The Word On Fire
Friday Book Pick: The Word on Fire Bible: The Gospels with commentary by Bishop Barron
“Inspired by the Holy Spirit to become the spouse of Christ, and desiring to live the Gospel more intensely….” If you were to glimpse the life within a CFR convent you would hear these words spoken every Friday night as the sisters renew their vows. So familiar are these words that they can be spoken without a thought. An “occupational hazard” for all priests and religious is over-familiarity with the sacred things that fill our day in and day out lives. Renewal begins with awareness, and when I pause and think about this first phrase of our vows formula, I am humbled by its implications. In all simplicity, this is our call as CFR sisters, to live the Gospel—intensely.
The Gospel is communicated by means of the Holy Spirit. A person could be completely illiterate yet capable of immense holiness and conformity with Christ without ever having read His Word. Literacy in 1st-century Israel was the privilege of a small portion of the population, so there is a good chance that many of the Apostles themselves were illiterate. There is more than one way to read the Gospel. The great cathedrals that fill Europe all tell the Story through fresco, sculpture and stained glass. Perhaps the fullest way of experiencing the Gospel is to make the acquaintance of the saints; in them we see the Gospel enfleshed.
St. Francis of Assisi was literate, although plenty of his brothers were not—they read the Gospel in full, in him. Francis was given a copy of the Breviary by a member of the Roman Curia, and, in his devotion to the Holy Scriptures, had the Sunday Gospels sewn into the back so he could meditate on the readings, a kind of early Magnificat.
We, 21st-century American Catholics, are for the most part, literate. We have access to the Bible in our own language (and usually have multiple copies of different sizes and colors in our own homes). We have a unique opportunity to be steeped…marinated…soaked in the Word of God; to read and reread it, to ponder and reflect on it, to copy it down, turn it into songs and to memorize our favorite passages. (Did you read about the man in India who used the lockdown to transcribe the entire Bible by hand?)
If we let it, the living Word of God will answer our questions, solve our problems, realign our thinking, and purify our intentions. It will inspire us to great acts and move us to a life in the Spirit. It will console us and convict us and, ultimately, it has the power to transform us. As Fr. Benedict once put it, “We need to read the Scriptures regularly to make sure we are staying on track and not forgetting something significant.”
When a friend recently sent me a copy of the Gospels in the mail, I was delighted. A new copy and fresh start…like a sharp number 2 pencil on the first day of school. So although you surely have a copy or two of the Bible already, you might appreciate, as I am appreciating, this new edition of the Gospels. The volume is made in a way befitting its contents: gold-edged and leather bound, with plenty of commentary, notes and articles. This particular edition was created with an eye to beauty and, therefore, it includes reproductions of masterpieces from various periods. Have I read the Gospels? Of course I have. But I am called to consume the Word like I consume the Host…every day if possible, for my ongoing transformation…so that the Word can become flesh again, in me.