is now so clearly central to Christianity that nobody can reject
it and still call himself Christian. However, when Paul wrote
the Epistle on his third missionary journey about 25 years after
Our Lord died on the cross, the concept was radical because for
1500 years previously the Jews had believed in justification by
the Law. Even "completed" Jews (those who became the
first Christians) would not accept the idea of replacing the Law
of Moses with the Cross of Christ. They insisted that the Gentile
converts had to be circumcised and to observe all the constrictive
practices of the Old Law.
was a grave misunderstanding of the purpose of Our Lord's life
and death, and it threatened to nullify the Incarnation of God
altogether. Hence St. Paul's presentation in "Romans"
of justification by faith is, as it were, interspersed
with a series of objections on the part of an imaginary Jew to
the new doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ. In overcoming
these objections which he must have been meeting with unceasingly
as Doctor of the Gentiles, St. Paul lays out what might be called
the Founding Charter of Christianity:_
are plunged in vice (I), but the law-breaking Jew are no better
(II), and so all men alike are in absolute need of God's grace
(III). Man attains this grace by believing in Jesus Christ (III)
with a faith in God of which Abraham, Father of the Jews, provides
the outstanding example (IV). Thus justification by faith, man
is freed from sin to lead the life of the spirit in Christ Jesus
(V-VIII). That Jews should be rejecting this Gospel of which
they were the cradle, is a great mystery, but this rejection is
for the benefit of the Gentiles, and the Jews will finally convert
(IX-XI). Let then the Catholics of Rome, Jew or Gentile, faithfully
practice their religion, leading lives of holiness and justice
(XII, XIII), and putting up with their weaker brethren for Christ's
sake (XIV, XV). Greetings finally to a long list of the Catholics
in Rome (XVI), already famous for their obedience (v.19)
the Catholic Church Encourage us to Read Scripture?
b) upon certain conditions.
a) In 1968,
many Indulgences were done away with, but this one remained:
"A partial indulgence is granted to any Catholic who reads
Scripture with due veneration for the word of God and in the manner
of spiritual reading. The indulgence is plenary if he does this
for at least half an hour." (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum,
1968, no. 50).
itself recommends we draw on its treasures: "For what things
soever were written, were written for our learning: that through
patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope"
(Rom. XV,4). "The Holy Scriptures ... can instruct thee
to salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (II Tim.
the Bible itself also indicates certain conditions for reading
Scripture: St. Peter says that in the epistles of "his most
dear brother" Paul, "are certain things hard to be understood,
which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other
scriptures, to their own destruction" (II Peter III, 15-16).
For instance, numberless souls will have been drawn to destruction
by Luther's having wrested "justification by Faith"
to mean a subjective assurance of one's being saved regardless
of the works that God requires to follow faith and to proceed
from it (Gal. V6; James II, 20-26).
So the Catholic
Church unconditionally encourages her children to study their
catechism because here divine truth is humanly expressed to convey
mysteries of God which m ay be neither simple nor clear, Mother
Church encourages her children to read on certain conditions:-
that they never use non-Catholic translations or non-Catholic
editions (which would include all modernist editions), that they
approach Scripture with humility and reverence as the Word of
God that it is, and that they be willing to accept that the Catholic
Church is the sole guardian of Scripture and sole interpreter
of its true meaning.
Douay-Rheims Bible, easily available in the U.S.A., provides a
reliable text of Scripture, of which the Overview within provides
an introduction to the Epistle to the Romans.