What role should Scripture play in our lives?
August 8, 2019
Peter Herbeck heard the call to serve God full-time when he was in college. At first he thought this likely meant a vocation to the priesthood. After some discernment, however, he discovered that was not the case: He was called to marry and have a family.
But how could he evangelize full time as a layman with a wife and kids? Herbeck quickly found the answer: By trusting in God’s promise that he read in the Bible.
Today, Herbeck is the vice president and director for missions at Renewal Ministries, an organization founded by Ralph Martin in 1980 to evangelize in the Catholic Church through parish missions, conferences and various media initiatives. He’s also an author, in-demand speaker, and co-host of two weekly TV programs on EWTN and one daily show on Ave Maria Radio.
On Sept. 7 Herbeck and Father John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and host of the Ave Maria Radio program “Christ is the Answer,” will speak in La Vista at the 10 Year Anniversary Conference of Seeking Truth, an Omaha-based biblical formation apostolate.
Herbeck spoke with the Catholic Voice about the impact Scripture should play in the lives of Catholics.
Q: Tell us about your talk at the upcoming Seeking Truth conference.
What I'd like to do is talk a little bit about the times we're living in to give people a spiritual perspective. You know, St. John Paul II used to say that one of the fundamental calls of the Vicar of Christ is to help the church read the signs of the times and to interpret for the church, to see what the Spirit is saying in response to the signs of the times. And I think it's very important to just see spiritually what we're living through right now in the church. It's significant.
And then in that context to see how important it is to do what people like Sharon and Steve (Doran) are doing in Seeking Truth, the Bible study, and how crucial it is for us right now. Because the Word of God has a unique capacity to clear up our thinking, give us clear minds, to give us a fresh spirit, a new way of thinking. … It gives us a deep-rooted, strong identity, to be able to see the Lord, understand him, understand his teaching. It gives people an unshakable grounding. And that’s exactly what people need right now.
The Second Vatican Council talked so much about the core responsibility of the clergy and the laity in the mission of the church. We still have a long way to go for the laity to be awakened to that core responsibility and what that means. And it's important. It's serious. It's what we've been baptized and confirmed for. It’s having people like Steve and Sharon and various kinds of lay leaders who are really responding to God's call in their lives. Now he's deploying them and they’re going forward, and bearing fruit. It is such an important sign, such an encouraging sign to know. It's really a work of God.
Q: Could you share with us an experience from your own life in which you were enriched by your study of the Bible?
When I was 20, I had been encouraged by friends and mentors to make sure to take up the Bible each day and to read it. And I was in my dorm in college and I was reading through Matthew 6, that beautiful passage where Jesus said, “Don't be anxious about anything. What you're going to eat, what you're going to drink, what you're going to wear.”
It's so counterintuitive. Reading, I'm thinking, “Everybody's anxious about everything. How can we not be anxious about anything, about the very things you're talking about, Lord?” But he's talking about our need to trust him. And the last line there said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” instead of being anxious. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his way of holiness and everything else will be added unto you. He'll heal everything. He'll provide, maybe not everything we want, but everything we need he will provide.
And I felt like in that moment, that passage, (it was) the first time really in my life probably where a passage just kind of jumped off the page at me. And I felt as though the Lord was saying to me in my dorm room, “Peter, if you internalize this, you take this into your heart, if you accept this and believe it and live it, I will make something beautiful out of your life. I will show you that this is absolutely true.” And it's absolutely true for anyone who believes it and lives in accord with it. I'm 61 years old. I was like 20, that was 41 years ago when I read that passage, and it's absolutely true. And all I can say is God is faithful, completely faithful.
Q: Did that then play a big role in your getting started in the various apostolates
you’re involved in?
That certainly had a role, maybe in keeping me in the ministry, because I knew the Lord certainly was calling me to it, calling me to be involved. I took some time to discern the possibility of looking at the priesthood. But as the doors were opening in my life, both as a single man and even when I was married, (there were) different signs that he was clearly calling me and inviting me to continue on a path. I wasn't sure how it would all work out – as a layman, married. The Word of God clearly inspired me and challenged me. It consoled me, it encouraged me, it gave me confidence and conviction. Without it, there's just no way I would be doing what I've been doing over the last 40 years.
Q: What's the relationship between Bible study and prayer?
Pope Benedict XVI said at one point, he believed that the secret to a new spiritual springtime for the church was the daily reading of the Word of God. The “spiritual springtime” – it doesn't just mean an organizational springtime. It's the transformation of the human heart. It's the awakening of the human heart to living, vital faith and coming alive, having faith, hope and love. At the heart of prayer is a heart made new, transformed. It’s a relationship, it’s a commitment, it’s communication. And as he put it, there's nothing like the Bible because it's a love letter. It's God literally speaking directly to our hearts with the purpose of drawing us into deeper, total, full relationship with him. He is a person and the Bible has a unique capacity to make that link happen because we hear the voice of God.
I love St. Francis’ two simple little questions: “God, who are you, and who am I?” And there's nothing like the Scripture to reveal that. So yes, the Holy Spirit is at work there, trying to bring us to the Romans 8 experience, that beautiful chapter where it says, “The Spirit of God within us speaks to our spirit, revealing to us that we're children of God” and prays within us and helps us spontaneously say, “Abba, Father.”
That's just an astounding revelation that the ground of our being is the source of all tenderness and love with the heart of a loving Father. It's astounding. That's the heart of prayer you asked about, with the relationship between Bible and prayer. You can't go deep in prayer without Scripture. It's just a crucial thing. It's the language of God. It's the voice of Jesus. It's conversation. It's the beginning of the conversation with God, which is prayer.
Q: You mentioned the difficult times that we are living in. We're in a post-Christian culture. There are scandals in the church. What can you say to encourage our readers in their faith?
I was reading John's Gospel and Jesus was so clear to the apostles (about) the trials and difficulties they were going to be going through. And in the midst of talking about it, he kept saying to them, “Don't let your heart be troubled. Don't be afraid. You know, these things will happen.” But rejoice, he said, take joy in the fact that you are in my hands and ultimately nothing can harm you. Life can be disrupted and things you prefer not to happen can certainly happen.
But he's saying, look, even when the worst things that can happen to you happen to you, rejoice. When people reject you and despise you because of what? Because of your association with Jesus. Which is what he said in the beatitudes, right? And the last beatitude, he said, if you're ridiculed, if you're mocked, you're marginalized, if you're persecuted on account of me or on account of my holiness or for the sake of holiness, rejoice, you're totally blessed. We don't think that way, but that's the mind of Christ.
The gates of hell will never prevail against the church. The church is going through a time of purification. The Lord's pruning his church. People are leaving the church. They don't even know what they're leaving. Many of them are just mad. They're angry. And yes, there's righteous anger that ought to be in play here because of what's happening. It's getting a little tiring, you know, hearing all this and having to deal with it. But we're not going to leave Jesus because of Judas. And I think people leave and they don't understand what they're leaving. They can’t understand who he was or they wouldn't leave. It's all in his hands.
This is an important time for each of us to stay focused on what he's assigned us to do and do it with all our heart. He's the captain of the armies of heaven. He sees the whole battlefield and he's deployed us and we need to be faithful to that thing or things he's called us to do. Like Scripture says, “Rejoice always. Pray constantly and give thanks in every circumstance.” So that's what I'm trying to do in the midst of all this.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Seeking Truth 10 Year Anniversary Conference
WHERE: La Vista Conference Center, 12520 Westport Parkway, La Vista
WHEN: Sept. 17, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM
TO REGISTER: Go to https://seekingtruth.net/10-year-anniversary-conference