VANCOUVER - Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller says he hopes Canadian Catholics will not see the latest papal exhortation Verbum Domini — the Word of God — as a call simply to engage in more Bible study.
"We should be looking at some sort of totality," Miller, who chairs the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' (CCCB) doctrinal commission, said in a telephone interview. "The document should influence how we do everything."
The first task of the commission was to have the CCCB's theological advisor Patrick Fletcher produce a clear summary of the 208-page document that captures its essence. It is now posted at www.cccb.ca. Anything further will come from the CCCB's permanent council, he said.
Miller sees many areas where in Verbum Domini could inspire and encourage the Church as well as challenge her bishops, clergy and lay people to come into a deeper, closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
The document makes the point that we're not really "people of the book," Miller said. "We are people of the encounter with Jesus who is alive, the Word made flesh."
The archbishop said he appreciated the way Verbum Domini calls for going beyond merely using the critical tools of scholarship that might help determine the author's original intention, or other historical or linguistic data about the text.
Instead the document calls for interpreting Scripture within the community of faith, to discover what God is saying now to the Church, he said.
The Scriptures were originally written for the community, he said. "They weren't written for individuals to take as pious reading, which they could then think nice thoughts about."
"If the Scripture feeds what is the faith of the Church, the Word of God is being actualized," he said. The document stresses how the Bible can only be interpreted by the faith of the Church, within the community.
The document also stresses how the biblical texts are proclaimed, especially in the liturgy. Miller said he expects all bishops will be talking about homilies with their priests. The exhortation gives an indirect warning against displacing the person of Christ at the centre of the homily with the personality of the preacher.
Homilists, he said, should be wary of "endless talking about oneself" because people may be very interested in personal details about their pastor, and then "Christ ceases to be the centre of the homily."