By Joyce Gan

SINGAPORE - Bible Sunday is celebrated on Jul 8 in the Singapore Archdiocese this year. The theme chosen by The Regional Biblical Commission follows Lk 10:3 - "I am sending you out like lambs among wolves."

To help parishes prepare for Bible Sunday, the Singapore Archdiocese Biblical Apostolate (SABAT) held a workshop on May 31 at the Singapore Pastoral Institute which was attended by approximately 65 Bible Apostolate Team (BAT) members from 15 parishes (photo).

The Word of God and Lectio Divina

Father Ambrose Vaz, who is the Director of SABAT, advised participants that lambs going out among wolves need to be armed properly and the Word of God is what will empower. The ICPE (Institute for World Evangelisation) team was then invited to impart the Lectio Divina method of praying Scripture. It is a method that invites participants to read a passage, reflect upon its significance, respond by acknowledging feelings aroused and to rest after discerning what God is calling one to do.

Lectio Divina has been chosen because it was felt that many neglect or are unaware of how to read the Word of God, often reading the Bible like they would a novel or understanding it using only their intellectual abilities.

"You have to let the Word sink in and really savour the Word of God," encourages Amilia Chai (photo), who has been with the ICPE for almost seven years. "Let the Word of God speak to you."

Too often, we don't spend enough time to reflect on the Word of God as well. Amilia shares what a friend had said to her, "Food for you must be chewed by yourself, not someone else. Prayer is the same. We need to find the meaning in God's Word for ourselves. While (reading other reflections) might be good and helpful, God may have something to speak to you that's personal and different."

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Secretary of SABAT Kathleen Khor agrees. "Sometimes, all we need to do is just to listen. We don't always have to try so hard," she says. Kathleen regrets that not many people know how to see the "treasure in the Word".

"When we study Scripture and then participate in the liturgy (at Mass), it becomes more enriching in our lives and we can fully see the Word come alive. But even if we read a lot of the Bible, we still don't know how rich it is until we do Bible Studies," she says. And only then can we find treasures in Scripture, what she says are "promises that God makes to us and how he keeps them".

Knowing God's Word and translating that into action in our daily lives is a different process altogether. It is easy to lose oneself in pursuing head knowledge as an end without learning the messages behind Scripture that will help to improve one's spiritual life and relationships with others. Kathleen went through this process.

"The excitement of Bible Study got to me. I was so excited about knowing so much about the history and culture of the Bible, and in so much detail that I was simply delving into knowledge," she admits.

"I know how we can get so caught up in the study and explanations that we forget relationships with people around us is more important than studying," she continues.

But she soon discovered from the Bible passages that her "relationship with Jesus was far more important than knowing all the facts and figures" she can read about. This in turn, helped her to overcome the problems she encountered in her life, as well as to be a more "hospitable" person, having learnt to trust God and to surrender to him.

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Suggestions for more coordination

Although 15 parishes turned up for SABAT's workshop on May 31, 12 other parishes did not. Very few responded to say they were not coming and SABAT is unclear why they were unable to. Kathleen says that the day's workshop brought up several suggestions for a more coordinated effort among Bible Study groups in our archdiocese. One suggestion raised was for each parish to have an assigned BAT, commissioned by the parish priests. This will help in communications between SABAT and BAT.

Presently, some parishes have individual Bible Study groups but no BAT to link them together or with SABAT.

"It would be good if we can have a point of reference, someone to talk to in each parish. Our main difficulty now is that we lack that," Kathleen says. "But we have noticed that a few more parishes have BATs now than before."

Other suggestions revealed BATs' eagerness to organize activities on a district level. "So there is no need to do things on our own - we can actually share resources and spread studies around," Kathleen indicates.

For example, Bible studies in parishes can be coordinated so they don't all fall on the same day of the week. This way, instead of 'fighting' for the same people to attend these classes, each class can draw more participants.

Kathleen feels Bible Sunday should not be left to one ministry to organize as it is a parish affair and, most of all, it should not be a one-day affair but one that lasts the whole year.

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