Church Interpretation vs. Personal Interpretation

John 8:31-32Romans 5:3-5Hebrews 4:12

When we read the Bible to build up our spiritual lives and knowledge of the faith, we will inevitably come across concepts or themes that challenge us. Oftentimes they will do so by calling us on to greater holiness, but sometimes we will simply struggle with the truth of what's being said. A lot of good fruit can come from these times when we're wrestling with the Word of God, but it can also just be confusing and uncomfortable.

During these moments, a question we want to ask ourselves is this: Am I struggling to understand or accept a teaching of the Catholic Church, or is there something personal the Lord is trying to show me?

The reason it's important to ask this question is because the Church exercises authority in its definition of dogmas, and we are obliged to accept them as truth. However, the Church also teaches that, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the entire body of the faithful is called to contemplate and penetrate Scripture more deeply and apply it to daily life.

For example, if we are reading the discourse on the Eucharist in John 6, we must recognize that the Church's interpretation of Jesus’ words has authority. Our personal feelings or thoughts about what Jesus meant do not hold any weight against official teaching. On the other hand, if we read St. Paul's words in Romans 5:3-5, we notice that it is meant for personal encouragement and reflection. Here is where the Church supports our spiritual growth and application of the scriptures to our daily lives.

Whenever we are in doubt, we can always check with a good Catholic friend, a priest or spiritual director, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We certainly have the resources and fellowship available to not only discover the truths of our faith but to dive deeper into our relationship with God, sharing our joys and struggles and tackling the tough questions with one another. 

As we've mentioned before, the Word of God is always relevant to each individual, and thankfully we have the authority of the Magisterium to help guide us during times of doubt or confusion. Let us rejoice that Jesus is the Word and the Truth and that the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32).