Category Archives: Bible Study

Communal Repentence

Today’s readings:
Jonah 3:1-10
Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
Luke 11:29-32

The reading from Jonah teaches me that a community that repents is saved. It’s important that I be a part of a community. I am not called to live out my spiritual life in isolation. I need other pilgrims who are seeking God. We each reinforce the other’s resolve to repent. Together, we can save each other from God’s wrath. I need to be in a community, but my journey still begins with my own heart.

How do I begin with my heart? God does not want my external sacrifices, but my internal ones. It’s not enough that I give up Netflix for a month, or fast once a week. God isn’t interested in me giving up my attachments if my interior life doesn’t change. I need to acknowledge my gluttony and seek the Holy Spirit to save me. I need to see my selfishness, and pray for the courage to suffer life’s inconveniences, the injustices that may be done to me, and bear patiently the shortcomings of my fellow men. Communal repentance begins with me.

There is something greater than either Solomon or Jonah here. Solomon and Jonah were wise men, prophets. Their warnings had weight — but Jesus’ words are even heavier. His example is even more important. I need to repent and be vigilant. It’s so easy to slip back into the normal rhythms of life. I need to resist that temptation and reach out to God, speak to Him and be close to Him.

Rend My Heart, Not My Garments

Today’s readings:
Joel 2:12-18
Psalms 51:3-6, 12-17
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

It’s Ash Wednesday, today, and I now begin the Lenten season with the rest of the Church. It is time that I return to my Lord, our God.

[quote]You are merciful to all, O Lord, / and despise nothing that you have made. / You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, / and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God. (Wisdom 11:24-27)[/quote]

My confession two weeks ago was a milestone. The Holy Spirit encouraged me to share the Good News. He changed my fruitless obsession to an obsession for the Word of God. In just a little over a week, I can already feel a change in my soul. Reading the Holy Scriptures and reflecting on the Word of God, focusing on what His Word means for me right now in my life is profoundly affecting me. I can feel my soul reach out to Him. I pray that I will continue these Reflections on Scripture. I pray that the Holy Spirit will sustain my efforts to be close to God. “Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me” (Psalms 51:11-12).

The one major thing I’d like to sacrifice this Lenten season is my addiction to Netflix. For 40 days and 40 nights, I will not log on to Netflix to watch any movie or show. I’ve been very addicted to it lately. I would go on all-night binge viewings several nights out of the week to chase a particular TV series. First it was “Star Trek: Voyager.” Then, it was “Mad Men.” Now, it’s “Battlestar Galactica.” It’ll be good for me. Now, I’ll have more time to think about God.

The second reading today particularly struck me: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us” (2 Cor 5:20). I’m so eager to become “Minister-Counselor” within the Foreign Service. Why is it more important for me to reach ambassador-rank for the United States than it is to be an ambassador for the Kingdom of God? It’s because I love the world; and I risk being an enemy of God. If I ever reach the Senior Foreign Service, it will be by the grace of God, not by my own efforts. But if I try very hard to become minister-counselor, at the expense of my health, my family, my colleagues and the greater community, then I would be in danger of being blind to God’s will. I should seek first God’s will; and I’m confident that, at this moment, His will isn’t for me to sacrifice my talents to become a minister-counselor. He wants me to put my talents elsewhere. I can always hope that a minister-counselor will be a by-product… haha.

“When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:3-4). This is a good thing to remember as I grow in charity.

Lover of the World, Enemy to God

Today’s readings:
James 4:1-10
Psalms 55:7-11, 23
Mark 9:30-37

The Holy Spirit reminds me through the Letter from St. James that I should not love the world so much. I should be careful about seeking praise, awards, promotions and the like. I shouldn’t define my success by the percentage growth of my stock portfolio, but by the growth of my love. How do I measure love? By how much I sacrifice. I should make a list of how I love the world. In an opposite column, I should set a goal of sacrificing the things on the list for the love of God. Over time, as I cross things off from the “worldly column,” I would psychologically reinforce my growth in love.

God gives grace to the humble, and I’m a proud man that needs to be humble. I can see it in my work; I am proud of my accomplishments. My ego puffs from praise. I feel rejected if others don’t recognize my contribution. I seek to be seen as “perfect” in the world, but not “perfect” in the eyes of God.

I feel so stressed these past couple weeks because I’m so concerned about accomplishing things that are important in this world. I should throw my cares to the Lord. He will support me. Instead of worrying about worldly things, I should worry about how much I love my neighbor. Instead of rushing off to cross out the next to-do item, check the next email, run to the next meeting, I should seek to genuinely help another person with no expectation of return.

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

No One Now is Dutiful

Today’s readings:
James 3:1-10
Psalms 12:2-5, 7-8
Mark 9-13

The Holy Spirit gently warns me today with James 3:1-10. I should be careful with what I put on this blog. If I desire to be a teacher, then God will hold me to a higher standard. I will fall short, and my words may lead readers astray. Just as a large ship can be steered with a very small rudder in fierce winds, so can my apparently small words lead people down a wrong path. I should be careful about what I share, lest I cause scandal. I should take care not to preach, and leave that to priests. My goal should be to share my faith humbly. I’m a pilgrim traveling to God’s Kingdom. I write this blog as a pilgrim would share the story of his journey around a campfire. I’m keeping myself warm with the passionate love of God, and I pray that you’ll share His fire with me.

“Help, O Lord! for no one now is dutiful; faithfulness has vanished from among the children of men” (Psalms 12:2-3). I’ll be celebrating my third year since baptism this Easter. How faithful have I been to Jesus? I need to remind myself so that I can stay humble. Then, I remind myself of God’s mercy so that I can hope. “You, O Lord, will keep us and preserve us always from this generation” (Psalms 12:7-8). I confess so that my soul can be clean, and I try to hold on to a moral life so that I can be close to God. For me, the biggest danger is my mind, my imagination. It’s by grace that I can fight temptation. Thank the Holy Spirit for His help — “Lord, my foot is slipping!”

I imagine myself with the three disciples described in Mark 9:2-13. It’s hard not to go “gaga” and fall down to worship someone who suddenly becomes bright as the sun and a loud voice in the clouds announcing, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” I imagine myself there, and I know I would believe, as I do now, that Jesus is the Messiah. Probably more so. But would I betray Jesus, as Peter did? I’m afraid so. I have so much proof of God’s hand in my life: my wife, my child, and my career. Yet, I still betray Jesus with sin. I’m so grateful that He gave the Church the Sacrament of Reconciliation — without confession, I could not hope to face God.

My Cross to Bear

Today’s readings:
Letter of St. James 2:14-24, 26
Psalms 112:1-6
Gospel of Mark 8:34-9:1

“Faith without works is dead,” St. James tells me. My faith is not alive if I don’t do something with what I believe. I believe my calling is to be a husband and a father. I believe this calling is given by God, and He shows me how to be a good husband by asking me to model after what Jesus did for His spouse, the Holy Church: self-sacrifice.

The materialistic world disagrees with me. A part of me resists this constant self-sacrifice. “What about my needs? My identity?” I understand the arguments against relentless self-sacrifice to my wife and family, but I remind myself that I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it for God. I have no needs because God provides me with everything. I don’t mind losing my identity, because I gain His sonship.

As with all noble things, this is easier said than done. I do have needs and my ego often reasserts its need for identity, but there isn’t much of a battle. I am always amazed by how often and how easy I deny myself what I really want to do. This is how I know that the grace of God is working within me. I’m not sure how I got to this point in my life. I should be unhappy, but I’m not. I’m extremely grateful, and so I’m full of joy.

I shouldn’t be proud of this. I thank the Holy Spirit for guiding me. How else can I have the grace to deny myself and follow Jesus’ example? The reading in today’s Gospel of Mark tells of Jesus asking his disciples to take up their own crosses. I have my own cross to bear: it is the challenges of being the type of husband and father envisioned by God.

Failing to Love My Neighbor

Today’s readings:
Letter of St. James 2:1-9
Psalms 34:2-7
Gospel of Mark 8:27-33

Jesus kept things simple for me: (1) love God; (2) love your neighbor as your own self. The first reading today reminds me that my neighbor is not just the rich, but the poor. I should not treat the poor differently. Do I? The prideful part of me would say no, since I’ve overcome my objections to giving money to the poor. The best way to counter my own greed is through charity. Yet if I’m honest with myself, then I’d admit the many times I give money without genuine compassion. I may look at them and force a smile, but my heart is still closed. I know because I don’t want to sit down and have a conversation with them. I have other things to do.

I want to spend time with my family. It’s a huge sacrifice that I’m not ready to make. This is what I tell myself.

And the poor men and women who beg outside of Church on Sundays are not the most desperate. They are there almost every weekend. What about the children in the orphanages? Or, the widows and the elderly tucked away in the outskirts of town? I’ve convinced myself that by donating a few coins every weekend, I’ve done my duty; I’m being charitable. The Holy Spirit is reminding me that that is not enough. I shouldn’t get complacent. The cries of the poor are louder elsewhere. Any churchgoer can give out a few coins. It takes creative love, real self-sacrifice, to seek out the orphans and the widows and ask myself, “What can I do?” But I’m not ready, yet.

Lord, Heal My Spiritual Blindness

Today’s readings:
Letter of St. James 1:19-27
Psalms 15:2-5
Gospel of Mark 8:22-26

I love this Lectio Divina. It’s like eating spiritual bread everyday. Reflecting on Scripture is like the digestion of this bread. It feeds my soul, and my soul will grow in grace.

Today, the Holy Spirit spoke to me through St. James’ letter, “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Anger prevents you from doing what is right in the eyes of God. Avoid sin and welcome the word you read in Scripture.” There is so much wisdom in that; if I follow it more often, I would make less mistakes. Every time I’ve been angry at work or angry with my wife, my actions were not the best. I thought I could have “righteous anger.” Maybe if I’m sinless, like Jesus. But, I’m not Jesus. I’m full of sin and I have wounds not fully healed. So, I’m not capable of good acts through righteous anger. I should seek always to be calm, and listen for the Holy Spirit to guide me — especially when I’m angry. I can only be aware of my attachments when I’m not blinded by anger. My anger is usually a sign that I’m attached to something.

The miracle healing in today’s Gospel of Mark is also a good lesson for me: you can see what’s right; so do it. Back when I was an atheist, I decided what was the truth. My measurement for truth was usually what was convenient for me. Just as the blind man did not have eyes to see where he should go, my soul did not have the Holy Spirit to guide me. When Jesus first laid hands on the blind man, the man received partial eyesight. When the priest laid hands on me during my baptism, the eyes of my soul partially opened. Jesus laid his hands on the man a second time, and “his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.” Each time I receive the Eucharist, each time I go to confession, each time I reflect on Scripture, the Holy Spirit is laying his hands on my soul and my eyes open up a bit more. [My spiritual blindness is a difficult one to cure, apparently.]

Now that I can see more of what’s right through what the Holy Spirit teaches me and what God teaches me through the Church, I’m obligated to act. This ties back to the first reading, today: “be doers of the word, not hearers only.” St. James immediately lists three things I can do, (1) hold my tongue, (2) care for orphans and widows, and (3) keep myself unstained by the world. I’m working on #1 and #3, but I need to start on #2.

Lord, My Foot is Slipping

Today’s Readings:
Letter of St. James 1:12-18
Psalm 94:12-13a, 14-15, 18-19
Gospel of Mark 8:14-21

I am away from my wife on Valentine’s Day.  It’s a business trip that couldn’t be postponed, but that doesn’t make me miss her any less.

I also don’t like being away from my wife because my corrupted nature starts to tempt me.  By the grace of God, I can resist temptation now better than before I was married.  Yet, it’s still there and I’m afraid.  Temptation always begins as an unbidden thought, triggered by something mundane like drinking coffee or going to the bathroom.  Or, the trigger could be something scandalous in a movie I’m watching, or a book I’m reading.  The thought then starts to feed on my memories, my fantasies, the broken and scarred part of me.  It’s like my past sins sliced gaping wounds to my soul.  Baptism, confession and the Eucharist are healing those wounds.  Temptation threatens to tear open the scabs.

So, I’ve learned to recognize my thoughts that would lead me astray.  I pray “Lord, my foot is slipping,” and I hold onto the hope that the Holy Spirit will quell the desire to continue on that line of thought.  It’s weird: I know that thought is wrong, but I still have the desire to think it.  Is this what is meant by concupiscence?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples “Do you still not understand?”  I am often guilty of that: I don’t understand that there is a world beyond what I can see, hear, taste, smell and touch.  Jesus’ ability to take five loaves of bread to feed five thousand and still have twelve baskets left over is a lesson for me to look beyond what I can eat in front of me.  What is my soul consuming?

Faith Needs No “Prove It to Me” Sign

Today’s readings:
Letter to St. James 1:1-11
Mark 8:11-13

The Holy Spirit led me to think about the strength of my faith.  Do I persevere in adversity?  Do I doubt God’s existence?  I think I’m still too new to the faith.  I’m still too passionate about God to doubt His existence.  I pray that the bitter cup of life would pass from my lips, but I also pray for the grace to accept His will.  St. James tells us to consider life’s trials as a joy because tests to our faith produces perseverance.  In all honesty, I don’t know if I’m ready.

My greatest attachment is to my wife and child.  What if I lost them to a tragic accident?  I would be devastated.  I would certainly ask God why it had to happen, why He didn’t prevent it.  I’m scared just to consider the possibility, now.  Like I said: I pray that the bitter cup of life would pass from my lips, but I also pray for the grace to accept His will.

Mark’s Gospel today spoke of Jesus being fed up with people asking for a sign that proves His being.  Jesus told them that no sign would given them.  Thanks be to God, I don’t need a sign to prove that He exists.  Yet, I may be guilty of asking for the confirmation of His will.  I think it’s okay, though.  Sister Meg Funk from Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana wrote:

“It is one thing to ask for a sign, as in ‘prove it to me.’  It is another thing to respectfully ask for a confirming sign that we can be sure we are hearing the voice of the Lord.

“How is it that doubts cover our faith from time to time?  Should we not heed the caution?  Isn’t it good to doubt and to take action only when ready and confident?  The answer is yes, if we live by faith.

“Where there is doubt, we need to pray in faith for confidence in Jesus Christ.  This way we have only one mind and heart, the mind and heart that is turned toward God, and not just toward ourselves.”

Leprosy of the Soul

Today’s readings:
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1
Mark 1:40-45

I went to confession, today.  It was seven months since my last one, and I had a lot of sins that needed absolution.  I’m grateful to the author of the “Confession: A Roman Catholic” app.  I was able to use it to conduct a thorough examination of conscience.

One of the things my confession made me realize was my unhealthy obsession for web development.  I was wasting a lot of time, during work hours and late at night, just to learn about web design and SEO.  It was taking me away from prayer; I was stealing time away from my employer.  Both are sins.

Then God spoke to me from today’s second reading: First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (10:31 – 11:1) “… whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”  So, why not channel my obsession to create a website about my journey with God?  I would satisfy my obsession and, at the same time, improve my prayer life and potentially bring the Gospel to others.

So, why not start today?  It’s already 1:30am (see how this obsession is affecting me?)  But, I can’t stop until I make some progress.

Passages like Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46 cause unbelievers to think God is different than the God of the New Testament.  But, He is the same God.  So, why did God tell Moses to instruct Jews to treat lepers worse than second-class citizens?  I was told during catechism that we cannot understand the Old Testament without the New Testament.  So, this apparent callous treatment of lepers cannot be fully understood until we see the connection in the Gospel reading for today, Mark 1:40-45.  Jesus will come and redeem all lepers.  I get it, but… why did God wait thousands of years?  In the meantime, many generations of lepers died in despair.  Why didn’t God offer some sort of solace to the lepers?  I’ll have to dwell on this problem for a while longer.  The Holy Spirit will provide me an answer.

Leprosy is a disease that is obvious to a casual observer.  Yet, the sins that disfigure my soul are not so obvious.  A leper can’t hide his disfigurement, but I can hide the leprosy of my soul.  So, I go to confession to have Jesus cure my spiritual leprosy.  The leper in Mark 1:40-45 goes out and tells everyone how Jesus cured him.  He is so happy.  So grateful.   He couldn’t keep Jesus a secret.  He had to share with others this miracle: his leprosy is gone!

I’ve been to confession before, but I never saw my sinful condition as a hideous disease of the soul.  So, I did not shout from the rooftops or run to every street corner to proclaim the glory of God.

It’s different this time around.  I went to confession, today.  I started a website.  Jesus cured the leprosy of my soul, and I want to tell you about it.  Welcome.