The Bible is our Best Self-Help Book
St Jerome: Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ
We live in a time when values in our families are eroding: values such as respect for our elders, decency in speech and in the manner of doing things, honesty, prudence, fidelity and the fear of God.
The Bible is our crucial handbook for such values. And yet, in many homes bibles collect dust on bookshelves.
In his apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (2011), Pope Benedict XVI asked families to not only have bibles in their homes, but to also use them for prayer.
He said that “every household [should] have its bible, to be kept in a worthy place and used for reading and prayer”. This is good to remember not only on Bible Sunday, but all year round.
The Bible is an all-round self-help book which families can use in their daily lives. When we are emotionally down, the psalms can lift us up. When we are crying, the psalmists are there to cry with us and offer us who are grieving a quick therapy. When we are jubilant at good news, joyous readings are there to help us dance and celebrate, but also moderate our exuberance.
The Bible is not just a prescriptive list of what we may and may not do. It is a life guide that offers us the best advice and examples. Sometimes it does so directly, sometimes it does so by leading us to God through reflection and prayer.
Of course, the Bible doesn’t have a solution to every specific question that we may have. It is by reading Scripture, preferably in our family, that we are led to make choices that are godly.
Obviously not everybody is making such choices. Theft, rape, murder and corruption are a staple of the daily news.
Southern Cross editor Gunther Simmermacher, in an editorial some time back, titled “Worse than other sins“, noted that a “culture of impunity” – the sense of exemption from responsibility towards others and to one’s own conscience is at the root of all corruption.
There is no point in bemoaning the evils in our society when there is little faith formation in our families and communities. When we meet the Word of God only on Sunday in the Mass, then the Gospel values that Jesus teaches will be unfamiliar in our supermarkets, in our cars or taxis, in our schools and so on.
A while ago a friend of mine, a father of two, told me that every evening before supper his family gathers at the table to read Scripture. They may not eat before praying together with the Word. They also read from a book about the saints. This is the formation our families need.
Can we have the strength to say with St Paul that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:37)? Neither work nor relationships, neither Internet nor phone calls, neither gossip nor hatred.
Let the words of the great fourth-century brain, St Jerome, be a warning to us at all times: Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. By Anthony Gathambiri. Updated from 2014