Friday, August 31, 2012

Acts 12:20-25 and start chapter 13

Acts 12:20-25       Compare Daniel 4:28-37 Application? (See Daniel 4:1-27 on your own for the backstory to this text. Note how long it was between the dream and the fulfillment in verse 29. What does that suggest about the patience of God?).  Now see Jeremiah 17:9. What does that suggest about humanity's fundamental problem? Compare also CS Lewis: A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.

What does humility have to do with all this? Consider the prayer of Cardinal Merry de Val: Litany of Humility. How might a person's life change as a result of frequently praying that litany?

Chapter 13
St. Paul’s First Missionary Journey


13:1    Note the comment about Manaen. See Matthew 14:1-11. How does one turn out to be a Herod and another to be a Manaen? Read my essay titled, Child or Tool here:  Might that speak to the question?

13:2-5           This 'sending' is clearly not reserved only for apostles, bishops, priests and religious. They do not work where we work, shop where we shop, live where we live, study where we study. The gospel would never cover the world if Jesus left it only to the clergy. Consider the role of the Church (comprised of clergy and laity) cited in the Catechism paragraphs 849-852 (below) as well as the excerpts from Pope Benedict, Pope Paul the VI and Thomas a Kempis (also below). (BOLDED highlights are for my emphasis).

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

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. . . . . Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.

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."346So it is that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians."347
Excerpt from Pope Benedict speech, cited by from CNA/EWTN news of May 30, 2011:

Pope Benedict 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.

. . . .  “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.”

The entire Christian community “is called to revive the missionary spirit in order to offer the new message that persons of our times are hoping for.”

The “lifestyle of believers needs real credibility," the Pope said, adding that Christians should be "much more convincing" because the "condition of the persons to whom it is addressed" is dramatic.

Also consider the following:

ON NOVEMBER 18, 1965

. . . . “But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world.”

. . . .“Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.”

And reflect on these questions 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?

         Question for further reflection: How do you see your role in the missionary mandate of our Lord Jesus Christ? What talents, time and treasure are you dedicating to the building up of the Kingdom of God? Why not consider asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you ways in which you might increase your commitment to God's work on earth?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Acts 12, 1-20 part 2

We looked at little at these first 20 verses of Acts 12 last time. Once again, please read these verses for context and then answer the following questions. Review the paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (below) and answer the embedded questions.

vv. 1-20        Our faith is a supernatural faith. Why might it remain an intellectual reality vs. an internalized reality? Note these passages and consider how the role of God the Holy Spirit might make that an internalized reality: Gen 1:1-2; Matt 3:11 with Acts 1:5-8 and 2:1-4; Luke 11:11 and 12:11-12; John 14:16-17; 16:13-14. See also the CCC paragraphs (below) for further discussion.                

696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit's actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who "arose like fire" and whose "word burned like a torch," brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. This event was a "figure" of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches.

Question: Since the Holy Spirit transforms what He touches, take some time now to consider, 'How has He transformed YOU?

John the Baptist, who goes "before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah," proclaims Christ as the one who "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."38 Jesus will say of the Spirit: "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!"39 In the form of tongues "as of fire," the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself  . . . .

Question: Since the Holy Spirit fills believers with Himself, what evidence do you see in your life that indicates you are indwelt with and empowered by the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit and the Church

737 The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church
which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Question: Who is the Church? Or is the Church merely a place where we gather to worship God?

Question: If the Church is a 'Who', have you a role in the Church? Read 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 as you consider your answer.

This joint mission henceforth brings Christ's faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prepares men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to Christ.

Question: Since the Spirit prepares us to be drawn to Christ, how did He prepare you to come to Him? If you were baptized as an infant, think back to how the Spirit prepared you for your confirmation of intent to walk with Christ for the rest of your life.

The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls his word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may "bear much fruit."

Question: The Holy Spirit empowers us to bear fruit for Christ. What does it mean to you to bear fruit for Jesus? What are you doing to work together with the Holy Spirit to bear fruit?

742 "Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!"' (Gal 4:6).

Question: Read the context of that passage cited in Galatians 4:6. 'Abba" is the Aramaic term for 'Daddy.'  Think about what that term, 'daddy' means in relation to your walk with God. Have you ever called God, 'daddy'?  If not, why not? 

747 The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity's communion with men.

Question: The word, 'sanctify' means to 'set apart for the work of God.' What does it mean to you that the Holy Spirit 'sanctifies' you as part of His Church? How are you permitting Him to 'set you apart to do His work?

1101 The Holy Spirit gives a spiritual understanding of the Word of God to those who read or hear it, according to the dispositions of their hearts . . . . so that they can live out the meaning of what they hear, contemplate, and do in the celebration.

Question: What does it mean to you that the Holy Spirit gives understanding of the Scriptures 'according to the dispositions of their hearts'? How might our 'dispositions' (or, our heart's preparation, focus, desire) be made more receptive to the guidance and instruction from the Holy Spirit as we read the Scriptures? 

1102  "By the saving word of God, faith . . . is nourished in the hearts of believers. By this faith then the congregation of the faithful begins and grows." The proclamation does not stop with a teaching; it elicits the response of faith as consent and commitment, directed at the covenant between God and his people. Once again it is the Holy Spirit who gives the grace of faith, strengthens it and makes it grow in the community. The liturgical assembly is first of all a communion in faith.

Question: What does our heart's disposition have to do with any of the things talked about in this paragraph 1102?

I know this is a long lesson. We will cover the next part of this chapter next time.



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Acts Chapter 12 verses 1-20


Read verses 1-20 for context. We’ve read a lot during our recent online Bible studies about persecution and looked at a number of promises in Scripture of persecution for those who follow Jesus (e.g. 2 Tim 3:12, Phil 1:29; Heb 11:36 and others). But notice what Peter was doing in verse 6. Why do you think that was the case? Why is that important for us to think about, especially in light of things that are happening in America in particular and the world in general regarding the clash of secular and atheistic philosophies with true Christianity (e.g. based on Scripture and the teachings of the Church regarding faith and morals)?

(If you are Catholic, do you own a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Or, are you aware of the searchable Catechism at I use the searchable site quite often to find the Church’s official  teaching on any particular subject of faith and morals. Sometimes what people say the Church teaches, and what the Church actually does teach, are quite dissimilar).

What was the Church doing for Peter at this time? (verse 5)  Notice the adverb (e.g. fervently) used. Why do you think the prayer group scoffed at Rhonda’s message? What do you think James’ parents might have thought after verse 17? What is the application for us in this illustration of martyrdom?

Do you remember this kind of miraculous escape from prison from 5:17-26? Where was it and what were the circumstances? What are the similarities?  What does that suggest, especially in light of the passages (for example) in Heb 11:36ff, or here in Acts 12:2-3?

Now look at Luke 4:22-30. What lessons do you see in that passage that are applicable to this section of study in Acts 12? (can you see at least two?).

What do verses 15-16 suggest (note the wording in verse 5)? What does this suggest about God and about prayer? Do you remember Naaman (see 2 Kings 5)?  How much faith does God require before He acts on our behalf?

We will look further into this chapter next time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Acts chapter 11 verses 18-30

Verse 18         How do you understand this verse in context with all we have looked at in Acts 10:11-11:17?

11:19-24          (Refers back to 8:1) Note what God does through persecution of His church.  See Rom 8:28; Mt 24:6-14; 42-51; Also Gen 50:20. Consider ‘The hand of the Lord’ was with them. Might you see an application for us with 1 Corinthians 15:58?

Note also the phrase, “With resolute heart” or “With purposeful heart” – Why did he (or anyone) need to encourage or be encouraged with a resolute heart in that day?  In our own? Note the comment in Hebrews 3, especially verses 12-15. How might we obtain a resolute or purposeful heart?

Verse 26          As an FYI, note this is the first Christ’s disciples were called Christians (at Antioch).  What does the term, “Christian” mean in historical context? What do you think of the definition found here:  Do an internet search of your own and see if you can find a better definition.

Verse 28-30    Note the disciples took care of the poor by choice – not coercion. Why is that important?  See 1 John 3:16-18; Matt 25:31-46.

We will start chapter 12 next time