NGUYEN: The Bible and holiness

October 27, 2020

Are you looking for solace amidst the challenges of this pandemic? Do you want to grow in holiness through it all? Try praying the Scriptures. It’s the proven way to God, tried and true, as testified by the lives of the saints. Just imagine this scene and witness the transforming power of the Word of God. Imagine…

The ruddy bachelor pushed the heavy doors and slipped inside inconspicuously. A slither of sunlight poured in, casting his shadow on the stone floor. A fellow in the silent crowd nodded to him and then turned to face the preacher at the ambo again. It was then that Anthony’s attention came into focus.

The crowd around him; a sudden light within him; his heart jolted at the words being proclaimed, spoken as if directly to him: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven” (Mt 19:21). Like an electric pulse vivifying a man in cardiac arrest, the Word of God cut to his heart like “a two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12).

This is the conversion story of the young St. Anthony, a desert monk of the fourth century, who started out as an ordinary guy with ordinary ambitions, like you and me. What made him extraordinary was his encounter with God’s living Word. What he felt in his heart that day when his life was changed forever is what God offers each one of us today!

The sacred Scriptures are God’s personal words to us — written over the course of thousands of years, like a love letter perpetuated in time and into eternity. Multiply exponentially the gush of affection from the handwritten letter of a beloved or the excitement of reading a text message from a significant other. No need for curbside megaphones and soapbox sermons. The power of the Word of God works within us. Recall how a single line from Romans 13:13 sufficed to dispel all the darkness of doubt in Augustine’s mind in the summer of 386 AD.

Imagine the words of Jesus in Mark 8:36 sparking a flame in the fiery heart of the Spaniard Ignatius of Loyola. Look into the gentle countenance of St. Dominic, the great founder of the Order of Preachers who always carried with him the Gospel of Matthew and Paul’s epistles. He was a tireless preacher of the Gospel because he preached not a dead text but a living Word.

The God who “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16) is constantly communicating Himself to us: He speaks to us in the voice of the Church, in the depths of our conscience, in the beauty of creation, and above all, in His Word made flesh and in the written word of sacred Scriptures.

To the youth of Generation Z: God promises us more lasting happiness than the fleeting “likes” of Instagram and our Facebook friends. He wants to draw close to us in and through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The good news is that we can encounter Him right in the pages of the Bible. Make some time this week for that encounter with your truest friend. Speak to God in simple heart-to-heart prayer or in Lectio Divina of the passages quoted above, and let God speak to you through His Word. Like the youthful Anthony and Augustine, Ignatius and Dominic, enter into the current of a deep, personal conversation, and let His love echo in the recesses of your heart.

Listen carefully, and you might be delightfully surprised at what you hear. Deo Gracias. †

Sister Theresa Marie Chau Nguyen is a Dominican Sister of Mary Immaculate Province in Houston. She is an assistant professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas.

Teen Talk

Teens from the Archdiocese share their perspectives on faith.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

“My favorite Scripture verse is ‘Love God with your whole heart, soul and strength.’ I like this one because it is something I can live by. I can give all my gifts and talent to God. Without Him, I could do nothing. The least I could do is give back to Him by loving in everything with everything.”
- Kati R., Incarnate Word Academy

“I have several favorite Bible verses, but Genesis 32:23-33 is hands down a go-to for when I need consolation in the darkness one may experience in life. We wrestle God, and we can experience distractions. It’s simply hard. We struggle. God sometimes has to break a part of us. We have to let God break our pride so that we can submit to His will.”
- Cyprus K., St. Ignatius of Loyola