This page contains an example passage from Following Christ Through The Gospels.
Remember: Fr. Basset has designed this program to lead you in prayer through the Gospels.
- Do not rush through this passage!
- The Lord speaks in silence. Give him some.
- The power of this program comes from its ability to help you engage the Gospel passage. Each & every question serves the purpose of leading you into thoughtful, meaningful prayer and reflection. Try to answer each question—even if you think it is too simple!
You can also read Fr. Basset's own comments about how to use this program (opens new window), which describe the "See", "Judge" and "Act" sections in detail.
Ideally, you'd print out this page and really spend 15 minutes of focused time with it in quiet.
But here in the real world, chances are you'll just scan the page quickly online. (I would, too! After all, you came to this page to learn more about Following Christ Through The Gospels, not to spend time in prayer now!)
Unfortunately, quickly scanning the page won't really give you a true picture of how Following Christ will "work" for you.
Scanning is the exact opposite of how you'll experience this passage in 15 minutes of quiet prayer!
So I'll help compensate for that by writing up a little walk-through of this passage. I'll try to share with you some of the results of my own reflection on it. This should help to put this sample page in context, and show you more accurately how it works.
My notes are below, right after the passage from Fr. Basset's book.
The power of this method is in its simplicity.
And Fr. Basset's first question, under the "See" heading, is deceptively simple. He asks a question that seems trivial, but look what it makes you do:
- Re-read the passage, or at least scan it again. This focuses our attention and we're forced to engage the passage seriously.
- Consider what the main point of the passage is. (This makes us really think about the passage!)
- Sharpen our understanding of some key terms as they're used in the passage. ("Does he really mean 'slave', or is 'servant' OK? And those terms 'hate', 'devote, 'despise'—they really just emphasize the idea of total commitment." Etc.)
- Formulate our own statement that carries the same message.
In just one or two minutes of reading & thought about this first question, we've gained a basic but solid understanding of what Jesus is saying here.
And note that Fr. Basset has also taught us an extremely important lesson here, "between the lines" of this question: we should assume that Our Lord speaks to us through Scripture, and that the Gospels reliably convey what Jesus really did and said.
That's a huge point!
Too many "modern" authors would ask the question in a way that silently teaches you the opposite point—something like, "What part of his experience of Jesus' message is this Gospel writer emphasizing for his audience?"
There, the hidden message is that the Gospels are something constructed artificially, and tell us more about the historical context in which they were written than in what Jesus really said and did. (That is not how the Catholic Church views the Bible!)
Academics just love that stuff! It helps them keep the Gospels at arm's length.
Personally, I'd rather have something that builds my faith....
Wow—and that was just the first question!
Moving deeper: the "Judge" section
Quickly now for the rest:
The "Judge" questions are like steps, leading us one at a time to a deeper understanding of the essential message of this important passage:
- We distinguish between simple possession of money, and serving it. This moves us beyond a superficial understanding of Christ's words here. (It's tempting to read this passage as just "money is bad", think that's a nice ideal, and then ignore it as unrealistic.)
- We explore the question of what it means to serve, and reflect on exactly what the problems are with serving both God & money.
- We examine whether it's money itself that's the problem, or whether the real matter is in this idea of service to something else—and we begin to look for symptoms of this problem in our own lives.
- Finally, Fr. Basset helps us begin to see aspects of this problem that we may not even suspect yet! This gives us a good sense for the subtle, hidden ways in which we may suffer from the problem that Our Lord is calling our attention to.
(Don't worry: Fr. Basset is not ignoring Jesus' obvious warning about the dangers of money and wealth here! He confronts that very issue in a number of other passages. But here he's chosen to help us see that the key to this passage hinges on the state of our heart. For me, this hit closer to home than the more-common "dangers of wealth" reading.)
Turning it into action
Now that we have a good grasp of this passage and the problem Christ is describing for us (the challenge of putting Our Lord's interests first), Fr. Basset helps us to see how to fix the problem in our own lives: practicing detachment and "giving up" something, also known as mortification.
We should follow Fr. Basset's clear direction and form a specific resolution for ourselves. (He says this in his "How to Use This Book" section (opens new window).)
- It would be fine to do something small, like giving up our habit of having cookies during a mid-afternoon break.
- Even better is something that benefits another person—something like, "I won't read the paper over breakfast, and instead will give my attention to my family."
(Don't be put off by how simple these resolutions are! Many of the saints tell us that the key to truly living the faith is precisely in taking small, simple steps such as these out of great love for Christ.)
But even more importantly, now look where you are: you're applying Christ's teaching to your own life! That's a huge step. It's a major challenge to do this when learning to pray—we all try to escape the real challenge of letting Jesus' direct teachings affect us personally.
By following Fr. Basset's easy set of questions, we just stepped into it!
Look how far we've come!
For me this selection from Following Christ Through The Gospels was a wonderful guide to understanding this important Gospel passage:
- It was brief, taking only several minutes for even a quick test-run of these questions. (Imagine what you could do with just 15 minutes of quiet a day!)
- It was simple, demanding only some basic thought.
- It helped to build our faith, quietly teaching us to rely on the Gospels as a certain source of Christ's own words, actions & teachings.
- We began to get to know Jesus just a little bit better, listening to his words and asking what he really means to tell us.
- We gained a solid understanding of the key message in this Gospel passage.
- And we learned how to apply this Gospel to our own lives, in a specific and achievable way.
And most importantly...
...we took a few minutes to sit quietly and listen to Our Lord!
Stop scanning, start praying!
I know—you're probably still scanning this page!
But if you'd take 15 minutes to read & reflect in quiet, you'd find that these simple questions would begin to lead you into prayer over this passage.
And they make you think of other questions.
Or you start to imagine the scene...
...or maybe you just turn to Christ and ask him directly, "Lord, what do you mean here? What are you trying to tell me?"
Your thoughts drift, and then come back.
And then something pops into your head—a word or an image—and you suddenly realize: this is exactly what it means in your life.
And that is prayer!
Of course, the first two or three times you do this, your attention will go to following the questions and getting used to the method. But then... those questions will become just an easy means to get into the Gospel text quickly, to help you focus on one or two important parts.
You will have unlocked the Gospels.
And you will be in conversation with God.
Your life will never be the same. (Alleluia!)