Behold, I bring Life Eternal!

Studying the Bible as the word of God

The main purpose of reading the word of God is namely, to have eternal life. In the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus, the eternal Word of the Father, says,

“I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

St. Ignatius of Loyola says,

“Study in order to save souls.”

Our main purpose of studying the bible is not to simply master it but to follow it closely and to serve it whole heartedly.

biblestudy_table

  1. The power of God’s word
    St. Ambrose of Milan said,

    “When you pray, you speak to God but when you read the bible, God speaks to you.”

    If we allow God to speak to us through the reading of the bible, we will discover that the word of God fulfils the acronym CHRIST.

    C – for Challenge – The word of God challenges us about the way we lead our life.
    H – for healing – The word of God heals us of our worries and other vices.
    R – for revelation – The word of God reveals to us God’s plans.
    I – for Instruction – The word of God instructs us in God’s ways.
    S – for strength – The word of God strengthens us as it is food for our soul.
    T – for transformation – The word of God transforms our lives into C-H-R-I-S-T.

  2. Why do we not experience the power of God’s word in our life?
    • Many of us do not have a complete and personal copy of the bible.
    • Many of us do not open the bible. It is collecting a lot of dust in the corner whereas our money is collecting a lot of interest in the bank. If we keep the word of God in the bank of our hearts, we will collect the interest of grace.
    • Many read the word of God only occasionally. It is not cake to be eaten occasionally but bread to be consumed daily.
    • Many read the Bible everyday but do it just like any other newsletter. The Bible however, is not a newsletter but a love letter from the Heavenly Father to his children.
  3. Why should we get familiar with the Word of God?
    St. Paul cautions us not to get familiar with the Bible for the sake of knowledge alone (Read 1 Corinthians 1-2 carefully). It is not knowing the word of God that saves & sanctifies life but loving and following it that brings lasting peace & joy:

    “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2).

    We need to be familiar with the word of God for our personal sanctification, for the salvation of the world & for the glory of God.

    • Our Personal Sanctification is the goal of our spiritual life. The word of God is the foundation of our spiritual life. Peter did not want to leave Jesus because

      “he had the words of eternal life” (John 6: 68).

      In John 15:3 Jesus tells his disciples,

      “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.”

      This demands Personal Bible Study.

    • The Salvation of the World includes evangelization, which means sharing the good news with others by way of teaching catechism (Group Bible Study), sharing our reflections through preaching and writing articles, conducting Bible study classes (Teacher’s Bible Study) etc. We repeat here what the eternal Word of the Father says in the Gospel according to St. John,

      “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

    • Finally, the Glory of God includes directing all our works towards God. While calling his disciples, the light of the world Jesus says,

      “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:16).

      St. John Vianney says,

      “Anything that we do without offering it to God is done in vain.”

      The best example here is that of Mary, the sister of Martha,

      “who sat at the feet of the Lord and listened to him” (Luke 10: 39).

      In short, familiarity with the word of God bears this three-fold fruit.

  4. How do we get familiar with the word of God?
    One needs to work on four important elements of Bible study before taking up this noble task: setting a priority for the word of God, immediate preparation for the study, praying to the Holy Spirit and reading the word of God with perseverance. We should note here that Bible study is not a particular moment but a lifelong task which enriches the reader/student. No wonder some of those who have tasted the sweetness and power of the word of God say,

    “Go through the Bible and the Bible will go through you”

    or

    “touch the Bible and it will touch you.”

    1. Priority for the word of God
      One needs to have a personal contact with the word of God in order to experience its life giving and transforming power. We can do this with the help of Personal Bible study. One needs to have the attitude of Samuel who said,

      “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:10).

      For this, retire from all your preoccupations: This includes fixing a suitable time, a sufficient time duration, a proper place and an appropriate method.

    2. Preparation for the study of the word of God
      Before you start the study of the bible, keep the following things ready: A copy of the bible, concordance, note book, pen, pencil, colour pen, small card, and a prayer card. Make sure that there is sufficient light, breeze etc. in the place of your Bible study. Avoid distractions such as mobile, telephone, TV, magazines, etc.

      A word about picking up a proper version of the Bible is necessary here. Every version of the bible is prepared with a definite purpose and a definite readership. For example, the Good News Bible is meant for easy reading and for the beginners including children and the new comers to the faith. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is closer to the original languages like Hebrew and Greek and meant for academic purpose and serious study. The New Community Bible is useful for spiritual nourishment and deeper insights into the text. The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) is basically a study bible. Here again, let us not forget the dictum of St. Ignatius of Loyola who says, “Study in order to save souls.” The main purpose of our study is to read the Bible as the word of God and to nourish ourselves on this food of the spirit.

    3. Prayer to the Holy Spirit
      The Holy Spirit is the only author of the Bible. St. Gregory the Great says,

      “The Old testament is the time of the Father, the New testament is the time of Jesus, and now is the time of the Holy Spirit.”

      Thus, begin reading of the word of God with a short prayer to the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine has written a very touching prayer to the Holy Spirit. We could use it before we begin reading the word of God.

      Breathe in Me O Holy Spirit, that My Mind May be Holy
      Act in Me O Holy Spirit, that My Work May be Holy
      Dwell in My Heart O Holy Spirit, that I May Love but All that is Holy
      Draw Me O Holy Spirit, that I May Defend all that is Holy
      Guard Me O Holy Spirit, Against All that is Not Holy
      Grant Me O Holy Spirit, that I May Be Always Holy
      – St. Augustine

    4. Reading the word of God prayerfully and attentively
      This is the most important step in the study of the Bible. There are general principles which we need to imbibe right at the start. This is followed by the specific steps that are needed for an effective Bible study. There are three general principles for reading the word of God:

      • To Read the Word of God in its Totality:No one should read the Bible randomly, taking everything literally. Imagine you want to know the will of God for your life. Read Matthew 27:5 followed by Luke 10:37 and finally John 13:27 and you may end up hanging yourself.
      • To Read the Word of God with the Eyes of Faith:The Bible is not a book of science or history/ geography. It is an account of the faith of people who were led by God. One has to see God’s hand in every page. He is main character of every book.
      • To Read the Word of God in the light of the Tradition of the Catholic Church:The Protestant sects have only the Bible {sola scriptura (only scriptures), sola fides (only faith), and sola gratia (only grace)}. The Catholics have the Bible, the Tradition and the Magisterium. Dei Verbum (Divine Revelation of Vat II. No. 10) says,

        “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church.”

        Hence we take all these three aspects into account before we interpret the word of God.

Conclusion
This year, as CFCI focuses on the theme of holiness and our pursuit of holiness, scripture is definitely important to reach God and live according to his plan for us. If you are talking to a European, you may not understand his language even though he speaks English because he has got a heavy accent. In the same way, Scripture helps us understand Gods accent so that his message may be clearly understood.

This article is a part of the notes prepared by Fr. (Dr.) Robert Dsouza, professor of Scripture at St. Pius X Seminary, edited by Bro. Kelvin Santis.
I would like to thank Fr. Robert for allowing me to use this article.

About Bro. Kelvin Santis

Bro. Kelvin Santis is passionate about working with kids and young adults on topics of Spirituality and Religion. After being in the community of CFCI for 7 years and working as a Full Time Pastoral Worker for the community, he is currently studying to be ordained a priest for the archdiocese of Bombay at St. Pius X Seminary, Goregaon, Mumbai. Most of his writings are his self reflections and on the topic of Spirituality.

Share your view