On this All Saints’ Day, I take time to reflect on the completion of The Catholic Bible in 365 Days Challenge with the hope that one day, you will want to complete a similar challenge to deepen your love for the Word of God.
When I was in high school I was asked by some of my friends, if I ever read the Bible in its entirety before. I shamefully answered, “No”. I was ashamed because of my lack of commitment to reading the Word of God and lack of motivation to read it in its entirety.
From September 30, 2018 – September 30, 2019, I undertook a Challenge that I have been longing to do, but throughout the years, found excuses and lack of commitment to undertake a Challenge I called The Catholic Bible in 365 Day Challenge.
In the Summer of 2018, I was scrolling through YouTube and encountered a video of (now Father) Casey Cole, OFM, who said that he was going to read the Bible in its entirety before his priestly ordination. I contemplated joining him in the Challenge, but I wanted time for spiritual preparation. Shortly after, I chose September 30, 2018 to officially undertake this Challenge because September 30 is the memorial of St. Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church.
St. Jerome is the saint of the Scriptures. He spent much of his life working on the translation of the Bible from ancient sources to Latin, into the Vulgate Translation that we use today. The year 2019 marks the 1600th anniversary of his death, so what better way to commemorate this than reading the Bible in the time period leading towards this anniversary?
I put out the Challenge out on social media and invited other fellow Catholic friends to join me and people positively responded to the Challenge, willing to attempt it with their family and friends. (I don’t know how many people actually went through the Challenge until the end, but God knows!)
The Challenge is a commitment of spending 15-20 minutes per day for a year reading a specified chapters of a book in the Bible. Some may argue that it is very difficult to do so everyday for a year – but consider how much time we are on social media. We spend copious amounts of time from 20 minutes to several hours on social media, casually liking and scrolling through Instagram, SnapChat and Facebook, and we never complain. Yet, we complain when committing to an hour of Mass a week, or praying 5-minutes a day, or spending 15-minutes of reading Scripture.
From experience doing this Challenge, I understand that Bible reading is not always easy and may be discouraging at times. Some section are interesting to read while some are just dry or difficult to understand. Those, however, are not excuses to not read the Bible.
The more we question, the more answers we will get. There are many resources out there that will assist us in the reading of Scripture. The number one thing that I found helpful was using an appropriate Bible, a Catholic one (that contains the Apocrypha) with good notes. The New American Bible Revised Edition contain a lot of good footnotes. As a companion to that, I recently just bought a used copy of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary and it has proven to be a very valuable resource in understanding various parts of Scripture.
For me, travelling both locally and overseas this past year has added to the experience of the Challenge. It was the act of reading the Bible in various places throughout the world that made the Challenge memorable. Most of the time, I read the Bible at my desk at home, the living room, or bed before I go to sleep. But there were times throughout the Challenge when I read the Bible in a chapel during a retreat, on a flight thousands of feet above land, in a seat in the Charles-de-Guelles Airport, on the shores of a beach in Spain, or in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica. The portability of the Word of God was worthwhile. It kept it me constant prayer and reflection anywhere I was in the world throughout the year.
The biggest reward I got out of the Challenge was being able to gain a deeper appreciation and reverence to the Word of God. Sometimes, we attend Mass and know some readings such as the Birth of Jesus, or the Passion narratives and we know the events by heart. However, having read the Old Testament and the New Testaments, I was able to see how Biblical events connected together. When I hear a Gospel passage at Mass, seem to I have a much clearer context of what is being said. For example, when Jesus said, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” (Jn 3:14) Having read Numbers chapter 21, the Gospel passage makes a lot more sense and becomes rich in meaning.
Pope Francis in his recently published Moto Proprio, Aperuit Illis, in which he instituted the Sunday of the Word of God on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminded Catholics, “A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers.” (AI 8)
I hope every Catholic will try to read the Bible in its entirety at least once in your lifetime. It may not be a year-long commitment like my Challenge, but can span two or three years, depending on one’s level of commitment. However, this Challenge not only gave me a spiritual disciplining, but also a great love towards the Word of God, which is something that will last a lifetime, and I hope you will experience the same. St. Jerome, lover of the Scriptures, pray for us!