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‘The stories that Jesus loved’

Christine Halloran, parishioner of SFX Gardiner Street in Dublin, gave an account of the talk ‘The stories that Jesus loved’ by scripture scholar Dr Jessie Rogers on 6 October 2018 as part of the October Talks Series 2018. 

St. Francis Xavier Church on Gardiner Street was abuzz on the Saturday morning. More than forty people gathered together in the John Sullivan Room for the first workshop of the annual autumn series, ‘The stories that Jesus loved.’

Scripture scholar and St. Patrick’s College Maynooth lecturer, Jessie Rogers, facilitated the workshop and quickly put the group at ease, assuring us that whether we loved, hated, were afraid of, or had little knowledge or understanding of the Old Testament readings, the workshop would be pitched at a level that would appeal to all.

Jessie’s down-to-earth Lectio Divina approach weaved scriptural threads from the carefully selected texts into a simple tapestry of interconnectedness. She highlighted the continuity between the Old and the New Testament readings. In listening carefully to the texts being read aloud prayerfully, the group was able to hear first-hand just how much Jesus’s words echoed the teachings of the Old Testament.

Jessie reminded us, that Jesus, in coming from an oral tradition, would have learned the Torah by heart, so his formation would have been deeply rooted in the Old Testament stories and teachings that he would have listened to constantly while growing up in Nazareth. When we read from Matthew 6, ‘But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well’, we could clearly hear echoes of Psalm 104 which Jessie had read with us earlier:

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great…
…You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.

This was a wonderful morning of exploration, spent in the company of ‘fellow seekers.’ It provided an opportunity for those with a more in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament readings to share their thoughts and insights with those only coming to look at the texts in any depth, for the first time. It also allowed us to see Jesus’s teachings in light of his own grounding and formation in Old Testament teachings.

What I came to realise through attending the workshop is that these stories are as powerful now as they were in Jesus’s time. The Bible is a library of wild and wonderful stories, and if like Jesus, we come to know scripture, then we too, will come to know God. In listening to and reading Bible texts, I believe our own lives will begin to make more sense.

By following Jesus’s example as borne out in the gospels, we like Him, will begin to live and act from a place of profound trust in God, our Abba, our Father.

Angela Harding also presented a talk entitled ‘Reading Scripture at Mass’ at SFX Gardiner Street on 13 October. The remaining talks of the October Talks Series 2018 include ‘The Quiet Revolution of Pope Francis’ with Gerry O’Hanlon SJ and ‘The Art of Spiritual Discernment’ with Brendan Comerford SJ. See the Gardiner Street Parish website for details.