“Dust Off Those Bibles, Folks!” By Brian Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Flickr User Aidan James

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

There are a lot of ways to read Scripture.  In a chair.  At a table.  On the couch.  On a plane.  Wait sorry wrong list.  Here we go.  There are a lot of ways to read Scripture.  Maybe you’ve never thought about these different ways before.  You can open up to the beginning of a book in the Bible, let’s say one of the Gospels, and read it from start to finish just like you’d read a novel.  This is great for getting an overall sense of that book, like the names, the events, and the broader context.  You might think, “Wow I never realized that in John’s Gospel, it tells us about Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish, and earlier on the same day he walked on water!  What a day!  The apostles must have been pretty overwhelmed seeing all of that.”

Or you can do a Bible study across multiple books, where you’re looking for themes like light, or water, or God working through rather unqualified people.  Or you can look at typology, where you read about Old Testament “prefigurements” of Jesus, like the Passover Lamb from Moses and the Hebrews in their Exodus from Egypt, and the parallels and foreshadowing of Jesus telling his disciples that he himself is the Lamb of God.

There’s another way to read Scripture that I want to highlight though, called Lectio Divina (or “divine reading” if you need to brush up on your fancy Church Latin).  That’s when you look at a relatively short passage, such as one of the readings from a Sunday Mass, and prayerfully read it a few times, looking for what the Holy Spirit is trying to bring to your attention in the passage.  The traditional “steps” are Reading, Meditation, Prayer, and Contemplation (or I’ve heard it rephrased as Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest).  But don’t get caught up in the steps, rather think about the idea of prayerfully reading the passage, not for the “plot points” or the names, but for how God is speaking to you through it.

In the first reading this week, we hear about the Lord purifying the sons of Levi, like a refiner’s fire.  Again, it’s worth the dive into the Old Testament to learn more about the tribe of Levi and how they were the priests of the old covenant to have some more context.  But if we read this passage in a “Lectio Divina” type way, we’d be looking for what we feel like God is trying to underline for us.  Here is the reading below, followed by my interpretation after meditation, prayer and contemplation:

“Thus, says the Lord GOD: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me;

And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.” Malachi 3:1-4 (reprinted from www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020220.cfm)

When I first read this, what jumped out at me is the image of God sitting, refining and purifying silver with a refiner’s fire.  Then in reflecting on that, I felt like the Holy Spirit was leading me to think about those things in my life that I need God to purify me of that might be holding me back from him, so that I might be holy and pure, like the silver he’s working with here.  I might respond by committing to growing in those areas, and asking God for that grace, and then rest in his presence.

So, this week, give that a try.  Open up to a passage (start with one of the Gospels) and listen for God speaking to you.  As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”, so if we want to know God better, we need to dive into his Word.  And he’ll speak!

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