I was having a quiet conversation with my Mom last week, explaining to her all of the different activities that has been keeping me busy over the last month.  I talked about my Knights of Columbus activities, some of the homebound visits, and all of the good things that had happened recently.

I told one story of how I spoke to advertise our recent Knights of Columbus spaghetti dinner during the Mass announcements.  A woman approached me excitedly after Mass to offer some help, she volunteered at a local crisis pregnancy center and wanted to assist us since we were raising money for the national ultrasound initiative.  It was one of those “something’s happening here” moments and it showed me how something so little as a few words after Mass can make something very big happen.

At this point, my mother stopped me.  She asked whether or not my friends had distanced themselves at all as I became more involved in my faith and my Church activities.  I quickly answered, “Yes, and it is very lonely.”

Our conversation ended shortly thereafter, but that question continued to make me think.  (It is funny how often Mom Questions can do this.)  I recounted the conversation to my wife later, and she said that it was true that many of our friends have stepped back for various reasons but we’ve also made new friends.  This is true, and a huge blessing.

This type of distance is a gift, in many ways.  It gives time to reflect, and in this case it makes me realize that the narrow road to the small gate can be a lonely one but it’s a path worth traveling.  I view this to be a cross that is worth bearing, but I am not sad.  This has presented me a truly rewarding opportunity to do good work in the community.  The Knights, my parish, and my loyal family and friends are with me and understand what it means to do something for the greater glory of God.

If anything I have done allows one baby to not be aborted or brings one person back to God, what choice do I have but to pursue those goals?  Furthermore, is a someone really a friend that would walk away from me if they knew this was my goal?

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NRSVCE)


Why is the Bible written the way that it is?

My brother-in-law asked me a thought provoking question recently:

Why is the Bible written in the style it is, rather than just a list of facts, instructions, and information?

Oral Traditions

Much of the Bible is constructed the way it is due to the time in which it was written.  There weren’t many writers (or scribes) at the time, so what we get in the Bible is a transcription of information that was handed down orally.  While today we might consider this a very unreliable means of communicating information, if there was no other option for writing down or passing information people were very good at relying on their memory.  The stories recounted in the Bible often had historical or tribal significance, so it stands to reason that they would take more of a storytelling mode instead of a prescriptive list of rules and instructions.

For more reading on this, you can refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding Sacred Scripture, or further reading recommendations below.

But in some ways, it is a list!

There are several portions of the Bible that actually do contain fairly clear, prescriptive lists of rules.  The two areas that spring immediately to mind is the Holiness code in the book of Leviticus and the Ten Commandments.  Both of these areas, among others, reflect very clear and prescriptive laws that applied to observant religious of their time.  There are parts of the Old Testament and much of the New Testament that provide historical facts, genealogies, landmarks, names and behaviors of various settlements/tribes/organizations and the like.  So in a certain way, the Bible does contain lists of facts, instructions, and information.

Christ taught in parables

There are other areas of the Bible written in the form of illustrative language, parables, and other storytelling modes.  Christ often taught in parables, and the disciples help us to shed a little light on this mystery.  They noted the change in his manner of teaching privately from them versus publicly in the crowd, so they asked Him directly why he employed parables in Matthew 13:10-17:

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”  He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Matthew 13:10-17 (NIV)

What does this tell us?  Christ employed parables as a way to divide the crowd: the throng of people whose heart had grown too calloused to understand the deeper message of Truth, and the disciples who had already seen and believed.  When He taught the crowd in parables, it was an opportunity for those that truly sought the Word of God to find it.  It also provided a teachable moment for the disciples, who already were following Christ and could hear the truth.  It is comforting to note that even the disciples required to have the parable explained to them by Christ, so I suppose there’s hope to all of us that continue to have challenges when reading or understanding Scripture.  Thankfully, Christ left us the gift of the Church to help us in interpreting the Truth.

What does this have to do with how the Bible is written and constructed?  Possibly nothing, but in the light of this verse I feel validated in the challenge of trying to understand difficult Bible verses that might not make sense to me given historical distance or language barriers.  It’s an opportunity for truth-seeking, and an opportunity for trusting that the Holy Spirit inspired the divine authors to include these lessons in this form for an explicit reason.

Finding out more

Ultimately, the form that the Bible takes may be one of those mysteries that we’re not meant to fully comprehend.  I know that there are many theologians, historians, and others that are far more qualified than I am to even posit a basic answer to this question, however there is one book that I have heard recommended for those curious about the known history of how the Bible was compiled.  It’s called “Where We Got The Bible” by Henry G. Graham, so give it a try if you’re interested in learning more.



Who will you follow?

photo (25)

The new calendar year is upon us!  This is the usual time of year for resolutions and refocusing on the things that should be important in our lives.  As I sat down to reflect on which resolutions I would attempt this year, I kept being reminded of one of my favorite Bible versus from the Book of Joshua:

But if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice: choose this day that which pleaseth you, whom you would rather serve, whether the gods which your fathers served in Mesopotamia, or the gods of the Amorrhites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Resolve Differently

I came across this verse unexpectedly several years ago at my great-aunt’s Christmas party.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my name on something on the floor of her living room as I was breezing through to get a drink for my wife.  This was right at the beginning of my inklings about investigating my faith further, and it seems as if this stonework decoration was placed here just to get my attention.  I stopped dead in my tracks and read the verse over several times, trying to commit the chapter and verse to memory.  Then I remembered: I had my new iPhone in my pocket so I snapped a picture.

This felt like (and literally was) a sign for me, marking the beginning of my deeper dive in my spiritual life.  I resolved at that point that I would try better to serve the Lord, and I had absolutely no idea what that meant.

Something’s Happening Here

In time, I read this entire verse in the context of the rest of the chapter.  This is Joshua’s clarion call, his prime question to the tribes of Israel.  They had continued worshiping the false gods of their fathers or the local gods of the territory they resided in.  Joshua reminded the tribes of all that almighty God had provided for them and then offered them a stark exhortation to put away these old, false gods and follow the Lord.  He concludes with the powerful verse quoted above.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a corollary in today’s society which places the false gods of wealth, social justice, and creature comforts before just and true service of the Lord.  I see even well-intentioned Catholics and other religious friends often making choices or placing more focus on these things instead of their own spiritual development.  It’s not about the rights and wrongs of what your fathers did, or what society is doing, or what is fashionable, trendy, or feels good.  It’s about obedience in understanding and following God’s Will.

Further, I am reminded of this verse each time someone has harsh or derisive comments to make in regards to religion.  If it’s so bad to be religious and follow God’s Command, that’s fine… you have your choice.  I am proud to echo the sentiment of my much greater namesake: as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

Wherein an in-flight movie improves my life

Imagine my surprise to see this verse show up again a year later.  I was on a long business flight from Germany to the US and I remembered my mom’s recommendation for a movie called Courageous, because it reminded her of the That Man Is You! program that I had just started participating in.  Luckily, this film was on the in-flight roster of movies that we could watch for free.  It tells a story of a group of men who  make a contract to be better husbands and fathers, and this verse is central to their deeper spirituality as well.  I won’t ruin any of the film for you, but suffice it to say that I identified strongly with it.  Do yourselves a favor and watch it.

I began this article talking about resolutions.  I challenge everyone out there to ask themselves this question when you set your resolutions for the new year: “Who will you follow?”  From there, simply ask “How?” a few times and see where that takes you.  If you need further inspiration, grab a copy of Courageous… it should fire you up.

Lastly, I want to thank my Great Aunt Shirley for putting this decoration in a prominent location in her living room.  I’m not quite sure where I would be if she didn’t.


Reflections on Galatians 2:20…

Today, I took the opportunity while sitting in a waiting room to catch up on a few articles and back episodes of Catholic Answers Live.  During the discourse of a particular answer, the guest of the day quoted a verse from Scripture that struck me so firmly that I paused the audio and did some additional reading before continuing.

And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me.  —Galatians 2:20 (Douay-Rheims Bible)


Saint Paul writes this particular chapter of Galatians to recount a disagreement with Saint Peter.  The chapter outlines the issue: they were preaching to two groups of Gentiles (one adhering to the Mosiac Law calling for circumcision and one no longer observing this Law) and Saint Peter interacted freely with one group but withdrew from them out of fear when the other group arrived.  Saint Paul spends the back half of this Chapter outlining a discussion that is somewhat contentious in Christian circles about justification by Faith or works alone.

The Catholic Church has a quite common “yes and” way of thinking on this topic… justification by Faith AND works both.  More on that in a different article.

Living for Christ

What struck me about this verse is how strongly it is worded.  Saint Paul says that he no longer lives as himself any longer, but Christ abides in him.  The fact that Christ abides in him enables him to live truly in that gift.  Saint Paul tells us, in implied fashion, that the life he led before was self-centered.  Now that Christ dwells within him, Saint Paul must live in the faith and practice of the Son of God, lest he throw away the very grace of God that he was given.

To me, this reinforces how important it is to evaluate whether I am making smart choices that bring me closer to God.  The temptation is there to do the easy thing, the self-centered thing, take the action that won’t ruffle feathers or offend sensibilities.  Christ calls us to more than that.  He calls us to live in the knowledge that He loves us and died for us.  I struggle personally with advocating against “hot button” contentious topics because I know it is going to draw me in to a heated argument (sometimes with friends), and I know the Truth that Christ would have me say.  Because of that I am tempted to let the argument go past, say the easy thing to preserve the friendship.

My prayer is that during this Year of Faith I will find the best way to share the Truth and let the old me that is afraid die away, and with Christ abiding in me the Truth will come out.