these encounters. (Tweet this).

You probably know the pain of having someone you love reject the Creed with which they were raised. The accompanying pain tears at our hearts and causes us to second-guess ourselves, and to wonder what we might have done differently.

We often wrongly judge – both our fallen away brothers and sisters, and ourselves.

Lately, I’ve been trying to train myself to recognize what I’ve started calling these “well moments”. We know from reading John’s fourth chapter that Jesus himself had occasion to meet a Samaritan woman who was not only popularly considered a sinner, but who also was clearly seeking some greater truth in her own life.

Jesus didn’t choose to begin this encounter from a position of judgment or condemnation, but rather in a dialogue. He gently and lovingly led the woman to the truth she was so desperately seeking. John 4:5-42, gives us a model, an object lesson of sorts, for our own “well moments”.

We Need to Walk

Pope Francis, in his March 23rd Sunday Angelus, broke open the key component of Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan Woman:

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’

In this way, the Pope explained, Jesus cut across the barriers of hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans, crushing the prejudice that existed in relating to women.

The Pope said that Jesus’ simple request signals the beginning of an open dialogue, through which, with great delicacy, He entered the interior world of a person to whom, according to social convention, He should not even have spoken to.

“But this is exactly what Jesus does! Jesus is not afraid. When Jesus sees a person He goes towards that person because He is filled with love. He loves all of us. He does not stop before anyone because of prejudice,” Pope Francis said.

He went on to explain that Jesus does not judge, but acknowledges each person making him or her feel considered and recognized, and stimulating in that person the wish to go beyond their daily “routine”.

As we prepare for such encounters in our own lives – those times when we have the opportunity to simply and lovingly journey alongside someone as they move towards Jesus Christ – we need to remember to attend to our own spiritual “thirst” as well. A life lived immersed in scripture and the sacraments helps prepare our hearts and minds for “well moments.”

Together let’s meet these opportunities fully prepared to let God work through us. Let’s open a dialogue, set judgment aside and “be not afraid” the next time we find ourselves at the well.

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3 Keys to Loving Dad This Year and Every Year Fri, 13 Jun 2014 04:15:09 +0000 KNOCKED OUTThough President Nixon signed Father’s Day into law as a national holiday in 1972, God made it one of the 10 Commandments several millennia before that.

“Honor your father and mother that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you (Exodus 20:12).

As summer hits full swing, we have a special time to honor our dads with a cookout, fishing or hiking, or a sweet-and-simple nap time.

Don’t forget, though: this is not just one day designated to honor your father. It’s a lifelong commitment! (Tweet this).

#3 – Respect Him

Whether you are at the stage of scribbling home-made cards for dad, or signing legal papers for him because he is unable, you are called to honor him.

Of course it’s easier to honor Dad when he is strong and active, when he is still a helpful influence in our lives. But when he becomes less self-sufficient and uses poor judgment, then you need to honor him all the more by stepping up to the plate to make sure he and mom are well looked after and their affairs are in order.

We aren’t called to begin telling him what to do – we are called to continue to extend love even when he may not see things our way.

#2 – Pray for Him

And even after the death of a father, the need to honor him continues. We can do so through prayers for their souls, through forgiveness of offenses they may have caused, by loving their other children, by caring for their graves, for speaking well of them.

For many of us, unfortunately, the relationships with our fathers have been rocky ones, especially through our teen years, but we still are called to honor our fathers.

#1 – Forgive Him

For our living fathers of any age we have the opportunity to honor them in many of the same ways, especially in the area of forgiveness. Our fathers on earth fall very short of Our Father in Heaven, so offering forgiveness and asking for forgiveness is one way we can live a fruitful and long life as the scripture promises. Find the joy, find the goodness, let go of the past. That is the best way to celebrate Father’s Day.

If you find you have unresolved anger or unforgiveness towards your father, The Great Adventure Bible Series Walking Toward Eternity: Daring to Walk the Walk has practical ways that you can overcome these hurdles in your life and have the relationship with your Dad that you have always wanted.

Your father may not ever change, but if your own heart is right, your relationship with him will.

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