How we name something shapes how we understand it.
Names matter. St. John Paul II clearly writes in Dies Domini (On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy) that Sabbath (the seventh day of the week) and Sunday (the first day of the week) are different. Sunday fulfills the Sabbath. Naming Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath”—or worse, “the Sabbath,” which eliminates Judeo-Christian differences—neglects the true importance of the day.
For a new Thanksgiving tradition, take inspiration from ancient Israel.
Academy Award winners get a lot of ribbing for their acceptance speeches. You know: those ramblings that go on and on until the orchestra sounds a warning bar of here-comes-the-hooked-cane-to-yank-you-offstage theme music.
When it comes to keeping the faith, words matter.
My cousin’s an evangelical Protestant. Recently he told me the rousing story of how he came to Christ. After a neglected childhood and perilous young adulthood, he stumbled into a prayer service and encountered the Christian story in a way that felt powerful and irrefutable. “I accepted the work that was done on the cross of Calvary,” he concluded reverently.
“We will all be changed,” according to Paul.
If you’re hankering for the storybook heaven in which you get your heart’s desire and live happily ever after, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews just may support it. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1).
Take note: Trust in God is the nonnegotiable price of admission. Eternity as the land of hopes is not a bad way to envision the hereafter. This may or may not include an endless supply of blue corn chips—but for me, heaven would be a nonstarter without them.
For the most part, biblical tomorrow is a bleak prospect.
Maybe you’re not big into the vision thing. You may not have a comprehensive game plan for living, no crystalline goal that will let you know you’ve arrived when you get there. Not many of us apprehend in kindergarten the purpose for which we were born.
Meekness may be a more laudable quality than ‘greatness.’
The great fun of being a Catholic catechist is that people treat you like the Answer Lady. They turn to you in all sincerity and ask: “What does the Bible have to say about dinosaurs? What was Jesus like as a kid? When Mary says the rosary, does she say, ‘Blessed are thou among women’ or ‘blessed am I’? What’s heaven really like?”
A newbie religious educator will try to address every question with as much depth, breadth, and dignity as can be mustered. These days I’ve grown quite comfortable with two previously avoided responses: “The Bible doesn’t say much” and “I don’t know.”
Those who welcome the stranger step into eternal life.
Anyone who imagines Jesus has no stake in the debate about our treatment of the stranger at our borders needs to attend more Bible study. One of his most beloved parables concerns a good Samaritan: unwelcome in Israelite territory because he wasn’t “one of them,” a descendent of despised transplants who didn’t belong. The Samaritan alone shows compassion for an injured Israelite who, if he’d been in full vigor, might well have cursed him. Jesus pronounces the Samaritan a true neighbor.
Discipleship comes in many forms.
Mark’s Gospel tells a particularly striking healing story, that of a man suffering a fate worse than death. This man is “possessed with an impure spirit,” and he has no name and no identity.
To deny God’s centrality in our lives is to deny the definition of divinity.
People become writers for all sorts of reasons. A natural reticence in the presence of others, for example. Some of us may be halting of speech or think slowly and need more time to process an idea than the average conversation can support. A few may value precision in language so highly that to risk a clumsy word choice is intolerable. And of course some prefer the anonymity of the written word, because their ideas are too dangerous to personally own up to.
Good scripture commentary helps us go deeper into the sacred stories.
Imagine someone like Yentl from the movie of the same name. She’s a Jewish teenager so enamored of the dream of studying the sacred texts of her people that she takes the dangerous step of posing as a male to enroll in a Torah school restricted to boys. Stakes are high and mayhem ensues.