Though a recent Gallup poll revealed that six out of ten adult Americans read the Bible occasionally, I presume the percentage is significantly lower for Catholics.

My hunch why so few Catholics turn to Scripture to help understand and deepen their religious experiences springs from how most of us were formally introduced to our faith: through catechisms. The contrast between scriptural faith and catechism faith is similar to perceiving reality in color or in black and white.

Bible literature never provides the facile answers which catechisms offer. Those who have the courage to delve into Scripture usually surface more questions than answers, as we hear in the second reading (I Cor 15: 54-58).

Questions

Some of Paul's readers doubt that they'll rise after their physical deaths. The questions feeding their doubts are still around 19 centuries later; they even surfaced during my childhood catechism classes. What age will we be in heaven? If we're missing a limb here, will it be restored there? Will bodies which have turn to dust before the final judgment be made whole again in heaven?

Paul doesn't have many answers. He simply says that at the resurrection the corruptible will clothe itself with incorruptibility, the mortal with immortality. He never offers specifics about the resurrected body's shape or design. But he's absolutely certain about one thing: "My brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

Even if we don't have all the answers, our faith in and imitation of Jesus assures us that the future will be a life-expanding experience.

But what are we to do between now and eternity? If we can't acquire detailed knowledge about our future life with Jesus, how does a person of faith occupy his or her time?

We could copy Sirach and become perceptive observers of human behavior, eventually producing insightful statements about our experiences (Sir 27:47). Or we could change our daily behavior patterns enough to start bringing life to everything we do here and now.

Most people believe that the environment in which they live must change before they can experience real life. Such an attitude contradicts the way Jesus' first followers looked at reality. His earliest disciples believed that by changing themselves they'd actually create a life-giving environment. That's why the Gospels, and Luke's Sermon on the Plain in particular, put so much emphasis on personal conversion (Lk 6: 39-45).

Inside us

If, for instance, we can't see "the light" shining in our lives, how can we show that light to others? There's not much of a demand for blind guides.

Likewise, there's no sense trying to make others better while we ignore the evil forces which dominate our own lives. It's always easier to keep the other person's splinter more in focus than the beam which blocks our view of reality.

Good doesn't happen by accident, nor does it come about because all our faith-questions are answered. It only appears when good people cause it to happen. Or, as Jesus says, "A good person out of the store of goodness in her or his heart produces good."

Why waste time looking for answers? The authors of Scripture constantly remind us that God's power will bring about all we need to be fulfilled. A catechism quest for answers should never lead us to ignore or underestimate what we can do to create good in the present, even if we're not certain what that good will accomplish in the future. That's what true, questioning, colorful faith is all about.

(02-22-01)