What is the nature of divine love? The parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32) is a powerful story about the ‘prodigal’, or ‘excessive’, nature of God’s love and the limits that humans tend to place on their love for others. How did the younger son feel he deserved to be treated by his father? How did the elder son think his younger brother deserved to be treated by his father? How would you describe the love of the father? God’s love is a totally free and permanent gift. Even when we turn our back on God, God waits with open arms for us to come home.
God places no limits on loving us. We are always God’s ‘beloved children’ Christianity challenged the religious beliefs and practices of the Greco-Roman society by teaching that there is one God who is incapable of evil. How does God’s love as portrayed in the parable of the Prodigal Son match up with your expectations of God’s love for you?
God’s love is universal One of the critical questions facing the early Church was whether Gentiles, non-Jews, were the same in God’s sight as Jews. The opinion among some Jewish converts to Christianity was that Gentiles should become Jews first before they would be baptized into the community of believers in the risen Lord. Why do you think this dilemma caused conflict and division in the early Church?
Conversion of the Gentile Cornelius In Luke’s account of the Gospel we read that St. Peter welcomed the two slaves and the soldier that Cornelius had sent to him and he returned with them to Cornelius’ house. Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit descended on the members of Cornelius’ household and all were baptized. Acts of the Apostles 10:45–46 describes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ‘even on the Gentiles’, who began speaking in tongues and exalting God. The believers in Christ who witnessed this event were astonished that the Gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
God’s love is universal It took the early Church time to grasp fully the meaning and implications of the fact that God’s love is not limited to specific ethnicities and cultures, to Christians or to Jews only, or to those of a specific economic or civic status, or age or gender. How does faith in God improve your ability to respect or honor others for who they are?
The gift and art of Christian conversion Like St. Peter, we must become more Christ-like in our love for others. Becoming more Christ-like in our love is a lifelong task of conversion of the soul, heart and mind. Conversion of the SOUL: To fall more and more in love with God throughout our life. Conversion of the HEART: To live a moral and just life, in right relationship with God, others, our self and all creation. Conversion of the MIND: To grow in our love for God with our whole mind. To come to know God and the great truths of Revelation.
St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles A Pharisee named Saul, from Tarsus, was angry with the disciples on account of their work in spreading the Good News of Jesus, the risen Lord. Having received permission from the Jewish elders, Saul set out to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem these enemies of Judaism for trial and punishment. On the journey Saul was physically knocked down and blinded. He experienced the risen Lord, who asked, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ Saul accepted the Lord’s call to become his disciple. He became Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul brings the Gospel to the Gentiles The New Testament contains fourteen letters either written by St. Paul or attributed to him. In Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes the missionary journeys of St. Paul. The first missionary journey (Acts of the Apostles 13—14): Paul was accompanied by Barnabas and John Mark. This journey lasted about two years. They traveled to Cyprus and to central Asia Minor, (modern-day Turkey), to the region of Galatia and Pamphylia. Paul and his companions proclaimed the Good News primarily to fellow Jews.
Paul brings the Gospel to the Gentiles The second missionary journey (Acts 15:36—18:22): Paul revisited some of the local churches he founded during his first missionary journey. He traveled into Macedonia, in the northern part of what is modern-day Greece. Paul spent most of his time in the port city of Corinth. The third missionary journey (Acts 18:23—21:15): This journey was centered in Ephesus in Asia Minor. Paul focused on his letter-writing campaign to proclaim the Good News and clarify his teachings.
Passing on the Tradition of the Apostles ‘Apostolic Tradition’ is the term used to name the teachings of the Apostles. Jesus entrusted his revelation and teachings to his Apostles. They passed it on by their preaching and witness. Along with others, they began writing the message down in what became the New Testament. The Church exercised the teaching authority given to her by Christ in writing and approving as authentic the four Gospels and the other writings in the New Testament. [It] was done by those apostles and others associated with them who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing. —Vatican II, Constitution on Divine Revelation, no. 4
Passing on the Tradition of the Apostles The Church since her very beginning has passed on the apostolic preaching. Today, the Pope The same Holy Spirit and other bishops who guided and in union with him taught the Apostles work together in unity and the early Church to continue passing on is at work in the the Apostolic Tradition Church today. of the Church. The same Spirit of Truth and Love will be guiding the Church into a deeper and clearer understanding of Revelation until Christ comes again in glory at the end of time.
Passing on the Tradition of the Apostles The four written accounts of the Gospel came into being in three stages: The life and teaching of Jesus. The preaching of the Apostles and other eyewitnesses of Christ (the oral tradition). The writing of the Gospel message.
Passing on the Tradition of the Apostles The building blocks of the written accounts of the Gospel and the other New Testament writings Sayings and Deeds of Jesus The details about Jesus’ life and teachings, combined with his suffering, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. Genealogies and Infancy Narratives Matthew and Luke included details about Jesus’ ancestry and infancy. Matthew included a genealogy that traces Jesus’ ancestry from Abraham to King David to Joseph. Luke included a genealogy from Joseph to Adam. Death and Resurrection of Jesus Gradually and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the early Church grew into a deeper understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension.
Blessed Pope John Paul II Blessed John Paul II served the Church as Pope from 1978 to 2005. Some of the most significant dimensions of his ministry were his many apologies and requests for forgiveness for past wrongs committed by Church leaders and members. Some of those apologies concerned: the Church’s actions during the Inquisition, including the treatment of Galileo following his discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; the killing of Muslims during the Crusades; the slave trade; the silence of many Catholics during the Holocaust.