This week, 20 of us met at St. Thomas More Church in Manalapan. We had dinner, followed by a session hosted by Father John Large about interpreting Scripture.
First, Father began with offering a list of resources that any good, practicing Catholic should read to get a true sense of the Church teachings. For a list of those resources, see the bottom of this blog post. Of these resources, he emphasized one book, in particular, throughout this Bible Study:
Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) - Pope Paul VI & 2nd Vatican Council, 1965
He then distinguished between the two main senses of the Scripture:
Father John then explained how the literal and spiritual senses in the New Testament are usually the same, but there is often a distinction in the Old Testament. Sometimes people can read the Bible and lean too far to the literal side, or too far to the spiritual side. For example:
However, many verses can be read both literally and spiritually, such as:
Father John explained how all of this relates to Lectio Divina, which is the method that we use when we read the Gospel during our weekly Bible studies. Through Lectio Divina, we balance objective interpretation with subjective interpretation. We consider the literal and spiritual senses objectively. However, we also reflect on our personal (subjective) interpretation, trying to see what God is speaking to us through a particular passage, and how we may act accordingly in our lives.
After that, we collectively went through a Bible study in our usual format, but highlighting both the literal and spiritual senses. The readings for this upcoming Sunday are:
“You duped me, o Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.”
Because of the different translations of the Bible, we noticed that instead of the word ‘duped,’ some of our Bibles said ‘seduced’ or ‘deceived,’ which led us to discuss various, Catholic translations. As a common practice, Father John recommended Revised Standard Version (RSV) translation as the best option when looking for a more literal translation of the text. The New American Bible (NAB) is the one used at Mass, but the NAB Revised Edition (NABRE) is typically a popular translation as well. For more translations, visit Approved Translations of the Bible by the USCCB.
We also discussed the ways in which each of us feel a desire to teach the Word, but the struggles that come with that. Some of us have family members who have fallen away from the Church, and others have Protestant or atheist loved ones. Someone suggested a silent prayer when looking for inspiration on how to communicate with those close to us: “Come, Holy Spirit. Help me to quiet my mind and listen.” Listening is one way that we can be like Christ to those in need. We don’t always need to be reactive or preach directly; we must consider the timing. When we are given opportunities to share the Word, we should absolutely do so, but other times we may spread Christ’s love through simple actions like simply being present with those in need.
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
We found it interesting how even in Biblical times people were being told to avoid conforming, yet it is still applicable today. This takes vigilance and it requires a transformation of our entire being. In order to avoid being entrapped by the things that society praises (e.g. wealth, beauty, success), we must set our hearts on Christ and our ultimate goal of eternity. It is easy to get wrapped up into the hectic pace of life and we may feel too busy to pray, but that is when we must be even more vigilant, making our faith our top priority. Father John mentioned the popular Christian song “Take My Life (Holiness).” He repeats the lyrics to himself as a prayer:
Take my life and form it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord.
“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
This Gospel reminds us that it is eternity in Heaven that we ultimately desire. Our material or monetary gains here on earth are fleeting when compared to the prospect of living forever with Christ. Is it really worth it to live lavishly and luxuriously for our short time on earth only to spend eternity enduring the excruciating pains of hell? Or will we forget about our worldly desires and keep our eyes set on Jesus?
As stated in Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.”
Thank you, Father John, for teaching us so much about interpreting Scripture! Next week we will be meeting on Thursday, September 7th at the Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine in Freehold (61 Georgia Road) at 6:30 pm for pizza and Bible study. We hope to see you there!
Below are some must-have resources that you can find for free by the Vatican, USCCB, and EWTN. You can always grab a copy to hold in your hands, if a digital copy just doesn’t cut it for you.
By: Stephanie Quieroz
Thanks to the lovely weather last week, we were able to host another beach Bible study in Belmar. We met at my apartment for sandwiches and chips before grabbing our beach chairs and heading down to sit by the ocean. We got to watch the beautiful sunset while going over the readings for Sunday, the 27th.
“When he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open.”
We discussed whether we are always open to God’s will and closed off to the things that may be toxic to us. Do our actions reflect God’s will or do our earthly desires take over? We must strive to imitate Christ and to be unmoving and unchanging in our faith.
We also talked about forgiveness, both in terms of forgiving others as well as forgiving ourselves. When God has forgiven us through the sacrament of reconciliation, we, too, must forgive ourselves. If we continue confessing a sin that has already been forgiven, we are acting prideful, as though we are superior to God. If He forgives us, we must accept that with thanksgiving rather than struggling because we don’t “feel” forgiven.
“From him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever.”
We talked about the ways in which we show the Lord our love for Him. We do this through praise, which should come at the beginning of any prayer. We also thank God for His abundant blessings and for answering each of our prayers, even if we may not yet understand how He is answering them at the moment. We must trust Him and submit to His plan, even if it may not seem to be aligned with our desires. We are also called to embrace our crosses and any suffering that we are experiencing, with the faith that the Lord will make all things work for the greater good.
“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
In this week’s gospel, Jesus asks, “who do you say that I am?” What would our response be to that question? God? Creator? Abba Father? In today’s society, so many people refer to Jesus as simply a nice guy, a good teacher, or a prophet. But that does not come close to the Jesus that we know. He was not just a nice teacher who had some good advice. He is the Lord of everything and He came to give each and every one of us the hope of eternal salvation.
This gospel also establishes the lineage of the Catholic Church, with Peter appointed as the first pope. We can trace Pope Francis’ lineage all the way back to Peter.
We are also provided with a promise that the “gates of the netherworld” will not prevail against the church. This is great encouragement for us, especially when current events begin to make us feel anxious. The Catholic Church has existed for about 2,000 years and it has prevailed despite many obstacles. We must remain patient and persevere in prayer during the times when we feel a difference of opinion or problems in the Church. We must also remember to pray for our priests, that they have the strength to continue to do God’s work and that they may be strong role models for their communities.
Thank you to everyone who came to Bible study this Thursday as well as those of you who made it to our holy hour at St. Michael’s in Long Branch on Friday. Next week we will be holding a special Bible study on Thursday, August 31st at St. Thomas More Parish at 186 Gordons Corner Road in Manalapan, NJ. We will have dinner at 6:30, followed by Bible study at 7:30, which will focus on interpreting scripture. It will be held in the adult education room.
By: Stephanie Queiroz
We met at Matt’s house this Thursday for Bible study. We enjoyed pizza for dinner and then split into two groups.
We covered the following readings for Sunday, August 20th:
“Keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant; them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer”
We discussed the ways in which we honor the sabbath and how difficult it is to remember to keep it sacred since our society teaches the opposite. Some of us have jobs that force us to work on Sundays. Those of us still in college sometimes work on assignments on Sundays. Some people view sports as their God, bringing their children to practices and watching Sunday football. Although many of us make a priority to attend Mass, we sometimes feel as though that was our Sunday obligation, but our duty goes far beyond that hour at Mass. It is difficult to dedicate Sunday as a day of rest and a day for God, but that is what we are called to do.
Also, while taking part in Mass, we are called to be joyful, rather than just being physically present and simply going through the motions. Are we singing the hymns? We may not realize the people around us who may be taking note of our participation. Maybe there is a young adult near us who has been dragged to church by his parent. It may be our witness of joyful prayer, song, and participation that lead that person to draw closer to God.
“For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.”
We talked about how awesome it is that despite our perpetual disobedience, God continues to offer forgiveness. What a great privilege it is that we have the sacrament of reconciliation. In chapter 18 of Matthew’s gospel, it talks about how forgiving just seven times is not enough, as we are called to forgive seventy-seven times. This sometimes sounds like a difficult task. Sometimes we think, why must I forgive this person who continues to do me wrong? I can forgive them the first time, and maybe even the second time, but now I’m fed up. But how many times does God forgive us? Does he stop at seven times? Most of us have already been forgiven more than seven times. If we are going to confession every month, that’s twelve times that God has forgiven us in the last year alone. God forgives us an infinite number of times, if we ask Him to. We are called to follow His example and do the same to those around us.
“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
This week’s gospel focuses on the Canaanite woman’s faith in knowing that Christ could heal her daughter. Here are some of our thoughts during lectio divina this week:
By: Stephanie Quieroz
We met on July 6 week at the Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine for Bible study. We enjoyed pizza for dinner before splitting up for Bible study. We had a great turnout and it was such a blessing to see 22 of us taking time out of our day to pray and study the Bible.
We covered the following readings for Sunday, July 9th:
“See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he…”
We discussed the ways that we proclaim various messages to those around us. At work, although we may not always be able to preach the Gospel, we enable our colleagues to see God when they witness our small actions. A simple gesture like blessing ourselves and pausing for grace before eating a meal provides those around us with a glimpse of our faith. Wearing a crucifix ring or necklace, or a Miraculous Medal, can provoke those around us to ask questions about those items and the reason we wear them. Sometimes these conversations may turn into deeper discussions, and even if they don’t, they are causing those around us to an awareness of our faith.
“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
This reading calls us to be aware of our actions and whether they are guided by the Spirit or the flesh, which brought up the topic of how we know when we are following the Spirit. Discernment and prayer is an important facet in the decisions that we make, which can help up to be guided by the Spirit. Confession is such an amazing blessing because when we realize that we were making decisions according to the desires of our flesh, we are able to repent, to be absolved of our sins, and to work to change our ways in the future. Our consciences can often help us to realize when we are living according to the flesh. We usually feel that tug of guilt, knowing that we are not being guided by the Spirit. Deepening our prayer life is a good solution.
“Although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the little ones.”
Matthew’s gospel reminds us to be childlike in our faith. While the world tells us the message that it is those with advanced degrees and high-paying jobs who are valuable members of society, God pushes us to remember the meek, humble, and lowly. God does not care about our career status, but rather our words and actions. He often reveals Himself to children and to people who are seemingly insignificant in the eyes of modern society.
The gospel also promises that those who follow Christ will bear an easier yoke and a lighter burden. Although our quest to follow Him may not be easy, we can forget about worldly desires such as wealth, material possessions, and career advancements. Instead of following those goals, we have just one: to be united with Christ in eternal life after our time on earth is complete. We may remove the worldly stresses from our backs, with the faith that God will provide for our needs.
Thank you to everyone who joined Young Adults in Faith for Bible study. We look forward to seeing you at future holy hours and Bible studies!
By: Stephanie Queiroz
We met this past week at St. William the Abbot Church in Howell, NJ. We shared some wraps for dinner while getting to know some more new faces. We opened with prayer in the main church and then we split into three groups for Bible study.
We covered the following readings for Sunday, June 25th:
“All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.”
After reading this verse, we discussed friendship and how we decide whether or not to work toward building up a relationship with certain people. We don’t want to surround ourselves with people who are going to bring us down or lead us into temptation and the near occasion of sin, but we are still called to love them. Loving someone does not require fostering an intimate friendship; rather, we must will the best for those around us and not speak ill of them. We must be mindful of our actions when with friends, acquaintances, family members, or coworkers because it is easy to get drawn into gossip and slander.
“If by that one person’s transgressions the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.”
This verse explains how the fall of Adam brought sin and death to all of humanity, but all of that was changed once Jesus Christ died for us, giving us grace and the chance to inherit eternal life. As Catholics, we are fortunate enough to have the sacrament of Reconciliation so that we can confess our sins and do penance, receiving grace through God’s mercy and forgiveness.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
We need not fear anyone here on earth because although they may be able to harm us physically or emotionally, it is God who has the final judgement. Our death is not something that should be feared if we are following the Lord’s teachings to our best ability and frequenting confession. While we should not fear those around us, we must also try not to judge them. God has the final say and everything that He made is a beautiful creation. What right do we have to cast judgment upon any of His creations? We don’t want friends who are bringing us down or watching out for our flaws, we we must avoid becoming hypocrites. It is easy to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude when we see people whose lives are so engulfed in sin, but we must remember to pray for them rather than judging them. After all, we have no idea what they have experienced and if they have ever had the chance to encounter God. As Father Larry often preaches, we must act so pleasant toward people that by interacting with us, they say something like, “if Jesus is anything like you, then I’d love to meet Him.”
Our group also spoke about the devil and how real He is. He gains even more power when people deny his existence. It is not those around us, but the devil that we must fear because he can “destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Good cannot exist without evil. We must acknowledge the presence of the devil and be on guard against him. Sometimes when we begin to grow in our faith, we encounter obstacles. That is often the devil trying his best to find a way to make us give up our faith. By understanding that, we can persist in our faith journey, knowing that the devil is only interfering because he knows that what we are doing is ultimately going to benefit our soul.
Our next holy hour is scheduled for Wednesday, June 28th at 7:30pm at St. Joseph’s Church at 91 Stillhouse Road, Millstone, NJ.
Our next Bible study will be held on Thursday, July 6th at 6:30pm at the Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine at 61 Georgia Road in Freehold, NJ.
We hope to see you at both of those events!
By: Stephanie Queiroz