Around 120 Readers, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Catechists from across the Hallam Diocese gathered at All Saints’ School in Sheffield to attend the first session of a rejuvenated adult education programme.
They heard Mgr John Ryan speak about the Word of God as Truth, The Word of God as Alive and Active and The Real Presence of the Lord in Word and Eucharist.
Mgr Ryan emphasised the Bible’s nature, not as a single book, but as a library. There were myths, narratives based on what was remembered of history, apocalyptic writings designed to assert God’s eventual victory to a persecuted and dispossessed people, law and writings that focused on relationships between people and between people and God. He explored the differences in accounts of the same event and how stories like Noah and the Flood appeared in texts pre-dating biblical writings like the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish, explaining how they could illuminate the understanding of God’s message.
Mgr Ryan explored apparent contradictions in the story of David and Goliath and questions over the timing of events immediately before Christ’s Passion.
“When reflecting on the Bible, one of the real issues is truth,” Mgr Ryan told a rapt audience. “It is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. There are conflicts in the Gospels and the Bible itself and we have to be grown up about it. We believe in the truth of the Bible, but not the literal truth – we are not fundamentalists; fundamentalism is intellectual suicide. The stories … are profoundly true because all of them tell us about ourselves – the human condition – about God’s relationship with us and our relationship with each other.”
Mgr Ryan also touched on the symbolism in names adding further depth to Bible stories: Abel, meaning “Whisp,” Isaac – “He who laughs,” Jacob – “The One Who Grasps.”
Locations and actions could also be significant. Whenever a well appears in the Bible the reader should think “wedding bells,” while the modern day equivalent of Judah giving Tamar his signet ring would be handing over a credit card.
The day ended with Mass and commissioning for the Readers, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Catechists, presided over by the diocese’s Vicar General, Mgr Desmond Sexton.
“It was a fascinating day,” said one participant. “It broadened my understanding, but also made me realise there is so much more to learn and so much depth and richness that can be revealed.”
Details of further sessions in the rejuvenated Diocese of Hallam adult education programme will be published in Hallam News. Anyone wanting to add their name to the e-mail circulation list for future events should send their details to firstname.lastname@example.org.