Encounter Christ Through Scripture (Part 3)
Over the last two weeks we have been examining the quality of my homilies. Initially, I asked whether the homilies were audible. Last week I asked whether I delivered the homily with a sense of passion. This week I ask whether the homilies are organized. In other words, does the homily connect points that people can follow? This one is especially intriguing to me. Here is the reason. About 6 months ago I asked 20 parishioners to rank my homilies according to the 5 homiletic components (audible – passionate – organized – understandable – relevant). I asked them, “Which component is my strength? Which area provides the greatest area for growth?” Relevant came out as the top component. Organized was rated at the bottom at #5. They said the reason was that I often go off on tangents. When this happens, the overall “theme” of the homily gets lost. Hence I have a special interest in your input this week. Now, on to the topic of Encountering Christ through the Scriptures.
Last week I introduced some “tools” to help people with that “encounter.” My focus was to provide resources, especially for two groups of people. People on-the-go do not have a lot of time to read the Bible. There are also people who never have engaged the Bible and are looking for a good “on-ramp” to begin. This week, I move into materials for people who are looking for some more advanced material.
For those of you who are up for a challenge, how about trying to read the entire Bible in one year? Brandon Vogt is a bestselling author, blogger, and speaker. He is the Content Director for Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries., He is also the founder of ClaritasU, an online community for Catholics who want to get more clarity about their faith. He recently pointed out that “the Bible contains around 775,000 words. The average adult reads 250 words per minute. That means if you read the Bible for 10 minutes per day, you’ll get through the whole thing in a year!” Brandon has put together an online resource called “How to Easily Read the Whole Bible in 2018.” The resource provides background material and a plan to accomplish the scriptural goal.
Brandon Vogt’s approach is “wide.” In other words, you cover and read a lot of material within a particular time frame. A different approach is looking at less material but going “deeper” into the content. The “30-30 Challenge” is one such approach. This was developed by Joyce Meyer from Joyce Meyer Miniseries. Joyce asks: “Are you studying the Bible or just reading it? Maybe God doesn’t want you to merely ‘skim’ His Word…perhaps He wants you to meditate on it…to allow it to change us from the inside out.” Hence she issued the challenge of studying God’s Word for 30 minutes a day for 30 days…and see what happens.
Now – full disclosure – Joyce is not “Roman Catholic.” Still, I have followed her ministry for several years. She is committed to the simple yet powerful message of sharing Christ and loving people. She comes from a “Reformation Theology” point of view, but her stuff is solid.
You know the saying, “There is “an app for that?” Well, there is an app to help you cover the bible, or a part of the Bible, within a certain time frame. iDailyBread has once called, 30 Day Bible Study Challenge. This features several 30-day Bible study plans. You follow the Bible study instructions for 30 days. You increase your Bible study efficiency step by step. This, in turn, helps you stick to a daily Bible study. There also seems to be a plethora of other “30 Day” Bible study plans. There is the 30 Days of Christmas, the 30 Days of Great Men of the Bible, the 30 Days of Growing In Your Faith, etc… You get the picture. Do a search of “30 Days” and “Bible studies” and you can find them. I’ve also provided a link on my website.
Our friends at Ascension Press have a different approach and an easy way to understand the Bible. Their product is entitled, Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible. It is an eight-part study of 30-minute session. It helps you uncover the “big story” that is woven throughout Scripture. You come to understand what that “big story” is and find out why it is important to you as a believer of Christ.
After this, you can move on to a more in-depth study with The 90 Day Bible Reading Challenge. Instead of reading all 73 books of the Bible, you’ll read 14. You start with Creation and the Garden of Eden. You then continue through the birth of Israel and the coming of the prophets. Finally, you end with the coming of Christ and the start of the Church. This 90-Day guided tour is based on the extremely popular Bible Timeline study system. Every day, an introduction to a time period or a topic overview is sent to you along with that day’s reading. A single question helps you reflect on what you’ve read.
Studying the Bible alone is perfect for some people, especially for those “on the run.” Even so, I find studying the Bible within a group setting to be enriching. The people in the group provide insights which feed me. They provide practical applications of the Bible to everyday life. The fellowship among believers is also rewarding. There are three scripture-based groups that currently involve parishioners from St. Monica. For women, Walking With Purpose meets every Thursday in the St. Monica school cafeteria from 7:00
PM – 8:30 PM. For the men, ThatMan Is You! (TMIY) “harmonizes current social and medical science with the teachings of the Church, the wisdom of the saints and a solid scriptural basis to develop the vision of man fully alive!” The sessions begin at 6:00 AM – 7:30 AM in the school cafeteria at St. Norbert.
I have been associated with several men’s Gospel reflection groups for some years. Several men and I meet every Saturday from 7:00 – 8:00 at Starbucks (or as we like to say… St. Arbucks) which is located in the Gateway Shopping Center (125 East Swedesford Road, Wayne, PA 19087). Another vibrant group meets every Friday from 7:30 AM – 8:30 AM in Chester at Mita Management (The Wharf at Rivertown. 4th Floor, Suite SH400. 2501 Seaport Drive, Chester, PA 19013 Phone: (610) 497-9700). Usually over 20 men meet and 20 join us via conference call from as far away as Alaska and London England.
These last two groups are the fruit of seeds planted by Stewardship – Mission of Faith. Stewardship is a non-profit ministry offering targeted resources for Church Communities, Leadership Teams, Youth, Seniors, and Gospel Reflection Groups. They are not affiliated with any particular denomination, but sponsor a number of Gospel reflection groups at Catholic churches from the Philadelphia to Harrisburg area. Check out their “Group Locator” feature on their website. See if there is a reflection group that fits your schedule, location and spiritual personality.
I like the simplicity of their format and “compactness” of the schedule. We open with the “Universal Prayer of Pope Clement XI.” We follow that with the “Litany of Humility.” Someone reads the Gospel for the coming Sunday and we spend the next 40 minutes discussing the relevance of the Gospel to our daily lives. Before we close the hour, we voice any prayer requests from the group and finish with The Efficacious Novena To The Sacred Heart Of Jesus, which was a favorite prayer of Padre Pio.
The reflection meetings are compact, effective and uplifting. You’re in for one hour, then you’re done. Since they meet each week, you can attend when you can. They’ll be there regardless.
So pick an approach that fits you. You can’t go wrong with these resources. You need it and …you are not THAT busy!