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Posted January 25, 2007

Book: The Church Moves Out: A Devotional Commentary on the Catholic Epistles
General Editor: Leo Zanchettin
The Word Among Us Press. Ijamsville, MD. 2006. Pp. 184

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

What do you do when your church is rocked by scandal, or when some members of your parish are stirring up strife? Where do you turn when “the way things used to be” seems upended, and you’re left wondering how you should live as a Christian now?

While these situations may seem unique to our time, they are the very conditions faced by the second-generation Christians to whom the seven letters in this commentary were addresses. And the advice that the Letters of James, Peter, John, and Jude gave these early Christians is as relevant to us today as it was to them. In fact, their letters are called the “catholic epistles” because they deal with “universal” issues that concern the church in every age.

An Excerpt from the Book:

2 Peter 1:1-8

Have you ever noticed how easy ti can be to reduce Christianity to a set of rules for successful living? But such a vision falls short of the glorious calling that God has for each one of us. Scripture tells us that God’s purpose is that we be so conformed to Christ that we actually become “participants of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4). St. Augustine once asked, “What greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become sone of God?” (Sermon 185)

Peter lays out the steps we can take that will keep us in touch with this great gift of the divine nature active in our hearts: supporting our faith with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, and brotherly love (2 Peter 1:5-7). The promise holds just as true today as it did back then: “If you do this . . .entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you” (1:10-11).

The question we must always ask ourselves is whether we are keeping Jesus at the center of our journey. If our vision of Christianity is limited to personal, moral, or financial success, then we will only strive for a peaceful existence on earth — a kind of responsible love for ourselves, our families, and perhaps our communities. Of course, these are good things, but they reduce the gospel message and are only a part of what God wants for us.

More than anything else, the gospel has to do with God’s inviting us into his very life — his invitation that we become one with Jesus, through whom and for whom everything was made. When we put the presence of Christ above every other concern, all of our efforts will become successful. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to bring us to Jesus. Let us expand our vision and embrace Jesus. As we do, our every effort will be magnified for God’s glory.

“Father, I praise you for the excellency of Jesus’ life and death. In all of heaven and earth there is no one greater. We cry out today for his presence to fill our lives.”

Table of Contents:

The Letter of James: Live out your faith!

The First Letter of Peter: Baptized into a new dignity

The Second Letter of Peter: Living in the shadow of the “day of the Lord”

The First Letter of John: Walking in the light of the truth

The Second and Third Letters of John: truth, love, and the challenges of life in community

The Letter of Jude: A voice of confidence