This is part five of a seven-part series on discipleship.
So far in this series, we have covered desire, discernment, decision-making, and discipline. In this article, we will talk about an essential and critical key to discipleship: Dwelling in the Word of God.
A couple of years ago, I spoke with a group of students about the importance of remaining connected to God through prayerful reading of the Scriptures at home. After the class, a catechist asked me, “Are we encouraging people to read the Scriptures on their own now? Because when I was growing up, this is something that Catholics were not encouraged to do.” I was stunned. Somehow, this kind and faithful lady who had ministered faithfully in a parish for over 20 years did not realize that Catholics should be reading the Scriptures on a daily basis (and not just as part of a group Bible study). I wish that I could say that this was an isolated incident, but I have run into the same scenario more than a few times through the years.
At one point in the history of the Catholic Church, some Catholics were not actively encouraged to read the Bible. However, the call for us to be immersed in Scripture has been part-and-parcel of Catholic life. And yet for many of us, we hear the Word of God every time we attend Mass but never pick up the Bible at home. Pope Pius XII was so distressed by this issue that he released the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (“Inspired by the Holy Spirit,” 1943) which encouraged Catholics to actively read the Bible, and each successive pope has called for all Catholics to grow as disciples through dwelling in the Word. Reading Scripture is to Catholics like water is to fish: necessary and life-sustaining.
Here are three tips to grow in your love of Scripture.
1. Develop a reading plan.
If you start your plan reading the Book of Genesis, you are going to find the reading slow-going by the time you get to Deuteronomy. Instead, sign up for a Bible reading plan, and decide upon your time commitment. There are many plans available online or in print. You can read the Bible in three months, one year, three years, or over five years. Decide on the plan that best works for you. Alternatively, begin with the New Testament, and work from there.
2. Set aside time every day.
Just as you would write on a calendar your dental or medical appointments, set aside time every day to read the Scriptures. One beautiful practice is to pray lectio divina, which is an ancient way of reading Scripture and moves the person from reading and studying the Word to truly living and dwelling in the Word.
3. Respond with a thankful heart.
When we hear the phrase, “The Word of the Lord” at Mass, remember that it is not just “a word” but The Word. God the Son, Jesus Christ, is known as the Word of God. Intimacy with God’s Word is intimacy with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The next time you hear “The Word of the Lord” proclaimed at Mass, respond with renewed confidence and faith as you say, “Thanks be to God.”
As disciples, we constantly find nourishment and strength in Sacred Scripture. The Word is welcomed not as a human word but as the Word of God. It is God’s intended gift to us that gives us the strength to arise each day. His Word is freely available to us, not just at Mass but every day if we would take the time to open it. If you want to know and love Christ better, open the Scriptures regularly! St. Jerome famously said that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” So what’s your top tip for reading the Bible or helping others to read the Bible? I’d love to hear from you.
Take a moment and ask yourself: does every activity in my parish point more deeply to Jesus? Julianne Stanz wants to help you and your parish community make sure the answer to this question is a resounding, “Yes!” Order Julianne’s new book, Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church, available now.