Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 2, 2006
Collins stresses Bible as God's word
Scripturefest crowd eager to learn more about the Bible
- Design Pics photo
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
God authored the whole Bible but he did not write it himself. He used people as instruments to write the Sacred Scriptures in the same way Michelangelo used a brush and a chisel to create his art, Archbishop Thomas Collins said at ScriptureFest 2006.
"All in Scripture is true in the manner in which God caused it to be written, using frail human beings, who brought along with them bad grammar (and bad science) at times and which have nothing whatsoever to do with our salvation," he said.
"Yet through those people, whether they be majestic writers with natural talents like the author of the Book of Job or whether they be rather boring writers, whatever the voice of the human writer, it is God that speaks his one pure truth through them."
The human situation
That's why when we interpret the Scriptures "we need to recognize the humanity, the human situation within which the word became flesh and that will help us interpret and understand God's word," the archbishop said.
Collins spoke on the Sacred Scriptures at Scripturefest 2006 at St. Thomas More Church Sept. 22-23. About 850 people attended the event, whose main theme was Let Scripture Change You.
In his lecture, Collins, a Scripture scholar, said members of the faith community began to write down their reflections about the presence of the Lord and the experience of Christ several decades after his death and resurrection.
"They were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write these sacred words that would allow the presence of the Lord to continue through a written text down through the ages, even to this day so that we might have here those words that they first thought and committed to papyrus," the archbishop said.
Collins said the Church used very strict standards to determine which books are really the word of God and which are just interesting. If a book was used in the liturgy, was orthodox and apostolic, it had a good chance of being considered the word of God.
"God loves us and so he speaks to us in our human way, in our human language - gently, inviting, inviting us to the response of faith whereby our lives will be changed."
"One way of looking at this, as God speaks to us in Sacred Scripture, is the idea of an instrument," Collins said. "God is like the master artist and the sacred writer is like the instrument.
"So the instrument used by the Lord God in the writing of Sacred Scripture is a human being, a precious child of God."
And in 550 BC God used a Hebrew to speak the truth about life and the meaning of everything. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and he said, 'Let there be light,'" the Hebrew wrote.
"That Hebrew thought the world was flat and had a dome over it. That's what we get in the first chapter of Genesis - 550 BC Babylonian science because God didn't obliterate the mind of the person.
"The message that is central is the pure word of God." But the instrument of Babylonian science enables "the pure and clear voice of God" to be heard, he said.
Catholics experience the presence of Jesus Christ every time they come to a church, the home of the Sacred Scriptures, and gather around the altar of the Lord. They recognize God's word when they say "The word of the Lord," following the Scripture readings during Mass.
"Whenever we read a letter of Paul or a prophecy of Isaac we hear, 'The word of the Lord.' We could just as easily say the word of Isaac or the word of Paul but we say 'The word of the Lord' because we recognize (in Paul's or Isaac's words) the voice of God speaking to us with an authority which goes beyond the mere beauty or excellence of the text."
We treat the sacred texts with reverence because we know "God is their author. They are, we say, inspired, breathed out, by God," Collins said.
"When we look to our tradition of faith we see how down through the ages the ancient monks would copy with such loving care the holy Gospel with such beauty. We need in our hearts to have that same reverence not simply for the paper of the text but for what it represents and for the word of the Lord God who speaks through it."
The archbishop said the faithful must go beyond reading the word of God.
"We need, when we read the word of God, to act on it," he said. "We need to imitate St. Anthony of Egypt who came into Church, heard the Gospel saying 'Give what you have to the poor' and he went and actually did it."
The word of God cuts like a two-edge sword, Collins said. "It's not something we cover, something we master, it's not something we simply browse; it's always a direct encounter with the Lord God, not simply on our own but together in the family of faith.
"Which is why a celebration of the liturgy is the true home of the written word of God."