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Ramiro Pellitero, Professor of Theology

The Education or training biblical

Tue, 26 Nov 2013 18:10:00 +0000 Posted on

Pope Francis points out in his Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: "The Word of God, heard and celebrated, especially in the Eucharist, nourishes and interiorly strengthens Christians and makes them capable of authentic evangelical witness in daily life" (n. 174).

            Hence the importance of the biblical Education or training , aimed first at understanding the Word of God, which gives meaning plenary session of the Executive Council to our life and to the life of the world; and thus making it possible for Christians to echo that Word with our existence, lived in a coherent way.


      The Word of God has manifested himself since creation and throughout the history of salvation in many ways (cf. Heb 1:1-2): he has established a covenant with mankind through the Chosen People and has been recorded especially in the Sacred Scriptures. But above all he spoke to us in his Son: "by his presence and manifestation, by his words and works, signs and miracles, especially by his death and glorious resurrection, by the sending of the Spirit of truth"(Second Vatican Council, DV, 2). In this sense Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, is the "narrator" of the Father, the "exegete" of the divine plans, the human "face" of God (cf. exhortation Verbum Domini, 2010, n. 90).

      If Jesus is the "face" of the Word, the Church is the "house" of the Word of God. A house sustained by the apostolic teaching , the breaking of bread, prayer and fraternal communion in the family of God (cf. Acts 2:42). Thus the Word of God can be proclaimed, celebrated and lived.

      The Word of God is "announced" by Christians: in addition to the apostolic dialogue of each one with his peers, in family relationships, friendships, work, etc., supported by their coherence of life, there is the preaching of the Pastors of the Church and the advice of an experienced spiritual direction; as well as the catechesis (the Christian training ) and the school and academic teaching of religion.

      The Word of God "celebrated" is transmitted in the liturgy of the Church, particularly in the celebration of the sacraments. Thus Scripture and the liturgy are the principal "school" of Christian prayer, so that our life may then be in accord with what we pray. Particularly the psalms, prayers inspired by God, teach us how to pray in order to receive light and impulse to live united to Christ and to his Mystical Body, the Church; for, as St. Augustine says, in the psalms Christ "prays for us, as our priest; he prays in us, as our head; he receives our prayer, as our God"(Commentary on the Psalms, Ps 85, 1: CCL 39, 1176-1177).

   With the power of Scripture and prayer, Christian life in the midst of the most ordinary everyday situations is a shining forth of the Word of God to others. The Word of God "lived" is taught and transmitted in various ways: in the efforts of missionaries, in the life of families, in the work of Christians and in their contribution to public, cultural and political life. And always in charity, especially with those most in need. For this reason, the life of the saints is "a ray of light that comes from the Word of God"(Verbum Domini, n. 48).

            How can we educate for a Christian understanding and interpretation of the Bible? Is sophisticated information on philological and historical questions necessary? Is faith not enough? The solution lies in the harmony between the different aspects involved. It is a matter of helping to "live" the Word of God: "The most profound interpretation of Scripture comes precisely from those who have allowed themselves to be shaped by the Word of God through assiduous listening, reading and meditation"(Verbum Domini, n. 48). This is what we mean when we speak of a "prayerful reading" of Scripture: a reading and understanding that enriches the reader's prayer and transforms his or her life.

For this, the Church proposes the following steps: (cf. Verbum Domini, n. 87): 1) reading: what does the text itself say (knowing the historical and literary context, making use of the editions of the Bible with explanatory notes); 2) meditation: what does the text say to each of us and to the Christian community, here and now; 3) prayer: what can we say to the Lord in response to his Word (prayers of petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise); 4) contemplation: what conversion or change in our mind, heart and life does the Lord ask of us (discernment); 5) action: what conversion or change in our mind, heart and life does the Lord ask of us (discernment)? (prayers of petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise); 4) contemplation: what conversion or change of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us (discernment); 5) action: what are we to do from now on in concrete terms, to bring to life what God tells us, out of love for Him and for others?

 "Pope Francis affirms, taking up the words of the Synod of 2008, that it is indispensable that the Word of God 'be more and more at the heart of all ecclesial activity' (Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 174). If this is so, how can the biblical Education not be placed in the "soul" of the Christian Education ! Therefore, it does not correspond to a place juxtaposed to doctrinal or moral teachings, but to be a living source of the whole training in the faith.

Some of the Church's recommendations in this regard are: to teach the literal meaning of the sacred text (what the authors meant); the advisability of memorizing certain passages central to the Christian life; the purpose of the biblical Education must be to transmit the relevance and life of the Word of God; the pedagogical approach must be adapted to this vital communication of Scripture, so that Christians recognize that their existence staff is committed to the history of salvation (cf. Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 74).

With regard to the first point, the literal sense, Pope Francis points out: "The spiritual reading of a text must start from its literal sense. Otherwise, one will easily make the text say what suits him, what serves to confirm his own decisions, what adapts to his own mental schemes. This, in final, will be to use something sacred for one's own benefit and to transfer this confusion to the People of God. We must never forget that sometimes 'Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light'(2 Cor 11:14) (Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 152).

In addition to this biblical training , which is a transversal life-giving tool for the whole of the Christian Education , particular attention should be given to the training of catechists and other educators, and the "biblical apostolate" should be promoted in specialized centers.

All this was summarized by the Synod on the Word of God (2008) referring to the training of the lay faithful: "The laity must be formed to discern the will of God through a familiarity with the Word of God, read and studied in the Church, under the guide of their legitimate Pastors. They can acquire this training in the school of the great ecclesial spiritualities, at the root of which is always the Sacred Scripture. And, according to their possibilities, the dioceses themselves should provide formative opportunities in this sense for the laity with particular ecclesial responsibilities"(Verbum Domini, Ibid.).