If the time you spend with the Bible is limited to hearing the readings at Mass every Sunday morning, you aren’t spending enough time with God. A question I am commonly asked is how well Catholics should know the Bible? We have the Catechism, writings of the saints, and much more seemingly relevant content for living the Catholic faith. Therefore, how important is it for Catholics to personally know the Bible? Well, let’s look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us. One of my favorite paragraphs in the Catechism is paragraph 108:
“Still, the Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book.’ Christianity is the religion of the ‘Word’ of God, a word which is ‘not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living.’ If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, ‘open our minds to understand the Scriptures.”Catechism of the Catholic Church 108
There is a ton of information to grasp in this one paragraph. Now, I don’t want to sit here and break down what is being said and what isn’t. But, yes, the Church has some precise teachings on the interpretation of Scripture. We need to follow these teachings and have them at the forefront of our minds, especially while our Bible is open. Still, just because we’re faithfully following the Church’s guardrails for interpreting Scripture doesn’t mean we aren’t able to have fruitful personal time with the Word of God.
How often should I read the Bible?
Anytime we are reading the Sacred Scriptures, words are very important. So why not start being specific with words here? We don’t read the Bible as we would a novel or a blog post. Instead, we study the Word of God.
There is a huge difference between reading and studying. Reading is something we do for entertainment. When what is being looked at has the power to change your life, the content has to be studied. Scripture has to have a chance to soak in our minds before it can penetrate our hearts.
As far as how often this should happen, I’m not going to be the person who sits here and tells you that you need to study the Bible every day. I know from experience how difficult this can be. Things come up, and stuff happens. Every now and then, a day is going to be missed. I feel more comfortable saying studying the Bible should be a regular part of your schedule. However, if you do want to read the bible daily, check out another post I write on the topic linked below.
Related: 3 Ways to Read the Bible Daily
This shouldn’t be just a routine, hobby, or something we do to pass the time. Instead, we should look at personal Bible study as an intimate way of spending time with God. It’s part of how we go about getting to know Him better. If we are to become more and more Christ-like every day as Catholics, doesn’t it make sense to know Him as well as we can?
How much time should we spend studying the Bible?
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to this question. I have gone through seasons of life when I would read a chapter of whichever book in the Bible I was currently studying at the time. There have also been seasons when I would just study a few verses at a time, really breaking things down word for word. Instead of studying the Scriptures, I allowed them to study me. One thing I learned early on is that the Bible isn’t just a road map. It’s also a mirror.
I don’t think the goal of our time reading Sacred Scripture should be to set a stopwatch or even read a specific amount of words. That can easily lead to both frustration or boredom. I would rather allow my heart to dictate when I am finished. When I believe I have learned something about God’s characteristics and my own, I am content that it’s time to continue with my day. However, if you only have a set amount of time to read Sacred Scripture each day, then it is better to be faithful to that allotted time than to be inconsistent.
Is there a “Catholic” way to study the Bible?
Again, another question that isn’t totally black and white. First, there is a Catholic way of interpreting Sacred Scripture. However, there’s not necessarily one particular way, or method, of studying Sacred Scripture. In my opinion, I think making sure you are studying a complete Bible approved by the Catholic Church is more important than the specific study method. That being said, if reading this post has sparked your interest at all in starting to study God’s Word yourself, there are a few specific questions that one should ask before diving into a particular book of the Bible.
For starters, who wrote what I am getting ready to study? Yes, it’s the Word of God. He is the Author. Still, what can I learn about the human writer the Holy Spirit inspired to write? Where were they writing from, and who were they writing to? Why were they writing? What was the general message they were trying to convey to their audience? Just as importantly, what personal message am I picking up on as I study? What is the Holy Spirit saying to me?
Taking the time to answer these questions as I study helps me to keep what I’m reading in its proper context. By answering these questions, I can see God more clearly and better relate to His Word. It allows me to apply what was written so long ago to my life today. For a more detailed description of what should be considered when studying the Bible, check out the article linked above.
Going back to the Catechism
I want to revisit something we read in paragraph 108 of the CCC: “If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, ‘open our minds to understand the Scriptures.”
There is a lot of reasoning in why the CCC says exactly what it does. As I mentioned earlier, words matter, especially when it comes to content that is this important in our lives. Earlier on in paragraph 108, St. Bernard is quoted, reminding us that Christianity is not a religion of a mute word that we read but a religion of an incarnate and living Word. The focus is Jesus; not a book that sits on our shelves. Still, let’s look at what the Scriptures say about themselves:
“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”Hebrews 4:12
That’s a powerful statement from the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. “Sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit.” This doesn’t happen simply by reading a book or hearing a reading every Sunday morning. This happens by studying the Scriptures and allowing them to study us. Yes, personal Bible study is essential for Catholics.
What is your favorite way to study the Bible?
Let me know below in the comment box!