DAY FOR LECTORS – RESOURCES
(2nd Sunday Lent Year C, Luke 9:28-36) Background/Introduction
Today will be a day when we focus on the power of God’s Word in our lives. We have all heard stories of people whose lives were transformed when they picked up the Bible, or heard a piece of scripture read that touched their hearts and changed their lives. The word of God is a powerful force.
We think of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, having met Jesus, saying to each other: “Did not our hearts burn within us as he explained the Scriptures.”
The Moderator of General Assembly of Church of Scotland handed the Queen a copy of the bible at her coronation saying “We present you with the most valuable thing this world affords.”
Someone once said “The bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.”
I remember many years ago I was the Deacon at Sunday Mass in a small country church in Scotland. I felt I hadn’t much to do – all I had to do was read the gospel. After mass a man came up to me and said “Thank you Father.” I said, “Don’t thank me, the priest is over there.” “No, it’s you I wanted to thank, because today you changed my life. Something in that gospel has freed me from a burden I have carried for twenty years.” Strangely, I knew exactly what phrase it was, because I had felt it when I was reading it in church.”
Saint Isaac of Nineveh once said
“Do not approach the words of the mysteries contained in the Scriptures without prayer and without asking for Gods help. Say Lord, grant that I may receive an awareness of the power that is within them. Consider prayer to be the key to the understanding of truth in Scripture”
“The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely; it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joint from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts.” (Heb 4:12)
“The Word of God, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (DV17)
The journey of Transfiguration – the disciples on Mount Tabor were privileged to be present at a moment when Jesus’ divine nature shone through. Our journey with the Word of God, the Scriptures, is also a journey of transfiguration, where, through prayer, we allow the Spirit of God to shine through words on a page to transform them into the living words of God. There is that magical moment when suddenly the words on the page cease to be only printed words and come alive, and suddenly they are God’s Word to me.
“Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely. (Cathechism 102) “You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables, for he is not subject to time.” (St Augustine quoted in Catechism 102)
Ministers of the Word versus Readers
You are ministers. What we do in a church is a real ministry – it is reading, but it is far more than that: it is proclaiming, communicating a living Word, and that’s what sets it apart from any other type of reading, and that’s what brings its own unique responsibilities. We present ourselves at the service of something sacred – the Word of God.
Do we truly proclaim the Word of God, do we speak with conviction, do we allow the Spirit to speak through us, do we open ourselves to the power of God’s Word, do we present a living Word.
This is partly a question of technique – but only partly, good technique is only the starting point. As a ministry in the church it is much more a question of whether we have opened ourselves to experiencing the power of God’s Word in our own lives, are we people who have been formed by God’s Word, do we pray and reflect on the Scriptures we read at mass. Do we facilitate a real encounter with Christ speaking in the Scriptures; people will only encounter a living word if our proclamation is alive.
A – Audibility C – Clarity T – Time S – Soul/Spirit
It is essential that we are audible, loud enough to be heard, that we speak clearly, that we take time to allow the words to be heard. But most important of all there must be something of Soul in our reading, something of the Spirit communicating through us to his people.
So today is an opportunity for us to open ourselves to God’s Word, to share our experience of God’s Word, and to pray the Word of God together.
It would be very beneficial, if possible, to create atmosphere with the use of candles, cloths, flowers, music etc, with a bible in the centre as the focus.
Remembering how God has spoken to us
Invite readers to take some time on their own to reflect, to remember pieces of scripture that are special to them, that have stayed with them, that have meant something to them at particular times in their lives. When the time is over invite them to share the piece of scripture and to say, if they would like to, why it is special to them or why it was important to them at a particular point in their lives. If you feel it would be better you could break into smaller groups. Give people time to share. At the end it would be good perhaps to repeat some of the phrases in a prayerful and reflective way, and to give thanks for the ways in which God has spoken to us in our lives.
Let the Word sink in
An alternative would be to give each person a strip of paper with a phrase of scripture written on it. Invite them to spend some time allowing that phrase to speak to them, to receive it as God’s word to them. After some time you could allow an opportunity for people to share what piece they were given and what it meant to them. Example of phrases that could be used are: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God still and trust in me.” “Be still and know that I am God.” “ You did not choose me. No, I chose you, and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit.” “Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.” “Should you pass through raging waters, I will be with you….” “I have carved your name on the palm of my hand.”
Introduce the group to Lectio, explain the method (See below), and invite them to do group Lectio with the Gospel of the Transfiguration. (if you like you could have people stay in the room for the whole session, or invite them to feel free to be on their own with the scriptures for some time before returning to share.)
You could finish the day and/or lectio session with a reading of the Gospel, with time for intercession, the Our Father, and a prayer of thanksgiving.
Reflecting on your ministry
Give people time to reflect on the fact that they have been called by God to this sacred ministry. Perhaps give some time to allow them to share how this makes them feel. Give them an opportunity to share what being a reader/minister of Word has been like for them.
Give people the opportunity to experience the difference between different ways of reading. It is important to have this well prepared beforehand. Choose some passages of scripture that are rich in meaning or dramatic in narrative and have people prepared beforehand to read them twice in “two voices” – once read, and then proclaimed. You could speak about the challenge of moving outside our “comfort zone” our “reading voice.”
Is a method that has been used for centuries as a way of truly entering into richness of the scriptures. There are many variations and different emphases but the basic method is very simple. What is most important is the attitude you bring to it: Most of all allow time, take it slowly, allow the words to sink in, don’t try to squeeze meaning from them, allow it to emerge, let God be in control, not you.
- Read through the text you are going to pray to become basically familiar with it.
- Allow yourself time to quieten down. Open yourself to God and invite God to speak to you
- Read through the text slowly preferably out loud, or if on your own whisper. (Using your voice helps to slow you down and it also helps to hear the words.)
- Read the piece again, more slowly this time. If any phrase strikes you, stay with it for a while, just letting it sink in. If you have a general sense from the piece (peace, comfort, closeness, nostalgia, challenge, discomfort) – identify it and just stay with it.
- Very gently ask yourself what God is saying to you in what has struck you and allow yourself to hear that and respond to that. It may be something within you or some area of your life or your relationships.
- If you are in a group you might like to share the sense you have or the words that have struck you
- Put into your own words a prayer expressing how your response to God (of how you feel, what you would like to do, what you have learned). This could take the form of intercessions in a group session.
- Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving.