Columnists Mark my words

Have you read the Good Book lately?

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

I suspect that I have significant scar tissue on the inside of my cheeks. It’s caused by trying to suppress laughter when a lector mispronounces a word while reading.

At one of the parishes I served, the lector read this on the solemnity of the Epiphany: “Caravans of camels shall fill you, dormitories from Midian and Ephah.”

Obviously, the prophet Isaiah was not talking about college residence halls. But that’s the image that pops into my mind each year rather than that of the correct word: dromedaries.

And reading the Passion during Lent is always a minefield for the narrator. Two instances stand out from over the years: Once, a lector said, “And Jesus turned to Simple Simon and said . . .” And all I could think of was: “Have you seen the pieman?”

By the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, I kept my composure.

The other instance happened on a Palm Sunday, when the narrator said, “A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and laminated him.”

And here I thought those machines were a modern invention!

I’m sure every priest — and parishioner — has memories of mangled readings at Mass, but those stand out because they’re so unusual. The vast majority of times, the word of God is proclaimed with faith and devotion.

What place does the word of God have in your life? Pope Francis hopes that it’s a cherished one. And not just when in church, but especially in our homes and hearts.

Do you have a Bible in your home? If so, is it more of a decoration rather than a part of your daily reading and prayer?

When I was growing up, reading the Scriptures was not a part of my family’s prayer. Part of that might be due to the version of the Bible we had: It was the Douay-Rheims translation and, although it was in English, it didn’t read like it.

I received my first Bible at my grade school graduation, a gift from the pastor. It was the New American Bible translation and, when I did have the courage to open it up and read, I was amazed at how understandable the English was. That same Bible still has a prominent place in my life.

Pope Francis, in an effort to encourage Catholics to become familiar with the Scriptures, has designated the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Jan. 26 this year) as a time devoted to “the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” You can read much more about this day on page 3 of this week’s Leaven.

I’m encouraged to see that many parishes offer some sort of Bible study. However, most Catholics still seem intimidated by the Scriptures.

If that describes you, then here are some helpful hints for beginning to read the Bible and making it a trusted friend:

First, remember that the Bible is more like a library than a “novel.” What that means is that you don’t have to start reading at the very first page, the Book of Genesis, and then plow your way to the Book of Revelation.

In fact, I’d not recommend that approach. Instead, you can open the book anywhere and begin to read.

Second, many Bibles have some introductory information before each book. Read those. They will help immensely in your understanding of the intention of the book.

After all, we’re reading about a culture centuries removed from our own, and with customs not our own.

Third, start reading one of the Gospels. I’d suggest the Gospel of Mark. (It’s the best one, but then, I’m a little biased.) It’s the first Gospel written and the shortest.

Because the stories are familiar ones about Jesus, it’s easy to get into a habit of reading the Scriptures by using one of the Gospels.

Fourth, read just a little at a time. When something  — a word or phrase strikes you — stop reading and ponder. That’s the Holy Spirit getting your attention.

Finally, never worry about not reading every word of the Bible. As someone once said, “It’s not important how many times you’ve been through the Bible. What’s important is how many times the Bible has been through you!”

So, what are you waiting for? Dust off that Bible and start reading.

And if you do encounter any of those “dormitories” from Midian and Ephah, let me know!

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Fr. Mark Goldasich

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