Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tired of the Platitudes -- the perils of Scriptural sound bites

St. Jerome offered a valuable bit of advice to the faithful centuries ago -- he said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."

It's profound.


It's very simple -- Scripture is truly a living document (unlike the Constitution of the United States which many like to think enjoys this supernatural dignity, but that's a different blog post); it is the eternal Word of God, revelation made manifest in Christ Jesus, and guarded and enlivened by the Holy Spirit. That carries with it an enormous responsibility for its user; never should the use of Scripture be taken lightly or regarded with cavalier pride.

Is there anything more frustrating within Christianity than good people who throw Scriptural references around like they [the references] on their own have some magical power; or heaven forbid, that they might prove some intellectual ability on the part of the thrower!

No, when Scripture is used in sound bites it shows a total disregard for the Word of God. It becomes no more than lofty platitudes, and sends believers and non-believers running for the hills.

But, Scripture is much more than sound bites.  It is not a "what" that is referenced, but a "Who"; Jesus Himself is present in the Word. And, this is precisely what St. Jerome is plainly stating.

For instance, it is not sufficient to say/teach that Jesus is the Bread of Life, quote John 6:48 and call it a day -- for Catholic and Protestant, alike. One must understand the context, not just be able to recite the verse; and so many get it wrong or misinterpret the meaning of Scripture (any verse) based on what they have been taught or what they have decided is their own interpretation of the verse. In this, Catholics do have an advantage -- we are not alone to self-interpre. The teaching authority of the Church provides us with exhaustive information on what is the accepted Church interpretation of Scripture. No guess work involved.

Scripture reduced to platitudes is a sacrilege.

Trying to carry Christ to others in this manner is ineffective, at best. And worse still, it is detrimental to conversion of heart for those who might have a spark of faith left within them.

"[B]ut sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope." (1 Peter 3:15)

Standing alone, the verse above would seem to support every last thing I have written here. However, while it does suggest that we need to be able to support what we believe, or "be ready to give and explanation", this particular quote deals specifically with suffering for Christ. Without the proper context, one could easily misunderstand the nature of the teaching and not realize that suffering for the Word is essential to, even expected, when carrying Christ to others.

Sound bites and platitudes don't work. They are even potentially harmful and can potentially lead to a misplaced scorn and rejection of the power of the Word.

Don't just quote random Scripture verses to make a point. Rather, bring the fullness of the Scripture to others in both word and deed -- understand and live the meaning of the verse chosen, pray over it and let the Holy Spirit inspire, read it in its context to both Old Testament and New Testament, see what the Church teaches about it, etc.

Know what surrounds the quote!

This will bring credibility to what is said, and in this way will you bring honor to God and souls to Christ Jesus.

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