FIYH 44-46: Faith As Interpretation

“Faith as Interpretation” headlines the next few sections. The bishops have a curious (to me) and broad take on “faith,” but stay with them for the point being made:

[44] To say that preaching, the homily included, is directed to faith is another way of saying that preaching is involved in the task of interpretation. “Faith” can be defined as a way of seeing or interpreting the world. The way we interpret the world, in turn, determines the way we relate to it. For example, if we believe that a particular race or class of people are our enemies, we will relate to them with suspicion and hostility. A friendly gesture will be interpreted not as a genuine sign of good will but as a ruse to get us to lower our guard. On the other hand, if we believe that a group of people are our friends, we will tend to excuse even a hostile gesture with the explanation that there must have been some mistake: they didn’t recognize us or we have misinterpreted their gesture. Our “faith” in the way things are has led us to live in the world in a way that corresponds to what we believe about it.

Certainly true for those of us who frequent the internet, eh?

[45] The Christian interprets the world not as a hostile and evil place, but as a creation of a loving God who did not allow it to destroy itself, but sent his Son to rescue it. The Christian response to the world, then, is one of acceptance and affirmation-along with the recognition that it is still awaiting its full redemption.

The bishops are still within the glow of the optimism of Vatican II, I’d say. Many of today’s bishops, and certainly many of the new generation of believers treat the world as highly suspect.

[46] One of the most important, and most specifically human, ways in which faith is communicated to individuals and communities is through language. The way we speak about our world expresses the way we think about it and interpret it. One of the reasons we speak about our world at all is to share our vision of the world with others. The preacher is a Christian specially charged with sharing the Christian vision of the world as the creation of a loving God. Into this world human beings unleashed the powers of sin and death. These powers have been met, however, by God through his Son Jesus Christ, in whom he is at work not only to restore creation, but to transform it into a new heaven and a new earth.

Why would the Church–or the preacher–have any interest at all in a worldview? The bishops suggest that dialogue with non-believers is an important part of it. What they don’t say is that as human beings, we each dwell in or interact with the world in some way. How we speak of the world is part of the message to both the family of believers and the family of humankind.

(All texts from Fulfilled in Your Hearing are copyright © 1982 USCCB. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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