A Cordial Reading of Scripture

A Cordial Reading of Scripture April 1, 2013

Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew I have a dirty little secret.

I don’t really like reading the Bible all that much. I mean, I’ve read it; all of the New Testament and much of the Old, much of it multiple times. I look at a passage of the New Testament and it tends to go in one eye and out the—well, you know what I mean. And this is not a Good Thing, especially for a Lay Dominican, given that Study is one of the four pillars of Dominican life.

Mind you, I studied obsessively during my first few years as a Catholic revert. The Faith was my current interest, and I burrowed into it with vigor. But interests wax and wane, and other things have my attention at the moment.

Which is why God made promises. I vowed to love my wife when I married her, in preparation for those times when loving unselfishly is difficult. And as a Dominican I promised to continue to study the Word, in preparation for those times when other things look shinier, and when I’m tired in the morning and just don’t want to do it. And during Lent I came face to face with the fact that this is one of those times, and that I need to get moving.

At times like these, prayer is indicated: the kind of prayer where you say, “Lord, I don’t want to read your word, but I want to want to read your word. Please help!” And I’d been praying this kind of prayer during Holy Week.

So on Holy Saturday I was at Barnes & Noble with Jane, and saw a book: Volume III of Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, published by Ignatius Press. I noticed it because it had the usual Ignatius spine, and because it was HUGE, 870 pages, dwarfing all of the books around out. So I pulled it out and took a look. It was subtitled, “Meditations on the Gospel according to St. Matthew”. Not the whole gospel, mind you; chapters 19 to 25 only. Turns out he covers chapters 1 to 11 in the first volume (746 pages), and chapter 12 to 18 in the second volume (800 pages), and he still has three chapters left to go; I’m expecting that the fourth volume, if he manages to publish it, will be 1200 pages at least.

I nearly recoiled in horror, but instead I took a closer look.

It’s a verse by verse commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, beginning from the Greek text. It is intended to be a cordial reading of the Gospel, a reading from the heart. It is intended to be read in the context of the Church and its teachings. It is intended to be part of an encounter with the Living God through His Word written.

Did I mention that Matthew was St. Dominic’s favorite gospel? He carried it with him everywhere.

Interesting, I thought. If only I had the time to plow through something so big. And I walked away.

I think I got about eight feet away before I turned around and went back. When you ask God for something, it’s unwise to walk away from the answer.

Naturally, B&N only had the third volume. So I ordered a copy of the first volume (from Amazon, on my cell phone; sorry, B&N!), and it arrived today. I spent an hour during my daughter’s dance class reading the (first part of) the introduction. And I’m more convinced than ever that my running across it on Saturday was an answer to prayer.

This post is long enough; I’ll have to say more about the book in the coming days. (If I don’t, nag me!)

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