Yahweh, your God, is in your midst; a mighty saviour. He will exult with joy over you. He will renew you by his love. He will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival. Zp 3: 17
How could Zephaniah have come to such an amazing and unique understanding of God? He must have enjoyed a very unique relationship with his God. We too are called into a similar relationship. “But how on earth is my relationship going to reach such a depth,” you may well ask?
Pope Benedict XVI gives us the answer.
“I remind all Christians that our personal and communal relationship with God depends on our growing familiarity with the Word of God. To everyone the Lord says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3: 20) (124)
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In 2008 Pope Benedict assembled Bishops from all over the world for a Synod. The topic of discussion was, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” Based on the discussion he published a document in which he addresses the findings of the Bishops. This document is titled “Verbum Domini” (The Word of the Lord). The quotation given above comes from the final paragraph. Pope Benedict obviously regards Verbum Domini as very important and so should we. He is convinced that the Bible should be an essential part of our spirituality.
“ This sacred Synod earnestly and specifically urges all the Christian faithful, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “ excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ.” prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine sayings.” (25)
Is this teaching new? Certainly not! John Paul II frequently spoke and wrote about the importance of the Bible for our spiritual lives. In 2002 he wrote:
“In the new millennium we are called to contemplate Christ with a gaze fixed, on the face of the Lord. But where does one concretely contemplate the face of Christ? Christ is truly present in his Word and in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. Recognizing him requires a gaze of faith which is acquired through the habitual reading of the Word of God. (23)
Do we really appreciate the importance of the Word of God in our lives? Is it possible that we are being given a wake-up call? Now is the time for us to start reading the Scriptures regularly. The Church makes this really easy for us. The Liturgical readings for the year are the official Scripture reading programme for an entire year.
One often hears that Christianity is a religion of the Book. This is not quite correct. The Synod Fathers tell us that God speaks to us in a variety of ways.
They rightly referred to a symphony of the Word, to a single word expressed in multiple ways. Jesus Christ is truly the Word of God. The Word of God, divinely inspired, is sacred Scripture, the Old and New Testaments. God has spoken through the prophets and the Word preached by the Apostles. Creation itself is an essential part of the symphony. (7)
Our faithfulness to reading and praying the Word of God is not just a personal matter. Not surprisingly, the Synod called for:
“a greater “biblical apostolate”, not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral work. There should be a commitment to emphasizing the centrality of the Word of God in the Church’s life. This does not mean adding a meeting here or there in parishes, but rather of examining the ordinary activities of Christian communities and associations. Just imagine the transformation that would follow if the Women of St Anne, the Knights of da Gama and every other Church organization committed themselves to making the Word of God central to living out Christianity. (73)
The Scripture message will come to life in a way that helps the faithful to realise that God’s Word is present and at work in their everyday lives. (59) Our Christian Journey to Christ will be based on the Word of God. Our spiritual life will be based on the Word of God. Through prayerful and frequent reading of the Bible we will, with time, deepen our personal relationship with Christ. How could we live without the knowledge of Scripture, by which we come to know Christ himself, who is the life of all believers?
Let us go forth proclaiming the Word everywhere by the witness of our lives. May the Lord himself, as in the time of the prophet Amos, raise up in our midst a new hunger and thirst for the Word of God. (91)
Numbers in brackets indicate the paragraph in Verbum Domini.