Jesus’ reply (Lk 8:19-21) to those seeking access to Him on behalf of
His mother: “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” continues to disconcert, and mystify, those who do not understand, or accept, that family ties are secondary to fidelity to the Word of God.
The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation was issued by the Second Vatican Council as a summons to salvation, so that through hearing the Word of God, people might believe, through belief might hope, and through hope come to love. (DV, 1)
Quoting 1 John: 1:2-3, the Constitution states: “We proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard. We proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (DV, 1)
It was clearly the Lord’s desire to ensure that all Revelation should remain in its entirety, firstly, through Christ, His Son, in whom the entire Revelation is summed up, then through the apostles and their associates by their preaching and example, which they learnt from Christ at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which message they committed to writing.
Church Tradition, and the sacred Scripture of both Old and New Testaments, is like a mirror in which the Church, during its pilgrim journey here on earth, contemplates God from Whom she receives all things.
What the apostles handed on embraces everything that helps us live our lives in holiness, and increases our faith under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Who gives us insight into the realities and words that are passed on by study, contemplation, preaching, and prayer.
In effect, sacred Scripture is ‘the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.’
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy has repeatedly stressed how essential to Christian life is this encounter with the Word. The Church’s public prayer is built around two central points: Eucharist and written Word. We have to make that equally true of our personal lives, enlivened both in the Eucharist and “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.
In each, we encounter the Living Word that remains forever, Jesus Christ Himself.
It follows that the preaching of the Church and the entire Christian religion should be nourished and ruled by the sacred Scriptures. In these sacred books the Father meets, and talks, with us. And the power of the Word serves the Church as her support and the strength of her faith, the fount of her spiritual life.
It follows that the Scriptures should be read, and read frequently, and the Church has made available, through Scripture scholars many beautiful, suitable and correct translations, easily readable. And she has encouraged her priests and ministers to study and gain expertise in order to nourish her people with the Word of God.
Pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction should be nourished by the Word of Scripture.
I have often wondered how informed, dedicated and accepting Christians might be if the brain-numbing efforts of the world of commercial advertising were applied to the selling of the Word of God.
Priests, deacons and catechists, especially, should immerse themselves in the Scripture by constant sacred reading and diligent study. Likewise, the Christian faithful should not neglect frequent reading of the Scriptures. As St Jerome has said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
All this calls for the encouragement and guidance of the pastors.
We must also remember that prayer should accompany the reading of the Scriptures so that every reading becomes a dialogue between God and ourselves. As St Ambrose says: “We speak to Him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.”
Major obstacles to hearing God’s Word readily emerge: inability to sit and dedicate time to the sacred Scriptures; lack of preparation on the part of preachers; not least, in this technical age, the ‘impossibility’ of finding a technician who can tame crackling, inaudible and frustrating audio systems.
Kevin Manning is Bishop Emeritus of Parramatta.
Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.