By Paul Dion, STL
Be Careful what you ask for, and How you ask for it.
"Next time make the topics less 'Sola Scriptura' (Bible Alone) and more about sin, Virgin Mary, confession, hell, the Eucharist." (Anonymous suggestion from a participant in Mom and Pop Theology session )
Well, dear readers, I finally made it to the Protestant Hall of Fame! I am now a "Sola Scriptura" guy. I never aspired to the title, but somehow it crept up on me, and here I am.
I honestly don't know what it means for a "topic" to be less "Sola Scriptura". This Latin expression is a technical theological term that has nothing to do with catechetical themes.
"Sola Scriptura" is a belief system that has as its fundamental axiom that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand. This is the basic Protestant belief system.
The Catholic belief system states that elements necessary for salvation and concerning faith are taught in the Bible and through TRADITION with the help of the Church.
It is evident that the petitioner does not appreciate the true technical meaning of the words that make up the suggestion. But there is an indication there of something more sinister going on in the community. I know this because I have heard it in passing during conversations around the church yard. I didn't pay too much attention to it at the time. Now that it has appeared in black and white, clearly in a sense that does not fit its true definition, I feel that it is time for me to throw it back over the fence.
If you say "Sola Scriptura" to accuse a catechist of using the Bible too much in the instruction of our religion, I urge you to read this to the end.
The humorous side to this suggestion is that if the petitioner is asking for topics with less emphasis on Bible references for the teachings about sin and the Virgin Mary mentioned right at the top doesn't accomplish anything of the sort.
If you're looking for sin, the Bible is the perfect place to go! Hey, Adam! Hey, Eve! Hey, Satan! Hey, Cain! Let's go to Sodom and Gomorrha! Let's check out the latest golden calf in the desert on the way out of Egypt! Have you read the story of the ten brothers who sold their other brother into slavery? That's a sin, isn't it? He forgave them though, and several years later saved their lives. Let's go peek through David's fence, maybe Bathsheba will be in her back yard! Oh, did I forget the Samaritan Woman? HHHmmm, there's that tax collector Zaccheus, too, let's throw him in the hopper!
Peter. I know that he has the keys on him, but I still got to say that what he did was a big, big sin. Can we call it the first Apostasy? Peter, how could you? Oh, oh, I forgot all about temptation, that's related to sin too, isn't it. How about Satan making Job's life miserable to test his faith? How about Jesus being tempted in the desert by the same wonderful Leprechaun, Satan? How about the Father putting His Son to the test in the Garden of Gethsemane?
Now, if you have enough of sin, turn to Luke's gospel and check out the great stories about the sweet young maiden called Mary and enjoy yourself. Notice how she grows up, scolds her Son when she finds Him in the Temple (I thought that women weren't supposed to go into the inner precincts of the temple), follow her to Cana and hear her tell Him to help out the groom with the wine shortage and then go to the Cross and listen to her Son tell her to adopt us all as her very own children. I could resist the temptation to tell you that she is the second Eve, but I won't. Just like I could resist the temptation to tell you that Jesus is the second Adam, but I just told you and you can look that up in St. Paul. (Google has it too, for sure)
Heaven and Hell? Matthew 25, ladies and gentlemen. Go check out the description of the last judgment. You might want to look up Jesus telling his disciples that there are many rooms in his Father's house. The mother of John and James asking Jesus to make sure that her sons would be seated one at His right and the other at His left. I have to draw your attention to Martha, you know, Lazarus' sister when she confesses her faith in the resurrection to Jesus. OOOppppssss! I almost forgot the promise made to the good thief as they were on the cross.
The Eucharist? I'll bet you're saying to yourself that I can't find anything in the Old Testament about the Eucharist. Go on, admit it. You're daring me aren't you? You should already have thought of the the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden? How about all the other trees that were there for food and delight? Have you forgotten the manna that was given to our forefathers as they trekked across the desert coming home from Egypt? Jesus even mentions this in St. John's gospel. There are even some of you out there who remember the story of the widow who was able to make bread for one year to support herself, her son and the prophet Elijah. There are mentions in the psalms that Yaweh feeds His people with the finest wheat.
So, fine, I'll take pity on you and come to the New Testament and tell you what you already know, "that unless you eat my body and drink my blood you will not have life everlasting."
Go ahead, make my day. Dare me to teach a 45 hour course on the Eucharist without once opening the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the Compendium of Ecumenical Councils. Nope. Not one single anathema would pass my lips. Look at all I've written already and I'll bet you're wondering if I'm looking this stuff up as I go or not. I have not run a single reference while I've been sitting here writing.
Do I know my Bible? You bet. Do I know my TRADITION? You bet.
BTW:Do you know what makes up our Catholic Tradition? Go ahead, answer me without looking it up. (and be honest about it...remember, it's a sin to tell a lie.)
What about Jesus? Where do you suppose He learned His religion? Did He have to go to CCD? What did He use to pray? I'll bet that He was a Bible guy. Look at all those wonderful Bible quotes He uses in the Gospels. Don't you wish you knew your Bible that well? He knew His Prophets, His Psalms, His Torah, for sure. He beat the Devil at the battle of the quotes in the desert, by golly. He was even a Lector, when Lectors had to give a comment about the reading.
You don't believe me? Look it up. It's in the part where He tells His disciples that "no man is a prophet in his home town." Look at us. We should be as sharp as He was. We go to Mass every single Sunday where we hear three readings from the Bible and we can't remember what they were, we don't ask ourselves what the stories mean, we are not curious enough to see how the first reading is related to the third and then we have the blindness to tell one another not to teach our religion from the Bible. Huh? Are we better than Jesus?
What about Jesus ? Where do you suppose he learned His religion ? I'll bet He heard a lot of stories from His family. After all, His uncle, Zacharias, you know, John the Baptist's father, was a Temple guy who had the right to enter the Holy of Holies. So you know that Jesus was a big Temple guy.
Yes, indeed, He knew His TRADITION. He knew the Rabbi teachings. He knew the beliefs and the faith of the 12 Tribes of Israel. He knew the dietary rituals. He knew how to behave in the Temple. He knew what was considered a grave sin and what was not. He knew the virtues that were expected to be lived out by God-fearing gentlemen. He was not afraid to discuss religious themes and topics with Temple scholars. You know that because that's what He was doing when His mother and father found Him after they lost Him in Jerusalem.
We know for a fact that He believed in the resurrection and life after death which was not necessarly a main stream belief of the Judaism of His time. We know for a fact that He was not bound by the letter of the Torah but was filled with the spirit of its meaning as witnessed by the lives of the prophets and other religious heroes who had come before Him. We know for a fact that His behavior in the spirit of the Law rather than in the letter of It caused Him to suffer a lot of grief. We read a lot of stories in the gospel that show He related more to His (Our) Father through love than through the strict teachings of the Temple People (Rabbis), all the while remaining true to His religious faith.
All of this to say that Jesus was a true Prophet, a true King and a true Priest, in short, a true disciple of His Father's Way. We know all this because it is in the Bible and in the TRADITION.
I am not a "Sola Scriptura" Protestant. I am a Bible lover. I am a firm believer in Judeo-Christian TRADITION.
I have had opportunities to defect to other religions. I turned them all down without batting an eye. Because I am Catholic, my belief system tells me that Sacred Scripture and TRADITION lived in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in His Church is the truest and safest way to eternal salvation.
When I teach I know that my sources are 1, the Bible; 2, TRADITION as they are accepted and elucidated by the official teachers of the Church. I am strict and unwavering in my faith, even though you may not think so. I feel that I am in good company because many Temple people and garden variety Jews did not think that Jesus was a very faithful believer either.
I also feel that I am in good company because like Jesus, I have no secrets about my beliefs. The only secrets I have are His Mysteries, not mine, nor yours. Like Jesus, I know the sources of my relationship with His Father, Him and the Holy Spirit. Unlike Jesus, I am stained by sin, original, actual and personal. I'm working on it. Not the sin, the virtue.
So pray for me now so that you won't regret not having helped me escape damnation, at worst, or purgatory, at best. Do that and you won't have the slightest temptation to cry at my funeral.
Oh, by the way, I will not close my Bible in my classroom!