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Pope Francis Gives Away New Testaments to the Faithful. Calls Catholics to Love the Bible

By Deacon Keith Fournier
4/13/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

God has called us Catholics to follow him closely. In that holy Writing you will find the Life of Jesus, but you should also find your own life there- St Josemaria Escriva

Last month, at an Angelus prayer, Pope Francis asked the crowd how many of them read the Bible every day. The response was discouraging. He told them, \"It is good to have a little Bible that you carry with you in your pocket or in your bag. Always carry a Bible with you, even on the bus!\" This past Sunday, as the faithful gathered in St. Peters square for the Angelus, volunteers handed out complimentary copies of the New Testament.  They were a gift from Francis. The action spoke volumes about his sincerity in urging the faithful to encounter the Living Word Jesus by reading and meditating upon the written Word of God which reveasl Him.

Pope Francis loves the Word of God and calls us to do the same

Pope Francis loves the Word of God and calls us to do the same

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Last month, at an Angelus prayer, Pope Francis asked the crowd how many of them read the Bible every day. The response was discouraging. He told them, "It is good to have a little Bible that you carry with you in your pocket or in your bag. Always carry a Bible with you, even on the bus!"

This past Sunday, as the faithful gathered in St. Peters square for the Angelus, volunteers handed out complimentary copies of the New Testament.  They were a gift from Francis. The action spoke volumes about his sincerity in urging the faithful to encounter the Living Word Jesus by reading and meditating upon the written Word of God which reveasl Him.

This Pope is an Evangelical Catholic, a man of the Word. He is inviting all of us to become men and women of the Word; to encounter Jesus in the Word. In a beautiful paragraph from its document on the Word of God, the Fathers of the last great ecumenical council, Vatican II, wrote:

Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. (On the Word of God, Second Vatican Council, Paragraph 21)

The constant, daily reading of the Bible and, in a particular way, the Gospels, is meant to be a part of the lived faith of every Christian. The emphasis on reading, loving and living the Gospels is at the heart of the New Evangelization of the Catholic Church.

One of my favorite contemporary saints, Josemaria Esciva, gave this helpful direction about reading the Gospel accounts:
 
When you open the Holy Gospel, think that what is written there-the words and deeds of Christ-is something that you should not only know, but live. Everything, every point that is told there, has been gathered, detail-by-detail, for you to make it come alive in the individual circumstances of your life.

God has called us Catholics to follow him closely. In that holy Writing you will find the Life of Jesus, but you should also find your own life there. You too, like the Apostle, will learn to ask, full of love, 'Lord, what would you have me do?' And in your soul you will hear the conclusive answer, 'The Will of God!' Take up the Gospel every day, then, and read it and live it as a definite rule. This is what the saints have done.'(The Forge, §754). 

This meant to be the lived, ordinary experience of every Catholic Christian and not simply the pattern found in the lives of those canonized as Saints. The Bible lies at the very heart of the Churches worship, faith and life because it reveals the face of God.

The words of the Bible put a praying reader in relationship with Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, through whom we are brought into communion with the Trinitarian God. Thus all the baptized faithful are called into an ever deepening encounter with God through the Sacred Scriptures.

The Bible is the "Book of the Church." Christianity is never about simply "me and Jesus". If anything, it is about me in Jesus. We live our lives now as a part of His Body, the Church. Catholics and Orthodox rightly emphasize that to belong to Jesus is to belong to His Church.

When God chose to save us, He did not throw a book out of heaven; He came among us as the Word become Flesh. Through the Incarnation, life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ- and through the working of the Holy Spirit - a new creation has begun.

The Church is not an organizational afterthought that we all put together so that we have a place to study the Bible together and worship. It is the very Body of Christ, the seed of the kingdom that is coming, the plan of God revealed, a new family into which we are reborn through the womb that is the Baptismal font.

The Lords' presence continues in His Body, the Church, which is a communion of all the faithful with the Lord. He gave the sacred text, the Bible, to those who are His own in this world by giving it to the Church, the home of those who are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus and become sons (and daughters) in the Son.

God has entrusted His Word to this Church, this new people who were born from the water and blood that flowed from the wounded side of Jesus Christ. The Bible, the great treasury of His written word, is a gift to this Church.

At first it was received by the early Church in the form of the Old Testament books, the Gospels and the letters of the apostles that were "circulated" (that is what the word "encyclical" means) among the early Christian communities.

Later, what we have now call the "Bible" was compiled in the "Canon" (the word means "measuring stick"), by the early Church in Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This complete text, discerned as to its final content within the Church, is now given to and for the Church.

It is meant to govern her life and worship. It is the guide for her continuing mission to carry forward the redemptive work of Jesus on earth as His Body, until He comes again. It is also, for every Christian, as a son or daughter of that Church, an invitation into an ongoing and ever deepening encounter with God.

For the individual Christian, the Bible is not a formula to be used to obtain some perceived individual "success" in life, but rather a love letter, an invitation from a living God into a relationship with Him, and, in Him with others.
 
It is not some-thing to be used by us, but rather it reveals "Someone", who is to be loved, adored and worshipped. In the words of St. Paul to his disciple Timothy, Scripture is inspired, which in the Greek literally means "God-breathed". It is filled with the very breath, the life of God.

This kind of relational approach to the Sacred Scripture is part of the way of encounter which characterizes the spirituality of Pope Francis. .

In his letter to Timothy who led the struggling Church of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul reminded him that ". from infancy you have known (the) sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

Timothy had a relationship with the Scriptures because He had an intimate loving relationship with the Lord whom they reveal. In short, He had real living faith! This allowed the Lord to continue his work within and through him.

If we want to understand the Bible and bear its fruit in our lives, we must grow in the same kind of faith that Timothy had. This faith will grow in us as we study the words of Scripture. However, we must also approach the study of the Scriptures in and with faith. The two are inseparable.

I believe that this simple but essential insight is part of why Pope Francis gave away those New Testaments last Sunday. He is inviting all of us to fall in love with the Lord. One of the ways we do this is to encounter Him in the Word of God.

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