Ready for Scripture?
Of course, Scripture itself is the premier place to develop your faith and find the answers to life’s fundamental questions. To know Christ, you must read Scripture! Some people find it hard to start reading the Bible. They pick it up, unsure of where to begin, and then they run across something that just doesn’t make sense to them.
So they stop.
The key is knowing where to begin. Once you’ve read just a small bit, once you’ve had a small success (“hey, I understood that passage! This isn’t so hard!”), it’s not so intimidating anymore. Then you’ll be hooked. In our modern era, our cultural viewpoint makes the Bible seem like an alien world. Many people pick up the Bible with good intentions and just get lost — we’re not sure what to take literally, what to read symbolically, and what to see as just a nice story. Frankly, most contemporary commentaries make it even worse.
- To get started, pick one of the Gospels and start reading. Commit to finishing it, at least one of Gospels. Even just 15 or 20 minutes a day, but keep going.
- Most people in our culture tend to find the Gospel of Matthew to be the most accessible, followed by Luke or Mark. I wouldn’t recommend reading John until you’ve read one or two of those others first — John’s Gospel is profoundly beautiful and poetic, but not the easiest place to start.
The Bible is essential. It’s a gift from God, it’s miraculous, stunning, and beautiful, and it contains more than you’ll ever be able to exhaust. Your life depends on reading it, especially the New Testament, and within that, especially the Gospels. You’ll never know Christ until you read Scripture. But don’t take just my word for it. St. Jerome: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
You can’t move forward without knowing Christ. And you can’t really know Christ until you spend time with him. We call that “prayer”. Prayer is conversation with God, listening to God, and just being with God. Prayer is essential to the Christian life. Your soul cannot grow close to Christ if you never spend time with him in prayer. Two suggestions to get you started. First, just take some small steps into prayer by having a few quick “chats” with God throughout the day. Tell him what’s on your mind, what you’re concerned about, ask him things, thank him for things that go well, ask for help for things that don’t go well.
Second, since you’re reading one of the Gospels now (right?), you’ll find that certain passages grab you. Maybe it’s a word or a phrase, or a few verses together, or even a whole scene. When that happens, just pause for a minute and reflect on it. Why does that grab you? What does it mean for you? Pretend God has just told that to you directly right now: what could he be trying to say? What does it tell you about yourself, about God? Let it settle in for a few minutes, and then thank God for that little chat you just had. Hey! You’re praying!
Now, repeat. For the rest of your life. Prayer will help you grow in unimaginable ways. Just start!
When it’s time to move forward
The goal of the inquiry stage is to develop the initial stirrings of faith into a clear, if young, desire for the Christian faith and life. You should see that you’ve begun to develop a spiritual life in prayer, and you understand and accept the very basic fundamentals of Christianity.
Specifically, you should see evidence of:
- A “living faith,” meaning a belief in God, knowledge of his call to you, and the desire to respond to him with love.
- A desire to change your life. You should want God to be the center of your life, and desire to do his will.
- A desire to enter into a relationship with God “in Christ”, meaning that you see union with Christ as the way to union with God.
- A growing awareness of sin, and the stirrings of repentance.
- The beginnings of a prayer life.
- An initial understanding of the Church as the vehicle of Christ’s saving work on earth, and a desire for membership in it.
- An awakening understanding of the spirit of the Christian life.
- You should have some contact with members of the Church (either priests or laity), and be learning from their example.
More simply: you’ve begun to fall in love with Jesus. You should have a hunger for his presence, you should actively seek him, and you should start to see that answering his call will mean some changes in your life. Now you’ll want to know more about the Beloved. Move on to the next stage: the catechumenate.