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Ann Naffziger :
125 article(s)

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
February 5th, 2016
(Catholic News Service photo/Rebecca E. Drobis)Jesus told his disciples to go out and spread the word of God. We are all disciples of God, and as such, we should be spreading the word of God as well. How would you suggest a normal, everyday person go about sharing our faith with others? Pope Paul VI and the United States Catholic Bishops addressed this very question in some of their writings. They suggest a three-fold process. First, of course, is that you should be “converted” to the gospel yourself; not just being a Christian in name, but in you your deeds as well. Second is to “witness” to the gospel and your faith by how you live your daily life. Love God and your neighbor as yourself. Strive to speak and act…
January 20th, 2016
Dinah was the sole girl among Jacob’s troop of 13 children. She is often overshadowed by her 12 brothers, including the most famous one, Joseph. Her mother was Leah, one of Jacob’s wives. The book of Genesis is the only book that mentions her, and we know little of her story. The primary references to her come in Genesis 34. The incident recorded there tells of a man named Shechem who “defiled” Dinah, and recounts the gruesome revenge that two of Dinah’s brothers wreaked on them. “The Red Tent,” a novel by Anita Diamant, is a New York Times bestseller that tells the story of her life in Dinah’s voice.…
January 15th, 2016
Question: Where in the Bible does it say one must go to confession? I believe it was made up at some time so the “church” could know what its parishioners were doing. I pray daily to God and ask forgiveness of sins personally. They are forgiven. Why would I want to tell them to someone else? Priests are no “closer” to God than I am. What say you? A priest hears confession before Mass. (CNS photo/Tim Kupsick)Kudos to you for praying daily and asking God for forgiveness for your sins. These are vital steps in healing wounds caused by human failings. Yet there is more to the healing process… Although the Bible doesn’t spell out the rubrics for going to confession — aka the Sacrament…
January 12th, 2016
Question: In Matthew 19:19, Jesus speaks of honoring thy father and mother. Could you elaborate on what that entails? In what light would Jesus see children/adults who are subject to child abuse? Answer: In this particular passage Jesus is quoting from the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20). Since the family is the basic unit of human community, the relationship between parents and children is the most universal and thus the most important to maintain for a strong social fabric. In this case, the duty of children to honor, respect, assist, and care for their elders is balanced by the parents’ responsibilities to educate their children and provide for their physical and spiritual needs. It is a law of love that…
November 17th, 2015
Question: How does the person doing the reading know to say “letter from Paul” when in the prayer book it just says Corinthians, etc.? I’d like to do the readings, but I don’t know these details. Sister Clara Zhang Jin Ping serves as a lector during Mass. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)Answer: Lectors who are doing the readings from the Bible at Mass read them from a book called the lectionary. The lectionary is formatted to show the lectors which Bible passages to proclaim in which order on which day. Printed above each reading is the preface, for example, “A letter from Paul to the Corinthians.” After the Bible passage the lectionary prints a conclusion such as, “The Word of the Lord” or…
November 13th, 2015
The Bible, like any written document, betrays the cultural context of the authors. In the case of the Bible, we are dealing with not one book, but with many books and thus many authors, all of whom wrote about 1,900 to 3,000 years ago. These authors were members of patriarchal cultures that had different views about gender roles, rights, and responsibilities than we do in the United States today. For example, in the ancient Hebrew society, women were considered possessions more than individuals in their own right, so there are laws in the Hebrew Scriptures dealing with the ownership of women passing from their fathers to their husbands at the time of marriage. In the New Testament, Paul objected to women speaking…
November 10th, 2015
Question: What aspects of the seven sacraments are in the Bible? Are there any that are not? Newly married couples kneel as Pope Francis celebrates the marriage rite for 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Answer: The seven sacraments celebrated by Catholics all have their roots in scripture, although some are featured more prominently than others. There are many references to baptism, of course, beginning with Jesus’ baptism by John. The eucharist was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-29). Confirmation, though not specifically named in the Bible, is traced back to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism and on his followers after Jesus’…
November 3rd, 2015
Question: If the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Father and is rated among the 10 commandments as equally important, how is it that Sunday has been chosen for worship and the Seventh Day forgotten? Pope Francis prays in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA)Answer: The Hebrew Scriptures make many, many references to honoring the Sabbath, beginning with the injunction to honor it because that is when God rested from creating the world. For hundreds of years Jews did this — resting on the seventh day of the week, what we recognize now as Saturday. Jesus, his family, and his apostles did this in his lifetime, attending the synagogue and refraining from unnecessary work on those days. A change…
October 28th, 2015
The Church of Our Lady of Peace in New York. (CNS photo/Eduardo Munoz, Reuters)You won’t find a listing of the Holy Days of Obligation in the Bible because they aren’t there. They aren’t there because they weren’t instituted when the Bible was written and compiled. Like so many things in our Catholic tradition, the practice of celebrating Holy Days developed over a period of centuries as church leaders reflected on the importance of particular events (for example, the Epiphany and the Ascension of Jesus) and developed traditions around other aspects of our faith, (for example, the Immaculate Conception and All Saints Day). Here’s a list of Holy Days celebrated in the United States:…
October 20th, 2015
Question: Thinking of movies that focus on the “rapture,” how does the Catholic Church view this topic? Movie trailers make it look scary and violent. I have read the scriptures on this but often wondered about the Church’s view on how it would happen or how it is interpreted. Answer: The reference to a Christian “rapture” (meaning “the carrying off of a person to another place or sphere of existence”) originates in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 where St. Paul envisions the faithful being caught up with Christ in mid-air upon his return to earth. In more general religious terms, the rapture includes the notion that some will be “left behind” to endure an extended tribulation on earth…
October 13th, 2015
People ascribed many different titles to Jesus in his lifetime with “Son of God” being chief among them. He never protested or corrected people when they called him this (see Matthew 14:33 and 26:63). On the other hand, although Jesus didn’t openly walk around Palestine with a megaphone claiming, “I am God — come follow me!” there were times, especially in John’s gospel, when he talked in theological terms that some people would have recognized as equating himself with God. For example, in the Hebrew Scriptures, God revealed his name to Moses in the riddle-like form of “I AM” (then translated to Yahweh). I AM — or Yahweh — was the primary name for the Divinity. In John’s…
October 6th, 2015
St. John Vianney Church in Lithia Springs, Georgia. (CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus sends the disciples out to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). This is the origin of the Church’s “trinitarian formula.” The understanding of the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity itself developed over the first few centuries of Christianity as church leaders pondered the many and various passages in the New Testament about Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Some passages speak of Jesus as the Son of God (for example, Luke 1:35). There are…
October 2nd, 2015
Question: What kind of father leaves his innocent children (Adam and Eve) in a place (Garden of Eden) with incredible dangers to them (tree of knowledge of good and evil, serpent, etc.) and only a warning to “protect” them? After the mistake (eating of the tree, disobeying God), they are cast out of the garden. A real father with real children knows they make mistakes even when forewarned. What kind of loving father throws away his children like that? It seems as if we have been set up to fail from the beginning. “In the Garden of Eden” by Kasia, CC 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/mysza/Answer: The biblical story of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden helps us understand something about the human…
September 9th, 2015
The earliest surviving New Testament written in Palestinian Aramaic, a language similar to what Jesus used. Question: I know the New Testament was written in Greek. However I have been told that there were a few verses from Jesus in Aramaic. Are you able to share with me exactly what verses in the New Testament are Aramaic? Answer: You are correct. The New Testament was written in Greek with only a few Aramaic words or phrases scattered here and there. They are generally recognizable because when you are reading along in English, or hear the scriptures read aloud, these words jump out at you: Talitha cum meaning “Little girl, get up!” (Mark 5:41) Ephphatha meaning “Be opened.” (Mark 7:34) Abba meaning “Father”
August 7th, 2015
What is a sign (from God)? What “signs” might appear to us today, and how is God still speaking? There are many events, supernatural or otherwise, that happen in the Bible, which can loosely be termed “signs from God.” Some appear in dreams, like the image of Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:11-22). Others happen during waking hours, as when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15). Some, like those in the Gospel of John (One example — Jesus changing the water into wine at the wedding at Cana), are more often thought of as miracles, although the gospel writer used the term “signs.” What they all have in common is that they were unexpected or extraordinary…
July 31st, 2015
Imagine a timeline stretching back millions of years. Scientists believe that dinosaurs became extinct about 66 million years ago, tens of millions of years before humans evolved from our primate predecessors. Fast forward to the centuries when the books in the Bible were written, a mere two to three thousand years ago. At that time, dinosaurs had been extinct for many millions of years. Continue to fast forward to the beginning of the 1800s. That is when dinosaur fossils were first recognized and began to be studied to the extent that they are now. So the reason dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible is simply that the authors and their contemporaries did not have any knowledge of their existence. However, occasionally…
June 3rd, 2015
The biblical writers themselves never uses the word “homosexuality,” but the few Biblical passages referring to homosexual acts (less than 10 passages in the entire Bible) refer to sexual acts between people of the same gender. The most prominent verses are in Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27. Interestingly, there is not a single mention of homosexuality in the four gospels, and we have no record of Jesus addressing the topic. The Old Testament authors and St. Paul were unaware of a modern psychosexual understanding of persons whose sexual orientation is determined early in life, if not genetically. Certainly they didn’t make a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior as…
May 27th, 2015
Museum’s collection to include earliest surviving New Testament discovered by University of Oxford scholars(Catholic News Service photo/courtesy Museum of the Bible)No. The Bible is better described as a set of books within a book, and as such, it’s not just a book of history. Certainly it sketches some of the history of our Jewish ancestors, the life of Jesus, and brief glimpses of the early Christian churches, but most of the Bible was not written to be a detailed historical document. It’s aim, rather than telling history, is far greater. It is nothing less than to woo people into a love relationship with God. It’s writers attempt to persuade people to come to a belief in the God who…
April 29th, 2015
The first and most important thing you can do in this vein is to buy a children’s Bible and read it with them. The Bible is confusing enough for adults to understand, so why would we assume children can make sense of it if we only read them one with adult language? There are some great children’s Bibles available, and they are geared to children of different ages, from toddlers through college students. You can check out this link for suggestions of age-appropriate ones: http://www.growingupcatholic.com/finding-a-bible.html Pick a story or two to read as a bedtime story in the evenings, or read the children’s version of the Sunday gospel to them. The stories they hear will prompt questions,…
April 24th, 2015
View of Pages From ‘Codex Pauli’(Catholic News Service photo/courtesy of Benedictine Abbey of St. Paul Outside the Walls) Q: Most Bible scholars agree that Paul’s letters are the oldest portion of the New Testament, i.e., these were written before the Gospels. Why then, does Paul not mention the virgin birth, not mention any miracles, not mention the empty tomb? Why does Paul cite a spiritual resurrection but not speak of a physical resurrection? If Judas committed suicide, then why does Paul state in I Corinthians 15:5 that Christ appeared to 12 Apostles? Raymond Brown, a renowned New Testament scholar, answers this very question in the first chapter of his book An Introduction to the New
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