Over the centuries, many Christian writers and students of Scripture have described the Bible as a library—a collection of inspired books of various types, including history, poetry, prayers, and personal letters. St. Basil, a fourth-century Church Father, used another striking image to describe the Bible. He called it a pharmacy.
The Holy Spirit composed the Scriptures so that in them, as in a pharmacy open to all souls, we might each of us be able to find the medicine suited to our own particular illness. Thus, the teaching of the Prophets is one thing, and that of the historical books is another. And again, the Law has one meaning, and the advice we read in the Book of Proverbs has a different one. But the Book of Psalms . . . gives directions for living, it suggests the right behavior to adopt.
Open your Bible often, and browse the aisles of this pharmacy for the spirit! is St. Basil's advice. It supplies "all the valid teachings in such a way that individuals find remedies just right for their cases."
The "cases" that Basil refers to are the real-life situations we encounter every day. If you're struggling about how to pray as you face surgery for breast cancer, wondering how to handle your finances in a godly way, or fighting a battle with loneliness, God's word can provide help. Do you want to write a note of sympathy to your neighbor who just lost his wife? The Bible contains the promise of comfort and words of hope you're looking for. Or perhaps you're trying to collect your scattered thoughts before you rush off to confession. The truths of Scripture will bring you peace and guide you in making a good examination of conscience.
The Bible speaks to all these situations and concerns, as well as to the millions of others that fill our days, occupy our thoughts, and move our hearts. Sometimes, though, it's difficult to find the right verse just at the moment you want it.
Choose Your Medicine. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Bible were arranged by subject, so that you could easily turn to a Scripture verse or prayer to use in every occasion?" This is the idea that motivated Lucy Scholand to compile The Catholic Book of Scripture Passages: A Prayer Guide for Every Occasion.
This collection of Bible verses is especially designed for Catholics who want to shape their lives and prayers by the words of Scripture. It is not a book to be read straight through from cover to cover, but a resource—like a medicine cabinet or first aid kit—to be opened as needs and opportunities arise. Users can sort through the contents without difficulty, sure to find an inspired word from God for whatever occupies or concerns them. Like the Bible itself, this convenient compilation contains a word for every season, a verse for every reason.
Lucy Scholand is a wife, mother, and lifelong Catholic who has worked in Christian publishing for many years. Thoroughly familiar with the Bible, she has adeptly organized this prayer guide into topic areas that speak to the hearts and needs of people of any age and all states of life. The Scripture texts—drawn from both the Old and the New Testaments—are arranged according to these well-chosen topics, under clear and descriptive headings.
A Scriptural Sampling. The image of the pharmacy is especially appropriate for the section of the book entitled, "In Times of Need." Its chapters focus on various aspects of the subject, and verses are grouped under headings like dependence on God, gratitude, freedom from fear, guidance, and overcoming temptation. If you're suffering from anxiety or plagued by a difficult relationship, reading or praying a pertinent verse can be just the right medicine. As Scholand writes, "God wants us to turn to him with our every need . . . . As we pray these Scripture verses, we internalize the truths they contain. Then not only will the Lord lift us up but he will use us to be an inspiration to others."
Other sections of the book show us how to improve our spiritual health. "Scripture and the Sacraments" contains verses that illuminate the nature of each of the sacraments and inspire us to receive them with expectant faith. "Scripture and the Communion of Saints" invites us to pray with and for the whole church, including those members who have died. Since the church has always prayed to the saints, one chapter in this section honors Mary; another highlights the saints and features passages reminding us that we, too, are called to holiness; another focuses on the angels, who are a powerful source of help.
"For All Times and Seasons," the fourth and last section of The Catholic Book of Scripture Passages, presents a selection of verses to guide us in offering ourselves to the Lord throughout the day—on waking, at meal times, as we go about our work, and when we rest at night. It also contains passages that will enrich our celebration of the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent and feasts such as Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost.
The Bible is not just a pharmacy, of course, and St. Basil used other images to describe it. Essentially, it is God's living word of love to us. As the Catholic Book of Scripture Passages reveals, that Word is very near to us in every imaginable situation of our lives. n
Jeanne Kun has been writing and teaching about Scripture and Christian living for more than twenty years.