Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reading the Bible

Q - How important do you think reading the Bible is for the faith formation of a Catholic? What do you think about the situation in which a practicing Catholic, who has read parts of the Bible and New Testament, doesn’t continue because they “just don’t get anything out of it”?

A - Thanks for the question. Well, the first thing I would say is that if this is the case, there could be an issue with how the person is reading the Bible if they aren't getting anything out of reading the Bible. If we truly believe that the Bible contains the written revelation of all that God wanted to reveal to us about Himself, our relationship to Him, and our salvation, then there is no good reason not to read (and pray with) the Bible. But, we still must learn how to do so effectively and prayerfully. This takes time and practice.

The Bible is not a history textbook, a novel, or like any other piece of literature. It is God-breathed. It is an opportunity to encounter Christ. It is the primary way we can know about the life of Jesus. It is God's Word to us in the written form. So, maybe getting someone who is knowledgeable about how to pray with the Bible to help teach some ways to enter into prayer with the Bible would be a good idea.

As St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ". Do we want to know Jesus intimately? Then we cannot just brush aside the Bible as something that doesn't fit our fancy. From the sound of your question this person has not given the Bible a fair shake or they don't know how to really dive into The Word of God in the Bible, because they have only read "parts of the Bible". Maybe this quote from Vatican II's Constitution on The Word of God can help shed some light on the importance of reading the Bible for every Catholic (emphasis added):

The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and "it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13).
Scripture should be an indispensable part of every Christians' daily life. As the quote above shows us, it is a way we meet, talk, and receive grace from the Father.

I hope this helps.

Other Links of interest:
**Good Catholic Bible Studies
**Best Bible Translations
**The Dos and Don'ts of Reading the Bible
**100 Catholic Ways to Pray


tour86rocker said...

I'm becoming something of a Matthew Kelly apologist lately. I really like his book "Rediscovering Catholicism":

"It is all too easy to read the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery and into the desert, and think that we have nothing to learn, or that we would never complain like the Israelites did when food was scarce. The temptation is to read the Gospels and believe that we would never be cruel, calculating, vindictive, and hard-hearted, like the Pharisees. We are tempted to think that we would be the one leper who returns. But the ultimate temptation is to read the Bible and see ourselves only in Jesus.

Every single person in the Bible is put there to serve you...Until you have learned to see yourself in every person in the Scriptures, you have not read the Bible.

speak2theearth said...

I would agree with Marcel that the Bible is not a history book, but I would also point out that the Church has always taught that when the Bible speaks historically, it should be interpreted as true history. In his 1893 encyclical, Providentissimus Deus, Pope Leo XIII wrote:
"But he [the expositor of Scripture] must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine -- not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires; a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate."