PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
Father Krzysztof Bieliński CSsR talks with Fr. Prof. PhD. Henryk Witczyk – the director of the Biblical Studies Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin about proclaiming the Gospel in the contemporary world and faith of the Church
FATHER KRZYSZTOF BIELIŃSKI CSsR: - ‘One can go through the door of faith (…) when God’s word is proclaimed’ – reminded the Holy Father Benedict XVI in ‘Porta fidei’, an apostolic letter announcing the Year of Faith started on 11 October 2012 in the Church. Exactly a week after the solemn inauguration of the Year of Faith, the Biblical Studies Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin, whose director the priest is, organised the international meeting ‘From the faith of Abraham to the faith of the Church’. What issues were raised by Biblical scholars in this scientific reflection on the reality of faith?
Fr. PROF. PhD. HENRYK WITCZYK:- All papers concerned faith which is a relation of the man to God. Particular lecturers were analysing these fragments of the Holy Scripture in which the most important aspects of this relation are revealed, its reasons and fruits, and mainly its whole dynamics. So, in the first place they paid attention to the very God who addresses His word to the man (to Abraham). It is the word which has power and which wakes up the man from the stagnation of everyday life, calls to take the road towards the Promised Land, gives strength on this road, comforts and mainly leads the man effectively to the final where God is waiting with his generous love. The reference to Christ also sounded strong, who as Risen Lord is just this Promised Land understood in a personal way, full of eternal life and love, and open to all people in the world. Faith, starting with accepting the words of the Gospel and trusting them every day, leads to continuous and deeper recognising Him as God’s Son, to mutual closeness and friendly relation: ‘On this day you will see that I am in my Father and all of you are in Me and I am in all of you’ (J14.20).
– In the quoted document Benedict XVI points out to where and from whom we can find effective help on the way to faith. It seems that the Holy Father in this respect counts on biblical scholars. However, isn’t a biblical scholar associated rather with a scientist today who is engaged in the world of biblical books, in the so-called very distant history, other cultural contexts and social problems?
– A biblical scholar is endangered by a kind of uni-dimensionality of closing in a library, living in books, being in the ancient world. It is necessary for reliable practice of scientific exegesis. But a Catholic biblical scholar is not an expert of religion who lives only in the university auditorium! He lives in the Church and practises the science for the Church, which was reminded about by the Papal Biblical Commission 20 years ago in a document entitled ‘Interpretation of the Bible in the Church’. In his studies he treats seriously the fact how the Church understood the books of the Holy Scripture for two thousand years and also what questions are asked to the God’s Word by the Christians living in the contemporary world and generally the man of the XXI century. The contemporary scientific methods allow for reliable searching for an answer in the Bible to the questions of a reader looking for a sense of life and the world – to the questions about God: how He reveals himself, what He says to us in the words of the ancient documents, how He communicates His Divine life to us.
– In the post-synodal apostolic Exhortation ‘Verbum Domini’ from the year 2010, on the role of God’s Word in the life of the Church, the Pope wrote: ‘There is no thing which would be more important than enabling today’s man his access to God again – to God who speaks and gives us His love so that we would have life in abundance’ (VD2), so as to discover anew ‘the fact that God speaks and He answers our questions’. Priest Professor, do the biblical scientific meetings meet this role?
– Yes, because they allow him understand single sentences or whole fragments and books of the Holy Scripture better and deeper. But it is not the meeting (scientific paper) which will lead the man to God. He opens to the man only when the man opens the Bible and starts reading it comprehensively, reflects on it and next implements the heard God’s word in his everyday life without any compromises, in gestures and deeds and in the whole life style of behaviour. Then his life becomes a road on which he will feel the presence of God nearly palpably, His love, care, mercifulness, peace and happiness!
– Why aren’t scientific meetings so popular among listeners today? Shouldn’t one look for new forms in this case or maybe any ‘aeropagiticas’ of wide-spreading God’s Word, sharing the biblical knowledge?
– There are many reasons for low interest in the scientific analysis today – the most important reason seems to be a new mentality of picture. Even physicists, not only biblical scholars, are looking for picture forms of presenting important truths today. Another important reason is a kind of flattening human existence, reducing spiritual aspirations and blunting sensitivity to God’s gifts. The man has been given the role of a consumer of material goods and pleasures. In the first place these situations, which cause the need for happiness, communion with God, that is, need for God’s Word, among people, should be used.
– In order to make the truth and the beauty of faith shine ‘in our today’s world changing into a desert’ – as the Holy Father described the contemporary time in the homily on the opening of the Year of Faith. – The Television ‘Trwam’ inaugurated the TV biblical university on 29 September this year. Why this idea?
– The thought about creating the TV biblical university was born in me during reading ‘Verbum Domini’. The pope calls the Bible a cultural code, that is, a language which makes it possible to communicate, think together and act in an area which is the Christian civilisation. I observe anxiously that the contemporary Poles speak this language very little. Surely because they hardly know it and do not understand it. Even the words of the Gospel, which we often listen to in the church, are rarely the determinants of our way of thinking about the form of national, social, family and individual life in this home which is Poland. Blessed John Paul II used to call for the Holy Spirit to come down onto us and renew the image of this land! How can he come down if Poles do not open to Him when He comes mainly in the words of the Holy Scripture? ‘The words which I said to you are the spirit and life’ – says Jesus (J6.63).
– Unfortunately, the Television Trwam discriminated by the National Broadcasting Council today, could become a modern multi-media auditorium accessible to everybody thanks to the place on the digital multiplex, and also a source of knowledge from the Bible. Does Priest believe that it will happen so?
– Yes, I am sure that it will happen so. Otherwise, the members of the National Broadcasting Council would find out about the tragic truth that the president and the prime minister whom they represent, do not serve to the whole nation but only the subjects of one political option, privileged, with a serious breach of law and at the cost of others. It would be the rejection of democracy in fact and scandalous breach freedom of speech, as well as the breach of human rights of believers in the homeland of John Paul II and in the country belonging to Europe.
– The TV biblical university is another biblical proposal of Catholic media of Radio Maryja and the Television Trwam – beside the Friday radio program ‘In search for God’s Word’ and the Saturday TV program ‘In the tent of the Word’. Can one see the fruits of this proclaiming of the Gospel and faith of the Church in the contemporary world?
– Yes, but they are mainly of the spiritual nature. I see greater sensitivity to God’s Word- in parishes of whole Poland biblical groups are created, and the Friday meditation on the Sunday readings are a perfect preparation for Sunday Eucharist. Finally – these programs undoubtedly prepared a lively reaction of thousands of listeners to the Radio Maryja and viewers of the Television Trwam to the proposal of participation in the TV biblical university. They send cards of their readiness to participation in lectures of the TV biblical university to the Secretary of the Biblical Work via e-mail or traditional mail. I hope that the lectures offered in the modern TV studio of four different areas of biblical studies will respond to the clear need of feeding with God’s Word, awaken among thousands of recipients of the Radio Maryja and the Television Trwam – and also among the readers of Catholic weeklies like the ‘Sunday’.