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BEC and Scriptures: The Questions We Ask

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In BEC meetings, the text of the Sunday gospel is read three times. After each time the Gospel is read, questions are asked. After the first reading, the listeners are encouraged to ask questions about the text. Most often, questions are asked because of the differences in translations that the listeners have with them. At other times, questions may arise because of the listeners’ lack of familiarity with the text itself. At this stage of the reading process, the listeners are encouraged to ask whatever questions come to mind.

After the first question-answer session the Gospel is read a second time. This time the text is read with the listeners comprehending it a little better than the first time it was read. After this reading, the cell leader is the one who asks the listeners the questions. The questions asked in this second stage is for comprehension. Questions are formulated in a way similar to the reading lessons we did during our elementary days. We will treat of this more extensively in this post.

The Gospel text is read for a third time after the cell leader’s question-answer portion. At this stage, the important thing is that the text being read is remembered. After this final reading, the process can end up in the exercise of meditation where the listeners are asked to replay the text that was read using the imagination. Or the cell leader may lead the group to a meditation that applies the text to their present circumstance. A lot of these questions are similar to the ones I have in the Sunday Thoughts section of Res Biblica and are geared towards helping the listeners form their resolutions for the week. In other words, it is at this point of the process where the cell group members apply the text to their lives.

Reading and Questioning

In a BEC cell meeting, therefore, the text of Scriptures is read in the spirit of the lectio divina. The text of the Inspired Word is interrogated as the members of the cell group enter into dialogue with it. Through this question-answer process, the participants of the cell meeting have a particular experience of Jesus’ words about prayer:

Ask and you will receive
Seek and you will find
Knock and the door will be opened to you.

It is the communal practice of the lectio divina: a close reading of the text of Scriptures, within the context of a community that desires to become the household of faith.

The Questions Cell Leaders Ask

Help for Comprehension. Questions are asked to help the listeners comprehend the text just read. In this regard, we ask the questions who, what, when, where, why, how. Thus questions about a text like Mark 1:16-20, the call of the first disciples would sound like the following:

Where was Jesus at the beginning of the story? What was he doing? Whom did Jesus see? What were they doing? What kind of work did they do? When Jesus saw them, what did he do? What did he promise he would turn them into? Did they heed him?

Seeing the Context. Questions can also be used to help the listeners see a scripture passage within its context. The passage above from Mark follows verse 15 which is a summary of the proclamation of Jesus. Thus, by making this verse lead into the call of the first disciples, Mark is telling us that the fishermen whom Jesus called were the first fruits of his kingdom-proclamation. Questions connecting the call of the fishermen to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom can be formulated as follows:

  • When Jesus was walking by the sea of Galilee, was he relaxing and enjoing the sight? (Anticipated answer: No)
  • How did he reach the sea of Galilee?

From this last question, one can draw the attention of the listeners to the preaching of Jesus and its content and show how the positive response of the four fishermen to Jesus’ call is a change of direction in their lives and therefore, their response to the call to repent.

Create occassion for further explaining the text. One can also use questions to deepen the listeners’ understanding of the cultural or historical background of the text. For example, the woman who entered Simeon the Pharisee’s house in Luke “was behind him at his feet, weeping and began to wet his feet with her tears” (Luke 7:38). A question like “If we are to reproduce the scene here, how would the woman and Jesus look?”. Those who do not know the culture of first century Palestine may imagine Jesus sitting at table while behind him the woman would be crouching close to his feet. This can become an occassion for the leader to explain that Jesus was reclining on his side and the woman was not probably crouching, but kneeling literally “behind him at his feet”.

When Mary visited Elizabeth, Luke tells us that she

entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the baby leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

There must have been something in Mary’s greeting that caused changes in Elizabeth the moment it was pronounced, yet Luke does not tell us what Mary said. The question would be “what did Mary say?” or “how did the Jews greet each other?”. If no answer is forthcoming, one can explain that the greeting is “Shalom”, “Peace”. From there, it becomes easy to relate this passage to the missionary protocol in Luke 10:5 and Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit in John 20:21-22.

Questions can also be used to clarify matters of geography (e.g., “Where did Jesus go after the Samaritans prevented him and his company from passing throught their territory?”, in Luke 9:52.56) or economy (“How much was a night’s stay in an inn?”, Luke 10:35).

Pointing out themes in a whole book. Questions can also be used to help the listeners appreciate a biblical theme expressed in a passage. For example, not all know that prayer is one of the favorite themes of Luke. So a passage like the Lord’s prayer can become an opportunity for leading the listeners through a tour of the Lucan gospel on the theme of prayer and point out that in each of the important events of Jesus life, he was praying. So with Luke’s mention that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray after he has stopped praying, one can ask a series of questions like this:

  • What did the disciples ask Jesus?
  • When did they make the request?
  • Are there other instances in the gospel where Jesus is said to have prayed?
  • What do you notice about these occassions, are they important events in Jesus’ life or not?


It is obvious from the examples above that the cell leader asks questions that bring the listeners to a closer reading of the text. And so he/she cannot attend a cell meeting without having first studied and interiorized the text about to be read in the cell meeting. On one level, the questions will touch on the grammar and syntax of the text. Here, the sentence flow prepared before hand by the cell leader becomes the basis for a lot of the questions he/she will be asking about the text. On another level, the questions will be lexical in nature. Questions about the particular meaning of words (e.g., “peace”, “righteousness/justice”) as used by a particular evangelist will derive from his use of the study resources given in class (we have our weekly BEC leaders’ training) and from books and articles he/she has read (e.g. bible dictionary, Word Among Us). And then there is a higher level where the cell leader relates the inspired text to the whole of salvation history (i.e. through the whole of Scriptures), to the liturgy and to the teaching of the magisterium. And so the questions asked by the cell leader derive not only from his/her level of cultural formation but also and especially from the level at which he/she practices the Catholic faith.

Originally posted 2010-08-01 00:56:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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