The Narrow, Rocky Path: Part Three

A couple of times earlier in my life – when I was big on challenges like trying to run marathons and doing my own plumbing repairs – I decided I was going to read the entire Bible.  I made the mistake that according to the aforementioned Fr. Brown most people make when they try to read Scripture: i.e. start with page one of Genesis and proceed with the intent of reading the Bible from front to back.  One can start with a lot of momentum fueled by some of the spicy stories like those depraved party animals in Sodom wanting to “know” Lot’s visitors and Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and …well, never mind.  (An aside: is offering your daughters to the threatening, insistent ruffians beating on your door a ticket to any Father of the Year awards?)  But shortly after the bad end of Pharaoh’s charioteers in Exodus the going gets sticky with long lists of laws, the census of the tribes, the genealogies and the like – which are only occasionally relieved by a good stoning of some miscreant – and if you make it through Leviticus, even those most determined go belly-up when they hit Numbers.

The right way to read Scripture was small bites at a time, but persistent bites.  Per Fr. Brown, I started reading three chapters of the OT, one chapter of the NT, and two pages of the Catechism a day.  By following this plan, one is able to finish all three in less than a year.  I wouldn’t read every day, but some days I would double or even triple up (rare).  And I’ve been following that plan for about 2-1/2 years: each trip through brings new things I did not catch on the previous ones.

Regular reading of Scripture is of vital importance to every Christian.   It is the kindling that lights the fire of God’s plan of salvation in one’s mind that Sunday church attendance only begins.  For example, secularists like Bill Maher will take one line or incident from the Old Testament such as the Leviticus “homosexuality is an abomination” injunction or stoning of the man gather firewood on the Sabbath as rationale for questioning and even ridiculing Christianity.  In regards to the latter I heard Mr. Mahr ask the question “If we say the Bible is true, doesn’t that mean we should stone people today for Sabbath violations?”  Well, no Bill, you poor dope.  The Bible has to be viewed in its totality, the human progression from Fall to Chaos to Law to Love.  Psalm 137 (one you will never hear in the Responsorial during Mass) is an indictment of the Babylonians who forced the Jews into exile.  It ends with “Fair Babylon, you destroyer, happy those who pay you back the evil you have done us!  Happy are those who seize your children and smash them against a rock.”  When one views this Psalm in context with the Sermon on the Mount, one grasps the journey of salvation that makes a stopover at “an eye for an eye” and ends in “love thy enemies”, creating those “Aha!” moments and the beginnings of true understanding.

My Bible of choice is the New American Bible, although I am told some Catholics prefer the older Douay-Rheims.  I think the version of the Bible is not as important as picking a Bible and sticking with it.  The late atheist Christopher Hitchens was a great admirer of the King James Bible – not as the inspired Word of God, but as literature.  Personally the “new translation” types of Bibles leave me a little cold, because the poetry of the language is part of the pleasure of the trip.  I also want the confidence that the translators from the original Greek are trustworthy.

Off topic: as I write this, breaking news that Whitney Houston has died.  I just listened to a commentator say speculating about how her drug problems contributed to her death would be tasteless and disrespectful, and then he went on to speculate about how her drug problems might have contributed to her death.  It’s like when my spouse says “Don’t get mad at this….”; as though that preamble rescinds any right I have to be upset at the ensuing insult to my weight, he way I’m dressed, graying hair, smell, stack of beer cans I left in the kitchen, etc.  I suspect by the end of the week the media will make the death of Whitney Houston seem even bigger than the death of John Paul II or Mother Theresa.  Miss Houston was a wonderful artist, and probably a good person when not strung out on crack, but let’s keep in mind that to God the unnoted passing of a nameless homeless man under a bridge is of equal importance.  And let’s remember both in our prayers.  Next time a few thoughts on tithing.

God Bless!

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