Summary: The existence of the Word of God makes it necessary to have a living and authoritative interpretator "of last resort," in the Church.
Monday of 21st Week in Course
St. Monica/St. Augustine
St. Monica could easily be called the patron saint of frustrated prayer. A Catholic herself, she found herself married to a pagan, with a son who, unbaptized as a child, turned into a kind of semi-pagan hellion during his youth. For decades she prayed for his conversion, and ultimately had the joy of seeing him turn to God, be baptized, and then ordained. Moreover, he became a bishop and is widely acknowledged to be the greatest theologian of the first Catholic millennium. In fact, the Holy Father cites him no fewer than ten times in Verbum Domini.
How do we understand the Word of God, and specifically the Scriptures? Experience alone teaches us that there must be an authoritative interpreter, a kind of translator of last resort. We humans have been pretending that not to be needed for almost five hundred years. In truth, in less than five years we will be bombarded with propaganda surrounding the five hundred year anniversary of Luther’s revolution. Luther undoubtedly was the worst thing to happen to the Church in the last two thousand years. With the exception of the great East-West schism of 1054, and the temporary Great Western Schism, a political rupture in the 14th century, the Catholic Church was one body, with diverse members, for fifteen hundred years. Luther began a theological rupture that, because of the greed of political rulers, led to the idiotic notion that every man is his own pope. Ultimately it gave us over 40,000 Christian communions (when I was young it was just 30,000), a number of non-Christian breakoffs like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and the destruction of Western culture.
We should have listened to Aquinas and Augustine, interpreting this Gospel. The Pharisees were really good at reading Torah and the commentaries. So good that they smothered the spirit of the Torah, the expression of God’s love to mankind:
“The intrinsic link between the word and faith makes clear that authentic biblical hermeneutics can only be had within the faith of the Church, which has its paradigm in Mary’s fiat. Saint Bonaventure states that without faith there is no key to throw open the sacred text: ‘This is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, from whom, as from a fountain, flow forth the certainty and the understanding of all sacred Scripture. Therefore it is impossible for anyone to attain to knowledge of that truth unless he first have infused faith in Christ, which is the lamp, the gate and the foundation of all Scripture.’ And Saint Thomas Aquinas, citing Saint Augustine, insists that ‘the letter, even that of the Gospel, would kill, were there not the inward grace of healing faith.’”
Phariseeism, and, for that matter, rabbinic Judaism, always tends toward death, rather than life, because it tends to obscure the loving Father behind the Law, and the reality that the true Law is the Law of Christ, which is a Law of Self-Giving.