"Big Four" Highlights


Bible Study Benefits

How lectio divina helps make missionaries

By Jason Godin
Associate Editor, Fathers for Good

Conversion is a process that takes many forms in the world. The natural sciences describe it as changing from one form of matter to another. Mathematicians use it to express the same number in different terms, from a decimal to a fraction, for example. Football fans celebrate it as a first down or points after a touchdown.

Religion also affirms that conversion is a process. According to Stephen J. Binz, author of more than 30 books on biblical theology, such a change comes from studying the Bible. In Scripture: God’s Handbook for Evangelizing Catholics (Our Sunday Visitor), Binz explores how lectio divina – an ancient method of taking a Scripture passage, reading it slowly and contemplating its meaning before applying it to daily life – particularly produces profound conversions because it transforms both the individual person within and, over time, the collective community. He says that his fellow Catholics need to know, study and embrace the Bible as their own to gain a deeper faith and begin to see life through God’s own words.

Binz lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife Pam, a music professor at LSU. He recently spoke with Fathers for Good via email about his latest book.

Fathers for Good: You mentioned Dei Verbum, a document from the Second Vatican Council, as an original inspiration for your work in helping Catholics read the Bible. What are some additional works would you recommend for fathers?

Stephen J. Binz: I believe that when fathers make it a priority to spend regular time with the Scriptures, reading with expectant faith, both listening to God’s voice and responding in prayer, their priorities are set straight and they learn to see their lives and families with God’s perspective. As men, we often get stressed over the small stuff and unimportant gains, forgetting to look at the whole picture and strive for what is most important and essential in God’s plan for our lives. Reading Scripture helps men learn a contemplative approach to life, enriches a man’s spirit, blesses his marriage and gives a joyful peace to his family.

FFG: How have past and present Holy Fathers most influenced the practice of lectio divina?

Binz: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have urged all Catholics to not only read Scripture, but to love God’s word, to reflect upon it and to witness to it by the way we live. It is an approach to Scripture that they have eagerly urged the Church to take up anew in our day.

In the most important papal teaching on the Bible since Dei Verbum, Benedict XVI wrote in Verbum Domini: “I express my heartfelt hope for the flowering of a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the people of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

And, in Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said: “All evangelization is based on [the word of God], listened to, meditated upon, lived, celebrated and witnessed to. The sacred Scriptures are the very source of evangelization. Consequently, we need to be constantly trained in hearing the word. The church does not evangelize unless she constantly lets herself be evangelized.”

FFG: Your book talks about how reading Scripture changes our lives by making us into greater missionaries of the Holy Spirit. What does this mean for the father of a family?

Binz: When Catholic fathers live their lives in a way that stands out from the world, people want to know what makes their lives different. And we’ve got to learn how to tell them about the source of our peace, what fills our heart with joy, and what gives us hope. The first step for Catholic men is to allow ourselves to be more deeply converted to Jesus Christ through God’s word. Then we will gradually let our renewed mind and heart change the words, actions and direction of our lives. We’ve also got to be able to express to others not just what makes the difference in our lives, but “who” makes the difference. Then we are fulfilling the challenge of the New Evangelization, being witnesses of our faith to others.

For more information on the book, go to Our Sunday Visitor.

ENGAGE AND INTERACT: What parts of the Bible do you like best? What parts are hardest to understand?