Lent is fast approaching and the usual emails/comments are coming in asking for suggestions for spiritual reading.
This year I am recommending Pope Benedict XVI's exhortation on Scripture titled, Verbum Domini. You can buy a copy of the book here.
This 2010 exhortation from our Pope Emeritus proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a master of biblical theology. We use this text in a number of classes at NDS.
Below is a thematic summary of the book from Carl Olson, "A Symphony of the Word."
Twelve Key Themes in Verbum Domini
Called to share in divine life: It is striking that the opening paragraphs of each major section contains a reference to God's invitation for man to share in the divine life. At the heart of that divine life, Benedict notes, "there is communion, there is absolute gift. .... God makes himself known to us as a mystery of infinite love in which the Father eternally utters his Word in the Holy Spirit. Consequently the Word, who from the beginning is with God and is God, reveals God himself in the dialogue of love between the divine persons, and invites us to share in that love" (par. 6; cf. par. 9). This truth is presented even more strongly at the start of the second section: "Those who believe, that is to say, those who live the obedience of faith, are 'born of God' ( Jn 1:13) and made sharers in the divine life: sons in the Son (cf. Gal 4:5-6; Rom 8:14-17)" (par. 50). And, from the third section: "The word of God has bestowed upon us the divine life which transfigures the face of the earth, making all things new (cf. Rev 21:5)" (par 91).
Divine dialogue: God has initiated dialogue with man because of his love for him. As we've already seen, this is because the Triune God is a God of "dialogue"; that is, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are continually speaking to one another in perfect, self-giving love. "In this vision every man and woman appears as someone to whom the word speaks, challenges and calls to enter this dialogue of love through a free response. Each of us is thus enabled by God to hear and respond to his word. We were created in the word and we live in the word; we cannot understand ourselves unless we are open to this dialogue" (par. 22).
Incarnation and Christology: At the heart of this divine dialogue is "the heart of the world" (par 83), the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. "God's word is thus spoken throughout the history of salvation, and most fully in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God" (par. 7). The Christian faith "is not a 'religion of the book': Christianity is the 'religion of the word of God', not of 'a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word'" (par. 7). Benedict writes of a "Christology of the word" and reflects at length on the meaning of the communication of the eternal Word into time and space: "His unique and singular history is the definitive word which God speaks to humanity" (par. 11).
Encounter and relationship: The words "encounter" and "encountering" appear over forty times in Verbum Domini; they summarize, in many ways, the core of Benedict's explanation of the relationships between God and man and man and the Word of God. Quoting from his 2005 encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Benedict states that "being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a definitive direction" (par. 11). And: "The whole history of salvation progressively demonstrates this profound bond between the word of God and the faith which arises from an encounter with Christ. Faith thus takes shape as an encounter with a person to whom we entrust our whole life" (par. 25).
Similarly, the word "relationship" appears over sixty times, often to express in some way the intimate communion given by God through Jesus Christ and Scripture: "The mystery of the Covenant expresses this relationship between God who calls man with his word, and man who responds, albeit making clear that it is not a matter of a meeting of two peers; what we call the Old and New Covenant is not a contract between two equal parties, but a pure gift of God" (par. 22), and, "The relationship between Christ, the Word of the Father, and the Church cannot be fully understood in terms of a mere past event; rather, it is a living relationship which each member of the faithful is personally called to enter into" (par. 51).
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Read the whole thing along with the papal exhortation. Well worth your time.
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