29th Sunday Year C 2019
The didactic, pastoral, dialectic and spiritual aims of the Scripture
(Fr. Peter Madros)
A single verse (2Tm. 3:16) is enough to meditate on for this Sunday “All Scripture, having been divinely inspired, is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in justice”. The following verse adds and explains “so that the man of God may be perfect, having been trained for every good work”. Some of the faithful at times question themselves “does the Bible serve only the spiritual life or could one – if not, should one – use it also in discussions and in inter-confessional controversies among denominations and religions? The text of 2Tm. is formal and vigorously breaks this “Gordian knot”! At least for the “men of God”, especially the clergy who are active in the pastoral ministry, the preaching and catechesis, the inspired and revealed Word of God cannot be limited or confined only to the spiritual life of those who are consecrated. Some pastoral needs, that are more and more numerous, some challenges that are more and more virulent, threaten the faith, and more particularly, the credibility of the Bible itself among the faithful and among those who are “from outside”, as St. Paul had said. In misunderstanding Vatican II, especially those decrees regarding ecumenism among Christians and regarding benevolence towards non-Christians, in particular the adepts of the two other monotheist religions, some concluded hastily that it was enough to love every one and to refrain from responding to every challenge and every objection. This quietist attitude abolishes at least half of the aims of the Scripture as seen by St. Paul!
First teach! This requires a thorough knowledge of the texts and biblical contexts in history, geography and a minimum of original languages, in “the analogy of the faith” and a moral, scientific and literary decency. Secondly, the “man of God” (at least) must know how to refute, by means of the Bible, the doctrinal errors among denominations. This apostolic refutation does not contradict the fraternal charity; otherwise the Apostle would not have required it! On the contrary it is “through love” for the Lord and for the sake of truth that pastors of souls refute, yes, refute, errors. As a matter of fact “Charity does not rejoice over iniquity, but rejoices in truth” (as per 1 Co. 13:6) and it is necessary to be “acting according to truth in charity” (Ep. 4:15). Our apostolic love for the souls requires us to refute the errors, since an error is darkness and loss, while the Word of God “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my paths” (Ps. 119 (118): 105). Thirdly, it is not enough to refute, it is necessary to redress, which means to correct and rectify the errors. It is only in the fourth place that St. Paul talks about the need to educate in justice which is nothing other than holiness (δικαιοσυνη). On this point everyone is in agreement.
The millions of people, who unfortunately had abandoned Christianity in general, and the Catholic and Orthodox Church in particular in the past few decades, demonstrate great failures in the teaching, the refutation and rectification. It is even more delicate and foolhardy to denounce during this whole period a “lack of education in holiness” with us, or sometimes or too often simply a lack of holiness, because it is a matter of judgment that only the Lord can give, on the one hand, and that could, on the other hand, vertically fall on top our head!
Let us painfully note that for some, or for many, there is a lack of enthusiasm or – little skill “to teach, to refute and redress”! As recommended by St. Paul “Consider the things that are in accord with appearances” (2Co. 10:7) regarding defections and apostasies without judging anyone in recognizing our failures sometimes and the disastrous and adverse results for the lack of prevention of errors and the lack of protection against false doctrines. The prince of the apostles did not hesitate to urge the faithful to “sanctify Christ the Lord in their hearts, and to be always ready to give an explanation to all who ask you the reason for that hope which is in you” (1 P. 3:15). Saint Peter added “with meekness and fear, having a good conscience…” This is no question for us to being nice, meek, respectful and integrated. These latter qualities do not sit well with ignorance, carelessness, negligence and indifference.
We implore the supreme Pastor to render our charity, our perceptiveness and our pastoral solicitude (“Seelsorge” in German) as perfect as possible! Let us listen to the first bishop of our Holy City, James, the apostle: “If anyone of you strays from the truth, and if someone converts him, he ought to know that whoever causes a sinner to be converted from the error of his ways will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (Jm. 5: 19-20).