God is truly present in this world in many ways. Scripture is one of those ways that God makes Himself present to us. When the Scriptures are proclaimed, Christ Himself is proclaimed and made present. Therefore, the Liturgy of the Word is a true manifestation of Christ through the hearing of the Word of God.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
The Liturgy of the Word includes the following parts of the Mass:
1) First Reading;
3) Second Reading (on Sundays and Solemnities only);
6) Creed (on Sundays and Solemnities only);
7) Prayers of the Faithful.
Let’s take a look at the various aspects of the Liturgy of the Word in more detail:
The Sunday readings are on a three year cycle. This means that over a three year period, we hear the entire Bible. We do not actually cover every single verse of the Bible during these three years, but we do cover much of it.
FIRST READING: The First Reading and Gospel are, for the most part, tied together. Often, we will hear in the First Reading an Old Testament verse that prefigures or points to its fulfillment in the Gospel.
THE RESPONSORIAL PSALM: The Psalm is a song of praise and is often read in an antiphonal way (like the refrain of a song being repeated after each verse).
SECOND READING: The Second Reading is from the New Testament and is often an exhortation. It comes from a letter in the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, or Revelation. This reading stands on its own and is not intentionally tied to the Gospel or Old Testament except for special feasts.
THE GOSPEL: The Gospel is the culmination of the Liturgy of the Word and stands out for its reverence. We stand, sing the Alleluia, have a procession with the Gospel book and may use incense and candles. It is also read only by the priest or deacon. The Gospel is not only a sharing of the very words and actions of Christ; it is also a proclamation of the very Person of Christ, the Word of God. This proclamation presents us with the fullness of revelation.
There is one subtle aspect of the Liturgy of the Word that reveals our understanding of the presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Scriptures. This subtlety is that, after the readings are proclaimed, the lector says, “The Word of the Lord.” And after the Gospel is proclaimed, the priest or deacon says, “The Gospel of the Lord.”
The wording of that conclusion acknowledges that the “Word of God” was just made present, not just the “words of God.” In other words, the proclamation of Scripture is a manifestation of Jesus, the Eternal Word. The Scriptures are alive. The Word of God is living. God is truly present as His Word is proclaimed. He is the Word that is proclaimed. The Word is a Person before it is spoken or written.
HOMILY: The homily is not simply a talk or explanation of the Scriptures. The homily is actually part of the Liturgy itself. Therefore, it is a prayer. And as a prayer, it is a heart to heart conversation between God and His people.
The homily also presumes one listens in faith. In other words, it is not necessarily an initial evangelization or teaching of the faith. It’s spoken from the heart of Jesus to the hearts of the faithful, those who already believe. However, even this experience will have the effect of helping to evangelize those who need it the most.
CREED: The Creed is the public profession of our faith. It’s a tightly packed summary of all that we believe. Remember that “belief,” as a response to revelation, produces the gift of faith. This is what should take place in the profession of the Creed. Professing the Creed should not simply be a professing of what we have chosen to believe for other reasons. It must be the fruit of the gift of faith in our souls. It must be the fruit of God speaking to us, revealing Himself to us, and us assenting to that revelation.
INTERCESSION: The Intercessions conclude the Liturgy of the Word and are intended to be “general” intercessions for the entire Church, and by the entire Church. In these General Intercessions, we especially pray for: the Church, the civil authorities, the salvation of the whole world, those burdened by any sort of difficulty (suffering, sick, hurting, evil), local needs, and for those who have died.
The ultimate goal of the Liturgy of the Word is to prepare us to participate more fully in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It must enkindle within us a deeper faith and a strong desire to move into the celebration of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the manifestation of His Sacred Body and Blood, and our union with Him in Holy Communion.
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