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Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes Paperback – June 18, 2012
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— Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.
—Karen Kelly Boyce, author of Down Right Good
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What impressed me most about this book was the way that Barbara, a retreat and workshop facilitator makes personal contact with her readers in each meditation installment. I could almost smell the coffee as Barbara figuratively sat across from me to share her own quiet reflections on biblical bit-players reminiscent of ordinary people we meet every day. She brings the fools, liars, cheaters to life, including an Old Testament helicopter mom, the wallflower who got the last laugh; the prostitute and several other "aliens" hiding in the family tree of King David and Jesus. She introduced me to the original, "Ms. Understood" and encouraged me through her account of the woman who marked her household with the Red Cord, declaring her allegiance to the One God.
Among the other heroes, Barbara ranks the disabled, doubters, a pampered beauty queen, home bodies, the rich, the poor, the arrogant, the humble, prophets, orphans, widows, worriers, outcasts, silent partners and a secret admirers of Jesus. One after another the heroes share the spotlight. Barbara recounts biblical themes that could have come from today's tabloids--marital infidelity, the role of women in society, women in the military, espionage and psychological warfare. The impact of heroic deeds by these seemingly minor characters, form the matrix that binds together the greater biblical message.
For example, Anna the prophet and widow, age eighty-four, "never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day." She lived to see the Messiah her dream realized when Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the Temple of Jerusalem. Barbara shares her thoughts on this brief description, noting Anna's youthful widowhood and long but solitary life. Barbara asks, did Anna choose to fast or was that the effect of her economic limitations? Barbara prompts me to consider the lives of local elders who frequent daily Eucharist. They were once newly-weds, but now live alone, taking consolation in the liturgy and church community. One of Barbara's end-of-chapter questions asks if I (or you) or any of my friends have ever experienced a similar, abrupt change in circumstances, and "What opportunities for spiritual growth were present in those times?" Life springs "opportunities" upon us all the time, if we see tragedies as such. Barbara reminds us to trust in God. God's grace provides guidance. She also reminds us that God selects the weak and the improbable because God sees things differently than humans do. I feel good about that.
Clearly, I will re-read Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes on a regular basis as part of a program of spiritual enrichment. The good news is that there are many more characters waiting in the wings for inclusion in one of Barbara Hosbach's future books.
If you want a sneak peak at Barbara's stories, go to [...]
Hosbach, Barbara. Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes. Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media. 2012.
(© 2013 Donald J. Mulcare)
The book gives some snapshots of men and women you can find in the pages of the Bible. With its title you might have expected to find more disreputable characters from the Biblical scene like Abraham who lied about Sarah being his wife (twice!), or Jacob who cheated his brother Esau of his birthright, or disciple Thomas who doubted the resurrection, or disciple Peter who denied even knowing Jesus. Some of the people Hosbach chose are in that league, like Rebekah who was Jacob's mother and an arch-schemer from a family of schemers, or Rahab who, as a prostitute in Jericho, looked after Jewish spies before those walls fell, or Ananias from Damascus who doubted Paul's conversion, but many are just plain ordinary people like Reuben (the eldest of Jacob's sons), Ruth (who refused to leave Naomi) and Joseph of Arimathea (who buried Jesus' body).
So the title may be a little misleading, but none the worse for that.
Hosbach gives us 28 characters to examine, 14 from each testament; 14 of these are women and 14 are men, which whilst giving gender balance does look somewhat artificial, though this does not grate when you are reading the book. For each she gives the main biblical text(s) concerning that person, then some background and context as she retells their story. After this she explains how we today relate to these people and what we can learn from them, ending with between four and six questions to continue our thinking. These questions are designed for personal use but could easily be the basis of a group discussion.
There are sure to be some folk that you have rarely encountered elsewhere like Leah (Jacob's first wife), Mephibosheth (King Saul's grandson), Nathanael (a disciple in John's gospel) and Mary (the mother of John Mark), along with well-known folk such as Gideon, Esther, Martha and Andrew.
Some heroes can put us off. For instance many years ago I read Catherine Marshall's account of her husband in the book A Man Called Peter. At the time I was impressed by the man, but the effect was negative as I thought I could never reach his dedication to God, and it would almost not be worth trying. Some heroes do this to us. In her book however Hosbach aims to give stories of Bible heroes who are not perfect, which might sound like a contradiction but is not really. We are not necessarily called to follow these examples, though some are well worthy of this, but they are before us so that we can realize that the God who found a place for them in the divine plan, despite all their imperfections, can surely do the same for us too, despite all our imperfections. To this end the book worked and I commend its reading and use.
Each chapter of Fools, Liars, Cheaters opens with a passage from scripture, then provides some historical perspective, a reflection on how the story applies today, and several discussion questions. For example, personal loyalty and political correctness dominate the chapter on Ruth (Ruth 1:1-19). In summary, the widow Ruth follows her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, home to Israel, where Ruth was a foreigner rather than returning to her own home as tradition dictated. Ruth humbles herself, submitting to custom including marrying a relative of Naomi's dead husband and bearing a son (Obed, who became the grandfather of King David).
In her reflection, Hosbach points out that (1) God works through whomever he chooses, (2) long-term spouses who remain faithful demonstrate heroic loyalty, and (3) heroic loyalty is sometimes required when our values are threatened.
This work, with its quality writing and unique focus, is suitable for individuals, faith-sharing groups, and catechists.
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An interesting book on people from the bible.Read more