January 13, 2015
Tuesday of week 1 in Ordinary Time
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Jesus Calls Us To Think
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
The “scribes” were the respected, approved religion teachers in Israel. They passed on faithfully what they had been taught. They didn’t question it and didn’t go beyond it.
They also hated Jesus. He was a threat to their position among the people, because the crowds recognized prophetic insight in his teaching: He taught them as one having authority from mind and Spirit, and not as the scribes.”
The greatest block to hearing the voice of God in Scripture is fundamentalism. This can be the “biblical fundamentalism” of those who insist on taking every word literally (which, in ordinary speech and writing, would make communication impossible); or it can be the “magisterial fundamentalism” of those who interpret everything strictly according to whatever teaching is considered “official” in the Church.
For fundamentalists, all truth is contained in simplistic formulations of doctrine, officially approved. They take the words at face value, and the face is always the face of current Catholic culture in their time and place. They do not accept any theological explanation, historical exploration or extension into mystery. For that reason they misread Scripture. Twice Jesus reproached them for this: “Go and learn what this means… If you had known what this means…” (Matthew 9:13; 12:7; 23:13). To learn the meaning of God’s words, we have to study the mind and heart of God as a disciple. Today’s “scribes” are closed to this.
People with the “scribe” mentality confuse the “ordinary magisterium” of current bishops and religion teachers with the truly authoritative magisterium of authentic tradition passed down throughout the universal Church. This closes their minds and locks out the Spirit.
One remedy for this is to compare the beliefs and practices of “cultural Catholicism” with the words and example of Jesus in the Gospels. But for that we have to read the Bible. The reason we don’t is because, in the “cultural Catholicism” we were brought up in, reading the Bible was not emphasized as important, much less presented as an “obligation.” But for anyone who thinks with an uncorrupted mind, it is perfectly obvious that, for those who can read, there is just as much obligation to read the word of God as there is to go to Mass on Sunday. No one can argue against this except the supporters of the “Pharisee party” who believe that nothing is obligatory unless it is explicitly required by law; even reading the words of God himself!
Jesus says his authentic disciples are those who “come to me, hear my words, and act on them… If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Luke 6:46; John 8:31).
“Those who love me will keep my word… The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life... Whoever is from God hears the words of God” (John 14:23; 6:63; 8:47).
No one familiar with these texts could honestly believe that for any literate person it is enough to learn Catholic doctrine out of the catechism and never go to its source in the living words of Jesus himself. If we weren’t excused by the “invincible ignorance” of our legalistic religious formation, we would be guilty of actual contempt for the word of God.
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” The Pharisees would say you can avoid sin just by making sure you don’t hear his voice. By not reading the Bible!
What should we conclude from this?
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
The first thing we need to do is make sure we “hear his voice.”
For that we need to read the Bible.
Do I choose to read and think about the words of God?
Pray: “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth” (Psalm 86:11).
Practice: Keep your Bible on your pillow. Never go to sleep without reading one line.
Discuss: Do you think Christians are obliged to read the Bible?