Every month, we suggest a Faith Practice which you and your home, school or parish community might like to take on as part of your commitment for the Year of Faith. It is our hope that these simple practices will stir in us the ‘renewed conversion of the Lord’ that Pope Benedict XVI calls for in Porta Fidei (n. 6).
Faith Practice of the Month for June: Praying with the Scriptures Daily
The Constitution on Divine Revelation (21) summarised the role of the Bible in the life of the Church:
The Church has always venerated the divine scriptures as it has venerated the Body of the Lord, in that it never ceases, above all in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the word of God and the Body of Christ.
The Church strongly encourages all Catholics to read the Bible prayerfully and to give it a central place in our daily lives. For many of us, however, the only Scripture we hear is at the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist.
Father Felix Just SJ, from the Loyola Institute for Spirituality, advises that by limiting our reading of the Bible to the Sunday lectionary, we are missing out on many pieces of wisdoms for daily living. In fact, Fr Felix has calculated that the Lectionary for Sundays and Major Feasts covers only 3.7 per cent of the Old Testament, 57.8 per cent of the Gospels, and 25.4 per cent of the rest of the New Testament.
The Faith Practice we suggest for the month of June, therefore, is to increase the amount of scripture you read. There a number of ways to do this:
1. Read from the weekday lectionary
Many websites provide a direct link to the readings of the day. The link for this on the Irish Episcopal Conference website is http://www.catholicbishops.ie/readings/. You can listen to a reflection on the daily readings on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/. This website also provides podcasts of the weekday lectionary http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings-audio.cfm. If you have a smartphone, you can download a Daily Bible app.
You can also buy a monthly liturgical prayer book, such as Magnificat. As well as the readings of the day, a book like this will give prayers drawn from the Liturgy of the Hours, meditations and information on the lives of the saints. Magnificat is available each month from Veritas stores priced €4.99.
2. Choose one book of the Bible to read, a chapter at a time, over the course of the month
It might seem like a huge task to read all of the Old Testament or all of the New Testament. Instead, choose one book and read a chapter every day. If you are new to reading the Bible in this way, perhaps start with a shorter book from the New Testament, such as the Book of James. As you read, take notes on the ideas that strike you, and the references for them. For example, in the Book of James, you might notice a theme of ‘Faith in action’ (2:26). When you have finished reading the book, look back over some of the notes you have made and return to those that resonate for you at this time, reading it prayerfully several times and looking for deeper understanding. A commentary may help you to do this.
3. Read a commentary on one of the books of the Bible
Again, there are many free online commentaries, but there is a need to be cautious about which one to choose. Commentaries will generally give an interpretation of the biblical text, combining historical scholarship and theological purpose. As Catholics read the Bible within the context of the whole Church and with the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium, it is important that Catholics choose a commentary that is aligned with this tradition.
The Bible is the living Word of God that speaks to us today in our place and our time. It is for living, not just for reading or studying. The Bible is the source of the living Word of God that we are called to make part of our daily lives.
Previous Faith Practices of the Month:
May 2013: Pilgrimage
April 2013: Supporting Catholic Education
March 2013: Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation
February 2013: Lenten Practices
January 2013: Performing Corporal Works of Mercy
December 2012: Enthroning the Christmas Crib
November 2012: Praying for those who have died
October 2012: Pray part of the Rosary every day