Tuesday, September 30, 2008

God Speaks To Us

Our reflection question for the next RCIA session has to do with scripture. We are asked to reflect on the question: "what does the Bible mean to you right now"? Regarding this question it seems to me that my thinking has evolved over the years as I gained experience and exposure to scripture studies. I think that when I first found scripture compelling it was because of the question: did this really happen? So I was interested in the stories of Exodus and the questions of historicity. Did the Exodus really happen and what proof is there in the historical record of this event? I think that media like newspapers and television still devote a lot of attention to these kind of questions. The fuss over the Da Vinci Code and over the supposed tomb of the family of Jesus reflects such interest. Ultimately though, this question (while it might be interesting) has little to say to me regarding my relationship with God.

A more useful question then, became (and still is): Does this happen today? The importance of this question and its relevance to the spiritual life first came to me in connection with a passage from Exodus 16. In the passage the Israelites have only just passed from slavery in Egypt into the desert. Very soon the people complain to Moses and Aaron: "If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." (Ex 16:3) If you only ask if this incident happened in the past the verse is quite meaningless. If you ask if such a thing does happen there is a chance to gain insight into our relationship with God. This came to me after an incident in my own life. Someone very close to me had gone through a very bad marriage. He abused alcohol and drugs as well as his family. When she and her four children finally left him everyone thought that it was for the best. To my surprise a year or so later she told me that she was thinking of going back to him. After a discussion with her it became clear what was happening. She knew what he was like but the stress and challenges of going on her own seemed to be too much. She was on welfare and trying to train for the job market (after being a housewife for 15 years or so). One of her sons was having profound behavioral problems. So the stress and uncertainty of being free (like the Israelites) led her to think of the security that she had before; even though, like the Israelites, she existed then in a form of slavery. And so, when I began to look at Exodus, and all scripture, in this way I began to see the Bible as something that could speak to me and my condition here and now. I also think that in a simple way this addresses the question about the problem of literalism regarding the Bible. I no longer am interested in the question of could creation have happened exactly as described in Genesis. Instead I can pay more attention to the lessons that the stories of Genesis have for me today.

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