This reflection was given by a sister, to sisters and guests gathered for a Holy Hour event this past week. The reflection was meant to illustrate the importance of Sacred Scripture, and as a means of prayer and relationship with the Lord. The first section comes from Jeff Cavins’ blog post, “The Bible is Inspired by God“. The second part from the prayer of the sister who gave the reflection.
Pope Leo XIII said, “Scripture is a Letter written by our Heavenly Father” to his children for the purpose of revealing himself to them.
The Catholic Church teaches that divine revelation comes to us through three channels: the Bible, Tradition, and the Magisterium (the bishops of the Church). Dei Verbum (DV), the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, states these three channels “are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others” (DV 10).
While all three are infallible, that is to say incapable of error, only the Bible is divinely inspired. What do the words “inspired,” and “inspiration” mean? The term “inspired” comes from the Greek word, theopneustos, which means “God breathed” (Theos, “God,” pneo, “to breathe”).
Keeping in mind that breath is what gives life to words, we can more easily understand why the Bible is called God’s word. It is God’s breath that has filled human words with divine meaning. God, who is the primary cause of every thought and every sentence of Scripture, has transformed the common words found in the Bible into uncommon words by the fact that he is its author. Just as Jesus Christ came clothed in human flesh and was in every way made like men, so does the word of God come to us clothed in human words. The holy comes clothed in the common. This is why St. Jerome could say, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (CCC 133). Pope Pius XII said in Divino Afflante Spiritu, On Promoting Biblical Studies, “For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in all things, ‘except sin,’ so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error” (Divino Afflante Spiritu, 37).
Not only are the Scriptures inspired, but they are written to inspire you. The question one needs to address is: “How will the Bible inspire you?” Jesus asked his followers, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” Since Jesus is the word made flesh, it is fair to ask, “what do you say about the Bible?” What is your response?
The Church teaches in Dei Verbum, “The obedience of faith is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him” (DV, 5).
By our response, the world will know whether we believe that God’s Word is inspired or expired.
“If today you hear [H]is voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95).
Yesterday’s Gospel acclamation is one of those tunes that I often have stuck in my head after Mass. The melody I have embedded in memory, and its words and meaning I have been taking to prayer.
Just yesterday the Church celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There is an older Portuguese woman who attends the daily Mass at the Newman House (the Catholic Campus Ministry house at Virginia Tech), and most of the time she prays Evening Prayer with Father David and I. Yesterday at Mass, Father David asked us to be seated before the final blessing, so that Irma could share some words with us. Turns out, Irma is a lay member of the discalced Carmelites, and has been professed for 12 years. She gave a brief presentation about the history of Carmel and her order, and the gift of contemplative prayer. I loved that Irma began by recounting the account from the first book of Kings about Elijah on Mt. Carmel, who basically challenges the false prophets of Baal to a prophet’s duel to see whose God is real by seeing which offering was consumed by fire. Irma smiled ear to ear and described it as “one of the most dramatic accounts in the Old Testament”. I don’t know if she has ever been to that mountain, but she loves that place and everything it stands for. To her, that holy mountain is a part of her story. The account of Elijah from 1 Kings is a part of her history. The faithfulness of God revealed on that mountain is a part of her heart. She is a woman inspired.
I think as women we are in a unique position to be inspired. Our femininity, our genius—that receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity—these are gifts which prepare us well to love Jesus, and specifically in prayer with His Word. I think being a sister in this community places each of us in a position to be inspired and to receive life. Our commitments call us to daily Mass, where we hear God’s Living Word. We are meant to pray every day, and encouraged to return regularly to the Liturgy of the Hours. When we read, pray and go on retreat together, we do so with Sacred Scripture. I think that a large part of our apostolate in loving the Young Church is sharing with the young people our love of Sacred Scripture, by helping them to know Jesus better and to be transformed by His Truth.
The Lord has already spoken His Word, but He desires to speak it to you anew. “If today you hear [H]is voice, harden not your hearts”.The prerequisite for the Lord to truly speak to you is a softened, open heart. The prerequisite for the Lord to speak to you is that you are listening.
By entering into the Word of God, listening to God in Scripture and taking what we hear to prayer, this is how our hearts can be changed.
As long as the words of the Bible stay on the page in front of us, they don’t have to change our behavior. That’s easier. Reading the words of scripture daily is a good start toward allowing them to transform us, but it’s only getting part of the way there. Truly meditating on Scripture means taking it into our hearts, letting it take root there and allowing it to change us from the inside. It means allowing God’s breath to give us life. It means allowing God through His Word to be a part of our story, our history, our hearts.
What has the Lord revealed to you in His Word, lately? With what kind of heart do you approach Sacred Scripture in your daily prayer? How do you enter into the Word of God?
I’ll end this reflection with three different simple, short prayers I use to approach Sacred Scripture:
Come Holy Spirit, inspire me.
Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.
Jesus, help me to know you better, that I might love you all the more and serve you well.