One of the problems BEC leaders in urban areas have is that the members of their cell groups are professionals, college graduates and individuals who are daily in contact with representatives of other religions. To get ahead of them and be able to present a gospel reading for reflection would seem to require a broader biblical and liturgical culture. That is true of course; it is for this reason that formation programs for the laity are offered by dioceses (e.g. the GAWARASAL). It is also for this reason that during the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, it was decided that Lay Ministers of the Word should also be installed alongside the Lay Ministers of the Eucharist. Parishes have also been sending chosen members to pastoral programs where these are existent. I together with three other parishioners have attended the Scripture Ventures program in Tagaytay. But training programs are not enough. A BEC leader will still have to learn to use the tools for “unloosing” a Scriptural passage. In the Joy of Discovery module that one of my companions attended in the Scripture Ventures program I mentioned above, she discovered that she has to make use not only of the biblical text, but also bible dictionaries, bible atlases, encyclopedias and concordances. It would be good to have these in a parish library for example, but these can be very expensive if purchased for a personal library. For the moment, the web can be a good provider for supplementary materials, and there are websites in existence that provide various tools for the study of the biblical text. But apart from the kind of tools mentioned above, is there another way for the urban BEC leader to prepare him/herself for the challenging task of leading a cell group in the study of the Sunday gospel? My answer is yes, there is another way, but it does not render the other tools mentioned above unnecessary.
The first tool that one should have is a reading skill. A lot of people may find this surprising but the BEC leader is basically someone who helps others “read” the Scriptures. The urban BEC leader should know how to read, whether in English or the Filipino dialects used for the Mass in his/her area. For the Catholic, understanding the grammar and syntax of the biblical text, even if it is only in a translation, is necessary, given our understanding of biblical inspiration: it is through the literal sense that we can reach the spiritual sense of the Scriptures. We won’t be able to get to the spiritual sense unless we understand how the nouns and verbs function in a given bible passage. My recommendation for improving one’s reading skill is to make a sentence flow of the biblical text to be read in a BEC meeting. Apart from that, the BEC leader should be able to do an intelligent reading of the Scriptures.
The second tool is a good sense for what is going on in the liturgy, especially in the Mass. The natural environment for the understanding of the Scriptures is the “breaking of the bread” now known as the Holy Eucharist. The urban BEC leader should be an individual who is familiar with the spirit of the liturgy. A certain connaturality should exist between him and the Eucharistic celebration for even the Christian scriptures grew out of that celebration. 1 Without this connaturality with the Eucharist, no one should volunteer to be a BEC leader.
The third tool that one should have is a good translation of the Bible. In the past, Catholics were told that they should look for translations having an Imprimatur. I would put that as a last requirement, however. I would recommend the following criteria:
- It should be in a language that is easily understood by the reader (An English translation even a Filipino one that still uses archaic forms do not fulfill this criterion. Current usage in the Filipino-speaking areas of the Philippines would put the New American Bible and the Popular Tagalog Version at the top of the list since these are the ones approved for the liturgy.)
- It should reflect advances in modern biblical scholarship (Bibles like the NAB and the JB include supplementary materials and instructive marginal and footnotes that help one in the understanding of the text apart from reflecting recent advances in textual criticism.)
- It should contain the 73 books of Scriptures, the complete Catholic canon (Tagalog Popular Version that includes the so-called “Deutero-canonicals” fulfills this criterion); and lastly,
- It must bear the IMPRIMATUR (This is useful in places where the other three cannot be found.)
The fourth tool that a BEC leader should have is the Christian Community Bible. It was designed for BEC leaders. It has a lot of marginal notes and supplementary materials that complete those found in the NAB or the JB. Students of the bible are generally told to have two bibles for the sake of comparison. The Christian Community Bible (Philippine edition) though inferior in in a lot of ways to the NAB or the Good News series, provides something that the other translations don’t: a simple-to-understand presentation of biblical themes and resource materials geared towards the understanding of the Scriptures.
Tool number five is the Catholic Catechism. The first Philippine edition has a resource called the Biblical Index which was removed in subsequent printings. There are still some who own copies of this edition; they may even be found in BookSale stores. The usefulness of this Biblical Index cannot be exaggerated: through it one can get an idea of how particular passages from Scriptures are understood by the Church.
The sixth tool that a BEC leader should have and consult is St. Paul’s Sambuhay Missalette. I will soon be posting a brief tutorial on how to use this tool. It is a very useful tool and should be used with intelligence. Recent editions of this Missalette are designed to help the user prepare oneself to listen to the liturgy and to take part in it.
Finally, the last tools that one would need to have is a notebook and a ballpen. One will need these to create sentence flows, to take note and even to highlight important words or phrases that are given in the Bible text. A notebook is a kind of external hard drive that augments the capacity of your personal hard drive, the memory.
Originally posted 2008-08-16 18:28:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
- Before the New Testament came out, Christians heard the Old Testament books proclaimed in the breaking bread with the apostle or his co-worker/successor proclaiming the Christ-event. What we now call “gospels” are written versions of that proclamation. [↩]
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