“My words will never pass away,” Jesus said. His Word is contained in Scripture. This sacred book is meant to be a personal letter. It’s not addressed “To Occupant.” It’s not a duplicated letter like you might send at Christmas. No. It is a love letter from God to you, assuring you that he is there loving you, and saving you. It’s been called “a book drenched in love.” A definition of the Bible is “The word of God in the words of human beings.”
People have heard God speaking directly to them in the Bible by opening it to a random page. St. Francis found the three basic rules for his Franciscan community by opening the Bible three times. He called this practice the First Opening. (Others call it the Lucky Dip or Bible roulette!)
• When St. Augustine was an immoral unbeliever, he heard a voice order, “Take and read.” He turned to Romans 13:13-14: “Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, . . . “ This led him to convert and become a saint.
• When Thomas Merton was discerning whether he should be a Trappist (known for not speaking), he opened the Bible to the words, “Be silent, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10).
I’ve had three experiences like this.
• As a postulant, when many Sisters were leaving the community, I wondered if I should go too. In our college chapel I prayed to know what to do. No one was around, so I walked up to the open Bible in the front. My eyes fell on Matthew 19:29 in which Jesus says, “And everyone who has left houses, brother, sisters, father, mother, children of land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over and also inherit eternal life.”
• During a retreat when I was distressed by a crisis with a publisher, I opened my Bible and saw, “When you pass through the water, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).
• Lately, when I was invited to join the choir at our province center, I was torn. There were pros and cons. I asked for a week to think about it. Then as I prayed Morning Prayer, the words weren’t registering. Suddenly I came to and read, “Sing to God, God’s chosen one. Give him the praise that is due.” Problem solved!
There are other ways to listen to God speaking to you in the Bible. Our novice director told us that the Scripture readings on the day of our birthday held a special gift for us from God. That held true for me; maybe it will for you too. The first reading was from Jeremiah: “When I found your words, I devoured them. They became my joy and the happiness of my heart.” Most of my life has been a journey working with God’s Word.
Recently I came across another idea: In each book of the Bible look for the verse whose citation is your birthday. For example, my birthday is July 29, so in each book I would see what chapter 7, verse 29 says. (I haven’t done this yet.)
Now you may be thinking that these ideas verge on the superstitious. However, when you do them prayerfully and expecting God to speak to you, he may. After all, God can contact you any way he pleases.
Louis Evely inThat Man Is You named the attitudes we should have when approaching Scripture. He refers to the time a woman in a crowd touched the fringe of his clothing:
Now everybody’d touched him, everybody’d hustled him, still nobody’d been cured or transformed. Only one had touched him with faith; a profound sense of well-being coursed through her; she was cured. As for us, we all read the Gospels now and then. But if we approach them like an ordinary book, they’ll produce no extraordinary effect on us. We have to read them the way we’d have touched Christ; with the same reverence, the same faith, the same expectancy.
St. Gregory the Great said, “Scripture enables us to know the heart of God through the word of God.” In the Bible we discover the tremendous love God has for us. You might enjoy pondering God’s “love notes” to you:
• Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)
• Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you. (Isaiah 54:10)
•I have grasped you by the hand. (Isaiah 42:6)
• I will espouse you to me forever . . . and you shall know the Lord. (Hosea 2:21)
• I have called you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)
• You are precious in my eyes and glorious, and I love you. (Isaiah 43:4)
• I have carved you on the palms of my hands (Isaiah 49:16)
• With age-old love I have loved you. (Jeremiah 31:3)
• Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make a home in him (John 14:23).
Here is a hymn with a catchy tune that praises God’s Word:
• When have you heard God speaking to your heart in Scripture?
• What are your favorite verses?
• As you heard God’s Word proclaimed in church, did any passage ever make you sit up and take notice?