Some people see the Bible as outdated. It is not. It is God’s Word and it is a living word, still relevant to us today. In recent days the first reading at daily Mass has been from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called to serve as a prophet of the Lord just before the start of the Babylonian Exile. That was 600 years before Jesus became incarnate, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. It was 2,600 years ago. Yet, I see parallels to what we face today as Christian disciples.
Jeremiah faced persecution for the messages he delivered from the Lord. When we try to share God’s Word today, it is not always well received. In Jeremiah 20:10 we read that Jeremiah faced this from his own friends. Who do you know that rejects what our Catholic faith teaches? Do you have family members or friends who have abandoned the faith or pick and choose what they believe?
In last Saturday’s (July 30, 2022, Saturday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2) first reading, we hear that even some of the priests and prophets said, “This man deserves death; he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” They rejected Jeremiah’s message because it was not what they wanted to hear. What they failed to realize was that it was God’s message to them, not Jeremiah’s. In the gospel reading for last Saturday, we hear how Herod had John the Baptist arrested because John the Baptist was saying that Herod’s marriage was unlawful. John the Baptist would be beheaded for delivering this message from the Lord. May the Holy Spirit guide us to hear what God is saying to us and to know what God calls us to share with others. We also pray for the courage to do what the Lord asks of us.
Where do people go today for “truth?” Unfortunately, for many, the truth is what they already believe. They just look for evidence to support it and/or people who agree with them. (Pope Francis writes about this as part of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti. See my articles reflecting on that encyclical.) This idea of focusing on determining our own truth favors relativism.
Realizing that there needs to be some common system of laws, some people see it as simply based on majority rules. We see some of this in what is going on in the synod in Germany (not to be confused with the synod that will occur in Rome next year). In Germany they are talking about changing church teaching (see news stories on the German Synodal Way at https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/tags/8479/german-synodal-way) based on popular opinion and voting. The point of a synod is discussion. Church teaching does develop but it does not change in ways that stand in direct contradiction to the Bible and Tradition.
Some people also take modern psychology as a source of “truth.” However, while psychology can be a powerful tool to help us understand human behavior, psychology does not determine what is right and wrong. For example, psychology can help us understand why an alcoholic drinks too much, why a person steals, or engages in behavior that our faith teaches is immoral. However, no one argues that since psychology can help us understand why an alcoholic drinks or a kleptomaniac steals, that it is okay and we should let them do it.
As I have written before (for example see “Tolerance, Hate Speech, and Dialogue?,”) some of the people who speak of tolerance and relativism are not open to us speaking publicly on what our faith teaches. They call it “hate speech” and think we should be silenced. We must never preach hate. We must never call for violence against those who oppose us and/or engage in behavior that is against what God teaches us. We need to love our neighbor. In loving our neighbor we are called to share the truth with them for the sake of the salvation of their souls. They have choices to make but they need to hear what God teaches in our faith to be able to make a choice.
God is the one who determines right and wrong. We try to make ourselves our own potter when we are merely the clay (see the first reading for last Thursday, July 28, 2022, Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2). God is the one who formed the world, not us.
The good news is that when we realize we have sinned in going our own way, God is willing to take us back in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, reforming us into what He calls us to be.
It is our faith that should form us. In turn, our faith should form the world. Unfortunately, this has been inverted such that people think our faith should be changed, formed by what the world says. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” We need to make a choice to follow God, not the world.
To do so, we need God’s help. I would like to end with the words from the beginning of the psalm from last Saturday’s readings:
“Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink!
may I be rescued from my foes,
and from the watery depths.
Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me,
nor the abyss swallow me up,
nor the pit close its mouth over me.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.”