A well-read bible is a sign of a well-fed soul. Anil Israel shares tips on how to enrich our souls with this buried treasure, which could be accumulating dust somewhere on the bookshelf

Many of us who have been privileged to grow up in a Catholic environment might still find ourselves less familiar when it comes to the Bible, even though we might have been to every Sunday Mass and never missed Catechism in Sunday school or in a Catholic school. Somewhere along the course, we seemed to have missed preliminary instruction with respect to our own Holy Book, the Bible – Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. Regular reading and familiarizing ourselves with God’s Most Holy Word somehow missed receiving its due emphasis during our initial formative years.

My dad gifted me a personal copy of the Bible when I was in the 11th grade. Somehow, I carried a false impression in my mind that, this is something I can devote time to, at a later point in time, when I am left with plenty of time, after everything else was more or less in place in life. By God’s grace, I accepted a self-imposed challenge to read the Bible in a year, when I stumbled on the internet and ordered for myself a free copy of how to read the bible in a year. This happened to be God’s way of helping me prepare myself for the Holy Matrimony at the end of that year and 1 Cor. 13:4-8 became a part of my personal prayer ever since. I haven’t read the Bible in a year for over a decade, until a few years ago, when I became convinced that this is the ‘one necessary thing’ (cf. Lk.10:42) we all need to be doing daily for our entire lifetime.

So why do we need to form a habit of reading the Bible daily? Firstly, to grow in faith. For ‘faith comes from hearing’ the Word of God (cf. Rm.10:17). When we read, we hear God speaking to us and it becomes spiritual nourishment for our starving souls. Secondly, it is an essential part to follow the Master – to be His disciple. To follow Him, we need to ‘be with Him’ (Mk.3:14), not only before His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, but also investing time in journeying with His Most Holy Living Word. For, “if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn.8:31). Only when we ‘dwell’ on His Word, will it take root in us. Only when we ‘meditate on it day and night’ (Joshua 1:8; Ps. 1:2), can we allow it to sink into the depths of our hearts and allow it to bear fruits in our lives, rather than merely retaining it as a memorized verse in our minds. Finally, for spiritual warfare. We are all called to ‘put on the whole armour of God’ (Eph.6:11). The only weapon in this spiritual arsenal is the ‘Sword of the Spirit’ (Eph.6:17). The rest of the armour is for our defence, but to counteract, we need to rely on the sword. Just as Jesus overcame temptation, because He knew the Holy Scripture. Like the psalmist, may we too learn to say, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps.119:11).

How do I go about forming this challenging habit? We can choose to follow one of the many ways available at our disposal. They say if we read on an average 4 chapters a day or 20 minutes daily, we can read the entire Bible in a year. Often, it is really motivating, when we are aware that there are others pursuing the same journey. Personally, I am indebted to a WhatsApp group, wherein the moderator posts every day, the portion to be read for the following two days. Whenever I lag, I try to invest additional time on certain days and catch up. Sometimes I can foresee that I will be falling short of time in the coming days due to other prior plans, then I try to read a little bit extra in advance, to avoid the portions from being piled up. When our fifth child was born, I ended up needing an additional three weeks. The following year, I finished three days before time. “Devote all your time to studying the Lord’s commands and thinking about them. He will give you the insight and wisdom you are looking for.” (Sirach 6:37) This scripture verse further motivates me to pursue this journey of embracing Christ in Holy Scripture.

In this digital age, we are truly blessed to carry the Bible in our smartphones. While travelling or even when we are waiting, the Word of God is within reach and easily accessible. The DBRM (Daily Bible Reading Mission) App – a JY initiative, is an added blessing as it additionally rewards us with a new wallpaper every day, with a scripture verse from the portion of the day, and I gladly use it as my lock screen for the day. Bible study groups, physical or virtual, further help us grow and mature along this beautiful journey.

Last year, as part of our family new year resolution, we were inspired to write down one scripture verse on a post-it, from the scripture passage that we read during our family prayer and paste it on a visible place in the living room. We also record it in our family prayer journal. We praise and thank God for having instilled in us this desire for the Word of God and are amazed to see our children too fall in love with scripture at an early age in their life.

Charles Spurgeon, wisely remarked, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to a person who isn’t.” A well-read bible is a sign of a well-fed soul. May we all enrich our souls with this buried treasure, which could be accumulating dust somewhere on the bookshelf or abandoned as an unused App. May the Eternal Word continue to nourish our souls. As scripture says, “Man does not live on bread alone” (Mt.4:4; Deut.8:3).

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Anil Israel lives in Mannheim,Germany, with his wife Sunitha and their 5 children