|St. Jerome by Caravaggio|
St. Jerome, whose feast day is today, is noted for translating the Scriptures from the original languages into Latin, what is called the Vulgate. He is also noted for the quote, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." I believe that this statement rings true more than most people would think.
In my ministry of educating adults, I am surprised how little people know about the scriptures, especially the younger adults. In the Scripture classes I teach, the stories and people I learned about in elementary school are often are unfamiliar to my students. More and more of them have never actually read the Scriptures and their only contact with the inspired word of God is what they hear at Mass on Sunday or from the bible "documentaries" found on television, which are often filled with inaccuracies and conjecture. Yet after hearing the stories of our faith history and "meeting" the personalities in the written word, my students eyes are opened up to the beauty of the Scriptures and the awareness that there is more to the Bible than just what they hear on Sunday. This also happens, sometimes in a dramatic way, in RCIA with those in the process who are discovering the Scriptures for the first time.
I agree with St. Jerome. You can't really know Christ without reading the Scriptures, and that holds true for the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the Christian Scriptures. The stories in the Old Testament point to Christ, they prepare us for His coming. Many years ago I heard at a parish mission that BIBLE stands for "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." I thought is was cute and wrote it inside the front cover of my bible. Years later, every time I look at those words, I realize how true it is. There is a reason the Bible has been the best selling book of all time. Within those pages are the tools and teachings we need to live a good Christian life and to come to truly know Christ. Add prayer and meditation to the reading of Scripture and our reading becomes not static words on a page but a loving conversation with God. Add to that the wisdom and tradition of the Church, and the Scriptures become part of our lives as Catholic Christians.
There was a time when all families had a Bible. Inside was often kept family records, births, marriages, deaths, and despite what some people think, Catholics did read it and were encouraged to read it. I don't think the family bible is something that is important anymore, and I am sure there are many families that don't even own one. Christmas is less than three months away, why not give someone you love the gift of coming to know Christ in the pages of the Holy Bible.