15 minutes a day – how do I make Scripture part of my everyday life?
When I was a little girl of 6, I began 10 years of public school education. (No Catholic School was available until I was 16.) Each morning one of us would read from the Bible, then we would pray the Lord’s Prayer, sing a hymn and, finally, we would salute the flag and sing the National anthem. So began each school day in the 1940s and ’50s. If we were Catholic, we were instructed to bring in a “Catholic Bible”; if Protestant, the version used by the church that student attended. If we were Jewish, we were instructed to read from one of the first five books of the Bible – the Torah. We were free to choose whatever reading we wanted. As a child, I was introduced to the word of God without really understanding or even appreciating the nourishment I was receiving at that time.
Today, I can trace the beginnings of my love for God’s word to those years. Seeds were planted in my heart of love for God and his ways that I wasn’t even necessarily conscious of. But hey grew, watered by Mass and the sacraments until one day, as a 17-year-old, “dropping into the Catholic school chapel for a quick ‘visit’, I encountered the Lord hmself, inviting me to give my whole life to him for the sake of his people. Yes, many factors through the years played a role in my vocation, but the more I reflect on it, the more I see the significant part that a daily feeding on God’s word had to nourish and ready my soul to say “yes.”
What part does the word of God play in your daily life? What do you read most frequently?
The word of God is not like any other book we pick up. In choosing a secular book to read, we choose what we like because of the author or the topic, and then we proceed to agree and disagree with the thoughts expressed. Magazines may entertain or inform, but rarely does a magazine offer real substance for serious reflection. Newspapers should help us to understand the issues and needs of the world but, today, with good journalism a rare exception, they are mostly a quick read for a few “facts.”
The world around us seems to be going at a faster and faster pace. So we can do more? More of what? We are becoming more frantic and frenzied, stressed and sometimes even burned out. How many of us ask the question: “Dear God, what is my life really about? Why am I here? What is your purpose for me? God, will you help me?” How many expect an answer?
Part of God’s answer, and a big part, is contained in the decision to read his word – a word designed by God himself to teach, to challenge, to comfort, to strengthen and direct. How desperately our frenzied world needs nourishment: the wisdom and courage, the hope and understanding of our circumstances and God’s plan.
The psalmist knew where to find help:
Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.
Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged for I keep thy precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way in order to keep thy word.
I do not turn aside from thy ordinances for thou hast taught me.
How sweet are thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:97-105)
Most Catholics would have a hard time assenting to the truth contained in these words of the psalmist. They don’t reflect the daily experience of most of us. But they could!
In all, and I do mean all, your circumstances, God’s word can give you a foundation of truth and wisdom, of hope and courage, of ways to deepen faith and love. I don’t think anyone would deny that we need more of all those things. How do we learn?
I hope, in the coming year, through this column, to illustrate how to read and understand the word of God in light of your daily circumstances. The word of God literally has power to change your life because it is Jesus Christ. His word, as it comes to you through the printed page, is “living, active, sharper than any two edged sword.” (cf Hebrews 4:12) The grace (a share in the very life of God) streams through his word to your heart and mind and spirit. This is the mercy of God at work. He never abandons his children. He longs to help you in the difficulties and trials, the joys and blessings of daily life on this earth.
• This month, ask God daily to give you an increase of faith and hope.
• Get out your favorite Bible. (I will be using the RSV translation.)
• Look at your daily schedule and ask yourself where you could carve out 15 minutes a day to read his word, beginning now.
• Read these passages from Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:11-20, Isaiah 66:1-2, Is. 55:10-11, Matthew 4:4, Colossians 3:1-4.
• Finally, over the next month, take time to ponder what our Holy Father said to us in October of 2008 the Synod in Rome on God’s Word:
What is the word of God?
The word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality.
And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm 18 (19) invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life. (Pope Benedict XVI, Synod on the Word of God, Oct. 5, 2008)
Sister Ann Shields is a renowned author and a member of the Servants of God’s Love