Reading the Bible for Lent

Reading and meditating on scripture is a way to enrich Lent and prepare for the Easter celebration. There are endless approaches, and everyone can experiment on what feels best. Some can find time every day, busy people may settle on once or twice a week. Here are a few suggestions of where to start. You can simply open the book, and read anything, but a program is helpful for the 40 days. The New Testament is best for most beginners. In the four gospels you encounter Christ while the other texts show how the earliest followers of Jesus wrote about him. Two reflective books are Letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians.

Some may choose to do some study for background of the readings (as you find weekly on the parish website). The Jerusalem Bible has some guidance and Nicholas King’s translation has extensive notes on each book. Since this is Year B, reading Mark consecutively instead of ‘bits and pieces’ as at Mass could be an easy choice. Rowan Williamson’s short Meeting God in Mark has a general introduction and includes suggested readings for each week of Lent. Nicholas King’s short The Strangest Gospel tries to jolt the readers out a rut of thinking they ‘know’ Mark, and take a closer look.

There are dozens of ‘commentaries’ from short and simple to deep and scholarly. Online book outlets have a great variety for one book or for all. Some used ones can be inexpensive and many are in paperback.

The Old Testament is a complex book, written over hundreds of years, some in styles that are no longer used. It almost demands some help, either for individual books, or some general background. I like two by Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry and The Art of Biblical Narrative. Raymond E. Brown has some introductions to the whole.

Another way is to use the daily mass readings. There are daily missals, but also online sources and Apps, such as Universalis. A traditional prayer is ‘Lectio Divina’ in which a short selection is read, then one takes some time to reflect on it. Any of these can be done with another person, or as a family group. On the parish website ( there are older guides that may be found, with introductions to all four gospels.

Perhaps at the end of Lent, we who have read more of the Bible will find we don’t want to stop at Easter! It can be a daily companion.

Joan Griffith