Let's Begin Again
I often read at Tuesday morning Mass which means Monday evening I read the assigned Bible passage to prepare. A few weeks ago, I practiced a passage from the New Testament book of Hebrews. I read it once and then I read it a second time and then I prayed, Dear God, I don’t really understand this passage so how can I read it in a way that will make it understandable to our congregation? And then, I left it in God’s hands and went to sleep.
The next morning, I said a familiar prayer, “Not my words, Your words. Not my thoughts, Your thoughts”. I say this prayer before I read at Mass and before I write this column.
That morning I read the passage slowly and carefully from the podium at the front of the church. As I read, it was as if God was revealing what the words meant, so that I could read them in a way that was meaningful.
This experience of God speaking through his Holy Word in the moment only happens, I believe, when I first admit my lack of understanding and complete reliance on God through the Holy Spirit, to uncover what I’m reading.
This insight is available to anyone when we pray and come to God in humility, with an open mind and an open heart.
Last night I read the transcript of Pope Francis’ latest Wednesday Audience, in which he spoke of the importance of praying before we read the Bible. Suddenly I understood exactly what is happening as I read God’s word after I have prayed. Pope France wrote,
“The words of the Sacred Scripture were not written to remain imprisoned on papyrus, parchment, or paper, but to be received by a person who prays, making them blossom in his or her heart.
“The Bible should not be read like a novel; it must be accompanied by prayer. This is where prayer leads you because it is a dialogue with God. That Bible verse was written for me too, centuries and centuries ago, to bring me a word of God. It was written for every one of us.
“This experience happens to all believers: a passage from the Scripture, heard many times already, unexpectedly speaks to me one day, and enlightens a situation that I am living.” (Pope Francis, Vatican Dispatch, America Magazine, 1/27/2021)
Our prayer before we read the Bible can be as simple as, God help me to hear you.
Lectio Divina is the process of reading the Bible in a prayerful way to understand what God wants to say to us in each moment.
We start by praying for God’s guidance and then read a passage from the Bible. It can be as long as a chapter or as brief as a verse.
Then we sit quietly with what we have read. Perhaps we will read the passage again two or three times, and prayerfully ask what God wants us to learn and apply to our lives.
We may want to grab a notebook to write down our thoughts. I have started doing this in my daily journal.
Will you join me in a special project for 2021? Beginning this week and through the end of the year, let’s read through the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
We will read two chapters each week. It will be a wonderful opportunity to practice Lectio Divina, as we incorporate prayer into our Bible reading, and see what a difference it makes in what God reveals through his holy word, and in our personal relationship with God.
You may use any Bible you find most comfortable to read. If you don’t have a Bible, you can download the free Bible app to your phone.
Each week at the end of my column, I will mention the reading for the coming week.
I hope you will join me. I believe our walk through the Gospels will give us a fresh perspective of what Jesus said and stood for. Whether you are religious or not, whether you have read the Bible for years, or this is your first time, I believe our faith will be deepened.
Let’s Start Here – Read this week’s chapters and choose a passage that speaks to you:
Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 1 & 2
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel-which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23)