Devotional Bible reading Part Four

“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” said St. Jerome. So let’s look at this foundational step toward a devotional life: a daily devotional reading of Scripture.

I’ve already discussed choosing a translation here, and choosing a Bible here, and there’s nothing I’d change about that, really. If you’re a Protestant, I know the NIV is very popular right now, but the NASB (New American Standard) ranks better on translation accuracy, is also a pleasure to read and is easy to navigate. There are still the die-hard King James adherents, but even in the nearly-200 years since what we know as the KJV was updated, language has undergone enormous shifts which can be misleading:  I once heard a preacher give a sermon on “The Prodigal’s other son” — he didn’t realize the Prodigal Son (not Prodigal’s son) was about the younger son, or that a “prodigal” is another name for a money-waster.  “Suffer the children to come unto me” is another example, as “suffering” means something completely different there than in our modern usage.  No, if you’re going to read the Scriptures, you’d better know the words it contains, so unless you’re a language or literature scholar, I’d bypass the KJV.

So how to begin?  A lot of people follow a Lectionary schedule, and read the passages marked for the day’s Mass readings.  This is a good place to begin –

However, I believe we need to have a sense of Scripture in context, of a Book as a whole, which is how it was written — which means we need to engage in a Book study.  Each Book of the Scriptures (and Bible comes from the word biblia, which is the root for most European language’s word for library: bibliothèque) was written independently of all the others.

So I’d recommend you choose a Book of Scripture, begin with Chapter 1, Verse 1, and read it through. Start with one of the Gospels, perhaps, or one of the shorter books of the New Testament. And get a sense of the whole message contained in each Book.

I suggest you read the Psalms and Wisdom Literature separately.  The Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, is built from the Psalms; you might read a Psalm a day (or a part of a long Psalm), and a chapter or a set number of verses in your other reading.

For the time being, I recommend avoiding, in the Old Testament, the Books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (which are the Law, the Census, and speeches of Moses), while you get a stronger sense of the drama of the Historical narratives (Genesis, Exodus, Joshua-Esther). The Wisdom literature and Prophets are easier to keep focused on, too.  As you are becoming grounded, you can read a few verses of Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy as an introduction, or for research — I just suggest you postpone reading straight through those, for the present; because they’re not narrative, they can be discouraging — just what you do NOT want to encounter, early on in your reading!

In the New Testament, I would likewise suggest waiting before tackling Revelations.

I also recommend you pace yourself. I believe it’s better to read for comprehension and retention, and a “Read the Bible through in a year” program just doesn’t lend itself to those.

Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be daunting or intimidating or mysterious; in fact, it’s quite a thrilling endeavor.

New Year, Resolutions?

January 1, 2019. Another year, and the push to make new resolutions for a “New Year, New You” for the coming twelve months, mixed with the jokes about broken resolutions and the unending cycle of same.

For us as Catholics, the year begins with Mass – not for a new year, but to honor the power of the Incarnation through the fiat of Mary, in a grand Solemnity. I cantored for a local Mass last night, and played at the chapel for another, this morning. This is a very good way to begin.

We are in a grave time of crisis, and we have important choices to make. Our culture is running mad. Children are being exploited as sex objects, even applauded for being transgender or a drag queen on national television, for all our children to see and to think should be imitated or looked up to.  Local libraries and bookstores are promoting reading hours with drag queens — again, to influence our children and to lure them into a false glamour, to rob them of their innocence.

There is an increasing push to criminalize reparative therapy:  the gay lobby insists, very loudly, that it is impossible to change one’s gender preference and that reparative therapy is abuse of a criminal degree — while they insist that one can overcome biology to change one’s own gender.

Public schools are promoting these ideologies, and even taking children to begin the process of “transitioning” — without parental consent.  Parents who oppose these manipulations of their children are being charged with criminal acts and losing their children to the State.

It’s being reported than nearly 14,010,000 babies were aborted in the past year.

The hallmarks of paganism are human sacrifice and sexual depravity.

More and more, Christians and those who hold traditional moral and social values are being scorned, persecuted, punished in the public square.

And even our beloved Church, which is supposed to be the safeguard of all things holy, and the example of sanctity in the world, is embroiled in one controversy and crisis after another — as princes of the Church protect one another from accountability for grave misdeeds, and promote individuals who defy Church teaching in order to promote deviance in the name of “love” and “acceptance.”

We can’t even take our own pontiff seriously, any more, for whatever words he might utter about homosexuals being kept from the priesthood, he promotes and protects the apologists for the homosexual lifestyle and punishes those who actually hold faithful to the Magisterium.

So, in this coming year, I propose that we must be resolved:

  1. to make an oblation, an offering, of our lives to God.
  2. to live faithfully to Christ, even in isolation, even in defiance of the tsunami of atheism and insanity that is pouring in on us.
  3. to know our Faith better, day by day, through diligent study of the Scriptures and works of the Magisterium (beginning, in conjunction with the Scriptures, the Catechism)
  4. to foster a greater love for Christ, through an increase in prayer and devotional time, so that the whole of our life might be a continual, unceasing prayer and praise
  5. to practice the Works of Mercy – which includes the often-uncomfortable Works of rebuking sinners and instructing the ignorant
  6. to guard our minds and hearts against the influence of the Evil One
  7. to do all in our power to protect our homes and families from evil influence
  8. for those who are married to pray together as a couple, and those with children to incorporate the family rosary and prayer in your daily routine
  9. for those who are not married to find prayer partners with whom you will unite in prayer and service, holding one another up to God and to accountability
  10. to serve faithfully in the Church Militant in that sphere of life to which we are called, and in which we daily live.

Frankly, I think our culture has gone past the point of no return. I don’t believe we can recover the innocence and purity of past generations.  I believe we are now on a Search And Rescue mission.

Let us do our very best.

Vivat Christus Rex!

Advent, 2018

Tonight marks the beginning of a new liturgical season, with the Vigil for the First Sunday of Advent. I love this time of year!  Even more than January 1, with the calendar’s New Year, this is a season of reflection, evaluation, course-correction, and preparation.

For what? For living our lives more faithfully for God.

I am taking stock of my various roles and responsibilities (a couple of new ones, this year) and looking at how to be more effective in performing them. From my housekeeping (always a weak point) to time management (too many games on Facebook) to the sacramental life (how long has it been since I went to Confession? It’s important to confess venial sins, too, before they grow into a nasty problem), the way I treat people I encounter during the day . .  everything counts.

After all, Advent is the time to “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” — not just as He is born in Bethlehem but also as the King of Kings — and Lord of our hearts.

 

Stewardship for the Rest of Us

The talk I’d like to be able to give to my parish:

Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard some inspiring stories from some wonderful people who serve our parish in a variety of ways. These stories have celebrated the goodness of God and challenged us to give back to Him from the blessings with which He has gifted us.

But some of us are living a different sort of life. We’re broke. Our health is poor. We are weighed down with grief and bereavement, and sometimes with estrangements. In a variety of ways we are just barely hanging on for dear life. We’d like to give something to God, but all we can see in ourselves is emptiness, pain, and lack.

My dear friends, when this is all you can see, then this is what you give.  Catholics have a wonderful saying: “Offer it up.” We are a people who believe that God is not limited by our limitations. We are a people who base our lives on the hope of a Divine Economy which takes our sufferings and transforms them into something redemptive.   And out of our brokenness, God will give us something we can give back to Him.

Many years ago, I knew a precious woman who was so crippled with arthritis that, when her youngest child was born, she was unable to hold him. But this same woman had a rich and powerful prayer life, and she was an effectual intercessor. Your sufferings may prevent you from teaching CCD, your poverty may prevent your contributing to the offering basket as you would like — but God will open to you ways of serving Him:  in prayer. In counseling and comforting. In encouraging.  All our gifts are needed to fulfill the purpose of the Body of Christ. Even the ones you don’t know you possess.

So begin where you are. “Lord, I am empty, so far as I can see. But please take my life and use it for Your Glory. I make an offering — an oblation! — of my life to You.”

Amen.

A Prayer of St Benedict

Grant to me, O Father,
most holy and most merciful,
wisdom to understand Thy intentions with
regard to me, a heart to share Thy feelings,
courage to seek Thee alone, and a way
of life that contributes to Thy glory.

Give me, O my God,
eyes that see only Thee,
a tongue that may speak only of Thee,
and a life devoted entirely to Thy will.

Finally, O my Savior, grant me the joy
of seeing Thee one day, face-to-face,
with all Thy saints in glory.

Reading St. Paul

There’s a lot I don’t understand when I read the Epistles of St. Paul.  This shouldn’t surprise me, given his background.  The man was utterly brilliant, and he had what sounds like the equivalent of a doctorate in his Hebrew studies, as well.  I don’t, I can’t operate on that level.

But what I do understand grabs me and won’t let go.

I’m rereading the Pauline epistles for the first time in a number of years.  I keep going back and reading portions of Philippians and Ephesians again and again – and Romans 12. . .   so I decided it’s probably a good idea to just start with Romans and read through.  I’m keeping a journal as I read, and my color pencils are by my elbow as well (although I’m really not using them as much as I’d thought I would).

Frankly, most of the first half of Romans zooms right over my head.  Paul gets into some pretty heavy theology there, and while the first two chapters are vividly accessible to me, only bits and pieces grab me from the beginning of Chapter 3 into Chapter 8.  I’m trying to use those bits and pieces, and a general sense of background as I know it, to construct a clearer sense of Paul’s teaching.  After all, this is an epistle — a letter! It’s not supposed to be his dissertation! even though that’s sometimes how he feels.

Paul was writing to the Romans, here, and it seems so apt that this epistle begins the succession of all his works. Rome ruled the world, politically, militarily, and culturally. It was a place of tremendous sophistication. It was also a hotbed of depravity.

Amazing that a core group of Romans rejected the strength, the power, the luxuries and excesses of Roman culture to become followers of that still-obscure cult, Christianity.

In fact, this is the whole point of the Pauline epistles: to teach a formerly pagan people how to adapt to the radically different paradigm of Christian discipleship.

More soon. — God bless you.