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June 5th – “Pray Without Ceasing”

Introduction

Father Fryml led this morning with personal responsibility for prayer and gave each participant an opportunity to share his own prayer practices and disciplines. Following are two touchstones, one from Sacred Scripture and one from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to guide us as we grow in that essential of Christian faith.

Matthew 6:5-14 (NABRE) – Jesus Teaching

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 

In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.

If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

 Catechism of the Catholic Church – Part Four

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has four parts:

Part One – The Profession of Faith focuses on the Creeds.
Part Two – The Celebration of the Christian Mystery focuses on the Sacraments.
Part Three – Life in Christ focuses on the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments.
Part Four – Christian Prayer focuses on understanding of prayer and the Our Father.

Below is a screen shot of the introduction to Part Four from the Vatican website. Note the key sentence following a referral to Parts One, Two, and Three of the Catechism: This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.”

Then follows ~ seventy pages on prayer under these major headings:
Chapter One: The Revelation of Prayer
Chapter Two: The Tradition of Prayer
Chapter Three: The Life of Prayer
And a whole section on the Our Father

And, by the way, the three-word Bible verse in the title of this post is 1 Thessalonians 5:16.

 

Universalis App Bonus

In the “About Today” section of the Universalis App is an unattributed essay, Theological Science, referencing the Acts 15 account of the Jerusalem Council. It seems to me to be well-written and thought provoking so I decided to share it with the MPG along with a recommendation to download the app to your phones. I have it and i-Breviary and use both to varying degrees in search of inspiration.

It is interesting to contrast the Acts 4 Sanhedrin debate about trouble-makers Peter and John with the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council debate among the “apostles and presbyters” about the Gentile believer issue. The first seems to be about political positioning and the latter a search for truth.

Of course The Church, contrary to the first sentence in the essay, “decides” a lot of things but hopefully not the theological basics which should be matters of revelation consistent with science if not pure science. I am surprised the word “revelation” does not show up in the essay.

Here is a screen shot of the essay:

theological science

Acts Facts – A Roadmap

Reading the short passages from Acts it is easy to miss the big picture, a captivating story easily read in a single sitting. Below is a brief summary of major events in each of the 28 chapters. It’s something I put together a few years ago and just thought it might be helpful. It is interesting that the first of the book (Chapters 1-12) is all about Peter and the remainder all about Paul.

In an earlier post, Luke/Acts Birth of the Church Luke and Acts are linked in a single narrative about the birth of the church. St. Luke was my confirmation saint, chosen because he wrote more than 25% of the New Testament.

St. Gregory of Nyssa

I fail to be inspired by many of the writings of the church fathers, but this beautiful writing from today’s Office of Readings, a sixteen hundred year old explanation of how everything changed with the Incarnation and Resurrection and presence of the Holy Spirit seems to be particularly clear and inspirational. I recommend the Office of Readings which often includes a short blurb from a church father. The Universalis app offers an expanded version of Morning Prayer which includes the selections for the Office of Readings.

 

Office of Readings – Revelation

For any of you struggling with Revelation in the Office of Readings, here is a link for a Catholic Answers article on the subject. The article focuses on Revelation 17-18, readings for yesterday and today. You will find this Imprimatur at the end of the article.

Nothing else in this post, my wonderings, is covered by the above Imprimatur.

Many have argued that, whether we understand Revelation or not, it is pretty sure that those 1st Century Christians to whom it was written understood it. Well, maybe, but the ancient Jews, the Children of Israel, had trouble understanding or at least obeying the Law and the Prophets.

Reading these chapters from Revelation makes me wonder if they were a warning to the Church against alignment with Rome (Babylon), the alignment that began with emperors Constantine and Theodosius, and resulted in church-state struggles and citizens being defined as Christian or not Christian based simply on who ruled. That didn’t end well.

It was Revelation 18:4-5 that made me think of that question:
Then I heard another voice from heaven say:“Depart from her,[d] my people, so as not to take part in her sins and receive a share in her plagues for her sins are piled up to the sky, and God remembers her crimes.

As I said, I’m just wondering, not teaching. Revelation has always been mysterious to me and to most people. I recall when a popular argument was that the locusts in Revelation were a prophecy of the helicopters in Vietnam. (Even now, Googling “revelation locusts helicopters” gets about 90,000 hits.)

May 15th, 2019 – Evangelization

Father Linsky led a discussion on evangelization beginning with these three Bible quotes.

Acts 12:24 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

24 But the word of God continued to spread and grow.

Romans 10:13-15 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 [a]But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? 15 And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!”[b

1 Peter 3:14-16 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

14 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

Father also shared a quote from a new book by William E. Simon, Jr., Catholic layman who failed in a 2002 bid for governorship of California. It was the third quote in the clip below from the Good Reads website. Simon, son of former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, Sr., is in the investment business, chairs his own foundation, and is a member of the Society of Emeritus Trustees of the Heritage Foundation. The book looks pertinent and interesting. The Kindle version is available at Amazon for $9.99.

Also referenced was the Pope Paul VI Encyclical, On Evangelization in the Modern World. That book also shows up on Good Reads (screen shot below) and can be purchased at amazon.com for $4.95.


It might be said that the keys to successful evangelization are personal experience of life in Jesus Christ, in the Church (His Body) and at least basic theological and Bible education, both essentials for ability to “bring the Good News” and to “give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for our hope.” So, we may be well advised to increase our worship, service, study, speech, and writing, always praying for wisdom and understanding and demonstrating love as we do so.

 

And, of course, there is always opportunity for advancement as well as temptation to regress. So, we must persevere, moving always in the right direction.

And, finally, a minority opinion on horn blowing which may be, not a sign of rage, but a gift to the person who is distracted and especially to the line of following drivers who are hoping to get through the light before it changes.

May 1, 2019 – John 3:16

John 3:16 King James Version (KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Importance of Context

Thanks to Father Linsky for putting these beautiful, encouraging, and famous words from the Gospel of St. John  in context, an essential step in correct interpretation and understanding of Sacred Scripture. It is important to remember that the writers of the various books of the Bible did not divide them up into chapters and verses. The divisions we commonly see in current English versions are only about 600 years old. So, St. John might be quite disturbed to find that Christians are going around quoting that one sentence from his theologically deep and profound story of Jesus’s encounter with Nicodemus, often not even knowing from whence the sentence came.

OT – NT Connections and Paragraphs

Speaking of verses and chapters, and the OT connections, some translations even go so far as to add paragraphs. I’m not a student of typology so have never given serious thought to those OT connections with Moses and with Abraham and Isaac, connections that were very important to first century Jewish understanding of who Jesus was and of the meaning of this encounter with Nicodemus. The online NABRE linked at this blog shows verses 14 and 15,  the reference to Moses and the serpent, at the end of a paragraph and John 3:16 as the beginning of a new paragraph. Given the discussion this morning, I would acknowledge the connection only son sacrifice connection between God/Jesus and Abraham/Isaac by beginning a new paragraph with verse 14. But, that is just an idea of course.

john 3 14 15 16

The Whole Story

We can be easily misled and even build heresies on single “verses” pulled out of context and perhaps even by single books pulled out of context. As Dan pointed out, John 3:16 is true, the Gospel in a nutshell, but doesn’t tell the whole story. Where are the Beatitudes and the Our Father? They are not in the Gospel According to St. John.  And with only John’s Gospel, we know nothing of the birth, baptism, temptation, or transfiguration of Jesus Christ, and find no mention of repentance. So, in seeking the whole truth, we have to consider the Sacred Scriptures in their entirety.

Translation Difficulties

Another issue, even with single verses, is difficulty in translation of ancient Greek and Hebrew into meaningful modern English language. Bill pointed out that the Greek word translated “believe” really means trust and goes far beyond mere intellectual belief. Below is what a Bible Greek dictionary says about the word and about the following little three-letter Greek word which is translated “in” or “into” and, according to the Greek Bible dictionary, “denotes purpose and sometimes result.” One could say that since the verb can be translated “believe in,” the verb plus the preposition gives double emphasis much as when Jesus proclaims “I Iam” or “Amen amen.” All three examples are characteristic of the Gospel of John.

definitions

And here is what the subject verse looks like in Greek, the two key words being highlighted in yellow. More information HERE.

pistueo eis

It is interesting to see how various translators of English versions have handled that little highlighted Greek phrase. Of fifty-six versions checked, fifty-two translate it as belief in or on. The Amplified Bible hedges the bet a bit by translating as “believes and trusts.” The Amplified Bible Classic Edition adds parenthetically “(trusts in, clings to, relies on).” The Contemporary English Version translates as “has faith in.” The New Life Version translates as “puts his trust in.” The Complete Jewish Bible translates as “trusts in.” So, even without looking at the Greek, insights can be gained from considering how different translators have handled the problem.

A Simple Example

To take a simple example to illustrate the difference between believing that and believing in or into, it is one thing to believe that global warming is real but something entirely different to “believe into” global warming which might result in getting off the grid and going 100% solar, giving up driving, beef, air conditioning, moving to higher ground further north, shutting down the churches as unjustified energy consumers, etc. In Bible Greek terms, in John’s Gospel, believing in or into something means a change in one’s life. (I’m not suggesting that we all “believe in” global warming. I think that is, or at least should be, more political than religious.)

Occurrences of That Two-Word Greek Phrase

An interesting fact about the two-word Greek phrase highlighted above is that it never occurs in Matthew, Mark, or Luke but occurs 14 times in John, once in 1st John, and once in Acts. For the really curious, here are all sixteen occurrences, NABRE English but based on a search of the Greek Phrase.

believe in verses

Skipping the Greek – Conclusion

This suggests that “belief in Jesus” is a key theme of the Gospel of John. Backing off from consideration of any Greek, we can search just the NABRE for instances of appearance of believe, believes, believer, believing, and believed. It is interesting that we find only one in Matthew, three in Mark, one in Luke, but twenty nine in John. That clearly supports belief in “belief” as a key theme of John and suggests value in paying especially close attention whenever forms of that word are encountered in John. And the general idea for John seems to be that “belief in” involves faith and trust and reliance and motivates and results in change and action. It is not just mental or intellectual.