Sunday, 20 July 2014 : 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Bible Sunday (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday just as last Sunday, we celebrate Bible or Scripture Sunday, when we truly come together to appreciate and honour this writing and collections of books which together make up the entire revelation of God and His words, which He spoke through the prophets and through His many servants throughout the ages.

In order to be able to fully appreciate and understand the importance of the Bible or the Holy Scriptures, then first we must know it and take the word of God in it into our hearts and minds. And it is important to know that without a sufficient knowledge of the word of God in the Scriptures, we cannot be truly faithful and devoted to God, for we are bound to be affected and corrupted by the falsehoods of Satan, the evil one, who spread his lies all the time to trap those whose faith are not strong.

But that does not mean we can just memorise and remember the Holy Scriptures and the word of God without understanding it and the true meaning of the literary works of the prophets and the writers of the Holy Scriptures. Do you all remember what Satan did when he tempted Jesus our Lord in the desert just after His baptism? Yes, precisely, Satan quoted the passages of the Holy Scriptures, and then twisting their meaning to serve his own wicked purposes.

Such will be the dangerous and powerful weapon that Satan will employ against those who knows the Scriptures, but refuse or disregard the need to understand the word of God and its meaning as written in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, we cannot study or understand the Scriptures on our own, or claim that our understanding of them to be sufficient for our salvation, a view and idea which is called sola scriptura and which has quite a following among those who thought that they know it better than the early Church fathers in the matters of the faith.

Remember brothers and sisters, that the authority to teach the meaning of the Holy Scriptures has been bestowed by God to none other than Jesus Christ, His own Son, who came into the world. In Jesus lay the full completeness and perfection of all the messages and the prophecies of the prophets of the past and all the words of God revealed through the servants of God. All these are in what we know today as the Old Testament, that is the testaments and the works of the servant of God before the coming of Christ.

Jesus taught His disciples and many other people through the means of parables, or stories that are related to many different life experiences and scenarios, often not talking directly about God in those parables. For the laypersons and all those who did not understand the meaning of those parables, what Jesus told them in the parables might not make sense to them, but they might have truly understood what the stories were about.

The parables of Jesus were constructed around many real examples that if one is to take a closer inspection, would reveal that Jesus often talked about the professions that were truly ubiquitous and renowned, as well as common during the time when He was in the world. These include shepherds, which we know in the case when Jesus talked about shepherds and Himself as the Good Shepherd; fishermen, which Jesus often referred to in His teachings to the disciples in their future role as the fishers of men.

Jesus talked about farmers and sowing of seeds most often, because farming truly was the most prevalent job in the society at the time. By using these analogies, or parables, He taught the meaning of the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures with perfect clarity and true authority of teaching. With those examples and references, He could relate with the life experiences of the people, who then might understand the word better.

However, as we all know, that Jesus did not stay in the world for long. He accomplished the long-planned salvation for mankind by going through the punishments meant for our sins, bearing them on the cross towards Calvary, and gave us a new hope in life. Jesus rose up from the dead and showed us hope in His resurrection and then departed from this world to return to His throne in heaven to prepare a place for all of us.

Hence, Jesus passed down the authority to teach the Holy Scriptures in its complete and true meaning to the Apostles and the disciples whom He had chosen from among the people. He sent them the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and the Helper, who enlightened them with zeal and faith, and through the Spirit sent by God to them, they passed down the same truth and teachings of the Lord to their successors, to pass them down in the Church of God, on which God had invested the authority over all of the faithful.

There is no other wisdom and truth beyond that of the Lord’s wisdom and power, and hence there can be no truth in the Scriptures and the Word of God beyond the teachings of the Church. There were those who thought that they have the intellect and knowledge better than the Church and the early Church fathers who had received the teachings and the directly from the Lord Himself.

Luther, Henry VIII, Calvin, Zwingli, and many other countless heretics who rebelled against God and His Church were the very examples of how people have misinterpreted, twisted and misused the words of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures for their own selfish purposes. They were attached to the promises of Satan in the glories and pleasures of the world, and so deeply attached they were to their own human frailty and weakness, that they failed to see what the Lord truly meant in His words and instead caused great divisions in the body of the faithful, that is the Church.

Therefore, it is important that as we celebrate this occasion of the Bible or Scripture Sunday, that we read the Scriptures with understanding, and do our best to obey and listen to the teachings of the Church as espoused and held firm by its members and through the successors of the Apostles, namely our Pope, the Cardinals, bishops and priests of the Church of God.

Nevertheless, it is also important for us to take note that, we do not have to worry about our faith if we hold true to the teachings of the Church. What is important is that we have faith in God and keep it true at all times. God has told us through Jesus, that the faith in us is like the mustard seed. Mustard seed from the mustard plant is a very small seed, only barely a small speck to our eyes. However, when the mustard plant is fully grown, the plant is truly large, at least four to five metres tall.

What Jesus meant was that, if we allow our faith to develop and grow in us, then no matter how small that faith is, it will grow and flourish, and affecting not just ourselves, but also those around us and inspiring them to come closer to the Lord as well. But if we choose not to allow this faith to grow in us, then we will wither and perish, just as a mustard seed will remain just that, a seed if it does not sprout and grow.

How do we let it grow healthily then? It is by listening to the word of God, and not just by our ears or by our eyes that we witness these words of the Lord, but also to carry them deep into our hearts. Follow faithfully the teachings of the Lord that we gained through the Church, and we will do fine. Let us all work together, that all of us may grow stronger together in faith, hope and love in God. May He bless us always, now and forever. Amen.