DISPOSITION FOR READING THE BIBLE
The disciple John who is called Mark is mentioned in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. His mother was called Mary and in her house in Jerusalem the brethren gathered in times of persecution.
When Paul and Barnabas returned from Jerusalem after having brought to the brethren the collection of the Christians of Antioch, they took with them John Mark.
During the first apostolic journey, Mark was the companion of Paul and Barnabas but soon, for fear of difficulties, he went back to his homeland. So that when Barnabas after the Council of Jerusalem wanted to take with him the disciple again, Paul did not allow it and preferred to be separate himself.
He therefore went with Barnabas to Cyprus. But he always had harmonious relationships with St. Paul; in fact, Paul calls him in the letter to the Colossians his Cooperator. John Mark even returned with the Apostle and received from him a mission.
The evangelist was then in Rome where he stayed for some time with St. Peter. Sent to Egypt, he founded there the Church of Alexandria. His body was afterward brought to Venice, where the celebrated Basilica named after him rose.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MARK
The Fathers are unanimous in maintaining that St. Mark is the author of the second Gospel, written in Rome for the Romans as per advice of St. Peter and with his approval.
St. Jerome attests: Mark, disciple and interpreter of St. Peter, upon request by the brethren in Rome, wrote a short Gospel according to what he had heard from Peter. After hearing that Gospel, Peter approved it and gave it to the Church so that it might be read. There are in fact many things in the second Gospel which prove that it is the summary of the preaching of St. Peter: St. Mark easily omits all that was to the praise of his master. The manner of narration presents to us the words of an immediate interpreter as St. Peter had been.
St. Mark often refers things in their minute details, adding particular circumstances that confer nothing to better understanding of the doctrine, but rather show an eyewitness who in the things he narrates had his own part and narrates them as he saw them.
What could have been the purpose of St. Mark in writing the Gospel is not certain. Standing by Tradition, the second Gospel was written upon request by the Romans who wanted to remember the preaching of St. Peter. But we cannot determine exactly what was the principal aim of the preaching of St. Peter.
It has been rightly observed, however, that the second Evangelist principally points out the power Jesus Christ exercises over nature, the demons, and sicknesses: so that his Gospel can be called the Gospel of the miracles of Christ.
Disposition for reading the Bible
Open my eyes to see clearly,
the wonders of your teachings.
First of all, the Sacred Scriptures must be read with an ardent spirit; thirsting and desiring to the greatest intensity, so as to penetrate its meaning and scrutinize its significance.
Furthermore, to read it with great love, the love of affectionate children.1*
The Bible is God's letter,2
our heavenly Father's letter. He has given it to us with the infinite love of a Father, we must read it with all the love of children.
Since all men are children of God, they are loved by him infinitely. Yearning to stay with them and talk with them about marvelous things, what does he do? He wrote them a long letter and entrusted it to the Church so that, like a faithful postman, she gave it to men, that every man may be enlightened in his path and reach Him one day in Heaven.
Many souls complain because they do not know what mortification to do and which acts of love to perform for God. Let them take the Sacred Scriptures and read them. This is one of the most beautiful acts of homage to God's heart.
The most sincere act of love that we can make for Jesus Master, is to attend his school and listen to his divine teachings.
Don't you know what homage to give? Read the Holy Bible. A long segment is not necessary: most often a few verses are enough to nourish the soul and to make her fervent in love.
The Bible has to be read not for purposes of criticism or secular studies, but first of all to find the Lord in it, the way to love him more.
When the proud man reads the Bible, his heart remains empty and he does not draw any fruit from it. On the contrary, he could even be harmed by it as it happened to the Pharisees who, due to eyes veiled by pride, did not discover in reading the Bible the marks of the Messiah, and when he came, they did not recognize him: Et sui eum non receperunt;3 not only did they not recognize him, they even put him to death.
The humble, instead, penetrate the meaning of the Scriptures and interpret them rightly. They see and know how to find the Lord behind those letters, the ways to love him and to make him loved.4*
How many examples history tells us of people
who read the Scriptures not to find God, but themselves; not with a humble heart but with a proud one, and at the end found the devil instead of God!* * *
How many ended up in damnation precisely because of Holy Scripture, for having read it with wrong intentions!
As St. Paul writes, All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2Tm 3:16) It follows that it must be read in order to learn, to be able to teach it after; to read it to be able correct ourselves and our neighbor, and to be able to educate whoever depends on us.
Furthermore, the Bible is useful for comforting, and therefore let us read it when we are dejected. It is the most delicious food for our soul, the bread given to us by the Heavenly Father. Let us take and eat it daily because, just as the body needs material bread daily, so the soul must be nourished every day by the heavenly bread.
In reading the Bible, we must seek first of all holiness, the manner of struggling against and winning over all our enemies. The manner of praying and meditating. The Bible is of the best use for all the practices of piety: Communion, meditation, Mass, examination of conscience, etc.
What progress in the way to perfection do they attain who in all their practices of piety use the Holy Bible! It gives strength and courage for overcoming all the difficulties of life; it gives light during moments of doubt and uncertainty. It
- as St. Augustine says - leads to God, invites to love him, gives light to the heart, purifies the tongue, tests conscience, sanctifies the soul, strengthens the faith, drives away the demon, detests sin, warms cold souls, shows the light of knowledge, drives away the darkness of ignorance, suffocates the perversity of the world, ignites the joy of the Holy Spirit, gives drink to the thirsty.5* We can say of the Bible what St. Paul says of piety, and that is, it is useful for everything: Pietas ad omnia utilis est. (1Tm 4:8)6* * *
We have here by the way a very beautiful passage from the Imitation of Christ about reading the Holy Gospel.
O Christian, let your greatest study be the meditation on the life of Jesus Christ. It is Truth which we must look for in Holy Writ, not cunning of words. All Scripture ought to be read in the spirit in which it was written. We must rather seek for what is profitable in Scripture, than for what ministereth to subtlety in discourse. Therefore we ought to read books which are devotional and simple, as well as those which are deep and difficult. And let not the weight of the writer be a stumbling-block to thee, whether he be of little or much learning, but let the love of the pure Truth draw thee to read. Ask not, who hath said this or that but look to what he says.
In order, however, that the reading of the Bible may truly be good to the soul, it is necessary to pray before and after the reading.7* Then read it with maximum respect and possibly kneeling down with joined hands and after
telling the Lord: 'Speak, O Lord, that your servant may listen to you.' After reading, imprint on the sacred text a kiss as sign of affection and love, as the Church prescribes that the Priest does at Mass after reading the Gospel. Furthermore, it is necessary to make a short reflection on the things read and to formulate a practical resolution for the day.
Let us set for us a rule in reading the Bible and let us be faithful.
To those who read for a quarter of an hour the Holy Gospel, Leo XIII of happy memory, through rescript of the Sacred Congregation for Indulgences (December 1898) conceded:
An Indulgence of three hundred days once a day.
A plenary Indulgence once a month, in a day of choice, to those who each day for a month dedicate a quarter of an hour for such reading. Conditions: confession, communion, and prayers according to the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
Pius X of s. m.,8 on 28 August 1903 granted to all the members of the Pious Society of St. Jerome,9 for the spread of the Holy Gospels, the plenary Indulgence on the feast of St. Jerome (30 September) or in any day of the octave, and an indulgence of three hundred days for the feasts of the holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (21 September, 25 April, 18 October, 27 December).10*
This demonstrates how close to the hearts of the Supreme Pontiffs it is that souls go back to the daily reading of the Sacred Scriptures and make of them their favorite food.
EXAMPLE. - Blessed Cottolengo.11 - He is a man of faith. To him could be applied the verse of the letter of St. Paul to the Romans: Justus ex fide vivit,12 inasmuch as his entire life was a continuous exercise of faith; faith, but that kind of faith, as he himself said, because of which he reached a very high level of sanctity and worked those miracles of good that all of us know.
Even as a child, Cottolengo paid great attention to the Sunday homilies of the Parish priest. Whoever had the fortune of seeing him said his attention so occupied him that he did not notice what was happening around him. And it was then delightful and touching to hear him at home when, changing his room into a Chapel, he repeated from the pulpit his explanation!
Then as a Priest, when at Mass the moment of reading the Holy Gospel came, he became totally inflamed and read strongly and slowly, so the words could be heard well. After the reading, he raised the Missal with both hands and planted on it a kiss as prescribed by the Liturgy, but in a way so affectionate and ardent as not to pass unobserved by anyone who assisted him. And in kissing it, he would press it so strongly to his lips that it seemed he wanted to suck from it what kind of beverage!
And he truly sucked from the Holy Gospel a mysterious drink that so inebriated him with the love of God and neighbor that afterward he went out and worked mad deeds of charity.
His love for the Bible, when already he had founded the Piccola Casa, is testified by and is still being testified by those biblical phrases that he wanted written in capital letters on the external walls of his Houses, words inspiring faith, hope, confidence in God; also those other sayings that he wanted printed on cards and made to hang on the inside walls.
And then to give an example of devotion which he desired in whoever had to prepare the Hosts for Holy Mass and Communion, he himself gave it at times. While he prepared them, he had those passages of the Old and New Testament read to him that speak about the Lord's Passion and the Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist.
LITTLE SACRIFICE - That we propose to read some passage of the Bible during the Mass or Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and get from it a practical resolution.
(Continuation of the Canticle of Moses)
For they are a people devoid of reason,
having no understanding.
If they had insight they would realize what happened,
they would understand their future and say,
How could one man rout a thousand,
or two men put ten thousand to flight,
unless it was because their Rock sold them and
the LORD delivered them up?
Indeed, their rock is not like our Rock,
and our foes are under condemnation.
They are a branch of Sodom's vinestock,
from the vineyards of Gomorrah.
Poisonous are their grapes and bitter their clusters.
Their wine is the venom of dragons and the cruel poison of cobras.
Is not this preserved in my treasury,
sealed up in my storehouse,
Against the day of vengeance and requital,
against the time they lose their footing?
Close at hand is the day of their disaster
and their doom is rushing upon them!
Surely, the LORD shall do justice for his people;
on his servants he shall have pity.
When he sees their strength failing,
and their protected and unprotected alike disappearing,
He will say, Where are their gods
whom they relied on as their 'rock'?
Let those who ate the fat of your sacrifices
and drank the wine of your libations
rise up now and help you!
Let them be your protection!
Learn then that I, alone, am God,
and there is no god besides me.
It is I who bring both death and life,
I who inflict wounds and heal them,
and from my hand there is no rescue.
To the heavens I raise my hand and swear:
As surely as I live forever,
I will sharpen my flashing sword,
and my hand shall lay hold of my quiver.
With vengeance I will repay my foes
and requite those who hate me.
I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
and my sword shall gorge itself with flesh -
with the blood of the slain and the captured,
flesh from the heads of the enemy leaders.
Exult with him, you heavens, glorify him,
all you angels of God;
For he avenges the blood of his servants
and purges his people's land.
Parable of the Sower
A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold. After saying this, he called out, Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.
Come to our aid, O God of the universe, and put all the nations in dread of you! Raise your hand against the heathen, that they may realize your power. As you have used us to show them your holiness, so now use them to show us your glory. Thus they will know, as we know, that there is no God but you. Give new signs and work new wonders; show forth the splendor of your right hand and arm; rouse your anger, pour out wrath, humble the enemy, scatter the foe. Hasten the day, bring on the time; crush the heads of the hostile rulers. Let raging fire consume the fugitive, and your people's oppressors meet destruction. Gather all the tribes of Jacob, that they may inherit the land as of old, show mercy to the people called by your name; Israel, whom you named your first-born. Take pity on your holy city, Jerusalem, your dwelling place. Fill Zion with your majesty, your temple with your glory. Give evidence of your deeds of
old; fulfill the prophecies spoken in your name, reward those who have hoped in you, and let your prophets be proved true. Hear the prayer of your servants, for you are ever gracious to your people. Thus it will be known to the very ends of the earth that you are the eternal God.
1* “Nemo potest sensum Scripturae sacrae cognoscere, nisi legendi familiaritate, sicut scriptum est: Ama illam et exaltabit te: glorificaberis ab ea, cum ea fueris amplexatus.” [“No one can know the meaning of the Scriptures, if not through assiduousness in reading it, according to what is written: Love her and she shall exalt you: she shall glorify you if you remain embraced by her.”] (St. John Chrisostom)
2 On this theme also the pastoral note of the CEI, which quotes St. Augustine, insists: “From that [heavenly] city our Father has sent us letters, he has let the Sacred Scriptures come to us, to ignite in us the desire to return home.” To those letters “must correspond an assiduous, intelligent, prayerful, and obedient reading.” (cf. La Bibbia nella vita della Chiesa, no. 14).
3 “...but his own people did not accept him.” (Jn 1:11)
4* “The Gospel is sublime in its power... The manner itself with which the Scriptures speak is accessible to all, but it is not penetrated to its depth except by very few people. They propose the limpid truths that they contain without artifice like a close friend, both to the heart of the ignorant as to that of the learned... The evangelical teaching is sublime for its character of freedom.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)
5* St. Augustine, Serm. XXVIII.
6 “Devotion is valuable in every respect.”
7* See at the end of the book the prayers to be recited before and after reading the Holy Bible” [pp. 320ff].
8 Di santa memoria (of holy memory): Pius X would be beatified by Pius XII on 3 June 1951 and canonized on 9 May 1954.
9 The Pious Society of St. Jerome was formed in 1902 as an autonomous entity, with its own funds and the contributions of associates, priests and lay persons. Eventually it passed to the dependence of the Holy See. The members (12 residents, plus other bona fide and honorary) had their first meeting on 27 April 1902 at the house of Msgr. James Della Chiesa, the future Pope Benedict XV. The aim of the “Pious Society”: “To promote the press and the spread of the Gospels in the Italian language, and to extend its action in all the countries wherein this language is spoken.” The first version of the Gospels that the Society started to diffuse was done on the Vulgata, with brief notes handled by the members of the same society (G. Clementi and G. Mercati, priests, and Mr. Nogara, lay). Already by 30 November 1902 the copies diffused were 119,702 (in 1944 the 516th reprint of the same edition would be made). Eventually the Acts of the Apostles were added to the Gospels and hence the entire New Testament, and it was thought to paraphrase in the current language even the whole Old Testament. The Society did not have commercial purposes and its publications were always of affordable prices.
10* These indulgences are obtained only with the reading of the Gospel, not the other parts of the Bible.
11 Giuseppe Cottolengo (3 May 1786 - summer of 1842), a native of Bra, Cuneo like blessed Don Alberione, was beatified on 29 April 1917 by Benedict XV. He will be canonized by Pius XI on 19 March 1934, who would define him as a “genius of goodness.” Founder of the Piccola Casa della Divina Provvidenza, in Turin, and of three religious congregations for the service of the poorest, he was, for Don Alberione, a model of faith in Providence and of canonical organization of his institutions (cf. AD nos. 131-134).
12 “The one who is righteous by faith will live.” (Rom 1:17) In reality the expression, essential as regards justification thanks to faith in Jesus Christ (and not through the Mosaic law or its works and rites) is of Hb 2:4; it is also found in Gal 3:11 and Heb 10:38 (which on this point at least seems to belong to the Pauline school).
13 The jump in the numbering from 206 to 209 is explained by the fact that pages 207 and 208 of the original text show the images of the prophets Jonah and Micah, at other times not counted as they are considered pages outside the text.