The Scripture Tradition

Do you seen this woman? She has shown great love. (Luke 7:44,42)

Okay. Anybody remember the question we left hanging last week?

How exactly is it that we have come to know so much about these ancient Palestinians named Jesus, Mary, and Pontius Pilate? We know enough to stand up, week in and week out, and belt out a brief discourse about them in the middle of Mass. How do we know anything about them?

old-booksGood question. But you are probably thinking: “Father, this is going to be real short. Because the answer to this question is obvious. Obvious. After all, we also say, in the Creed: ‘I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Bible.’”

Wait…

Some people enjoy testifying to their unswerving devotion to God’s Word. Preachers love to have big old Bibles draped in stoles and garlands, with bright phosphorescent lights shining.

But, let’s consider: What actually proves that a person loves the Bible? Having a big Bible in the house? Or having Bible bumper-stickers? Or coffee mugs with your favorite verse? Or cross-stitching “Blessed 24:7” on a sofa cushion?

No. The way to prove that you love the Bible is to do one simple solitary thing:

And guess what happens when you read it? Doesn’t take long to discover one crucial fact. The Bible is not about the Bible. The actual text of the Bible doesn’t even contain a list of all the books that belong in a Bible. Yes, the Bible makes frequent references to other parts of the Bible. But the Bible is by no means about the Bible. The Bible is about: The People of God.

Head of a Pharisee by Leonardo da VinciFrom Adam and Eve in Genesis to the 144,000 singing in Revelation. Abraham, Moses, twelve tribes, King David and wise Solomon, holy prophets, priests in the Temple, exiled in Babylon, studying the Torah, gathering in synagogues, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Apostles, Peter, Paul, John, the brethren of one heart and one mind, sharing all their goods with the poor…the People of God.

The Bible recounts the history of the People of God. God used the People of God to write it. The Bible belongs to the People of God.

But wait! Martin Luther says. Wait! Too dangerous to say that the Bible belongs to the People of God. The Word of God must measure the people. The Word gives the standard and rule for the people. People are sinners. You’ve got it backwards by saying the Word of God belongs to the people. It’s the other way around. The only true People of God are the people who belong to the Word of God.

Okay, man. Good point.

The People of God do not constitute The Truth. The People of God are the people who believe the truth. And the Scriptures infallibly bear witness to the truth we believe. We must judge ourselves by what the Scriptures say.

st peter medalionBut, Martin Luther, friend, look: Where’d you get them thar Scrittures? From the Scripture tree? Did the Scripture stork bring them?

No. You got them from Moses and David, Jeremiah and Ezra, from countless ancient Hebrew historians and scribes, who took such painstaking care not because they believed in “the Bible,” but because they believed in God.

You got them from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Peter, Paul, James, and Jude. You got them from Timothy, Tychicus, Epaphras, Silvanus, Aristarchus, and all the other New-Testament scribes. You got them from Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damien, and all the other saints who strove and fought and died to see that the books were lovingly collected, copied, preserved, and handed down. Martin Luther: you yourself did not get the Scriptures sola scriptura. You yourself got them from going to Mass and listening to the priest when you were young!

The Holy Scriptures, in which we Christians so profoundly trust—these Scriptures that can be collected into a bound Bible and kept at home and hopefully frequently read—these Scriptures make up an essential part of something bigger. The Scriptures, which we ritually read together, make up an essential part of our Sacred Tradition. The Sacred Tradition of the People of God. The Sacred Tradition that began when God spoke to Abraham and has been handed down without a break ever since.

church_drawingWe read about the woman who put herself at Jesus’ feet. The woman bathed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. She showered His feet with her kisses.

The woman represents the Church. Christ is the Word of God. A book is not the Word of God. The Word of God is a Person: Christ, High Priest, true celebrant of the Mass and all the sacraments.

The Church puts Herself at His feet and bathes them with her spiritual kisses. By sitting at His feet like this, our Mother, the Catholic Church, has preserved and handed down to us the truth in which we unequivocally trust, which we read about together in our Holy Scriptures and which is summarized exquisitely in our Creed.

Christianity has one Mother, from whom we learn the divine religion: the Catholic Church.

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One thought on “The Scripture Tradition

  1. Father Mark,

    “People are the language of God.” The Bible is “Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth”; it is also the story of God’s loving man.

    Most often, we find God in others; and when God speaks to us, it is most frequently the voice of a real friend, who knows us, loves us, and has the courage to tell us lovingly when we’re on the wrong path. If we are truly desperately seeking Him, we will read His word, and present ourselves in His Church, and seek the presence of others seeking Him (“a herd going in the right direction”).

    All of which is to say, we know of God through a variety of influences — as long as we’re looking for him, and attempting to conform our lives to His will.

    Love in Him,

    joe

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