Friday, March 30, 2012

Acts Lesson Four

Acts Study
finish chapter 2 and start chapter 3

2:42-47 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, prayers and ‘breaking bread’ [e.g. fellowship] (This was either Eucharistic-like [Gk: giving thanks] or simply sharing meals together – but see 1 Cor 11:18-22, after which Paul goes into his discourse on the Lord’s Supper.

Whatever it was they were doing, clearly something was going on in this early church from which we in this century can learn. What might be an application for the 21st century church? Note also the result of their fellowship and unity (verse 47). Might the divisions in the Church today be a reason for fewer men and women coming to faith in Christ? If so, how might you work toward a solution, at least in your own sphere of influence?

 Chapter 3

 v. 1    Daily time set aside for prayer. Application?  See the Catechism of the Catholic Church on prayer, paragraphs 2725-2733 (and also my comments in bold within the paragraphs).

See my blog posts here, here, here and here for some prayer strategies. Log onto and search “prayer strategies” for all twelve strategies.

Catechism Paragraphs
(superscript numbers refer to references within the actual text of the Catechism. Click the paragraph link to find the superscript reference)

2725 Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray . . . The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer. (If we are in a battle, and prayer is effort, should we be surprised when it is difficult to pray? Some of my prayer strategies (noted above) might help in that battle).

2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.

2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness . . . The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance. (What do you think of this paragraph?  Perseverance is, I think, the key to winning the battle of prayer. Pray even when you don’t feel like it. We must not let our emotions rob us of what is absolutely necessary for our spiritual growth).

2729 The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction . . . . (what distracts you most often from or during prayer?  What steps might you take to overcome those distractions?)

 2732 The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart: "Apart from me, you can do nothing."20 (Synthesize this paragraph into your own words. What does this paragraph mean to you? How can you use your explanation to grow in your devotion to prayer?)

2733 Another temptation, to which presumption opens the gate, is acedia*. The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."21 The greater the height, the harder the fall. Painful as discouragement is, it is the reverse of presumption. The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy. (Write on a sheet of paper strategies to overcome acedia in your own experience).

*Acedia (also accidie or accedie, from Latin acedĭa, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, negligence) describes a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one's position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one's duties in life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but distinct from depression.

We will continue chapter three next time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Study through Acts: Lesson Three

This lesson is a continuation of Lesson Two:
Acts Chapter 2:

v. 26   Abiding in hope. The Greek for "Hope” ἐλπίς (elpis) means, “a confident expectation of salvation. See also Heb 6:18-20.  What does that concept – a confident expectation – mean to you regarding God’s love for you and the security of your position in Christ?

v. 27  St. Peter quotes here from Psalm 16. The apostles and writers of the NT interpreted this portion of Psalm 16 as prophetic, pointing to the first advent and the resurrection of the Messiah (note Peter’s comment immediately following in vv 29-35, quoting from Psalm 110:1-2).

What does Peter the Fisherman’s familiarity with the Old Testament this tell us about the importance of Scripture for you and me? Consider the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject of Scripture: (CCC 123-141 below).

vv. 29-32  What link to you see between verse 32 and Isaiah 51:12-13, see also
Isaiah 8:11-13 (Note the translation of this verse in the Catholic Douay-Rheims (DR) is different from the Catholic New American Bible (NAB); The Hebrew word קֶשֶׁר, (qesher) in verse 12 is translated as ‘conspiracy’, or ‘treason’ in the DR. The New American Bible translates the word as an ‘alliance’. In verse 13, the DR translates קָדַשׁ  (k'desh) as ‘sanctify, while the NAB translates is as ‘alliance’.

            What does this difference in the two Catholic versions suggest to us regarding the study of Scripture? A few Bible study websites I often use to compare translations are found at:, and Other helpful sites include and (for study and search of the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

vv. 33-36         What does verse 36 suggest to us regarding evangelism?
Consider Ezek 33:1-9, 2 Tim 3:1-5 with 4:1-4. Review last week’s Catechism passages regarding the    missionary mandate to the Church (specifically paragraphs 849-856. Click on the link at 849 and you can then read that paragraph in context with the others.)

 What does the above text in Acts (2:33-36) have to do with the increasingly common refrain, “Why can’t we all coexist in peace? Why can’t we all just get along?”  To what group is that challenge usually directed? Though we should “seek peace with all men (1 Peter 3:11, Romans 12:17-19),” can we always get along? Should we always ‘get along’? Is there a time when we must not ‘get along’?

vv. 37-42         Note the result of vv. 33-36. Is there application for us today? If so, what is it?

We will continue in the next lesson.

Catechism Paragraphs
Please also review my questions after several paragraphs and highlighted in bold

The Old Testament

123 Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism).

The New Testament

124 "The Word of God, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, is set forth and displays its power in a most wonderful way in the writings of the New Testament"96 which hand on the ultimate truth of God's Revelation. Their central object is Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Son: his acts, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church's beginnings under the Spirit's guidance.97

125 The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures "because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior".98

The unity of the Old and New Testaments

129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.105 Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.106 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.107  (Each sentence in this paragraph carries significant importance for us as we try to please the Lord in all things. How would you put each sentence into your own words?)


131 "And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life."109 Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful."110  (Access to Sacred Scripture is, at least in the United States and Western countries, wide open. How often do you access it in your personal study?  Might you do more?)

132 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."111

133 The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.112 (It was St. Jerome who said, ‘Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.’  What does that mean to you?)

141 "The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord" (DV 21): both nourish and govern the whole Christian life. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Ps 119:105; cf. Is 50:4).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Study through Acts: Lesson Two

Chapter 2:1-28

Like the introduction and chapter one, chapter two (and each succeeding outline) will give you opportunity to reflect on the Biblical texts and portions of the Catechism and other sources germane to those texts. Perhaps you might place these outlines and your written answers in a binder for future review. It usually takes us an hour of class time each Monday evening to discuss only a few verses. For example, as I post this outline, the group is about to begin chapter 9, and we are into week 21. I invite you to join the study group at St. Charles Borromeo in Tacoma, if you are in the area.

Now, for lesson two:

2:1-13     What might verse 13 suggest?  See 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 14:1-5; 20-24.
                Is there a lesson here for us today? If so, what is it?

2:14-21  Now compare Ephesians 5:15-18; Luke 11:9-13. What is the purpose of all the charisms? (See CCC 799-801. Please review my comments within the CCC paragraphs). 

Note also in this section the class of people spoken of by Joel. What does that suggest? How does that information dovetail with the Church’s mandate to be missionary focused? (See again CCC 767-768, 849-856 and, again, 799-801. (Please review my comments within the CCC paragraphs).

2:22-23   Now compare Acts 3:18; 4:27-28. Now see Proverbs 21:1 with Luke 2:1-2 and Isaiah 40:15-17; Matthew 25:33-34; 1 Peter 1:17-20.  What is the application of all these texts to our lives?

2:24     “But God . . .”  What is the application of those two words to your life?  Review Isaiah 40:15-17; Eph 2:1-4 for further insight.

2:25-28  What if we ‘saw’ Him with eyes of faith?  Or, as St. Patrick understood:

 . . . Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger . . .

See also my essay here:

(We will continue chapter two next time)

Catechism Paragraphs (the superscript numbers refer to footnotes within the Catechism. Click on the paragraph links to be taken to the actual Catechism pages)

799 Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.

800 Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.253 (What does this mean to you?)

801 It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church's shepherds. "Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,"254 so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together "for the common good."255 (What does this mean to you? What is the application of this paragraph regarding your own charism?)

767 "When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church."174 Then "the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun."175 As the "convocation" of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.176 (What does the phrase, “The Church in her very nature is missionary” imply to you? Is there an application for your life?)

768 So that she can fulfill her mission, the Holy Spirit "bestows upon [the Church] varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her."177 "Henceforward the Church, endowed with the gifts of her founder and faithfully observing his precepts of charity, humility and self-denial, receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and the beginning of that kingdom."178

849 The missionary mandate. "Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be 'the universal sacrament of salvation,' the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men":339 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age."340 (As part of the Church, what does this paragraph mean to you?)

850 The origin and purpose of mission. The Lord's missionary mandate is ultimately grounded in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity: "The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit."341 The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love.342

851 Missionary motivation. It is from God's love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, "for the love of Christ urges us on."343 Indeed, God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth";344 that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary. (“The Church must be missionary” – how does this apply to you?  How can you be part of this missionary mandate of Christ?)

852 Missionary paths. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist, "the principal agent of the whole of the Church's mission."345 It is he who leads the Church on her missionary paths. "This mission continues and, in the course of history, unfolds the mission of Christ, who was sent to evangelize the poor; so the Church, urged on by the Spirit of Christ, must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice even to death, a death from which he emerged victorious by his resurrection."346 So it is that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians."347 (Did Jesus intend for the missionary path mandated for all Christians to be an easy path? How does it become manageable, do you think?)

853 On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the "discrepancy existing between the message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted."348 Only by taking the "way of penance and renewal," the "narrow way of the cross," can the People of God extend Christ's reign.349 For "just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path if she is to communicate the fruits of salvation to men."350

854 By her very mission, "the Church . . . travels the same journey as all humanity and shares the same earthly lot with the world: she is to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God."351 Missionary endeavor requires patience. It begins with the proclamation of the Gospel to peoples and groups who do not yet believe in Christ,352 continues with the establishment of Christian communities that are "a sign of God's presence in the world,"353 and leads to the foundation of local churches.354 It must involve a process of inculturation if the Gospel is to take flesh in each people's culture.355 There will be times of defeat. "With regard to individuals, groups, and peoples it is only by degrees that [the Church] touches and penetrates them and so receives them into a fullness which is Catholic."356 (Are we to be inculturated by the culture around us, or are we to inculturate the culture with our faith, love of God and walk of holiness? How can you do that?)

855 The Church's mission stimulates efforts towards Christian unity.357 Indeed, "divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her sons who, though joined to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all its aspects."358 (What groups do you think this paragraph refers to? How might the divisions in the Body of Christ be healed?  What might be your part in that healing?)

856 The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel.359 Believers can profit from this dialogue by learning to appreciate better "those elements of truth and grace which are found among peoples, and which are, as it were, a secret presence of God."360 They proclaim the Good News to those who do not know it, in order to consolidate, complete, and raise up the truth and the goodness that God has distributed among men and nations, and to purify them from error and evil "for the glory of God, the confusion of the demon, and the happiness of man."361

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Acts Introduction

Introductory Comments

Acts is the continuation of the Gospel of Luke. The stated purpose of this particular volume is to provide Theophilus further instruction about Jesus and His work through the Church (see Luke 1:4, Acts 1:1). Theophilus, a Greek word meaning, "Lover of God," could have been an actual person, or a code word for all those who loved God. In either case, Luke shows through this book that the preaching and teaching of the early church was rooted in the Old Testament. Luke demonstrates that the Jewish Messiah both prepared His specially chosen followers and commissioned them to be witnesses to his resurrection and to all else that he did (Acts 10:37-42, Luke 24:44-49 with Acts 1:8).

Acts is the history of how the church grew from a handful of Jewish peasants into a sprawling community spanning the Roman Empire. It also answers many questions about early church history, theology and ecclesiology.

The “We” passages”, are regarded by some to be excerpts from Luke’s diaries while on journeys with Paul (e.g. 16:10-17;  20:5-15;  21:1-18;  27:1-28). Chapters 1-12, focus on Peter. The focus shifts to Paul in chapters 13-28.

Acts was penned approximately 3 – 5 years after Gospel of Luke, (c. 68-69 A.D.). Some theologians give a date of 85-90. See this website for further discussion of the date of Acts:

1:1-2   given commandment, orders, charge (from the Greek).         
          a. What does that word suggest?
          b. See Luke 24:45-53; Matthew 28:19-20

1:3      Why do you think Jesus appeared to His disciples and to others?
            (see for example 1 Cor 15:3-9; Romans 1:4-5).  Application for us?

 1:4-5 (with Acts 2:1-6; 1 Cor 12:7-11; 14:1-5; Jude 1:20-21 [note two types of 'tongues'). See the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Church statements, (below):  

1:6-11    Note the question and the answer.  What does the answer tell us about the question? What does verse 8 tell us about the point of verse 7? What does verse 11 suggest to us?

1:12-14  Why were they in the upper room? What were they doing? What is the application for us?

1:15-26   What does this imply regarding apostolic succession? (see verses 21-22, 24 with Acts 9:10-15).

Catechism Paragraphs:

767 "When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church." Then "the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun." As the "convocation" of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.

768 So that she can fulfill her mission, the Holy Spirit "bestows upon [the Church] varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her." "Henceforward the Church, endowed with the gifts of her founder and faithfully observing his precepts of charity, humility and self-denial, receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and the beginning of that kingdom."

And about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal:  -- Salient points of the article:

“In 1975 Pope Paul VI greeted ten thousand Catholic charismatics from all over the world at the ninth international conference of the Renewal, “The Church and the world need more than ever that ‘the miracle of Pentecost should continue in history’ . . . How could this ‘spiritual renewal’ not be ‘good fortune’ for the Church and the world?” [others have translated “good fortune” as “a chance”] . . .”

“Pope John Paul II has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. In 1979 soon after becoming Pope he said, “I am convinced that this movement is a sign of the Spirit’s action . . . a very important component in the total renewal of the Church.” He has met with the international leaders of the Renewal on a number of occasions, and regularly sends greetings to National and International Conferences on the Renewal.”

“The 1984 Statement, A Pastoral Statement on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, concluded with these words: We wish those in the charismatic renewal to know that we make our own the view of Yves Congar: “The charismatic renewal is a grace for the Church.” We assure those in the charismatic renewal of the support they enjoy from the bishops of the United States, and we encourage them in their efforts to renew the life of the Church.”

more next time