Week 2 - Liturgy of the Word

Presented at all Masses the weekend of January 24-25

We see and hear things all week long and have a tendency to become a bit tone deaf to so much information. But if there was one period during the week that we should actively listen, it would be during the Liturgy of the Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that recalls for us the meaning of the salvation event by giving life to the Word of God, which is proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word so that it may be received and lived.

The Liturgy of the Word will begin with the First Reading with the Lector standing at the Ambo. (That’s a Latin word meaning “raised platform.”) The Lectors spend the whole week before the Mass studying and absorbing the readings they present to us. So it’s important to remain as focused on the words as we can and open our hearts to hear anew the Word of God.

Typically, the First Reading is from the Old Testament. During Easter Time, the reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. You’ll notice that the Lector pauses for a moment or two to reflect upon the word we’ve just heard.

Then the Responsorial Psalm will be sung by the Cantor or a choir member. Psalms reflect a vast array of emotions as we hear lament, thanksgiving, praise and petition. These words help us to express our own faith in God.
The Second Reading is usually a letter from the New Testament. It will be read by the Lector. Again, a brief period of silence takes place after the Second Reading. The proclamation does not stop with a teaching; it elicits the response of faith as consent and commitment, directed at the covenant between God and his people.

Then comes the Gospel. When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel. We’ll stand as a community during the Gospel
 procession as a show of respect for the words we are about to hear. We’ll sing “Alleluia” except during the Lenten season. The Book of the Gospels is often accompanied with candles and, on solemn occasions, with incense. This will lead to the high point of the Liturgy of the Word: the proclamation of the Gospel. Most Sundays, these words are the words of Jesus as recorded in the accounts of the Gospel.

Afterward, the Priest or Deacon will give his Homily. The Homily should connect the Readings and the Gospel to the lives of all of us – frequently by tying in current events that we can relate to. It ties all these things together while taking into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.

Notice that we paused after the Homily for a few moments of our own reflection on what God is telling us today. The Priest will lead us in our Profession of Faith. The purpose of the Creed or Profession of Faith is that all of us be able to respond to the readings and homily by honoring and confessing our belief in the great mysteries of the faith.

Then the Deacon or Lector will read the Prayer of the Faithful. These prayers often follow the theme of both the Homily and the Gospel. They combine the needs of the Church, the world, the oppressed, and the local community with God’s word proclaimed in the liturgy.

We pause again for another moment of silent prayer, a time for each of us to offer our own thoughts, needs and hopes to God. At best, it’s a very personal intimate conversation between each of us and the God who
knows and loves us in a very personal way. The closing prayer of the Prayer of the Faithful concludes the Liturgy of the Word.

Though we cannot “see” words, we can feel them. Their power, especially if they are Christ’s words proclaimed in liturgy, touch us with comfort or challenge us to live Christ’s mission given to the Church.