Read the Bible

16th  Sunday of Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ, St. Augustine, who lived back in the 4th century,  is one of the great saints of the Church. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are the two pillars of theology and influence in the Church.  But St. Augustine was not much of a saint when he was young,  he got into mega-trouble! He experimented with different religions, his life was on a sinful path, really the path to hell. But his mother never stopped praying for him, and eventually, he began to feel a pain in his heart, that he was not following Jesus Christ.  He prayed, he tried to learn more about the faith, but he was continually torn inside,  still attached to the lust and sin of his lifestyle.   
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Then one day he was sitting in a garden with this tortured heart of his;  he wanted to follow Jesus, but he didn’t feel he had the strength to give up his sin. He tells us about that day:  ‘I prayed and wept: O Lord, how long will you be angry with me for all my sins.’  Suddenly I noticed a voice of a child in the neighboring house, saying and repeating: ‘Take up and read. Take up and read.’  I began to think of what kind of a game this might be by which they said this,  but I felt that it was meant for me, to hear this as a command from God to open the Holy Bible that was there, and to read the first thing I should find.   
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‘I remembered how St. Anthony, who having heard the Gospel, changed his whole life –  Eagerly I picked up the Sacred Book and opened, and I read that on which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.’  
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No further would I need to read, for instantly a light of serenity came into my heart and all my doubts vanished.  I showed the passage to my friend Alypius, and he too decided to join me in a new way of life. Then we went to tell my mother.  
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Friends in Christ,  St. Augustine, St. Anthony, and so many other people have had their life changed by reading the Holy Scriptures.  The Holy Bible reveals to us the Word of God.  Through the Sacred pages, Christ himself speaks.  Of course the Holy Gospels are Jesus’ direct words –  but in fact, every word of the Holy Bible is Him speaking to us.   The Sacred authors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit have communicated God’s Word to us.  Fr. Lawrence Hennesey says, ‘Let the Holy Scriptures wash over you each and every day. If you go to bed and remember you have not read, turn on the light, read a few lines, and then go to sleep.’  St. Jerome says: ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,’ and every single master of the spiritual life,  saints through the ages, urge us to read the Bible daily.  
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I’ve head people say, ‘Oh, the Catholic Church tries to prevent you from reading the bible.’  This is NONSENSE.  I have a Catholic bible in my room from 1948,  and on the first introductory page it urges Catholics to read the bible and grants a special indulgence for doing so.[i]  One can receive a Plenary Indulgence for reading the bible 30 minutes.  
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Look at today’s gospel. There we encounter an interesting scene in which Christ visits this home of Martha and Mary.  Mary sits at Our Lord’s feet, enraptured by the words he speaks.  Now although the preparations have evidently been done for Jesus’ visit,  Mary’s sister Martha continues to be obsessed with busyness,  making sure all the details are covered: the table is set just right, the cook is not making mistakes,  re-folding the napkins so they are just perfect; can I bring some more wine? More hors d’oeuveres? should I open a window, is it too hot….   The only thing she says to the guest is – to complain:  ‘Why is my sister not helping me more?’  
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Maybe Martha doesn’t really want to hear Jesus’ words; perhaps she is afraid his words will touch a wound in her heart, from her past; so she fills herself with busyness in order to avoid hearing the Word of God.   
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This is a message of this gospel:  although it is true that we must live up to the duties and responsibilities of each day, it is most important that we give the Lord some time, that we listen to him.  This time is in our prayers, in our rosary, in some quiet,  but it must also be in hearing his Word in the Holy Scriptures.    There is no difference between Mary sitting there to hear Jesus’ words, and our sitting to read the Holy gospels.  
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When we are soooo busy and simply think that we have no time to read the Word of God, Christ says to us the same as he said to Martha:  ‘”Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 
There is need of only one thing. 
Mary has chosen the better part.’  It’s as if the Lord said to her: ‘Martha! I came to visit you! Please, can we just talk? How is your life?!  
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If we read and ponder and pray, we will find Jesus there, waiting for us. We will find him there as did St. Augustine, and so many others. Our Lord wants time with us; he wants to speak to us,  he wants us to listen to his Word.   St. Theresa says that the world needs souls that are on fire for Christ, who pray. ‘Like Mary,’ she says,  they sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to His sweet words;’ from the outside it may seem that such people are not serving the Lord, but really, they give much more than busy Martha.   
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When reading the bible, we may focus on the literal meaning or on the spiritual meaning; in the literal meaning, we read for the purpose of knowledge,  of what Jesus did and said, of his miracles and his example; when we read spiritually, we see how the words speak to us, how we should live; in this we are moved to love God, fear our sins, be thankful, and praise Him, praise Him, praise Him. There are no rules –    as St. Augustine heard, just ‘take and read.’  
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St. Francis says, when meditating on some passage,  imitate the bees:  they work on a flower until they have extracted all the nectar, only then do they move on to another.  Therefore, rest in a passage of Scripture until it brings no more sweetness, and then read more.  
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And the Blessed Virgin – Mary is in the bible too.  Her last recorded words were: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ ‘So Lord, what are you telling us?  We can’t know, unless we – take and read.
Mary, pray for us, that no matter how busy we are, there will always be a little time each day for the Word of God.

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Entrusted to the prayers of St. Augustine

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[i] 133 The Church “forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful….to the frequent reading of the divine Scriptures

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