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Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, took up the great themes that developed in the Church’s Synod on Scripture, held in Rome in October of 2008.  The Synod was called together to evaluate the fruit of Dei Verbum, the document from Vatican II on Divine Revelation.  The Fathers noted at the Synod that although much progress has been made in the Church’s call to the faithful to deepen their love for and knowledge of Sacred Scripture, there was still much to be done to fulfill the vision of Dei Verbum.  Pope Benedict writes that, “With the Synod Fathers, I express my heartfelt hope for the flowering of ‘a new season of greater love for Sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the People of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus.’”

In Verbum Domini, the Pope exhaustively examines the importance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.  He leaves no doubt that biblical fluency for the clergy and biblical literacy for the laity is foundational in the goal of conversion to Jesus, a call he never tires of making to the faithful and the whole world.  He gives special emphasis to the importance of the Scripture in the Mass, because “…the sacramental liturgy…brings about the most perfect actualization of the biblical texts.  Christ is then ‘present in his word, because it is He Himself who speaks when Sacred Scripture is read in the church (Sacrosanctum Concillum, 7).  Written text thus becomes living word.” (Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church)

In response to this, the Pope makes an appeal:  “I encourage the Church’s Pastors and all engaged in pastoral work to see that all the faithful learn to savor the deep meaning of the Word of God which unfolds each year in the liturgy, revealing the fundamental mysteries of our faith.  This is in turn the basis for a correct approach to Sacred Scripture.” (VD, 52)

As a Scripture teacher, I found myself profoundly moved by Verbum Domini, because the Pope seemed to pour into the document his own devotion to Scripture and his rock-like conviction that when Catholics give themselves to love and study of the Word of God, their lives and the communal life of the Church will never be the same.  It is my hope that “Scripture Speaks” will serve the Pope’s call to all of us to heed the words of St. Augustine:  “For now, treat the Scriptures of God as the face of God; melt in its presence” (Sermones 22, 7).

By Gayle Somers

Gayle Somers is a member of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Phoenix and has been writing and leading parish Bible studies since 1996. She is currently an instructor with the Institute of Catholic Theology at St. Thomas the Apostle and has taught an Old Testament class at the Kino Institute.  She is a research fellow with the St. Paul Center (www.salvationhistory.com), which promotes biblical literacy for laymen and biblical fluency for clergy.  Gayle has a B.A. from the University of New Orleans and an M.A. in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in S. Hamilton, MA. She was a part-time Lecturer in Philosophy at Gordon College, in Wenham, MA, and a contributor to the Woman’s Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson.  In 1995, she and her family were received into the Catholic Church.  She is the author of three bible studies, Galatians: A New Kind of Freedom Defended (Basilica Press), Genesis: God and His Creation and Genesis: God and His Family (Emmaus Road Publishing). Gayle and her husband Gary reside in Phoenix and have three grown children.

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