In this, my final article in the series on the great themes
of Scripture, I would like to offer just a few concluding reflections
on the genius of the biblical revelation we have explored over
the past year.
Though the point is obvious, this nevertheless seems a good
time to emphasize that the Bible is more than a series of unrelated
inspired stories or a collection of stories that offer some
helpful lessons to live by. Biblical revelation invites us into
an utterly new experience, and the wonderful thing is that human
consciousness is ready for itperhaps more than ever.
I am reminded of the old "connect the dots" activities found
in the coloring books many of us enjoyed in our youth. When
we had finished drawing in the lines and making all the connections,
we suddenly saw something we had not seen before. So it is with
the Bible: Its themes have coherence about them, and they offer
something good and something new. That is what the word of God
is meant to be.
In many ways this gift is more important than ever. We live
at a time in history when many voices are telling us that nothing
has meaning, there are no big patterns. We cannot thrive in
such a universe. As we well know, the soul needs meaning just
as the body needs food. The soul has to have meaning to flourish
and live with safety. What true biblical revelation gives us
is coherence in the face of seeming incoherence.
As children, most of us learned early the biblical story about
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The garden is the symbol
of unitive consciousness where we cannot be separate from God.
Whatever our journeys outward from there, they eventually lead
us back to the center to find who we really are, to find ourselves
We come to see that this is the end point of the Bible, where
at last in this marvelous doctrine that we call the Trinity
we have this mystery of mutual indwelling: God in us and we
in God; God in human history and human history finding itself
in God. There is no separation anymore.
St. Paul addresses this idea of mutual indwelling in Colossians
3:4: "When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear
with him in glory." In his letter to the Galatians (2:20), Paul
writes: "...I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no
longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the
flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God...." In John's Gospel
(15:1) Christ is the vine, and we are the branches.
What God is doing throughout the Bible is creating people who
are capable of encounter, of being present. The whole movement
of the Bible leads us toward ever greater incarnation, ever
deeper indwelling. The last book of the Bible ends in the Holy
City with the river of life flowing through it (Revelation 21).
Here we have a final image of mutual indwelling: We live in
God and God lives in us. And we dare to believe it, dare to
believe that it could be true.
It seems best to conclude by recalling an early scene from
John's Gospel (1:38-39) that sums up much of the Good News.
Jesus encounters two of his disciples walking along the lake
and asks them what they want. I believe that is what God is
saying to you and me: What do we really want? They replied with
another question, asking Jesus where he lived.
This is the ultimate spiritual question: Where do you live?
Who are you? The answer, of course, is that we are sons of God
and daughters of the Lord. Jesus invited his disciples to follow
him, and they stayed with him for the rest of that day.
This is Jesus' invitation and his gift. This is what the Bible
is finally calling us to.
to a RealAudio excerpt from Father Richard Rohr
Great Themes of Scripture, a 10-part audiocassette
series available from St. Anthony Messenger Press, A7090,
By Judith Dunlap
Members of every generation talk about how much the world
has changed since they were children. In this age of constant
alteration and altercation, those words have never been truer.
Parents today are responsible for preparing children for
a future none of us can imagine. Yet somehow in the few precious
years from infancy to adulthood, we must equip our youngsters
with the tools to not only survive but also to regenerate
the world they inherit.
Certainly one of the key factors in facing that uncertainty
is a strong faith. So much is possibleand bearableif
we believe in a loving God who is not only with us, but in
us. How can we help our children internalize this truth?
In last month's column we talked about a tradition of prayer
called Lectio Divina, a four-step process involving
reading, meditating, contemplating and praying. By substituting
a story from our own lives for the reading, we can use this
same time-honored process to help youngsters appreciate God's
presence in their lives.
Have your youngster retell a personal experience (a recent
problem or success). Ask him or her to think about the experience
from a different perspective (someone else's viewpoint or
by putting Jesus in the picture). Take time to be quiet, to
just sit together in silence. Finally, bring the experience
to prayer, and talk about what positive action might be taken.
By introducing youngsters to this simple process we teach
them to live a reflective life conscious of God's presence.
We remind them that our loving God is not only with them but
also in them. These are important truths in an uncertain worldimportant
for grown-ups, too.
return to top
By Frank Frost
There's something soothing and healing about viewing Hearts
in Atlantis in the aftermath of the evil that Americans
encountered September 11, 2001. In this Stephen King story
set in the 1950s, Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) must say
goodbye to his youthful innocence to begin a journey into
a world where he now recognizes that evil exists.
Imagery related to sight prevails in the movie, and when
we periodically see Bobby treasuring a cut glass object that
refracts light, it evokes the words of St. Paul: "We see now
through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face."
On Bobby Garfield's 11th birthday, his mother's only gift
to him is a library cardan "adult" library card, she
points out. Bobby will grow up this year in more ways than
his mother expects, but right now he wants nothing more than
a new bicycle. Bobby's mother (Hope Davis) is a dedicated
single parent Bobby defends from criticism despite his disappointment
in her. Later he will see her as someone who cares only about
Into their lives comes an upstairs boarder, Ted Brautigan
(Anthony Hopkins), a guarded man evasive about his past, who
possesses a strange wisdom. Bobby befriends him despite his
Brautigan will become a father figure, a guardian angel and
Bobby's guide to a more mature understanding of human nature.
Brautigan enlists Bobby to keep watch for "low men" who are
closing in on himshadowy figures whose faces are never
seen. Bobby finds this paranoia amusing and assures Brautigan,
"Don't worry. I won't let the bogeymen get you." But with
a touch of ambiguity we are not quite sure whether these figures
really want Brautigan, or whether it is Bobbyand his
two inseparable friends, Carol and Sullythey threaten.
In any case Brautigan rescues the youths from a neighborhood
bully, freeing them to enjoy an idyllic friendship, bathed
in the golden light of summer.
This innocent happiness cannot last. Bobby will lose both
Carol and Brautigan. Bobby will be taken on a visit to a dark
netherworld of seedy nightlife where he learns that not everything
is as it seems. And his mother will experience her own loss
As the low men close in to haul Brautigan away, their evil
threat is mirrored in physical assaults (minimally depicted)
upon both Carol and Bobby's mother.
By the end of summer, the eyes of all the characters have
been opened. They look to a future no longer bathed in the
glow of na—vet—, but reinforced by the knowledge that we must
look out for one another.
Hearts in Atlantis is not a profound film, but it
can help us reflect on how we can move to a future from a
past that has shown us the face of evil.
eturn to top
SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG
By Judy Ball
Blessed Juan Diego (1474-1548)
The story of Juan Diego can be summed up in one sentence:
He was the simple Indian peasant to whom the Blessed Mother
revealed herself as Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill
outside Mexico City in December 1531. But summing up the meaning
of his life cannot be handled so neatly.
Mary's appearance came a dozen years after Fernando Cortez
conquered the Aztecs. Only a minority of the indigenous peoples
embraced the foreign religion preached by the very people
who had subjugated them.
Juan Diego was one of those few. It is while he is on his
way to Mass one early Saturday morning that he hears beautiful
music and the voice of a woman calling to him. At the top
of the hill he sees the woman, who tells him that she is the
Virgin Mary. She instructs him to go tell the bishop of her
wishes that a temple be built in her honor at the bottom of
Struggles follow: The bishop is reluctant to believe the
words of a poor man who is only himself learning the faith;
who is not from the dominant culture; who is overwhelmed by
the importance of his task; who questions his own credentials.
With Mary's help, Juan Diego is able to convince the bishop
and, in time, a temple is built in her honor. Today, the Basilica
of Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to draw millions of pilgrims
Juan Diego stands as a bridge between the worlds of the powerful
and the powerless. He was asked to participate in the divine
plan, and he said yes. During a visit to Mexico, Pope John
Paul II beatified Juan Diego in 1990. His feast day is December
Some Church officials and scholars have questioned whether
or not Juan Diego ever existed. Despite the hopes of many,
his move toward canonization proceeds slowly and, indeed,
may never come to pass.
Alex Garcia-Rivera is not among the naysayers. "I have no
historical proof of family ancestors prior to my great-grandfather,"
but that doesn't mean they never lived, he says. Besides,
the 50-year-old theologian prefers to focus on the powerful
message that Juan Diego has delivered for the past several
hundred years: that our God is full of surprises.
"Sometimes God is foundand most comfortable withthose
who are just beginning to know him," says the native of Havana,
Cuba. When Mary appeared to Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe,
she "didn't go through a theologian but a man who was only
learning about the faith."
The irony is not lost on Dr. Garcia-Rivera, who holds a doctorate
in theology and has coauthored a book on Juan Diego (Our
Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego: Heeding the Call). "I
am quite aware of the importance of staying in touch with
the so-called 'simple folk,'" the professor of systematic
theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California,
told Every Day Catholic. When he and his family attend
St. Leander Parish, he says, it is not only a rich spiritual
experience for him but also a professional one: "That's where
I get a lot of my theology."
Raised a Catholic, "angry at religion" as a young man, a
Lutheran minister for a time, Dr. Garcia-Rivera realized by
his mid-20s that God was calling him back. Back to the Church
that celebrates the humble man Mary chose to honor and empower.
return to top
The following products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger
Press/Franciscan Communications (1-800-488-0488):
Hunger," Youth Update, December 1991
on the Mount" (audiocassette)
Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)
Retreat With Matthew: Going Beyond the Law" (book)
Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)