The Bible in family and for family
Archbishop Marian Golebiewski
Henri Daniel-Rops said about the Bible, 'This is a unique book. An endless book, in which everything was said about God and about man. Here is the Bible - the Book of books, the Book of man and the Book of God.' We can add another statement to the words of the outstanding biblical scholar, 'The Bible is the book of family and for family. It speaks to all generations and about all family members, it speaks about the experiences of the people whose stories were interwoven with God, and first of all it lets us discover the love of God who created family and blessed it.'
The Bible - family
First I would like to write a few words: what the Bible says about family. On the first pages of the Book of Genesis we can see an ideal of monogamous marriage. Further, it shows an Israeli family that is of patriarchal character. The proper term for family is the expression 'father's house' (Genesis 24:38; 46:31). The genealogies are made according to the father (Leviticus 25:44). Husband is the head of family and of wife. Family consists of those who share the community of blood and living. The social dimension of family is also expressed on the religious level (Exodus 12:3; 1 Samuel 1:3). In the Old Testament numerous children were the sign of God's blessing. In the New Testament households-families were centres of Christian life. Christians are co-inhabitants of God; they belong to his family. The kingdom of God has priority over one's own family (Mark 6:4; Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). Christ defends the indissolubility of marriage. St Paul compares marital love to Christ's love for the Church. Naturally, the most wonderful family presented in the Gospels is the Holy Family of Nazareth.
The Bible - children - young people
The Bible speaks about children and to children. Jesus himself takes a child as an example for those who would like to enter the kingdom of God. He must have done so because of children's natural spontaneity, their openness and confidence in their parents. He orders children to honour their parents. He will develop such an attitude throughout their entire lives, including their adult lives, and he will teach them proper attitude towards all people. The Bible is for young people. Youth is a special period of intensive experiences. This is the time of great discoveries, the time of forming their characters and making life choices. It is so important to make choices while praying, with the Bible in your hand.
Above all, young people discover the gift of love. It is essential that through their contacts with the Bible they discover the source of love: God himself, God who 'loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life' (John 3: 16). Sharp observation and sometimes too much criticism in youth can be tempered through contact with the wisdom of the Bible. Since it is not limited to knowledge but is a practical skill to live a life of dignity in the ways God appoints himself.
The recent questionnaires that were conducted in schools show that if young people read the Bible they want to find motivation for their faith in it. Reading the Bible strengthens faith and moreover, it sometimes becomes the light that young people look for. Thus the word of the Psalmist is fulfilled in them, 'Now your word is a lamp to my feet, a light on my path (Ps 119:105). When you read the Bible in your youth you get used to treat it as a meeting with God himself, and not only as a meeting with some book. Reading begins dialogue and this is a prayerful dialogue. The desire to find sense of life, which is present in every young man and woman's heart, is fulfilled in this dialogue. And besides, one cannot forget how many types of council for young people the inspired authors gave! Christ teaches the rich man evangelical radicalism, telling him to sell what he owns and give the money to the poor, and St Paul confesses, 'Life to me, of course, is Christ' (Philippians 1:21). Young people find the sense of their lives in such radical attitudes. Young women can also find challenges to practice the virtues of prudence, modesty, quietude or chastity in the Bible. Showing the Mother of Christ, who bore the Son of God as a teenager, can become an extraordinary experience in young women's lives; women who look for a deep relationship with God and proper attitudes towards people.
The Bible - adults
And what about adults, those whose characters have been formed? What can they gain from Sacred Scripture? First of all, they learn to form and properly use the gift of love and freedom. Their lives are usually systematised, they have their own duties, tasks, they work and care for their families. Deepened, reflective reading of the Bible teaches adults how to be responsible. We mean rightly understood responsibility to oneself and others, responsibility connected with laying down requirements first to oneself and then to the loved ones or to those whom they live with, that is the suitable factor that determines choices made by matured people. Their contacts with God, experienced while reading the Bible, deepen and become stable. The Bible can also become the object of deep reflection in the lives of the elderly. They can look back at their experiences through the prism of the inspired word and thus gain wisdom, which they can pass to the younger.
Therefore, the Bible is the book of family and should be read in family. The practice of the so-called biblical quarter is extremely valuable. I mean reading the Bible together. On Saturday or Sunday evening one can switch off television and read the Bible aloud and with much attention. One member of the family reads aloud and the rest bow their heads to absorb the word of God. The most important thing is to discover the unique value of the word of God but one cannot also forget the integrating role of such a practice for all family members. You usually choose one of the two ways of reading. It is a continuous reading when one reads a book from the beginning to the end or the so-called liturgical reading. In the former reading it would be good to start with the easiest books and those showing mentality we can understand, so the Gospels, the Acts or Paul's letters, and then reading the more difficult books, especially the Old Testament. The second way requires us to know the liturgical reading for a given day. Today, one can find them easily in Catholic press (in 'Niedziela' they are in the 'Liturgical insert), in the Internet or in various liturgical calendars. It is worth reminding our parents to return to the practice of biblical quarter. This is one way to restore love and mutual confidence in our homes, a way to get closer to God and to one another.
Tertulian was right to write that Sacred Scripture should give us the knowledge of mysteries and should also influence readers' habits and lives so that those who are interested in Sacred Scripture can not only find instruction about what has happened to someone or what someone has done but also about what they should do themselves. In the Bible we find ways of behaviour and the stories of the blessed, which have been transmitted to us as vivid models of leading godly lives.
It is said that before his death St Augustine asked some friend of his to hang the texts of chosen psalms before his eyes. Reciting those holy texts he passed away, he went to the Lord. Those texts reminded him of the Lord throughout his life. Reading Sacred Scripture is a perfect preparation for our final passing away.