The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Wed, 29 Jun 2016 21:05:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 On the Solemnity of Peter and Paul Wed, 29 Jun 2016 04:07:55 +0000 My dear friend James is dead,
Since Herod’s sword took him away.
And I am next, they’ve said;
In jail for only one more day.Peter's liberation

I lie on rocky ground
While drifting in and out of dreams
One dream which I have found
Is more realistic than it seems:

A visitor appears;
Touches my wrists, for what it’s worth.
And yet, despite my fears,
My chains have fallen to the earth.

He leads me past the guard
I now know this is not the end:
My future may be hard
But yet, I still have sheep to tend.

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Sun, 26 Jun 2016 19:03:13 +0000

Jeff Cavins reflects on the Gospel this week, focusing on Jesus calling his disciples to proclaim that the Kingdom is at hand:

First Reading: Isaiah 66:10-14C
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Second Reading: Galatians 6:14-18
Gospel: Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

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The Beauty of Marriage from a Biblical Perspective Fri, 24 Jun 2016 04:17:21 +0000 Marriage and the BibleWe live in a society where the understanding of marriage has become all but lost amid various personal interpretations. There is therefore a need to have a deeper discussion in the family, so to speak—the Christian family. In the midst of widespread confusion regarding the definition of marriage, it’s easy to lose sight of what we believe. We have been blessed with the truths revealed to us in God’s Word. The Scriptures generally, and Jesus in particular, teach us truths about marriage that go beyond what we could ever figure out by human reason alone.

Marriage: A Dominant Scriptural Theme

The first thing we need to understand is that marriage is not a “side teaching” of the Bible; marriage is a central theme of God’s Word, arguably the central theme.  Marriage marks the beginning, middle, and end of the Bible.  In the beginning, the account of creation climaxes with the creation of Eve, the Bride, in Genesis 2:18-22, followed by Adam’s “wedding vows” in Gen 2:23, forming the first marriage ever and establishing the pattern of marriage for the rest of human history (Gen 2:24).

At the end of the Bible, all of human history comes to an end with the announcement of the “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7), followed by the revelation of the “Bride of the Lamb” who comes out of heaven from God (Rev 21:2).  This “Bride of the Lamb” is the Church triumphant, pictured as the new and heavenly Jerusalem.  Some of Scripture’s final words are an invitation from the “Spirit and the Bride” to “come” to the wedding feast (Rev 22:17).

In the middle of the Bible we find the Song of Songs, the longest love poem in the Bible.  Through images and metaphors, this book describes the relationship between the Messiah and the people of God as a courtship and marriage based on love which is “stronger than death” (Song 8:6).

So the Bible begins and ends with marriage, and stresses it in the middle.  We should add that the prophets describe God’s relationship to Israel as a marriage (Isa 56, 60; Hos 2; Jer 1-3; Ezek 16, 23) and Jesus tells parables portraying himself as a Bridegroom come to wed his Bride (Matt 22:1-14; 25:1-13).

Marriage is not incidental in the Bible.  It’s central.

If you don’t “get” marriage, you don’t “get” the message of the Bible. Why is that?  Because marriage is a covenant.  A “covenant” is the extension of kinship by oath.  In other words, it’s a way of swearing someone into your family.

It’s All Part of a Great Story

Now, the Bible is all about covenants.  It’s divided into two of them: the “Old” and the “New”, because “Testament” is just the Latin word for “covenant.” The fourth Eucharistic prayer sums up the whole Old Testament in one phrase: “Time and again you offered them covenants, and through the prophets taught them to hope for salvation.”  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, the story of the Bible is the story of God offering covenants to mankind, because God is always inviting us to become his family (CCC 1).  Jesus came to make the New Covenant, where we become God’s family by ingesting his flesh and blood, so becoming the very “flesh and blood” of God, members of his family.

Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.  It symbolizes the covenant between God and his people. Marriage is celebrated by two persons becoming one flesh in the marriage bed.  The New Covenant is celebrated by God’s people becoming “one flesh” with Christ in the Eucharist.  There is a very close connection between marriage and the Eucharist.

Marriage has to be lifelong, and to one person, because it is a holy icon of the relationship between God and his people (Tweet this).  God does not reject his people, divorce them and leave them and take up with another.  God is always faithful to his people.  And God is not married to several bodies.  He is wedded to one Body, which is the Church (Eph 5). That’s why we don’t divorce and remarry, nor marry more than one person (see Matt 19:6; Mark 10:9).  Doing either of these things destroys marriage as an icon of God’s faithfulness to his people.

(It’s important here to note that an annulment is not a Catholic version of divorce. An annulment is a declaration that a marriage did not actually take place. It does not dissolve a valid marriage.)

Marriage is tied up with what it means that human beings are “made in the image of God.”  Genesis 1:27 describes it this way: “So God created the man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Notice that “the man” (in Hebrew, literally, “the adam”) is both singular and plural: God created him; but as both male and female he created them.  How can the one be two and the two one?  The answer comes at the end of the next chapter: “a man … cleaves to his wife and the two become one flesh.

Notice that being created male and female is united to being created “in the image of God.”  God is most fully “imaged” by the one-flesh union of man and wife.  Both maleness and femaleness have their role in imaging God.  Husband and wife image God (or are an “icon” of God) by representing his permanent, exclusive covenant relationship with his people.  They also image God because husband and wife are two persons whose fruitful love becomes a third person, a child.  This is an icon of the Trinity, in which the love between two persons becomes the third person.

What We Believe About God Impacts What We Believe About Marriage

Because marriage is a sacred icon on the image of God, people’s idea of God and their idea of marriage are always tied.  If you get one wrong, the other will also be wrong.  One’s theology determines one’s matrimony. Atheists, for example, don’t believe that God has any relationship to his people, because to them he doesn’t exist.  Therefore, atheists tend to have no theory of marriage at all, and a number of influential atheist thinkers (like Marx and Engels) have wanted to abolish marriage and the family, or at least minimize them as much as possible.  Muslims, on the other hand, understand God’s relationship between himself and his people as that of master and servant.  For example, the word “Islam” means “submission.”  This becomes reflected in the law and practice of marriage, which in Islamic societies is very imbalanced in favor of the authority of the husband.  And so it goes with other religions and philosophies, as well: one’s view of marriage flows from one’s view of God.

God planned for marriage to be a life-giving relationship. This doesn’t just mean that it ought to lead to the husband and wife having children and starting a family together. It also means inviting Life himself into their marriage. With this understanding, the couple sees the need to pray together, to seek God’s will in their lives at every turn, and to find ways in which they can draw closer to each other while also drawing closer to God—thereby entering into the mystical union of the Trinity and becoming an icon of God’s love for humanity.


This article was originally published on The Great Adventure blog in September 2015.

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Thu, 23 Jun 2016 19:08:28 +0000

Focusing on the connection between this Sunday’s Old Testament and New Testament readings, Jeff Cavins discusses how we must put Christ before all else if we choose to follow him.


First Reading: 1 Kings 19:16B, 19-21
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
Second Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Gospel: Luke 9:51-62

Go deeper into the teachings of Christ and learn more about what it means to follow him in Ascension Press’ newest Great Adventure Bible Study, Follow Me: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John.

Don’t see the video? Watch it here.

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St. John Paul II’s Love & Responsibility: A Bird’s Eye View Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:48:59 +0000 In 1960, then-Karol Wojtyla (later Pope St. John Paul II) wrote a book about love and relationships that still reverberates in the present.

In his words, the two main sources of this work are (1) the Gospel’s call to love (see Jn 15:12-13) and (2) human experience. As for the latter, one might wonder how a celibate man can claim “experiential” knowledge of love and sexuality; but he addresses this objection well: while the priest does not have direct sexual and marital experiences, he has indirect experience—by way of pastoral counsel of many different couples—that is much more extensive than the direct experience of a typical layperson ((trans. Grzegorz Ignatik, Love and Responsibility [Boston, Pauline Books & Media, 2013], xxi).


For Wojtyla, man is made ultimately for love; in making a gift of himself in love, man truly finds himself—truly finds the happiness for which his heart longs (see Mt 16:24-26). But when it comes to romantic relationships, there are things that can get in the way of this profound union of persons—things that can hinder the full blossoming of love.

Sensuality and Affectivity (Sentimentality)

Wojtyla breaks down what he refers to as the psychological experience of love, especially in its beginnings. Initially, we are drawn toward the “sexual values” of the person; these are good in and of themselves, but the danger here is to fixate on them in isolation and actually miss the person at his or her deepest level.

By “sensuality,” Wojtyla is referring to physical attraction. Over and over again, he notes there is nothing inherently wrong with this—it is part of the Creator’s plan to draw us into love; in fact, he states on several occasions that here we find the raw “materials” for love (ibid., 90). But this is not yet love: “For by itself sensuality is completely blind to the person and oriented only toward the sexual value linked to the ‘body’” (ibid., 91).

By “affectivity” (“sentimentality” in the older English translation), Wojtyla is referring to an emotional attraction, an emotional love (ibid., 92-3). This level is obviously deeper than sensuality, but for that reason can be deceptive. If not rooted in something deeper, this emotional experience of love can easily become unmoored from objective reality—from the objective truth of the other person and the relationship between the two.

Here, one is often prone to “idealization”—love goggles, as it were, where we see things in the other that perhaps aren’t really there (ibid., 94-5). I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we couldn’t quite figure out what our friends (or ourselves!) actually saw in the other person. This is the power of affective emotional love, a wonderfully binding force but one which can distort our vision.

As is borne out by experience, Wojtyla notes that often purely emotional love can turn to tragic disappointment in the end, when the relationship turns out to be something less than one originally thought.


As said above, there is nothing wrong with being attracted by the “sexual values” of the person, whether physical or emotional. But for Wojtyla, love is not something ready-made, something we just passively walk into. The task of love is to integrate these sexual values into the full context of the person. Since a person is greater than his or her sexual values, the task of love is to appreciate and admire these values in their proper context, as values of a particular person—and not divorce them in isolation from this fuller context. Wojtyla writes: “So, in every situation in which we experience the sexual value of some person, love demands integration, that is, the incorporation of this value in the value of the person—indeed, its subordination to the value of the person” (ibid., 105).

Chastity—Friend or Foe of Love?

For Wojtyla, the virtue of chastity is emphatically not a “no,” but a great “yes” to the person and to true love: “The essence of chastity lies precisely in ‘keeping up’ with the value of the person in every situation and in ‘pulling up’ to this value every reaction to the value of the ‘body and sex’” (ibid., 155). Chastity enables us to see the person, fully and truly, in every interaction.

If love is identified with simply a physical or emotional experience, then one could say that chastity is a foe of love (see ibid., 128); but such a view neglects the task of integration—and disregards the damage caused by non-integration.

But if love is greater than a mere physical or emotional experience, then chastity is actually the great friend of love. Without chastity, we get enamored and fixated on the sexual values of the person; we can’t see past their physical aspects or how the other makes us feel emotionally. Though we usually don’t realize it at the time, we can fall into a “needy” love—a love where the other “fills me up,” so to speak. We never come to love the person for who they truly are and never come to the point where we desire their good—what is objectively best for them—ahead of how we feel or what we desire.

In this vein, referring to the very title of the book, Wojtyla writes: “[L]ove separated from the sense of responsibility for the person is a denial of itself, and, as a rule, is always egoism. The more the sense of responsibility for the person, the more true love there is” (ibid., 113). And if we want “the good without limits” for the other, then “properly speaking [we] want God” for the other person (ibid., 119-20).

the virtue of chastity is emphatically not a “no,” but a great “yes” to the person and to true love

So if we claim to love someone, we always have to ask ourselves whether our actions are taking them toward or away from their ultimate end—toward or away from God. If our actions are taking them away from God, then our “love” for them likely has more to do with us than the objective good of the other. To this extent, it is a selfish love and not a true love.

One way I’ve put this to my students is by asking: “Would you advise your future teenage son or daughter to do what you’re trying to rationalize for yourself right now?”

The fact is sensual and emotional attraction develop faster than true and committed love. This is why chastity is essential for the full deepening of love: without it, love is arrested before it’s really had the chance to mature—before it’s really had the time to grow roots that will last (for a fuller account of this material, see my John Paul II to Aristotle and Back Again, ch. 7).

Chastity in Marriage?

Because chastity is the virtue that frees us to love—to love the person for who they are and to integrate their sexual values into the full context of the person—there is an abiding place for chastity in marriage. That is, marriage is not a license to use each other sexually. Chastity in marriage calls us to always engage the other as a person—even in and through the sexual act. The sensual and emotional aspects are wonderful and willed by our Creator. But they must always be contextualized by the person; it was in this vein that John Paul II famously said that “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much, but that it shows too little.” That is, pornography shows too little of the person, in its attempt to reduce the person to merely his or her sensual aspects.

A Richer Experience of Love

In fact, in contrast to the “idealization” mentioned above, in the context of committed love in marriage, one begins to feel emotional attachment to the other as he or she truly is, flaws and virtues in all. In this way, the emotional aspect of love attaches to the real, not the idealized version of the other. With “properly integrated” and committed love, Wojtyla writes: “affection … acquires new properties …. [It] makes us affectively love the person as he truly is—not our image of him but the real person. We love him along with his virtues and vices, in a sense independently of the virtues and despite the vices. The greatness of this love is manifested the most when this person falls, when his weaknesses or even sins come to light. One who truly loves does not then refuse his love, but in a sense loves even more—he loves while being conscious of deficiencies and vices without, however, approving of them” (ibid., 116-7).

Indeed, I often tell my students that marriage is when your spouse will see you at your worst and love you through it.

How can we truly love those around us, seeking first and foremost their good, and rise above our spontaneous reactions and desires in the moment?

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