An Analysis of Renew 2000 Season 3 - Week 3

By Members of Our Lady's Warriors
Commentary Copyright 1999 by Our Lady's Warriors. All Rights Reserved.

Note: Watch words and phrases are underlined; commentary is presented following Renew 2000 text.

SHARING OUR STORIES

Environment for the Gathering

The leader prepares the prayer space for the meeting by providing a candle as well as several types of "story" books-perhaps Bible stories, lives of the saints, biographies and autobiographies. Include stories that may have influenced you personally.  It is important to prepare a welcoming environment, particularly for people who may be joining the gathering for the first time.  Be sure to have this week's materials available for everyone.

Introductions

Take plenty of time for introductions, particularly if there are people who are attending the gathering for the first time. Share a little about yourselves.

Opening Prayer

Begin with a few moments of quiet.

Pray together

Spirit of the Living God, draw us together. Open our hearts to your message which we want to speak to one another. Give us the courage to share our stories and reflect upon their significance in our lives.

You have called us to be witnesses to the Gospel, to honor the sacred story and put our faith in Jesus, the Christ. You live within us, urging us to be holy words of God to the world. We ask your guidance, your peace and your joy as we encounter your presence in the life stories of each other.  Amen!

If you wish to do so, sing together "Companions on the Journey" by Rev. Carey Landry or another appropriate song.

Living Our Faith Sharing

Share either what happened when you invited others to this session or the experience of being invited.

Focus of the Session

As we welcome new people, we share God's Word as found in Scripture, God's guidance and direction in the teachings of the Church and God's presence in the sacraments of the Church. Through this sharing of our life experiences, we come to understand better God's action in our lives. Moreover, we are challenged to conversion to Christ's teaching and fidelity to his love for us.

SHARING OUR EXPERIENCE

Take a few minutes to read the following reflection silently or aloud.

We all need to hear stories of faith.  Likewise, we need to share our own stories of faith in order to see the work of God in our lives. No matter how strong a Christian's faith is, there are times when help and support are needed. Human beings are social creatures. God has made us to need each other-and this is a very good thing.  In a society which has grown to be so impersonal and technological, it is common for individuals to be lonely, to feel alienated. Large numbers of people have more interaction with machines and computers at their workplace or in their homes than with other persons. Many ache with a need to belong, to know love, to believe in themselves, to trust others, to have faith in something or someone.

Listening is essential to evangelization. When we gather in small communities such as this one and truly listen to and respect each other's stories, we have a taste of Christ's presence among us. We say to one another by our attentiveness and respect that we recognize that God is indeed working in each of our lives in a very real way. In both inviting others and being invited by others to this gathering, we realize how much we need one another in order to learn about the presence of Jesus in our lives and in the world.

Proclaiming the Gospel and sharing our stories are essential to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Hearing the inspired Word of God and sharing with others their living faith encourages us to develop, refine and enrich our faith. People who join the catechumenal process learn about the Catholic faith through instruction on the content of faith based on the Sunday readings of the Lectionary as well as through lectures and study.

Catechumens often report that the faith stories shared by others deeply touched their hearts and moved them to conversion.  While on the earth, Jesus proclaimed the truth, told stories that evoked faith and created an atmosphere among his followers that facilitated the sharing of faith. At Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were empowered to speak about their faith in him to others, that is, to proclaim the risen Christ and his Gospel. Telling the stories of faith in Jesus and modeling that faith in actions helped the early Church to spread and its numbers to grow.

Reflecting upon the inspired Word of God and sharing our faith stories helps us to evangelize one another. Getting in touch with our stories renews our own faith and, with the help of the Spirit, evokes faith in others. Faith in Christ is a gift of God; sharing this gift is our response of gratitude to our loving God.

SMALL COMMUNITY SHARING

Take a few moments of silence to reflect on the following questions. Then share your reflections.

LISTENING TO THE WORD

Read John 14:8-17

Pause for a few minutes of silent prayer, allowing God's Word to enter your heart.

REFLECTION

Take a few minutes to read the following reflection silently or aloud.

Scholars say that John's Gospel was written nearly 70 years after Jesus died and the Holy Spirit had empowered his followers at Pentecost. The early Church communities, guided by God's Holy Spirit, had come to know Jesus as divine presence among us.  The stories of the Gospel initially intrigued people, and they listened to them. It is the truth of the inspired Gospels that leads people to salvation through the gracious action of God.

This week, we are reflecting on the stories of our faith, the stories of presence among the Hebrew nation and the stories told by Jesus in the Gospels. We are also reflecting on our own stories of God's action in our lives.

We learn about God in the sacred stories of Scripture. The story of David and Goliath (1 Sam 17:32-51) is well known to the Hebrew people. Children and adults alike are intrigued by the story of this innocent, courageous young shepherd boy who defends his people against the arrogant Philistine giant. His reliance on God is the heart of the story.  From start to finish, it is God's protective power that gains victory for David. The young shepherd boy becomes anointed king of Israel, the ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth.

The image of the young boy facing Goliath with only a slingshot and five smooth stones is deeply significant and a favorite in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures). Its popularity occurs, perhaps, because most of us have a Philistine giant we sometimes must face.  Our own stories are filled with fears--those we faced and those we avoided--buried deep within us.

The ancient storyteller believed deeply that God had chosen David to lead Israel, and David had accepted this mission. It is God's presence, God's loving power, that protects David and enables him to conquer the giant with one of the smooth stones from his shepherd's bag. Without God's help and David's openness, David could not have overcome the giant.

God gifts us with all we need to overcome our giants. Our lives are filled with blessings, with gifts of small smooth stones, to use when we need courage to act with justice and love. Sometimes we do not realize that God is offering us help in our struggles. It is only in looking back that we recognize God's loving presence empowering us to cope with our challenges, our moral dilemmas, our fears, our sorrows and our losses.

SMALL COMMUNITY SHARING

 Take a few moments of silence to reflect on the following questions. Then share your reflections.

LIVING OUR FAITH

No sharing would be complete without a commitment to putting our faith into practice. As you reflected on God's Word and shared insights with others in your small community, you were open to the grace of God. What is the specific action God is inviting you to take to change your own life or to respond to someone else's need?  Choose a specific, concrete action that flows from your sharing. The examples below are given only as ideas to generate a creative response .

  1. Resolve to share a faith story with someone whom you know who is struggling with faith.
  2. Reflect upon one story of Christ's presence in your life. Share this story with another as your thanksgiving to God.
  3. The Gospels were written by people of faith to evoke faith. Each one of us is a kind of gospel, a story of good news. What is the present good news in your life? Write down your good news in order to reflect upon it.
  4. Read stories of our ancestors in faith from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), for example, Abraham (Gn 17:1-22), Moses (Ex 3), Ruth (1:1-18), Jeremiah (1:4-19), Ezekiel (2:1-9, 3:1-16). These Hebrew leaders had faith in God's call to them. Consider your faith response when you are called by God.
  5. Think of another concrete action that you would like to take.

Put in writing what you have determined you will do to respond to this session.

If you wish to do so, share your commitment with others in your small community.

For Next Time

Bring along a newspaper or magazine article or a description of something that you saw on television or heard on the radio during the week that either shows the ways in which the Good News is preached in today's world or demonstrates a situation that needs the Good News.

CLOSING PRAYER

Before beginning the closing prayer, give people a few minutes to look over the "story" books you have displayed along with the Bible.

Leader: Renewed by your presence in our life stories, let us pray.  The presence of our God has sustained us through the centuries.  We are called to welcome those outside of our faith communities.
All: Spirit of God, help us reach out in love and justice to all your people.
Leader: In times of suffering and crisis, God's supportive love has given us   strength and endurance.
All: Spirit of God, help us reach out in love and justice to all your people.
Leader: God has called us to offer our faith stories to one another.
All: Spirit of God, help us reach out in love and justice to all your people.
Leader: Spirit of God, write your Gospel upon our hearts that we may always be Good News to all those we meet.
All: Spirit of God, help us reach out in love and justice to all your people.
Together:
Spirit of God, Spirit of Life, we are thankful for your steadfast presence in our lives. As we share our stories, we become more and more aware that you have called us by name, loved us unconditionally and guided us always. You live and reign with the Father and the Son as our God, forever and ever. Amen.

Reminder

For those who were here for the first time, you are most welcome to return next week.

Please read and reflect on the upcoming session, Preaching the Good News in Today's World before the next meeting so that you can come prepared to listen and share.


Our Lady's Warriors Commentary:

Excerpts from Renew 2000 text are presented in italics.

The Bible and Gospels are just storybooks

You have called us to be witnesses to the Gospel, to honor the sacred story and put our faith in Jesus, the Christ.

What story by or about Jesus deeply touches me as I travel along my faith journey?

This week, we are reflecting on the stories of our faith, the stories of presence among the Hebrew nation and the stories told by Jesus in the Gospels.

We learn about God in the sacred stories of Scripture.

The image of the young boy facing Goliath with only a slingshot and five smooth stones is deeply significant and a favorite in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures).

Read stories of our ancestors in faith from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) ...

Renew offers the notion that the Bible and the Gospels are simply stories or images - interesting and exciting perhaps - but just that. Another notion that logically follows is that stories from any source can be considered roughly equivalent - the Bible is leveled to the same plane as any other good and interesting narrative. Catholic teaching is quite clear - the Bible contains the very words and Truths of God, is completely free of error and contains various historical facts, especially in the Gospels relating to Jesus' life. Vatican II Dei Verbum explains:

#11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.[1] In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him [2] they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, [3] they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. [4]

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings [5] for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

OLD TESTAMENT #14. In carefully planning and preparing the salvation of the whole human race the God of infinite love, by a special dispensation, chose for Himself a people to whom He would entrust His promises. First He entered into a covenant with Abraham (see Gen. 15:18) and, through Moses, with the people of Israel (see Ex. 24:8). To this people which He had acquired for Himself, He so manifested Himself through words and deeds as the one true and living God that Israel came to know by experience the ways of God with men. Then too, when God Himself spoke to them through the mouth of the prophets, Israel daily gained a deeper and clearer understanding of His ways and made them more widely known among the nations (see Ps. 21:29; 95:1-3; Is. 2:1-5; Jer. 3:17). The plan of salvation foretold by the sacred authors, recounted and explained by them, is found as the true word of God in the books of the Old Testament: these books, therefore, written under divine inspiration, remain permanently valuable. "For all that was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).

#16. God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New. [2] For, though Christ established the new covenant in His blood (see Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25), still the books of the Old Testament with all their parts, caught up into the proclamation of the Gospel, [3] acquire and show forth their full meaning in the New Testament (see Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27; Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Cor. 14:16) and in turn shed light on it and explain it.

NEW TESTAMENT #19. Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1). Indeed, after the Ascension of the Lord the Apostles handed on to their hearers what He had said and done. This they did with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed [3] after they had been instructed by the glorious events of Christ's life and taught by the light of the Spirit of truth. [2] The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus.[4] For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who "themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word" we might know "the truth" concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1:2-4).

Personal Faith sharing made equal to Scripture

You live within us, urging us to be holy words of God to the world.

Each one of us is a kind of gospel, a story of good news.

As was promoted in week 2, Renew 2000 trumpets the notion that our personal faith - shared in a community - is as good as the Bible and Gospels. The Catholic Faith teaches us that the living Word of God is Jesus Christ Himself, the written word of God is Scripture - the Bible. Sacred Scripture, along with the Sacred Tradition is the supreme rule of Faith, and not simply one among many. Vatican II Dei Verbum explains:

#21. The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and "it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13).

God and His Church provides only "guidance" yet again

As we welcome new people, we share God's Word as found in Scripture, God's guidance and direction in the teachings of the Church ...

Also a continuation of week 2, the God and His Church is proclaimed as a mere guide offering good advice. Catholic dogma completes the partial explanation of Renew 2000 by declaring that the teachings of the Church are the very words of God which must be obeyed to obtain eternal salvation. Vatican II Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, states simply:

#12. "By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium), and obeying it, receives not the mere word of men, but truly the word of God (cf. 1 Th. 2:13), the faith once for all delivered to the saints (cf. Jude 3). The People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life."

#25 "... Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated."

Continued focus on immanence

... and God's presence in the sacraments of the Church.

... we realize how much we need one another in order to learn about the presence of Jesus in our lives and in the world.

When we gather in small communities such as this one and truly listen to and respect each other's stories, we have a taste of Christ's presence among us.

The early Church communities, guided by God's Holy Spirit, had come to know Jesus as divine presence among us.

Reflect upon one story of Christ's presence in your life.

The focus on immanence was making a return in week 2, but has really been promoted in this week 3. The original RENEW program was criticized by the US Bishops for placing too much emphasis on "immanence" and ignoring God's "transcendence." Mysterium Fidei on the Eucharist explains well the presence of Jesus:

All of us realize that there is more than one way in which Christ is present in His Church. We wish to review at greater length the consoling doctrine which was briefly set forth in the constitution "De Sacra Liturgia." [cf. C.l, N.7; AAS LVI, 1964, pp. 100-101.] Christ is present in His Church when she prays, since it is He who "prays for us and prays in us and to whom we pray as to our God." [St. Augustine, "In Ps." 85, 1; P.L. 37, 1081.] It is He who has promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. [Matt. 18, 20.]

He is present in the Church as she performs her works of mercy, not only because we do to Christ whatever good we do to one of His least brethren, [cf. Matt. 25, 40.] but also because it is Christ, performing these works through the Church, who continually assists men with His divine love. He is present in the Church on her pilgrimage of struggle to reach the harbor of eternal life, since it is He who through faith dwells in our hearts [cf. Eph. 3, 17.] and, through the Holy Spirit whom He gives us, pours His love into those hearts. [cf. Rom. 5,5.]

In still another genuine way He is present in the Church as she preaches, since the Gospel which she proclaims is the Word of God, which is not preached except in the name of Christ, by the authority of Christ, and with the assistance of Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. In this way there is formed "one flock which trusts its only shepherd." [Idem."Contr. Litt Petiliani" III, 10, 11; P.L. 43, 353.]

He is present in His Church as she governs the People of God, since her sacred power comes from Christ, and since Christ, The Shepherd of Shepherds," [St. Augustine, ''In Ps." 86, 3; P.L. 37, 1102.] is present in the pastors who exercise that power, according to His promise to the Apostles: "Behold I am with you all through the days that are coming, until the consummation of the world."

Moreover, in a manner still more sublime, Christ is present in His Church as she offers in His name the Sacrifice of the Mass, He is present in her as she administers the sacraments. We find deep consolation in recalling the accurate and eloquent words with which St. John Chrysostom, overcome with a sense of awe, described the presence of Christ in the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass: "I wish to add something that is plainly awe-inspiring, but do not be astonished or upset. This Sacrifice, no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul, is always the same as that which Christ gave His disciples and which priests now offer: The offering of today is in no way inferior to that which Christ offered, because it is not men who sanctify the offering of today; it is the same Christ who sanctified His own. For just as the words which God spoke are the very same as those which the priest now speaks, so too the oblation is the very same." ["In Epist. 2 Ad Timoth. Homil." 2,4; P.G. 62, 612.]

No one is unaware that the sacraments are the actions of Christ, who administers them through men. Therefore, the sacraments are holy in themselves, and by the power of Christ they pour grace into the soul when they touch the body. The mind boggles at these different ways in which Christ is present; they confront the Church with a mystery ever to be pondered.

What Renew 2000 continues to ignore is that the true presence, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are really in the Eucharist under the appearance of the Consecrated Bread and Wine. Mysterium Fidei explains:

But there is yet another manner in which Christ is present in His Church, a manner which surpasses all the others; it is His presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is for this reason "a more consoling source of devotion, a more lovely object of contemplation, a more effective means of sanctification than all the other sacraments." [Aegidius Romanus, "Theoremata De Corpore Christi,"Theor. 50, Venetiis 1521, p. 127.]

The reason is clear; it contains Christ Himself and it is "a kind of perfection of the spiritual life; in a way, it is the goal of all the sacraments." [St. Thomas, Summ. Theol. III, Q. 73, A. 3 C.]

This presence is called "real"—by which it is not intended to exclude all other types of presence as if they could not be "real" too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present. [cf. Conc. of Trent Decree on the Eucharist, Ch. 3.] It would therefore be wrong to explain this presence by having recourse to the "spiritual" nature, as it is called, of the glorified Body of Christ, which is present everywhere, or by reducing it to a kind of symbolism, as if this most august Sacrament consisted of nothing else than an efficacious sign, "of the spiritual presence of Christ and of His intimate union with the faithful, members of His Mystical Body." [Pius XII, Encycl. ilumani Generis, AAS XLII, 1950, p. 578.] It is true that much can be found in the Fathers and in the scholastics with regard to symbolism in the Eucharist, especially with reference to the unity of the Church. The Council of Trent, restating their doctrine, taught that the Savior bequeathed the blessed Eucharist to His Church "as a symbol … of that unity and charity with which He wished all Christians to be most intimately united among themselves," and hence "as a symbol of that One Body of which He is the Head." [Decree "On the Eucharist," Proem, and Ch. 2.]

 More notions of pluralism

When we gather in small communities such as this one and truly listen to and respect each other's stories, we have a taste of Christ's presence among us.

As in week 2, Renew 2000 continues to push the notion that "respect" the personal experience of another as the basis of faith and beliefs.

In whom or what do you put your faith?

Many ache with a need to belong, to know love, to believe in themselves, to trust others, to have faith in something or someone.

One would think that Renew 2000 could complete the thought that these people need to be brought to Faith in Jesus Christ. Having faith in things (creation) or in people rather than God is idolatry, which is a sin against the First Commandment: "Thou shall have no other gods before me."

Ignoring dogma and doctrine, and the teaching authority of the Church

People who join the catechumenal process learn about the Catholic faith through instruction on the content of faith based on the Sunday readings of the Lectionary as well as through lectures and study.

Renew 2000 is incomplete and vague as to how the Faith must be taught. Nowhere is mentioned that Catholics are to learn the dogma and doctrine as taught by the Magisterium of the Church. The CCC teaches:

#88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or having a necessary connection with them, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith.

#89 There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith. [Cf. Jn 8:31-32]

#90 The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ. [Cf. Vatican Council I: DS 3016: nexus mysteriorum; Lumen Gentium #25] "In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or 'hierarchy' of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith." [Unitatis Redintegratio #11]

Beyond learning the dogma and doctrine, the RCIA process is to also foster the very way of life according to the Gospel. Vatican II Ad Gentes explains:

#14. Those who, through the Church, have accepted from God a belief in Christ [Lumen Gentium #17] are admitted to the catechumenate by liturgical rites. The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher. Therefore, catechumens should be properly instructed in the mystery of salvation and in the practice of Gospel morality, and by sacred rites which are to be held at successive intervals, they should be introduced into the life of faith, of liturgy, and of love, which is led by the People of God.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is, when properly implemented, much more comprehensive in study to properly prepare the person for reception of the Sacraments. Renew 2000 fails to mention the Sacraments as well.

#1232 The second Vatican Council restored for the Latin Church "the catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps." [Sacrosanctum Concilium #64] The rites for these stages are to be found in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). [Cf. RCIA (1972)] The Council also gives permission that: "In mission countries, in addition to what is furnished by the Christian tradition, those elements of initiation rites may be admitted which are already in use among some peoples insofar as they can be adapted to the Christian ritual."[Sacrosanctum Concilium #65; cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium #37-40]

#1233 Today in all the rites, Latin and Eastern, the Christian initiation of adults begins with their entry into the catechumenate and reaches its culmination in a single celebration of the three sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. [Cf. Ad Gentes 14; CIC, canon 851; 865; 866] In the Eastern rites the Christian initiation of infants also begins with Baptism followed immediately by Confirmation and the Eucharist, while in the Roman rite it is followed by years of catechesis before being completed later by Confirmation and the Eucharist, the summit of their Christian initiation. [Cf. CIC, canon 851, 2; 868]

Jesus' parables reduced to mere stories, offering the notion that they are equal with our own stories

While on the earth, Jesus proclaimed the truth, told stories that evoked faith and created an atmosphere among his followers that facilitated the sharing of faith.

What story by or about Jesus deeply touches me as I travel along my faith journey?

This week, we are reflecting on the stories of our faith, the stories of presence among the Hebrew nation and the stories told by Jesus in the Gospels

Catholic teaching defines Jesus "stories" using the specific word "parables." The dictionary defines parable as "a narrative of imagined events to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson." However, these narratives, from the very Mouth of God Himself, the source of all Truth, are not mere stories, but rather express the very Truths by which Catholics MUST live. They are not mere suggestions or guidance. Lowering Jesus to a master storyteller ignores one of the reasons that God became man: "Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice." (John 18:37)  Jesus demands our choice, that being to obey and live God's way, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The CCC explains:

CCC #546  Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. [Cf. Mk 4:33-34] Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. [Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14] Words are not enough; deeds are required. [Cf. Mt 21:28-32] The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? [Cf. Mt 13:3-9] What use has he made of the talents he has received? [Cf. Mt 25:14-30] Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to "know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven." [Mt 13:11] For those who stay "outside," everything remains enigmatic. [Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.]

Gospel and Bible authors just other "people of faith"

The Gospels were written by people of faith to evoke faith.

The ancient storyteller believed deeply that God had chosen David to lead Israel, and David had accepted this mission.

Stories need storytellers according to Renew 2000. Contrary to Catholic Faith, it is claimed that "people of faith" wrote these "stories." The truth is explained by the CCC which is primarily documenting the answer from Vatican II Dei Verbum - Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation:

CCC #105  God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." [Dei Verbum #11]

"For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself." [Dei Verbum #11; cf. Jn 20:31; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21; 3:15-16]

CCC #106  God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more." [Dei Verbum #11]

CCC #107  The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures." [Dei Verbum #11]

What is true evangelization?

Reflecting upon the inspired Word of God and sharing our faith stories helps us to evangelize one another.

Renew 2000 proposes that sharing personal experience is the method to evangelize. Proper Catholic teaching on this matter is best described in Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World. Refer back to the season 3 introduction section for a shorter summary of said document.

Personal experience "renews our faith"

Getting in touch with our stories renews our own faith and, with the help of the Spirit, evokes faith in others.

How does a Catholic properly renew our Faith? Renew 2000 proposes that "getting in touch with our stories" is all it takes. The reality is instead highlighted in the CCC very simply:

#162 Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: "Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith." [1 Tim 1:18-19] To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; beg the Lord to increase our faith; [Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32] it must be "working through charity," abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church. [Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26]

Our battle is the "giant" of fear?

In my lifetime, what giants (fears) have I faced?

How has God gifted me to help me overcome my giants?

The Catholic Faith teaches us that we have real enemies - satan and his fallen angels - who take advantage of our concupiscence (inclination towards sin). Far from the "giants of fears," these actual enemies want to prevent us from obtaining the Kingdom of Heaven. Of course, satan - the devil - is not a politically correct term these days; perhaps some in Renew 2000 believe that he is only a fairy tale. Our battle is to overcome the world to live with God in Heaven for all eternity. The CCC explains:

#2850 The last petition to our Father is also included in Jesus' prayer: "I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one." [Jn 17:15] It touches each of us personally, but it is always "we" who pray, in communion with the whole Church, for the deliverance of the whole human family. The Lord's Prayer continually opens us to the range of God's economy of salvation. Our interdependence in the drama of sin and death is turned into solidarity in the Body of Christ, the "communion of saints." [Cf. RP 16]

#2851 In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who "throws himself across" God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.

#2852 "A murderer from the beginning, ... a liar and the father of lies," Satan is "the deceiver of the whole world." [Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9] Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be "freed from the corruption of sin and death." [Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV, 125] Now "we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one." [1 Jn 5:18-19]

The Lord who has taken away your sin and pardoned your faults also protects you and keeps you from the wiles of your adversary the devil, so that the enemy, who is accustomed to leading into sin, may not surprise you. One who entrusts himself to God does not dread the devil. "If God is for us, who is against us?" [St. Ambrose, De Sacr. 5, 4, 30: PL 16, 454; cf. Rom 8:31]

#2853 Victory over the "prince of this world" [Jn 14:30] was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is "cast out." [Jn 12:31; Rev 12:10] "He pursued the woman" [Rev 12:13-16] but had no hold on her: the new Eve, "full of grace" of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever Virgin). "Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring {us!}." [Rev 12:17] Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: "Come, Lord Jesus," [Rev 22:17, 20] since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.

#2854 When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ's return. By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has "the keys of Death and Hades," who "is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." [Rev 1:8, 18; cf. Rev 1:4; Eph 1:10]

Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. [Roman Missal, Embolism after the Lord's Prayer, 126: Libera nos, quaesumus Domine, ab omnibus malis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut, ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi: expectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri  Iesu Christi.]

Our Lady, Guardian Angels and Saints - totally ignored helpers

What or who has helped protect me in my life?

God gifts us with all we need to overcome our giants.

The Catholic Faith teaches us that everyone has much Heavenly help available. Besides God of course, every person has a Guardian Angel who watch over and care for us, and we have only to ask for assistance from Our Mother or Saint friends (the Church Triumphant).

CCC section on "The Blessed Virgin Mary"

#969 "This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." [Lumen Gentium #62]

#975 "We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ" (Paul VI, Solemn Profession of Faith, Credo of the People of God 15).

Prayer to Our Lady: Memorare (Remember O Most Gracious Virgin Mary) "Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided. ..."

CCC section on "The angels in the life of the Church"

#334 In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels. [Cf. Acts 5:18-20; 8:26-29; 10:3-8; 12:6-11; 27:23-25]

#335 In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance (in the Roman Canon's Supplices te rogamus ... ["Almighty God, we pray that your angel ..."]; in the funeral liturgy's In Paradisum deducant te angeli ...["May the angels lead you into Paradise ..."]). Moreover, in the "Cherubic Hymn" of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates the memory of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).

#336 From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. [Cf. Mt 18:10; Lk 16:22; Ps 34:7; 91:10-13; Job 33:23-24; Zech 1:12; Tob 12:12] "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life." [St. Basil, Adv. Eunomium III, 1: PG 29, 656B] Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

CCC section on "The Communion of the Church of Heaven and Earth"

#956 The intercession of the saints. "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness.... [T]hey do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."[Lumen Gentium #49; cf. 1 Tim 2:5.]

Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life. [St. Dominic, dying, to his brothers]

I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth. [St. Thrse of Lisieux, The Final Conversations, tr. John Clarke (Washington: ICS, 1977), 102.]


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