Readers may remember when last fall, Pope Benedict encouraged us to read the Bible. As I remarked then on these pages, his urging came timely on for me and happily as I had not more than a month before started on that very mission.
Even so, it embarrassed me, because I should have done such reading long ago. I can almost hear a reproach - "And he calls himself a Catholic!"
Reproach notwithstanding, the reading has begun - one laden with the rewards of discovery of mystery, heroic deeds and memorable personages, and not the least of God in the Old Testament who intervenes often directly in the daily lives of his people.
Plus, as I read often in puzzlement I do allow, I remember the popular comic figure of other days, Oliver Hardy. His close companion in adventure, Stan Laurel helped him interpret his life's experiences with an upbeat lesson, "You'll be a better man for it Olly." So it has worked for me.
Such failing to explore this treasure may mark the lives of many an adult; the pope did well to call on us to mend it. We might excuse ourselves because we feel we know much of the Bible because of its prominence in the core of our Christian life and practice and because of its reach in Western culture. There it influences and informs literature, history, politics, speech and thinking.
Few people would quarrel with the claim that scholars make for the Bible as the most influential book in history. With respect to its influence on literature and speech making, it would stand alone on the bookshelves of the English-speaking world but for the collected works of William Shakespeare nearby.
In this connection, the First Reading for this Sunday's Mass offers us a coincidence that demonstrates the influence of the Bible in matters of state. In today's First Reading, the prophet Zechariah quotes the Lord who tells of the coming of our king, whose "dominion shall be from sea to sea."
Canadians will recognize and feel a touch of comfort in the last four words. We know them as the motto emblazoned on the coat of arms of Canada. Cautionary note! Heraldry might require it and our Canadian peculiarity finds it expedient to express the idea in Latin: "A mari usque ad mare." A language equally incomprehensible for those of us reliant on either of our official languages.
Those same words as they occur in Psalm 72.8 moved Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, a father of Confederation and faithful student of the Bible, to persuade others to apply them to the country just then aborning.
Tilley liked the word "dominion" for our country; our latter day strivings for greatness on the world stage have allowed that term to fall into disuse for our home and native land. All of this close to Canada Day just past.
My reading of the Bible for its inspiration and its treasures continues.
(Ralph Himsl firstname.lastname@example.org)