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May 25, 2006 Edition

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Living the Scriptures (for May 28, 2006)
Living the Scriptures (for June 4, 2006)
Faith Alive!
This week's readings (May 28 - June 3)
This week's readings (June 4 - 10)
Pope's Prayer Intentions
Prayer for St. Raphael Cathedral

O ye of little faith: Wrestling with Scripture

photo of Marshall Cook

Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Marshall Cook 

"They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mk 16:15-20).

My daddy killed a rattlesnake when we were hiking in the mountains of southern California once when I was a kid. That's as close as I care to come to poisonous snakes, thank you.

But ever since the Rev. George Went Hensley grabbed a fistful of writhing rattlers 100 years ago without missing a beat of his sermon, serpent handing has been part of the worship rites for the Church of God with Signs Following and other groups, primarily in the Appalachians.

of the Lord
(May 28, 2006)
Acts 1:1-11
Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Eph 1:17-23
Mk 16:15-20

Note: Regarding the Ascension of the Lord, the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and the State of Nebraska have retained its celebration on the proper Thursday, while all other provinces have transferred this solemnity to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

The practice ebbs and flows but never quite dies out - despite the fact that it's been outlawed since the mid 1940s.

Adherents base their belief on a literal interpretation of Mark 16, where Jesus seems to be promising that He'll protect His disciples from snakes, among other things.

If I pass up a chance to caress a cobra, does that mean I lack faith in Him?

And shouldn't I be able to cast out demons, heal the sick, speak in tongues, and drink poison, too?

Literal interpretation of the Bible can get us into all kinds of trouble, and we avoid it most of the time. If a woman is "caught in adultery" - the term seems quaint these days - we don't stone her to death, for instance, at least not with the approval of the church.

But if we start saying the Bible means exactly what it says sometimes but is only being symbolic or allegorical other times, how do we know which is which?

Right after Mark tells us about the snakes, he describes Jesus being "taken up into heaven." Is that just an allegory, too, or do we believe in the literal resurrection of Christ?

The Bible can be as difficult to untangle as the instructions for a DVD player.

Reflection questions

• Are there passages in the Bible that trouble you?

• Do you make time to reflect and pray on those Scriptures?

There are specific, clear instructions. See particularly the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. But it's much more than a user's guide. It's parable and poetry, history and allegory, invective and divine inspiration. We're to read, mark, and inwardly digest Scripture and put ourselves in a place to hear it proclaimed at least once a week.

I don't plan on wrestling with any snakes, but I do intend to spend the rest of my life wrestling with Scripture and asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand it.

Marshall Cook teaches writing for the UW-Division of Continuing Studies and is a novelist.

St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org

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Employed in the Spirit: Using God's gifts

photo of Matt Nicolai

Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Matt Nicolai 

As we celebrate the glorious feast of Pentecost, the readings remind us of God's gift of the Holy Spirit as well as the variety of forms in which it can manifest itself in the lives of people.

St. Paul informs the Corinthians that "there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord."

Unfortunately, in my own human frailty, I, on occasion, see this as a problem in my life rather than a blessing. Such a generous and widely arrayed set of gifts means that when I actively or passively do not want to give generously of my time or do the work of God, I cannot say it is because God has not given me any gifts with which to serve Him and serve others.

Pentecost Sunday
(June 4, 2006)
Acts 2:1-11
Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
Jn 20:19-23

At these times when I looked at God's call as an obstacle to my plans and desires, I perceived his gifts as burdens that I had to carry around.

While we all have a call, and thus if I may be so bold to theorize, an obligation to both employ our spiritual gifts and render service unto others, we should not grudgingly shoulder the spiritual weight, complaining all the way.

Rather, we ought to look to the words of St. Paul in the second reading when he informs the Corinthians, "to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit." God gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit for a benefit, not a detriment.

Moreover, we should not become hung up on how many gifts of the Holy Spirit we receive compared to our neighbor. God confers the gifts accordingly to everyone but not in such a way that everyone receives all the same gifts in the same amount.

Despite the fact that this could be viewed as unfair on God's part, instead it ought to be viewed as God placing gifts in people in such a way that the greatest amount of good can arise from the pairing.

Even amongst the saints this circumstance can be perceived. St. Vincent de Paul was renowned for his gift of loving charity, not for speaking in tongues. St. Augustine was renowned for his gift of knowledge of theology, not miraculous healing abilities.

Reflection questions

• Am I more concerned with receiving spiritual gifts rather than giving of them?

• Am I using God's gifts to benefit myself above others?

Nonetheless we admire and honor them for how they so wonderfully employed the gifts they did receive for the sake of others. We do not pity them as being unfortunate for not having all or even most of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Accordingly, during this Pentecost I pray that we would all seek to recognize God's generosity with the Holy Spirit towards each of us and earnestly seek to utilize whatever spiritual gift(s) we have for a benefit to others.

Matt Nicolai is a recent graduate of UW-Madison with a Bachelor's Degree in Religious Studies. He worked and volunteered at St. Paul's for most of his college years. He currently volunteers as part of St. Paul 's high school retreat team.

St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org

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Faith Alive!

Faith Alive! logo

In a Nutshell

  • Though a definition for the word "family" is elusive, a family is an organism of interdependent parts.

  • The themes that run through disturbed family relationships are similar: indifference, anger, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, betrayals, provocations, resentments, depression, deflated egos and disenchantment.

  • When families experience anguish or apathy at home, they likely need to improve communication styles, correct misperceptions, introduce forgiveness and establish hopefulness.

    Catholic News Service
    3211 Fourth St NE
    Washington DC 20017
  •  Food for Thought
    When people are angry, their anger often dominates their thoughts. When disappointed, their disappointment --and those who disappointed them -- can dominate their waking moments. Ditto for serious frustration.

    If this happens at home, walls go up between family members; communication is strained. Family members talk "at" each other, but the occasions they talk "with" each other dwindle.

    These walls dividing husbands from wives and parents from children spell trouble. With such walls in place, family members may feel hopeless, saying such things as: "He (she) will never care what I think," or "The situation is impossible."

    It's hard to be happy without hope.

    full story

    When families hurt
    By Father Richard Rice, SJ

    Catholic News Service

    Consider the following family dilemma: When five siblings split over their folks' inheritance, the family began shaking wildly in the wind. Four blamed the fifth for the split. When that one, the executor, showed the others how he had divided the money, three of them were able to reconcile with him. The other went into a depression, angry at himself for being so harsh with his brother.

    The four siblings worked hard not to fall into the fifth one's pit of depression. They held together while caring for their brother. Eventually, with the help of a therapist and medication, and especially with the help of four loving, forgiving siblings, he was able to climb out of the hole.

    full story 

    Inviting a "stranger" into family matters
    By Frederic F. Flach, MD

    Catholic News Service

    It disheartens me that many families live in debilitating turmoil and either are not aware of their plight or remain unmotivated to do anything about it. This is disheartening because so much can be done if only family members acknowledge the situation and act.

    Families may successfully reach out to close friends, but frequently it is best to turn to a stranger. T.S. Eliot's psychiatrist in his play "The Cocktail Party" remarks to one of his guests-turned-client: "To invite the stranger is to invite the unexpected." It is this "unexpected" that can turn an otherwise deteriorating situation around.

    full story 

    When a family seeks my help
    By Father David K. O'Rourke, OP

    Catholic News Service

    Because I was trained and licensed as a counselor many years ago during my early years as a priest, many families have sought my help at times of trouble. In the course of helping folks, I've learned a few lessons.

    All families are different. Nonetheless, the lessons I've learned seem to help across the board. I'll mention just four. Two are basic observations, and two are guidelines.

    full story

    Faith Alive! logo
     Faith in the Marketplace
    This Week's Discussion Point:

    What concrete step(s) did your family -- or a family you know of -- take to "re-create" itself, to become stronger?

      Selected Response From Readers:  
    Copyright © 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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    This week's readings

    Week of May 28 - June 3, 2006

    Sunday, May 28, 2006
    Ascension of the Lord
    Reading I: Acts 1:1-11
    Reading II: Eph 1:17-23
    Gospel: Mk 16:15-20
    Note: Regarding the Ascension of the Lord, the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and the State of Nebraska have retained its celebration on the proper Thursday, while all other provinces have transferred this solemnity to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

    Monday, May 29, 2006
    Reading I: Acts 19:1-8
    Gospel: Jn 16:29-33

    Tuesday, May 30, 2006
    Reading I: Acts 20:17-27
    Gospel: Jn 17:1-11a

    Wednesday, May 31, 2006
    Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
    Reading I: Zep 3:14-18a or Rom 12:9-16
    Gospel: Lk 1:39-56

    Thursday, June 1, 2006
    Memorial of Saint Justin, martyr
    Reading I: Acts 22:30; 23:6-11
    Gospel: Jn 17:20-26

    Friday, June 2, 2006
    Reading I: Acts 25:13b-21
    Gospel: Jn 21:15-19

    Saturday, June 3, 2006
    Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions, martyrs
    Reading I: Acts 28:16-20, 30-31
    Gospel: Jn 21:20-25

    Saturday, June 3, 2006
    Pentecost Sunday At the Vigil Mass
    Reading I: Gn 11:1-9 or Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b or Ez 37:1-14 or Jl 3:1-5
    Reading II: Rom 8:22-27
    Gospel: Jn 7:37-39

    This week's readings

    Week of June 4 - 10, 2006

    Sunday, June 4, 2006
    Pentecost Sunday Mass during the Day
    Reading I: Acts 2:1-11
    Reading II: 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Gal 5:16-25
    Gospel: Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15

    Monday, June 5, 2006
    Memorial of Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr
    Reading I: 2 Pt 1:2-7
    Gospel: Mk 12:1-12

    Tuesday, June 6, 2006
    Reading I: 2 Pt 3:12-15a, 17-18
    Gospel: Mk 12:13-17

    Wednesday, June 7, 2006
    Reading I: 2 Tim 1:1-3, 6-12
    Gospel: Mk 12:18-27

    Thursday, June 8, 2006
    Reading I: 2 Tm 2:8-15
    Gospel: Mk 12:28-34

    Friday, June 9, 2006
    Reading I: 2 Tm 3:10-17
    Gospel: Mk 12:35-37

    Saturday, June 10, 2006
    Reading I: 2 Tm 4:1-8
    Gospel: Mk 12:38-44

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    June General Intention

    Christian families. That Christian families may lovingly welcome every child who comes into existence and surround the sick and the aged with affection.

    June Mission Intention

    Inter-religious dialogue and inculturation. That the Pastors and the Christian faithful may consider inter-religious dialogue and the work of inculturation of the Gospel as a daily service to promote the cause of the evangelization of Peoples.

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    Prayer for St. Raphael Cathedral

    O God,
    Whose word is like fire,
    who spoke to Your servant Moses in the burning bush;
    who led Your people Israel out of bondage
          with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night:
    hear Your people as we call upon You
    in both need and gratitude.

    May the Cathedral fire purify Your Church
    in the Diocese of Madison
    so that our hearts may burn with the knowledge
          that Your Church is built upon the bedrock
    of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

    Through the intercession of Saint Raphael,
          Your messenger of healing,
    in union with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,
    and with our Bishop, Robert C. Morlino,
    may we find comfort in our affliction
    and the courage to proclaim
          the Good News of Jesus Christ,
    who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
    one God forever and ever.


    For more prayer resources visit the Office of Worship's Web page at www.straphael.org/~office_of_worship/
    (Click on the link on the main page.)

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    Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
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