We should try our best to develop the habit of reading and meditating on the gospel regularly, if not daily. It is the living word of God, the record of Christ’s life and teachings meant to effect in us our transformation into “another Christ”, Christ who is the pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity.
The gospel is not just a historical book nor is it only some literary piece for our cultural enrichment. It is what the Letter to the Hebrews describes as: “The word of God, alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart.” (4,12)
We have to have the proper disposition when reading and meditating on it. We have to approach it with faith and piety, convinced that everything that is said there, though historically and culturally conditioned, has a transcendent quality that makes it relevant to us at all times.
Actually reading and meditating on the gospel or the whole Sacred Scripture is like having an encounter with God, with Christ. St. Jerome, one of the Fathers of the Church, expressed this truth beautifully when he said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” He also said: “When we pray, we speak to God. But when we read, God speaks to us.”
We have to understand then that gospel-reading is very important in our lives. It should be given priority over any other readings we may have, since it is what would guide us and give us the proper perspective within which to consider all our other readings.
It might be good to remit here the text of the Vatican II document, Dei verbum (11 & 12), that explains or describes the inspired character of the Bible, particularly the gospel, and how we should interpret it.
“Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles, holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.
“In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted…”
As to how to interpret the Bible, the same document has this to say: “Since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.”
Given this description about the inspired character of the Bible and about how it has to be interpreted, we cannot help but realize that the reading the gospel, while using all technical means to understand it properly, like examining the “literary forms” that can be historical, prophetic, poetic, etc., will require us to pray, to beg the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, etc.
We have to fight against the usual dangers regarding gospel-reading. This can be, first of all, laziness, treating it only as a historical or literary or cultural work, lack of faith, etc. Definitely, reading and meditating on the gospel will also require of us a spirit of sacrifice, since it will demand effort and self-denial.
It might be a good idea to promote this practice of gospel-reading first of all in the family and in the schools. Children should be trained in it as early as possible.*
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