One beautiful but challenging consequence of the reforms of Vatican II is that on a daily basis any member of the faithful can be totally immersed in Scripture. It’s not even 8am and already I’ve been exposed to: six psalms, an excerpt from Galatians, Genesis and the Gospel of Mark, and various commentaries on all of them… and that’s just from saying the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer and Mass. It’s a little overwhelming actually. How does one tie it all together?
Well, there’s no one rule on how to make connections between the readings. Certainly whatever links one makes have to be reasonable and coincide with Teaching. I couldn’t, for example, read the Bible and come to the conclusion that it’s ok to say… falsely accuse my brother… because that would contradict the Commandments. That caution aside, what is the average Catholic to Do?
I find it helpful to have a theme for whatever period of time I’m reading the Scriptures. During Christmas and the Epiphany-centered month of January my theme was “getting to know Jesus”. Everything I read or heard in church got channeled through that appropriately seasonal theme. Having been introduced to Jesus in January, February is my month for prayer…since prayer is the vehicle for my ongoing friendship with the Lord. As I figure it, on this year’s calendar anyway, that should set me up nicely for the start of Lent on March 1… and forty days’ meditation on salvific suffering. As you can tell, I like using the Church calendar to guide my prayer. Other guides might include the lives of the saints: “what would saint. (____) say about these readings?” The Holy Father’s preaching (daily masses Wednesday audiences and Sunday angelus) can also be a good guide.
What all these guides… any guide really… have in common is that they are an objective boundary to keep our subjective thoughts and meditations from going off in wild or unhealthy directions. Some local mega churches in the D.C. area have begun preaching a “prosperity Gospel” that teaches: God will reward good behavior with wealth. Any look at the actual objective words of Jesus reveals this to be nonsense… likewise the lived experiences of faithful Christians across the centuries. Guides are limiting, its true… they limit us to following the right path all the way to heaven. As we look with eyes of faith at the vast quantity of Scripture available to us today, seek out a good guide. You’ll be glad you did.