29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Words from our 2nd reading today from Paul’s letter to Timothy – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy. 

St. Paul in our second reading today gives an excellent summary description of the place of the Scriptures in our lives of faith.  Let’s dive into his words a little bit.  He says:

  • All Scripture is inspired by God: The source of Scripture is God himself. We are a people of the Word, capital “W”.  Jesus is called the Word of God.  The words on these pages are not dead, but alive, spoken to us now by the Eternal Word himself, albeit through our own limited language and history and time.  As such, we have to take these human elements into account, understanding the meaning of the writer whether that is Paul or Luke or Isaiah or one of the other authors all of whom, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, pass along what God intends for us to hear.  You can’t say God doesn’t speak to me.  God is communicating to us right here in these sacred pages.
  • Scriptures are useful for teaching: indeed, the Bible teaches us about God and about all those things God has done out of love for us since the beginning of time, so that we can come to know him, and come into relationship with him. When we read the Bible we also learn more about ourselves, of our purpose in life, and how we can become better people in turn.
  • He says, Scriptures are useful for refutation and correction: The judicial branch of our government upholds that we have “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” What do people build their lives around today: Their feelings?  Things of the world?  There are many who make up their own values of what is right and wrong.  Because we know the Scriptures are inspired by God, we know what the Bible teaches us is true and trustworthy and that we therefore ought to build the foundation of our lives upon this revealed faith.
  • Indeed, he goes on to say that the Scriptures help train us in righteousness, which is best defined as living in right relationship with others. No one is perfect, we all sin, we all hurt each other.  The Scriptures reveal to us how to grow, how to heal, how to support one another, what is good to do for each other, for ourselves, and for God that we can have good relationships, have righteousness.
  • Scriptures are full of wisdom for salvation: To use Deacon Rick’s favorite acronym, B.I.B.L.E. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Our destiny is heaven.  Reading the Scriptures will help guide us on our journey, giving us wisdom about what things we should undertake and what things we should avoid to stay on our course towards eternal life.
  • Scriptures are for those who belong to God: Paul indicates that this is a characteristic of a disciple, that disciples pick up the Scriptures. My Spiritual Director when I was in seminary would say no Bible, no breakfast, no Bible no bed.  The Bible isn’t just about the head but the heart; it nourishes our relationship with God, it forms our hearts, it helps us know that we belong to him. 
  • Finally, the Scriptures make us competent for every good work: The Scriptures equip us, make us ready to face whatever challenge, reveals what we need to accomplish our mission, indeed any good endeavor, and they reinforce our faith allowing us to feel secure and confident in God’s grace.

All this is a good recap for us of things that we already know.  Why do I say that?  Last year during Lent, our parish filled out those Disciple Maker Index Surveys from Catholic Leadership Institute and those surveys indicated that at St. Mary’s – and this is awesome for us – that 87% of our parishioners agree or strongly agree that the Scriptures are the Inspired Word of God, as it were, useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work as St. Paul says!  But that survey also indicated some areas that we need to grow in and work at as a community.  Despite us knowing that God speaks to us in the word, 52% of us have never done a bible study to reflect more deeply on that.  Despite the Bible being the story of God’s saving love for us, 61% have never or only once a year shared the story of Jesus with others.  In a survey in which we received 659 responses from our, admittedly, more active families, only about half of us hold that St. Mary’s Parish actually helps me to grow spiritually by teaching me to read and pray with the Bible and likewise connects me with a faith sharing group – and these are all considered key areas of a thriving parish.  In the second reading of today, Paul charges Timothy, he charges all of us, not just to read the Word but to proclaim it, and persistently so.  God is (2x) inviting us today to share the Word of God and enter into conversation with others over the Scriptures!  When’s the last time you had a conversation with someone about the Scriptures or even your faith.  It seems that we are not so good at sharing our story, proclaiming the good news, nor has St. Mary’s maybe been the most helpful in this regard. 

So, we’re going to do something about that.  We invite you to become a part of something happening at St. Mary’s that is going to put into practice all that St. Paul is talking about in the 2nd reading: listening to the word of God, being nourished by it, learning how to share it and our faith with others.  Starting the week of November 11th, we are embarking on a 5-week faith sharing endeavor, as we come together in small groups to reflect upon and talk about the Scriptures in our life.  We are doing this as part of our 175th anniversary preparations as we celebrate who we are and who we would like to become.  St. Paul says explicitly today that a defining characteristic of a disciple, of one who belongs to God, uses the Scriptures in their lives.  Indeed, our Faith Formation uses the Bible as its textbook.  There are many Bible studies that go on here.  Catholics are rediscovering the place of the Scriptures in their lives of faith and are finding great nourishment from its pages.  We are disciples centered in his word, and still we are striving to learn how God is speaking to us in our lives and how to share our faith better.  

So, this is how we at St. Mary’s are going to put into practice what we heard from Christ in our readings today.  Take a look at the “St. Mary’s Faith Sharing” Sheets in your pews, fill it out, put it in with the collection basket, or at least get it back to us by next weekend.  I understand this may be a scary commitment.   You don’t have to be ‘good’ at scriptures; you don’t have to be an expert; all you have to be is yourself, and as much can be gained by listening as sharing.  It is amazing what happens when we come together in this way: we learn different perspectives, we are affirmed in the graces and insights received, we learn what it means to be a community and a Church.  Let us be a support to each other, as Aaron and Hur were to Moses as they held up his hands.  Timothy, likewise knew the Scriptures from his youth as St. Paul acknowledged because his mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, shared the faith with Timothy.  We too need support in our life to share the faith.  This is an opportunity to respond to God’s word, to take your faith to the next level, and to help others do the same.  Let’s take a few moments to commit ourselves to this endeavor and discern how to better act on his word in our lives.