Catholic Scripture Study, Inc.
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Introductory Pack

Welcome
Introduction to Catholic Scripture Study
A Letter from the Bishop
Mission
History
Class Structure
Class Meeting
Class Member Answers
Partial List of Reference Sources
Testimonials
Lesson Series Contents
Series I:  The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles
Series II:  The Pentateuch
Series III:  The Gospel of John
Series IV:  The Prophets and Revelation
Series V:  Wisdom Literature and New Testament Letters
Sample Lessons from Series I: Luke and Acts
Lesson 1: Introduction to the Bible
Lesson 2: The Good News of Jesus
Lesson 3: The Annunciation Stories of Luke

   


Welcome

Thank you so much for inquiring about Catholic Scripture Study. We always feel blessed to be able to share this wonderful program with fellow Christians like you and your Parish community. We are confident that you will find Catholic Scripture Study will enrich lives and help spread God's Word among those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their faith through a better understanding of Holy Scripture.

This program was written by a very dedicated Catholic Nun, Sister Marie Therese Wright SSMN, under the doctrinal guidance of theologically qualified Catholic university professors. It was written as a doctrinal based Roman Catholic Scripture Study for adults meeting weekly in discussion groups and was patterned after Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), a very successful non-denominational Bible Study program. It could be easily adapted to a junior/senior high school religion class.

We have enclosed a package of material that is designed to describe the purpose and structure of the program. You will also find an outline of the five year subject matter covered, in addition to, the first three lesson plans from the year of study on the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. We hope this material provides you with an understanding of the Catholic Scripture Study Program and how it is conducted.

If, after looking at the enclosed material, you are interested and would possibly like to start a group, please contact us. We are proud of our Catholic Scripture Study Program and feel fortunate to be in a position to help spread this special gift the Lord has provided us through the writings of Sister Marie Therese Wright.

   


Introduction To Catholic Scripture Study

The greatest history and composition book in all the world is our Bible. In it, you will find literature for action and the greatest characters to live on earth--the best known of whom is Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Son of God.

When you study Scripture, you will find the words are alive with God's provision for a more fruitful life. The assigned Scripture reading with questions will help build a background of knowledge of Bible principles. Each week as you share answers with your discussion group, you will find a growing fellowship with the other members. The notes and lecture provide further understanding. If you find passages that are difficult to understand, feel free to ask your facilitator and/or priest about those verses.

For the most meaningful participation in Catholic Scripture Study (CSS), members should:

  • Allocate uninterrupted study time daily--twenty minutes recommended;

  • Always pray that the Lord will make His word real to you;

  • Examine your Scripture readings by asking

    • What does this passage say?

    • What did it mean to the people who first heard it?

    • What does it mean for me today in my life?

    • What do I plan to do about it?

  • Plan to attend regularly, be punctual, and come with lessons prepared.

The CSS materials you receive each week include lesson notes that will build your Bible knowledge and provide principles for present-day living. At the end of the lesson notes and Scripture readings, questions are included for the following week's study. These questions are divided into six days--usually three questions each day. Read the references and scriptures given and then write the answer in the space provided. You will probably want to keep your lessons in a three-ring notebook (and you may want to add notes taken during lectures or underline meaningful passages on the notes).

The Bible you use for CSS is a very personal possession. You may want to add notes in the margins or underline favorite passages. You may use your present Bible or you may prefer to acquire The New American Bible (the Catholic translation is the one read at Church). If your Bible does not have maps of the areas being studied, you may want to purchase the Atlas Of The Bible Lands by C. S. Hammond, or any paperback Atlas at a bookstore.

Catholic Scripture Study Inc. is a non-profit corporation dedicated to helping others. CSS hopes that through your study of Scripture you will expand your knowledge of Holy Scripture, develop a deeper understanding of your faith, attain a more meaningful and closer relationship with God and enrich your life.

    


A Letter from the Bishop

 
         
           
   March 15, 2006
Catholic Scripture Study, Inc.
Dear Friends and Members of the Advisory Board,
 
     Thank you very much for the time you took to visit with myself and Dan Luby this past week.  We were very happy to receive an update on the continued growth of the Catholic Scripture Study program not only in Texas, but far beyond as well.  I was especially happy to see how something which started here in Fort Worth, as a response to a felt need for a greater love of Sacred Scripture, has gone so far beyond the borders of our Diocese.  I was also very glad to receive copies of the current materials for use, and for my personal study.
 
     I am not only writing to endorse with enthusiasm the Catholic Scripture Study program for the parishes of our Diocese, but to thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to this program.  I am much in admiration of the way that you have organized this program.  And, I know that Bishop Delaney felt the same way and had the same admiration for you as I do.
 
     The Catholic Scripture Study program not only meets the needs expressed by our recent Diocesan Synod for continuing adult education, but certainly follows the hopes and teaching expressed in Dei Verbum, one of the documents from the Second Vatican Council, which taught the importance of the Word of God in Liturgy, teaching, and our own personal study.
 
     I am grateful to all members of the program for your hard work in bringing a love and understanding of Sacred Scripture to our people.  Be assured of my support and prayers, as well as those of Dan Luby and our Catholic Center staff.
 
 
  Sincerely yours in Christ,
 
  Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, JCD,DD
Bishop of Fort Worth
   

KWV/rc

 
 
The Catholic Center
800 West Loop 820 South • Fort Worth, Texas 76108-2919 • (817) 560-3300 • Fax (817) 244-8839 • www.fwdioc.org
 

   


Mission

We do not know if the vision Sister Marie Therese had for Catholic Scripture Study included virtually unlimited distribution to Catholic Parishes world wide through the use of our current day technology.  If not, perhaps once again it was her faith that guided her actions, faith that others would feel called as she was and would pick up where she left off after completing her task of  writing.

In any event, we feel that she is still guiding our actions and urging us on.  Today, thousands of Catholics meet weekly in group discussion to study Holy Scripture using her Catholic Scripture Study Programs.  Millions more in parishes across America and the English speaking world now have this same opportunity without limitations of cost.  Catholics are truly blessed today to have Sister Marie Therese’s Scripture Study program available.  It is doctrinally correct, easily understood and has been thoroughly tested, well documented and approved by Bishops. This is clearly the dawn of a new day for the religious education of Catholics.

Catholic Scripture Study fosters growth and maturity in the participant’s faith and prayer life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and returns them to their parish with a closer relationship to God.  Participants are encouraged to use this growth to become active in their parish functions, to teach others about the Catholic Faith, and about living the Word of God, and in the community at large, to become a visible witness for Catholic Christian behavior before others.

Please join us in our mission to help others study and better understand God’s Word and to develop a more informed, active and devout Catholic Faith Community.

Catholic Scripture Study is consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with deep affection.

Peace in Christ

The Catholic Scripture Study Inc.

Board of Directors


History

Catholic Scripture Study began in 1985 when several Catholic women attending a retreat asked a retreat director, Sister Marie Therese Wright, SSMN, for a program similar to a national ecumenical five-year study called Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) which they and other Catholic men and women were attending. Sister Marie Therese was very interested, so she attended a BSF class. She was amazed when she saw 450 women come together in a structured environment studying God's Word for two hours. This Bible study was written in the 1950s by one Christian woman trained as a missionary and currently has over 1000 groups in 38 countries with 200,000 members from all denominations.

Intrigued by this tremendous growth Sister Marie Therese decided to accept the challenge to write such a program for Catholics. Since her retreat ministry would soon end with the closing of Our Lady of Victory Provinciate, she decided to use this opportunity to write a Catholic Scripture Study Program patterned after BSF using Catholic Doctrine. BSF leaders and members encouraged her. She followed the very effective administrative and organizational structure of BSF, to which she added a doctrinal basis which was totally Catholic. In the spring of 1992, Sister Marie Therese completed writing this group study lesson material for all five years of the Catholic Scripture Study Program.

Being fully aware of the overwhelming task before her, we do not know why she willingly accepted such an exhaustive challenge at this point in her career after having already devoted a lifetime of service to God, the Church and her Order. Perhaps it was the comprehensive knowledge of Holy Scripture that she had acquired over her lifetime of service, combined with her writing skills that gave her the confidence to say ‘yes’.

A more probable reason, however, is that she felt God’s call to fill a compelling need the Church had for a doctrinally correct Catholic Scripture Study that could be easily understood and would be made available to all without regard to cost. She accepted this call and she fulfilled it. God does not expect more of us than we can do, He just empowers us so that we can do more.

What we do know is that she worked night and day for over seven years researching, writing, teaching, lecturing and training others. When this five year course was completed, she did not stop, she continued her work. She created a training/reference manual so that those who followed her would have a manual to guide them, and finally, she established ‘Catholic Scripture Study Inc.’ a 501(C)(3) non profit corporation and appointed its initial Board of Directors. Having completed these additional tasks and in failing health, she retired, leaving the task of overseeing and managing the reproduction and distribution of this program to those around her whom she had selected and to future generations.

Sister Marie Therese passed away on May 11, 2002.

Books of the Bible Covered in the Five Year Cycle of Catholic Scripture Study are:

            1st year:   Luke and Acts (with cross-references to other synoptic)

            2nd year:  The Pentateuch – Genesis through Deuteronomy

            3rd year:  The Gospel and Letters of John

            4th year:  The Prophets and Revelation

            5th year:  Wisdom Literature and New Testament Letters

   


Class Structure

Catholic Scripture Study (CSS) increases spiritual strength, faith, and understanding through the two-part program as described below:

  1. Home Study Lesson

  1. Personal Bible Reading

Members receive readings and questions for daily personal Bible study. Home readings direct attention to:

  1. the passage content;

  2. the meaning to the original audience;

  3. the meaning for today; and

  4. the participant's personal application for today.

CSS nourishes the spirit just as food nourishes the body providing participants an opportunity to grow closer to God and to understand His will.

  1. Notes

Each home study lesson contains notes reinforcing and relating to the lesson for the week completed and questions and readings for the next week's class

  1. Group Meeting

  1. Discussion Groups

The class is divided into smaller discussion groups, each with a discussion leader who encourages members to participate

  1. Lecture

A teaching leader lectures the whole class together on Scripture studied for that week and cites applications to live the Word of God in the world today.

   


Class Meeting

Opening (15 minutes)

Start with a song appropriate for the lesson theme. The teaching leader opens with a prayer and gives an introduction of any material that would help the group focus their attention on the lesson for that week. The Teaching Leader then makes any needed announcements and sends the classes off to their discussion groups. The maximum recommended discussion group size is twelve.

Discussion Groups (60 minutes)

Chairs should be set in a circle with the leader in a chair facing the entrance to the room. Ask all to put on name tags and open their Bibles. The leader will read the first question then call on a person to read their answer. Only those who have carefully thought through their answers and have written them out on their sheet should answer questions. If another person in the group has a different answer or can add to what has been said, they may do so by raising their hand and waiting to be called on. After the group discussion is complete on a question, the leader may add to the answer if he/she feels additional comments are appropriate. One person talks at a time. It is suggested that the leader go around the circle consecutively calling on each person to answer a question. If there is time at the end of the discussion, the leader may make additional comments or announcements prior to reconvening for the lecture.

Lecture (30 minutes)

The teaching leader will give a lecture on the assigned scripture readings that were just discussed in the group. At this time application will be given for living the scripture today, and a challenge to the class to live for God in some specific way that week. Prayer by the teaching leader is said and all are dismissed. Lessons are handed out at the door with the next week's questions.

   


Class Member Answers

The majority of answers to questions asked will be indicated in the assigned reading, in the Lesson Notes or guided by Catholic teaching. Between the notes, a Concordance and a Catechism, the range of answers should be found. The word range is intentionally used here because in most instances the questions will have a different appeal to different class members. This is not only deliberate on the part of Sister as author of the program; Sacred Scripture probes differently into all our lives, depending on what part we have to play in God's plan. His truth voiced in the Bible embraces all of us, despite our individuality; that is part of the mystery of the family of God-created man.

The questions, therefore, in most instances will draw out individual meaning for each of the class participants; several quite different answers can be perfectly valid. This is a significant advantage to group study. Each member of the group benefits from the answers of all members of the group. CSS is not an apologetics or a theology course; consequently the need to have someone in authority to consult for answers is, for the most part, unnecessary. CSS has always considered that a standard answer key would usually be incomplete and its use could possibly result in restricting the thinking process sought by Sister Marie Therese in formulating the questions. CSS therefore, has never developed a standard key for answers.

Class leaders meet before each CSS weekly meeting to discuss their answers in CSS Discussion Group form. This experience prepares the Leaders to guide the discussion of questions to a reasoned answer. Further review of a question, if desired, can be explored in various reference materials and/or reviewed with a Priest or other qualified individual.

   


Teaching Leader Partial List of Reference Sources for Lectures

  • Sister Marie Therese's Lesson Plans, Notes, And References

  • The New American Bible - Saint Joseph Edition

  • Catechism Of The Catholic Church

  • Navarre Bible Text and Commentaries

  • Documents of Vatican II

  • Catholic Answers, Envoy, This Rock and Other Subscription Magazines

  • Nelsons Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts

  • Historical Settings

  • Current Events/Religious Issues

  • Personal Knowledge and Comments

  • Personal Experiences in our Lives

Our hope is that this partial list of resource sources will give you great help in developing your lectures. We feel that you will also receive a wealth of wisdom on this part of your Spiritual journey with our Lord.

   


Testimonials

The following are a few of the many testimonials that inspire us to continue and to increase our efforts to spread the good news about Catholic Scripture Study. These testimonials were written comments received from Catholic Scripture Study members following a year that Catholic Scripture Study covered Wisdom Literature and New Testament Letters.

"All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! Sister, you truly are a blessing, a gift from God. Your notes have especially helped me. God Bless You."

"I have learned this year of the extent of God's mercy and forgiveness. I feel better about myself knowing that even though I am a sinner, God's Mercy is limitless. The Lord is kind and merciful!"

"Catholic Scripture Study has given me a much deeper appreciation and understanding of God's Word and the great love he has for his people. The weekly notes which accompany each lesson are as valuable to me as the lessons themselves. They are a tremendous assistance in applying the Word of God to my daily life. Sister Marie Therese implies a keen sense of awareness of our present day problems and the solutions to them found by slowly opening our hearts and minds to His teachings, I am deeply grateful to God for the opportunity He has given me to study CSS,"

"CSS has opened communication with God for me. I feel that now I have an open line and that it is a two-way conversation. I feel Catholic Scripture Study prepares us to handle life's problems in God's way. I have been in Catholic Scripture Study for two years and my knowledge of the scriptures has increased greatly. I look forward to many more years and an even greater understanding."

"Catholic Scripture Study has provided answers to the many questions I had about my religion. It gave me the confidence I desire in and about my religion. It has given me the strength and desire to continue seeking answers to questions that I have. Catholic Scripture Study has: 1) helped me to live my religion; 2) helped me deal with my sometimes troubled family relationships; and 3) introduced me to various forms of Catholic literature that I did not know existed."

"CSS has been a wonderful experience. I learned to exercise my mind again. It was challenging and fun·Ó I enjoyed the friendship of the other members. Their comments and questions caused me to consider new aspects of life and our faith. I cherish the strengthening of my faith through having known them. Thanks for the experience and the challenge."

"I have completed the Catholic Scripture Study five year program. My first year was the Gospel of John. After that first year, I did not think that any other year of Scripture study could possibly be as good. I was wrong. Each year of study just gets better. Each year I learn more about the Bible and about myself. I have a much greater understanding of my faith and my admiration and appreciation for the work of Sister Marie Therese just keeps growing. I consider her writings to be a gift from God to all of us."

"I was raised in a non-religious dysfunctional family, but when I was in Europe as a teenager, I found my way to a church and there I found the support and love of our Lord. I felt it and was sustained, and that was the way I stayed for 40 years. I married in the Church; raised family in the Church; moved all over the world and stayed the same. I went to work for a church and found support, love and security and still stayed the same. I met wonderful, spiritual, gifted and inspired people and still stayed the same. Then a friend invited me to her Bible study (Catholic Scripture Study). I had many opportunities to attend other Bible study classes, but this one was the one I started attending. I am no longer the same. It is one thing to love the Lord, it is another to begin to understand why. To know that He not only sustains me, but through the scripture He reveals Himself to me in all His glory. His promises to me are so real and I am so blessed through His Word. To know Him is to love Him and Catholic Scripture Study has filled me with His love."

   


Lesson Series Contents

   
Series I:  The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles

  1. Introduction To The Bible
              

  2. Introduction To The Gospels And To Luke-The Good News of Jesus
              

  3. Annunciation Stories of Luke
              Luke 1:1-80

  4. The Birth Of Jesus And His First Eight Days
              Luke 2:1-20

  5. The Child Jesus: Naming, Presentation To God, And Maturing
              Luke 2:21-40

  6. The Maturing Years Of Jesus
              Luke 2:41-52

  7. Prepare The Way Of The Lord!
              Luke 3:1-38

  8. The Devil Tries To Tempt Jesus
              Luke 4:1-30

  9. The Galilean Ministry In Capharnaum And Nearby
              Luke 4:31-6:16

  10. Jesus Begins To Teach And Heal
              Luke 6:17-7:50

  11. Jesus Begins The Church
              Luke 8-9:50

  12. Jesus Journeys To Jerusalem
              Luke 9:51-10:42

  13. Jesus Teaches On Prayer, Happiness, Christian Life And Woes To Some
              Luke 11-12

  14. The Cost of Discipleship-God's Merciful Love
              Luke13-16

  15. Jesus Nears Jerusalem: Predictions, Parables, Miracles, And Teachings
              Luke 17-19:27

  16. The Jerusalem Ministry
              Luke 19:28-21:38

  17. Passion Of The Lord
              Luke22:1-65

  18. Jesus' Trial, Way Of The Cross And Death
              Luke 22:66-23:56

  19. Victory For Eternity
              Luke 24:1-53

  20. Introduction to Acts
              Acts 1-2

  21. The Church In Jerusalem
              Acts 3-5

  22. Christians Grow In Number
              Acts 6-9

  23. Mission To The Gentiles
              Acts 10-12

  24. Missionaries Barnabas And Saul
              Acts 13-15:35

  25. Paul's Second Missionary Journey
              Acts 15:36-18:28

  26. Paul's Third Apostolic Journey
              Acts 19-21:14

  27. Paul At Jerusalem
              Acts 21:15-24:27

  28. Paul's Last Trial And Appeal To Rome
              Acts 25-28

   


Series II:  The Pentateuch

  1. Introduction
              

  2. A People's Pilgrimage
              Genesis I - 11

  3. Abram's Call And Migration
              Genesis 12-1 5

  4. Abraham's Sons, Covenant of Circumcision, Lot's Descendants
              Genesis 1 6-21

  5. Testing of Abraham, Issac And Rebekah; Abraham's Death
              Genesis 22-25:1 8

  6. Jacob And Esau
              Genesis 25:19-28:9

  7. God Calls Jacob
              Genesis 28:10-36:40

  8. The Beginning Of Joseph's Story
              Genesis 37-41

  9. Joseph's Brothers Come To Egypt And The Benjamin Story
              Genesis 42-45

  10. The Twelve Tribes In Egypt
              Genesis 46-50

  11. God Chooses Moses
              Exodus 1-4:1 7

  12. Moses Returns To Egypt
              Exodus 4:18-7:13

  13. The Ten Plagues
              Exodus 7:14-12:36

  14. The Departure From Egypt And Journey To Sinai
              Exodus 12:37-18:27

  15. The Covenant At Mt. Sinai
              Exodus 19-23

  16. The Covenant Ratified
              Exodus 24-31

  17. A "Stiff-Necked" People
              Exodus32-34

  18. The Dwelling Place Of God With His People
              Exodus 35-40

  19. Leviticus
              Leviticus

  20. The Israelites Prepare To Leave Sinai
              Numbers 1-10:10

  21. The Israelites' Journey
              Numbers 11-16

  22. Long Marches, Long Stay At Kadesh, Arrival At The Jordan River
              Numbers 17-25

  23. Further Legislation For The Conquest
              Numbers 26-36

  24. Return To Tradition
              Deuteronomy 1-4:40

  25. God And His Covenant
              Deuteronomy 4:41-11:32

  26. The Deuteronomic Code
              Deuteronomy 12-26

  27. Reflections On The Deuteronomic Code
              Deuteronomy 26-34

  28. Concluding Discourse And Last Days Of Moses
              Deuteronomy 26:16-34:12

   


Series III:  The Gospel and Epistles of John

  1. The Divine In Jesus Of Galilee: Introduction To John
              

  2. The Prologue
              John 1:1-18

  3. Jesus' First Followers
              John 1:19-2:11

  4. Jesus: Teacher, Life-Giver, And Lord
              John 2:12-3:36

  5. A Return To Cana Of Galilee, Through Samaria
              John 4:1-54

  6. Antagonism In Jerusalem: Beginning Of The End
              John 5:1-47

  7. Jesus Prepares For And Promises The Eucharist
              John 6:1-50

  8. The Eucharist Promised
              John 6:51-71

  9. The Eucharist In The Church After Jesus
              Acts 2 And Acts 20

  10. Jesus At The Feast Of Booths In Jerusalem
              John 7:1-52

  11. Jesus' Vain Attempts To Win Over The Leaders
              John 8:1-59

  12. A Symbolic Cure
              John 9:1-41

  13. The Good Shepherd
              John 10:1-42

  14. The Prophesy Of Jesus' Death
              John 11:1-57

  15. Jesus' Last Visit To Jerusalem
              John 12:1-50

  16. A Sign Of Love And Glory
              John 13:1-38

  17. Farewell Address
              John 14:1-31

  18. Unity With Jesus
              John 15:1-27

  19. Jesus Prepares His Disciples
              John 16:1-33

  20. Jesus' Last Discourse
              John 17:1-26

  21. Jesus Before The Courts Of Man
              John 18:1-40

  22. Condemned-Persecuted-Crucified
              John 19:1-42

  23. The Triumph Of Jesus
              John 20:1-31

  24. The Resurrected Christ In Galilee
              John 21:1-25

  25. The Christian Message In John's Letters
              I, II, III John

   


Series IV:  The Prophets and Revelation

  1. Introduction: God Speaks To His People
              

  2. The Israelites In The Promised Land
              Joshua And Judges

  3. Samuel, King-Maker
              I And II Samuel

  4. Solomon, Schism-Peak Of The Kingdom
              I Kings And II Chronicles

  5. Amos
              Amos

  6. The Prophet Of God's Love
              Hosea

  7. The Prophet of Justice
              Micah

  8. God's Moral Judgment Of The World
              Nahum and Jonah

  9. Whom Shall I Send
              Isaiah 1-39

  10. Judgment With A Promise
              Zephaniah and Habakkuk

  11. A Prophet Like Jesus
              Jeremiah 1-20

  12. Jeremiah The Prophet
              Jeremiah 21-52

  13. The Children And The Prince
              Isaiah 7-12

  14. The Exiled Prophet
              Ezekiel 1-22

  15. Ezekiel's New Israel
              Ezekiel 25-48

  16. A Freed Israel
              Isaiah 40-61

  17. Joel's Day Of The Lord
              Joel and Obadiah

  18. Haggai, Zechariah And Malachi
              Haggai, Zechariah And Malachi

  19. Faith In A Time Of Persecution
              Daniel

  20. Church In Time And Eternity
              Revelation 1-3

  21. The Coming Of A King
              Revelation 4-5

  22. Who Can Stand?
              Revelation 6-7

  23. The Seven Trumpets
              Revelation 8-11

  24. We Shall Overcome
              Revelation 12-13

  25. Victory, Reward And Punishment
              Revelation 14-16

  26. The Woman On The Scarlet Beast
              Revelation 17-18

  27. Songs Of Joy
              Revelation 19-20

  28. The Alpha And The Omega
              Revelation 21-22

   


Series V:  Wisdom Literature

  1. Introduction To Wisdom
              

  2. The Most Quoted Book Of Bible
              Psalms (1)

  3. The Church And The Psalms
              Psalms (2)

  4. God And Job
              Job1-19 (1)

  5. Job's New Wisdom
              Job 20-42 (2)

  6. The Book Of Proverbs
              Proverbs

  7. Ecclesiastes And Song of Songs
              Ecclesiastes And Song of Songs

  8. The Book of Wisdom
              Wisdom

  9. The Wisdom Of The Wise
              Sirach

  10. The Earliest Writing In The New Testament
              I & II Thessalonians

  11. Paul's Journey To The Galatians
              Galatians

  12. God's Call As Christians
              I Corinthians 1-9

  13. Gifts For The Ages
              I Corinthians 10-13

  14. The First of Many
              I Corinthians 15 & II Corinthians 1-3

  15. Paul And The Heart Of The Roman Empire
              Romans 1-5

  16. Sins' Wages And Spirit's Gifts
              Romans 6, 7, 8

  17. Jews And Christians After Christ
              Romans 9-16

  18. God The Father's Plan
              Ephesians 1-2

  19. Teaching For Christian Living
              Ephesians 3-6

  20. Philippians Spread The Gospel
              Philippians

  21. Paul, Apostle And Bishop
              Colossians

  22. Paul's Young Delegate
              I Timothy 1-6

  23. "Stir Into Flame Gift Of God"
              II Timothy 1-4

  24. A Gentile Apostolic Delegate
              Titus & Philemon

  25. God's Whole Plan Of Salvation
              Hebrews 1-7

  26. The Priesthood of Christ
              Hebrews 8-13

  27. Brothers Of The Lord
              James & Jude

  28. The First Letter Of Peter
              I Peter

  29. Peter, Servant & Apostle Of Jesus Christ
              II Peter

   


Sample Lessons from Series I:  Luke and Acts

Catholic Scripture Study Notes written by Sister Marie Therese, are provided for the personal use of students during their active participation and must not be loaned or given to others.

   

Lesson 1

INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE

I.  IMPORTANCE OF GOD'S WORD

Our opening song said, "Open your ears, O Christian people, open your ears and hear God's word." St. Paul says, "Faith comes by hearing" (Romans 10:17). And he writes to Timothy: "All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living" (2 Timothy 3:16).

II.  REVELATION AND THE BIBLE

God revealed Himself by words and acts to His people. This took place in the lives of the Hebrew patriarchs, in the saving events of the Exodus, in the history of Israel, and finally, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At first. this was told to others, passed down to each generation, and, at one point, put into writing.

God revealed Himself without needing writing, but He had two reasons for willing His revelation to be recorded under His inspiration:

1. The history in which God revealed himself had to be correctly interpreted: Egyptian people and Hebrew people obviously interpreted events of the Exodus differently-the crossing of the Red Sea did not mean the same to each. Can you give an example from the New Testament of different interpretations of the same event?

2. The Bible is an inspired interpretation of God's deeds and self-revelation. This was done in spoken words, as Moses, the prophets, and Jesus did; but oral interpretation needed to be preserved for future generations, so God inspired some writers to put it down to provide a record of revelation.

III. INSPIRATION IN THE BIBLE

Father Eugene Maly, Biblical scholar, says: "By inspiration is meant that the Spirit of God was at work in the community of Israel and in the early Christian community, to produce, through a number of human authors, a series of books that witness to God's revelation of Himself through history. This self-revelation was completed through Jesus Christ in the New Testament" (Foreword to the Good News Bible).

How did inspiration work? We can never fully understand it, yet the Church, though respecting the mystery of it, has discarded certain explanations and has said what it is not.

1. It is not "divine dictation" with word-for-word help, or by visions, or as in a tape recorder. This theory implies that God does not honor the freedom of His creatures, and this also does not account for the obvious differences in the biblical writings.

2. It is not "Negative help" where human authors were alone responsible except when they were in danger of religious error and God intervened in some way. This would make the Bible a religious text book which answers particular problems and makes the divine influence present only in some instances. On the contrary, the Bible reveals the person and character of God Himself, not just answers.

3. It is not "later approval" after the Bible was completed. If that were so, how could Jeremiah write: "I will forget the Lord and no longer speak in his name; but then your message is like a fire within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back" (Jeremiah 20:9). And how could 2 Timothy above, be truth?

The Church has not adopted any one theory of how inspiration works, but holds that God is actively present in a unique way when a writer composes. This is a constant tradition of the Church, which also holds that human authors had free use of their talents and human sources of information. John ends his Gospel: "He is the disciple who spoke of these things, the one who also wrote them down; and we know that what he said is true. Now, there are many things that Jesus did. If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written" (John 21:24-25). See Luke 1:1-4 also.

Church teaching on this is found in the encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus of Pope Benedict XV: "The individual authors of these books worked in full freedom under the divine inspiration, each of them in accordance with his individual nature and character" (II, I). This was repeated by Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu (#33) and in the Vatican II document Dei Verbum (#11) "The Bible is the Word of God in the words of humans."

Though written over a period of more than a thousand years, by greatly different human authors-from earliest middle eastern peoples, to desert patriarchs, to cultured Greeks of the time after Jesus-the Bible has a remarkable unity. The same truths, ideas, and teaching are repeated in all, by authors who had never read each other.

This unity is achieved by the Spirit of God revealing and inspiring; yet, there are differing pictures of God expressing truths other writers did not see: Isaiah 6:1-4 speaks of God as a holy king on a throne. Jeremiah 1:1-9 sees him as a close guardian who knew him even before his birth. God's "anger" expressed by Hosea and other prophets, his strict judgment, are true, all of them, but need to be seen as part of a whole to be the whole truth, the reality of God. This means we have to get acquainted with as much of the Bible as we can to know what God is telling us about Himself.

IV. SACRED SCRIPTURE AND SACRED TRADITION

The inspired books of the Bible closed in some way God's self-revelation. "In some way" means that God also continues to reveal Himself, though not in the same form as Biblical books. How do we, for instance, know the list of inspired books when the Bible does not tell us this? We know it from the authority within the Church in the Old and New Testament times. The Church existed before the books. The Church decided on the list of inspired books.

Around 400 A.D. the Church collected all the Christian writings claiming to be from apostolic teaching, called the bishops together and decided on the true and inspired four Gospels and other New Testament writings; added the Old Testament books in use in Our Lord's time among all Jews, and thus gave Christians the Bible as we have it in the Catholic Church today, and printed for the first time by John Gutenberg in 1495. The King James version used by many today is not the same as this first printed Bible.

Luther thought he was more authentic by following a list of Old Testament books drawn up by Jewish Pharisees in 90 A.D., which omitted six books written in Greek but always accepted by all Jews. This is why the Protestant Bible has differed from the Catholic and traditional Bible. Today, however, new evidence from new discoveries causes these books to be accepted more and more. They are now included in Protestant Bibles as apocrypha ("possibly inspired"). The Catholic Church has always accepted them. This 400 A.D. list was called the "canon" (Greek for list or rule) of Scripture, and was formally confirmed by the Council of Trent in 1546.

Sacred Tradition includes the authoritative teaching of Councils-meetings of bishops in union with and accepted by the Pope, the successor of Peter; and the teaching of the magisterium (Latin for teacher)-the ordinary teaching of Pope and bishops. It also includes doctrine from the lives of the people such as those rich in spiritual gifts and accepted as such by the Church-the Saints. The whole people of God, "the faithful," are guided by the Holy Spirit and recognize true doctrines and pass it down. This is called "Sensum fidei" (the sense of the faithful).

Tradition then, includes a long rich period when the Holy Spirit, as John says quoting Jesus, "teaches you all truth."

God thus applied the scriptures' revelation and teaching to specific times and different conditions, providing clearer insights to what He had revealed. Thus the Bible and Tradition go hand in hand-they are not two distinct sources of revelation. As Vatican II has put it: "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God which is committed to the Church" (Dei Verbum, #10).

V. INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE

We must approach the Bible in faith as from God, and, since human knowledge was involved, we must make use of all possible human sciences to understand the meaning intended by the human authors. This is an immense task and many Christians have spent their lives doing this for the Church.

"The task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching offices of the Church, whose authority exists in the name of Jesus Christ... in teaching only what has been handed on..., drawing from this depository of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed" (Dei Verbum XII).

A. Translating the Bible. Seventy scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, about 200 years before Christ, translated the entire Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament) into Greek. Because of seventy scholars, this translation is called the Septuagint (70). This was the most common translation used in the Greek and Roman empire, at the time of Christ.

The New Testament was all written in Greek. By 404 A. D., St. Jerome had translated the entire Bible into Latin, for the common language of the people had changed from Greek. For this he learned both Hebrew and Greek. His translation was accepted as authentic by the Church, which regarded it as necessary and important to carefully guard a translation of the sacred books into the common language.

Yet this came almost to a standstill in western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and the dissolution of its Latin language into various languages-mixtures of Latin and the common Germanic tongues of migratory peoples. These did not become standard or written languages for some centuries, and since there were no schools or printed books-only those copied by hand-the Church preached the Gospel, pictured it in stained glass windows and taught the psalms and some texts by memory. This is how the rosary developed-a way to know the major mysteries of Christ and how to ponder them over and over in biblical prayers.

England, separated by land from Europe, and having a late invasion, was slower in this development of language than the continent, but some Bible books were translated early into Saxon and Anglo dialects. By the time that misleading teachers came along, translating Scriptures without authorization and without real scholarship, even altering some teaching, the Church reacted by forbidding the copying of such translations or reading them.

One of these was by an English priest, John Wycliff. William Tyndale in England also translated the Bible into English, during the Reformation and without approval by the universal Church. Meanwhile, after Luther began the Reformation, Catholic English scholars translated the entire Bible into English from the accepted Vulgate Bible, and the Church approved it. This was the English Catholic (Douay-Rheims) Bible we used until this generation, when two other approved versions have been done-the Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible, officially adopted for our public liturgy.

These latest translations have profited from discoveries of ancient documents in the original Semitic and Greek languages, which reveal meanings of words not known before.

B. Biblical Scholarship. When St. Paul described Scripture he remarked that it was useful for teaching and refuting error (2 Timothy 3:16). Recent encyclicals have called for thorough studies of human sciences which might enlighten our understanding of the original meaning intended by biblical authors.

Studies, such as archeology, for example, have authenticated many Biblical names and places and increased our knowledge of the history and cultures of much of the times of the Bible. We have learned how much their understanding of history differs from our standards, and have learned not to expect from them what we would from a modern historian with so much better ways to find out the past. We have also learned the literary styles and forms that early biblical times used; Hebrew idioms, metaphors, similes, parallelisms and poetic forms, so that we are not so apt to take them literally. If we know the writer is writing poetry, we do not misunderstand when, for instance, he says, as Carl Sandburg did, "The fog comes in on little cat feet."

Some Christians today believe that the understandings they have for the words of their language as they read the Bible are necessarily correct understandings and the meaning intended by the author. These Christians are called literalists, sometimes fundamentalists. They accept each word literally, as if our words mean the same as the ancient word, or deny that the passage needs the help of interpretation through competent and acceptable Biblical studies.

Literal interpretations can be very misleading and get into much difficulty in explaining obvious contradictions or differences among Biblical authors. Such readers, for example, believe that the creation story means seven days as we mean seven 24-hour days. They are then at a loss to explain the first three "days" before the sun was created, as the account mentions.

A second group of Christians, starting with Luther, claimed that the Bible is "the only rule of the Faith" completely ignoring the four centuries before the Bible that they have in their hand first existed as one book, and ignoring the apostolic preaching, which taught the faith without a book.

It is the Church which has the divine right to interpret the scriptures and guard them from error. It does so by requiring scholars to have the approval of their bishops or the church department which oversees such things as translations; also by requiring that scholars and publishers put footnotes in Catholic Bibles explaining difficult or disputed texts. Actually, the Church has pronounced on very few passages in the Bible, and it has approved many translations in native languages.

C. Pastoral or Personal, Prayerful Reading of the Bible. St. Paul also wrote to Timothy: "Scripture is useful for correcting faults and giving instructions for right living." This is the kind of use we should make of the Bible. It should form us, correct us, inspire us. As God's individual word to us, it is invaluable in making us truly Christian. The pastoral epistles, the gospels, the psalms, wisdom books-how important they are! But people also constantly find help in all the Bible, even genealogical lists!

"Indeed, God's word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates and divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the reflections and thoughts of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

APPLICATION

Let us remember that the Bible is the word of God, and also that Jesus left us the Church to guard and interpret it. "He put everything in subjection beneath Christ's feet and appointed him as supreme head to the Church," said St. Paul in Ephesians 1:22. And Christ said to one of His apostles who had declared that Jesus was the Son of the living God: "Simon, son of Jonah, blessed are you, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I say to you, you are Peter (petra-rock) and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell (evil and error) shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17-20).

Properly interpreting both the Bible and the Church takes an adult Christian conscience, always formed with prudence, requiring on-going education, prayer, and communication with God, each other, and the Church.

Among the faithful who help us with this process are theologians. The earliest Christian language was Greek in which "theo" means "God," so "theologian" means those who study God, are wise about him. They reflect on the truths of the faith and reason about it. We respect them, but what they conclude is an opinion they form; many differ with others and this is good. But we must remember that their opinions are not the faith, nor are they teachers of the faith-the Bishops and the Popes are. There is a tendency today to count their opinions as necessarily true or the best. It is good to hear both sides, also.
   

QUESTIONS FOR LESSON 2

The Gospel of Luke

Note: the following questions were not written by Sr. Marie Therese, but have been added for the St. Bartholomew 2005 Study. With the exception of these questions for Lesson 2, all other questions and notes have been written by Sr. Marie Therese.

Day 1:  Read and highlight a passage in these notes that especially struck you and share it with the group.

Day 2:  How would you explain the meaning of Sacred Tradition to a non-Catholic Christian friend?

Day 3:  Read the Introduction to the book of Luke in your Bible.

  1. What are key events in salvation history?

  2. Share a key event in your own personal salvation or faith story.

Day 4:  What do you know about the author of the Gospel according to Luke?

Day 5 & 6:  Skim Chapter 1 of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

  1. List some similarities and some differences in how each author begins his Gospel.

  2. What are some events that appear only in Luke?

  3. Share one passage in Luke Chapter 1 that is special to you and tell why.

  4. What are you hoping to gain by this year's Scripture Study?

   


Lesson 2

THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS

I. INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPELS

A. The World Situation at Jesus' Time. One Empire, the Roman, controlled the countries around the Mediterranean Sea (most of Europe), and some of Africa.

Palestine, the land of the Jewish people, extended about 150 miles long, and 30-50 miles wide. It was a country smaller than the state of Massachusetts. It was governed by Roman officials and under Roman laws, but it was also under another Law-the Law of God, coming from the revelation of Himself to Abraham and his descendants-the Israelites. This law was taught and enforced by the Sanhedrin, composed of the priests, the scholars (the scribes), and the Jewish leaders-Pharisees and Sadducees.

B. The God-Man (the event that the Gospels proclaim)

Reflection: If a God of infinite power and concern for His people were to become man within this situation, how would He come?
o as a Roman, exercising authority?
o as a rebel against the Romans?
o as a Jewish authority figure, a Pharisee or Sadducee?

No, Jesus came humbly, and began a ministry primarily to the needy, the powerless. He:
o fed the hungry
o forgave sinners
o healed the sick and the tormented
o was a friend to the poor and the outcast, the blind, the lame, the paralyzed, tax collectors and prostitutes.

The death of Jesus was highly predictable, under the circumstances; supernaturally, it was the main event of our salvation.

The Resurrection of Jesus was unpredictable and unbelieved by many; the Father's gift of Jesus was irrevocable and definitive.

C. The REMEMBRANCE of Jesus: ORAL TRADITION, beginning after Pentecost.

The Apostles are taught, visited by Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit of power and wisdom.
They preach the kerygma (the good news): the Name, the works, and the death and resurrection of Jesus. They announce God's saving love for all. Their intention was to arouse faith and to bring others who believed to baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

They formed faith communities (Acts 2:42). These met for the "breaking of the bread" (the ceremony of Jesus at the Last Supper and commanded by Him to be done by the Apostles) for the word of God as preached and taught by the Apostles, and for the life shared in a united group.

These communities reflected upon Him in the context of their own need as converted Jews, and as their promised Messiah; or by Gentiles as the Lord of Life. Some became aware of His likeness to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah who would take on the sin of His people and die for them; who would redeem Israel and bring salvation to the ends of the earth, who would bring good news to the poor, bind broken hearts, proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prisons, and comfort to those who mourn.

Some recognized the innocent One of Psalm 22 "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

As these communities lived and reflected upon the gospel, in community and in worship, they were guided by the Holy Spirit. The person and the promises, the teachings and the deeds of the risen Lord took on greater clarity and focus. This oral preaching and passing on of traditions, was preached in segments, gradually.

D. The Writing of the Gospels. With the death of Peter about 65 A.D. there was need for a more stabilized and orderly account. It was not to be a biography in our sense of the word nor a mere chronicle of events. It was an account of a meditated-upon faith, the revelation of a person to be known, to those who had not known Him. It was an account based on strong historical traditions, put down as a permanent record and containing the Good News of the Christ, the Messiah, as the Church had come to know it-in its witness and experience, in its preaching and teaching, in its meditation, prayer, and contemplation all in the light of the Holy Spirit.

And so, about 60 years into the Christian era (now called by historians the Common Era), 60 years after Jesus came into the world, Mark, a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian among Gentile converts, wrote a short Gospel (godspel, old English for Good news), which, it is thought, he had learned from the preaching of Peter.

About 70 A.D. a Jewish Christian addressing his fellows, uses Mark's Gospel and a collection of Jesus' sayings, and possibly an Aramaic account by the apostle Matthew, at least traditionally thought to be Matthew's preaching, and writes the Gospel of Matthew.

Sometime later, Luke, a Gentile convert of Paul's wrote a gospel, using the two gospels of Matthew and Mark and the "sayings" of Jesus, plus the Apostle Paul's preaching of Jesus (for Paul had been taught by Jesus Himself). He also wrote a second book, the Acts of the Apostles.

Finally, about 90 A.D., John, thought to be the Apostle John by many scholars even today, but surely a gifted and reflective theologian, wrote his Gospel on the divine nature of Jesus.

The first three Gospels are called the Synoptics because they are much the same account when placed in three columns. All these are considered by the Church to be authentic Tradition, the faith of the writers speaking to the faith of the believers.

II. INTRODUCTION TO LUKE

The author gives an orderly account as an "evangelist" ("good news" in Greek) by presenting the good news of the preaching and deeds of Jesus. Luke is a man of his own time reflecting on the important message for his own time.

A. Luke's Sense of Time

The period of Israel: all that went before and prepared the way for Jesus.

The period of Jesus' earthly life: God's saving intervention in which Jesus brings salvation, fulfills the promises, introduces God's Kingdom.

The period of the Church: all that follows the Ascension of Jesus, part of God's same plan, which is progressively realized through time and place until it is totally fulfilled in the Second Coming.

B. Luke's Purpose in His Gospel and Acts of the Apostles: to show the progress of the Good News as it spread from Jerusalem to Rome (then the capital of the world). Luke shows that, right from the beginning Jesus is recognized as a light to the non-Jewish world, the "peoples" everywhere-Gentiles. And at the end-the salvation sent by God (Luke 2:32, Acts 28:28).

C. The Themes of Luke

Luke's focus: Jerusalem, the City of God. Luke introduces the Infancy by the presentation in the Temple. The long central section of his gospel is also a journey towards Jerusalem, and ends there.

Writing for the Gentile Church, Luke stresses salvation for all: "universal." The word used in the Greek original is "katolica," translated as "catholic." It became the name of Jesus' Church.

Luke tells these mentions of all mankind:

  • the angel's song: peace on earth to all of good will

  • Simeon speaks of a light of revelation to the Gentiles

  • John the Baptist quotes Isaiah, all people shall see his salvation

  • The Good Samaritan parable of Jesus is given, the only time in the Gospels.

  • Jews are warned of being replaced by people of every land in the Messianic feast.

  • the last command of Jesus: preach the gospel to all nations.

Luke stresses Jesus' role as Savior: compassionate, tender, forgiving.

  • to you is born a savior.

  • Jesus-"Yahweh saves"

  • parables of lost sheep, lost coin, lost son

  • anger against "blind guides"

  • Jesus sought all, even Pharisees, and the Prodigal Son's older brother.

  • story of the woman who is a sinner: "her great love..." (Luke 7:46-50)

  • "This day you shall be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:29-43) to the good thief

  • "Father, forgive them..." (Luke 23:34)

  • the look that moved Peter (Luke 22:60-61)

Special attention is given to women, whose place in the ancient world was belittled.

  • Elizabeth, Anna, the widow of Nain, the repentant sinner, the women of Galilee, the woman who declared his mother blessed, the women who met Jesus on His way to Calvary.

  • parables of lost coin and unjust judge.

  • Our Lady: in infancy narrative, especially her Magnificat.

Concerned for distressed, poor, humble

  • came to seek and save the lost

  • it is written that Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead; that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations

Luke sees Jesus as the bearer of the Holy Spirit:

  • the Spirit overshadowed Mary at His conception

  • the Spirit led Him out to the desert (after descending upon Him at Baptism)

  • in the power of the Holy Spirit He returns to Galilee

  • His first words in His public life: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me"

  • Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21) for revealing Him to the unworldly

  • the Holy Spirit is the gift of the risen and ascended Lord

  • the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is for all who believe in the name of Christ

  • the Spirit is poured out upon the Church (Acts 1 and 2)

  • in Luke several persons are seen as filled by the Spirit: John the Baptist, and his parents; Simeon, Anna, Mary...

Luke shows Jesus' concern for prayer

  • All the Synoptics show Jesus at prayer: in Gethsemane, after the multiplication of loaves, in Capernaum after curing many

  • Luke has 8 other circumstances: at baptism, in the desert, before choosing the apostles, before the confession of Peter, telling Peter that He had especially prayed for him; at the Transfiguration; before the disciples asked to be taught how to pray; on the cross for His executioners, when surrendering His soul to the Father

  • Jesus recommended prayer

  • parables of an importunate friend, of a widow with an unjust judge

  • we must pray to obtain the Holy Spirit

Luke diffuses an atmosphere of joy and peace.

  • the foretelling of the birth of John includes a promise of joy

  • the unborn John leaps for joy at the visit of Mary

  • the angel bids Mary rejoice

  • she proclaims her joy in the Magnificat

  • angels proclaim joy to the shepherds

  • crowds proclaim joy at the works of Jesus they witnessed

  • the 72 disciples return from their mission rejoicing

  • Jesus points out the true motive for joy (Luke 10:20)

  • Jesus Himself rejoices in the Holy Spirit

  • Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully

  • parables (Luke 15) depict the joy of God at the repentance of a sinner

  • Peace: peace follows on the joy that Jesus gives

  • a peace came into the world at His coming

  • the risen Christ gives peace (His first word to the Apostles)

  • the disciples speak of peace throughout the world

Luke takes a strong position on riches and poverty

  • where Matthew speaks of "poor in spirit" Luke speaks of "poor."

  • where Matthew says "those who hunger and thirst after righteousness," Luke says "you that hunger now"

  • Luke says the poor are those who put their trust in God (in the Magnificat)

  • there are more warnings against the danger of riches than any other evangelist

  • selfishness is connected with riches; this is condemned in the Parable of the Rich Fool

  • no man can serve God and mammon (money)

  • Jesus lived as poor and among the poor

  • in Luke, He is visited by shepherds, not Magi

  • Mary and Joseph gave offering of the poor for the Infant Jesus' ransom.

  • the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head; others have homes

  • the disciples left everything and followed Him

In Luke, Jesus insists on renunciation.

  • He advises no confidence in riches

  • Luke quotes Jesus: "Sell your possessions and give alms" to the poor

  • Luke quotes Jesus: my followers must renounce all for the sake of the kingdom

  • Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all that he has and give to the poor

(Part II of this lesson is based on The Gospel According to Luke, a commentary by Wilfred J. Harrington)

   
QUESTIONS FOR LESSON 3

Luke 1

Day 1:  Read the Notes. Pay special attention to Luke's emphasis on Jesus' role under II C "The Themes of Luke."

  1. Which of these aspects of Jesus' ministry do you find most helpful?
       

  2. Why? (Thank the Holy Spirit for this effect for you.)

Day 2:  Read Luke 1:1-25, 1 Chronicles 24:10, Sirach 48:10 and Daniel 9:20-24. Ponder Luke 1:1 and 15-17. How can you carry out verse 16 in your life? Do you?

Day 3:  Read Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation of Jesus

  1. List the information the angel Gabriel gives Mary about the child.
       

  2. To you, what is the most important information given? Why?

Day 4:  Read the following Old Testament "annunciations." Genesis 17:15-19, Judges 13:2-25, 1 Samuel 1:1-27, and 2:1-11.

  1. In what way were these women all alike, and in what way was Mary different?
       

  2. In Luke 1:31 and 34, what do you make of Mary's question?

Day 5:  Read Luke 1:39-56.

  1. Find, in Luke 1:26-56, words which we use as a prayer, the Hail Mary.
       

  2. In Luke 1:44, what is especially important for us in our abortion age?
       

  3. What virtue of Mary does Elizabeth praise in verse 45? How does God want us to practice this?

Day 6:  Read Luke 1:57-80, Psalm 41:14 and 72:18.

  1. What words of Zachary come from the Psalms?
       

  2. In Luke 1:41 and 67, what same words are said of Elizabeth and Zachary?
       

  3. Read Malachi 3:1-5 and Matthew 11:7-10, and Isaiah 40:3. In Luke 3:7-14, what does John do that carries out these Old Testament prophecies of him?

   


Lesson 3

THE ANNUNCIATION STORIES OF LUKE

Luke 1:1-80

I. LUKE AS A WRITER

A. The Sources. Luke says he tracked down previous written sources, official traditions, or oral traditions. We can trace where he found some of these. At Antioch, where he became a Christian, he probably met Manahan, boyhood friend of Herod Antipas, and Joanna, wife of Herod's steward, Chuza. These also became Christians. This could be his source for the Herod stories.

At Ephesus, the disciples of John the Apostle were a source, possibly even Mary herself. However, it is more likely that he received much of the story from the Jerusalem community, for John, who took care of Mary, remained in Jerusalem with the other Apostles for at least fifteen years after Jesus. Paul, another strong source for Luke, was in Jerusalem about four times after Jesus death. Once he was taken there after his conversion in Damascus to escape the Jews' fury. The second time coming later for two weeks to meet the Apostles, the third time when he took a collection to Jerusalem during the famine in 46 A.D., and finally at the Council of 49 A.D., with the Apostles.

Luke spent two years in Caesarea, where he had time to question the deacon Philip, while Paul was imprisoned there. He was close enough to Jerusalem and Judea to visit the countryside around Bethlehem, around Elizabeth and Zechariah's area, where "all who heard their story were amazed." He could have visited Jerusalem, even John's old disciples and his Jordan baptizing area. Paul, himself, could have done this and passed it on to Luke.

Since 60% of Mark's 661 verses occur almost word-for-word in Luke, and also in Matthew, many think that they had Mark as a source, or even that all three had another document, earlier than theirs as a source, which was later lost.

It is clear, however, that the ultimate source of much of chapter one and two of Luke had to be Mary. The intimate details and description of her reactions could have come only from her.

Scholars have noted the strong similarity between the Infancy narrative and the Pentecost story, both written by Luke, and both describing the birth of Christ, and the birth of His Church. In both, Mary is named and the Holy Spirit came powerfully to bring into being the Messianic age. From this parallel (a favorite device of Hebrew writers) comes the view of Mary as mother of the Church, as well as of Jesus, its founder. She is also seen from these stories as the first believer, the first Christian.

It has also long been thought that the source of these stories was the Jerusalem post-Pentecostal community in which Mary had lived, and that she was so understanding of the Christians' desire to know Jesus that she shared with them her special knowledge of His infancy and upbringing.

Some scholars believe that Luke wrote his Gospel around 62 A.D. when Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, north of Galilee; others during Paul's Roman captivity, which would make it later.

B. The Structure. The Infancy section is like a diptych with seven episodes, presented in two phases set up in this scheme:

1. Before the births, three episodes: Announcement of John's Birth, Announcement of Jesus' Birth, and a complementary episode, the Visitation.

2. Births, four episodes: Birth of John, of Jesus, Circumcision, Finding in the Temple.

C. The Style. Luke's style is hymnal, doctrinal, and meditative. His Gospel has an atmosphere of peace, joy, prayer, and union with God. In the Infancy narrative, it is that of a private tradition, or a popular tradition, and has the earmarks of a miniature Gospel. There is definitely a Jewish background with an emphasis on redemption, long expected by the Jews. The parallelism is a Jewish literary habit. Some conclude that this originated as a written document which Luke studied and from which he absorbed its Semitic (Hebrew) style, such as the assonance of Messiah and Savior in the original Hebrew.

There is theology in the Infancy narrative based on episodes-fact, for Luke claims his account is history. But these facts he associates and interprets in the light of Old Testament texts that either he, a Greek, found in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), or which Paul had found and Luke incorporates. We will see some of these when we discuss the Infancy narratives.

It is also clear that Luke is writing for non-Jews, as He explains Jewish terms which Jews would know; he omits what would offend Gentile readers, and some violent scenes, for instance, the murder of John the Baptist.

The Infancy narratives, though some scholars have thought so, are not midrash (a scripture text followed by interpretative application by Jewish rabbis), nor haggadah (fictional stories explaining the law of Jewish faith or morals). They are, says Luke, "events which have been fulfilled in our midst" which he claims for his Gospel in the introduction. Though the angel, for instance, could be a genuine spiritual experience presented by Luke in a traditional and consecrated style, some scholars note that the angel is named as he is in Daniel 10. This seems more supportive of a being who is real, in a real episode.

The Canticles in the Infancy narratives are found in several Old Testament texts leading scholars to think that they were meant to bring out the spiritual significance of the episode he has just told. It is unlikely that word-for-word they were remembered by someone who said or heard them, but they do express Zechariah's remembered reactions and Mary's feelings and her very real knowledge of Jewish scripture and faith; and of course, they are inspired by God who spoke through Zechariah, Mary, and Luke. The first lines of Mary's Canticle regarding herself, and the last ones of Zechariah regarding his child, are very likely the base and the authentic words of the account Luke received.

II. ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE BIRTH OF JOHN

A. A Childless Couple (Luke 1:5-7). Luke alone gives this infancy story of John. He situates it in history and in a genealogy. The priest Zechariah was one of the Abijah class, that is, a descendant of the 24 grandsons of Aaron, as was Elizabeth, his wife. They were holy Israelites "blamelessly following all the commandments of the Lord." Like Abraham and Sarah, they were advanced in years, and Elizabeth had had no children. This was called "sterile" in relation to the woman; today, of course, we know that either of the couple could be sterile to cause no birth to them. All Jewish women considered it a disgrace not to bear a child to further the family line and the People of God.

Elizabeth is thus like the other God-fearing women in the Scriptures, and as the story advances, she is also like them in God's intervention. Sarah, Abraham's wife (Genesis 17:15-19), Samson's mother (Judges 13:2-25), Samuel's mother (1 Samuel 1:1-27), were all praying for a child, and received a son who was special to Israel, as did Elizabeth.

Luke begins the Infancy narrative with Zechariah's turn of a week's service as a priest in the Temple. Thus the infancy narrative begins and ends in the Temple, as we shall see. We can imagine the holy old man feeling awed and proud as he alone steps into the Holy Place and offers incense, while the "full assembly of people" stood outside. Zechariah was "deeply disturbed at the sight" of the angel and, as is usual with humans in contact with heavenly beings or God, was "overcome by fear." There are reminders of Daniel here (Daniel 10:8-12) when the prophet Daniel saw the same angel, who names himself then as he did to Zechariah, and revealed the time to expect the coming Messiah, so both refer to the opening of the Messianic age.

B. Zechariah and the Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:8-25). The angel Gabriel, however, speaks plainly to Zechariah, "Your wife will bear a son whom you shall name John (Yahweh has shown favor). The prophetic news of the greatness of John comes to Zechariah in the words, "Many will rejoice at his birth."

Then Gabriel tells words about John similar to Samson's characteristics: "a Nazarite who will not drink strong drink, but instead will be filled with the Holy Spirit." The last phrase is a Biblical way of identifying a prophet or prophecy. John will be that "from his mother's womb" which the visitation of Jesus in Mary will bring about.

His role is then described further by the angel, as similar to that of the great prophet Elijah whom the Jews always expected to return. Jesus later remarked that John was greater than Elijah, and that no man born to woman was greater! Clearly, He was leaving Himself out as a man, and more than a man.

Now Zechariah begins to question, and not wisely, for he seems to doubt the prophecy, and is gently but firmly told that he will not speak further until the prophecy is fulfilled.

After he returned home, Elizabeth conceived and went into seclusion. Whether this was custom, or that she was so overwhelmed with joy and yet embarrassment at Zechariah's sudden inability to speak or hear, we do not know. What must this holy couple's home have been like, in these months of silence and retreat? We can believe that they were often in prayer there and pondering on the meaning and words of God, and growing closer to God as the child grew in the womb. It is easy to see the great contrast in this older woman, so wanting a child, and some of today's fears and rejection of pregnancy at any time, much less in older years.

III. ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS

A. Gabriel's Greeting to Mary (Luke 1:26-33). Though Elizabeth did not know it, during this time, the same angel is sent to earth again to a Galilean insignificant village, to a maiden not yet married and living in her own home, but betrothed to a man named Joseph of the house of David (Matthew 1:5-6 and Isaiah 11:1-5). "The Virgin's name was Mary"-Miriam in Hebrew and common then. Luke has twice used the word virgin here.

Gabriel's words in saluting Mary and telling his news include the most impressive salutation in the Bible, and are echoes of many Old Testament texts which all devout Hebrews knew.

The Greek "charis" used here, "highly gifted or favored, adorned" means that Mary is "par excellence" in God's eyes. She is "most favored," the permanent object of God's predilection. So she was full of His gifts-there was no shadow of sin that could mar her in His eyes.

Twice the angel mentions that she is blessed among women, as does Elizabeth later. Such terms were never heard before in Scripture.

This beautiful and unusual greeting is the source of the insight, aided by the Holy Spirit, of the belief that Mary's soul was preserved from original sin, by reason of her Son's dignity and merits. We call this grace the Immaculate Conception. Mary, as Eve was in the beginning, was created without sin. But like Eve, she had free will. We must realize that being created without sin did not mean she could not sin. The sensum fidei and the Magisterium, led by the Christians of the first and second centuries, especially the doctors of the Church, who discussed and finally accepted this insight, have always believed that Mary's perfect cooperation with God and her Son, led her to preserve sinlessness.

B. Mary and the Angel (Luke 1:34-38). Mary's beautiful and humble response to this unusual greeting arose from her profound and simple awareness of herself in comparison to the God of majesty whom she, of all humans, must have known intimately. It is said of saints that the more they understand God, the less they think of themselves; they see their nothingness and dependence and marvel at His love for them. Something of this must have arisen in Mary in the presence of the angel from God, with this praise; a presence that in itself was awe-inspiring. Yet it was more than awe and fear, for Mary was troubled at his words, puzzled at the meaning of such praise. This lack of expectation of any praise was the cause, it is thought, of God's favor, for He is attracted by humility and truth, so rare among His creatures, infected by pride.

Gently the angel calmed her fear and again, as to Elizabeth, announces the conception of a son, and His name-Jesus (the salvation of God); then he goes on to announce the Messiah, the expected Son of David, the ruler of Jacob's house forever; Jacob-Abraham's grandson and father of the patriarchs of the twelve tribes. He added that Mary's son would even be called "Son of the most High!" It is amazing that Mary was not completely overwhelmed at such Scriptural messages about her son. But she remembered that God has already asked a gift from her, and she calmly asked a question that causes many another question.

"How can this be done since I do not know man?" For an engaged girl to ask this shows that she had a concern about which she prudently needed an answer-a difficulty out of the ordinary. Her Semitic statement, "I do not know man" would be unreal otherwise. She did not expect, apparently, to be a mother. This question suggested to first and second century Christians that Mary was so aware of God, her love was so special, that she had an exclusive love for Him. This kind of love was described in the Old Testament in such texts as Deuteronomy 6:5, Hosea 2:16-18; 21-22, and in the Psalms and Prophets. It found its culmination in Mary, the first Christian, and the first of a long line of Christians who felt called to virginity in response to such an interior grace. It has been preserved in traditional religious life, and also, in modern lay people who make privately one or other of the vows.

This early Christian belief is preserved in the Apostles Creed, ("born of the Virgin Mary"), in the Nicene Creed (Council of Nicea-Constantinople, 381 A.D.), and in the liturgy and feasts of the Church from earliest times. The Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, quite ancient, says "We honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God."

IV. WOMAN OF FAITH

A. When the angel told her of God's spirit overshadowing her, we have another strong Old Testament image, for Luke's word is the same as that used for the Presence of God that hovered over the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 40:34-38). And Mary was more the Ark of the Covenant than the original one! Did Mary interpret the words "Son of the Most High" and "Son of God," both used by the angel, as we do? Did she clearly realize the little boy to come was, as we say, the second Person of God? Probably not that clearly. She was a woman of faith as we are, and as these mysteries were revealed to her, she, like the Church does, pondered them, sought to place them in the context of other revelations, and thus grew in understanding.

As a help to Mary's faith, and to her more complete knowledge of God's great promises unfolding rapidly around her, the angel tells her that Elizabeth, her older relative, is six months with child, for "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

And the words of Mary came without any further hesitation: "I am the handmaid (double-female slave, one completely at the service of a master) of the LORD!" And her next words ushered in the moment that changed the way the world counted time-New Testament history began. Mary believed the angel and said, "Let it be done to me as you say." God waited for a free response of a girl of fourteen and created the small cell of a little being with a human nature in time, and a divine nature from eternity.

Mary's humble obedience to a change in her plans was in total contrast to the disobedience of the mother of our race. Mary became the second Eve, as Jesus was the second Adam, both repairing what was spoiled by the first.

B. The Visitation. Mary thinks of Elizabeth and hastily goes to be of assistance. She may rightfully also have wanted someone to share with, to seek advice. She received a surprise that overjoyed her.

At Mary's greeting, Elizabeth cried out with a loud voice and was "filled with the Holy Spirit." This is the first time Luke uses this phrase in his writings. And Elizabeth utters the first beatitude in the Gospel: "Blessed is she who believed that the Lord's words to her would be fulfilled." She also uses the same greeting that the angel did: "Blessed are you among women." In this greeting, Elizabeth also effaces herself before Mary as John her son later does before Jesus, and as David did before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:9). John, at the same time, already in the womb of his mother, is sanctified by Jesus and leaps with joy at the sound of Mary's voice. Here Luke is noting that through Mary, Jesus brought joy to the world.

Elizabeth also calls Mary the mother of my Lord," causing some question about whether Elizabeth meant mother of God? This also is where Mary's great faith and her role as a woman of faith, is shown. The Gospel says several times that Mary "did not understand"-"pondered." She, too, had to question at times before the revelation was clear to her. She is our mother in the faith, too. This aspect of Mary is given much emphasis in modern times to counteract some excessive piety of the past which made Mary a frail, weak-looking, Hollywood-made-up-in-her beauty woman, who knew everything and had no reason for faith. How then, could she be mother of the believing Church?

C. The "Magnificat"-"My Soul Glorifies the Lord." In the reply to Elizabeth, Luke begins Mary's sublime words of praise and joy at the "greatness of the Lord" and her joy in Him who regarded her "lowliness." We get a glimpse here of Mary's spirituality, her soul, which Luke had learned about from her or from one of his sources. This sublime and biblical hymn of praise, full of Old Testament allusions, is almost exactly found in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, as exclaimed by Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Mary may have known it by heart practically, or Luke must have incorporated it in his canticle, a poetic song, as fitting Mary better than any other description. This song reveals "the beautiful soul of the Jewish maiden who first uttered this Gospel of salvation in the poetry of her native tongue" (Carroll Stuhlmeuller, C.P.). Latin American parishes and communities, sing Mary's song remembering the old themes she knew from the prophets. Her song is also recited or sung in every daily Vespers in the Divine Office of the Church.

In one of Juliana of Norwich's revelations she says, "God showed me the wisdom and truth of Mary's soul. In this, I understood the reverent contemplation with which she beheld her God, who is her Creator, marveling with great reverence that He was willing to be born of her who was a simple creature created by Him. And this wisdom and truth, this knowledge of her Creator's greatness and of her own created littleness made her say very meekly to Gabriel: "Behold me here; God's handmaiden" (JULIAN, WOMAN OF OUR DAY, p. 14, Chapter 4, p. 182).

D. Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-80). Luke mentions, to close his scene, that Mary remained about three months with Elizabeth. Many believe that this includes the birth and the circumcision of John, in which Zechariah was healed of his inability to speak when he wrote the child's name. "And throughout the hill country," says Luke, "these happenings began to be recounted to the last detail." And Luke must have found them out there.

At last, it was time for Zechariah to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" (of prophecy), and he too, has a very Biblically oriented song of praise. This one, like Mary's, is said every day, and has been for centuries, by all who say the Divine Office, now called the "Hours of the Day," every day. The Sisters gather in chapel for Vespers each day. The "Magnificat" of Mary, which is said or sung, is in its closing. Vespers belongs to the whole people of the Church and many say this daily, too.

With Mary gone home to Nazareth, Luke concludes Chapter 1 with John's growing up and maturing in spirit, and his call to the desert where he will be preaching when we next hear of him.

   
QUESTIONS FOR LESSON 4

Luke 2:1-21

Day 1:  Read the Notes and the references in them to other Bible passages.

Day 2:  Choose a passage from the notes and a reference in the Bible. Share with the group, and tell why it struck you especially.

Day 3:  Read Luke 2:1-7.

  1. What type of birth experiences or situations did God plan for Jesus, (since it was the Godhead in Jesus that planned His own birth as man)?
       

  2. What do you learn about the situations of Joseph and Mary? Their virtues?

Day 4:  Read Luke 2:8-20.

  1. What striking difference is there in the events told in Luke 2:1-7 and 2:8-14?
       

  2. What do we learn from these first events in Jesus' life for our lives; for instance in regard to poverty and affluence?
       

  3. What do we learn about God in Luke 2:1-14?

Day 5:  Read Luke 2:15-20.

  1. What kind of people did God call first to His son? Does this pattern continue during Jesus' life? What do you learn about God from this?
       

  2. From what you already know about Jesus' life, what other facts show the same pattern?
       

  3. What does this pattern for Jesus' life teach you?

Day 6:

  1. What do you learn of Mary in Luke 2:19?
       

  2. Contrast these simple events with our celebration of Christmas. Reflect on your own and your family's understanding and celebration of this birthday.

 

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