By Deacon Derick Cranston
We don’t interpret Scripture. Scripture interprets us. It mirrors back to us who we are and where we might be going. While Christ is the same today, as he was yesterday, as he will be tomorrow, we are not. We are beings in motion moving from one cycle of our life to another encountering joy, sadness, suffering and delight. The Holy Spirit breathes and speaks to us through the words found in the Bible, and can connect to us in different ways and on different levels.
When St. Paul says in his second letter to Timothy that he has fought the good fight, has finished the race and has kept the faith, it can mean different things to us at different stages of our life. When we experience the joy of overcoming a difficult period in our life, we can bask in the message of victory that may be implied in this passage. When we are suffering and feel like all our efforts are in vain we can take comfort in the never-wavering and inspiring endurance of St. Paul, which also is implied from this passage.
If we let the message God is trying to reveal to us seep into the marrow of our bones, it can transform us. As light is transformed through a stained-glass window, it can refract the light of our souls into multifaceted colors. When this happens, the Word of God will move and speak through us to others. We can die to our ego-centered self and let the Holy Spirit speak through us. We become the lens that is not seen, but is looked through, a lens that can help others focus on the love God has for them.
Some years ago, I went on a seven-day silent retreat. During the week I met with a spiritual director for 15 minutes a day. The rest of the day was spent in silence pondering Scripture passages that my spiritual director had given to me. She selected the passages based on what I had told her about: difficulties I was experiencing, issues I was grappling with and the encounters I was having in everyday life.
After the first day, I met with my spiritual director to discuss passages she had given me the previous day. When she asked me about what I had read, I gave her an academic answer. I told her about the overarching theme, how different commentators had interpreted it and made other scholarly observations.
At some point she cut me off in my self-satisfying discourse and said, “Yes, that is all well and good, but I don’t care what other people think about the passage. I don’t care what you think about the passage. I want you to tell me how it makes you feel. I want to know what Derick is feeling, not what he is thinking.”
I went back and sat on a rock by a beautiful lake and read the passage again. I slowly, prayerfully, read the passage over and over and let it speak to my heart. When it finally sunk in, I felt a wellspring of emotion fill up in me and I burst into tears. This is when I first truly realized the raw, fiery, power of Scripture. Scripture had interpreted me and shown me a deeper part of myself that I never knew existed. And I would never be the same.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at email@example.com.)