Where did the Bible come from? In recent generations Catholics in Texas find themselves surrounded by beliefs arise in predominantly Protestant influences. So, where, exactly did the Bible come from?
The Bible came from the Mass. From the earliest generations of the Church, when Bishops met in large groups or synods, they would ask one another what scriptures do you read at Mass? This all happened even before there was a Bible, which actually took two or three centuries. They did always read the Old Testament at Mass. In the beginning, the New Testament did not yet exist, as it was written mostly in the first century of the Church. Many things were read at Mass early on, even things that today we do not consider as part of the Bible. Gradually, they acquired and began reading at Mass the four Gospels and the letters of Paul, James, John and Peter. And so, the formation of the Canon of the Bible, the official collection of the books of the Bible as the Word of God, came about through generations of Bishops asking one another, “What do you read at Mass as the Divine Word of God?”
So the Bible was born in the Mass. The Bible was born in the Church. The Church was not born in the Bible, as many Protestants would claim. The Bible was born in Divine worship in the Mass.
The Bible is not a book that speaks about God. The Bible is the collection of books in which God speaks to us through His chosen witnesses. That is why the Bible was born in the Mass. God is present in his Word and in His Holy Body and Blood. The Bible was born in the Mass.
We are approaching the end of our liturgical year. The very first generation began the concept of our liturgical year, celebrating the Resurrection every year, and later the Birth of Jesus at Christmas. So even time was used to evangelize. The end of the year was the time to speak of End Times, the Day of the Lord, the time of Final Judgement and the return of Christ. In the New Testament the Church gave us the Book of Revelation, as the last book of the New Testament, to speak of End Times and the Reign of Heaven. Jesus is the Lord of history. There is a beginning and there is an end.
In the Old Testament, we have Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, around 450 years before Christ. After Malachi there will be no more prophets, but much more corruption among God’s chosen people. Listen to Malachi warning the Jewish people. They have returned from Babylonian exile, but have fallen again into sinful ways and disobedience and corruption. Malachi says,
Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
And, he calls the faithful to persevere,
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.
In the Gospel, we see an episode in which people are speaking of the beauty of the Temple in Jerusalem. This is the second Temple, built after the exile. The first was destroyed by the Babylonians before the Jews were exiled in punishment for their infidelity to God.
Jesus responds to them,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
I was recently in on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the Sisters. We visited the “Western Wall”, or “Wailing Wall”. Actually it is not the Western wall of the Temple, but only the giant foundation stones. There is no wall remaining. What Jesus foretold happened within a generation, around the year 70 AD. All of Jerusalem was destroyed.
But Jesus’ message is not for them to know when, but to remain faithful. We have all witnessed the great temptation to be able to tell the future. Even presidents and heads of state today consult fortune tellers and palm readers, even though this is a sin against the First and Second Commandments. Only God knows the future. Only God is Divine.
Our role is to persevere. Jesus tells us,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”
And Jesus provides us the way we should be prepared.
“Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons….
How will the world treat us? Jesus says,
“You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
The lesson here is, “Do not be afraid” unless you have been unfaithful. Then, be very afraid.
Remember what I have been saying, if you want to persevere there are three things you must be doing. First, don’t miss Mass (Third Commandment of the Ten Commandments). Second, receive Holy Communion every time you can (Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life in him). And, third, when you fall off the bicycle, go to the Sacrament of Confession. The Church teaches us to go to Confession at least once a year, but more frequently is better. I try to go once a month or two. That is called living the Sacramental Life, or “Being in a state of Grace.”
We learn all these things by persevering in the Faith, and being faithful to the Holy Mass. Our Bible was born in the Mass. Persevere. Be prepared.