In 1979 I received my First Communion and, as a communion gift, my first Bible, The Illustrated Children’s Bible. I cherished this present and the stories never left my memory, even after I lost the Bible, many years ago.
The Word of God is eternal and omnipresent; it remains imprinted on our souls from our Baptism. When Saint John the Baptist preaches a “baptism of repentance,” he is the bearer of the message of conversion for a new wilderness generation. The Word of God draws us into the Church and prepares us to receive the baptism of John. Once we have received this sacrament, the Word of God remains forever imprinted on our heart. It cannot be removed or defiled and even the soul retains its memory of God’s story.
Today the message of renewal proclaimed by John has itself been renewal. In Great Britain they celebrated “Bible Sunday” this week, commemorating the work of the “Bible societies” that helped translate and spread the Scriptures to all corners of the globe. Today with the help of the social media like Twitter and Facebook, the Word of God can be proclaimed with a tweet or a post, empowering the hearer to become the preacher to cyberspace, a new frontier.
In the Year of Faith which commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th Anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, bishops, priests, deacons, all the lay faithful, and soon even the pope can make use of technology to evangelize. Social media is a useful starting point for encouraging the reading of the Bible and the Second Vatican Council documents.
In the United States the Church celebrates Bible Sunday on November 19, venerating in a special way the Word of God even as she worships the Lord. “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God, and because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God” (CCC No. 135; cf DV No. 24). God and Christ and the Spirit are the Word. God speaks. Christ lives. The Spirit unifies. We receive. Then we must proclaim.
Divine Revelation then is rightly called the Word. We are a people of the book, but one that must never become a dead letter; it must remain “living and effective” (Hebrews 4:12). Twelfth-century mystic and abbot Bernard of Clairvaux wrote: “It is not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living.”
It should go without saying – but I will anyway – that Bible reading is for Catholics. We must increase our interest in the Word of God, so ancient and valuable to civilization. Our faith encourages, demands even, the study of the Bible. The study of the Sacred Page provides grace from God who speaks to us from eternity. Whatever we think we know, God, who has been around a lot longer, knows better and the Bible is how he teaches us to live on earth before heaven (see John 14:6).
We are closer to the Word than we might think. The USCCB in a article on its website put it like this:
- We listen to the readings from the lectionary at Mass.
- There are good Samaritan laws (Luke 10).
- We welcome home the prodigal son (Luke 15),
- And look for the Promised Land (Exodus 3, Hebrews 11).
- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Love your neighbor,” are popular maxims, automatic responses to life’s challenges.
The Word of the Lord is always near to us and all his ways are holy and true (cf Psalm 119).
But reading isn’t enough. We must take the words our Savior gave us into the streets and into cyberspace. Faith without works is dead (Jas 2:16). Only then can the words be renewed.
The Bible is not one book but an anthology of 73 books, composed by numerous (mostly anonymous) authors over thousands of years. This collection is held together by a theme: the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ. “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through a Son, whom he made heir of all things, and through whom he created the universe,” the anonymous author of Hebrews wrote (1:1-2). Today that collection can be downloaded onto an IPhone or a flash drive.
Imagine, the Gospel at the touch of a button, right in the palm of your hand.
To show that God is the center of our lives, many families enthrone the Bible in a visible place in their homes. By placing Scripture in a prominent place, we show that the Lord remains living and active through the Word.
The Bible I enthroned in my office belonged to my grandparents. I found it in a box in the basement of my sister’s house, the binding cracked, the pages stained with mold. So I had it restored. Apparently her house became a depository for old Bibles because in the closet in a spare bedroom I found my Illustrated Children’s Bible. The stories hadn’t changed.
In this Year of Faith, may we give thanks to God for his Word. Over the millennia the Holy Spirit has enabled communities and individuals to encounter God through reading and praying with the Bible texts. One of the aims of Bible Sunday in the U.S. and internationally is to encourage believers to deepen their knowledge of the Bible for service in the Church. Then will all see the salvation of our God (Isaiah 40:5).
In Verbum Domini the Holy Father writes: “I express my heartfelt hope for the following of a ‘new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the people of God, so that their prayerful and faithful reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus.”
We don’t have to be religious scholars to enjoy the stories in the Old and New Testaments. God reveals himself to us if we approach him with prayer. He is the author, Christ is the Word, and the Holy Spirit is the interpreter. Prayer must always be the beginning and the end of our relationship with God through the saving Scriptures. He teaches us the truth we need for salvation. He has the final Word.
Editor’s note: Catholic parents interested in illustrated children’s Bibles may may find these links helpful:
The New Catholic Illustrated Bible
My First Catholic Bible
My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories
The Children’s Bible
The Children’s Bible Story Book
The Children’s Bible: The Old Testament, The New Testament