During his general audience this morning, the Holy Father spoke to the 40,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square about the necessity of living in personal dialogue with Scripture, a dialogue that “takes place in communion with the living Church.”
Pope Benedict pointed the faithful to the example of St. Jerome as an inspiration to live in closer contact with the Word of God.
St. Jerome, who was born into a Christian family around the year 347, "placed the Bible at the center of his life: he translated it into Latin, commented on it in his writings and, above all, undertook to put it into concrete practice during his long earthly life."
This Father of the Church "received a careful education" in Rome. "Having been baptized," he was attracted to "the ascetic life" departing "for the East where he lived as a hermit in the desert. ... He perfected his knowledge of Greek and began to study Hebrew, transcribing codices and patristic works. Meditation, solitude and contact with the Word of God brought his Christian sensibility to maturity."
When Jerome returned to Rome, Pope Damasus engaged him as secretary and counselor. Following the pontiff's death, Jerome went back to the Holy Land, settling in Bethlehem where he remained until his death in 419 or 420, all the while "continuing his intense activities."
In Bethlehem, St. Jerome "commented on the Word of God, defended the faith and vigorously opposed various heresies. He exhorted monks to perfection, taught classical and Christian culture to young pupils, and showed great pastoral solicitude in welcoming
pilgrims visiting the Holy Land."
"His literary education and his vast learning enabled Jerome to revise and translate many biblical texts" thus achieving "a vital task for the Latin Church and for Western culture."
The saint also "energetically and vigorously refuted heretics who attacked the tradition and faith of the Church. He demonstrated the importance of Christian literature, which by then was worthy to bear the confrontation with classical literature," having become part of "a true Christian culture."
"From Jerome," Pope Benedict taught, "we must learn to love the Word of God in Holy Scripture," because to ignore it "is to ignore Christ." Hence it is important "to live in contact and living dialogue" with Scripture.
"Such dialogue must have two dimensions. On the one hand it must be a truly personal dialogue ... because God has a message for each one of us. We must read Scripture not as words from the past but as the Word of God Who talks to me, and seek to understand what the Lord is telling me."
However, "in order not to fall prey to individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God is given to us to build communion, to unite us in that truth, in that path. ... The Word of God, though it is always personal, is always a Word that builds ... the Church. For this reason we must always read it in communion with the living Church. And the privileged place for listening to the Word of God is the liturgy."
"The Word of God transcends time," the Pope concluded. "Human opinions come and go, ... the Word of God is the word of eternal life. It carries eternity within and is valid forever."