Blessed James Alberione

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I LETTER OF ST. JOHN. - This first letter seems to have been written as a preface to the fourth Gospel; and it is its summary; hence it is not written for particular Churches, but for the whole Church. It was written in Ephesus and published as an introduction to the Gospel. However, it concerns particularly the Churches in Asia Minor where, from the partnership of the Judaists with the philosophers was born Gnosticism that humiliated the Savior's dignity, saying that his union with God was only moral and fleeting, and it denied the hypostatic union because God could not unite himself to the flesh, which is evil by nature since it originates from the principle of evil; and it denied redemption because man did not need any redemption, but only instruction and for that gnosi (knowledge and understanding of the mysteries) is enough.
These are the errors that St. John combats in this letter wherein Jesus Christ is affirmed as true God and true man, mediator, victim, and source of grace and pardon.

II LETTER OF ST. JOHN. - Although this letter does not bear the name of St. John, and for its shortness would not have been known to all the ancient Churches, it is undoubtedly of St. John, who has an inimitable style, and this letter has his style and doctrine. The Elderly who writes cannot but be the Venerable Old Man of Ephesus, who survived the Apostles and regarded as immortal.
The Apostle of charity condemns energetically the heretics and cuts them off the Church.
The letter is addressed to the Chosen Lady and to her children; but we do not know if this Chosen Lady is a woman or a Church. He felicitates her for the virtues of her children, exhorts her to grow in faith, in charity, and in zeal and to guard against the heretics. He promises a visit.
The letter must have been written from Ephesus, probably during the last years of St. John, towards the year 100.

III LETTER OF ST. JOHN. - What has been said of the second letter is also said for this one. Like the second it is without the name of John. Instead it has The Presbyter. It was written in Ephesus during the last years of the first century, focuses on the same heretics, and is a very beautiful example of the private correspondence of the longliving Apostle.
This third letter is even more private than the second because it has for its purpose to praise Gaius (a wealthy and zealous Christian) for the hospitality he gave to the Gospel workers, and to warn him against a certain Diotrephes and to recommend a certain Demetrius to him.

Methods for reading the Bible

How sweet to my tongue is your promise,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

(Ps 118/119:103)

The Bible is God's word and this is food for the soul. Now, in order that food may do good, it has to be taken rightly.
The same for the Bible. It contains priceless and very precious treasures of truth; of living and vital truths capable of producing the most marvelous effects.
In the XX Reflection1 we saw the dispositions necessary for reading the Bible, but this is not yet enough for reading it with profit. We still need to see what order to follow in reading the 72 books making up the Bible.
The methods for reading the Bible can be many; we mention here the three principal ones. The Bible can be read according to the theological order, the familiar order and the liturgical order.

* * *

1. Theological Order. - It consists in reading the various books of the Holy Bible according to the order with which they are presented by the Council of Trent, that is, beginning from Genesis, then Leviticus, Exodus, etc., and ending with the Apocalypse, the way they are generally printed in the editions of Catholic Bibles.

* * *

This method is advised for people of average culture. Here all the scholars can be included as well as those who want to enjoy a true culture. The Song of Songs could be set aside. Some say it's better to have it sent to a more mature age.
Following this order, dedicating a quarter of an hour a day, in two years' time we could go through the entire Bible with the ordinary notes.

* * *

2. Familiar Order. - It is the order advised by many authors of asceticism. It is the method so much preferred and recommended by Audisio,2 the known author of sacred eloquence. It consists in reading first all the books of the N.T. because, as the aforementioned author says, having in the N.T. their development and fulfillment all the shadows, the figures, the prophecies, as well as the
priesthood and the laws of the O.T., from the Gospel of Jesus Christ must come out such a light as to dissipate the darkness that envelops the writings of the Visionaries of Judah: like the splendor of the light that radiated from the face of Him transfigured in Tabor was reflected in the faces of Moses and Elijah.
And among the books of the N.T. he advises reading first of all the historical books as the easiest and most suitable for preparing the biblical mentality, then the didactic books and lastly the prophetic ones which are the most difficult.
This method is most recommended and very useful.
One would understand very little of Isaiah's prophecies if he has not first read the four Gospels. Instead, one who, after reading the Holy Gospel, goes to read the prophets, finds in them admirable beauty; every word and phrase we can say contains a mystical meaning and has a connection with the books of the New Testament.
In practice: read the historical books of the New Testament, that is, the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
The didactic books: all the letters of the Apostles: St. Paul, St. Peter, St. John, St. James, St. Jude.
The prophetic books: the Apocalypse.
Then, the historical books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth; the four books of Kings; the two books of Paralipomenon; Ezra, Nehemia, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and the two books of the Maccabees.
The didactic or wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus.
The prophetic books: Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel; the twelve Minor Prophets.
* * *

3. Liturgical order: it is the order established by the Church and which all Priests are bound to follow.
Our infallible and very wise teacher, the Church, has seen to it that Priests read, a little every day in the Holy Mass and in the Breviary, the principal passages of the Holy Bible. And every priest is obliged under pain of sin to read them, and he who consciously neglects them could even commit a grave sin.
From this it appears how necessary is the reading of the Bible and how important it is for the Church that the souls of her Priests nourish themselves at a table prepared with so much love and wisdom by God himself! She knows well that no one could be a good shepherd of souls without reading the Bible. How can he teach one who does not know? How will a shepherd of souls be able to lead his sheep to salutary pastures if he does not know these pastures?
This is why during the first centuries of the Church, for the priestly ordinations, it was necessary to know the entire Psalter by memory and to know very well all the other books of the Bible! Otherwise one could not be ordained a Priest.
And what is left for the faithful to do? They must follow in all fidelity their Pastor, their captain, certain that they are on the good way and having everything their soul desires.
In practice: We cannot go to the details and say here what are the passages to be read day after day. Let us be content with saying something in general.
During the Sundays that precede Advent, that is, during the month of November, the Church establishes that the prophets be read: Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea,
Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Then when Advent has begun, the prophet who made the greatest and most numerous prophecies about the Messiah, Isaiah, is read.
After Christmas and Epiphany, the letters of St. Paul to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, Philemon and to the Hebrews are read. And thus the Christmas season ends.
With the Septuagesima Sunday, the time of Penance3 begins and so the Church lets the Book of Genesis be read. In it the sin of Adam and Eve and their punishment are narrated.
Then comes the Time of the Passion and here we read the lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah.
After Easter, the Church proposes the reading of the Apocalypse wherein are narrated the victories of the Immaculate Lamb. Then are read the letters of the Apostles St. James, St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude.
So the path opens to the long series of the Sundays after Pentecost that represent the life of the Church. Here the Historical and the Wisdom Books are inserted into each other. During the month of July, it's the four Books of Kings. In August, the four Wisdom Books: the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus. Then, in September, the easier Historical Books: Job, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and finally in October, the books of the Maccabees.

* * *

It is true, the Bible can be read in whatever order; for example, we can open casually and read the first passage that turns up. This is the manner employed by the very learned St. Alphonsus, and he says that he has found this method very effective.
Among the methods, however, the most useful and effective is
certainly that indicated by the Church, that is, the liturgical method. He who follows it certainly makes great progress in the way of holiness and knowledge. Qui sequitur me non ambulat in tenebris. (Jn 8:12)4

EXAMPLE. - Dante Alighieri. - Dante's name is intimately bound with his principal work, the immortal Commedia to which the admiration of posterity has given the adjective Divina.
And the Divina Commedia is precisely also a testimony of the veneration accorded to the Sacred Bible during Medieval times and in particular of the study that Dante had made of it.
Alighieri in fact must have been very familiar with the Sacred Scriptures if very often he cites passages from them; if he embellishes his poem with biblical examples from the Old and the New Testament; if he gets his grandiose images of the earthly paradise, in great part from the apocalyptic visions of St. John and Ezekiel.
Even more, as regards the Sacred Scriptures, he has left us verses that have remained famous and that even today we willingly use.
Speaking of interpretation, he exhorts the Christians to submit themselves to the teaching and guidance of the Church:

Avete il novo e 'l vecchio Testamento,
e il Pastor della Chiesa che vi guida:
questi vi basti a vostro salvamento.5

And speaking of heretics he says:

... gli stolti
che furon come spade alle Scritture
in render torti li diritti volti.6

And if this poem of Dante, after six centuries since it was written, is until now encompassed by a very luminous halo and holds first place among the textbooks in Catholic universities, it is due to the fact that in it are contained, under elegant poetic vesture, the most sublime truths of the Holy Gospel and of Catholic Theology.

LITTLE SACRIFICE. - Recite the chaplet to St. Paul, printed at the end of this book.

All you peoples, clap your hands;
shout to God with joyful cries.
For the LORD, the Most High,
inspires awe, the great king over all the earth,
Who made people subject to us,
brought nations under our feet,
Who chose a land for our heritage,
the glory of Jacob, the beloved.
God mounts the throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
God is king over all the earth;
sing hymns of praise.
God rules over the nations;
God sits upon his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples assemble
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For the rulers of the earth belong to God,
who is enthroned on high.

(Ps 46/47:2-10)


Efficacy of persevering Prayer

He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples. He said to them, When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.
And he said to them, Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?

(Lk 11:1-13)


For the Chosen People

Remember, O LORD, what has befallen us, look, and see our disgrace: Our inherited lands have been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We have become orphans, fatherless; widowed are our mothers. The water we drink we must buy, for our own wood we must pay.
Our fathers, who sinned, are no more; but we bear their guilt. Slaves rule over us; there is no one to rescue us from their hands. At the peril of our lives we bring in our sustenance, in the face of the desert heat; Our skin is shriveled up, as though by a furnace, with the searing blasts of famine. The joy of our hearts has ceased, our dance has turned into mourning; the garlands have fallen from our heads: woe to us, for we have sinned! Over this our hearts are sick, at this our eyes grow dim: that Mount Zion should be desolate, with jackals roaming there!
You, O LORD, are enthroned forever; your throne stands from age to age. Why, then, should you forget us, abandon us so long a time? Lead us back to you, O LORD, that we may be restored: give us anew such days as we had of old.

(Lam 5:1ff)


1 On pp. 199ff.

2 GUGLIELMO AUDISIO, Lezioni di eloquenza sacra, Marietti, Torino 1858-1859. The Royal Press of Turin had published volumes II and III of this work already in 1846.

3 At the end of Epiphany, the time of Septuagesima began, followed by the Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays, while with Ash Wednesday Lent began. Septuagesima therefore indicated 70 days before Easter: “During the days of the Septuagesima and Lent, the Church, our Mother, multiplies her efforts so that each of us may diligently be aware of our miseries, be actively prodded to amend our habits, and detest especially our sins cancelling them through prayer and penance; since assiduous prayer and penance for sins committed obtain for us divine help without which every good work of ours is useless and sterile.” (Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 20 November 1947)

4 “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.”

5 DANTE ALIGHIERI (Florence 1265 - Ravenna 1321), La Divina Commedia, Paradiso, V, 76-78: “The new and the old Testament you have / And the Pastor of the Church who guides you: / Let these be enough for your salvation.”

6 DANTE ALIGHIERI, La Divina Commedia, Paradiso, XIII, 127-129: “... the fools... / who were like swords to the Scriptures / To distort whatever right there is.”