This week, 20 of us met at St. Thomas More Church in Manalapan. We had dinner, followed by a session hosted by Father John Large about interpreting Scripture.
First, Father began with offering a list of resources that any good, practicing Catholic should read to get a true sense of the Church teachings. For a list of those resources, see the bottom of this blog post. Of these resources, he emphasized one book, in particular, throughout this Bible Study:
Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) - Pope Paul VI & 2nd Vatican Council, 1965
He then distinguished between the two main senses of the Scripture:
Father John then explained how the literal and spiritual senses in the New Testament are usually the same, but there is often a distinction in the Old Testament. Sometimes people can read the Bible and lean too far to the literal side, or too far to the spiritual side. For example:
However, many verses can be read both literally and spiritually, such as:
Father John explained how all of this relates to Lectio Divina, which is the method that we use when we read the Gospel during our weekly Bible studies. Through Lectio Divina, we balance objective interpretation with subjective interpretation. We consider the literal and spiritual senses objectively. However, we also reflect on our personal (subjective) interpretation, trying to see what God is speaking to us through a particular passage, and how we may act accordingly in our lives.
After that, we collectively went through a Bible study in our usual format, but highlighting both the literal and spiritual senses. The readings for this upcoming Sunday are:
“You duped me, o Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.”
Because of the different translations of the Bible, we noticed that instead of the word ‘duped,’ some of our Bibles said ‘seduced’ or ‘deceived,’ which led us to discuss various, Catholic translations. As a common practice, Father John recommended Revised Standard Version (RSV) translation as the best option when looking for a more literal translation of the text. The New American Bible (NAB) is the one used at Mass, but the NAB Revised Edition (NABRE) is typically a popular translation as well. For more translations, visit Approved Translations of the Bible by the USCCB.
We also discussed the ways in which each of us feel a desire to teach the Word, but the struggles that come with that. Some of us have family members who have fallen away from the Church, and others have Protestant or atheist loved ones. Someone suggested a silent prayer when looking for inspiration on how to communicate with those close to us: “Come, Holy Spirit. Help me to quiet my mind and listen.” Listening is one way that we can be like Christ to those in need. We don’t always need to be reactive or preach directly; we must consider the timing. When we are given opportunities to share the Word, we should absolutely do so, but other times we may spread Christ’s love through simple actions like simply being present with those in need.
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
We found it interesting how even in Biblical times people were being told to avoid conforming, yet it is still applicable today. This takes vigilance and it requires a transformation of our entire being. In order to avoid being entrapped by the things that society praises (e.g. wealth, beauty, success), we must set our hearts on Christ and our ultimate goal of eternity. It is easy to get wrapped up into the hectic pace of life and we may feel too busy to pray, but that is when we must be even more vigilant, making our faith our top priority. Father John mentioned the popular Christian song “Take My Life (Holiness).” He repeats the lyrics to himself as a prayer:
Take my life and form it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord.
“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
This Gospel reminds us that it is eternity in Heaven that we ultimately desire. Our material or monetary gains here on earth are fleeting when compared to the prospect of living forever with Christ. Is it really worth it to live lavishly and luxuriously for our short time on earth only to spend eternity enduring the excruciating pains of hell? Or will we forget about our worldly desires and keep our eyes set on Jesus?
As stated in Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.”
Thank you, Father John, for teaching us so much about interpreting Scripture! Next week we will be meeting on Thursday, September 7th at the Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine in Freehold (61 Georgia Road) at 6:30 pm for pizza and Bible study. We hope to see you there!
Below are some must-have resources that you can find for free by the Vatican, USCCB, and EWTN. You can always grab a copy to hold in your hands, if a digital copy just doesn’t cut it for you.
By: Stephanie Quieroz