THE Bible represents a remarkable book – for Catholics and lapsed Catholics alike.
Aside from being the greatest seller of any tome worldwide, it has been an element in forming our modern ideas of justice and democracy.
It also features some of the most beautiful, and not to say pointed, literature and poetry.
Can there be a more elegant evocation of schadenfreude than these lines from the 23rd Psalm: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
Your enemies watching on in harmless spite (presumably from a safe distance) while a triumphant feast of yours takes place.
The New Community Bible (Catholic edition), which has just been published, gives you all that — plus a running pastoral commentary.
This version of the scriptures, is a revised edition of the popular Christian Community Bible translated by Bernardo Hurault, a French priest, from the original Aramaic and Hebrews to Spanish in 1971.
Five tracts from the Bible which can help you make sense of the world
Existentialism or pre-determination?
From Ecclesiastes comes one of the best known verses in the Bible. These lines have even made it into popular culture, when The Byrds recorded Pete Seeger’s version known as Turn, Turn Turn.
In the US, the song holds the distinction as the No. 1 hit with the oldest lyrics in the history of rock music.
But it’s not difficult to see why — the words are a perfect blueprint of how to contemplate life…
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Care for our fellow humans
One of the loveliest tracts of the Bible concerns how to treat strangers. It’s comforting to think that in Ireland, extending the hand of friendship to everyone, still exists.
A stranger asking the way in remote parts of Ireland can still turn into a social occasion.
But with the world’s refugee crisis worsening every day, these beautiful words from Hebrews should ring loudly in everyone’s ear:
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
For anyone entering a committed relationship, the words of Ruth (Verse 16, Chapter 1) are beautiful and enduring:
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you. For whether thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people shall be my people and thy God my God.”
Further reflections on the enduring capacity of love comes from the Book of Corinthians:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”
Swinging the lead
The Bible has plenty to say about the meek, the good, the faithful. But it also mentions the skivers, in particular the book of Proverbs:
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
The New Community Bible is available from St Pauls by Westminster Cathedral, Morpeth Terrace, Victoria, London SW1P 1EP