25th / 26th January 2020

posted 27 Jan 2020, 03:14 by Parish Office

Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Bible Sunday

(25 & 26/1/20)


A young man heard with disgust that his wealthy old uncle had left him a Bible in his will.  The will read thus:  ‘To my nephew I leave a copy of God’s priceless Word which I trust he will use daily and find within its pages real treasure’.


The beneficiary threw the Bible into an old trunk in the attic, disgusted and disappointed with his share in his uncle’s bequests.  Years later, at a time of depression, he turned to the good Book for comfort.  Between its pages he found many thousands of pounds.


How often do we read the Bible?  Once a day?  Once a week?  Once in a blue moon?  This year, as we celebrate The God Who Speaks, it might be an opportunity to take the Bible off the shelf, blow off the dust and have a good look inside.  We might be surprised what we find.


I suppose sometimes, the question is where to start.  We could try starting from the beginning and reading a bit each day, and gradually working our way through, which might take a few years.  We could begin by looking at the books that might seem more familiar – we could read through the Gospels, perhaps the letters of St Paul, and maybe some of the Old Testament books that we have come across at Mass, such as the book of Isaiah.  Maybe we might also take a look at the Psalms, and after that, we could continue onto the book of Proverbs, for some rather interesting words of wisdom.  It might be a rather interesting way of deepening your faith.  Then there might come questions about what it means.  I’m happy for you to ask, or to write an e-mail.


It can be really quite a spiritual revolution to start reading the Bible.  Sometimes we can be a bit wary of it, almost thinking that it is a Protestant book, or that we might turn into Protestants, or that this is something that we shouldn’t really be doing.  But the Bible is actually a Catholic book.  Back in the first century, when the Apostles were travelling over the Roman Empire evangelising, there was no New Testament.  In 2 Tim 3:16,  St Paul says, “All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy”.  But when he refers to “Scripture”, what he’s actually referring to is the Old Testament.  At this point, the New Testament hadn’t been put together.


There were various writings that went around different parts of the Roman Empire, and the Church had to decide which ones would go into the Bible and which ones would stay out.  That’s why you occasionally hear about the so-called Gospel of Thomas, or the so-called Gospel of Peter, or of Judas etc.  These were kept out of the Bible because they were heretical – their contents did not agree with the faith of the Church, and if you read them, you will see that they all contradict each other in different ways anyway.


Sort-of related to this is the fact that the Old Testament in a Catholic Bible has an extra seven books in it compared with Protestant Bible, and it also has a few extra chapters in some of the other books as well.  This is because there were certain books, such as the Book of Wisdom, a favourite choice in many Catholic funerals, which were written around the time of Christ, and so some of the Jews didn’t accept these last-minute additions to the Old Testament.  The Catholic Church did, but the Protestants by and large didn’t.  So if you’re curious about their contents, then go and check it out.  Two of the books are 1 and 2 Maccabees, which tell us about the era of the Kingdom of the Greeks, when they tried to make the Jews conform to Greek religious customs.  The Maccabee family led a revolt, ultimately defeating the Greeks.  But within these two books is a passage that has been long-associated with the doctrine of Purgatory.  Interestingly enough, the Protestants, who by-and-large don’t believe in Purgatory, don’t have this book, or if they do, they include it under the title of “apocrypha”, which means of dubious authenticity.  Without getting too technical, we call these books instead “deuterocanonical”, which is a rather good scrabble word.


Reading the Bible is also a good way to deepen our prayer life.  If we were to take today’s Gospel, we could read it slowly and imagine ourselves in the scene.  Are we someone watching?  Are we one of the disciples?  What is your response when Jesus calls and says, “Follow me”?


There is much more I could say now, but I’ve run out of time.  So if you want to find out more about the Bible, the only thing I can say is, open it, and see for yourself.  You might be surprised at what you discover.