The Word Of God

All of revelation is contained in one Word - the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ. (see John 1.1-5,14) Before the event of the Incarnation of Jesus, when the Word became Flesh, "God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets. In these last days, He spoke to us through a Son, whom He made heir of all things and through whom He created the universe, who is the refulgence of His glory, the very imprint of His being, and who sustains all things by His mighty word." (Hebrews 1.1-3)

The reading and interpretation of Scripture rests first and foremost on relating what is read to Jesus, who is the fullness of the Word of God. Unlike what is written, Jesus is not subject to the limitations of human language, knowledge, and understanding. This is how the risen Lord taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus: "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24.27)

The Scriptures are to be cherished as a repository of the eternal Truth of God. In praying to His Father, Jesus exclaimed: "Your word is truth." (John 17:17) To read and interpret the Scriptures, the Father has provided us with the gift of the Holy Spirit: "The Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth." (John 16:13)

The Scriptures are to be read and interpreted from the perspective of the living Tradition of faith and teachings of the Church. The sacred trust of the correct interpretation of Scripture ultimately rests with the Church.

The literary sense of Scripture, the first principle of its interpretation, must take into account the historical context and literary genre of the text, the author's intention and perspective, and the limitations of the translation of the text from its original form. The literal interpretation of the letter on its own, without consideration of the deeper levels of meaning, can lead to misinterpretation and error. Beginning from the literal, the spiritual interpretation follows three senses: (1) the allegorical or symbolic sense, (2) the moral sense, and (3) the anagogical, or guiding sense.

Jesus provides a teaching of how to interpret Scripture as He explains the parable of the weeds of the field to His apostles. The literal sense is communicated in the narration of the parable, in Matthew 13.24-30. The spiritual sense is explained to His disciples in Matthew 13.36-43. In the explanation, we see the allegory of the good seed to the sons of the kingdom and the weeds to the sons of the evil one. The moral interpretation is of God's mercy and justice. By His Mercy, He allows the wheat and the weeds to co-exist in this world, as "He wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2.4) His justice will be meted out at the end of time, according to the sin that remains. In the guiding sense, we are led to reflect on the state of our own hearts relative to the analogy of the field, take note of the sins growing alongside the virtues therein, and resolve to nurture the good and weed out the sin while we still have the opportunity to do so.

The Bible is divided into two sections: the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament is a compendium of the books of the Prophets and the Law, a history of God's relationship with His people, a treasury of wisdom and prayer, and a testimony of the promise of the coming of the Messiah. The Old Testament remains relevant today, as the Old Covenant has never been voided. Jesus said: "Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." (Matthew 5:18)

The New Testament is centered on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, written on the foundation of the Gospels. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) together with the Gospel of John, record the truth of Jesus Christ. The Acts, together with the Epistles of the Apostles and Revelations, provide the Church with the rich teaching, guidance, and interpretation of the Gospels which will sustain the Church until the end of time.

St. Thérèse exclaimed her love of the Gospels: "But it is from the Gospels that I find most help in the time of prayer; from them I draw all that I need for my poor soul. I am always discovering in them new lights and hidden mysterious meanings." (Story of a Soul, A.8)

The Word in and of itself has the power to save and to heal. The reading and pondering of the Word has the power to change hearts and to guide us each step of our way to eternity. "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)

May the Spirit guide us, through cherishing the Word of God, to the same encounter with the Risen Lord as the disciples at Emmaus, that we may exclaim with them: "Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32)



Holy Spirit, plant the Word deep
In the rich soil of each heart;
May the riches of the Word steep
Our souls with all God will impart. Amen.



References:

New American Bible - Catholic Edition

St Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of A Soul

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 101-141



prepared by:

Paul Buis


(c) Paul Buis, 2006