Monday, July 16, 2012

The importance of context and theology

Since 9/11 there has been much talk about "the violent nature of Islam." Individuals promoting this idea will selectively pull verses from the Quran to demonstrate their thesis that it is an inherently violent religion. Today's gospel demonstrates not only why we should not engage in this kind of attack of Islam, but also why we need a structure in the Church, we need the tradition, and why we cannot simply read the bible literally verse for verse.

In today's gospel we hear

Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's enemies will be those of his household.

Hopefully, we all read this and know that it is not meant to be taken literally. Hopefully, we all recognize it as a bit of hyperbole that must be interpreted in the greater context of all of the teaching of Jesus. Have there been moments in the history of Christianity when misguided individuals have taken it as an instruction? Yes. But the Holy Spirit has done, what we believe the Holy Spirit does, guided the Church through her magisterium to a proper understanding of the text. When the Church begins to list to one side or the other, we trust that the Holy Spirit will continue to be there to right the ship.

Left to our own devices it is easy for any of us to cherry pick verses that best fit what we already think, and dismiss those parts of the teaching that challenge us to change. The word of God is neither simple nor easy. Even after 2000 years of theology and philosophy we are still searching the depths, so profound is truth.

And maybe that is the most basic question, do I really want to know and embrace the truth of the Gospel?