Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Good Book Gets Better

For most Catholic Converts there are issues. Issues that for one reason or another are sticking points that are harder to get over than others. For instance some converts have problems with the Marian doctrine. Praying to Mary, accepting her as Queen of Heaven, Mother of God and the like can be difficult. Others may experience believing in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist hard to accept. So did many of Christ's followers in his time. (cf. John 6:67)

But for my part - I've had problems with the 'extra' books of the Bible. I should say first off that since I've accepted the authority of the Church I have accepted their canonicty. But still something has kept me away from them. Up until now I've kind of felt they were the crazy family member you don't talk about at the dinner table. (Well, something like that.)

Lately though I've been trying to read bits and pieces of them. I still couldn't get it to sit right with me. Yet I know the problem hasn't been with the scriptures themselves but with me. For whatever reason, probably my own experience as a protestant, I've felt uncomfortable with them.

One of the things I've really missed from my Protestant life is bible study. Yes it sounds hokey but its true. My catechesis is wonderful but we rarely use the Bible in my lessons. However last week Fr. Fischer assigned me Mystici Corporis Christi by Pius XII. (Encyclical On the Mystical Body of Christ, 1943) The letter is filled with scripture references. I studiously looked all of them up. I must say this was one of the most fullfilling experiences in my entire conversion process. The paper read like a bible study. It was fantastic.

So anyway a few days ago I was perusing my Douay-Rheims bible and decided to re-read 1 Peter. For me 1 Peter is awesome because nowadays it reads like a Papal Encyclical. I had yet to read the DR version so I thought I'd give it a shot. And since looking up the scripture references in Mystici Corporis Christi had gone so well for me I figured what the heck, I'll do the same for 1 Peter.

And here is where my conversion continues...

So I'm reading through the first chapter when I come across verse 24. Here it is:

1 Peter 1:24
For all flesh is as grass; and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass is withered, and the flower thereof is fallen away. 25 But the word of the Lord endureth forever.

I checked - this verse is also in my New International Version that I grew up with. It is actually separated to stand out and reads like this:

"All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass wither and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever."

Now, the little reference down at the bottom of the page says: Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 14:18, Isaiah 40:6-8 Sirach is not accepted by the Protestants. So I turn to it and do you know what I find?
Ecclesiasticus 14:18-19
All flesh shall fade as grass, and as the leaf that springeth out on a green tree. 19. Some grow, and some fall off: so is the generation of flesh and blood, one cometh to an end, and another is born.

Hello?! We've got Peter quoting from Sirach! The reference to Isaiah was a closer quote but nonetheless Sirach is obviously a valid reference. I furiously went back to the Gospels to see if anywhere there is a reference to one of the Apocrypha. I scanned the bottom of the pages to find the references...

In Matthew chapter 6, Our Lord teaches us the "Our Father" (Lord's Prayer). At the conclusion, it reads:

"14 For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly father will forgive you also your offences. 15 But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences."

The little reference back to Sirach says this: (From the NAB so its a little more readable. If the USCCB complains, I'll change it.)

Sirach 28: 1-7
1The vengeful will suffer the LORD'S vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail.
2Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
3Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the LORD?
4Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his own sins?
5If he who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?
6Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
7Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; of the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.

Christ is teaching us from Sirach (Ecclesiasticus). Peter also taught from Sirach. This is because historically Sirach was used extensively by the early Church to teach newcomers to the faith. (aka: Catechumens)

One last reference for the still doubtful. This one really did it for me. Its the big one - the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule appears 2 times in the New Testament. Once in Matthew 7:12 and once in Luke 6:31. However, it also appears in the Tobias - yet another so called apocryphal (deuterocanonical) book, not accepted by Protestants.

To quote from Matthew 7:12
"All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets."

And Tobias 4:16 (hook line and sinker)
"See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another. "

Law and the prophets indeed. When Christ said the Jews didn't know their own scriptures he meant it. 40 years later the Jews from Palestine would reject the greek language scriptures we now call 'apocrypha' or 'deuterocanoncial', though Christianity would accept them universally for the next 1500 years until Martin Luther hacked them out to get rid of purgatory (among other things, like the entire book of Revelation). Christ knew and taught from them. Peter clearly did so. And throughout the New Testament you can see bits and pieces of them throughout the apostles' writings.

All my uncomfortability with them has now been removed. They are as much as part of the Bible as any other book in there. With the hurdle crossed, I'm ready to dive right in. Message to my Protestant friends: Be not afraid of the deuterocanonical books. You won't lose your soul by reading them. :-)

1 comment:

Chrissy Joy said...

You're whole conversion thing reminds me of some good early church writing, maybe even something you haven't read before. The Acts of Perptual and Feliciy (Felicitas)
If you've already read it, disregard this comment.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton