All of us probably have a Bible somewhere at home. It sits, quietly calling us whenever we see it or think to pick it up and to read its Good News.
Before reading it, examine it to make sure it is a Catholic Bible. If it isn’t, some books might be missing that the Catholic Church accepts but other denominations of Christianity don’t.
Also, you might want to look at which translation it is. The New American Bible is close to what is read at Mass daily and on Sundays. The Revised Standard Version is a very literal translation of the biblical text. The Douay-Rheims is a faithful, yet somewhat older translation. Other translations likely will have some explanation of the philosophy the translators used when translating the text. It is best to look through the Bible and to make sure you are comfortable with the translation. If not, frustration over the translation might cause you to give up reading the Bible.
Always before reading the Bible, ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance of your reading. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Bible and can open our hearts to its saving message.
After asking the Spirit’s guidance, one has a few choices as to how to proceed:
One popular way of reading the Bible is according to a yearly plan. This uses a preset plan of readings to work through the Bible over the course of a year. The disadvantage of this approach is that the texts are quite lengthy. If you have a limited amount of time, this will limit how much you ponder a section that is insightful or confusing to you.
Another way is to join a Scripture study group. Many parishes have groups that go through different books of the Bible slowly to better understand them. The potential downside is that, while one might gain a great knowledge of the book, one might miss the message the Spirit has for them in the midst of the text itself.
A third way is to read along with the readings at Mass. Over the course of two years, those who read the readings of the Mass will hear most of the Bible. The texts usually are brief enough to allow time for meditation. The downside is that parts of Scripture are skipped.
Finally, one might choose just to pick up a book of the Bible and read a bit everyday in a prayerful atmosphere. The Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and Psalms are great books to read in this way.
No matter how you choose to read the Bible, if you give the Spirit room, He will make it a rich, spiritual experience.
This column appeared in a previous edition of the St. Louis Review.
Father Mayo is pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton.