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Encountering Christ Through the Bible

When I was a junior in high school I went on a retreat called Christian Awakening. It was based on the Cursillo retreat weekend. During that retreat I had my first conscious personal encounter with Christ, and, as I look back on my faith journey, I see that that encounter was my launching pad to becoming a missionary disciple—with lots of fits and starts. I had studied the Bible as history in both my Catholic grammar and high schools. In my freshman year I took a religion course on the Old Testament. I found the Bible boring and often was in trouble for talking and joking during that class. However, on that retreat the Word came alive for me—it moved from being a dry history about dead people to a living word about Jesus, my friend and my Lord, which touched my heart and inspired my daily living. During the retreat I received my first Bible—the “Good News” paperback version of the New Testament—and I was hooked. I began to pray with Scripture, underlining and highlighting words in that small grey paperback Bible that inspired me and began to guide my life.
A couple of years later, through a similar retreat experience, my mom discovered the power of God’s Word. She began to pray the Word, signed up for every Bible class offered, and became a huge promoter of the Bible for Catholics. My mom was the parish coordinator for RENEW, and she loved RENEW because it helped people to read, reflect on, and, most important, connect the Word to their lives. She often lamented that she had been deprived of the Word for so many years. In her early Catholic formation, personal Bible reading was discouraged and thought of as something that Protestants do. On the headstone my mom shares with my dad there is an open Bible on one side and a rosary on the other.
One of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council was a renewed understanding of the Bible for prayer and daily inspiration. Bible studies began to be offered in parishes, and many of the renewal movements that sprung up invited people to an encounter with Christ and a personal reading of Scripture for prayer and inspired living. However, most Catholics still don’t read the Bible regularly. The most common way that Catholics hear and pray the Word is through worship, particularly Sunday Mass. The Mass consists of almost 30 percent Scripture. This is good, but many Catholics are missing the many parts of the Bible that are not read at Mass, as well as the power of reading the Word for personal reflection and daily living.
Some people tell me they don’t read the Bible because they do not know where to start—its size and sometimes strange names and places seem a bit intimidating. If you share that feeling, I encourage you to try lectio divina, an ancient but simple method of encountering God through prayerful reading of Scripture.
You start by choosing a short passage from a book of the Bible (I suggest starting with one of the synoptic gospels—Matthew, Luke, or Mark). Place yourself in God’s presence, making an act of faith in the power of God’s Word. Begin reading slowly and reverently. Stop when a word, a phrase, or a feeling within touches you. Stay there, in God’s presence, pondering it and allowing God to speak to you. Eventually, you will sense that this time has come to an end. When that happens, begin reading again until you are prompted to pause and reflect.
When your time for prayer is over, give God thanks for the experience. You may want to have a journal to jot down afterwards what happened during your prayer or any questions about the passage that you need to look up. Many books and articles have been written about lectio divina but this is the basic process. It is important to remember that only what you are reading matters—you don’t have to finish a passage, a chapter, or the book of the Bible. What matters is being in communion with God through his Word and letting God guide you. Don’t miss the invitation to read the Bible regularly and encounter Jesus, the Word of God.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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3 Responses to “Encountering Christ Through the Bible”

  1. Georgina Piloto says:

    I am now 76 years old. I went to a Catholic school here in Miami and I started reading the Bible when I was nine years old. I was an honor student in the Old Testament and I loved all the stories. I read every thing as a story when I asked something the nuns told me it was a mystery. Now that I am old I found RENEW. I
    started in English that is what I have always done.There are more people in the Spanish group so now I am in a Spanish group. I have a community in my house
    and Jesus is with me.

  2. RENEW says:

    Thanks for sharing this resource!

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