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Week 2: Vatican II, Revelation, and the Bible

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The Council’s document on Revelation can lead us to a real breakthrough in understanding our Christian life. We often think that being a Christian means believing in a lot of doctrines, even if we can’t understand what they mean. This is true to a certain extent, of course, because faith has a certain content to it. Jesus is God; he did rise from the dead; he is present in the Eucharist, for example. But in this document the church goes further. It teaches that what is most important in being a Christian is to enter into a relationship of friendship with God, who offers that friendship to us in the process of Revelation. Revelation, in other words, is not just a content. It is a person, most clearly manifested in Jesus of Nazareth.

Revelation comes to us in several ways. First of all, it comes to us through God’s Word in the Bible. The Council encourages all Christians to read, study, and pray with the Bible because, as St. Jerome said centuries ago, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (quoted in paragraph 25). For this to happen, the Council calls for “easy access” to the Bible through translations in various languages and in ways that people can more easily understand it (paragraph 22). A second way that God reveals Godself to us is through the church’s tradition—its doctrines, its theologians, its practices and customs. Before it was written down, the content of the Bible was passed on as tradition, and it is only in the context of the church’s tradition that we can fully understand God’s Word in the Bible. The document is clear that there are not really two sources of revelation; rather, Scripture and tradition are like two streams flowing from the same fountain, which is the Word of God.

The document contains six chapters. Chapter one introduces us to an understanding of Revelation itself, and a second chapter explains how Revelation is transmitted—through the Bible and the church’s tradition. Chapter three outlines how Scripture is inspired and interpreted, and this is followed by Chapters four and five on the Old Testament and the New Testament. Chapter six is a wonderfully pastoral chapter entitled “Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church.”

It’s hard to believe that before Vatican II the church did not encourage people—especially lay people—to read and study the Bible. This attitude is reversed in this document. It has revolutionized Christian life and Christian spirituality.


DAY 6

Quote of the Day:

“Through this revelation . . . the invisible God (see Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17) out of the abundance of love speaks to women and men and friends (see Exodus 33:11; John 15:14-15) and lives among them (see Baruch 3:38), so that God may invite and take them into a relation with Godself” (paragraph 2).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How would you characterize your relationship to God? Strained? Warm? Frightened? Comfortable? Challenging?
  2. God calls us to friendship. What do you have to do to accept God’s call?

Prayer of the Day:

Loving God, help me to say yes to your offer of friendship. Help me to put away all fear, any thoughts that I am unworthy.  Send me your Spirit, who will show me how you see myself and who will give me the courage to answer your call in an act of trust and faith. Through Christ my brother, my true friend. Amen.


DAY 7

Quote of the Day:

“This tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke 2:19, 51), through the intimate understanding of spiritual things they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For, as the centuries succeed one another, the church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in it” (paragraph 8).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Can you think of any examples of how the church has grown in its understanding of Revelation through the centuries?
  2. Why do you think it is important to “treasure contemplation and study” and to come to an “intimate understanding of the things [we] experience”?

Prayer of the Day:

God of my life, what is amazing to me is not only that I can grow in understanding you and your love for this world, but that we can do it together as your church. Keep us faithful to meditation, contemplation, and prayer, so that we can always deepen our knowledge of who you are, and who we are in your sight. Like Mary, may we treasure what we experience in our hearts. We pray in the Spirit of Christ our Lord. Amen.


DAY 8

Quote of the Day:

“Holy Mother Church, relying on the belief of the apostles, holds that the books of both the Old and New Testament in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see John 20:31; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:15-16) they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the church itself. In composing the sacred books, God chose human beings and while so employed God made use of their powers and abilities, so that with God acting in them and through them, they, as truth authors, cosigned to writing everything and only those things which God wanted” (paragraph 11).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. The Bible has been described as “the Word of God in words of human beings.” Can you see how this passage explains this?
  2. Have you ever been inspired by the Holy Spirit? How did it happen? How did it feel? Does this help you understand how the Bible was inspired?

Prayer of the Day:

You are amazing, O God. You have given us your Word, and yet you have done it in a way that it remains completely human. You guide and inspire our lives, and yet you do it in ways that keep us free and responsible. Your will mingles with our deepest and most intimate desires. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your guidance. Thank you for your Word. Through Christ our Lord, in your inspiring Holy Spirit. Amen.


DAY 9

Quote of the Day:

“This sacred Synod earnestly and specifically urges all the Christian faithful … to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the ‘excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 3:8). ‘For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.’ Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids which, in our time, are commendably available everywhere, thanks to the approval and active support of the shepherds of the church” (paragraph 25).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How seriously do I read and study the Scriptures? Are there ways that I might be able to read and study them more frequently and more deeply?
  2. Where do I encounter Scripture the most? In Liturgy? In private reading? In Bible study groups?

Prayer of the Day:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you more intimately. Send your Spirit upon me so that I might find time and focus my concentration on reading and studying your Word more faithfully. Let your Word be a lamp to my feet, helping me to follow your footsteps more closely. In your Spirit I pray. Amen.


DAY 10

Quote of the Day:

“Let [Christians] remember that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture, so that God and human beings may talk together; for ‘we speak to God when we pray; we hear God when we read the divine sayings” (St. Ambrose; paragraph 25).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How does your prayer “accompany the reading of sacred Scripture”? How might you do this better?
  2. Are there particular parts of Scripture with which you pray better? The Gospels? The Psalms? The prophets? Are there particular passages or verses that you use as prayers?

Prayer of the Day:

Thank you, gracious God, for your enlightening Word. May my reading of your Word touch my heart with repentance, with courage, with consolation, with joy, with praise. May your Spirit guide me to all truth, and lead me to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.


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