The Alleluia verse for this week sums up the message of the Scriptures: “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and Life.”
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses urged the people to heed God’s voice and keep his commands. God’s will is not mysterious from our understanding, but is already in our mouths and our hearts. “We have only to carry it out.”
In Luke’s account, a legal scholar presented a question about what is needed for eternal life and Jesus invited him to answer his own question. After an accurate response about the law of love of God and neighbor, the scholar asked the more difficult question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the story of the Good Samaritan.
We, too, look to the Word of God for answers to life’s deepest questions. While the prescriptions are sometimes difficult to live — the message is usually clear — written in our hearts. But it takes listening and pondering to understand.
The Liturgy of the Word at Mass begins with the first reading and ends with the general intercessions.
In ordinary time, the first reading and the Gospel usually have a similar message. The second reading is a continuous reading from one of the letters of St. Paul.
Between the first and second reading we pause to reflect, and then sing or recite the responsorial psalm. Some psalms are hymns, recalling the great things God has done for us. Some psalms are laments — pleas for help and expressions of trust in God’s power to save.
We sing the Alleluia as the priest or deacon processes with the Gospel Book to the ambo. As a sign of reverence for Christ’s special presence, we stand for the reading of the Gospel.
The homily is an essential part of the Liturgy of the Word. Those of us old enough to remember the Mass before 1970 experienced the sermon — which was usually an explanation or a teaching on some truths of our faith. In contrast, the homily is an explanation and application of the Scriptures or other liturgical text or a reflection on the paschal mystery.
We respond with quiet reflection, followed by a common profession of faith. True hearing necessitates a response. The verbal response comes in the Creed, but the continuing response comes in a changed heart and actions.
The Liturgy of the Word closes with the general intercessions. We exercise our baptismal priesthood and pray for the needs of the church, the world and the special concerns of our community.
This week, we might consider reading the Scriptures BEFORE we come to Mass so that we can listen more attentively and think about what God might be asking of us.
Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay.