Abraham Lincoln once said, “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book.” I am sure many people would agree with him but yet the Bible is probably the least read book as compared to the other classics that we have. There have been many occasions that I have gone to bless homes and I would usually ask for the family Bible. After some frantic searching, the Bible comes either in pristine condition or covered with a layer of dust. I cannot help but assume that the Bible has been hardly used.
This Sunday (13 July 2014) in Malaysia, we celebrate Bible Sunday with the hope of getting Catholics to familiarise themselves with the word of God. In fact, in the words of St Jerome, ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. One could say that a large percentage of Catholics do not know the Bible in depth. I am always amazed that during talks when the speaker invites the participants to make reference to a Bible verse, a large number of people will be struggling to locate the verse and frantically looking for the table of content to first locate the book. There have been countless number of time where speakers have cynically remarked, “you are fumbling through the Bible…there is no doubt that you are Catholics.” We laugh at such remarks but life carries on the same afterwards.
If the Bible is indeed the ‘best gift God has ever given to man [and woman]’ then Catholics must learn to treasure this gift. It is here that God speaks to us. At the end of the first and second reading at the Sunday Eucharist, the lector proclaims, ‘The word of the Lord’. This is an acclamation that God has just spoken to us and without a doubt it calls for some attention. Walter Cardinal Kasper once said at a conference of Biblical experts, that when we read the Scriptures, “God is talking to us as friends…” The word of God is not an intellectual treatise on supernatural reality or arcane doctrine; it is ‘person-to-person communication’ with God’s loving voice speaking directly to the individual.
Come Bible Sunday, we will once again be reminded to get to know the Bible. However, knowing that you need to read the Bible and actually carrying it out are two different realities as experience tells us. Why is it that we Catholics have a reputation for not spending time with the Bible, for knowing and even not caring about it? It is no secret that Catholics easily fall prey to Bible quoting Christians whose aim is to challenge traditional Catholic practices.
Many centuries ago, the Church did not overly encourage the laity to read the Bible. Today more than ever, there is no excuse for not understanding the Bible or that it is too difficult. The availability of Bible reflections in printed and digital formats are numerous so much so that it can be read anywhere, anytime. What is lacking is probably the desire or the fear of confronting a reality that speaks to our conscience.
We are a people of faith and our faith calls us to discover God a little more every day. The only way for us to do this is to commit ourselves to discovering the Word made flesh – Jesus Christ. Do not be intimidated by the thickness of the Bible. Start with any of the Gospels and you will slowly begin to fall in love.