Category Archives: scripture

Scripture and discernment

“Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
Acts 16: 8

In May 2006 I was thinking about where God might be leading me and visited El Salvador and Honduras.

There was a paying job in El Salvador which I had applied for, which fit well with my vision as well as my experience. I visited the site, though the interview would be in Iowa.

I then went to Honduras to visit Sister Nancy, a friend I have known since 1991 in El Salvador. She was then working in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. I had asked her if there was any way that I could be of help there. She arranged for me to meet the bishop.

I stayed several days with Nancy before meeting the bishop. On Saturday I went out with her to visit a rural community.

That morning I read, as is my custom, the lectionary readings of the day – the same as today’s.

Paul and Timothy are prevented from preaching in Mysia but Paul has a dream of a Macedonian pleading with him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” From this Paul concluded, “That God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.”

That passage struck me. Was I being called by the people of Honduras to come and accompany them?

After meeting the bishop who gladly welcomed me (while reminding me he had no money for me to be there), I had a deep sense that this was where I was being called.

Though I have deep ties with El Salvador, something was calling me here. Maybe it wasn’t “something,” but somebody, the Spirit of God, who was not allowing me to go where it would have been more comfortable.

Things became clearer during the next few months as I discussed this with my spiritual director, friends, and the community at St. Thomas AquinAs in Ames, Iowa, where I was working. I also worked on the details of how I could do this. But it was the encounter here in Honduras with the people, seen through the lens of today’s first reading (Acts 16: 1-10), that guided me.

Sometimes scripture speaks directly to us and give us a sense of where God is calling us.

There is, of course, the danger that we may be reading the Word of God to have it fit into our plans. But, with prayer and with careful discernment – personally and with the Christian community – God may lead us.

For me, this led to withdrawing my name from the search for the El Salvador position, even after I had been called back for a second interview.  It led, to seeking ways to finance my presence in the Santa Rosa diocese, as well as to sell house and car and give away many things I had.

What also led me to Honduras rather than El Salvador was my sense that there was a greater need in Honduras. Honduras is poorer than El Salvador  and there is less international solidarity.

And so, after much discernment and with a lot of support, I arrived in Honduras on June 13, 2007, and have been blessed to serve here since.

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Taught by God

“How can I understand unless some one shows me the way?”
Acts 8: 31

“They shall all be taught by God.”
John 8:45

Reading the Bible can be a perilous endeavor, especially if we try to do it alone. It is so easy to bring our own prejudices into our reading and miss what God is trying to tell us.

In today’s first reading, the Ethiopian eunuch is reading the prophet Isaiah when Philip ran up and listened. Philip then asked him if he understood what he was reading.

The lectionary text gives Philip’s answer as “How can I, unless someone instructs me?”

But a better translation is

“How can I unless some one shows me the ways?”

“Instruction” sometimes gets reduced to the teacher telling the student what the text means. But “showing the way” involves the student much more in the process. It recognizes that each student is different and learns differently. In fact, it acknowledges that texts, especially scriptural texts, don’t have one meaning.

They have a depth of meanings – and so the teacher must help lead his fellow learners so that they move to the depths of meaning found there and can steer around the obstacles to learning the living the scriptures.

It is a blessing when we find people – even books – that help us open up the treasures of the bible for us. Some do it by their words, some by their deeds. these teachers are in tune with God, listening to the Wisdom of God in the scriptures, in the Body of Christ which is the Church, in the sacraments and the poor. Some even can come from outside the community and help us to comprehend the scriptures in a  richer way.

We need to be open to listen to these voices so that we can, like the Ethiopian eunuch, come to know Christ Jesus and change out lives, listening for the Word of God, Jesus, who instructs us in so many ways.

In this was we can indeed begin to “be taught by God.”