Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Catholic Bible E-Study: Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2


by, M. J. Joachim

INTRODUCTION

Acts 2 is filled with energy and excitement.  All of the preparation and anticipation beginning with the prophets in the Old Testament and concluding with the Resurrection of Jesus are finally being fulfilled with the great climax of Pentecost, the birthday of the Catholic Church.

It is not enough, however, to simply fulfill scripture.  People are being challenged to recognize Jesus as the only Son of God, and the Messiah.  We are strongly encouraged by Peter to seek forgiveness of our sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The implication that sin blocks grace is stated clearly and profoundly when Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 

The fulfillment of the promise of grace through repentance is reinforced in the final statements of Acts 2, “They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all people.  And every day, the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”


THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES as written in the New American Catholic Bible

Chapter 2

The Coming of the Spirit

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.  At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?  Then how does each one of us hear them in his own native language?  We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” 

They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others said scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.”

The Mission in Jerusalem

Peter’s Speech at Pentecost

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.  Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.  These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.  No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:  ‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh.  Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.  Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.  And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below:  blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke.  The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’

You who are Israelites, hear these words.  Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.  This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.  But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.  For David says of him:  ‘I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.  Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer you holy one to see corruption.  You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day.  But since he was a prophet and knew that God has sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption.  God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.  Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you [both] see and hear.  For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?”  Peter [said] to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.  He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save your selves from this corrupt generation.”  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Communal Life

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.  Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.  Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.  They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.  And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

JUST THE FACTS

Matching:  Match each phrase in Column 1 with its correct phrase in Column 2.



Fill in the Blank

It will come to pass in the ________  ________, God says, that I will pour out a portion of my ________ upon all ________.

This man, delivered up by the ________  ________ and ________ of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.

You have made known to me the ________ of ________.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to ________ in different ________, as the Spirit enabled them to ________.

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the ________ area and to ________  ________ in their homes.

True/False

The descent of the Holy Spirit happened in early afternoon.

The crowd heard the words of the apostles in their native tongues.

The apostles preached, taught and performed many wonders and signs for the people.

Devout Jews, some who had traveled from as far away as Rome, heard the Apostles speaking in tongues.

Speaking in tongues means the apostles became fluent in foreign languages.

Peter addressed the Israelites wehn he spoke to the crowd about Joel's prophecy.

Everyone present accepted the message the Apostles preached.

The community of believers shared everything according to each one's needs.

God swore an oath to David.

The people felt shame in their hearts when they realized they had crucified the Messiah.
      

SOUL SEARCHING INTERNALIZATION

1.      Little things happen every day which we dismiss or attribute to the world.  What little things do you recognize as the work of God in your life?

2.      In the spirit of the prophets, what do you recognize as the set plan and foreknowledge of God in your own life?  How have you received this plan?

ACTIVE RESPONSE

The crowd asked Peter and the other apostles what to do for their sins against Jesus.  Peter told them to repent and be baptized.  Take some time to open your heart to your own personal sins by visiting Jesus in the tabernacle or during adoration.  When you are finished, make time within a few days, to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

GAMES & PUZZLES

Hidden Words:  Find as many words as you can in the word DESCENDANTS.

Compound Riddles:  Use a compound word found in Acts 2 to answer each riddle.

1.      Why was the policeman demoted?
2.      What is the opposite of a handstand?
3.      Why do fish travel in schools?

Word Association:  Refer to Acts 2 to find the missing word.

1.      Noise is to wind like fire is to ____________.
2.      Gathered is to crowd like speaking is to ____________.
3.      Sun is to darkness like moon is to ____________.
4.      Dwell is to hope like abandon is to ____________.
5.      Enemies are to footstool like repentance is to ____________.

THE FINAL WORD

Communal life is described in certain detail at the closing of Acts 2.  Write a journal entry on how you practice communal life within your family, among your friends and coworkers, and in your community at large.  Be sure to include all of your contributions, from exercising patience to offering private prayers, as well as physical involvement.


Determine if you need to increase or decrease your contributions for your own spiritual growth.  Then make a plan that will help you and those around you.



Answers to Just the Facts and Games and Puzzles will be posted tomorrow. See you thenJ

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credits:  Distance Shore Media, Creative Commons Attribution

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Prophetic Messages


by M. J. Joachim
In studying the saints, I find
The messenger obscure
Relying on the soul of mind
Life’s problems to endure

For each in turn has reconciled
To God’s eternal plan
Because communing faithfully
Is better when you’re man


Social ills and prejudice
Church politics gone astray
Power, ego, status quo
A plight for every day

It’s not the messenger, said I
God’s will has sent so many
Decisions to ignore their words
Remains again uncanny

Prophets knew in Biblical times
Seers from all ages
Tis wise to look beyond our souls
Into the depths of pages

Declare the truths, proclaim them all!
Protect life’s innocent victims
Deny the messenger no more
Revoke our wicked systems!


©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit:  Geograph Project, ceridwen, Creative Commons Attribution License





Monday, October 29, 2012

Catholic Bible E-Study Acts 1 Answers and Prayers for the Unborn



Just the Facts


Matching:  1/d, 2/a, 3/e, 4/c, 5/b



Fill in the Blank: 
two, same, way
times, seasons
numbered
iniquity
Justus

True/False:  true, true, false, false, false, true, true, true, true, false


Games and Puzzles

Word Scramble:  Olivet, promise, ministry, numbered, hearts
The apostles were priests.

Definition Match:  1/E, 2/A, 3/D, 4/B, 5/C

As we study our Bible together, please let us also pray for the unborn together.


Litany for the Unborn

We pray to Jesus, that unborn children may have the gift of life,
Suffering Christ hear us

That laws be passed to protect the right to life of the unborn,
Suffering Christ hear us

That our nation return to reverence and respect for all life,
Suffering Christ hear us

That God answers the prayers of those women who seek the gift of motherhood,
Suffering Christ hear us

That mothers who are unable to keep their babies choos the gift of adoption, and give other the chance to share the gift of love,
Suffering Christ hear us

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph I Love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.” Amen (Bishop Fulton Sheen)

That’s all for now kind people. May God hear and answer all our prayers. Amen.

M. J.

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credits: Distance Shores Media, Creative Commons Attribution (1); GNU Free Documentation 
License (2)



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Catholic Bible E-Study: Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 1


by, M. J. Joachim

ACTS: 1

INTRODUCTION

Acts 1 begins by reaffirming the resurrection as described in the Gospel of Luke.  Luke continues where he left off (with his gospel) in the opening statement, “In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught, until the day He was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen.”

Luke proceeds from here to witness the beginnings of the Catholic Church, describing events as they happened through the moment Judas’ successor was chosen at the conclusion of Acts 1.

Throughout Acts 1, there are some common themes that present themselves in the gospels.  The apostles had some anxiety or fear of the unknown.  Angels or messengers appeared to clarify confusion.  The apostles joined with other followers of Jesus, including His mother Mary, to pray and follow His teachings.  Peter stood out as a leader with directives that fulfilled prophecy.  Order was restored when Matthias was chosen by God as the new twelfth apostle.

Acts 1, while sharing many descriptive details of the events taking place during the time of Jesus’ Ascension, challenges everyone to learn from the past, live in the present, and prepare for the future.  It clearly indicates that the only way to do this is by trusting God when the apostles prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”  With complete surrender, the apostles opened their hearts to prepare for the ministry they were destined to accomplish.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES as written in The New American Catholic Bible

The Preparation for the Christian Mission

Chapter 1

The Promise of the Spirit
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen.  He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.  While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

The Ascension of Jesus
When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”  He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth.”  When He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as He was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”  Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

The First Community in Jerusalem
When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.  All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

The Choice of Judas’s Successor
During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place).  He said, “My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.  He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry.  He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all of his insides spilled out.  This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language ‘Akeldama,’ that is Field of Blood, for it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate and may no one dwell in it.’ And: ‘May another take his office.’

Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.  So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.  Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”  Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.

JUST THE FACTS
Matching:  Match the numerical phrase above with the lettered phrases below.

1.      After the resurrection
2.      Jesus ascended to Heaven
3.      After the ascension
4.      David prophesied Judas’ replacement
5.      Matthias was chosen by

Match the above numerical phrases with these lettered phrases.
a.      in a cloud on Mount Olivet
b.      casting lots
c.       in the Book of Psalms
d.      Jesus appeared to His apostles
e.      the apostles prayed in Jerusalem

Fill in the Blank
1.      After Jesus ascended ________________ men appeared out of nowhere and told the apostles Jesus would return to earth, the ______________  _______________ He ascended to Heaven.
2.      No one will know the ______________ or _______________ established by the Father to restore the kingdom.
3.      Judas was _________________ among the apostles.
4.      Judas bought a parcel of land with the wages of his _______________, where he committed his death.
5.      Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as _____________________, was a possible replacement for Judas.

True/False

Luke authored the Acts of the Apostles.

Jesus told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave the apostles power through His ascension.

Two men dressed in white came from Galilee to prophesy about the second coming of Jesus. After the ascension, the apostles discussed what had happened in preparation for the Holy Spirit. 

David prophesied through the Book of Psalms.

The place where Judas died is also known as the Field of Blood. 

The Holy Virgin Mary was with the apostles when they prayed together after the ascension.

The first Christian community began with about 120 people. 

Peter chose Judas’ replacement. 

SOUL SEARCHING INTERNALIZATION

* At the opening of Acts 1, Jesus promises the apostles baptism through the Holy Spirit.  What does the promise of baptism with the Holy Spirit mean for you?  How does it complete your baptism with water?        

*At the ascension, Jesus declares power will be given to the apostles so that they can spread the gospel throughout the world.  Through what power do you witness Jesus?  How have the gifts of the Holy Spirit influenced your choices and changed your heart as a Christian? 

ACTIVE RESPONSE

After the apostles witnessed the ascension of Jesus, they returned to the upper room in Jerusalem to pray.  Make it a point to meditate and focus silently on Jesus each day for 10 to 20 minutes.  Sit in a comfortable chair, hands open, legs outstretched.  Close your eyes and ask the Spirit to open your heart.  When distractions come, and they will, repeat a sacred word of your own choosing to help keep your energy directed on your relationship with Jesus.

GAMES & PUZZLES

Word Scramble:  Unscramble the words below.  Then, answer the question using 7 letters from the words you made.

VTILOE            ________________
SMOPIRE         ________________
TRIMNISY        ________________
DRUMBEEN     ________________
TEARSH           ________________

What was the role of the apostles?  _______________

Definition Match:  Match the word with the correct definition.

            Word                                      Definition
 iniquity means                         dedicated
devoted means                         deprived
accord means                            papal
desolate means                        international agreement
            apostolic means                       gross injustice

THE FINAL WORD

Write a journal entry explaining your role in Christianity today. Base your writing solely on the scripture of Acts 1.  Explain similarities and differences that you have with the apostles and followers of Jesus.  Discuss goals that you are working to achieve and obstacles that might prevent you from working toward those goals.  Write down possible solutions to help you achieve your goals.

Answers to Just the Facts, Fill in the Blank, True/False and Games & Puzzles will be posted tomorrow. See you then!

That’s all for now kind people. Happy Sunday to you!

M. J. 

©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credits: Distance Shores Media, Creative Commons Attribution


Monday, October 22, 2012

Catholic Divorce and Irreconcilable Differences


by M. J. Joachim
Can we talk candidly about divorce for a moment? It’s an ugly topic, I know, but if you’ve ever lived with anyone for any length of time, you know there are times when distancing yourself is not only a personal preference, but an out and out necessity!

Who hasn’t wanted to LOSE CONTROL and release frustration related to putting up with their significant other at times? It’s only natural, because although we are extremely social by nature, sharing one’s space, time and thoughts can become frightful, even under the best of circumstances.

Divorce is a normal progression by today’s societal standards. People do it all the time – sometimes even 2, 3, 4…let’s just go with several times. Many claim to fall in love numerous times throughout our lives, which is probably one reason why we end up divorced so easily.

For those who have actually done it, divorce is one of the hardest things they’ve ever gone through (or put their family through, for that matter). Had they seen it coming, they would have altered their behavior (in the relationship) much earlier, to avoid such a plight in the first place. Either that or they’ve decided to hate the S.O.B., in which case they have other issues to deal with completely!

There is another group, as well…people who get divorced, because living with their spouse is positively toxic, if not deadly – not only for them, but also for any children living in the household. The internal struggle to decide your spouse is beyond any effort to reconcile, even with various aids like marriage counseling, therapy and any list of remedies, is not an easy one to make, I’m sure.

Catholics have so many misconceptions when it comes to divorce. Depending on who you talk to, you might think you’re not allowed to receive Holy Communion, participate in sacraments, or even get married again. Unfortunately, even a few priests will steer you wrong on this score.

The Catholic Church teaches that you can remain Catholic, even if you get divorced, and may participate in your faith according to its precepts. This means that divorce doesn’t stop you from being catholic. It can’t! Only God knows your heart, and if you’re divorced for valid reasons…

…not because caps are left off toothpaste, a certain smile gives you the creeps or the sound of one’s car is too annoying in the morning…

You are still a Catholic and can practice your faith fully and effectively.

Okay, there are some stipulations. Civil marriages can be legitimately dissolved (for the most part) without worrying about your catholic faith. Since the marriage wasn’t sacramental (and therefore recognized by the Catholic Church as a Catholic marriage), most of the time there is not much to worry about.

Catholic divorce is a little more involved. The marriage has to be proven invalid for specific reasons, in which case an annulment may be granted to nullify it. Each case is entirely unique, so please excuse my liberties in generalizing this topic, the way this post prescribes.

Living in sin, cohabitating, premarital sex and all the other relationship baggage, are separate issues, and therefore must consider Catholic teaching regarding each individual circumstance.

The ultimate goal remains in place, however. Marriage is not to be taken lightly. It is expressed as a firm and permanent commitment between one’s self and one’s spouse. Therefore, every effort should be made (this goes for all marriages, I believe, not just Catholic ones), to protect and serve our marriages fully and effectively throughout our lives.

However, if you are faced with the unfortunate circumstance and necessity of getting divorced, please note that you are not divorcing your entire life, only your spouse. The rest is a balancing act, particularly if there are children involved.

As one goes through the process, it is wise to remember that priests are people too. As we do with doctors when we get a tough diagnosis, it is important to get a second opinion when an obvious conclusion is not made available to us. People going through tough times need God; we all know Jesus doesn’t turn His back on people who need Him.

Getting divorced does not alienate one from God…hating one’s ex-spouse, living with a new significant other, getting greedy over communal belongings, causing extreme mental anguish and stress on one’s children…yea, these things might initiate and prolong a big divide between ourselves and God. It should be noted, these (and other inappropriate attitudes) usually have very little, if anything, to do with dissolving a bad marriage.

That’s all for now kind people. Please feel free to take a peek at my other blogs, if you get the chance. Thank you!

M. J. Joachim
©2012 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credits: (All pics) Wikicommons, Public Domain