The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study https://biblestudyforcatholics.com 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:56:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Did Someone Hang Up on Your Call to Love? https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/someone-hang-call-love/ Wed, 14 Feb 2018 20:56:49 +0000 https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/?p=10570 Vocation. It’s a big deal to those who are trying to sort out who they are, why they’re really here, and what the heck is going on in their lives. Does God want me to be married, single, or a religious? Those questions can drive you crazy if you’re not careful. And even when you think you have it right, something could change it all.

Jeff discerned the priesthood but a few years into seminary his superiors advised that he choose another path in life.

Bethany has been single for thirteen years but is still aching for marriage.

Bill was married for twenty years but his wife left him and their three teen-aged sons last month.

So what happens to your vocation when it gets cancelled, never shows up, or walks out the door? This happened to me when I had to face divorce in my forties and then the fifteen-year-long prospect of being single, and not by choice.  It was an agonizing period—the best years of my life, I’d often exclaim!—where I was trying to find where I fit.

The answer is always to look to Christ. Seek him. Call out to him. But here’s the problem: when someone doesn’t really know him, or trust him very much, she will look to others for help. Like I did. And that’s where saints can point the way.

I do go to Scripture and read God’s words, but I’m also comforted by reading what someone like me has to say, someone who was not perfect, who struggled, fell, got back up, fell again, had doubts, got angry, cried, complained, but then surrendered to what he or she was seeking. I found some consoling wisdom from St. Therese of Lisieux, woman, saint, Doctor of the Church and someone who struggled with her vocation. She wanted to hang a label on it, mystical spouse, mother, soldier, martyr, and more, but each one—as helpful as it was—left her restless. Finally she found the answer, summarized in a little book called My Vocation is Love: Therese of Lisieux by Jean Lafrance:

To be your Spouse, O Jesus, to be a Carmelite, by my union with you to be the mother of souls, should content me… yet it does not… Without doubt, these three privileges are indeed my vocation: Carmelite, spouse, and mother. And yet I feel in myself other vocations—I feel myself called to be a soldier, priest, apostle, doctor of the church, martyr….

She, like me and maybe you, was consoled by the words of another saint, Paul, who talked about all the different members of the Body of Christ and their different gifts and vocations (1 Corinthians 12 and 13). Her struggles ended when she realized that no vocation had meaning if there was not first and always LOVE:

I understood that the Church has a heart, and that this heart burns with Love. I understood that Love alone makes its members act, that if this Love were to be extinguished, the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood… I understood that Love embraces all vocations, that Love is all things, that it embraces all times and all places… in a word, that it is eternal!

You may have a specific vocation based on your deepest personal desires, gifts, and talents. But that call to love may someday, somehow be adversely affected by circumstances beyond your control. When that happens, remember that your universal vocation is always there … to love. My suggestions?

Replace the sometimes clinical word “vocation” with “call to love.” You won’t forget its deepest meaning.

  • Ask the Lord to open your heart first to receive more of his love so that you have more to give out to others.
  • Thank God for his love for you.
  • Let go of any anxiety that comes with waiting, wounds, or unrealistic expectations. Keep the big picture in mind.
  • Look around. Who in your home, workplace, on the road, or in the store needs YOU to love them right now? What can you do to say that will ease pain, restore hope, offer kindness, build up, encourage, and be a generous gift of self?

That’s your primary vocation. No matter what else happens.


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The First Sunday of Lent https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/first-sunday-lent-2/ Wed, 14 Feb 2018 19:35:47 +0000 https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/?p=10560

In this week’s Encountering the Word video for the First Sunday of Lent (Year B), Jeff Cavins helps us enter into Lent with not just faith in what Jesus taught, but a genuine trust in Jesus the person. The readings are:

First Reading: Genesis 9:8-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22
Verse Before the Gospel: Matthew 4:4B
Gospel: Mark 1:12-15


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The Importance of Christian Community https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/importance-christian-community/ Thu, 08 Feb 2018 20:14:44 +0000 https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/?p=10564 The worst place to get into a heated debate with someone about the Catholic Faith is in the work place. It’s a different story if the discussion is cordial and one topic at a time is being discussed; but there are many people who unfortunately have several misconceptions about Catholicism—and Christianity in general—which in turn leads to many conversations going off the rails.

I found myself in one such conversation, where my interlocutor was rapidly firing a whole litany of charges against the Catholic Church. One of those charges went something like this: “The Catholic Church is so corrupt with all the money it takes from people, so it’s clear that this church isn’t authentic or pure Christianity. True Christianity can be found in the garage of a man sitting alone at his work bench, reading a Bible. It’s so different from what Catholics do.”

Well, he got one thing right: a man sitting alone in his garage with Sacred Scripture is definitely different from how Catholics view a relationship with Jesus Christ. Catholics see themselves as part of the mystical Body of Christ. This is why we worship together in our “purest” act of Christian love, the Sacrifice of the Mass. So without going into this person’s other fallacies, we should ask ourselves the following question: is it better for Christians to worship and share their faith by coming together in a community, or is it better for Christians to use the “Jesus and me” or “Bible and me” model when trying to live a robust life in Christ?

To find the answer, we can turn to Scripture. There are many examples within the New Testament that point to the need of fellowship among Christians. This can be manifested either in small groups or in large assemblies like at a Pontifical High Mass. Keep in mind that there is always a time and a place for personal and private prayer. However, the communal life of Christians is also something which must be given its proper place.

Christian Community in the Bible

Probably the first Bible verse that immediately jumps to mind is one found in the Gospel of Matthew. Our Lord says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). So the best part about gathering together as Christians is that we can be assured that Jesus is there among us. This, of course, can still be experienced in some sense outside of Mass or Eucharistic adoration. Remember how the Body of Christ was mentioned above? Christ is in our hearts by virtue of our baptism; by virtue of our incorporation into his Body. So in a very real way, encounters with other Christians during a Bible study, or a Rosary meet up, or a faith-sharing session in a small group all constitute a legitimate meeting with our Lord.

Another aspect of the Christian life that is of the utmost importance is the building up of the Body. We already see that this happens through gathering in community with each other to worship our Lord in common. But this building up also happens through encouraging each other. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews is very explicit on the importance of both points in the life of the Christian:

“[L]et us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

So first off, he reminds us not to neglect meeting together. Obviously, he’s referring to the Mass here. But he takes it a step further and asks that we as Christians “stir up one another”. Now, he’s not telling us to stir the pot and antagonize our brethren. Instead, we are to encourage and embolden each other to carry out good works in love. The Book of Acts also makes it clear that the baptized had “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) This encouragement and fellowship is sorely needed today, especially when many Catholics who, for instance, enter secular life on a college campus find themselves without any kind of support for their faith.

Community Increases Love

But there’s also another reason why it is imperative that Christians interact with each other, and it’s contingent on the other reasons laid out above. The more we get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ, the more comfortable we become with them. The more comfortable we become around our brethren, the deeper our personal relationship with them grows, leading us to know each other inside and out. These people become the ones that can hold us accountable. They can let us know when we’re straying off the straight and narrow path. These friends know our struggles, and they can then encourage us as we strive to become more Christ-like. The example of the paralytic man in the Gospels is a good allegory for this. Although he was physically sick, we can easily put ourselves in his shoes as we have all been spiritually sick at one time or another. We’ve been so bogged down by sin that we feel like we can’t do anything right on our own.

But if we have a circle of friends within the Christian community that can rally around us with prayers, we too can be healed due to their intercession just as the paralytic was healed on account of his friends’ intercession. Just as they lowered the paralytic down into the home where Jesus was at, so too our friends can lift us up in prayer as we are all one body in Christ. For as St. Paul said in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12: 26-27)

No man is an island to himself. Without friends, especially brothers and sisters in the Lord, around us, we become lonely and isolated. There’s a reason why God gave Adam a partner, after all. It doesn’t do us any good to go through life without a support system, and what better support system than the Body of Christ?! Without that support we find through our community, we have no one around who can build us up, or better yet “stir us up” to love and do those good works that our Lord asks us to do.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that you only need a Bible to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, make sure you let them know that the Body of Christ extends outside of ourselves. We were made to complement each other, and we were made to serve God by bringing as many of our friends and neighbors to him as possible.


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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/sixth-sunday-ordinary-time-2/ Wed, 07 Feb 2018 18:26:46 +0000 https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/?p=10555

In this week’s video for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B), Jeff Cavins reflects on the Sunday Readings and makes a compelling case for walking in holiness:

First Reading: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 32:1-2, 5, 11
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Alleluia: Luke 7:16
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45


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Small Groups: An Ancient Idea for a Digital Age https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/small-groups-ancient-idea-digital-age/ https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/small-groups-ancient-idea-digital-age/#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 18:20:04 +0000 https://biblestudyforcatholics.com/?p=10552 Jesus came to earth to establish his kingdom and manifest his kingdom in his works, but that work was not finished when he died and rose from the dead. It was to be continued by his followers—by his disciples. Significantly, the Bible states that they were not expected to carry out this work unilaterally but rather as community and family—in fellowship with one another—supporting, encouraging, and correcting one another.

And so we see from the very beginning—with the disciples continuing Christ’s mission—a connection between that mission and his followers’ relationships with each other. Small gatherings of Christians were very important for the development of the early Church. In Acts 2:41-42, St. Luke writes, “So those who received his word were baptized…. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Implicit in this statement is the critically important idea of the small group setting of the early Church that deserves our attention. It wasn’t just at the temple or a meeting hall where teaching took place. It was small groups getting together in house churches. There they would receive the apostles’ teaching and fellowship with one another. With that powerful bond of fellowship they encouraged one another in the midst of the journey of faith, and exchanged ideas and insights. This is the source from which authentic communities develop.

In my work with The Great Adventure and Ascension for almost three decades, I have witnessed hundreds of parishes transform and become vibrant in large part by simply following the small group model of the early Church. Reclaiming this model may be the single most important thing we can do to strengthen the Church today.

Here are seven good reasons to make small group experiences the center of your faith formation efforts:

1. Affirmation as a Member of the Body of Christ

You’re not alone. You have a common experience with other people. That’s a very important dynamic when you’re trying to live counter to the culture. When there are others trying to do that and you meet with them and learn, pray, fellowship, and even share a meal with one another, that’s affirming. The small group gives a place to ask questions, see other people in their journey, and the successes they’ve enjoyed, or the struggles they’ve encountered.

2. Healing and Support

If you find yourself in a struggle, you have a group of people whom you’re closer to, and with whom you might be able to share. This is especially true for men’s and women’s small groups, because it offers the opportunity to share with other men and women, and ask for advice as you might do from your brother or sister.

Also, when there’s somebody in the group that’s hurt, or when there’s trauma in someone’s life, the people in the group surround them and are able to bring healing, hope, and support to the one that is hurting.

3. A Witness for Children

Often small groups will meet with their children. When children see their parents praying and in fellowship with other adults discussing the Faith, this has a lasting influence on the children’s longevity in their church community. This witness has a profound impact on their own attachment to their church.

4. Building Community

Within a parish setting, when there are small self-organizing groups studying the Bible and the Faith together, it becomes an ideal way to bring new people and entire families into the parish. In this way, people will begin to see their church as not just a building where we go for the sacraments, but a genuine meeting place for Christian communities.

Also, small groups provide a built-in web of relationships within a parish. When a pastor utilizes small groups he has created a network in which people can immediately find care. It’s almost like little emergency rooms around a parish. The pastor can send quick word to the small groups to pray for a particular issue, or to steer their attention to something that’s timely or really important. There’s an automatic web of communication that arises in a parish through small groups.

5. Fostering Leadership

If we’re all called to be disciples, it also means we’re called to be leaders. A leader has the courage and conviction to say “follow me.” What better way to foster leadership than through small groups where people learn to lead by example? Small groups allow a pastor to interface with a certain number of potential leaders and help form and encourage them so they can serve in the parish.

6. It’s a Good Reason to Get Together with Friends

We live in a society where people have never been more connected thanks to social media. But by people’s own admission, we are lonelier than we’ve ever been, we feel more separate than we’ve ever felt before, and we’re not created to live that way. We are created to be social beings. We’re created for relationship. “We’re radically relational,” as Catholic evangelist and speaker Kelly Wahlquist puts it. We desire to be with other people, to receive the comfort and encouragement of other people.

One of the reasons people won’t go to a church study is because it’s impersonal. They don’t know a lot of the people there. But a small group allows you to get together with people you may know, with whom you may have something in common. Then you can begin to study the Faith from that place of fellowship.

7. Small Groups Mean More Groups

If a parish announces that there will be a study on Mary in Room 102 on Tuesday night at seven, the church is asking many people experiencing different things in their life, at different times, at different levels, to all be available at one time in one place for one topic. The odds that everybody who needs that study will be able to meet at seven are slim. You’re asking a very busy, diverse group of people to fit into one time slot. This is one of the reasons many people don’t attend. Their schedule doesn’t allow it.

With small groups and Ascension’s video streaming options, a parish can hold multiple studies in the parish at multiple levels, times, and places, and on multiple topics. We make it easy to start a group and share an amazing experience with others. Meet at your parish. Your home. At school. At a bar, a library, or a prison cell. With friends, co-workers … however, wherever, and with whomever you want. Through our study management tools and video streaming, you can make connections with others anywhere.

The opportunities this helps create for people to encounter Christ in study and formation are almost endless. It’s just dependent upon the organization, the leadership training, and the level of commitment. The beautiful thing about Ascension’s study streaming option is that you basically have gone from one restricted time, space, and topic, and you have multiplied the opportunities in so many ways. We’re seeing parishes that used to have one study twice a year—one in the spring and one in the fall—now having ten in the spring, four in the summer, thirteen in the fall, but they’re smaller groups each accommodating different times and locations.

In terms of running small group studies, video streaming offers churches more powerful and flexible options than ever before. While parishes and groups used to be limited by a finite number of DVD sets they were able to purchase, now the possibilities are virtually unlimited.

Definitely Worth the Effort

All of these reasons, at their heart, are about evangelization. Small groups are the ideal setting to encounter Christ, and it has been this way since the dawn of Christianity. The first Christians knew the value of relationship, not just with Christ but also with one another. It’s easy to forget the power of genuine fellowship in our fast-paced, media-saturated culture, but those who take the time to come together and help form one another in the Faith do more for themselves and their community than they can ever know.

This article was first published in Ascension’s 2017 Faith Formation Catalog.


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