Summary: It is the enduring presence of God in His Church, His sacraments and His Scriptures that gives our life meaning and purpose.
Monday of 5th Week in Course
St. Paul Miki & Companions
One of the critical teachings of both the Old and New Testaments is that the presence of God is not like the presence of the pagan gods. The latter came and went with their whims, and their arrival was usually bad news for humans. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and Jesus was constantly present to His people. The indwelling of the Lord in the temple, in a dark cloud, is depicted here in 1 Kings. It was that constant indwelling that led the Israelites to take God for granted, to use “the Temple of the Lord” as a kind of magic mantra. In fact, the most horrible revelation in the prophets was the vision of Ezekiel in which the Lord is depicted leaving His temple, literally packing up His bags and departing.
By contrast, the NT tells us what the sound bite was that circulated through Judea and Galilee and even the pagan lands when Jesus ministered there: “God has visited His people.” Jesus was not thought to be divine Himself, but the people instinctively realized that the one who preached the word of God, who healed the people’s ills and forgave their sins had to be in some way the presence of God they had lacked for so many generations. Just touching one of the 614 tassels on the hem of his garment was enough to receive His healing power. And by the power revealed in His Resurrection, and re-presented here at every Mass, He is present in His resurrected, ascended reality. We not only touch His garment, we eat His flesh and drink His blood, our healing, our forgiveness, our nourishment. That is the faith that Paul Miki and his companions, natives of Japan but Christians by choice, witnessed to and died affirming. Once we know the Truth who is Jesus, we must proclaim Him and even go to death rather than deny Him. A terrible and wonderful reality at the same time.
The Father communicated Himself to us in the Son, the Word of God who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. So also He communicates His word through human speech, in the words of the human witnesses set down on papyrus or vellum by the Scripture writers, and copied by quill and ink with much effort for over a millennium until the first printed book came from the Gutenberg press. The words of Scripture, as the Fathers taught, are but one Word, and that Word is Jesus Christ.
‘Saint Augustine had already made the point clearly: “Remember that one alone is the discourse of God which unfolds in all sacred Scripture, and one alone is the word which resounds on the lips of all the holy writers”
‘In short, by the work of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the magisterium, the Church hands on to every generation all that has been revealed in Christ. The Church lives in the certainty that her Lord, who spoke in the past, continues today to communicate his word in her living Tradition and in sacred Scripture. Indeed, the word of God is given to us in sacred Scripture as an inspired testimony to revelation; together with the Church’s living Tradition, it constitutes the supreme rule of faith.’
‘A key concept for understanding the sacred text as the word of God in human words is certainly that of inspiration. Here too [the Holy Father suggests] an analogy: as the word of God became flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, so sacred Scripture is born from the womb of the Church by the power of the same Spirit. Sacred Scripture is “the word of God set down in writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” In this way one recognizes the full importance of the human author who wrote the inspired texts and, at the same time, God himself as the true author.
‘As the Synod Fathers affirmed, the theme of inspiration is clearly decisive for an adequate approach to the Scriptures and their correct interpretation, which for its part is to be done in the same Spirit in whom the sacred texts were written. Whenever our awareness of its inspiration grows weak, we risk reading Scripture as an object of historical curiosity and not as the work of the Holy Spirit in which we can hear the Lord himself speak and recognize his presence in history.’ And, of course, it is recognizing the presence of the Lord, and acting like it is the most important reality in our lives, that is the whole point of our membership in His Church.