Sunday Scriptures: Biblical Inspiration

2-tim-3-16“Sunday Scriptures” is a series of posts explaining the Sunday Mass readings – helpful for those preparing to worship, or preparing a homily! 

What does the Church mean when she says that the Bible is the “inspired” Word of God?

In this Sunday’s second reading, we read the following, as Saint Paul writes to his young protege, the bishop Timothy:

Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage, through all patience and teaching.

– 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

The important phrase to note is: “All Scripture is inspired by God”. The New Testament was, of course, originally written in Greek. The Greek word that is translated as “inspired” in our English new Testament is the word theopneustos. This word, in turn, is really made up of two other words: Theos, which means “God”, and pneu, which means “to breathe”. Thus, theopneustos literally means, “God-breathed”, and this is what is meant by the English word “inspired”.

In the first book of the Bible, we read that God “breathed” his life into Adam (Genesis 2:7), making him a “living soul”. This gave Adam participation in God’s life. This is related to Scripture, because divine inspiration is very much like divine respiration in Adam’s case – what is very human becomes filled with the life of God. The human words of the Bible are filled with the life and message of God.

Further, the word for “breath” in Hebrew (ruah) is the same word used for God’s Holy Spirit. When we are dealing with the “God-breathed” (inspired) Word of God, that means that God the Holy Spirit is the principal author of Scripture. The human beings who actually wrote the 73 books that collectively make up the Scriptures are called the instrumental authors of Scripture (Saint Paul, for example). They were the means, the instruments God used. These authors did not go into a trance when they wrote. They used their personal freedom, intelligence, education, cultural background, and personalities when they composed the sacred Scriptures. But God superintended the process in a providential manner, ensuring that what he wanted to communicate to us in human language made it into the Bible.

Our Lady of the Rosary and the Battle of Lepanto

battle-of-lepanto-oct-7-1571Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Why is celebrated today, October 7? It was on this day, in 1571, that a battle was fought that changed the very course of history. Christianity was saved from certain destruction in the West.

Christopher Check, writing for Catholic Answers Magazine:

1571, the year of the battle of Lepanto, the most important naval contest in human history, is not well known to Americans. October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrates the victory at Lepanto, the battle that saved the Christian West from defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

Providentially, God had raised up exactly the right Pope to lead the Church at this critical moment in her history:

Then God intervened and sent one of history’s greatest popes, St. Pius V, who declared, “I am taking up arms against the Turks, but the only thing that can help me is the prayers of priests of pure life.” Michael Ghislieri, an aged Dominican priest when he ascended the Chair of Peter, faced two foes: Protestantism and Islam. He was up to the task. He had served as Grand Inquisitor, and the austerity of his private mortifications was a contrast to the lifestyles of his Renaissance predecessors. During his six-year reign, he promulgated the Council of Trent, published the works of Thomas Aquinas, issued the Roman Catechism and a new missal and breviary, created twenty-one cardinals, excommunicated Queen Elizabeth, and, aided by St. Charles Borromeo, led the reform of a soft and degenerate clergy and episcopacy.

Check vividly describes the events leading up to the incredible battle at sea, which puts old Errol Flynn flicks like The Sea Hawk or Captain Blood to shame! Read it, and say a rosary in thanksgiving for Our Lady’s powerful intercession.

St Francis of Assisi v Martin Luther


Not quite Batman v Superman – but actually, it kinda is! Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent had different ways of attacking the same problem. St Francis (whom Jesus commanded to “rebuild” his Church) and Luther had very divergent approaches to reform.

Taylor Marshall, writing on this feast day of St Francis:

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best examples of patience in the cause of reform. When St Francis went to Rome to seek recognition from the Pope, the Pope dismissed him impatiently and told him to go “lie down with the pigs.”

After a little while, Francis returned smeared with swine feces and stinking to high heaven. When the Pope objected, Francis answered, “I obeyed your words and merely did as you said. I lay down with the pigs.” Suddenly the Pope realized that this was a holy man who was willing to obey even in the face of humiliation. The Pope listened to Francis’ vision for renewal and the rest is history.

When rebuffed by the pope, Saint Francis could have appealed to Sacred Scripture, showing this his pattern of life was poor and lowly like that of Christ. He might even have contrasted his own “biblical life” against the extravagance of the Papal court. Francis may even have rightly rebuked the abbots, bishops, and cardinals for lacking evangelical witness. Instead, Francis followed the path of Christ. He allowed himself to be misunderstood and maligned, knowing that God would bring about his vindication…and God always does.

Contrast Saint Francis to Martin Luther. Luther did not visit Rome for confirmation of his cause, nor did he respect the structures of the Church. In fact, Cardinal Cajetan met privately with Luther and explained how Luther might modify his message so that Cajetan could have it approved by the Roman Curia. If Luther had moved more slowly and charitably, he may have become “Saint” Martin Luther.

Evocative story about St Francis, to say the least. Lots more in the original post.

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The Cathedral and the “Kathedra”

"Cathedra" at St Michael'sSaint Michael’s Cathedral was rededicated last night – September 29, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel (patron saint of the Archdiocese). The word cathedral comes from the Greek word kathedra, which means “seat or elevated throne”. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus uses this word when he says that the Scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ “seat” (kathedra). The kathedra symbolized teaching authority. It was a common practice for Jewish rabbis to sit down while teaching, a practice which Jesus himself took up numerous times in the Gospels.

This image of the “seat of Moses” was transferred over to the Church from Judaism, because the Church is the fulfilment of Judaism; it is Judaism with the Messiah having come. Jesus passed his teaching authority to the apostles, who in turn passed their teaching to their successors, known as the bishops. The “cathedral” became known as the mother church of a diocese or archdiocese, because it contained the chair of the bishop.

Every parish church also contains a chair of this sort, which rightfully belongs to the bishop. But, since the bishop cannot physically be in each parish of his diocese to celebrate Mass every Sunday, he delegates some of his powers to men known as presbyters, or priests. When a bishop visits a local parish, the parish pastor must give way – and give his seat up – to the bishop.

A side note: many ask, “Why do parish churches and cathedrals need to be ‘dedicated’ in the first place?” The reason that these buildings are dedicated (or re-dedicated after being rebuilt, as is the case with St Michael’s) is that they’re truly “houses of the holy” (with apologies to Led Zeppelin). They are consecrated, or “set apart” for sacred use. Worship facilities belonging to many non-Catholic groups are often treated like multipurpose community centres. But a Catholic parish or cathedral is not just any building; it is the very house of God. Why? Because Jesus Christ, in his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle.

Was Jesus being cruel here?

Ossuaries on the

In today’s Gospel reading at Mass we hear about three would-be followers of Jesus:

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

– Luke 9:57-62

What troubles many readers is that Jesus seems especially harsh towards the second man, whose father has passed away. Of course, we know that elsewhere, Jesus stressed the importance of a “God-first” lifestyle – that God must come before family. “Whoever loves father and mother…son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37). Jesus is not implying that we should not love family – of course we should! But we must love God above all. In fact, only by using this “top-down” approach can we love people as they should be loved in God. Thomas More, a great family man and martyr, knew this full well.

But Jesus appears to many people to be going completely over-the-top in today’s Gospel. Most people read this passage as understating the extreme urgency of following Jesus, no matter what is going on in one’s life. when Jesus calls, you jump up. You follow. But, is Jesus seriously implying that this man should not care for his father in his final hours, and be present for his proper burial? Is Jesus being cruel here?

In a word: no! Far from it. You see, in all likelihood, the man’s father was already dead, and had been for quite some time. The Jews in Jesus’ time practiced what is known as secondary burial. After the deceased had been buried, one year later the family would return to the tomb and collect the bones (the flesh had decomposed by this point). The bones would then be placed in what is known as an ossuary (literally, a “bone-box”) and placed in a niche in the family tomb.

At the time Jesus called this man to be a disciple, he was probably making preparations for the re-interment of his father’s remains – a task that, while important, could have been undertaken by others. If the man’s father had still been on his deathbed, no doubt Jesus would have wanted him to be cared for. But, given that he was already dead, and given who Jesus is – and the criticality of his mission – it is a lot more understandable in this instance why Jesus would call him.

What do you think? Has this passage ever confused you? Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and discuss!

Saint Monica: Mother of Augustine, the Child of Her Tears


MonicaToday is the feast day of Saint Monica, who died on this day in 387 AD. She is most well-known for her tireless prayers on behalf of her more famous son, Saint Augustine. As anyone who knows his story (chronicled in his still-bestselling Confessions) knows, ol’ “Gus” was a world-class sinner before God transformed him into one of the greatest saints in history.

Monica had to wait many years to witness the conversions of both her son and her husband, who was a pagan. Eventually she lived to see them both baptized, which probably had to be seen to be believed!

At every conference and speaking engagement I have, at least one parent or grandparent (there are often many more) will ask me how they can best help their children and grandchildren who have fallen away from the Catholic faith. There are many “Monicas” out there today, perhaps more than at any other time in the Church’s history. And there are many practical strategies for these people. In fact, that’s what our Search and Rescue Conference this year was all about! But no technique will be effective in any way without prayer.

One could really say that Monica bore Augustine twice; once physically, and also spiritually. In Augustine’s “second birth”, he was most certainly the child of Monica’s tears. Augustine’s conversion offers much hope to anyone praying for a loved one gone astray. We must remember that our Lord loves these lost souls (and each one of us) more than all the mothers in the world love their children, and that he desires their salvation far more than we can imagine – even to the point of sending his own Son to die, that we may become part of his worldwide (Catholic) family for all eternity.

You may also like: Two “Familiar” Saints

Thank You, Catholic Answers!

Cale at CA Desk


On Tuesday, I guest hosted Catholic Answers Live in San Diego. This organization was pivotal in my own personal journey “home to Rome”, as it were, so it was very special indeed for me to be on the air alongside Karl Keating, founder of CA, and Tim Staples, Director of Apologetics.

In case you missed it, the show is now posted in their archive. Give it a listen!

For Part 1 (with guest Karl Keating, Founder of Catholic Answers), click here.

For Part 2 (with Tim Staples, Director of Apologetics at CA), click here.

Many thanks to Darin DeLozier (Director of Radio), Christopher Check (President of CA), and the rest of the world-class team at Catholic Answers for so hospitably hosting me! My only regret? Not bringing my high-tops, so I could hoop it up in the legendary lunchtime staff pickup basketball games.

I, along with my deadly outside jumper, will be ready next time…and all of us, at all times, need to be ready to offer an answer for the hope that we have (cf. 1 Peter 3:15 ). Catholic Answers helps us to do just that.

The Cure for Pokemon Go (and Other E-Slaveries)

2016719-poke7My family and I had just spent a great day on Toronto’s Centre Island last week. We had just stepped off the boat that had taken us back to the harbourfront downtown, when we were confronted by about 2,000 Pokemon Go players, standing around in their virtual world, trying to catch a few more pocket monsters. Most of them were oblivious to the actual people trying to get by them and get home.

Now, the Pokemon Go craze, despite people falling off cliffs and driving off roads while playing, isn’t all bad, I guess. It does get some couch potatoes out of the house and (partially) into the real world. There’s an aspect of cameraderie to it, too. It’s a way to meet new people. But, as I walked by the hordes of folks staring at their screens, completely oblivious to the gorgeous full moon, our breathtaking city skyline on a summer night, or any of the people around them – in short, actual reality. I was reminded of a great article by Christopher Check, President of Catholic Answers, about the “e-slavery”, as he calls it, of our times.

Writing in Catholic Answers Magazine, Check notes, speaking of modern smartphones and other gadgets:

These devices and systems too often deliver, like the contraceptive, the opposite of what they promise. They promise freedom but create dependence. Rather than strengthening human relationships, they make them more trivial and more abstract. They addict us to novelty. Far from making the truth easier to uncover, they make the truth harder to discern. Worst of all, they are obstacles to our relationship with the divine.

The personal, social, cultural, and spiritual costs of living in the Age of Technology are interrelated, and they demand more analysis than a single article can offer, but the reflections of G.K. Chesterton on the technology of his own day provide an excellent point of departure for reconsidering what we have so uncritically welcomed into our lives.

Later, Check comments on a great quote from Chesterton, who, ironically, would have been incredible on Twitter (the platform seems tailor-made for his witty one-liners):

“It is the beginning of all true criticism of our time to realize that it has really nothing to say, at the very moment when it has invented so tremendous a trumpet for saying it” (G.K. Chesterton, “The Proper View of Machines,” Illustrated London News, February 10, 1923).

Not only are our conversations rendered more trivial as we make more use of these devices, but our relationships are similarly rendered more abstract. Face-to-face conversation gave way to telephone chats, which have been replaced by e-mail messages and text shorthand. Hiding behind avatars—which is really nothing more than lying—chat-room and Web-forum members imagine they are building friendships with one another, as they recycle URLs and trade meaningless one-liners.

Check goes on to detail how tech, as incredible and beneficial as it is to our lives, can have deleterious effects on society and on human relationships – even our relationship with God. Do yourself a favour and “check” it out. I’d say pun intended, but let’s face it – puns are always intended!