Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Catholics and the Bible
“Your Word, O Lord, is a lamp for my feet” Ps. 119:105
So prays the refrain from the Psalm for Wednesday of the 25th Week of Ordinary Time. The readings for Mass this week clearly proclaim the power and place of God’s Word in the Church. Yet there is an attitude of distancing amongst many Catholics from the Scriptures.
Recently I had opportunity to hear a homily in which some evangelical Christians were roundly ridiculed and mocked for their “only trust Jesus and His Word” simplistic faith. I have experienced modern ‘educated’ Catholics snicker (and worse) when I dare to mention I appreciate studying the Douay Rheims version of the Bible. A group of very faithful, well educated Catholic students were unsure if the Church had always venerated the Scriptures as is the Eucharistic Presence of Christ . Many Catholics will read endless books and articles about the Bible but almost fear actually reading the Bible for themselves. Many priests and religious education teachers are well schooled in teaching what they think should be questioned about Scripture (ah the thrill of critical method) and will do all they can to encourage.....doubt. (For myself, if I am going to er I want to er in faith, not doubt. When Jesus returns will He be looking for faith or doubt?)
Yet there is an intense hunger for the Scriptures, for sound Catholic-Biblical preaching.
While the concept of really trusting the inspired Word of God is suspect to many there are even more who hunger for the Truth they sense God’s Word holds. Why is there this struggle?
Part of the reason is a misunderstanding in some Catholics that Bible reading and study is for the clergy and religious. There is the misconception that only the clergy or religious should speak or teach Scripture. This is an unfortunate error. The Church is the safeguard of Truth. Scripture and Tradition are the teaching gifts of the Church and this does include the clergy, religious and particularly the blessed Magisterium. But correctly understood this gift of God’s Word (and the teachings of sacred Tradition) are for the entire Body of Christ. It is within the Body of Christ that the faithful are called to be reading, sharing, hearing the Bible.
Another factor for some Catholics is probably a response to the Protestant error of “Sola Scriptura” that expresses that the Bible is the only source of inerrant teaching and authority for faith and morals. In other words since we don’t want to sound like a “Bible-thumper” we will refrain from too much Bible study or (shudder) quoting of Scripture. Sola Scriptura is a serious error but perhaps from it we can realize a deeper reason for the is tragic problem.
The devil excels in strife and theft. During the reformation Protestants focused on the Bible and to their loss they increasingly neglected the Biblical Truth of the Eucharist. The Roman Catholics, while adhering to the Eucharist reacted to the Bible emphasis of the Protestants with an emphasis on the Church and Clergy’s role of safeguarding and teaching. This resulted in the devil seeking to remove the Scripture from the Catholic identity. It also resulted in the extreme dilution of truth of the Eucharist from the Protestant worship. Satan isn’t stupid. The enemy of our souls knows if the Body of Christ, the Faithful fully embrace the Truth of Jesus Christ Presence in the Holy Eucharist and in the Scripture that the power and witness of the Risen One in His people would be unquenchable.
I was a Protestant pastor for 11 years. In the course of following Christ into the Roman Catholic Church I became convinced that it is the most Biblical of the Christian faithful. Together may we take the Light of Christ, the Scriptures, and allow His Spirit to leads us to the Crucified and in His holy wounds, His sacred Body , may we become one in proclaiming in words and actions Jesus Christ is Lord!