Discovery Faith Study Leader Guide
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×
 

Discovery Faith Study Leader Guide

on

  • 765 views

Discovery leads you through a simple but personally challenging look at the Gospel message. With this study, participants learn about God's love and the effect of sin. They discover who Jesus really ...

Discovery leads you through a simple but personally challenging look at the Gospel message. With this study, participants learn about God's love and the effect of sin. They discover who Jesus really is, and what it means that He died for us. The study finishes by extending an invitation to follow Christ, and prepares the participants for the next study.

Statistics

Views

Total Views
765
Views on SlideShare
765
Embed Views
0

Actions

Likes
0
Downloads
2
Comments
0

0 Embeds 0

No embeds

Accessibility

Categories

Upload Details

Uploaded via as Adobe PDF

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Processing…
Post Comment
Edit your comment

Discovery Faith Study Leader Guide Discovery Faith Study Leader Guide Document Transcript

  • 2
  • Discovery Leader Guide Created and published by Catholic Christian Outreach Canada. Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. Nihil Obstat: Patrick Fletcher, Ph.D. Censor Deputatus Imprimatur: +Terrence Prendergast, S.J. Archbishop of Ottawa May 1, 2011 Divine Mercy Sunday - Day of Pope John Paul II's Beatification No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Catholic Christian Outreach Canada. 1247 Kilborn Place Ottawa, ON K1H 6K9 Canada Phone: 613-736-1999 Fax: 613-736-1800 hq@cco.ca www.cco.ca Printed in Canada. 3
  • The cover image chosen for Discovery is a sunrise. It represents our desire for the person and presence of Jesus to be unveiled and discovered in the hearts of all. This faith study participates in the mission of St. John the Baptist: 'And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.' Luke 1:76-79 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 Image © Darko Novakovic 2009 Cover Design © Chris Pecora 2011 4
  • 5
  • Excerpts from the Documents of the II Vatican Council, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Message of his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on World Mission Sunday 2010, Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Redemptoris Missio, and Verbum Domini used with permission from Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The excerpt in Lesson 5 regarding Peter Kreeft at Boston College is used with permission from Peter Kreeft, May 2002. St. Anselm of Canterbury, Meditatio Redemptionis Humanae, [A Meditation on Human Redemption, p. 422 of The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury, translated by Jasper Hopkins, Ph.D., and Herbert Richardson, Th.D.] Used with permission. The quotation reprinted from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa is taken from The Word Among Us, May 1996. Used with permission. Visit The Word Among Us online at www.wau.org or call 1-800-775-Word. Excerpts from Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs by Alan Schreck are copyright © 1984, 2004 by Alan Schreck and used with permission of Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio. Catholic and Christian by Alan Schreck can be purchased at bookstores, Amazon.com, or by contacting St. Anthony Messenger Press at 1-800-488-0488. Excerpt from Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue, translation and introduction by Suzanne Noffke, O.P. Copyright © 1980 by The Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle in the State of New York. Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com Fr. Bob Bedard, CC (founder), quoted with permission from Companions of the Cross. All rights reserved. Excerpts from Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, courtesy of Project Gutenberg; translation: Isabel F. Hapgood, 1887. Public Domain. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. VII - Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen. Translated by Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. 1893. Public Domain 6
  • Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1989, 1993 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations identified as (RSV-CE) are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible—Second Catholic Edition (Ignatius Edition). Copyright © 2006 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used with permission. All rights reserved. 7
  • 8
  • To St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier who longed for the name of Jesus to be proclaimed and exalted the world over. 9
  • 10
  • Table of Contents Faith Study Objectives 12 Leading a Faith Study 15 Lesson 1 – God's Love 22 God knows and love us personally. Lesson 2 – Love’s Initiative 29 The Father takes the initiative to reconcile our relationship with him. Lesson 3 – Jesus Christ — Our Lord 42 Jesus of Nazareth is truly God. Lesson 4 – Jesus Christ — Our Saviour 51 Jesus saves us from our sins through his passion, death and resurrection. Lesson 5 – The Universal Call — Personally Yours 61 We are invited to receive the gift of salvation and live a new relationship with God. Lesson 6 – Going From Here 72 A relationship with God is not an achievement of perfection. It is rather the context in which we receive God’s help and mercy in our daily lives. Appendix 80 Discovery Follow-Up 92 An opportunity to review the relationships diagram with each participant, and encourage a habit of daily prayer. Living it Out Cards 99 11
  • Faith Study Objectives 1. CCO General Goals Proclaim / Equip / Commission. To bring people to Christ, build them up as Catholic Christians, and send them out to reach others. 2. The Objectives of CCO Small Group Faith Studies  For students to hear spiritual truths.  For students to hear the truth about Jesus and be introduced to him.  For students to make Christian friends and be drawn into a Christian community.  To provide a means to get students involved with activities in CCO, their parish, their diocese and the universal Church.  For students to grow in their understanding and love of the Catholic Church, especially the sacraments.  For students to encounter the love, forgiveness and salvation offered in Christ Jesus, and to have a deep and lasting “metanoia” (conversion of heart and life).  For students to learn transferable concepts which enable them to transmit the truths they learn to others.  To equip students for future leadership. 3. Goals of Each Thematic Study CCO has formulated five small group thematic faith studies: Discovery, Source, Growth, Obedience and Commission. These are faith studies, not Bible studies in a pure sense (i.e. the study of long passages of Scripture in their context). CCO studies look at particular Scripture passages and other Church documents as they relate to certain topics or themes (e.g. prayer, the love of God, the Holy Spirit). The studies do not attempt to teach comprehensive theology. They are simply meant to (re)introduce students to the basics of the Catholic faith, challenging them to greater holiness by means of group discussion. Leaders should understand the purpose of the studies: what they teach, how they complement each other, and the objectives of each lesson. Small group sessions should be purposeful (for example, we want to avoid spending hours looking up verses that may quickly be forgotten). Adhering to the objectives of each lesson will help us to successfully pass on their content. Discovery – Evangelization. The first four lessons of this study introduce the basic concepts of Christian faith. In the fifth lesson, participants are invited to make a commitment to Christ. The sixth lesson aims to help them better grasp that commitment. 12
  • Source – Holy Spirit. This study looks at the Holy Spirit's vital role in our lives, which is to empower and direct us to be holy, and teach us to overcome our sinfulness. Growth – Daily Christian Growth. This study explores the living out of a commitment to Christ. It explains the essential components of the Christian life (prayer, Scripture, sacraments, fellowship, service and witness). Obedience – Lordship. The focus of this study is obedience to the Lord in various aspects of life (speech habits, sexuality, hardships, Church teachings, etc). Commission – Missionary Identity. This study explores the Church’s deepest identity, which is her missionary character. Truths and principles about evangelization and discipleship that CCO has learned over the years are examined. 4. Discovery Goals Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. CCC 161 If you glance through the six lessons and their goals in the table of contents, you will notice that they present the “kerygma” (or the basic four-point Gospel message): 1. God is love and created us for relationship with him. 2. That relationship has been broken though sin. 3. Jesus exclusively restores that relationship through his death and resurrection. 4. We are all personally invited to accept this gift of salvation. The reality today is that many Catholics need to be re-evangelized; to hear the Good News explained in a clear and simple way to which they can respond. Many of our participants first received the gift of salvation at their Baptism through the faith of their parents. They are invited to make that faith their own. While we have received baptism in the church, the church gave it in the hope that at some point in our adult life we would confirm our “I believe” in a personal, free act of faith. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, (Preacher to the papal household) The Word Among Us, May 1996 13
  • [S]ome Catholics have neglected the importance of this conscious, personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Catholics sometimes assume that persons who are baptized, attend Mass, and receive the sacraments regularly have obviously accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of their lives.... This is often not the case, many Catholics have not yet made a deliberate, adult decision to believe in Jesus Christ and give their lives fully to him. Dr. Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian, p. 25 The fifth lesson of Discovery is KEY! During this lesson, participants will have an opportunity to invite Jesus into their lives. Be sure to practice explaining the relationships diagram well before you lead this lesson. Intercessory prayer is important as you embark on this lesson. The "24-7 Prayer Initiative" has been set up through CCO's website for this purpose. At the end of the lesson, you will invite each participant to meet with you for a follow-up. The appendix at the back of the leader guide includes the follow-up materials to help you explain the relationships diagram and clarify typical misunderstandings in order to help participants respond to God's invitation to deeper intimacy. 5. Beginning at Discovery Why is everyone asked to go through “the basics” of Discovery, even if they have a mature faith? First of all, we cannot assume that a person has had the opportunity to make a “decision for Christ”. Sometimes people we assume are already in a personal relationship with Christ are actually unsure about how to enter this kind of relationship. Once they learn how, they find greater joy in their new and fulfilling walk with the Lord. Secondly, CCO is a training ministry. Even though a mature Christian may know the material presented, he/she may not be able to clearly explain the Gospel message to someone else, or teach someone which Scripture verses show the divinity of Christ. By following Discovery, students have an opportunity to learn how to share their faith clearly and simply. Lastly, those who would eventually serve as faith study leaders should go through the material before they teach it. 14
  • Leading a Faith Study A. Qualities of a Faith Study Leader Faith study leaders should be: F A C T (Faithful, Available, Contagious and Teachable). They agree to chaste conduct, daily prayer, committed attendance at their parish and dedication to whatever their primary vocation is. (For example, students should be diligent in their academics). They must be: a) Faithful:  To the Lord  To personal holiness (prayer, Mass, discipleship, etc.)  To Church teachings  To a parish – faithfully attending Mass every Sunday  To the call of evangelization b) Available:  Diligently prepare each lesson  Spend time with group members c) Contagious:  Welcoming, affirming  Authentic witness of a vibrant relationship with God  Strive to identify with those to whom they minister  Enjoy and delight in each group member d) Teachable:  In the areas of personal holiness, ministry, character, involvement  Willing to grow in faith (prayer, reading, conferences, retreats)  Able to accept constructive criticism B. How to Lead a Faith Study 1. Phone Contact  As you are dialling, say a brief prayer for each person.  Identify yourself and how you know the person, or received their contact information.  Confirm the time and place of the small group meeting.  Make sure each person knows where to find the meeting room, or...  Plan somewhere obvious to meet so that you can lead your group to the meeting room.  Let them know that every week they should bring a Bible to the group, preferably with an Old Testament. If anyone doesn't have a Bible, ask a CCO staff member if there are extra Bibles available for small groups. 15
  • 2. Preparation a) Personal Prayer  Leaders should have a consistent personal prayer life (with daily prayer time).  Leaders should be reading Scripture on a regular or daily basis.  Leaders should faithfully attend Mass every Sunday. b) Intercession  Intercede specifically for each participant.  Pray for one student each day.  Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts and minds of the participants.  Pray the rosary, offering a decade or a Hail Mary for each member. c) Prepare  Review the faith study as a whole and the lesson to be led.  Have The Catechism of the Catholic Church handy for reference, as per preparation notes. The index in the back of the CCC is the best way to search for information.  Call a CCO staff member or student leader for guidance if necessary.  Note which part(s) of the study are most important and which could be covered more quickly.  The answers provided are intended as a guide and sometimes contain more information than is required. Use as needed.  These studies are tools that you use, not just studies that you lead. Make the content your own. Share your relationship with God and your personal faith journey. 3. Logistics for Your First Meeting  Meet your group members but do not wait too long — 10 minutes after the starting time, go to the study location.  Have everyone introduce themselves, then hand out the studies and go over logistics.  You will need to collect money from each small group member to cover study guide costs. Please forward this money to CCO student executive members (as applies).  Give participants your phone number.  Explain that you are committed to this study time and ask the group to make the same commitment for the semester. This commitment is important because the lessons build on one another. Ask them to let you know if they cannot make it to a meeting. 16
  • 4. Components of a Faith Study a) Casual sharing  Start the small group meeting in an atmosphere of fun and sharing.  Discuss how the group implemented the study challenges that week. b) Announcements  Make announcements at the beginning of each lesson. If you only make announcements at the end of the lesson, many will be rushing off to class and will not take proper note of the upcoming events. c) Prayer  Open the faith study with prayer. d) Recap last week’s study e) Overview of this week’s study  This helps participants focus on the topic. f) Go through the study material  Summarize each section as you go, so participants understand the direction of the lesson. This avoids a verse-by-verse checklist approach. g) Closing comments  Summarize clearly and concisely the points the group has discovered.  Go over the challenge/homework. h) Closing prayer  Add any special intentions that have come up during the study.  Time permitting, you could close with 10 minutes of small group prayer. Have each person share a need and pray for the person next to him/her. 5. Helpful Tips a) Set the tone  Be on time for the meeting (arrive early when possible). This sets a good example and shows your commitment to the group.  Greet each member by name. Vary comments, but let each know they are welcome. The sooner you remember their names, the sooner they will feel comfortable with the group. b) Facilitate discussion  A circle without barriers is best for group discussion. If anyone comes in late, make sure he/she is brought into the circle.  Your group may be quiet because they may be concerned that the answers are really "deep" ones. They might not want to give the ‘obvious’ answer for fear that it is too simple to be true. For the most part, the answers are very straightforward. Remind the group of this. 17
  •  Give people time to think after you have asked a question or invited sharing (wait 2-5 seconds before speaking again). Relax. Don't fear silence.  Avoid answering your own questions. Re-word a question if it is unclear.  Sometimes you may want to expand on someone's answer by asking, "What else do you see?" or "What other ways are there?" or "Does anyone else have anything to add?"  Do not struggle to get participants to say exactly what you think is the right answer. Better to let a few questionable responses go by than to discourage people from talking. However, if it is a matter of basic truth or the answer is wide of your aim, say something like, "That's an interesting point of view. Does anyone else have a thought about this?" To avoid confusion sum up briefly, "I appreciate your sharing. I guess my thoughts are... because..."  Acknowledge each person's answer. Let him/her know (verbally and non-verbally) that you are listening and that you appreciate the contribution. If necessary, ask questions like "could you explain more?" Be natural in your response. If someone brings up something new to you, say so ("I hadn't seen that before. Thanks for pointing that out.").  If someone talks too much, try saying, "Let's hear from someone who hasn't had a chance to comment yet."  If someone is barely talking in the study, ask him/her to read aloud certain sections of the faith study or Scriptures so that he/she can participate verbally in the group.  Direct a question at an individual to draw out timid participants. It is a good idea to direct easy questions their way to build their confidence in speaking out.  You can also use this technique (of asking specific people to answer questions) to allow other voices to join in when there are individuals monopolizing the discussion.  Keep the sharing current and personal. Encourage people to share things God has done in their lives that week or during the meeting.  Please be sensitive and welcoming if you have non-Catholics in the group. It would be considerate to prepare them before the study begins, in case they do not want to be in a Catholic program. Assure them that they are most welcome in the group, and that it is in fact an honour to have them join. Be sure they understand that the content will be very Catholic, with quotes from Scripture, popes, saints, and The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Although the material has been written to communicate the Catholic Church's teaching, non-Catholics will probably be pleasantly surprised at how understandable it is. Assure them that you will be sensitive to their situation in the small group discussions. Let them know they can approach you if they have questions. 18
  • c) Pace the study within the time limit  Know the objective of each lesson and communicate it clearly to ensure that people stay on track and do not go off topic. Do not get bogged down in unimportant details; keep the discussion moving.  Be mindful of how much time is left and of how quickly you are progressing through the material. d) Leader's role  The onus is not on the leader to convert the hearts of the students — that job is for the Holy Spirit. The leader’s role is to present the material in an enthusiastic way and to facilitate discussion. Most of the speaking should come from the students.  The leader intercedes quietly in and beyond the study, staying closely connected to the Holy Spirit. The leader recognizes that: No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3b Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 We are not to be concerned with being effective. We are to be faithful, faithful simply to what the Lord has called us to be. What he may want to accomplish through us is his business and known only to him. Father Bob Bedard, CC 6. During the Semester  Plan a social or meal as a celebration/reunion of your study group.  Remember: you are encouraged to book a one-on-one appointment with each member of your study after the fifth lesson.  Intercede for your group, especially as lesson five nears. The spiritual battle in their lives intensifies as you approach the opportunity for deeper commitment to Christ. 19
  • 20
  • Discovery Small Group Information: Time: Place: Leader: Phone Number: Email: Participants: 21
  • Lesson 1 Preparation Notes “God's Love” In Brief: God knows and loves us personally. Key elements:  Many people conceptualize God's love in a vague and distant way.  This lesson shows that God loves us personally. This is the first point about God's love that we look at in Discovery (God’s love is personal, proven, merciful and offered).  God’s love is also secure; it is a refuge for us.  We can love God back in a personal way, relating to him as a friend.  It is important for leaders to be inviting, warm and non-judgmental. This first meeting is vital for making participants feel welcomed and comfortable. 22
  • Lesson 1 God’s Love Christian faith is built upon the love of God. God’s love is the central message of Christianity and the source of our faith. We need to understand God’s love if we are to make sense of anything else the Catholic Church professes. The expression “God loves you” is familiar to many — so familiar, in fact, that we risk forgetting what it means. If we were to ask at a Christian gathering who thinks God loves them, the majority of people would likely raise their hands. One has to wonder, though, do we really know God loves us? Many people think of God’s love in general, vague or detached terms; their experience of it is thus rather thin, shallow and impersonal. Surely, if God is God, his love should give us much more than a vague sense of comfort. It must be more than this. 1. What happens in our hearts when we are loved? How are we affected? Leaders: Ask, “Remember one of your first crushes. How did it affect you?” Let participants share. Wrap up the discussion by saying that our experience of God’s love should also have a deep effect on our lives. Sometimes when we think of God’s love, we imagine a poster in the church basement that shows Jesus surrounded by cute puppies and reads, “Smile, Jesus loves you!” Our depth of understanding or experience of God’s love must not remain at this level; God’s love is so much more than a trite saying on a poster! We hope this study will help participants to grasp the depth of God’s love for them. 23
  • God’s Personal Love God’s love for us is personal, proven, merciful and offered. We will look at these aspects of God’s love throughout this faith study. It is important to understand all of them in order to appreciate the true character of God’s love for us. It can be difficult to believe that God loves us as individuals and knows and cares about our personal lives. The truth is that he knows each of us by name. He knows all the details of our lives, even to the number of hairs on our heads! He loves us and delights in us individually. We need to hear these truths. Leaders: Before starting on this section, divide up the Scripture selections so that someone is prepared to read each passage. 2. Write down what strikes you about God’s personal love in these passages: Jeremiah 29:11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. The Lord has a plan for our lives. He wants what is good for us, and not what will bring us sadness. He can turn what is difficult in our lives to good. Isaiah 49:15-16 Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. He will never forget us. We are engraved on the palm of his hand. We can depend on God. He knows us by name! How amazing it is to have someone, especially someone powerful and famous, know us by name! He knows us personally, not just as a general human being “out there”. 24
  • Psalm 139:1-3 “O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. He understands us completely. We are never outside his protection. This verse shows how the Lord actually knows the details of our lives. Details matter and are important in love. If a six-year old girl shows her father a picture she has drawn, a loving response is to notice all the details and to delight in them. This shows love; a glib “that’s nice” and putting the drawing aside does not communicate love. God knows everything about us. Even the smallest details of our lives matter to him. Leaders: Using the Celebrity Analogy is a good way to wrap up this section: If Mr./Miss Famous (insert name of a popular celebrity) went on TV and said “I love you” to his/her fans, and you ran excitedly to your friend’s house proclaiming that (Mr./Miss Famous) told the world that he/she loves you, your friend would think you are crazy. Now imagine that (Mr./Miss Famous) flew to your city and picked you up at your house. You spend an amazing weekend together, staring into each other's eyes and sharing your hopes and dreams with each other. After returning to Los Angeles he/she appears on TV and tells the world how much he/she loves you (referring to you by name). Now your friends can definitely believe it when you say that (Mr./Miss Famous) loves you personally. For love to be genuine, it has to be directed to us personally. We do not have an unreliable source (such as a poster of Jesus with puppies) to tell us God loves us personally. Scripture, Jesus coming to earth, and the Holy Spirit in our hearts, all tell us we are children of God (Romans 8:15-16). 25
  • God’s Secure Love Leaders: Have everyone look up these verses together. Choose one person to read each passage aloud. 3. Write down the qualities of God’s love expressed in the following passages: John 10:10-15 E.G. verse 11: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Selflessness and security. The good shepherd will not abandon his sheep. He knows his sheep by name and lays down his life for them. There is a strong sense of security in the loving care of a protector who is willing to sacrifice himself. Romans 8:35, 37-39 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. God will always be there for us. Leaders: You could follow up by asking, “What is the only thing that can separate us from God’s love?” Ourselves (our sin) — since we are given free will. 4. How would you describe God’s love in light of these reflections, Scripture verses, and any personal experiences? Leaders: You may get the sense that some participants have a limited faith background and are not sure they understand God’s love. You could then gently ask, “Have you ever had an experience of God’s love?” Sharing your personal experience of God’s love will help to paint the picture for them. 26
  • Our Personal Love for God We may find it hard to believe that God loves us personally. This is perhaps because we relate to him in an impersonal way, thinking of him as a far-away cosmic entity. Because we don’t believe he is personal or accessible, we treat him in a detached and distant kind of way. 5. How would we relate to God if we considered him as a Person (as a close friend)? We can probably all improve on how we relate to God. If we do not consider God to be as real or accessible as a regular person, it is relatively easy to not pray or go to church, especially when something else comes up or distracts us. We would not, however, arbitrarily break appointments with an important person or a close friend, as this would wound our relationship with them. Leaders: You could say, “Imagine what life would be like if God were right here beside you now; how would that change the way you interact with him? What if he were in your classes, with you at home, out with you on dates, etc.?” God really is that close to us! Think of a personal example of how you have grown in this area. Share with the group. Note: The personal application of this question comes up in the challenge below. 6. Read Matthew 18:2-3. How might we relate to God if we approached him with a child-like heart? He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Consider the freedom of children. They are (generally) not inhibited, they touch, go, talk to whomever, wherever. They are trusting. They give and receive love freely. In their innocence, they feel free to access God at any time. 27
  • Summary God’s love for us is very real. Discovery will look at how God's love is personal, proven, merciful and offered. In this first lesson, we have focused on God’s personal love; his care and concern for each human being is central to our Christian faith. We are invited to be secure in his intimate, unchanging, eternal and unconditional love. Living It Out Challenge: Choose one way to relate to God as someone who is personally present in your life. Memorize Jeremiah 29:11: For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 28
  • Lesson 2 Preparation Notes “Love's Initiative” In Brief: The Father takes the initiative to reconcile our relationship with him. Key elements:  We see that God gave human beings free will.  Participants review the story of the fall of Adam and Eve. They look at what sin is, the attitudes behind it and its consequences.  It is important to understand the “bad news” of sin and death in order to grasp and appreciate the Good News offered by Jesus.  Romans 5:6-8 is a pivotal Scripture verse for this lesson: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.  The story of the prodigal son emphasizes that God's love is merciful, proven and offered. Prepare this section well so that you can draw participants into this picture of the Father's love.  The challenge sets up a wonderful opportunity for you to invite group members to go to Mass with you. Begin by asking if anyone does not know where to go to Mass/Mass times. Suggest going to Mass together and then out for coffee/breakfast. Background Information:  Read Genesis chapters 2 and 3 and CCC 385-421 to prepare for this lesson. Original sin refers to the first (or original) sin of our first parents. It was the original sin that led to all the other sins in the world. Original sin also refers to the “sin” that we inherited from them. How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man". By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a 29
  • human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act." CCC 404  Before the fall, all the inclinations, appetites and passions of Adam and Eve were under perfect control of their souls; all the powers of their souls were oriented to God (they loved God, thought of God, and spoke to God). This was called original justice. After the fall, however, they suffered disharmony within themselves. Their bodies (inclinations, passions and appetites) were no longer completely subject to their souls, and their souls were no longer perfectly oriented to God. They experienced separation from God, hardship, sickness, death, a propensity toward sin (concupiscence), and the loss of God’s divine life within themselves. Adam and Eve were separated from God and banished from paradise. The result of original sin in our lives is the same: death (spiritual separation from God), for there is no life apart from God.  But all of us have also sinned on our own, which is called actual sin (the theological term referring to the sins we commit by our actions or in what we fail to do). We cannot place all the blame on Adam and Eve. We choose to sin in what we say, think and do. Questions may arise during the lesson about venial sin and mortal sin. Mortal sin is present when a sin of grave matter is committed with full knowledge and full consent of the will. Look at Eve’s sin. It was a grave matter with full knowledge and full consent of her will. The result was the loss of Divine Life. Venial sin is less serious sin; it does not completely separate us from God’s life in us, but it damages our relationship with him.  Additional information regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: The early Church Fathers have conjectured that, had they matured and perfected the exercise of their freedom, they may have been permitted to eat the fruit of that tree and the tree of life later on. This being He placed [man] in Paradise, having honoured him with the gift of Free Will.... Also He [God] gave him [man] a Law, as a material for his Free Will to act upon. This Law was a Commandment as to what plants he might partake of, and which one he might not touch. This latter was the Tree of Knowledge; not, however, because it was evil from the beginning when planted; nor was it forbidden because God grudged it to us... But it [fruit of the tree] would have been good if partaken of at the proper time St. Gregory Nazianzen Oration 38, XII - On the Theophany or Birthday of Christ Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. VII - Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, p. 349 30
  • Lesson 2 Love’s Initiative 1. Discuss how last week’s challenge went. Last week, we focused on God's personal love for us. He knows our names and every detail of who we are. In today's lesson, we will begin to look at how God’s love is proven, merciful and offered. God’s love is good news for our lives. Before we can truly appreciate this news, however, we must understand why it is so good and why we need it. Love is Offered The Book of Genesis tells us that God created everything in the heavens and the earth out of nothing, and that everything he created was good. The world reflects his beauty, creativity and glory. The crown of his creation was man and woman. In the creation narrative, we are told that in the middle of the garden of Eden there was a tree — the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. This was the only tree in the garden from which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat. We know the rest of the story: Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent and ate the fruit from the tree. This was the original sin. 2. Read Genesis 3:1-7. We learned last week that God's love is unconditional, personal and secure, so there must be a loving reason why he would put one tree in the garden from which Adam and Eve were not to eat. How does this make sense and be consistent with who God is? God in his love, created Adam and Eve. God did not create robots or avatars for Eden — he created human beings in his own image, with free will. Adam and Eve were given the ability to freely choose, to reason, and to love. They were not intimidated, frightened or forced to love or obey God. God created them with the capacity to freely enter and remain in a relationship of trust and love with him. 31
  • Think about this: you can force or manipulate people to do almost anything. Terrible atrocities have occurred because people have been controlled, coerced, oppressed or tormented. Despite all of this, no one can ever be forced to love another. Love can only be love if it is given freely. Did God put the tree in the garden to trip up Adam and Eve? No! He is not a capricious god who was playing games with them. The tree was a test of what they would do with their freedom; it provided them a chance to show that their love for God was greater than their love for created things. They had every reason not to bother with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was a myriad of other species of trees, let alone other vegetation, animals, and the whole beauty of creation to enjoy. And greater than all of this, they enjoyed friendship with God! The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was one small boundary or test of their freedom to choose. Would they love God, and trust his love and his good plan for them? Unfortunately, they doubted it. They chose to second-guess God's intentions, and take it upon themselves, in prideful rebellion, to determine what would give them knowledge, goodness, enjoyment and life. Leaders: If participants are still struggling with why God has rules or commandments, you could let them know that there will be a chance to discuss these themes further in question 5. Or, if you prefer, you could discuss the leader’s content from question 5 at this time: how freedom has boundaries and how a society without laws would find itself in chaos, using the football analogy to illustrate the points. 32
  • An Offer You Can Refuse God’s love is freely offered. We can refuse it. The story of Adam and Eve shows us, however, that refusing God’s love leads to pain. It is a rejection of what will bring us the most joy and fulfillment. 3. What attitudes, beliefs or misconceptions were at the root of Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey? They used their free will to disobey God instead of trusting in him and in his benevolence toward them. This attitude is at the root of much of our own sinfulness too. We fail to trust that God’s providence is truly good and secure. In their desire to have god-like status, Adam and Eve did not consider that they were pursuing it without God and without his consent. They did not think about the fact that they would no longer be in relationship with God. They did not believe that their pursuit of god-like status would in fact leave them separated from God (i.e. God said they would die if they ate of the tree). Another choice they made was to prefer themselves to God. We might call this independence, selfishness or pride — when we choose what we want over what God wants (or over what is best for others). Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s directives, not trusting that his way would lead them to fulfillment. Regrettably, what they found outside of God’s plan was separation, shame and death (Genesis 3). In order to genuinely understand the good God offers, we should take a moment to look at the unfortunate effects that turning away from him (sin) has on our lives. Leaders: The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sin as follows: Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbour …Sin is an offense against God…. Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” CCC 1849,1850 33
  • 4. Read Isaiah 59:2. How does sin affect our relationship with God? Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. If someone hurts or breaks their relationship with us, what happens? We recoil, we are hurt, we “turn our faces away;” it is awkward. A separation is created. This Scripture verse describes how our sin hides God from us. God does not turn his back on us — rather, our sin creates a barrier between us and him. We cannot place all the blame on Adam and Eve. We choose to sin in what we say, do and fail to do. This also encompasses our thoughts, judgments and attitudes towards others. 5. Read Romans 5:12. What is another consequence of sin? Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned. The consequence of sin is death. Sin causes a real problem that is not going to go away by ignoring it. If we do not deal with our sin (weakness or failure), it will forever be a problem. Failure to deal with hurt in a human relationship creates resentments, rifts, walls or wounds; similarly, failure to deal with sin creates barriers between us and God. Leaders: It can sometimes be hard for us to believe that choosing God’s moral design for our lives will bring us fulfillment. The following football analogy might be helpful if your group is struggling with the fact that God gives us “rules or commandments” to follow. Ask, “What happens when we are trying to play a good game of football and some people cheat or break the rules?” Then you are no longer playing football! The behaviour of these players ruins the game for everyone else. People get upset, hurt, injured. It breaks down team unity and spirit. We resent the players that are ruining things. We cannot really win the game because it was not played correctly. It is not satisfying, just or fair for everyone — only those who enjoyed their cheating end up having a good time. Those who break the rules are self-centered and do not care about others on the field, or the integrity and purpose of the game. Eventually people will opt out of playing, and will not want to watch the game because it is not a real competition. 34
  • Why are rules important when playing football? Everyone should understand that a game does not make sense if there are no rules. There is no way to know what you are doing, how it should be done, how to interact with others in the game, how to know whether you are winning or losing. Society cannot exist harmoniously without laws and rules to ensure peace and justice. Try to imagine a game or society without rules. It would be frustrating, chaotic and ridiculous. How can this analogy help us make sense of why God has given us moral rules? The first important thing to understand is that God gave us his commandments to lead us to fulfillment. They exist so that we can be in proper relationship with him, with ourselves and with others. We read last week in Jeremiah 29:11 that God’s plan for us is for our good. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came that “we might have life abundant”. God’s ways bring life. We are free to choose our own path, but the consequences of going outside his rules are similar to the football analogy. Our sinful actions never affect only ourselves — they inevitably hurt others around us. Sin wounds, but following God brings life. Satan told Adam and Eve that they would be like God, and have a better life outside of God’s parameters. This was a lie — the exact opposite of reality. Leaders: You could draw the analogy further by asking, “What are the consequences for those who break the rules of a game and get a penalty?” They get time out of the game (shorter or longer times depending on the situation). They may even get kicked out of the game or suspended for a number of games. Frequent major penalties or misconduct could also ruin their careers. Sin also has consequences. Sometimes these consequences can seem like minor setbacks or inconveniences, but more serious sins will always have devastating results. The gravest consequence of sin is eternal separation from God. 35
  • Love is Proven When we turn away from God’s commandments and his love, we hurt him, ourselves and others. Despite our turning away, however, God never stops loving us. As in any great love story, God, the protagonist, pursues us to win us back. 6. Think of someone who loves you. What assures you of this person’s love? Leaders: Whatever participants share, most responses will indicate a proof of love (e.g. I know my mom loves me because she cooks for me, cares for me, buys me gifts, listens to me, etc.). 7. Read Romans 5:6-8. How does God prove his love for us? For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Leaders: This is the pivotal passage of this study! We will look more closely at Jesus’ heroic sacrifice on the cross in Lesson 4. Jesus died for us, not when we were good or somehow worthy of that sacrifice, but while we remained in our sin. Jesus died for each of us when we were in our very worst moments of sin and darkness. Leaders: Ask, “For whom would you be willing to die?” 36
  • Love is Merciful The parable of the prodigal son paints a moving picture of the Father’s love for us. The young man who squanders his inheritance is called “prodigal” because the word means rash, wasteful or recklessly extravagant. Prodigal can also be used in a positive sense, however, to describe extravagant generosity. In this case, the father too is prodigal. This parable shows us how God the Father proves his extravagant love for us, despite our turning away from him. 8. Read Luke 15:11-24. The father agrees to give the son his inheritance. What does this say about the father’s character? The father respects his son’s free will. The commentary below shows how prodigal the father was to let the son exercise his free will. There are huge ramifications. Division of property between sons was not ordinarily made until the death of a father. The prodigal son was saying to his father, “I wish you were dead.” Ordinarily, penalties were exacted when a share was taken out early. No such penalties are mentioned in this story, which reveals the father’s deep generosity. By taking his money, the son is cutting all ties with his family, forsaking his place at the table and in the house. When the son leaves the family home with his money and possessions, all members of the household suffer a loss. The prodigal son clearly does not care about the others — he is focused only on himself and does not recognize the rippling effects of his actions. Leaders: Ask, “Why is it important that the prodigal son, and Adam and Eve, chose freely?” A response to love has to be made freely. Love that is coercive or manipulative is not genuine. 37
  • 9. Why do you suppose the son wanted to leave? Maybe he saw the father, or his life at home, as restrictive or boring. Maybe he desired excitement and wanted to experience the world on his own terms. Maybe he did not agree with the father’s opinions, rules or priorities. Leaders: You can help participants see how this story applies to perceptions about God and the Church by asking, “How does the son’s perception of the father’s house parallel how some people perceive God the Father or the Church?” Many people perceive God or the Church in a similar way: lifeless, irrelevant and full of rules. If we truly knew the Father’s love, and saw the reasoning behind his rules, we would understand the peace and life that God and the Church offer. 10. What did the son do with his freedom? He squandered it, just as Adam and Eve did. 11. What were the results of his actions? He was left wanting, desperate, poor and separated from his father. Adam and Eve experienced something similar after they were cast out of the garden. The pattern of the prodigal son’s sin (deeper sin, deeper problems and eventual crash) is the story of every person who tries to live apart from God. Leaders: Ask, “How can you identify your life’s story with the prodigal son?” The story of the prodigal son is actually the story of every person. We may not have “hit bottom” morally or squandered everything, but to some extent, we should all be able to recognize our own spiritual journey in this young man’s experience. 38
  • 12. Why did the son decide to return home? How has his view of home changed? It is important to emphasize the gravity of the prodigal son’s situation. For the Jews, caring for pigs evoked the idea of apostasy and the loss of dignity, since by law, pigs were forbidden and unclean animals. The son, however, is even lower than the swine: he cannot even eat the pigs’ husks. Calamity finally brings him to his senses; as it is said, “Man’s desperation is God’s workshop.” Leaders: A question for discussion could be inserted here: “Why does it seem to take a traumatic or horrendous event for some people to turn back to God?” The son’s desperate situation caused him to change his mind about the father’s house. He saw that even his father’s servants had good things and a good life. His misery made him reassess his decision to leave. He realized that his need could be met in his father’s house after all. False perception often keeps us from coming back to God. We think that the Father’s house is boring, lifeless, irrelevant, and has too many rules. In reality, all that we could ever need or desire can be found there. Sometimes the experience of having nothing helps us to recognize the abundance that can be found in the Father’s house. 13. What is significant about the father’s response to his son’s return? The father was looking for his son and waiting for his return. In the historical context, the slaves and house guards might have seen the son coming and gone out to kill him or turn him away before he even had a chance to see his father. The father did not want to see this happen, so he waited and watched intently. The son approached his father ragged, filthy and smelling of pigs. This did not deter the father: he let nothing keep him from embracing this prodigal child. He did not ask his son to wash up before embracing him. He did not ask him to take a bath before entering the house. He did not ask for a refund of his squandered property. The father’s forgiveness was immediate and intense. His love was merciful, restoring the broken relationship. The father was so full of joy at the return of his son, that he announced a feast to celebrate the occasion! 39
  • Leaders: Explain the significance of the ring, robe and sandals.  Ring: The family ring indicates that he is a son (not a slave), and in fact an heir. The son had severed ties with the family when he claimed his inheritance — by giving him this ring, the father restores his sonship.  Robe: Given to the guest of honour at a celebration.  Sandals: Worn by free men — a symbol of freedom. The father recognizes the son’s freedom to leave and to come back. He would have it no other way. He wanted his son to live freely — to choose to love him rather than being obliged to love him. 14. Consider how intense and immediate the father’s forgiveness was. What does this say to you about our Heavenly Father’s love, mercy and forgiveness? 40
  • Summary God never imposes his love on us, nor forces us to love him in return — we are free to choose him and the life he offers us. Sin is choosing that which can hurt God, others and ourselves. Even when we sin, however, our Heavenly Father shows his love for us; he patiently waits for us to turn back to him. He proved his love by sending his Son to make a way for us to be reconciled; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Living It Out Challenge: Go to Mass this week with an attentive mindset, with humble sorrow for your failures and joyful anticipation of the Father's welcome and all that his house has to offer. Listen carefully to all the readings and prayers to catch their depth of meaning. Be prepared to share with your group next week something that stood out for you in a fresh way at Mass. Memorize Romans 5:8: But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Leaders: The challenge sets up a wonderful opportunity for you to invite group members to go to Mass with you. Begin by asking if anyone does not know where to go to Mass/Mass times. Suggest going to Mass together and then out for coffee/breakfast. 41
  • Lesson 3 Preparation Notes “Jesus Christ — Our Lord” In Brief: Jesus of Nazareth is truly God. Key elements:  The fundamental point of this lesson is that Jesus is God. This fact is absolutely central if the Christian message is to have any grounding. Unfortunately, as CCO questionnaires on campus indicate, many Catholics do not understand that Jesus is in fact God. It is extremely important that we communicate this truth to participants. This may be the first time they hear a clear explanation of Christ’s divinity.  We will study a number of Scripture selections in which Jesus identifies himself as God. We also see in these narratives that the people listening to Jesus understood what he was saying.  Be sure you understand well the claims to divinity listed in the table, especially:  “I Am” - God revealed his name to the Jewish people as “I Am” when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Jesus uses this name as his own to signify that he is indeed God.  The Messiah/The Christ - The Messiah is the one described in Daniel 7 as the Son of Man, the one sent from God who would be King and Saviour. “Christ” comes from the Greek word for “Messiah” - It means Anointed One, God’s chosen one, the one who will save Israel.  Son of Man refers to a prophecy from Daniel 7:13-14 that the Son of Man is the promised Messiah. The Jews would have understood that Jesus was referring to this passage when calling himself the Son of Man. I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (RSV-CE) 42
  •  Blasphemy means to disrespect God or sacred things. The Jews thought Jesus was blaspheming when he claimed to be equal with God, for example by forgiving sins. Recommended Reading:  These articles of The Catechism of the Catholic Church look at the Trinity and the three divine persons, Father, Son and Spirit: CCC 150-152; 238-267; 446-451.  The following Scripture selections show common societal opinions of Jesus: Matthew 16:13-16, John 1:29-34, Mark 2:5-7, John 20:24-28, Luke 4:33-34, Matthew 8:8-10.  Handbook of Catholic Apologetics (Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli) describes the ‘quadrilemma’, which argues the options for Jesus' identity: as liar, lunatic, legend or Lord. It is an excellent resource. 43
  • Lesson 3 Jesus Christ — Our Lord 1. Share how last week’s challenge went. You may have heard Jesus referred to as Lord and Saviour. These terms each describe a unique aspect of Jesus’ identity. It is important to understand each separately before we can grasp how they complement one another. Today we will look at Jesus as Lord. Christianity is unique among world religions, because it emphasizes more than just moral teachings and a way of life. It hinges on the identity of Jesus Christ, who was truly God and truly man. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. The Nicene Creed Recognizing Jesus’ identity is essential to the Christian faith. If the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is not also God, then the Christian faith is utterly demolished. 44
  • The Divinity of Christ Jesus caused controversy and curiosity wherever he went because of his powerful words and miracles. He left everyone wondering, "Who is this man?" or even, "Who does this man think he is?" The Gospel writers give us an account of society’s attitudes and opinions about Jesus during his public ministry and passion — from the Pharisees, to the crowds, to his disciples, to the Romans, and even to the demons. Jesus was seen as a great man, a miracle-worker, a superb moral teacher, and perhaps Israel’s hope for freedom from Roman tyranny. More importantly, many understood that he claimed to be equal with God, and for this scandalous blasphemy, the Chief Priests sought to kill him. Scripture does not describe an occasion when Jesus said the words, “I am God.” However, a careful look at the Gospels shows that Jesus did claim equality with God, especially by taking upon himself attributes only God could possess. We will look at a number of Scripture selections in which Jesus claims to be God or have attributes ascribed only to God. As we go through the passages, refer to the list of divine descriptions below. Leaders: Give everyone one or two verses to look up so that they will be prepared to read aloud and give an answer. Encourage those listening to answer as well, to make sure they are paying attention. Make sure that each Scripture selection has at least one description matched up with it. It is not necessary for the group to find all the references in each verse — recognizing a few in each passage is sufficient. A. Son of Man G. the truth B. the way to eternal life H. equal with God C. the authority to forgive sins I. the Christ/the Messiah D. gives life J. Son of God E. one with the Father K. deserving the same honour as God F. the authority to judge L. "I Am" 45
  • 2. John 8:51-59. How does Jesus claim to be God? (vv. 56 – 59) "Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.      D. gives life K. deserving the same honour given to God J. Son of God I. the Christ/the Messiah L. “I Am” 3. How does Jesus astound the Jews in this passage? He claims to have lived before Abraham, which is physically impossible. Leaders: If participants do not notice that Jesus says “I Am”, probe further by asking, “What is significant about Jesus’ response?” “Before Abraham was, I am” is a curious way to word a response grammatically (he does not say “I was” he says “I am”). By using the words “I am” in this context, Jesus is saying that he is the Great I Am (Yahweh). Background on terms used in this passage: (L) “I Am”. God revealed his name to the Jewish people as “I Am” when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Jesus uses this name as his own to signify that he is indeed God. (I) The Messiah/The Christ. The Messiah is the one described in Daniel 7 as the Son of Man, the one sent from God who would be their King and Saviour. “Christ” comes from the Greek word for “Messiah”. It means Anointed One — God’s chosen one, the one who will save Israel. 4. Luke 5:20-26. How does Jesus claim to be God? (Luke 5:20-24a) When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”  C. the authority to forgive sins  A. Son of Man  H. equal with God 46
  • Background on terms used in this passage: Blasphemy means to disrespect God or sacred things. In this passage, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of blasphemy because he claims to forgive sins, which makes him equal with God. Proclaiming himself as the Son of Man is also considered blasphemous. Son of Man refers to a prophecy from Daniel 7:13-14 that the Son of Man is the promised Messiah. The Jews would have understood that Jesus was referring to this passage when calling himself the Son of Man. I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (RSV-CE) It was scandalous to the Jews that Jesus claimed to have the authority to forgive sins — only God had that kind of authority! 5. Mark 14:61-64. How does this passage reaffirm the claims made in the last two Scripture selections? But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death.      J. Son of God I. the Christ/the Messiah L. “I Am” A. Son of Man K. deserving the same honour given to God Again we see how blasphemous this claim appeared — enough to incite the religious authorities to kill Jesus. 47
  • 6. John 4:25-26. How does Jesus identify himself to the woman? The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”  I. the Christ/the Messiah Jesus clearly says that he is the Messiah. (Explanation of the word “Messiah” under question 2.) 7. John 5:21-23. What divine attributes does Jesus give himself in this Scripture passage? Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  D. gives life  K. deserving the same honour given to God It must be understood how scandalous this would have been for the Jews. Jesus ascribes to himself attributes that only God can possess. The Jewish understanding is strictly monotheistic: there is only one God — no other. Jesus could not say such things without consequence! His claim appeared scandalous and blasphemous. 8. John 10:24, 30-33. What is the conflict described in this Scripture narrative? So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (…) Jesus answered them,“ The Father and I are one.” The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”      I. the Christ/the Messiah D. gives life J. Son of God E. one with the Father H. equal with God In the previous passage (John 5:21-23), one might argue that Jesus was not blatantly claiming to be God. In John 10, he is more direct. The Pharisees understand his statements and are offended. 48
  • 9. John 14:6-7. What are the claims to divinity in these verses? Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”     B. the way to Eternal Life G. the truth D. gives life E. one with the Father 10. What truths are embedded in the words “the way, the truth, the life”?  The: Jesus specifically uses the article “the”. He does not say “I am a way, a truth, a life.” Nor does he use “one”: “I am one way, one truth, one life.” He said I am THE way, THE truth, THE life.  Way: Jesus not only says he is THE way but also adds “no one comes to the Father except through me”! This is a weighty and crucial proclamation. Jesus claims to be the only way to the Father. If we want to come to the Father, we must go through Jesus.  Truth: Jesus claims to be Truth itself, thus claiming for himself an attribute of the highest divinity. It would follow that we should take very seriously what Jesus says and does.  Life: If Jesus is the source of Life, then we need to turn to him to find our meaning and purpose. He is the source of our life now and after death. When we understand the significance of each of these words, we see that Jesus’ claims are of fundamental importance to our faith. 49
  • Summary Most people would not dispute the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. He is widely considered to be a great moral teacher. In reading the Gospels, however, we discover that Jesus never intended to be perceived as simply a moral teacher. He repeatedly equated himself with God. No other respected figure in history, no other founder of the world's great religions, has made such claims. The entire Christian faith hinges on this fundamental truth. Living It Out Challenge: Underline in your Bible at least four of the verses we studied today which defend the divinity of Christ. Show and explain them to someone this week. Memorize John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 50
  • Lesson 4 Preparation Notes “Jesus Christ — Our Saviour” In Brief: Jesus saves us from our sins through his passion, death and resurrection. Key Elements:  The goal of this lesson is to help participants see that Jesus’ purpose on earth was to suffer, die for our sins and rise, in order to restore our broken relationship with God.  The bridge imagery from the writings of St. Catherine of Siena is central to this lesson. It is important that you practice explaining it (drawing the bridge and asking the questions). Participants do not have the diagram in their student guides. The leader draws it for them to copy.  We do not want this lesson to seem trite or simplistic. It is thus important that the bridge analogy be shared with appropriate passion and conviction.  Do not rush through your explanation of the bad news (the results of sin, death and separation). This helps us appreciate our need for Christ's sacrifice.  It is important to understand the theological explanation of Jesus’ identity to properly answer question 6. Read the leader notes very carefully. These notes explain that Jesus is fully God and fully man. As a human being, Jesus could die on our behalf. As God, his sacrifice has infinite value.  You will need to practice explaining the analogies and illustrations connected with questions 6 and 7. Background Information:  The original text used to describe the bridge is found in St. Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue. A brief excerpt is provided below. On its own, this text could be difficult for Discovery participants to understand, which is why it has been explained rather than directly quoted. For your reference, a portion of it is included here: I want you to realize, my children, that by Adam's sinful disobedience the road was so broken up that no one could reach everlasting life.…I had created them in my image and likeness so that they might have eternal life, sharing in my being and enjoying my supreme eternal tenderness and goodness. But because of their sin, they never reached this goal and never fulfilled my truth, for sin closed heaven and the door of my mercy.... 51
  • With sin there came at once the flood of a stormy river that beat against them constantly with its waves, bringing weariness and troubles from themselves as well as from the devil and the world. You were all drowning, because not one of you, for all your righteousness, could reach eternal life. But I wanted to undo these great troubles of yours. So I gave you a bridge, my Son, so that you could cross over the river, the stormy sea of this darksome life, without being drowned…. And how foolish to choose to drown rather than accept the remedy I have given! But first I want you to look at the bridge of my only-begotten Son, and notice its greatness. Look! It stretches from heaven to earth, joining the earth of your humanity with the greatness of the Godhead…. So the height stooped to the earth of your humanity, bridging the chasm between us and rebuilding the road. And why should he have made of himself a roadway? So that you might in truth come to the same joy as the angels. But my Son's having made of himself a bridge for you could not bring you to life unless you make your way along that bridge. St. Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue translated by Suzanne Noffke, OP, pp.58-59  Catherine of Siena is a "Doctor of the Church". This esteemed title has been given to only 33 people so far. It is bestowed on those who are a model of great sanctity and whose teachings are universally valuable and pertinent to all members of the Church in every age.  In the section on "the bridge," the results of the fall and sin are described as separation and death. There are of course other results, but for the sake of clarity and simplicity, we will stick to those two. For your reference, however: As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence"). CCC 418 Recommended Reading:  CCC 599-623; 430-445 52
  • Lesson 4 Jesus Christ — Our Saviour 1. Discuss how last week’s challenge went. Leaders: Open the lesson by saying, “Today we will be looking at some things that you have probably heard before. You may be familiar with these ideas, but in order to get the most out of the lesson, try to approach them as though they were new. People are often amazed at how clear and simple this lesson is. ‘I have never heard it explained that way before!’ is a frequent reaction to this lesson.” Last week, we looked at the divinity of Jesus — Jesus as Lord. Now we will look at what it means to say that Jesus is our Saviour. We will see the ultimate way in which Jesus, as Saviour, proves God’s merciful love for each of us. 2. What kind of things did Jesus do during his public ministry on earth? Leaders: This is a brainstorming question. Examples: he healed, preached, taught, sought and saved the lost, revealed the Father, showed the love of God, reached out to the poor, etc. 3. What do you think was Jesus’ main reason for being on earth? Jesus’ central mission was to restore our relationship with the Father by dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead (defeating death). Bridging Earth to Heaven To help us better understand Jesus as Saviour, we will look at insights from St. Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church. In her writings she shares a visual description of salvation which God revealed to her. 53
  • St. Catherine describes Adam and Eve and how they were created in God's image. In Eden, they tasted the beginnings of communion with God that would have grown as they spiritually matured, so that eventually, they would fully know his eternal goodness, tenderness and love. However, sin created irreparable problems; it caused an impassable division between God and man. St. Catherine describes this separation as a great, raging river that made it absolutely impossible for man to reach God, as much as he might try. This impassable, powerful river of sin leads to death. The picture painted at this point is very bleak indeed. Leaders: Say, "Let's draw out the picture to better understand it as we answer the following questions." The rest of the page is left blank in the student guide, so that each participant can draw the bridge as it is explained and discussed.  STAGE 1 – [Draw Heaven/God and Earth/Humanity with a line connecting them. The line represents the connection and unity they had at creation before the fall]. 54
  • 4. In light of this description and what you have already learned in Lesson 2, what are the results of sin?  Answer: Separation from God (his love), and death.  STAGE 2 – [Erase the line from heaven to earth (or draw a squiggly line over top of it). Write: "separation", "sin", then an arrow pointing to the word death"].  Say: "This is the situation. How does this make you feel?" Hopeless, upset, discouraged, defeated, abandoned, angry.  Ask: "How would you feel if we ended the study here?"  Leaders: Do not be afraid to emphasize the bad news. The gap between us and God is huge, insurmountable. We must understand how bad this situation is in order to appreciate the full impact of the Good News. The Good News is not just touching and nice, it is vitally important.  Say: "As you can see, the river leaves us in a place of desperate need, and can only lead us to death should we try to overcome it on our own." God the Father deals with the problem of sin by sending his Son into the world. Through his death on the cross, Jesus becomes a bridge so that we can reach heaven. So I gave you a bridge, my Son, so that you could cross over the river, the stormy sea of this darksome life, without being drowned….And how foolish to choose to drown rather than accept the remedy I have given!...And why should he have made of himself a roadway? So that you might in truth come to the same joy as the angels. St. Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue, p. 58-59 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:19-20  Say: "Jesus came from heaven to earth to deal with the problem of sin, death and separation."  STAGE 3 – [Draw a vertical line coming from heaven to earth, and then continue by making it into a cross. Draw a corpus on it]. 55
  • 5. How did Jesus’ death on the cross deal with the problems sin created? John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  Ask: What did the Lamb of God take away?  Answer: The sins of the world.  [Draw an “X” through sin]. Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Ask: What has Jesus done for us in this verse?  Answer: Defeated death and given us eternal life. Of course, we still have physical death, but we have life in heaven and we look forward to the resurrection of the body when Christ returns again. Jesus dealt with eternal separation from God.  [Draw an “X” through death]. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  Ask: If we are reconciled through Christ, then what has been overcome?  Answer: Separation. Jesus has dealt with separation as well.  [Draw an "X" through separation]. 56
  • Why Jesus? 6. Read Romans 5:16-19. In light of these Scripture verses and the bridge illustration, why was humanity in need of God’s help? In other words, why did we need Jesus to die for us? And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. We are all sinful and unable to reach God. The consequence associated with our sin is death — eternal separation from God. Adam started it, Jesus healed it. Jesus was fully God and fully man. As a man, he physically died for our sins. He was condemned as a man. He hung on the cross as a man. He hung in pain; he bled as a man. He suffered human pain and he endured separation from his Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Though he never sinned, he took our sin upon himself and suffered its consequence. This was real physical pain and real spiritual pain. As a human being, Jesus could die on our behalf. As God, his sacrifice has infinite value. How? As Jesus hung on the cross, it was as if his right hand extended infinitely into the past and his left hand extended infinitely into the future, symbolizing that he has redeemed all of history — past, present and future. Leaders: To illustrate the magnitude of our inability to reconcile with God through our own strength, you can elaborate further on St. Catherine of Siena and the bridge. St. Catherine painted the picture for us of that wild, massive river of sin dividing Heaven and Earth, and how Jesus came from Heaven to be the bridge to make the way for us to get back to God. Her writings on this image cover several pages, but at one point she talks about people who try to get across the river to Heaven on their own. They scale down the treacherous cliff to access the river bank. They come up with all kinds of ways to get across the river, such as swim, build their own bridge…things like that. What they don't fully grasp (until they actually tackle the river) is that it is enormously vast! The incredible width, depth and raging speed shows no mercy, is absolutely futile and only leads to a sure death. 57
  • Those who have ever gone down white water rapids can just imagine how hard it would be swim across to the opposite side. It would be all the more impossible to do with this immensely wide river of sin. (To help situate the imagery, you could mention that the widest river in the world is the Rio de la Plata in South America, which at certain points is 225 km wide!) Imagine crossing violent river rapids that distance! It is absolutely humanly impossible - even to construct a bridge to span it. The same is true in our relationship with God: even our best efforts do not restore what was severed by sin. We need Jesus to bridge this gap. The theological term for this is atonement. Think of atonement as "at-one"ment. Through Christ's death and resurrection, we are made “at-one” with God. Reconciliation happened through Christ's atonement for us. Jesus, motivated by love, freely sacrificed himself on our behalf. He was the Mediator who brought peace and healing to the severed relationship between God and man (salvation comes from the Latin word "salus," which means healing). Leaders: Mention the incredible generosity of God’s gift in this sacrifice. God was not bound by necessity to make this sacrifice for us, nor did he owe us anything. Jesus’ death on the cross was a marvelous free gift. To honor the Father, that man [Jesus] — although not obligated to die, because not a sinner — freely gave something of his own when he permitted his life to be taken from him for the sake of justice. St. Anselm of Canterbury, Meditatio Redemptionis Humanae, p. 422. Leaders: If your group is struggling to understand this concept, try guiding them as follows. Begin by asking: “What is justice?” Justice is “giving to each person his/her due.” From there, look back to the bridge illustration and say, “Well, what is our due?” We actually deserve to be separated from God’s love — our due is eternal separation, hell. Then say: “God is perfect justice, and according to justice, we merit separation from him. But God is more than perfect justice, he is also perfect mercy.” Leaders: You can then share the story of Jean Valjean: In Victor Hugo’s classic novel Les Misérables, the character Jean Valjean is taken in for the night by a bishop the day he is released from a 19-year prison term. Afraid for his future, Jean steals the bishop’s silverware and runs off in the middle of the night. He is caught by the police and brought back to the bishop for punishment. 58
  • If the bishop confirms the crime, Jean will be put away for the rest of his life — but he doesn't. Instead, he tells the police that the silverware is a gift to Jean. Everyone is dumbfounded. The bishop effectively pays the price of Jean Valjean's crime with that silver, even though he was the one who was sinned against, and has every right to demand repayment. Yet instead of this, he makes the payment himself, to save Jean's life from imprisonment. When the police leave, the Bishop looks intently at Jean Valjean and tells him that he “bought” his soul and now he “gives it [back] to God.” He paid the price of Jean’s crime in order to bring him into a profound encounter with mercy. This is not unlike what the Father does for us. In justice we are convicted for our sins, but God offers forgiveness to all who ask. 7. Jesus’ death and resurrection restores our relationship with God. What prevents us from grasping how necessary Jesus is? We don't recognize our need. We think we're not so bad. We don't really think our sins merit eternal separation from God. We ignore the issue and don't think about our eternal destiny. Many people believe in Jesus but do not recognize their need for him. We must understand that the Christian faith is founded upon Christ’s death and resurrection. If we do not recognize that Jesus came to save us from sin, death and separation, our attitude towards him will not go beyond respect and reverence (recognition of Jesus as Lord). In order to live a fulfilling relationship with him, however, we must also acknowledge our profound need for the salvation he offers (recognition of Jesus as Saviour). We have heard that St. Catherine described the river between us and God as impassable and deadly. If we ever fell into that river, we would absolutely need to be rescued. The following analogy emphasizes that we must recognize our need for divine intervention. The Lifeguard Analogy: When I go to the beach, I recognize and respect the importance of having a lifeguard on duty. The lifeguard is there to help those in need. I am a competent swimmer, however, so I don't need the lifeguard. Once a week I wave and acknowledge him, then go out for a swim in the deep waters. 59
  • One day, as I am swimming, I unexpectedly swallow a mouthful of water and begin to choke. Gasping for air, I swallow more water. I begin to panic as I start to sink. I go down once, twice. At this point, I know that if I go down a third time, I will die. My attitude towards the lifeguard has changed drastically: I realize that if he does not get off his chair and come rescue me, my life is over. I have moved from simple respect to desperate need for the lifeguard. Our view of Jesus may parallel our initial relationship with the lifeguard. We might respect Jesus but not really think we need him. If we really understood our sin, weaknesses and failures, however, and recognized that the result of these is separation and death, we would know our desperate need for a Saviour. Grave sinners and incompetent swimmers are not the only ones who need saving—we all need to be rescued. So far in the analogy, the bridge is in place but humanity and God remain separated. We have not yet crossed the chasm. Next week, we will talk about why it is important to God — and vital for us — that we make it across the bridge to God’s side. Summary Jesus Christ is the revelation of God’s love and mercy. His love is capable of rescuing each of us from slavery to sin and death. “He alone makes it possible for every human person to share eternal life.” * Living It Out Challenge: Share the bridge analogy with someone this week. Leaders: You could suggest they say to someone, “Can I show you something from my Catholic faith study group that I am supposed to practice explaining?” Encourage them to share the bridge analogy with someone who needs to hear about what Jesus has done. Memorize Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. *John Paul II, Message for World Mission Sunday 2005. 60
  • Lesson 5 Preparation Notes “The Universal Call — Personally Yours” In Brief: We are invited to receive the gift of salvation and live a new relationship with God. Key Elements:  This lesson is the culmination of the study.  It is important to prepare the material well and to intercede for your participants. Many lives have been changed through the sharing of this lesson.  Over the past four weeks, God’s love has been demonstrated as personal, merciful and proven. This lesson emphasizes that this incredible love is offered.  In this lesson, we will revisit "the bridge" and discuss how to cross to God’s side of the chasm. Crossing the bridge is an invitation to concretely put our faith in God. “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God” (CCC 150).  The bridge illustration emphasises that salvation is a gift. God invites us to accept the love he offers.  Question 4 references Romans 10:9. This verse reads, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Paul challenges us to confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord. Our faith is not meant to be private and hidden. It will be an important act of faith for your participants to bear witness to their beliefs publicly when they decide to commit (or recommit) themselves to Jesus. When that time comes, encourage them to find a way to profess their faith.  It is important to practice explaining the relationships diagram. The relationships diagram is an effective tool to help people open their hearts to Jesus. Although the analogy presented is not perfect, it can still be very helpful in describing the various types of relationships with Jesus.  The appendix of this study includes reference material on typical stumbling blocks people encounter when introduced to the relationships diagram. Although this material is covered in Lesson 6, you should familiarize yourself with it now in case questions arise this week that you think should be answered immediately. The appendix/Lesson 6 material may also help you to better understand your participants, and therefore be able to anticipate their concerns, empathize with them, and gently invite them to trust God.  In this lesson, participants are given an opportunity to invite Jesus to be at the centre of their lives. We will renew our baptismal vows as a way of concretely linking our Baptism to our adult choice to believe 61
  •     and follow Jesus. If someone is not yet baptized, have them join in at the closing prayer: “Lord Jesus, I want to know you and love you more.” Explain to them that if they have not been baptized, it would not be appropriate to renew vows they have not yet taken. Invite them to listen to the powerful message of these words (this may be the first time they have ever heard them). This will help them to understand the vows they would make should they desire to be baptized in the Church. At the end of the lesson, invite participants to meet with you for the Discovery follow-up. This will give you an opportunity to talk to each person about his/her relationship with God. You should also be prepared to help participants find an opportunity to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation: i.e. booking their appointment if necessary, or going with them. Frequent reception of the sacraments is important for spiritual growth. The sacrament of Reconciliation is especially helpful to us — it gives us the opportunity to show our desire to convert our lives to Christ, to be forgiven, and to receive the grace to live as Christians. Reconciliation is an integral part of making a decision to follow Jesus, which is why this week’s challenge is to receive this sacrament. Participants, who have never received the sacrament of Reconciliation, cannot do this challenge per se. Alternatively, their challenge could be to tell someone else how they have encountered Christ as their Lord and Saviour. (Or put Christ at their centre of their life). You can let them know, that even though they cannot receive the sacrament of Reconciliation yet, they can still meet to talk with a priest. You can help them with the arrangements. Recommended Reading:  CCC 1427-1433; 150-166 62
  • Lesson 5 The Universal Call — Personally Yours 1. Discuss how last week’s challenge went. Let's start things off this week with a big question, probably the biggest you will ever face. Dr. Peter Kreeft is a respected professor of Philosophy at Boston College. During his many years of teaching at this Catholic university, he has asked many students this thought provoking question: “If you were to die tonight and God asked you, 'Why should I let you into heaven?', what would you say?” 2. What would you say? Leaders: After they respond say, “Hold those thoughts for now. The rest of this lesson is aimed at answering that important question.” Back at the Bridge In last week’s cliff-hanger, we are left reflecting on how we will get to the other side of the bridge. 63
  • 3. In light of the illustration, in what must we place our faith to get to God? Be very specific. Jesus, or some might say the cross. Leaders: To clarify, say, “Be more specific, what about Jesus?" ("Or what about the cross?") We put our faith in the fact that Jesus is God and that he died on the cross to save us from sin, death and separation from God. We believe that he rose from the dead as the promise of eternal life. "I choose to believe that Jesus' death and resurrection are powerful enough to save me." 4. How do we actually cross that bridge? See Acts 2:36-38 and Romans 10:9 to verify your answers. Three key elements: Repentance, Faith, Baptism Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit ...because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Repentance: this means being truly sorry for our sins and desiring not to sin again. If we could do it all over again, we would want to choose differently.  Faith: trust, belief that Jesus has accomplished this redemption for us.  Baptism: through Baptism, we are cleansed from original sin and receive the gift of salvation Jesus won for us on the cross. Jesus himself chose Baptism as the means by which we would receive salvation. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life Romans 6:3-4 64
  • 5. Through the cross, Jesus offers us forgiveness, mercy, eternal life, peace, love and intimacy. What prevents us from receiving this gift of salvation? Leaders: To help participants understand the question, ask: “If the university was offering a bursary of $50,000 to all students, what would keep students from getting it?” Since most people taking Discovery have been baptized, you could also present the analogy as follows: “We were given a bursary for university when we were born. It is sitting in a special account collecting interest. What would prevent us from getting it?” Possible answers: we are not aware it is being offered, we are proud, we do not see a need for it, do not know where to go to get it, are not motivated to make the effort to find out how to get it, do not feel worthy or qualified to received it. Ask: “How does this relate to our response to the gift God offers us in Christ?” 6. Now how would you answer the question: "Why should I let you into heaven? Jesus! It is because of Jesus' death and resurrection that I have received forgiveness and mercy and the promise of eternal life. The Relationships Diagram Over the past four lessons, we have looked at the personal, merciful, and proven love of God. We discussed how very intimately God knows each and every one of us. We have seen the Father’s heart of mercy, which welcomes us back from our wanderings. Fully God, Jesus left heaven and became man to prove his love for us, even to the point of dying on the cross for our sins. This merciful God offers his love to all of us; he invites us individually to make his love our heart’s home. The following illustration helps us to identify how we are living our relationship with Jesus. It also helps us to understand the kind of relationship he desires to have with us: a relationship of friendship, intimacy, commitment, fidelity, mercy and love. 65
  • The top three images represent levels of commitment in three kinds of human relationships. The dashes around the person represent various aspects of their life such as: career, school, family, recreation, etc. The first image represents someone who is single; there is no romantic relationship in their life. The second image represents someone who is dating. This relationship is a part of their life, but commitment is limited. The third image represents someone who is married; there is an intimate relationship and a permanent mutual commitment. Let's compare this to our relationship with God. The bottom three images represent levels of commitment in a relationship with God. The first image represents someone who does not have a relationship with Jesus. As far as this person is concerned, Jesus is outside their life. The second image represents someone who acknowledges Jesus as a part of their life, but has not completely committed to him. Jesus is just one aspect of their life among many others. The third image represents a Christ-centred relationship. This relationship is primary and central, influencing all decisions and every aspect of their life. Say, “Now that these three kinds of relationships have been explained to you, I’d like to ask you a few 66
  • questions. You do not have to share your answers unless you feel comfortable.”  “Which image best represents your relationship with God?”  (Pause … so they can think about it for 5 seconds, then ask...)  “Which image would you like to have represent your relationship with God?”  “What would prevent you from choosing the Christcentred relationship?” 7. How can you begin or renew your relationship with Jesus? Starting a relationship with Jesus is much like exchanging marriage vows. You begin by saying “yes” or “I do” to Jesus. You ask him to be part of your life, in good times and in bad, and you commit yourself to him. For those who have been baptized, it is making an adult faith decision to affirm what our parents chose for us at our Baptism. Jesus knows your heart and is not concerned if you have been good or bad in the past. He already knows everything about you anyway. What counts for him is the present attitude of your heart. Leaders: You could ask: “What should be the attitude of our hearts?” The attitude of our hearts should be one of true repentance for our failures and desire to live in a way that is pleasing to God. We should believe that Jesus is truly God, and our means to salvation. We should approach him with great faith, trusting that his mercy is greater than anything we have done. The sacrament of Reconciliation is especially helpful to put Christ at the centre of our lives — it gives us the opportunity to show our desire to convert our lives to Christ, to be forgiven, and to receive the grace to live as Christians. Reconciliation is an integral part of making a decision to follow Jesus, which is why this week’s challenge is to receive this sacrament. 67
  • Invitation If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.… Dear young people: do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life. Pope Benedict XVI Mass for the Inauguration of his Pontificate Finally, I turn to every man and woman, including those who have fallen away from the Church, who have left the faith or who have never heard the proclamation of salvation. To everyone the Lord says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Verbum Domini, 124 8. What stands out to you in these quotations, and in the Scripture verse that is mentioned (Revelation 3:20)? In the classic painting of Revelations 3:20 by Warner Sallman, Jesus is portrayed knocking at a door which has no handle. This door can only be opened from the inside. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says he will come in if we open the door. Leaders: Also mention that in Jewish culture, to share a meal is a sign of welcoming and intimacy — a powerful sign of what is happening between us and Jesus. Time permitting, share how you let Jesus into your heart and allowed him to be King and Lord of your life, receiving his forgiveness and mercy. Hearing your testimony will encourage participants to take this step of faith themselves. 68
  • 9. Take a moment to reflect individually on Christ’s invitation. Then, together as a group, we will pray to God and make a decision to follow him, or to renew our commitment to him by affirming our Baptismal promises. (Response is “I do”.) Leaders: Allow for silent time. A minute is enough, though you can allow longer depending on how much time is left in the session. Remember, if someone is not yet baptized, invite them to join in at the closing prayer, “Lord Jesus, I believe that you know me and love me…” Explain to them that if they have not been baptized, it would not be appropriate to renew vows they have not yet taken. Invite them to listen to the powerful message of these words (this may be the first time they have ever heard them). This will help them to understand the vows they would make should they desire to be baptized in the Church. Leaders: Assure participants that if, in any way, they did not feel ready to say this prayer sincerely, they can take it home and think about it more on their own, or during the week. 69
  • Prayer       Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God's children? Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin? Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness? Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? Lord Jesus, I believe that you know me and love me. I have not always chosen to love you, and have broken my relationship with you through my sins. Thank you for proving your love for me on the cross so that our relationship can be restored. (take a minute to reflect on how you have failed God and others) I open the door of my heart and I invite you to be at the centre of my life — to be my Saviour and my Lord. Direct me and help me to live the Gospel with my whole life. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen. Leaders: At this time, let participants know that you would like to meet with each of them some time in the next week to discuss how they feel about the faith study so far. 70
  • Summary What an incredible love story! God proves his love for us by sending his Son to die on the cross to reconcile us with him. For love to truly be love it has to be chosen. We are invited to make that choice through faith and re-orient our lives, placing God at the centre of all we do. Living It Out Challenge: Act on your decision to follow Christ by receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation. Leaders: Offer to help them find an opportunity to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. Be aware to adapt the challenge if some participants have never received the sacrament of Reconciliation. Memorize Revelation 3:20: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” 71
  • Lesson 6 Preparation Notes “Going from Here” In Brief: A relationship with God is not an achievement of perfection. It is rather the context in which we receive God’s help and mercy in our daily lives. Key Elements:  This lesson relies heavily on explanations given by the leader. You will need to prepare yourself well for this lesson.  The relationships diagram is explored more deeply. We will also look at common misunderstandings about the diagram. This is important follow-up for those who have asked Jesus to be at the centre of their lives. It may also encourage those who have been considering putting their faith in Jesus since last week.  Common misunderstandings: 1) people feel it sounds more humble to say you are in the second kind of relationship; 2) people think that being in the Christ-centred relationship means we are perfectly following God.  Prepare yourself well to address these two points in the section called “Understanding Our Relationship with God". Notes on these points can be found in the appendix.  The lesson wraps up with a brief introduction to growth in the Christian life. It first highlights how the Holy Spirit helps us to live as Christians. The Holy Spirit will be discussed further in the Source study, which comes next.  We will also look at practical ways to grow in our relationship with God: prayer, reading the Bible, going to Mass, going to Confession, fellowship, sharing our faith, serving others. These topics are explored more deeply in Growth, which follows Source.  Be prepared to share the things that helped you grow in your faith, especially in the early days following your conversion. 72
  • Lesson 6 Going From Here 1. Share what you thought about last week’s study. Last week, we were given an opportunity to invite Jesus to be at the centre of our lives. What happened when we did that? What do we do about it now? This week, we will look at what it means to live and grow in an intimate relationship with God. Understanding Our Relationship with God Over the course of Discovery, we've been unpacking the richness of the Good News. Like pieces of a puzzle, the truths about Jesus have come together so that we can clearly grasp the beauty and scope of God's plan for our salvation. Last week we saw that the last piece of the puzzle is us. 2. What compels people to change their commitment to God from that of the first or second kind of relationship to the Christ-centred relationship? Father's love: They recognize that the Father loves them and is waiting for them to be reconciled with him (like the prodigal son). Need for a Saviour: They recognize that they have sinned and are in need of a Saviour (like the lifeguard/drowning analogy). Jesus is God: They acknowledge that Jesus is truly God. They recognize that they receive mercy, forgiveness and the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection (the bridge analogy). They know that Jesus is real and wants to bring them healing, peace, hope and new life. They want to invite Jesus into their lives as Lord, God and Redeemer. He is God of the universe; he has saved us from death! He deserves his rightful place in our lives. Recognizing this moves us to rush back to the arms of the Father. 73
  • 3. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable saying they are in the Christ-centred relationship, even after they have asked Jesus to be at the centre of their lives. Why do you think that is? Short answer: We think the relationships diagram is an assessment of how "spiritual" we are. We assume that only perfect people like Mother Teresa are really in the Christcentred relationship. We think it is too presumptuous to say we are in the third kind of relationship. Explanation: The relationships diagram shows commitments we make (whether consciously or not), not degrees of spiritual perfection. Although living our faith is essential to our relationship with God, the person in the second kind of relationship with God is not necessarily less “religious” than the person in the Christ-centred relationship. The defining question is one of commitment: 'whom have I chosen to place at the centre?' Looking at the commitment between spouses can help us understand commitment to God. Marriages take time to mature. A newly married couple has more to learn about being good spouses than a couple that has been married fifty years. However, although one couple has been married fifty years and the other only one day, both are equally in a committed marriage relationship. The same concept can be applied to the spiritual life. Consider a person who has lived a life of sin (e.g. the 'good thief' next to Jesus on the cross). He sees the light and turns his life over to Jesus. Even though Jesus is now at the centre of his life, this person may not demonstrate a real maturity and ability to trust in God shortly after his conversion. He is no less a child of God than the greatest of saints. He just needs time to grow in holiness and conform himself to God. Inevitably, you will encounter people who feel uncomfortable claiming they are in the Christ-centred relationship. They may think it would be too arrogant to do so, that it would be more humble to say their commitment is represented by the second image or somewhere between the second and third image. Or perhaps they are trying to live the commitment shown in the third image, but realize that they often fail. This attitude can often be attributed to the mistaken belief that being in a relationship with Jesus is about ‘measuring up’ or mastering the Christian life. It is important to emphasize that the relationships diagram represents commitments we make to God and not 74
  • necessarily levels of personal holiness. Ask participants, “What do you think is the difference between the person who sees their commitment to God represented by the second image and the person who would say it is like the third image?” They will likely answer, “The person who says the third image trusts more, is more committed, etc.” From this perspective, it is completely understandable that they would hesitate to say they are in the Christcentred relationship. To say you have the Christ-centred relationship would sound arrogant, as if you were a saint! In their minds, a person who has not yet mastered the Christian life can only be in the second kind of relationship. What we want to make clear, though, is that the third image does not represent a perfect life, but a decision made to put God first. 4. a) In light of the scenario presented by Dr. Kreeft in Lesson 5, how would a person in the second kind of relationship answer the question about why God should let them into heaven? The person in the second kind of relationship would answer with a list of all they have done for God, how good they are, or perhaps how 'not all that bad' they are. This person trusts in himself/herself (his/her works alone) to get into heaven. Many Catholics, knowing the Gospel, still have the mindset that they have to 'measure up' before God will 'show up'. The second kind of relationship can actually be a place of independence and pride. “Yes, I believe in Jesus, and I have to somehow keep him happy with me, or prove myself to him.” b) What would the person in the Christ-centred relationship say? This person would say that God lets him/her into heaven because of Christ’s death and resurrection. Even the good we do is because of Jesus living and acting in us, enabling us to do it. If we believe that Jesus is our Lord (King, Leader) and Saviour (the only one who forgives us, restores us, heals us), we can be in right relationship with God, and experience peace. Leaders: Assure your group that if we understand who 75
  • Jesus is, we will see that it is not proud to say, “I am in the Christ-centred relationship.” If we think salvation is about how good and skilled we are at living the Christian life, then the third image would indeed be a proud choice. But if we understand that it is Jesus who opens heaven to us and gives us the grace to follow his model of life, then we see that the Christ-centred relationship is the most humble. Most participants do not choose a “works” (it depends on me) mentality with a rebellious attitude. They just need to be encouraged to freely choose Christ with childlike faith. They do not need to prove anything, but they will have to co-operate with God’s grace — hence the need for follow-up teachings to help them live their conversion in an ongoing way. Understanding that we do not have to be perfect to live in the Christ-centred relationship is very freeing. We realize that our relationship with Jesus is secure. This does not mean that we believe we are “once saved always saved” — through serious sin we can still choose to turn our back on Jesus. We trust, however, that our security is established by God, not by our level of spiritual mastery. Without a sense of security and safety, it is difficult for this relationship to grow in intimacy and fidelity. Now What? 5. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them...” That sounds great, but what if I do not think I can live for Christ? We need to know that though our failures are inevitable, Jesus will not fail us. We fear that if we fail, God will abandon us; we must recognize that God's love is unconditional (Lesson 1). Jesus said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5). This is his promise to us. He will not jump in and out of our lives. We can count on him to work with us, despite our failures. When we work with him and co-ooperate with his grace, we can trust that our relationship is secure. Our failure is an opportunity to repent and grow. It need not 76
  • be the destruction of the relationship. Struggles and challenges are all part of the development of the relationship. As long as there is repentance and forgiveness, the relationship can continue to grow. Leaders: Using marriage as an analogy can help participants to understand this concept. For the first few days of marriage, the husband and wife live perfectly together, playing house. But for the rest of their lives, they will fail each other on a daily basis; they are both human and thus tend to live for themselves in many ways. Despite their failures, however, they are confident in their relationship because they are committed to each other. Because of their commitment and love for each other, they work and struggle to strengthen their relationship. Their marriage is a work in progress; failures and mistakes do not end the relationship. Failure is an opportunity to repent. The same thing is true of our relationship with Jesus: we will fail on a daily basis. The Lord knows our weaknesses and he is not surprised by our sin. We need only to come to him in honest repentance and ask for his grace to help us overcome our failures and weaknesses. Knowing God’s mercy does not give us license to sin, however — we still ought to try to avoid all serious and deliberate sin, as well as those “everyday” failures. We must also recognize that if we rebel through actions that “bring death” into our relationship with God, and choose not to repent, we are not cooperating with him or his grace. In fact, mortal sin cuts us off from God’s love and salvation. It is like severing a branch from a tree, so that the sap can no longer reach it. The sacrament of Reconciliation is our opportunity to be reconciled with God. 6. Colossians 2:6-7 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” How do we do this? Leaders: Answers should fall into two categories: 1) grace from God and 2) practical things we do. 1) Grace from God: Asking the question “how do we do that?” could potentially lead us to slip into a 'second image' mindset — we want to avoid this possibility. We must remember that our efforts cooperate with grace. God does not expect us to maintain a 77
  • holy, faithful life by our own efforts. We have the grace of our Baptism, the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit! Shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit upon the earth. It is through the Holy Spirit, active and living in us, that we are able to pray, and to know, love and imitate Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, active in the Church, we receive help! We receive ongoing mercy and grace in the sacraments — especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist (where Christ literally comes into our lives). In the Church (the body of Christ), we have community, friendship and the opportunity to serve and witness to others. 2) Practical Ways to Increase Our Faith After our initial commitment to Christ, we need to continue investing in our relationship with him. We need to be more deeply rooted in our faith, learn more about it and allow it to grow. E.g. prayer (talking to Jesus/Father/Holy Spirit as a friend), read the Bible, Mass (Sunday/daily), parish events and organizations, faith-sharing group, reach out to others/the needy, share your faith, Reconciliation, praise and worship, adoration, conferences, missions. Resources for learning: websites, books, lives of the saints. We should make a conscious effort to live out our true identity and to grow in holiness. We must also learn how to discern and think from a spiritual perspective. We should not return to past habits that are immature, sinful or harmful for us. An easy way to remind ourselves of this is by asking, “What Would Jesus Do? — WWJD?” Leaders: Share the things that helped you grow in your faith, especially in the early days following your conversion. 78
  • Summary At some point, we need to claim for our ourselves the faith into which our parents initiated us at our Baptism. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit and the Church as sources of real help and grace so that we can live out this new life in him. Living It Out Challenge: If you really want to keep Jesus as the centre of your life, then a good first step is to attend Mass every Sunday. As you walk through the door of your parish, tell Jesus that you are opening the door of your heart to him. Receive the Eucharist in thanksgiving for his sacrifice for you; each time you receive him, invite him into your life. Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:15: And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 79
  • Appendix I. Making a Good Confession Prayer before Confession: Oh most merciful God! Prostrate at your feet, I implore your forgiveness. I sincerely desire to leave all my evil ways and to confess my sins with all sincerity to you and to your priest. I am a sinner; have mercy on me, Oh Lord. Give me a lively faith and firm hope in the Passion of my Redeemer. Give me, for your mercy’s sake, a sorrow for having offended so good a God. Mary, my mother, refuge of sinners, pray for me that I may make a good confession. Amen. How to go to Confession:  You have the option to go to confession anonymously (behind a screen) or face to face.  After the priest greets you in the name of Christ, make the sign of the cross. He may choose to recite a reading from Scripture, after which you say: ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been (state how long) since my last confession. These are my sins.’  Tell your sins simply and honestly to the priest. You might even want to discuss the circumstances and the root causes of your sins and ask the priest for advice or direction.  Listen to the advice the priest gives you and accept the penance from him. Then say an Act of Contrition for your sins. The priest will then absolve you of your sins and will pray the Prayer of Absolution. This prayer is a beautiful affirmation of God’s mercy. Listen to its powerful words: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Afterwards, spend some time thanking and praising God for the gift of his mercy. Fulfill your penance as soon as possible. 80
  • Act of Contrition: Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all of my sins because of your just punishment, but most of all because they have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen. A simple prayer from the heart is also acceptable: Lord, I am sorry for my sins. I thank you for your forgiveness, strength and love. Do your Penance: When we go to Confession, we are cleansed and freed from our sins. Although the absolution we receive takes away the sin, it does not, however, remedy all the problems that sin causes. When we sin, we weaken ourselves as well as our relationship with God and our neighbours. We must repair the harm caused by our sin (i.e. return stolen goods or restore the reputation of someone about whom we have gossiped). That is why the priest gives us a penance. The penance given usually depends on the gravity of the sin committed. Penances can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service to neighbour, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of suffering that brings us closer to Christ. The sacrament of Confession is not complete until you do your penance. It should be done immediately in the church, if it is a penance of prayer. Otherwise, it should be done as soon as possible. Examination of Conscience I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides me. Did I fail to love God, to make him first in my life, to thank, trust and love him as he deserves? Did I fail to pray? Have I doubted or denied my faith? Was I careless in saying my prayers? Do I give God time every day in prayer? Do I make a god out of my work, possessions, or image in the eyes of others so that these rule my life instead of God? Am I angry toward God because of illness or misfortune? Have I been involved with magic, horoscopes, Ouija boards or fortune telling? You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain Did I curse or swear? Did I use God’s name in vain, lightly, carelessly, by blasphemy? Have I used foul language or jokes? In conversation, have I passively listened to slander and to jokes demeaning the Church or God’s authority? 81
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of obligation? Did I leave Mass early without good reason? Have I received communion at least once a year? Did I receive communion in a state of serious sin? Have I been to confession recently? In any of my previous confessions, did I lie to or deliberately conceal something from the priest? Have I allowed myself to become so dominated by my work and chores that I have not set aside Sunday for spiritual and family activities? Honour your father and your mother. Did I honour and obey my parents? Did I respect my brothers and sisters? Did I respect others with lawful authority, especially teachers and professors? Did I speak rudely to them? Did I speak about them to others in a derogatory way? Did I fail to help my parents (at home, or in their time of need)? Did I spend time with my family, or avoid them? Do I blame my parents for my own shortcomings? You shall not kill. Did I give in to feelings of anger or jealousy? Did I keep hatred in my heart? Have I ever struck anyone in anger, intending to injure the person? Did I fight, give a bad example or cause scandal? Have I abused alcohol or drugs? Have I had or in any way permitted or encouraged abortion? Have I nurtured thoughts about suicide? You shall not commit adultery & you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife Did I consent to impure glances or thoughts? Did I give my mind over to lustful thoughts or fantasies? Have I encouraged them by stares, curiosity or impure conversations? Did I neglect to control my imagination or desire of other people? Was I immodest in dress or behaviour? Did I look at pornography, impure books, magazines or videos? Am I guilty of impurity with myself, premarital sex or adultery? Do I live chastely according to my state in life (married, single, consecrated celibate)? You shall not steal Have I stolen? What or how much? Did I return it or make up for what I stole? Have I cheated on tests or homework? Did I waste time at work? Did I do graffiti? Have I been extravagant in my manner of life, to the neglect of the poor at home and abroad? You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour Have I lied, gossiped? Have I talked about other people behind their backs? Do I always tell the truth? Am I sincere? Did I reveal secrets that I should have kept confidential? Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my talk? Have I injured the reputation of others by speaking about their failures and sins with little desire or intention to help them? Have I condoned prejudice and hatred toward people of other nationalities, races or religions? You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods Is my heart greedy? Am I jealous of what another has? Am I envious of others because I don’t have what they have? Do I habitually compare myself with others? Do I work, study, and keep busy to counter idle thoughts? Am I critical, negative, or uncharitable in my thoughts of others? Is my heart set on earthly possessions or on the treasures of heaven? Do I give to those in need, so as not to cling to my possessions? 82
  • II. Understanding the Relationships Diagram The relationships diagram is an effective tool to help people open their hearts to Jesus. Although the analogy presented is not perfect, it can still be very helpful in describing the various types of relationship with Jesus. To make the most of this tool, it is important to understand it well and practice presenting it clearly. Much of the following text is taken from the Discovery leaders notes. The notes have been consolidated here for convenient reference. Proper Assessment Studies show that people have not given up on their belief in God or their desire to somehow be connected to Church. The problem lies in their experience, perception and understanding of their faith, God and the Church. Imagine you just bought a house in a new city, perhaps a suburb of Toronto. What would happen if you left your 7 yearold child in the heart of the city and told him to find his way home? The task would be very difficult for him, as he is unfamiliar with his surroundings and does not know where his new home is located. Many Catholics find themselves in a similar bind. They do not know how to assess their spiritual condition due to lack of knowledge and experience. Their only real reference points are people such as:  Jesus (perfect)  Mother Teresa (gave up everything to serve the poor)  The parish priest (says we must live like Jesus — he himself gave up everything to serve God), and  Grandma (prays all the time). When they compare themselves to the likes of Mother Teresa, their lives will obviously fall short. Although they would like to be more spiritual, they do not see how they could possibly imitate Mother Teresa or even their parish priest. On the other hand, they have not killed anyone nor committed any major crimes, so they feel they are not “all that bad.” Most people find 83
  • themselves somewhere in the middle, between ‘bad people’ and saints, often spiritually paralyzed and making no progress. Using the relationships diagram, we hope to assist people in determining where they are spiritually and where they would like to be, so that we can help them make their way back home to the Father. Call to Respond The purpose of the relationships diagram is to encourage people to open their hearts to Jesus Christ. The first four lessons of Discovery pave the way for the call to respond to Christ in Lesson 5. This invitation is a call to conversion: Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple. The church calls all people to this conversion. Redemptoris Missio, 46 Although God continuously calls us to conversion, many people are not aware of this invitation. Dr. Alan Schreck writes: [S]ome Catholics have neglected the importance of this conscious, personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Catholics sometimes assume that persons who are baptized, attend Mass and receive the sacraments regularly have obviously accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of their lives... this is often not the case, many Catholics have not yet made a deliberate, adult decision to believe in Jesus Christ and give their lives fully to him. Dr. Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian, p. 25. As study leaders, we must understand Jesus’ invitation and encourage people to respond to it. In Lesson 5, participants are encouraged to respond to Jesus’ invitation by praying aloud. This prayer is not simply a nice way to end the lesson — it is an opportunity to truly give our hearts to the Lord. As we speak this prayer, we should trust that God is listening. He promises to hear whoever calls out, and to take his place in the heart of whoever opens the door to him. This time of prayer is a sacred moment to be revered and approached with 84
  • confidence. As leaders, we should set the tone for this time by emphasizing its importance. Many who participate in our studies are deeply moved by this time of prayer and regard it as a life changing moment: the moment they chose to give their lives to Jesus. Non-Threatening The relationships diagram provides a non-threatening way to share Jesus Christ that strips away arguments over “issues”, guilt-trips, and perceptions of being preachy. It brings individuals face to face with God in a way that does not cause them to compare themselves to anyone else. They see where they are on their spiritual journey, and where they would like to be. The rest of the appendix will look at common stumbling blocks for people in their understanding of the relationships diagram. 1 - Intimacy, not Perfection The relationships diagram shows commitments we make (whether consciously or not), not degrees of spiritual perfection. Although living our faith is essential to our relationship with God, the person in the second kind of relationship with God is not necessarily less “religious” than the person in the Christcentred relationship. The defining question is one of commitment: 'whom have I chosen to place at the centre?' Looking at the commitment between spouses can help us understand commitment to God. Marriages take time to mature. A newly married couple has more to learn about being good spouses than a couple that has been married fifty years. However, although one couple has been married fifty years and the other only one day, both are equally in a committed marriage relationship. The same concept can be applied to the spiritual life. Consider a person who has lived a life of sin (e.g. the 'good thief' next to Jesus on the cross). He sees the light and turns his life over to Jesus. Even though Jesus is now at the centre of his life, this person may not demonstrate a real maturity and ability to trust in God shortly after his conversion. He is no less a child of God than the greatest of saints. He just needs time to grow in 85
  • holiness and conform himself to God. Inevitably, you will encounter people who feel uncomfortable claiming they are in the Christ-centred relationship. They may think it would be too arrogant to do so, that it would be more humble to say their commitment is represented by the second image or somewhere between the second and third image. Or perhaps they are trying to live the commitment shown in the third image, but realize that they often fail. This attitude can often be attributed to the mistaken belief that being in a relationship with Jesus is about ‘measuring up’ or mastering the Christian life. Ask participants, “What do you think is the difference between the person who sees their commitment to God represented by the second image and the person who would say it is like the third image?” They will likely answer, “The person who says the third image trusts more, is more committed, etc.” From this perspective, it is completely understandable that they would hesitate to say they are in the Christ-centred relationship. To say you have the Christ-centred relationship would sound arrogant, as if you were a saint! In their minds, a person who has not yet mastered the Christian life can only be in the second kind of relationship. To address this misunderstanding, remind participants of Peter Kreeft’s question, “Why should God let you into heaven?” This question will help them to see upon whom they depend for salvation. Have them look at the second image and ask, “What would the person in the second kind of relationship answer if they were before Jesus?” They would answer with a list of all they have done for God, how good they are, or perhaps how 'not all that bad' they are. This person trusts in himself/herself (his/her works alone) to get into heaven. Many Catholics, knowing the Gospel, still have the mindset that they have to 'measure up' before God will 'show up'. The second image is actually a place of independence and pride. “Yes, I believe in Jesus, and I have to somehow keep him happy with me, or prove myself to him.” Look at the third image and ask, “What would the person in 86
  • the Christ-centred relationship say?” This person would say that God lets him/her into heaven because of Christ’s death and resurrection. Assure your group that if we understand who Jesus is, we will see that it is not proud to say, “I am in the Christ-centred relationship”. If we think salvation is about how good and skilled we are at living the Christian life, then the third image would indeed be a proud choice. But if we understand that it is Jesus who opens heaven to us and gives us the grace to follow his model of life, then we see that the Christ-centred relationship is the most humble. Most participants do not choose a “works” (it depends on me) mentality with a rebellious attitude. They just need to be encouraged to freely choose Christ with childlike faith. They do not need to prove anything, but they will have to cooperate with God’s grace — hence the need for follow-up teachings to help them live their conversion in an ongoing way. Understanding that we do not have to be perfect to live in the Christ-centred relationship is very freeing. We realize that our relationship with Jesus is secure. This does not mean that we believe we are “once saved always saved” — through serious sin we can still choose to turn our back on Jesus. We trust, however, that our security is established by God, not by our level of spiritual mastery. Without a sense of security and safety, it is difficult for this relationship to grow in intimacy and fidelity. 2 - Fear of Failure If we are not confident in the security of our relationship with God, we will live in fear of failure. It is essential to remember that though our failures are inevitable, Jesus will not fail us. We fear that if we fail, God will abandon us; we must recognize that God's love is unconditional (Lesson 1). Jesus said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5). This is his promise to us. He will not jump in and out of our lives. We can count on him to work with us, despite our failures. When we work with him and co-ooperate with his grace, we can trust that our relationship is secure. Using marriage as an analogy can help participants to understand this concept. For the first few days of marriage, the 87
  • husband and wife live perfectly together, playing house. But for the rest of their lives, they will fail each other on a daily basis; they are both human and thus tend to live for themselves in many ways. Despite their failures, however, they are confident in their relationship because they are committed to each other. Because of their commitment and love for each other, they work and struggle to strengthen their relationship. Their marriage is a work in progress; failures and mistakes do not end the relationship. Failure is an opportunity to repent. The same thing is true of our relationship with Jesus: we will fail on a daily basis. The Lord knows our weaknesses and he is not surprised by our sin. We need only to come to him in honest repentance and ask for his grace to help us overcome our failures and weaknesses. Knowing God’s mercy does not give us license to sin, however — we still ought to try to avoid all serious and deliberate sin, as well as those “everyday” failures. We must also recognize that if we rebel through actions that “bring death” into our relationship with God, and choose not to repent, we are not co-operating with him or his grace. In fact, mortal sin cuts us off from God’s love and salvation. It is like severing a branch from a tree, so that the sap can no longer reach it. The sacrament of Reconciliation is our opportunity to be reconciled with God. We must remember that our failure is an opportunity to repent and grow. It need not be the destruction of the relationship. Struggles and challenges are all part of the development of the relationship. As long as there is repentance and forgiveness, the relationship can continue to grow. III. What about Other Religions? There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved. Acts 4:12 I am the way, the truth and the life. John 14:6 As we see clearly in these verses, there is only one way to salvation. This does not sit well in a politically correct, 88
  • democratic world. Many people would like to believe that all roads lead to God. Although it may seem more convenient to think this way in a pluralistic world, this is not what the Church teaches. In Nostra Aetate (The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions), the Second Vatican Council affirms the value of learning about other religions. The document goes on to emphasize, however, that respect for other religions should not compromise belief in the divinity of Christ. The council also states that ...though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today, as always, retains its power and necessity. Ad Gentes, 7 It is important to understand that although the world religions agree on most moral or ethical issues, they do not share a common understanding of God, salvation and eternal life. Jesus is the only leader or prophet of a major world religion who claimed to be God, and who died and rose again to prove it. The Church’s teaching on the final judgment of those who do not know about Christ is that they can be saved. If they are saved it is not because they were exceptionally holy and squeaked in only by their works (in which case, the incarnation and redemption are not necessary for our salvation). NonChristians who are saved are also saved because of Christ. It is Christ who, by his sacrifice, has opened the gates of heaven to them, even though they do not know him. Though they may never have heard of Christ, these people can abide by God’s laws as they are revealed in nature and in their own consciences (Romans 1). God sees their hearts and can grant them the benefit of the salvation won by Christ. 89
  • IV. What About Hell? Yes, it is true. The Church teaches that there is a hell, where some will face eternal separation from God if they do not have sanctifying grace, which we receive through Baptism, faith, repentance and frequenting the sacraments. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:18 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. John 3:36 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 From The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1034: Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," [Mt 13:41-42] and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!" [Mt 25:41] Questions often arise concerning the salvation of those who have never heard the Gospel nor had a chance to respond to it (i.e. unbaptized children, those before Christ, other religions). 90
  • From Catholic and Christian, Dr. Alan Schreck, page 23: Thus, Catholic Christians must avoid two extremes in considering the salvation of non-Christians. They should avoid presuming that those who don’t believe in Jesus and his gospel will necessarily be condemned, but neither should Catholics presume that these people will be saved without accepting the gospel. 91
  • Discovery Follow-Up Objective: To review Discovery Lesson 5. To ensure participants understand the relationships diagram and the importance of inviting Jesus to be at the centre of their lives. Beginning the habit of a daily prayer time is also introduced. Leaders: To prepare for this meeting, review the appendices in your Discovery Leader Guide and ask the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of participants. Bring The Ultimate Relationship booklet (UR) with you to the meeting. 1. Is the decision to put Jesus at the centre of your life important? Why? This decision is important because we must say ‘yes’ to the grace of salvation we received at Baptism. Baptism and Confirmation are real and personal encounters in which we receive the life of God and the gift of salvation. As infants, we are not capable of expressing faith. Our parents, godparents and the community exercise their faith on our behalf. In many cases, the faith and understanding of young candidates at Confirmation is weak, and unfortunately, it is not nurtured. As a result, the faith of these young people withers. Sadly, this is the case for many Catholics today. They are not experiencing the personal encounter they actually had at Baptism and Confirmation. We must help them look back at what they were given, so that as adults they can say ‘yes’ to the grace of salvation they once received. We want people to see that choosing the Christ-centred relationship is not just a good thing to help their spiritual life. It is a decision to live in baptismal grace and to walk intimately with Christ. We must make our faith (and relationship with God) our own. God is our hope for mercy, freedom and life eternal in heaven. Sometimes Catholics are afraid of sounding “too Protestant” by talking about a personal relationship with Jesus. But talking about Jesus as “personal friend, Lord or Saviour” is not exclusive to either Protestants or Catholics. God has made it clear through Scripture that he wants us to know and experience him personally. “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15b). 92
  • 2. Revisit the relationships diagram with The Ultimate Relationship booklet. Very briefly go through the UR focusing in on pg. 5 and 7 (relationship broken and restored). You may want to remind participants of Lesson 4: what caused that separation and what were the effects; how Jesus restored that relationship and dealt with the effects. Depending on the situation, you may decide to have them explain the relationships diagram to you (if you feel confident in their understanding, or even if you want to “test” how well they understand it). Remind them that the main purpose of the relationships diagram is to help us restore or build on our relationship with Christ. If participants say that they are in the third image, then you should encourage them by asking about their decision (i.e. “What does it mean to you to live in the third image? When did you make the decision to commit yourself to Christ?” etc.) If they say they are in the second image, but desire to be in the third, then proceed through the UR. If someone says he/she is in image two after going through Lesson 5, it is often because he/she does not fully understand the relationships diagram. The appendix material will help you to address the person’s uncertainty. Ask, “What do you think is the difference between the second image and the third image?” Participants may answer that the person in the third image is more holy or more committed to God. Assure them that the third image does not illustrate perfection, but rather a trusting relationship with Christ. It is this trust that will have an impact on our walk with Christ. Once they understand that the Christian life is not about perfection but about relationship, then encourage them to pray and invite Jesus to be at the centre of their lives. We also want participants to understand that this decision is connected to their Baptism. Tremendous power and grace are given to us at Baptism — these gifts cannot be lost in a simple failure (unless of course, that sin is grave, with full knowledge and consent). If a participant has chosen the third image, move to points 3 and 4 in the UR. If he/she has not chosen the third image, set aside the rest of this material. Open a dialogue about his/her relationship with God and the obstacles to faith he/she is facing. Ask, “What 93
  • would be preventing you from moving into the Christ-centred relationship?” 3. Fact-Faith-Feeling. What if I did not feel anything when I prayed to put Jesus at the centre of my life last week? It is very important to understand that feelings only play a secondary role in the faith of a Christian. Our faith should be based on the facts revealed to us through Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church. The facts (and not feelings) should be the thrust for our faith. Leaders: Say, “Think about how long and high St. Catherine's bridge is. Think about how scary it would be to cross over that dangerous river. How do fact, faith and feelings affect a person walking across this bridge?" We have to put our faith in the bridge. We have to believe that the bridge was well-built and can support us as we walk over it. As with any bridge, we put our faith in the capability and workmanship of the bridge’s engineers and builders. Still, to walk across it is an act of faith. Feelings can affect the way we walk: we can run excitedly, exhilarated by the way the bridge supports us as we cross the river; we can walk across in fear and trepidation, clinging for our life on the rails, thinking we are not safe; or we can just walk evenly across it. There may be no particular emotion associated with this last option, but the absence of fear shows that we are confident in the bridge’s design, strength and stability. The feelings make no difference in how safely we make it to the other side, nor do they affect the structure of the bridge. No matter how we feel as we walk across, if the bridge is well-built, we will make it to the other side. We must have faith in the strength of the bridge. Ask: "How do we relate this to our relationship with God?" Christians should not depend on feelings or emotions, but place their faith in the trustworthiness of God, the promises he makes through Scripture and his Church (the facts) and most importantly, in what he has already done by dying for us. 4. Beginning Personal Prayer This will be a brief discussion (approx. 10 minutes) to teach participants about personal prayer and encourage them to take time every day to pray. We will be using the ACTS acronym to get them started. 94
  • a) Why Explain to participants that prayer is an essential part of nurturing our relationship with God. Taking time each day to pray enables us to continually recognize our need for Christ and commit ourselves to him. Our time of personal prayer does not have to be complicated — in fact, it is a lot like talking to a close friend. b) When We are aiming for consistency, not length of time. 10-15 minutes a day is a reasonable goal for most participants. c) How Suggest the acronym ACTS as one way to help them remember what to include in their time of prayer. A = Adoration: praise God, reflect on his greatness and character C = Confess: confess your sins to God T = Thanksgiving: give thanks to God S = Supplication: petition, make requests for yourself and others Another idea for prayer is to make a list of the days of the week and to put specific requests under each day, so that you can pray for many things through the course of the week. Also encourage participants to read the Bible regularly. Suggest reading one chapter a day, beginning with the Gospel of John, or one of the Pauline letters (Philippians, for example). Remember to share your personal experience of prayer. This is important, as participants may feel overwhelmed with all the details if they do not see an example of how to put everything together. Tell them where you pray and when. Do not intimidate them by saying that you pray for hours every day. Explain that prayer is like making an appointment with God and that he too is a real person who should not be “stood up”. In a gentle and loving way, ask them if you can talk to them about how their prayer is going the next time you see them. Explain that accountability helps us grow. Challenge: Foster your friendship with Jesus by taking time to pray and talk with him for at least 10 minutes every day. 95
  • 96
  • Discovery Follow-Up Worksheet Objective: To review Discovery Lesson 5 and begin the habit of a daily prayer time 1. Is the decision to put Jesus at the centre of your life important? Why? 2. Revisit the relationships diagram with The Ultimate Relationship booklet. 3. Fact-Faith-Feeling. What if I did not feel anything when I prayed to put Jesus at the centre of my life last week? 4. Beginning Personal Prayer. Why? When? How? Challenge: Foster your friendship with Jesus by taking time to pray and talk with him for at least 10 minutes every day. 97
  • 98
  • 99
  • 100
  • Record of Completion Return this form to your study leader or to the address on the back. Please print. Name: Today's Date: Primary Contact Information: Address: City/Prov./State: Postal/Zip Code: Phone: Email : Secondary or Permanent Address: Address: City/Prov./State: Postal/Zip Code: Phone:  Please contact me about more CCO studies, events or newsletters.  I do not wish to be contacted about more CCO studies, events or newsletters.  Faith study just completed or completing:  Discovery  Growth  Source  Obedience  Commission Study Leader's Name: Campus/Parish: 101
  • Your Feedback Please take a moment to give us your feedback. Please print. How has the study influenced your life? Any other comments/feedback? Please return by mail or fax to: CCO Faith Studies 1247 Kilborn Place Ottawa, ON K1H 6K9 Fax: (613) 736-1800 102
  • 103
  • 104