Monday, August 15, 2011

Making the Scriptures Your Own

Vatican II's Dei Verbum reminds us that in the Sacred Scriptures, “The Father Who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them...” (#21). Through His inspired Word, God reveals Himself to us and tells us about His wonderful plan of salvation, a plan that is designed to bring us into intimate relationship with Him. “In His Goodness and wisdom,” Dei Verbum explains, “God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature....Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God...out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends...and lives among them..., so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself” (#2).

Thank carefully about that for a moment. God reveals Himself to you. He has a plan for your life, a purpose for you. He speaks to you through the Scriptures as a loving Father and Friend. He invites you to intimacy, to a loving, personal relationship with Him. Isn't this amazing? God has written you a love letter!

Now it's your job to respond, to make the Scriptures your own, and to accept God's great love for you. How can you do this? There are countless many as there are children of God. But below are a few ideas that might help you to more easily meet God in His Sacred Word of Scripture and to embrace Him and His will for your life.

1. Read Scared Scripture daily. – It seems simple, doesn't it? To meet God and hear Him speak to you, read the Bible! You don't have to read much every day. Even a few verses are enough. You just need to get into the habit of picking up the Bible everyday and reading it. If you haven't read the Scriptures very much in the past, start with the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, which tend to be more accessible than other books. If you find that you need more structure in your Bible reading, try a one-year reading plan like the one at the “Catholic Bible in a Year” website. You might also follow the daily Mass readings on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

2. Ask yourself the “three big questions.” – Sometimes the Scriptures can seem a little confusing. After all, they were written long ago by people who lived in a culture much different than our own. To help you understand the Bible a little better, you can try to answer the “three big questions” for every passage you read: 1. What does this text tell me about God? 2. What does this text tell me about myself and my life? 3. How can this text enrich and deepen my relationship with God? Careful meditation on these questions will help you interact with God's Word and hear the message He has for you.

3. Listen for words from the Holy Spirit. – Pay special attention as you read to words, phrases, or verses that really jump out at you. Sometimes you can read the same passage again and again and just skim right over it. Then, suddenly, it seems to leap right off the page. When this happens, you may be receiving a special message from the Holy Spirit, Who is speaking directly to your heart. Stop and ask the Spirit what He's trying to tell you. Ask Him to open your heart and mind so you can understand His words. You might also want to jot down the passage so you can return to it in prayer throughout the day.

4. Chose a “life verse.” – Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters chose a passage from Scripture as a “life verse” and return to it frequently in study and prayer. Usually a life verse arises from a passage that the Holy Spirit has presented to your attention as a special message. Such a text will seem to describe your life as it is and/or challenge you to grow in faith and love. My life verse is Colossians 3:12-17, and in it, I've discovered an unending source of meaning and inspiration.

5. Practice lectio divina. – As you read more of Sacred Scripture and become more comfortable with asking yourself the “three big questions” and listening for words from the Holy Spirit, you may want to try lectio divina. Lectio divina is a way of attentively and prayerfully reading the Bible in order to understand the message of the written words and, even more importantly, to personally encounter the Author of those words, God Himself. It involves four dimensions or stages: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. Lectio divina requires time and effort, but it is an incredibly rewarding way of making the Scriptures your own and accepting the Bible as God's personal love letter to you, His beloved child. For more information, please read my ten-part series on lectio divina here.

God has communicated Himself to us in His Sacred Word. He has given us a share in His divine life, and He waits for us to respond to Him, to say, “Yes, Lord, I want to know You. I want to love You. I want to give myself to You as I read Your Word and write a love letter back to You through my prayer and in my life.”

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