The great Bible scholar and translator, Saint Jerome, stated: “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” After Jesus fasted forty days in the desert, the devil tried to tempt Jesus to turn stones into bread, and Jesus responded: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4: 4) The Psalmist points out that the Word of God is both a lamp and light to guide our steps. Finally, the great Apostle to the Gentiles and writer of several Letters in the New Testament, Saint Paul, compares the Bible, the Word of God, to a two-edged sword that can separate bone from marrow.
Unfortunately for many Christians, and even many Catholics, the Bible is nothing more than an ornamental item placed on the coffee table in the living room, collecting dust but barely ever read, much less meditated upon, understood and lived.
As a means to motivate us to sink deep into the vast treasure of the Word of God, the Bible itself, I would like to offer ten of my favorite Biblical passages hoping to encourage all to get into the habit of reading the riches of God’s Word which can be an infinite source and fountain of wisdom, enlightenment and encouragement for us on our pilgrimage to heaven.
1. PSALM 23. How I love and relish Psalm 23—the Psalm of the Good Shepherd. As a Spiritual Director, when dealing with people who are going through a state of desolation, I often encourage them to crack open the Bread of God’s Word and to read and ponder carefully this Psalm. It starts with these consoling and encouraging words: “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” (Psalm 23: 1) How often these first few words can pull a person in deep desolation into a state of consolation by becoming aware of the fact that we are never alone. “Though I walk through the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23: 4)
2. LUKE 15—THE LOST AND FOUND CHAPTER. One of my priest companions called Luke 15, “The Lost and Found Chapter”. The reason for this catchy and intriguing title is precisely that: there are three Parables in which there is a losing and a finding. A sheep is lost, then found; a coin is lost in the house, then swept up and found; finally, a rebellious son wanders in lost wastelands, and then is found in the loving arms of his merciful Father. We call this the Parable of the Prodigal Son, that could also and rightfully be called the Parable of the Merciful Father. Try meditating on this masterpiece, perhaps one of the greatest stories ever told, and peace and mercy will be yours!
3. LUKE 10: 25-37—THE GOOD SAMARITAN. Anyone who reads this Parable of Jesus with an open heart can derive infinite graces, treasures and precious teachings. Traditional Bible interpretations point to Jesus as the Good Samaritan. Indeed, Jesus lifts fallen humanity from the dregs of sin and brings all to the Inn, the Church, where healing comes about. However, once we have experienced the love, the care and the tenderness of Jesus, the Good Samaritan in our lives, then it will be our turn to be Good Samaritans on the Highway of life. We are to lift the fallen, the lonely, the abandoned and the suffering, and offer them the healing balm of God’s love flowing from our own hearts.
4. MATTHEW 25: 31-46—THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS. How important it is for us to express heart-felt gratitude to God who is the giver of all good gifts. How important it is for us to recognize that the many talents we have, whether they be intellectual, artistic, moral, spiritual, and much more, are simply gifts from a most bountiful and generous God. However, our gratitude for the gift of these talents should motivate us to use them and avoid any form of laziness, arch-enemy number one in this Parable. As the younger generations put it: “If you do not use it, you lose it.”
5. GENESIS 3—ADAM AND EVE: THE ORIGINAL SIN. This passage has intrigued me for many years and for various reasons. One of the principal reasons is that this sin, the Original Sin of our first parents Adam and Eve, left an indelible mark on all of humanity until the end of time. I like to term it this way: “Original Sin is a moral tsunami that has repercussions on the whole of humanity until the end of time.” We are who we are, with our fallen human nature that has a strong inclination and proclivity towards evil all due to this first sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. For this reason, Jesus left His Church with these four key Sacraments. Can you guess what they are? The Sacrament of Baptism which removes the stain of original sin that we were born with, and makes us children of God. The Sacrament of Confession, the Sacrament of Mercy, so we can return to the state of grace when we fall and receive Jesus in Holy Communion worthily. The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist nourishing us with Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day”. (Jn. 6: 53-54) The Sacrament of Holy Orders or the Priesthood, for as the Cure of Ars pointed out—no priests, no Confession; no Confession, no Eucharist; no Eucharist, we are orphans. How good God is!
6. II SAMUEL 11: THE SIN OF DAVID AND BATHSHEBA. How fascinating this chapter involving King David and Bathsheba. One of the greatest warriors, a musician and poet at heart, a man loved and honored by an entire nation, and a man after the very heart of God, these are the qualities that describe one of the greatest figures in the Old Testament, and that is, King David. Despite all of these talents—natural, human and divine, David fell and plunged into the mire and quicksand of sin. Not only did he take another man’s wife, committing adultery, but he went even further by plotting the murder of that innocent man, the husband of Bathsheba, Uriah the Hittite. How important a lesson for us: “Watch and pray because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26: 41) As Saint Paul reminds us: “Be careful while you stand, lest you fall.” (1 Cor. 10-12) However,because of this mortal sinfulness of David, we have one of the most profound prayers of Contrition ever written, Psalm 51. See excerpts below.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
7. LUKE 24: 13-35—WALKING ALONE AND THEN WITH JESUS. This is the charming Easter passage of the disciples walking away from Jerusalem on the road leading to Emmaus. While the two walk and talk between themselves, it is argument, disagreement, discouragement and desolation. But once the stranger, the pilgrim, their secret friend enters the scene—Jesus, whom they do not recognize, their whole mood changes radically. Jesus walks with them, listens to them, speaks to them and explains the things that have happened to Him, whom they believed to be dead. Invited inside their humble abode, Jesus sits down with them at the table and breaks bread for them. Suddenly their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus. Their desolation evaporates into thin air and they are filled with joy and consolation, ready to share the Good News that Jesus is truly risen with the whole world! Do it yourself! Take a long walk with Jesus. Speak to Him and tell Him what is on your mind. Then listen to Him as He speaks to your heart. Let Him break bread for you in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, nourishment for the journey. For like the disciples, you are to go and share the Good News to the whole world. Then invite Jesus to be with you now and forever!
8. MATTHEW Chapter 5—THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT: THE BEATITUDES. Of all of the teachings of Jesus, one of the most renowned is the Sermon on the Mount, found in these three chapters: Matthew 5, 6 and 7. This profound and radical teaching of the Best of Teachers, the Master, the Lord Jesus, starts off with the famous BEATITUDES. In total they are eight! Pope Saint John Paul II stated that if we want to peer into the window of the Heart of Jesus, we should meditate upon the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who weep, the meek, those who hunger for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace-makers, and those persecuted for the sake of justice—behold the Eight Beatitudes. Who lived these best? Jesus, who preached them and taught them by His life! Let beg for the grace and try to imitate Him!
9. JOHN Chapter 6. This powerful chapter, one of the longest in the Gospels, can be divided into three parts: the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus walks on water, and then the famous “Bread of Life discourse”. For those who have drifted away from the practice of the Catholic faith, invite them to read and meditate upon John Chapter 6—especially on the “Bread of Life discourse.” Without any equivocation, Jesus states with utmost clarity that He is truly the Bread of Life, and that if we sincerely desire eternal life in Heaven, we must nourish ourselves on the Bread of life—meaning, Holy Communion in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Blessed are those who listen and obey, and who are privileged to receive the Real Presence of Jesus in the most Holy Eucharist!
10. JOHN 2—THE WEDDING FEAST OF CANA. In this passage we encounter Jesus, His Mother Mary, and some of the His disciples in a wedding Feast in Cana. The wine runs out and Mary points this out to Jesus. Then Sacred Scripture presents us with the last recorded words of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Bible: “Do whatever He tells you.” (Jn. 2: 5) These words of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother also, are among the most important words and the best advice that we could ever be given—DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU! If the world would only obey Mary and do what Jesus tells us to do, there would be peace, love, and harmony in this world and salvation in the life to come for all.
In conclusion, friends in Jesus, Mary, the angels and saints, I have offered to you for your own meditation, ten of my favorite Biblical passages. These passages have given me light, encouragement, correction, motivation and much consolation. Like Mary, may we grow to love the Word of God and ponder God’s word in the depths of our hearts. (Lk. 2:19)