PART ONE: General Aspects

Chapter 1

The Word of God and Sacred Scripture

1.   The Word of God and Sacred Scripture

 9.   Sacred Scripture is the word of God as committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.[1] In it the Church does not receive a merely human word, but what it really is: the Word of God,[2] in which it finds its nourishment and strength.[3] Whether in the OT as a preparation, or in the NT as a culmination, the revelation of God is presented to us in the history of a people, realized by means of deeds and words that are intimately connected and addressed to all humanity. Through the Scriptures, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children and talk with them,[4] and he continues speaking, acting and committing himself to them. Thus his Word is a way that leads them to salvation.

10. Nevertheless, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the Book.” Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, “not of a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word” (St. Bernard). In order that the Scriptures might not remain a dead letter, it is necessary that Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, through the Holy Spirit, should open our hearts to understand them.[5] To the faithful who invoke the Spirit over the Scriptures, they will offer the authentic Word of God that liberates and saves.

11. Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God utters but one word, his only begotten Word, in whom He fully utters Himself.[6] In effect, Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word of the Father, who definitively proclaims the liberating plan of God. He is the Good News of the Kingdom which, through the action of the Spirit, is manifested and realized in history. In the person and event of Christ we find the key to understand the fullness of the old covenant and of so many words that God has addressed and is still addressing to us throughout history. Hence Vatican II has recommended that we assiduously read the Scriptures as a way that leads to the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ.[7] The Council also reminds us of Saint Jerome dictum: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”[8]

12. The integral Mystery of Christ, which we must live and preach,[9] is revealed to us in the whole of Scripture. As opposed to the subjectivism that surrounds us, favoring a selective reading based on people’s own tastes or interests, we must present the objective Scriptures, which we cannot manipulate but must assume, though always in a creatively faithful way. In face of the fragmentation in vast sectors of current culture, we must present this Mystery as a unified whole, since it deals with a living Person.

13. The Word of God, which is efficaciously addressed to each human being, must be received in faith. The Word is a means for an encounter with God. Scripture cannot be understood as a mere study book, nor can it be reduced to its ethical or philosophical contents. Human beings, in order to be hearers of the Word, need faith. Faith is indispensable in order to receive the God who loves them, speaks to them and invites them to move on from listening and receiving, to obedience in freedom and to the following of Jesus Christ.[10]

14. The Bible itself, which narrates God’s pedagogy over His People throughout their history, contains many pedagogical elements for our formation.[11] The Word of God is living and effective,[12] giving life to those who receive it.[13] It is a mirror that helps us to know ourselves from God’s viewpoint.[14] It does not return to God empty, but produces its effect.[15] It is like a tiny reality packed with great energy for change and transformation: a mustard seed,[16] a little leaven that swells a great mass of dough.[17] The journeying of Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus can serve as a paradigm for the formative process that converts us into hearers and servants of the Word.[18]

 2.   The updating of the Word of God

 15. Scripture itself teaches us that the Word of God has to be updated by means of a re-reading of God’s message in the light of new circumstances and applying it to the present situation of the People of God.[19] The Church’s tradition has acted along this line and the Church in our day has acted in this same sense. Thanks to this updating, God’s Word throws light on the new mentalities and manifold problems of the day: human rights, the defense of human life, the preservation of nature, the aspiration for world peace[20] and the building of a society that is just, fraternal and equalitarian.[21]

16. Sacred Scripture, as the Word of God expressed in human words, reflects the socio-cultural circumstances in which it was written. This calls for a continual task of interpretation. The diverse cultural contexts in which Scripture must be read and actualized, as well as the new problems on which it should shed its light, entail a legitimate plurality of interpretations, none of which can exhaust its overall meaning, which is a symphony for several voices. The interpretation of Scripture should avoid exclusivisms and should be done in the bosom of the Church, in its plurality and unity, and in its faith tradition.[22] Docility to the Holy Spirit produces and reinforces fidelity to the Church in the interpretation of Holy Scripture. Being faithful to the Church means situating ourselves in the current of Church tradition and in communion with the Magisterium, which is especially assisted by the Holy Spirit.[23] This was one of Claret’s fundamental criteria in approaching the Word of God.[24]

 3.   Other manifestations of the Word of God

 17. God is also manifested in historical reality. Reality, grasped as a sign of the times, must be understood in the light of Scripture, and Scripture must be read in and from historical reality.[25] Claret learned to read the signs of his times and to interpret them in the light of God’s Word, allowing himself to be probed by them and offering adequate responses to them. Hence the importance of learning how to listen to and grasp the other words of God that reach us through the history and culture of peoples, in their silences and outcries.[26]

18. Diverse religious and cultural traditions are also ways whereby to manifest God, who wants all human beings to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.[27] Scripture itself, read as the Word of God in Jesus Christ, invites us to discover the seeds of the Word, the elements of salvation that they contain, and that enlighten and even help us to a deeper grasp and fuller discovery of our own tradition.

19. The Word of God transcends the cultures in which it is expressed and has the capacity to spread to other cultures, so that it can reach all human beings in the cultural context in which they live. The Bible message should be interpreted and actualized in explicit relation to the ways of feeling, thinking and living proper of the local culture, so as to produce a two-way enrichment: on the one hand, the riches contained in different cultures allow God’s Word to produce new fruits; on the other, God’s Word allows a selection of what cultures have to offer, rejecting negative elements and favoring the development of valid elements.[28]

[1] DV 9.

[2] Cf. 1 Thes 2:13.

[3] Cf. DV 24.

[4] Cf. DV 21.

[5] Cf. DV 12.

[6] Cf. DV 4.

[7] Cf. PC 6.

[8] Cf. DV 25

[9] Cf. CC 46.

[10] Cf. GPF 51-53.

[11] Cf. Appendices 1 and 2.

[12] Heb 4:12.

[13] Cf. Bar 4:1.

[14] Cf. Jas 1:23-25.

[15] Cf. Is 55:11.

[16] Cf. Mk 4:31-32.

[17] Cf. Mt 13:33.

[18] Cf. Lk 24:13-35.

[19] Cf. IBC IV, A.

[20] Cf. IBC IV, A, 3.

[21] Cf. MCT 23.

[22] Cf. IBC III, A, 3.

[23] Cf. IBC, Discourse of John Paul II, 10; also IV, A, 3.

[24] Cf. Claret, RCS I. 2, 15, in Miscelánea, 290, and I. 7, 39, ib., 301; EPD 4; PIC 4, 6, in SSW 561-564.

[25] Cf. GS 4, 11; CC 34, 46, 48; MCT 165.

[26] Cf. VC 84; SW 16.1.

[27] Cf. 1 Tm 2:4.

[28] Cf. IBC IV, B.