Stimulations to Daily Reading of Scripture
Date: November 16, 2005 , Originally published November 10, 2001
Author: Kurt Knotziger
Category: Theology reports
Content of the article
Thoughts to an Introduction
The request for us to read Holy Scripture can be found four times in the messages of Medjugorje. On October 18, 1984, a message said: "Today I call on you to read the Bible every day in your homes and let it be in a visible place so as always to encourage you to read it and to pray." A later message picks up on this one in a very specific manner: "Every family must pray family prayer and read the Bible!" (Message of February 14, 1985) Two further messages give reasons to why reading Sacred Scripture is so very important: "Pray and read the Sacred Scriptures so that through my coming you discover the message in the Sacred Scriptures for you.", and "Read Sacred Scripture, live it, and pray to understand the signs of the times." (June 25, 1991 and August 25, 1993)
A report about the use of Sacred Scripture may not be missing at a seminar for leaders of prayer groups and pilgrimages to Medjugorje. People who wish to orient themselves on the life of the messages of Medjugorje repeatedly ask questions about this theme. The most common question surfaces from the recognition that neither is anything new being said about faith nor are there any comments offered in the messages about present occurrences. Often the visionaries referred questions that had been given to them to pass on to Our Lady to the fact that all answers are to found in Sacred Scripture. So, why then the messages from Our Lady if, afterall, everything is to found in Scripture anyway?
To this one must primarily state that the reading of Sacred Scripture is so very clearly requested in the messages, and in so doing also to what God is trying to show us through the revelation of the word in Sacred Scripture. Sacred Scripture is the 'document of our faith' in the double meaning of the word. It tells us what God says about Himself and what He passed on or revealed to us; and, moreover, that it is our binding document in which all of this is written down. So the Bible tells us in praise and in gratitude about God's great deeds and His eternal Lordship. It is, however, also a guide on our path to holiness so as to be increasingly in union with Him and with each other as God's people. It is important that prayer groups that have sprung up everywhere and who together all read Scripture, also have experienced company. Every theological introduction into the Bible is based on the fact that Sacred Scripture is God's word in human language -- language that was recorded a long time ago in a foreign cultural surrounding. To understand it correctly, it therefore needs an understanding of the contexts, of the manners of speech and of the circumstances of those times. But the biblical text must also be recognized as the word of God for our own times. Then it must be put into action; and only then can it come to a correct interpretation of it. Without taking these into consideration, the danger occurs that one can get all entwined in fundamental mistakes. But because the most important assignment for studying Sacred Sripture is to deepen our faith, we are always strongly advised to combine the reading of Sacred Scripture with prayer. The Bible is a help to our prayer and a series of signposts for our path in life, and not a reading book. In 'Medjugorje Prayer Groups' one always prays for the assistance of the Holy Spirit before it comes to reading a part of Sacred Scripture. For the times after He left, Jesus promised: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to be with you always. The Spirit of Truth..." (John 14:16) will teach us and remind us of everything. (John 14:26) Here with Our Lady's invitations it concerns the same thing -- that we pray for the Holy Spirit, so that we can understand everything. Especially before Pentecost she repeatedly invited us to pray for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, to ask for the Spirits of Prayer and of the Truth. Being open toward the Holy Spirit means being enlightened by Him, and thereby also enables us to witness to Mary's presence in Medjugorje.
Relative to our experience, particular problems arise in the reading of the Old Testament. Here it is especially important to remind ourselves that many Old Testament books came about while being subjected to a lengthy process of tradition. God revealed Himself to the Patriarchs and Prophets while these then passed along what was revealed to them in a verbal or written manner. The teachers of God's people thought and prayed through the transmitted word of God and also explained it further until, much later, all that had been traditionalized in this manner was finally recorded for all time. What is important for us is that we realize that these writings themselves have been recognized by Jesus Himself, as well as by the Early Church, as Sacred Scripture and were then passed on to the Church as such. The Old Testament pointed toward Jesus and prepared for His Coming. Some parts of the Old Testament are only explainable through the understanding of those times. About some things Jesus said: "To the old ones, it had been said ... but I say to you..." Only with the New Testament does God's Revelation then find an explanation for things revealed already earlier, and then for its completion. Yet in particular it will often become necessary to inquire at competent sources when one gets no further in understanding more difficult parts of Scripture.
Useful is the continued reading of Scripture which then makes the contexts more clear. Such constant reading is, of course, a possibility, but should not be understood as a fixed order. Particular stimuli or times of Feasts require particular texts that refer to them. For Priests and Religious who in their Breviary have a scriptural text anyway, it is not suggested to find another follow-up text to it, but for further understanding of it, it is rather much more supportive to read the expected text in meditation or in finding further commentaries upon it.
Also, may this advice especially refer to the Liturgy of the Holy Mass. The celebration the Mass should afterall be the height and the source of strength of our faith, and in any case this is what the teaching of the Council, ABOUT THE LITURGY, requests of us. In the Mass, not only does Salvation become present for us, but here we are also gathered around Christ and hear His word and the instructions that He gives us. Then back at home that day's Scripture can be reread, can be thought through slowly and again, if there was one, be connected with the sermon of that day. In just the same way, a preparation by finding out the readings for the day in advance can also be valuable for Mass. Then as a summary for all inspirations, one can then look at the call in the message of August 25, 1993: "Read Sacred Scripture, live it, and pray to understand the signs of the times."
The comment of some Priests who say that the messages supply an important source for the preparation of their sermons also fits in this context. Just as they are, the messages themselves are already like sermons through which the revelations that are already written in the Bible can again be worked upon. Among them one finds formulations that push one to passing them on. A use of the messages for preparation for sermons is also justified because they are to be found in context to the very center of the Gospel. The Pastoral Theologian, Univ. Prof. Paul Zulehner said: "That Medjugorje leads toward the Bible, rather than away from it, is for me one of the foremost theological criteria that Mary is not the destination, but rather only the signpost."
It is always good to hold onto the word of God in simple manner, to think about it and to let it work upon us in prayer. The Mother of God herself can be our model in doing this. Twice do we read in the Gospel of Luke that she thought about Jesus' words and the activities around Him, and that she then weighed and treasured what all this was to signify. In this way the word of God should enter into the hearts of people, there then to bare fruits. When one takes the Bible into ones' hands to read Sacred Scripture, then it is no longer a normal book, but rather contains a special message that God in a very personal way wants to address to its reader or to its listeners. The best way to listen to the message is as though one is hearing it for the first time, for it is in this manner that one can grasp the meaning of the words most clearly. Whoever gives any biblical text such attention, seeks in it the hidden truth for himself and recognizes that for doing so the Light of the Holy Spirit is also necessary. In this way the reading by itself then combines itself with prayer, and the heart turns itself always more intensely toward God. This gift, this 'conversion of the heart' is spoken about from the very beginning of the messages in Medjugorje. Whoever reads the Sacred Scripture in this manner will experience a deep yearning, not only to always come to know the word of God more deeply, but also to always fulfill what it specifically expects of him. In doing this, the reading of Scripture becomes not only a time dedicated to prayer, but that also takes effect in a deed, in an activity that is in accordance with God by being entirely inspired by the biblical words.
Whoever, due to the messages of Medjugorje, reads the Bible will, similarly as this author, in doing so discover the parallels in the content. As an example, let us here refer to some relevant texts and, to begin with, the similarity of tone at its beginning. "Believe in the Gospel" and "the kingdom of God is at hand" can be read at the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Mark 1:1, 15) The call to faith and the awareness of the proximity of God's Kingdom becomes a renewed reality in Medjugorje. Here too it all began with a call to conversion. Here too the proximity of God's Kingdom can be experienced and, from here on forward, it unfolds anew and is not to be missed!
As an assignment from God, John the Baptist called for conversion (Mark 1:15) and the story of Medjugorje began on the Feast of the Baptist. The call to conversion is the foundation of the messages that are from there directed to the people. As did Jesus recommend prayer and fasting as being the steps to conversion to those who surrounded Him, (ref. Matt 5:5-18 & Mark 9:29), so also are they emphasized in Medjugorje as the fundamental steps. In both the Gospel as well as in Medjugorje it is said that we may never turn away from prayer, because it is in prayer that we are turned toward God. Fasting too is called unavoidable by both and this because it frees us of all the chains to what is transitory, and, in so doing, frees us for God and His requests of us.
Of greatest significance in both the biblical revelations as well as in the messages of Medjugorje is that peace is a gift from God, but also the result of human endeavor. Peace is offered to man as an assignment and the Gospel praises the peacemaker as being blessed. (Matt 5:9) But at the same time, and unavoidably so, the Bible also says: "May the Lord bless his people with peace." prays the Psalmist (Ps 29:11), and the benediction of St. Paul is: "May the Lord of Peace himself give you peace..." (2 Thes 3:16) The messages of Medjugorje emphasize exactly the same things -- the relevance of ones own working for peace and the necessity of praying to God for it.
This neither means an addendum to nor a change from the revelations, but rather proves itself as an urgent call for us to put into reality in life what God has already told us in Sacred Scripture. The special quality of the messages of Medjugorje lies in the fact that they are being said by the Mother to "her dear children". As Mother of Christianity and Mother of the Church, Mary brings us the Gospel of her Son with all love, yet also emphatically, back into our memories.
Sr. Emmanuel of the Community of the Béatitudes pointed us to a very real meaning of the messages of Medjugorje as related to Sacred Scripture. On a regular basis she sends news of Medjugorje to the Abbaye Blanche and which from there are then spread throughout the world. On January 15, 1994, it said in her news: "We are being flooded by a deluge of prophecies -- a confused, fearful and contradictory deluge. We thank the Gospa that she has again led us to the spring of the true light, which is the living revelation of the Bible."
Vicka once reported that Our Lady said: "Take the Bible into your hands every day in the morning, and read a few lines and then live those lines throughout the day. In this way, you will find the answer to what that day brings you." This does not mean that we should expect that the answers to all our questions will appear as lightning, but whoever reads Sacred Scripture regularly will be more and more penetrated by the Spirit of God -- the Spirit who afterall speaks to us in it -- and thereby will be able to find the answers to all questions about life. The incorrect opinion that one will immediately receive in it all answers to all problems in life must be turned away.