Monday, August 11, 2003

Sunday's reading at Mass was about Elijah. Elijah, in fleeing the king found himself in the desert and was distraught. He then prayed to God to take his life. He went to sleep and "an angel" woke him up and gave him bread to eat for the journey ahead. He ate and was able to journey for 40 days on the strength of that bread.

Here's my pastor's interpretation:

When the Bible said that "an angel" woke him up and gave him bread, it meant "angel" in its literal philological sense, i.e. a messenger. So what actually happened was not that a winged creature from Heaven showed up, but that a nomad, of which many roamed the deserts, saw Elijah and offered him food to eat.

FTR (For the record), I believe a winged creature came down and (you know the rest). My wife and I and a friend were wondering were these "rationalistic" interpretations come from. Why do many pastors relish giving these interpretations that completely undercut and undermine the miraculous? My wife and our friend thought that there was something more sinister in their motives.

My take is that these pastors often have not much faith and seek these rationalistic explanations to be able to swallow these bible stories. Now, if they are struggling with such stories and they are priests, their thinking, then, is that most parishioners would struggle with these miraculous stories also. So then, they do not hesitate to share their views in order to help parishioners wrap their minds around these stories and accounts.

The question this all leads me to anyway, is this, is belief in miracles a necessary part of the Christian faith? I would say so.

Another problem this all highlights is the problem of faith in the Catholic Church. The Catholic system is frontloaded with faith. What i mean is that it is the Church's faith that counts in everything that requires a leap of faith, e.g. the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, the infallibilty of the Pope, the nature of sacraments, etc. The faithful are asked to believe in the Church an dher faith. Belief in the Church then circumvents having to personally invest one's faith in believing in each of these things. In fact, one does not have to specifically reflect and address these individual issues, because faith in the Church suffices. For example, I don't have to believe that at the mass, bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, for it to happen. It is the Church's faith that precedes mine and makes it happen.

The result of this is that Catholics, on the whole, tend to be weak on personal faith. (This weakness, in addition to what I have outlined, is also attributable to the Church's veneration of human reason--this is played out in practice by the fact that the Church gives rational explanations of most things, if not all. By "rational," I mean use of reason).


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