Scripture Is Not Like Any Other Book
The Bible is one of our greatest gifts — let's listen more closely to what God is trying to tell us through it
Many Christians wear “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets on their wrists as a reminder to be in sync with the mind and heart of Jesus in their daily interactions.
But my immediate question for people of faith is: Do you know what Jesus said and did? Do you read the sacred Scripture in a prayerful way?
St. Jerome clearly states, “Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
God has given us the Bible as the point of reference for what it means to be a good Christian.
Scripture is not like any book that we simply read and analyze. It is a sacred book that should be read prayerfully.
Here’s a path for how to read Scripture in a contemplative way, often referred to as the Lectio Divina.
1.) Start with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. As the principal author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is present for all baptized Christians.
He will enlighten you with the particular nugget of wisdom that you need right now in the concrete circumstances of your life.
Leave your worries and cellphone to the side, and create space to enter this sacred realm.
Location does matter, so pray in a church or a private prayer corner in your home.
2.) Rather than read the entire Bible cover to cover, which is certainly noble, start with the four Gospels. That is where Jesus is most present with His inspiring words and powerful example.
(If you do want to read the Bible cover to cover, there are schemes for doing it, such as Jeff Cavin’s timeline, that make it less intimidating.)
3.) Pick one paragraph and ponder it carefully. Try to envision yourself in the particular scene as a silent observer. See which painting or sentence captures your eye and what most speaks to you.
A few of my favorite passages are short and sweet: “Put out into deep waters and pay out your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4) — about the need to trust God completely — or “There is a true Israelite, there is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47) — what most matters to Jesus is our authenticity of life.
There is also: “I am the vine, you are the branches … without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) — meaning we cannot white-knuckle a life of virtue; we need God’s help.
Try to mull over these lines with Christ until they grow on you.
Little by little, this Gospel criteria will begin to influence the way you think and act.
4.) Try to “think” less and “listen” more to what God may be telling you. He has a very personal and rich sermon specifically ready for you; it could help you better navigate through your current challenges.
5.) Try to make a simple resolution as the fruit of your prayer. The goal is to become, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “little Christs” — and daily reflection on Scripture will be an effective way to make this happen.
Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.