Special and important words

By Patricia Kasten | March 5, 2015

God speaks to us in Scripture and the homily, and we speak to God in prayers and petitions

Words, words, words.

What are your favorite words? (Maybe “chocolate?”) What are your least favorite words? (“There’s no chocolate?”)

The readings for this Third Sunday of Lent focus on words.

In the first reading, we hear about the Ten Commandments. In the psalm response, we will sing: “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.” In the Gospel, we hear Jesus speaking some heated words: “Get these out of here,” emphasized by a whip of cords.

The celebration of the Mass is broken into four parts: the introductory rites, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the concluding rites.

“The Liturgy of the Word” is the part of the Mass where we focus on the Word of God: the first reading, the psalm response, the second reading (on Sundays, solemnities and special occasions), the Gospel acclamation, the Gospel reading, the homily, the profession of faith (on Sundays, solemnities and special occasions, and not at most weekday Masses) and the prayer of the faithful.

During this part of the Mass, God speaks to us in God’s own words — recorded in sacred Scriptures. God also speaks to us in the homily of the priest or deacon. And we speak to God, using prayers, psalms, praises and our own petitions.

This week, we hear about some special words: commonly called “the Ten Commandments.” The commandments appear twice in the Old Testament: Exodus: 20:1-17 (which we hear this weekend) and Deuteronomy (5:4-12). In Hebrew, the commandments are called: Aseret ha-Dibrot — which translates as the Ten Sayings, Ten Words or Ten Things (but never as “Ten Commandments.”) When the Hebrew Scriptures were first translated, they were translated into Greek and the “Ten Words” became the “dekalogos” (literally “Ten Words” in Greek). Today, the Ten Commandments are sometimes called “the Decalogue.”

There are a lot more than 10 words, of course, in the commandments. And a lot of them are not good words: steal, murder, false witness, covet, idols. But there are also many wonderful words: honor, long life, father, mother, Sabbath and, of course, the Lord.

Listen to the Ten Words this week. Which of them really resonate with you? Listen closely to the Liturgy of the Word. Which words stand out for you today? When we offer the petitions and the time comes to speak “in the silence of your heart,” what words come to mind?

Finally, remember the most important word: Jesus. After all, he is the Word of God.

Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of two books: “Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers” and “Making Sense of Saints.”

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