30 September 2014

What Scripture is. . .

NB. A 2005 homily for the Feast of St. Jerome. I dedicate this one to Dr. Nathan Eubank, one of our two superb Scripture scholars at NDS. Dr. Eubank was recently appointed to the USCCB cmte to help revise the NAB. 

26th Week OT (Fri): 2 Tim 3.14-17; Matt 13.47-52
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP

St Albert Priory & Church of the Incarnation 

Scripture is the family story. It is the story we are told and tell about how those who came before us struggled with the God—how they loved Him, served Him, challenged Him, railed against His apparent injustices, how they betrayed Him, and finally, killed Him as an enemy of the Empire and the Temple.

Scripture is the family story about what Jesus taught the disciples. About what he did in the crowds with the diseased, the outcast, those near death in sin. Scripture is the family story of what happens when we call on His name and ask Him to be with us; what happens when we pray in the spirit of righteousness and receive His grace to preserve, to grow, to triumph.

Scripture is our history, our story, our flight-plan and our road map. It is also a record of our failures in the faith, our surrenders to easy, alien doctrines; a record of those times when we scratched our itchy ears with whatever shiny new thing winked at us—Greek Stoicism or angel worship or Gnosticism or just the plain ole insistence on the Old Law and its requirements.

Scripture is a foundation, a framework, and a beautifully appointed castle. It stands against the fickle tides of fashion, fending off the modernist barbarians who would put us back in the desert wandering, back into the crowds disbelieving, leaving us at the foot of the cross gambling, standing at the empty tomb shaking our head at how clever those Christian thieves can be.

Scripture teaches us, refutes us, corrects us, and trains us in righteousness. We are made students, penitents, disciples, and apostles. Belonging to God, we are fully equipped and competently trained to do every good work Christ has commanded us to do. And through Scripture we know not only where the family has been and where is it, but where it is going as well.

We also know Jesus Christ Himself; deep speaks to deep, Word to Word, the Word of God is flesh and spirit, one revelation of the Divine and another together: scripture and Christ, Word and Word, wisdom of salvation and Salvation Himself.

The celebration of St Jerome is a piercing call to the Church, all of us, to take up the hard work of reading scripture and opening our hearts and minds to the insistent knocking of the wisdom that the Word contains. Jerome, in a commentary on Isaiah, puts the matter plainly, “For if,” as Paul says, “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” There’s a slap in the face! If you don’t know scripture, you don’t know Christ. Ignorance of the Word is ignorance of the Word.

Give yourself over to the Word to be taught in the wisdom of salvation, to be refuted in your error, to be corrected in your sin, and to be trained in righteousness. Give yourself over to Christ, submit to the wisdom of five millenia of witnesses who witness with one voice to the power, the love, the mercy, the constancy and the faithfulness of our God.

Come, everyone! Join the good fish in the bucket of the righteous!

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