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Pastor’s Perspective by Fr. Buersmeyer

Posted on Friday, June 8th, 2018 at 11:15 am

 

 

Pastor’s Perspective is Fr. Buersmeyer’s weekly column. It appears in the parish bulletin and in this space.

July15, 2018

*Reading the Bible as Catholics

 

Last week I began exploring what it means from a Catholic perspective to say that the books of the Bible or the Bible as a whole is “inspired by God,” if we no longer need to believe in the more ancient view that God directly dictated all the words of the Bible to various distinct authors, who in turn put them into the form we have today. I looked at how the writings of the Old Testament became settled as the ones that were to be considered part of the official Sacred Scripture. It turns out that our Catholic understanding of what constitutes the Old Testament is a bit different from the Jewish understanding of what constitutes their Sacred Scripture. Yet both believe their version of Scripture to be inspired. That already suggests that inspiration isn’t simply a process of dictation of words from God to human beings, but a much more communal, more complex process. The whole community plays a role in what is accepted as authentic writings of Sacred Scripture and therefore what can count as inspired by God.

We find the same is true of the New Testament writings as well. While certain writings were accepted fairly quickly as inspired Scripture—some of the Gospels, some of Paul’s letters, the Acts of the Apostles—others took much longer before being more universally accepted as inspired writings and therefore to be read by all the Christian communities when they gathered for worship and put into any official compendium of Sacred Scripture. Examples of some that took longer include the Gospel of John, the Letter to the Hebrews, the Book of Revelation, and some of the non-Pauline letters. Various communities would circulate the writings and use them in their gatherings. At first there was no agreed upon list of Sacred writings. In the second century certain teachers such as Marcion argued that some of the accepted writings were not truly inspired and therefore were not to be used by the community. Others, especially those we now designate as Gnostics, argued that many of the writings not accepted by most Christian communities should count equally as inspired Scripture because they gave those with special abilities of interpretation a deeper access into the mystery of salvation. It became necessary, then, to more carefully define what was “in” and what was “out” in terms of the New Testament. By the end of the 3rd century, most of what we consider the current New Testament was accepted by a large majority of Christian communities, though some still disputed the Letter to the Hebrews (because it was not written by Paul), the Gospel of John (because it seemed too Gnostic to some), and others.

Looking at this history of the formation of what is called the canon of the Bible clearly highlights its complex process. Looking at that process from our 21st century vantage point we now know that even the accepted Gospels and letters are products of a longer history. We no longer presume that one of the apostles wrote the entirety of the Gospel attributed to them. We no longer presume that all of the letters attributed to Paul were necessarily written by him alone. Yet we consider the whole of the writings of the New Testament to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and so can be and are to be used by the community of faith in its worship and in understanding the mystery of salvation. In other words, inspiration was not some whispering in the ear by God to a certain few authors. Inspiration was the faith community’s recognition that what a certain writing contained was both compatible with the faith tradition that had been handed down and helped to capture the heart of that faith tradition for future generations. It is of no concern that Moses did not write any of the books of the Pentateuch or that the apostle Matthew probably did not write the Gospel of Matthew. What matters is the decision of the faith community, tested over time, about how universally the writings were accepted. That allowed a particular writing to be recognized as inspired by God and to be included in the canon of Scared Scripture and used by the community in its worship and faith life.

From a Catholic perspective, it is only with the Council of Trent in the 16th century that the Church officially named the full and complete canon of inspired Sacred Scripture, in order to respond to certain Reformers who threw out some of the heretofore agreed upon Old Testament books (such as the Book of Wisdom) and certain of the New Testament books (such as the Letter of James). To say that a writing of Sacred Scripture is inspired is to say that it is part of the Church’s core Tradition. It is to be used in the community’s worship, become part of individual and group uses of the Bible, used with all other books of the Bible to try to give authentic interpretations to the doctrines of the faith. The Catholic Church does not have a doctrine as to how God so inspires these words, although it has come to understand that the simplistic idea of direct and immediate inspiration does not have to be promoted. The inspired Scripture does not stand apart from or above or outside the Church as a whole, because before there was an agreed upon set of Sacred Writings, there already existed the Church. Rather, our inspired Scripture sits at the core, at the heart of the Church, ever inspiring it to renewal and deeper understanding of the mystery of God’s saving grace at work.

Next week I will look at what it means to call the Bible “without error” from a Catholic perspective.

 

*Sunday’s Gospel

Take a look at today’s Gospel. It is the inspired story from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus sends the apostles out two by two to essentially do what he had been doing—showing that the kingdom of God can break the power of evil, heal the sick and bring hope to those who are open to it. What is inspired? Is it the style of Mark’s writing? No. In fact, his Greek is not that elegant. Luke is much better at writing. Are the facts of the story inspired and therefore historically accurate? Not necessarily. Both Luke and Matthew take this basic story and change some of its details here and there to bring out a deeper understanding of what Jesus was trying to do. Is it because the author (traditionally connected to the person called “John Mark” in Paul’s journeys) knew both Paul and Peter personally and so had intimate second-hand knowledge of all that happened in Jesus’ life? No. We really don’t know who put the Gospel of Mark together.

It is not a matter of what is inspired, but that we accept it as part of the inspired Word of God. This allows us to gather on Sundays, like today, and take a small excerpt from the Gospel and connect it to a passage from the Old Testament from Amos about how prophets who bring God’s word to the community are often not accepted. In turn, this lets us meditate on our own lives and instances where maybe we were misunderstood or tried to do something good but people took it in a wrong manner. To know that this happens as part of being a disciple of Jesus helps us from becoming discouraged. Because it is inspired Scripture, it allows us to bring that story of faith into prayer, imagining ourselves with Jesus in that story, hearing him talk with us, sending us out, encouraging us—and then connecting that to some situation in our own lives.

In the end, because it is part of the inspired Sacred Scripture, this Gospel—all of Scripture—can be read and meditated upon and used for our spiritual growth and good.

*Our Newest Members of the Pastoral Staff

As our two newest pastoral staff members get their momentum going, please think about ways that you might have the gifts to be of great help to their areas of ministry. Theresa Skwara, our Director of Faith Formation, will need catechists for the fall Monday night program, for the once per month Wednesday intergenerational evening, for Sunday’s Early Childhood and Liturgy of the Word with Children, to help with the First Reconciliation, First Eucharist and Confirmation sacramental gatherings, for Vacation Bible School, and team support for any youth outreach. If you have been a catechist in the past, please consider offering your time again. You will find Theresa very organized and open to integrating your gifts into one of the formation programs.

Christopher Gawel, our Pastoral Associate for Evangelization and Welcome, will need people interested in making our welcoming ministry much more personal and extensive and in helping him develop events that encourage adults and young adults to share their faith and embrace our identity as disciples. He will be overseeing our website and social media presence and so could use people interested in those areas as well. In addition to these areas of ministry, Christopher will also be part of our funeral ministry, adult formation opportunities, and other areas of parish ministry.

Please continue to welcome them, introduce yourself to them, and offer ideas to them. Thank you.

 

*Part Time Position: Director of Advancement

We are still looking for someone to fill the school’s position of Director of Advancement. This is a part-time, paid position. The Director of Advancement helps to recruit and work with the school’s Advancement Council, plan school fund-raising events, find co-chairs for the events (usually three per year) and work with the chairpersons to create as successful an event as possible, solicit gifts and sponsorships for events, continue to build up a relationship with St. Regis alumni, and keep the school’s profile as visible as possible in the community.

The hours are very flexible, with the most intense coming as a fund-raising event gets closer. We have an office for the person in the school, and the person works closely with the school administration in all that they plan. We are looking for someone who has some creative energy to direct toward the success of St. Regis Catholic School, is ideally a parent or someone with lots of contacts with parents, has good public presence and an ability to encourage and organize volunteers.

If you have a recommendation for this position, please let our principal, Mrs. Katie Brydges know. We would like to have someone in place by August if at all possible. Parents of current school children: consider whether you might be the right person for the position. It has its challenges, but it pays decently and is a great way to connect to all the school families and keep the mission of St. Regis School moving forward.

Fr. Buersmeyer