Celebrating the Word of God in Liturgy: A Memo to Myself
Spiritual Reflections By Fr Roderick Salazar Jr SVD (Philippines)
The Word of God is Holy. Salvific. I must treat it with respect.
Savor it. Read it with love and understanding.
Especially when in Church, within the Liturgy.
I must resist the temptation to be a showman,
to be an applause-hungry minister, eager to be popular,
to hear the praises of people after I read or after Holy Mass,
to preen myself when people say they like my homilies.
Reading the Word of God publicly is not for show.
But it is for the people at worship, the congregation.
The Word of God is not a Preface to my sermon.
It stands on its own. It is for real. It is for my salvation
and for those who hear It from me.
The Word of God tells me how I am to live.
It tells me how I am loved and how I must love in return.
It is from God whom I cannot see, but a God who became
Flesh once in Jesus Christ and who continues to be incarnate
at Mass and in my sisters and brothers, especially the least.
The Word of God is the Word of Life. My life. Everyone’s life.
It must give life to my word and to my work.
It must make me live.
My homily is to be NOT JUST what I deliver after the Gospel.
The homily must be my life, my life a whole sermon.
I must not aim to be “cute”.
The Living Word of God must be alive in me and seen to be so.
I must not act artificially, unsmiling, eyes always downcast.
But if the Word of God is real in me and living, it must be seen
that because of it I am happy — even if I have difficulties in my life.
God’s Word is not easy to understand, even harder to live.
But the Word of God is the Word of Life. It must take root in me.
I MUST PRACTISE READING THE WORD OF GOD.
I must articulate it, with the right emphases and pauses.
In this time of pandemic, I may have to wear a face mask,
But NOT WHEN READING THE WORD.
My lips and mouth must be seen to be free, NOT MUZZLED.
I read to the congregation face-to-face, eye-to-eye.
God’s Word in me for me, for them.
When I prepare my homily, I need not always look for a joke.
Or a story. If I have one, fine.
But it must relate smoothly to the Word.
It must not be forced, not told just for a laugh.
I am not a comedian. Nor must I try to be —
just to appear smart and pleasing.
I must especially be careful about Biblical jokes.
I must not aim to hear laughter only for me to say
“This is just a joke… the Bible really means this…”
Excuse me, Roderick, be serious.
The Word of God is NOT a joke. Do not detract from It.
Let not the ha ha ha detract from the HUH? And the AHA!
THE POSE and POSTURE
When I enter or leave the church, chapel or cathedral,
I must remember it is God’s House. I am there for worship.
The people are, too.
I may know those attending, be familiar with them.
But I don’t have to be waving and smiling at them at processional.
For what about those I do not know? I just snub them?
But more than this snub or no-snub, my POSE, my POSTURE
must show where I am and what I am to do: PRESIDE at
and lead the community worship and prayer.
I am always tempted to “make people feel at ease” by my smiles
and ad libs, my hello hello, and I tend to forget the formality
Formality does not have to be stiff and unnatural.
If it comes from a habit of heart and soul, it will be natural.
My POSE and POSTURE are to reflect the attitude of PRAYER.
I must not be showy but I must also not be slovenly and sloppy.
I must respect the Liturgical Color of the Season.
There is a meaning there. I must know it. And inhabit it.
This is where I fail most often. Because I think I know the Word,
I read it publicly in a fast pace without even looking at the people.
WRONG. I must savor the WORD OF GOD, every bit of it,
every syllable, every phrase and punctuation, every sound.
And speak to the congregation, face-to-face, eye-to-eye.
Not as in an elocution contest. But it is, after all, PUBLIC reading.
Most of the people will not have read the Gospel or the Bible.
Even before I explain anything in my own words, the Word of God
must first speak to me, and THEN, through me, to the congregation.
People MUST HEAR THE WORD OF GOD FIRST-HAND.
The GOSPEL as it is – IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY HOMILY.
My homily must be well-prepared, of course,
BUT it is NOT a substitute for the Word of God itself.
I must read it WELL. With reverence. With understanding.
I must learn to PAUSE when I need to pause.
Example, from the Christmas story, especially Luke 2:16:
“The shepherds went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.”
I must realize that there is a COMMA after “Joseph”, so I PAUSE.
If I don’t, I might sound as though I was saying that ALL THREE
of them were lying in the manger — which would have collapsed.
Public Oral reading of the Word of God is serious business.
I must take it to heart, read it with Spirit, from and with the soul.
The prayers at Holy Mass are Addressed TO God the Father,
Said THROUGH Jesus Christ, Prayed IN the Holy Spirit.
The TONE I use in leading the prayers must reflect this.
Except for “Let us pray” or “The Lord be with you”, and the homily,
I am not speaking TO the people.
I am leading them in prayer.
My TONE should sound that I am addressing the LORD GOD.
I am not shouting at Him.
I am not reading to Him. Or mumbling.
I am PRAYING.
He is the Almighty. I am His creature.
If I do not say PLEASE, I must at least sound courteous.
Not every Mass is a sung Mass.
Where there is melody, even if I cannot carry it in my voice,
the words must be lifted by the prayerful tune in my heart.
If there is a choir, I must remind them that the Mass songs are
not for a concert. They are to help the congregation pray.
Choir and congregation songs ARE PRAYER.
And there must be reverent silence at Holy Mass.
At communion, I must see to it that while there is joy that
Jesus has fed me and the congregation with Himself,
which is why we sing,
grateful silence that He has come to us
must be present and felt and experienced.
Only from that depth of thankful prayer must the singing come. Else, it is distraction.
This MEMO I give to myself. So I do not forget the Love
and Reverence I owe to God and His Word.
Thank You, Lord, for creating me and calling me to be Yours.
May I be worthy to proclaim when I have to, always and ever
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.
Thanks be to GOD.