Busted Halo
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Ann Naffziger :
118 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.
August 14th, 2014

Q: How do you reconcile the commandment to “love thy neighbor” when he/she is not living in the image of God without become too judgmental so as act like the elitist high priests that Jesus spoke out against?
Saint Augustine’s well-known axiom “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” may be helpful here. All people are deserving of love, precisely because they are created in the image of God. However, that doesn’t mean that we should be accepting of sinful behavior. Depending on your relationship to the particular person and your role in his/her life, it may be appropriate for you to challenge the person and sound a call to conversion. If you decide to do so, the impetus should be to “speak the truth…

July 31st, 2014

Purgatory is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, and in fact the word did not come into common parlance until the twelfth century. However, the concept of a process whereby souls are purified before they enter heaven was evident in very early Christianity. Going back even further, there is a Jewish tradition that praying for the dead furthers the purification of a soul(s). Although sometimes Purgatory is imagined as a physical place, the Catholic teaching is that Purgatory is the “final purification of the elect.” The Catechism of the Church describes it this way;
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assure of their eternal salvation; but after death…

July 24th, 2014

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…

July 17th, 2014

Q: I would like to know where and what type of Bible that is written in Layman’s terms that I can fully understand and remember. I have to reread my bible and still cannot understand some of the scriptures.
Perhaps the best way to go about finding a Bible with a translation that you like and feel comfortable with is to go to a bookstore and peruse their shelf of Bibles. There are many to choose from. Flip through to see what language is most appealing to you. While the New American Bible (NAB) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are two of the most common translations read in the United States, you don’t necessarily have to choose one of them. A contemporary idiomatic English version that is gaining more appeal…

July 10th, 2014

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.
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 “The Gospel of the Lord.”
If you are interested in doing the readings at mass, simply approach the priest or any…

July 3rd, 2014

Q: Can you help me understand why in Mathew 6:5-15 it states do not pray in repetitions as the heathens do? But yet it appears that the rosary is said in repetitions? And each week seems to be repetitive prayers in the Catholic church (such as the Lord’s prayer)?
I’m unsure which biblical translation you are reading from that refers to praying in repetitions. A couple of good renderings of the Greek in Mt 6:7 are “Do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do” or “do not babble like the pagans.” Simple, direct language will do when it comes to prayer – one need not compose a treatise to address God.
Jesus’ teaching in this section is not a criticism of public prayer, which is sometimes called…

March 21st, 2014

Catholics abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during Lent not because of some rule in the Bible, but because of a tradition begun in the early church. Various books of the Bible encourage the spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
It wasn’t long until Church leaders began encouraging abstinence from meat on certain days as well. (The required days for fasting (eating less) and abstinence from meat have varied over the centuries.) These practices of self-denial are considered forms of penance. They are meant to be calls of conversion, to get us back on track if we’ve wandered off from our spiritual journeys. Some people find that fasting and abstaining from meat help them…

March 7th, 2014

There aren’t any specific scriptural passages about miscarried children, or even about the fate of infants who die before they are baptized. You may have heard of the hypothesis of “limbo” which developed a few hundred years after the life of Jesus. At that time, theologians were debating what happens to children who die before they have committed any sins but before they have original sin washed away by baptism. If baptism is considered necessary to be saved, it is a theological problem to imagine that without being baptized a tiny infant would go to hell. So the theory of limbo was proposed, suggesting that these children are in a state of “limbo” (related to the words “liminal” or “edges”)…

February 21st, 2014

Q: If we believe and can prove the “Big Bang,” then what do we make of ideas that God created the seventh day for rest? Should we still rest?
The creation stories in the Old Testament weren’t written as science textbooks trying to explain the literal origin of the world. They were “etiological stories” written as a way to grapple with philosophical questions such as “Why are we here? What kind of a being or God created this world? What is our relationship to the rest of the material world?” As such, we can hold a scientific belief in the Big Bang while still holding the values taught in Genesis. In this case, we can continue to “honor the Sabbath” by intentionally taking rest one day a week because of the…

February 4th, 2014

Question: In the Old Testament, God actually spoke or communicated with people. Why has he stopped?
The United Church of Christ has a campaign adamantly reminding anyone who will listen, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma. God is still speaking.” Given the lack of Old Testament prophets around to proclaim “Thus says the Lord your God…” the challenge for us is to discern how God is still communicating with us now.
The writers of the New Testament insisted that God was communicating, primarily through the words and actions of Jesus. Since then, it has fallen to those who pray and study the Bible to tease out how the words of Scripture continue to speak God’s word to us today. There are still…

November 29th, 2013

For millennia, humans have looked upon suffering or evil in the world and asked this question. If God is perfect, then how come our world isn’t perfect? Why is there evil and pain in this world? Did God make a mistake(s) in creating an imperfect world? Does God still make mistakes? Our Catholic teaching answers a resounding “no” to these questions.
Various teachings from the ancient creeds, the early Church fathers, and the Catechism state the following:
“God is the fullness of Being and of all perfection … In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical… God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us…”…

November 22nd, 2013

Does God have everything already planned and is he completely omniscient? In Isaiah 38:5, God tells Hezekiah he is going to die very soon but Hezekiah begs to the Lord to live and the verse says the Lord changed his mind and added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. So did he already know he was going to add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life? if so why did he tell Hezekiah he was about to die when he was ill.
This is a question of predestination, an extremely slippery concept that has given theologians fits for all of Judeo-Christian history, caused massive conflicts among various denominations, and is still argued about today. The concept is tricky because scripture includes other examples in which God appears to change…

November 15th, 2013

Since a rapture in the linguistic sense of “the carrying of a person(s) to another sphere of existence” has yet to happen to any human among us (disregarding the issue of Christ’s ascension here), perhaps your question is better phrased as “Will there be a rapture”?
If you ask this question of a fundamentalist Christian, the answer would most likely be yes. They would point to Paul’s statement in 1 Thess. 4:16-17 that
“We who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them (those who have already died) to meet the Lord in the air.”
Catholics generally answer “no” to this literalistic reading of scripture. After all, St. Paul’s writing clearly showed…

October 15th, 2013

Q: In simple terms, when God made the covenant with Noah, he said he would not destroy everything he created, including animals, birds, etc., by flood again and gave us the signature of this covenant with a rainbow. The deaths due to floods today, is that just an act of nature and not God?
This is a question that commonly arises after natural calamities such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, or wildfires. If our God is good and the created world is good – as God declares in the first chapter of Genesis – then how is it that so many still perish in natural disasters today? Why does God allow this? Are natural disasters acts of God’s judgment against humanity?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a resounding…

September 27th, 2013

The verse in question here is the only verse in the New Testament that appears to suggest that Jesus had something “inscribed” on his body. However, such a suggestion is in direct contradiction of a law in Leviticus 19:28 “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you.” Not only would the idea of a Jewish man having a tattoo be shocking, even more so is the suggestion that his thigh would be exposed, something basically equated with public nudity in Jesus’ time and religious culture.
A theory that easily explains such a contradiction is that the book of Revelation was originally written in Hebrew, not Greek as previously assumed. If that is the case, a miniscule copying…

September 20th, 2013

Unknown to many Christians are several ideas, legends, and lore in the Jewish tradition concerning the story in Genesis 22. Christians often refer to this story as “the sacrifice of Isaac,” while Jews generally call it “the binding of Isaac” in order to emphasize that Isaac was not ultimately sacrificed.
Still, other lesser-known alternative endings cropped up outside of the biblical literature in Jewish midrash — commentaries or interpretations of biblical stories usually written by rabbis in the first 10 centuries. In one such midrash, Isaac was wounded when Abraham began the sacrificial act. Isaac was then carried to Paradise where he remained for three years while he healed. In another…

September 13th, 2013

Question: I’m an adult reading the Bible for the first time. The Old Testament contains a lot of violence, including the deaths of women and children in large numbers. How do I come to terms with this violence as opposed to the loving, fatherly God most people identify with?

Answer: Unfortunately, the Old Testament (and parts of the New Testament as well), contain stories of repugnant violence and horrific acts of hostility and brutality that are difficult for us to read and acknowledge as part of our sacred scripture. Sadly, sometimes such biblical stories have even been used to justify more recent violence, from the Crusades to the Holocaust. What if, instead of bypassing and ignoring these troubling

September 4th, 2013

Question: In Luke 12:51 Jesus says “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”What does this mean? It would seem that he would come here to unite?…
Upon first reading, Jesus’ statement here does seem shocking, as does the prediction by the aged Simeon when Jesus was an infant that Jesus was “destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to

August 30th, 2013

Question: I love to fish, so perhaps my question(s) stems from that: It has to do with an image from Matthew 17. Yesterday, I was reading the Gospel for the day (August 12, 2013: Matthew 17:22-27), and it occurred to me that I found some of the details about the story a little peculiar, especially the fish with the coin in its mouth. Does that symbolize something? It seems like such an odd detail that there must be some more significance to it. Is there a reason the fish (or water) is the bearer of money (or financial providence)? I admit I found the fish with the coin a little funny, and I was reading a book called Between Heaven and Mirth (Fr. James Martin, SJ) about how we can misunderstand scripture that was meant to be humorous…

August 26th, 2013

The Old Testament contains a vast amount of material about giving a portion of one’s harvest, properties, or ownings back to God. Many commandments in the Old Testament mandate giving of one’s “first fruits” i.e. the first of the fruit or grain harvest, or the first of the newborn livestock. The Hebrew word for this offering is translated as “tithe” or “a tenth-part” with the emphasis being that the first fruits are intentionally offered.
The New Testament doesn’t adopt the language of tithing or mandate that a particular percent be given for the support of a religious institution. That said, in Mark 12:41-44, Jesus praised a woman who put the equivalent of a penny into the Temple treasury (similar…

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