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A year for the word of God

In the pre-Vatican II Church, reading the bible did not get big ratings and sometimes was even actively discouraged by Church authorities and virtually not mentioned, with the exception of the readings at Mass on Sundays.

Although official attitudes have done an about turn on the subject in more recent decades, it is still a topic that requires much attention and people who do want to read, frequently ask for guidance on how to do it intelligently.

Significantly, two groups dedicated to promoting a greater awareness of the bible and how to read it effectively are celebrating their 25th anniversaries of foundation in Hong Kong this year.

The United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association celebrated its silver jubilee on April 28. Although it extends its reach to Chinese-speaking people the world over, its birthplace was in Hong Kong and much of the dynamism involved in setting it up came from the Hong Kong Catholic Biblical Association.

The Biblical Pastoral Ministry for Filipinos marked its 25th anniversary on August 9 at a colourful gathering in Choi Hung. The founder of the movement, Columban Sister Tammy Saberon, said she has found that learning to read and reflect on the bible can have a wonderful effect on people, as even those who were not particularly interested in the first place can suddenly become quite enthusiastic about it.

Sister Saberon points out that through reading his word, people get to know and love God in their own way and Cecilia Chui, who is the secretary of the United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association and in charge of the Hong Kong Association, said that bible reading has important implications for the wider Church as well.

Chui adds that from this perspective it is important in spreading the good news about salvation and building up a missionary Church.

Hong Kong is well served in the biblical apostolate with several groups offering programmes and opportunities with a good variety of activities.

The Biblical Association offers the Follow the Logos Workshop under the theme, The Wonder of the Word of the Lord. It also has a course called Open the bible for 73 hours, which includes a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Catholic Biblical Institute offers a three-year diploma programme and a four-year open programme in bible studies.

The Duns Scotus Bible Centre organises seasonal and thematic talks and the Studium Franciscanum has online biblical reflections.

The Friends of Jesus Passover Online School of Evangelisation runs an Internet-based biblical learning programme and the Living Spring Foundation, an entirely lay group, produces a radio programme, Beside from Money, to spread seeds of the gospel locally and overseas.

Both Chui and Sister Saberon recommend a simple and easy system of reading the bible in a group, known as Lectio Divina.

The process is basic. Read the text, pick a word or phrase, re-read, share, read again and make a spontaneous prayer and, finally, discuss with others how to live it out.

 

2015 has been declared the Biblical Pastoral Ministry Year by the United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association and in imparting his blessing, Pope Francis quoted Psalm 119 as saying, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” JiM