Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Word, WORSHIP, & Works of Mercy, part 2

Tuesday night at the Mission: Thomas Smith (from Idaho, not Colorado as I reported previously) opened the evening with a discussion of what is WORSHIP.  We usually consider worship something that we go to or do on Sunday at Church. But he explained worship is much more than that. Worship should become our way of life.

The Hebrew word for worship is AVODAH. And this word first appears in the Bible in Genesis 2:15. “The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”  The Hebrew word for cultivate here also means to worship.  God was telling Adam and Eve to create a place to worship. The term “to keep it” in Hebrew “shamar” means “to guard jealously.” Thus, God is telling man to make a space (physically and in our day) to worship Him. And he wants us to keep this space in our world just for him, just for the purpose of worship.

Further, Smith explained that this word WORSHIP translates in Greek to the word PROSKUNEO.  This word also means “to kiss someone on the mouth,” as a bridegroom does to his bride. Thus, in this meaning we see that God is calling man to worship in a deeply personal, intimate relationship with Him. And we should worship him in awe and wonder and joy, with humility.

The linking of our relationship to God is also likened to a marriage relationship in the Hebrew faith when we look at Moses and the 10 Commandments. In the Jewish faith the 10 commandments are called the 10 Wedding Vows. (I will discuss more about the VOW later). In fact, when God presented them to Moses on Mount Sinai, the heavy clouds overhead have been likened to the Jewish wedding canopy. And in the Book of Revelation, the end of time is referred to as a great wedding feast, again with God as the bridegroom and man as the bride.

In early Jewish days, a bridal payment was made prior to the wedding. When the bridegroom’s offering was brought to the bride, she showed her agreement to marry him by accepting his sacrifice and responding with “AMEN.” With Christ, he made the payment to his “bride” by paying with his blood.  The Eucharist is always offered as a sacrifice in the Catholic Mass. During Eucharist at Mass we are renewing our wedding vows with Christ. We respond likewise at Holy Communion with the same “Amen” to show our acceptance of Christ as the bridegroom in our love relationship with him.

(This difference between a COMMANDMENT and a VOW is of utmost importance. A Commandment is an order, while a VOW is an agreement on the part of both parties. And a VOW is an equal promise between persons, like a covenant.)

Smith then discussed the importance of building a lifestyle of worship. This happens through prayer. Within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are four pillars of what Catholics believe. (The Profession of Faith, The Celebration of Christian Mystery, Life in Christ, and Christian Prayer.) The fourth pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the value of Christian prayer. Smith explained that there are four keys to the fourth pillar. Each of these keys are unquenchable, and unending:
1.     1.   Reading the Word of God (Scripture) – We must pray as we read Scripture; it nourishes us.
2.     Liturgy (The Holy Mass, Holy Eucharist is  powerful prayer) – It is the source of life and each Eucharist is like another Pentecost, a Spirit-filling event.
3.     The theological Virtues – We enter into prayer through FAITH. The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray in HOPE. And we receive God’s LOVE poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
4.     Today – The Spirit of God is offered to us each day and at each moment. It is in the present that we encounter Him, not yesterday or tomorrow, but today, “O that today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts!”

Smith concluded his presentation with a prayer method called the Examen Prayer. (This type of prayer is NOT the same as the Catholic Examination of Conscience you may have heard of.) There are five steps to this prayer practice:

1.    1.    Express gratitude to God for the day.
2.    2.  Ask for the grace to see the truth about yourself: “Show me what you want me to see.”
3.    3. Review your day with Christ at your side. Where did you make him known in word and deed? Where may you have failed to mirror Christ to your world?
4.    Ask pardon for your sins.
5.    Make a concrete intention to act differently tomorrow, by God’s grace, using what you learned in the Examen. Close by praying the “Our Father.”

Smith notes that we will never grow or change if we don’t examine our day and our life. He recommends that we spend some time each day with this practice, and that it should be done at least once a week. Ideally, it should be done at the close of the day.

That's it for day two. It was a very enriching presentation and now I am challenged to try to apply what I have learned. I will have to pray for God’s graces to integrate these practices into my life. The next posting will summarize Day Three, which addresses the Works of Mercy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Word, Worship, & Works of Mercy

This week my church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Temperance, MI, is hosting a 3-day mission for our parish. The speaker is Thomas Smith, from Colorado. He shared a little of his personal faith journey with us last night. You can read about his background as a former Mormon, and later a former Baptist minister, finally becoming a Catholic in the 1990s from a 2001 news article by clicking here. Mr. Smith now travels the country and the world presenting programs such as this one and the Great Adventures Catholic Bible series. He did an excellent job.

The topic of the 3-day mission is the three pillars: Word, Worship, and Works of Mercy. These teachings are found in the early Jewish faith (Rabbi Simeon the Just taught that “the world exists through three things: the Law, worship, and beneficence.” -Pirkei Avoth 1:2).  The three pillars later appeared in two famous sermons of Jesus (Matthew 5 – 7 and 23-25.)

On Monday night Smith addressed the first pillar, the need to study the Word—the Holy Bible. Smith discussed how many of us struggle to study the Bible. One method he mentioned was exactly the same as I discussed in an earlier posting on this site: Making a new year’s resolution to read the complete Bible in one year. Unfortunately, the narrative of the Bible gets people lost somewhere around Leviticus and then they give up. Another method he called “Bible Roulette.” In this method a person lets the Bible fall open, points to a passage, and reads and meditates on it. While this may work in some cases, often the passage has an obscure meaning, making it difficult to relate it to one’s daily life. Instead, it is best to read the Bible in the proper context of what is happening at that particular time, who the audience is, etc. Smith recommends learning about the Bible from Bible studies, good books, etc.

However, Smith did offer us an excellent way to study the Bible right now, even without much Bible background. We can use the Word in a prayerful way, through a method developed by St. Benedict and Pope Gregory I. The method is called Lectio Divina.  Lectio Divina (pronounced “lex-e-o   di-vee-nah”) is Latin for Divine Reading or Spiritual Reading. Smith recommends we do this daily. This method has four steps:
1-    Lectio (Reading) – Smith recommends choosing the Gospel passage of the day  (the reading from daily Mass is a great place to start.) The Gospel, the life and words of Jesus, are often the most easy to apply to our daily lives.
2-    Meditatio (Reflecting) – Certain phrases or passages will spark your spirit to respond to them. Focus on those.
3-    Oratio (Responding) – Turn what God has brought to your attention back to Him in the form of prayer.
4-    Contemplatio (Resting) – Give God some quiet time where you can be still in His presence.

Smith said we can better understand and recall this using the metaphor of eating a fine meal:
Step 1: The LECTIO is reading the Bible or taking a perfect “bite” of Holy Scripture to start with.
Step 2: The MEDITATIO is to “chew” on the word of God. Smith says that the pre-translated word for “meditation” is really more a sound.  The sound is the satisfactory noise one makes when digging into something tasty and satisfying, like when you slide cheesecake off your fork and into your mouth. Meditation as referred to here is not just the silent state of contemplation, but the pleasant sound of succor when are senses are filled.
Step 3: The ORATIO is when we are digesting the fine meal. In Scripture, we are bringing nourishment from the “food” of Scripture into our being to build the strength of our spirit. 
Step 4: The CONTEMPLATIO, or resting, is when we rest in the Word. It is the after-dinner period of rest when we internally acknowledge our satisfaction with the feast. It is the quiet time of prayer, where we allow all things to be still so that we can be with God. It is the ultimate act of hospitality, when we make time and space for God.

While Benedictine’s recommend an hour per day in Lexio Divina, Smith says everyone can benefit from just about 20 minutes daily of practicing this method of study and prayer. For a deeper explanation and understanding of this method of study and prayer, Smith recommends reading Praying for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Dr. Tim Gray.  Thomas Smith also has a website where you can read more about his apostolate and his teachings. It is

If you are interested in attending the remaining sessions on Nov. 9 & 10, it is not too late to join us. On day two Smith will speak about Worship, where we will learn the Examen Prayer. On day three Smith will present how to incorporate the Works of Mercy into our lives. The gathering is in the church and the evening session runs from 7 to 8 pm, following 6:00 pm Mass. There is also a morning session after 9 am Mass. All are welcome to attend. There is no registration required and no fee to attend. If you would like to join me there, or have questions, just email me at  May God continue to guide you on your journey and have a blessed day!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trivia Time!

A Trivia Quiz!

Perhaps it is from all the quizzes and tests I have been creating at work lately, but I thought my readers might enjoy a multiple choice quiz for fun. The questions come from the book of Genesis. The correct answers are listed at the bottom of the quiz. Feel free to post your score in the Comments section at the end.

(1) How many different Creation stories appear in the book of Genesis?
a - 1
b - 2
c - 3
d - 0

(2) Adam and Eve's next child after Cain and Abel was named _______________?
a – Dinah
b – Sharona
c – Seth
d – Shem

(3) Following God’s command, Abraham stops just short of sacrificing his son’s life to prove his love for and obedience to God. What is this son’s name?
a – Jacob
b – Isaac
c – Ishmael
d – Sarai

(4) Isaac was tricked into giving his blessing to the wrong son. Which son received his blessing?
a – Jacob
b – Esau
c – Ishmael

(5) After Noah’s ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, Noah set a bird out to look for signs of land. What kind of bird did Noah first send out?
a – dove
b – owl
c – raven
d – pidgeon

(6) What was Noah’s profession?
a – sailor
b – carpenter
c – farmer
d – zoo keeper

(7) For what reason did the people decide to build the Tower of Babel?
a – They wanted to make a name for themselves.
b – They wanted to create a central government.
c – They wanted to learn one language.
d – They wanted to build a performance auditorium.

(8) How was Lot related to Abraham?
a – Lot was Abraham’s niece
b – Lot was Abraham’s nephew
c – Lot was Abraham’s brother
d – Lot was Abraham’s brother-in-law

(9) Who was thought to be barren, but was finally able to have children in her old age?
a – Sarah
b – Leah
c – Rebekah
d – Keturah

(10) What is the original name of the person that God renamed ISRAEL?
a – Jacob
b – Joseph
c – Reuben
d – Esau


ANSWERS: Please post your score in the COMMENTS section below! Thanks!
(1) – b, (2) – c, (3) – b, (4) – b, (5) – c, (6) – c, (7) – a, (8) – b, (9) – a, (10) – a

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bits and Pieces

When it comes to my knowledge and study of the Bible, I must admit that I have been all over the place.  One of my earliest recollections of Bible study was somewhere around 8th or 9th grade. In our weekly religious ed class, the topic for the year was the Old Testament and Abraham. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I hated it!!!  I did not see any use for studying the Old Testament patriarchs.  I don’t think I learned much that year. Frankly, I was too wrapped up in my social life to apply myself to the topic at hand, even at CCD class. (My apologies to the teacher, who did her best!)

Later, as an adult with my first-born baby in tow, I attended a weekly Bible study at my church. It was a profound, spirit-filled experience. The small group of women met on Thursday mornings and it grew from around a dozen people to about 40 regular attendees. The group was open to Christians of any faith and we were respectful of differences in beliefs, concentrating instead on our shared beliefs. Words cannot express the wonderful experience of that Thursday morning group. But as my knowledge grew, so did my family and work obligations. I eventually, reluctantly, stopped participating in the group Bible study.

As time went on, I tried to study the Bible on my own. At various times I would commit to a plan and get very excited about it. I would find a new version of the Bible, or a new book on reading the Bible, and make a resolution to immerse myself in it. First I tried reading the Bible in sequential order, starting with Genesis. My plan was to read straight through to Revelation. But often by the time I got to Leviticus, I would stop, being bogged down with all the laws and regulations.  Once I even bought a Bible that was arranged to let me read the complete Bible in one year. Under that plan you read several passages from each of four different books every day. Four different years in a row I made a New Year’s Resolution to read the complete Bible from this book. And by March every year I had given up. The book has remained on my bookshelf ever since, reminding me of my failed attempts to study Holy Scripture.

I think the problem with my method of Bible self-study is that I really didn’t know how to learn what the Bible was saying. I would pray, read a random passage, ponder what it meant, and hope something was sinking in to my mind or my soul.  I never really knew if I was supposed to be getting more out of it, but I admit I often did not understand what the passage was about.  I think it is because I was not ever seeing the big picture. I only saw bits and pieces. 

My guess is that many people share this problem. Some churches encourage people to memorize independent Scripture verses. Or they instruct you to pray and study on just one random verse and listen to what it speaks to you. While both of these methods offer value, with this method we can miss the big picture of what is happening in the story.

In my CBSM classes we are studying the Bible more in-depth, spread over four years. We are able to go slower and address it in more detail, because in the bits-and-pieces method you can miss a lot. For example, unless you read all of Genesis in sequence you may miss how God speaks to several people from different generations, all in an effort to bring man into a redemption partnership with Him for us all. From Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, God seeks out those men who become the patriarchs of our faith. And collectively, they work with God to build the foundation of our calling to become a holy people. Now that’s what I want to learn about: studying the Bible to make sure my time here is spent answering God’s personal call to me. After all, we only get one time on this Earth, with no guaranteed number of years. And I have to ask, how am I spending my life? 

 Something to think about, eh? 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I believe!

For your enjoyment and appreciation today, visit the link below for a look at God's magnificence.


And let's remember to thank and praise God for it all!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't suffer fools gladly.

The Catholic faith recognizes feast days to celebrate the lives of the various Saints of the Catholic church. Today, Sept. 30, is the feast day of St. Jerome.  He was a monk, priest, hermit, mystic, and Doctor of the Church. St. Jerome also was a multi-lingual Scripture scholar who labored over a long period of time to translate the Bible from the original Hebrew language at the request of the Pope. His final product came to be known as The Vulgate. Jerome was well-studied and highly respected. St. Augustine said of him, “What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known.”

Catholics also believe that just as you might ask a friend to pray for you, we can also ask those who have already left this life to pray for us. In the Catechism of the Catholic Faith, Part 4, Article 3, Topic 2683 GUIDES FOR PRAYER: “The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, shar in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise Him, and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth . . . We can and should ask them to intercede for us and the whole world.”

The Catechism, Topic 956, also explains the Catholic belief of Intercessory prayer: “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness  . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”

By all accounts, St. Jerome was not one to “suffer fools gladly.” He was profoundly intolerant of anything but the truth. And he loved the Bible greatly.

So in following another Catholic tradition, I shall seek the aid of St. Jerome to pray for me as I continue on my study of the Bible. I will try to keep his example in mind to always seek the truth. I will enlist his prayers to be joined with mine as I seek the wisdom required to understand the message God wants me to hear through the Scriptures. St. Jerome, please pray for me!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I didn't know that!

Sometimes I choose these writings along a theme, but I expect I will have lots of AHA! Moments, when I learn something new from my Bible study class. Here is something I learned along the way in Bible class this week:

The person of Melchizedek was introduced for the first time in the Bible in Gen. 14:18-20. In this passage he is listed as the “king of Salem” and “Priest of God Most High.” He comes to bless Abram after Abram leads his people to defeat the king who had kidnapped his nephew. With his nephew freed, Abram is welcomed back. But it seems that there is some mystery surrounding Melchizedek.

Later, King David mentions him in Psalm 110:4. Melchizedek is noted in this passage: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

In the New Testament book of Hebrews 7: 1 – 3, Melchizedek is referred to as “. . .  King of Salem, priest of the Most High God,” . . . “He is first, by translation, of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.  He is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” 

So, who is this Melchizedek?  There are a few different theories on this: some support that he is a man, another that he is God.

1- Some say he is Noah’s favored son, Shem. This is based on two logical arguments. (a) Whoever is powerful and revered enough to bless Abram would have to be a very significant person, indeed. And (b) Shem would still be alive in that day, according to the ages and genealogy accounts given.

2- Some say that he is just exactly what the Bible says: a king of Salem and a holy Priest.

3- Another theory is the Christophany theory. In this theory, Melchizedek is actually the pre-incarnation of Jesus; the eternal, preexistent Word who later became Jesus. He mirrors Jesus in that he brought bread and wine in his welcome to Abram back from his victorious battle. His name translates to King of righteousness. Some believe that he pre-figures Christ. The statment of him having no parents and no lineage at all encourage this thinking of his being ever-present and timeless.

Scholars disagree with one another, but I find the Christophany theory to be very intriguing.  You can read lots of  varying opinions by doing a Google search on Melchizedek. Go ahead, it can’t hurt to study up so that you can form your own opinion. 

Who knew?