Catholic author and Scripture scholar brings message of hope and peace to Omaha
June 13, 2022
“Peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
That’s what God promises to those who live a life rooted in prayer. And that will be one of the topics June 25 as Catholic author and Scripture scholar Sonja Corbitt brings her message of hope and spiritual renewal to Omaha.
She will speak at the quarterly brunch of the Magnificat-Omaha women’s group at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Author of seven books, including her latest, “Just Rest, Receiving God’s Renewing Presence in the Deserts of Your Life (a Study of the Exodus),” Corbitt also offers her down-to-earth approach to Bible study through her website, www.BibleStudyEvangelista.com, where numerous podcasts and other resources are available.
A nationally-known speaker, she also is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and TV programs, produces her own Bible study TV program, leads pilgrimages and retreats, and provides individual consultations.
Although reservations are currently closed for the June 25 presentation, women interested in attending may still find room by contacting MagnificatOmaha@gmail.com. Or, for more information go to www.MagnificatOmaha.org.
Corbitt recently spoke by phone with the Catholic Voice regarding her ministry and upcoming talk.
Q. Tell me a little bit about your background and what led to your devotion to Scripture and the call to begin your Bible study ministry.
I am a convert of 16 years now from the Southern Baptist tradition, and that’s where I began my love of Scripture. It was kind of an accident. I was asked by a mentor to co-teach a Bible study on the Book of Acts. She looked at me a couple weeks in and said, “I really think you’re supposed to teach this yourself.” I was very young, I didn’t know anything, but I was so enamored by what I was learning and how I was connecting to God through the Scriptures. And this had never happened to me before. I just found him there and I was so excited about what I was learning and being able to share it with other people who were also excited about what I was sharing, that just fueled all of my excitement.
So that was where it began, and several years after that I entered seminary and got some training there and I began teaching kind of itinerantly, and it sort of snowballed and that’s where it all started. And once I began, I just never looked back and have loved it since, and I have always met God there. That is his voice to his Church, the Scriptures, and so that’s what I do now as a Catholic.
When I came into the Church my pastor made me the religious education director of our parish that same year. When I began that job, I realized that the Church needed what I was doing, what I had been doing, and of course, in the context of the Church and the writings of the fathers and the documents of the Church. But I began offering Scripture topically as I had been accustomed to doing as a Baptist. I started doing that as a Catholic and it just took off. So that’s why I am where I am now.
Q. On your website, you state that you offer Bible study spinach that tastes like cake. Describe what you mean by that.
So that is just a cute way of saying that I give you the nourishment, the strength and the potency of the Scriptures, but in a way that’s easily digestible and is sweet to the taste, meaning I offer it topically. Exegesis is that big Church word for drawing the meaning out of Scripture. And that can be a very long, intimidating and involved process, particularly when you’re looking at an entire book of the Bible. And so rather than doing that, because it has the drawback of not necessarily being clear to people what they’re going to get out of it, how it’s going to address their lives, instead I offer it topically. So I will study a particular topic, for instance, anger. And when I did that particular series, I went through the Scriptures and studied people who had issues with anger throughout the Scriptures and the way God engaged them.
And so that series was on anger in the Bible, and that is immediately and obviously relevant to people how that’s going to apply to their own lives. And so, through that series, we saw how God engages his people when they’re angry, because he knows we get angry. So I offer that kind of meat, the depth and the potency of the Scriptures in a way that’s easily digestible and hopefully sweet.
Q. Modern life and the state of our world has filled so many people with fear, anxiety, depression and discouragement. You talk about that on your website and in your podcasts. How can delving into Scripture help us overcome those kinds of feelings and find the real peace that Jesus offers us?
What is wonderful about the Scriptures is that they address everything that we go through as human beings. And particularly when we’re overwhelmed with negative emotions and negative circumstances and just outright evil, the Scriptures are our offensive and defensive weapon in combating all of that negativity with the truth of who we are in God, what salvation means, and how to appropriate it for each of us on a daily basis in a way that gives us victory and an abundant life.
That is what Jesus came to give us and that’s what the Scriptures show us how to do. And so when we are in the Scriptures, periodically in a study way, but daily through the readings, we have that daily word of God that gives us the encouragement and gives us the truth and gives us the insight into how to deal with our relationships and circumstances in a way that is fruitful and nourishing and life giving rather than just sucking the life out of us, like all of that negativity can do.
So to me that is really my calling in offering the Scriptures to people, to show them how to appropriate the inheritance that Christ won for us in his death and resurrection, and use those tools and that truth to begin living the kind of life, the eternal life that the Bible talks about, which is more about quality than it is about quantity.
Q. So it’s really based on the message of hope that we have won the victory through Christ and there is a hopefulness even though we may face difficulties right now, we see that there’s something good at the end.
Absolutely and it’s not just reserved for the end. That’s the part that’s so good about how the Bible addresses our daily lives – that we can experience, we’re supposed to experience that victory and that abundance now, leading into that final promised land of heaven. And so the promised land begins here, and we learn through the Scriptures by watching how God deals with his people in the Scriptures and appropriating those promises and the gifts of the Scriptures, the truth of it into our daily lives. And it’s the peace that passes all understanding, the Bible calls it. And we’re meant to have that. We say that in our Mass, we hear it every single Mass, my peace I give you, my peace I leave you. And yet we’re so unpeaceful, we’re unrestful and it’s in part, because we don’t know who we are in Christ, and we don’t know what our inheritance is, and we don’t know how to appropriate those gifts. And so the Bible teaches us how to do that.
Q. In your book “Unleashed,” you write about unleashing the Holy Spirit into one’s bad habits, toxic relationships, difficult circumstances and deep desires. Explain how that can come about.
The main thing that we should do in our relationship with God is follow the Holy Spirit through what I call pop quizzes. And those are difficult relationships and circumstances that provoke a lot of deep and out of proportion emotion. What I have seen through especially the doctors of prayer in the Church (such as St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila) is that there’s a pattern to those, and the pattern is rooted in woundedness. The enemy always attacks us in our woundedness. And he provokes us to sin in those wounds. But the Holy Spirit uses the exact same circumstances and relationships to draw that woundedness to the surface so that we can deal with it and allow him to heal it.
So when we follow the Holy Spirit through the pop quizzes of our lives, and I call them pop quizzes because they’re surprising, they seem to come out of left field, and they provoke a whole lot of emotion that we don’t really understand. We’re not sure why it seems to be out of all proportion to the actual event, but it’s because those pop quizzes are rooted in our wounds. And so the Holy Spirit uses the circumstances and relationships of our lives to help bring that woundedness to the surface of our awareness, because Jesus says that we will know the truth and the truth will set you free. So that awareness, knowing the truth of the woundedness is important in order for us to receive freedom and healing from that woundedness. And that is our promise, that’s one of our promises in Christ.
That’s what salvation means. It’s the healing of our woundedness, so that we don’t continue to wound other people. And instead we can become fruitful Christians in the way that Jesus won for us through his death and resurrection. So that book specifically talks about – really everything I do talks about – the patterns in our bad habits and our relationships and our circumstances, and even our desires, as the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives attempting to bring that stuff to our awareness so it can be healed.
Q. And with that awareness, it sounds like also, that in our own actions or responses, through our awareness, we can choose to respond differently. Is that what you’re saying?
Absolutely. We learn how to invite the Holy Spirit into that woundedness so that he can transform it and at that point, it doesn’t drive negative behavior. It’s transformed and it begins to be fruitful. Our very wounds and our weaknesses are what God uses to heal us, oddly enough.
Q. And it sounds like too, that in our response, we’re called in those moments to reflect in a prayerful way about how to tailor our responses. Is that right?
Absolutely. Because otherwise we don’t know how to respond. We react rather than responding. And so, part of the challenge for Catholics is we understand suffering very well. We understand that life is full of suffering, and we know that we should offer it up in union with Christ’s suffering. But the only problem with that is if we don’t also cooperate with it in our healing, then we’ve missed the main point of it. So our lives here then are a type of purgatory that should occur here rather than later after we’re dead. The whole process of sanctification is really that process of purgatory. And we’re meant to undergo that process here. And we do that in part by learning to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in those pop quizzes, in that suffering. So we can offer it up.
We can go to Mass daily and we can be in the Scriptures every day but if we’re not also cooperating with the Holy Spirit in our suffering to be healed, then we’ve missed the whole point. We’ve missed the whole point of why God allows that in part. So it’s very important that we understand that process. And the doctors of prayer, they’re the ones who direct us to that. That is prayer, that’s ultimately prayer is cooperating with the Holy Spirit in those relationships and circumstances that bring us so much suffering so that we can be healed of our woundedness.
Q. You describe a process of Scripture study symbolized by the acronym L-O-V-E. Describe what that is and how that approach can help us build a deeper relationship with Christ.
I love this. As a convert from the Southern Baptist tradition, I had a real issue with Mary when I came into the Church. And in part, I have discovered that’s common to a lot of converts, but it was just mainly, I think, because of the way I was raised. And so I was challenged in a penance service by my bishop. I had gone to confession and he said to me, “The measure of your Catholicism is the measure of your relationship to Mary.” I was put off by that quite a bit because it was just very foreign to me, that whole idea of Mary and all the attention that she gets. But it bothered me a lot that he was implying I was only partly Catholic, because I went through a whole lot of suffering to come into the Church.
And so I just went to Mary directly, which is kind of my style. And I just said to her, “I don’t mean to be offensive here, but you know as well as I do that I think this is all weird. I don’t understand it, but if you’re willing to teach me, I’m willing to learn.” And so I asked her directly, “What do you want me to know about you? What do you, Mary, my mother want me, Sonja, to know about you?” And the number one thing she showed me was her love for the Scriptures, love for the Word. So that’s where the acronym comes from. L-O-V-E, as I studied the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, what I saw through her leading is her process of prayer.
She L, listens to the Word of God through the angel Gabriel. O, she observes her relationships and circumstances. V, she verbalizes back to God what she believes she’s hearing through the Magnificat. And E, she entrusts it all back to him, “May it be done to me according to your word.” And through that acronym, she showed me that no one loves the Word of God, Jesus, in both the Eucharist and the Scriptures – according to the Church, that’s the one table of the Lord, the Eucharist and the Scriptures – no one loves the Word the way Mary loves the Word, in a way that incarnates it into the world. And so she invites us through this process of prayer, her process, L-O-V-E, to also every day listen to the Word of God through the daily readings of the Church, observe our own relationships and circumstances through that Word, verbalize back to God what we believe we’re hearing from him, and then entrust that all back to him. That’s her process. And that’s the process that she invites us into every single day through the readings of the church. L-O-V-E.
Q. On June 25th, you’re going to be speaking in Omaha to a Magnificat women’s group. What special messages do you plan to impart to help those women, and through your ministry overall, how do you help women, particularly, grow in their spirituality?
We are going to be talking about rest, rest in thoughts, rest in emotions, rest in body and rest in soul. And we’re looking at the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt, which for us would be our sin place, through the desert, into the promised land of Sabbath rest. And through that process of the Exodus, we see how God leads us from a life of sin, through the desert, where we experience all kinds of deprivations that bring up all the negative thoughts and emotions and physical suffering that we go through and spiritual suffering as well. But all of that is meant to lead us to the promised land of that perfect peace, that perfect rest, that inner Sabbath that the Bible talks about as being the promised land. And I am living proof that God will lead us through that process, into that promised land of rest, that peace that passes all understanding. It transcends anything that we actually experience here. It’s a peace that transcends whatever is happening, and God promises us that in our thoughts, emotions, bodies and souls. And that is what we’re talking about on June 25th.
Q. What other key messages or themes will you be talking about on June 25th?
Probably the main message in all of that is that peace is God’s promise. And it’s meant for us now in preparation for that beatitude, that final peace in heaven with God. And so we’re going to talk very specifically and deeply about our personal relationships and circumstances and our own woundedness as the path to that peace and practical ways that God leads us. I give people really practical tools, even through a checklist, of how to follow God through that desert of deprivation, because it’s the deprivations that we experience in the desert that make us panic, that make us afraid and anxious and depressed and discouraged. The word desert in the Scriptures has connotations of God’s Word. So those deprivations in the desert are actually a message to us about our woundedness. And so that’s part of what we’ll be talking about, following the Holy Spirit through the desert of suffering into that promised land of rest and peace and love.
That’s probably the main message, which is that we are held in being in God’s love. We are loved with an eternal love the Bible says, and most of us experience such negativity and fear because we don’t know how much we’re loved. And so I see my role as opening up that door for people to experience God’s love on June 25th, through that Magnificat conference, to experience God’s love there.
Q. As we wrap up, tell me a little more about what kind of resources people can find on your website, BibleStudyEvangelista.com to help them grow in their faith and their love of God.
Well, the main thing is probably the podcast series. All of those are there. I’m about to begin one called “Cherished,” which talks about how God is using our vocation to heal us. And so the podcast series are topical, as I mentioned earlier. So that resource is probably the main one. And then all of my books are there as well, in which I talk about healing specifically. I also offer one-on-one consults, and there’s a couple of pilgrimages coming up as well. We’re doing a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but also a healing pilgrimage to Medjugorje. And so all of those resources are there on my website to help people grow in their faith and love of God.