I grew up on the edge of the Bible Belt around many devout Christians. One thing that was particularly intimidating to me as a Catholic was their knowledge of the Bible. I was given a Bible for my confirmation, and I remember going to my room that night and being drawn to read God’s word. I started in Genesis. After a few nights of this routine, I found myself confused and discouraged. The Bible seemed dry, and I couldn’t make sense of all the “random” stories that I was reading. I gave up and put the Bible back on my shelf.
Several years later, I was blessed to have good friends and teachers and to be involved with FOCUS as a student at Benedictine College. I started to learn how to read the Scriptures and allow them to impact my life. As St. Augustine once said, “Your prayer is like a conversation with God. When you read, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to him” 1. My heart was lit on fire by God’s words, and I recognized a truth that St. Timothy wrote about: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”2. The Catechism even states, “The Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body” 3 and continues, “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength” 4.
Now, I have the daily practice of reading the Gospels and encountering Christ present in them. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way that will allow the Scriptures to have an impact on your life when you read them.
My life was changed when I started to read the Scriptures daily. By reading the Bible daily, I started to see how God’s word had an impact on the circumstances I found myself in each day. I was only reading for about five to ten minutes a day, but it was making a significant impact. If you need help to build the habit, I would recommend using My Daily Catholic Bible, which can help you work through the entire New Testament in one year by reading just ten minutes a day. If that is too much, just read one or two passages a day and sit with them prayerfully for a few minutes, asking the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your life.
Put Yourself in the Scene
This is an amazing practice that will overflow into your prayer time, too. As you read the Bible, put yourself in the scene, become one of the characters in the story, and start to experience what they experienced. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you walk along with the characters of the story, and be prepared to hear the Lord speak to you in powerful ways.
Start in the New Testament
The Old Testament is rich with great insights, but it only makes sense in light of the New Testament. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them”5. It’s like the adage, “Begin with the end in mind.” The New Testament will help you encounter Jesus and from this encounter will open up the Old Testament. Jesus is the key to reading the entire Bible.
Understand the Narrative
Pope Leo XIII wrote, “Scripture is a letter written by our Heavenly Father”6. This letter is written to us, his children, for God to reveal his total love for us. Two great resources to understand the narrative of the Bible are A Father Who Keeps His Promises and The Real Story.
There is plenty in the Bible that is tough to understand. There are dozens of different authors who wrote over the course of thousands of years and in various genres of writing. There are many great resources to help you understand the Scriptures. I would recommend a foundational commentary like the Didache Bible or the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. For those who would like to go even deeper, the Ancient Christian Commentary and Navarre Bible series are both excellent resources, too.
”The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edge sword, piercing to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”7. You are transformed every day when you open the Bible. By using these five tips, you will be reading the Bible like a pro in no time.