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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dr. Enright and Forgiveness

A propos this blog, I received a dispatch from Zenit regarding an interview with a psychologist about forgiveness. Please read this article posted at A Glitch In Time. In last Sunday's homily on the theme of forgiveness, I pointed out three steps in forgiving:

1. Stop hating the offending person
2. Forget the reason for the hatred
3. Love the offender

These three steps corresponded to the process that arouses hatred/anger towards an offender:

1. An offense is made that is seen as an attack towards one; anger is aroused.
2. One remembers the offense and lets it simmer; anger becomes hatred.
3. When the offender is thus hated, one begins to "objectify" him.

Thus, in the process thus described, one has not really forgiven the other person unless one makes the step to love him, that is, to treat him once more as a person. In the Enright interview, the psychologist is quoted as he describes the process he uses in forgiveness therapy:

for those who cannot forgive, I ask, “Are you ready to explore what forgiveness is and is not?” Such a question does not ask a person to forgive, but instead to examine what forgiveness is.
If a person has examined the dimensions of forgiveness, I ask, “Are you ready to examine forgiveness in its most basic form toward the one who hurt you? Are you willing to try to do no harm toward that person?” Notice that this question does not ask the person to love the offender, but to refrain from the negative, to refrain from harming even in subtle ways.
Next comes the question “Do you wish the person well?” Notice that this shifts the focus to the positive, toward at least a wishing, if not a deliberate acting toward, wellness in the other person.
All of these questions are intended to move the offended person a little closer to love. If a person still refuses to forgive, we must realize that their emphatic “no” today is not necessarily the final word. That person may change tomorrow. (More here)

Posted by bible student at 11:58 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 12:22 AM
Categories: Devotional, New Testament

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Gospel of Luke and the Letter to the Colossians

For those who are in the habit of reading the Scriptures as part of their daily activities: Today, we began reading the Letter to the Colossians as the first reading for the daily mass. This will continue until next week and will cover until the third chapter of the letter. Yesterday, we began reading from the gospel of Luke, and this will continue until November, when the new liturgical season begins with Advent. We've just finished reading selections from the first letter to the Thessalonians. Below is a table showing how the selections are distributed during the weekday masses:

August 31, Wednesday

Col. 1:1-8

September 1, Thursday

Col. 1:9-14

September 2, Friday

Col. 1:15-20

September 3, Saturday

Col. 1:21-23

September 5, Monday

Col. 1:24-2:3

September 6, Tuesday

Col. 2:6-15

September 7, Wednesday

Col. 3:1-11

The readings for Sunday (September 4) and the feast of the Nativity of Mary (September 8) was not included since readings for these days follow a different rationale. Following Colossians is the first letter to Timothy.

Posted by biblista at 9:24 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 10:25 PM
Categories: Devotional, Liturgy

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rom. 8:26-27 Praying When It Is Difficult

"How can one pray when it is difficult to pray?" Rom. 8:26-27 gives us an indication to the answer: the Holy Spirit which has been poured into our hearts enables us to pray even when we feel we cannot:

The word "Spirit" appears in the Letter to the Romans 20 times and 14 of these instances are found in Romans chapter 8. This only shows that the word "Spirit" is a key-word in this chapter. The word "Spirit" however does not have the same value in the way it is used throughout Romans.

Rom. 1:4 "spirit of sanctification"; Rom. 1:9 "my spirit" = I ; Rom. 2:29 "spirit" vs. "letter"; Rom. 7:6 "newness of spirit" vs. "oldness of letter"; Rom. 8:2 "law of the spirit of life" vs. "law of sin and death"; Rom. 8:4 "walk according to spirit" vs. "walk according to the flesh." Rom. 8:5 "flesh-mind" vs. "spirit-mind" Rom. 8:6 "wisdom of the flesh" vs. "wisdom of the spirit" Rom. 8:9 "flesh" vs. "spirit" / "Spirit of God" "Spirit of Christ" Rom. 8:10 "body" vs. "spirit" Rom. 8:11 "Spirit of Him" "His (Christ's) Spirit" Rom. 8:13 "live according to flesh" by the Spirit "mortify deeds of the flesh" Rom. 8:14 Spirit of God Rom. 8:15 spirit of bondage and fear, spirit of adoption Rom. 8:16 Spirit himself > our spirit Rom. 8:23 firstfruits of the Spirit Rom. 8:26 Spirit ... Spirit Rom. 8:27 Spirit Rom. 11:8 "spirit of insensibility" (as opposed to the "spirit of wisdom") Rom. 12:11 "in spirit" (as opposed to "in body")

In all these instances, the Holy Spirit is referred to in the following verses: Rom. 1:4; Rom. 8:9.11;8: .

The passage under consideration therefore refers to the Spirit which is both called "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Christ" in 8:9 and "Spirit of Sanctification" (= "Holy Spirit") in Rom. 1:4. And the function that is underlined here is that of prayer. The Holy Spirit empowers the baptized to pray by interceding for him/her through groanings that are inexpressible.

The Catechism makes use of Romans 8:26-27 in synchrony with Hebrews in explaining the prayer of intercession:

Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is "able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them "(Heb. 7:25). The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us ... and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God". (Rom. 8:26-27) (CCC, §2634)

Thus, when we intercede as the Church in behalf of all men and the whole community of the faithful, we extend on earth what the Lord, our High Priest, is doing before the Father, and at the same time, we mirror in our act of intercession what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives.

Romans 8:26-27 when seen within its immediate context gives us an idea of what the Spirit is doing in our lives as the future of God inexorably makes itself present. Romans 8:18-30 develops within the contrast "present sufferings -- future glory". The inexpressible groanings of the Holy Spirit mirrors the groaning of creation and of the Christian that labours in pain under the present which is in the process of being transformed into glory.

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (8:22-23, NLT)

The Holy Spirit which has been poured into our hearts, enabling us to call God "Father",(Rom. 5:5;8:15; cf. 8:29) just as Jesus did, is a companion in this present time of "groaning". In our prayers, He is there helping us with His own prayers and in so doing, helps us to pray even when we feel that we cannot (Rom. 8:26). It is thus, that in times of anguish and distress brought about by the difficulties of the present, it is the Holy Spirit that helps the Christian raise his/her heart to God and pray with faith for all that he/she needs.

Posted by bible student at 12:00 AM
Categories: Devotional, New Testament

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Lectio Divina

"Lectio Divina" is the particular way by which Catholics read the Scriptures. It is a reading of the Scriptures that seeks to encounter God through the sacramentality of the Word. As such, it is not mere understanding, it is "knowing" the Word of God in the spirit of prayer. It is in this way that the Catechism explains it as the first "wellspring of prayer" (nn. 2653-4)

The Church "forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful ... to learn 'the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ' (Phil. 3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures... Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture so that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For 'we speak to him when we pray; we listen to Him when we read the divine oracles'.

The above paragraph from the Catechism (n. 2653) puts together two lines from Dei Verbum par. 25. The quotation from Phil. 3:8 about "the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ" should be -- for the Christian -- the life-project. St. Paul is not referring here to a knowledge that is merely informational; he refers to a knowledge that is existential, that is, one that touches one's being, transforming it in the power of the resurrection. The second quotation from St. Ambrose puts the reading of the Scriptures within an ongoing dialogue with God in prayer. Let it be remembered that it was St. Ambrose whom Augustine writes about in the Confessions who alternated work with sacred reading throughout the day.

In paragraph 2654, the Catechism puts the reading of Scriptures within the monastic tradition of the lectio:

The spiritual writers, paraphrasing Matthew 7:7, summarize in this way the dispositions of the heart nourished by the word of God in prayer: "Seek in reading and you will find in meditating; knock in mental prayer and it will be opened to you by contemplation.

Reading must lead to meditation, meditation to prayer and prayer to contemplation -- the ladder of the lectio divina. Guy the Carthusian explains how the steps of this ladder lead from one to the other. Interesting is the process that he describes. One reads by pronouncing the words and listening to them. Meditation is understanding what the words or phrases mean. This is a slow process likened to the act of masticating that involves an internal dialogue between the reader and the author of the text about the text. Once the text is understood, one can now pray "from" the text: by petition, adoration, praise or thanksgiving. Finally, when the Holy Spirit allows it, the reader is given a glimpse of the mystery thus understood. This is the final stage of the reading: contemplation -- a glance into God Himself.

Posted by bible student at 11:43 PM
Categories: Devotional

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Prayer of Tobiah and Sarah

Here is a prayer that newly weds can pray on wedding night:

Blessed are you, O God of our fathers;
praised be your name forever and ever.
Let the heavens and all your creation
praise you forever.

You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve
to be his help and support;
and from these two the human race descended.
You said, `It is not good for the man to be alone;
let us make him a partner like himself.'

Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine
not because of lust,
but for a noble purpose.
Call down your mercy on me and on her,
and allow us to live together to a happy old age."

The passage is taken from Tobit 8:5-7. Tobias has just redeemed Sara, Raguel's daughter, by way of levirate marriage. The prayer is Jewish but it may as well be used by Christians.

The prayer can be divided into three parts. The opening blessing to God is characteristic of the berakah. "Baruk Adonay" is the normal beginning of a berakah -- "Blessed be the Lord." This is the "upward" motion of the prayer. Then the prayer moves to the remembrance of an action of God, in this case, the first marriage between Man and Woman, Adam and Eve. Tobias then professes the purity of his intention in marrying Sarah. He married her out of a "noble purpose," he proclaims. The Jerusalem Bible translates this phrase as "singleness of heart". The Septuagint has ep alhtheiaV, literally "on account of the true" which perhaps is the reason why the NAB reads "noble purpose". "Singleness of heart" may be the better translation since ep alhtheiaV is contrasted with the phrase for "lustful desire (dia porneian)." In any case, Tobias professes a pure motive for wedding Sarah and asks from God one thing: that he and Sarah grow old together.

"Grow to a happy old age" saith Tobias. How many do you think still want this for their marriage?

Posted by bible student at 5:17 AM
Edited on: Friday, June 03, 2005 5:27 AM
Categories: Devotional, Old Testament