Tag Archives: reading scripture

The Gospel of Luke and First Corinthians Go Together

We’re reading Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians and the Gospel of Luke together these days at Mass. The two may be more closely connected than we suspect, if my reading of Pheme Perkin’s, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels ( Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA) is correct. Luke would be writing, some years later than Paul, for an audience of Christians much like those in the church of Corinth.

Theophilus, to whom Luke dedicates his gospel, could easily be one of Corinth’s better-off Christians, who surely  would see  the lack of concern for the poor that Jesus condemns in Luke’s gospel as a lack of concern for them in his community as well. That unconcern appeared at table, in the celebration of the Eucharist in the Corinthian church, and Paul condemns it. (1 Corinthians 11, 17-22) Luke presents Jesus, over and over, at table, condemning it.

Luke begins Jesus’ ministry in Galilee with his visit to Nazareth (Luke 4, 16-30) where he’s not recognized by his own who know him too well and are ready to throw him to his death over the hill.

The Corinthians–how many we are unsure– fail to recognize the humble Savior whom Paul preaches. “I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2, 1-5)

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus, not his disciples, is the teacher and Lord bringing God’s word to the towns of Galilee. He brings God’s word to Corinth as well, but the Corinthians are attracted to the various disciples of Jesus, causing “jealousy and rivalry among you…Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another,’I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely men? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one.”

God plants and waters the growth of his church; the disciples are disciples, only disciples, who must have “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians, 3, 1-9)

Luke has a church like Corinth in mind when he writes his gospel. How about our church too, as we take  sides. “I belong to…” Good to read these two readings together now.

5th Sunday of Easter: I am the Vine

 

The other day a priest in my community, Father Theophane Cooney, CP, gave me a short instruction that he gives to people about reading the scriptures; it’s based on an old method called in latin “lectio divina” or “sacred reading.” I put his instruction on my blog yesterday and a surprising number of people read it, so I’d like to share it with you today as we read from the Gospel of John.

What is Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)?

It is a spiritual, rather than academic, reading of the Bible. It enables the reader to get to know Jesus in a more personal way, through reading, above all through listening.
It is to experience a personal meeting of an intimate kind with the God who loves you and comes to meet you in the sacred reading. You should not feel obliged to read a complete passage, you are there to listen. God can say an awful lot in a few words.
Avoid opening the scriptures at random: choose rather the Sunday gospel, for example.

Preparation

Time: set aside 10 or 15 minutes when you will be free from interruptions.
Place: somewhere free of interruptions, no telephone, no television, no computer.
1. Take some moments to calm down.
2. Invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Pray to be enlightened with an inspiration that may inspire your life.
3. Read calmly, very slowly, the biblical text. Read it again. Take the time to listen to the Lord and the message he wishes to share with you from this reading. Don’t expect blinding revelations. God is teaching you to listen and seek him in silence.
4. Meditate: ask yourself–“What does this word of God, which I have read carefully say to me.”
5. Pray. Speak to the Lord who has spoken to you in the text you have reflected on. Let your attitude be that of the Virgin Mary: “Be it done onto me according to your word.”
6. Contemplate in silence. Remain fascinated and impressed as you calmly allow the word of God to inspire you as though it were the heat of the sun.
7. Act. Make a commitment that springs from this encounter with the Lord. Inspired and filled with the word of God you return to daily life with a renewed attitude.
If you are faithful to this practice, your life will begin to change. The word of God will lead you to a change of attitudes, values and feelings. Love the word of God. Study it and allow it to form your personality.

This Sunday’s gospel’s a good gospel for practicing the lectio divina. Do you remember how it begins? “Jesus said to his disciples.” Who are his disciples? Aren’t they us? Jesus said these words when he was with his disciples at the Last Supper. Isn’t he with us now?

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower…I am the vine and you are the branches. Can God be so close that we are branches on the vine? “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” “Remain in me,” Jesus tells us. “I remain in you,” he tells us. “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”
If we cut ourselves off from our God, we become lifeless branches.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
If we remain in Jesus, we have life and bear fruit, and listen to his promise: “Ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.”

You can see how these words bring us into the presence of the Lord, how fascinating they are, how they bring close to God and God close to us.

“If you are faithful to this practice, your life will begin to change. The word of God will lead you to a change of attitudes, values and feelings. Love the word of God. Study it and allow it to form your personality.”

What Do The Scriptures Mean?

An article in a recent issue of the Jesuit magazine, America,  discussed the way American Catholics read the scriptures. Actually, they don’t read them very much or know much about the writings we call the Word of God, the author, Brian B. Pinter, says. Also, many Catholics who do read the scriptures, read them  literally, like fundamentalists. But the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1993, Pinter points out, said  “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”

Last summer the pope urged Catholics to take up and read the scriptures. It wasn’t a pious wish, he was dead serious. As the Word of God the scriptures nourish our faith and help us know God’s will. The scriptures are our new catechism and our new prayerbook.

I like Pope Benedict’s books “Jesus of Nazareth” because he takes seriously what the scriptures and biblical studies today say about Jesus. Those books–and others like them– are worth reading if you want to learn how to read the Word of God. There’s also some good advice about reading the bible on the website of the American Catholic Bishops.

But don’t forget to begin with the scriptures themselves. Get to know them, their stories, their words and images. A good way to start leaning the scriptures is to let them be your teacher, let one part teach you about another part.

For example, this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew is about the two sons going out into the vineyard. One says right off to his father, “I won’t go” , but eventually he goes. The other says “Sure I’ll go”, but he doesn’t. That story begins with the note that Jesus said this to the chief priests and elders of the people who weren’t responding to the invitation to believe in him.

We may shake our heads and say, “It’s too bad they failed to answer the call of Jesus.”

But a further question is, “And what about me? Do I just shake my head at them?” That story’s meant for me too.

There are other sons mentioned in scripture who may help me out.  The prodigal son and his brother come to mind. The two thieves on the cross, brothers in crime, also come to mind.

Jesus didn’t recall the story of the two sons to the Jewish leaders to condemn them, but to wake them up. His words are for me too. God calls me everyday to go out my door into my world and do his will. It’s an everyday call. Do I say “yes!” More importantly, do I mean it!