Scripture and the Living Community of Faith

This past week, I had the joy of attending our Diocesan Convocation of Priests, which takes place every year in September as a means to bring the priests of our Diocese together to pray, spend some good time in fraternity with each other, and learn about some aspect of our faith.

This year, our theme was on the Dead Sea Scrolls, presented by Dr. John Bergsma, a professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and the Vice President of Mission at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. As a former student of Biblical Theology, I love conferences like these. There’s something about swimming around in the world of the ancient texts that gives me great joy. Being immersed in the study of the Scriptures for a few days reminds me of how the Scriptures are a living entity—not so much a Word spoken by God “once and for all” as it is a Word that continues to speak to us, a continuous utterance that whispers anew in every age God’s very own mind to us. 

The sensation that I get from these moments immersed in the Bible always makes me think of the men in Luke 24 leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus, sad after the crucifixion of their Lord; hearing Him reveal to them everything of the Scriptures that gave witness to Him, they finally recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, and they can’t help but cry out: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?!”

It’s an important reminder to us, that the Word of God is not just a rule of life for us, as if what is codified in the Bible is only a sort of moral code that we must live by if we consider ourselves Christian. Hardly so—it’s much, much more than that. It’s the story of our faith. It’s the very revelation of God which continues to speak today to inform and validate our profession of faith. It’s not just a sign-post pointing the way, it’s the message itself.

In a conversation with Dr. Bergsma after one of our conferences with him, he said something that made all of this “come home” to me again: we are that Church, those disciples, that Jesus is founding in those first precious moments of the Church’s existence. Peter is still walking among us in the person of Pope Francis. The mission of the Apostles continues down to the present moment through the presence of the bishops, now many more than twelve in number, but significantly, still in unbroken lines of succession from Jesus’ day onward. Jesus’ instruction, His healing, the revelation that the Scriptures convey—it’s all for us, right here, right now.

It’s a simple thing, but it’s wildly profound if you pray into it. This is the beauty of our Catholic faith: our robust understanding of Scripture, of Church, of Sacrament and Salvation.

Sadly, most of us as Catholics have surrendered the Scriptures to our brothers and sisters in other Christian faiths. There’s been perhaps a false dichotomy created in recent times between Scripture and Tradition. “[Protestant] Christians are Bible people, Catholics are people of Tradition.” That’s an impoverished understanding; as Catholics [who are Christians, mind you], we are a people of both Scripture and Tradition. Both are necessary to our faith, and both feed our living understanding of the community of faith in which we take part. I pray that we as a Church rediscover the power and the beauty of the Word of God!

As an aside, I want to express my gratitude to Fr. Christopher Trummer, who sadly [for us!] will be moving back to Rome in the coming days to finish his graduate studies in Moral Theology. It was a pleasure for me and for his brother to have him with us, and I know many of our parishioners were edified by his presence among us this summer. Join me in praying in gratitude that the Lord would continue to bless his priesthood, give him safe travel, bless his time of sacred study in the Eternal City, and get him back here quickly for priestly ministry in our Diocese!

Keep spreading joy!

Fr. Friedel

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