Don’t just read the Bible, listen to God speaking

15 Oct 2008

By The Record

Reading Bible well requires ability to listen, Filippino bishop says.


VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Reading Scripture well requires the ability to listen, something that is increasingly difficult in today’s self-absorbed world, a Philippine bishop told the Synod of Bishops on the Bible.
The short speech by Bishop Luis Tagle of Imus on October 7 was one of few synod interventions to draw applause, ending with a call for the Church to “listen the way God listens” and become a voice for the poor and suffering.
He said the Church can best help people learn to read Scripture by teaching them how to listen in faith, opening their hearts to God’s word and allowing it to transform them and their actions.
The Church should offer “formation in holistic listening,” he said. The bishop said the modern world offers ample evidence of the tragic lack of listening, including family conflicts, generational gaps and violence. “People are trapped in a milieu of monologues, inattentiveness, noise, intolerance and self-absorption. The Church can provide a milieu of dialogue, respect, mutuality and self-transcendence,” he said.
He told the synod that it was important to remember that God not only speaks in Scripture, but listens as well – “especially to the just, widows, orphans, persecuted and the poor who have no voice.”
“The Church must learn to listen the way God listens and must lend its voice to the voiceless,” he said to a ripple of applause in the synod hall.
Several bishops spoke about the need for better preaching about Scripture. Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn suggested the preparation of a general homiletic directory to ensure a more solid and systematic preparation for preachers in seminaries and formation houses.
He pointed out that the Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of preaching, with a shift from the sermon as an exposition of Catholic doctrine and devotion to the homily as an explanation and application of Scripture.
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, Philippines, suggested a number of guidelines to help Catholics read and interpret the Bible.
Among other things, he suggested that there be more interaction among biblical scholars and pastoral workers.
“We need to approach the Bible with a spirit of humility; it enables us to value the interpretation of the Bible by the poor,” he said.
His words were echoed by Bishop Benjamin Ramaroson of Farafangana, Madagascar, who said that although most of the faithful in his country cannot read or write they have a strong sense of the sacred and understand the Bible’s symbolic language.
Biblical passages often deal with the poor and suffering, and Bishop Ramaroson said his people’s thoughtful comments on the readings might surprise many experts.
Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carre of Albi, France, was one of several bishops who spoke about the value of “lectio divina,” or prayerful daily reading of Scripture.
He said it’s been encouraged in his country, but that the Church needs to better promote the idea in a simple way.
Archbishop Lawrence Huculak of Winnipeg, Manitoba, metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, called for careful preparation for the Scripture readings during liturgies.
The celebrant who reads the Gospel should master the language and proclaim the text with warmth and care, he said. “It cannot be done mechanically or carelessly,” he said.
US Fr Glen Lewandowski, master general of the Crosiers, said the eucharistic prayer, where the Bible story of the Last Supper is echoed, is in need of improvement.
He said too often the celebrant recites the prayer with “evident lack of evangelical joy.”
The eucharistic prayer, he said, “is often rushed, mumbled, uttered without accent or spirit and even faint and unheard.”