Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

It’s Summertime! Take a Dive… Into the Word!

read the bibleAs 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!

jesus in templeI 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?

laudate appI 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!

dive in 2

Domestic Church Ink Slingers Michelle Pope Spiritual Growth

Bruised, Hurting, and Dirty… A Life Worth Living

helping the poorAfter Mass the words of Pope Francis lingered in my mind…

“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote. “I do not want a church concerned with being at the center and then ends up by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”

I couldn’t help but think that just maybe there was more to these words than met the eye. I sat attentively at Mass listening and agreeing with the priest as he reminded us that as a Church we needed to be active in the ministries outside of our church walls.  I knew that as a Church we needed to be more than just rules and procedures, customs and traditions. Sure, those are important, but we need more than that. We need to have dirty fingernails that show we had been toiling alongside the poor; our ears stinging from the burning remarks of those ridiculing our faith; our shoulders bruised from carrying the burdens of those who can’t carry their own crosses. Yes, I understood what Pope Francis was saying to us as a Church.  But for some reason I felt there was something more to understand.

I began to pray for understanding.

I don’t know what day it was or what I was doing when I came to understand exactly what I felt God wanted, no, needed me to know about this quote by Pope Francis. I do know that it was an “a-ha” moment for me. I couldn’t believe it took me so long to understand. Maybe I just wasn’t listening. Maybe I already knew the answer in my heart but didn’t want to hear it. Maybe, just maybe, God knew I needed to wait so that I would be truly ready for this revelation.

Unexpected and unprepared, I heard a whispering in my ear, or perhaps it was my heart, that said, “Michelle, YOU are the church and when your life is bruised, hurting, and dirty it means that you have been living! You cannot truly be alive unless you experience everything that life has to offer. This means you must trust God in all you do. You must give your life completely over to Him. You must live outside of yourself. You must live for others. You will suffer for it. You will hurt. You will be bruised. You will get dirty. But through it all you will live.”

That unexpected moment in time gave me such hope. It brought so much light into the darkness that I sometimes find myself stumbling through. It gave meaning to the suffering and heartache that we have been through, will go through. If we lived in a bubble where we never experienced pain or disappointment we could not truly understand or be grateful for all the blessings we have been given. Getting our hands dirty, our hearts bruised and bleeding, and shouldering more hurt than I could have ever imagined shouldering, has helped us to live our lives deeply entrenched in our faith and thus in God’s arms.  Our pain has ultimately brought us an unspeakable amount of joy!

While Pope Francis was specifically addressing the Church and her willingness to go into the trenches to do the work that is often unrecognized by others instead of a Church who is self-absorbed, I think that God is also talking to us as individuals as well.  While we make up the Church we are also a domestic church. When we stop being worried about what the world thinks of us and if it approves of all we are doing and instead just begin living our lives for God, we truly begin to live.  Our lives become a reflection of Christ’s… living for God and for others; sharing our faith; sacrificing self in the name of love; trusting in God’s providence above all. Yes, we will become dirty, bruised and our hearts will hurt, but the grace and gifts we also receive are extraordinary!

I know that to truly live my life in a manner which glorifies our Lord I must get down in the trenches. I must live outside of myself.  I have to live my faith in a way that opens my heart to a tremendous amount of suffering and pain. I must get dirty, I must get hurt, and I must be bruised.  However, living this way does not only lead to suffering; it also leads to great joy and unfettered love.  It leads to closeness with others that I cannot experience in any other manner.  It leads me straight into our Savior’s arms.

I am ready to get dirty.  I am ready to be hurt and bruised.  I am ready to live my life with my eyes and heart fully fixed on God.  I am ready to truly live.

dirty, bruised, and hurt