You and I have an advantage over most of the Christians who lived in the first 1500 years since Jesus, and over many Christians throughout the world to this day: We, unlike them, can read and write. Have you ever thought of these skills as useful in your spiritual life?
It used to be that most people had to gather (as at Mass) to hear a literate person read God’s Word to them. So it was occasional, and at times not of their choosing. We have the opportunity to read for ourselves – do we take it? Good commentaries, spiritual books and magazines and websites are easily available (although it’s important to weed through the junk that’s out there and not be misled; Church guidance is very helpful in this area). What do we do with the great gift of being able to read?
One very practical thing you can – should – do that calls on your ability to read is this: Each week, early in the week if possible, read the Gospel that will be read at Mass on the coming Sunday. You can find the readings for every day (not just Sunday) on the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ website: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings or you can use our Sunday Bulletin. On the inside cover, around the middle of the page, you’ll find a section that looks like this:
Worship for Sunday, February 15, 2015
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lev 13: 1-2,44-46 / 1 Cor 10:31-11:1 / Mk 1:40-45
The first line tells you the date of the coming Sunday. The second line is the liturgical date. The third line has the citations for the Scripture readings in the order we’ll hear them at Mass. Each citation works like this: the abbreviation for the name of the Book of the Bible (above, Leviticus, then First Corinthians, then Mark’s Gospel); In front of the colon (:) is the chapter of that book from which we read; after the colon, the verses. (If the verses are read without break, there’s a dash (–) between the first and last number; if verses are skipped, there’s a comma where we skip. So from Leviticus, we’ll hear chapter 13, verses one and two, then forty-four through forty-six.) (Sometimes – as with next weekend’s second reading – we’ll hear a passage that runs over a break between chapters: so we read above as, First Corinthians chapter 10, verse 31, through chapter 11, verse one.) Just about any Bible follows the same conventions for chapter and verse numbers.
If you want to read all three Scripture readings for the coming Sunday, that’s great; but make it a point always to read the Gospel. Set aside about fifteen minutes when you can expect not to be disturbed; read the text slowly (even out loud); if any word, phrase, or image seems important to you, stop there for a bit and be still; then continue reading. Then read the text again the same way. And then read it a third time, again the same way. When you’re finished, ask God to help you to remember one thing from the text that will help you during the week, and thank God for giving you His Word and the skill to read it.
If you do this consistently you’ll find out that the Scriptures at Mass take on a new significance. God’s word will come more alive at Mass because you’ll have done some work beforehand. But there’s still more – something that calls on that other amazing skill, the ability to write. More about that next week.
Until then, peace.