Today’s discussion made me think of the “memory verse” of my youth: “I was glad when they said unto me Let us go into the house of the Lord.” – Psalm 122:1
Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about:
Today’s discussion made me think of the “memory verse” of my youth: “I was glad when they said unto me Let us go into the house of the Lord.” – Psalm 122:1
Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about:
Given that Brian pointed out Wednesday morning that our readings this year will be from the Gospel According to St. Mark and my recommendation of the Catholic Study Bible, I though it would be a good idea to look up a few key points from the latter about the former.
Maybe those folks who memorize the Gospel of Mark begin with memorizing the list of events. But that is just in Chapter 1. So, there is a lot going on in the Gospel of Mark.
Question: Where is the stained glass window in St. Peter’s Church depicting St. Mark? Click HERE for answer.
Brian Durocher led the discussion. We started out talking about “Ordinary Time” in the Church Calendar Year. We have just begun the short period of Ordinary Time between Christmas and Lent. And we are in Year B for Mass Readings which means we will be concentrating on the Gospel of Mark.
Below is a very simple calendar I prepared for the Sixth Grade Religious Education Class at St. Peters, a semi-successful attempt to get the attention of sixth graders. There is some information there about the liturgical colors also. To get the whole calendar with all feasts and memorials and solemnities and Saints, you can find all 45 pages at the USCCB website.
Below is an interesting quote about the term “ordinary” from this website. Turns out the definition is not one we would be using in the 21st century.
After that, several other topics were introduced but with no obvious theme.
We briefly mentioned differences in the Gospels due to different viewpoints of writers and different times written. Here are a couple of exhibits left over from a previous Lutheran Confirmation class I was teaching, semi-successful attempts to hold the attention of eighth graders.
Here is a plug for owning and using a Catholic Study Bible which offers lots of explanation about translation issues, context, word meanings, cross references, etc., and can greatly increase the value of reading Sacred Scripture. It has a few semesters worth of scholarly helps by Catholic scholars and theologians and can greatly enrich our reading of The Bible.
Just to whet your appetite, here is part of the contents page.
And, finally, I suppose there are two reasons nobody objects to Bibles in prisons. One is that the prisoners are not minors with parents of various religious persuasions worrying about what their children are being told in the classroom. At least kids raised by parents like that are less likely to end up in prison.
The other reason is that it is mostly Christians obeying the commands of Jesus who are involved in ministry to prisoners, and they are likely to be carrying Bibles with them when they visit.
How do we explain a self-sufficient, eternal, Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who began a process of creation millions of years ago and then about 4000 years ago, beginning with one man (Abraham) called to be the father of a people, began a process of redemptive self-revelation that culminated, two thousand years ago, in God taking on flesh and walking around among the people in a small part of the world, performing miracles, healing, feeding, serving, and eating with them, teaching His way, His commandments, and establishing His Church, His Body, charged with continuing His work, and the Sacraments, and finally, for all of us, was crucified, and was resurrected and returned to His Heavenly Home.
Forget it. We cannot fully explain it. All we can do is give thanks for the gift of faith and try to live it, worshiping reverently, serving sacrificially, loving unconditionally, trusting and obeying joyfully, doing better each day than in the day before.
That is not to say that there are not simple explanations, often rooted in carefully selected portions of Sacred Scripture, but just that they must and always will fall short of the full Divine Mystery.
Many of those simple explanations were and are heresies. At this link is a simple summary of most of the heresies about Jesus including deism, adoptionism, Monarchianism, patripassinism, modalism, Arianism, polytheism, Nestorianism, Manichaeism, Monophysitism, Docetism, Gnosticism, monothelitism, bogomilism, Catharism, albigensianism, patarenism, pelagianism, and universalism. I didn’t capitalize any of those. Word spell check did it automatically which illustrates that some are still viewed as religions rather than just categories of error.
One of the simplest explanations of the Gospel is The Four Spiritual Laws composed by Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright probably fifty years ago. Another is The Roman Road, a simple explanation of how to be “saved” based only on a few verses from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. You can read about these and others at this evangelistic website. If we expect to be able to bear reasonable and credible witness to our Catholic Faith, we need to be aware of these explanations and know how to respond to them.
I think there is little doubt that many have been “saved” through these simple explanations of Christian theology and have then enjoyed a life of spiritual growth and Christian service, sometimes even ending up in the Catholic Church. But the problem with them is that they say nothing about The Triune God, creation of the universe, original sin, the Jewish people, the Ten Commandments, the promises of a savior through the ages, the miracle of the Incarnation, the life and ministry and teachings of Jesus, the founding and importance and function of The Church, or the Sacraments, These simple explanations are mostly about me getting saved and not much at all about The Triune God, Creator of the Universe. They are good invitations to a well-designed and taught RCIA class.
Well, maybe we shouldn’t forget it. Maybe we really do need to figure out a simple way to explain our faith in a way that makes people want to join that RCIA class. Here is one proposal by Eric Stoutz of Catholics United for the Faith for Five Spiritual Laws, a Catholic version of the Four Spiritual Laws. I quote:
1) Belief in an existing transcendent God who is Creator of the Universe and holds all persons and things in being.
2) Man in the person of our first parents fell from grace to become spiritually dead, and needed Redemption to reach heaven.
3) The Only-begotten Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity, had mercy upon His sinful creatures and became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This was the fulfillment of God’s Plan of salvation as revealed in the Old and New Testaments and culminating in the Divine Person of Our Savior dying on the Cross in expiation of the sins of mankind. By His death, heaven was again opened to mankind.
4) We are saved by faith in Christ Our Savior and His doctrines (basically outlined in the ancient Apostles’ Creed) and by the good works performed with the help of Christ’s grace flowing from devout prayer and the sacraments He instituted in His Catholic Church. One becomes a Christian by being incorporated into the Church by the sacrament of Baptism and will be saved by continuing to live with His divine life.
5) The whole Christian life is summarized by the goal of becoming a saint, to reach Christian perfection and to give God glory by becoming holy. The chief occupation of the Christian now and in eternity is to give glory to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. He does this by observing God’s Ten Commandments, the precepts of the Church, participation in the sacraments and worship of the Church, which are all grounded in the love of Christ who sacrificed Himself for our salvation. Those who love Christ to the end, dying in the state of grace, will be saved and resurrected to forever join the angels and Saints in heaven. Those who do not die in the state of grace and the love of Christ will be damned body and soul in hell forever.
Well, maybe that is still a bit over-simplified, and can certainly be improved, but it is an approach that might make people want to join that RCIA class. And, if somebody approaches us with The Four Spiritual Laws, we can listen politely, declare them wonderful, and invite them to our Church, a Full Gospel Church, to hear The Rest of the Story.
During the meeting we discussed John 3:16 and the source and meaning of the phrase “only begotten.” There is some really neat stuff at this website (screen shot below) about the Greek used in the New Testament original manuscripts : It tells us, for example,
Below is John 3:16 in 24 English translations. “Begotten” shows up in 13 of the translations. The problem with the word is that it can be understood to imply that The Son is/was a creation of the Father and did not always exist. Well, that is the heresy of Arianism that was condemned and denied in the Nicene Creed, the Church’s answer to the best way to explain the meaning of the Greek :
“…one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, Consubstantial with the Father. Through Him all things were made…”
So, it is not necessary to study Greek to get some understanding of the original languages. And it is easy to see why “one and only” is a better English translation than “only begotten,” a phrase probably first appearing in the King James Version. There is a very concise history of English translations of the Bible, sources used for the translations, and uses of them by Catholics and various denominations here.
Pulling Bible verses out of context often leads to trouble. Here is John 3:16 (bold print) in context:
John 3:1-21 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to him, “How can this happen?” Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
That raises an important question. What is the meaning of “believes in?”
Maybe it has something to do with John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Or maybe 1 John 2:1-6 My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world. The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live (just) as he lived.
And that too raises important questions. Speaking of commandments, what does it mean to love with all our soul, all our heart, and all our mind?
Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
It probably means we have work to do. Divine mystery is complicated.
And, finally, if we choke on the challenging fifth of the proposed Five Catholic Spiritual Laws, there is this: Matthew 5:48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I have been fascinated with the organization of and use of the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours. I just noticed today that Psalm 63 and Psalm 149, used in Morning Prayer on Sunday of Week 1, are also used throughout the Octave of Christmas and the Octave of Easter and most Feast Days and Solemnities and a host of other days. I did a quick Google search to see if anybody knows why that is and found this interesting blog post by a Priest who wonders the same thing. Here is his quote on those two Psalms:
“Psalms 63 and 149 and the Canticle of Daniel certainly have their place of prominence. Not only are they prayed on Sunday I morning, but are the “go to” psalms for all feasts and the Octave of Christmas and Easter.”
But, he doesn’t know why either. He also commented on the three Psalms that are not included anywhere:
“You begin to wonder what these three psalms did to deserve this lack of acknowledgement. When you look up the three psalms, why not Psalms 58, 83, 109? Are they so bad they could not make the cut?”
No answers to that question either. I’m feeling better but no less curious.
I think here is the most important and insightful quote in his post:
The psalms truly are the prayers of humanity. There is something there for everyone. They do reflect the human condition, unfortunately too much so. Scholars state that two-thirds of the psalms are prayers of complaining, struggle and the darkness of humanity.
Check out his post. It is pretty interesting.
Here are those most common two Psalms. Given the last three verses of each, I would have chosen different ones I believe. Why not Psalm 23 and Psalm 100? It is interesting that in the Liturgy, the first and those last three verses of Psalm 63 are omitted, only 2-9 used. But nothing is omitted from Psalm 149.
Here is a handy summary of usage of all the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours. The basic chart was found online HERE and I added some notations including the list of uses of 63 and 149. We get a very small dose in our Wednesday Morning MPG.
Why this information? I guess just to help us think about what we are saying when we pray the Psalms. We don’t want to do it mindlessly! The Morning Prayer with Father Linsky for the last eighteen months has certainly broadened my interest in the Psalms, and I have been doing the Morning Prayer almost every day since Advent 2016, trying to pay attention to the various messages and themes of the Psalms.
Finally, there is a very nice article here titled “Exploring the origins of the Liturgy of the Hours.” It goes all the way from contributions of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to the most recent 1971 modifications by Pope Paul VI. But it doesn’t explain why Psalms 63 and 149 are used so much and 58, 83, and 109 not at all.
See you Wednesday morning I hope.
We began with a discussion of Mary, left alone at home, after departure of the Angel Gabriel who had just shown up uninvited with an unexpected announcement of an unexplainable pregnancy. It was the topic of Father Linsky’s recent homily at the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It seems to me that the point of the ensuing discussion was that we all, like Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Zachariah, have a role to play in God’s “Theodrama” and must seek to understand and play that role, even if we feel alone. So, how will we respond?
I’ll give Bishop Barron credit for the term “Theodrama,” used in his brief commentary on the Visitation, the Gospel Reading on the Third Thursday of Advent. He differentiates God’s “theodrama” from our own “egodramas” and challenges us to switch from the latter to the former. I recommend subscribing to his free Daily Gospel Reflections. They are very short. Here is a screen shot of what he wrote about Mary’s immediate action, alone following the departure of the angel. She headed out to tell somebody about it.
In Luke Chapter 1, the story of the Annunciation, ending with the Angel departing and leaving Mary alone, is followed immediately by the story of the Visitation, Mary anxious to share her story with another leading character in the Theodrama. Below are both stories in an outline form common in New Testament writing, the beginnings and endings clearly pointed out and the primary message in a center high point of the story. (These ancient texts had no chapters or verses and used such structures to point out beginnings and endings.)
At Confession during Advent 2012 I lamented my own lack of spirituality, and the Priest challenged me to read a particular book on Christian Spirituality. I know when it happened because I can look back through my Amazon purchases and see when I bought the book, The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser, a Priest and specialist in the fields of spirituality and systematic theology.
The point of the book is that as humans created “in the image of God,” we are inherently spiritual beings and must face and answer the question of how to harness and direct that spirituality, how to play our role in God’s theodrama.
I see I scribbled in the margin of the book at my first reading the last few words of the Boy Scout Oath: To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. I suppose a Christian theologian might have added, “Spiritually Focused because a person could certainly be physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight and still never accomplish anything worthwhile or make any progress or even worry about his or her role in God’s theodrama, instead being caught up only in his or her egodrama, trying to feel good and become rich and successful or popular without lying, cheating, or stealing. It makes me think of an old self-righteous expression of my youth: “I don’t smoke and I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls that do.” (Sorry about that.) Anyway, the book and ideas on spirituality just seemed a nice tie-in to Bishop Barron’s reflection.
(He stopped writing!)
(Part of discussion about stereotypical male misbehavior’s.)
3. In discussion about evangelism, someone mentioned a particular Catholic Church experiencing dynamic growth. It is Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland, with the simple mission: Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples, clearly adapted from the Greatest Commandments and The Great Commission. You can take a look at their website here. They are using Podcasts as part of their Christian Education. You can listen to one on The Bible here. And, if you want to hear their Praise Band, it is here. I’m guessing the median age of their parishioners may be quite different from that of St. Peter’s.
No Men’s Prayer Group Meeting next week, December 27th. That is good since I have a Home Works project that day with a bunch of Presbyterian Youth. I could use the prayer but also will need the sleep. I’m meeting the youth at 10am after it gets warm enough, hopefully, to paint.
Here is an excerpt from an ancient writing about St. Lucy. Click on the “Read more” to read the whole thing…just one page. The last paragraph with complaints about young Christian ladies of the seventh century is interesting.
|ST LUCY, VIRGIN, MARTYR—A.D. 304|
|Feast: December 13|
|[Abridged from her Acts, older than St. Aldehelm, who quoted them in the seventh century,]
The glorious virgin and martyr St. Lucy, one of the brightest ornaments of the church of Sicily, was born of honourable and wealthy parents in the city of Syracusa, and educated from her cradle in the faith of Christ. She lost her father in her infancy, but Eutychia, her mother, took singular care to furnish her with tender and sublime sentiments of piety and religion. By the early impressions which Lucy received and
Tuesday, December 12th, was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a major event for the Hispanic parishioners of St. Peter’s and for all Hispanic citizens and immigrants to the US. Only Father Linsky and one other member of the Men’s Prayer Group had been present for the special Mass in her honor. Here is a photo of the Altar after that Mass.
On December 12, there was an interesting and informative NBC News feature about Our Lady of Guadalupe and her celebration in New York City. It includes considerable explanation of both cultural and religious importance to Latinos and Hispanics. Here are the introduction and a link to the whole article. I hope you can access it because it clearly addresses the intersection of faith and culture which we spent a lot of time discussing Wednesday morning.
Why Our Lady of Guadalupe is Celebrated Across the US
If you see a colorful procession in your city or town on Tuesday, it may have to do with a venerated “lady” whose presence is ubiquitous in many Latino communities across the U.S.
The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is celebrated on December 12. For Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as well as other Latinos, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a powerful symbol of devotion, identity, and patriotism. Her image inspires artists, activists, feminists and the faithful.
Yet while Our Lady of Guadalupe is revered, recognized, and commercialized throughout Latin America, many Americans are likely unaware of the origins and impact of her iconic status.
But that may be changing.
Last Saturday morning in New York City, a group of volunteers from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church at St. Bernard’s were undeterred as snow drifted down and the temperature dropped to 33 degrees. They arranged flowers, flags, and banners, and lined up behind vehicles bearing large images of Mexico’s patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these events are categorized as “private revelations.” Here is a screen shot of the pertinent section of the Vatican edition of the catechism.
Our Lady of Guadalupe heads a short list of apparitions or private revelations recognized by the authority of the Church. I found this explanation and list of approvals here: (No appearances of the BVM in toast are included.)
According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, the era of public revelation ended with the death of the last living Apostle. A Marian apparition, if deemed genuine by Church authority, is treated as private revelation that may emphasize some facet of the received public revelation for a specific purpose, but it can never add anything new to the deposit of faith. The Church will confirm an apparition as worthy of belief, but belief is never required by divine faith. The Holy See has officially confirmed the apparitions at:
Because of the large number of Hispanic immigrants in the US and their contribution to the USA Church, it is important, whether we personally choose to participate or not, that we recognize and respect this cultural aspect of the faith. That importance, especially true for St. Peter’s because of our Hispanic parishioners, is explained in this official position of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, that it is a “Day of Solidarity with Immigrants.”
Personal Note: For me, the leap from Southern Baptist through Presbyterian and Lutheran cultures to North American Catholic culture has been diversity enough. I am thankful for the Hispanic immigration and for growth of the US Church resulting from it and am happy St. Peter’s is home for a large and dynamic Hispanic congregation and am happy to support them. I’m assisting with Sixth Grade Religious Education, a mostly Hispanic group this year, and enjoying it very much. But I’m not personally much interested in participating in either Spanish (or Latin) Masses at this time.
I think it is important to an understanding of the influence of Our Lady of Guadalupe to have some understanding of the history of Christianity in Latin America. I found online a PDF of chapter 1 of this book and found it helpful. Maybe the Prologue will stir up some interest in reading chapter 1 which can be found here.
Latin America unites in itself the European, African, and American streams of civilization. Similarly so, Christianity did not develop in an airtight, pasteurized package but was influenced by the religions and worldviews of the cultures in which it took root.
As usual, the Wednesday morning discussions led by Father Linsky combined with my burden of posting something on this blog always challenge me to do a little research and try to better understand the issues. It is valuable, and I appreciate it.
And, I am thankful for the internet without which it would have taken many days, or maybe weeks, of effort to find the simple stuff reported above. This only took a couple of hours!