James: Pearls of Wisdom - Fall 2019

"Parking Lot" Questions for Fr. Ellis:

Note: As of 10/20/19 there are 6 Questions and Answers!

Question 1. James cites several “Laws”: the “Law of Liberty”, “God’s Law”, “Royal Law”, “and “Law of Love”. None of us ever remember hearing or learning about these “Laws”, where are they derived/explained in the Bible, or elsewhere?

Fr. Ellis's Answer:

Laws:

A preliminary word about law... this is a constant theme of the early Church, the role of the Law.  You have to understand that, for the Jewish people, there were no sacraments.  There was no regular channel of God's grace enlivening the people.  You were not baptized into the Jewish faith (although, circumcision for the males was a similar ceremony... but without the imparting of grace that we get in Baptism).  There was no Eucharist, there was no Confession, there was no Anointing of the Sick.  The major ways that we practice our Catholicism have no real equivalent in the Jewish faith.

So for Jews, what was important was following the law.  The Law was given by God to Moses, and to be a good Jew, you had to follow the law.  It didn't matter if you didn't really understand the point of it, but if you followed God's laws, then you were a good Jew.  So if there is a law in the book of Leviticus that says that "when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest," (Lev 19:9), then that is precisely how a good Jewish person would reap the harvest.  They believed that they were obeying God in following His instructions to the letter.  

When you look at the laws of the Old Testament, you find a smattering of all sorts of things.  Some of these laws are about moral practices (such as the Ten Commandments).  Some of these laws are worship and ceremonial practices (like how the priests are to slaughter the animals brought in for sacrifice).  Some of these laws are about community laws, how the members of the community are to act with each other; these are called judicial laws.  The ancient Jews didn't really distinguish between these different types of laws; they believed that God was as displeased with murder or adultery as He was if you didn't wash your hand at the right time before a meal.

Paul, James, and the apostles spend so much time talking about "the law", because Jesus has revealed something new about the law.  The law itself doesn't make anyone holy; the law of the Old Testament is there to prepare peoples' hearts, to purify them and regulate their lives so that they are aligned with God's will.  The apostles keep trying to change the mindset of these early Christians (who were also Jews) to help them to understand that there was nothing particular pleasing to God if someone followed all 613 commandments of the Torah, but only if it formed them to repentance in their hearts.  This had been the message of ALL the Old Testament prophets... you couldn't just DO the works of the law, but they were there to transform your heart, to change your whole perspective to be centered on God.  Paul and the other apostles are quick to show that the law is fulfilled in Jesus; now we know precisely how we are to be transformed.  We are to become His followers, and this is what the Law was leading us to.  Specifically, Baptism and the Sacraments of the Church are the manner in which we receive the redemptive grace brought on by Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary.  The apostles were trying to help adjust the mindset of the Jewish Christians to not spend all their efforts trying to follow each of the 613 commandments, but to follow Jesus. 

Once people realize that the Law of the Old Testament is no longer what regulates our lives, but now it is the grace of the Sacraments, we (as a Church and as a Christian people) have to figure out what laws we need to keep following from the Law in the Torah.  This is where we start classifying laws as moral or ceremonial or judicial.  Moral laws are still part of our Christian law today, because morality has not and cannot change; if it was immoral to do something back in Moses' time, it is still immoral to do something today.  Ceremonial laws are no longer part of our Christian law; once Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross took the place of all the ancient sacrifices of bulls and goats and doves and cereal offerings, it no longer made sense to contain rules for regulating those sacrifices.  And Judicial laws were there to regulate the Hebrew nation; once the Church spreads out into the world and into different nations, the laws that governed the Jewish people do not always make sense.  Therefore, some nations have indeed adopted some of the Judicial laws of the Old Testament, but others have not.  Therefore, in Christianity, the moral laws remain, the ceremonial laws have been dispensed, and the the judicial laws are sometimes dispensed and sometimes remain.  

If this is confusing for us, you can imagine how confusing it must have been for the new Christians, who had been clinging to the whole Mosaic law their entire lives!  That is why there is so much focus on law in the epistles, so that the early Jewish Christians can reorient their allegiance from the law to Christ.

The laws listed in James:

Law of Liberty (James 1:25): This seems to be a synonym for the "perfect law".  This indicates that James is talking about the freedom that we have in being sons and daughters of God through our Baptisms.  A way to think about it would be in contrast with the Hebrew law, the 613 commandments identified in the Torah of the Old Testament.  That would be a large number of commandments to memorize!  Instead, Jesus invites us into the family of God.  We don't so much obey written laws as act according to those laws because we are in love with God, through Jesus.  A married person doesn't cheat on their spouse because that commandments is written down somewhere, but because they love them; so the law of freedom means that we do what is right and just now out of love for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, not because it is written down in the Scriptures.  This is not the law that is just heard (the law given in the Old Testament), but the law that is done through acts (the transformative law given by Jesus).

God's Law: In general, God's law is the law given by God.  In the Catholic tradition, we sometimes call this Eternal Law.  Now, God's law is communicated to us in two ways: (1) by Scripture and by Jesus' words and deeds, where God tells us what is to be believed and to be done, and this is called Divine Law; (2) by nature, where God uses creation and all His creatures to tell us what is to be believed and to be done, and this is called Natural Law.  So God's Law is just a general term meaning all the ways that God communicates His law with us.

Royal Law (James 2:8): The royal law is not a different type of law, just a reminder that law comes from the King of Kings!  Royal is just an adjective reminding us of the importance of the law as coming from the Kingdom of God.

Law of Love: The Law of Love is a synonym for the Law given by Jesus that surpasses the written law of the Old Testament.  The Law of Liberty and the Law of Love are effectively the same thing.

Question 2. Fr. Ellis cited an example of a phrase worded differently in the RSV and Vulgate Bibles. In our Session 3, the Memory Verse cites James 2:1; our RSV Bible reads “…My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”, the NAB Bible has the last part as “…as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”  Both of course are true translations, but the NAB has a much stronger and descriptive phrasing, and seems to be a better reference for Bible Study, is there a reason “The Great Adventure” program uses the RSV? 

Fr. Ellis's Answer:

Translations:

Each translation (RSV and NAB) have strengths and weaknesses.  Some phrases are beautiful in one translation and horrifying in another translation.  Decisions constantly have to be made by the translators, and there are a variety of considerations to take into account, including:

The quality and qualifications of the translators themselves

How faithful the translation is to remain to the original language

How easily the passage is to be understood

What kind of expressions, metaphors, and images are appropriate in other languages

The fluency of the translator in the original and in the translated language

Any biases that they bring to the table (e.g., if a translator does not believe in the real presence of the Eucharist, then when Jesus is referring to the Eucharist, that translator might miss very important language distinctions)

As an example of an important translation difference, look at the following text from Luke 1:28.  This refers to the Angel Gabriel's visit to Mary to announce that she was to become the Mother of Christ.

RSV: And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”  

NAB: And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

The Greek word charis forms the basis of the word that is translated into "full of grace" in the RSV and "favored one" in the NAB.  And the word charis can translated as grace or favor.  So the two translation attempts go in two different directions for their translations.  Now, I can tell you, based on my studies in Greek, that both translations are lacking; neither one precisely captures the full sense of the Greek word kecharitomene.  If I had to translate it as accurately as possible, I would translate it as you who have been always totally filled with grace since the beginning of your life and have continued to live fully in that grace all the way up through the present moment.  But imagine saying that when you pray the Hail Mary each time!  So both translations make a compromise--it is not that I know Greek better than they do (I most certainly do not!), or that they have goofed on this highly important passage, but they both are trying to succinctly provide a best estimate at this phrase.  (And frankly, the RSV does a much better job in this case, because a major point of this statement is the confirmation that our Lady has been filled with grace since the moment of her Immaculate Conception, that she has been without sin because she has been so totally consumed with God's grace--that important truth is not even suggested in the term favored one.)

So, James 2:1 reads:

RSV:  My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

NAB: My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

I would tend to agree with the questioner; I like the NAB translation better here.  Fortunately, unlike the earlier case with Luke 1:28, there is no significant difference in meaning; this is a case of fluency and style.

As to why the Bible Study chooses to use the RSV over the NAB... I don't want to speak for Jeff Cavins who might give you a different reason, but there are primarily two reasons that people give for choosing the RSV.  (1) It is generally more faithful to the original Greek and Hebrew versions (the NAB tends to be a more dynamic translation, bringing interpreting the words more than simply translating them); (2) the RSV was prepared with both Catholic and Protestant scholars, and is thus a translation that is accepted by most Christians (as opposed to the NAB which was prepared only by Catholics for the Catholic Church).  When people choose to use the NAB, the reason tends to be that it is the version that we use in the Mass, so that language is more familiar to Catholics.

Let me also give you two personal reasons (a.k.a., these are my own thoughts, not official Church teaching) to use the RSV over the NAB:

Some of the NAB translations are particularly bad, especially in the letters of Paul.  I question whether it was native English speakers who translated many of those books.  The words and phrasing are so clunky as to obscure the beautiful message that Paul is trying to communicate.  I didn't really even understand St. Paul until I started reading him in the RSV; in my homilies, when I talk about St. Paul's letters, I often refer back to the RSV translation because it helps explain these things so much better.

THE FOOTNOTES OF THE NAB ARE TERRIBLE!!!!  If you have ever heard me talk about Bible translations, you have heard me make this point.  IF you read the NAB version of the Bible, please DO NOT use the footnotes!  It sounds silly, I know, to hear me continue to complain about the footnotes of the NAB, but these footnotes have literally caused people to lose their faith.  We expect that footnotes are supposed to help explain the text, to help less informed Catholics understand more difficult passages in the Bible.  But that is not what the footnotes in the NAB are for.  Rather, they were written by scholars trying to enshrine their own theological suppositions and ponderings.  They present as fact their own hypotheses about how or when the text was written, what it really means, etc.  For the naive, uninformed believer, they will read the footnotes as if they are an authentic teaching of the Church--THEY ARE NOT!!  At best, they are a possible explanation for things; at worst, they are incoherent ramblings of scholars who are not interested in helping you come to know the Lord better, but are trying to defend a thesis that they put together in a paper decades earlier.  Trust me, if you use the NAB as your Bible, do not use the footnotes.  Rather, use a good commentary like the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture to help you understand difficult passages.  I personally think it is a crime that we publish the translation of the Bible that has been funded by the Bishops with these sometimes heretical footnotes.

Question 3: James 2:10 says: “For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it”

So why do we have mortal and venial sins? Venial means forgivable, excusable, pardonable, understandable or minor.

Fr. Ellis's Answer:

First... see the earlier introduction about law (from the previous question).

Second, part of the argument of Paul and James and the other apostles is that it is realistically impossible for the law to provide justification for us.  In order to be righteous by the law, we would have to always uphold all 613 commandments all time.  If you transgress even one of these laws, you are no longer righteous, you no longer can depend on your righteousness under the law, because you have broken it.

The ONLY solution is to recognize that we are justified not by our adherence to the law, but to something else.  Or rather, someone else.  That is where Jesus comes in.  We are INCAPABLE of finding our own justification under the law; we simply cannot do it.  But the law is not meant to provide us our justification.  That's what Jesus came to do.  He knew that we were sinners; He knew that we would struggle with obedience and charity and justice and all the other virtues.  He bought us our righteousness, offering His own life as the price; He redeemed us through His own sacrifice in order to justify us.

So first, James is trying to point out the futility of trying to be righteous by keeping the whole law.  It won't happen; it can't happen.  It is clinging to Jesus alone that justifies a person.  That is a huge theme in St. Paul's letters, and James is talking about the importance of that faith in Jesus throughout his letter as well.  But James, of course, wants to try to help everyone find the right balance.  You can't just say, "I have faith in Jesus" and stop doing works of charity; faith without works is as useless for righteousness as is following the law without depending on Jesus (i.e., works without faith).

Now... when it comes to mortal and venial sin, James has nothing to say here.  Again, James is talking about the old law, the law of the Torah, with its moral and ceremonial and judicial precepts.  James is just trying to point out that you are not going to earn righteousness by keeping the whole law, because even one infraction makes you unrighteous.  If you are looking for scriptural evidence about the difference between venial and mortal sins, I point you to St. John's first letter: 

If any one sees his brother committing what is not a deadly sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not deadly.  There is sin which is deadly; I do not say that one is to pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not deadly. (1 John 5:16-17)

Sin that is deadly we call mortal sin, and sin that is not deadly we call venial sin.

Question 4: In Matthew 25:14-30, The Parable of the Three servants, the Master gave each servant his money (talents) each according to his ability. The third servant had limited ability, so the master gave him the least amount. Yet he was punished because, due to his limited ability, he only protected the master’s money from loss, rather than invest and grow it.  Since the master knew of his limited ability, why was he punished?

Fr. Ellis's answer:

You know, I love this parable!  God has given each of us gifts and talents, and we are all supposed to use them for the building up of the Kingdom of God.  Some of us have been given more (five talents) and some of us have been given less (one talent), but all of us are expected to employ whatever has been given to us for the glory of God.

In the parable, the one given five talents uses them to his fullest, and doubles his wealth.  The one given two talents uses them to his fullest, and also doubles his wealth.  Jesus is suggesting that the one who was given only one talent, while not as capable as the other two, is certainly capable of doubling one talent, but in refusing to apply that one talent for the building up of the Kingdom, he failed.  Even his one talent should have been applied for the glorifying of God, but instead, he did nothing to increase His meager gift.

What I love about this parable is that it shows that, although God’s gifts are distributed unequally (as we can see when we look at the varying abilities of different people), no one is useless, and no one can get away with not using their gifts for God’s glory.  All of us, as Christians, are given talents, treasure, skills, knowledge, energy, traits, etc. for multiplying in our Church—none of us can sit back and hoard our gifts without sharing with our community.

So the third servant isn’t being punished because his returned investment wasn’t large like the first servant (who created wealth of five more talents), but because he didn’t even try to do something with the little that was given him.  That is the point of this parable.

 

Question 5: James 2:26 “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead.”

Does this mean that people whose spirit is not “quickened” are dead to God?

Fr. Ellis's Answer:

Well, I can’t deny that that could be a possible interpretation of James’ words.  Remember, the reason that we read and study the Bible is so that the Holy Spirit will speak to us through the words of the Scripture.  If we can see some analogy in the words of the Holy Scripture that help us to understand the life of faith better, and that analogy is not opposed to the truth as revealed to us from God, then probably the Holy Spirit is using those words to speak to the reader.  Thus, it is possible to understand an allegorical sense from this phrase, that one whose spirit has not been vivified by Christ, has not been brought to fullness of life by the grace given to us by Jesus, is truly not alive, has not received real life.

However, that is probably not exactly what James was trying to say by these words.  The full quote is: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”  This verse is at the end of a very important section of the second chapter of James, where the apostle is describing the importance of works.  He has just spoken of faith without works as hollow.  So when he is using “spirit” here, I think he means simply that animating spirit that keeps us alive.  The Hebrew word ruah (pnuema in Greek) means spirit or breath or animating principle.  Some things are alive (human beings, animals, plants) and other things are not (rocks, buildings, tools, etc.).  To ancient Hebrew thinking, things that are alive have the “breath of life” or “spirit of life” or ruah, whereas non-alive things do not have that ruah.  And when death comes to a person or a living creature, the ruah ceases to be in them—they no longer have the breath of life.  Their body is now dead, because there is no more spirit in them keeping them alive.

For James, I think this verse is just trying to cap off what he has been saying.  If I had to rephrase it, I’d say something like, “What I am telling you is that just as without the breath of life, a body doesn’t live, so also faith, divorced from works, is not alive either.”  It is another attempt to show how essential works are alongside of faith, by comparing it to the natural understanding that a body is alive only when joined with a spirit, a ruah.

 

Question 6:

JAMES 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?

GENESIS 26:4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.

A couple of questions came up.

Did Abraham believe that God would not, in the end, have him sacrifice his son because of God’s promise in Genesis 26:4 (above). Especially since Isaac was his only son?

Did Abraham’s belief that God would resurrect Isaac come into his mind in obeying God?.

Fr. Ellis's Answer:

Great questions!  And if you are like me, you have probably heard homilies that try to explain what Abraham thought when he was about to sacrifice Isaac.  Now here’s the secret about that… we do not actually know!  We can speculate about these things all we want, and some people have some really good ideas that make a lot of sense… but truly, we just don’t know.  Scripture doesn’t tell us what Abraham was thinking, and there is no authoritative text that has come down to us explaining it either.  And no one has gotten to ask Abraham about that either!

Is it possible that Abraham’s faith in God meant that he was pretty sure that God would stay the execution?  It is very possible.  We do know that Abraham’s faith is praised over-and-over again in Scripture; he may have been very sure that God would intervene at the last second.  After all, he told Isaac, “God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”  So it is possible that Abraham knew that God will stop the sacrifice at the last moment.

Is it possible that Abraham believed that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead?  It is very possible.  Now, resurrection from the dead is not common, of course, and it would be the most extraordinary miracle if it happened; but Abraham’s faith was so great.  It is possible that he believed that this was indeed God’s plan.  He probably had a long trip up Mount Moriah to puzzle through it—no doubt he was filled with questions, but he trusted that God would provide… somehow.

There are other possible explanations for what Abraham thought might happen in order to reconcile God’s promises of descendants (which are actually in Genesis 17… technically, the verse from Genesis 26:4 is a restatement of that promise to Isaac when he is an adult).  We just don’t know.  It is good to meditate on, to try to look at it from Abraham’s perspective, to form theories and discuss them with others… realizing, at the end of the day, we won’t know until we get to ask him in the Beatific Vision in Heaven.  What we do know, and what is of most importance to us, is that Abraham acted in faith.  He is our model of faith, and though the details of what he may have considered as the solution to the puzzle are lost to us, we know that his faith triumphed, and God did what He did.

Morning Class

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening Class

 

BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES:

FOLLOW ME: MEETING JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN    

                              AUGUST 2018- DECEMBER 2018

Participants responded to the following 3 questions:

1)How has the Bible Study, “Follow Me: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John” helped you to experience the joy of a

    renewed friendship with Christ?

2) In what way(s) did this study help you to deepen your understanding of John’s Gospel?  (things you learned that

    you didn’t know before, understanding a chapter/verse differently from the way you had before this study, etc.)

3) Would you recommend Bible Study to others?

Larry: 1) It deepened my appreciation for Christ’s love for me and us by a close, detailed review of the way he has & continues to love us. 2) It underlined Christ’s deity. Reading John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the word…” took on new meaning.  I never equated “the Word” to Christ. 3) Yes – each time I’ve participated in the Bible Study, I’ve learned more – understood more and got a fuller appreciation for the studied material.

Erin: 1) I learned the meaning of true “discipleship” and what Christ intended for His apostles and us. 2) A better understanding of each miracle Jesus performed and the meaning behind each one.  I had read or heard them in scripture many times, but never truly understood them. 3) Absolutely! The friendship and fellowship make the Bible Study that much more meaningful. It is just a fantastic way to explore our faith even further.  

Barbara: 1) Take-aways: *Our relationships with others are opportunities to reflect our love for God. *John took the humble stance before Jesus, that Jesus took before the Father giving us a model of humility and surrender. * The New Commandment – Love redefined: Love unconditionally…, Love with humility…Love inclusively, ...Stand in the current of a continuous flow of love in and out (receive & give) Barbara 2) I particularly loved the discussions of God’s forgiveness & healing, especially the idea of allowing His mercy to transform us. 3) Yes, the study has been inspirational in ways that can be incorporated into daily life…knowing that God meets us where we are, and only asks that we pay His love forward. 

Margaret: 1) This was my first Bible Study group at St. Bernard. 2) There were some different ways of looking at some of the scripture verses.  I like that! It was also good to learn some background. 3) Maybe – it depends on the topic.  I did like skipping a week in between so I had time to do the homework.

Julie: 1) The Bible Study has helped me to understand Jesus’ actions while on earth – especially waiting two days to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Also understanding why Jews disliked Samaritans & how important meeting the women at the well was for Jesus showing forgiveness. 2) The idea behind Jesus saying “Women” to this mother at the wedding feast at Cana for foreshadowing the miracles & events leading up to His crucifixion. 3) Yes – it was so informative both from a religious & historical viewpoint. The presentation was very easy to follow and made the study very interesting.

Catherine: 1) It brought me more understanding.  I have not read the Bible, so I enjoyed and learned more details than whatever I have heard at church for decades (“resigned faith: John 6:66 eucharist. 3) Yes.  

Sue: 1) John’s Gospel is full of examples of Jesus’ love for us.  I can feel his love in his service, his suffering, and his death for me.  My friendship and love of Jesus has grown by following him through the Gospel of John. 2) My understanding of Jesus’ command, “Love others as I have loved you.” has grown. I am now more aware of the power of the Holy Spirit as I love others as Jesus did.  He will guide me to love others even when I feel they are unworthy of my love.  The Holy Spirit will share some way for me to follow Jesus commandments. 3) Yes! For me, I feel a deeper relationship with Jesus from my experiences in Bible Study.

Brenda: 1) Making Sunday holier because I do the homework on Sunday.  I would recommend Bible Study to others.

Peter: 1) It was not as in-depth as our 1st Bible Study of John. Never-the-less it was very enjoyable. 2) Good comparison of John vs the synoptic Gospels. 3) Yes – I always recommend more Bible Study.

Fran: 1) This study helped me have a far greater understanding of a Gospel that I always found harder to understand than the other synoptic Gospels.  I was able to take the imagery and examine how it applied to my life.  I found that there were several times when I felt the Gospel was speaking to me about current things in my life, which brought me closer to Christ. 2) The thing that had a powerful impact on me was Dr. Sri’s videos.  They provided a very clear explanation of so many things I had misinterpreted.  It made reading the Gospel of John far more powerful and relatable. 3) I would absolutely recommend the Bible Study to others! Loved the new format of having access to the videos from home!

Celinda: 1) Through the group interactions. 2) During a challenging time, I had the support of my group. 3) Yes

Lorraine: 1) I thought, “The Bible” can be overwhelming because it is the Word of God. But this particular Bible Study opened so many areas of dialogue, not just in our group, but I was able to share with some friends, not all Catholic, and they found it very interesting how the history played a role as well as the geographic location, and why they were both meaningful. 2) The marriage feast of Cana when Jesus addresses Mary as “Woman”, understanding that by Jesus performing this miracle the timeline begins moving toward the Cross - must have been heartbreaking for Mary, but she had faith & trust.  3) Yes – not until you experience the actual stories and the history involved are you actually in the Bible.  Edward Sri made each session like a miniseries explaining and expressing the Word of God through John in a way so comfortable it makes the Bible enticing. 

Anthony: 1) I felt an Epiphany understanding of John. I felt close to Christ the way John writes, 2) The consensus is that John is a more easily understandable and easily relatable. 3) Without a doubt this process is the most expedient & thorough way for novices to immerse themselves to understand the new & especially having the group to comment.

Sherry: 1) Studying the Bible always helps me to gain insight into that part of the Bible and this was no different.  I am in friendship with Christ and feel much joy and love when I meet him in the Bible 2) I love the Gospel of John and this study made my personal relationship with Jesus all the more meaningful. 3) Yes, it has helped me grow in my faith and in fellowship with other parishioners

Linda: 1) I loved how each lesson pointed out two aspects of Jews to us, and delved into those in certain stories and signs (trust, Surrender, forgiveness, Mercy, self-giving love, etc.) These points really enriched my relationship with Jesus because they helped me encounter Him in a deeper, more personal way.  2) From the beginning of the study connections were made between OT and NT or various Gospels that I never thought of. ( ex. 1: OT verse in John “ In the beginning was the word” I saw a lot more - that Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s promises from the beginning.) (ex.2:  OT verse “Love your neighbor as yourself”: This became elevated to “Love one another as I have Loved you” which Jews commanded: a much more powerful fulfilling command. 3) Yes definitely – to know God and have a close relationship with Him you must study His Holy Word. This study certainly helped me to get to know Jesus and God more intimately and to see the most overwhelming love He has for us.  This is because I did this study.

Al: 1) Previous Bible study dealt mainly with the historic elements of the OT and NT, and the correlation between them, especially regarding the birth, life, and death of Jesus.  This Bible Study actually dealt with our own interaction and life with Jesus. 2) It opened my eyes and heart to the fact that all of us in His church are actually disciples of Jesus. I see clearly now, how I can, and must, abide in Jesus, and accept His love for me through the Holy Spirit. I need to concentrate on humility, and pass on the forgiveness and mercy Jesus has given to all of us.  I will try to carry on every day keeping Mary in my mind as the example of a perfect disciple. 3) Yes. Reading the Bible is important, but without studying the Bible, much is not completely or correctly understood.  A necessary element of ”Reading the Bible” includes Bible Study classes.

Jean: 1) I will certainly understand John’s Gospel better when it’s read at Mass. I could never have made the connections (e.g. signs = miracles; Lazarus bound” = unbinding (refers to absolution at Confession), etc.) that Dr. Sri on the videos, and authors from years of studying this Gospel made. 2) It helped me to understand God’s love for us, and what he meant about how we should love one another.  It also helped me to understand the role of the Holy Spirit and sanctifying Grace better 3) Yes – people interpret different passages in different ways and it’s good to know about others’ interpretations.

Anon. 1) Studying the Gospel of John with Dr. Sri and the group was like taking a Grand Tour through history – sitting with Jesus while he spoke, following Him in His travels, feeling the emotions of the Pharisees, Jews, and his following from the miracle at Cana to the end. Dr. Sri has a way of explaining Jesus’ words and actions that make it feel you’re hearing and understanding these stories for the first time. 2) I had never read the Gospel of John before.  I think this was the best way to be introduced to it. Dr. Sri is a wonderful teacher (though he talks too fast). I learned so much from his explanations and the Group discussion. 3) For Sure!

Jean 1) I am getting to know Jesus in a more personal way, and his obedience, love and devotion to God and to us.  2) It was insightful the way Jesus encountered the various individuals: “Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well” was about the openness & readiness for God. “The Healing of the Official’s Son” was about faith and Trust. “The Paralyzed Man” was lack of trust. I learned what it takes to be a true disciple and the meaning of the words agape and philia. 3) Yes

Marie: 1) Connecting the dots of a lot of things I knew, but didn’t fully understand. 2) I had “the Gospel of John” book, and that really explained more fully what I was studying. 3) Absolutely.

Mary Ann 1) The book of John is filled with love, joy, and happiness. This was the best experience I have had in experiencing my relationship with Christ. As I continue to read my Bible daily, my life has become more joyful.  I am looking forward to a brighter Christmas with family and friends. 2) The Gospel of John has always been by favorite.  I is all about love, joy compassion and patience which I feel Jesus wants us to have in a world full of greed, envy, gossip, and sexuality, 3) Yes. It broadens your knowledge of the faith you already have and encourages you to want a deeper faith in allowing you to grow closer to the Holy Spirit so that you look forward to spending an eternity with God in heaven. The Bible classes at St. Bernard have been well organized and a great experience.  Fr. Ellis and Fr. Rick are both excellent at preaching the word of Christ and demonstrating how to follow Him. The Bible classes at St. Bernard have been well organized and are a great experience.  Fr. Rick and Fr. Ellis are both excellent at preaching the word of Christ and demonstrating how to follow him. 

Anon. 1) It really got me thinking about the concept of “blind faith,” and how I can grow in this practice daily, which is sometimes easier said than done in this day and age.  Really being able to dissect the unconditional love that Jesus has for us, and how we can live that way with others is something I will always try to keep at the top of my mind. 3) Yes! I think it’s a great way to dedicate time to my faith, especially in a time when life always seems hectic.  This “forces” me to carve out time for my faith and God, and it’s always worth it. It’s a very welcome break from the “daily grind”! We love our group and learn so much from all of them. It is nice to get a different perspective on how other people handle situations and how they turn to and make time for God every day, and I have put some things into practice because of our group conversations.

Anon. 1) Revealed his humanity as well as being the Son of God. 2) Looking back at the O.T and its relevance to the NT gained better understanding of why the Father sent the Son and why, 3) Yes.

Lillie: 1) When listening and learning about aspects of the Bible, I find I pay more attention to prayer and God. 2) I was not well informed about culture, customs, or background of the Gospel. Dr. Sri was so well versed. He was also very passionate about his subject. 3) Yes – lot of good information and explanations. The facilitators were so well prepared and absolutely helpful. I liked the way everything was set up.

Rebecca: 1) I gained a deeper understanding f the scriptures. Bible Study helped me uncover the deeper meaning of each interaction that Jesus had with people, and how different the meaning was in relation to “person’ as a gentile, Pharisee, Sinner, etc. 2) How Lazarus rising from the dead was a prelude to Christ’s own death and resurrection; How when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well He broke all earthly/religious protocol - to speak with her - to offer forgiveness- to offer her quenching of spiritual thirst. 3) Yes, this was an excellent opportunity to learn and grow as a Christian, gaining a deeper understanding of scripture and obtaining knowledge of Biblical History. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know Jesus on a deeper and more intimate manner. Previously I felt isolated and separated but now I feel a profound sense of belonging, purpose and peace.

Dick: 1) It is a “down to earth” method of presenting truths that are very easy to compare to your own real-world experiences. 2) My answer to Question #3 applies here also. 3) Certainly.

Pat: 1) Follow Me has helped me to experience the joy of a renewed friendship with Christ by providing scriptural references from The Gospel of John containing wonderful examples of people with whom Jesus interacted. Both scriptural and Biblical History were explained. I could often visualize being part of the crowd as Jesus walked, talked, performed miracles, and explained His Father’s love and Mercy for all who would turn to Him and accept what He offers. 2)  I learned that John the Baptist is a beautiful example of humility (understanding the truth about oneself) He never resented Jesus for losing his followers to Him. We were given 7 more reasons John exemplifies this trait. We learned the difference between the Greek words for love, agape (love unconditionally, totally) and philia ( poor human love )used by Jesus 3 times, when He asks Peter if he Loves Him., Every session provided examples like these which helped to deepen my friendship with Jesus and my understanding of John’s Gospel. And at each session, listening to Dr Sri describe a particular scriptural passage, I’d think to myself “Wow, I never looked at it that way, or I didn’t know the history behind that word or phrase.  I plan to focus more often on specific words & phrases, and definitely ponder the meaning. 3) Absolutely – how can we explain our wonderful Catholic faith without learning as much as we can about its rich treasure of spirituality.

Anon. 1) I have come to see more clearly and deeply how much Christ loves me.  I saw this in the stories of Jesus: Love forgiveness and mercy to the women & men He healed. 2) In John 5:1-15 Jesus heals a man who had been ill (-paralyzed) for 38 years. I have a better understanding of this story especially in the fact that the man showed no gratitude to Jesus. I had not realized this before. 3) Yes.

Brian 1) I liked the newer format where I could view the video in advance—it made it much easier to ‘follow Jesus’ through the Gospel of John as if I were there. 2) There are many complex biblical themes in John that the course explained in a more understandable way, especially relating to the Old Testament to see the continuity in the New Testament. 3) Yes, definitely.  The group sharing was very good—everyone learned and appreciated everyone else’s comments on the scripture, which is how the Holy Spirit was working in the group.

Madeleine: 1) This Bible Study has helped me to see the inspired words of the Gospel of John in a new light Some things that weren’t really clear to me were explained by Dr. Sri in the video presentation Then the follow-up questions helped to cement the new understanding that I gained 2) I really saw the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in a new light and how Jesus’s treatment of her helped her to gain her “sight” and belief. 3) Yes, this is an excellent way to learn more about our faith.  It helps with other people’s slant on the questions and answered to put things in in perspective.

Anon: 1) Session 3 “At the Well: Our Deepest Thirst” was one of my favorite chapters. Learning that no matter what I have done or not done, for I may have drifted away, If I ask for forgiveness, Jesus will always forgive me. 2) The Gospel of John is my favorite Gospel because John walked with Jesus. John had a front row seat to all of Jesus’s miracles and work 3) I would absolutely recommend Bible Study for others. We have all gone to Mass every week and heard the scripture over the many years. However, joining the Bible Study you dig so much deeper into learning about Jesus, the Bible, and the Mass. Bible Study helps you to grow as a Christian.

Marie: 1) I have experienced the many aspects of Jesus in this study: Teacher, Friend, Shepherd, Healer, His acts of Mercy and Love.  All these aspects and more have brought me renewed joy in my relationship with Jesus. 2) I did not realize that the raising of Lazarus was witnessed by many people who in turn came to believe in Jesus and that this all happened just Passover. Also, it was the reason the Sanhedrin decided that Jesus must die, because they feared intervention by the Romans. 3) Yes. I have found Bible Study to be enriching for me. Scripture is so much more familiar to me.

Anon. 2) I have enjoyed all the subjects the Bible Study has presented. They deepened my understanding of the Bible.

We had interesting discussions in our group.

Becky: 1) I can only liken this to a human relationship; when someone loves me or I love them, the more time I spend with the person the more I’ve shared, or the more I learn about that person, the deeper the relationship becomes. So, I guess that’s the best way for me to express this. The joy comes from knowing Jesus more, by my love of Him and Him of Me, and sharing and experiencing my life with Him. I feel this is a very inadequate answer How can anyone adequately explain a relationship with God?!  But it certainly is joyful!  Renewed?... Not really, Deepened? Yes, More precious?... Yes. 2) It gave me a slightly different focus – All on Jesus which was nice. Regarding John – I tend to view this Gospel through the Eucharistic eyes, which certainly is Jesus! But I enjoyed the focus simply being on Him. 3) Yes. The information learned is great by making scripture applicable to life and enhancing my faith. Also, the fellowship in the discussion group is very nice. My faith grows when I verbalize my thoughts and when I hear the perspective of others.  I also enjoy the openness and sharing of our journeys.

Anon: 1) Bible Study allowed me to spend more deliberate time pursuing a “relationship: More work to be done, but more motivation to do so, 2) I could not have grasped much of the meaning without the class, study format. 3) yes

Judy: 1) For me, the “takeaways” that were listed at the end of each video section really summed up what I got out of each chapter of John.  I learned so much, but those summations are really what influenced me the most and have stayed with me. I now see Christ as someone who loves me no matter what, who has chosen me, and should I turn away from Christ, I know that he is still there…waiting…always waiting for me to return to him where he will offer me his mercy through forgiveness and healing. p. 19 “Jesus wants you to follow him as his disciple.”  I learned what it means to be a "true disciple” of Christ:  to imitate the master. “May every person I come in contact with look up and not see me, but Jesus radiating through me.”  For myself, what could be better than this? This was my biggest takeaway which I will continuously strive for. p. 29 “God alone can satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts. No matter how far we have wandered from him, Jesus goes out of his way to meet us with mercy.” p. 41 “We are called to believe in Christ and to entrust ourselves to him. Will you believe in Christ’s words even when you do not understand them?”  I have found that when I put all my trust in Jesus, I do not have to understand, I just have to have “faith” that he will always do what is in my best interests.  It also reminds me of the Bible Study on Mary when she told the wine stewards to “Do whatever he tells you.”  And they did exactly as he told them - even though they did not understand why they were doing it.  And Mary didn’t understand many of the things that were said to her, but she entrusted herself to God and didn’t question, but “pondered.” p. 65 “The Law of Self-giving:  When we give of ourselves to others, we find true happiness.”  We will find ourselves to the extent that we give of ourselves.  I have found that when I do something for someone and it comes from my heart, there is no greater feeling in the world. 2.  Every chapter, every verse(!) in the Gospel of John seems to have deeper meaning than what is on the surface.  And that is exactly why I enjoy these Bible studies.  Without these classes, I would be missing the underlying meaning of the Word. 3.  Yes, absolutely.  Because E V E R Y O N E should have the opportunity to learn more about their faith and live a happier, more fulfilling, joy-filled life!!!

For more information contact:

 

         Pat Kenny

                  860-875-1809 or

         Mary Frances Berstene

                  860-872-3422