A 40-foot balloon floats high over a rural area in Communist North Korea. When it lands, the precious cargo is discreetly received and distributed by those willing to risk imprisonment or death in defiance of the regime.
The smuggled goods are not drugs or guns or explosives. These are bootleg Bibles and they spell danger.
Here in America, land of freedom, many of us have Bibles gathering dust on a shelf. Imagine for a moment the impact on our families and community if each of us made reading the Word of God a daily priority. If God’s Word doesn’t have a part of our daily lives, we have to ask ourselves: Are we formed by the world or formed by the Gospel?
For the first time in human history, the technological advances of the last couple of decades have made it possible for us to have a constant, round-the-clock source of news and information at our fingertips. It’s tempting to be mesmerized by this steady stream, and that’s why we need a strong commitment to read and ponder Scripture each day. Unlike the news cycle, God’s Word is unchanging. God’s love is everlasting and His hope is eternal.
We might forget those immutable truths if we allow ourselves to get sucked into a worldview that is not centered on Christ. St. Paul calls the Word of God “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6: 17) and we need that sword to defend us. By setting aside a few minutes each day, we can allow the precious Word of God to take root in our minds and hearts, thereby shaping the way we think, act and respond. And when temptation comes our way or challenges arise, we can rely on the words of Scripture to be a source of strength.
This need to draw strength through the study of Scripture was proclaimed by the Synod of Bishops in 2008. “If the Word of God is the source of life for the Church, Sacred Scripture must essentially be considered as a vital food (“The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”).
Take the ongoing scandal in the Church. When I think of all the innocent people whose hearts have been broken, whose lives have been ruined — when I consider the lies that have been told and the evil deeds perpetrated, it’s absolutely devastating. Without the hope that is ours in Christ, it would be tempting to give up. Indeed, many have left the Church and that is a great tragedy.
And yet, if we’re formed by the Scriptures, we remember Jesus’ words: “Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will not pass away” (Mt 24: 35). If we take time each day to read the Bible, we become rooted in grace and the wisdom of God. We learn to listen to the whisper of the Holy Spirit who guides us in our decisions and attitudes. His words, as the psalmist said, are a lamp for our feet.
So what does the daily embrace of Scriptures look like? If you do a Google Images search of “person reading Bible,” you’ll come across some really lovely photos: A woman with elegantly manicured nails reading a Bible in a field of lush green grass; an attractive couple beside a picturesque lake studying God’s Word.
That’s not what it looks like at my house.
Most mornings, I’m still in my bathrobe and plopped on the couch, rubbing sleep from my eyes. I open the email app on my smartphone and go to the USCCB’s daily Mass readings which anyone can subscribe to for free. I read through the words and ask God to show me the lesson He wants to impart.
Since I began doing this, I’ve seen a peace take root in my life that is mostly unshakeable. Some days are more challenging, but even then, the grace of those few moments spent with God in His Word carries me and shields me. I can’t quote endless Scripture verses and I haven’t memorized all the books of the Bible. It’s not really about that — it’s about letting the Gospel message become the lens through which we view the circumstances of our lives. It’s about letting God’s Word soothe our troubles and guide us in the decisions before us. It’s about truth.
May God’s word penetrate the hearts of all humankind and may those who thirst for it be shielded from harm.