The Bible can be very difficult to understand. At first glance, many of the stories do not seem to have any practical application to our lives. It can be tempting to overlook the parts of Scripture which do not seem to speak to us and focus on the parts we do understand. However, that would be a mistake. All of Scripture is inspired by God. It is all God’s love letter to His People. Therefore, we must ask for the Holy Spirit’s help when we come upon a passage that makes no sense to us and strive to find what God’s message is. As they say, “The more valuable the treasure, the deeper you have to dig to find it.” The same is true of the Bible.
Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters have an interesting approach to studying the Bible. It is called the “ABCD method” and it can help us when reading Scripture. “A” stands for “a first impression”. In this step, we read the Scripture passage and think about what it first says to us. The second step, “B”, stands for “big idea”. Here we think about what doctrine we see in the passage. For instance, does it tell us something about the Trinity, about the humanity of Jesus or about the authority of the apostles. The third letter, “C” stands for “challenge”. How does the reading challenge my views of God, of life or of faith? How does it change the way I think or act? Finally, “D” stands for “decision”. What decision will I make, how will I change my behavior or my attitudes because of what I have read?
To help us understand the ABCD method better, let us apply it to today’s reading from the gospel of Saint Luke - the raising of the widow’s son from death.
Remember that “A” stands for “a first impression”. What first impression do we get when we read this story? We might be amazed at the power that Jesus shows in raising a young man from the dead. We might feel compassion and joy for the widow who is about to bury her son. We might also wonder what it must have been like for those in the crowd to witness such a miraculous event. Or we might have questions about how a man could possibly raise another man from the dead.
The next step, “B”, stands for “big idea”. What does today’s reading tell us about Jesus? It certainly tells us that He has power over death. It teaches us that He has compassion for those who suffer, especially the powerless and hopeless. From the way the crowd reacted, we can see that He was regarded by the people as a great prophet in the line of Elijah who raises a widow’s son from the dead in today’s first reading. We can go a step further and proclaim that He is God because only God has power over death.
The next letter, “C”, challenges us to look at the reading and see where it is calling us to change our behaviour, beliefs or attitudes. This can be the hardest step for us to take but it is where we will find the most fruit. As we look at the gospel reading, we see Jesus coming into a hopeless situation. This widow in losing her son was losing everything. Her son would have been her only hope of having a stable life. He would have been the only one able to protect her. Now she would be all alone with no means of income and no civil rights. Jesus comes into the picture and restores her hope. He feels compassion for her and makes things right again.
How can this story challenge us? Perhaps there is an area of our life where we have given up hope. Perhaps there is a difficulty we are facing that is dragging us down and we have no idea how we are going to deal with it. Maybe we have given up on praying and asking God for help because we cannot see what He could possibly do to change things. The challenge for us might be to hand our problem over to the Lord, to invite Him into the situation to entrust our cares to Him and restore our hope that He can set things right for us. It might simply mean waiting with hope and trust that He will act when the time is right. Today’s gospel reading can challenge us to see Jesus as our ultimate hope rather than relying merely on our own strength or resourcefulness.
The final step, “D”, is for “decision”. After reading today’s gospel, what will we do to change our lives? It is unlikely that any of us will be able to raise the dead, but there are other ways that we can bring hope into the lives of the people around us. We may know someone who, like the widow in the gospel, has lost a loved one and would appreciate a shoulder to cry on. We may know someone who is struggling financially and could use a visit to take their minds off their troubles for awhile. After reading today’s gospel, we could decide to invite Jesus into the areas of our lives where we have lost hope and, through prayer, to put everything into His hands and believe that He will make a difference.
Reading the Bible is vital to our spiritual lives. The ABCD method of reflecting on our first impression, reviewing the big ideas in the reading, seeing how the reading challenges us and deciding to make a change can go a long way in deepening our understanding of God’s word and bringing our lives more and more in line with God’s will for us. Applying that method to today’s gospel teaches us that there is no situation that is beyond the power of God. We can entrust everything to Him with the hope that He will bring good out of it. On this day when we gather to hear His word and receive the gift of His Body and Blood let us entrust our very selves to Him and trust that we will witness with our own eyes the wonders of His power and love.