Tag Archives: inspiration

Complete Joy

2 May

complete joyIn today’s Gospel (John 15:9-11), Our Lord tells us something for the explicit purpose of imparting His joy to us, so that our “joy might be complete.” What was this joy-producing message? It was this:

“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

The connection between keeping the commandments and loving God is a recurring theme in the biblical writings of St. John, and in this particular instance we hear it from the Lord Himself, with the motive that we might be filled with joy.

A few years ago I told my then six-year-old son Samuel that he was developing into a fine young Christian man, and that I thought that he was about ready to make his First Confession. I told him, however, that in order to make a good Confession, he would have to know the commandments. He replied, “I know them already.” I was justifiably skeptical, so I asked him what they were. He answered: “Obey your parents, don’t pick your nose, listen to your teacher . . .”

Obviously Sam still needed a little work (and a handkerchief).

But in our own lives as adults, do we experience the observance of the commandments as simply following a bunch of arbitrary rules, or as the means of discovering the complete joy that the Lord wants to give us?

In creating us in His image and likeness, God gave us free will and expects us to use it well. He doesn’t coerce us to love Him and follow His commandments.

Human freedom is widely misunderstood today, as many understand freedom as existing apart from the truth about God and about human nature. The discussion surrounding Jason Collins’ “coming out” this week is but one example. Freedom has become a very personal, exclusively subjective reality that boils down to the ability to do whatever I might feel like doing at a particular time, apart from the “rightness” or the “goodness” of such choices. This, of course, is not authentic human freedom, but mere license or whim.

And so Our Lord today reminds us that obeying the commandments does not involve a renunciation of freedom. Rather, it involves the exercise of freedom to do good, rather than evil. This wise use of our freedom results in our loving God and neighbor, and brings us “complete joy.” Sounds like a ”win win” situation to me!

I Wanna Know What Hope Is

14 Mar

faith hope loveThere was a popular song by the rock band Foreigner some years ago entitled, “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” I think the song title is reflective of the thirst we all have to know and experience true love, which can be so elusive in light of all the counterfeits that surround us.

While there are no hit songs about it, I think we also want to know what hope is. So many people go through the day without realizing that there is hope for them. Others have given way to despair or presumption (cf. Catechism, nos. 2091-92).

For those of us who want to know what hope is, we have the following passage from St. Paul (Phil. 3:12-14) as part of the second reading at Mass this Sunday. For my money, it is the most profound reflection on Christian hope found in all of Scripture:

It is not that I have already taken hold of it
or have already attained perfect maturity,
but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it,
since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, I for my part
do not consider myself to have taken possession.
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,
the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

St. Thomas teaches us that hope is oriented toward a future, difficult good. Let’s briefly look at that from the perspective of natural hope. Hope deals with the future, as it wouldn’t make sense to hope for something that has already happened. Hope deals with the difficult, or at least uncertain. I don’t hope that tomorrow is Friday, because there’s no reasonable chance (barring the Second Coming!) of tomorrow not being Friday. And hope pertains to the good, as we only hope for things that at least seem good to us.

Let’s take it up a notch, and see how this applies to the theological virtue of hope, which helps those of us who have not yet reached “the prize of God’s upward calling” (Phil. 3:14; cf. Catechism, nos. 1817-21). Our hope is ordered to the future. We have been reborn in Christ, but we still haven’t reached our eternal destination. Our hope pertains to the difficult, or uncertain (in fact, the humanly impossible–see Mt. 19:25-26). Now this one can be tricky, as we joyfully affirm that God is true to His promises. We can count on His gracious assistance. The difficulty or uncertainty comes into play because of human freedom. Even though God offers us heaven, we remain free to reject Him through unrepented mortal sin. We all must persevere through some spiritual battles before happily coming to the end of our earthly pilgrimage.

And finally our hope is ordered to our ultimate good, which eye has not seen and ear has not heard (1 Cor. 2:9).

So in these remaining days of Lent, as we embrace our new Holy Father Francis, let’s strain forward to what lies ahead, as we redouble our commitment to our beloved Savior.

Vatican II on the Word of God

11 Mar

Pope with Book of GospelsIn my last post, I offered some reflections on how Catholics approach Scripture, calling to mind Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum). This particular document is one of the four central “constitutions” promulgated at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Given its significance, I thought that before we move on to the next conciliar document I would offer this “top ten list” of key teachings found in Dei Verbum.

The entire document is rich (and it’s by far the shortest of the four constitutions!), but I have found these particular passages especially enlightening as the Church boldly proceeds with a “new evangelization.” The texts in bold italics are direct quotes, with footnotes omitted.

(1) God’s Self-Disclosure

Through divine revelation, God chose to show forth and communicate Himself and the eternal decisions of His will regarding the salvation of men. . . . He chose to share with them those divine treasures which totally transcend the understanding of the human mind (no. 6).

Dei Verbum affirms, with Vatican I, that we can know God’s existence and other religious truths through the use of reason. However, in addition to truths “which totally transcend” human understanding, divine Revelation conveys truths already accessible to human reason so that everyone can know the truth with ease, certitude, and the absence of error (cf. Catechism, nos. 37-38).

(2) Tradition!

[T]he apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (see 2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all (see Jude 1:3) (no. 8).

Apostolic tradition includes everything that contributes to the holiness of life and increase in faith of the People of God. The Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, and all that she believes.

(3) Deposit of Faith

Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church (no. 10).

The Church stresses the unity of the Word of God, as both Scripture and Tradition flow from the same divine wellspring (no. 9).

(4) Role of Magisterium

[T]he task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ (no. 10).

Further, this teaching office is not above the Word of God. The Magisterium serves the Word of God, teaching only what has been handed on. The Magisterium listens to the Word devoutly, guards it scrupulously, and explains it faithfully in accordance with her divine commission. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the Magisterium draws from this one deposit of faith everything which the Church presents for belief as divinely revealed.

(5) Inerrancy of Scripture

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation (no. 11).

This section has been a point of controversy, as the Church’s traditional understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture has come under attack in recent decades, and this particular passage can seem ambiguous on the point. Is Scripture without error (“inerrant”) generally (but properly understood, see no. 6), or is it without error only on matters concerning our salvation?

This controversy can’t be resolved here, but in favor of the former interpretation, DV 11 does footnote sources such as Leo XIII’s Providentissimus Deus that set forth the traditional teaching. In addition, in Latin, the “for the sake of salvation” (causa salutis) is a genitive of purpose. The grammatical construction conveys purpose or motive (why do we have Scripture?), not a limitation upon “that truth.”

(6) Literary and Historical Criticism

However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words (no. 12).

This passage illustrates the Church’s balanced approach that recognizes not only God’s authorship of Scripture, but also the contribution of the human authors, including their historical and cultural context. The use of human sciences only creates difficulties when scholars adopt unscientific presuppositions that contradict the faith (e.g., miracles are impossible) and treat Scripture as merely an ancient human writing.

(7) Incarnation of the Word

In Sacred Scripture, therefore, while the truth and holiness of God always remains intact, the marvelous “condescension” of eternal wisdom is clearly shown, “that we may learn the gentle kindness of God, which words cannot express, and how far He has gone in adapting His language with thoughtful concern for our weak human nature.” For the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse, just as the word of the eternal Father, when He took to Himself the flesh of human weakness, was in every way made like men (no. 13, quoting St. John Chrysostom).

Our God has come looking for us, and He reaches out to us, using our mode of communication!  By “condescension” we mean that God reaches down to us as a Father gets down to be on the level of his child, so that he can embrace him and raise him up.

(8) Role of Old Testament

God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New (no. 16).

This beautifully summarizes our approach to reading the entire Bible, not just the New Testament.

(9) Centrality of the Four Gospels

Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1) (no. 19).

The Church unhesitatingly asserts the historicity of the Gospels. They are reliable accounts of the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We should frequently meditate on these four books.

(10) Ignorance of Scripture Is Ignorance of Christ

Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word. This is to be done so that none of them will become “an empty preacher of the word of God outwardly, who is not a listener to it inwardly” since they must share the abundant wealth of the divine word with the faithful committed to them, especially in the sacred liturgy (no. 25, quoting St. Augustine).

This is related to no. 22, which provides that “easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful.” Vatican II exhorted all the Christian faithful, especially religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8), taking to heart St. Jerome’s famous expression: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

Paragraph 25 urges us to immerse ourselves in Scripture, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine Word, or through devotional reading, or through classes and Bible studies, all with the approval and active support of the shepherds of the Church. We are reminded that prayer must accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together. For as St. Ambrose wrote, “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying.”

Looking for Answers

6 Mar

Word of GodThe following article originally appeared in the October 2000 issue of Lay Witness magazine. I reprint it here as illustrative of Vatican II’s teaching on the Word of God as found in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum). In my next post I will provide a “top ten list” of teachings from this important conciliar document.

My algebra textbook in ninth grade had an answer key in the back that enabled me to check my answers upon completing my homework assignment. Most of the time, the answer key simply served to verify that in fact I had arrived at the correct answer.

Sometimes, however, the answer given in the book was different from my answer. What would I do then?

I realized that 99.99 percent of the time the book was right. The book didn’t have to change–I did. I would rework the problem a little more carefully, and usually I would discover and correct my error.

There were still times that I didn’t get the right answer. In those cases I had to admit that maybe I didn’t quite understand the material well enough and needed to consult the teacher. I had a fundamental trust in the reliability of the answer key, as I was humble enough (barely) to recognize that the professional mathematicians who wrote the book were probably right, and I, a cocky adolescent, was probably wrong.

In a very real sense, God’s Word is our answer key, providing answers to our most basic, essential questions. Who made us? What is the purpose of our existence? What good must we do to attain eternal life?

I must admit that every so often there was a typo in the answer key of my algebra book, and I would proudly point it out to my teacher and classmates. But God’s Word is even more reliable. It is utterly free from error. God can neither deceive nor be deceived. His Word will not lead us astray. And that’s not all. We have the best of teachers, Mother Church, to ensure that the Word of God is faithfully communicated through all ages.

Do we take time each day to open the Bible, the written Word of God? Do we listen attentively to God’s Word proclaimed to us in the liturgy? Do we take the time to consider whether our actions are in accord with God’s plan for our lives? Do we accept the role of the Church to authentically interpret God’s Word?

Like the algebra student, there are various approaches we can take to the Word of God. There are, of course, students who are not motivated to learn algebra and don’t bother to do the assignment, let alone check their answers in the back of the book. Sadly, in the classroom of life, there are many who are indifferent to the Word of God. We need to fervently pray that they may have the grace of conversion, that the Lord will inspire them to discover “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

Then there are those who do the assignment and maybe even check their answers in the back of the book on occasion. There’s no problem as long as the answer key agrees with their answers. However, when there’s a discrepancy, they too easily assume the book is wrong, or at least that their answer is equally valid.

This points to an analogous problem in the Church today. Many who consider themselves Catholics believe they are justified in rejecting those teachings with which they don’t agree. Often there is an inadequate understanding of the Church’s teaching, and unfortunately the Church’s teaching on issues such as contraception or homosexuality is caricatured in the media. Yet even the most honest and well-researched disagreement with the Church on an issue of faith or morals is problematic, because it involves replacing God’s laws with our own private judgment.

The antidotes to this problem are faith and humility. We all need to pray or an increase in faith. Faith means that we accept God’s Word not necessarily because we naturally agree with it, but because we accept the authority of God as the source of all truth. The virtue of humility, on the other hand, inclines us to recognize not only our God-given dignity and talents, but also our personal limitations and our need for divine wisdom and grace.

At the other extreme, there are those who short-circuit the educational process by looking up the answers and copying them down without learning and understanding the material. I had classmates who would take this a step further. They would look up the answer and then work backwards so that it would look like they actually solved the problem when they hadn’t. While the problems with these approaches are rather obvious, at least these classmates correctly identified the source of the right answers.

When it comes to God’s Word, we can be tempted to take similar approaches. These approaches are rightly criticized as being fundamentalist (inadequately taking into account the complexities of the human condition and the fact that revealed truths are at the same time “mysteries” of faith) and proof-texting (taking God’s Word out of context and improperly using a passage as a shortcut to defending our understanding of the Church’s teaching).

In a secular age characterized by what is sometimes called a “crisis of faith,” the affirmation of trust in the authority of God’s Word manifested by these approaches can be refreshing and praiseworthy. Yet in the end faith is not about knowing the right answers, but about growing in our relationship with the living God. He wants us to ponder the mysteries of faith in imitation of our Blessed Mother (cf. Luke 2:19, 51), using our intellect and will in cooperation with divine grace to wrestle with real-life difficulties.

Those who simply look up the answers in the back of the book not only cheat themselves, but also aren’t much help when it comes to teaching others. And so for us to participate most fully in the “new evangelization,” we must make our own the truths of the faith, and in word and action bear effective witness to the hope that is within us.

In approaching Scripture, we must avoid the pervasive skepticism and doubt that poison many biblical materials today. This theological skepticism has its roots in 19th-century biblical scholarship, but also draws upon contemporary secularizing tendencies. The answer is not fundamentalism, or a rejection of the various scientific tools that give us important new insights and which have the full blessing of the Church.

Rather, the appropriate response is a fundamental trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Church, especially when we are tempted to doubt. St. Augustine, one of the most brilliant theologians in the history of the Church, aptly summarizes the humility and reverence we should have before the Word of God:

“On my own part I confess to your charity that it is only to those books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honor and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty [a defective copy of the Bible], or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.”

May God’s Word be a light for our paths (cf. Psalm 119:105) and draw us all more deeply into the heart of His family, the Church.

We Believe in Love

9 Jan

St. John and JesusThe first reading at Mass today (and any day) is not taken from the Gospel, but it sure is good news! Below is the text, with verses that I find especially inspiring highlighted:

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
In this is love brought to perfection among us,
that we have confidence on the day of judgment
because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1 John 4:11-18)

Putting on Heirs

7 Jan

St. RaymondToday is the feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort. As readers will recall, I have an adopted son named Raymond, and having this great Dominican canonist as a patron saint played into our name selection. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I (or should I say, my son) was getting a Dominican “twofer,” as there is another great Dominican Raymond: Blessed Raymond of Capua, the spiritual advisor of St. Catherine of Siena. Of course, only a few years after Raymond’s birth, his sister Mary Kate became Sr. Evangeline, a Dominican sister.

Given Raymond’s special feast day, I thought I would share with our readers some further reflections on adoption and what it teaches us about God.

Adoption in the human family is often misunderstood today. Even more so is our adoption into the family of God, the Church.

Being God’s children by adoption doesn’t mean that we’re second-class citizens in the kingdom of God, as though God couldn’t have had “children of His own.” And it’s not some sort of legal fiction, as though He simply lets us think we’re His children to help our self-esteem.

Rather, we’re confronted with the controversial passage that through Baptism we truly become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Our adoption in Christ means that through grace we are able to participate in the very life of God.

If we were gods in our own right, we wouldn’t need to be adopted, just as if my adopted son Raymond were by birth a Suprenant, we wouldn’t have had to bother with all the bureaucratic red tape that goes with adoption in the human family. And if God were distant and uninvolved with us, we would not truly be His children. Continue reading

The Quotable St. John

27 Dec

St. John the EvangelistIn honor of today’s feast of St. John the Evangelist, I thought I would devote a “top ten” list today to my favorite quotes from St. John’s Gospel.

I was going to open it up to all five books of the Bible written by St. John, so that I could include favorite quotes from his epistles (e.g., 1 John 3:1) and the Book of Revelation (e.g., Revelation 21:1, 4). However, the magnificent Gospel according to John provides more than enough material to work with! Here’s my list, not in any particular order:

(1) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:14) What a profound teaching on the Incarnation! And I’m pleased that in my children’s schools they pray the Angelus daily, which includes this beautiful verse.

(2) For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) This verse gives us the motive for the Incarnation, that in the words of the early Fathers of the Church, God became man so that man could participate in the very life of God. Wow!

(3) Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) The entire Bread of Life discourse in John 6 is fantastic. I chose this verse as it vividly teaches that the Eucharist sustains us in our journey to God. I could easily have chosen the response of St. Peter to Our Lord’s words: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life . . .” (John 6:68).

(4) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) This is part of Our Lord’s “Good Shepherd” discourse. What′s not to love about a God who is our good shepherd, who came to give us abundant life? Baaa!

(5) Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24) This may be my favorite verse in the entire Bible. Dostoevsky said that his classic, 1,000-page novel Brothers Karamazov is but an artistic reflection on this profound verse. And the next verse continues the paradox: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

(6) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34) Not only is this a powerful verse in its own right, but I think this teaching of Our Lord is one that really resonated with John and sustained him for decades. Later in life, he is reputed to have told his disciples over and over again: ”Children, love one another.”

(7) I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) I love this verse because it reminds me that apostolic fruitfulness is entirely dependent upon our connectedness to Christ through prayer and the sacraments.

(8) “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21) The ecumenical imperative that we encounter today is rooted in these words of the Lord that are recorded only in St. John’s Gospel. God is one. The Church is one. Christians still have a little work to do!

(9) When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27) This one is especially dear to me, since today is the feast day of my son Samuel John. I gave him that name because I wanted him to be a “beloved disciple” who welcomes Mary into his heart and, one day, into his home (or rectory).

(10) When they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (John 19:33-34) This one may leave some readers scratching their head. I marvel at the way in which all the prophecy comes together in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And here in particular the Church has always interpreted the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ as symbolizing the life-giving sacraments, as indeed the Church in a sense was “born” when His side was pierced (see Catechism, no. 766).

And btw, honorable mention goes to:

John 3:31–He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 16:33–I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

John 20:22-23–And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Preparing for Mary’s Visit

21 Dec

VisitationToday’s Gospel, the first part of the event commonly known as the “Visitation” (Lk. 1:39-45), is very familiar to most Catholics. It’s read a few times during the year at Mass, and of course it’s one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Sometimes we hear a passage over and over again, and it can be a challenge to open our minds and hearts to allow the Holy Spirit to give us new insights.

In hearing this Gospel anew today, I was struck by how much we should be devoted to our Blessed Mother, especially on Christmas.

When Elizabeth greets Mary, John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice (vv. 41, 44). After all, Mary has brought Jesus to him! (The best baby shower gift of all time!) But there’s more.

All Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Even more, Scripture says that Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when she cried out: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb . . .” (vv. 41-42). When we turn to Our Lady, when we pray the “Hail Mary,” we are simply making our own the doubly inspired words of Elizabeth.

Okay, but enough already, right? Perhaps we’re still a little hesitant or unsure about turning to Mary. But what were the next words out of Elizabeth’s mouth? She said, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Instead of obsessing over whether she should make such a fuss about Mary, she does pretty much the opposite: She marvels at the great honor bestowed upon her that the Blessed Virgin Mary would actually come to her.

Mary wants to come to each one of us this Christmas, as the definitive bearer of our long-awaited Savior. Let us run to greet her, and leap for joy in the presence of the Gift she has brought to the world–the Gift that, as the saying goes, is the “reason for the season.”

Mary, Our Model for the Year of Faith

11 Dec

crowning of maryAt the conclusion of his 2011 apostolic letter Porta Fidei (“Door of Faith”), in which he called for a “Year of Faith,” Pope Benedict XVI writes: “Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed ‘blessed because she believed’ (Lk 1:45).”

In his 1986 encyclical Redemptoris Mater (“Mother of the Redeemer”), written approximately 2,000 years after the birth of Mary, Blessed John Paul II provided us with a profound meditation on Mary in the mystery of Christ and His Church, holding her up as a model of faith for all Christians. He noted that the faithful not only venerate and invoke Mary, “but also seek in her faith support for their own” (Redemptoris Mater, no. 27).

Taking to heart these words from our last two Popes, let’s use St. Luke’s Gospel as our guide for tapping into the richness of Mary’s faith. Continue reading

Biblical Teaching on the Bible

23 Oct

Today I thought I would provide readers a “top ten list” (not meant to be exhaustive) of biblical teachings about the Bible. I looked not only for inspiring passages, but also passages that help us understand the Scriptures in their proper context.

(1) Scripture is life-changing, as God’s Word is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). When we hear God’s Word, whether at Mass or in private reading, we should “devour” God’s words to us and allow them to become the joy and happiness of our heart (Jer. 15:16)

(2) The first Christians “were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles” (Acts 2:42; cf. 2 Tim. 1:14) long before the New Testament was written–and centuries before the New Testament canon was settled.

(3) The Bible affirms that Christian teaching is “preached” (1 Pet. 1:25), that the Apostles’ successors were to teach what they have “heard” (2 Tim. 2:2), and that Christian teaching is passed on both “by word of mouth [and] by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15; cf. 1 Cor. 11:2).

(4) Not everything Christ did is recorded in sacred Scripture (Jn. 21:25).

(5) New Testament authors availed themselves of sacred Tradition. For example, Acts 20:35 quotes a saying of Jesus that is not recorded in the Gospels.

(6) Scripture needs an authoritative interpreter (Acts 8:30-31; 2 Pet. 1:20-21, 3:15-16).

(7) Christ left a Church with divine authority to teach in His name (Mt. 16:13-20, 18:18; Lk. 10:16). The Church will last until the end of time, and the Holy Spirit protects the Church’s teaching from corruption (Mt. 16:18, 28:19-20; Jn. 14:16).

(8) The Church–and not the Bible alone–is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

(9) All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), so that we may be equipped to perform good works (2 Tim. 3:17; cf. Jas. 2:14-17).

(10) The Bible does not refer to Scripture as the exclusive source of the Word of God. Jesus Himself is the Word (Jn. 1:1, 14), and in 1 Thess. 2:13, St. Paul’s first epistle, he refers to “the Word of God which you heard from us.” There St. Paul is clearly referring to oral apostolic teaching: Tradition.

For more on how to approach the reading of Scripture, see Catechism, nos. 101 and following, as well as my previous post, “Looking for Answers.”