With St Josemaria Through the Scriptures
On one occasion, Jesus conversed with the Pharisees, who came to him driven by their zeal. And the Lord gave them a piece of advice that might apply to us too: “Seek within the Scriptures.” Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees (like Saul of Tarsus or Gamaliel) revered the Scriptures greatly. In fact, they believed that salvation would come to them through their letter.
“Seek within the Scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life.” (John 5:39)
St. Josemaria immersed himself in the Scriptures as another character, making of them his own life. From a very early age, he encouraged everyone to live according to the Gospel so that our behavior would reflect the life of Jesus. “May your behavior and your conversation be such that everyone who sees you or hears you speak can say: this man is reading the life of Jesus Christ” (The Way, no. 2).
But not in the way the Pharisees did, for when they encountered the Word made flesh, they did not recognize Him. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, St. Josemaria turned to the Scriptures to get closer to Jesus. Every day he looked in the Gospel for the one who was the object of his love: “Live close to Christ! You should be another character in the Gospel, side by side with Peter, and John, and Andrew. For Christ is also living now: Iesus Christus, heri et hodie, ipse et in saecula! — Jesus Christ lives! Today, as yesterday, he is the same, for ever and ever” (The Forge, no. 8).
There are many ways to read the Scriptures. St. Josemaria proposes one: You should be another character. This allowed him to discover new tones and insights that were only latent or hidden inside the treasures of the Scriptures. As Gregory the Great said: Divina eloquia cum legente crescunt — the divine Word grows with the reading. And the steps are easy to follow:
“If you wish to get close to Our Lord through the pages of the Gospels, I always recommend that you try to enter in on the scene taking part as just one more person there. In this way (and I know many perfectly ordinary people who live this way) you will be captivated like Mary was, who hung on every word that Jesus uttered or, like Martha, you will boldly make your worries known to him, opening your heart sincerely about them all no matter how little they may be” (Friends of God, no. 222).
St. Josemaria’s passionate preaching of the Gospel departed from his own experience. He avoided anonymity. Reading the Gospel as a foreign spectator or an outsider was something utterly unknown to him. St. Josemaria recommended daily reading of the Gospel to encounter Christ and His most amiable Will.
“You too, like the Apostle, will learn to ask, full of love, ‘Lord, what would you have me do?…’ And in your soul you will hear the conclusive answer, ‘The Will of God!’ Take up the Gospel every day, then, and read it and live it as a definite rule. This is what the saints have done” (The Forge, no. 754).
Daily reading of the Scriptures became, for St. Josemaria, a rule of life, a source that springs up to eternal life, for he turned to them to talk with Jesus face to face. And in reading the Bible, he put all his capabilities: intelligence, memory, imagination… everything he placed at the service of God, and he responded to grace by putting everything he humanly could. Thus he was then able to recommend the following:
“My advice is that, in your prayer, you actually take part in the different scenes of the Gospel, as one more among the people present. First of all, imagine the scene or mystery you have chosen to help you recollect your thoughts and meditate. Next apply your mind, concentrating on the particular aspect of the Master’s life you are considering — his merciful Heart, his humility, his purity, the way he fulfils his Father’s Will. Then tell him what happens to you in these matters, how things are with you, what is going on in your soul. Be attentive, because he may want to point something out to you, and you will experience suggestions deep in your soul, realizing certain things and feeling his gentle reprimands” (Friends of God, no. 253).
St. Josemaria avoided pedantry, the affectation of accumulating biblical data, since what moved him was the personal encounter with Christ: “Let us turn our eyes to Jesus Christ, who is our model, the mirror in which we must look at ourselves. How does He behave, externally too, on great occasions? What does the Holy Gospel tell us about Him? I am moved by that usual disposition of Christ, who turns to the Father before the great miracles; and his example, withdrawing for forty days and forty nights into the desert, before starting his public life, to pray” (Friends of God, no. 239).
Taking advantage of the feast of his dies natalis (his birth to Eternal Life), we can learn from St. Josemaria to frequently read the Gospel and seek out our Christ in it.