In August of 2002, I entered seminary in Buffalo, New York. I was discerning and studying with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a religious order of missionary priests and brothers. On the day after my arrival, I needed to borrow one of the community cars and go to the local Catholic bookstore. I did not need to buy books for my philosophy courses; that would happen a week later. I needed to go and buy a Bible, because I had neglected to pack a Bible when I left North Carolina.
In August of 2005, I entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary near Philadelphia to begin my theological studies for the Diocese of Charlotte. On the day after my arrival, I asked one of the other seminarians for a ride to the local Catholic bookstore. I did not need to buy books for my theology classes; that would happen a week later. I needed to go and buy a Bible, because I had neglected to pack a Bible when I left North Carolina.
Oh, I had my prayer books. I had the four volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours and most of those books are taken from the Bible. I had my missal that has all of the readings for all of the Masses that can be celebrated. I had access to the Scriptures, at least major parts of it, but I must confess that I did not keep a Bible nearby.
But then, I took classes for four years and every semester there was a course on one of the books or one of the sections of the Bible. The Bible became a text for study. I could learn about authorship and culture and language and structure. I approached the Bible as a student. And then, I was ordained to the priesthood, and I approached the Bible as a preacher. We have a lot of the Bible at the liturgy: two readings at every weekday Mass and three readings on Sundays and Solemnities. There is a lot to preach. There are so many, many things that could be preached. What am I going to say? What word of inspiration can I draw from these texts? How can we look at it differently? How can I find encouragement and inspiration and education and consolation for you in the texts of the Scriptures appointed for any celebration of the Mass?
There really is only one way, and I think I have learned it. Maybe I have learned how to begin. I cannot first approach the Sacred Scriptures as a student. Study is good and learning is good and knowing things about the text is good. But I cannot first approach the Sacred Scriptures as a student. And I cannot first approach the texts of Sacred Scripture as a preacher. I cannot begin my look at the Word of the Lord looking first for something for you. I cannot first approach the texts of Sacred Scripture as a preacher and your pastor. If I will ever have anything to say to you from the Sacred Scriptures, then I can only first approach the Sacred Scriptures with you as a disciple. I can only first approach the Bible as a baptized child of God seeking in faith to meet the Lord Jesus. I can only first approach the Sacred Scriptures enlightened by the Holy Spirit and guided by the faith of the Church.
That is how we come to the Scriptures. That is how we read the Bible. We come to hear the Scriptures with ears that were opened at our baptism. We open the Bible with hands that have already been folded in prayer. We approach the Sacred Scriptures with minds that have been nourished in faith and nourished in worship. We come to the Sacred Scriptures as followers of the Lord Jesus seeking only to meet the Lord Jesus in the Sacred Scriptures. We want to meet the one who loves us.
And this Jesus whom we meet in the Word proclaimed comes to meet us at the Altar. The promise proclaimed in the Word, the promise we hear in the Sacred Scriptures, calls us to the table where the disciples gather, and Jesus Christ, our High Priest and Living Word, nourishes us and leads us to that kingdom where he lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.