The climax of the Liturgy of the Word is the Gospel. This is where we hear of the encounters of Jesus Christ; of his life, his ministry, and his preaching. During this time we stand to show our honor and reverence towards the Gospel, could you imagine if you were slouched over with your head in your hands while the Word of the Lord was being proclaimed? Your mother would reach right over and slap you silly till you stood up and showed the respect deserved, alright maybe not, but you get what I am saying.
The Gospel, deserves our honor and reverence as stated before but that is also why only an ordained minister, priest or deacon, reads the Gospel. We also see at the beginning of Mass, such reverence withe the Book of the Gospels. It is carried up high and placed on the alter until the Gospel.
The best way for the assembly to listen to the Gospel, just like the readings, is to read the Gospel beforehand. Do you think that a priest just walks up and preaches whatever he think best suits for that day? Absolutely not! Just like a priest or deacon has to prepare, we should prepare our hearts for Sunday as well. At Franciscan University of Steubenville, many of the students get together in their "households" and have a Lord's Day Celebration every Saturday. This is a chance for the students to get together in groups and reflect on the upcoming Sunday's reading. I can not tell you how much wider my eyes were opened when Sunday came around and I had already heard the Gospel and was able to 'brainstorm' the different things that could be translated from that Gospel.
So, when the Gospel is being proclaimed, that is the full intention - for it to be proclaimed. We are to listen, sadly not to just follow along, unless we have some sort of need for it (hearing loss, medical condition...). We are truly asked to put down our 'needs' and listen, to whole heartedly listen to what is being said in the Gospel. When we are trying to just follow along many times we miss what the Holy Spirit really wanted us to catch, or the two words that we absolutely needed to hear at that point. When we are following along we are too concerned with how Father said this, and how he skipped those three words, and that was a different word in this missal than what he just said... what are we truly getting out of it? Nothing! We are nitpicking! And are we really learning anything besides the there are different ways to translate the Bible? No, you clearly missed what the Holy Spirit had for you the whole time, but you weren't listening to hear it.
Lastly, as the deacon or priest begins the Gospel, we make a cross over our forehead, our lips, and our hearts. This isn't just another thing that we chalk up to the weird things Catholics do. There is a rhyme and reason to each and every gesture and action that is done. But this particular action is in the top ten things we do in the mass (I think I say that every time I find something that I love). But as the priest says, "A reading from the Gospel according to..." and we then say, "Glory to you O Lord," is when we as Catholics make a cross on our forehead, lips, and chest. We do this as a way to prepare ourselves and signify our readiness to acknowledge God's Word. We place a cross over our forehead so that we can listen to the Gospel to purify our thoughts so that our minds can be open, a cross over our lips to purify our words so that we are ready to proclaim and confess the Word, and a cross over our hearts to purify our hearts as well so that we can safeguard the truth in our hearts.
Every time at the Gospel, as I make those crosses on my forehead, lips, and heart; I silently pray to myself, "Purify my thoughts, purify my words, and purify my heart" so that I can fully enter into the Gospel with my head, heart, and mouth clear and ready to walk out proclaiming the Good News of Christ.
How is God speaking to you in this post or today's reading? Enter a comment below or click HERE if you are reading from your phone. (Commenting is optional, but always grace-filled.) Thank you for letting us into your life and for being a part of ours!