US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Watch: 5 questions with Laurie Brink, O.P.

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We shouldn’t get hung up on the details surrounding Jesus’ birth, says this Bible scholar. As with any scripture story, there’s more here than meets the eye.

Learning scripture in the land of the Bible changes the way you read it, says Sister Laurie Brink, O.P., who leads study tours to places such as Bethlehem. “The land holds memory,” she says. “It’s made holy by everybody that went there before.”

Memory and history aren’t exactly the same thing, though, and the stories of Jesus’ birth are a case in point. “If you want to know the historical facts about Jesus’ birth, you’ll be disappointed,” says Brink. “We really can’t verify the Magi or even a manger. But the purpose of the stories is not to present facts; it’s to place Jesus’ birth in human history. He was a real human being, born like other human beings, though his conception was unique.”

Like the gospels as a whole, the infancy narratives should speak to us today, says Brink. “We have made the Bible a church book, when in truth it is our family book. When we read these stories, they become ours, and then we can live them. That’s what we Catholics have sometimes forgotten to do.”

Read the editors interview with Laurie Brink, O.P.