“He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). With this quote from Luke, Pope Francis starts his appeal to the Catholic world to use this Sunday (Jan. 24) to reflect on the importance of the Bible in our lives.
In his apostolic letter, Aperuit Illis, the Pope calls on all the faithful to dive more deeply into the riches of Scripture.
“The relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians,” he writes. “Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth. Yet the contrary is equally true: without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible.”
Traditionally, Catholics were not known for their deep knowledge of Scripture. We largely left that to the Bible-toting Protestants. But the bishops who gathered at the Second Vatican Council in the sixties wanted to remedy that particular weakness among the flock. In its apostolic constitution Dei Verbum, we are reminded that our tradition rests in large part on what we read in the Bible, including both the Old and New Testaments. The bishops called on Catholics everywhere to spend more time with Scripture, and use it to not only understand more deeply their faith, but also as a door into a deeper relationship with God.
At Bayard, we take this very seriously. In fact, it is built into our DNA. From the very beginning of our ministry to the people of God in Canada back in 1936, we wanted to provide an accessible, affordable resource that allowed the people in the pew to participate more meaningfully in the weekly Eucharist through a small booklet that contained all the texts of the Mass, most especially the daily readings.
This resource you know today as Living with Christ, available in the United States since the early 2000s. We are now in at least nine countries in the world, in both English and French. And while most readers use it as an aid to worship at the Eucharist, increasingly we see our readers use its daily Scripture readings as a focus for prayer and meditation.
This focus on Scripture is so important that we have, over the years published numerous resources to help. I can’t name them all in this short blog post, but I’d like to highlight a few:
Exploring the Sunday Readings, by Alice Camille, is a handy way to study the Scriptures through those passages that we read each Sunday at Mass. With reflections for every Sunday of the year, this handy newsletter is ideal for study groups, or even home study. It is particularly useful for those writing homilies. bayardfaithresources.com/products/exploring-the-sunday-readings
There’s our Getting to Know scripture series by Scott Lewis, SJ, which offers short but insightful descriptions into all the books of the New Testament. Many readers have found them helpful as a quick and easy way to become more knowledgeable. Often, they have been used as handy discussion starters for parish prayer and study groups. https://en.novalis.ca/products/mark-getting-to-know-jesus-six-weeks-with-the-bible?_pos=3928&_sid=cdc9e503c&_ss=r
Recently, we published Reupholstered Psalms: Ancient Songs Sung New, by another Jesuit, Greg Kennedy. In this book, he rewrites the first 50 psalms for a new generation in language drawn from our own living experience. These powerful texts are modern poetry and speak to the contemporary soul, faced with today’s environmental and social catastrophes, offering the age-old wisdom in ways we can relate to today. https://en.novalis.ca/products/reupholstered-psalms-ancient-sons-sung-new?_pos=1&_sid=4adc79eaa&_ss=r
I could go on and on. But my point is that none of us should be afraid of tackling Scripture. There is help available from us as well as numerous other places.
My hope is that you will use this day to turn to the Bible, especially if it isn’t a normal habit. Dive in. The rewards are immeasurable.
Living with Christ and Exploring the Sunday Readings