The Bible as Summer Reading – Praying with Sacred Scripture
Seek First the Kingdom – Cardinal Donald Wuerl – July 19, 2012
For many people, part of planning for vacation is heading off to the bookstore or the library or logging on to Amazon.com to purchase books for your reading pleasure. Some people work on a list throughout the year and know exactly what they want to read. Others like to browse and see what captures their attention. Whatever your practice, why not pack your Bible and give yourself more time to savor God’s word?
Though the Bible is a collection of writings composed over the course of many centuries, we believe that God is the author of all of these sacred writings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely” (CCC, 102).
The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation teaches us that “in the sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to his children and talks with them. 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” (Dei Verbum, 21). As you become more familiar with Sacred Scripture you will begin to appreciate that though all express God’s word, Sacred Scripture is cast in a rich variety of literary forms; mystical Psalm prayers, poetry, historical narratives, beloved parables, straightforward wisdom sayings and, of course, the four Gospels that tell the story of the life and teaching of Jesus and the New Testament letters describing more fully what it means to be a Christian and to follow Christ’s way.
Sacred Scripture is a precious gift from God to his people and the priceless patrimony of the Church. The Word of God helps us to both know and to praise the living God. Given the richness of God’s revelation, is it any wonder that he has entrusted Sacred Scripture to the teaching office of his Church to protect, interpret, apply and proclaim? Making a commitment to the daily reading of Sacred Scripture is a way of rejoicing and thanking God for the wondrous gift of God’s revelation to us in these sacred texts. The Holy Spirit can open our minds to better understand Sacred Scripture and make it come alive in our lives. This is why the prayerful reading of the Word of God is so important.
There are many ways you can take up a prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture. You can read along with the Church using the cycle of readings we read at Mass. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops posts the daily readings. This site offers not only the readings of the day, but short video reflections that may help your own meditation and prayer.
You might decide to read a book of Sacred Scripture, particularly one from the New Testament, beginning to end. This practice helps you enter into the mind of the writer and gain a deeper appreciation for the audience the writer had in mind as he gathered the teaching and preaching of Jesus together in the form of an account, a letter or a book. For example, the Gospel of Mark can easily be read in one sitting. It is short, but you can feel the excitement of people coming to recognize that this man Jesus was someone special, someone worth following, someone who was suggesting a whole new way of living. The Gospel of Saint Mark leads us to the proclamation of the centurion at the foot of the cross who said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
On the other hand, the Gospel of John is longer and more poetic, it is meant to be read slowly and with time to meditate on the rich imagery John uses to tell the story of Jesus. You could choose to read a Psalm a day. It is edifying to think that the Psalms are the very prayers that Our Lord recited as a child and a young man. It is surprising how well the Psalms continue to capture feelings of joy or despair, fear or exultation. The book of Kings and the book of Samuel are examples of accounts of a religious history. They are historical stories that trace the saving action of God in the life of the Israelites, God’s chosen people.
Whichever book of the Bible you choose to read, begin by offering a short prayer of gratitude for the gift of the Word and ask God to help you recognize in your reading a living word you can take into your daily life.