The Bible in a Year

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B

18 April 2021

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

–Luke 35:45–

            Wouldn’t it be nice if you had your own personal guide to help you read and interpret the Bible?  Well, have I got good news for you!  Some of you may be familiar with dynamic, young Father Mike Schmitz, a priest for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, who currently runs the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  On January 1, 2021, Father Mike began a podcast called “The Bible in a Year.”  He promises that if you listen to him for from twenty to thirty minutes every day, you will, after 365 days, have heard the entire Bible—and that includes even the Catholic books of the Old Testament such as Sirach and 1 and 2 Maccabees!  A number of Saint Jane[1] parishioners and I have been keeping up with the podcast, and today, April 18, is Day 108.  That means we are more than 29% through the year and more than 29% through the Bible!

            “The Bible in a Year” podcast, sponsored by Ascension Press, has so far been one of the most popular podcasts ever.  Even Ben Shapiro has given it his endorsement.  It is a fabulous way to get to know the Scriptures.

           In addition, Father Schmitz’ brief commentaries are spot on.  Have you, for example, ever pondered a passage like Exodus 11:10?

Thus, although Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders in Pharaoh’s presence, the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go from his land.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart?  God caused Pharaoh to sin?  It seems unfair that God would cause someone to sin and then punish that person and a whole nation for committing the sin.  Father Schmitz offers a wonderfully simple explanation of the problem of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart.  This is what he says on Day 32 of the podcast.  I quote:

So…why is God hardening Pharaoh’s heart?  .…I’ve heard it explained this way, that God is always good…  …God is goodness itself.  God is truth itself.  God is life itself.  …God is mercy itself….  It’s kind of like the sun….  In the presence of the…sun’s heat, wax…become soft…but clay hardens…  It’s in many ways about the disposition of the heart.  If my heart is open to the Lord…if my heart is wax, …it becomes softened in the presence of the Lord.  But if my heart is clay, it becomes hardened in the presence of the Lord….  God is obviously demonstrating His reality…., and Pharaoh, in the sight of that,…hardens his heart.  .…But when we realize that…God never overwhelms…our free will…, then we have to …[ask] does this happen in my life, where I find my heart becoming hardened in God’s presence?  ….The challenge is to never let our hearts become hardened to the Lord.  The challenge would be that I always have a heart that is soft when it comes to the Lord’s presence and His power and His will for my life.[2]

           Father Mike claims that the Bible is like light, like a mirror, and like sandpaper.  Sacred Scripture enlightens the mind, shows us who we really are, and convicts us of sin.

            I myself have greatly profited from “The Bible in a Year” podcast.  Others have as well.  Father Schmitz says there have been “unbelievable stories of renewed faith, of conversion, of grace.”  If you have not been listening to the podcast, you can start any time you wish.  For those of us who began on January 1, today, April 18, is, as I said, Day 108.  But any day you choose can be Day 1.   How about today?  If you have a smart phone or a tablet, I highly recommend listening.  You can also find the podcast on our parish homepage.  Just scroll down a little; you’ll find it.  Before long, Father Schmitz will become part of your daily routine.

           Again, that’s “The Bible in a Year” Podcast with Father Mike Schmitz.  I won’t be offended if you take out your devices right now and subscribe.  Besides, I won’t see you anyway.  Father Mike made even Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy painless—well, almost painless!  In any event, he will open your mind to understand the Scriptures.

[1] Saint Jane Frances de Chantal Church, Easton, Pennsylvania.

[2] Father Mike Schmitz, The Bible in a Year podcast, “Day 32: Cattle, Boils, and Hail,” 1 February 2021, my own transcription.