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Climbing the mountain to meet the God of Abraham

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Fifteen years ago during the Easter Vigil Mass, I became a full-fledged member of the Catholic Church. Since then, my conversion has been slow but steady. Back then, I didn’t know what an encyclical was, or an ecumenical council, or hundreds of other nuggets of information that the Church has collected for more than 2,000 years. It’s a lot to take in, and it can be daunting. But over the years, curiosity has led me to read more, learn more. And while I’m certain that I’ll never reach the bottom of the Church’s deep well of history and knowledge, I’ll keep plodding along.

But there’s one area in my faith journey where I’ve simply been at a standstill: reading Scripture.

More than a year ago, as the calendar flipped from 2019 to 2020 — a timespan that seems more like 14 years ago than 14 months — I made a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible cover to cover. Knowing it would be a tall mountain to climb, I took the first step by buying a Bible that was broken into 365 daily readings. I made it maybe three weeks. Once God brought down the 10 plagues and Pharaoh let Moses and the people of Israel go, I, too, wandered off into the desert.

As I mentioned in a column back in January, I’m again trying to climb that mountain, but I’m not going alone; this time, my family is coming with me (though it seems we’ll have to drag them along at times). Each night before bedtime, we’ve been listening to Ascension Press’ “The Bible in a Year” podcast, hosted by Father Mike Schmitz. As I’m writing this, we’re past the 50-day mark. Ascension’s reading plan zigzags a little, but we’ve read through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Job, and we’ve dabbled in Proverbs and Psalms. We’re just now jumping into Numbers and Deuteronomy as we move slowly but steadily up the mountain.

If you’ve read the back end of Exodus and all of Leviticus, congratulations. It was a steep climb — for me, my wife and my kids. Most nights, we’d have anywhere between two and five people fall asleep to the dulcet tones of Father Mike reading aloud the exact measurements of acacia wood. Reading these less-than-riveting parts of the Bible, I’ve come to find, are a little like having to eat your vegetables along with your steak — they might not taste as good going down, but that doesn’t mean they don’t nourish you. Just as our diet can’t consist only of burgers and ice cream, neither can the Bible all be Noah and the flood or Joseph and his technicolor dream coat.

If you read closely — or listen closely and don’t fall asleep — you’ll realize that, in what seem like mundane details, God is showing his people, who have been enslaved in Egypt for more than 400 years, how they are to worship him. While that might not drive you to turn the pages the way that other parts of Scripture do, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t important to our lives today.

But the most profound lesson I’ve learned early on in this yearlong journey isn’t about any particular book or story arc. The thing that has stood out to me is that the same God who created the world and everything in it, who tested Abraham, who told Noah to build the ark, who chose a reluctant Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, who rewarded the faith of Job — he is the same God to whom we cry for help when a child is sick or a parent is dying, to whom we give thanks each night. The God who was present to Moses on Mount Sinai is the same God who is present to us in the Blessed Sacrament. The God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob is the same God who is walking with us today, yearning for us to be in a relationship with him.

Knowing this, how can we help but answer his call to love him more, to know him better? How do we refuse his desire for us to meet him in the Scriptures, to climb that mountain?

Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor.

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