Beginning this Monday, October 6, 180 bishops representing episcopal conferences around the world, 24 members of the Roman Curia, 10 heads of religious orders, 32 clerics appointed directly by the pope, 37 observers, of whom 19 are women, and 41 experts in scripture, liturgy and doctrine will be gathering in Rome for the 22nd session of the Synod of Bishops. The topic for this synod is, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” The ever-intrepid John Allen reports,
In preparation for the synod, the Catholic Biblical Federation commissioned GFK Eurisko, Italy’s leading market research organization, to poll 13 countries about attitudes toward the Bible. It was billed as “the most systematic scientific undertaking yet attempted to compare, on an international scale, levels and forms of familiarity with the scriptures.”
How's this for 'meat-and-potatoes': focus on calling Catholics to discipleship and the intentional following of Jesus! I hope the bishops and their advisors, rather than asking about techniques or programs, focus on the reality that people who hear about Jesus from others who are in a living relationship with him are often intrigued and want to know more about him. The scriptures become the means by which Our Lord speaks to the individual's heart and mind, calling them to conversion and a new life in him.
In broad strokes, the survey found that even in highly secularized nations, people have a basically positive attitude towards the Bible, finding it “interesting” and wanting to know more about it. Yet across the board, Biblical literacy is often astonishingly low. For example, large numbers of Americans, like people in the other countries surveyed, mistakenly believe Jesus authored a book of the Bible, and they can’t correctly distinguish between Paul and Moses in terms of which figure belongs to the Old Testament.
In light of such findings, there will undoubtedly be considerable attention to meat-and-potatoes questions of how the church can boost study and prayer with the Bible on the pastoral front lines.
As believers and disciples, it is our role, whether lay or ordained, to
1) live the faith we profess in an intentional, daily manner that evokes a response from others because of its non-conformity with the values of the world;
2) be ready to be able to speak of our relationship with the Lord in a way that is compelling and clear;
3) be able to help guide others through the savoring and study of scripture so that they neither interpret them in a fundamentalist-literalist manner, nor rely simply upon a scientific historical-critical exegetical approach (especially one that by default excludes the possibility of the supernatural!)
4) help people interested in the Scriptures and the God who reveals himself in them also encounter the Body of Christ, the Church, which is ultimately responsible for the transmission, preaching and interpretation of the Word.
Let's remember to pray for the success of this synod, and that devotion to God's self-revelation in the Scriptures might be approached with reverence, awe, and great joy because of the treasures it contains.