With a number of things going on in y life this past week, I’m reminded again of the important distinction between studying the Scriptures, and praying the Scriptures. Both are important. In a sense, and with the risk of oversimplifying, studying the Scriptures is a matter of thinking, while praying the Scriptures is more a matter of wondering. Studying them points to a set of documents and rules, while praying them becomes a matter of insight to our own personal experience.
Jesus told his followers that “I will be with you always, even to the end of time”, and “I will send the Spirit to remind you of what I taught you”. In other words the Spirit, when we consent and are open to it, teaches us in the setting of our own life at any given time, what it means for us to live as a disciple of Jesus. This is not an exercise in logic or a process of thinking, but a stance of being open to infinite possibility, a realization that we don’t have all the answers, above all, it seems, a willingness to be surprised.
There is in some versions of Christianity a long tradition of what is called “lectio divina”, or divine or spiritual reading. It is a simple practice of reading a particular passage slowly and prayerfully several times. While we might be familiar with the passage, we don’t read it having already decided what it means, but being open to whatever the Spirit might put into our heads. In a sense this can be unsettling because we don’t want to give up control. From time to time we might come to realize that our need to maintain a sense of control is what is keeping us from from really being open to the Spirit and growing. This can be a real stumbling block for some folks, and I speak from my own experience.
An example from this Sunday’s reading might help. Traditionally it is seen as the basis for theRC’s position against divorce and remarriage. But, it can also be seen as Jesus defending the rights of women. In his time women had no rights. Men could divorce wives without any reason. Jesus is asserting that women are equal to men both in rights and responsibilities. The two understandings of the story are not mutually exclusive.
We also learn that there are always more than one way to understand a given Scripture in our own lives. The Spirit speaks to us in the setting of our own lives, our own stories, our own journeys. All this happens in real life as it is, not as we wish it were, or as others tell us it should be.