Category Archives: Sacred Scripture

The Bible is for Catholics

How often do you hear that Catholics don’t read the bible? How often do you think (or say) that you aren’t a bible thumper? Do you know bible basics? Do you have a bible in your home? Do you know where to find a bible in your Catholic church? I’d be willing to bet that you can’t even find a copy of the bible in the church. Just today a college student asked me if there was a bible in the church and I had to admit that I wasn’t sure if we had one available. Ironically, today began the parish’s Vacation Bible School with a 140 little kids so the question of how we use the bible is in the forefront of our minds. Mary Elizabeth Sperry compiled a Catholic’s approach to the bible-praying-reading-study-meditation.


The Bible is all around us. People hear Scripture readings in church. We have Good Samaritan (Luke 10) laws, welcome home the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), and look for the Promised Land (Exodus 3, Hebrews 11). Some biblical passages have become popular maxims, such as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12),” “Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15), and “love thy neighbor” (Matthew 22:39). 

Today’s Catholic is called to take an intelligent, spiritual approach to the bible.

Listed here are 10 points for fruitful Scripture reading.

  1. Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.
  1. Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.
  1. Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church’s complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.
  1. The Bible isn’t a book. It’s a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers’ accounts of the preaching and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.
  1. Know what the Bible is – and what it isn’t. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.
  1. The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.
  1. The Old relates to the New. The Old Testament and the New Testament shed light on each other. While we read the Old Testament in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it has its own value as well. Together, these testaments help us to understand God’s plan for human beings.
  1. You do not read alone. By reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, Catholics join those faithful men and women who have taken God’s Word to heart and put it into practice in their lives. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of all the faithful.
  1. What is God saying to me? The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. When we read, we need to understand what the text says and how the faithful have understood its meaning in the past. In light of this understanding, we then ask: What is God saying to me?
  1. Reading isn’t enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be “living and effective.”(Hebrews 4:12).

Mary Elizabeth Sperry is Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible.

Ark of the Covenant to revealed

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The
head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abuna Pauolos, is set to unveil the Ark
of the Covenant
. The Ark of the Covenant has been in the guardianship of the
Ethiopian Orthodox Church in a chapel in the Church of Our Lady, Mary of Zion.
But with many religious icons and relics the Ark has been claimed by a number of
people over the years, some credible and many not so believable. There is no reason I know of to doubt the authenticity of the Ark that’s with the Patriarch.

We don’t hear
much of the Ark of Covenant today except for intro Scripture classes; however,
it should be noted that the Ark is a unit of learning in the Catechesis of the
Good Shepherd (a catechetical program for little people developed around a
Montessori method). The relevance of the Ark, you will remember, is that it was
God’s command that the Ark be built to contain the tablets of the Decalogue
(the 10 Commandment), Aaron’s rod and manna. On the theological level the Ark
is emblematic of the Covenant God had with His people (Israel). Today, a
theology of Covenant continues but not in tablets or an Ark but in a
Person–Jesus Christ. Catholics honor and follow the 10 Commandments; we honor the
Ark but we worship neither. We adore, worship, and give glory to a God who
became a flesh and blood person, a man in all things like you and me except
sin; the Son of God who opened the doors of salvation for us. Catholics
believe, therefore, our salvation is not in the Commandments but from Christ
who lived, died, and resurrected. As I mentioned the Commandments are followed
and we revere the Ark so long as we recognize that they point to their fulfillment in Jesus. So learn about the Ark and pass this theology onto your
friends and family.

THE smallest gift for the Pope: A grain of sand contains the Hebrew Bible

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In this photo taken April 26, is a chip containing the entire Hebrew Bible at the Technion University in Haifa. During a May 11 reception at the residence of Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, Benedict XVI will receive this 300,000-word Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible inscribed on a silicon particle the size of a grain of sand, using nanotechnology. The chip is read through a microscope which makes it a tad difficult for lectio and proclamation in a synagogue or a church.

Only within the heart of the Church is the Word of God authentic, Pope Benedict says

The Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) during their annual plenary assembly this week has been working on the theme of “Inspiration and Truth in the Bible,” as a result of the October 2008 synod of bishops on the Word of God.

In his address to the PBC the Pope spoke of the importance of sacred Scripture because it “concerns not only believers, but the Church herself, because the Church’s life and mission necessarily rest upon the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and, at the same time, the inspiration of all of Christian life…the interpretation of sacred Scripture is of vital importance for Christian faith and for the life of the Church.”

According to the Holy Father: “From a correct approach to the concept of divine inspiration and truth in sacred Scripture derive certain norms that directly concern its interpretation. The Constitution Dei Verbum, having affirmed that God is the author of the Bible, reminds us that in sacred Scripture God speaks to mankind in a human manner. For a correct interpretation of Scripture we must, then, carefully examine what the hagiographers really sought to say and what God was pleased to reveal with their words.”

Drawing his remarks from the Second Vatican Council, the Pope reminded the PBC –and us– that are “three perennially valid criteria for interpreting sacred Scripture in accordance with the Spirit that inspired it. In the first place, great attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture. Indeed, however different the books it contains may be, sacred Scripture is one by virtue of the unity of God’s plan, of which Jesus Christ is the center and the heart. In the second place, Scripture must be read in the context of the living tradition of the entire Church [because tradition] carries the living memory of the Word of God, and it is the Holy Spirit who provides her with the interpretation thereof in accordance with its spiritual meaning. The third criterion concerns the need to pay attention to the analogy of the faith; that is, to the cohesion of the individual truths of faith, both with one another and with the overall plan of Revelation and the fullness of the divine economy enclosed in that plan.

Thinking with the Church the work of scholars, in the mind of the mind of the Holy Father, is to “contribute, following the above-mentioned principles, to a more profound interpretation and exposition of the meaning of sacred Scripture. The academic study of the sacred texts is not by itself sufficient. In order to respect the coherence of the Church’s faith, Catholic exegetes must be careful to perceive the Word of God in these texts, within the faith of the Church. The interpretation of sacred Scriptures cannot be merely an individual academic undertaking, but must always be compared with, inserted into, and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church. This norm is essential in order to ensure a correct and reciprocal exchange between exegesis and Church magisterium. Catholic exegetes do not nourish the individualistic illusion that biblical texts can be better understood outside the community of believers. The opposite is true, because these texts were not given to individual scholars ‘to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research.’ The texts inspired by God were entrusted to the community of believers, to the Church of Christ, to nourish the faith and to guide the life of charity. Sacred Scripture is the Word of God in that is written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Tradition, on the other hand, integrally transmits the Word of God as entrusted by Christ the Lord and by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and their successors so that they, illuminated by the Spirit of truth, could faithfully conserve, explain and spread it through their preaching. Only within the ecclesial context, can Sacred Scripture be understood as the authentic Word of God which is the guide, norm and rule for the life of the Church and the spiritual development of believers.”

If this is certain, then it means “rejecting all interpretations that are subjective or limited to mere analysis [and therefore] incapable of accepting the global meaning which, over the course of the centuries, has guided the Tradition of the entire people of God.”

“GOOD FRIDAY”

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
Thumbnail image for Crucifixion detail Weyden.jpgThat I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky.
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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