The Bible as a Love Story

The Bible as a Love Story

The Bible as a Love Story

In addition to the complexity of translating from one language to another  – or even from an original language like Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek – to Latin – and then to English, we have the challenge that the meanings of words changes over time, or that it has a very particular meaning in a particular time. When thinking about a foray into understanding the Bible, it’s helpful to start by thinking about how the meaning of words changes when used in different contexts.

We need an interpretive key to help us navigate the challenges when reading

One such interpretive key is that the Bible is a love story between God (lover) and God’s creation (beloved) in which we are invited to an ever greater share of life bestowed as a gift by the lover. The lover has always been faithful to the beloved but the beloved has not always been faithful for the lover. The preface to the first Eucharistic Prayer for reconciliation (one of my favorites) puts it this way, “For you do not cease to spur us on to possess a more abundant life and, being rich in mercy, you constantly offer pardon and call on sinners to trust in your forgiveness alone. Never did you turn away from us, and, though time and again we have broken your covenant, you have bound the human family to yourself through Jesus your Son, our Redeemer, with a new bond of love so tight that it can never be undone.”

How the Love Story is told in Scriptures

This love story is told through the Hebrew Scriptures (often called the Old Testament) and the Christian scripture (often called the New Testament). The books of the Hebrew Scripture can be further divided into separate genres – one such division is:

Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
History: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
Wisdom and Poetry: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
The Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
The Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The books of the New Testament can also be separated into separate Genres:
Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Acts of the Apostles
Epistles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude.
Revelation

Not one Book but many

The love story is not one story but many stories. Likewise, it is important for us to understand God’s expression of love for us in their context. Understanding how translations affect the meaning of the words can help deepen our understanding of the passage. Consulting more than one translation and noting the differences can help us to this (as opposed to looking at other translations to see which is right).

Three levels for reading scripture:

We can read the Word of God on at least three levels:
1. The meaning in the original experience.
2. The meaning in the context of the author.
3. The meaning the passage has to us now

These levels may affect how we read the story.

For example, Matthew and Luke both relate a sermon given by Jesus. In Matthew, the sermon occurs on the Mount; In Luke it occurs on the plain.

There are elements common to both sermons and elements that are distinct in both sermons. Are we looking at two different sermons given at different times? If so, why is does Matthew present one and Luke another? We could also say that Matthew and Luke have both gathered elements of sermons and teachings that Jesus gave during his public ministry and presented them as one sermon. We can hear Jesus say, “Blessed are you poor…” and consider what this would mean to the original hearers. We can read Matthew’s writing, “Blessed are you poor in Spirit” and wonder what was it about the context in which Matthew wrote that led him to soften the message (or conversely did Luke toughen the message)?

Either way, it is important for us to understand that the context in which Jesus spoke is different than the context in which Matthew and Luke wrote – and these different contexts may lead to the emphasis of one piece over another. As these passages have been applied through history, it would be important for us to consider how the context influences the reception of the passage.

How a couple tells the story of their meeting or first falling in love may change over time – but this change does not mean that one story is more true than another. The evolving story allows for a more nuanced expression of love that takes into account and incorporates the realities experienced during the lifetime. How much more complex is that reality when we are talking thousands of years and billions of human lives in relationship to God?

For reflection: Do you feel prompted to explore some aspect of Scripture at a deeper level? How might you talk with your children about Scripture?

Fr. Paul and I have been asked to discuss “The Bible in a Nutshell” with the parents of our faith formation students on two successive weekends. This blog post comes from that session.

Fr. Brian Conley, SJ

A New Understanding of Confirmation in the Restored Order

A New Understanding of Confirmation in the Restored Order

A New Understanding of Confirmation in the Restored Order

In just two weeks, we will celebrate Confirmation and First Eucharist with 19 young people in our parish. The Diocese of Maine is one of fourteen dioceses in the U.S. that practice the “restored order” which joins preparation for Confirmation with First Eucharist for those baptized as infants. This restored order is the biggest change I’ve experienced in my move to Maine. I wondered, “How can we expect 2nd and 3rd graders to make the commitment that is expected in the sacrament of Confirmation?”

Theological and Practical Reasons for the Restored Order

As with many of us, I was taught at the time of my own confirmation that I was making an adult decision confirming the promises that had been made for me by my parents and godparents at my baptism. In the year before I entered the Jesuits (1991-92), I was involved with a retreat group that provided day-long or weekend retreats to high school students who were about to make their Confirmation. The retreats helped them to reflect on their lives and their experience of the Paschal Mystery so that they could make an informed choice in their own Confirmation. I’ve been very proud of my nieces and nephews who took the adult decision they were asked to make at their Confirmation seriously by asking serious questions about their faith or becoming involved in their faith community as lector. For these young people, Confirmation was the end of their formal religious training – “I don’t have to go to CCD anymore!”

So, I was very skeptical that there was a practical reason for shifting the experience of Confirmation, though I understood the theological reason.

The order of the Sacraments of Initiation in the ancient church – and for those baptized as adults today – is Baptism, Confirmation, First Eucharist. We saw this at the Easter Vigil this year when we welcomed six people into the church with these sacraments. Restoring the close connection between Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist is the theological reason for the restored order. The practical aspects of the change required a change in my thinking about the sacrament of the Confirmation.

The Holy Spirit is at Work through the Sacrament

When we focus on the person being confirmed and the decision being made at that time, we place the emphasis on the person and not on the work of God in the sacrament. The change in thinking I made in coming to understand the restored order was to focus on God at work in the sacrament. The focus of the Sacrament of Confirmation is the reception of the Holy Spirit – signified through two ancient practices – the imposition of hands and the anointing with Chrism oil. Thus, the sacrament of Confirmation confirms – not the decision that was made for us – but the presence and work of the Holy Spirit at work through the sacrament. This change in focus also prompts us to switch focus from Confirmation as the end of religious training to Confirmation as the beginning of something – the conscious relationship of our children to God through the Spirit.

Our Relationship with God Will Grow and Change Over Time

As we grow up, our relationship with our parents (and all human beings) grows and develops. The parents of our Confirmation and First Eucharist candidates have likely already begun to allow their children to make more decisions for themselves as the children approach the age of reason. We know that a healthy relationship between parent and child involves differentiation and re-integration. For example, the dependency of an infant followed by the terrible twos, rebellious teenager followed by the mutuality of an adult-adult relationship, perhaps followed by a dependent elderly parent and adult child. The relationship grows and changes over time. Likewise, our relationship with God grows and changes over time. As we grow and change in our relationship with our parents – getting to know one another in new and different ways – we grow and change in our relationship to God. In the restored order, the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist recognize the independent relationship of our children to God and invite us to a life-long relationship that will grow and change as we grow and change over time.

Fr. Brian Conley, SJ

A Welcome into the Life of the Church and our Parish

A Welcome into the Life of the Church and our Parish

A Welcome into the Life of the Church and our Parish

Are you thinking about joining the Catholic Church or looking to explore that question? Are you a baptized person who has not yet received First Eucharist or been Confirmed?

We invite you to join us in a journey that will help you answer those questions and, if you choose, prepare you to be welcomed fully into the Catholic community.

Meetings take place following the Sunday 5 PM Mass for about an hour most weeks. If you have questions, please contact Fr Paul at the Parish Office (797-7026).

Our first meeting will be Sunday Oct 2, starting at 6:15 PM.

Faith in Action through Formation

Faith in Action through Formation

Faith in Action through Formation

While we’re in the height of a gorgeous Maine summer, we are indeed gearing up for the next season of Faith Formation sessions for children who will be preparing, in their first or second year, to receive their First Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation sacraments. Faith Formation sessions will be held at the parish hall before Mass each Sunday from 8:45 – 9:20, followed by the 9:30 Mass.

The 9:30 Mass on September 18th will be a Welcome Mass, with the first Faith Formation session on September 25th – which will be a combined group, including parents. Stay tuned for more details in the bulletin throughout August, including meaningful plans for year 3 and beyond.

We’re using a team-teaching approach, and would appreciate two more adults to round out the catechist teams. As we look to schedule an orientation time, it’s not to soon to consider how you might be a part of this important part of the mission of putting our faith into action. Call or email Jane at the parish office to become involved. You’ll be glad you did!!

If you have already registered your child(ren) for years one or two in the 2022/2023 school year, thank you. If not, please complete and submit the form available on our web site https://ladyofhopemaine.org/faith-formation-registration/ 

Enjoy these summer days finding God in all things!

May Crowning

May Crowning

May Crowning

Faith Formation families celebrated the start of the month of May — a month to honor Mary, Jesus’ Mother — with a May Crowning on Sunday, May 1st. After the 9:00 Mass, they processed out of the church, bringing flowers and the crown to the statue of Mary outside, as Fr. Brian Conley, SJ read a blessing. You can see that statue throughout the month near the altar at St. Pius X. Our thanks to Lauren Tigerman for creating the beautiful crown and to the parents who provided refreshments to parishioners who joined them for this holy tradition.

You might find this blessing from a Book of Blessings, published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, as a prayer prompt or reflection at home:

Blessed are you, Mary, mother of our Lord, for you have believed the word of God.
In faith and love, you have reflected on the words and actions of God in your life and the life of God’s holy people.
With Jesus, we call you mother. We honor you in this crowning.
Pray for us and lead us to you Son.
Amen.

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