by Fr. Tommy Lane
I had the privilege of directing a retreat in the midlands this week (2001). There were two others also in the team, so three of us directed the retreat. It was a directed retreat using Scripture. Instead of giving talks every day as usual, I met each retreatant in my group for approximately 30 minutes each day for a chat about their lives and praying with the Scriptures. I suggested a passage of Scripture to them to suit whatever matters they discussed and I asked them to pray that day using that piece of Scripture. The following day when we met again we discussed how praying with that passage of Scripture helped or answered the situation of their lives. Then I recommended another piece of Scripture for prayer and we met again the following day and so on for the whole week. It was a most beautiful experience for me because I could see the Lord leading and guiding people through the Scriptures. A few people began the retreat carrying heavy burdens but through praying the Scriptures every day as the week passed the Lord touched them and uplifted them. Instead of concentrating on their own troubles as they had at the beginning of the week I saw the Lord lead some at the end of the week to work for his kingdom with renewed vigor. Their lives were changed! How? By spending one week praying with the Scriptures.
What a gift God has given us in the Scriptures. What a pity that we are not always aware of the gift of God in the Scriptures to us. In the Gospel (Luke 16:19-31) the rich man had the Scriptures but paid no attention to them and so he ended up in Hades. He had five brothers who did not pay any attention either to the Scriptures but they were still living. He wanted Abraham to arrange an apparition to warn his brothers about eternal life. Abraham’s reply was, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them.” (Luke 16:29) In other words, they have the Scriptures, ‘Moses and the prophets’ represent the Scriptures at Jesus’ time. They have Moses and the prophets, they have the Scriptures, let them listen to them. Your brothers have been given the Scriptures by God, they have been given the Bible. If they will not pay attention to the Scriptures, will not pay attention to the Bible, what is the point in giving them an apparition?
So I encourage you to read the Bible every day. Don’t let it gather dust on your shelf. It is a gift from God to you. Vatican II stated, “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children and talk with them.” (Dei Verbum §21 and Catechism of the Catholic Church §104). I have seen that happening this week in peoples’ lives of people; the Father who is in heaven came lovingly to meet his children in the sacred books and spoke with them.
Ernest Gordon has written a book entitled Through the Valley of the Kwai in which he describes spending a large part of World War II as a prisoner in Thailand on the banks of the river Kwai. He worked on a railway which the Japanese were building. Over 12,000 allied prisoners died of starvation building the railway. Gordon says their worst enemy was not the Japanese but themselves. The law of the jungle took over among them. They stole from each other, and informed on each other to win favors from the Japanese. Morale was at rock bottom. Two men whose faith kept them going decided to try to do something. They organized Bible reading and discussion groups (pages 100-107 in the book). They met at night and at first the numbers were small but after not too long the numbers grew to the hundreds. When reading the Bible they noticed that Jesus faced the same problems as they did; he often had no place to lay his head, no food, no friends in high places. He too had known weariness from too much toil; the suffering, rejection and disappointments that are part of life. Everything about Jesus began to make sense. The prisoners underwent a change of heart and stopped destroying one another as they had been doing. Reading the Bible and using it for prayer and discussion transformed a prison camp.
The rich man in the Gospel (Luke 16:19-31) had the Scriptures, he had Moses and the prophets, but did not live by them. He did not allow the word of God to become flesh in his life and he suffered as a result. Like him we too have been blessed with the word of God. But let us read, meditate, reflect and pray on the Scriptures every day. May the Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures become flesh in our lives.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
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