(Source: Frei Betto, Brazilian liberation theologian and Dominican friar; translation: Novena)
One of the reasons for the flight of Catholics from the Church or the indifference to religious practice is the fact that many of the adult faithful have no other education in the faith than that which they received in childhood through the family and through catechesis. Therefore, when the legs grow, short pants are no longer useful.
I know many Christians who do not read the Bible for obvious reasons: they do not understand the text. And they do not know where to look for help.
The Catholic Church has few lay people, religious and priests trained to administer Bible courses.
One of the promising initiatives is the CEBI (the Brazilian Centre for Biblical Studies, Centro de Estudos Bíblicos) with its courses and publications, but unfortunately it is not highly valued by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
Most priests only know as much as a few courses in the seminary, which are generally used to reinforce the traditional devotional content. Many of them cannot withstand the questioning of the faithful and, therefore, do not dare to give courses. They prefer the monologue of the homily at Mass, since there it is not suitable for the assembly to ask questions, much less to give answers.
Today, Bible studies are so advanced that many of the faithful, perhaps, would be overwhelmed in their faith if they approached the Gospel accounts in the light of the latest research and devoid of mythical trappings.
The devotional outpouring so covered the biblical characters as well as Jesus himself that it remains difficult to approach them as humans.
Even today, we Christians believe in a cruel God who, offended by our sins, demanded that his divine wrath be appeased by an equally divine sacrifice; the death of his son on the cross! What kind of father takes pleasure in seeing his only son crucified?
We all know how Jesus lost his life: he was murdered. Why? Wasn’t he such a good, spiritualised person who “went about doing good”, as [Acts] says? Who could want to kill him?
Now, Jesus did not have any of that angelic figure fed by godly effluvium.
He was “a sign of contradiction”. He took the side of those who suffer injustice. He denounced the rich and the authorities of his time. He made oppressors uncomfortable. He did not permit speculating with money in the Temple, the house of God reduced to a “den of thieves”.
That is why he was killed by two political powers, the Roman and the Jewish Sanhedrin. Pilate and Caiaphas. He died as a political prisoner.
None of this interests those who corrupt the Gospel and rework its content to feed a religiosity of consolation, and not of commitment; of escape, and not of militancy; of escape from “this valley of tears” and not of loving and liberating insertion in the world.
Faith needs solid nourishment. Adults cannot be nourished with baby food. Hence the fact that many Catholics migrate to churches in which the theological understanding of God’s word is replaced by mythical interpretations that reinforce apathy in the face of social wounds.
Since there is no access to health services, you expect at least the miracle of healing, provided you deposit your faith and your savings in the preacher who promises prosperity in the short term.
But if that cure does not come, you can be sure that you have not yet severed your ties with the devil… Less religion and more spirituality.
More on Novena by Frei Betto:
Liberation theologian Frei Betto says pandemic new ‘1984’: “Our fragile democratic institutions are under threat”
Good Friday meditation by liberation theologian Frei Betto: “We in the Church have a wrong idea of the presence of God among us”
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