I’m working through CWR’s Inspiring Women Every Day for New Christians at the moment. I know I’m not a new Christian and I know this isn’t a Catholic resource but it’s something I like to work through periodically. I actually meant to do it during Lent as the study of John’s Gospel lasts 40 days but didn’t (for no very good reason, I may add!) I’m applying the Bible reading method I was taught in RCIA for each passage the booklet directs me to read. And then I read the notes that go along with it from the booklet. This is forcing me to slow down enough to actually read it and think about the message instead of skimming over the words and ticking ‘Done.’ I’ve found I’m getting much more out of it (and it’s taking a lot longer!) than my previous efforts and I actually feel nourished and satisfied when I’m done although I’d often like even more. I’ve noticed that, since the Easter Vigil, I seem to have a real hunger for God and all things Godly – prayer, Mass, Bible reading – but I don’t feel empty at all. It’s not that kind of hunger. Very odd and I’m sorry I can’t explain it more clearly.
Anyway. I thought I’d share some of the lightbulb moments I’m experiencing. I don’t have anything very profound to say, mind you, and most of it is probably glaringly obvious to everyone but me! But, humour me? Please! I’ve saved some draft posts and will try to start writing and posting tomorrow. I would start now but my supper and bed are calling …
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Everything works out.
How good is that? It’s one of the things I believe the Pentecostals and Evangelicals have got right. In my experience, they tend to be very much ‘led by the Spirit.’ Or their imaginations. Or what seems good to them at the time. Because their are abuses – I’ve seen them. And that saddens me greatly.
So I do believe that the Holy Spirit can guide us. But I need to know, for myself and those about me, that imagination and expediency haven’t taken over. Since reading Sylvia’s post I’ve been thinking about how to know what’s the Holy Spirit’s leading and what isn’t. I suppose one could call it discernment.
1 John 4:1 tells us that not every spirit or prophet comes from God and, if you read on, the passage explains that what comes from Jesus will confirm that He is the Risen Christ, what doesn’t come from Him won’t. It sounds almost too easy, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s why it’s never registered with me before now. How many times have I followed a leading without asking a question first. How many times have I led myself into trouble?
But I’m open and willing to heal and to learn. Jesus has already done so much for me – too much to tell in one blog post. Too much to tell in a lifetime. And today He’s giving me a lesson. If it proclaims Him, if it knows Him, if it loves Him then it is of Him. And if it doesn’t, and doesn’t, and doesn’t then it is not.
I feel such relief at this discovery. Another healing. Another learning. And peace.
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Acts+2:37-42&vnum=yes&version=nrsv)
I looked at this passage this afternoon, applying the way I’ve been taught to read the Bible in RCIA. Incidentally, I’m finding the technique really helpful so remind me to share it with you soon.
The passage tells us that, as a result of Peter’s preaching, about 3,000 thousand people became Christians. They were Baptised in the name of Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. It’s what happened next that really interests me. The new believers are said to have ‘devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ (Emphasis added.)
I know I’m treading the right path. I was Baptised a few years ago and Confirmed at the Easter Vigil this year. But how do I measure up as a new Catholic when compared to these believers?
- The apostle’s teaching: I think I’m doing quite well with this. I’m spending at least an hour reading and studying and chewing over the Bible. I’m reading Christian/Catholic books and I pay attention at Mass and RCIA classes. I’m not so good at applying what I learn and I know I tend to lean on my own understanding of the Word rather than being led by the Holy Spirit. I think I need to adopt a more prayerful attitude to my work.
- Fellowship: Now this one is not so good. I’m a very shy person and have been turning down invitations for fellowship with the other members of the Parish. I deliberately sit alone at Mass. I’m avoiding interaction as much as I can, while still wanting to be involved in the life of the Church. What can I do to change this? Well, there’s tea and coffee after Mass on Monday and Friday mornings so I shall commit to attending one of these each week. Hopefully this will get easier as time goes by.
- The breaking of bread: I love, love, love that I can now receive the Eucharist. But I feel guilty for not taking all the opportunities I have to do so. I’m really fortunate to be in a Parish where Mass is celebrated every morning but (despite making daily attendance part of my Lenten intention) I don’t make it more than once or twice a week. And I don’t have a good reason for not going – all my ‘reasons’ are excuses and whinges – so that is something I’m going to work hard to change. Going daily will also help me meet more people and give me some exercise, both of which are good.
- The prayer: I find it very interesting that the author says ‘the’ prayer rather than ‘praying’. To me, the implication is that there was a set format of prayer for members of the early Church. Sure, they’d talk to God outside of those formal times but ‘the’ prayer was made by the whole community. The Catholic Church holds this tradition with the Divine Office and I’ve tried to get with the programme by using The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Unfortunately, this practice has fallen by the wayside even though I found it to be something I enjoyed and understood. So that’s something else which needs to change.
I have, then, four resolutions:
- Continue in Bible study.
- Go for coffee after Mass.
- Attend Mass daily.
- Practice The Little Office.
The most challenging is really coffee after Mass – isn’t that silly? But I am who I am – an animal person rather than a people person. The other three require commitment and a decision to submit to God’s will rather than indulging my own. I notice that the early believers ‘devoted themselves’ to these practices. And I resolve to doing the same.
How do you measure up?
I said I’d share the technique I’ve been taught at RCIA for reading/studying the Bible. Here’s what I do:
- Read the whole passage.
- Note down who is speaking and who is being addressed.
- Note down anything I don’t understand.
- Summarise the passage.
- Note down any applications of what it says – either at a personal level or more generally.
This is my adaptation of the full instructions and is offered in the spirit of ‘this is what works for me’.
I’m still becoming familiar with the ‘extra’ Books of the Catholic Bible. Well, to tell you the truth, I’m still becoming familiar with the Bible, period. There are bits I know but every time I think I know them well I seem to discover something new. I suppose that’s how it’s supposed to be? Anyway, I’m enjoying the journey and am comfortable about adding the Apocrypha to my itinerary. I hadn’t found anything particularly useful there though – I’ve read some instructions on the treatment of slaves and a bit of Jewish history but that’s all. And then I read this post over at The Divine Gift of Motherhood. You need to read it right to the end. I’ve put that last verse on my side-bar and am hoping that, if I read it often, I might actually learn to do it!