16 January 2012

Digging Into God's Word...

For more than a quarter of a century I’ve been teaching an on-going scripture course at the parish for anybody who wants to come. Back in the early years we had classes on Sunday mornings between Masses – those were the days when there was such a thing as “between Masses.” As the parish has grown, so has the Mass schedule, so we moved the scripture study to Wednesday evenings. It’s not one of those "sit-around-and-share-your-ignorance" kinds of classes. It involves real teaching and real learning.

I’ve loved studying the scriptures from the time I was very young. When I finally settled down into my undergraduate program (after my first-year detour into organ performance and church music), I majored in Biblical Studies. Interesting though it was, something wasn’t really clicking with me. I listened carefully. I took meticulous notes. I did well on the exams. I graduated in fine shape with a combined Biblical Studies/Philosophy degree, and then I went off for further studies in England. But my study of the scriptures seemed to be missing something. There was a hole there, a void. I got used to it, though, and so I thought that it must be all right. I assumed that must be what everyone experiences.

It was after becoming a Catholic that I decided to go back, on my own, and have another look at the Bible in a systematic way. Since I’m quite convinced that the best way to learn is to teach, that’s what I decided to do, so for better or for worse, the parish got a “Pastor’s Bible Study” injected into its schedule.

Actually, it seems that it was “for better.” I prepared, and people came. And I discovered what had been missing before. I had been reading the Bible with protestant eyes. But to read it as a Catholic with a Catholic understanding, it all came together in a way which was utterly profound. For the more than twenty-five years I’ve been teaching the course, we have been criss-crossing between Old Testament and New, and for all that time I have been seeing the Catholic Church gazing off the pages at me. Sacrifice and sacrament, the spread of the Church with the spread of the Gospel, the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ, all the teaching of St. Paul – when you read it with Catholic eyes, it all comes together, and it makes wonderful, eternal sense.

This discovery excited me when I was a young Catholic priest, just starting out, and it has continued to be one of the joys of my life as a pastor, to help open up the Scriptures to others. As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Brother, you can say that again!

For those who might be interested, you can hear some of the sessions on podcast here.  We're studying St. Luke's Gospel right now, so those sessions will be uploaded as they're available.