Saturday, May 26, 2012

Study through Acts, Chapter 7 lesson 3

St. Stephen rehearses Israel’s history during his soliloquy. For a deeper understanding of this week’s lesson, please first review Exodus chapters 1-20, 32-35. This lesson in Acts chapter 7 will be nearly meaningless without at least a cursory reading of those chapters in Exodus. Then answer the following questions.

Acts 7: 39-43 See especially v. 42-43.

Note the shift in tactic. It’s what will get Stephen martyred because he tells them of their sins. See Acts 5:26-29, See also Luke 22:47-48; Titus 1:15-16, Compare Mt 7:21-23. What do all of these Biblical texts illustrate for us in the 21st century? How ought Christians live in light of these examples? Please read and consider the weight of the  Catechism of the Church paragraphs 674-677 below. The yellow highlights are mine for emphasis.

vv. 44            The pattern of the Tabernacle was important for symbolism. See Heb 8:1-5; 9:1-9, 21-28.  What might the Holy Spirit be teaching us through Stephen’s review?

Vv 45-46       Note St. Stephen bypasses the history of King Saul (e.g. the entire book of 1 Samuel). Although Saul is important to Israel’s history, why might St. Stephen have moved passed it to talk about King David?

v. 51             The knockout punch.  See Matt 21:23-27 with application to 21st century.
vv. 54-60      See especially v. 60. Forgiveness is a choice, even without others asking for forgiveness. Re: Jesus on the cross – Father forgive them . . . Application?

v. 56             Compare Dan 7:9-14; Isaiah 9:5-6.  Application?

674 The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by "all Israel", for "a hardening has come upon part of Israel" in their "unbelief" toward Jesus.569 St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old."570 St. Paul echoes him: "For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?"571 The "full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the Gentiles",572 will enable the People of God to achieve "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", in which "God may be all in all".573

675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.574 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth575 will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth (my highlight). The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.576

676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,577 especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.578

677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.579 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy (my highlight), but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.580 God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world (my highlight).581

569 Rom 11:20-26; cf. Mt 23:39.
570 Acts 3:19-21.
571 Rom 11:15.
572 Rom 11:12, 25; cf. Lk 21:24.
573 Eph 4:13; 1 Cor 15:28.
574 Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.
575 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.
576 Cf. 2 Thess 2:4-12; 1 Thess 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; 1 Jn 2:18,22.
577 Cf. DS 3839.
578 Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris, condemning the "false mysticism" of this "counterfeit of the redemption of the lowly"; cf. GS 20-21.
579 Cf. Rev 19:1-9.
580 Cf Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4.
581 Cf. Rev 20:12 2 Pet 3:12-13.

We will move into Chapter 8 next time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Study through Acts, Chapter 7, part two

As I mentioned in the last lesson, without even a cursory understanding of Israel’s history, Stephen’s rehearsal of it here in chapter 7 will be nearly meaningless for us. That is why I asked the reader to read (or at least slowly skim) Genesis chapters 12-50 before starting the last lesson. Now, for this second part of the lesson from chapter seven, please read Exodus chapters 1-15. Afterward, answer the following questions.

Verses 17-38     Notice in verse 40 how long Moses was in the Midian wilderness. Does that speak to the preparation time God sometimes employs with you or me as He gets us ready for the work He calls us to do? What might that teach us about patience and impatience?

If your Bible does not have reference notes for the Old Testament passages St. Stephen refers to, please use the following as an aid to your study:

Acts 7:27-28 – Exodus 2:14
Acts 7:29 – Exodus 18:3,4
Acts 7:30 – Exodus 3:1 and following verses
Acts 7:32— Exodus 3:5
Acts 7:33-34 – Exodus 3:5-10
Acts 7:37 – Deuteronomy 18:15-18
Acts 7:40 – Exodus 32:1-23

What does this comparison suggest to us about this “waiter’s” familiarity with the Scriptures? The Jews were always known (until recent times) as “The People of the Book.”  Why might they have been known that way?  If true about the Jews, what about the Church? What does the Church teach about the study of Scripture? For example, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs (131-133):

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." Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful." (Bold print reflects my emphasis of the paragraph)

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."

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. (Bold print reflects my emphasis of the paragraph)

We will move further into this chapter next time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Study through Acts -- Lesson Ten, Chapter 7 part 1

Acts chapter 7, verses 1-8
Without even a cursory understanding of Israel’s history, Stephen’s rehearsal of it here in chapter 7 will be nearly meaningless for us. Therefore, for this part of the study in Acts to make better sense, I encourage you to first read (or at least slowly skim) Genesis chapters 12-24 (better to read to chapter 50, but we will get that part next time). Because of the amount of reading needed for this part of the study, I will break Acts chapter 7 into several parts. Here is the first:

verses 1-8          St. Stephen rehearses the origin of Jewish faith, dating back to Abraham. You read about him in Genesis 12-24.  With regard to Jewish faith, especially Abraham’s faith, see what St. Paul says about that faith in Rom 4:1-5:1. For example:

a. What relationship does St. Paul make between salvation rooted in works and salvation rooted in faith, especially verses 4-9 of Romans 4? See also his comment in Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10, Titus 3:14. See also the Lord’s comment in John 5:28-30 and Matthew 25:31-46.  See also the Catechism passages 176, 183, 1430-1432, 2044.

b. How does Romans 4:19-25 speak to the issue of believing, trusting, and having utter confidence in a miraculous God?

c. How does Romans 5:1 speak to the question of justification (the Greek word translated as justification means, “to be declared guiltless”)? Does that answer the question, “How can we have peace with God” (the second clause in 5:1)?

176 Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words.

183 Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16). For study: Put into your own words the sentiment of paragraphs 176 and 183. How does one express faith to others?

1430 Jesus' call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, "sackcloth and ashes," fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.23

1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).24 For study: Think about the terms interior conversion and interior repentance. What do those ideas mean to you? How are they reflected in one’s daily walk?

1432 The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart.25 Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: "Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!"26 God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced:27 For study: If our heart is not shaken by the horror and weight of our sin, why might that be?

2044 The fidelity of the baptized is a primordial condition for the proclamation of the Gospel and for the Church's mission in the world. In order that the message of salvation can show the power of its truth and radiance before men, it must be authenticated by the witness of the life of Christians. "The witness of a Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have great power to draw men to the faith and to God."88  For study: What does the last sentence have to do with our works or our good deeds? Which comes first – interior conversion or good deeds?

We will move further into this chapter next time.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Study Through Acts - Lesson Nine (chapter 6)

Acts Chapter 6

vv. 1-8          Who were the Hellenistic Jews? What was their relationship with Judean Jews? See this link:

Notice the Greek-sounding names of those by the apostles to oversee the issue. Why might they have been chosen What was their job to be? Who normally did those jobs in that culture? How important was that job deemed to be by the apostles? How were they commissioned by the apostles? Is there application for 21st century? If so, what is it?  See also Rom 1:1, Col 1:7; Phil 1:1; Col 3:16-17


v. 10-15   “Unable to cope with his wisdom” (Verse 10). Compare Luke 21:10-19, especially v. 15. Is there an application?  Early evangelization provided no bed of roses for Christians. Note the accusations made against Stephen. See also 1 Peter 4:9-19; Phil 1:27-29; Heb 10:32-36; 11:35-40. What might be an application for today? See also Joshua 24:15. How do these questions tie together with the article (above) on Hellenism? Is there evidence of a type of ‘Hellenism” at work in and around the Church today? If so, what ought be the Christian response?