By Michael Steier, D.Min
On childhood visits to my Methodist grandmother, I often saw her read the Bible to understand how God was speaking to her. From it she drew inspiration and guidance for life. It was encouraging to see that despite our different churches, we shared the Bible in common. Back then, however, despite her example, I was not moved to read the Bible myself. Like many Catholics, I got my dose of the Scriptures at Sunday Mass. Reading the Bible has since become a valued part of my life. How about you?
Recent surveys by research groups such as the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) report that reading and studying the Bible is still a small part of faith life for Catholics in the United States. However, anyone reading Catholic news in the fall of 2008 likely saw articles about a special Vatican gathering, a Synod of Bishops from around the world, focusing on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” There, in comments to fellow bishops, Archbishop Terrence Predergast, S.J., a Canadian prelate from Ottawa said “All Catholics should have a Bible, all Catholics should read the Bible and all Catholics need to have regular prayer experiences where they open the book and let it become the word of God speaking to them.”
The Bible is the world’s best bestseller. Not only is it God’s inspired Word, it’s a great work of literature. It’s a collection of books composed over many centuries, with many literary forms, including history, historical novels, parables, allegories, and poems. It tells a tale that stretches back to the creation of the world and forward to the end of time. It speaks of faith, hope, love and forgiveness, describes every human emotion, depicts the heights and depths of human courage and depravity, and above all God’s unconditional love for humanity and his salvific plan.
There are numerous reasons to read the Scriptures.
- It is part of the inspired Word of God. The Old and New Testament together form the inspired Word of God in human language. The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council states clearly that “the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation.”
- It chronicles for us God’s loving plan of salvation for all.
- Because the New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old is made manifest in the New.
- Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
- Scripture is a deep font for the Church’s worship and prayer life. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has provided for an expanded use of Sacred Scriptures in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass, in the celebration of the other sacraments and the devotional life of the Church, and in its urgings to the laity to celebrate Morning and Evening Prayer which incorporates recitation of the Psalms.
- It continues to instruct the faithful and call them to faithfulness in their covenant with God.
Michael Steier, D.Min. is Associate Director Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.