A Catholic reads the Bible, Week 37: Prophetpalooza

The Hebrew prophets certainly had a lot to say. But did anyone listen?

This is Week 37 of a yearlong series: A Catholic Reads the Bible. Read Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3. Laura Bernardini is director of coverage in CNN's Washington Bureau. The views expressed in this column belong to Bernardini.

(CNN)As I push toward the end of the Old Testament, it felt like this week was Prophetpalooza.

Laura Bernardini
I read through: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Jonah.
    Taken all together, their writings are sad. These prophets are trying to warn the people of Israel, and yet no one seemed to be listening. (Yes, we have been here stuck in groundhog day for a few hundred pages -- or a few hundred years in the Bible.)
    I didn't know anything about Hosea, Joel, Amos or Obadiah. I only knew about Jonah because he was swallowed by the whale. But, that was just a few short lines in that book.
    There is a whole lot more in there. Jonah wasn't a happy man. The coloring book version of the story wouldn't tell you that. He suggested that he should be thrown into the sea to calm it. The introduction says that it's a precursor to the idea of redemption and mercy in the New Testament. Bring it on.
    I bet you haven't even heard of Obadiah. It's the shortest book in the Old Testament at 21 verses and that alone should have made it my favorite. But, instead, it's all about vengeance against Edom -- an enemy of Israel. Fire meets brimstone.
    This all led me to the weekly question of what in the world am I going to write? But, as I flip through my notes, I am starting to see a new trend emerge.
    Thirty-six weeks ago, I took notes on almost everything I read. I kept track of the number of cubits in the ark or the order of the Kings. It was all new to me. I needed that content to understand what I was reading.
    But it was a crutch as I wrote summaries or tried to find my focus.
    Now, my notes aren't on content. They are focused on the verses that I like and have relevance to me. It's my personal evolution.
    A perfect example of this happened in Hosea - Chapter 6, verse 6. It's a simple line "For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts." It made me think of how we go through Lent -- it's not about what you give up, but rather what you do.
    Holocausts to idols was the accepted form of worship -- just like how we were all taught to give up soda or chocolate for 40 days. I saw a parallel in my personal life. This past Lent, I focused on doing service instead of giving anything.
    Another example was also found in Hosea -- Chapter 13:2: "Now they continue to sin, making for themselves molten images, silver idols according to their fancy, all of them work as artisans. 'To these,' they say, 'offer sacrifice.' Men kiss calves!"
    While I laughed at the line about men kissing calf statues, I thought it is, at root, a conversation about the look of a church or how beautiful it is. It made me remember it is about the conversation and worship of God, not where you do it.
    In that short book of Obadiah, verse 2 gave me chills. "See, I make you small among nations; you are held in dire contempt."
    The verse, which is talking about Edom, was a reminder that if you need help with a creative insult or a threat -- just flip through your Bible. I think "dire contempt" should be introduced into the lexicon of today for an ultimate insult.
    Realizing this shift in my notes made me really happy and gave me the push for those final books. It's time for Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.