St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

The Interpretation of the Scriptures -Homily June 7, 2015


The mysteries of the Most Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Trinity come from the Bible, as we have heard from the readings of the last two weekends. Nevertheless, not everybody interprets the Scriptures in the same way we Catholics do. That is why, instead of speaking directly about these mysteries, as I have done in the past, I will speak about the interpretation of the Scriptures.


The apostle St. Peter says: First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21).


It is important to remember that when we believe in the Scriptures, we assent not to words, but to the meaning of these words.[1] Let me explain myself. To believe in the Scriptures is not to take the words of the Scriptures and do with them whatever we want. To believe is not to give to the words a meaning we have worked out, but to receive the meaning of the words from the apostles.


Words have a meaning. Words have a meaning because they were spoken by someone, who wanted to tell us something. This is the first reason for which no Scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation: because the meaning of those words does not depend on man, but on God. We need to know what God meant when he said or inspired those words.


How do we know the meaning? We will consider today three things: the first related to the human authors of the Bible (Matthew, Luke, Isaiah the prophet, etc.). The second thing is related to God himself, who is the main Author of the Scripture. The third is regarding the rule of interpretation of the Bible. How then do we know the meaning of the Scriptures?


1) First, when God inspired men to write the Bible he used the natural talents of the human author, in such a way that the human author wrote freely and in his own way all the things and only the things that God wanted him to write. So, in order to understand what the human author wanted to say, we need to pay attention to the human sciences of interpretation and literary genders, history, languages, archeology, etc.[2]


2) Then, it is equally important to pay attention to what is called the analogy of faith. All the books of the Scripture have only one main Author, God. Therefore, the books of the Scripture cannot contradict each other, because they all convey the message of God for our salvation. God cannot change his mind or make a mistake, God cannot deceive nor be deceived.


3) The sure interpretation of Scriptures belongs to the Magisterium of the Church. How do we know what Jesus meant in the Gospels? Jesus said to the Apostles: whoever listens to you listens to me (Luke 10:16). Jesus sent the Apostles to preach, not to write. To listen to the Apostles interpreting the Scriptures is like to listen to Jesus. They convey to us without error the meaning of the words of Jesus. That is why St. Peter says: we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:18-19) The word of Peter is sure, because Jesus said to Peter: I have prayed for you so that your faith does not fail, and you, when you come back, confirm your brothers (Luke 22:32-33).


Let me finally tell you something about yourselves. It is not that easy to confound the people of God, because Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to his Church who instructs us and guides us into all truth.


"The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals." "By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium),. . . receives. . . the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. . . the People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life." [3]


This is the reason why even after so many wise men and women of this world have tried to twist the faith you have received from your fathers, you still know, in the depth of your hearts, what the meaning of the Scriptures is, and what the faith of your Church is.


I want to ask you today to keep secure the treasure you have received from your parents and your priests. Ponder in your hearts the words you hear in Church. Meditate on what you read in the Bible. Deepen your understanding of the faith by the reading of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or by the reading of the II Vatican Council or the Encyclicals and documents of the Popes. Be ready to explain your faith, to defend your faith, to communicate your faith to the next generation. Our faith is a treasure we have to enjoy and we have to protect. Let us give thanks today to the Lord for our faith, especially for our faith in the mysteries of the Blessed Trinity and the Most Holy Eucharist. Fr. Andrew


[1] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 170ss.

[2] Cf. for the rest CCC 101-119 and II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 92-93; cf. Lumen Gentium, 12