04 April 2013


"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!

Chapter IX

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


Spacetraveller said...

I love the stories about King David. Talk about a very human man! Taking someone's wife, arranging for the legitimate husband to be killed off...and yet he was a man favoured by God. It's just not fair. :-)

Joking apart, yes it is great to 'live out' our Christian faith.
But what a pain this can be sometimes, huh?

Enbrethiliel said...


It's so interesting that the first thing everyone usually remembers about King David is "Bathsheba-gate"! =P That's hardly a kingly historical reputation to have, aye? On the other hand, we don't remember it just because it was a horrible fall, but because what happened next is one of the most breathtaking examples of God's mercy to sinners in the Old Testament. The point to take away is not that David was favoured by God despite his sin, but that he was forgiven by God for his sin. (Gosh, I'm insufferable when I'm preachy, aye?)

My favourite part of the Bible is the Psalms, because they're so interactive! =)

Spacetraveller said...


I like your version better re King David and his relationship with God!
Poor guy, it IS a pain for him that all we remember about him was his biggest sin and not his greatest achievements, like beating Goliath :-(

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, let's put it this way. Yes, he was completely forgiven for that awful deed and Bathsheba got to be an ancestor of Jesus. (Ooooh--scandal!) So perhaps this little wrinkle in his historical reputation is the just punishment he never got! I don't feel sorry for him at all. ;-)

Spacetraveller said...


Yeah, the lucky bugger was the cat who stole the cream AND he wasn't smacked on the bottom for it :-D

And he gets to have YOU and ME feel sorry for him?
Not on yer nelly, as we say in Britain!