Sunday, 8 September 2013
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Shaftesbury
Our first reading poses a question that remains as relevant today as it was when it was asked thousands of years ago:
"Who can know the mind of God?" (Wis 9:13), or, to use the Jerusalem Bible in our lectionary, "What man can know the intentions of God?"
and, you might say, our Scripture readings for today give us at least two examples of how it is hard to know the mind of God, even when reading His own word in Sacred Scripture: We have our Gospel text in which we hear the Lord Jesus, the same Lord who commanded us to love, we hear Him insist that unless we "hate" (Lk 14:25) father, mother, brother etc we cannot be His disciple. And to round it all off, He says we must ALL “give up [our] possessions” (Lk 14:33) if we would follow Him.
These are just a two of many quandaries we face in seeking to know what God is about, what the mind of God holds. And there are three basic possible approaches people take:
First, there is the approach most common in our age, the agnostic approach, namely, to say that NO ONE can know the mind of God.
But this brings difficulties of its own. For one thing, it renders life meaningless if we cannot know its meaning. It also makes God rather odd, in that He would have created us but then not sought to have anything to do with us, not sought to communicate to us, to make His mind known to us.
Second, there is the Protestant approach –very close to the real deal, but not quite. This says that God has made Himself known, in speaking His one Eternal Word. Then the Bible appeared, in a mechanism that Protestantism fails to comment upon, and fails to explain how on earth we are to INTERPRET so many difficult texts in the Bible. So, although the Protestant approach comes very close to the real deal, and it does truly say that the mind of God has been made known, and it is written in the Bible, but it gives us no hermeneutical key to understand the Bible. Small wonder that the Protestant approach has given rise to countless split groups of rival interpretations, such that there are now 33,000 splinter denominations
Finally, there is the Catholic approach. This says: God has made Himself known in Christ, but the TRANSMISSION of what He has given, what St Jude's epistle calls "the deposit of faith"(1:3), was entrusted by Christ, at the very beginning, to His Church, under His popes as His vicars on earth, to pass on authoritatively and reliably. The Bible was written by the Church, and it was the Church that judged which books were to go in the Bible and which books were not, and it is that same Church that in every age has the task on interpreting that sacred word. And this interpretation is done not by a mere human agency, but with the promise of infallibility, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that the popes hand on that "deposit of faith" to us reliably. The Church wrote the Bible, and it is that same Church that knows how to interpret the Bible –using her living memory of "Sacred Tradition".
And because we belong to the same Church that wrote the Bible, we have access to how to interpret those tough texts I started my mentioning….
You can read a longer analysis on the internet, on my sermon for these texts the three years ago when these readings last came up, But in short, the Hebrew language lacked the ability to say, “the most” or “more”, so the way you say you must love Jesus “the most”, more than your family, more than money, more than avoiding suffering, to say you must “hate” your family, “give up all possessions”, and carry your cross.
So, the mind of God is no longer a mystery, He has made it known, and if we entrust ourselves to the teaching of His Church we can know that mind with certainty today, not know it in the fullness of His infinite wisdom, but know it in the fullness with which He has made it known, know it with the fullness of all we need to get to heaven, and all we need to live and love while on earth.
[The girl in the t-shirt is one of our parishioners, author of the blog, "Yes, I'm Catholic" http://yesimcatholic.wordpress.com/ ]