According to psychological studies, our greatest fear is the fear of being alone. It’s so powerful that it permeates all of our other fears. That’s why we have Sacred Scripture. I always remind my students that the tabloid headline, “Lost Book of the Bible Found!” is an oxymoron.

One of the things that makes the Bible the Bible is that when other books were lost, these writings weren’t. As people discard other pieces of literature, they kept these. Just like other things we save, these writings helped their readers understand themselves; they assured them that they weren’t alone. If you’re reading this article at home, look around. Notice what objects you’ve saved through the years.

Rarely do our real “treasures” have any monetary value. Many of them will end up in the “free box” at our post-mortem yard sale. Yet they’re invaluable to us. We’d never part with them. Every time we hold or just look at them, they help us reflect on who we are and how we relate to significant others in our life.

In the pages

Scripture functions in the same way. We enjoy listening to its words and look forward to hearing it proclaimed, because we constantly discover ourselves in its pages. It tells us we’re not alone. Notice, for instance, how the first reading (Dt 26: 4-10) uses pronouns in this passage: “My father [Jacob] was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But, there, he became a nation great, strong and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to Yahweh, the God of our ancestors, and He heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt.”

The greatest event in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Exodus from Egypt, wasn’t something that happened to other people seven centuries before Deuteronomy was composed. It’s taking place in the life of every Jew throughout history, something with which every person longing for freedom can identify, something which reminds us we’re not alone. In the same way, Paul can point out (Rom 10: 8-13) to the young Christian community in Rome that each person’s individual experience of the risen Jesus joins them with everyone else in the world who experiences His unique presence in his or her life. “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord,” he writes, “and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved....No one who believes in Him will be put to shame.”

Together in faith

Unlike his other writings, scholars believe Paul penned these words to a community he had never visited. Yet he still knew what its members were going through. Each follower of Jesus is joined to all followers of Jesus by a common, often hard-to-describe experience of faith. No matter how personal our faith, we’re not alone in having it. That’s why Luke has no problem describing Jesus’ wilderness temptations in great detail, though we know he never saw a video of the event (Lk 4: 1-13).

Jesus’ temptations are the basic temptations of every Christian. Each of us daily deals with a strong inner pull just to take care of peoples’ external needs, never going deep enough in our relationship with them to surface and address the needs which lie at the heart of who they are. We’re always drawn to control instead of to service. And we’re constantly attracted to the spectacular instead of committing ourselves to the rarely noticed, everyday care of others. No matter what happens, I presume Scripture’s going to be around for a long time. We’d be crazy to throw it away. No one wants to go through a life of faith alone.

(02/26/04)