I am what you would call a "cradle Catholic." Growing up, I attended church each week, was enrolled in Catholic school, was an altar boy for six years, and stayed out of any serious trouble. Yet looking back, I’d have to say that as much as I tried to reverence the Lord in these ways, I didn’t really know him.
As far as I was concerned, faith was the "right" thing to do, especially if I wanted Jesus to help me in my life and if I didn’t want to go to hell.
But all that changed when I attended a parish prayer meeting one night and experienced a conversion to Jesus. That night, Jesus became real and personal to me, a typical eighteen-year-old American from the suburbs. For the first time in my life, I felt his love and his joy. I knew he was near to me. His presence simply overwhelmed me. When I went home that night, I knew that I had found the Lord—or should I say, "He found me"—and my life was forever changed.
The Word Came to Life. As I was leaving the prayer meeting that night, one of the members gave me a Bible. Prior to that night, I had never considered Scripture as meaningful. Sure, I followed along in my missalette as the Scriptures were read at Mass. Sure, I knew about the "famous" stories and miracles in the Bible. Sure, I even allowed these stories to have some impact on my thinking. But in general, the Bible was not all that significant to me.
After that night, however, I began to read the Bible every day. And every time I read, I felt closer to Jesus. The more I read, the more I wanted to know Jesus and the more I wanted to please him. Now, some thirty-five years later, I still read and pray the Scriptures on a daily basis. The method I use to "pray" the Scriptures is pretty much the same method I used back in 1971, though I have tweaked it a bit over the years. This method, called lectio divina, is an ancient tradition in the church, and we describe it in our second article.
Just as the Scriptures have changed my life, I am convinced they can change yours—and everyone’s. This year, as you establish your New Year’s resolutions for 2007, consider making daily Scripture reading one of your goals. I promise you will not be disappointed!
We Were Made for Freedom. One final word: This year marks the four hundredth anniversary of the introduction of slavery to what is now the United States. To recall that ugly part of our history, we offer this month a profile of John Newton, the British slave trader-turned-abolitionist and Christian leader who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace." While slavery was officially eradicated in Great Britain and America more than a century ago, it still exists in hidden ways in both countries, and in more open ways in other parts of the world. This month, let’s ask the Father to put an end to this horrible abuse of human life. As St. Paul wrote, "for freedom Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1). May every child of God come to know that freedom. And may God make us all instruments of his justice and his mercy. May God bless you.