Make the Word of God a priority in 2020

Avatar

By Dr. Nicholas Lebish

On Sept. 30, 2019, the Holy Father declared that, “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” This year, that Sunday falls on Jan. 26. This is a momentous opportunity to reflect on the role of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church in general, and in our own personal lives in particular.

The Word of God is the unique source of revelation by which our Lord communicates his divine truths to us. Our Heavenly Father truly speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures; we have only to pick up the Bible and engage in a prayerful dialogue with him. Here are some very practical tips and goals on how you can commit to making the Bible an integral part of your life this New Year:

Read the Bible every day, even just a little bit
That could mean simply spending time with the daily Mass readings, regardless if you cannot make it to Mass that day. Or you can go through the whole of Scripture according to a trusted plan, such as the Augustine Institute’s wonderful book, The Bible in a Year, which also contains short, inspiring reflections. Find a quiet place for reflection for regular reading either first thing in the morning, during a lunch hour, before bed, or whenever works best for you.

Pray the Bible every day with Lectio Divina
(If you’re new to this form of prayer, definitely check out a great book we recommend at the Biblical School entitled Praying Scripture for a Change by Dr. Tim Gray.) Trust me, just a few minutes of faithfully praying over the Word of God daily can transform your relationship with God and others. You can either take the gospel passage from the daily Mass and pray over that, or you can slowly work through one of the gospels, story by story (of course, any part of Scripture is fruitful, but the Gospels are preeminent because they communicate to us the life, teaching, and actions or our Lord Jesus Christ (see CCC 125). Again, develop a routine for this at any time of day. You only need a few minutes for this, but it’ll reap rich dividends for you.

Join a parish Bible study
There are various, wonderful Bible studies hosted in parishes regularly on specific books of the Bible or on particular topics. Those include the popular Ascension Press studies, the Walking With Purpose program, Endow, etc. Naturally, I would also recommend that everyone join the Denver Catholic Biblical School at some point in the near future when the location and time is right. There simply is no other program in the country that takes you through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation for a solid foundation on the entirety of the Bible. Our 2020 locations will be announced in April. If you cannot join a Bible study at this time for any reason, pick up a good commentary to consult when you have questions. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is wonderful, as is the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series.

God bless you and your New Year’s resolutions to dive into a prayerful study of Scripture!

COMING UP: Transforming quarantine into retreat

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

This bruising Lent, in which “fasting” has assumed unprecedented new forms, seems likely to be followed by an Eastertide of further spiritual disruption. What is God’s purpose in all this? I would be reluctant to speculate. But at the very least, the dislocations we experience – whether aggravating inconvenience, grave illness, economic and financial loss, or Eucharistic deprivation – call us to a more profound realization of our dependence on the divine life given us in Baptism: the grace that enables us to live in solidarity with others and to make sense of the seemingly senseless.

If we cooperate with that grace rather than “kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14), it can enable us to transform quarantine, lockdown, and the interruption of normal life into an extended retreat, a time to deepen our appreciation of the riches of Catholic faith. Dioceses, Catholic centers, and parishes are offering many online opportunities for prayer, thereby maintaining the public worship of the Church. Here are other resources that can help redeem the rest of Lent and the upcoming Easter season.

* Shortly before the Wuhan virus sent America and much of the world reeling, I began watching Anthony Esolen’s Catholic Courses video-lectures on the Inferno, the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I’ve long admired Tony Esolen’s Dante translation and his lucid explanation of the medieval Christian worldview from which Dante wrote; and there was something fitting about watching Esolen accompany Dante and Virgil through hell during a hellish Lent. Professor Esolen’s explication of Dante’s Purgatory and Paradise (also available from Catholic Courses) are just as appropriate these days, however. For the entire Comedy is a journey of conversion that leads to the vision of God; and that is precisely the itinerary the Church invites us to travel during Lent, as the Forty days prepare us to meet the Risen Lord at Easter and experience the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

* Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was arguably the greatest papal homilist since Pope St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century. The March and April sermons in Seeking God’s Face: Meditations for the Church Year (Cluny Media), help put the trials of this Lent and Eastertide into proper Christian focus.

* I’ve often recommended the work of Anglican biblical scholar N.T. Wright. Two chapters (“The Crucified Messiah” and “Jesus and God”) in The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (InterVarsity Press) make apt Lenten reading in plague time. The fifth chapter of that small book, “The Challenge of Easter,” neatly summarizes Dr. Wright’s far longer and more complex argument in The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press) and makes a powerful case for the historical reality of the Easter events. Like Wright, Pope Emeritus Benedict’s reflections on the empty tomb and the impact of meeting the Risen One in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week (Ignatius Press) underscore the bottom of the bottom line of Christianity: no Resurrection, no Church.

* Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series is the greatest audio-visual presentation of the faith ever created. If you’ve never watched it, why not now?  If you have, this may be the time to continue with Bishop Barron’s Catholicism: The New Evangelization (an exploration of how to put Catholic faith into action) and Catholicism: The Pivotal Players (portraits of seminal figures in Catholic history who did just that – St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, and Michelangelo).

* Pope St. John Paul II’s centenary is the Monday following the Fifth Sunday of Easter: an anniversary worth celebrating, whatever the circumstances. The first 75 years of this life of extraordinary consequence for the Church and the world are relived in the documentary film, Witness to Hope – The Life of John Paul II. Liberating a Continent, produced by the Knights of Columbus, is a stirring video evocation of John Paul’s role in the collapse of European communism – and a reminder, in this difficult moment, of the history-bending power of courage and solidarity.

* The Dominican House of Studies in Washington and its Thomistic Institute are intellectually energizing centers of the New Evangelization. The good friars are not downing tools because of a pandemic; rather, they’re ramping up. Go to thomisticinstitute.org to register for a series of online “Quarantine Lectures” and an online Holy Week retreat. At the same home page, you’ll find Aquinas 101, 52 brief videos that make one of Catholicism’s greatest thinkers accessible to everyone, free and online, through brilliant teaching and striking animation.

And may the divine assistance remain with us, always.