Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It Hurts When You Don't Read What I Write

Those who are passionate and serious about writing - unfortunately there just isn't enough of them in this world - will know the meaning of this topic well. After reading and studying the Bible for many years, I'm totally convinced that there is no writer more passionate and serious than God the Divine Writer. When people don't read what the Divine Writer wrote - the Bible - He's understandably sad.

Yes, I've heard it too many times: the Bible is hard to read; it's boring; I don't see its relevance to what I do in my life; it's very unscientific; it's factually self-contradictory in many areas; it's full of violence....Comments such as these usually come from people who don't read the Bible. What about those who do? This is what they say:

"An inexhaustible treasury of heavenly doctrine" - St. Chrysostom in Gen. Hom. xx, 2.

"Fertile pastures and beautiful gardens in which the flock of the Lord is marvelously refreshed and delighted" - St. Augustine, serm. xxvi, 24.

"To live amidst these things, to meditate these things, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else, does it not seem to you already here below a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom?" - St. Jerome, Ep. 53, 10.

"If there's one thing that's capable of changing my life completely, turning me from a rebel against the Church to an apologist, from a life view that's completely self-centred to one that sees life as not worth living unless it's lived as a complete gift of self, it's the Bible!" - Yours truly.

Those who are critical of the Bible have to wonder why the saints are all in one accord in commending it.

I must hasten to point out: I put my comment up there together with the saints' not because I consider myself a saint, but because I'm truly one of those wretched souls who have benefited tremendously from the Bible. But whether a wretch or a saint, one can feel the full force of the Bible only if the Holy Spirit has touched his heart. Without Him, all attempts to read and understand the Bible will be futile.

But what should I do to make sure I have the Holy Spirit's guidance in reading the Bible? you ask. Find the right "tour guide"!

Just like the excursions mentioned in my two "Cruise Trip" posts, it makes a world of difference if an experienced person is there to lead and guide you when you journey through the Bible. It's even better if your guide is an authentic source of credibility, authority, and holiness. Over the years, some excellent "tour guides" I've used include: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Conciliary documents (Vatican II, etc.), papal writings and pronouncements, and Church Fathers' writings. What all of these documents have in common is that they contain numerous scriptural teachings and insights that really enable the reader to understand the richness and vibrancy of the Bible. The understanding in turn will bring peace and happiness that make the scriptural books appear like "fertile pastures and beautiful gardens".

For beginners, your best "tour guide" is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What is important is that you have your Bible handy as you read the Catechism. When the Catechism explains a certain doctrine or teaching, it often makes reference to some scriptural passages. Look those up to make sure you understand why the scriptural passages referred to support what the Catechism teaches. This is a rather arduous process; it takes a lot of going back and forth between the Catechism and the Bible. But if you adhere to this approach diligently, I can guarantee that before you are mid-way through the Catechism, you will have become quite a Bible expert! The greatest advantage of this method is that your understanding of the Bible will be rooted deep in the Holy Tradition because the catechetical teachings of the Catechism reflect faithfully the Catholic faith handed down by the Apostles and the Church Fathers over 2,000 years of the Church history.


  1. In light of our late Holy Father JPII's reference to the New Evangelization: "it involves a vital effort to come to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of faith, and to find meaningful language with which to convince our contemporaries that they are called to newness of life through God's love.", there seems to be a responsibility placed on us believers in terms of helping those struggling with the Bible, whether that struggle is in understanding, or simply in picking it up.
    Relevance (of the Bible to people's lives) is indeed the key to spark interests in people.
    JPII taught that God is subjective, a personal God, shifting the focus of God from the objective(the way it's been taught for centuries).
    It is definitely and definitively true that God is objective, but until and unless He becomes subjective, i.e. personal, He is not relevant....at least to most people.
    Case in point: there is whole world of difference between the following 2 sentences, objective vs subjective(personal).
    1. Jesus Christ is the center of the universe;
    2. Jesus Christ is the center of my universe.

    1. One important revelation from the Scripture is that God is personal. Out of love, He entered into covenants with Israel. Out of love, when Israel failed to carry out its promises under the covenants, He sent His Son into this world to bring such promises to fulfillment. The relationship between God and men has been personal from the beginning to the end.

      My encounter with many believers suggests to me that the problem with most of them is not the lack of subjectivity in their relationship with God. Rather, it's a lack of objectivity. The two elements - subjectivity and objectivity - feed off one another in as far as our relationship with God is concerned. The Scripture contains revealed, objective truths and teachings that support and strengthen our personal relationship with God. A relationship that's totally subjective can be self-deceiving, groundless, or even superstitious.

    2. God's entering into the Jewish history is an objective fact, out of a love that is collective, not a personal one. At the personal level, knowing that God loves the human kind collectively is a good thing, but it kind of just stops there. As in any relationship, the deepest question is: do I matter to Him?
      What does it profit a man if he's loved by God ONLY collectively but not individually?

    3. When I said "a lack of objectivity", I wasn't downplaying the importance of subjectivity, which is why in my opening comment I affirmed the significance of a personal God. My concern is that as devout as some believers are, their faith is grounded almost exclusively on subjective feelings. Such a way to approach one's faith is shaky at best, and may even be superstitious. There's no question having a deep and personal relationship with God is absolutely crucial.