Why do we hear scripture readings at Mass?

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To begin this discussion it’s best to go back and read Luke 24:13-35 (see link below). That is the story of the two travelers on the road to Emmaus on the first Easter night. These two had every benefit a disciple could have: They had known Jesus in the flesh, had heard him preach, perhaps had witnessed a miracle or two. The Emmaus travelers had even harbored the hope that this “prophet mighty in deed and word” would be “the one to redeem Israel.”

Then came the arrest and trial, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus, all with brutal swiftness. The horror of these events at the end of such a promising festal week, which had begun with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and terminated abruptly on Passover night, must have stunned everyone who hoped in Jesus to be the answer to their personal and national problems. On the heels of this heartbreak came the dubious report of “some women from our group” who couldn’t find the body of Jesus in the tomb where he’d been laid. Visions of angels in no way comforted those who heard the news. These two from Emmaus were headed home, to resume the lives they’d had before they ever heard of Jesus. The Jesus-thing had all gone wrong and none of it made much sense.


What made the difference and turned these near-deserters around? Two things. The first was encountering a stranger who explained scripture to them. The second was the breaking of the bread at supper that night. In scripture and ritual suddenly these two disappointed and dispirited disciples “got it.” Just hearing the Bible lesson wasn’t enough. Their hearts may have been burning as they walked along and listened to the stranger, but he didn’t become their Lord until the breaking of the bread. But the truth is, they would never have invited the stranger to have supper with them if they hadn’t been attracted to his words and absorbed by the implications.

Word and sacrament have been natural complements to the unfolding of the mystery of our faith ever since. One prepares us for the revelation of the other. If we didn’t have the Liturgy of the Word, with its stories of old covenants and new ones, God’s promises made and kept, we would come to the Table of the Lord uninitiated and uncomprehending—if we made it that far at all.

Luke 24:13-35; John 1:1-5, 14; Acts 2:42-47; 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 15:1-4; Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 3:14-16; 1 John 1:1-4

The Lectionary and the Liturgical Year: How Catholics Read Scripture by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., Scripture from Scratch, Franciscan Media ©1996-2013.

Eucharist: The Meal & the Word by Ghislain Lafont (Paulist Press, 2008)
Encountering Christ in the Eucharist: The Paschal Mystery in People, Word, and Sacrament by Bruce T. Morrill, S.J. (Paulist Press, 2012)

Reprinted with permission from PrepareTheWord.com. ©TrueQuest Communications.

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