Alison W Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mass Sacred Scripture

Scripture and the Beauty of Understanding

I think we can get into dangerous waters very quickly when we try to interpret things on our own. It’s like misunderstanding song lyrics. We sing what we think we hear, so it makes sense in our mind. Misunderstanding words changes the entire meaning. What if the words to “Bad Moon Rising” were actually “there’s a bathroom on the right”?

I’ve found this to be the case with scripture sometimes and for the most part I have misunderstood in a way that left me feeling a degree of despair.

A recent gospel reading is a good example of that. Matthew 22:1-14, starts with Jesus speaking in parables. The story is of a king that prepares a wedding feast. It starts out a lovely invitation to the wedding feast. Invitations are sent via the servants, but many people are not interested in going. Then the king extends another invitation to many more people. These people are much too busy and some are hurting the king’s servants. The king is so angry and destroys some of these people. Finally the king sent out for everyone to be invited. Good and bad, whoever will come to fill the room. I always like this part of the story. Everyone is welcome no matter what. Finally the king arrives to find a man without a wedding garment. The king throws this person out, and more than that he is “cast … out into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

I’ve always felt so bad for that man without a garment. What if he couldn’t afford one? What if he let someone borrow his? What if it was stolen? I’ve always questioned how the king could be so angry.

But during his homily, my priest, cleared this mystery up for me. The wedding garment had been provided! The wedding garment was free of charge. The wedding garment was paid for by the blood of Jesus. We only need to have a repentant heart. We only need to let the grace of Jesus shine on us. We only need to allow this grace to flow from us.

The first invited people were not at all interested, the next set of invitations went to those who were too busy or sometimes actively working against the king. It is a strong reminder to acknowledge our own invitation and make sure we are responding. Along with making sure we aren’t working against our Lord.

Grace isn’t taken away because we lack fancy clothes. How beautiful to see we are all called to the feast (the mass, Heaven). We need only accept what has been provided. We need only put on the wedding garment. The wedding garment wasn’t without cost, but the price was paid by our loving Jesus. We can’t earn it, we can only accept it.

I think it’s important to not always trust our own judgment on understanding scripture. It is important to read scripture in its entirety. It’s one of the reasons I love being Catholic. With technology we can easily find what the church teaches, it’s loaded with information helping us to understand. The design of the church with our leaders and Magisterium helps us all learn and understand. We are so blessed!

Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

It’s Summertime! Take a Dive… Into the Word!

read the bibleAs Catholics we often are accused of not opening our Bibles to read God’s Word. Of course we laugh at this thought because we know that from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, our entire Mass is steeped in God’s Word. We have readings from the Old Testament and the New Testament; we have prayers straight from the Bible; and of course the Holy Eucharist which is given to us from Christ Himself in the Bible! Yes, we can laugh when we are told that Catholics don’t ever read their bibles.

But, how many of us can say we pick up our bibles and just jump into God’s word on a daily basis? Some of us do, but we are all called to do this. In fact the Catechism tells us, “And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life. Hence “access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful.” (131)

Did you read that? Reading the Word of God gives us “strength for our faith” and is “food for our souls”! How many of us wander around hungry for something, anything really, and can’t seem to feed that hunger? Perhaps if we started our day off with Scripture first (or fit it in sometime during the day) we would be nourished and filled where we would have the strength to face the troubles that come our way. Maybe, just maybe, we could fill ourselves so full of God and His Word that we wouldn’t have any room left in us for those things that we consume but have no nourishing value to our lives or our souls.

The Catechism continues with, “The Church “forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful… to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”(133)

Wait a minute… the Church tells us, and not in a meek manner but forcefully, that we all should be reading the divine Scriptures frequently?   That’s a far cry from the claims that the Church discourages Catholics from reading the bible themselves or that she wishes to us to just follow like the blind, never opening the Bible for to read on our own. It’s almost like the Church wants us to have an intimate relationship with Christ through His Word! That can’t be, can it? I mean the media and many anti-Catholic groups or people tell us all the time that we are just sheep that blindly follow and that we have no real one-on-one relationship with Christ. Of course this is exactly what the Church is encouraging us to do. She wants us to know God through His holy writings. She wants us to meet Christ in the pages of our dog-eared Bibles. She wants us to read, explore, think, pray, and learn through study of the Sacred Scriptures. She tells us to be ignorant of Scripture is to be ignorant of Christ!

jesus in templeI know it can be easy to become complacent and think that as long as you’ve gone to Mass this week that you are “good to go” and that you don’t need to study the Bible. But our faith tells us differently. The Mass, while so very important, can’t be our only exposure to our faith through the week. We’ve seen what the Catechism says about jumping in and reading Scripture but what did Jesus do? Aren’t we supposed to model ourselves after Christ Himself? We only have to look at Luke 2: 46-52 to know how Jesus viewed Sacred Scripture and learning. In this passage we find Christ in the Temple surrounded by the teachers both asking and answering questions. The chapter concludes with “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

If Christ continued to learn and study to gain more wisdom then shouldn’t we? Is sitting in Mass listening to the Word once a week enough? No, it’s not.  Christ asks more of us than that.

But, but, but… I’m busy! I have a billion and one things to do! I can barely catch my breath!  I just don’t have time to sit down with a bible in my hand. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to read. I don’t like to read! Yes, there a so many reasons we can come up with to keep us from diving into the Word and yet all of them really don’t hold water next to the fact that we need to be reading the Word of God on a regular basis. Our souls and our minds need it like our physical bodies need food and water. Remember how the Catechism said that reading the Bible is “food for our souls”? That’s true!  I know you think you don’t have time, but you make time to feed your body don’t you? Why don’t you make the time to feed your soul?

laudate appI often talk about how terrible I think our society has gotten in relying on quick fixes and instant gratification but this is one area where the technological advances and the “I want it now!” society that we live in can be helpful to those of us who have limited time but want to delve into our faith through the reading of God’s Word. Don’t have time to read at home- download an app for your phone that puts the entire Bible at your fingertips. This way you can read while you are waiting at the doctor’s office or standing in line at the grocery store. Not sure what to read? There are many websites that can give you the daily Mass readings or suggest other readings to focus on. Don’t know where to start? Try your parish website or the USCCB site. Not only will you find great inspiration but there you’ll find the daily Mass readings too! Don’t like to read? Guess what? There’s an app for that! You can have your Bible passages read to you.  Reading your bible and gaining wisdom and faith can be yours with a click of a mouse or a swipe of your finger!

Now that you have no excuses and you realize just how important reading Sacred Scripture truly is, I have a challenge for you. Now that it is summertime, take a dive into the Word! Make a commitment to read the Bible daily throughout the summer. But, if you feel that is too much of a commitment for you, start small and plan to read daily for the month of June. I’m betting that once you have your feet wet you will be eager to dive head first into the Word!

dive in 2

Allison Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Promise Me Prosperity?

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

My Facebook newsfeed exclaimed, “This isn’t just encouragement; it’s truth for all believers!” while subsequent commenters chirped amens. Aside from denigrating encouragement, is this “truth for all believers”? Since my Facebook friends were probably not referring to our heavenly future of prosperity, what have millions of poor, troubled believers from the apostles to the saints to the Third World done wrong not to have this “truth”?

First of all, the verse sits in the middle of a letter of prophesy from Jeremiah to the Israelites, who were exiles in Babylon. God told them to submit to King Nebuchadnezzar and settle down, that they would not be freed to return home for seventy years, that He knew the plans He had for them . . . (and the rest of the verse). It is a specific plan for a specific situation with a specific nation, not to individual people. I wonder if there were Israelite women (sistas like us) who, upon hearing the prophesy read, crumpled a little on the inside. Our husbands and older sons were speared to death; our teenage daughters abducted; our little ones sold into slavery. The promise will come too late for us, Lord. Again, the plan was for a nation, not individuals.

Does this mean the Old Testament holds no significance for Christians today? Not at all. The New Testament is hidden within the Old, offering luminous glimpses of Jesus in the drama of early salvation history as it advances toward the Incarnation. What we know from it all is that God has a Plan, that obedience matters, and because we are living in the Church Age, that hope and future mean heaven.

There are also telling translation differences. The translations that use “prosper” (NIV and GNT) were published in the mid-twentieth century, while older ones (and some newer ones as well) use “peace” (shalom).

“For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord; thoughts of peace and not affliction, to give you an end and patience.” (Douay-Rheims)

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord; plans for your welfare, not for your woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” (New American)

God guided the Israelites to an earthly land, government, and salvation from their enemies. But the new covenant has Jesus teaching us that His kingdom is within us and among us, regardless of government; and that our land, hope, and future are found in His Father’s House. That is true prosperity.

So the verse is not a fist-pumping excitement over God’s plans of material prosperity without harm. It is part of the story of His love and leading of the nation of Israel (our elder brothers in the Faith) to salvation, which we read and focus our knowledge of Him onto the Person of Jesus Christ, Who loves and leads His Church to salvation. It is truly a better promise than earthly prosperity, and is harmonious with scriptures about suffering and trouble.

God, the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent I Am, thinks about His people. Has plans of peace for His people. Has a hopeful future for His people. Because He is Love. Now that’s a prosperity promise I can exclaim over. Amen!

Apologetics Ecumenism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture Tiffany P

Defending the Canon of the Bible–All 73 Books, Part 2

Last week, in the first part of this two part series, I gave a brief outline of the history of the Church and, by effect, the history of the Bible. The timeline showed how the Bible came as a product of the Church (rather than vice versa), how the Church was lead by God in councils lead by bishops to discern which texts belonged in the Biblical canon, thus compiling the books into the Bible as we know it today. After 1,500 years of one accepted canon used by all Christians, Martin Luther made the decision through his own, self-proclaimed authority, to remove seven books from the canon: Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Baruch, and part of Esther and Daniel. The Church there after met at the Council of Trent to address Luther’s heresies and reaffirm the canon of the Bible. Protestants today claim that it was at the Council of Trent that the Catholic Church “added” these books to the Bible.

In discourse with a Protestant, one challenge they may give you is to prove that the seven books they call “the Apocrypha” were part of the canon before the Council of Trent. Right away, a few easy explanations may come to mind. For one, we have pictorial  evidence of ancient Bibles, long before Luther’s day, that include these books. Additionally, a quick look at an Eastern Orthodox Bible will show that they also contain these seven books. The Eastern Orthodox church split from the Catholic Church in the 1200s, over 300 years before the Council of Trent.

These facts alone may be enough to stop some protesting Protestants in their evangelizing tracks, but it never hurts to be extra prepared. The following is a list of historical and Scriptural evidence that leaves no room for doubt that the original Christian Bibles contained the seven books that have since been rejected by our Protestant brethren.

The Councils that Canonized and Compiled Scripture

It cannot be denied that the Bible was canonized and compiled in the 300s, by a council of bishops acting under the Church’s authority and thus, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We know that God did not drop the completed Bible from the sky, but used men to do this task from writing it to putting it together. Most reasonable Protestants will admit this fact. Here are a few transcripts from these councils. It stands to reason that if one rejects even one of the writings decided upon in this councils, they must reject the entire Bible, for all writings were canonized at the same councils.

“[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical Scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine Scriptures. But the canonical Scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon, two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach], twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees . . .” (Council of Carthrage  A.D. 397]).

“[It has been decided] that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the canonical Scriptures are as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the Son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the Kings, four books, the Chronicles, two books, Job, the Psalter, the five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach] , the twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra, two books, Maccabees, two books . . .” (Council of Hippo [A.D. 393]).


St. Augustine–an alleged Protestant

Though St. Augustine’s writings show him to be a brilliant Catholic theologian, many Protestants claim him as their own, asserting that his believed in justification by faith alone. One Protestant ministry founded by the famous Protestant R.C. Sproul claims “Calvin and Luther did not teach anything that Augustine did not teach.” Clearly Mr. Sproul had not been seeped too deeply in St. Augustine’s works, but I regress. For those Protestant followers of St. Augustine, introduce them to what he had to say about the canon.

“The whole canon of the Scriptures, however, in which we say that consideration is to be applied, is contained in these books: the five of Moses . . . and one book of Joshua [Son of] Nave, one of Judges; one little book which is called Ruth . . . then the four of Kingdoms, and the two of Paralipomenon . . . . [T]here are also others too, of a different order . . . such as Job and Tobit and Esther and Judith and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Esdras . . . .  (St. Augustine On Christian Instruction 2:8:13 [ca. A.D. 395

We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place” (St. Augustine On the Care That Should be Taken for the Dead 1:3 [A.D. 421])

St. Augustine’s above statement in bold shows that the passage in his preceding sentence, 2 Maccabees 13:43, is indeed in the Old Testament. Take note also that St. Augustine’s statements, as well as the transcripts from the councils,  all occur before the year 500, over 1,000 years before Martin Luther.


But What About Jesus…?

The final refutation a Protestant might give is based on the assumption that Jesus never quoted or referenced from any of those seven books. This argument does not hold water, as Jesus did not even quote from every single book of the Protestant Old Testament, but nonetheless it would not hurt our case if He did reference them.
And… He did.
Matthew 6:12, 14-15—“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your heavenly father forgive your transgressions.”
Sirach 28:2—“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”

Luke 18:22—“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Sirach 29:11—Dispose of your treasure as the Most High commands, for that will profit you more than the gold.”

John 3:12—“If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”
Wisdom 9:16—“Scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;
but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?”

John 10:29—“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.”
Wisdom 3:1—“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.”
Imagine if today, someone tried to remove a book, a chapter, a verse, or even one mere word from the Bible.  Protestants would likely scream bloody murder, while the Catholic Church would merely shake her head, for she has been through this before. 500 years ago, not one book but seven books (and parts of two others) were taken from the Bible. In the years since our Protestant brethren who devote themselves to Scripture and holding it in such high regard have been missing out on the beautiful words found in these seven books that have always been a part of the canon.




Apologetics Ecumenism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture Tiffany P

Defending the Canon of the Bible–All 73 Books

One common dispute against the Catholic Church by well meaning but misinformed Protestants is the assertion that the Catholic Church “added” books to the Bible.  As it is commonly known, Protestant Bibles only contain 66 books, as they do not include Sirach, Baruch, Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, 1 and 2 Maccabees, as well as parts of Esther and Daniel.  In this two part series, with part two coming out next week, I hope to provide some guidance on defending the original 73 book canon of the Bible with historical fact. As often times Protestants disregard life in the early Church and writings from early Church fathers on the grounds that they are not Sacred Scripture, begin by reminding them of one area in which Church history is all we have to rely on, that is that the Scriptures do not themselves contain a list of which writings should belong. This point also refutes Sola Scriptura since it was the authoritative decision of the Magesterium that declared which writings were inspired and compiled them into what would become known as “The Bible”. Often Protestants will indeed reference history by claiming that the Catholic Church added the books to the Bible at the Council of Trent. The following is a timeline of the history of the Scriptures, that should hopefully serve as a guide for refuting common claims and showing our Protestant brethren how the book they hold so dear came to be and what it originally included:

AD 33: Christ establishes His Church in the days before ascending back into Heaven, (Matthew 16:18,19), therefore not leaving His flock untended and fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 22:21-23.  Also in this year, God sends His Holy Spirit over the Church on the day of Pentecost, so that it may be divinely guided, and the Teachings will not waver. These are important points in which to begin because they begin to show that the Church did not come from the Bible, the Bible came from the Church.

AD 51-121: The New Testament books are in the process of being written over the course of these years, as well as other early Christian writings that did not make it into the New Testament canon: the Didache (AD 70), 1 Clement (96), the Epistle of Barnabas (100), and the 7 letters of St. Ignatius to Antioch (107). Point out that although the works are not Sacred Scripture, they can be used as historical documents through which we can see what original Christianity was like, which we see is a Church that submitted to bishops, celebrated the Eucharist with a belief that Jesus was truly present, baptized people of all ages with the belief that the waters brought saving graces, and devotion to Mary as the Mother of the Church.

AD 140: Marcion, a businessman in Rome, taught that there were two Gods: Yahweh, the cruel God of the Old Testament, and Abba, the kind father of the New Testament. Marcion eliminated the Old Testament as scriptures and, because he was anti-Semitic, kept from the New Testament only 10 letters of Paul and 2/3 of Luke’s gospel (he deleted references to Jesus’s Jewish culture). Marcion’s “New Testament” was the first “Bible” to be compiled (though outside the authority of the Church), which compelled the bishops to authoritatively decide on a core canon: the four Gospels and Letters of Paul.

AD 367: This year is the first time the list of books in the New Testament, as it is today, is decided upon and physically written down, by St. Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, in one of his letters.

AD 382: Pope Damasus I, reaffirmed Athanasius’ list, making a list of them himself, in their present number and order.

AD 393:  The council of Hippo met in this year. The council of Hippo officially reaffirmed the list and order of the New Testament as it is today, first written down nearly thirty years before by the Bishop of Alexandria. It is at this council in this year that the New Testament as we know it today became declared the infallible Word of God, by Christ’s Church, nearly 400 years after Christianity began.

AD 397: At the Council of Carthage, the early Church leaders reaffirmed both the New Testament canon and the Old Testament canon as the infallible Word of God. This includes the 7 books of the Old Testament that modern day Protestants reject. We can say that this year is the official birth year of the Bible as we know it today.

WARNING: Big time jump ahead…

AD 1536: Over a thousand years later, in his translation from Greek to German, Luther removed seven books from the Old Testament canon. I Maccabees, II Maccabees, Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, and Baruch. His followers supported this as he had the opinion of the anti-Christian Jewish rabbis to point to as an example. However, he only moved these books to an appendix, and the original King James Version included them. It was not until the 1800s in which they were removed completely, and today Protestants often do not realize they were ever there in the first place. Luther then proceeded to place 4 New Testament books, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation in an appendix, claiming they were less than canonical. However, this was quickly shot down, as he did not have the precedent to do so.

AD 1546: Due to the issues Luther was causing, the Church met again in the Council of Trent to reaffirm, once and for all, that the 27 books of the New Testament canon, that was spoken by the Church so long ago, was indeed the infallible Word of God. This is often where Protestants get confused and assume that the Catholic Church added the seven books at this council. As historical evidence shows, they were always part of the canon, and this council merely reaffirmed what they have always taught, just as the Church several other times in history has met in councils to stand their ground against various heresies of the time.

Knowing these events and dates can help in explaining the history of the Bible when approached with questions such as why Catholics have “extra” books. Next week, we will look deeper into these events, as well as the New Testament Scriptures, to show the undeniable validity of these  post-reformation rejected writings.