Monday, October 26, 2015

Understanding the Bible

The Bible:  A light in our lives
How can we understand the Bible so that it better nurtures our faith?

Catholics recognize that the biblical writers, in the light of their culture, used various forms of communication or literary forms (e.g., poetry, drama, historical narrative, fiction) to communicate certain religious truths about God, the universe and ourselves.

So we first must know what kind of literary form or genre the writers were using. Then we will be able to discover more clearly the truth that the literary form is trying to communicate.

The writers definitely were not communicating scientific truths. We say, e. g., the sun rises/sets. Actually the sun doesn’t rise or set. And the Bible often speaks symbolically, e. g., the parables of Jesus; they are not to be interpreted literally.

The two creation stories communicate certain truths: God is the absolute creator; everything God made is good; evil comes from human sin; men and women are equal in dignity, etc. The literary form the ancient writer chose derived from the Babylonian culture with which he was familiar.

For mainstream Catholics, the Bible is a privileged form of God’s communication to us—a two-way communication between God and us. And that is why we have to prayerfully search for God’s voice in the Bible.

Fundamentalists and mainstream Catholics do agree about certain beliefs: Jesus is a God-man (the mystery of the incarnation); he was born of the Virgin Mary; he re-established our relationship with God through his horrific death and glorious resurrection.

Yet fundamentalists, who say that God dictated every word in the bible; and every word is to be understood literally, will ask: Why don’t Catholics see the Bible as simply the Word of God? Why do they require the authority of the Church to know Biblical truths?

Why? Because the Bible is not always easily understandable; in fact it’s sometimes open to different interpretations. The authority of the Church Universal authentically interprets the Bible. Yes, The Church is a biblical Community, in the sense that it acknowledges and proclaims the bible as the privileged Word of God in human form. The New Testament in particular points to Jesus of Nazareth as the unique revelation of God to us.

The Spirit guides the Church Universal in interpreting Jesus Christ, our way, our truth and our life in every generation and in every culture. Redemption or salvation is a gift or grace from God by virtue of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit.

Fundamentalists also ask: Why does the Church repeat the sacrifice of the Mass? Didn’t Jesus die once and for all? Yes! But at the Last Supper, Jesus said: “Do this in memory of me.”  We re-experience the one saving sacrifice of Jesus at every Mass until Jesus Christ comes again in glory at the end-time.

May the Bible, the Word of God in human form, nurture our faith. May we all learn more deeply our love for the scriptures; enthusiasm for proclaiming the Word of God; and the need we all have for friendships with God and our fellow human beings.

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