of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Blessing of the Advent Wreath
Brethren: What-things-so-ever were
written for our learning: that, through patience and the comfort of the
Scriptures, we might have hope.
Last week I mentioned that Advent was the beginning of
the Church’s new year. The various feast days that we observe in the
Church’s calendar will serve to make us more familiar with the important
events of our salvation. Now, many of us are accustomed to the idea of
making new year’s resolutions at the beginning of the civil year on January
1st. I would like to propose a resolution to you as a new year’s resolution
for the Church’s year. And that resolution would be to devote a few minutes
each day to the reading of the Sacred Scriptures.
Secular education is good, and often
enough spills over into the spiritual life. It is good in that it develops
our God given talents so that we may take care of our own needs, and those
of others, in the world; good in that it will enable us to share our
Catholic perspective with those around us, teaching them the Faith by our
good example. But secular education is not enough. We need to know and
love God who made us, and to appreciate the history of His dealings with
In that spiritual classic, The
Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis writes about the vanity of those
who devote themselves to worldly studies, but who pay little attention to
the Scriptures. He goes on to criticize those who read and even memorize
the Bible by rote, but who don’t make it a part of their being—those who
don’t enter into the spirit of charity.
Some of us have been told that
Catholics are not supposed to read the Bible. This notion is
incorrect. The Bible is the book of the Catholic
Church. We are supposed to read a reliable translation—one approved by the
authorities of the Church—because inaccurate or misleading translations can
be made by the enemies of Christ in order to twist His teaching. And, if we
need help in interpreting the Scripture we should seek it from the
Church—from the Catechism, or from a priest, or from one of those
commentaries on Scripture put together by Catholic Scripture scholars, or
perhaps from one of the Church’s great theologians, like Saint Thomas
If anyone has any question about
Catholics being encouraged to read the Bible, I would refer that person to
the first few pages of the very old (1914) copy of the Douay-Rheims right
there on our parish bookshelf. You will see recommendations by the Cardinal
Archbishops of Baltimore, New York, and Boston, as well as an indulgence
granted by Pope Leo XIII for reading the Bible.
(The Church surely does not grant indulgences for things you are not
supposed to do!) If you have Internet access, go to our website and read
the long list of Popes and Saints and theologians that encouraged Bible
reading over the centuries.
But it is still reasonable to ask
“Why are we to read the Scriptures?—what is it that we should hope to come
Saint Paul tells us that they were
written for our instruction. How else would we know what has been revealed
by God through the prophets and through His Son through the vehicle of the
Catholic Church? The Catechism is a good beginning, but it is not
enough—particularly if we never get beyond the Number Two Baltimore
Catechism, which is intended for children—one needs an adult
understanding. And even if we have read the entire Bible from cover to
cover, there is something to be gained by reading it again.
Often the insights we gain over the
years make the second or third reading of any good book a bit more
valuable. If you read something in your twenties, by the time you are in
your thirties you will have learned many other things that will help to make
a fresh reading valuable—likewise in every decade of your life. There is
room for growth in understanding and in charity with each new reading.
Saint Paul tells us that
understanding brings patience. If we understand the history of our
Salvation, we become more prepared to accept both the good and the bad
things that happen to us in life.
Paul tells us that the Scriptures
bring consolation. Again, if we gain insight into God’s divine plan, we
will come to know and to believe that our spiritual life is more important
than the changing fortunes of the material world.
Finally, Saint Paul tells us that
patience and consolation work together to give us the theological virtue of
Hope. And, of course, it is this Hope—a trust, really, that God will allow
us all that is necessary for our personal salvation—it is this Hope that is
the stairway to Heaven.
So please consider the resolution I
put forth: Read the Scriptures with regularity. We publish a recommended
course of reading each month in the Parish Bulletin. The recommendations
have the benefit of being coordinated with the liturgical year. For
example, the readings for this Advent season are taken from the Prophet
Isaias, to whom Saint Paul referred in today’s epistle. If you read Isaias,
you will see that he predicted the coming of Christ many years before His
time. You will read what we know to be a description of the Gifts of the
Holy Ghost written centuries before anyone on earth know that God exists in
Trinity, and Has a Son and a Holy Spirit.
Of course, there is much more to the
Bible than the book of Isaias. So please make that new year’s resolution
for the Church’s new year—to read and understand the Holy Scriptures with
regularity—just a little bit every day—so that you will come to “abound in
hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost,” as Saint Paul promises today.