Verbum Domini 9: the Word of God in the life of the Church

Column Kieran Fenn fms Bible inspiration as inspiration for pastoral activity: #72–74 The recommendation is made for a greater ‘biblical apostolate, not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as…


Kieran Fenn fms

Verbum Domini 9: the Word of God in the life of the Church Archdiocese of WellingtonBible inspiration as inspiration for pastoral activity: #72–74
The recommendation is made for a greater ‘biblical apostolate, not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral work.

Examine the ordinary activities of Christian communities, in parishes, associations and movements, to see if they are truly concerned with fostering a personal encounter with Christ. This is to make the bible the inspiration of every ordinary and extraordinary pastoral outreach.

This is strongly urged as the best way to deal with pastoral problems such as the proliferation of sects which spread a distorted and manipulative reading of sacred scripture.

The model for catechesis is Emmaus: it is centred on ‘the explanation of the scriptures’, an explanation which Christ alone can give.

Today this is to be expressed in accordance with the Church’s faith and based on living tradition; without this a pastoral vacuum becomes fertile ground for approaches to scripture that are far from genuine.

Catechesis ‘must be permeated by the mindset, the spirit and the outlook of the bible and the gospels through assiduous contact with the texts themselves; it must be remembered that catechesis will be all the richer and more effective for reading the texts with the mind and heart of the Church’ (General Catechetical Directory 127).

Personal response
If scripture is to be the soul of all theology it equally has to underlie all parish activity. Stewardship is now our prominent diocesan theme and the scriptures are full of examples of good and bad stewardship.

I recently came across a line attributed to Pope Pius XI: ‘The church, the mystical body of Christ, has become a monstrosity. The head is very large, but the body is shrunken.’ Without stewardship on the part of all members of the Church the situation will not be addressed.

Where are we to find the authentic voice to guide us in the scriptures? What the Church thinks about the bible will affect its total religious outlook. Pope Paul VI set up the Pontifical Biblical Commission – scholars outstanding for their learning, prudence, and Catholic regard for the magisterium. Their guidelines have shaped our contemporary understanding and approach to the scriptures over the past 40 years, making them far more than just a consultative body.

Biblical formation of Christians #75–80
To achieve the goal set by the synod, all Christians and catechists in particular, need to receive suitable training. More attention has to be paid to the biblical apostolate. More training is imperative for laity and missionaries to understand, live and proclaim the word of God.

Specialised institutes for biblical studies should be established. Greater emphasis is to be given to the importance of the word of God, attentive hearing, and faith-filled and prayerful reading of the bible. In Eucharistic Congresses and World Youth Days and other gatherings greater room could be made for formation in scripture.

Our call to holiness is revealed in sacred scripture: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ (Lev 11:44; 19:2). To ordained ministers the reminder: ‘the word of God is indispensable in forming the heart of a good shepherd and minister of the word.’ To the episcopate: you are first and foremost the authoritative heralds of the word; the bishop must put ‘in first place, reading and meditation on the word of God.’

To priests the reminder ‘the priest is first of all a minister of the word of God.’ He must himself first of all develop a great personal familiarity with the word of God. Linguistic and exegetical aspects are necessary but not enough. They need to be accompanied by a docile and prayerful heart in order to put on ‘the mind of Christ.’

Personal response
The seriousness of the papal urging to better scriptural formation must be heard by groups dealing with our Catholic youth, eg Hearts Aflame. I cannot help but wonder if the same effort to prepare and promote the new liturgical translation were to go into the biblical education of our people what the result would be. After all, the Liturgy of the Word is the first part of the Mass. Put the pieces together well and the entire worship becomes a better integrated whole and the reasons for change may even assume more validity than they presently have.

Scripture and various groups #78 – 89
The place of the scriptures in the spiritual life of candidates for priesthood is emphasised as the soul of their theological formation, with emphasis on the interplay of exegesis, theology, spirituality and mission. Consecrated life ‘is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the gospel as its rule of life.’ Laity are thanked for their generous activity in spreading the gospel in the various settings of daily life, at work and in schools, in the family and in education.’ It is never to be forgotten that the word of God is at the very origin of marriage (Gen 2:24).

Every household is urged to have its own bible. Women are complimented for their contribution to both the life of the Church and to biblical studies. As the word of God is at the basis of all authentic Christian spirituality, so it is that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred scripture. Mary is held up as a model for doing God’s will and welcoming the word into her life.

Personal response
Clearly the synod Fathers stress the important role of the word of God in seminary formation as well as for religious orders. It is pleasing to see the recognition of the tremendous contribution of women scholars to our understanding of the bible. No serious scholar in scripture today can ignore their contribution. The important directive of every household having its own bible should be noted. Finally, the living link between scripture and prayer is mentioned: Lectio Divina and the Rosary, notably the Luminous Mysteries are included.