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.

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