The Church strongly encourages reading, meditating, pondering, assimilating and, very important, trying to live out the Word of God in our lives. So important is the Word of God that the great Saint Jerome asserted: “Ignorance of the Word of God is ignorance of Christ.” Common sense teaches us that it is literally impossible to fall in love with someone without knowing that person.
GOSPEL RICHES. Years ago, it was not that easy to read the Bible and the Gospels for two simple reasons: 1) Many people had no Bible; 2) Illiteracy. In an agrarian society—basically farming and tending animals—few even needed to read.
CHALLENGE FOR CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS. Since the Second Vatican Council, the reading of the Bible, even on a daily basis, has been strongly encouraged. So much was this the case that one of the most important documents of Vatican II, one of the four Dogmatic Constitutions, focused on the Bible and its preeminent importance. This Dogmatic Constitution is DEI-VERBUM—meaning, the Word of God!
EASY ACCESS TODAY. Years past not only was there a dire lack of Bibles, as well as widespread ignorance, but knowledge of the Bible was not strongly encouraged. Quite the contrary today! Bibles can be bought at extremely low prices. The Magnificat has the daily Readings in the Mass available on a monthly basis. Electronically, the Bible can be attained with great ease. There are even audio versions of the Bible for those who have difficulty reading.
THE YOUTH. Now let us turn the page in our Bible exhortations and target the youth, if you like, the teens. The rest of our short treatise will be directed at how we can get the Bible, the Word of God, especially the Gospels into the hands, the minds, the hearts and the lives of our young people.
The Word of God has been compared to a two-edged sword, to our daily Bread, to a light and a lamp to guide our steps on the right path. Steve Wood has even compared the Word of God to that of chlorine. In this context, what chlorine does to cleanse and purify pool water, so does the Word of God cleanse and purify the mind of impure images that have been lodged in our memory bank. Let us offer a concrete and clear program or strategy to get the younger generation hooked on the Word of God, the Bible, and especially the Gospels.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church points to the Gospels as the very Heart of the Bible. Saint Teresa of Avila insists on meditating on the Humanity of Christ in the Bible as one of the most efficacious means to plumb the depths of prayer.
TWELVE STEP PROGRAM FOR ATTRACTING THE YOUNG TO GOD’S WORD.
FIRST FIVE STEPS.
1. PURCHASE THEIR OWN BIBLE FOR THEM. The starting point should be to make sure that the youth have their own Bible. Having taught Confirmation to teens for many years, very rarely will a teen enter Confirmation with their own Bible. The reason? The teen does not have a Bible. Purchase a hard-cover, if possible leather-bound, Catholic Bible and give it as a gift to your teen.
2. BLESSING. The Bible is truly the Word of God and the Word of God is to be respected as Sacred. Therefore, have the Bible brought to the priest who can formally bless the Bible with holy water. This will inspire greater respect and reverence for God’s Sacred Word. There is an enormous difference between a pagan book and the Bible, which is truly God’s Word.
3. ENTHRONE THE BIBLE IN YOUR HOME. Place or even enthrone the Bible in a prominent place in your home. Perhaps at the entrance to your home on a pedestal. Or if you like, in an elevated place between the images of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
4. LITURGICAL REVERENCE FOR THE WORD OF GOD. Pay attention in special or more solemn Masses (even at times in Sunday Masses) how the Word of God, especially the Book of the Gospels, is venerated. Follow the sequence now. In the entrance procession, the Book of the Gospels is processed in, elevated on high. Once arrived at the Sanctuary, the Book of the Gospels is actually placed in the middle of the altar. Then, before the reading of the Gospel in the context of the Mass, the Book of the Gospels is carried in procession between two altar servers, each carrying a candle, to the lectern. Before reading and explaining the Gospel texts, there is a solemn incensation of the Sacred Book. After the Reading of the Gospel, the minister—Deacon, Priest, or Bishop kisses the Book of the Gospels. All the unwinding of this elaborate sequence of processing with the Bible in the Liturgy of the Mass clearly manifests the great reverence that the Church and its members have for the Word of God.
5. MARY AND THE WORD OF GOD. Let us never forget the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary with respect to the Word of God. Actually, twice in the Gospel of Saint Luke it is said of Mary, that for her part, she pondered the Word of God in her heart. May Mary inspire and motivate us to sink deeply into the inner recesses of the Word of God.
SEVEN CONCRETE STEPS FOR TEENS TO READ THE WORD OF GOD.
The following will be a simple seven step program to help the teens, our beloved young people, to gradually immerse themselves in the infinite riches of God’s Sacred Word.
1. SET TIME, PLACE AND METHOD TO PRAY. Encourage the young person to set aside a specific time of the day, a quiet place to meditate on the Word of God, and a prayer method to facilitate the practice.
2. PRAYER COMES BEFORE ANYTHING, ESPECIALLY BEFORE READING GOD’S WORD. Start by praying to Mary, the Hail Mary, and then a short prayer to the Holy Spirit for light, insight, understanding and application of God’s Word.
3. GOSPELS. Start with the reading of the Gospels with good will and an open heart. The words of the young Samuel in the Temple can motivate us to immerse ourselves in God’s Word: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Sam. 3: 10)
4. STOP TO THINK, PONDER, AND APPLY YOUR MIND AND UNDERSTANDING. Now you are reading the Gospel. (It is really God, Jesus Himself, speaking to you). Stop when a word, idea, image or concept seems to speak to you. Ask yourself: what is God saying to me right now in my life and circumstances?
5. SPEAK TO THE LORD. Go now from the head to the heart. (Sometimes these few inches are hard to traverse!!!) Allow one of the ideas in the Gospel to touch your feelings, your emotions, and your heart. Then bring this up and speak to the Lord about it. Use whatever words or expressions that you feel most at ease with in expressing your thoughts. Jesus is easy to speak to because He loves you deeply and understands you profoundly.
6. REVISION. After you have finished your time of Biblical meditation, spend at least a short time with pen and notebook in hand to write down what idea, concept, inspiration, message, exhortation, or insight seemed to captivate you most. Write down at least a few ideas.
7. SHARING. When the opportunity presents itself, share your Biblical meditation with someone else. Maybe in a Bible group, or youth encounter, or a friendly chat with a good friend or two. Pope Saint John Paul II stated that one of the best ways that we can grow in our faith is to share our faith with others.
The Last Words of Jesus before ascending into Heaven were to go out to the whole world and to teach what He taught, and then to baptize. Then Jesus left a most consoling promise to all of His followers now and to the end of time. “I will be with you always until the end of time.” (Mt. 28: 20)
It is our most ardent hope and desire that all will share this message, especially to the young, to the teens, so that they will fall in love with the Lord Jesus by reading, meditating, understanding, assimilating and living out the infinite treasures and riches of the Word of God.