Readers bring themselves to Scripture interpretation

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

A striking image of sacred Scripture compares it to a mirror.

When we peer into it, we see ourselves and our world more clearly. We gain insights into the true nature of ourselves and those around us, our purpose and the purpose of our world.

Consequently, sometimes a Scripture passage will mean different things to different people. It reflects something of who they are.

By no means does this imply that Scripture is wishy-washy, that it can say whatever we want. Instead, it tells us that God wishes to speak to each of us, no matter what situation we might find ourselves in, no matter what kind of person we are.

God will sometimes personalize the message to fit us. We see an example of that in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mk 1:12-15.

All three synoptic Gospels present an account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. On the other hand, only Mark’s account includes the detail: “He was among wild beasts.” What does this mean?

The interpretation of that passage will vary according to what type of person you are.

For example, if you are a tree-hugger, if you look upon all wild animals as friendly, if you follow St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis’ lead, if you feel close to nature, then you might interpret it to mean that Jesus lived in harmony with the animals during the time he spent in the desert.

He would be living the vision of the prophet Isaiah: “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair” (11:6-8).

On the other hand, if you view wild animals with apprehension, if the thought of desert wildlife brings to mind rattlesnakes, scorpions and coyotes, then you might understand the passage to mean that Jesus was able to withstand these dangers during his sojourn in the desert.

You might see these wild animals as representatives of the demons that infested the desert and tempted Jesus.

Both of these interpretations, although very different, are possible. You choose, depending on the type of person you are. In either case, though, God is speaking to you.

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