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The Didache Bible – A Perfect Combination Of Scripture And Tradition!

 

Catholic speaker and author Gary Zimak is available to speak at your parish or conference

Catholic speaker and author Gary Zimak endorses the Didache Bible from the Midwest Theological Forum and Ignatius Press

In the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, the Catholic Church makes a powerful statement:

Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.
(Dei Verbum, 9)

Basically, the above excerpt reminds us of the danger of reading the Bible “in a vacuum” or without regard to the teaching of the Church. Since the Bible was compiled by the Catholic Church, it makes perfect sense that it should be read with Catholic teaching in mind. Otherwise, it’s entirely possible that we could derive some erroneous messages from its pages. Far from being a hypothetical danger, this is a real pitfall that happens frequently. Fortunately, we have a great summary of Catholic teaching in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. While this can aid us in reading the Bible, however, what if we’re not too familiar with the Catechism? How can we read Scripture without fear of misinterpretation?

I was recently given a complimentary copy of the Didache Bible from the folks at Midwest Theological Forum and I was blown away. I have many different Bibles in my possession, some with excellent Catholic commentary, but I’ve never seen one like this. This version contains an extensive commentary which is based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In the Didache Bible, you can read the Ignatius Bible Edition (Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition) supplemented with commentary taken directly from the Catechism. In addition, there are 100 explanations spread throughout the Bible that help to answer common questions about the faith. It doesn’t get much better than that!

If you are looking for a solid Catholic Bible (the RSV-CE is my favorite edition), I strongly encourage you to check out the Didache Bible from Midwest Theological Forum. You won’t be disappointed!

(Gary Zimak is a Catholic speaker and author who travels throughout the United States and Canada giving inspirational talks and leading parish missions and retreats. Click HERE to invite Gary to speak at your parish or conference or to inquire about his availability.)

Great Advice From Mom…”Do Whatever He Tells You!”


 

Catholic Speaker, Author and Radio Host Gary Zimak reflects on his book about the Blessed Mother and her words in the Bible

For most of my life as a Catholic, I was confused about the role of Mary. While I accepted the fact that she was important to Catholics, I didn’t understand WHY she was important. That changed BIG TIME for me a few years ago when I finally saw the light and accepted her as my spiritual mother. As a result, my life changed drastically and she has brought me closer to Jesus than I ever thought possible. I’d like to tell you about my “Mom” by looking at what is recorded about her in the Bible. Her message is a powerful one. I think you should listen!

Here’s what other Catholic authors are saying about my book, Listen To Your Blessed Mother:

“Biblical, personal, engaging, and thought provoking are just a few words that come to mind when reading this wonderful book! The Virgin Mary truly is our BLESSED Mother, and listening to her words in Scripture can help us to become blessed, too. Gary Zimak has done a great service for both Catholics and non-Catholics in offering a book that unpacks the biblical words of Mary in a very conversational and easy-to-follow style. The reflection questions and points to ponder at the end of each section will be of great benefit to the reader, too! I highly recommend this book!”

(Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, STL, Author – Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest)

“Listen to your Mother! How many times did we hear those words growing up? How many times did we roll our eyes and ignore the sage advice only to find out later on that Mom indeed did and does know best, especially our Blessed Mother. Now, straight from Scripture, Gary Zimak has given us even more reason to pay close attention to what our Mother, as in Mary has to say about living a grace filled life in this world so we can be with her and her son in the next. This book will definitely bring you closer to the heart of Christ through the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God.”

(Teresa Tomeo,Syndicated Catholic Talk Show Host,Best Selling Catholic Author)

“In Listen to Your Blessed Mother, using Scripture and personal stories, author Gary Zimak takes us by the hand and unambiguously leads us to a greater appreciation of our Mother in heaven so that we might strive to imitate her virtues while allowing Mary to take us by the hand to her Son Jesus. Highly recommended!”

(Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, EWTN TV Host and author of sixteen Catholic books including The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers, and Devotions)

“With candor and simplicity, Gary Zimak reveals the power of Mary’s words in Sacred Scripture. No matter where you are in your spiritual life — or in your relationship with the Blessed Mother — this book will help you find new meaning and guidance in her words: words that Zimak shows are applicable to any of the problems or decisions you face each day.”

(Vinny Flynn, Author of 7 Secrets of the Eucharist, 7 Secrets of Confession, and 21 Ways to Worship)

“When I was given an opportunity to review Listen to your Blessed Mother, I hesitated only because of the full plate I was dealing with at the time. When I finally dove into this wonderful book, I realized that Gary Zimak has written a beautiful love story about our Blessed Mother and one which needs to be shared with everyone. His description of his growing love of Mary from his childhood to the powerful impact her intercession has had on his life as an adult is riveting. His use of scripture about the Blessed Mother and the few words spoken by her helps the reader share in her life and purpose. The reflection questions at the end of each chapter challenge us to grasp the role of the Blessed Mother in our own lives. I strongly recommend this book!”

(Randy Hain, author of Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith and co-founder of Integrated Catholic Life eMagazine)

“Jesus is our brother, and so his Father is our Father, his mother is our mother. How sad that so few Christians know the perfect maternal love that God has given us in his family. Jesus tells us beloved disciples, ‘Behold your mother.’ What a sweet command! And Gary Zimak has made it sweeter still.”

(Mike Aquilina, EWTN host and author of more than 30 books on Catholic history, doctrine and devotion)

“Gary has given us great insights about our Blessed Mother Mary in Scripture which makes this not only a wonderful book for Catholics but also a great resource for evangelizing those outside the Church. This is definitely a book you can share with your evangelical friends to help them come to know and love our Mother Mary.”

(Gail Buckley, Founder & President. Catholic Scripture Study International)

“It’s such an obvious way to follow Jesus through Mary, that I’m surprised this book was not written before. While some think going directly to Jesus is the fastest and surest way, Gary shows us how wrong that thinking is. He shares his own zig-zag journey to Mary as a way to grow closer to Christ. Though Mary in the Bible, Gary helps us to relish her role in salvation history, reflect on her life, and embrace her love for us.”

(Patti Maguire Armstrong, award-winning author and managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series)

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY!!!

Tired Of Worrying? Here’s A Suggestion…


 

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Sure, we’ve all heard the Bible verse and sang the words at Mass, but how often can we say that we live our lives according to this principal? Like many other people, I claim to have faith and believe that God can do miracles…until one of my family members gets a serious illness or I don’t know how I’ll pay the monthly bills. Sadly, when these events occur my faith sometimes goes “out the window” and I do something completely useless…panic!

As the author of A Worrier’s Guide To The Bible (50 Verses To Ease Anxieties), you’d probably think that I’m someone who has never worried or who has declared victory over anxiety. Not even close! I have been a worrier all of my life and I STILL fight the battle every day. Most times that a crisis pops up in my life, my first instinct is to worry. The good news is that my second instinct is to pray! The even better news is that, at this point in my life, sometimes my FIRST reaction is to pray. Although I still have a long way to go, that is a BIG improvement for me!

So how does one go from worrier to (prayer) warrior? Quite simply, my friends, it’s all about faith. If your faith is strong enough, you’ll walk by that faith and not by sight. Your eyes will be so focused on the Lord and His promises that you won’t even see the waves crashing around you. Since faith is a supernatural gift, however, we can’t just increase it on our own. Therefore, we have to turn to God and ask for help. When dealing with a “storm” in your life, crying out, “Lord, please increase my faith!” is an extremely powerful prayer and is a lot more effective than worrying!

In addition to allowing us to pray to Him when we’re anxious, the Lord also wants to speak directly to us. One of the best ways to hear Him is by opening up the Bible. When I was writing my book, I created a spreadsheet with Bible verses that could be used to combat anxiety. I would often sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament reading and re-reading these verses. Although my primary goal was to decide which verses should be included in the book, I received an unexpected blessing…I began to feel peace, even in the midst of my problems!

Here’s a verse to get you started. If you’re worried about something, open up your Bible and read (and re-read) this verse. While there’s no guarantee that your problems will disappear, you will eventually feel a peace that is not of this world. If you don’t feel peaceful right away, keep reading. Jesus is extending His hand and is speaking these words directly to you…

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

10 Great Examples Of Biblical Prayer


 

According to Saint John Damascene, prayer is “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God”. Unfortunately, we often overlook the importance of prayer in our lives, forgetting that every time we pray something happens. That “something” is an outpouring of grace which either affects us or those around us. In an attempt to provide some good examples of prayer, I’ve chosen 10 samples from the pages of the Bible. By studying these examples and incorporating them into our prayers, we’ll be able to “beef up” our spiritual lives and grow closer to the Lord.

1. Abraham Intercedes for Sodom – One of the earliest Biblical examples of prayer can be found when Abraham interceded for the city of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33). Standing before the Lord, Abraham pleaded with Him to spare the immoral city based on the fact that some holy people lived there. We all know people who have turned away from God and live an immoral lifestyle. Abraham’s example reminds us that we should pray for their conversion and ask the Lord to be merciful.

2. Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom – When informed by the Lord in a dream to ask for something (1 Kings 3:5-14), Solomon didn’t ask for riches or treasures, but requested an understanding mind so that he could discern good from evil. Pleased by this noble plea, God also granted him riches and honor. We often have our priorities in the wrong order and pray solely for temporal (or temporary) things. If we learn to focus more on spiritual goods, we’ll find that the Lord will also provide for our material needs.

3. Prayer of Desperation – Found in Psalm 22 and later repeated by Jesus as He died on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is a prayer familiar to many. It is a desperate plea for the Lord’s assistance when all seems hopeless. We should not be ashamed to use these words, but rather look at them as a cry for help. Those who are prone to anxiety should become familiar with this prayer and not hesitate to use it when necessary. We all encounter those times when it feels as if we’re facing our problems alone. Calling out to the Lord will allow us to experience His presence and feel the peace that only He can give.

4. The Tax Collector’s Prayer – One of the simplest, but most eloquent expressions of true contrition can be found in the Lord’s parable of the “Pharisee and the Tax Collector” (Luke 18:9-14). Praying in the temple, without lifting his eyes, this humble sinner prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner”. Direct and to the point, we should make these words our own and pray them every day!

5. Saul’s Question – Saul of Tarsus (better known as St. Paul) was deeply affected by his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. During the 2nd of the 3 times that he relates this story (Acts 22:4-16), Paul mentions a question that he asked of the Lord. In reality, it is a prayer and one that we should pray frequently. “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10) is something that we should ask God each day. Instead of telling the Lord what He can do for us, it would be nice to ask what we can do for Him. What is Your Will for me, Lord?

6. The Wedding At Cana – As Christians, we are encouraged to pray for one another. My favorite example of intercessory prayer in the Bible can be seen at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). I especially like this example because of the Blessed Mother’s involvement. There is a crisis – the wine has run out at a wedding feast and something needs to be done. Without being asked, Mary goes directly to Jesus and simply states, “they have no wine”. He responds by performing His first miracle and turning water into wine. The moral of the story? Mary is always standing by, ready to take our needs to her Son!

7. The Magnificat – Based on several Old Testament verses, Mary’s famous prayer (Luke 1:46-55) is a great example of humility and gratitude. Knowing full well that everything good in her is attributable to God, Mary responds to Elizabeth’s praise by extolling the Lord’s greatness, emphasizing her own lowliness and recalling His providence for the chosen people. St. Louis de Montfort loved this prayer and recommended that it be recited at solemn moments, such as after receiving Holy Communion.

8. Prayer of Abandonment to God’s Will – When He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He died, Jesus gave us a perfect example of abandonment to God’s Will (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46). Even though it’s not always possible to know God’s Will with certainty, appending the phrase “but not as I will but as You will” to our petitions ensures that we are submitting to His Will.

9. The Lord’s Prayer – Asked by one of His disciples to “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), Jesus responded with the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4). Often referred to as the “perfect prayer”, the Our Father contains it all: praise (“hallowed be Thy name”), contrition (“forgive us our trespasses”), petition (“give us this day our daily bread”) and submission to God’s Will (“Thy Will be done”). We can NEVER go wrong by praying these words!

10. Forgiveness – Sometimes it’s hard to find the words (or the desire) to forgive those who offend us. Since we know that we are always called to forgive, however, we must find a way. Here is a 10 word prayer first spoken by Jesus as He suffered on the cross. Remember it the next time you need to forgive someone. It expresses all that needs to be said! “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

The preceding examples, taken from the pages of the Bible, were designed to illustrate some of the qualities of effective and meaningful prayer. Humility, sincerity, and faith are important characteristics of prayers that are pleasing to God. Studying these examples can help us to enhance our prayers by incorporating some of the methods used by the holy men and women who have gone before us. By praying often and sincerely, we’ll get closer and closer to the Lord until one day we’ll be praying with the angels and saints in Heaven!

Hearing God Speak Is Easier Than You Think!

 

One of the biggest mistakes many Catholics make is to treat the Bible as “just another book”. We sometimes (and I have been guilty of this for many years) ignore the fact that God does actually speak to us through the pages of Sacred Scripture. Furthermore, many people are unaware that the Bible can be used to speak with God. We can actually enter into a conversation with the Lord simply by opening up the pages of the Bible!

As many of you know, I’ve written a book A Worrier’s Guide to the Bible: 50 Verses to Ease Anxieties which provides an alternative to worry. I’ve been a worrier for many years and I wanted to provide some relief to my fellow worriers. More importantly, I want the book to be a reminder that God is waiting to speak to us in the Bible. When we open its pages and read the inspired words, the Lord is speaking directly to us and that’s powerful!

Listening to God speak through the Bible was not something that I always understood. There are 2 books, however, which helped me to first understand the idea of God speaking through Scripture. Both of these books are very easy to read and contain information that will change the way you view the Bible.

Conversing with God in Scripture: A Contemporary Approach to Lectio Divina – The title says it all! In this 150 page book, Stephen Binz presents a step by step plan for learning to converse with God using the pages of the Bible. He discusses the ancient practice of “Lectio Divina” (Latin for “Sacred Reading”), which not only allows us the hear God speak, but enables us to speak with Him using the inspired words of His Book! Some time ago, I used the concepts presented in this book in an adult faith formation class and the students were astounded. In less than an hour, they learned how God truly does speak to each one of us in the Bible and how they could use the Sacred words to speak with Him.

Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina – On the back cover of this book by Dr. Tim Gray, we’re told that this book will teach us:

How God speaks directly to each of us in His Word.

How to overcome the obstacles to a consistent and fruitful prayer life.

Strategies for reading and praying the Bible fruitfully.

What Christian meditation is and how it differs from non-Christian approaches.

This book promises a lot and it DOES deliver! This book is short (127 pages) and easy to read, but provides a wealth of information that will help you in your relationship with the Lord. In Chapter One (The Secret of the Saints), Dr. Gray starts off with a bang as he reveals, “the great – and simple – secret of the saints is that they realized that God’s word was addressed to them“. That simple, but profound, statement is the secret to unlocking the power of the Bible. Understanding that fact will completely transform your spiritual life and bring you closer to the Lord.

Learning to converse with God by using the Bible is a valuable practice that will help you every day of your life. These books have helped me and can quickly help you to master this important technique. When faced with decisions, problems and temptations, why not turn to God and ask for advice? Hearing His voice can be as simple as opening up the pages of your Bible!

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 5 (Losing Jesus)

 

Mary: “Where’s Jesus?”
Joseph: “I thought He was with you.”
Mary: “No, I thought He was with you.”
Joseph: “Well, He has to be around here somewhere, so let’s look.”
(Mother Angelica,  Mother Angelica’s Private and Pithy Lessons From the Scriptures)

This humorous snippet of fictitious dialog reminds us that, despite being the parents of the Messiah, Mary and Joseph weren’t given a pass from the worries and difficulties faced by all parents.  When we look at the story of the Finding in the Temple, we can almost feel the helplessness experienced by Mary and Joseph.  Despite being chosen for a monumentally important role, they didn’t have all the answers.  In her discussion of this incident, Mother Angelica notes a very important point about Mary, “She was sinless, but she wasn’t Mrs. Omnipotent”.

Continuing our series on Mary’s words in the Bible, let’s look at one of the most confusing, yet most familiar, of Our Lady’s statements.  After looking for Jesus for three days, Mary and Joseph found Him teaching in the temple.  Scripture tells us that they were “astonished” and records the words spoken by our Blessed Mother:

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

Sometimes we forget just how human Mary was.  Although she never sinned, she wasn’t blessed with the gift of omniscience.  On several occasions, the Bible tells us that Our Lady “pondered things in her heart”.  In other words, just like us, she often had to meditate in order to discern the Lord’s message.  Being the Mother of God didn’t exempt Mary from struggling to determine God’s will.  Rather than lash out or complain, Mary asked a simple question to Her Son…Why have you done this to us?  She was trying to obtain an answer, most likely fearing that she and Joseph had done something wrong.  The second part of her statement also communicates an important piece of information.  Mary and Joseph were searching for Jesus with great anxiety.

There are many ways that we can “lose” the presence of the Lord.  Although He will never leave us, we can use our free will to turn away from Him.  Those of us who have done this know the feeling of emptiness and hopelessness that accompanies our disobedience.  In his book The Glories Of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote, “Souls who have lost God are really miserable and unhappy.  If Mary wept over the loss of her son for three days, how much more should sinners weep who have lost sanctifying grace?” Since Mary had never sinned, she didn’t know what it was like to lose God.  It’s quite possible that the Lord wanted Mary to experience this sense of loss so that she could be a better advocate for those who stray.  This experience of losing Him, the only way possible for one who never sinned, will help her to empathize with those who are lost and enable her to truly become the Refuge of Sinners.

After losing Jesus, Mary and Joseph searched for Him with great anxiety.  How do we respond when we “lose” Him in our own lives?  Is finding the Lord our number one priority?  Sadly, it is often not a priority at all.  According to Saint Augustine, “When they lose an ox they do not hesitate to go and look for it; when they lose a sheep, they leave no stone unturned to find it; when they lose a beast of burden, they cannot rest until they have discovered it; but when they lose God, who is the supreme Good, they eat, drink, and sleep as usual”.

As we meditate upon this sad episode in Our Lady’s life, let’s never forget that she knows what it’s like to be separated from Jesus and can help us to discover Him in our own lives.  Holy Mary, Refuge of Sinners, pray for us.

“There is no sinner in the world, however much at enmity with God, who cannot recover God’s grace by recourse to Mary, and by asking her assistance.” (Saint Bridget of Sweden)

 

 

 

 

 

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled! 2-7-12

 
If you’re worried or anxious, spend 60 seconds and listen to this message. I bet you’ll feel better!
 
Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled! 2-7-12 (mp3)

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 3 (Submission)

 

As we continue with Part 3 of a 7-Part series on Mary’s words in Scripture, I’ll be taking a look at the final words of the Blessed Mother to the angel Gabriel.  Last time we focused on Mary’s declaration that she is the Lord’s handmaid (servant).  Essentially, Mary informed Gabriel that she considers herself to be the Lord’s servant.  Furthermore, as a sign that she fully accepts her mission to bring the Savior into the world, Mary adds the words:

“May it be done to me according to your word. ” (Luke 1:38)

A recap of the facts helps to illustrate the profundity of Mary’s statement.  She has just been informed that:

1. She will become the mother of the Son of God while being able to retain her virginity.

2. The virgin pregnancy and birth will come about through the action of the Holy Spirit.

3. Elizabeth (her elderly relative) is now six months pregnant.

4. All of this will happen because “nothing will be impossible for God”.

After hearing the details, most of us would have many more questions and would be begging the angel to stick around.  Mary, on the other hand, heard all that she needed to hear.  In fact, Gabriel’s final statement surely wasn’t news to Mary at all.  To someone with a strong faith, a belief that God can do all things is implied.  Contrasting Mary’s faith with my own faith is painful, but enlightening.  Hardly a day goes by when I don’t question the Lord’s ability to resolve some crisis in my life.  Although the angel’s words are right there in Scripture and they are etched in my memory, I need to get better at believing them.  As long as I’m comparing Mary with myself, there’s another really big difference. Mary didn’t even flinch at the fact that her pregnancy is going to be really difficult to explain to Joseph, her family and to just about all of her other relatives and friends.  That’s because she loved God with all of her heart and TRULY was His servant.  The fact that she was going to be inconvenienced didn’t matter to her.  She meant what she just said about being the Lord’s handmaid.  If He wanted her to do something, she would do it with no questions asked.  Is anyone else feeling really inadequate right now?

Each day, you and I are given the opportunity to say “yes” to God.  Like Mary, we are often asked to submit to His will without knowing all of the details.  Whether it’s being open to having additional children, pursuing a religious vocation or contributing more to charitable causes, the Lord often requests our consent.  Are we so concerned about the details or potential difficulties that we say “no thanks”?  Or, like the Blessed Mother, do we declare ourselves to be the Lord’s servants, trusting in His providence?

While discerning God’s will often requires prayer and meditation, sometimes it’s A LOT easier to discover.  By simply accepting those things that happen to us on a daily basis (at our jobs, in our families, when we become ill), we are saying “yes” to God and following His will.  When asked how to determine God’s will, Mother Angelica replied, “Honey, if it’s happening, it’s God’s will; and you have to correspond with it in the present moment”.  When unpleasant or painful events occur in our lives, we can complain or we can echo the words of Our Blessed Mother…

“May it be done to me according to your word. ”

“Mary was like a wheel which was easily turned by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Her only object in the world was to keep her eyes constantly fixed on God, to learn His will, and then to perform it.” (St. Bernardine of Siena)

Next Time: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

Let’s Take Mary Out Of Scripture!

Many people, Catholics included, struggle with Mary’s role in the Christian faith.  “She’s not that important!”, “I have Jesus, why do I need Mary?” and “You Catholics are a bunch of Mary-worshippers!” are some of the sentiments that are expressed rather frequently.  As a Cradle Catholic, I never had a problem with the Blessed Mother and accepted her being a part of my faith.  As I started to embrace my Catholicism more deeply, however, my confusion about Mary grew.  What exactly is her role?  Am I supposed to pray to Mary, Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, or all of the above?  I asked myself what I could do to help understand Mary’s role in my life.  Over time, I came to the conclusion that one of the best ways to understand and appreciate the role of the Blessed Mother is to take her out of the Bible and see what we have left.  What I discovered, and I hope you will as well, is that removing Mary from Scripture will leave gaping holes in our Catholic Faith and will help us to better appreciate her importance in our lives.

Let’s start by removing Mary from the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38), when the angel Gabriel asked her to become the mother of the Savior.  For starters, we wouldn’t have her great example of humility when the angel exclaimed, “Hail, full of grace”.  The fact that Mary was “greatly troubled” by this is a profound example of what it means to be humble.  My reaction would have probably been something like, “Thanks, Gabe… you know I try pretty hard.  Now, what can I do for you?”.  By looking at Mary’s reaction, we are reminded of how often we feel a little too proud about our good works.  We forget that anything good in us is due to God’s grace.  Continuing on, how about Mary’s response to the shocking and mysterious mission of becoming the mother of the Savior?  Oh, I forgot, Gabriel did provide the details…”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35).  Crystal clear, right?  Mary is engaged to Joseph and has just been told that she will become pregnant with the Savior of the world by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Her response?  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)  Are you kidding me?  Who has faith like that?  Mary does, and if you take her out of that scene, you also take away the example that motivates and guides me every day of my life.  Mary had the ability to trust God even when it didn’t make sense.  That’s the kind of example that I need!  Oh, I almost forgot, if Mary isn’t there to say “yes” to God’s request (as delivered by the angel), we might still be waiting for Our Savior.  That means, if you or I died today, we could have to wait thousands of years before the gates of Heaven were opened by Jesus.  Because Mary did exist and did say “yes”, however, we can die today and potentially go directly to Heaven.  That’s a comforting thought!

Let’s move on to the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11).  In his narrative of this event, St. John highlights the fact that “the mother of Jesus was there” and then adds that “Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with His disciples”.  Why did he give Mary “top billing”?  Surely, Jesus is the star of this show, isn’t He?  In order to find out, let’s remove Mary and see what happens.  If Mary was not in attendance, Jesus and His disciples would still be there and the wine would still run out.  Since Mary was the one that informed Jesus that “they have no wine”, we can’t assume that someone else would bring it to His attention.  More importantly, we would lose one of the most powerful and effective examples of intercessory prayer ever recorded.  Through this simple example, we are reminded that Our Blessed Mother is watching over us and is always ready to present our needs directly to her Son.  As in this case, she often does this without even being asked.  Following this, in her last recorded words in Sacred Scripture, Mary gives us advice that (if followed) is guaranteed to get us to Heaven…”Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2: 5).  Finally, at the request of Mary, Jesus performs His first miracle.  The water is turned into wine (not just any wine, but even better wine!) and the day is saved.  If we take Mary out of the story we have no example of intercessory prayer, no command to follow Jesus’ teachings and quite possibly no first miracle.  That’s a big void, wouldn’t you agree?

Finally, let’s journey to that fateful day on Calvary when Our Lord gave His life for our salvation (Jn 18-19).  Sadly, just about all of Jesus’ disciples deserted Him in His hour of need.  Mary, however, was there “standing by the Cross of Jesus” (Jn 19:25).  How’s that for an example of being a follower of Christ, even when it’s difficult?  Mary’s constancy inspires us to persevere in our faith, even when we encounter suffering and difficulties.  By taking her out of this scene, there goes one of best examples of faith that you’ll ever see.  Continuing on, in one of His final acts before dying on the Cross, Jesus addressed His mother by saying, “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26).  Turning to St. John, Our Lord exclaimed, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27).  Can you imagine the effort it must have taken for Our Lord to say these words while nailed to a cross?  Was it just some meaningless chatter thrown in by John to pad the story a bit?  Hardly!  It has always been the teaching of the Church that John represents ALL beloved disciples, thereby allowing us to share in the gift of Mary as our mother.  No Mary, no Heavenly mother for us.  Considering all that our Blessed Mother does to help us get closer to Christ, that would be a BIG loss!

There are other examples in the Bible that allow us to see the importance of Mary’s role in the life of a Catholic.  Removing her from the Visitation (Lk 1:39-56), the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:1-20), the Presentation in the temple (Lk 2:22-38) or praying with the Apostles (Acts 1:14) helps to illustrate her importance.  Thankfully, we did AND DO have Mary.  She is our mother and  mediatrix and, because of her cooperation, Our Savior came into the world.  If she doesn’t play a big part in your spiritual life, I urge to open the Bible to all of Mary’s appearances, pretend she wasn’t there, and meditate on what’s missing.  I’m sure you’ll discover that “what’s missing” is the person that you need to help you grow closer to Jesus…Our Blessed Mother, Mary!

Faith and Revelation: Scott Hahn, Scripture and Substance!

So You Wanna Learn About Scripture?

In my opinion, one of the best books that you can read is Faith and Revelation (Knowing God Through Sacred Scripture) written by Dr. Scott Hahn (copyright 2009, Midwest Theological Forum) and edited by Fr. James Socias.  Part of the Didache Semester Series, this volume delivers the same solid Catholic teaching that can be found in the other books of this series.  As stated on the back cover, the goal of the Didache Series is “to present the basic doctrinal, scriptural, moral, and sacramental tenets of the Catholic Church in a manner that is both comprehensive and accessible.”  In my mind, they accomplish that goal in a BIG way!

Some of the book’s positives are:

– Scott Hahn is the author (Do you really need other reasons for a book about Scripture?)
– A beautiful design with color reproductions of religious artwork throughout.
– Lots of substance (multiple citations from the Catechism and Church Council documents plus numerous quotes from the Church Fathers).
– Material is presented in an easy to understand manner.

Although designed to be a high school text book (spanning one academic semester), I would recommend this book to any adult who desires to learn more about the Bible, from a Catholic perspective.  The biggest mistake that Catholics often make when reading Scripture is to read it “in a vacuum”, ignoring the fact that the Catholic Church actually compiled the books of the Bible.  Faith and Revelation rectifies that mistake, by giving you Biblical insight combined with solid Catholic teaching.

Still not convinced? Take a look at this preview to see for yourself!

For more information or to order, visit the MTF website.