Scripture is “the one story that really matters” because it is the story of God’s “new creation,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has said in a lecture on Friday morning. Calling on Christians to live their lives “in Christ,” he said Catholics should allow God’s “new creation” to take root in themselves.
Speaking on Friday at the Catholic Bible Conference at St. Thomas More Parish in the Denver suburb of Littleton, the Archbishop of Denver said the story of Scripture is “the greatest story ever told – a story of God’s creative power, man’s betrayal, God’s redemptive love; and a new destiny for humanity greater and more beautiful than anything any of us can imagine. What man has violated -- including himself -- God makes new and better.”
Criticizing a kind of “tamed” Christianity, he explained: “There’s nothing tepid or routine about a real encounter with Sacred Scripture … God’s Word is profoundly good, but it is never ‘tame’.”
When Jesus said “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled” (Lk. 12:49), the archbishop commented, “he spoke not as an interesting moral counselor, but as the restless, incarnate Word of God, the Scriptures in flesh and blood, on fire with his Father’s mission of salvation.”
“Scripture is passionate; it’s a love story, and it can only be absorbed by giving it everything we have: our mind, our heart and our will. It’s the one story that really matters; the story of God’s love for humanity.
Explaining the “structure and meaning” of Scripture, he said the beginning, middle and end of Scripture correspond to man’s creation, fall and redemption. These “three key acts” embody “God’s plan for each of us.”
Because modern Christians are often “uneasy” with the biblical account of creation, Archbishop Chaput said they often miss its “important truths” about God’s goodness, the inherent goodness of Creation, and the centrality of man and woman.
“In Genesis, humanity crowns the created world as a final, perfected expression of God’s love,” the archbishop added.
He described the Book of Genesis as “a poetic account, not a newspaper report – but nonetheless a reliable expression of the truth about the history of humanity.” At some point, mankind’s first parents “turned away from God’s will” and wounded themselves and all subsequent generations.
“Every one of us is born a victim and carrier of that original wound. It separates us from God,” he explained, noting that only God can save mankind.
Archbishop Chaput emphasized the reality of sin and the foundational nature of original sin. Sin “defaces who God intended us to be,” but Jesus does more than erase our sins. He also “elevates us for sonship” and gives us “a share in God’s own nature.”
He noted the imagery of the “new creation” throughout the Gospel of St. John, saying this imagery climaxes with “the resurrected Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, just as God breathed his Spirit into Adam.”
However, the archbishop explained, Jesus’ Resurrection is the central image, as according to St. Paul it “ushers in a new creation.” He then noted that the gospel authors’ naming of the day of the Resurrection as the first of the week “hints that the new creation has only just begun.”
“Those who believe in Jesus Christ, and conform their lives to him, take part in this new creation,” he taught the crowd of attendees, noting that baptism makes us “a new creation in Christ.”
Describing the Holy Spirit as “the key” and “the engine” of the new creation, the archbishop said Christians need to be “led by the Spirit.”
Turning to St. Paul's writings, the Denver prelate said we are presented with two roads: “the way of the flesh that surrenders to the disordered passions … or the way of obedience to the Holy Spirit, which allows God to take root in us and bear the fruits of love, joy and peace.”
This use of the word “fruit” by St. Paul is “very deliberate,” Archbishop Chaput said, explaining that fruit must be carefully cultivated. In baptism the Holy Spirit is “planted in our souls,” but, he said, receiving the sacrament is no reason for passivity because “ … the extent to which God’s new creation takes root in us depends upon our efforts, sustained over time, to help it grow.”
“We succeed as Christians only in the degree to which we allow God to graft us into the life of his Son,” he explained, noting each person’s “unique and unrepeatable role” in the salvation history of which God is the author.
The way for Christians to grow in their life in Christ is to create a daily time for prayer, silence, and Scripture study, as well as by worship, the archbishop taught.
This life also advances by “submitting our pride and our lives to our mater et magistra – the Church who is our ‘mother and teacher,’ precisely because she is also ecclesiam suam, ‘his Church,’ the Church Jesus Christ founded, guides and loves for the salvation of his people.”
Archbishop Chaput closed his talk by urging Catholics to “Live the life God calls you to right now … and in your witness, God will renew the face of the earth.”