A Prayer of St Benedict

Grant to me, O Father,
most holy and most merciful,
wisdom to understand Thy intentions with
regard to me, a heart to share Thy feelings,
courage to seek Thee alone, and a way
of life that contributes to Thy glory.

Give me, O my God,
eyes that see only Thee,
a tongue that may speak only of Thee,
and a life devoted entirely to Thy will.

Finally, O my Savior, grant me the joy
of seeing Thee one day, face-to-face,
with all Thy saints in glory.

Who were the Gentiles? (and why should I care?)

WHO WERE THE GENTILES?

 

Paul, this Jewish zealot who was tagged by God, knocked off his horse, you might say, embraced Jesus as Messiah and became the Apostle to the Gentiles.  Thirteen of the Books of the New Testament — right at one-half! — are by Paul; nine (one-third of the New Testament) are Paul’s letters to the Gentile churches (the remaining four are “Pastoral Epistles” written to individuals).

So. Who were these Gentiles? And what does it matter for us?

I’m only mildly embarrassed to admit that, for many years, I had this mental construct of the Gentiles as something akin to “protestant Jews.”  People not so very different from the Jews, but not on the inside track to knowing God.  Not the “cool kids.”

It’s a bit deeper than that, though.  Put plainly, the Gentiles were pagans.  They were a polytheistic people.  Remember your Greek and Roman mythologies from school?  Those myths developed out of other myths, which simultaneously reflected and shaped whole cultures of polytheistic peoples who lived all around Israel, even before the first time Abraham said “Yes” to God and went forth to the land promised to him by God.  Later, ass Greek and Roman civilization spread throughout the Mediterranean world, the various smaller nationalities and their deities became absorbed and influenced …

From the earliest days, the Gentiles were a very different people from God’s own people.  We see in the Old Testament that they worshipped gods called the Baals and the Ashteroths — fertility gods, in polite parlance, but they also represent all sorts of sexual activity and depravity.  There was the demon god Moloch, to whom these people sacrificed children.  In fact, I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that the two major points of pagan culture from which the Israelites, the Jews, were to separate themselves were sexual depravity and human sacrifice.

The Greeks, and later the Romans, expanded the old pagan deities.  They (the gods) became a bit more sophisticated. Complex stories were developed to tell of their various exploits.  The stories we read as literature in school were the tamer ones;  Zeus, then Saturn, was not only a capricious and jealous deity, he had insatiable sexual appetites that extended not only to beautiful girls, but to boys, to beasts, to inanimate objects.  The citizens of these cultures that celebrated these myths lived much the same way as the deities they worshipped.  The decadence and depravity of Rome — remember your arenas and the gruesome events that occurred there; remember the massive banquets where people would go and vomit in order to be able to gorge some more? — spread in influence throughout the Empire.

It’s out of this environment that those early Gentile converts came to Christ.  Boy, talk about a major paradigm shift!!!  from the decadence and depravity of Rome and the pagan world to the radically different life of the Christian disciple – Whoa! When Paul writes to the Roman Church, in Romans 12:1 “present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice…be transformed by the renewing of your minds,”  they knew exactly what he was talking about.  This Christian discipleship wasn’t just a nice philosophical construct; Paul’s talking about bodies that had been indulged in every possible way, now being given to God and disciplined and sacrificed to chastity and moderation, concepts quite alien to the Gentile, pagan, mindset — hence, the call to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” in the very next verse.

 

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE TO US?

We live in a world that has come full circle.  Western Civilization, also known as Christendom, now has more in common, in terms of pop culture, with the ancient pagan empires of Bible times than with the Christian America my parents knew and loved when they died just over twenty years ago.

We have a major radical feminism campaign promoting a woman’s right to sexual depravity without consequences of pregnancy, and her vulnerability to becoming pregnant is identified as a War on Women.

Major television shows like The Tudors, The Borgias, Game of Thrones, etc., are really little more than dressed-up pornography.  At least, when I was growing up, such graphic depictions of sexual intercourse would be considered pornographic; now we’ve become so desensitized that people, even good Christians, look askance when I say something about the utter inappropriateness of a depiction of oral sex on television.

We sacrifice our children through abortion. Child abuse and murder are on the increase — and this despite the propaganda, more than thirty years ago, that if we only legalized abortion, child abuse would no longer occur.  What lies.

WE, we Christians, we disciples of Jesus Christ, have become a remnant, a countercultural minority living within a vast, increasingly-depraved world.  Many of us have had experiences, have been distracted and seduced into a worldly lifestyle and are finding our way back to Christ.

The words of Paul to his Gentile converts are so very vividly applicable to us, today, Christians living in a post-Christian, newly re-paganized world.  If we pay attention, if we put our hearts and minds into it, these counsels will see us through, just as they did two thousand years ago as the Church was being born throughout the world.

Beginning a Bible Study – Part Two

Part Two: Other Considerations

In Part One, I gave you my ideas about choosing a translation for your personal Bible reading.  But translation is just the first step in the decision-making process. When you get to the bookstore, you’re going to find a vast array of publishing differences within each translation:  print size, cover type, paper thickness…  cost.

You can actually buy a paperback NAB for less than $7.00.  Sounds like quite a deal, doesn’t it? It is… until you discover that the fine newsprint pages tear easily when you turn the pages, and the spine of the book is glued and the whole thing comes apart easily.  Then you’re going to set the thing back on the shelf and what good will that do anyone?

By the same token, unless you’re Daddy Warbucks, you don’t want to run out and spend a couple hundred dollars on your first Bible, either. Even if you were Daddy Warbucks, I wouldn’t recommend throwing money away like that; it’s bad stewardship.

You can get a decently-bound vinyl (imitation leather) cover NAB, or a quality paperback RSV, new, for less than $20.00.  That’s probably a reasonable place to start.

You see, there’s an aesthetic consideration to this business.  You want the Bible to feel good in your hand while you’re holding it. You want it to feel balanced.  You want the cover, whichever you choose, to feel pleasing to your fingertips.  A cheaply-bound Bible will have you clutching at it, trying to prevent it falling to the floor in a scattering of loose pages. A cheap cover feels tacky to the hand. You’ll find yourself fidgeting with it, and that will distract you from reading.  It will create in your subconscious mind an aversion to reading, which defeats the purpose (but the Enemy would delight in).  A quality paper cover or a well-made “imitation leather” cover will feel secure and comfortable as you hold it; you almost won’t notice it at all. And that’s good.

And since no one has money to waste in this day and age, I do recommend going with one of those options while you get started. Once you know you want to stick with a particular translation, you can invest in a quality leather-bound Bible for … a bonded leather Bible RSV, Compact Edition (be warned: SMALL PRINT) can be bought new for less than $30.00. The prices go up from there.  Ignatius Press has a leather-bound RSV that feels like butter, it’s so soft and pliable, and it just drapes in your hand in the most luxurious manner…  Sigh.  I don’t have that one.  I have a mid-sized, standard-print bonded leather RSV and a heavy, real-leather Douay.  They’re not luxurious, but they are very comfortable, and they are standing up well to the hard use I give them.

I also have a leather-bound Compact Douay that I tuck into my suitcase when I travel.  But compact Bibles have small print, and I’m almost at the age of having to abandon that one, even with bifocals (I’m too impatient to hold a magnifying glass).

So – those are the things I think about when recommending a Bible to someone.  Take your time. You don’t have to sneak in and sneak out (one hopes) as if buying a Bible had become an illicit activity. Stand there a minute – or sit, if the store is courteous enough to have chairs – and handle the Bibles.  Read from them – a Psalm, a portion of a Gospel. If you find yourself reluctant to stop once you’ve started, that’s a very good sign you’ve found a good Bible for you, but the whole point here is to feel comfortable, not intimidated by reading.  Okay?

 

Next up: How to read this new Bible.

Political Post #1

I used to have an aversion to politics. Oh, I enjoyed watching the election returns coming in, especially when my Daddy was home (he was a long-distance trucker). He’d let me go with him to the local newspaper office, where the returns would be written in wax pencil or soap on the plate glass windows – local returns on one side of the center door, national returns on the other.

But I didn’t like the debates, the negative tactics, and so on. I couldn’t keep up with issues; I was more inclined to parrot what I heard other people saying.

In the past four years, however, I have begun to be very interested in politics. Having some idea what is happening in our dear Nation, knowing how my elected representatives are representing ME, and having an idea of their intentions while they’re campaigning – it’s all part of good citizenship.

It’s also part of being a good Christian. In the Second Vatican Council, the role of the Christian laity was laid out:

First, to carry the Gospel into the world, into the marketplace, into the highways and byways of society where priests and religious do not frequent, or may not have access at all.

Second, to infuse this world with Gospel values.

Taking a basic interest in politics is very much a part of the latter.

But what are Gospel values? – (to be continued)

from Facebook, and resulting thoughts

A friend posted this on Facebook, and it’s been copied by a few people (including me). It’s generated some very animated and good discussion:

To everyone who is calling for stricter gun laws in light of the tragedy in Tucson, may I offer this little tidbit: If guns kill people, then pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk, and spoons make people fat. Remember: Hold the person accountable for their actions, not the means they chose to utilize!!!

Yes, I know, guns can inflict a lot more damage in a short time. But if someone is determined to hurt someone, any object will do.

There are far more beneficial discussions to be having about the Tucson tragedy – beginning with how we handle the mentally ill. It’s a fine balance – we don’t want to get like totalitarian regimes throughout history where you can report me for some spurious crime just because you don’t like me, and I get hauled away on the basis of your false report. However, it’s just not right to family and neighbors that nothing can be done to get a manifestly disturbed individual in for evaluation and treatment – until it can be proven that the individual is a danger to himself or others. By that point, you’ve got a Tucson event all over again.

Popping in for a few minutes… hello!

I know I have several people who “follow” this blog, through various email notifications, etc. I appreciate you and thank you.

I’m not at all sure I’m “back.” Fact is, I find blogging a tedious business. I might post this today and not be back for a few months, or I might post every day for a few months and then get bored by the process and bug out again. Who knows? (who cares?)

Anyway, I have a couple things to share for your consideration, so I’m posting today.

Thanks for your patience and your affectionate indulgence.