Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the July 29, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. I’d like to know how all the various books in the Bible got to be arranged as they are now in both Old and New Testaments. Who made those decisions? Who kept the right ones and rejected the ones as we have them today?
A. Let’s dispel any notion that an angel of the Lord delivered the first edition of the Bible, direct from God, bound in royal leather and vellum pages with gold edges, hand scripted by an angel who declared: Here’s the complete text of everything you need to know to be saved.
Public use, over a span of 1,200 years, had a lot to do with collecting the right books and the right sequence of those books. The early writers and readers, centuries before there was a list of accepted books, believed the simple dictum: “If it’s useful, use it.” How sensible. For every book now in the official canon, or list, there were many books that didn’t make the cut. Public use decided that.
Those people had the good sense to reject such works as the Secrets of Enoch, the Gospel of Thomas and a lot of apocryphal writings being discovered by Bible dabblers again.
The Bible contains all kinds of human elements mixed with divine inspirations. Songs, letters, folk tales, military reports, speeches, scandal stories, commands, genealogies, love poems, prophecies and even short stories that might be detective novels. All together it’s a cross section of life inspired by God.
Not one of the authors had the faintest idea that his writing, as short as the half-page second letter of John or as long as the voluminous treatise of Job, would someday become an essential part of something called Sacred Scripture and be translated into more than 1,400 languages.
The Q.B. scrivener sometimes gets a persistent nudge to say that the Bible, the Word of God among us, has been the cause of as much confusion as it has done good.
Q. A certain priest who is new here has decided against baptizing the infant of a well known family because they have totally left the church. Can he do that? We would like to have those people back. Jesus said, “Baptize them.” It seems to us that maybe they would if he agreed.
A. Pastors, like anyone else, try to avoid controversy. Delaying baptism is one of those unpleasant duties priests prefer to avoid if they can. He did not refuse to baptize that baby. He postponed the baptism until the parents are ready to accept their responsibilities to raise that child in the Catholic faith by their teaching and example.
During the rite of baptism the parents and sponsors will be asked four times, “Do you understand what you are undertaking?” The answer in the booklet they hold says, “Yes.” We assume the parents and sponsors are honest folks who would not fib at a serious time like that.
There’s a Gospel precedent for the priest’s decision to postpone. Luke 3:8 describes tumultuous crowds surrounding John, the greatest baptizer of all time. But John turned some people away, telling them, “Give some evidence you mean to reform.” If, and when, the parents agree to their duties, there will be a baptism.
Q. I can praise God during my morning walk and I do. Church law to worship at Mass seems unnecessary. Being faithful as I am to God in my own way, who can say I am wrong?
A. Compliments to you for your well-being. Jogging with Jesus is not the same as receiving Jesus in our Eucharist. Mature faith makes demands of us but those demands are worthy of mature adults. It’s what we are called to do, to get us out of our comfort zones, to extend ourselves into a community of like-minded believers because we’re all in this together.
That’s exactly the point of the first ground rule in the first human encounter with God. Let’s get this straight, he said. “I am the Lord your God. You shall not have any other gods before me.” Jogging, golfing, fishing and all lesser gods cannot displace me.
You remind me of Yogi Berra’s comment when he saw a batter cross himself when he stepped up to the plate: “I think God should be allowed to just watch the game.”