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Monday, June 4, 2012

Sound-Bites Will Never Suffice

Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)

So I’m talking with this guy who tells me he met some Christians who follow the Old Testament Mosaic Laws.  “Messianic Jews,” they call themselves. “I never heard of such a thing,” Harry said. “Have you?”

Harry, himself from a Jewish background, asked the question because he knows of my Jewish heritiage and that I call myself a ‘Messianic Jew.’ He also knows I’m a Catholic Christian, and see no contradiction in the labels. After all, the first apostles were Jews, and until the events of Acts chapters 10-15 (decades after Jesus’ resurrection) Gentiles had to become Jews in order to become Christians.

“Yeah,” I said, “I’ve heard of groups like that, although most Messianic Jews, such as myself, don’t believe Scripture teaches we need to follow the Jewish law.”

Harry asked why.

"I can give you a quick sound-bite,” I answered. “But what those people you met believe is a heresy as old as the first century. You’ll learn why if you do a quick read of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It’s only six short chapters. And then you might also want to read chapters 10-15 in Acts.”

Harry became impatient. I heard it in his voice. “But why can’t you just tell me why it’s wrong?”

“I can,” I said to the man who spends hours a day watching television and surfing the internet. “But how long will it take to read those chapters? Twenty minutes? Thirty?”

Harry pressed once again, and I realized we were getting nowhere in the discussion. He wanted only a few morsels of information and nothing more. So I gave him what he wanted – feeling a little annoyed in the process.

If we were talking about things insignificant to our salvation such as how often Jesus fell on His way to Golgotha, or on which day of the week our Lord was crucified, sound-bites would suffice for me. But what these so-called ‘Messianic Jews’ who spoke with Harry believe had the power to destroy Harry’s faith. As St. Paul said in his letter to the church at Galatia: Those who believe such things have fallen from God’s grace; Jesus’ atonement will be of no benefit to them.

This was important theology – life-giving and life-sustaining theology – Harry was asking about. But he seemed content to get from me only a few morsels to see how they tasted.

Hosea, an ancient Jewish prophet, mourned: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). St. Jerome added, Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. And the Catholic Church – especially since the Second Vatican Council – in recognizing the fundamental relationship of Scripture to orthodoxy of faith, teaches that not only does God’s word provide strength for [our] faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 131), but the Church also exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 133)

I don’t know if my morsels satisfied Harry’s curiosity. Frankly, I hope they didn’t. For his own spiritual health, he  - like everyone else who desires to know the savior as intimately as possible in this life - Harry needs to go to the source of our faith – the Scriptures.

Sound-bites will never suffice.

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