By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday/October 18, 2017/Kansas City, Missouri
My brother Mike has gone to God. He was blessed to have all his siblings, all his children and his wife Jean and many good old friends present during the last month of his life. Prostate cancer is no pleasant way to go, but he died in his own bed surrounded by loved ones. I must also say that in my 25 years of priesthood and attending to the dying, enough praise cannot be given to the absolutely wonderful nurses of Hospice. Their strong, loving hands are God’s own.
Let’s talk about the Bible. The Catholic Bible is made up of two major sections: Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament) and the New Testament. The Hebrew Scripture has 46 books and the New Testament has 26 books. The Hebrew Scripture covers a time frame from the Bronze Age, 2300-1300 years before Christ up to about 100 years before the birth of Christ. The New Testament begins with the birth of Jesus around the Year 4 and goes to about the Year 100. The New Testament was put into a final compilation, canonized, by the late Fifth Century. The Old Testament canon was determined in the 16th Century. The chapter and verse numbers were added in the 16th Century.
There are of course innumerable themes to be found in the Bible, but the overarching theme is God active in human history, always creating out of love for us. There are two stories of primeval creation, the story of Creation in Seven Days, and the Creation Story of Adam and Eve. Noah and the Flood is also a creation story. Of course there is the creation of the nation of Israel and the creation of Temple Judaism. Then there is the creation of the Church at Pentecost. The life of Christ is the center of all creation in human history.
The point to be made here is that God is always creative. Creativity is a divine expression of love. Unfortunately, too many people who claim to love the Bible do not appreciate this.
I have heard the Bible quoted to put down women. I have heard the Bible quoted to put down homosexuals. I have heard the Bible quoted to put down people of different Christian denominations. I have heard the Bible quoted to put down Jewish people. I have heard the Bible quoted by husbands to put down wives. I have heard the Bible quoted with words that are not even in the Bible. I have heard the words of the Bible twisted and turned and abused in all manner of ways in order to put others down. This is very ugly business. To use God’s word in a destructive manner is evil. It is, in fact, a form of blasphemy. Today our first Bible lesson is very simple: If you cannot use the Word of God creatively, do not use it at all. If you cannot use God’s word to build people up, do not use it at all. The Bible was never, ever intended to be a club to beat other people. The Divine Word was certainly never intended for human ax-grinding. Remember, Gospel means “Good News.” Please, do not turn it into “Bad News.”