On my own, I have read the entire Bible several times, and in particular the Gospels, yet I discovered that the more I read, the more I grew in the desire to increase my understanding and enrich my faith. My routine was to read Scripture daily, reflect on it and see how what I had read, applied to my life. Over time, as I would read the Bible and re-read books and chapters that I had read previously, I always learned more, which also made me ask more questions. Acts 8:30 states, “So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?'”
Wondering if I had understood everything and having many unanswered questions, I thought it might be fun to learn more in a classroom setting. Five years ago, a good friend asked me to join her in a Bible Study. I had always thought it might be a good idea, but never followed through. Wow! Once in the class, I wondered why I hadn’t started years ago. The experience is rich.
Why enroll in a parish class? Many reasons. The first is that of course, we love God and want to learn about the one we love and serve. I have enrolled and completed studies on individual books of the Bible (like John and Acts), prayer studies, faith studies such Endow Catholic study for women and completed video and reading programs. In 8-12 weeks, you can expand your understanding of not only God’s Word, but strengthen your faith walk immensely and grow in spirituality.
As I reflect on knowledge gained and deepening my belief, I realize that group study has benefited me greatly. Not for just the camaraderie, but reinforcing what I study, by discussion. The discussion cements my
learning. Proverbs 27:17 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
Secondly, a class normally encourages regular attendance and by focusing on one book of the Bible, or one topic, I had a chance to go deeper and really understand, and not skip over things that didn’t make sense. It gave me the discipline to research and gain a depth to my reading and understanding. Beginning a class in prayer, asking God to impart to you what you should understand about the information you are to cover, sets a great tone. 2 Timothy 22 states, “…through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.”
All of the classes I have taken were offered by my parish. Most parishes offer a daytime class, as well as an evening class. So, thirdly, by attending class, it teaches and reinforces the belief that we live in community. Many of the people I meet in these studies have turned out to be nice friends. We are all united for the same goal of coming closer to God through his word. It provides each participant the opportunity to practice working and living in community, respecting differing opinions.
Lastly, attending classes helps me with spiritual discipline. It helps me to develop and grow the spiritual “habit” of developing my relationship with God and my neighbor. Our education and Christian development is a life-long journey that does not end when we are born again.
Ann Gonsalves is a wife, mother, freelance journalist, data specialist at ACTS Missions and volunteers with the Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s regular column in Today’s Catholic newspaper.