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EPISODE #266
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE GOSPEL OF MARK WITH GUEST FR. FELIX JUST

On today’s much anticipated episode, Deacon Steve Greco welcomes Fr. Felix Just back to the studio. Fr. Felix is, among other things, a renowned biblical scholar. Hence, he has so much wisdom and insight to share.

Today’s conversation is all about the Gospel of Mark. Get ready to glean some eye-opening insights!

And please share this podcast!

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/27/20

SHUT OFF CELLPHONE, OPEN BIBLE FOR LENT, POPE TELLS FAITHFUL

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Lent is a time to remove all distractions and bitterness from one’s life in order to better hear God and those who suffer silently and need help, Pope Francis said.

“It is the right time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It is the time to disconnect from cellphones and connect ourselves to the Gospel,” the pope said at his weekly general audience Feb. 26, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent for Latin-rite Catholics.

 

 

“It’s a time to give up useless words, idle chatter, rumors, gossip” and speak intimately with the Lord, he said.

It was the first general audience of the year held outside in St. Peter’s Square given the mild temperatures.

However, given increased concern in Italy about the spread of the coronavirus, the pope reduced his contact with people in the square, shaking hands with only a few people before beginning his talk. In the popemobile, the pope circled the square, waving and blessing people from afar, and the driver and the pope’s security detail did not stop to pick up any children as is customary.

In fact, at the end of his audience, the pope assured all those affected by the virus of his closeness and prayers. He said his prayers were also with the health care professionals and public officials who were working hard to help patients and stop the spread of the disease.

In his main audience talk, the pope explained “the spiritual significance” of the desert, where Jesus spent 40 days praying and fasting to prepare for his public ministry.

Jesus often headed off to “deserted” places to pray, “teaching us how to seek the Father who speaks to us in silence,” the pope said.

“The desert is a place to get away from the racket that surrounds us. It is the absence of words in order to make room for another word, the Word of God, who like a light breeze, caresses the heart,” he said.

Just as Jesus spent time in the desert, he said Catholics must spend Lent creating similarly sparse surroundings and a “healthy environment of the heart.”

These places need a thorough “cleaning,” he said, because “we live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by so many offensive and harmful words, which the internet amplifies.”

People today lob insults with the same frequency and nonchalance as if they were saying “hello,” he said.

“We are buried under empty words, advertisements, devious messages,” the pope said. “We are used to hearing everything about everybody and we risk slipping into a worldliness that atrophies the heart. And there is no bypass (surgery) to fix that, only silence.”

For Christians, the desert isn’t a place of death, but of life, “because being in silence, in dialogue with the Lord, gives us life again,” he said.

Pope Francis asked that people strip away the superfluous and unnecessary in their lives so they could find what really counts, what is essential and even rediscover the people already by their side.

Fasting is part of that process, he said, because it exercises the ability to go without things that are excessive or frivolous.

Making time for silence and solitude will also help the faithful become more aware of those who suffer silently around them, the pope said.

Lent is a time to draw near to those who are alone, abandoned, poor or elderly and anyone else in need of help, he said.

“Prayer, fasting and acts of mercy — this is the path of the Lenten desert,” because it is only in the desert that one finds the way from death to life, the pope said. “Let us follow Jesus in the desert and with him our deserts will bloom.”

At the end of the general audience, the pope gave special greetings to visitors from Iraq, emphasizing how his prayers were with them and all people in the nation, which is “a battleground” of war and conflict.

“I pray for you and pray for peace in your country, which I had been scheduled to visit this year,” he said. It would have been the first visit by a pope to Iraq, where tradition holds Abraham was born.

 

EPISODE #230
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: YOU ARE CALLED

Host Deacon Steve Greco interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s program, Steve welcomes two key team members of the Spirit-Filled Hearts ministry, Katie Hughes and Michael Aimola.

Our discussion today centers around the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 25) and the power of the Word of God.

What does it mean for us to “live out our Baptism?”

Join us for a lively discussion!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 2/2/2020

POPE SETS SPECIAL DAY TO HONOR, STUDY, SHARE THE BIBLE

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The newly established “Sunday of the Word of God” is an invitation to Catholics across the world to deepen their appreciation, love and faithful witness to God and his word, Pope Francis said. 

By papal decree, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time — Jan. 26 this year — is to be observed as a special day devoted to “the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” 

A day dedicated to the Bible will help the church “experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world,” the pope said in the document establishing the special Sunday observance. 

Dioceses and parishes have been invited to respond with creative initiatives, helpful resources and renewed efforts for helping Catholics engage more deeply with the Bible at church and in their lives. 

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said added emphasis on the importance of the word of God is needed because “the overwhelming majority” of Catholics are not familiar with sacred Scripture. For many, the only time they hear the word of God is when they attend Mass, he told Vatican News Sept. 30, when the papal document, titled “Aperuit Illis,” was published. 

“The Bible is the most widely distributed book, but it’s also perhaps the one most covered in dust because it is not held in our hands,” the archbishop said. 

With this apostolic letter, the pope “invites us to hold the word of God in our hands every day as much as possible so that it becomes our prayer” and a greater part of one’s lived experience, he said. 

In his letter, Pope Francis wrote, “A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a yearlong event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers.” 

“We need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness,” he wrote. 

Sacred Scripture and the sacraments are inseparable, he wrote. Jesus speaks to everyone with his word in sacred Scripture, he said, and if people “hear his voice and open the doors of our minds and hearts, then he will enter our lives and remain ever with us.” 

Pope Francis urged priests to be extra attentive to creating a homily each Sunday that “speaks from the heart” and really helps people understand Scripture “through simple and suitable” language. 

The homily “is a pastoral opportunity that should not be wasted,” he wrote. “For many of our faithful, in fact, this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God’s word and to see it applied to their daily lives.” 

Pope Francis encouraged people to read the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, “Dei Verbum,” and Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation on the Bible, “Verbum Domini,” whose teaching remains “fundamental for our communities.” 

The pope also suggested pastors provide parishioners with the Bible, a book of the Gospels or other catechetical resources, “enthrone” the Bible in order to emphasize the honor and sacred nature of the text, bless or commission lectors of the parish and encourage people to read and pray with Scripture every day, especially through “lectio divina.” 

“The Bible cannot be just the heritage of some, much less a collection of books for the benefit of a privileged few. It belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words,” the pope wrote. 

“The Bible is the book of the Lord’s people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division toward unity” as well as come to understand God’s love and become inspired to share it with others, he added. 

The celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God also “has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity,” he wrote. The third Sunday in Ordinary Time falls during that part of the year when the church is encouraged to strengthen its bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. 

The document was published on the feast of St. Jerome, patron saint of biblical scholars and doctor of the church, who said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” The title, “Aperuit Illis,” is based on a verse from the Gospel of St. Luke, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” 

The pope said it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth without the Lord who opens people’s minds to his word, yet “without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his church in this world would remain incomprehensible.”

GREAT BIBLE ADVENTURE TIMELINE

“I am the LORD your God…You shall not have other gods before me,” states the second commandment given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 20:2-3). Jeff Cavins, creator of the Bible Timeline Chart, believes we live surrounded by too many gods. Cavins is also convinced Catholic Christians have forgotten their own story narrative as a people of God. 

On Saturday, September 28, Cavins presented to over 650 attendees at Christ Cathedral on reintroducing the story of the Bible. Hosted by Ascension Press, the Great Adventure Bible Timeline seminar was a full day featuring intensive sessions led by Cavins on the big picture of salvation history. Armed with the color-coded Great Adventure Bible, Cavins’ signature approach to understanding the Bible, attendees followed Cavins from Genesis to the life of Christ. 

“We must be taught to read the Bible,” Cavins said, a former EWTN host and best-selling author of “The Timeline Bible Chart.” “Parents have an obligation to teach children how to read the Bible.” While Cavins acknowledged the good intentions of those who desire to read the Bible straight through, he pointed out that all too often understanding the overall picture of the Bible’s storyline gets lost along the way. 

“What a gift to the Diocese of Orange to have Jeff Cavins present to us, in person, on what is truly a masterpiece teaching of our times, the Great Adventure Bible timeline,” noted Patrick Reidy, vice president of Mission and Faith at JSerra Catholic High School. “Two years ago we began to incorporate Jeff’s narrative in our sophomore theology classes and the results are irrefutable,” Reidy added. 

The key to understanding the Bible Timeline Chart is by first breaking the Bible into twelve periods, each color-coded with a specific color matching the period’s theme. For instance, the “Egypt and Exodus” period is color coded red, for the Red Sea. The “Early World” Period (Gen 1-11) is turquoise, the color of the earth viewed from space. The “Messianic Fulfillment” period, the life of Christ, is color-coded gold, for the gifts of the Magi.  

Within each period, the chart is further divided by 14 “narrative” books, which each tell the story of salvation; 59 “supplemental” books placed into their historical context; the growth of God’s Family Plan traced through a series of covenants; the Genealogy of Jesus, from Adam though the biblical narrative; 70 key events as an outline to the biblical story; and supplemental events in world history that further put biblical events into historical context. 

“Jeff Cavins created the Bible Timeline to teach everyone how to read the Bible effectively, understand salvation history, and ultimately become true disciples of Christ,” Hank Evers, director of marketing for the Diocese of Orange, said. “After experiencing this program, my initial thought was, ‘This is a game-changer. I wish this program was available when I was in school; or for that matter, when my children were in school.’ That said, it’s never too late to enhance faith formation.” Evers is planning a Bible Study he and his wife will be hosting at their home, anchored by the Bible Timeline. 

Cavins shows the forward narrative sweep of the Bible’s main theme, the story of salvation history, from the Early Word, the Patriarchs, Exodus and desert wanderings, Judges, the Royal Kingdom, Divided Kingdom, exile and return, the Maccabean Revolt, Messianic fulfillment, and the Church. The Great Adventure Bible complements the timeline chart with a helpful summary at the beginning of each biblical period.  

Attendees of the Great Adventure Bible Timeline seminar were reintroduced to the power of storytelling that lies at the heart of the Bible. When one looks at Scripture as a dramatic story of sin and redemption, as opposed to the frequent habit of approaching random parts of the Bible in a vacuum, the epic and yet intimate scope of the Bible’s consistent theme of God coming to mankind and mankind returning to God is powerfully interwoven.  

“By reflecting on the timeline approach to better understanding salvation history,” Evers said, “one is simply amazed by how complementary the New Testament is with the Old.” Cavins pointed out how seemingly mundane details in the New Testament point back to the Old. “Everything finds its fulfillment in Christ,” Cavins said.  

Following his presentation at Christ Cathedral, Cavins travels to Washington, D.C. for a two-day seminar in October 2019 at the Museum of the Bible. This past September, Cavins was a guest on Orange County Catholic Radio, chatting with host Rick Howick about his own personal reflections of the impact the Bible Timeline adventure has had on his own life.  

Down at JSerra, Reidy is seeing the positive effects of the Bible Timeline program. “Students are falling in love with God’s story,” Reidy said. “How else can you explain a sophomore girl’s comment to me today: ‘The Old Testament rocks!’?”  

GREAT BIBLE ADVENTURE TIMELINE

Think you know your Bible? Many Catholics fumble when it comes to Sacred Scripture. The Great Adventure Bible wants you to know it’s even better. Jeff Cavins, former EWTN host and best-selling author of “The Bible Timeline Chart,” among other books, will explain the “story” of the Bible on September 28 at Christ Cathedral.  

Hosted by Ascension Press, The Great Adventure Bible Timeline seminar marks the 15th anniversary of The Great Adventure Bible Timeline study, an in-depth, color-coded learning system resource to better understand the books of the Bible. Ascension Press published the “The Great Adventure Bible” in fall 2018, and it is currently the No. 1 best-selling Catholic Bible on Amazon. Christ Cathedral joins the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. as the two venues hosting the 1-day sessions. Under the instruction of Jeff Cavins, creator of the timeline study, the event seeks to equip registrants to confidently read and share the Bible. 

“The Great Adventure Bible Timeline study is a rock-solid foundation for anyone who struggles to read or understand the Bible,” said Josh Rudegeair, Ascension’s director of marketing. “One of the reasons many people struggle to read the Bible is because they try to read it all the way through from beginning to end,” he said. It is more like a library, with the different books of the Bible covering things as diverse as poetry, history, apocalypses, laws, and letters. The way to make sense of the Bible is to understand the story that ties all of it together. Only when you understand that ‘big picture’ will everything fall into place.” 

“The Great Adventure Bible Timeline is a great tool for learning the narrative arc of the Bible and connecting the dots between individual stories we’ve heard over and over again in the readings at Mass,” said Katie Dawson, Diocese of Orange’s director of Faith Formation. “Catholics are often intimidated by the size and scope of learning about the Bible,” Dawson said.  

The Great Adventure Bible seeks to alter that perception. “The Bible Timeline highlights the 14 narrative books of the Bible,” Rudegair explained, [those] you can read from beginning to end, chronologically, that tell the story of salvation.”  

Those 14 narrative books are: from the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, I Maccabees, and from the New Testament, Luke and Acts. There are 73 books in the Bible. 

The key to the Timeline’s success is by broadening the scope to the ‘big picture,’ Rudegair said. That key is the story of salvation. Rudegair noted how frequently one opens reads parts of the Bible at random or piecemeal without understanding that bigger picture. “Once readers understand that ‘big picture,’ all the books make so much more sense,” Rudegair said. “[Readers] can be more confident reading the Bible on their own or in a Bible study. After The Bible Timeline [seminar], specific books of the Bible can be studied with the rest of the Great Adventure series,” Rudegair said. 

Ascension’s Great Adventure series, in addition to “The Great Adventure Bible,” Timeline chart, and companion book, offers additional study resources, materials geared towards children, Bible studies for teens, and a 24-lesson study through the whole of the Bible. Individual books are discussed by leading Biblical scholars, such as “Exodus: Called to Freedom,” with Dr. Tim Gray and Dr. Scott Powell.  

Jeff Cavins, creator of The Great Adventure Bible Timeline study program, spent 12 years as an evangelical pastor after being raised Catholic, but eventually returned to the Catholic Church. He honed the Bible Timeline study program at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the 1990s. He received his Master of Arts in Theology from Franciscan University in 1999. Cavins will be guiding attendees at the Sept. 28 seminar on equipping themselves with the timeline’s tools. 

“Participants in The Great Adventure Bible Timeline Study seminar can be expected to have that entire system explained to them in one day,” Rudegair said. “They will leave, chart in hand, with a firm understanding of the big picture of the entire Bible, the historic and symbolic context of every single book in the Bible, and the confidence to pick up their Bible and start reading it. Once they understand this system, they will be set up to read the Bible for the rest of their lives.”  

“It’s great that Ascension is providing this opportunity for training in using this tool and I hope many of our local leaders will take advantage of it,” Dawson said. 

The Great Adventure Bible Timeline event is suitable for individuals, parish groups, or diocesan staff. Lunch is included, and attendees may choose to register with an option to purchase “The Great Adventure Bible” at a value rate. For more information or to register, visit ascensionpress.com/pages/tga-events.

EPISODE#181
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: GUEST IS JEFF CAVINS

Today’s guest has one of those very recognizable names in Catholic circles. It could be because he has been a very popular author and EWTN television host; or, it might just be because of his ever-popular speaking engagements.

Our discussion today is mostly about the latter, as our guest will soon be joining us on the Christ Cathedral campus for a remarkable series on ‘The Bible Timeline.’

Give us a listen; and, be SURE to share this podcast with a friend!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 9/7/19

EPISODE #206
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: HUNGER FOR HIS WORD

Host Deacon Steve Greco interviews guests on a variety of topics related to our faith journey. On this week’s program, Steve welcomes two key team members of the Spirit-Filled Hearts ministry, his wife Mary Anne & evangelist Katie Hughes.

Steve is going to talk about something that is both very exciting and frustrating for him at the same time. What could that possibly be? Tune in and find out!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 8/4/19

WORD OF GOD MUST BE ‘BEATING HEART’ OF CHURCH, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Reading the Bible and praying with it is “the best vaccine” against Catholic communities closing in on themselves or focusing only on self-preservation, Pope Francis said. 

God wants “a church that does not speak from itself or about itself but has in its heart and on its lips the Lord and draws daily from his word,” the pope told members of the Catholic Biblical Federation. 

Greeting 200 federation members from 68 countries April 26, Pope Francis said that when Christians basically proclaim themselves instead of Jesus, they transmit nothing to the world. 

“It is the word of God, not our own,” he said, and “it removes us from being at the center, saves us from self-sufficiency and triumphalism and calls us continually to go out.” 

The Catholic Biblical Federation, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, was founded to make the Bible more accessible to Catholics and to highlight “the central role of the Word in faith and mission,” Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of the federation, told Pope Francis. 

The teaching of the Second Vatican Council, reaffirmed by then-Pope Benedict XVI in his 2010 exhortation “Verbum Domini” (“Word of the Lord”), Cardinal Tagle said, asks individual Catholics and the whole church if the word of God really inspires and guides their view of the world, pastoral priorities and use of resources. 

“If the word of God does not inspire all of these ecclesial actions, then where does the inspiration come from?” the cardinal asked. “It’s not a rhetorical question.” 

Agreeing, Pope Francis said, “it would be beautiful if the word of God increasingly became the heart of every church activity, the beating heart that gives life to the members of the body.” 

As Ephesians says, “The word of God is life,” the pope reminded the federation members. “It neither dies nor even grows old,” and when it is the foundation for all the church says and does, it keeps the church young, too. 

“The Bible is not a beautiful collection of sacred books to be studied; it is the word of life to be sown, the gift that the risen Lord asks us to welcome and distribute so that there would be life in his name,” the pope said. 

The Bible gives the church a constant and necessary “injection of life,” he said, which is why homilies based on the Scripture readings at Mass are so important. 

“Preaching is not a rhetorical exercise or a collection of wise human ideas,” he said. Rather, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is a sharing of “the divine word that touched the heart of the preacher.” 

“So many words pour into our ears each day, transmitting information and giving us multiple inputs, so many — perhaps too many — that they often surpass our ability to take them in,” he said. 

“But we cannot do without the word of Jesus, the only word of eternal life,” the pope said. 

God’s word, he said, should not leave people serene, but should cause them to question and to seek. And “a church that lives by listening to the word is never content with its own security. It is docile to the unpredictable newness of the Spirit.” 

A church enlivened by the word, he said, “never tires of proclaiming, never gives into disappointment and never tires of promoting communion, because the word calls people to unity and invites each one to listen to the other.” 

Pope Francis prayed that in sharing the Bible with others, federation members would be filled with the enthusiasm of the disciples immediately after the Resurrection. “They all run: the women, Peter, John, the two on the road to Emmaus — they run to encounter and proclaim the living Word.” 

BIBLE, LIKE CELLPHONE, SHOULD BE CARRIED ALWAYS, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians should care about reading God’s messages in the Bible as much as they care about checking messages on their cellphones, Pope Francis said.

As Christ did in the desert when tempted by Satan, men and women can defend themselves from temptation with the word of God if they “read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it” into their lives, he said before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square March 5.

“What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the messages of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?” the pope asked the crowd.

The pope’s reflection centered on the day’s Gospel reading (Mt. 4:1-11) in which Jesus is tempted by the devil while fasting in the desert for 40 days and nights before beginning his ministry.

Satan, he said, attempts to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his message and to undermine his divinity by tempting him twice to perform miracles like “a magician” and lastly, by adoring “the devil in order to have dominion over the world.”

“Through this triple temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humiliation — because he knows that through that path evil will be defeated — and take him on the false shortcut of success and glory,” the pope said.

However, Jesus deflects “the poisonous arrows of the devil” not with his own words but “only with the Word of God.”

Christians, the pope continued, are called to follow Jesus’ footsteps and “confront the spiritual combat against the evil one” through the power of God’s word which has the “strength to defeat Satan.”

“The Bible contains the word of God, which is always relevant and effective. Someone once said: What would happen if we treated the Bible like we treated our cellphones? What would happen if we always brought it with us, or at least a small pocket-sized Gospel?” he asked.

While the comparison between the Bible and a cellphone is “paradoxical,” he added, it is something that all Christians are called to reflect on during the Lenten season.

“If we have the Word of God always in our hearts, no temptation could separate us from God and no obstacle would deviate us from the path of good,” the pope said.

After praying the Angelus prayer with the faithful in the square, Pope Francis asked for prayers before departing for a weeklong Lenten retreat with members of the Roman Curia.

Lent, he said, “is the path of the people of God toward Easter, a path of conversion, of fighting evil with the weapons of prayer, fasting and works of charity,” Pope Francis said. “I wish everyone a fruitful Lenten journey,” he said.