"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 47
Let me begin with a confession. While it is true that I've been very busy with work these days, there is another reason it has taken me forever to write this latest readalong post. One of the things I gave up last Lent was Cracked.com. So ever since Easter Sunday, I've been treating it like chocolate and gorging appropriately. And believe it or not, it takes a lot of time to get through endless articles. =P
Anyway, if you were abstaining from Shredded Cheddar all Lent and are joining the readalong of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week at this late point, don't worry about it! =) We're at the part where most of the world got to hear the Gospel for the first time (and where most of the early ones started figuring it all out), so it's decent timing. And in any case, you're earlier than St. Paul. LOL!
We are now in the Easter Octave, and if you like to hear daily Mass, then you know each of these eight days is the dies quam fecit Dominus. And that's just the beginning of the forty days of the Easter season. It's a great time for a personal Emmaus experience, so I hope you've brushed up on your Bible. In this chapter of Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, Pope Benedict explains the Scriptures in a way that just might make your heart burn within you.
If [the Resurrection] were taken away, it would still be possible to piece together from the Christian tradition a series of interesting ideas about God and men, about man's being and his obligations, a kind of religious world view: but the Christian faith itself would be dead. Jesus would be a failed religious leader, who despite his failure remains great and can cause us to reflect. But he would then remain purely human, and his authority would extend only so far as his message is of interest to us. He would no longer be a criterion; the only criterion left would be our own judgment in selecting from his heritage what strikes us as helpful. In other words, we would be alone. Our own judgment would be the highest instance.
It is not enough to know what is in the Scriptures. A well-read non-Catholic friend of mine who is very familiar with the (Protestant) Bible says that he doesn't see it as "religion" but as "practical wisdom." By "religion," I'm guessing he means something entirely moralistic, which is (as Pope Benedict has pointed out several times in this book) the wrong way to think of Christianity.
To put it simply, Scripture doesn't exist to give us a set of rules to follow--whether they are "religious" rules or "practical" rules--but to deepen our worship and our communion with Jesus and with each other. Kindness and fairness can't help but follow from that, of course, but the practice of virtue can never be taken on its own. A pagan or even an atheist could easily be more moral or more virtuous than a Christian--not that it matters, because Christianity isn't about showing the other groups up. (What? Could've fooled you? LOL!) Instead, Christianity is about living your "new" life in Heaven even before you leave the "old" earth. So, practice-wise, it has less to do with "being good" than with "getting along." You can be good for your own sake or for the sake of whatever your values are, but you get along for the sake of others--and when you're all part of one Mystical Body that will live forever, getting along is really important. This is not merely practical wisdom; it is rich ecclesiology.
Which brings me to two other points about Scripture: it also exists to unite us (so we know that we all believe the same things) and to form us (so that our actions conform to those beliefs). And it can do this, Pope Benedict points out, because it allows us to encounter Jesus: that is, it allows us to experience Him coming to us as surely as He came to all the witnesses of the Resurrection. Remember what I said about the time machine of the Mass, when we discussed Chapter I in Meeting 39? The Scriptures have similar time-wrinkling properties when they are read for the purpose of meeting Jesus face to Face.
Question of the Day: What is your favourite part of the (Catholic) Bible?
Image Source: Resurrection by Raffaelino del Garbo