Wednesday June 1, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Tobit 3:1-11a, 16-17a) Gospel (St. Mark 12:18-27)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord looks at these Sadducees, who are people of faith, who came to the Lord to try to deny the resurrection and came up with a way to prove (so they thought) that there could not be a resurrection from the dead. Our Lord’s response to them, I think, is very important when He tells them, You are greatly misled.
It is a very easy thing for people to fall into a trap just like that. We see it all the time: people who are Fundamentalists, for instance, who take the Scriptures and twist them according to the way they want to; other people, who do what is called “proof-texting,” that is, they take a certain text and use that as some sort of proof for some idea that they have, even though they have taken it completely out of context and it really does not mean what they have made it to mean. These sorts of things happen all the time, and we can be badly misled unless we remain firmly rooted in the teaching of the Church.
The Scriptures are, of course, the Word of God. Now if we take, for instance, the first reading, we can take the Word of God and we can say, “Oh look, it sounds like it’s a good thing to hang yourself,” because that is what Sarah wanted to do. Well, if you just take it out of context and you forget the rest of the passage, that is what it might sound like. “It’s a good thing to pray that God will kill you because that’s what both of them were praying for.” No, that is not quite the way it works. It is the prayer that the people were making in their despair, but it is not a recommendation for us to go to prayer and say, “Please kill me.” Obviously, we want to be able to go to heaven and we have to die before we can do that, but it is not up to us as to how and when that is going to take place. So we can see how easily the Scriptures can be twisted and how badly we can be misled.
There are lots and lots of people out there who will happily mislead you, as long as you are willing to follow where they will lead. So you need to be exceedingly careful, especially when dealing with Scripture, because right now there are stores that are full of books about Scripture – and well over 90% of them are trash, pure and simple garbage. The problem is how do you know which is good and which is not unless you read the stuff. You need to be so careful because today a lot of these so-called “Scripture scholars” (and we need to make sure that is in quotations because most of them are not, but as long as they want to think that they are…) what they are doing now is trying to make a name for themselves, trying to come up with some cute, new theory. They are not interested in really trying to understand Scripture; what they are interested in is their own name. Arrogance is not going to fly when we are trying to understand and interpret the Word of God. Consequently, they mislead people all the time. So, again, how careful we need to be.
We need to be rooted in prayer and we need to be rooted in the teaching of the Church so that as we approach Scripture we are not going to be misled by anyone who might misinterpret the Scriptures. Rather, since we have some objective teachings that we can look at within the Church, that has to be our guide as we go through the Scriptures. Pray to the Holy Spirit Who inspired the Scriptures, and ask your guardian angel to help you so that you do not get off track. Pray for proper insight. Do not fail to read the Scriptures because you are afraid that you might be misled. Absolutely not. Read the Bible. Read it everyday, but pray before you do. And if there is some question, check your conclusion against the teaching of the Church so that you know you are not going to be off track. If there is something that sounds a little bit odd, check it out. Do not just assume things, because there are lots of things that can be misinterpreted within the Scriptures.
Just be cautious in the manner in which you approach the Scriptures, but feed yourself upon the Scriptures. Know them, understand them, and pray your way through them because that is the word that God has given us to be able to form our lives and to shape us. Just be cautious in the manner, so that we, unlike the Sadducees, will not be badly misled, but rather the Scriptures will lead us more deeply into the truth. That is why God gave them to us. So do not allow the devil to get a hold of you and lead you astray, but stick very close to Jesus and be brought into the depths of the truth.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.