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Obedience Leader Guide
Created and published by Catholic Christian Outreach Canada.
Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved....
The cover image for Obedience is a rock. It represents the truth that
our God is a steadfast and sure foundation, and that...
Excerpts from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Familiaris
Consortio, Gaudium et Spes, Evangelium Vitae, Message of th...
6
To St. Thérèse of Lisieux,
who taught and modelled that obedience is a response
of surrender and trust in the goodness of ...
8
Table of Contents
Faith Study Objectives

10

Leading a Faith Study

13

Lesson 1 – Obedience

19

Obedience is important ...
Faith Study Objectives
1. CCO General Goals
Proclaim / Equip / Commission. To bring people to Christ, build them
up as Cat...
Source – Holy Spirit. This study looks at the Holy Spirit's vital role in
our lives, which is to empower and direct us to ...
At the end of every lesson, we present participants with a “prayer
challenge”. Ideally, participants would already have a ...
Leading a Faith Study
A. Qualities of a Faith Study Leader
Faith study leaders should be: F A C T (Faithful, Available,
Co...
2. Preparation
a) Personal Prayer
• Leaders should have a consistent personal prayer life (with daily
prayer time).
• Lead...
4. Components of a Faith Study
a) Casual sharing
• Start the small group meeting in an atmosphere of fun and sharing.
• Di...
• Give people time to think after you have asked a question or invited
sharing (wait 2-5 seconds before speaking again). R...
c) Pace the study within the time limit
• Know the objective of each lesson and communicate it clearly to
ensure that peop...
Obedience
Small Group Information:
Time:
Place:
Leader:
Phone Number:
Email:

Participants:

18
Lesson 1 Preparation Notes
"Obedience" In Brief:
Obedience is important to God and a blessing for us.

Key Elements:
• Thi...
Lesson 1

Obedience
Obedience is essential to Christian life. As we grow in faith, our
desire to obey God’s will should na...
The Call of Obedience
3. Read John 15:9-17. What are the key points in this
passage?
We will experience God's love, and ou...
The Blessings of Obedience
As we become more obedient to God and live according to his
plan, he showers us with blessings....
wants more than just words. He wants us to embrace his
commandments and allow them to transform the way we live.
Leaders: ...
in the scene, allowing it to unfold in our mind. In
meditating on Scripture in this way, we can come to
know God more pers...
Summary
When we consider God’s unconditional and merciful love for us,
we should be moved to respond. The proof of our lov...
Lesson 2 Preparation Notes
"Obedience and Fear of What Others Might Think" In Brief:
The Holy Spirit empowers us with cour...
Lesson 2

Obedience and the Fear of
What Others Might Think
1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's
lesson...
4. Read Luke 12:4-9. Why should we be more concerned
about pleasing God than about what other people think?
‘I tell you, m...
7. Despite the overwhelming circumstances, why should
Jonah not have been afraid?
• God would have been there with him, if...
11. Skim Acts 2:1-41. What famous event occurs at the
beginning of the chapter?
• Pentecost — the descent of the Holy Spir...
Personal Application
16. What are some examples of situations in which you
become concerned or anxious about what other pe...
19. Read Romans 8:31-35a. How can you take courage in
this area of your life?
If God is for us, who is against us? He who ...
Lesson 3 Preparation Notes
"Obedience and Fear of Circumstances" In Brief:
We can follow God, even in the midst of difficu...
Lesson 3

Obedience and the Fear of
Difficult Circumstances
1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's
lesson...
Promises of Protection
6. We need not fear life’s difficulties. List the promises in
these passages.
Isaiah 43:1-2
But now...
7. Which passage encourages you the most as you
consider your present challenges? Why?
Leaders: You could point out that n...
11. How does the love of money lead to various kinds of
evil (in this passage and in your experience)?
Money in itself is ...
Summary
Life’s circumstances can make it difficult for us to be obedient
to God. They may distract and tempt us, or cause ...
Lesson 4 Preparation Notes
"Obedience and Speech" In Brief:
The way we speak affects our relationship with God and others....
Lesson 4

Obedience and Speech
1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's
lesson.

2. What would you say are ...
Speech in the Gospels
5. Read Matthew 12:33-37. What does negative speech
indicate?
• Evil/sinfulness in our hearts.

6. W...
Leaders: Ask “What do you think these terms mean:
detraction, calumny and double-tongued?” (This section
from lesson 4 pre...
• Ask the people gossiping to quit.
• Do not assume the statements are true.
You could also share this story about St. Phi...
• people to hold us accountable
• our decision and effort to change
• relying on the grace and help of the Holy Spirit in ...
Lesson 5 Preparation Notes
"Obedience and Chastity" In Brief:
Recognizing that God calls us to purity of mind and body, es...
God’s mercy and grace in this area of our lives. Assure your
participants that there is nothing they can say that the prie...
Lesson 5

Obedience and Chastity
1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's
lesson.

2. Have you seen a chang...
The Creator himself . . . established that in the
[generative] function, spouses should experience
pleasure and enjoyment ...
6. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7. According to this passage,
what is chastity?
For this is the will of God, your sanctificati...
The Struggle with Negative Culture
8. What effect do you think modern media has on sexual
attitudes in young people?

9. R...
11. Read Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8-9. How can we
gain mastery over sinful thoughts?
Do not be conformed to this worl...
14. Read Matthew 4:1-11. How did the Lord defeat the
temptations of the devil?
He spoke the truths of Scripture to the dev...
Living It Out
Challenge: Redouble your efforts to practice chastity in thought
and action.
If you are dating someone, take...
Lesson 6 Preparation Notes
"Obedience and the Church" In Brief:
Recognizing that Peter and his successors lead and safegua...
flock . . . exercising the episcopacy not under compulsion . . .”
• There are historical reasons why they don’t translate ...
Lesson 6

Obedience and The Church
1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's
lesson.

The Catholic Church te...
4. Read John 21:15-19 once again. Why does Jesus repeat
his question and command to Peter three times?
Three times Peter d...
Ask : “Can Scripture stand on its own as a witness to
God's revelation, or do our leaders have a role in
interpreting it?”...
Authority was passed down, in succession, to leaders who
are called to serve the Church. Their mandate is to continue
fulf...
these tasks, such as the patriarchs, prophets, judges,
and kings of the Old Testament, and apostles,
prophets, teachers, a...
Church Leadership and Us
12. According to the following Scripture selections, what
should our attitude be toward those in ...
means failing to grasp its most basic teaching: that God is
creator and we are not. We do not have the wisdom or
authority...
Lesson 7 Preparation Notes
“Obedience and Vocation” In Brief:
Understanding that priesthood, religious life, marriage and ...
•

•

•

•

participants. The lesson may also give them tools to encourage
others and support their vocational discernment...
Lesson 7

Obedience and Vocation
1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's
lesson.

Priesthood, religious li...
choose a vocation. Like all vocations, it implies a firm “yes”
to God’s call. People who accept this vocation make a
promi...
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)
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Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)

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Obedience takes the call of being a faithful Catholic seriously. Challenging topics such as speech and chastity are covered, as well as obedience within the Church.

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Obedience Study Leader Guide (English)

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  2. 2. Obedience 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 June 29, 2011 Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul 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
  3. 3. The cover image for Obedience is a rock. It represents the truth that our God is a steadfast and sure foundation, and that obedience to his word in our lives is the safest, most fulfilling road we can take. 'I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.’ Luke 6:47-49 Image © Igor Tkachov 2007 Cover Design © Chris Pecora 2011 4
  4. 4. Excerpts from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Familiaris Consortio, Gaudium et Spes, Evangelium Vitae, Message of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations and Redemptoris Missio used with permission from Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 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. Fr. Bob Bedard, CC (founder), quoted with permission by the Companions of the Cross. All rights reserved. Fr. Jean C. J. d’Elbée, I Believe in Love. Sophia Institute Press 2001 (English translation by Marilyn Teichert and Madeleine Stebbins of Croire á L’Amour). All Rights Reserved. Used with permission. This book can be ordered at www.sophiainstitute.com or by calling 1-800-888-9344. 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. Reference from The New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles, edited by Steven Boguslawski, OP and Ralph Martin, copyright © 2008 by the Sacred Heart Major Seminary of Detroit. Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, NJ. Used with permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com. Epistle to the Magnesians, St. Ignatius of Antioch. (Roberts-Donaldson translation). Public Domain. 5
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  6. 6. To St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who taught and modelled that obedience is a response of surrender and trust in the goodness of our Father. 7
  7. 7. 8
  8. 8. Table of Contents Faith Study Objectives 10 Leading a Faith Study 13 Lesson 1 – Obedience 19 Obedience is important to God and a blessing for us. Lesson 2 – Obedience and the Fear of What Others Might Think 27 The Holy Spirit empowers us with courage when we are afraid of others' opinions of our obedience to God. Lesson 3 – Obedience and the Fear of Difficult Circumstances 33 We can follow God, even in the midst of difficulties, because he is trustworthy. Lesson 4 – Obedience and Speech 39 The way we speak affects our relationship with God and others. Lesson 5 – Obedience and Chastity 45 God calls us to purity of mind and body, especially in today's society. Lesson 6 – Obedience and the Church 54 Peter and his successors lead and safeguard the Church in order to provide us a sure compass in faith and morals. Lesson 7 – Obedience and Vocation 63 Priesthood, religious life, marriage and single life each offer unique paths to growth in holiness and mission. Lesson 8 – Obedience and the Mission 76 We are urgently called to participate in the Church's mission of evangelization. Appendix 86 Obedience Follow-Up 93 Participants are invited to greater trust and abandonment to God's will. Living it Out Cards 99 9
  9. 9. 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. 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. 10
  10. 10. 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. Obedience Goals The eight lessons and their goals are listed in the table of contents. Obedience follows a slightly different format than the other CCO studies. The first three studies present a progression of topics building upon one another. In Obedience, the lessons stand independently, yet share a common theme. Each lesson invites us to be docile to God's plan for our lives. Obedience is challenging and practical. Each lesson reveals new areas of behaviour, beliefs or attitudes to surrender to God. These areas include fears, speech habits, obedience to Church teachings and chastity. As challenging as this sounds, many participants say Obedience is one of their favourite studies. As the leader, you are responsible for setting the tone of the study. Your openness and authentic witness of obedience to God will encourage your group members to invite God more fully into their lives. You are certainly not expected to be perfect, but your group will likely look to you as an example of someone who has experienced the freedom of following God's plan. Share this experience with them and invite them to trust God’s plan for their own lives. Each lesson should be presented clearly and lovingly. Sensitivity is required, as the topics covered in this study touch very personal dimensions of the participants' lives. We do not want participants to feel overwhelmed with their past failures or unable to embrace obedience. Instead, we hope they will be moved to recognition and acceptance of truth. Remember, the Holy Spirit convinces us and "will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). Interceding for your participants is therefore of utmost importance. 11
  11. 11. At the end of every lesson, we present participants with a “prayer challenge”. Ideally, participants would already have a habit of daily prayer, into which they can incorporate these resolutions. If they have not yet established this habit, the prayer challenges can help them start. Faithfulness to daily prayer is not always easy — these resolutions are intended to encourage participants to build a solid habit of prayer. The last lesson introduces vocations. In light of the crisis of vocations to consecrated life and the priesthood in the western world, we wish to invite Catholic young people to consider these special callings as they discern their future. This lesson is by no means a comprehensive study of vocations. It is only an introduction, and is intended to encourage participants to begin or continue their discernment. It is an invitation to openness, to be willing to consider God’s call. The Obedience follow-up comes after the last lesson so that the whole content of the study can be discussed. The goal of the follow-up is to encourage participants to live a Christ-centred relationship (as taught in the relationships diagram in Discovery). During Obedience, the Holy Spirit has likely called them to further surrender specific areas of their lives to God’s will. We should encourage them to heed this call and to trust in God’s provident care. Participants may want to talk to you one-on-one before the scheduled follow-up. If you think it appropriate, you could also recommend they speak to a priest or spiritual director for guidance. The follow-up is not mandatory. Some participants may want to meet with you, while others may not feel comfortable doing so. Invite all participants to solidify the spiritual growth they have achieved during the study by seeking guidance from someone they trust. If they are uncomfortable discussing their spiritual growth with you, suggest that they speak to a priest, spiritual director or other mature friend in faith. 12
  12. 12. 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. 13
  13. 13. 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. Ask them to let you know if they cannot make it to a meeting. 14
  14. 14. 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. 15
  15. 15. • 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 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. 16
  16. 16. 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 last lesson. • Intercede for your group, especially as the Obedience follow-up nears. The spiritual battle in their lives intensifies as you approach the opportunity for deeper commitment to God. 17
  17. 17. Obedience Small Group Information: Time: Place: Leader: Phone Number: Email: Participants: 18
  18. 18. Lesson 1 Preparation Notes "Obedience" In Brief: Obedience is important to God and a blessing for us. Key Elements: • This lesson introduces obedience as a virtue that is important to God and a source of blessing for us. • We will examine our attitudes towards obedience, as well as the challenges and blessings it presents. • We will also look at the relationship between law and obedience, and how both are linked to freedom. • John 15 shows us that obedience to God is the proof of our love for him. • We are called to follow Jesus' example of love by laying down our lives. Whether it is done in great ways or small ways, giving of ourselves is both challenging and rewarding. • Societies function best when they are ordered by just laws. Similarly, we are most able to thrive when we obey God’s laws. God gives us his laws so that we might know how to be truly free. • The narrative of Abraham and Isaac is the climax of this lesson. It also provides a foundation for the rest of the study and for the followup meeting. • Abraham’s example challenges us to trust in God's sovereignty, authority, power and goodness. It calls us to surrender ourselves to God and to give him first place in our lives. • In a loving way, you can challenge your group to reflect on what God may be asking them to “place on the altar” and surrender to his will. Be very sensitive about how you challenge participants — you do not want to alienate them by demanding too much right from the start. Be assured that time is on your side. The Holy Spirit will work in their hearts throughout the semester, inspiring them to greater abandonment. • Ask your group to read Jonah chapters 1, 2, and 3 before next week’s lesson (it is too long a reading to do together during the lesson). Recommended Reading: • CCC 2570 - 2573 on Abraham 19
  19. 19. Lesson 1 Obedience Obedience is essential to Christian life. As we grow in faith, our desire to obey God’s will should naturally increase. The more we experience God’s love for us, the more willing we should be to follow his ways. 1. Why does the word “obedience” sometimes rub us the wrong way? Our pride can make us feel that obedience is humbling or demeaning. We want control. We feel that obeying someone else means giving up our freedom. In certain situations, we may struggle with obedience because we do not like the leader or the rules (or we don’t understand the purpose of the rules). We may not like some of the “Christian/Catholic rules” either. Often, however, if we understood the wisdom behind the rules, and the true character of the leader (God), we would be more inclined to obey. The Freedom of Obedience 2. Read James 1:25. How can freedom, obedience and law co-exist? But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. Leader: You can also ask, “Why is true freedom only found within boundaries?" Or "Why would a world without laws be chaotic and dangerous, making freedom impossible?” A society without laws would hinder freedom because our personal rights would not be protected. We want freedom to pursue that which is good. However, freedom to pursue evil infringes on another person’s right to pursue goodness. 20
  20. 20. The Call of Obedience 3. Read John 15:9-17. What are the key points in this passage? We will experience God's love, and our joy will be made complete, if we follow his commandments. If we keep the commandment of love, we will also be fulfilling many other commandments. We are to love others as Jesus has loved us. Jesus asks us to remain in his love. To do this, we must follow his commandment to love others the same way he loved us. He loved by laying his life down for our salvation. We can show the greatest love by laying down our lives for the salvation of others, as he did. 4. What are some ways we can love God and lay down our lives as Christ did? Leaders: Remind participants that Jesus did not lay down his life as a symbolic gesture. He sacrificed himself to save us from sin, death and eternal separation from God. We can offer our sacrifices as a prayer, in participation with Christ, for the salvation of others. Examples of laying down our lives: • loving those who are hard to love • random acts of kindness • extending love to others • showing care and gentleness by serving the poor • giving our lives courageously to serve the poorest of the poor • being willing to risk our reputation to share the Gospel • pursuing a vocation to religious life • being a missionary • being active in our parish outreach • praying, interceding, fasting, offering Mass for certain intentions 21
  21. 21. The Blessings of Obedience As we become more obedient to God and live according to his plan, he showers us with blessings. We read in Deuteronomy 5:29 that God desires to bless our obedience: If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children for ever! It makes sense. Would a good parent punish his child who loves and obeys the family rules and expectations? No! He will not respond to good behaviour by locking the child in his room, where he will be miserable! Though we know a good parent would never do this, we sometimes think God, our loving Father, will punish us if we surrender our lives to him. Leaders: You may want to pause here and ask your group if they can relate to this paragraph. In fact, it is just the opposite: when we obey God, we experience tremendous peace and joy. 5. Read Matthew 7:24-27. How do the benefits of obedience support us in difficult times? This passage is about the houses built on sand and on solid rock and what happened to each when strong winds blew. We are wise if we obey. God’s peace and joy can sustain us through times when it is challenging to remain faithful and obedient. Talk is Cheap! Being a Christian is challenging. It is tempting at times to give only the bare minimum — to spare ourselves the effort of loving and obeying God in all we do. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind...[and to] love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39b). It is easy enough to recite these words, but God 22
  22. 22. wants more than just words. He wants us to embrace his commandments and allow them to transform the way we live. Leaders: Break your group into pairs. Have one person look up 1 Samuel, the other 1 Corinthians; then have them find the common message. 6. Compare 1 Samuel 15:22 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. What is the common message in these passages? And Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to the voice of the LORD? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, to heed than the fat of rams. ..if you have not love it is nothing…. (the message of 1 Corinthians 13) • God desires obedience and love more than sacrifices. • If you do all the right things but do not love, you gain nothing. • Jesus calls us to love. 7. Read James 1:22-27. How does the theme “talk is cheap” stand out to you in this passage? If the "religious" things we say are not backed up by our actions, our faith is in vain. We must act on our faith — our faith is made evident by our good works. 8. Summarize what we have discussed so far about obedience. To love God is to obey him. God wants us to love him and to love others. This is what is most pleasing to him. The Obedience of Abraham Leaders: Have one person read Genesis 22:1-18 aloud, while the others close their eyes and try to enter the scene with their imagination. This is Ignatian style of prayer. Ignatian prayer comes to us from St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. As a passage of Scripture is read aloud, we use our imaginations to place ourselves 23
  23. 23. in the scene, allowing it to unfold in our mind. In meditating on Scripture in this way, we can come to know God more personally. An important part of Ignatian prayer is reflecting on the events and emotions evoked during the time of prayer. This reflection on our prayer experience helps us to further discern how God has been speaking to us 9. Read Genesis 22:1-18. How would Abraham be feeling in verses 1-10? Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. Isaac was the long awaited promised child who would bring a nation of descendants to Abraham. God, who had promised Isaac to Abraham, now wants to take him away. Abraham must have been confused by God’s request and grieved for the son he loved. Still, he had the courage to obey God’s command. 10. Why do you think Abraham was prepared to give his only son to God? Abraham trusted in the Lord completely. He knew that God’s will and wisdom was greater than his own. He knew he ought to fear and respect God. Note: This story prefigures Jesus on the cross. It anticipates the love of the Father and the obedience of Jesus in sacrificing himself for us. 11. How did God honour Abraham’s obedience and love (verses 10-18)? God blessed Abraham by sparing his son and promising him a multitude of descendants. 12. What lessons from this passage can we apply to our Christian walk? We all have our “Isaacs”. Would we be willing to sacrifice these things to God? Is God truly the Lord of our lives? God wishes to bless us, not to destroy our lives. He who made a great sacrifice for our sake calls us to make certain sacrifices so that we can receive more abundant blessings. Leaders: In a loving way, you could challenge your group to reflect on what God may be asking them to “place on the altar” and surrender to his will. 24
  24. 24. Summary When we consider God’s unconditional and merciful love for us, we should be moved to respond. The proof of our love for God is our obedience to him. We are not sentenced to following an uncaring leader. God loves us deeply and wants to bless us. He gives us his commandments to show us the way to joy and fulfillment. Living It Out Challenge: Think of an area in your life in which you hesitate to obey God. Try to obey him in this area. Prayer Challenge of the Week: Pray for 15 minutes every day, talking to God as a friend. Memorize John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” To prepare for next week’s lesson, read Jonah, chapters 1, 2, and 3. 25
  25. 25. Lesson 2 Preparation Notes "Obedience and Fear of What Others Might Think" In Brief: The Holy Spirit empowers us with courage when we are afraid of others' opinions of our obedience to God. Key Elements: • It is a challenge to follow God when you know you will be ridiculed, judged or shunned by others. How can we be obedient with (the potential of) such persecution? • Character studies of Jonah and Peter show very human responses of fear about what others will think. • Have someone summarize the story of Jonah (chapters 1-3 should have been read in preparation for this lesson). • Jonah is an example of someone who lacked "the fear of the Lord" and was instead intimidated by others' opinions. We sometimes find ourselves sharing this attitude. Should we not worry more about offending God? Should we not trust that God's ways and plans are better than our own? • Peter has a similar, and perhaps even more poignant, story. He knew the Lord, yet he betrayed him. Peter was afraid of what others would do to him because of his relationship with Jesus. • The study of Peter is the crux of the lesson: it clearly demonstrates the difference that the Holy Spirit makes. The coming of the Holy Spirit had a dramatic effect on Peter’s courage. • Be prepared to share personal stories related to this topic (if you don’t have any of your own, share stories you have heard from others). • The lesson ends with an exercise using John 12:42-43. Participants are asked to put their own names into this verse and indentify people or groups of people that intimidate them. We then read Romans 8:31-35, which assures us that God is always with us. This knowledge should encourage us to bravely bear witness to the Gospel. 26
  26. 26. Lesson 2 Obedience and the Fear of What Others Might Think 1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's lesson. God-Pleaser or People-Pleaser? 2. Do you tend to be a people-pleaser? If so, do you see this as a positive or negative trait? Could it be positive in some cases and negative in others? When and why? Leaders: Allow enough time for fruitful sharing. You could reword the question by asking, “In what situations do you tend to want to please people? Why do you think that happens?” Sometimes pleasing others and serving their needs is virtuous. Other times, trying to please others may involve manipulation, guilt, or not being true to yourself. 3. Does people-pleasing ever conflict with your desire to please God? Share examples. Sometimes people are more concerned about offending someone they can see than they are about offending God. It is as if God is not real or is so far away that he does not matter. He is much easier to ignore. We may also feel at times that practicing certain aspects of our faith is inconvenient or embarrassing (i.e. going to Mass every Sunday, saying grace before meals in public places, etc.). Ignoring these practices for the sake of fitting in with others may indicate that we place the opinion of others above God. 27
  27. 27. 4. Read Luke 12:4-9. Why should we be more concerned about pleasing God than about what other people think? ‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. ‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. • God is the judge. • God is the only true and constant help we will ever have. • Fear God, not people. God cares about every one of us — even to the smallest detail. Old Testament Character Study – Jonah Leaders: Your group members should have read these chapters before the lesson. Do not re-read them. Instead, have someone summarize the story of Jonah. 5. Review Jonah chapters 1, 2 and 3. What was at the root of Jonah’s disobedience? • Intimidation – it was a huge task. (3:3) Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. • Trusting in himself, not God. • Fear of the people of Nineveh. The Ninevites were longtime enemies of the Israelites. Jonah may have feared they would torture or kill him for preaching to them. • Prejudice and hatred. Perhaps he did not desire to see them converted (see Chapter 4). 6. What was the result of Jonah’s eventual obedience? Leaders: Challenge your group to back up their answers by referring to specific verses in this passage. 3:6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. The king repented and turned to God, as did the citizens of Nineveh. As a result, God showed mercy to them. 28
  28. 28. 7. Despite the overwhelming circumstances, why should Jonah not have been afraid? • God would have been there with him, if he had only trusted. • God would have protected him. • God knew the plan he had in mind for the Ninevites. New Testament Character Study – Peter Leaders: For variety, you could have participants discuss these questions in pairs. Gather everyone back together once they have gone through all the questions; ask them to summarize what they learned about Peter’s fears and how he overcame them. This section shows that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the only explanation for the dramatic change in Peter. Just over fifty days earlier he had denied Jesus and hid in fear; but after the Pentecost experience he was empowered to boldly proclaim his faith to crowds. This gives us hope for what the Holy Spirit can do in us. 8. Read Matthew 26:69-75. How would you describe Peter’s attitude in this passage? He is afraid. 9. Who were the people Peter feared, and why? Peter feared a girl, a maid, and a bystander. These people alone would not have posed a threat. He was likely afraid of whom they might tell of his association with Jesus and what might happen to him as a result. 10. Why do you think he denied Jesus, his close friend of three years and the man he had identified as the Christ? • Fear of public opinion – his reputation and his life would be in jeopardy. 29
  29. 29. 11. Skim Acts 2:1-41. What famous event occurs at the beginning of the chapter? • Pentecost — the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the birth of the Church. 12. How does this event affect Peter? What changes do you see in him? The Holy Spirit transforms him. He is empowered to speak about Christ. He has strength, courage, boldness. The verses which best demonstrate the change in Peter are Acts 2: 1415, 37. But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 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? 13. What was the result of his inspired speech? Three thousand people repented and were converted in one day. V. 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 14. How does this parallel Jonah chapter 3? • Both men were fearful at first. They both ran away. • With the help of grace, they preached God's message with supernatural power. • Many lives were changed. 15. To what can we attribute Peter’s transformation? Leaders: It is important for participants to grasp the following: The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the only explanation for the dramatic change in Peter. Just over fifty days earlier he had denied Jesus and hid in fear; now he boldly proclaimed his faith to crowds. We too are filled with that same Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has not changed! We too can be transformed and empowered every day to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. 30
  30. 30. Personal Application 16. What are some examples of situations in which you become concerned or anxious about what other people think of you? 17. Read John 12:42-43. What was the stumbling block for these people? Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God. Their stumbling block is fear of what the Pharisees would think of them, and perhaps do to them. In some Bibles, "human glory" is translated as "human praise". 18. Adapt this verse to your own life. Whose opinion do you fear regarding your relationship with God? (This may be individuals or groups of people). Fill in the blanks: Nevertheless __________________________ believed in him, (Your Name) But because of ____________________________________, (Person or Group) _____________________________ did not confess it, for fear (Your Name) that he/she would be put out of _________________________; (Situation or Group) for ____________________________ loved human glory more (Your Name) than the glory that comes from God. 31
  31. 31. 19. Read Romans 8:31-35a. How can you take courage in this area of your life? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Leaders: More of this Scripture selection is in the next lesson related to difficult circumstances. Wait until next week to read past verse 35a. The verses above specifically address “who” can separate us, not “what”. • We should strive to have greater faith, reminding ourselves that if God is for us, nothing can stand against us. • We can also repent of cowardice, receive grace, and obtain help through the sacrament of Reconciliation. • We can surrender this area to God. • We can ask the Holy Spirit for the grace and power to overcome our weakness. • We can receive grace through receiving the Eucharist. • We can ask others to support and pray for us. Summary Sometimes we push aside our Christian convictions because we are afraid of what others will think of us. Our security and identity must be grounded in God’s deep, unconditional love for us, not in human approval. As we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, our desire to please God above all things increases, and we are given the courage to act upon it. Living It Out Challenge: Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you as you face difficult situations or individuals. Prayer Challenge of the Week: Pray and talk to God throughout the day. Memorize Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who is against us? 32
  32. 32. Lesson 3 Preparation Notes "Obedience and Fear of Circumstances" In Brief: We can follow God, even in the midst of difficulties, because he is trustworthy. Key Elements: • Many of life’s challenges have the potential to shake our confidence in God. How are we supposed to obey, trust and follow him when everything is falling apart? In difficult times, we may feel we cannot rely on God and must take matters into our own hands. • Confidence in God is the theme of this lesson. We look to Peter stepping out of the boat as an example of confidence. We have all struggled to trust and step out in faith; the story of Peter walking on water reminds us that Jesus is with us and will not let us sink. Leaders, be prepared to share personal experiences related to this theme. • The heading “free us from all anxiety” comes from the 1973 English translation of the Roman Missal, specifically from a prayer which the priest prays at Mass after the Our Father. The full prayer is as follows: “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” The new 2011 English translation of the Roman missal says "Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ." • This week's goal is to strengthen our conviction in the truth — to remember God’s promises in Scripture and to make them the foundation of our thoughts and actions. This week’s lesson equips us to choose trust over anxiety and to rely on God instead of on ourselves. • This lesson also reminds us of our call to persevere in faith, regardless of the circumstances. As the saying goes "I believe in the sun even when it is not shining" (although it should be, "I believe the sun is shining, even if the skies are grey"). • As always, the Holy Spirit plays an important role in this lesson! Recommended Reading: • I Believe in Love, Fr. Jean C. J. d'Elbée 33
  33. 33. Lesson 3 Obedience and the Fear of Difficult Circumstances 1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's lesson. Self-Reflection 2. Spend a few moments reflecting on times when you found it hard to trust God. How did you respond to these difficult situations? How did God help you? 3. Consider some current circumstances in your life that cause you to doubt God’s providence or make it difficult for you to obey him. Share. Taking the Plunge! 4. Read Matthew 14:22-33. Why did Peter start to sink? He took his eyes off of Jesus and instead focused on the wind and the waves and became afraid. 5. How is “stepping out of the boat” an analogy of our Christian experience? We need to step out in faith, trusting that God will be there for us. When we take our eyes off Jesus and dwell on difficult circumstances, we can doubt God’s power and begin to sink. 34
  34. 34. Promises of Protection 6. We need not fear life’s difficulties. List the promises in these passages. Isaiah 43:1-2 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. • You are mine. • Your troubles will not overwhelm you. Romans 8:28 and 35b-39 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Leaders: This is a powerful passage. Spend time looking at all the promises listed here and how they can encourage us. Philippians 4:13 and 19 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. • I can do all things with God’s help. • He will meet all my needs. Joshua 1:5, 8-9 No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. God gives us his presence and protection in all circumstances. 35
  35. 35. 7. Which passage encourages you the most as you consider your present challenges? Why? Leaders: You could point out that none of these passages should be interpreted in a narrow, self-centred way implying that God will always give us what we want. God knows what we need, and he also knows that our deepest need is for him. He will never abandon us. Free Us from All Anxiety 8. We sometimes become anxious about the concerns of day-to-day living and the uncertainty of the future. Read Luke 12:13-34. What does Jesus say to address these fears? We should not focus on this materialistic world, but on doing the things which will bring heavenly reward. He calls us to be obedient to God. Leaders: Ask, “Can you relate to the fear of circumstances presented in this passage? How?” 9. Why should we not worry? If we focus on Jesus, he will look after us (“all these things will be added unto you”). God will provide for our physical needs, if we are seeking his kingdom. 10. Read 1 Timothy 6:7-19. What is Paul’s warning? Why? He warns of temptation from this world and its desires, especially from materialism. Although not explicitly said in the verses, this can lead us to selfishness and greed, and draw us away from God. Leaders: Ask, “Do you see these attitudes in our society?” 36
  36. 36. 11. How does the love of money lead to various kinds of evil (in this passage and in your experience)? Money in itself is not evil. We are to be good stewards of our money by purchasing prudently, sharing with the less fortunate and giving a portion of our riches back to God. Often, however, the more money you have, the more you spend. It is challenging not to give in to greed, selfishness and excess when you have more money than you need. 12. What is the “fear of difficult circumstances” in this passage? • • • • Fear of being poor, Fear of suffering financially, Fear of living without the pleasures money can buy Fear of living without the security of money 13. What does Paul exhort us to do? • In perseverance, keep living a holy life of faith in order to please God (v. 11-14) • Call others on to holiness (v. 17) • Keep our eyes on the heavenly realities, not on temporal uncertainties. (v. 17, 19) 14. Read Revelation 21:4. What hope does this passage offer us when we are facing difficult circumstances? "…he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." We have hope of a better place (heaven), where there will be no pain, no tears and no sorrows. 37
  37. 37. Summary Life’s circumstances can make it difficult for us to be obedient to God. They may distract and tempt us, or cause us to fear and doubt God's ability to protect us. We should remember, however, that Scripture is full of God’s promises of protection. Our loving Father “will not fail us nor forsake us” (Joshua 1:5). We can continue to obey and live uprightly because we trust in a God who protects and loves us through both our joys and our struggles. Living It Out Challenge: Choose one or more Scripture verses that address your present situation. Write them down on a card and carry them with you as encouragement throughout the week. If you know someone who is going through a difficult situation or who is struggling in his/her faith, offer him/her encouragement and support. Prayer Challenge of the Week: Remember the intercessory power of the saints. Invoke the intercession of specific saints, and remember Mary’s intercession through the Rosary. Memorize Romans 8:28: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 38
  38. 38. Lesson 4 Preparation Notes "Obedience and Speech" In Brief: The way we speak affects our relationship with God and others. Key Elements: • Reflecting on speech habits is important for building integrity and maintaining trusting relationships. • Scripture has much to say about the positive and negative consequences of speech. • The New Testament readings in this lesson emphasize the power of the tongue and how hard it is to control. • The readings from the Gospel point out that speech is an indicator of what is going on inside us, and that we will be held accountable to God for how we speak. • The Old Testament readings outline various ways our speech can offend God and others. • The section on speech in the Old Testament is extensive. Take time to carefully read the passages from Sirach and prepare your own reflections before leading the lesson. • Some participants may not have Catholic-edition Bibles, and thus are not able to find the book of Sirach. Have them follow along with someone else. • Top discussion items will likely be gossip, negative-humour and swearing. • The lesson ends on a positive note, with a discussion of ways to call one another to better speech habits, and to edify and affirm others by our speech. Recommended Reading: • CCC 2477 (this article complements the readings from Sirach) Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty: - of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor; - of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them; - of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them. 39
  39. 39. Lesson 4 Obedience and Speech 1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's lesson. 2. What would you say are strengths and weaknesses in your speech habits? We will begin this lesson by looking at what Scripture teaches us about speech. We will look at various passages, beginning in the New Testament Epistles, then moving back to the Gospels, and concluding with the Old Testament. Speech in the New Testament In the following passage, the author of the Book of James addresses mature Christians about their speech habits and the control the tongue has on one’s life. 3. Read James 3:1-12. What do the analogies in verses 1-8 teach us? Can you see how these analogies might apply in your life? • • • • • fire (small but causes much destruction) bit and bridle wild animals ship’s rudder If you have control of the tongue then you have control over your entire life 4. What do the analogies of verses 9-12 teach us? • • • • 40 pure spring water / dirty water salty / fresh water fig tree does not produce olives The contradiction of the tongue: it can praise God, then curse someone created in God's image.
  40. 40. Speech in the Gospels 5. Read Matthew 12:33-37. What does negative speech indicate? • Evil/sinfulness in our hearts. 6. What does Christ warn in this passage (v. 36)? What is your reaction to his warning? I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter. We will need to render an account to God for every careless word. That certainly should get our attention! Speech in the Old Testament Despite the passing of time, our fallen human nature remains strikingly consistent. The Bible, in particular the Old Testament, contains ageless wisdom that applies to people as much today as when it was written. Leaders: For this section, you could have 3 people read the passages from Sirach aloud while the others listen and take notes. Alternatively, you could divide participants into pairs and give them each one question to prepare and present to the group. 7. Read Sirach 5:12 to Sirach 6:1. Take note, as you read, of what this passage teaches about speech. Write down the key points. If you know what to say, answer your neighbour; but if not, put your hand over your mouth. Honour and dishonour come from speaking, and the tongue of mortals may be their downfall. Do not be called double-tongued and do not lay traps with your tongue; for shame comes to the thief, and severe condemnation to the double-tongued. In great and small matters cause no harm, and do not become an enemy instead of a friend; for a bad name incurs shame and reproach; so it is with the double-tongued sinner. • Proper use of the tongue requires constancy of speech, prudence and charity. • Avoid detraction, calumny and being double-tongued. 41
  41. 41. Leaders: Ask “What do you think these terms mean: detraction, calumny and double-tongued?” (This section from lesson 4 preparation notes have been copied here for your convenience). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, article 2477, defines detraction and calumny. This article also defines rash judgement, which is not specifically mentioned in Sirach: Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty: - of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor; - of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them; - of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them. Double-talk is essentially hypocrisy. It is saying one thing and doing another, or saying one thing to one person and something else to another. 8. Read Sirach 23:9-15. What does this passage say about coarse language? Leaders: Ask, “Do you think there are different levels of bad language (i.e. some words/expressions are worse than others)?” • Worst swearing of all is taking the Lord’s name in vain. • Swearing and coarse talk (e.g. sexual innuendoes) can be sinful or lead to sin. • Crude or abusive language does not lead to maturity of character. 9. Read Sirach 19:5-16. What does this passage teach us about gossip? • Do not repeat gossip. Let it end with you. • Deal with problems head-on. Leaders: Here is some other practical advice regarding gossip: • Ask yourself, “does this need to be said?” 42
  42. 42. • Ask the people gossiping to quit. • Do not assume the statements are true. You could also share this story about St. Philip Neri St Philip Neri was a saint who lived in Florence, Italy, during th the 16 century. As a priest he would often hear the confessions of his parishioners — but one day he gave a woman an unusual penance. She had come to him to confess the sin of gossip and after granting her absolution he instructed her to tear open a feather pillow from the top of the church bell tower before coming back to him. She did so and watched the feathers scatter in the wind. When she went back to him he gave her the second part of her penance: to go out and to collect every single feather that blew away. He meant this to be a graphic example of how the words we speak cannot be taken back. Personal Application 10. What are some other subtle ways we may be disobeying God in our speech? • • • • Negative humour Murmuring or grumbling Irritability Quasi-swears. Is saying ‘crap’ any better than saying the real expletive? (That is not to say you should just go ahead and say the real one!) We ought to think about our words and what they mean. 11. What are ways you can be accountable to each other in your speech? • Friends can signal you when you slip up. • Make a tick sheet of how many times a day you slip up in your speech, be it gossip, foul language or negative humour. An exercise like this can help us see how often we speak this way and encourage us to change our habits. Leaders: Remind participants as the discussion wraps up that change in this (or any area of our lives) must include: • awareness of what we are really doing 43
  43. 43. • people to hold us accountable • our decision and effort to change • relying on the grace and help of the Holy Spirit in every situation • frequenting the sacraments for grace, particularly the sacrament of Reconciliation for extra grace to overcome these weaknesses 12. Ephesians 4:29 instructs us: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” What are some practical ways we can edify and bless others? Summary Scripture teaches us that God cares about how we speak. The language we use and the character of our words are not insignificant to him. We need to co-operate with the Holy Spirit by making an effort to control negative speech, and by using our words to edify those around us, witness to our faith, and give glory to God. Living It Out Challenge: Set some goals for improving your negative speech habits. Look for opportunities to encourage and edify people this week. Be prepared to share. Prayer Challenge of the Week: Increase your daily prayer time by five minutes. Memorize Colossians 4:6: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. 44
  44. 44. Lesson 5 Preparation Notes "Obedience and Chastity" In Brief: Recognizing that God calls us to purity of mind and body, especially in today's society. Key Elements: • This is a sensitive and personal topic. Ask the Holy Spirit to move your participants’ hearts and minds to be receptive to God's plan for their sexuality. • Prepare yourself for this lesson by studying The Catechism of the Catholic Church, articles 2331–2440. These articles provide context for all the CCC citations found in this lesson. • Bring a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church to the lesson for reference. If someone challenges you and you feel unable to respond adequately, assure the person that you will find out the answer to his/her question and discuss it next week. You could also refer participants to another person or to a book that can provide more complete answers. Have them report their findings to the group the following week. • Although we do want people to know the truth about chastity and sexuality, we do not want them to feel judged or attacked. You have the opportunity to set the tone by your firm but warm, loving and confident communication. • The purpose of this lesson is to give an introduction to chastity and to emphasize that the gift of sex is for marriage (unitive and procreative). John Paul II's Theology of the Body offers comprehensive teaching on human sexuality and can be a good follow-up to this lesson for those who are interested in reading more. Christopher West is a very readable resource for this. • This lesson also challenges Christians who may be judgmental of those who commit sexual sins. In the New Testament, sexual sins are often listed along with other sins that any of us could be committing. This should help us recognize that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and healing. • This is not to say, however, that sexual sins are not serious. They distort both the dignity God gives us and his plan for people's lives. • We will discuss on how society is saturated with sexuality and how this can desensitize people to the true meaning of sex. • We need to change the way we think. We must understand the truth about sexuality and chastity. We cannot do this solely with will power; we need the grace of the Holy Spirit to be counter-cultural and overcome temptation. • The sacrament of Reconciliation is vital as a means of receiving 45
  45. 45. God’s mercy and grace in this area of our lives. Assure your participants that there is nothing they can say that the priest has not heard already! Offer to bring them somewhere they can receive the sacrament. Confession may be offered before Mass at your parish, for example. You could invite participants to join you for Mass and receive the sacrament beforehand. • Be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit in your group. If you sense someone needs to talk to you privately, approach him/her after the lesson. You could also give him/her a call or send a message to say you sensed he/she needed to talk. Don't push it if the person resists. You may have been wrong, or maybe he/she is not ready to talk. Perhaps Confession is the best option. If you feel you are not qualified to help the person, recommend a priest or another person who is better equipped to help. • Although this is the fifth lesson, the follow-up for Obedience is at the end of the study; it is necessary to cover all the topics before the follow-up. Recommended Reading: • CCC 2331–2440 is essential reading for this lesson. • Top Catholic resources on this topic include: Christopher West (www.christopherwest.com), and Jason Evert, (www. chastity.com), (www.whodoesithurt.com) • These resources are also helpful for the lesson on vocations. 46
  46. 46. Lesson 5 Obedience and Chastity 1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's lesson. 2. Have you seen a change in attitudes toward sexuality in the past five to ten years? Discuss. Leaders: You could discuss how attitudes have changed with specific age groups (e.g. high school, college-aged, or kids). 3. How does the Church explain God's plan for our sexuality? Leaders: The purpose of this question is to start the lesson with a positive attitude towards obedience and chastity. Point out that the “rules” exist because God wants us to enjoy our sexuality and find it fully lifegiving. God created sex to be pleasurable, within boundaries that are meant to protect us. Sexuality is a great gift. Sex is a sign of the sacrament of marriage; it is a holy, loving, life-giving act intended exclusively for husband and wife. The following is from CCC 2361-2362 Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death . The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude. Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure: 47
  47. 47. The Creator himself . . . established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation. The Struggle with Sin 4. Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. Look at the kinds of people listed in verses 9-10. Why should Christians not be too quick to point fingers at sexual immorality? Leader: You might want to ask, “Have any of us ever been greedy or slandered someone?” It is likely that we have committed these sins at some point. We should therefore refrain from judging people who commit the other sins listed in this passage. Jesus said to take the log out of your own eye before you worry about the splinter in your neighbour’s eye. Some of our other past or present sins are probably within the list. The key to the answer is in verse 11: (v. 11) And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. • That is what we were like before, but we have been made right with God. • We are to live the life to which we have been called and to which we were redeemed. • We have been forgiven, but do not let that freedom lead us back to sin. 5. Look at verses 12-20. Why should we avoid giving in to sexual immorality? The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord. Our bodies are in union with Christ — we must not prostitute our bodies. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit; we are to honour God with our bodies. Verses 12-14 tell us that it is not always good for us to do whatever we want to do. 48
  48. 48. 6. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7. According to this passage, what is chastity? For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Being chaste means abstaining from passionate lust. It is God’s will for us to be sexually pure. The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. CCC 2338 7. Who is called to chastity? Everyone! People of every vocation (priests, religious, spouses and singles) are called to live chastely. Do not confuse chastity (sexual purity) with celibacy (a commitment to remain single, chastely, for the sake of God’s Kingdom). People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy, which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single.” Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence: There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others. . . . This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church. CCC 2349 Leaders: Vocations will be discussed further in Lesson 7. 49
  49. 49. The Struggle with Negative Culture 8. What effect do you think modern media has on sexual attitudes in young people? 9. Read Romans 12:1-2. How can we stop ourselves from being “conformed to this age?” I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect. • We should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (to abstain from sexual immorality can be a form of spiritual worship). • We need to be transformed, and our minds must be renewed so that we can discern things the way God does. • On a practical level, avoid things that drag you into sexual sin (i.e. certain friends, movies, TV shows,websites, magazines, situations). Put into practice the elements for growth as covered in Growth: prayer, Scripture, sacraments, fellowship, service and witness. The Struggle with Our Thoughts 10. Read Matthew 5:27-28. How can our thoughts be an area of sexual sin? ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. We can let our thoughts get carried away, as we lustfully linger and play out sexual sins in our mind. Jesus clearly warns us to watch our thoughts not only our outward actions. Both should be holy and pleasing to God. 50
  50. 50. 11. Read Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8-9. How can we gain mastery over sinful thoughts? Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2) Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9) We gain victory through the renewal of our minds. Leaders: Ask, “How do we renew our minds?” By living out the elements or Christian growth: e.g. reading and studying Scripture, Church teachings, Christian books, prayer, grace of the sacraments, surrendering our will more and more to God’s will for our life, so that he can mould us and renew the way we think and discern. 12. Intercourse outside of marriage is not the only offense against chastity. What are some others? From The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2351-2357: lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, rape, homosexual acts, incest and molestation. The use of contraception in marriage is also an offense against chastity (CCC 2366-2372). The Struggle with Temptation 13. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. What safeguards are given to us when we face temptation? No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. God promises to help us. We will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. He will always provide a way out. The Holy Spirit is the strength we are given to overcome temptations. 51
  51. 51. 14. Read Matthew 4:1-11. How did the Lord defeat the temptations of the devil? He spoke the truths of Scripture to the devil. In the context of chastity, Psalm 51 is a great passage on which to meditate (it is King David’s song of repentance to God after he had an affair and killed his lover’s husband). This lesson also presents many other encouraging passages. When discussing the power of Scripture in facing temptation, it is helpful to look at Ephesians 6:13-17, which lists the various pieces of the armour of God. The only item listed for offence is the “sword of the Spirit“, which is the Word of God. 15. Read 1 John 2:1. What can we do if we commit sexual sin? How is the sacrament of Reconciliation a gift to us in our struggle? My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; In the sacrament of Reconciliation, we receive the assurance of forgiveness, grace to resist temptation in the future and counsel from the priest on how to avoid sin. Summary God wants us to obey him by practicing chastity. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are not to think as the world does. Instead, we are to live purely, using the gift of sex in its proper context, which is the sacrament of Marriage. God helps us achieve this by giving us the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation. 52
  52. 52. Living It Out Challenge: Redouble your efforts to practice chastity in thought and action. If you are dating someone, take a brief moment every time you get together to pray that your relationship be centered on Christ. Prayer Challenge of the Week: Examine your conscience in this area. Is the Lord calling you to the sacrament of Reconciliation? Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13: No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 53
  53. 53. Lesson 6 Preparation Notes "Obedience and the Church" In Brief: Recognizing that Peter and his successors lead and safeguard the Church in order to provide us a sure compass in faith and morals. Key Elements: • This study looks briefly at the call of Peter, our first pope. • Jesus asks Peter to tend his sheep. In this lesson, we will examine this pastoral call as it is described in Scripture. The passages we will study highlight the responsibilities of those who shepherd the people of God. • We will discuss Jesus’ decision to entrust such important leadership to imperfect human beings. Questions will likely arise about scandals in the Church. A resource for preparation is noted below. • We then touch on the revelation of truth through the Church (Scripture, Tradition and magisterium). The truths of the faith have been revealed in Scripture and Tradition. The Church’s leadership (the magisterium) today, with the help of the Holy Spirit, has the role of authentically interpreting it . • The lesson ends with a reflection on our response to leadership in the Church. Bishops share in the pastoral ministry of Peter and are the guardians of the deposit of faith. We thus have a responsibility to honour, respect and follow their leadership in faith and morals. At all times, even when we disagree or conflict with these leaders (or perhaps with their failures or weaknesses), we should always be respectful and “[speak] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). • If participants have questions and concerns, assure them that they are not alone in wrestling with these questions, and that answers are available. Recommend a priest or other knowledgeable person with whom they can further discuss their questions. Refer them to books and/or websites (for example, www.ewtn.com, and www.catholic.com provide solid answers to questions on Church teachings). Background Information: • Pertaining to 1 Peter 5:14: “Elder” is a translation of the Greek word “presbyteros”, which is the source of our English word “priest”. Originally it literally meant “an older person," although already in the New Testament it has a specific sense, which Peter uses here. • Also when it says “exercising the oversight” in 1 Peter 5:14, "oversight" in Greek is “epi [over,on] skopos [seeing]”, which is the source of the English “bishop”. So, Peter is effectively saying “Now as a priest myself . . . I exhort the priests among you to tend the 54
  54. 54. flock . . . exercising the episcopacy not under compulsion . . .” • There are historical reasons why they don’t translate it this way in the Bible, for example, the Old Testament word for “priest” in Greek is a different one — but it does shed some light on what he is saying. • It is also interesting that “Bishop” literally means one who oversees things, although you could also apply deeper theological meanings (he sees “over” the material realities to the spiritual world above, etc.). • St. Ignatius of Antioch was martyred in Rome in 106AD (fed to lions). The following quote from him shows that the threefold structure of Church authority was already clearly recognized by the end of the first century as well as the call to practice unity with and obedience to these leaders. He said, I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ. He, being begotten by the Father before the beginning of time, was God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and remains the same for ever; for “of His kingdom there shall be no end,” says Daniel the prophet. Let us all therefore love one another in harmony, and let no one look upon his neighbour according to the flesh, but in Christ Jesus. Let nothing exist among you which may divide you; but be ye united with your bishop, being through him subject to God in Christ. Epistle to the Magnesians, 6 Background Reading: • • • • CCC 84-100 – on the faith entrusted to the Church CCC 874-896 – on the hierarchy, pastors and authority Catholic and Christian by Alan Schreck An online article addressing scandals in the Church: www.catholic.com/library/A_Crisis_of_Saints.asp 55
  55. 55. Lesson 6 Obedience and The Church 1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's lesson. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus passed on the authority he received from the Father to his apostles, empowering them with the Holy Spirit, so that they could carry on his mission. The apostles received this authority and in turn, appointed other men to carry on the mission. They conferred their authority to them through prayer and “the laying on of hands”. This sacramental conferring of authority has created an unbroken chain of Church leaders, and is called “apostolic succession.” It began with Peter and the other apostles and extends down through history to our present Holy Father and bishops. Shepherds of God’s Flock 2. Read Matthew 16:13-19. How did Peter know who Jesus was? Peter spoke the truth not by his own wisdom or merit, but because God revealed it to him. 3. What authority does Jesus give to Peter? The Church is built upon Peter. Jesus gave Peter the keys (authority) to bind and loose. Leaders: If you have time, now is a good opportunity to explain Peter's authority as described in Catholic and Christian, p. 86. Read this text for yourself before beginning the lesson. 56
  56. 56. 4. Read John 21:15-19 once again. Why does Jesus repeat his question and command to Peter three times? Three times Peter denied Christ, and three times Jesus “reinstates” Peter. As our first pope, Peter is the shepherd of the Church. 5. Read 1 Peter 5:1-4. What does Peter say to those who have been appointed as leaders in the early Church? Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. • • • • • • serve as God would want them to tend to their own flock do not lord authority over people be an example do this task willingly, not under constraint oversee the people 6. Read Acts 20:17-35. In this passage, Paul leaves the church at Miletus, never to see these Christians again. How does he instruct the church leaders? • • • • • • • to follow his example to be vigilant to watch for those perverting the truth to keep in the Word to boldly preach repentance to serve the weak to watch over themselves and their flock 7. Read Jeremiah 3:15. What kind of shepherds does the Lord desire for his people? I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Shepherds after his own heart. Leaders: Ask, “What do you think it means to be a shepherd after God’s own heart?” This passage says that the leaders/shepherds will lead us with knowledge and understanding. 57
  57. 57. Ask : “Can Scripture stand on its own as a witness to God's revelation, or do our leaders have a role in interpreting it?” Church leaders do not have a role in bringing about divine revelation; their role is limited to interpreting what God has already revealed to us (which is called the "Deposit of Faith"). To safeguard the Deposit of Faith, God gave us the Church. Through the Church, revelation is interpreted and explained to us. 8. Discuss the following quotations. How do they explain the connection of Jesus and Peter to our present church leaders? The apostles worked together to guide God’s people under Jesus’ leadership, a leadership that Peter in some way carried on after Jesus had departed. Peter was not looked upon as a replacement for Jesus; he was only a visible representative of Jesus’ ongoing presence and authority in the whole Church, just as each local bishop came to represent the presence and authority of Jesus and the apostles in the local church . The Holy Spirit led the Church to recognize the need for one bishop to exercise a special role of leadership among all the bishops — just as Peter had done among the apostles. Dr. Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian, p. 94 When Christ instituted the Twelve, “he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them.” Just as “by the Lord’s institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another.” The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. CCC 880, 881 58
  58. 58. Authority was passed down, in succession, to leaders who are called to serve the Church. Their mandate is to continue fulfilling the role Jesus gave to Peter, which is to shepherd his flock. Imperfect Leadership 9. How can Church leaders teach with authority, and properly guide the Church, if they are sinners like us? Leaders: Have your group consider the life and failures of Peter as studied in Lesson 2 (“Obedience and Fear of What Others Might Think”). 10. Share your thoughts on the following quotation: [A]uthority and leadership in the Church is a sovereign gift of God to his people. Men do not receive authority by their merits; neither is God-given authority invalidated by the presence of sin in the lives of Church’s members or leaders. The leaders of the Church should especially exemplify holiness and righteousness in their personal lives, so that they can be examples to the flock of Christ, and not cause scandal among Christians and unbelievers.... [T]heir authority to teach and guide the Church comes from God himself. Dr. Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian, p. 73 God’s Revelation Catholics do not believe that the Bible is the only source of revelation and guidance for Christians. The Bible itself does not clearly teach this. If anything the Bible testifies that God's way of revealing himself and leading his people is to choose certain persons for 59
  59. 59. these tasks, such as the patriarchs, prophets, judges, and kings of the Old Testament, and apostles, prophets, teachers, and bishops of the New Testament. Catholics believe that throughout history God continued to select certain individuals to lead his people and to teach with his authority. Sometimes God also leads and guides his people as a whole through the direct inspiration and work of the Holy Spirit. This is not to deny or minimize the importance of the Bible. Rather, Catholics desire to recognize and value all the ways that God instructs and directs the Church. Dr. Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian, p. 44 Catholic teaching is based on three pillars: the Sacred Scriptures, Sacred Tradition (composed of truths which have been discerned and handed down through the Church over the centuries) and the teaching authority of the Church called the magisterium. The Council of Jerusalem, described in the Book of Acts, is an example of how God reveals himself to individuals in order to lead his people. This was the first Church council, and the model for future councils through which Church teaching is defined. 11. Read Acts 15:1-35. What is controversial about the issue they are discussing? How was God’s revelation made known to them? This decision would seem almost counter-scriptural, because they were allowing the Gentiles to be free from most of the Mosaic Law (which is our Scripture, the Old Testament). Leaders: Have participants work through the progression: • A problem was made known to the elders. • Apostles and elders considered the question and discussed. • Several statements were made, Peter being the first to speak. • A letter was written for circulation. Note that in Acts16:4, the decision reached by the elders was delivered to the people to be followed. In other words, the people in the churches were expected to obey the directions of the leaders. 60
  60. 60. Church Leadership and Us 12. According to the following Scripture selections, what should our attitude be toward those in authority? 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. Respect them, hold them in highest regard in love, and live in peace with each other. The challenge is to have this attitude even when we have conflicts with our leaders. Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you. Imitate their faith. They spoke the word of God to us and were an example. Obey them to make their job a pleasure. 13. In light of the following quotation, discuss the concept of “cafeteria Catholicism”. If you have never heard this expression, what do you think it means? Catholics today still believe that the authority of the bishops and the pope is God's authority, given to them by Jesus himself through the apostles and their successors down through the ages. Therefore, a Catholic who obstinately rejects the official teachings or directives of the bishops (or the “chief bishop,” the pope) might be guilty of a form of rebellion against God which would jeopardize the person's salvation.... This understanding of the authority of the bishops to govern the Church presupposes a basic trust that the Holy Spirit truly guides and inspires them in their leadership. Dr. Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian, p. 31 The expression “Cafeteria Catholicism” refers to the notion that we can pick and choose truths as we choose food in a cafeteria line, accepting truths we like and rejecting those we do not. This attitude towards Catholicism, however, is misguided. It is God who determines what is true, not us. Picking and choosing what we like from the Catholic Faith 61
  61. 61. means failing to grasp its most basic teaching: that God is creator and we are not. We do not have the wisdom or authority to determine for ourselves what is true, and what commandments we ought to follow. God gives us the Church to guide us to a proper understanding of the truth. Summary Jesus delegated authority to Peter and the apostles, and that authority has been passed on in unbroken succession for over two thousand years. The guidance of the magisterium, exercised by the Holy Father and the bishops in communion with him, is a great gift to the Church. Living It Out Challenge: Look to further inform yourself about the Church. Find resources that address questions you may have about Church teaching. Are there clergy you can encourage and for whom you can pray? Do something about it this week! Prayer Challenge of the Week: Attentively and prayerfully listen to all the readings and prayers at Mass. Memorize Matthew 16:18: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” 62
  62. 62. Lesson 7 Preparation Notes “Obedience and Vocation” In Brief: Understanding that priesthood, religious life, marriage and vocation to the single life each offer unique paths to growth in holiness and mission. Key Elements: • As a movement, CCO desires to promote vocations. We want to encourage young people to consider Jesus' call to complete consecration and service to the Kingdom of God. He invites them [consecrated persons] to leave behind their own narrow agenda and their notions of selffulfilment in order to immerse themselves in another will, the will of God, and to be guided by it. Message of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, May 15, 2011 • Some participants may not have considered discerning a vocation other than married life. Please be sensitive to this and keep the conversation light, interesting and informative. The purpose of this lesson is to introduce various vocations and to encourage discernment. This will hopefully provide a springboard for future prayerful consideration. • The lesson looks at various vocations and how each • Allows us to fulfill the call to love • Allows us to grow in holiness • Provides opportunities for apostolate • Allows us to lay down our lives for God and others • Has certain inherent blessings or “perks” • We will also look at attitudes that impede our discernment. • We then read passages of Scripture which assure us that God will direct and lead us in a way that is good for us. • The lesson closes with some practical points on vocational discernment. • Before the lesson, take time to familiarize yourself with vocation resources in your area. Recommend these resources to your group. Notes on Vocations: • If participants are already living their vocation (i.e. married), this lesson may help them see their call in a new light. Invite them to share their personal discernment, as this can be helpful for other 63
  63. 63. • • • • participants. The lesson may also give them tools to encourage others and support their vocational discernment. We all have a role to play in promoting a “culture of vocation”; by helping others understand their gifts and encouraging them to find their calling, we help bring about this culture. The term “religious” is often associated with sisters (who live in a religious community). Religious orders are categorized as either cloistered or active. However, this term is not exclusive to sisters. Priests or brothers belonging to orders (i.e. not diocesan) are “religious” as well. Participants may ask about permanent deacons or brothers. Deacons are not priests, but they can baptize, witness marriage and preside at funerals. They also serve in a variety of ministries. Brothers are members of religious communities who do not administer the sacraments. The second section of the lesson speaks of living a vocation by giving of oneself. Self-gift should not be confused with unhealthy self-hatred; self-gift and self-hatred manifest themselves quite differently in a person’s life. Putting others first in a spirit of giving would generate clarity, healthy self-esteem, trust and confidence in God's love, peace and contentment. Putting oneself last out of selfhatred would likely cause feelings of shame, insecurity, blame, confusion and doubt of both God’s love and the love of others. Invite participants to be open to God’s call. Sometimes people assume their gifts and desires can be fulfilled in only one vocation, never considering how God might use them in another. For example, a participant may say: “Ever since I was little I always wanted children.” Someone might then add, “God wouldn’t have given you that desire if it wasn’t what you were supposed to do.” While this may be the case, it is important to recognize that these desires could be fulfilled in another vocation. Some sisters, for example, work with children. A desire to have children might also be fulfilled in spiritual motherhood, by which sisters are “mothers” to many “children” (young or old). Throughout the lesson, encourage participants to listen to their hearts, but also to be open to possibilities they may never have considered. Recommended Reading: Vocations in The Catechism of the Catholic Church: • Priesthood: 1537-1600 • Marriage: 1601-1666 • Single Life: 1658 • Religious Life (sisters are included): 914-927 64
  64. 64. Lesson 7 Obedience and Vocation 1. Share any reflections you have had about last week's lesson. Priesthood, religious life, marriage, and the vocation to the single life are all vocations in the Catholic Church. Everyone has a vocation. In fact, the word vocation means “calling”. A call shared by all Catholics is the call to love. God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. Familiaris Consortio, 11 God calls every human being to love him and be loved by him. He also calls us to share his love through proclamation of the Gospel and service to others. Each vocation gives unique expression to this fundamental call and offers opportunities for growth in holiness and mission. In this lesson, we will look briefly at the characteristics of each vocation, and offer some suggestions to assist vocational discernment. Leaders: Though most participants will likely be familiar with these four vocations, some may not. To ensure no one gets lost in this conversation, ask: "Does everyone understand what these four vocations are?" The rarest and, least understood vocation is what we will here call the vocation to the single life. This vocation is a call to live a lifelong celibate life as a layperson while living and working in the world. This vocation is not the same thing as simply being single because a suitable marriage partner has not come along yet or because one is undecided or afraid to 65
  65. 65. choose a vocation. Like all vocations, it implies a firm “yes” to God’s call. People who accept this vocation make a promise or vow of lifelong celibacy for the kingdom of God in order to better serve Jesus Christ and his Church. This is sometimes also called consecrated celibacy. These people may live alone, or may also be members of lay associations, secular institutes, and societies of apostolic life, or live in community households. (CCC 928-930) What makes the vocation to the single life a true “vocation” is the free and generous choice to say “yes” to God’s call, and the lifelong permanence of this commitment. We all begin our adult Christian lives in the single state. Those who stay in this state without making a firm commitment to any particular vocation are in no way less holy or less Christian than those who have embraced a vocation. Single persons who have not yet committed to any particular vocation are simply, like many of us, still on the path of discernment, and are capable of serving Christ and the Church in many ways. Living the Call to Love Priests, religious, spouses and singles grow in holiness by similar yet distinguishable means. Prayer, receiving the Eucharist, and meditating on Scripture are common to all vocations, but each vocation also has characteristic ways to practice piety. Although people of every vocation can collaborate in apostolic work, there are ways in which each state of life is specially designed to engage in the mission of being "the salt of the earth (and) light of the world" (Matthew 5:13-14). 2. What unique opportunities does each vocation provide us to love God, grow in holiness, and engage in the mission of the Church? 66

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