READING HELPS US LOVE GOD - MARCH AFB - AUGUST 2, 1970
Today I wish to comment on how reading and study help us deepen our love of God.
The last and most barbarous of the Roman persecutions was inaugurated by the emperor Diocletian in the year 298. It raged more or less until the edict of toleration by Constantine in 312. One of the weapons which the tyrants used to try to stamp our Christianity was the burning of all sacred books. The persecutors realized the importance of the Scriptures and religious books in the spread of Christianity. They rightly concluded that if they were to destroy Christianity they would have to destroy the books of the Christians. During the persecution, those Christians who weakened and willing gave up the sacred books were branded with a special name, the "Traditores," i.e., "those who handed over the books." (Incidentally, this burning of the books of Christians was done frequently and is the chief reason why we know so little about the first 300 hundred years of the Church. Perhaps not even five percent of the writings of those years have come down to us).
We must study about God in order to love Him better. If you want to learn more about chemistry, you have to knuckle down to diligent study. If you desire to know more about God, you must read pertinent books. There are many ways of meeting the living God. Each time we come to Mass we meet God; each time we receive Communion or are absolved from our sins, we meet the living Christ, Who is God. If we want to make these meetings the meetings of friends, if through these meetings we want to come closer to God, we must do what we would do to develop a friendship as we would with anybody else. We must try to find out all we can about God.
If we do not make this effort, our meetings with Him will be like the many casual contacts we have with people during the week. We meet; we say "hello", exchange a few pleasantries and then go on our way. We are still only acquaintances. We have given little and received little. We have profited little from our meeting. If we do not make an effort to learn all we can about God, meeting Him will be like meeting a stranger.
Most of us prefer to meet and talk with friends rather than with strangers. Perhaps the reason many people find religion so burdensome is because God is such a stranger to them.
Studying our faith and learning more about God can only be rewarding. We are never disappointed in what we learn about God. If we study people we may learn things which will lessen our respect and our love for a person, but this can never happen in the case of God. The result of our studies should be that we will come to love God more and more. One of the most effective ways to learn how to love God is to read how other people have loved and understood God. The Bible, the lives of the saints, books on the spiritual life, even books which explain doctrine are all records of how other people have encountered God, records of what they have experienced with God, records of how they saw and understood God. If we are wise we will profit from all of this stored-up wisdom. We need not read much, but we should read what we can and then think about it a bit. Study, reflection and prayer are a sure way to grow in the love of God.
We cannot all be great scholars, but we can all give up a little time which otherwise would be spent watching TV or reading light material in order to study the faith. Everyone can subscribe to a Catholic magazine and read the articles in it. Everyone can read a pamphlet or two. Neither of these two things would be too taxing. We should try to read a book now and then about the faith.
There are so many books that I would like to read and can't find time to read - that - if there are books to be read in heaven - I won't find it difficult to keep busy throughout all eternity.