An article in a recent issue of the Jesuit magazine, America, discussed the way American Catholics read the scriptures. Actually, they don’t read them very much or know much about the writings we call the Word of God, the author, Brian B. Pinter, says. Also, many Catholics who do read the scriptures, read them literally, like fundamentalists. But the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1993, Pinter points out, said “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”
Last summer the pope urged Catholics to take up and read the scriptures. It wasn’t a pious wish, he was dead serious. As the Word of God the scriptures nourish our faith and help us know God’s will. The scriptures are our new catechism and our new prayerbook.
I like Pope Benedict’s books “Jesus of Nazareth” because he takes seriously what the scriptures and biblical studies today say about Jesus. Those books–and others like them– are worth reading if you want to learn how to read the Word of God. There’s also some good advice about reading the bible on the website of the American Catholic Bishops.
But don’t forget to begin with the scriptures themselves. Get to know them, their stories, their words and images. A good way to start leaning the scriptures is to let them be your teacher, let one part teach you about another part.
For example, this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew is about the two sons going out into the vineyard. One says right off to his father, “I won’t go” , but eventually he goes. The other says “Sure I’ll go”, but he doesn’t. That story begins with the note that Jesus said this to the chief priests and elders of the people who weren’t responding to the invitation to believe in him.
We may shake our heads and say, “It’s too bad they failed to answer the call of Jesus.”
But a further question is, “And what about me? Do I just shake my head at them?” That story’s meant for me too.
There are other sons mentioned in scripture who may help me out. The prodigal son and his brother come to mind. The two thieves on the cross, brothers in crime, also come to mind.
Jesus didn’t recall the story of the two sons to the Jewish leaders to condemn them, but to wake them up. His words are for me too. God calls me everyday to go out my door into my world and do his will. It’s an everyday call. Do I say “yes!” More importantly, do I mean it!