Let me start by saying that while I understand the importance of reading sacred Scripture as a part of a healthy daily prayer life, I don’t always manage to read the Bible. It’s beautiful and inspiring when I can. Some days, my prayer life is only a quick prayer and the hope that my actions speak louder than my words.
The Catholic Church stresses the importance of sacred Scripture as God’s divine revelation to us and encourages the study of sacred Scripture by all. Reading the Bible is not just a “Protestant thing”. God’s plan for salvation, His divine revelation, has been written down by human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit. If we are not inclined to study sacred Scripture, then we miss a vital part of our understanding of God’s plan.
In Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council states that “access to sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful”. This includes making translations and bible studies available throughout the world. Growing up, bible study groups were entirely Protestant. That has changed, thankfully, in the more recent past. With proper study guides and with encouragement from within the Church, Catholics can grow in our understanding of God’s written Word. And with that growth, we can better and more lovingly defend our faith.
How are we to study the Bible? Start with asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Beyond this, we need to consider the literary forms and the author’s cultural situation. Why is the author writing this story in this particular way? Understanding the context of Scripture, both within a passage and as a part of all Scripture, leads one closer to God’s divine revelation. For instance, why did many disciples leave because they found Jesus’ teachings in John 6 difficult to accept? One must understand the context of Jesus’ Bread of Life teaching in terms of how a first century Jew would take Jesus saying “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6: 55). He would take Jesus literally and be horrified because to eat human flesh or to drink the blood of any animal would be prohibited. So, we are to study sacred Scripture, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and with the guidance of the Magisterium, using available methods of study and analysis in order to deepen our understanding of God’s divine revelation.
Photo: Bread and Wine