While I was born in Nova Scotia, and most of my extended family still lives on the east coast, I didn’t live there for very long, as we moved to Alberta before I was a year old. Growing up, we made many trips back east to visit our family, and among the places I remember visiting is Peggy’s Cove, a place which is usually recognized for its iconic lighthouse.
I can’t say I gave much thought to that lighthouse except that I remember it was a historical building of some sort, and it also served as the local post office until 2009. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the chance to give more thought to just how critical a lighthouse like the one at Peggy’s Cove would have been to seafaring navigations.
I’ve learned that the origin of lighthouses goes back centuries, when signal fires were being used to help ships both navigate their way home, and also to stand as a warning against unseen dangers (like rocks, reefs, and the shoreline). As years went by, engineers worked to get these lights brighter, closer to the sea line, and higher in the sky to improve navigation.
Living in the days of GPS, lighthouses don’t serve the same critical function they once did, which is why many of them are turning into museum pieces. But an argument can be made that when they were still in use, lighthouses served sea navigation in the same way as Scripture is supposed to serve our spiritual lives: to point our way home and to warn us of danger.
You might say that it’s for this reason we are being challenged to spend more time reading the Bible. Here in the Archdiocese of Edmonton, Archbishop Richard Smith has challenged us to live in the Word of God and earlier this week, Pope Francis instituted a Sunday of the Word of God, which will be celebrated on Third Sunday of Ordinary time (this year, that will take place on Jan. 26, 2020.)
It seems that at times, Catholics can be guilty of taking the Bible for granted.We hear readings from it each Sunday. We recognize stories, facts, and details – which shouldn’t be surprising, when you consider we are on a three-year cycle of readings that take us through a significant amount of the Bible. And while many of us were given Bibles in school (every Grade 4 student receives a Bible to assist with their religion classes) and there are literally hundreds of apps available for download, we don’t spend a lot of time reading our own Bibles.
This is a perilous decision. St. Jerome, who famously translated the Scripture into Latin more than 16 centuries ago offers a word of warning here: “… if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
Neglecting Scripture might be compared to the captain of a fishing vessel ignoring the lighthouse on his way home. It might seem ridiculous to do so – would a captain really risk scuttling his ship because he can’t be bothered with a course correction or believing himself to know a quicker way home?
In like manner, it would be foolish for us to ignore the beacon sacred Scripture is meant to be for us. The Bible provides not only directives and prescriptions for what we need to become, and what we need to do, in order to find our way home to heaven. It also serves to warn us against the many spiritual dangers we face in this earthly life. It also places our lives in the context of a much greater story – that of Israel and the Church – into which we have been born and baptized. And when we come across passages that are difficult or don’t make sense (and we all do), the Church has commentaries and explanations ready to help us make sense of the Scriptures – even on how what we do today fits in with what Israel and the early Christians were doing in biblical times.
But none of this can happen if we can’t be persuaded to open our own Bibles and to read them. Whether we do this with your print Bible or via an app – two great apps available for Android and iOS are the Living with Christ app, which features the readings we hear at Mass each day, and Olive Tree, which offers a number of free and purchasable Catholic Bibles you can download to your phone – the point is to make a deliberate point of reading our Bibles. As an encouragement to get young people to read Scripture, I’ve often heard it said no Bible, no breakfast; no Bible no bed – a simple encouragement to begin and end our day reading Scripture.
If ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, then diving into the Bible provides us with a simple opportunity to come to know Christ in a deeper way. Reading one chapter per day allows one to read through the New Testament in about six months and all of Scripture in roughly four years. However we choose to do it – whether it’s a prayerful consideration of the readings of the day or a decision to read your way through all of Scripture – by reading, we allow God to use His written word as a lighthouse for us, warning of us danger and helping direct us to our heavenly home.
— Mike Landry is chaplain to Evergreen Catholic Schools west of Edmonton, and serves as an occasional guest speaker and music minister in communities across Western Canada. Mike and his wife Jennifer live in Stony Plain, Alta. with their five children.