Looking for good summer reading? The Bible may not be the typical “go-to” book for taking along to the beach, but Scripture can be a wonderful summer companion. Consider choosing one or more of the following books to read through and pray with this summer. You’ll come away with a new perspective and a renewed love for God’s Word.
The Book of Psalms is an epic prayer book. It is filled with all kinds of prayers — petition, contrition, praise, recollections of God’s great deeds, and more. These prayers are uttered in every state of mind and emotion: anger, joy, sadness, confusion, gratitude, and wonder. These are the prayers Jesus himself knew by heart! The psalms can be prayers we can turn to when we have no words of our own.
Why not read a psalm every night before going to bed? There are 150 psalms total, but if you pray one each night from June through August, you’ll at least make it to Psalm 91, a favorite of many in times of difficulty. Mark your favorite psalms so you can turn to them again and again.
Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature; it is part of the corpus of Scripture that is most interested in figuring out how to live a full and happy life. The author of Ecclesiastes has discovered that a great deal of life is not happy — and he has a lot to say about that! Although I wouldn’t recommend reading Ecclesiastes on a day when you might feel sad, this Old Testament book offers a fantastic dose of reality.
Yet in the midst of some moaning and groaning (which we can all relate to), we discover some real treasures. The author reminds us that there are a few things worth holding on to in this fleeting, challenging life: good friends, good food and drink, good work, and unwavering faith in God.
Acts of the Apostles
Are you ready for an adventure? Acts is a sequel to Luke’s Gospel and tells the story of the early Church. Far from a boring chronicle of a bygone era, Acts tells the exciting story of how the first generation of Christians shared the Good News, even when it cost them imprisonment or their lives. Martyrdoms, conversions, trials, floggings, miracles, shipwrecks, snakebites, and humorous anecdotes pepper these accounts of Peter, Paul, and the early disciples who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
No matter how many miles they traveled or how many angry mobs surrounded them, the early Christians were determined to witness to the resurrection of Jesus and preach the salvation of all people in Christ. In a time when we are all searching for guideposts in what it means to “be Church,” this ancient story has a lot of contemporary relevance for Catholics.
A list of recommended Bible reading would be incomplete without one of St. Paul’s letters! The Letter to the Philippians is short but packed with stirring passages and essential Christian themes, such as joy in the midst of suffering, the importance of unity, and Christ’s example of humility and self-emptying. The letter exudes the affection of Paul for his community, an example of the bond between Christians and those who have brought them to Christ. Favorite passages include the Christ hymn (Philippians 2:5–11) and Paul’s advice for finding the peace of God “that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:4–9).
This New Testament letter includes a surprise for everyone. With its teachings about prayer, true religion, caring for the poor, guarding our tongues from speaking harshly, and living in quiet patience, James has a special message for each one of us, no matter where we are in our spiritual journeys. One of my favorite Scripture passages is found in this down-to-earth book — a saying every lover of the Word can take to heart:
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. (James 1:22)
Reading the Word is the first step. Praying the Word is the second. Doing the Word is the final step. After all, if we aren’t going to live it, we may as well not read the Word in the first place!