Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Second Sunday of Advent—4 December A.D. 2011

Read the Sacred Scriptures

Ordinary 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.[1]

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 mankind.

    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 Aquinas.

    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.[2]  (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.[3]

    But it is still reasonable to ask “Why are we to read the Scriptures?—what is it that we should hope to come away with?”

    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.





[1]   Epistle: Romans xv: 4-13



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