By Mary Marrocco
Scriptures help bring us into dialogue with God
A parish priest once asked my brother and me if we would offer a Bible study in the nearby seniors’ home. We invited all residents to an afternoon series in their lounge. Two or three showed up regularly, but nobody else. What were we doing wrong? Why didn’t they like us? Finally one of the attendees, who was Protestant, acknowledged to us: “They wanted to come because they like this sort of thing, but they couldn’t understand why anybody would send Catholics to do a Bible study.” This took the pressure off!
The church considers the Scriptures “inspired.” Perhaps
this makes them seem distant, reserved for the learned few. We may want
to get closer to them without knowing the way (which, at times, is how
we feel about God, too).
On Oct. 18, we celebrated the feast of St Luke, one of
the four evangelists. Luke, tradition says, was a physician, and knew
the Mother of God. The first semester of my theological studies included
a class assignment to read a Gospel from start to finish. Because the
feast day was nearby, I chose Luke’s Gospel; the experience was moving and educational.
I discovered somebody behind the Scripture texts. I’d always been
taught God was behind them, but now I began to see and hear a human writer.
Could it be that God and Luke were writing together?
What a combination — a collaboration between God and a human, in which I could join. It was like being part of a conversation, and discovering that in the process you were getting to know God. So I learned if the Bible is inspired, that doesn’t put it far away from me, but brings it close. It’s for me, for all of us (including Catholics!).
But what does it mean to say the Bible is inspired?
The other day I saw a photograph of a nice-looking young man. A self-portrait,
it showed him wearing black short-sleeved T-shirt and black shorts, sitting
on a column like a Greek hero. His figure exuded strength and compassion.
Noteworthy, but not dominant, was the lack of three limbs, though the
bare scarred skin was unabashedly visible.
While on assignment in Afghanistan in 2011, photographer Giles Duley accidentally triggered an explosive device. He endured the amputation of both feet and one hand, and resumed his photography career. Differently. He explains there are things he can’t do anymore, such as keep his balance while looking through a viewfinder, and some things he can do in ways he couldn’t before, such as “focus even more on the connection with people.”
There are degrees of inspiration. We wouldn’t say
the photograph is inspired to the degree the Bible is. We hope the inspiration
we get from many things will help us learn to encounter the Spirit in
the Bible, where of all books he is most meetable.
The word “inspire” means to “breathe into.” For
Christians, it’s a deeply laden word with profound meaning. It
reminds us that God “breathed into (Adam’s) nostrils the
breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gn 2:7). It’s
the truth of our humanness that held within us like a treasure is the
living Spirit of God. The Mother of God is the archetype of inspiration,
so open to God’s Spirit that the Word can take flesh within her.
“Inspiration” is not a thing, but a relationship. God breathed
into Adam, but Adam also started to breathe. Scripture’s authors
were inspired by God, but we too, people who read, study and pray with
the Scriptures, find God’s Spirit within us helping us to understand
them — we, too, are inspired. That’s why the Scriptures are
the books of the church, though the church is not a religion based on
books. It’s based on a relationship between God and us.
We need this sort of inspiration in our day-to-day lives, otherwise we get anxious, like a tiny child whose parent is out of sight. The Scriptures help bring us into the ongoing dialogue between God and humanity, in our present affliction and struggle. They’re a unique place of encounter with God. The dialogue between God and humanity becomes a person.
It’s this person whom we encounter in the Scriptures, Christ, who alone fills our hunger.
Marrocco is a marriage and family therapist, teacher of theology, and writer, and co-ordinates St Mary of Egypt Refuge. She can be reached at email@example.com