Reading of Sacred Scripture is a must for anyone who wants to grow closer to Christ. The Catholic Scriptures show us the plan of salvation. It is the story – the mega-story of all of creation and time – of God’s bringing us into existence out of pure love, enduring our waywardness and rebellion, calling a people to himself by which he would reveal himself “in the fullness of time” to the whole world, and the ultimate plan of winning us back , in the power of the Holy Spirit, through his son, Jesus.
Sacred Scripture teaches us, slowly and steadily, what the voice of God sounds like. It is a purifying aspect of our life of discipleship. The Word of God teaches us who God is and in this light who we are. Seeking to follow Jesus without knowing his Word is like trying to run a marathon with one leg. For centuries, illiteracy and the excessive cost of hand-copied books, make personal devotion to the Word of God impossible. But this does not mean that Catholics were ignorant of Scripture.
The Word of God permeates our liturgy and Catholic symbolism. The readings at Mass, both daily and Sundays and solemnities, bring us into contact with God’s word, from the creation account and initial covenant God makes in the Pentateuch to the checkered history of God’s people in the Historical and Prophetic Books of the Old Testament to the most beautiful prayers and proverbs in the Wisdom literature. We also read the pinnacle of God’s revelation in the Gospels, where the life, teaching, and salvific work of Jesus Christ is revealed to us. We see how this invitation to a relationship with God in Jesus Christ is lived out in the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline and Catholic epistles as well as a symbolic and prophetic vision of heaven in Revelation.
Sacred Scripture permeates the rituals and prayers throughout the Mass as well. When the priest greets us with the words “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” he is echoing the greeting of St. Paul (2Cor 13:13). The words of Consecration at Mass are the very words Jesus spoke over the bread and wine at the Last Supper, and before we receive Holy Communion we take on the words the faithful centurion said to Jesus: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and [my soul] shall be healed” ( Mt. 8:8 ).
The words of Scripture are all throughout the Mass. But for us to seek to follow Jesus and who represents his Church – either by employment or responsibility we have in our parish – must not be satisfied with this amount of Scripture in our lives. We must own the words of the prophet Jeremiah for ourselves: “When I found your words, I devoured them; / your words were my joy, the happiness of my heart. / Because I bear your name, / LORD, God of hosts” ( Jer. 15:16 ).
God’s word needs to be central to our lives because it is a life-giving word. When we prayerfully read Scripture it shapes us and forms us since it is “living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” ( Heb. 4:12 ). This reading of God’s word touches the depths of our hearts and fills us with consolation for the gift God gives us in himself. Outside of the sacraments of the Church, there is no more efficacious way of being in conformity with Christ than reading his word.
But it also understands the depths of the heart. When we read the Scriptures – especially the Gospels – with an openness to God, we are also called to repentance. God is not satisfied with any part of our hearts which does not belong entirely to him. Therefore, his word sharply separates in us whatever is not of him. It is a call to conform our lives more fully to Jesus and his Church. For those who want to be transformed by God’s power, which includes his purifying power, commitment to Scripture is an essential part of our lives. ‘Unleash the Gospel’ reminds us that “ the more grounded we are in Scripture, the more we are able to understand God’s marvelous plan and to see the events in our lives with the eyes of faith .”
If reading of Scripture is not already a part of our life, fear not! God is patient with us. He invites you to take it up now. The Unleash The Gospel movement is a challenge to each disciple to conform his or her life to that of the Master more perfectly. We all have aspects where we need to grow.
But it is also an urgent call to make the pattern of prayer and Scripture part of our lives. Conformity to Christ does not happen accidentally or without great effort. It requires resolve and commitment to this day to say yes to making God’s word a regular part of your life. This can be a regular part of your daily prayer in various ways, including using an app or magazine ( Magnificat is my favorite) to access the daily readings. Reading God’s word can help make our relationship with Christ more deeply personal as a commitment to Scripture keeps us “ truth-rooted .”
St. Jerome is often quoted as saying “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” The most important work any of us has is to share Christ with others. This is why the Church exists, to make Christ known and loved. If we do not know him, we cannot share him. Therefore, reading of Scripture is an essential part of the life of any disciple, especially we who work and serve on behalf of the Church.