I got to thinking about this responding to another blog a friend of mine runs. ( www.davidpete.blogspot.com )
Karl Adam writes; "The characteristic element of the Catholic mind [is] the overwhelming importance of the Church in the production of the certitude of faith. The Catholic does not come to Christ mediately and by literary channels, as by the scriptural records, but immediately through personal contact with Christ living in his community."
The title quote is from the letter of Colossians. The full context follows;
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,
of which I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.
It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me.
Basically Paul is telling the Colossian church that
1. His sufferings are somehow added the passion of Christ and will help make the word of God complete. I understand this adding to be by the design of Christ in order to allow us to be partakers in his work and therefore his glory.
2. Further this completion is for their benefit
3. Paul brings the completion through his understanding
3. The proof of this completion is being manifest in the holy ones (Holy Spirit given to the gentiles in the same way as Pentecost?).
4. The completion to be understood is salvation for the gentiles through Christ.
5. Understanding that will bring them to perfection. In other words it will save them.
Now, if one understands that during the time of Paul’s writing this the word of God must have been limited to the Jewish scripture and that while the law and the prophets imply the salvation of the gentiles it is in a very limited and Judea-centric way. The completion of the word was to demonstrate that the gentiles would be full partakers in the glory of God. Grafted in as children. This could not be known from scripture. It took revelation and reality to reveal it. In fact those Jews most familiar with the scripture bitterly opposed the revelation. Peter and Paul believed as did the other disciples but many others did not. In order for the gentiles at Colossae to have certitude of faith they needed to submit to the Apostles teaching.
So, Adam's point that one can only have certitude of faith through the Church is seen in this text. In fact it is only through a submissive communal reading of the word that it becomes complete. Any other personal reading and interpretation must be considered as inferior to the communal reading and understanding. In practice one must allow the interpretation of the Church to guide meaning and certitude. This is especially important as Catholics become more comfortable with personal scripture reading. The tendency will be to personalize the text and find personal meaning in it.