Exploring Our Faith

Exploring Our Faith
by Rev. Anthony Hutjes (2015)

Fr. Anthony explains a range of familiar topics such as the Bible, the Trinity, prayer, sacraments and Mother Mary as well as topics specific to his ministry, with the intention of making “certain aspects of the Catholic faith somewhat more accessible for a broader public” rather than to “say anything new or original about my religion or to create a handbook which tries to cover all details’. Indeed, he clearly explains the teachings, theology and application of some foundational aspects of our faith.

What I will say about the familiar topics is that it is always instructive to revise and revisit what we should know. At the very least, every presentation of these topics encourages a little re-think of how we understand them.

Here, I will focus on the chapters that are particularly significant to his order, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC), and the chapter on laypersons.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus
Devotion to the Sacred Heart draws us into the very heart of Jesus – His “innermost life” and the depths of His being that were the source of everything He did and said. This devotion encourages the “patient meditation” by which we know Jesus better and this is important “because how can you love what you do not know?” We also come close to Jesus through adoration and Communion, and bring Him to others through our imitation of His life.

The Spirituality of St. Damien of Molokai

Now this was something I never knew – that Mahatma Gandhi knew about Fr. Damien. Gandhi said this about him: “There have been few lives in history or legend who lived on the completely spiritual level of Father Damien.” What was it that gave him the capacity to serve God’s people so selflessly and tirelessly? The “source of the heroism of Father Damien” (Gandhi’s words again), Fr. Anthony explains, was the combination of his family background, the Christ-centred spirituality of the SS.CC and his orientation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the love of His heart.

The SS.CC Mission in Asia

Evangelisation is a “fundamental duty of the people of God” and this non-negotiable inevitably means tackling these elements of modern life – “consumerism, individualism, secularism, relativism, hedonism, materialism”. It needs to be done sensitively, with openness to “dialogue”, and understanding and respect for specific societies and cultures. The SS.CC can do this in their mission in Asia by building upon their charism – celebrating the Eucharist, adoration and contemplation of Christ’s Sacred Heart, with “utter, personal conviction”; by “walking the talk”; “in a life of loving communion”; “with preferential love for the poor”; “in a spirit of dialogue and persuasive adaptation” and “proclaiming an everlasting life”.

The Mission of a Layperson
Fr. Anthony explains what is ultimately and practically important for laypersons, all of whom are called to mission. We build our sense of mission and the strength to carry it out in these ways:

In prayer
prayer is “the breath of faith” and we must search for God “with all your mind, with all your heart, with all your might and all your strength”

In self-sacrificial love towards others
through forgiveness and service

In marriage and family life
by being a sign of Jesus’ love – every marriage in Christ “has to reflect… every single line, every disposition, every moral value of the gospel”

In our love for the poor and those in need
this is a must, and we must love those who are poor materially as well as those poor in other aspects of life, such as the lonely and the rejected

In evangelisation
it is Jesus’ command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 17:18) – it is not just priests but all of us who are called to be “alter Christus” to others, hence “our deepest wish should be that we may become truly Eucharistic people, like Jesus Christ Himself – we may become people, more and more willing to be eaten up by our loving and self-sacrificial concern for God and neighbour.”

In an interview included at the end of the book, Fr. Anthony discusses some challenges of being Christian in our world today. He cautions that one can get “flabby” and “weakened too much by an over-indulgent, egocentric and pampered way of life”. Thus, we must be disciplined and must focus on God and His Kingdom. In addition, “there is no point in people who merely flip through the Bible back and forth” – we need true “conversion” and “much more missionary zeal”.

God, our source of life, has to be our focus.

♫ Makes me think of Seed, scattered and sown

 

The Scripture Source Book for Catholics

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The Scripture Source Book for Catholics
by Rev. Peter Klein
(Our Sunday Visitor Curriculum Division, 2008)

Simply put, this book is for Catholics who want to know more about Scripture. It explains the many aspects in which the Church is scriptural. Its two broad areas – Scripture from the Catholic perspective and Scripture in the life of the Catholic Church – are covered in seven chapters.

Scripture from the Catholic perspective

  1. Word of God – Revelation

God revealed Himself to Adam and Eve, then by His covenant with Noah, by His promise to Abraham, by His freeing of the Israelites from slavery through Moses and by the Incarnation of His Son, from Whom we receive the “ultimate” revelation of God’s Word. From then, it has been the responsibility of the missionary Church to transmit this divine revelation. This is done through Sacred Scripture and Tradition, what was handed down to the Apostles and through them. Along with Tradition and Sacred Scripture stands the Magisterium of the Church – “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20).

  1. Words of People – Sacred Scripture

Klein notes that “Christianity is not first of all a religion of the book but of a person” and that for the early Christians, what was “canonical” was what Peter, James and Paul preached, “in continuity with what Jesus had proclaimed”.

After years of depending on oral tradition, people began to write and document so that the teachings could be passed down in a concrete and “accurate” way. The books of both the Old and New Testaments were put together by the communities and edited over many years.

Only “fragments” of written works date back to the time of the Exodus, and these include the Song of Miriam and the Song of Deborah. It was around the time of David’s establishment of his capital at Jerusalem (1000BC) that written records were produced in great earnest.

The earliest Christian Scriptures were the letters of Paul and the others, the first complete one being 1 Thessalonians (around AD50). A first version of the Gospel (Mark’s) emerged around AD70. By around the 300s, the 39-book Old Testament canons were “widely recognised” and by around 400, the 27-book New Testament was “generally accepted”.

There was also other early Christian literature, such as letters, sermons and the Didache.

  1. Book of Covenants – Moral formation in the Old and New Testaments

The Old Testament can “stand on its own” and it “prepares for the New”. The New Testament reveals the fulfilment of God’s divine plan and Jesus’ role in our salvation. Therefore, the Gospels are “the heart of all the Scriptures”. One significant thread that ties the Old and New Testaments is typology, by which Jesus (as well as other New Testament people or events) is revealed in the Old Testament through “types” or prefigurations.

  1. Journal of God’s People – The Word of God

The Church’s mission is: first and foremost, message (kerygma, coming from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition), followed by fellowship (koinonia) and service (diakonia). The Church’s stewardship of the message includes translating, interpreting and analysing the Scriptures, and producing commentaries. Here, the Magisterium functions as “servant” of the word: “it teaches only what has been handed on to it… listens to it devoutly, guards it reverently and expounds it faithfully”.

Scripture in the Life of the Church

  1. The Lectionary – Liturgical catechesis

Scripture is organised in the Lectionary (“collection of readings”) for liturgical proclamation. The three-year cycle of Gospel readings for Sunday Masses provides a “semi continuous” reading of a particular Gospel in the assigned year. Scriptures specific to Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter are thematically organised for those liturgical seasons.

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On top of this, Scripture features significantly throughout the Mass, from the first Sign of the Cross and greeting, to the end of Mass.

The sacraments are founded on Scripture and so “preaching of the Word is an essential part of the celebration of the sacraments”. Sacramentals, such as anointing, and the use of candles, incense and ashes, also have scriptural foundation.

  1. Prayer Book of the Church – Integration of daily prayer

The Liturgy of Hoursconsecrates to God the whole cycle of day and night, as it has done from early Christian times”. It includes hymns, antiphons, psalms, Gospel canticles, Scripture reading and prayers, with Fridays, Sundays as well as feast days and liturgical seasons given a “special character”.

  1. Light of the Faithful – Personal prayer life of the faithful

The Scriptures underlie devotions such as the Sacred Heart devotion, the Way of the Cross, Litanies, Holy Hours, Novenas and the mysteries of the Rosary. We are also encouraged to pray with Scripture. For example, we might use the Lectio Divina method (reading, meditation, responding, contemplation) or pray prayers from Scripture.

If you happen to read this reference book from cover to cover (which I did!) you will find yourself at the end of it at four very interesting appendices:
– The Four-fold sense of Scripture (literal, allegorical, moral, anagogical)
– Figures of speech in Scripture
– Words & phrases with a Scriptural origin or allusion
– A history of the translation of Scripture into English.

So much to learn!

God dwells in His Word
♫ How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place