National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Sept 28-Oct 10, 2012

Bare before the truth of the word

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Gathered together once again in the presence of God’s living and effective word, we are revealed for who we are before God and others and, even better, God is revealed, yet again, in our midst. Like the author of Hebrews (second reading) who understood the power of God’s word to cut to the quick of all matters so as to lay bare the truth, the 12th-century doctor of the church Bernard of Clairvaux was similarly convinced. “The word of God,” Bernard wrote, “is not a sounding but a piercing word, not pronounceable by the tongue but efficacious in the mind, not only sensible to the ear but fascinating to the affection. God’s word is not an object possessing beauty of form, but rather, it is the source of all beauty and form.

How an obscure sect triumphed

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THE09282012p19phb.jpg TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY: HOW THE JESUS MOVEMENT BECAME THE WORLD’S LARGEST RELIGION
By Rodney Stark
Published by HarperOne, $27.99

As Rodney Stark sees it in The Triumph of Christianity, several factors enabled an obscure Jewish sect to become the world’s largest religion. Here are some: Jesus Christ admonished his followers to preach the Gospel to all nations, and they did. He commanded them to practice works of mercy, which they also did. Christian commitment to mercy mitigated suffering and attracted converts. As Stark explains it, Christianity was an island of security in the midst of the squalor, misery and illness of ancient cities.

Stark writes for the general reader based on his belief that “if I can’t say it in plain English, it must be because I don’t understand what I am writing about.”

Writing from a sociological and historical angle, he also refutes what he calls misconceptions concerning early Christianity. He argues that Jesus Christ may not have been poor, that his parents were sufficiently well-off to travel to Jerusalem on Passover.

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