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Fostering a mature faith
March 15th, 2016
By Alex M. Saunders

The letter of August Pijma (“Old Testament and Father Rolheiser,” March 3) is excellent witness to our church’s guilt in not fostering a mature adult Catholic faith. If every word of Scripture were of equal historical value then Mr. Pijma’s concern with passages of violence would challenge credibility.

I quote one Scripture passage to support my case. Philip the Apostle was hitchhiking from Jerusalem toward Gaza and was picked up by an Ethiopian who was reading Scripture in his chariot. Philip asked if the Ethiopian understood what he read. The answer is rich: “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8: 31)

The same is true today. We have numerous difficult readings on weekend liturgy that are left unexplained. We leave our pews with a disconnect between our traditions and some small inspiration derived from a passage from the Gospel. If we truly want to understand such readings we must do our own research.

Take the example of Joshua at Jericho. Archeological study shows that when Joshua came to Jericho the walls were already tumbled 200 years earlier by an earthquake. Indeed the earthquake had been violent. Scripture credits Joshua and then carries the theme of violence to the conquest of all Palestine. More likely Palestine was “conquered” by very slow assimilation of the population by a culturally sophisticated minority. As example worship of a rain god (Baal) was no longer as important when rain water is collected in cisterns in the winter season. Small exaggerations grew into larger ones until the time some thousand years later when the traditions were written down. Violence was an accepted part of storytelling then as it is now. But these traditions are just stories with an occasional lesson attached.

What is difficult, and needs continuous explanation is to distinguish between story, the lessons, and the bits of history that are the true fundamentals of our faith. Failure of clarification is failure of the church that leads to adults with attitudes like August Pijma. His parish should take his cry for truth seriously and include explanations of our liturgical readings in the weekend liturgy.

Alex M. Saunders
San Carlos

The writer is a member of St. Charles Parish, San Carlos.

From March 17, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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