3rd Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 27, 2019
The Bible can be used for good and for bad. Certainly, in history when used by people in the wrong way, it has been destructive. It has been used to justify the burning of heretics, the Crusades, slavery, apartheid, homophobia, oppression of native peoples and so on. All justified by the selective use of Scripture quotes.
The problem is not with the Bible, but with those of us who read the Bible and use it in the wrong way. That is why it is not enough just to have a Bible or to memorize passages in the Bible. We need to learn to read the Bible in a way that is thoughtful, intelligent, prayerful. We need to read the Bible so that it changes us and not us changing the Bible.
So, how did Jesus read the Scriptures? Jesus would have read what we refer to as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. He would have been immersed in the Scriptures and known them well.
In the Gospel of Luke that we just heard, we see Jesus come into the synagogue and he gets up to read the Scriptures and he is given the scroll from the Prophet Isaiah. He selects a passage to read. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus selects a passage that speaks of good news, for the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed. For Jesus, the Scriptures were primarily a source of Good News, calling him to bring healing, mercy, freedom to all in need.
Then after reading the passage from Isaiah, Jesus says, “This passage is fulfilled in your hearing today.” For Jesus, the Bible was not just about what God had done in the past. The Scriptures are meant to change us, to inspire me to live in a new way today.
So, how do we use the Scriptures? We need to read the Bible in such a way that it changes me and how I live. When we use the Bible, do we use it to bring life or to condemn, to bring mercy or to judge? Do we use it for people or against people? In our reading and use of the Bible, is it Good News or does it become Bad News?
When our reading of the Bible leads us to hate, to prejudice, to condemn, or to reject science, when our reading of the Bible seems to be Bad News rather than Good News, then we need to examine our reading of the Bible.
It is not the Bible that is the problem, but we who read and misuse it. Always be wary when politicians use the Bible, for often we see them using the Bible for their own purposes, often in a way that is Bad News for certain people.
Fundamentalism is a danger with the Bible because it wants black and white, simple certainty, and so fails to see the complexity and need to use our intelligence. We need to read the Bible as a spiritual writing that requires reflection and study.
Our response we sung today said, “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” Enter into the Scriptures, read the Bible as a spiritual work that is to bring spirit and life. Whenever you hear the Bible being used in a way that seems to be Bad News, be very careful about how it is being used.
The Bible can be used for good or for bad. We need to follow the path of Jesus who read the Scriptures in a way that was Good News. Read and pray with the Bible in such a way that we are open to the Spirit changing us through these words.