National Bible Week is Nov. 15-21, making it the perfect time to pull out that old Bible that’s been gathering dust on your bookshelf and get to reading.
In keeping with the message of the recent synod on the family and Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, this year’s theme for National Bible Week is “The Bible: A Book for the Family.”
Pope Francis has spoken many times about the importance of reading the Bible as a family, and all the dialogue about the family taking place presently makes now perhaps a more crucial time than ever before for families to partake in the National Bible Week celebration.
Nicholas Lebish, director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School, thinks a week dedicated to celebrating the Bible is a great thing, but also stresses the importance celebrating Scripture every single day.
As such, Lebish and the rest of the biblical school will continue to do what they do day in and day out: teach and promote biblical literacy, increase love and knowledge of Scripture, and ultimately, bring people to a closer encounter with Christ.
St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” and unfortunately, this statement holds true for many Catholics today, according to Lebish.
“Catholics have a great scriptural sense but we have a lot more to learn,” he said. “We don’t know Scripture as we should, we don’t know salvation history, we don’t know how all of the books fit together, and most of all, we don’t know Christ.”
As a Christian, it’s vitally important to not only be familiar with the Bible, but to know how it applies to the context of one’s life as well as salvation history, the Church’s teachings, and most importantly, how God’s people fit into all of that.
“[Bible literacy] is fundamental. You can’t substitute it for anything,” Lebish said. “There’s nothing in our religion that makes sense without Bible literacy.”
The Bible can be a very intimidating book. As Pope Francis recently wrote, it’s an “extremely dangerous” book full of so much richness and history that it can be difficult to know where to even begin, especially for someone who’s diving in for the first time.
Any reader who’s looking to start a consistent Bible-reading regiment might consider beginning with the daily Mass readings, Lebish suggested. They are great primers for the bigger picture of the Bible and are readily available in missals, online and even smart phone apps.
It can be a difficult undertaking in these modern fast-paced and busy times, but forming a habit of reading Scripture daily is absolutely key if one wants to grow in the faith and fall more in love with Christ, Lebish said.
“There’s a depth to Scripture study not just as an academic enterprise but as a way of life,” he said. “The reading and praying of Scripture needs to be part of the fabric of our daily lives.”
The Denver Catholic Biblical School teaches the concept of lectio divina as a way to read scripture actively and prayerfully. It contains four stages: reading the passage aloud (lectio), reflecting on the passage for a short time (meditatio), responding to the passage in prayer (oratio), and finally, resting in and contemplating what was just read (contemplatio).
Pope Paul IV wrote in the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, “in the Sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children and talks with them.” Sacred Scripture is a direct channel of conversation with God himself, and one that’s readily available to each of us; it’s just a matter of opening the Bible and entering into that conversation with God.
“Once you enter into the beauty of reading Scripture, it becomes addictive,” Lebish said.
The Denver Catholic Biblical School celebrates its 35th anniversary next year, and there are almost 1100 students in 43 different locations. Enrollment opens in summer 2015. For more information, visit sjvdenver.edu/programs-of-study/biblical-school.
How to read Scripture
The Denver Catholic Biblical School teaches its students a practice called lectio divina as a way to prayerfully read Scripture. Use the following steps as a guide next time you read Scripture and experience the difference it makes to truly enter into God’s word.
1. Lectio (reading)—slowly read the Scripture passage, listening carefully.
2. Meditatio (meditation)—reflect on those words that captured your attention during the reading.
3. Oratio (prayer)—respond in prayer to the words Jesus spoke to you during the Scripture.
4. Contemplatio (contemplation)—rest in the presence of the Lord, focusing your attention completely on God.