A few weeks ago, I introduced a resource that I have personally found very helpful in praying the Mass more intentionally. That resource is A Biblical Way of Praying the Mass: The Eucharistic Wisdom of Venerable Bruno Lanteri, written by Father Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V. Venerable Bruno invites us to “seek the sentiments and the heart” of various biblical figures at the various parts of the Mass.
When addressing the Liturgy of the Word, Father Gallagher writes:
At the Readings and Gospel, I will seek the sentiments and the heart of a disciple.” When the First Reading, the Second, and the Gospel are proclaimed, ask for a heart like those of the disciples who heard Jesus on the mountain, by the lakeshore, and in the Temple. Listen as they did, with the same deep attention, undivided heart, and receptivity: when his Word is read at Mass, Jesus speaks to you just as he did to them.(p. 45 of Kindle version of book)
Last Sunday, we resumed our watching of The Chosen with Episode 1 of Season 3. The beginning of that episode has Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount. As He preaches words that are so familiar to us, the camera shows the faces of those listening to this great sermon. They are rapt in attention as they hear these words for the first time, and you can tell that the Word is really hitting home.
So many of us struggle with trying to listen attentively to the Word of God as it is proclaimed at Mass. Sometimes we struggle because we cannot really hear all that well physically, either due to hearing impairment or the less-than-stellar sound system that a church may have. Sometimes we might have the attitude that these readings (especially from the Old Testament) do not have much direct bearing on us now. Sometimes, we are so familiar with the passages that we tune out thinking: “I’ve heard this before, I know how it goes, I know how it ends.” Sometimes it is just our not being good at keeping focus and paying attention, something we seem to be getting worse and worse at as a society.
One of the recommendations that I have received in this regard, and one that I have also put into practice, is to read the readings ahead of time. That way, the Word has been given a chance to be planted. When the Word is proclaimed again at Mass, it’s not unexpected, but received with greater familiarity. One might object that having read the readings ahead of time may contribute to our just tuning the reading out because we know how the reading goes. While that could happen, I do not think that reading ahead of time causes that zoning out, but rather prepares the soil of our hearts to be more attentive to what the Lord wants to communicate to us as we listen attentively to Him speaking to us just as He did to His disciples.
Perhaps I could offer another practical suggestion regarding our paying more attention to the Scriptures at Mass. Once we sit after the opening Collect, there is always a brief pause as we wait for the lector to approach the ambo and begin the reading. There is also a pause before the other readings as well. Those brief periods of time could be a good opportunity for us to say a short prayer, asking the Lord to help us listen to Him with the heart of a disciple who is hearing His Word for the first time and to be open to the specific Word or phrase that He has reserved for each of us individually here and now.