They Might Laugh at Her New Year’s Resolution...

But a Mother-of-two becomes a Biblical Expert!
by Nathan Miller | Source: Catholic.net
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Not everyone looks forward to the Superbowl. My European friends roll their eyes at the thought of sitting through 3 to 4 hours of apparently pointless huddles, line-ups, injuries, whistles and flags, not to mention the yelling of the audience. They just don’t get it. Kind of like my brother’s question when we were small, while going out the back door. “What kind of football should we play today? The kind with a ball—like dad taught us, or the kind where you line up and smash into each other—like dad watches on TV?” We didn’t get it then either.
 
Bible reading is like a game with complicated rules. If you don’t know them, you get bored and frustrated, and will probably abandon the quest.
 
Yet, many are itching to hear that starting whistle. For example, here’s a recent e-Mail from a friend of mine, mother-of-two:
 
Dear Brother Nathan, My goal for this coming year is to read the Bible. I purchased a study Bible and I am so excited to start reading. I love reading classics and I thought, “What greater classic is there to read than the Bible.” Do you have any thoughts or ideas? It will take time but some of the most tragic and greatest love stories ever told I know can be found in the Bible.
 
Let’s imagine her first Bible experience: She opens the front cover (“Hmmm bibles smell good!”) and searches for Genesis. “Wow!” God creates the world within a few pages. That makes her feel small. Now she encounters Adam and Eve—God’s first humans. Then she meets Noah and the great flood, and Abraham and his son Isaac. She turns a few more pages. Exodus! The awesome story of Moses and the freeing of God’s people comes to life.
 
Then something strange happens: Leviticus! Holocausts are explained—”Okay;” cereal offerings are explained—”interesting;” peace offerings are explained—”hmmm;” sin offerings are explained—”this is boring;” special cases are explained—”does this ever end?” Soon her enthusiasm is exhausted, and after more sin-offerings-explained and guilt-offerings-explained, she thinks … “well maybe I have better things to do.”
 
But don’t worry, that won’t happen to you! Because you will know the rules.
 
 
Guide to Biblical Know-How (between folding clothes and washing dishes)
 
I. Watch the Game, the Whole Game, and Nothing but the Game:
 
Reading the Bible from cover to cover is not intended. The Bible is not your modern novel; it is a collection of individual books of varying genres. Of the 73 books of the Catholic Bible, only 14 of them give a timeline story of what happened. Other historical books overlap with these 14, giving a different perspective, and many books, like the Psalms or Proverbs, are of a different nature.
 
To understand this better, think of a football game: At any given game, there are bound to be hundreds of cameras shooting. What would happen if you took a random 73 cameras after a game—fan-cams, wide-receiver shots, and a couple tapes from the local sports channel—mixed them on a DVD and gave them to someone entirely new to the game? Well, besides not knowing the rules, he is bound to get really lost. Although the footage was all made during the same game, the perspectives will be entirely different.
 
That’s why we select just 14. These are like the cuts which present a running picture of the game from start to finish. The following books tell the story of Salvation History from the beginning—the creation of the world, until the end—the first Christian community after the Resurrection of our Lord. Read them in this order, and skip everything else! (For example, skip 2-Maccabees.) You will see and understand what God was all about: his wisdom and love, and his Salvation plan for humanity will become crystal clear.
 
1. Genesis, 2. Exodus, 3. Numbers, 4. Joshua, 5. Judges, 6. 1-Samuel, 7. 2-Samuel 8. 1-Kings 9. 2-Kings, 10. Ezra, 11. Nehemiah, 12. 1-Maccabees, 13. The Gospel of Luke and 14. Acts of the Apostles
 
Imagine the difference of YOUR experience: “I finished the whole Bible story.” “I understand Father’s homilies better.” “I can comment more theologically in our Bible study.” Instead of boredom and frustration, you feel confidence and a sense of accomplishment; and you will have done it in less time too.
 
 
II. Savor the Highlights in Slow Motion
 
Once you know the story, it will be time to bite into the 4 Gospels. What are they? The highlights of the game. The 4 Gospels contain what Jesus did and said—the heart of the Bible. God became man to reveal us this message. Reading them through just once, however, would be like watching the highlights of the game ... in fast-forward. Sure, the Gospel of Luke is included in the list of the 14 narrative books, and should be read once with that list to get the big picture, however highlights are meant to be savored. You will want to return to Christ’s words and example again and again, for this is your spiritual food.
 
Praying and reflecting on the Gospels changes us, and makes us better persons. It helps us to think and act like Christ in the nitty-gritty everyday decisions. “What will I watch on TV? How will we balance the house budget? What belongs on the shopping list? How should I answer my spouse or my children? What should I wear? Who should I vote for? When should I go to bed?” In short … the Gospels, when savored prayerfully, change my life by making me more like Jesus.
 
To make this task easier, many websites offer daily reflections. Here on Catholic.net, for example, are daily Gospel reflections for this purpose.
 
 
III. Listen to the Coach
 
Besides small doses of prayerful reflection for personal change, a great tool for understanding the Gospels from a broader biblical perspective is To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed. This work is a summary and explanation of the Gospels in a warm, vibrant and exciting tone. It gets you into the life of biblical times, so you can understand the who, what, where, why and when of Jesus culture. (Who were the Pharisees? How long was Christ’s ministry? Why did Christ use the images he did?) It’s like the coach who sits next to you and explains the Highlights in depth.
 
 
IV. Study the Game Play by Play
 
Here I suggest two books for beginners who still want more. For the Old Testament, The Consuming Fire by Michael Duggan. And for the New Testament—An Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond Brown. These are your next steps towards in-depth biblical know-how. They both walk you through play by play, with vivid explanations, motivations, charts and you name it. What I like about these works, is that you can pick the play you want to understand, say the prophet Micah, and you will be taken through in novel-like fashion.
 
 
Like my friend mentioned, some of the most tragic and greatest love stories ever told can be found in the Bible. Yet the greatest love story of all is the mad love story between God the-awesome-one and every single human being created by him. You are part of this love story; you belong to this awesome God. Wouldn’t you like to get to know the one who loves you so much? Now that you know the rules of the game, it’s time to blow the starting whistle.

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Published by: graciela valcarcel
Date: 2013-06-06 08:00:22
I was looking for a timeline of the bible and when I found this article I just realized that the love of God is in everything!!! My idea changed(it's for a bible lesson) and after reading it my perspective not only was changed but gave me light to provide a great assertive answer to the kids with the football concept! I am so grateful to the person who wrote it may God bless her now and always, I have been reading the bible for a long time and am going to start the adventure all over again!! Thanks so much for the WORD... May God bless you. Now I will keep catholic net in English too the articles in Spanish are different in organization but they are exquisite too. Thanks on behalf of the youth bible class they are going to enjoy this new perspective!!!

Published by: Michelle
Date: 2011-01-04 12:20:37
Excellent article, Br. Nathan. Thank you so much!! I know this article will be helpful for myself and so many others.

Published by: Bridget
Date: 2011-01-03 11:13:05
Thank you for this article. I found it to be very inspiring. What a great New Year's resolution!

Published by: Michelle Weatherford
Date: 2011-01-02 14:34:37
WOW! What a great article and explanation of how to read the Bible. It's true that so many people do try to read it like a novel and just give up, myself included in this bunch. I decided to just focus on the Gospels and that has given me such a beautiful perspective on God's love for me and all people. Your article really inspired me to start again and I plan to follow your advice. I am also going to forward it to others so they too can learn how to read the Greatest Book ever written. Thank you for your insightful gift today on the Feast of the Epiphany. We pray for always! God bless you for all that you are doing to serve Christ! Missing you in Texas.

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