Our Thursday commentary on the Mass and its application to daily life has reached one of the peak moments of the liturgy, the solemn proclamation of the Gospel. That this particular Scripture reading is different from the other two is obvious—it is preceded by an acclamation, often involves a procession with candles and even incense, and is reserved for the ordained clergy (properly, the deacon, but in the absence of one, a priest).
That we surround the proclaiming of the Gospel with such ritual solemnity communicates to us that here, Christ Himself is speaking to us. Here, God Himself has come down from heaven to directly communicate His truth and His will to us. It is not that the rest of Scripture is not inspired by God—it most certainly is—but that the Gospels truly are the words and deeds of God-made-flesh and so are indeed the core of the canon, the central Word of God, taken together with His living presence in the Church, by which we understand the entirety of Revelation.
And so it is proclaimed, week in and week out, day in and day out at daily Masses—the whole of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John laid out for the Church throughout the course of the three-year liturgical cycle. The Gospels, hopefully so familiar to the readers of this blog that I don’t have to go on and on about their content, are of course told in narrative form—stories, speeches, parables, miracles, conversations, arguments. All the normal way of telling the tale of who a person was and what He did in his life.
But in this, flowing through all of it, there is the revelation of a Person and Who He Is, and what He does continually in our lives, in all of our lives, in the life of the world. Written (as it must be) in human words and using human concepts and categories, the Gospels nonetheless contain the Divine life, the Divine presence. In them God draws very near to us and instructs our minds and hearts, and not only instructs them but shapes them, heals them, unites them to Himself. There is power in the Blood, the old hymn says. There is power in the Word, too.
And so when we come to talk about how to live this out, it is actually kind of hard to know what to say. We live it out… well, by living it out! God says ‘forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ So… we forgive those who have hurt us. Right? God says ‘if anyone asks for your cloak, give him your tunic.’ So… give to the point where it hurts. Right?
Don’t leave it as words on a page, or words you hear in Church, or you will be like the man building his house on sand (Mt 7:26), and we know how that turned out (Mt 7:27!).
But to be able to live them out, we have to be so familiar, so intimate with the Gospels. They have to be our second nature, so constantly present in our lives that whenever there is any serious decision to be made about any matter (or even just the daily grind and the choices it brings us continually), the words of Christ come to mind almost instantly, almost automatically.
So… we have to make the reading of the Gospels a daily event, a daily encounter with God in Christ in the sacred page. It can be as simple as having a missalette on hand and reading the Gospel of the day, or a sequential reading starting at Matthew 1 through to John 21 and then back again. Whatever—if Christ’s words and deeds are not continually informing our words and deeds, then our lives become continually less and less Christian. If His words and deeds are our daily ‘food for thought’, then our lives can become more and more a reflection of His life, and so we become a living Gospel for others.
It is so much the essence of our lives, if we are indeed His disciples, are indeed Christians. Along with the other, greater peak of the liturgy, which is the reception of His life into our life, His being into our being in the reception of Holy Communion, the receiving of the Gospel into our minds and hearts is the sine qua non of discipleship, that without which we cannot really say we are His.
Not to be pounding the book sale thing too hard, but that is indeed what I have just written an entire book about—how our own thoughts and ideas are all fatally flawed, and how the Thoughts of God, mystically and mysteriously communicated to us in the words of the Gospels, are the great healing of our own disordered thinking.
But you don’t need my book (shocking admission from an author!). You need The Book; I need The Book – the world needs The Book! And the best way to bring The Book to the world is for you and me to read it and live it and show it in how we treat people, so that just maybe our faithless confused world may once again ‘take and read’ and believe that God has indeed revealed Himself in Christ and made the path of life and salvation available to the whole human race.