I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. (Matthew 16:18)
Let us begin with two basic principles of common sense.
Principle #1: Obeying God is the key to life. Life can be confusing and difficult enough as it is. But willingly to disobey or ignore God—that is the path to utter disaster. With God, we find peace. Without Him, nothing—not even the greatest worldly successes—can give us peace.
Principle #1 derives from the fundamental role of faith in a stable life. Common-sense principle #2 derives from the fundamental role of reason.
Principle #2 goes like this: Anyone who claims to tell you God’s will for your life is probably wrong and could very well be dangerous. To put it another way: God is God, and we human beings are not. Of one thing we can be sure: When it comes to God’s Almighty mind, we are not familiar with it.
Principle #1 teaches us that living as if God did not exist leads to disaster. #2 shows us that mistaking the word of man for the Word of God also leads to disaster. Obeying God brings pece. But obeying another human being as a substitute God? Misery.
So, now we have two solid principles of common sense. But, Houston, we have a problem. Obey God. Doubt anyone who claims to speak as an oracle of God. Where does this leave us?
It potentially leaves us altogether paralyzed. In order to obey God and find peace, we have to know God’s will. But how are we going to know it? We also have a solemn obligation to doubt anyone who says, “God wills that you do what I say!”
See the problem? This problem has confounded many noble minds. It has troubled many earnest souls. It has mystified some of history’s giants.
But we can take heart. The problem can be resolved. We cannot resolve it ourselves, since we cannot reach up to God and compel Him to reveal His will. But God can and has solved the problem for us, by reaching down to us and revealing Himself to us.
We can and should be skeptical of any and all claims of divine authority that anybody makes—with one exception. If God Himself gives us a source of information that we know we can trust; if He Himself authorizes a particular message—well, then we have a solution.
Now, He has given us the Holy Scriptures. The Holy Scriptures propound absolutely rock-solid doctrine about God. How about an analogy? We take roads for granted. We do not wonder on a daily basis whether or not Scuffling Hill Rd. or Spruce St. will still be here. We do not think, “If Scuffling Hill/Spruce still lays on the face of the earth, then I will drive to church. But if not, I will walk.” No, we just get in the car and drive, because we take Scuffling Hill Rd. and Spruce St. for granted.
Well, we take the Bible for granted even more. Most people in the western world take for granted a million things that the Bible has taught the human race. And thank God we do. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t just have to worry about double-dip recessions, greenhouse gases, and the sinister growth of the culture of death. If the western world did not have the Bible, we would also have to worry about human sacrifice, cannibalism, widespread slave-trading, polygamy, and roadside crucifixions.
So, thank God for the message of the Bible, because it has illuminated our minds with truth about God and man. But: We cannot read our Bibles with rose-colored glasses. Actually to read the Bible means discovering that biblical fundamentalism does not work. The Bible does not resolve every question in every man’s life.
I am not going to lie to you: Back when the first President Bush occupied the White House, I knew a woman I wanted to marry. But I also believed I probably had a vocation to the priesthood.
I loved my Bible; I would have been nowhere without it. But on one page it said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” On another page it said, “The children of the Kingdom neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
The Bible qua book, therefore, accompanies us as an ever-faithful friend, but it cannot take the reins of our lives. The Bible as a book does not try to take the reins. It provides the ground beneath our feet, yes. But we still do not have a full resolution to our problem.
The Bible qua book does not resolve it. But what if there were a living, breathing Bible? What if the Bible existed not only as a collection of books written a long time ago, but as a person alive today? What if this living Bible could accompany us through life in such a way that we could know whether or not we were obeying God’s will at any given time?
I could live by a rule of thumb: if I still have the company of this living Bible next to me, then I can be at peace, because I am obeying God. But if I walk away from this companion and find myself alone, then I know I need to fix something to get back on the right track.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were such a person? Wait a minute. Are you telling me that a living, breathing version of the Holy Bible actually exists? Are you trying to tell me that the Lord has given us a companion that serves as our infallible guide to help us obey God?
Dear brothers and sisters, what an indescribable gift we have been given: to be members of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, governed by the Pope.