Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome and thank you for reading this Bishop’s Blog!
This Sunday has been designated by the Bishops of England and Wales as Catholic Bible Sunday, and is a timely reminder to us of the central place that Sacred Scripture – the inspired Word of God – must hold in the life of the Church.
In the years following the Second Vatican Council our appreciation and importance of the written Word of God in Scripture have grown immeasurably. The author of the letter to the Hebrews writes, ‘The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…’ (Heb. 4:12).
We are now well accustomed to hearing the Word of God proclaimed at our Sunday Mass, and the Church teaches that through this proclamation Christ himself is in fact speaking to us. This truth underlines how essential it is for readers to speak the word to the congregation clearly and in an intelligent way. Christ therefore continues to commune and dialogue with his people when the Scriptures are read, especially when gathered for the Holy Eucharist.
For many older Catholics the practice of reading and pondering the words of the bible does not come easy, yet at his Wednesday audience Pope Francis constantly urges his hearers to carry in their pockets a small copy of the New Testament and read a few verses each day.
What a difference, the Holy Father says, that would make to our lives! He also encourages parents and children to share a few words of Scripture when together at home in the evening. Such a habit without fail creates a prayerful atmosphere within a family, because Christ is speaking to that family.
The Lord Jesus himself was thoroughly versed in the Scriptures of his people and quoted them often in his teaching. The beautiful story of his appearing on Easter Day to the two disciples who were journeying to Emmaus illustrates how he explained the words of Scripture to them, and in so doing transformed their whole outlook. (Luke 24)
The risen Lord chided the two disciples for not realising that all of the Scriptures referred to him. If we want meaning and direction for our lives then the Lord will give it to us through his inspired Word, which the Church has treasured from her very beginning. Like those downcast disciples long ago, we too need to approach these life-giving waters which the Lord Jesus is offering to us.
That great Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, advised his pupil and friend Timothy to cherish Scripture, for he writes, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2Tim. 3:16-17.
The Fathers of the Church – Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, Basil and so many other outstanding teachers of the faith – put Scripture at the centre of their lives. In their estimation, nothing could surpass the Word of God contained in the bible for light and learning.
What a difference it would make to our Advent were we to take a little passage from the New Testament, or a psalm, and pray and ponder for a few moments at some point of each day! Then too we could exclaim ‘Did not our hearts would burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ (see Luke 24:32).
Until next week – may God bless you all this Advent,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster