A Commitment to Read the Bible
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
by Fr. David M. Knight
View Mass readings for today:
Editor's note: Father Knight had many talents. Unfortunately, computer file management was not one of those talents. Thus, I have so far been unable to locate Fr. Knight's reflections on the daily readings from today until Feb 22 (Ash Wednesday). Consequently, starting today, I will post selections from The Five Promises of Baptism on weekdays. (Full copies of the booklet are available here.) On Sundays, I will post reflections on the Mass readings -- if I can find those files! Pray for me! ~~ Lynne Marie
We may not have realized it, and it may not have been specifically pointed out to us, but at Baptism we committed ourselves to read the Bible!
This was never made an explicit law in the Catholic Church. The reason is that the Church was in existence well over a thousand years before the printing press was invented. There were very few books available. Copies of the Bible were priceless. People did not learn to read. So the Church did not command what was, for the vast majority of Christians, simply impossible.
But now almost everyone can read. And everyone can afford a copy of the Bible. So why would anyone who was exhorted at Baptism to "be guided to the fullness of the truth" and to "learn to make the mind of Christ your own;' and to "strive to pattern your life on the teachings of the Gospel" not take for granted that daily reading of the Bible is an indispensable staple of the Christian life?
Does the Church have to make a law for us to recognize the obvious? Is it not evident-although many will find it upsetting-that there is just as much obligation for Christians to read the Bible as to go to church on Sunday? Do we need a law of the Church to tell us that we should read the words of God?
If, as Saint Paul wrote, "Whatever was written [in Scripture] was written for our instruction;' and written by God himself as an "operator's manual" for the life of grace, do we have to be saints or geniuses to see that we ought to read it? (Romans 15:4)
The Acts of the Apostles say that the people "were more receptive" to the preaching of Paul and Silas because, in response to their words, they "examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so." (Acts 17: 11)
Does this say something to us? Do we do the same in response to the homilies we hear at Mass?
If we go to Jesus as disciples, to learn from him as Teacher, do we not believe he will do for us what he did for the two he met on the road to Emmaus, when he "opened their minds to understand the scriptures"? Do we not think our experience will be the same as theirs: "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:13-35)
THE EXPERIENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Discipleship is a commitment to pursue deeper and deeper enlightenment through the gift of the Holy Spirit. No one comprehends what is truly God's except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:10-14)
Ultimately, all Christian discipleship is a mystical experience. And we need to claim it as this. Discipleship demands human efforts; but it is not just a human activity, and it is not just a human experience. It is an experience of seeking and finding enlightenment from God.
Before he was the Pope, Benedict XVI told a world gathering of catechists and religion teachers in Rome, December 10, 2000, that the "Following of Christ" is not just "a question of morality, but a 'mysteric' theme - an ensemble of divine action and our response."
We often fail to notice this. St. Teresa of Avila complains about it: "We always hear about what a good thing prayer is... Yet only what we ourselves can do in prayer is explained to us; little is explained about what the Lord does in a souI." (lnterior Castle I, ch. 2, no 7)
St. John's Gospel makes us conscious that we can walk by the "light of this world" which is "darkness" or we can walk by a light that is given by God-light which came into the world in its fullness only in Jesus Christ.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14)
A SIMPLE SUGGESTION
If you want to be a disciple, a first concrete step-simple but not simplistic-is to start reading the Bible every day. Many will find this too much to commit themselves to. But here is an "offer you cannot refuse:' It is so simple, so easy, that you will not be able to think of any excuse not to do it!
Get a Bible. Get an inexpensive edition that you are not afraid to highlight, to underline, to scribble notes in.
Put it on your pillow. Do not put it on the table by your bed; you will end up forgetting it is there! Put the Bible on your pillow, on top of your bed. That way you can never go to sleep without picking it up. (It is impossible to go to sleep with a Bible under your ear!)
Promise God-what? To read a chapter a night? Be real. To read a paragraph or two? Even that you will find too much on some nights. Make a promise you can actually keep: Promise God you will never go to sleep without reading one line.
You might also try to listen to the Bible daily! The Bible in a Year Podcast (click here) available at Ascension is a wonderful resource and makes it easy to listen to the Bible for a few minutes each day!
DON'T DESPISE WHAT IS EASY
You may think it is hardly worthwhile to read one line of the Bible a night. After all, how much good can that do? Remember the story of Naaman, the commander of King Aram's army. He was rich and important. And he contracted leprosy. Naaman was not a Jew, but one of his slave girls, captured in a raid on Israel, suggested he go to Elisha the prophet to be cured. He did, taking with him "ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments" as a gift. When he came to the house of Elisha, however, the prophet would not accept his gifts or even come to the door to talk to him.
He just sent word through his servant: "Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and you will be healed." Naaman was furious. He went away, saying:
"I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not... the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?" He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants said to him, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So Naaman went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, and he was healed.
Reading one line a night may not be "immersing" yourself in Scripture, but it is a start. Don't spurn the idea because it is so easy. Because it is so easy, you will never have an excuse not to do it. If you do read one line a night, you are keeping your promise to God, and that will encourage you. That will keep you going.
Most folks I casually check with, some time after making this suggestion, tell me they actually read three or four lines, just because it is hard to stop in the middle of a sentence. Do that. And when you finish, do not put the Bible on your bed table. You will forget it is there. Put it on the floor, on top of your shoes. That way you will have to pick it up again when you get up. Read one more line and put the Bible back on your pillow.
This might sound minimal, but it may be more than you are doing now. And it will let God say a couple of words to you every morning and every night.
Believe it or not, that will change your whole life! Try it and see! You will experience the fulfillment of the promise of enlightenment that was made to you at Baptism.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry