Teaching & Suggestions

Since we are in Philippi Greece today, I thought I would post this colorful blog :-)

We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. The original language of the Bible is full of rich imagery, stark reality, and colorful terminology.

Toilets.jpgFor example, Paul writes that he considers all things as refuse that he might gain Christ (Phil 4:8).  We lose the impact of his graphic language. Paul wrote in Greek and in Greek the word refuse means human waste or crap. In Paul’s day it might have been the equivalent of the “sh–” word forbidden in proper communication. Paul used crude language, and it was very graphic for the original readers. Our English translations are very “proper”.

(Picture: Steve sitting on old stone Roman toilets in Philippi, filming in “Paul, Contending for the Faith“)

As a Pharisee, Paul tried to earn his righteousness by his self-righteous efforts and pride. But now that he has learned of faith in Christ and salvation by grace along, he considers his old efforts and self-righteousness to be nothing but crap. English Bibles santize this wording for us :-)

Let’s look at another crude example.  In Galatians 5:12 Paul reacts to the Jewish converts who tried to make the Gentiles get circumcised.  They said the pagans must be circumcised and obey all the 613 laws of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1).  The heretics made Paul so mad that he says he wished the false teachers would not just cut off the foreskin of the penis but slip and cut the whole thing off.  Ouch!

Flint Knife.jpgEverywhere else this Greek word is used in the New Testament, it is translated “cut it off” but in this passage most prim and proper English translations render the word as “mutilate themselves” though a few say “castrate themselves” or “go all the way and emasculate themselves.”  Paul didn’t mince his words, nor hide his anger and frustration.

(Picture: Ancient flint knife, the kind used for circumcisions in biblical times)

One of my favorite gold nuggets that I discovered in the New Testament is a Greek word used only twice in the whole New Testament. This word relates to God’s two creations.  By reading the English Bible you would never know these two different passages use the same Greek word. But you would never know it from reading the English. When you dig deep you find gold!

What are these two creations of God?  The first is obviously the physical world created “in the beginning.”  The second creation is the Church, into which we are ‘born again” through baptism, a new creation. Both creations were “born” out of water with the Spirit of God hovering over the water (Gen 1:2; Mk 1:9-110, John 3:1-5).

Ready? Well here are the two verses; I have italicized the English words that have the Greek word in common:

First, the physical creation: “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).

Second, the spiritual creation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Was I right? Would you have known that the underlying Greek word in both verses is poiema? It is the Greek word from which we get our English word poem. In Romans 1:20, five English words are used to translate one Greek word: poiema which refers to the physical created universe.  The word workmanship is what you are, what the Church is. The poem of the Church includes you.

So, God has “written” two poems: the physical world and the Church.  God is a poet, He is an artist, and his two great works of art reveal much about Him as an artist. You can learn a lot from looking at the paintings of an artist or by reading the pages of a poet.  Just as any poet can be understood by reading his work, so God can be understood to some degree by reading his poetry.

Solar System.jpgGo out at night and look at the sky –  ponder the masterpiece of God’s creation. Look at the symmetry and beauty of a flower, the power and creatures of the oceans, the majesty of mountains and thunderstorms. Then look at the Church around the world as she redeems sinners. Think of the billions of people that have accepted her embrace and been born into a heavenly family, a culture of love and blessings. Two marvelous, breath-taking creations.

Any you? You are part of God’s two creations, you are written into his poetry and painted on his canvas.  He treasures you.  You are not a random mass of molecules that happened to appear on lonely planet earth spinning meaninglessly around the sun. No, you are part of God’s glorious poetry that angels admire and God cherishes. Be proud, be thankful!  Live worthy of your place in God’s heart.

So, the New Testament is rich in its vocabulary. It is richer than the English language reveals. Like Paul says, anyone that tries to please God by their meager human efforts has nothing but crap to show for it, unworthy of the kingdom of God. Anyone who says we must be circumcised to be a Christian opposes God’s plan of free grace. Paul wanted them to castrate themselves.

Actually the New Testament is rich in imagery and figures of speech.  You are blessed to be freely made part of God’s two creations. You are beautiful. The Word of God says so!

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A while ago I gave a talk in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day. And the Christmas season is such a great time to do it!!

I explained that God sets up “divine appointments” for all of us and then holds his breath to see if we will do his bidding. If we don’t, it disappoints God, someone fails to hear the good news, and our days are more boring. Sharing the gospel is a great joy of life once we get over that hurdle of fear and self-consciousness.

After my talk I received this e-mail from Marnie. It was too good not to share. Learn from this! Take her ideas and use them yourself throughout the day. Enjoy!

Dear Steve,

Sue passed along your email.  I was telling her about the day after your Evangelization talk at Christ the King that I prayed in the morning about my antennae being up and had three occasions to share my faith on Wednesday.

Here is how it went.  I am M and the other person is J for Jennifer.  Jennifer works in the laundry room at Schoolcraft College where David and I go to work out.

M- (walking past big window of laundry/custodial room)  Oh, I love your purple decorations.  Purple is the color of Advent.  Are you Catholic?

J-  smiling says, yes, and added that purple is for royalty

M – Jesus is royalty!   I’m a convert to the Catholic Church because Jesus did not want disunity; He did not create divisions or denominations.  Merry Christmas!

J – Thank you for sharing that.

(The man in line, waiting to be handed a towel by Jennifer looked bewildered!)


After working out, the young girl at the gym desk told me that I knew her boyfriend from my teaching days.  I said I remembered what a good student her boyfriend was and how he had a nice, church going family.  I told her I knew all about Ward Presbyterian and Oakpoint where the boyfriend now attends.

 I told her how David and I were Kids Kamp directors at Ward for 14 years (she was a camper), but now we are Catholic and love the faith.  Went on to explain how Ward friends don’t understand why we are converts but that we still love Jesus, perhaps more.  Then we talked about whether or not she had a favorite Bible verse, which she didn’t.  I challenged her to find one and report back to me!

Later in day was checking out at Lord and Taylor, purchasing a gift.  I told the clerk that her accent reminded me of my friend, Ula, who is from Poland.  When she declared that she is Polish, I told her about Ula from Krakow, Poland who had met John Paul II. 

She smiled and I told her how much I loved the Catholic Church and that I was a convert.  I asked her if she had been to the gift shop at The Shrine of the Little Flower that sells hand painted Polish ornaments?  That led to talking about the Eucharist and praying the Rosary.  Meanwhile another customer was waiting and I felt like I should not hurry :-)  

 So….thanks for all the encouragement at the Tuesday talk!  Your talk was excellent, exciting and made me think.  I was taking notes as that is my ADD way of listening better!  In about 2001 or was it 2002, your Defending the Faith talk (@Steubenville) about the Pope, had a huge impact on me.  That is the moment when I finally “got it” – about having a Pope.

On Thursday, at CSS Joshua study, I shared all this with my small group, and at our next fellowship lunch in January, the women decided we would all bring an antennae story to share.

Thanks for using your God given gifts to reach and teach so many of us!  May God bless you and your family this Christmas time.

~Marnie

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joseph10Today is the Feast day of St. Joseph the Worker!

There are some pictures of Joseph I don’t appreciate so much. They present him almost as soft, effeminate like he just came out of a beauty parlor. It appears he never worked in the real world and has not a wrinkle on his clothes or a speck of dirt on his hands and feet.

I understand why artists paint Joseph this way and why churches have statues and images of the flowery, dainty, “European” Joseph with his fair hair. It is because art tries to reveal the inner qualities. This soft art tries to show the righteousness, holiness, kindness and love of a man who cared so deeply for God and his family.

308f4d06baa56b279ed41a7a1b86e31eBut Joseph was anything but a fair-haired, effeminate man with soft skin. Joseph was a manly man. His hands were calloused, his face was brown and creased from the sun, his arms and legs were like iron from walking, lifting and working. Quite the opposite of how he is often portrayed.

We are told that Joseph was a carpenter. The word for carpenter in the Greek of the New Testament is tekton which means one who works with hard materials like wood, stone or metal. 

In short Joseph was a laborer, a redneck, a rock mason. Someone had to quarry the rocks near Nazareth; someone had to chisel them with hammers to shape them for walls, houses, etc. Most historians believe Joseph and Jesus were construction workers helping build the city of Sepphoris.

You see here a few of my favorite pictures of St. Joseph, probably better representing the way he and Jesus really looked. Rough hands, brown face, tussled hair, coarse clothing and dusty feet. Imagine a construction worker, a farmer in the field, a lumberjack or a ditch digger.

tissot-the-anxiety-of-saint-joseph-737x587x72When I first showed this picture of Jesus standing in the wood shavings and dust to a friend with a devotion to St. Joseph he was scandalized. He shouted, “That is NOT St. Joseph!” He had been meditating on the soft, effeminate Joseph, not the rugged working Joseph of the rustic town of Nazareth.

Nazareth was a backwater village with a network of about 25 caves. Very rustic living – no plumbing, no showers, to toilets, no refrigerators, microwaves, washing machines or air conditioners. How would such a life affect you? (In the picture to the right you can see Mary arriving from the well with a jug of water on her head.)

St. Joseph was a manly man and so was Jesus. They give us a good example of masculine men, working hard for their family. They demonstrated the dignity of hard work and the dignity of family life (CCC 533).

St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us!

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Putting Us to Shame

February 9, 2018

My wife and I are on a plane home from Israel. We watch as a young man stands among the crowd of passengers. He is uttering muffled chants under his breath and bobbing up and down. His chin is wagging under his serious eyes and his black hat. His prayer shawl with the many knotted […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

January 7, 2018

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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Evangelicals with Statues?

November 16, 2017

A while ago I took off running through a commercial area behind the hotel where I was staying while doing a parish mission. I discovered a nice jogging trail through the woods so I swung onto the trail and headed through the trees. Soon I came into the open to see a beautiful lake. A […]

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“Life is about the Journey, not the Destination!” Huh?!

November 10, 2017

“Life is all about the Journey, not the Destination!” (paraphrase of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.) I saw this sign at the airport recently. Imagine! In an airport of all places! What stupidity! Grab a passenger arriving at the airport to catch a flight and shout, “Hey, take any flight you want sir, it […]

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Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev has a warning for the West

October 26, 2017

By Elizabeth Scalia | Sep 25, 2017 “Before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen…” Participating in a London conference on the topic of “The Christian Future of Europe,” Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the External Relations Departments of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, spoke on September […]

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Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2017

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

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Jesus Was A Jew and Why You Can’t Understand the Bible without Knowing That

September 27, 2017

Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors. Let me […]

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Why Are We Catholic?

September 22, 2017

This excellent little summary was prepared by the Faith Formation ministry in Escanaba Michigan and sent to me by Mike Cousineau. Enjoy and be challenged and edified. Sent it to a friend who needs to read it. 1.  St. Cyprian of Carthage, martyr & Bishop, wrote in 249 AD, “He who would have God as […]

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My Talk at Primacy of Peter: Understanding John 21 and Jesus’ Appearance at the Sea of Galilee

September 6, 2017

Since I am doing a show on this topic today with Spirit Catholic Radio (listen live from 9:10-9:40 AM Eastern time) and since will be at this site called Primacy of St. Peter along the shore of Galilee four more times this year… …I thought I would share my teaching that I give all our […]

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St. Paul did not Write to Us!

June 28, 2017

When arguments about salvation arise between Catholics and Protestants, the Bibles are usually opened to Galatians and Romans. Are we saved by faith alone or are works involved? Protestants quickly accuse Catholics of teaching a salvation based on works and Catholics quickly point out that Protestants have swung the pendulum too far in the other […]

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A Quick Reply to Question about Cremation and Scattering the Ashes

May 23, 2017

I was asked a question about Catholics, cremation and the scattering of ash. Here is my brief answer: The whole issue of cremation goes back to the Romans. They denied the bodily resurrection so they often burned the body and if they were rich they put the ashes in urns and put them in the […]

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Who Are the Poor I’m Supposed to Care For?

May 7, 2017

As we leave our rented apartment in Rome and walk towards St. Peter’s Square I notice a ragged, filthy woman sitting on a piece of cardboard with a baby laying lethargically in her arms. She looks up with mournful eyes and pathetically mumbles something as she reaches out hoping I’ll put coins in her hand. […]

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Steve on Journey Home Explains His Discovery of the Catholic Church

May 6, 2017

This was a while ago but I just found it again and thought it would be good to share. Please feel free to send the link to others who are struggling with the Church or who you think might need a bit of an enthusiastic “nudge.”

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