"This is why we must approach the Bible without ulterior motives, without exploiting it. The believer does not turn to the Holy Scriptures to support his or her own philosophical and moral view, but because he or she hopes for an encounter; the believer knows that they were written in the Holy Spirit, and that therefore in that same Spirit they must be welcomed and understood, so that the encounter can occur."
The pope said that it annoyed him when he heard Christians reciting Bible verses "like parrots." He stressed that it was important not only to quote verses but also to have encountered Jesus in them.
He said that as we read the Scriptures, we should allow them to "read us."
"And it is a grace to be able to recognize oneself in this passage or that character, in this or that situation," he commented.
"The Bible was not written for a generic humanity, but for us, men and women in flesh and blood, men and women who have first and last names, like me, like you. And the Word of God, infused with the Holy Spirit, when it is received with an open heart, does not leave things as they were before. And that is the grace and the power of the Word of God."
The pope then reflected on the method of praying with the Bible known as "lectio divina," which originated in monasteries but is now used by lay Catholics the world over.
Explaining the method, he said: "It is first of all a matter of reading the biblical passage attentively, I would say with 'obedience' to the text, to understand what it means in and of itself."
"One then enters into dialogue with Scripture, so that those words become a cause for meditation and prayer: while remaining faithful to the text, I begin to ask myself what it 'says to me.'"
He described this as a "delicate step" in the process because there is a danger of falling into a purely subjective interpretation of Bible verses. He said that Christians could avoid this trap by relying on "the living way of Tradition" to interpret passages.
"The last step of lectio divina is contemplation. Words and thoughts give way here to love, as between lovers who sometimes look at each other in silence. The biblical text remains, but like a mirror, like an icon to be contemplated. And in this way, there is dialogue," he said.
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The pope underlined the benefits of prayerfully reading the Bible
"Through prayer, the Word of God comes to abide in us and we abide in it. The Word inspires good intentions and sustains action; it gives us strength and serenity, and even when it challenges us, it gives us peace," he said.
"On 'weird' and confusing days, it guarantees to the heart a core of confidence and of love that protects it from the attacks of the evil one."
In conclusion, the pope said that Christian life was at once "a work of obedience and creativity."
"The Holy Scriptures are an inexhaustible treasure. May the Lord grant to all of us to draw ever more from them, through prayer," he said.