≡ Menu

Catechism Project, #109-119

Yes we’re back at it again, hopefully this time without unexpected intermissions.  This section is incredibly dense in meaning and value.  If I were to try to sum this whole section up in one thought it would be, “read the Bible frequently, but always do it from the heart of the Church“.  Any Catholic who does not do the former is missing out on a massive wealth of spiritual sustenance.  Anyone who does not do the latter risks turning this sustenance into a poisoned well by misunderstanding what can be sometimes complex or multi-layered texts.  Paragraphs 110-111 illustrate this very well:

110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current.  “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.” (Dei Verbum 12.2)

111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter.  “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.” (Dei Verbum 12.3)

If you take what is said in paragraph 110 by itself you can easily wind up with a Jesus Seminar image of God – one where all the miracles have a natural explanation and everyone isn’t nearly as bad or as good as they really were.  You can also wind up with precisely the opposite situation whereby everything is taken completely literally with no room for interpretation or the use of colloquialism by the author which creates a cramped God and a confining rather than a liberating Gospel.

Paragraph 111 is the great equalizer here, not because it limits our ability to read the Bible, but because it provides us a direction in which to take it.  Consider an explosive force:  without something to direct the force it goes in all directions at once but over a short distance; if it is directed by walls into a narrower corridor however the impact covers a far, far greater distance.  By providing “guard rails” as it were, the Church allows us the freedom to work deeply and far within those guard rails without ever needing to wonder if we are about to rocket off a cliff.

If I had my druthers, having re-read this section now for the third time, I would say these paragraphs should be mandatory reading for every single child in religious education classes.  It is well past high time the old canard that Catholics don’t read the Bible be put into a deep grave and we return to the biblical literacy that marked the great Fathers of the Church and spread that literacy far and wide.  St. Ignatius of Loyola once coined a phrase that has marked a path for my journey in the Church, and one that I think every Bible reader would do well to keep in mind: “Sentire cum ecclesia” – “think with the Church”.  Read the Bible, while thinking with the Church.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

Next post:

Previous post: