A Note from the Synod on the Bible Print
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 28 October 2008 14:07
John Allen reports on the results of the Synod on the Scriptures that just concluded in Rome. He notes several propositions that have to do with the laity and the Scriptures. In another vote of confidence in lay activity, the bishops also endorsed the practice of Bible reading in small Christian communities ...“
These small communities meet regularly around the Word of God, in order to share it among themselves, and they draw strength from it,” the bishops said in proposition 21. “The service of the laity who guide these communities must be esteemed and promoted, because they render a missionary service to which all the baptized are called,” the bishops said.

Concern for the laity even ran through the synod’s treatment of priestly formation. Proposition 32, dealing with educating future priests about the Bible, included the following recommendation: “Parallel to formation inside the seminary, future priests are also invited to take part in meetings with groups or associations of laity gathering around the Word of God. These meetings … favor in future ministers the experience and the taste for hearing what the Holy Spirit is arousing in believers gathering as the church, whether these gatherings are large or small.”
These are encouraging to me. First of all, disciples of Jesus naturally want to gather to share and reflect together on the scriptures which proclaim the activity of God in human history, particularly in the life of Jesus, the "Word made flesh." Such small group gatherings around the word deepen the faith of the participants, helps them to understand that to which the Word is calling them, and through mutual support can strengthen the will of those involved to actually conform themselves to the will of God.

Secondly, I am particularly excited that the Bishops recognize the need for seminarians to hear how the Word is heard by those to whom they will eventually be preaching. Far too often I have heard (and have been guilty of giving) homilies that were long on exegesis and short on connection to the life of the preacher or the Christian community gathered at worship! Hopefully hearing the questions raised by the laity, the challenges they face at work and at home, as well as their insights into the scriptures will form seminarians as better preachers. In addition, I would guess that groups of laity that gather regularly to pray over and study the scriptures are filled with intentional disciples, and these people may be instruments of God to inspire, challenge and edify those preparing to be ordained as servants of the common priesthood.