I want to begin by stating to anyone who would choose to question it; yes the Bible is relevant to Catholics! I don’t mean to sound so emphatic about it, but I just read several articles on various websites suggesting this was not the case. “The issue concerning any church and its practices should be ‘is this biblical. If it’s not, it should be rejected. God is more interested in whether a church is doing His will than whether it can trace a line of succession back to Jesus’ apostles” (Got questions.org –“Are Catholic beliefs and practices biblical?”). Another article I read suggested that Catholics are strangers to the Bible. After doing a little further research, this is not an uncommon belief. So, in response to this, let me say we stand corrected!
This reaction I suppose has to do with the argument that Catholics don’t know the Bible and furthermore don’t read the Bible. I find this to be an offensive observation and totally ludicrous, yet it continues to be one of the criticisms that face Catholics. As Catholics, we understand the Word of God is relevant and influences every aspect of our daily lives. So, where and why does this misconception originate?
Is it in the Holy Mass? Catholics worship God and pray to His Son Jesus during Mass every week; actually in some cases daily. So maybe this idea originated with the prayers said at Mass.
The Mass begins with the introductory Rites. This is when the priest acknowledges that we begin our celebration of “God’s word” with prayers. “We give glory to God in the highest and give thanks to God our Father and to the only Son of the Father, our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
To this I say, Hmmmm. Where would this idea come from; oh yes, the Bible perhaps?
Next is the Liturgy of the Word. Perhaps this is where the confusion about Catholics started. This is when the readings from Scripture prior to the reading of the Holy Gospel; and where do these readings come from?
Oh yes again; the Bible!
Is it the Holy Gospel itself? No, everyone knows the priest is reading that day’s Scripture from the Bible followed by a sermon about the Gospel readings, not unlike our neighboring Protestant friends are doing down the street.
Frequently, our Pastor, Father Dave at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Oregon gives us a homework assignment. He will tell us that when we are praying with our Bible that week, we ought to point at something in the Bible and determine how that passage is relevant to us personally in the coming week.
So what is he suggesting? Catholic parishioners are reading the Bible on a regular basis? Hmmm. Really, they could actually be reading the Bible?
Then there is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This is the segment of the Mass during which the priest offers bread and wine to become the bread of life and our spiritual drink; the body and blood soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. We ask that the “Lord accepts this in the glory of his name.” Following the prayers we go immediately into the Communion Rite which begins with the Lord’s prayer; “Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words our Savior Jesus taught us to call God our Father…. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”
This portion comes from Matthew 6: 9-13 – let me clarify – this is the Gospel of Matthew from the Bible!
Before Communion we are encouraged to share a sign of peace with everyone around us to acknowledge we will be participating in Communion and sharing in the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. “And he took bread and gave thanks and broke it, and gave unto them saying ‘this is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me.”
Yet another nugget from the gospels (Luke 22-19).
The Mass is ended with the Concluding Rite with a reminder to “go live the Gospel” and go in the peace of Christ to love and serve Jesus.
I’m making a point here that God’s Word (Verbum Dei) is at the core of Catholicism. I can make this same point with other sacraments Catholics participate in. A writer recently conducted a survey to check the amount of Scripture used in the Catholic Mass in comparison with his local Evangelical Church. He was surprised to learn that the Mass had referenced almost 30% of the service to the Bible. On the other hand, the Evangelical church had 3% of the service referencing Scripture.
When I attended college (admittedly, this was over 40+ years ago) I did my thesis on the various religions and their consistencies and disparities. This became an eye opener for me. Every Sunday for 10 weeks I attended a different church denomination. I did this with the understanding that I would look for consistencies and differences. My conclusion of this exercise was most Christian religions have similarities. They use the Bible references during the service followed by the minister/preacher presenting a sermon. Many times people are invited to share their circumstances that are relevant to the Bible readings and messages posed there. Most churches use music to clarify their messages. Essentially most Christian churches are similar in their goal – having Jesus and his messages in the Bible become a part of their everyday lives. This goal is no different for Catholics!
In 1986, Pope John Paul called upon all Catholic priests and deacons to follow this statement. “The work of religion teachers must be penetrated by the thought, the spirit and the outlook of the Bible. The sermons must be centered on Bible texts.”
Catholics and no Bible – Really?