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Friday, October 10, 2008

Cardinal George: Bible Not Part of Popular Imagination, Society Sees Scripture As "Fantasy Fiction"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Current society has lost touch with the world of Scripture, of searching for God's will and seeing the hand of providence in life's events, says Cardinal Francis George.

The archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. episcopal conference said this Tuesday at the world Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church," under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26.

In his address the cardinal spoke of the "lived contexts in which believers hear the Word of God and the need for pastoral attention to conversion of the imagination, the intellect and the will."

"Western culture has been historically shaped in 
conversation with the Bible," he said. "References to 'the prodigal son' or 'the Good Samaritan' or 'Sodom and Gomorrah' could be taken for granted as images popularly recognizable.

"This familiarity, that has now largely disappeared from popular imagination, disappeared a generation ago from the world of art and theatre."

"Behind this loss of biblical images lies the loss of a sense and an image of God as an actor in human history," Cardinal George continued. "In Scripture, God is both the principal author and the principal actor. In Scripture, we encounter the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Our people, for the most part, do not live confidently in the biblical world of active spirit, of angels and demons, of the search for God’s will and God’s intentions in the midst of this world governed by God’s providence.

"Scripture takes on the genre of fantasy fiction, and the biblical world becomes an uninhabitable embarrassment."

The cardinal added that Scripture is then "approached only as a moral guidebook, and often found deficient even in that."

School of liturgy

"Scripture is the soul of liturgy even more than it is the heart of theology," the president of the US bishops' conference said. "With decreased participation in the Sunday liturgy, the faithful cut themselves off from contact with Scripture in the context of communal worship.

"Through steady attention to the Scriptures that shape the liturgical cycles and calendar, the believer opens himself to conversion and development in the life of grace."

Cardinal George called regular attendance at Mass a "schooling in the obedience of faith."

"A love of Scripture," he continued, "feeds the desire to worship in spirit and in truth, and, in turn, our worship gives God the opportunity to transform us more profoundly into the image of Christ."

The cardinal commented on the practice of "lectio divina," which he called a form of prayer "so apt to purify one’s desires and bring one’s will into harmony with God’s will," yet so "far from common even among those who regularly come to Church."

He said that if pastors are attentive, "people will not fear confusion when they read and listen to the Bible. It will not be for them a grand puzzle but a path to the freedom that comes from personal surrender to God’s world, God’s mind, God’s will.

"If the power of God’s word in Holy Scripture is to be felt in the life and mission of the Church, pastors must attend to personal context as well as to inspired text."

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