Image from the Missionaries of Africa: Sister Revocate proclaims the Word
Father Anthony considers the importance of the Liturgy of the Word.
Some years ago, in my last parish, we had the task of reordering the sanctuary. We needed to replace the temporary wooden altar and ambo (lectern) with permanent structures. The artist we employed went abroad and chose pieces of Mocha Stone from which to create the altar and the ambo. From this one stone he created two tables, the table of the Word and the table of Sacrifice. We are fed at both tables when we celebrate Mass.
Today I want to reflect on the Liturgy of the Word. This is when we are nourished or fed by God’s Word. For us, this is a time of listening. In order to be fed, we need to give our full and undivided attention to Christ who speaks to us. Pope Benedict wrote: ‘Word and sacrament are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other.’ We are being asked to listen in faith and, in order to do this, we need to be aware that it is Christ himself who is speaking to us, as the reader (or deacon or priest) proclaims the Word from the ambo, the table of the Word.
When Theodore Gillick, the sculptor, was building the ambo, I asked that he should create an image from the story of Martha and Mary that is told in Luke’s Gospel. As you look at the ambo, you see Jesus sitting on the edge of the table and Mary at his feet listening intently. We remember how Martha said to Jesus: ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ Jesus replied:
‘Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about many things and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’
Fr Jim McManus points out: ‘The better part was that Mary had chosen to listen to the Lord as a disciple. The disciple sits at the Master’s feet.’ Eugene LaVerdiere says in his book Dining in the Kingdom of God: ‘Being at the Lord’s feet doesn’t mean Mary was not working. It does mean that she was not distracted by the ministry, or worried and fretting about many things. Her attention was fixed on the word of the Lord, the one thing necessary, which gives meaning to every other aspect of ministry.’
We are asked to do one thing: to be a disciple and listen. We need not let ourselves be distracted. It is not easy to listen at Mass. There can be distractions; we might have worries and anxieties, and the reader might be difficult to hear; what we hear might not be easy for us to understand. As we listen, why not say: ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’
Lord give me the grace at Mass to see myself being fed and nourished by your word. Help me to listen in faith, and to welcome your word into my heart.
Canon Father Anthony Parish Priest