MOSAIC Spring 2015 - Page 29

THE LIVING WORD How Does the Word Come Alive? Reading Scripture from the Heart of the Church Dr. Mary Healy F rom the beginning of salvation history, God has sent his word to human beings not as isolated individuals but as members of a people. When God’s word is heard and obeyed, it has divine power to form a people who experience the fullness of life in covenant relationship with him. What this means for us is that Scripture, the written word of God, accomplishes its purpose only when it is read from the heart of the Church. “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pt 1:20-21). The same Holy Spirit who inspired the biblical authors has been alive and at work in the Church for the last two thousand years, raising up countless bishops, saints, and scholars who commented on the word and lived it out. We read surrounded by this cloud of witnesses, learning from them. The Holy Spirit also guides the Magisterium of the Church, its divinely protected teaching authority, whose task it is to ensure that Scripture is interpreted authentically. This is why St. Paul exhorts Christians to hold fast to both Scripture and Tradition, God’s word handed down in writing and orally. “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thes 2:15). The Magisterium does not confine biblical interpretation, but gives it free reign by protecting it from error. It has done so in relatively few instances—for instance, by ruling out the idea that in John 6 Jesus spoke of eating his flesh and blood in a merely symbolic sense. The word of God is an inexhaustible fountain of life, and no matter how well we think we understand a biblical passage—for instance, the parable of the prodigal son—there is always more to comprehend. Scripture is most fully at home in the Church’s liturgy, where the word is proclaimed, heard, and explained. In the liturgy, the Holy Spirit makes the word come alive in the hearts of the faithful. As Pope Benedict wrote, We find a witness to this in the ancient prayers which in the form of an epiclesis invoke the Spirit before the proclamation of the readings: “Send your Paraclete Spirit into our hearts and make us understand the Scriptures which he has inspired; and grant that I may interpret them worthily, so that the faithful assembled here may profit thereby.” We also find prayers which, at the end of the homily, again ask God to send the gift of the Spirit upon the faithful: “God our Savior . . . we implore you for this people: send upon them the Holy Spirit; may the Lord Jesus come to visit them, speak to the minds of all, dispose their hearts to faith and lead our souls to you, God of mercies.” (Verbum Domini, no. 16) In the liturgy, Scripture becomes a loaf of bread in Christ’s hands, broken and distributed to nourish the hearts of his people. In Israel’s prophesies, promises, and prayers, we come to recognize Christ hidden in the old covenant. In the Gospels, as St. Ignatius of Antioch said, we touch his flesh and hear his living voice. How do we read Scripture from the heart of the Church, practically speaking? We read it daily, listening to the voice of our heavenly Father. We also become familiar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn to think with the mind of the Church. And we listen with deep attention as the word is proclaimed and explained in the liturgy. Dr. Mary Healy is associate professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart. shms.edu 27