God’s word is active

By | October 8, 2009

I don’t think that the author of Hebrews would agree with the retort “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!” In the Second Reading for this Sunday he says, “…the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow…” God’s words are powerful.

In the Jewish tradition, people of that time believed that when God spoke something happened. A word did much more than name or describe an object or an action.

For example, in Genesis, God spoke and whatever he called forth came into being. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God’s word is an action or an event that fulfills whatever God sends it out to do. It does more than communicate.

Our faith tradition also holds the same belief. God’s word is active when proclaimed at Mass. The lector or deacon does more than read the words in the Lectionary (the book that contains the Scriptures read at Mass) out loud. The lector, who proclaims, speaks as one who has read the passage several times and thought about it. The lector not only makes the words on the page of the Lectionary audible and clear, but shares something that has passed through his or her mind and heart.

There is another partner in proclamation — we, the people in the church who hear the reading. While the lector who truly proclaims may catch our attention, we must be open to what we hear. We listen. God communicates to each of us. It helps to look at the lector rather than read along. True communication requires eye contact.

At the beginning of the first two readings the lector looks at us and says, “A reading from … (the book of the Bible from which the passage as been taken).” This phrase is an announcement of what is to be proclaimed and reminds us to “Listen up; pay attention.” At the end of the readings the lector looks at us and says, “The Word of the Lord.” The printed words in the Lectionary are not only spoken, but the words have been heard and received by us. We have the opportunity to thank God for what we have just heard as we reply, “Thanks be to God.” The silence after each reading gives us a moment to savor a phrase or thought that may have struck us during the reading.

Proclamation takes effort. The lector needs to spend preparation time on the readings, making it a part of prayer and practicing it aloud. Then the lector can truly share that reading. As we pay attention to that proclamation we may find that God has something to say to us. For God consoles, comforts, guides and challenges us through the Scriptures.


Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.

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