The Gospel reading rather dominates the Liturgy of the Word.
- It is the culmination of the Liturgy of the Word and is accompanied by the a variety of ritual enhancements – a different (ordained) minister; a different book (often); the procession of the minister to proclaim the reading is accompanied by sing, candles and incense; the congregation stands to receive the word proclaimed; the the book itself may be incensed in final preparation for the proclamation of the word.
- Almost always the Gospel reading will prove to be the reading that is already most familiar to the congregation.
- It is the last of the readings that we hear, and so most likely to be the one will remember best (especially if no silence has been allowed for us to reflect on the preceding readings
- Most commonly the homily that follows will focus principally on the Gospel reading.
It is difficult to argue against the importance of the Gospel reading – and who would want to.
However, recall the call made in Sacrosanctum concilium.
Vatican Council II asked that:
The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.Sacrosanctum Concilium 51
It is not enough that the richer fare be provided by the Lectionary and proclaimed by ministers. It needs to be received and savoured by the congregation as a whole. To continue with the image of the meal shared – the first courses need to give us a taste for the main course, even give us a hunger for it.
Pope Francis in recent catechesis reminded
We listen to the Gospel in order to realize what Jesus once did and said; and that Word is living, the Word of Jesus that is in the Gospel is alive and touches my heart. Therefore, listening to the Gospel is very important, with an open heart, because it is the living Word. Saint Augustine writes: “The Gospel is the mouth of Christ. He is seated in heaven, but he has not stopped speaking on earth”. If it is true that in the liturgy “Christ is still proclaiming His Gospel”, it follows that, by participating in the Mass, we must give him a response. We listen to the Gospel and we must give a response in our life.Catechesis given at St Peter’s, Wednesday, 7 February 2018
There is much to notice in those words, but I’ll comment on just one thing: the Pope’s repeated statement that we participate, we listen, we must respond. It is not enough that the homilist should respond for us. Indeed his words should not even be intended as direct response to the readings but a further aid to our hearing and responding. But what it shold never be is a replacaement for our response.
A pause is required before we proceed to…, well, to what? But, let us not consider the homily as dessert, more as a digestif…
How well do we serve the meal? In all that we do, and how we do it, how well do we serve those who come to dine on the word of the Lord?
~ Translation of the General Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass (c) 1969, 1981, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
~ Commentary: (c) 2021, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: (c) 2016, Allen Morris. SIon Gospel Book, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.