Some years ago a scripture professor asked: “Do you know what the biggest obstacle is in understanding Scripture?”
Now since we were doing graduate level Scripture study, a few of us opined that it was the lack of the knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. Or perhaps it was that people today do not know the culture of Jesus’ time, or have not studied the historical-critical method (that answer usually got us extra points in Scripture class back in those days). Other students opined that fundamentalism was the biggest problem (another answer sure to gain points back then).
“No” said the professor. “Our biggest problem in understanding Scripture is our sin.”
Could it be that simple? Surely the woeful lack of catechesis, and the general ignorance of Scripture is the reason!
No, it is our sin. For if we were pure in heart we would seek truth, love Scripture, and the study of the faith. No one would have to drag us to Mass, and staying alert during the readings, sermon and prayers would be little effort, since some one we loved, the Lord, was speaking. We would prefer the beauty of God’s truth to the empty and vain trends of the world, and error would repulse and trouble us. Ignorance and lack of learning would not be an issue, for we would say with Blessed Job: Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
If we were pure in heart we would not wince at the moral teaching of the Scripture and rashly and rebelliously reject it as unrealistic and outdated. Instead we would weep for our sins and rejoice in the truth with the words of Baruch: Happy are we. O Israel, for what pleases God is known to us (Baruch 4:4)!
If we were pure in heart, our minds would connect so many dots, for we would lovingly remember that God had said similar things in other passages. We would see how grace and love and mercy were like threads connecting the whole of Scripture and Tradition. We would see victory even in apparent defeat, providence on every page, and wisdom in every paradox. We would see the whole of the Old Testament as a preparation for Jesus, the whole of the New Testament as the fulfillment of that was promised, and more. Love would enlighten every page of Scripture and Tradition, and that very light would scatter the darkness of worldly errors and selfish interpretations.
Yes, is quite simple in the end, our sin is our biggest obstacle in understanding God’s word. Sin leads to senseless, foolish and darkened minds.
Greek is good, parsing Hebrew verbs, a worthy matter. But seeking a purer heart opens doors that exegetical methods can only knock on. Learning is surely good and required, especially if it looks to the heavens, but only pure love can pierce the veil.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Matt 5:9).
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children (Matt 11:25)
Here is a funny video that reminds us that things are sometimes simpler than they first appear.