There are some people in this world that have wonderful, beautiful voices. I think of James Earl Jones or Liam Neeson, for example. And if you can get used to the voice of Darth Vader reading Tom Sawyer or something to you, it can be a lot of fun and a great experience. These actors or voice personalities bring their voices to the book, and they color the way that the book comes to the listener.
So what about the Scripture? Well, some people try to treat the Bible as they might treat Tom Sawyer – as a nice book of stories. There are many nice lessons to be learned in the Bible stories, just like there are in various works of literature. But we have to remember that the Scriptures – whether the Old Testament, the New Testament letters, or the Gospels – are so much more than that!
As Catholics, we believe that along with our sacred Tradition, Scripture makes up the core of our faith. It’s not just some story book that we hope guides our actions, but the Word of God given to us. It is the voice of God, certainly speaking to the audience of the time (ancient Israelites, the followers of Jesus, communities of Christians), and if understand this, it can help us to explain the seeming discrepancies that we might find. But the Scriptures are also the voice of God speaking to you and I directly today. If we believe in God’s love for us, and his provident care, we know that when the Gospels were written, that they were written for us too!
If all this is true, and if the Scriptures are really the Word of God, then those who are called to proclaim the word – lectors, deacons, and priests – need grace and humility to be able to give God’s message. And so we have a few quiet prayers that the priest prays over the deacon, or before the altar to prepare for that. Here they are:
(Blessing of the Deacon) – “May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim his Gospel worthily and well, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
(If there is no deacon, the priest prays before the altar) – “Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel.”
These prayers are simply there so that people don’t hear only the minister (like they would Liam Neeson or Darth Vader James Earl Jones), but the Word of God speaking into their hearts, igniting them with love. So the next time you listen to the readings at Mass, or even the next time you open your Bible, say a little prayer that you might be open to whatever God has in mind to speak to your heart.
Tune in next week, for more “Secret Prayers”!