Scripture: Lectionary 276: April 18. Acts 8:26-40. Psalm 66:8-9.16-17.20. John 6:44-51:
Luke encourages us to read Scripture and not to be afraid to tackle the whole Bible. We have a very interesting event in the early missionary effort of Philip the deacon that is helpful for spurring us on to study, read, and pray the Scriptures. For the most part we all are beginners when it comes to studying and probing the Scriptures, but everyone can pray the Scriptures by doing a bit of reading and reflecting.
Many start with trying to read the entire Bible; they start with Genesis and soon give up. That is probably not the best way to start for most of us. Let the Scriptures come to you by making them be like Philip the deacon who catches up with the eunuch who is reading the Prophet Isaiah. He apparently could read Hebrew, but he had no idea of what the prophet was referring to, nor did he have a context for understanding it. Philip, moved by the Spirit helps him to see how Philip interprets the passage about the suffering servant of God in a new way. This is due to Philip’s believing in Jesus as the Risen One and being led by the Spirit to reread passages in the light of his faith. He hops into the carriage alongside the eunuch of Candace and starts to help him understand the Scripture of Isaiah 53:7-8. With the help of an interpreter, the Egyptian comes to believe and wants to be baptized. They come upon a patch of water and he is baptized!
For us the liturgical readings within the Eucharistic celebration act like Philip for helping us to be prepared to understand what is being read or heard. Our prayerful attention picks up on their meaning especially if someone gives a short homily. These readings cover many parts of the Bible as the months roll on and we have a wonderful way of reading a good part of the Old and New Testament through them. Settling ourselves down before the Mass and pondering them over helps us to begin understanding them. They are not to be speed read, but slowly and meditatively. This helps us to be formed into a type of spiritual reading of them called by the fancy Latin expression lectio divina. We have an advantage over the eunuch in the perspective of our Christian faith which already believes in Jesus. We also are given a big help by the Psalm that is chosen and the verses that are selected. This Psalm Response and its verses helps us to tie the theme together from one or both of the readings. Often it is a fine way of praying the content of the Scripture for the day in itself. Like the eunuch we are excited about understanding them; and, since we are already baptized we are well on our way to making progress in reading the Bible. Never neglect the Old Testament as some Catholics do. It is the Bible of Jesus and more than half of the New Testament is based on its themes, words, and living interpretations given both in the synagogue and the church.
Easter time is a great time for reading the Scriptures since they are so filled with the Spirit and the Risen Lord. Many of us can be like Philip and help others not to be afraid or lazy about taking up the Scriptures as our spiritual nourishment for the day. Since the Acts of the Apostles is so geared to a type of history of the early Christian movement, it is an easier book to start with. Since the Psalms are prayers to begin with, they are even easier to read and pray. St. Augustine was converted by a voice telling him TOLLE LEGE, that is, take up the Scripture and read it. He did and like the eunuch he became passionate about what they , the Scriptures, led him to be. We are no different. Seize the moment…Carpe Diem. Amen. Alleluia.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.