Month of the Bible: Be Converted to Evangelize

September is the month of the Bible, This initiative rose 39 years ago in the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte, Brazil and continuing, it grew and was accepted in all the [Catholic] Church of Brazil. Beginning then to give major attention to the Bible with studies, reflections and prayers.

The Document from Aparecida (Dap) highlights this practice on the Road of Formation of Missionary Disciples. Pope Benedict XVI proposed: “Upon initiating a new stage that the missionary Church of Latin America and of the Carribean disposes to undertake, from this V Conference in Aparecida, it is indispensible condition the profound knowledge and living word of God. Therefore, it is necessary to educate the people in the reading and in the meditation of the Word; that it becomes their food, so that through experience, these words of Jesus may become spirit and life.” (cf. Job 6:63-Dap, 247).

Between the various forms of the approaches to the Bible, this prayful reading of the bible, also called Lecitio Divina. “This prayerful reading, well practiced, drives the encounter with Jesus-Teacher, to knowledge of Jesus-Messiah, to communion with Jesus Son of God and to the testimony of Jesus-Lord of the Universe. With their four moments (reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation), the prayful reading favors the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, similar to the modes of such persons of the Gospel as: Nicodemus (John 3:1-21); The Samaritan Woman (John 4:1-42), The Man Born Blind (John 9) and Zaccheus (Lk 9:1-10) (Dap, 249)

The Episcopal Commission for the Spread of Biblical Catechesis, with the National Group of Biblical Reflection of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops highlighting the biblical mandate of every Christian as a consequence of his Baptism, is proposing for the Month of the Bible 2010, the study and the meditation of the Book of Jonas with the highlight for the evangelization and the mission in the city.

And the Word of the Lord came to Jonas, Son of Amitai, saying “GET UP, GO TO THE CITY OF NINEVEH AND CRY OUT AGAINST IT, FOR HER MALICE HAS RISEN TO ME.” (Jonah 1:1-2). It was an order of God to his Prophet! He that believed in the Lord did not have another thing to do except to obey, to go! Even with natural fears that he would not be accepted, that he would be ridiculed, expelled or even martyred!

And here begins the drama of Jonas! . . . He goes to the door, buys a passage… not for Nineveh, but for Tarsis “To flee from the face of the LORD” (Jonah 1:3) Continuing: the broken travel; a great and unexpected storm comes up. The sailors perceive a Divine punishment against someone that is traveling on the boat. They draw lots to know who will be thrown into the sea. The lot falls to Jonas who confesses all. He was thrown into the sea. And a great fish engulfs him, where he spends three days and afterward is vomited on the shore of the beach.

Then he obeys God. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time saying: Raise yourself and go to the great city of Nineveh,  and preach against it the preaching that I give to you. And raising himself and going to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-3) It was a great city. And Jonas was walking and announcing: “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4). And the people were believing in his preaching. They began to do penance. The king also believed and he repented. It was decreed “Each one should turn from his perverse roads and leave the practice of all types of oppression. Who knows, God may turn back, have compassion, revoke his anger and we may not be destroyed.” (Jonah 3:8-9) God saw that what they had one and how they turned back from their perverse roads. With compassion he did not do the destruction that He had threatened. Nothing happened.” (Jonah 3:10)

Jonah remained disgusted at the end his preaching, for he wanted to castigate the evil doers. But God thus made him see His mode of acting: “And would I not be saddened from Nineveh, this enormous city of more than one hundred twenty-five thousand people that did not know how to distinguish between their left and their right, in addition all those animals.

So ends the book of Jonah, that is an exhortation to conversion and to mercy, of such that Jonah needed and us as well. The people and the actual Christians who are inhabitants in our cities, should allow themselves to be corrected through the inspired word, holy and perfect, useful to exhort and to “discern the purposes of the heart.” (Hb 4:12)

Bishop Jacyr Francisco Braido
Bishop of the Diocese of Santos – Sao Paulo, Brazil

Translated from Portuguese