We have met Jesus. We suspect—or even affirm—that he is what he says he is: the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We confront the image of him crucified, and it won’t leave us. We read what he says about being free from burdens, the possibility of eternal life, and God’s care for us when we are lost. We are, as Pope Benedict wrote of St. Peter, “fascinated” by Jesus. Now what?
The figure of Jesus Christ beckons and intrigues us. We’re drawn to learn more about him, so it makes sense that we turn to the source: the Bible. It does, indeed, make perfect sense to turn to the Scriptures as we seek to know Jesus. In fact, as St. Jerome says, it makes no sense to claim to know Jesus without the Scriptures: “He who is ignorant of the Scriptures is ignorant of Christ.”
Pope Benedict said in a speech in 2008:
How can one love, how can one enter into friendship with someone unknown? Knowledge is an incentive to love, and love stimulates knowledge. This is how it is with Christ too. To find love with Christ, to truly find him as the companion of our lives, we must first of all be acquainted with him. Like the two disciples who followed him after hearing the words of John the Baptist and asked him timidly, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” they wanted to know him better. It was Jesus himself, talking to his disciples, who made the distinction: “Who do people say that I am?”—referring to those who knew him from afar, so to speak, by hearsay, and “Who do you say that I am?”—referring to those who knew him personally, having lived with him and having truly penetrated his private life, to the point of witnessing his prayer, his dialogue with the Father. Thus, it is also important for us not to reduce ourselves merely to the superficiality of the many who have heard something about him—that he was an important figure, etc.—but to enter into a personal relationship to know him truly. And this demands knowledge of Scripture, especially of the gospels where the Lord speaks to us.
But for many of us, finding and getting to know Jesus through the Scriptures is really not as simple as it sounds. We may be intimidated by the prospect of reading the Bible, since we have never really studied it. We may, unfortunately, think of Scripture reading and study as something for Protestants, not Catholics. We may also be working within some particularly modern paradigms of viewing the Bible, paradigms that are of great interest to Pope Benedict and that he addresses frequently in his catechesis. In short are we too studious about the Bible—and not prayerful enough?