My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Even those who don’t believe in Jesus know that the Bible has got a prominent place in our Christian way of life and worship. Some even classify Christianity as a religion of the book. Before we reflect on that let’s think about some chronology. You may know the riddle: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” I am going to leave it unresolved. You can discuss it with your family when you get home, to stop you from telling your folks that you hate them. However let’s look at another riddle: “Which came first, the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Church?” That’s an easy one. The first two or three generations of followers of Christ didn’t have the Bible as we know it. They didn’t have the four Gospels nicely bound together either. Those first generations, that early Church had the Word of God inscribed in their memory, their conscience, their heart, their way of life etc. before it was written down. If we could compare the Church to an orange the orange juice would be the Bible. The Bible comes out of the Church like juice comes out of the fruit. By the way, do you know how much Jesus wrote himself? The only piece of Jesus’ writing we are aware of is what he wrote on the sand when the adulterous woman was brought up to him. As far as I am aware that piece of writing hasn’t been preserved. Instead, Jesus put down his teaching in the memory and love of his Church he founded. That’s why the Catholic Church says: “We are not a religion of the Book. We are the religion of the Word of God.” It means that it is the living Word. The Word which has got transformative power we can see in the Gospel. The Word, which shines in the darkness and confusion of our societies. That’s why the Catholic Church says: “The Holy Scriptures cannot be separated from the community of believers from which the Scriptures came out.”
Last Sunday I spoke that faith in Christ cannot be separated from the community of fellow believers. We need to be a united community to fulfil our mission to be witnesses of Christ to the world. It is not a mission for a single person. It is a mission which can only be accomplished by a united community. Such a united community also preserves the right way of understanding of the Bible. It is called Sacred Tradition. In the Scriptures we read: “We must be most careful to remember that the interpretations of scriptural prophesy is never a matter for the individual.” Why? Those Christians who believed in such approach ended up with having more than 30 thousand Christian denominations. If the Sacred Scripture is separated from the united community bitter divisions begin. Those divisions are much bigger than using or not the word father.
My Dear Fellow believers! How should we read the Bible then? As Catholics we believe that Jesus has given us the Church which first was shaped by the Word of God and lived the Word of God. That Church wrote down the Scriptures and also preserved the authentic way of reading and understanding the Scriptures. We call is Sacred Tradition. In the Catechism we read: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate on with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ‘always, to the close of the age’.”
That’s why a substantial part of our worship is listening to the Word of God. We call it the Liturgy of the Word not the Liturgy of the Book. I would like to invite you to put down your Bibles, Mass books, and parish bulletins for that part of Mass. Instead, lift up your heads, which is as important as lifting up your hearts during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and look at the person proclaiming the Word of God which becomes a living Word in the united community.