As Catholics we often are accused of not opening our Bibles to read God’s Word. Of course we laugh at this thought because we know that from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, our entire Mass is steeped in God’s Word. We have readings from the Old Testament and the New Testament; we have prayers straight from the Bible; and of course the Holy Eucharist which is given to us from Christ Himself in the Bible! Yes, we can laugh when we are told that Catholics don’t ever read their bibles.
But, how many of us can say we pick up our bibles and just jump into God’s word on a daily basis? Some of us do, but we are all called to do this. In fact the Catechism tells us, “And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life. Hence “access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful.” (131)
Did you read that? Reading the Word of God gives us “strength for our faith” and is “food for our souls”! How many of us wander around hungry for something, anything really, and can’t seem to feed that hunger? Perhaps if we started our day off with Scripture first (or fit it in sometime during the day) we would be nourished and filled where we would have the strength to face the troubles that come our way. Maybe, just maybe, we could fill ourselves so full of God and His Word that we wouldn’t have any room left in us for those things that we consume but have no nourishing value to our lives or our souls.
The Catechism continues with, “The Church “forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful… to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”(133)
Wait a minute… the Church tells us, and not in a meek manner but forcefully, that we all should be reading the divine Scriptures frequently? That’s a far cry from the claims that the Church discourages Catholics from reading the bible themselves or that she wishes to us to just follow like the blind, never opening the Bible for to read on our own. It’s almost like the Church wants us to have an intimate relationship with Christ through His Word! That can’t be, can it? I mean the media and many anti-Catholic groups or people tell us all the time that we are just sheep that blindly follow and that we have no real one-on-one relationship with Christ. Of course this is exactly what the Church is encouraging us to do. She wants us to know God through His holy writings. She wants us to meet Christ in the pages of our dog-eared Bibles. She wants us to read, explore, think, pray, and learn through study of the Sacred Scriptures. She tells us to be ignorant of Scripture is to be ignorant of Christ!
I know it can be easy to become complacent and think that as long as you’ve gone to Mass this week that you are “good to go” and that you don’t need to study the Bible. But our faith tells us differently. The Mass, while so very important, can’t be our only exposure to our faith through the week. We’ve seen what the Catechism says about jumping in and reading Scripture but what did Jesus do? Aren’t we supposed to model ourselves after Christ Himself? We only have to look at Luke 2: 46-52 to know how Jesus viewed Sacred Scripture and learning. In this passage we find Christ in the Temple surrounded by the teachers both asking and answering questions. The chapter concludes with “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
If Christ continued to learn and study to gain more wisdom then shouldn’t we? Is sitting in Mass listening to the Word once a week enough? No, it’s not. Christ asks more of us than that.
But, but, but… I’m busy! I have a billion and one things to do! I can barely catch my breath! I just don’t have time to sit down with a bible in my hand. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to read. I don’t like to read! Yes, there a so many reasons we can come up with to keep us from diving into the Word and yet all of them really don’t hold water next to the fact that we need to be reading the Word of God on a regular basis. Our souls and our minds need it like our physical bodies need food and water. Remember how the Catechism said that reading the Bible is “food for our souls”? That’s true! I know you think you don’t have time, but you make time to feed your body don’t you? Why don’t you make the time to feed your soul?
I often talk about how terrible I think our society has gotten in relying on quick fixes and instant gratification but this is one area where the technological advances and the “I want it now!” society that we live in can be helpful to those of us who have limited time but want to delve into our faith through the reading of God’s Word. Don’t have time to read at home- download an app for your phone that puts the entire Bible at your fingertips. This way you can read while you are waiting at the doctor’s office or standing in line at the grocery store. Not sure what to read? There are many websites that can give you the daily Mass readings or suggest other readings to focus on. Don’t know where to start? Try your parish website or the USCCB site. Not only will you find great inspiration but there you’ll find the daily Mass readings too! Don’t like to read? Guess what? There’s an app for that! You can have your Bible passages read to you. Reading your bible and gaining wisdom and faith can be yours with a click of a mouse or a swipe of your finger!
Now that you have no excuses and you realize just how important reading Sacred Scripture truly is, I have a challenge for you. Now that it is summertime, take a dive into the Word! Make a commitment to read the Bible daily throughout the summer. But, if you feel that is too much of a commitment for you, start small and plan to read daily for the month of June. I’m betting that once you have your feet wet you will be eager to dive head first into the Word!