“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” So said Pope Francis on June 15th of last year as part of a papal audience. But it is not original to Pope Francis; he is quoting St. Jerome, the great biblical scholar and translator from the late 4th and early 5th century. What about you? What is your comfort level with Sacred Scripture? Where would you place yourself on the scale?
Our Catholic fluency in Scripture could use some upgrades. And it is not that we aren’t fluent. Heck, we Catholics can talk ’til the cows come home about Pope Francis, our own parish, our sacramental history, the Mass and more. But when you ask us about Scripture and our relationship with Jesus, we get a bit tongue-tied, flummoxed, bewildered, and feel this inner desire to change the subject. Why is that?
It is not that we are not steeped in Scripture. We are a church that at every celebration proclaims readings from Sacred Scripture. This includes Mass, baptismal celebrations, weddings, funerals, and just about every gathering of celebration and ministry. If you are a life-long Catholic, you think you would be somewhat “fluent” in the Word of God. But here is a test about story telling. Can you finish these verses and/or tell the story from which these words arise?
- “O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…”
- “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition….”
Hopefully, you answered “Our National Anthem, Francis Scott Key, War of 1812, Ft. McHenry” or something similar. For the other verse, “Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Civil War,” and more that surrounds that part of our nation’s history. My point is that just a few words open up an entire narrative, a context, and details that we can ponder if we are familiar with the story.
How about finishing the story that begins with these words?
- “A sower went out to sow his seed….” (Luke 8:4-15)
- “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25-28) or…
- “A man had two sons, and the younger said to his father….” (Luke 15:11-32)
No one expects you to quote all that follows, but can you tell the story in your own words, as though you were leaning over the backyard fence talking with a neighbor? When you know the stories of Jesus and can tell them in your own words, hitting the high points, now you are truly meeting Jesus in a whole new way.
Want to get started on Scripture Study? Want to be that storyteller? Pick up the best-selling book of all time (the Bible), turn to a Gospel (e.g. Luke or Matthew), pick out 10 “stories,” ponder them, consider the high points, sit with them a while, and see what light shines into your life. Tell them in your own words. Become the story-teller and lean across the backyard fence.
Fr. George’s Recommendation
Take a look at The Bible Project, a non-profit group out of Seattle dedicated to drawing people into the integrated story of the whole Bible all leading to Jesus. They makes great animations that are 5-8 minutes long. Here are some collections, places to start:
- How to read the Bible
- Overviews of Books of the Bible (great resources!)
- Bible study by Themes
- and when you want get a little deeper in the details, Word Studies
See you across the backyard fence!