“For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” [John 3:16]
For many people God is some kind of strange power who is somewhere in outer space. He somehow created the universe and everything in it, but He isn’t interested in the people who live on this planet. This is far from the truth
In reality God knows and loves everything that He has made. He particularly loves each human being and wishes our happiness in this world and the next. These lessons will help you understand God’s revealed plans for your happiness. They explain God’s teachings and laws in relationship to human happiness. They clarify the pitfalls and offer solutions to problems we all face on our journey through life.
“Trust God and He will help you; Make straight your ways and hope in Him.” [Sirach 2:6]
Lesson 1: Religion
- What is the purpose of these lessons?
To help supply what is missing in the lives of so many people – a vital relationship with our loving God.
“The mind of the intelligent man seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly” [Proverbs 15:14]
- Why is the study of religion so important?
Because such a study leads us to friendship with God now and forever, and there is nothing more valuable or more important than this.
“What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” [Matthew 16:26]
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:32]
- What is religion?
- Reuniting ourselves to God by: believing everything He has revealed to the human race.
- Loving Him unconditionally.
- Glorifying Him by doing His will as Christ taught us by His words and example
“Be doers of the world, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” [James 1:22]
4. Is religion really necessary?
Yes, for several reasons:
- God, our Heavenly Father, wants every human being to follow His plans for peace and happiness.
- Without religion and following God’s plan, the fullness of life will be missed.
“The supreme meaning of human life is this: to acknowledge God and to glorify Him by doing His will as Christ taught us by His words and the example of His life and this to come to eternal life.” [General Catechetical Directory, par 41].
- Lack of vital relationship with God leads to injustice and unhappiness.
“For he who despises wisdom and instruction is doomed. Vain is their hope, fruitless are their labors, and worthless are their works. Their wives are foolish and their children wicked; accursed is their blood.” [Wisdom 3:11-12]
5. What will happen to those who live irreligiously?
They will seriously damage their union with God and other people. They will lose interior peace. They run the risk of eternal punishment, unless they repent.
“The Lord Jesus… will come from heaven with the angels of His power, in flaming fire, to inflict punishment on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [2nd Thessalonians 1:7-8].
6. What will the practice of religion give you in this life?
God’s friendship, divine adoption, a share in His life, a good conscience, peace of mind and the promise of eternal life. These are the greatest treasures anyone could have.
“Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it,” [Luke 11:28].
“Those who love your law have great peace, and for them there is no stumbling block.” [Psalm 118:165]
- “The sad fact is that many people today pay little or no attention to God, while others are persuaded that God is distant, indifferent, and altogether absent. That is because modern life is man-centered, not God-centered.”
- There have been some very good people who did not know very much about God and religion. But ignorance is not a virtue. Those good people would have loved God even more if they had known more about Him. Everything we learn about God is a further reason for loving Him. That is why the study of religion is so beautiful, so enjoyable, so interesting, so valuable.
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.” [1st Corinthians 2:9].
Lesson 2: The Bible and Tradition
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world [Hebrews 1:1]
- What is the Bible?
A collection of writings, inspired by God, which reveal the mes-sage of salvation.
“All scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing in justice, that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good word” [2nd Timothy 3:16-17]
- What does “inspired by God” mean?
It means that God chose some men and moved them to write down faithfully all the things, and only those things, which He wanted written down.
“For not by will of man was prophecy brought at any time, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2nd Peter 1;21]
- Who, then, is the real author of the Bible?
God is, since He moved these men to write down the things He ordered, although He allowed them to write in their own language and style.
“For I give you to understand, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not mine. For I did not receive it from man, not was I taught it; but I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ” [Galatians 1:11-12]
- When were all these writings put together?
The Church put all of them in one book between the years 350 and 405.
- How is the Bible divided?
It is divided into two main parts, the Old Testament (Hebrew) and the New Testament.
- What is contained in the Old Testament?
The Old Testament contains religious truths which God revealed or approved of before the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ into the world.
- What is contained in the New Testament?
The New Testament contains further revelations and clarifica-tions of religious truths through God’s Son and through His followers.
- Is it possible to misunderstand the Bible?
Yes, even the Bible itself says so.
“In these epistles there are certain things difficult to under-stand, which the unlearned and the unstable distort, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures also, to their own destruction” [2nd Peter 3:16].
- Do we need a living teacher to help us understand the Bible?
Yes. Christ appointed his Apostles as teachers. The apostles chose their successors.
“Many other signs also Jesus worked in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book” [John 20:30].
- What is Tradition?
The understanding of God’s word as passed on to us by the Apostles in their preaching and by their successors in the Church to the present day.
“So, then, brethren, stand firm, and hold the teachings that you have learned, whether by word or by letter of ours” [2nd Thessaloninans 2:15].
- Do you have to believe in Tradition?
Yes, because Tradition hands on a full understanding of God’s word. Sacred Tradition together with Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God.
The early Christians learned everything by Tradition, since only later on were some of the teachings of Jesus written down, the last writing being done at the end of the first century.
12. Are we permitted to believe whatever we want?
No, we are obliged to accept all the truths contained in the Bible and Tradition, since this is how God speaks with us as His friends. Saying “No” here is saying “No” to God.
“The Lord Jesus … will come from heaven with the angels of his power, in flaming fire, to inflict punishment on those who do know God, and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” [2nd Thessalonians 1:7-8].
13. How can we come to know and understand the right meaning of God’s word?
The task of officially explaining the meaning of the word of God in the Bible and Tradition has been entrusted to the living teaching Church which our Lord founded.
- “Earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God.” [Vatican Council II The Church Today, par. 36] There can be no contradiction between the Bible and Science since both are concerned with unchangeable Truth. The story of the creation of the world and the human race, for example, was not intended by God to be a scientific explanation, but merely a simple way of instructing uneducated people in religious matters.
- “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” [St. Jerome]
- Many people buy a Bible, start to read it and then quit because reading the Bible without help can be pretty discouraging. HOW TO READ YOUR BIBLE can show you how to read it and make it interesting besides. Available from your Parish Book Store or Cogan Productions, 555 W. Illinois Ave. Aurora, IlI. 60506. Price $5.75