By Pedro Mendez
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
It was a beautiful afternoon! I was five years old. I was playing outside of my house in Honduras when a lady asked my mom from the fence: “Hi, my name is Nahomi. Can I come in to share an important message with you?” My mom answered: “No, thank you. I am busy.” Nahomi insisted: “Can I at least speak with your son?” My mom responded: “Yes, that is okay.” Nahomi introduced me to the main Bible narratives from Genesis to Revelation through a book titled “My Book of Bible Stories.” God, through Nahomi’s visits, directed my path to a close relationship with the Bible! Shortly after Nahomi’s visits, Jesus gave me the opportunity to have a personal encounter with him. An unquenchable thirst for the Bible grew within me. My life wouldn't be the same!
In previous articles, I wrote about the Old Testament Patriarch Jacob (Israel) wrestling with God as a way to let God reveal his truth in the core of who we are amid the current Eucharistic crisis. We’ve explored the themes of solitude with God as a spiritual atmosphere for wrestling, and prayer as a conversation with God – not the act of praying itself – where God is. In this article, we explore wrestling with God through the Bible.
For many Christians, the Bible is the Word of God. But, actually, the Bible is not the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God! The Bible “contains the truth of God’s Revelation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). Thus, God reveals himself and his truth through the Bible – not as a concept, but as a Person: Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
Historically, the Church has used some books of the Bible for worship, which is essential for our spiritual life; but it doesn’t prompt the faithful to wrestle with them unless we are in tune with the biblical narrative and dynamic. It doesn’t help that the Bible was not accessible to all Church members for centuries, and that some faithful were discouraged or didn’t feel encouraged to read it.
Now, there are many ways we can access the Bible. More Catholics (ordained and laity) read the Bible and participate in Bible studies. However, a vast majority don’t read it; and very few wrestle with its content. We might find ourselves “swallowing it whole;” that is, only relying upon the truths coming from others’ wrestling with the Bible like St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and Hans Urs von Balthasar, among others. Reading others’ commentaries on the Bible doesn’t substitute our wrestling with it.
Who hasn’t been challenged by a biblical passage? We are called to wrestle with God when a biblical passage doesn’t make sense, makes us uncomfortable or is difficult to believe. Instead of fleeing from the passage, we wrestle with it; not alone, but with Jesus. Jesus discloses the meaning of Scriptures to us as he did with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35). What is ours to do?
We “search the scriptures” (John 5:39). The word search comes from the Greek eranao, which means examine. Guided by the Spirit, we examine a biblical passage to the best of our abilities, including its original language and purpose within the biblical narrative. Here, we chew the biblical passage; ask Jesus about its meaning; and share with him our fears, anxieties and hopes.
Resistance to Jesus is a sign of his Grace within us. Letting him conquer our intellect is a humble surrender to his life. Here, he unveils his face behind the mystery (Cowman); destroys all erroneous biblical interpretations and assumptions rooted in us; and plants his truth with firmness, yet with love. By wrestling with God through searching the roots and meaning of the biblical passages on the Eucharist, the Church’s teachings become part of who we are – not only a dogma we have to believe in.
As for my dear friend Nahomi, I never saw her again. I miss her. But I am forever grateful that she willingly opened the scriptures for me.
Don’t be afraid of wrestling with God through the Bible! Wrestle until it hurt – until the hurt unveils God’s face behind the Mystery!