This Sunday, the Church Unlocks the Secrets of Scripture

Christianity is different.

Other religions have much truth in them. That’s to be expected. Religion is mankind’s attempt to reach God, and we who are made in his image and likeness can come up with some impressive ways to do so.

But Christianity gives us a kind of knowledge we could never find on our own: God’s own revelation — his own words in Scripture and his own self in Jesus Christ.

The Church makes some astonishing claims about Scripture, and the readings this Sunday, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, explain how they bring Christ to us.

“God is the author of Sacred Scripture,” says the Catechism, even though he works through human authors.

This Sunday’s Gospel demonstrates this by starting with the very beginning of the Gospel of Luke before jumping four chapters ahead to continue.

Luke explains a very human process of writing when he says, “Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us … I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus.”

This is how inspiration works. God doesn’t take over the bodies of the authors of Scripture and move their pens. Rather, he “made full use of their own faculties” so that “though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”

In Scripture, God “comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them,” says the Catechism.

Next, Luke explains how Jesus, at his local synagogue, announced that he was the Messiah.

This is an enormous moment in salvation history: the moment when God the creator enters his creation and reveals himself. What he does here will get Christ killed eventually. But it will also send waves of reaction throughout time that reach even us.

But instead of simply proclaiming who he is, Jesus  reveals it through Scripture, our Old Testament. He reads a statement from Isaiah about the coming Messiah, then ends with history’s greatest “mic drop”:

“Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, ‘Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’”

“All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ,” says the Catechism.

The very passage Jesus read reveals that Scripture is not the answer to what mankind needs; instead, it points to the answer.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Jesus read, “because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’”

Jesus didn’t come to give us a book; he came to gladden the poor, free the captives and give sight to the blind. We aren’t Bible followers, we are Christ followers, who meet him one-on-one.

How do we meet him, though? Through Scripture.

“It is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray,” says the Catechism.

The Psalm and Second Reading, from St. Paul, provide a further development of how the Scriptures brings Christ to us.

“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life,” says the Psalm, praising the ways the Word of God helps us: “Refreshing the soul” “giving wisdom to the simple” “rejoicing the heart.”

Paul says this is literally true. “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,” it says, “and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”

The Spirit works through the sacraments and the Church, but also through “God’s Word, which is able to build you up,” says the Catechism.

It builds us up so thoroughly, says St. Paul, that we become Christ’s hands and feet and eyes and ears.

That is why the Catechism says Scripture is like the Eucharist.

“The Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s body,” says the Catechism. “She never ceases to present to the faithful the Bread of Life, taken from the one table of God’s word and Christ’s body.”

If you want an example of what it looks like to “venerate the Scriptures” look no further than our first reading, in which the priest Ezra reads the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, publicly.

The people’s reaction is one of deep reverence: “Amen, amen!” the people shout. “Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord, their faces to the ground.”

They venerate Scripture the way they reverence the Lord. That’s because they see in it an answer to their deepest longings; an answer we know as Jesus Christ.

This appeared at Aleteia.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.