Friday, June 29, 2012

Book of Acts chapter 10 verses 1-8

vv. 1-4          Although we are saved by and through faith (e.g. Eph 2:8-9. [But see verse 10]), alms (deeds of charity) hold great importance to God as to the genuineness of our faith. See Heb 6:10; 13:16; Gal 6:10; Titus 2:14; 3:8, 14; Matthew 25:34-46.

The entire book of James is also devoted to the importance of works of charity (good deeds). But what is the RISK in over-emphasizing one or the other?

See also the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1814-16, 2447 below. Answer the questions highlighted and embedded within those CCC paragraphs.  

vv. 5-8 (with v. 22)            Why do you think the angel didn’t tell Cornelius about Jesus, but instead, Peter would tell him (see Acts 10: 34-43)? How do these questions fit with Matthew 28:19-20 and 1 Peter 1:10-12?  How does that compare with the angel’s words to Mary, Joseph, Zachariah, and the shepherds in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels?  What is the difference? (Matt 1:20, 24; 2:13,19; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:8-11). 

For Church teaching about angels, see CCC 331-350 below.

1814 Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God." (What does it mean to you to commit one’s “entire self to God”?).  For this reason (What does the word here, THIS, refer to?)  the believer seeks to know and do God's will. (What is our responsibility once we know God’s will, even if we don’t particularly like His will in any given circumstance? How difficult is that for you to do?) "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity." See Rom 1:17; Gal 5:6

1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: "All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks." (Please read that last sentence slowly again. The Church has in the past been called, “The Church Militant.” Note St. Paul’s comments about our battle armor in Ephesians 6:10-18 and consider how you might enhance your battle armor). Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: "So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven." (There are many ways to deny Jesus besides actually saying the words as St. Peter did [see for example Luke 22:54-62). What are some other ways we can deny Jesus?).

2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.242 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.243 (Note the two types of works of mercy. What do you think about St. Paul’s comment in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5?). Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:244

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise.245Lk 3:11 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.246 Lk 11:41 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?247 Jas 2:15-16; 1 Jn 3:17.

331 Christ is the center of the angelic world. They are his angels: "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him. . "191 They belong to him because they were created through and for him: "for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through him and for him."192 They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?"193

332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.194 Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.195

333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God "brings the firstborn into the world, he says: 'Let all God's angels worship him.'"196 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church's praise: "Glory to God in the highest!"197 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.198 Again, it is the angels who "evangelize" by proclaiming the Good News of Christ's Incarnation and Resurrection.199 They will be present at Christ's return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgment.200

350 Angels are spiritual creatures who glorify God without ceasing and who serve his saving plans for other creatures: "The angels work together for the benefit of us all" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 114, 3, ad 3).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Acts chapter 9 verses 23-43

In our continuing study through the book of Acts, we will finish chapter 9 with this lesson.

vv. 23-29       There is an expression used by combat soldiers, “Point man takes the fire.” How is that applicable to doing evangelistic work for Christ? What might Mark 8:34-38 say to that?

vv. 26-31       Note who came to Paul’s aid (Barnabas means “son of encouragement’). But also see what happened to Barnabas (and St. Peter) in Gal 2:11-16. WHY do you think that happened? What is the risk and application for us? How do we avoid that trap?  Gal 1:6-10 might help guide our answer.

vv.32-43        These verses change our focus from Paul (for a short while) and turns to Peter for the next few chapters. We return to Paul in chapter 13 for his first missionary journey. In this section we find the Lord working miracles of healing (even raising someone from the dead), and then the set up for the story of Cornelius. It is at this point (chapter 10) that Luke emphasizes the gospel being now taken beyond the Jews and to the Gentiles.

The whole of Acts can be summed up in one word: Missionary. Or perhaps, Evangelism. Or perhaps a joining of the terms: Missionary Evangelism. The Catechism (para 851) teaches us: Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.

What are some ways you can be a missionary to your friends, neighbors, families? Perhaps the words of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, might help guide our answer, as also might the comments of Pope Benedict:

Fr. Pedro Arrupe: Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, falling in love [with Him] in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with seizes your imagination; it will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you will do in the evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, what you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love [with God], stay in love, and it will decide everything."

Pope Benedict, in his comments on May 30, 2011, stressed the urgency of evangelizing modern society, saying that Christians today face the task of reaching a world that grows increasingly apathetic to the message of the Gospel. He said: It is important to make them understand that being Christian is not a type of outfit that one wears in private or on special occasions, but something living and totalizing, capable of taking all that is good in modernity.

And then there are the thoughts of Thomas a Kempis:

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?

Now put it all together and answer the question posed at the beginning of verses 32-43: What are some ways you can become missionary to your friends, family, neighbors?
We move into chapter 10 next time.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Acts Chapter 9 verses 1-22

vv. 1-9 Jesus’ comment to Saul: “You are persecuting ME”. Regarding this concept of Jesus, His Body, the Church and the individual Christian, see Matt 25:35-46; Psalm 51:4, Ezek 16:15-32. What is the application for us in this century and at this time?

vv. 10-16 Jesus called Saul a “chosen instrument.” When did God choose Saul? See Gal 1:15. Compare also Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:1-16. Did God choose you? See Bishop Sheen quote below. When did God choose you? What does that knowledge mean to you now?

Bishop Sheen: So the divine love is sacrificial love. Love does not mean to have and to own and to possess. It means to be had and to be owned and to be possessed. It is not a circle circumscribed by self, it is arms outstretched to embrace all humanity within its grasp.

v. 16   What did Paul (Saul) suffer?  See 2 Cor 11:23-29. Is he the only one God calls to suffer for Christ? What might happen if we avoid suffering for Christ? See Phil 1:29; 1 Peter 2:18-25; Num 33:55;  Dt 8:1-3; 20:16-18; Ps 106:34-39

Vv 17-19 Consider the “scales” mentioned in this text with Luke 24:31. What might be an application for us?  What might we pray for?

Many scholars speculate St. Paul had eye trouble (e.g. Galatians 4: 13-15; Gal 6: 11; 2 Cor 12:7-10. Is it possible Paul’s thorn was his guilty conscience about his treatment of Christians? See his repeated references: Acts 22:3-5; 26:9-12; Gal 1:11-14; Phil 3:4-6; 1 Tim 1:15. 

Have YOU done anything in your past that, though you know is forgiven and covered under Christ’s blood, yet still haunts you? Perhaps God’s words to Paul in that 2 Cor 12 passage (above) might prove useful for you.

vv. 20-22       Note what is happening here. This is what Conversion looks like. See Gal 1:11-14 again, also 2 Cor 11:23-29; Phil 3:5-11. Now see Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân below comment below:

Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân: In prison the Catholic prisoners divided the New Testament, which they had hidden and taken with them, into little sheets; they distributed them and learned them by heart. Since the ground was earth or sand, when the guards' steps were heard, the Word of God was hidden under earth. In the afternoon, at sundown, each one took turns reciting the part he knew; it was impressive and moving to hear the Word of God in the silence and darkness, the presence of Jesus, the 'living Gospel,' recited with all the soul's strength, the priestly prayer, the Passion of Christ....I would it be possible to have a change of mentality, a constant re-evangelization of life, to effect a real conversion? (Note: Because of his Catholic faith, the Archbishop was held for 13 years in Vietnamese prisons. He spent 9 of these in solitary confinement).

We will finish chapter 9 next time and maybe start chapter 10. We are closing in on our live Monday night study at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. If you are in the Tacoma area, please join us.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Acts Chapter 8, verses 25 through 40

Lots of reading in this lesson, but I will not post another lesson for about a week, so you have plenty of time.

 vv. 25-35       How does God prepare others for us to speak with them? How does God prepare us to speak with them? (Consider, Psalm 119:99, Romans 14-17). Since God speaks to all His children who are born through baptism, how does God speak to you?

Write it down on a sheet of paper.

Along with Stephen, Philip was one of the community assigned by the apostles to ‘serve tables’ (see Acts 6:1-3). We’ve already looked at Stephen’s knowledge of Scripture. Now we see an example of Philip’s comfort level with Scripture (8:29-35). Now take a look at Luke 1:46-55. In those 10 verses Mary quotes or alludes to OT Scripture no less than eight times (compare also 1 Samuel 2:1-10).  It seems the early church was full of men and women well-versed in OT Scripture. They were not familiar with those texts BECAUSE they were Saints, they were knowledgeable BEFORE they became Saints. What might be an application for you and me?

The eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53, a test written several centuries before Jesus’ birth. Take a moment to read Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Why does the prophet Isaiah indicate Jesus died? What does St. Paul say about that in Galatians 1:3-4 and St. Peter in 1 Peter 1:13-19? What does the Book of Hebrews state about the case in Hebrews 2:14-18?

The Book of Wisdom, one of the deutero-canonical books in Catholic Bibles, was written about a hundred years before Christ. Read Wisdom 2:11-24. Compare this section to Matthew 27:39-43 and Luke 23:33-35.

vv. 36-40  Notice the eunuch’s response to the news about Jesus spoken by Philip. Tradition tells us the eunuch brought the message of Christ to his own country and evangelized his nation. Conversion changes people.

v. 39   Philip is now ‘snatched away.’  This is a supernatural event, likely similar to John 6:17-21 (especially verse 21) and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 with 1 Thess 4:13-17.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Study through Acts, Chapter 8, verses 1-35

vv. 1-4 (verse 3 Greek word in this verse means to “ravage, corrupt, destroy). What does this denote about persecution? Now consider:

Regarding St Paul’s activities here, compare Acts 22:4-6; 26:12-15; Gal 1:11-14; Phil 3:1-6; 1 Tim 1:12-16.  Now look at 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. What might be the reason for St. Paul’s comment about the of the 2 Corinthians passage in light of the others? What might this also suggest about God’s forgiveness and mercy? Application?

vv. 5-20         Let's focus on Simon a moment. See CCC 2121 below about “Simony”. See also the brief history of Simony in the Church below gleaned from Wikipedia

Simon practiced “Magic arts” See Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7. Also Matthew 24:22-25; 2 Thess 2:7-12. What might be an application for us regarding black magic, horoscopes, Ouija boards and other occult practices?

vv. 14-24       Some believe he saw/heard the disciples speaking in their new prayer language (see Acts 19:1-6; 1 Cor 12:7-11). Note, the charisms are given also to the laity, not just the leadership. 

vv. 25-35       How does God prepare others for us to speak with them? How does 
God prepare us to speak with others? (Consider, Psalm 119:99, Romans 14-17).  Since God speaks to all His children who are born through baptism, then God must speak to you (if you are a Christian). How does God speak to you?

We will look again at verses 25-35 next time to pull out a few more nuggets in this passage

2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things.53 To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: "Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money!"54 Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: "You received without pay, give without pay."55 It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

53 Cf. Acts 8:9-24.; 54 Acts 8:20. ; 55 Mt 10:8; cf. already Isa 55:1.

(Simony was also one of the important issues during the Investiture Controversy). The following is from

The Investiture Controversy or Investiture Contest often seen as a significant conflict between Church and state in medieval Europe, was really a conflict over two radically different views of whether secular authorities such as kings, counts, or dukes, had any legitimate role in appointments to ecclesiastical offices such as bishoprics.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, a series of Popes challenged the authority of European monarchies over control of appointments, or investitures, of church officials such as bishops and abbots. Although the principal conflict began in 1075 between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, a brief but significant struggle over investiture also occurred between Henry I of England and the Pope Paschal II in the years 1103 to 1107 . . . 

After the decline of the Roman Empire, and prior to the Investiture Controversy, while theoretically a task of the Church, investiture was in practice performed by secular authorities. This practice worked well in many areas of Europe where secular authorities were careful to place spiritually-qualified men into office. However, the temptation was always there to use these lucrative offices to reward vassals and other favorites, even if the candidates were not qualified. Since a substantial amount of wealth and land was usually associated with the office of bishop or abbot, secular leaders could demand part of the proceeds of the territories given to such favorites, and in some cases, the outright sale of Church offices (a practice known as simony) could also be an important source of income for secular leaders.

Since bishops and abbots were themselves usually part of the secular governments, due to their literate administrative resources or due to an outright family relationship (younger sons of the nobility would often be appointed bishops), it was beneficial for a secular ruler to appoint (or sell the office to) someone who would be loyal.[2]

The crisis began when a group within the church, members of the Gregorian Reform, decided to address the sin of simony by restoring the power of investiture to the Church. The Gregorian reformers knew this would not be possible so long as the emperor maintained the ability to appoint the pope, so their first step was to liberate the papacy from the control of the emperor.

An opportunity came in 1056 when Henry IV became German king at six years of age. The reformers seized the opportunity to free the papacy while he was still a child and could not react. In 1059 a church council in Rome declared, with In Nomine Domini, that secular leaders would play no part in the selection of popes and created the College of Cardinals as a body of electors made up entirely of church officials. . . .