The Sacred ScripturesDan Doyle
God is the author of Sacred Scripture. It is through the Scriptures that God speaks his goodness and love to us in human words. Through all of the words in the scriptures God speaks one unique and singular Word that expresses himself completely. Jesus is that one, whole, and complete Word of God. The Holy Spirit is the very breath of that Word, the ‘inspiration’ through which all of Sacred Scripture is written. And that Word is a living word that transcends the limits of time and space. It is alive, powerful, and effective in every age.
Paul, in his Second Letter to Timothy understood this and passes this understanding on, not just to Timothy and his community of believers, but also to us in our own day and place. ʺAll scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reflection, for correction, and for training in righteousness,, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.ʺ (2 Timothy 3: 16-17) In the passages before these verses, Paul has reminded Timothy what the world is like, that ʺPeople will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, lovers of pleasure rather that lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them.ʺ (2 Timothy 3: 2-5) Is this not also a description of our own times? Do we not need the same counsel and encouragement from the scriptures today?
Paul has seen it all. He has preached the Gospel in many places and taught its wisdom with his own life and suffered dearly for it. He is encouraging Timothy in these verses, preparing him for what may come to him because of his faith. Paul knows that his time is short in the world and he is reminding Timothy that he has something else besides Paul’s example to fall back on, something that Timothy has known and loved since he was a child, the Sacred Scriptures. Paul is telling him that in the scriptures contain all that is needed to be able to teach the people about God. He reminds Timothy that the scriptures contain what he will need to know to be able to refute the false arguments and accusations of those will be against him, how to recognize sin and how to correct it. We, too, can learn these things, and everything we need to know about how to lives of righteousness. If we believe in God; if we choose to belong to him, the Word of God in Sacred Scripture can be our source, too, for learning what we need to know in order to be competent enough to be models of God’s love in the world, and to be ʺequippedʺ enough to do every good work that God calls us to.
This is why reading the Sacred Scriptures every day is so important to us. They are the source of our wisdom in the light of God. They are our guide to the moral life, through which we can find the means to know, to understand, and to desire to develop our moral character in this broken and often threatening world. In the Sacred Scriptures we will find the depth, the width, and the breadth of God’s love for us. We will find knowledge of everything human and everything divine. In them we will discover our God-given, infinite dignity. We will learn in and through the Sacred Scriptures that love is the one and only force in all of creation that has the power to heal and to redeem us, and the world, from the madness of human pride and sin.
There is an important and very subtle distinction to be aware of here though too. Our faith is not a ʺreligion of the book.ʺ Christianity is the religion of the ʺWordʺ of God, an incarnate and living reality, then, now and forever. The Word is not limited to any time or place. Jesus, the eternal Word, the Word through which creation, forgiveness and redemption were spoken, is alive today in the Church, the Body of Christ. Christ, the Word of God, is ‘relevant’ in every age, not frozen in a distant time in the past. The Word does not change, rather it has the power to change the times by revealing again and again, God’s unchanging truth. We must open ourselves to the Holy Spirit when we read the scriptures so that we may understand them in the same light of the same Spirit who inspired them.
We must also read them in light of Church tradition. The Spirit did not stop inspiring the Church after the death of the Apostles. The same Spirit who inspired the Apostles, is the same Spirit who inspires the Church today. Yes, we have a personal relationship with God, but we must be careful not to get caught up in thinking that God speaks the totality of His truth to us, alone. We would be in danger of falling into the sin of pride if we believed that. We must always look to see if our ‘insights’ are consistent with the tradition. God gave us the Church in order to be connected to a constant, contiguous, and consistent tradition, a community of faith, inspired by the same Holy Spirit who inspired Moses, Isaiah, and all the prophets, as well as Peter and Paul and all the other Apostles, as well as all the saintly people who have given themselves over joyfully and willingly to the Word of God, teaching it to the world consistently and truthfully with their lives throughout the millennia of the Church’s existence. We must not ʺinterpretʺ the scriptures, in other words, from the sole point of view of our own egos. We must also listen to the tradition and what it has passed on consistently throughout the ever-changing prism of history.
Paul tells us the truth about the scriptures in this passage from 2 Timothy. A Christian believes in the Word of God and, therefore, can go to the scriptures in order to steep him or herself in them so that, belonging to God, he or she ʺmay be[come] competent, [and] equipped for every good workʺ that God will call him or her to do in the world. In the Word of God is knowledge, correction, encouragement, and a comfort beyond anything that this world can give. Thanks be to the living God who speaks to us through his holy Word, yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.