There was an article online a while back that stated over half of all Americans have changed their religion at least once. Sadly, ten percent of all Americans are now former Catholics. Nothing demonstrates the need for ongoing education in the faith than that statistic. Weirdly, one of the reasons a woman gave for leaving the Church was” I was hungry for the Bible”.
You have to wonder what happened in that woman’s life. Where was she during all those masses when scripture was read or sung at least three times? At every mass we have a reading from the Book of Psalms, the Old or New Testament and one of the gospels. On Sundays we usually have both the New and Old Testaments read. We cover scripture according to a plan. They are three cycles each lasting a year and over ninety-five per cent of the Bible is covered in a three-year period. In addition most of the mass prayers come from scripture. Most evangelical churches do not cover this much of the Bible.
Hungry for scripture! What Church was it that organized Scripture into the Bible in the first place? What Church has the whole Bible with the parts that were deleted during the Protestant Reformation? Why would you convert to a church whose bible is missing seven books of the bible and parts of two others? Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom. 1st and 2nd Maccabees, plus parts of Daniel and Esther are all missing. These books were part of the Bible for over a thousand years but they were deleted during the Reformation. Not having all of the books of the Bible does cause problems.
One night I happened to sit in on a bible study of the Gospel of John at a Methodist Church. Someone asked a question about praying for the dead and the discussion turned into a heated argument about the issue of judgment. One woman claimed that there could be no judgment for her since all her sins have been washed away by the Blood of the Lamb. Judgment was only for those whose names weren’t in the book of life. The minister insisted that all would be judged and held accountable for the sins committed after they accepted Christ. The problem he had though was he had no scripture to back him up.
How can we be held accountable for our sins if all who repent go directly to heaven? In his theology there are no alternates besides Heaven or Hell. In his bible he can’t find any scripture that hints of Purgatory. Why? That is because his bible is incomplete. The book of 2nd Maccabees is missing. Therefore he can’t back up his belief with 2 Maccabees 12:46 “Therefore (Judas Maccabeus) made atonement for the dead that they may be delivered from their sin.”
One of the interesting parts of the discussion was the issue of whose view was right. The minister said that all of us have to interpret the Bible so we may end up with different interpretations and disagree over what it means. However, the lady who claimed that there would be no judgment for the righteousness insisted there had to be some final authority to decide what Scripture really means.
There is such an authority! It is the Catholic Church! It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that the pope, the descendant of Peter to whom was given the keys of the kingdom, is infallible on issues of faith and morals.
There was a time when Catholics were discouraged from reading the Bible but that time is long over. There was a time when most people were not educated enough to really understand the Bible and the Church feared that we would misinterpret the Scripture as happened in so many churches. Why do you think there are so many different Protestant denominations? That’s because they all interpret the Bible differently not only from the Catholic Church but from each other.
. The reality is that the Catholic Church encourages Catholics to read Scripture. If you go into a Catholic book store you will find many Catholic versions of the Bible. No matter what your reading ability is we have a Catholic Bible you can understand. There are even different Catholic versions of the one year Bible? I found My Daily Catholic Bible in a Daughters of St. Paul’s book store.
There are also plenty of Catholic Bible Studies in parishes. All you have to do is look. There is a video program study program for Catholics. Many parishes use it for small groups. If a group is not available there are guides and resources at Catholic bookstores or Catholic websites on-line. There is The Word Today. The Word Amongst Us helps Catholics to study the scriptures covered in the mass each day.
I taught in a Catholic School. Over the course of my career I taught religion to grades 4 to 8. We used the Bible a lot in class. Our students even had homework in the Bible once they reached fifth grade. That is because we gave all of the CCD and Catholic School students their own copy of the Bible to keep. I know because I was also one of the ushers who raised the money each year at a fish fry and ordered the Bibles.
So why would you leave the Catholic Church because you are hungry for Scripture? We have the entire Bible available to us. Almost all of it gets covered at mass over a three-year cycle. Most priests preach on the Scripture Readings. In addition there are resources like the Magnificat and The Word Among Us that will help you follow the readings even if you can’t make daily mass. There are monthly Catholic studies published in magazine form for the study of entire books over the course of the month.
Of course the Protestant who invited you to leave the Church wouldn’t tell you about all of this. They also wouldn’t tell you much about the sixth chapter of John either. They don’t preach much on John chapter 6:48-59. Why not? The reason is because they deal with what they call a Catholic ritual, the Eucharist. They don’t want you to study these verses because if you did you’d know this wasn’t an empty ritual but the Real Presence of Jesus on the altar.
How could you leave Jesus? This is the Church He created. He created the Eucharist so He could be with us? What more could you want?
Lord, we pray that Catholics get the fact that we belong to a church that encourages us to study scripture, all of scripture. Help us to spread the word and invite those who are hungry for scripture to study the whole Bible. Amen