Where did the Bible come from? by Philip Kosloski

septuagint
Click here to launch the slideshow
Christianity without the Bible is difficult to imagine. But in fact, for the first 300 years of Christianity, the Bible did not exist. That is, if we understand the Bible as we do today: as a single compilation containing all of the texts Christianity considers sacred. The creation and compilation of the Bible was a long process. Leaders of the early Church sifted through numerous manuscripts and discerned, using several different historical, doctrinal, and theological criteria, which books were to be kept and included in the canon, and which books were to be set aside. This process of establishing a canon of Scripture differed for the Old and New Testament.

Formation of the “Old Testament”

What Christians refer to as the “Old Testament” is essentially an ancient compilation of the Jewish Sacred Scriptures, the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. These holy texts (the Torah, the books of the Prophets, and the “Writings”) developed over time and were at first handed over orally from one generation to the next until they were finally written down and preserved.

About 200 years before the birth of Jesus, there arose a Greek translation of the Hebrew texts that became widely accepted as a legitimate (and even inspired) translation. Tradition relates how King Ptolemy II of Egypt ordered a translation and invited Jewish elders from Jerusalem to prepare the Greek text. Seventy-two elders, six from each of the 12 tribes, arrived in Egypt to fulfill the request.  Another tradition recounts how the translators were all put in separate rooms and told to produce their own separate text. When the task was completed the translators compared them all and it was discovered that each one was miraculously identical to the others.

The result became known as the Septuagint (from the Greek word for 70) and was especially popular among Greek-speaking Jews. This led to the Septuagint becoming a primary source for the Gospel writers and many other early Christians, who wrote their own works in Greek. 

When formulating the official canon of Scripture the Church looked to the Septuagint to discern which books to retain. But the Catholic canon of the Old Testament also includes some texts and additions to books (for example, the Books of Judith and Tobit, Wisdom and Sirach) originally written in Greek, not Hebrew, and therefore not considered part of the Jewish Scriptures,though respected and read by Jews at the time.

Formation of the New Testament

Various writers wrote down in the years following Jesus’ death the many stories circulating about the Messiah. These writers were either apostles, or friends of apostles who knew Jesus very well. They witnessed the events or interviewed people who had, and sought to preserve the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in written form. 

As time passed by, copies of these works were spread and various Christian communities gathered them to be read during the Sunday celebration of the Mass. Copies of St. Paul’s letters were also disseminated and were regarded by the communities as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

A document from the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, confirms this process of how the New Testament was formed, specifically the Gospels:

The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus. For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who “themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word” we might know “the truth” concerning those matters about which we have been instructed.

Already by the time of Saint Irenaeus (A.D. 182-88) there is mention of the “quadriform” Gospel, referring to the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

During the fourth century the need arose to officially codify the Bible, which by this point was already starting to come together. Some historians believe that part of the motivation to produce an official canon came from Emperor Constantine who commissioned 50 copies of the sacred scriptures for the Bishop of Constantinople. The approval of which books to include started with the Council of Laodicea in 363, was continued when Pope Damasus I commissioned St. Jerome to translate the Scriptures into Latin in 382, and was settled definitely during the Synods of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).

The goal was to dismiss all erroneous works that were circulating at the time and instruct the local Churches as to which books could be read at Mass.

The Church has always believed that this lengthy process was guided by the Holy Spirit. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, the “Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”

How do Catholics interpret the Bible? by Philip Kosloski

Biblia na blacie

Catholics interpret the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit, under the guidance of the Church, following three specific guidelines.

Bible interpretation results in a wide spectrum of belief in modern-day Christianity, making it difficult to know who is right and where to search for reliable answers. In the Catholic Church, there are specific guidelines to follow to ensure a correct reading of the Bible that is faithful to its original intention and consistent with Christian belief.The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers an introductory explanation of how a Catholic is to interpret the Bible.

Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church according to three criteria:

1) it must be read with attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture;

2) it must be read within the living Tradition of the Church;

3) it must be read with attention to the analogy of faith, that is, the inner harmony which exists among the truths of the faith themselves. (19)

These are broad, sweeping guidelines can be difficult to understand. The primary purpose of these guidelines is to explain how we shouldn’t succumb to the temptation to take a particular scripture passage out of context, or without consulting the history and tradition of the Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes a little deeper into these guidelines, explaining the different “senses” of scripture that a reader should be aware of, acknowledging the many layers the Bible has to offer.

According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”

The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

 – The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.

– The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.

 The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem. (CCC 115-117)

Above all, Catholics are invited to rely on nearly 2,000 years of Catholic teaching to help interpret the Bible, showing us what is consistent with the intention of the original authors and the beliefs of the earliest Christians. A great example of how to approach the Bible is found in St. Augustine. He wrote to St. Jerome in a letter, saying, “If I find anything in those writings which seems to be contrary to the truth, I presume that either the codex is inaccurate, or the translator has not followed what was said, or I have not properly understood it.”

Social Justice and Moral Activism: A Guide for Catholics By Scott Davis

Throughout human history, society has treated people unjustly based on race, gender, class, religion, and ethnicity. The practice continues today. Perpetrators of social injustice include recognized authorities and institutions as well as individuals. Human beings, created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-31), are called to rise up against injustice wherever it exists.

It is the duty of Catholics to stand up against social injustice and any form of oppression that compromises the dignity of the human person (CCC 1938). In the prevailing culture of moral relativism, however, it can be increasingly difficult to identify injustices as well as the moral actions that one may take to correct them. Catholic Americans find themselves armed with good intentions, but scarcely enough information to discern just causes and means of activism consistent with Catholic moral and social teaching.

One useful rule of thumb is not to subscribe to the teachings of any group in its entirety outside the body of the Church, but instead to examine all issues on their merits.  Once a Catholic position of justice has been firmly established, it is necessary for the Christian to remain faithful to that position and advocate for it by means that are consistent with the moral teachings of the Church, abandoning all other means (successful or not). A consistent prayer life will yield abundant fruit for those discerning how to be arbiters of truth and justice.

Social justice Issues

Social issues of our times are varied and include protection of the environment, economic injustice and poverty, immigration, abortion, and racism (both institutional and individual).  It is important to start with the premise that Catholic Christians are called to meet all members of the human race with compassion and to declare the Gospel truth that speaks to the dignity of human life. This call means discerning the signs of the times through the lens of Catholic moral theology. While many issues are framed by well-intended advocates as upholding human dignity, a close examination will reveal quite the opposite; issues of race and free speech come to mind. The alternate viewpoints of these issues are seen below in the consideration of activist groups working today.

Social Doctrine of the Church

Holy Scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium serve to guide the Catholic faithful in their discernment of social injustices and their dutiful actions to combat them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an essential resource for the faithful when seeking the universal truth of the Catholic Church; all Catholic homes should have one readily available on their bookshelf.

All human persons possess the same origin and nature and share in a common human dignity (CCC1934). Every form of discrimination and injustice grounded in cultural, racial, economic, and religious differences is inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Catholic faithful have a responsibility to fight against them (Gaudium et Spes 29).

The means by which the faithful respond to social injustice must comply with the same Gospel message and teaching of the Church as used for the discernment of injustice in the first place. The Machiavellian philosophy that the ends justify the means is never consistent with the teaching of the Church. Catholic moral teaching speaks clearly on the topics of human dignity, authority, social order, and protection of property.

Social Activism in the United States

Current protests against police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have taken the form of civil unrest; violent riots, looting, and calls to defund the police have become the rallying cry for the victim groups, social justice advocates, and ne’er-do-wellers looking to take advantage of legitimate grievances for personal gain. While the cause may be noble, the means must be carefully examined. The seventh commandment prohibits stealing, and the Catechism expounds upon the commandment stating that the taking of property against the will of the other (with the exception of providing for essential needs such as food, water, and shelter) is a sin against God (CCC 2408). This can be extended to the willful destruction of public and private property which the Church teaches is contrary to the moral law and requires reparation (CCC 2400).

The use of the civil authorities to protect life and property has only exacerbated the current unrest whose complaint is against these same authorities. In a well-ordered society, it is necessary for laws to be made and enforced upon citizens, these laws are meant to support the common good. The common good includes respect for the human person and must be governed by peace, which civil authority is commissioned to protect (CCC 1907, 1909). God wills obedience to civil authorities (Rom 13:1-2, 1 Pet 2:13-17) and authority should be treated with goodwill and gratitude as long as it is well deserved (CCC 1900).

In the United States, the social battlefield is occupied by left and right; often represented in their most extreme versions.  The battle between left and right was set at the start of the industrial revolution when the production and consumption of goods set up a new class system that separated western civilization into new socioeconomic groups along economic and racial lines. New systems of government in the forms of fascism, socialism, and communism were created to advance the social and economic agendas of certain groups and nations. If any benevolence existed in the original theories of these forms of government, it was eradicated with the practical application of the theories.

Modern ideologies associated with the left and right are amorphous and as highly varied as the individuals that lay claim to their identities. To illustrate this point, it is useful to compare formerly fringe groups on each side that have found their way into the mainstream of American politics and social discourse: Black Lives Matter and Antifa on the left versus the Alt-right movement. When discerning a position, it is important to tease apart any meritorious characteristics of these groups from other doctrinal or practical aspects of their ideologies.

The anti-fascist movement, Antifa, originated with the political movements of the 1930s with failed attempts by leftists to unite against the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. At the end of the Second World War, these same groups were resurrected as an organized alliance of socialists and communists sharing the goal of hunting down prominent Nazis and engaging in anti-fascist activism. They were eventually shut down by the occupying powers of post-war Europe1. The anti-fascists resurfaced in 1980s Europe in response to the neo-Nazi and skinhead movements in East Germany. Their entry into the United States in the late 1980s and 1990s was the seed that grew into what we refer to today as Antifa. Often referred to as an organized and well-funded group, Antifa seems more like a loose organization of members that run local chapters without any central hierarchy or doctrinal consistency. Mark Bray, the author of Antifa: The anti-fascist Handbook, describes Antifa as “a kind of ideology, an identity, a tendency or milieu, or an activity of self-defense.” While most self-described members work behind the scenes committed to identifying and exposing those who they feel espouse racist, sexist, and homophobic views some members have organized for street fighting, opposing self-described fascist views by any means necessary including violence1.

The tactics employed by Antifa vary from non-violent to violent and they all need to be examined in the light of Catholic teaching. While it is not difficult for Catholics to disavow the use of violence as a form of protests, what are the moral implications of accusing and publicly exposing people thought to be guilty of discrimination or social injustice? The eighth commandment prohibits bearing false witness against thy neighbor, but the proverbial devil is in the details. The Church teaches that one must have respect for the reputation of the person (CCC 2477) and avoid the sin of rash judgment or detraction. The often-employed tactic of doxing (publishing information on people presumed to be guilty of certain social offenses) would be sinful based on Church teaching. While the third spiritual work of mercy is to admonish the sinner, this must not be confused with bearing false witness. To admonish a sinner, one must proceed from the point of love and compassion, recognizing that admonishment may be necessary for the salvation of the sinner’s soul.  It is recommended that he or she who admonishes begins with an examination of one’s own consciousness and motivation, ensuring that the admonisher is striving to live a life of holiness. All of this should take place in private and not in the public square.

There is a lot of confusion around the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the United States that rose to prominence after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012. While many identify black lives matter as a popular hashtag used to support social justice and an end to police brutality of African Americans, BLM is also an organized group that in addition to supporting police reforms has among its objectives the normalization of the LGTBQ agenda and the disruption of the nuclear family replacing it with collectvism3. It is worth noting that the average supporter of this movement may be completely unaware of the complete platform of BLM.

The Church teaches extensively about the importance of the nuclear family and of covenant marriage (CCC 2204-2231). No Catholic should support organizations that seek to undermine the family. Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three visionaries at Fatima, predicted before her death in 2005 that the final battle between Christ and Satan would be over marriage and the family.  It is the responsibility of the political community to support and honor the family thus making any group dedicated to its destruction morally reprehensible (CCC 2211). So, while Catholics may morally support the notion that black lives matter, any support given to the like-named organization should be avoided if one is to remain faithful to the Magisterium.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Alt-right movement has moved from the shadows into the mainstream American political conversation.  It has been suggested that legitimacy was conferred upon the Alt-right movement when then-candidate Donald Trump appointed Steve Bannon of Breitbart, an often-cited Alt-right publication, as his campaign chief of staff. The mention of the movement by Secretary Clinton during a campaign stop in Reno, NV further legitimized the movement. The basic tenant of the Alt-right movement is that the theory of self-government is flawed and would be better replaced by enlightened absolutism. Within that obscure philosophy, the advocation of segregation, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and protectionist economics flourish.  To the anti-fascists, the Alt-right represents the threat of the fascist state. The tactics used by the Alt-right similarly include online propaganda and armed protests. The same moral arguments made above are applicable to the tactics employed by the Alt-right. Like the aforementioned leftist groups, the amorphous ideology of the Alt-right includes some ideals that are consistent with Western democracies such as freedom of speech and free practice of religion and thus considered meritorious; but these ideals cannot be separated from their less noble counterparts such as racial and religious discrimination.

What Should Catholics Do?

Catholics are called to be full participants in society as defenders of the Gospel truth, the dignity of the person, and the common good of all of humanity. Too often, the Catholic Christian is left unsure of how to uphold this responsibility in a society where the evil one has turned right and wrong upside down. The heresy of moral relativism is particularly dangerous because those who do not succumb to its lies may experience almost unbearable social pressure and guilt that they have somehow chosen the immoral and unjust path and are strongly accused of bigotry and racism themselves. To be successful, the Catholic must turn toward the Church with unwavering faith in holy scripture, the apostolic tradition, and the Magisterium. God calls his children to discernment and application of truth.

References

The attack on Catholic images may just be the beginning By: Anne Hendershott (A VERY Important article…Pjm)

As Bishop Hying notes, “The secular iconoclasm of the current moment will not bring reconciliation, peace, and healing.” But it could lead to even more destruction.

A vandalized statue of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco is seen June 19, 2020. (CNS photo/David Zandman via Reuters)

While Catholics have watched the desecration and destruction of war memorials and secular statues in our public spaces, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist has encouraged his followers to destroy statues, stained glass, and icons that feature what he considers “European” depictions of Jesus. Such images are a “gross form of white supremacy,” claimed Shaun King on Twitter, that “should all come down.”

The attack on Catholic images has already begun. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has decried the destruction of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park statue of St. Junipero Serra—the Franciscan priest canonized by Pope Francis who played a key role in the evangelization of 18th-century California. Archbishop Cordileone defended Father Serra as having made “heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors”; acknowledging, “The memorialization of historic figures merits and honest and fair discussion as to how and to whom such honor should be given,” Archbishop Cordileone said that in the case of the toppling of the St. Serra statue, “there was no such rational discussion; it was mob rule, a troubling phenomenon that seems to be repeating itself throughout the country.”

On June 22nd, the bishops of California released a statement that quoted at length from Archbishop Cordileone’s remarks, and then concluded:

Serra was not simply a man of his times. In working with Native Americans, he was a man ahead of his times who made great sacrifices to defend and serve the indigenous population and work against an oppression that extends far beyond the mission era. And if that is not enough to legitimate a public statue in the state that he did so much to create, then virtually every historical figure from our nation’s past will have to be removed for their failings measured in the light of today’s standards.

The toppling of St. Junipero statues—replete with the desecration of the sacred symbol of the crucifix—is quite likely just the start. Black Lives Matter leaders in the same mold as Shaun King—a former Protestant pastor—are now calling for the removal of all images of what King calls “white European Jesus.”

King, currently a writer-in-residence at Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project, tweeted to his more than one million Twitter followers that

the statues of the white Europeans they claim is Jesus should come down. They are a form of white supremacy.  Always have been… All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus and his European mother and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form of white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.

A graduate of Morehouse College, and the founder of churches and multiple non-profits with mixed track-records of success, King has been adept at using social media to mobilize his followers. In 2018, King posted the name of a Texas Highway Patrol officer King alleged sexually assaulted a black woman after a traffic stop. The trooper and his family were subjected to horrific abuse by social media users across the country for two days before the body camera footage proved the innocence of the officer.

In December 2018, when a seven-year-old African American child was shot while riding in a car with her mother and siblings by a gunman the mother said was white, King mounted an investigation into the murder, offering a reward for information leading to an arrest. King posted on Twitter a picture of Robert Cantrell, a white Houston resident King described as a “racist, violent asshole,” and asked followers: “What more can you tell me about Robert Cantrell?” Cantrell was arrested for another crime the day the child was murdered, and he had nothing to do with the drive-by shooting, but King’s postings lead to death threats for Cantrell and members of his family. Shortly after Cantrell’s arrest, Eric Black and Larry Woodruffe—both black men—were arrested for the shooting of the child, and faced capital murder charges. Cantrell died in 2019 from an apparent suicide, and was found hanging in his jail cell.

For several years, questions have been raised about King’s fundraising practices, from his efforts to raise money for Haitian disaster relief to online fundraisers for the family of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice. King has threatened to sue those accusing him of mishandling or misappropriating funds.

Catholic leaders need to understand that online attacks by activists like Shaun King can result in real-life threats to the Church and to her people. His demands that religious iconography he dislikes be “torn down” need to be taken seriously. As Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison put it so well in his June 23rd “Statement on Call for Destruction of Christian Statues”:

The secular iconoclasm of the current moment will not bring reconciliation, peace, and healing. Such violence will only perpetuate the prejudice and hatred it ostensibly seeks to end. Religious freedom, given to man by God Himself, and guaranteed by our Constitution, allows us as Catholics to practice our faith, build our churches, pray in public, put up statues and crucifixes on our property, and serve the common good through a remarkable network of health care, schools, and social services. We must not surrender our religious liberty to the voices that seek the destruction of our public presence, the diminishing of our sacramental worship, and the denial of our belief in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world.


 

About Anne Hendershott  92 Articles
Anne Hendershott is professor of sociology and director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Church (Encounter Books

Addiction: A Rocky Road to Faith By Bob Kurland

Be not afraid of faith: some are born with faith, some achieve faith, and some have faith thrust upon them (with apologies to William Shakespeare,Twelfth Night).

INTRODUCTION

How best, do you think, to offer this question in an appealing way (Why believe in God?) ?” This was the crux of a comment by a philosophy professor on a recent post of mine. It got me thinking.   In that post I had discussed my “Top Down to Jesus” road to faith, an intellectual process, aided by “in the heart” musical occasions.    But that’s not the way most people come to believe.   Rather they are moved by the heart, not the brain.

So, let’s talk about faith as a personal story.  And very often a story  where the Holy Spirit reaches down to those in the gutter, drags them out and lights their way to salvation.

STORIES OF RECOVERY, CONVERSION AND REVERSION

I am a member of the Calix Society, an organization that welds principles of the 12 Step programs to Catholic teaching. It’s the practice in 12 Step meetings for members to go around the table and talk about their recovery: “Hi, I’m Bob K and I’m  an ____ (alcoholic, addict, co-dependent, food addict, sex and lust addict, gambler,… —fill in the blank).”

In the online Calix meetings I’ve attended, I’ve heard many  such stories.  They have a common theme: at the bottom, in the gutter, in the depths of despair, the Holy Spirit in one form or another shows that God is present, leads the man or woman to a meeting and thence to God and, for some, back to the Church.  To illustrate the third part of the lead quotation, “some have faith thrust upon them,” I’ll recount one of these stories, altering details in order to preserve anonymity.  Let me first quote Bill W’s story, which is a classic tale of conversion experiences (Bill Wilson was one of the co-founders of AA):

“I was in black despair. And in the midst of this I remembered about this God business. . . and I rose up in bed and said, ‘If there be a God, let him show himself now!’  All of a sudden there was a light. . .a blinding white light that filled the whole room. A tremendous wind seemed to be blowing all around me and right through me. I felt as if I were standing on a high mountain top. . . I felt that I stood in the presence of God.” quoted in “Bill Wllson’s Call on God for Help”

EVAN B’S  STORY

Evan B had been educated in Catholic schools, gone to a Catholic college, but had fallen away from the Church.   He was one of the Poinsettia and Lily Catholics (Christmas and Easter only).  Here’s his story.

“My wife had changed the locks. When I tried to get in, she  told me to sober up or it was the end of our marriage.  I drove back to the bar; it was an hour before closing time, but because of the weather, only one other person was there.  I must have bought a bottle from the barkeep, because I found an empty in the car later.  i had driven downtown, gotten out of the car (I don’t remember how) and fallen into a snow bank.  All I remember is that in the cold there was a warm presence, Our Lady, who was telling me to get up and get back into the car, that I didn’t have to do this.   That I should get to an AA meeting.”

“I  don’t know how it happened, but there was a Church nearby, where I’d gone to an AA meeting two weeks earlier. It was 6:50 am, 10 minutes before the meeting was to start and that’s when I began to be sober.   From then on, I just had to think of that experience, the warm presence and the voice telling me to get up and go to a meeting.  And it was my return to the Church.”

THE COMMON THEME AND THE GIFT OF ADDICTION

This theme–the voice, the presence, prompting, inploring—is common to the stories men and women tell abou recovery from alcoholism, addiction, codependency .   And, in a sense their addiction has been a great gift.  Would they (and I) have come to the Church without this gift?  I can testify in my own case, probably not.   God has given us a rocky road to salvation, with potholes and crevasses, but a road, nonetheless.   It is not only the narrow way, but the rough way.

The post Addiction: A Rocky Road to Faith appeared first on Catholic Stand.

Jesus’ fundamental teachings on prayer By: Philip Kosloski Reconciling

Jesus Sermon on the mount

with others before praying, being bold, and not using empty phrases make a world of difference.

Click here to launch the slideshow
Among the most important of all of Jesus’ teachings we find his approach to prayer, and his intimate understanding of it. In the Gospels, we find Jesus not only teaching his disciples how to pray but, most importantly, giving clear guidelines on what prayer is, often describing it as a personal relationship not only with God, but also with other human beings, and with Creation as a whole. The Gospels are full passages regarding personal and communitarian prayer that ultimately call for a re-evaluation of one’s own prayer life. Here are five fundamental lessons on prayer, taken straight from the Gospels, that anyone can start practicing today.

Pray without a desire to be seen

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)

Reconcile with others before praying

[I]f you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Pray before making any important decisions

In these days he went out into the hills to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles. (Luke 6:12-13)

Do not pray with empty phrases

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7)

Be bold and believe God will answer your prayer

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will. (Mark 11:24)

Be the Light in The Darkness By Kendra Von Esh 

 

The dark is getting darker but the light is getting lighter. These times ignite my desire for the conversion of souls, especially my loved ones. I have a sense of urgency to do whatever it takes to help bring souls to Jesus and the Church. Now, more than ever, we must be bold, detach from the world and attract others through authentic Christianity.

Your Witness Matters

I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do (John 13:15).

As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words,” or as Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always, when necessary, use words.” How we act, especially around those who are closest to us, is critical to evangelizing. The heart of an authentic Christian is filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, you can see it in their every word and action. We should all strive to be servant leaders, love others, share the Gospel, and Jesus’ transformation in our lives.

Perhaps you struggle with anger, frustration, profanity, and other behaviors more worldly in nature like I did? I struggled with raunchy language in my early journey. A good friend once said to me, “Wow, you say you are a ‘devout Catholic’ and yet you talk like that?” And my husband called me out as I yelled at the television, “Didn’t you just get back from Church? Uh, maybe you should go back.”

I finally got over myself and had the humility to ask for God’s help. I was failing on my own. True and lasting transformation can only come from the grace of God. Every time you catch yourself acting in a way that is not virtuous, immediately call it out and give it to God at that moment. Soon, you will realize He will give you the grace you need.

Seek First The Kingdom

But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil (Matthew 6:33-34).

To love one another as he loves us, we need God’s help. We should start every day in prayer, offer ourselves to Him throughout the day, and call on Him when we are tempted. If we still struggle with sin (mortal or venial), we must actively participate in discerning spirits and learn how to take every thought captive, pause, and make deliberate decisions. Of course, live a sacramental life by attending Mass as often as you can and frequent confession.

My family knows I go to daily Mass. I meditate every day, pray the rosary and other devotions. It is part of my daily life and everything revolves around this. I also pray out loud in front of my family when I am tempted, for example. If I want that third glass of wine, I say, “Lord, I know that this third glass of wine might cause me to say or do things I will regret because I will have less reasoning skills. I believe that I am being tempted by my own desires or perhaps it is an evil influence. Because I love you and love those around me, I will not have a third glass of wine.”

My husband says he is impressed when I do this. He sees my vulnerability and my dependence on God. I don’t always pray out loud. He knows that I pray all day because he sees me pause before I emotionally react with words or actions that are not of God.

I also struggle with the future and worry about it sometimes. When that happens, I call it out, offer it up and I pull myself back into the present where God is and say, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Sometimes my non-practicing husband says, “I don’t understand how you see things, it’s so different than me.” I say, “I have the eyes of faith and you have the eyes of the world. They are the opposite. Since I have seen with both, I much prefer the eyes of faith, it’s so much more peaceful.”

Be The Light

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth ( Ephesians 5:8-9).

I cannot stop sharing my faith, my transformation, and how I live with God every moment now. I want to help everyone put on the light of Jesus every day. I cannot contain the joy He has given me. I was a very worldly person who lived a life of insecurity, fear, and anxiety. I now live as light in the Lord and I truly want this for everyone.

I must share all my spiritual and supernatural experiences with everyone in my family and with the world. Why? Because God can do this and much more in your life. I have such peace now. No matter what happens, I know God has a plan. My husband gets frustrated with my faith sometimes. But I stand firm in my beliefs and he cannot argue with the miracles we have had in our lives. Sometimes he just needs a little reminder of how blessed we are.

I must be His disciple. “Joy is the best net to catch fish!” Who doesn’t want to be someone who is joyful and loving all the time? People want to be around these kinds of people, too. The key for me is continual growth in my spiritual life. I call on the entire Kingdom of Heaven. I ask the Holy Trinity, Mary, St. Joseph, my guardian angel, all the holy angels, and saints to help me every single day. Praise God we have so many in heaven and spiritual companions on earth praying each other to holiness. I call on the Holy Spirit the most to be a joy to everyone.

Pray, Fast and Make Reparation

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:6).

We are called to pray, fast, and make reparation for the world. I will admit, I am not the best at fasting. However, when I put a concerted effort toward it, I sincerely enjoy denying myself. It is even better when I do what Our Lady of Fatima asked. Each time we fast or pray we should offer it for our love of God, for the sinners of the world, and for reparation of offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The time is now, the spiritual battle is manifesting itself in ways that I have not seen in my lifetime. We all need to be true disciples of Jesus and the Catholic faith. It starts with our own sanctification and transformation. Let’s continue to improve our inner lives. The world needs your light. Be bold, share your spiritual experiences, keep praying, fasting, and love everyone to heaven.

 

Self-Love and the Cross of Christ

 

When Self Magazine made its debut a few decades ago, it certainly was a sign of the times. Ours is an age when it is socially acceptable to admit that life is all about me.

But selfishness is nothing new. Ever since Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, human beings have made the choice to dethrone God and put in His place the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I.

Yet Jesus commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Doesn’t this imply that love of self is OK, even required?

Absolutely. God placed in us a drive towards self-preservation. He made beneficial activities, like eating, pleasurable. And he made destructive activities painful.

But He also gave us intellect and will so that we are not driven simply by instinct, as are the animals. Thus the ancient enemy of humanity has to do his best to deceive our intellect into thinking that what is destructive is actually good for us. And he entices us to use our will to choose these destructive things contrary to God’s commandments. The end justifies the means, he argues, and so if we have to trample over others and defy God to get what we want, so be it.

This is the kind of self-love that Jesus condemns (Mt 10:37-42). It leads to ruin, confusion, and emptiness. There is no way to tame this or to fit religion into it. The only solution is to kill it.

In baptism, this old egocentric self is crucified and buried with Christ (Romans 6:11). There can only be one Lord–Jesus or me. Accepting him means allowing Him to be boss, allowing Him to call the shots and direct my steps. Picking up the cross and following Him means accepting the Father’s will, even where it “crosses” my will, even when it leads to suffering. This is the meaning of Jesus’ words to Peter “as a young man you fastened your belt and went about as you pleased, but when you are older, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will” (John 21:18)

When Jesus had finished saying this, he looked at Peter and said “Follow me.”

A few years ago he said much the same thing to a new successor of Peter, Benedict XVI. Those pundits who spoke of his maneuvering to build support for his “candidacy” before and during the conclave made me laugh. Cardinal Ratzinger had tried to retire twice before the death of John Paul II! Both times the Pope refused to accept his resignation. When during the conclave he saw momentum began building for his election, he cried out to God begging to be spared. The room where the newly elected Pope first dons the Papal vestments is called the “Room of tears” for a reason.

Jesus says “follow me” to each of us. It may mean making a change of career. It may mean breaking off a relationship that is leading us away from Christ. Or it may just mean doing what we are already doing but for an entirely different reason . . .achieving great things not to draw attention to ourselves, but to glorify Christ . . . seeking an intimate relationship no longer to take but to give. . . working not for the weekend, but for the kingdom.

The ironic thing is that such abandonment of our own agenda is precisely what allows God the freedom to give us the true desire of our hearts. For he knows us better than we know ourselves and he loves us more than we love ourselves. So to lose ourselves for his sake finally makes it possible for us to find ourselves. To renounce self-love is actually enlightened self-interest.

This is precisely what we see with the Shunemmite woman who gave of herself and opened her home and heart to a man of God (2 Kings 4:8-11). She was barren in an age when barrenness was the greatest of curses. Yet she forgot her need in order to meet Elisha’s need. In return God prompted Elisha to meet her need. For one thing is certain about God—He will not be outdone in generosity.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

By 

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For info on his resources and pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 800.803.0118.

The Angels Have Our Backs By: ALFRED HANLEY

“For he will give his angels charge of you
to guard you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11).

Angels are real — a vast variety of spirits who are more active in our lives than we might know. We should be mindful of them, particularly our guardian angels, and have a personal relationship with them. We should pray to them, speak to them whenever we think of them – and they will seek our attention if we but pay attention — whether or not we are in need. For they want to be with us in weal or in woe. They pray not just for us but with us, sharing in our spiritual and moral challenges and growth. We should thank them and bless them and honor them as the exalted yet humble fellow creatures they are, endowed by God with prodigious intelligence and powers they freely, lovingly, use for His glory and for our good.

It is commonly understood that angels were created early on during the six days of Genesis, and that they were endowed by God at their inception with all the knowledge and capabilities they would ever have – they do not change through experience. Accordingly, tradition holds that angels chose to submit to or rebel against their Maker at the instant they came to being. They are genderless and do not propagate their own kind, and each angel is so unique as to be a species unto itself. Angels are made in God’s image and likeness, as are we, with an intellect and free will; but they are in other essential ways very different, and mysterious – such as their division into three tiered hierarchies: Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; Dominions, Virtues, and Powers; Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.

Angels are largely misunderstood, when they are not ignored. The word angel, from the Greek angelos, means “messenger.” But Psalm 103:20 states more pointedly their reason for being: “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word.” Angels exist first and foremost, as do we, to praise God and do His will. And it is primary to His will that angels watch over each of us – over our family, our country, history, the Church. Pope St. John XXIII said it was his guardian angel who told him to convoke the Second Vatican Council.

Jesus Himself said of His “little ones” that “their angels always behold the face of my Father” (Matt. 18:10) – thus establishing that we have guardian angels, and that angels are pure spirits, not subject to the laws of time and space, who bilocate.

I believe each of you reading this article has experienced the intervention of an angel in your life – perhaps unbeknown to you – whether to protect you from some grave danger or just to remind you of something important. I could tell of several instances when I felt sure angels intervened in my life or in the lives of others. Let me share with you one such remarkable story about a priest I know.

The young Father was driving a familiar route to a meeting when, unaccountably, he made a wrong turn. As he was maneuvering to get back on track, he came upon the scene of a dreadful traffic accident. Paramedics were working on a man who was terribly injured. The priest pulled over and asked the police if there was anything he could do, and, visibly relieved by his presence, they brought him to the injured man. He prayed over and blessed the man and gave him conditional absolution – and the man died. As he left, he received the heartfelt gratitude of the police and paramedics who were also blest, truly consoled, by the priest’s “happening by.”

It is in Scripture, in which angels appear more than one hundred times, that we learn about their larger, substantial role in salvation history, beyond their important role as guardian angels.

Twice in Matthew’s gospel Jesus speaks of the readiness of myriad angels to act in concert on His behalf as the Lord. When He rebukes Peter’s defense of Him in Gethsemane, Christ says: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt 26:53). And at His final coming Christ predicts that He “will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds” (Matt. 24: 31).

In the Old Testament: The formidable angel with the flaming sword guards against our fallen parents’ return to Eden (angels mete out God’s justice as well as His mercy). Three angels tell Father Abraham and Sarah that at their advanced age they will have a son, Isaac, who will father forth the Covenant; and an angel intervenes to prevent Abraham from immolating that promised patriarch of the Covenant. Jacob is given a vision of angels ascending and descending the stairway to heaven as a sign that he has been entrusted with the Covenant. Moses’ angel guards and guides him in his conduct of the Covenant’s chosen people from bondage to freedom. Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets are commissioned and assisted, mystically enlightened, by angels in their proclamation of God’s Covenant. For the completion of his prophetic mission, for instance, Daniel is saved from the fiery furnace and the jaws of lions by the direct action of angels.

In the New Testament: An angel foretells to Zechariah the birth of John the Baptist, harbinger of the Messiah. The Blessed Virgin Mary is told by Archangel Gabriel that she is to bear the “Son of God” by the power of the Most High; and Gabriel receives her consent, her fiat, by which our Lord and Savior Jesus becomes Incarnate. An angel proclaims to shepherds the birth of the Messiah, and then a host of angels heralds His nativity. An angel assures Joseph about Mary’s virginal conception and then directs him to take Mother and Child to Egypt to protect the Divine Savior from Herod’s treachery. An Angel comforts and ministers to Jesus at two axial moments of His messianic life, his temptation in the desert and his agony in garden. Mary Magdalen and the other women are informed by two angels at the empty tomb about the Lord’s culminating salvific act: “He is not here; for he has risen” (Matt. 28:6). When Jesus ascends to heaven from among the apostles, two angels explain to them: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).  After the Ascension, Saints Peter, John, Paul, Philip, and others are all assisted and guided by angels in their mission of preaching the Gospel. Both Peter and Paul are sprung from prison by angels.

And in the Book of Revelation, the presence of angels abounds: angels unfurling portentous scrolls, pronouncing holy words of hope and condemnation, wielding wind and sickle and censer, astride earth and sun, blowing trumpets and sounding thunder, sowing plague and ruination – “flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth” (Rev. 14:6).

Angels, heaven’s lordly lieges, are not incidental to our lives, nor are they inconsequential in the life of the world. They are integral, vital, to the Trinity’s plan for our well-being and redemption, and for the ultimate renewal of creation. They are not sentimental sprites, nor are they occult New Age demigods. They are magnificent, powerful but gentle beings who reflect God’s holiness and administer His goodness. They make up the heavenly court of Our Lady Queen of Angels whose bidding they diligently, joyfully, do. They love us and want to help us. We should take them seriously and pay them earnest devotion, and have confident and frequent recourse to them – and be glad in the hope that we will spend in friendship with them an eternity of bliss.

*All Biblical passages are from the RSVCE.

Image by Katarzyna Tyl from Pixabay

Alfred Hanley

By 

Alfred Hanley, Ph.D., is retired as Professor of Humanities and Department Chair from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He is the author of several works of religious and literary commentary, poetry, and fiction — including the novel, Mickey’s Mystery Blue, about a troubled boy and his abiding guardian angel. Hanley and his wife of fifty-five years have raised six children, one a Catholic priest and the other five happily wed, who to date have blessed them with twenty grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

5 Ways Jesus Dealt With Difficult People By:

PRODIGAL SON

Jesus asked questions, was not defensive, and knew when to ignore something.

How should we deal with difficult people? Some people in our lives may be difficult simply because they challenge us. Or they may be difficult because they are different. Or they may be difficult because we live with them (and close proximity amplifies foibles). Or they may be difficult because we are difficult and something about us just rubs them the wrong way.Or they may just be difficult.

Regardless, we can learn to accept the inconvenient, the incongruent and the bothersome (people and events) in our life not just as necessary nuisances but as gifts.

[W]hen we are open and receptive to all the world has to offer, and all the world has to teach us, then everything becomes illuminated from within.Then we see that everything is, or can be, connected to our quest for beauty and order. Everything “belongs”: old dolls, decrepit diaries, discarded buttons. Difficult people.

Seeing difficult people in such a positive light seems like a tall order. But we can start by learning to deal with other people in a Christ-like way. Scripture teaches us some ways that Jesus dealt with difficult people:

1.- Jesus asks questions.

In Chapter 12 of Luke, Jesus is asked to settle a family dispute and basically responds, “Who do you think I am, Judge Judy?” (right, this is a pretty loose translation, but you get the idea). It is interesting to note that Jesus asks a lot of questions in Scripture. Jesus’ questions were sometimes rhetorical, or challenging, and at other times he was also seeking feedback. By using questions, Jesus emphasizes his openness to the other person.

It is funny, but we humans tend not to ask a lot of questions. We assume, we pontificate, we lecture, we observe, we interrupt and we judge. But we rarely make it a point to ask other people questions. In using questions frequently, I think Jesus is modeling the behavior of a good communicator, one who cares about the other person enough to engage with them and challenge them. Even, and perhaps especially, when they are being difficult.

2.-Jesus Is Never Cornered.

In Chapter 6 of Luke, Jesus is taking a Sabbath stroll with his disciples and the Pharisees pop up out of nowhere and accuse them of breaking the Sabbath by picking grain. Jesus is unflustered. He is never scared of the people who try to slip him up or think the worst of him, because what other people think is not his focus.

Sometimes people corner us with their assumptions and judgments and we can begin to wonder if the way they see us is more objective than how we see ourselves. It is hard when we feel like others misunderstand us or do not take the time to get to know us before judging. But, like Jesus, we do not have to feel defined by the projections of other people. Our identity resides and is found in God, not in what other people try to push on us.

3.- Jesus Knows When to Ignore.

Remember that time when Jesus ticks off all of his former neighbors and friends in his hometown of Nazareth? They are so worked up that they decide to throw him off a cliff. Jesus, seeing that there is no reasoning with these people, walks through the crowd, ignores their rage, and “went on his way” (Luke 4).

Sometimes difficult people throw tantrums, speak harshly or treat us in an abusive way (this happens online all the time). This is the cue to disengage and walk away. Jesus knew how to keep his blood pressure in check and his eyes on the prize. Of course, if we have to deal assertively with someone who does this in person, a face-to-face discussion might help. Later.

4.- Jesus Is Not Defensive.

In Chapter 10 of Mark, James and John basically say to Jesus: “We want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Wow. Talk about overstepping boundaries! But Jesus is not codependent, so neediness and boundary crossing is not threatening to him. He knows when to say no and when to say yes and does not beat himself up when he doesn’t make other people happy.

Sometimes people can demand more from us than what we can give them. They may try to sway us with guilt trips. Before we know it we find ourselves bending over backward trying to satisfy a needy or aggressive person (who is rarely satisfied!). But Jesus does not try to people please. Jesus does not need to protect himself from other people; God’s will is enough security. This is where his non-defensiveness comes from.

5.- Jesus Is Flexible.

In Matthew 15, a Canaanite woman demands that Jesus heal his daughter and Jesus says noBut then he is moved by the woman’s response of faith and heals her daughter. Jesus approaches others with an open mind. Even when he had preconceived notions, he allowed the Spirit to move him.

When a difficult person approaches us, we may think, Oh great, here we go again, or I know how this will go, but Jesus kept an open mind when he was approached by others. You never know. The Spirit may move you, or the person who is normally difficult, to act in a different, unexpected way. Being closed to others closes us to the Holy Spirit who is working in us and in the other person.

Jesus, help me see you in everyone, even the people who challenge me. Light me up with your radiant love so that I may see you even in the most difficult of people. Every human being is made in your image. Help me to recognize you and love you in them.

Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP,is the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church.