In 2019, Pope Francis declared that the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time each year should be designated as the Sunday of the Word of God. In his decree announcing this annual celebration, the Holy Father made reference to the importance that the Word of God has in the context of the celebration of the Eucharist, citing the Second Vatican Council:
the Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she has venerated the Lord’s body, in that she never ceases, above all in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the word of God and the body of Christ.(Dei Verbum, 21)
Paying attention to how Christ is present to us in the Scriptures proclaimed at Mass is one of the key ways of getting more out of our experience of this greatest of prayers. It can be a common lament of people that when they pray, they do not hear God speaking to them. With reverence for the pain that we can feel when it seems as though He is silent, I ask the person when they last heard or read from the Scriptures. I tell them that when they did so, God was indeed speaking to them, loud and clear! Again, with all reverence for the struggle of trying to hear God speak to us, it is helpful to acknowledge this truth, that when we encounter the Word of God, we encounter God Himself. We may not understand what He is saying, or feel as though He is speaking to us, but He is! What is lacking is never the Word of God. Being aware that God is really speaking to us here and now in the readings at Mass will only serve to deepen the quality of our prayer at Mass and increase our hunger for Him in the Eucharist.
In my bulletin article from the Sunday of the Word of God in 2021, I shared a powerful quote from Pope Benedict XVI to drive this connection home more explicitly. I think it is worth repeating here as we begin to consider this section of the Mass:
The sacramentality of the word can thus be understood by analogy with the real presence of Christ under the appearances of the consecrated bread and wine. By approaching the altar and partaking in the Eucharistic banquet we truly share in the body and blood of Christ. The proclamation of God’s word at the celebration entails an acknowledgment that Christ himself is present, that he speaks to us, and that he wishes to be heard. Saint Jerome speaks of the way we ought to approach both the Eucharist and the word of God: “We are reading the sacred Scriptures. For me, the Gospel is the Body of Christ; for me, the holy Scriptures are his teaching. And when he says: whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood (Jn 6:53), even though these words can also be understood of the [Eucharistic] Mystery, Christ’s body and blood are really the word of Scripture, God’s teaching. When we approach the [Eucharistic] Mystery, if a crumb falls to the ground we are troubled. Yet when we are listening to the word of God, and God’s Word and Christ’s flesh and blood are being poured into our ears yet we pay no heed, what great peril should we not feel?” Christ, truly present under the species of bread and wine, is analogously present in the word proclaimed in the liturgy. A deeper understanding of the sacramentality of God’s word can thus lead us to a more unified understanding of the mystery of revelation, which takes place through “deeds and words intimately connected”; an appreciation of this can only benefit the spiritual life of the faithful and the Church’s pastoral activity.(Verbum Domini, 56)