Living and Suffering Through Sacred Text

One of the greatest joys of life is the illumination of our actual lived experience under the light of the gospel. For the believer, great portions of the mundane happenstance of everyday existence become transformed into new life by the process known as 'going from gospel to life, and life to the gospel'. Even in a place of suffering, life is succored with spiritual meaning when a passage of Scripture imparts its grace in tiny epiphanies. This is how I experience 'spiritual or graced life'; and it's this singular quality that I find lacking in those who swear and insist that gospel living is 'for the birds'.

Gospel verses and canticles carry the breath of spiritual life (grace) as a current, if you will, which imparts actual force into any living soul. The believer, once awakened, begins to sense stirrings due to the vigor of these Scriptural verses. We pull the gospel into our lives, and lo and behold, we begin to experience effects that can be quite moving. Depending on our current state they can be either consoling or disturbing; they have power (sometimes unwanted and unwelcome) which is often emotive as well as intellectual. And yet this testimony of the Word of God is too frequently rendered void or inert. Why?

Often critics or inquirers of faith, look to 'reason' as the high-point of discernment in evaluating any of the claims that believers make. They mistrust sensations, dreams, and even intuition (emotive reasoning) as 'lowly' evidence or foolishness. This is surprising because careful observation shows that 'higher reasoning' alone is hardly ever the quality that impels someone to make life altering changes even in regards to natural matters. Indeed, we've all discovered in ourselves the ability to suspend or deny the dictates of 'reason' in order to avert the 'pain' associated with making important and necessary changes. Often being comfortable or attracted to a pleasurable state far outweighs whatever demands that 'sound reason' would ask of us.

One of the great 'experiments that can be researched and tested' is to take a detached position and witness the effect of Sacred Scripture upon ourselves; believers or nonbelievers alike. The gospel's inspiration or provocation (depending on your relation to its message) doesn't serve to prove anything other than it has a force. Individual's can seek to discern its meaning and validity by their reaction to its demands in the lived experience of their lives. Loose translation: 'The Gospel works or it doesn't'. I suspect that this is the ultimate arbiter of whether we make an assent of 'faith' or not. The existence [or not] of God is not contingent upon a proclamation of my faith; but the 'reality of my faith', (a reality that transcends a mere belief system or coherent framework for living), depends upon the existence of God. This is not absurd or unreal thinking. It's both logical and reasonable.

Sometimes sacred text does allow and even begs us to test its own veracity. Try wrestling with this claim"Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." [Heb. 4:12]. One adage of Christian spiritual life is that 'sin' and the habit of reading sacred scripture cannot coexist: which is to say that a very real effect is discerned when we contrast the 'gospel life' with our own. Even if we don't find the word 'sin' in our moral vocabulary, believer and non-believer alike universally speak in terms of 'good and evil'. The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, provides guidance in that we 'live through' and 'suffer through' the sacred text. It's a challenge for sure, and yet, it's essential if we hope to discover spiritual reality and interpret it correctly. Speaking of interpretation:

The Saints are true interpreters of Holy Scripture. The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out. Interpretation of Scripture can never be a purely academic affair, and it cannot be relegated to the purely historical. Scripture is full of potential for the future, a potential that can only be opened up when someone "lives through" and "suffers through" the sacred text. [Jesus of Nazareth; pg 78, Pope Benedict XVI]

1 comment:

amy said...

good post -- thank you for this.