Simple Truth: Oversized brains, shrunken hearts (with malice to none)
The simple truth is this; the Bible is not a ‘challenge’ to understand it’s just that we make no effort to understand it. Over nineteen years of being a priest I have heard devout Catholics crib and cry about how little they know about the scriptures, yet there is no dearth of excellent courses in scripture ranging from a couple of hours to a two year course in the Archdiocese of Bombay. The truth is that they are poorly attended by the ‘faithful’.
Two and a half years ago I took a decision to stop telling ‘stories’ in my homily; you can find the fairy tale you so desire in any library. While an anecdote makes for good listening and may provide for value based learning, the Bible has truths that no story can give you and ironically these narratives make for great listening if not literature reading. The book of Job is studied in the Mumbai University under the section of literature.
But there is another reason I stopped illustrating my homilies with stories and that is because the Bible has enough to offer us. Sadly even the clergy don’t break the word as is instructed by the Church and continue to feed the sheep with food not found in green pastures but ‘genetically modified’ to the whims and wants of the sheep.
We need to go back to the word of God as sustenance for our living and we can’t rely solely on the clergy to jump start that for us; If you were hungry you know where the fridge is and how to raid it even at midnight. Fact is we know every restaurant on Zomato! Having made the decision to study the word (not just read it) one needs to devote time.
You can’t learn computers in ten minutes much less learn sacred scripture. Scripture study must be prioritized. We say the word of God is our nourishment but the evidence of how often it is touched in our day, betrays the false claims we make.
The Sunday homily is meant to push you in the right direction. Unfortunately there has been an over emphasis on short homilies. It’s true, if a preacher can’t strike oil in ten minutes he must stop BORING. However that is not the case with all preachers and many are blessed with the ability to break the word of God effectively though not exhaustively and that’s where each baptized catholic is called to devote time to scripture study.
Again, the Bible is not a project to be completed. Don’t go through the Bible, let the Bible go through you. This means that you set aside time to read, study and reflect. There are great gems in the Bible which are lost because we either think this is a speed reading contest or because we simply think we know the story and miss the Saviour speaking to us.
This weekend I am to attend the reception of a child who is to receive her first Holy Communion. Her gift will be a RSV copy of the Bible. I am not giving her a children’s version. If she is old enough to understand the mental gymnastics of maths or delve into the complexities of science then she is more than capable of reading the sacred scriptures.
There are monotheistic religions that celebrate their children on their completion of reading their scriptures. These same children, small as they are, are encouraged to keep month long fasts. Why do we then make excuses for our children? Why are we pleased that our children have merely learnt by rote a couple of prayers? I bemoan the fact that parents who celebrate their children’s first communion spend more time on planning the celebration rather than imparting the Word of God at home.
I have come to realise that children in St Jude Malad East know what a synoptic Gospel is because I dared to teach them. Why do we mollycoddle children when it comes to the faith but throw them into the deep end of the pool when it comes to secular learning?
When we as parents and faith instructors stand before the throne of God in judgment it will not only be for the sins of commission but also for the sins of omission. Will we be judged for the oversized brains that we have pushed our children to develop without taking accountability for their hearts that are shrunk?
Fr Warner D’Souza