If you read The Gospel of John, Chapter 1:1-15, you will understand the essence of The Liturgy of the Word in the Mass. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”; John 1:3 states, “Through him all things came into being and apart from him nothing came to be.” John 1:14 continues with, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” These summarize 15 verses and what The Liturgy of the Word is about. We must not think of The Liturgy of the Word as words in the Bible like we read a novel. The Liturgy of the Word of God is an event! It is the event of creation, the event of what God is doing and saying to Israel and the event of what God is doing and saying in Jesus. These words are a gift to us from the Holy Spirit and just as the Liturgy is an event where we experience God, so is the Word proclaimed at the Liturgy. The Word is an insight for us into God’s creation of the world and his interaction with the world.
The First Reading comes from the Old Testament where creation, what God is doing and saying to Israel is found. At the end of the reading the reader proclaims “The Word of the Lord” and the assembly responds “Thanks be to God”. This indicates our amazement that God would take time to speak to us and we shouldn’t take this for granted. The First Reading is followed by a short pause of silence to let the word sink in and then the Responsorial Psalm is sung. We use the psalms for our response because it was Israel’s hymn book. The psalms embody prayers of Israel who heard God speak in the creation and events of its history. Jesus fulfilled these psalms as he prayed them throughout his life. The Responsorial Psalm is then our response to God after he spoke to us in the First Reading. The Second Reading is always taken from one of the letters of the apostles. God now speaks to us through reflective writings of His chosen apostles. Their writings tie the Old Testament to the New Testament and reveal the mysteries of God. We again hear the reader proclaim “The Word of the Lord” and the assembly responds “Thanks be to God”.
We have a brief silence to absorb the word and then we all rise and sing Alleluia to prepare for The Gospel, the culmination of the readings. The Gospel is always about the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. We say “Glory to you O Lord,” and make a small cross with our thumb on our forehead, lips and heart. This is our prayer that the word of God will be on our minds, lips and in our hearts. The readings come from one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Whatever is preached, helps us understand and deepen our grasp of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Each author wrote for a different audience and therefore has different points of emphasis about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The Gospel is always read by a deacon or priest, helping us to understand its importance and remind us of the apostolic succession of the ordained throughout our history.