One of the unheralded aspects of Pope Benedict’s papacy (as well as his legacy before becoming pope) is his emphasis on Scripture. Yet those who follow him closely have seen how much he desires to bring Scripture to the forefront of Catholic theology as well as daily Catholic life. His committment to making the inspired Word of God a central focus of our Faith and a sure means of drawing closer to the incarnate Word of God was a main inspiration for my book Who is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew. And I am not the only one who has noticed this emphasis of our Holy Father. Scott Hahn writes,
As I write this, I’m looking at the cover of one of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s books, now reissued under his papal name. The book is titled God’s Word, and the cover shows a photograph of the Holy Father.
He’s slightly off-center because he’s holding up the book of the Gospels — covering himself, as it were, with the word of God.
For me, that cover is emblematic of his pontificate thus far. His hallmark is the centrality of the word of God. That’s where he has kept our focus — not on fads or scandals or the world’s alarms. Christ, the Word Incarnate, is the solution to every world crisis. Pope Benedict has invited us, insistently and consistently, to encounter Christ in the word inspired, the sacred Scriptures.
And he has done this through some very large labors.
In 2008 he summoned the world’s bishops to a Synod on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”
From that synod, a post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Scriptures will soon be published — a major act of the Pope’s teaching office.
In 2007, he declared a Year of St. Paul, in which he dedicated himself and the Church to intensive study of the great apostle. But even before that, he had devoted his weekly audiences to close-up studies of the individual men and women of the New Testament. Afterward, he went on to the Church Fathers and the medieval teachers, considering them especially as biblical interpreters.
Meanwhile, he has spent every moment of his “spare time” writing his multivolume study Jesus of Nazareth.
These acts of Benedict’s papacy are certainly continuous with the labors of his pre-papal lifetime. It’s as if God’s grace has brought his life’s work as a theologian to a kind of completion, or perfection, with the gift of Petrine authority.
As a theologian, Joseph Ratzinger had proposed some astonishing and radical ways of looking at Scripture. He said “Catholic dogma … derives all its content from Scripture,” and “Dogma is by definition nothing other than an interpretation of Scripture.”
He taught that the “normative theologians” are not the tenured faculty at any Catholic institution, but rather “the authors of holy Scripture.”
One of the greatest gifts God has given the Church is the Holy Bible, and He wants us to use it to draw into a deeper relationship with His Son. Follow the Pope’s lead and spend some time today with the Sacred Scriptures.