Celebrating Bible Sunday (July 13, 2014) The Evergreen Priceless Treasure

When Christ the Lord commissioned the Apostles to preach to all people that Gospel which is the source of all saving truth and moral teaching, He gave them this assurance: I am with you always; yes to the end of time (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:20).

Jul 05, 2014

--Continued from last week

Below is the Message prepared by the Regional Biblical Commission with the theme The Evergreen Priceless Treasure.

What is the Treasure?
When Christ the Lord commissioned the Apostles to preach to all people that Gospel which is the source of all saving truth and moral teaching, He gave them this assurance: I am with you always; yes to the end of time (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:20).This commission was faithfully fulfilled by the Apostles who, by their oral preaching, by example, and by observances handed on what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did, or what they had learned through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The commission was fulfilled, too, by those Apostles and apostolic men who under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit committed the message of salvation to writing.[ DV 7]

But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, “handing over” to them “the authority to teach in their own place” (cf 1 Timothy 4:14). The Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, exalted the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they had learned either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defence of the faith handed on once and for all ( Jude1:3) [DV 8].

Jesus Himself has warned His Apostles, “If any one says to you, “Lo, here is the Christ” or “There he is” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:23-24). And Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly turning to a different gospel. There are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-12; Jude 4). Hence, the exhortation in Hebrews 13:8-9; “Jesus Christ is the same today as He was Yesterday and as He will be for ever. Do not let yourselves be led astray by all sorts of strange doctrines”.

Now the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture) or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the Magisterium or the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome (CCC 85; DV 10)

This teaching office is not above the Word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit.It draws from the one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.By adhering to this heritage, the entire holy people - united to its pastors – remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42) [ DV 10 ]

In Acts 15:1,5 some Jewish Christians insisted that in order to be saved, Christians of gentile origin should first observe the Law of Moses and be circumcised. This“theological” crisis resulted in the first big meeting of the Church leaders in Jerusalem. This meeting to resolve the crisis helped the early Church to understand the meaning of salvation in relation to faith in Christ Jesus and the Law of Moses – a point Paul explained and expounded well in his letters to the Galatians and especially to the Romans.

The subsequent meetings of the Church leaders down through the different periods of history demonstrate the significant role of the Magisterium or the Teaching Office of the Church especially in defining the essence of Faith and in dealing with the many theological and scripture- related issues raised by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other Reformers. The Magisterium of the Church has made many clear definitive statements of Faith and has proclaimed some important dogmas. These dogmas are not new revelations; neither are they in conflict with the Gospel messages in the Scriptures. All that God wants to reveal has reached its climax and fulfillment in Jesus Christ. After Jesus Christ, there is no more new public revelation.The statements of Faith or Dogmas only highlight certain aspects of Faith which are already there for emphasis with greater clarity.

The Apostles’ Creed that contains the 12 articles of Faith is the living testimony to “what the Church is and believes”as it has been handed down through the centuries since the Apostolic times (DV 8). This Tradition which comes from the Apostles, develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in the understanding and the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.

So Sacred Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local Churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of the Sacred Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium (CCC83). Jesus spoke of the difference between the Sacred Tradition and “the traditions of the elders” or “human traditions” as promoted by the Pharisees (cf Mark 7:1-13). However He told the crowd and His disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do and observe what they tell you but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practice what they say” (Matthew 23:2-3). The distinction between essence and accidents, or between subjective and objective has to be clarified so that we do not confuse personal interpretation with official Church interpretation of the Scriptures, or situational applications with official Church teachings, or private revelations with Official Public Revelation.

Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are two distinct modes of transmission. But both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring - the same deposit of Faith, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. Sacred Scripture is the Word of God consigned to writing under the inspiration of the Divine Spirit, while Sacred Tradition or the Apostolic Tradition takes the Word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it, preserve this Word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known (DV 9). Through this Sacred Tradition, “the Church - in her doctrine, life and worship – perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.” [CCC 78; DV 8 ].

Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed (DV 9). The conclusion of the Gospel of John says, “There were many other signs that Jesus worked in the sight of the disciples but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God and that believing this you may have life through His name” (John 20:30-31).

Continued next week

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