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Bible 101: Scripture in the Mass

On this Holy Saturday, let us talk more about God’s written Word!

Copyright Adrienne Taylor 2012 and Copyright New American Bible

In the Catholic Church, we are blessed to have Masses dripping with Scripture! In case you weren’t aware, the scripture selected for the readings of each day’s Mass is pre-determined by a lectionary that all parishes use (customized per country/region based upon the General Roman Calendar as a standard). The Sunday readings rotate on a three year cycle, and the weekday readings rotate on a two year cycle. 2012 uses cycle B for the Sunday readings. Beyond the 3-4 reading selections in the Liturgy of the Word, if you listen closely to the prayers, and especially the Eucharistic prayers you’ll find many of them are phrased with quotes from the Bible!

Before the advent of the printing press, and widespread literacy (so, for the majority of the history of the world), the faithful weren’t able to study a personal copy of the Bible at home on their Kindle. In fact, Bibles were hand written, page, by page, by scribes, resulting in Bibles costing 3 years’ wages per copy. That’s the equivalent of a house in today’s terms! Instead of the faithful taking out 30 year loans to pay for individual copies of Bibles, they heard God’s written Word at Mass.

Just to get you started for this weekend’s Mass, I am going to share with you quickly the Scriptures in the Liturgy of the Word. Remember, the Mass is divided into two parts, the Liturgy of the Word (all of the readings and the homily) and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the prayers and rubrics for before, during and after the celebration of the Blessed Sacrament, or Communion). Masses every day have a first reading, a Psalm, and a Gospel reading. Masses on Sundays and Holy Days have a second reading between the Psalm and Gospel reading.

The first reading is usually taken from the Old Testament. The Old Testament is larger than the New Testament and describes God’s interaction with His people before the birth of His Son. If you attend daily Mass, you’ll often find that the missal will lead us through sequential passages of the Old Testament, so sometimes you’ll hear a lot about Moses (the man lived 800 years, so he got a lot of air time), or David, or Soloman, and that’s because a particular book of the Bible is being read sequentially by order of the missal or lectionary. At the conclusion of the reading we hear, “This is the Word of the Lord.” and reply, “Thanks be to God.” Remember this for a distinction I will draw later.

Next is the Psalm. If you take your Bible and open it up roughly to the middle, you’ll likely land in the Psalms. Not only is the book of Psalms in the middle of the compiled Scriptures, but it’s also the biggest book in the Bible and it resides in the Old Testament. Notice that often we sing this part of Scripture, and that’s because the Psalms were written to be sung as worship, and even in the liturgy of the religious communities before Christ.

On Sundays and Holy days, after the Psalm comes the second reading, and this reading is taken from the New Testament epistles, so not from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John (that’s later). Pay attention to the way this reading is announced, “a reading from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians”. Yep, turns out I could have learned all about the New Testament if I’d just been paying attention more. These writings are often to or about the Church after Christ’s Ascension (starting with the book of Acts which begins with Christ’s Ascension to Heaven and chronicles the apostles mission building the Church after Christ). Paul wrote a lot of the New Testament, but he wasn’t the only NT author (though it seems like it because the man wrote a lot!  Thanks be to God, of course).  Many of his letters were to Christian churches (like parishes) whom needed further instruction or were running a muck of immorality and needed to be smacked back into place.   Similar to the conclusion of our first reading we’ll hear, “The Word of the Lord” and will reply, “Thanks be to God.”

Now for the main attraction in the Liturgy of the Word! It is the Gospel reading! We stand for this reading because of our high respect for the very words of and story of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This reading will be from one of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.   You’ll also notice that the previous readings were specifically selected to support and explain the Gospel reading.  At the conclusion of the Gospel reading we hear, “The Gospel of the Lord.” and respond “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus never penned a lick o’ Scripture, so thankfully the Holy Spirit, via the pens of the four Gospel writers, still told us about Jesus’ life on Earth such that we can hear Him speak to us with His very words recorded in the Gospels.  The words in the Gospels give us shape for understanding everything else in the Scriptures.

Homework

As for some homework, take your Bible and find the Psalms, then also find the four Gospels. And lastly for weekly homework, I want you to look up each Sunday’s Mass readings in the Bible, and for extra credit, read them straight from your Bible before Mass! Believe me, you’ll get a lot more out of the homily if you do this!

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The Bible for (abortion) Profit?!

(NOTE: read an important update at the end of this post!)

The Bible, the holy word of God, and prayerful concern for victims of breast cancer – they fit together so very well! That is until you add the Susan G Komen Foundation into the mix! We, at Catholic Sistas, spent much of October helping to shed light on the unholy alliance between Komen and Planned Parenthood (PP). The fact that Komen donates millions of dollars to PP – the largest provider of abortion in our land –  should, therefore, not come as a surprise. What may not be common knowledge, however, is their latest attempt to ‘pink’…

 the Holy Bible!

That’s right! Komen has stepped up its attempts to commercialize breast cancer by partnering with B&H Publishing Group (a division of LifeWay Christian stores) and Walmart as reseller. Their brainchild is the Here’s Hope Bible –  Breast Cancer Awareness Edition, which benefits the Susan G Komen Foundation. Hopefully the publisher and retailer are unwitting accomplices to Komen in their insidious efforts to usurp dollars intended to help with ‘awareness’.

So here is their spiel from the Walmart online store:

“The Here’s Hope Breast Cancer Bible is a reminder that God has not forgotten you, a friend, or loved one who has been impacted by breast cancer. Not only will you find encouragement and inspiration through testimonies from breast cancer survivors but more importantly you’ll encounter God’s life-sustaining words for you.”

Prayerful concern, inspiration, and comforting scripture are certainly a solace for those of us who have experienced breast cancer. I firmly believe that I am alive today as the result of many prayers lifted up for me during surgery, chemo, and recovery! As a 6-year survivor, I also feel qualified to opine that breast cancer donations would be better spent on prevention and research or perhaps helping actual victims such 30 year old, Erika Vandiver, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 20 weeks pregnant.

Furthermore, much of Komen’s rhetoric is aimed at ‘awareness’. Aren’t we all ‘aware’ of breast cancer by now? You can ask almost anyone, male or female, and they will likely be able to recite, by rote, the ways to prevent breast cancer: regular mammograms, healthy eating, avoidance of the Pill, and of course not having abortions. We know about self exams and exercising and even genetic testing. So this ‘awareness’ is not as urgent as it once was. Komen seems simply to have found a titillating way to stir up sentiment – and reap the cash rewards – and now they have stooped to the shameless exploitation of scripture!

However, what concerns me most about this latest endeavor to raise money…ahem…I mean awareness, is that Komen is crossing the line of propriety. How dare an organization with a loathsome alliance with abortion giant, PP, associate themselves with ‘scripture for profit’? Especially since a part of their share of the purchase price will, most likely, find its way to a cause of breast cancer – abortion!  After all, $1 of every purchase of the Here’s Hope Bible goes to Komen. Additionally disgraceful is that Komen’s support of PP does nothing to prevent breast cancer – PP does not provide even one mammogram in any of its facilities, nationwide!

Now, before you object to the conclusion that Komen dollars help to fund PP abortions, let’s connect the dots. Money donated to PP is fungible. This means that, although the money may not be donated specifically for abortions, it does free up funds that WILL be used for abortions. By helping PP pay their light bill, for example, you are freeing up other funds to kill babies! That is simply not acceptable, helpful or moral!

God help our nation in its complicity in the killing of millions of unborn babies!

These babies deserve our prayerful consideration! We must not become unwitting accomplices ourselves! Let us seek justice for the sake of the voiceless! So what can we do? For starters, think before you pink! Then we must share this post with as many people as possible to raise our own kind of ‘awareness’. We should also contact B & H publishing, LifeWay, and Wal-Mart and let them know (if they don’t already) that Komen is not a suitable partner. This will take little of our time and if enough pro-life faithful are willing to make the effort, we may just be able to stem this pink tide…especially with Him as our ally!

“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.” ~Matthew 5:6

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UPDATE:

From a story posted by LifeNews.com entitled LifeWay Christian Bookstores Takes Komen Bible Off Shelves:

“In a victory for pro-life advocates, Lifeway Christian Bookstores has taken a Bible sold to fund the Komen breast cancer foundation (which funds Planned Parenthood) off of its bookshelves.

Read the entire text of the December 14, 2011 letter from  Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO – LifeWay Christian Resources, here. He explains the decision of removing the offending Bibles from their shelves in keeping with their commitment to Christian values. It would be wonderful to flood LifeWay and their publisher, B & H publishing will notes of thanks. I’m sending mine now!

God bless, Birgit J

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UPDATE 2:

I wanted to share the great response I received today (December 28, 2011) from the publishing company responsible for the ‘pink’ Bible:

Good Afternoon Ms Jones,

I am sorry to be so late responding to your concern sent a few days ago regarding the Cancer Awareness Bible produced by B&H Publishing, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.

I hope you’ve read by now that LifeWay is withdrawing the Bibles from the retail stores where they were being sold, and is discontinuing our relationship with the Komen Foundation. Our president, Dr. Thom Rainer, said the project was a mistake because of the perceived indirect relationship with Planned Parenthood.

We are developing a plan to re-use the special pink Bibles to support breast cancer research and treatment.
Thank you for sharing your concern.

Martin King

Martin King
Director LifeWay Communications
LifeWay Christian Resources
One LifeWay Plaza
Nashville, TN 37234-0192
615-251-2307 (o)
615-585-0033 (c)