Living And Active
“If an earthly king, our emperor, wrote you
a letter, would you not read it with joy?
Certainly, with great rejoicing and careful
attention.” This is the way the Russian Saint
Tikhom of Zadonsk (died in 1783) urges his
people to become more familiar with the Scriptures.
“You have been sent a letter, not by any
earthly emperor, but by the King of Heaven…
Whenever you read the Gospel, Christ Himself
is speaking to you. And while you read, you
are praying and talking to Him.”
We Catholics do not usually spend time reading
the Bible. The irony is that the Church exhorts,
urges, pleads with us to read Sacred Scripture
- there was even an Indulgence granted for
I recently received a rather odd email that
asserted that if we treated the Bible the
way we handle a cell phone, then things would
run better in our lives!
“What if we carried the Bible around in our
purses or pockets? What if we turned back
home to get it if we forgot it? What if we
flipped through it several times a day? What
if we used it to receive messages from the
text? What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
What if we used it in case of an emergency?
What if we upgraded it to get the latest
version?” And, “… one more thing. Unlike
our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about
our bible being disconnected because Jesus
already paid the bill.”
While other books were written for information,
the Bible was given to us for transformation.
Three persons were talking about the recent
translations of the Bible. One said, “I like
the New English version of the Gospels. It’s
easier reading than the older versions.”
The other differed, “I prefer the Jerusalem
Bible. The notes in it are really superb
and helpful.” To which the third person replied,
“I know an even better translation. I like
my mother’s translation best. She translated
the Bible into life!”
The problem is that we need a key to really
enter into the beauty and the practicality
of the Scriptures. We need to understand
that this book does not contain just past
history. It basically speaks about our lives.
It describes the way God acts with His children,
unraveling in a very descriptive way, the
pedagogy God uses to train us to become real
men and real women. Reading it on a daily
basis thus becomes enriching, because it
offers “a postgraduate course in the richest
library of human experience”.
In the words of an early ascetic writer in
the Christian East, Saint Mark the Monk:
“He who is humble in his thoughts and engaged
in spiritual work, when he reads the Holy
Scriptures, will apply everything to himself
and not to his neighbor.” We are to ask not
just “What does it mean?” but “What does
it mean to me?”
Scripture thus becomes a personal dialogue
between Him and myself - Christ speaking
to me, and me answering. However we also
need guidance. And our guide is the Church.
In fact, the power of the Bible is unleashed
when celebrated with others. Suddenly it
becomes an agent of interior conversion.
As the Oriental Fathers used to say, even
if you do not understand it, the demons inside
you understand it and run away. How many
times this happened to me! I enter the weekly
Celebration of the Way within my Neocatechumenal
community in anguish, and I come out consoled.
Celebrated in a community, the Scriptures
become flesh. They become a person.
Once a new Torah (the basic core of the Old
Testament) scroll was being dedicated in
the Synagogue. Rabbi David Moshe held it
in his hands and rejoiced in it. But since
it was large and obviously very heavy, one
of his followers went up and wanted to relieve
him of it. The Rabbi refused excitedly. “Once
you hold it”, he said, “it isn’t heavy anymore!”
Hillel was a famous Jewish religious leader
who lived in Jerusalem during the time of
King Herod. One of his famous assertions
was, “Do not say, I shall study the Torah
when I have time. And what, if you never
have the time? Remember, if you increase
your riches, you increase your worries. If
you increase your knowledge of the Torah,
you lengthen your days and acquire eternal
Take it up and read it. Better still, find
a community and celebrate it! There are catechesis
going on in different parishes in Guam for
the formation of new Neocatechumenal communities.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright