Have you ever read an entire library worth of books? Just that thought of it sounds intimidating. What if that library was contained in one large book, would that make it any easier? If you have ever read the Bible, cover to cover, then congratulations! You have read an entire library!
I have taken a number of Bible studies that either incorporated sections of the Bible or focused on one specific book. I remember, quite a number of years ago, I attended a weekend parish presentation by Jeff Cavins, the developer of the Great Adventure Bible guide and “The Bible Timeline, The Story of Salvation”. I learned much, took many notes, and started reading the Bible each day based on the plan outlined in the materials I received. But it was hard, especially reading it myself.
This year, it’s a bit different. I’m following the podcast by Fr. Mike Schmitz, The Bible In a Year, which is based on the salvation history story developed by Jeff Cavins in the Great Adventure Bible study. I can tell this time will be different. The sessions are about 20 minutes long. These can easily fit into my day, and for those days that are jam-packed, I can always do two sessions another day. By subscribing to the podcasts within my Google app, I can see where I’m at, especially if I need to catch up. The format for the session is that Fr. Mike reads the Bible chapters, does a short prayer, and then gives reflection on what was read. Even though I’m following along in my Bible, hearing it read makes the difference.
When I was a lector, I was told to practice delivering a reading by reading it aloud three times in a row. I did find that when I heard the word spoken out loud, it changed my comprehension of the text. I found this a critical practice, especially when the readings were from St. Paul, as he often dictated his letters to a scribe. I could almost see him pacing back and forth as he was forming his thoughts and speaking them aloud. Since we’re only a month into this year-long plan, we’ve only covered a few books, yet I am beginning to see that in some respects, the early books are much like poetry. They tend to repeat phrases and sentences numerous times. I interpret that as a way for the ancient people to learn the stories so they can pass them along. To get the details right, you repeat it again and again, and if you only take away 10% of what you heard, chances are you’re recalling the repeated text that conveys a particular message.
While we will not cover every book in the Bible, we will cover the books that include the salvation history narrative, as well as a number of the complementary stories and books that support the main story. For most of January we read Genesis, and along with that we read the book of Job as well as a number of Psalms and some chapters from Proverbs. We recently moved into Exodus and its companion, Leviticus. Previously, I would groan when I had to read passages from Leviticus, giving the instructions to the Israelites of how they were to worship. In the past, I would’ve said it’s boring. However, by reading only one chapter of Leviticus at a time, in conjunction with the story of the Exodus, somehow it doesn’t seem quite as dry. Hearing it read at times it actually sounds a bit poetic. Perhaps it’s because of the repeated line, “a pleasing odor to the LORD” that seems almost like the refrain in a song.
I’m familiar with the Bible from reading the daily Mass readings, but I know that only gives passages from the Word of God. Granted, they are the really important passages, but diving deeper into the Bible offers us a way to strengthen our relationship with God. I’m excited to be on this Bible adventure, and grateful that Fr. Mike is a great leader (and lector!) who will shepherd all podcast followers through this amazing story of salvation history.