Just over 40 years after the Second Vatican Council it
can be said that the hope to make the Sacred Scriptures the heart and
soul of the spiritual and pastoral life of the ecclesial communities has
not been disappointed.
Indeed, since then an extraordinary process to regain
possession of the Scriptures by the entire ecclesial community has begun
and its profound effects on the life of the Christian People are
The ecumenical movement itself finds in the renewed
attention to the Bible a favourable terrain for dialogue
see the reference "Word of God and ecumenism".
In the Catholic Church we can say that a true and proper
"biblical movement" has developed which, unlike that which preceded the
Second Vatican Council, has involved every context of the Church's life.
Even just a quick glance at the magisterial texts on Sacred Scripture
reveals the extraordinary headway made in comparison with the previous
Twenty years after Dei Verbum, in presenting the
Pontifical Biblical Commission's document on the interpretation of the
Bible, John Paul II said: "It is a cause of joy to see the Bible taken
up by the lowly and the poor who can give its interpretation and
actualization a more penetrating light, from the spiritual and
existential viewpoint, than that which stems from a science that is sure
The Synod of Bishops on the Word of God turned out to be
in this context, a true moment of grace. The 54 Propositiones
voted by the Synod Fathers, that the Pope wished to have published
straight away, record both the enriching journey made in these post-conciliar
decades, and testify to the lively Synodal discussion from which
noteworthy theological and pastoral perspectives emerged.
Obviously, we are all awaiting the Post-Synodal
Apostolic Exhortation in order to enthusiastically welcome what the Holy
Father wishes to tell the Church.
However, it should be noted that in recent months there
have already been many initiatives in various parts of the world
concerned with presenting the Synod's work in particular through the
beautiful concluding message. Expectation is growing as to what the Holy
Father will tell us, so that the Word of God may more deeply inspire the
life and mission of the Church on the various continents.
In this regard it seems to me that it is important to
emphasize one observation that could affect the quality of a new phase
in acquiring a fuller knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures by the People
To tell the truth, Benedict XVI has been pointing out
for some time that the Word of God must be received as the "source" of
spiritual and pastoral life. In his Homilies in particular, the Pope
makes the Word of God the source and heart of the message he wishes to
transmit. This perspective should reverse the often widespread attitude
whereby a person does not focus on the Word of God and what it suggests
but rather concentrates on his/her own thoughts and outlook, for which
in any case he/she may well be seeking "confirmation" in the Bible.
The Scriptures are not a cudgel with which to beleaguer
our ideas. Rather they are the inspiring source of our own life,
thoughts and pastoral action.
I recall a small and significant episode of this
tendency that gives us food for thought. Having finished composing a
pastoral letter, a Bishop forwarded the typescript to an exegete, asking
him: "be kind enough to add some beautiful biblical sentence".
The Sacred Scriptures are not a prop for our spiritual
and pastoral life, they must be its inspiration.
The Bishops showed this very clearly during the
discussions at the Synod. And this is also the experience that stems
from the Catholic Biblical Federation
which is commemorating its 40th anniversary this year
which has generously and effectively promoted "the biblical pastoral
apostolate" in the different countries of the world. The results have
been truly extraordinary. However this fruitful work is an incentive to
start out with determination towards a new goal, in other words, to move
on from what we call the "biblical pastoral apostolate" to the "biblical
inspiration of all pastoral action".
This was in fact what the Second Vatican Council hoped.
That the Sacred Scriptures might be the "soul" of the Church's life and
mission, their source; their origin and inspiration.
This can be deduced, among other things, from the
incipit of Dei Verbum itself: "Hearing the Word of God with
reverence, and proclaiming it with faith" (n. 1).
In commenting on these words, Joseph Ratzinger, then a
young theologian, said that the essence of the Church could not be
expressed better: a community entirely open, "towards Heaven...", whose
"full essence is summed up in the act of listening, the only act from
which its proclamation can derive".
At the beginning of this millennium the Synod of Bishops
has returned to recalling this ancient and ever new truth, listening to
Scripture as a source of the wisdom and the power of the Church. In the
first millennium of Christian history this centrality was exemplary:
Bishops and monks, pastors and the faithful felt that Scripture was, as
it were, the pulsating heart of their entire existence, their spiritual,
theological, pastoral, family and ecclesial life.