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Where Did Sunday Go?. . . Southwest Biblical Conference Hears Of Scripture’s Transforming Power

November 28, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — Violations of the First and Third Commandments probably are the offenses least confessed — the injunctions to honor God above all and to keep holy the Sabbath — an official with the Life Teen Catholic youth ministry told the third annual Southwest Biblical Conference here.
He certainly didn’t mean to say that people were intentionally making bad Confessions in this context, but that the specialness of Sunday had disappeared from their thinking.
Mark Hart, executive vice president for Life Teen International, said that by the time Monday arrives, “how quickly we forget Sunday” because so little attention had been paid to its observance amid worldly demands like absorbing entertainment offered by Netflix.
The conference theme was, “Scripture and Our Transformation in the Christian Life.”
Keeping the Sabbath holy also means to prepare for it and to reflect on its lessons during the other 167 hours of the week, Hart said.
He was one of three speakers at the November 17 morning-long event cosponsored by the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and the Institute of Catholic Theology (ICT), based at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church here.
University President Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, began the morning by concelebrating Mass with St. Thomas pastor Fr. Steven Kunkel at the large parish church.
Afterward, Sheridan told The Wanderer that the university offers other conferences, including at its Ohio campus all summer, but this is the only one it cosponsors with the ICT. The purpose here, he said, was “to continue to enrich people’s understanding of Scripture.”
ICT director Eric Westby, Ph.D., said catechists and teachers were among the approximately 110 people attending the Phoenix presentation.
“Sunday has been a day to catch up on everything else,” including the groceries and laundry, Hart told attendees. “…Do we actually have a Eucharistic spirituality?”
Instead of pursuing prayer and Scripture during the week, Hart said, people may have the attitude that spiritual fulfillment is to be provided for them once they show up for weekly Mass.
“We basically show up and place all our eggs in the lector’s basket? In the priest’s basket?” he asked.
If a parish straw poll asked, “What is grace?” the answer could cite the title of the hymn that has “grace” in it, “Amazing,” Hart said. Actually, he said, “Grace is God’s life in you.”
Illustrating that the riches of grace are meant for daily life, Hart cited St. Therese of Lisieux saying that “God did not come out of Heaven to dwell in a ciborium. He came to dwell in us.”
If people understood the intimacy that God is inviting them to at every Mass, they won’t have to wonder on Monday what happened to Sunday, Hart said.
Scott Sollom, STL, an assistant professor of theology and catechetics at the Steubenville university, told the conference that the laity can make their entire lives an offering to God.
God doesn’t make people look good from the outside but transforms them within, “like getting a divine DNA transplant,” he said.
Recalling that the Temple in Jerusalem would have been worthless without a Jewish priest to offer sacrificial worship there, Sollom said, “The Christian can be thought of as a priest, and our bodies are a temple in which and through which we make an offering to God” and the world.
“The answer to the question of what we are called to offer is everything,” he said, while offering up suffering is redemptive suffering.
He cited St. John Paul II in illustrating that responsibilities aren’t to be avoided but provide an opportunity to grow in life, such as a young married couple accommodating the arrival of their baby.
“The baby is an opportunity to make of ourselves a sacrifice,” Sollom said. “It essentially turns the whole comfort culture on its head.”
The couple isn’t being drawn apart from each other with this responsibility but is growing their marriage through the baby, Sollom said.
The third chapter of the Book of Hebrews addresses Israel’s failure to trust God, and their resulting wandering in the desert for 40 years, Sollom said. “They didn’t trust. They couldn’t enter into their rest.”
“The word of God is living and active,” not only to be descriptive but to deliver an order, he said.
Recalling the servant in the Bible who had labored in the fields but still was required to serve his master’s dinner before eating his own, Sollom said, “Our whole life has been given to us as a gift, and we’re not doing anything special” by offering it back to God.

Compassion For Others

Gayle Somers, a former evangelical Christian who converted to the Catholic Church with her family in 1995, told the conference that God with his covenant creates a family bond not with an individual but with a people.
Somers, the author of three Bible studies, teaches adult Bible classes at Phoenix’s St. Thomas the Apostle Parish.
Recalling that Abraham showed solicitude for someone outside his immediate family, Somers said, “Abraham began to bargain with God for Lot,” his nephew, who was “sort of a creepy guy.”
Abraham was trying to save Lot from the destruction God planned against the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
This was an illustration of “man working with God on behalf of others,” she said.
One Bible commentary says, “Like Abraham, we are called to have great compassion for others, including those whose lives do not follow God’s ways.”
“God comes down to meet His people” for worship, Somers said, as He says, “I will come to you and bless you.” But worship must follow God’s guidance.
“Worship cannot come from our imagination,” Somers said. “That would be a cry in the darkness.”
She added later, “Jesus is now the new Passover, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world,” as re-enacted at each Mass.
“As a convert I can tell you . . . this was very difficult for me to understand,” how Jesus’ offering “was re-presented on the altar” now, Somers said.
“Our Eucharist fulfills every promise God ever made” and “our Eucharistic worship is pure gift,” she said.
“I have learned that sacrifice lies at the heart of worship. . . . It teaches us to have no fear in giving to God everything” because He will give it back, Somers said.
Between the first sessions of the conference, snacks and drinks were available on the lawn just north of the church, whose exterior north wall has a modernistic mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe done by Clare Boothe Luce.
Luce, who died in 1987, had been U.S. ambassador to Italy and was the widow of New York publishing magnate Henry Luce. She attended Mass at St. Thomas when spending time at their nearby winter home at the Arizona Biltmore.

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