This insight introduces Chapter Three of The
Mass: Four Encounters With Jesus That Will Change Your Life by Dr. Tom
Curran, which will provide the content for this reflection on how Jesus
encounters us in The Word of the Lord. Whether we are listening to
God’s Word at Mass or during our private reading of Scripture, the
disposition needed to make this activity fruitful is that of openness
and attentiveness. This rarely comes naturally, but Dr. Curran
convincingly makes the case that it is well worth the effort required.
Most church-goers are familiar with the twofold
structure of the Mass. The Liturgy of the Word consists of everything from
the First Reading to the Prayers of the Faithful, which is then followed by
the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is good to note that the seated posture in
which we enjoy most of the scriptural proclamation is one of active
receptivity, not passive inactivity.
As Dr. Curran notes, "It’s easy to think of
standing as an active and alert posture, and sitting as a passive and
inactive posture." Rather, he points out, "It’s as if God is saying to us,
‘Please sit down, I have something to say to you’." Just as the Word of God
is living and active (see Heb. 4:12), so must we be, especially at
Mass. If we truly expect that Jesus has a message specifically for me each
time I encounter His Word, we will tend to be more attentive to it.
Group Bible studies have become increasingly
popular of late. New methods of explaining and presenting its structure and
its teachings are not only well accepted, but have proven quite useful in
helping readers to appreciate God’s Word. However, as Dr. Curran puts it,
"If we relate to the Bible as a divinely inspired Owner’s Manual, we will
not expect or seek an encounter with Jesus Christ when we read it." He adds,
"We read the Bible to meet the Author, God Himself. That’s interaction! We
can do this because Jesus Christ is the Word of God."
Think of reading the Bible (or hearing the Word
proclaimed) like answering the phone, wherein you expect to hear a
voice when you answer. We should expect to hear the voice of God in
His Word, at once capable of revealing our sinful attitudes and healing our
hidden wounds. We profit from having our ears and hearts open so that we can
respond to God’s Word with gratitude ("Thanks be to God!"), be it comforting
and consoling or convicting and challenging.
In the Responsorial Psalm, the Church personalizes
our responses for us, putting them generally in the first person: "In you,
Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame" (Ps.31). Even if the
emotions expressed in the Psalm do not reflect our own at the time, they are
being experienced by many other members of the Body of Christ, with whom we
are united at Mass.
Finally, we stand up in response to Jesus’
imminent personal message for us from the Gospel. We even bless our mind,
our lips and our hearts before hearing what He has to say, signifying
that we are ready and open to receive His Word. Copious faith
and trust are required when we do not know what God has in store for us, but
our posture and receptive disposition say, "Lord, I’m ready for whatever you
have in store for me; bring it on!" More to come…