Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Synod on the Word of God

Today, September 30, the Church celebrates the life of Saint Jerome. Jerome may have had a crusty personality, but he was sure an untiring writer and researcher. Christianity owes him a huge debt for taking all the languages in which the Bible was originally written and translating them into Latin. Latin had become the language of the common people of the Roman Empire. Pope Damasus recognized Jerome's extreme talents in the line of translating, so he asked Jerome to undertake that gigantic task of putting the Scriptures into a language understood by the majority of people in the world at that time. His work was called the "Vulgata"--which meant the "common" translation. His work remains a benchmark even today.

St. Jerome should be smiling today thinking that in just a few days the Church will gather more than 300 bishops, priests, nuns and laity in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome to begin the Synod on the Word of God. This meeting of people from around the world will ponder the meaning of Scripture--the Word of God--for people of today. The Synod will no doubt consider how believing Catholics can fall more deeply in love with this Word, or this Letter written to them by God our Father. In his usual direct manner, Jerome wrote: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." To put a modern positive spin on his words, we can say, "If you want to know more about Jesus, read the Bible!"
Let's pray for the success of the Synod on the Word of God. We Daughters of St. Paul are pleased that our Superior General, Sister Antonieta Bruscata, was called to be an auditor at this Synod. It is an honor for all of us Paulines, and a recognition of our mission to bring the Word of God to all through the various forms of communication.
When St. Paul was sending off his letters to the people whom he had converted to Christ, he was probably not thinking of our times when at Mass we end each reading of his letters with the declaration: "the Word of the Lord!" His words had become Word of God. As is true of the rest of the Bible, God used words of men to transform them into his words. In the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament), God told Moses and his people to "write" his directives not only on parchment but also on their hearts.
Some people call "Lectio Divina", or Divine Reading, a prayerful reading of God's written Word. Vatican Council II issued a small document called "Verbum Dei," on The Word of God. Officially it is called The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. The Latin title is simply "Dei Verbum." Most new Catholic Bibles actually print the text of this document as part of their introductions.
The Bible is also our strong bond between us and non-Catholic Christians. The Hebrew Scriptures too link us to our Jewish brothers and sisters who have the Torah (the first five books of the Bible); the Prophets and the Historical books are common to both Judaism and Christianity. As Pope John Paul II said, the Jewish people are our "elder brothers" in the Lord. I wish a blessed New Year to the Jewish friends who may be reading this. In a week's time, they will be celebrating Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It begins on the evening of October 8 and lasts through the day of October 9, 2008. The dates vary from year to year, because of the differences in the Jewish calendar from our current way of marking time.
May St. Jerome pray for us that we may become good readers of God's Word and good listeners to the message God wants to give us in his Word.
The photo above depicts a missal, or altar book, from the original Jesuit missions in North America in the 1600's. The picture of St.Paul writing is from a collage of Paul's life in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Mississauga, Ontario.

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