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Speaking the language of love

Jeff Cavins, the American Catholic Bible teacher who has created the hugely successful Bible study programme ‘The Great Adventure Bible Timeline’ has come to Ireland at the invitation of the Living Church office in Down and Connor, of which Alan McGuckian SJ is director. During his visit Jeff is presenting a number of seminars and workshops  including ‘The Bible: Our Everlasting Story’, a one day event of input, music, prayer and reflection at Waterfront Hall Belfast on Saturday 21st November. Jeff spoke to Patrick Muldoon of Jesuit Communications about his work in Catechesis and Evangelisation.

“Catholicism is not just about learning theology and doctrine and dogmas, and it’s not just about all of us getting together and going to Mass. Those are all critical, they’re all important but we always have to keep in mind that God loves you individually”, Jeff says. When it comes to reading the bible, he recommends exercises as Lectio Divina – divine reading of scripture that offers people the opportunity to hear from God personally on a day to day basis. People are really craving this opportunity he says, “they really want to know does exist, does he really care, does he have a plan for my life”.

According to Jeff many people end up losing the story of the Bible if they try to read it from cover to cover. In the ‘Great Adventure’ timeline, salvation history is divided up into 12 periods and a comprehensive programme for reading the scriptures is offered. Twelve periods of history, the fourteen books that are needed to read through it, and the fifty-nine other books are outlined on the Bible timeline chart where they belong so that the reader explore all the major characters and events in salvation history.

Jeff says that the timeline offers a foundation on which to understand God’s plan for humanity and the significance of Jesus as the fulfillment of the entire bible. All the resources are very practical and self-explanatory, and are designed for easy use in a parish or group setting. It is also adaptable for young people and children. He explains how a bible study can be organised by any parish regardless of size, “if you can play a dvd, hand out materials and schedule a room in a church or a home then you can lead this”.

Jeff is also Director of Evangelisation & Catechesis with Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in the United States, and part of the reason he has come to Ireland is to share some ideas in evangelisation and discipleship. He says that the language we use while communicating the faith in the modern culture needs to be accessible. Speaking in philosophical or theological terms to the average working man or woman and especially young people is “like speaking a foreign language” he remarked. What people connect with is authenticity. “They understand compassion, forgiveness and mercy. They understand when someone is living the life of Christ it is different than what they see on TV, what they see in the movies, in literature today”, he says.

“What is called for in the new evangelisation is a new authenticity to truly walk as disciples of Jesus, not to walk around just telling people what you believe or what your theology is, but to literally demonstrate Christ – to allow his love to flow through you to impact other people”, according to Jeff. He explained that leading with mercy, love and compassion is at the heart of the work of evangelisation; and said the upcoming Year of Mercy in the Church is a unparalleled opportunity for Catholics to walk in mercy and “to give the world an opportunity to the world to come closer to Christ through our words and actions, invitation, and warmth”.

Watch Jeff introduce the Great Adventure bible resources in more detail this video.