Sunday, August 03, 2008

Today's Readings

"Can you read?"  That's what Fr Steve asked me in response to my question on what the qualifications were for lectors, or people who read aloud the scriptural passages during mass.  Fr Geoffrey had asked me to serve in the then newly established 10 a.m. charismatic mass at our parish, and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to read without proper training from the diocese.

Once again, Fr Steve reminded me of what was truly essential in life.  I had served as lector before but only in Lingkod.  I was anxious without being grateful for being called to serve.

I bought a few white blouses and a couple of white skirts that I felt suited my personality, and I wore them every fourth and fifth Sunday (my assignments), for more than a year.  Recently, however, I decided to conform and to have a uniform made based on the usual cut I saw in the other lectors - short-sleeved tops and simple A-line skirts.  

I wore the uniform today for the first time.  I woke up early to have my prayer time and was consoled by the assigned readings for the day.  I was excited to go to mass.

A few parishioners had told me before that whenever I read, it was as if they could reflect more on the Scriptures.  Some lectors, they said, merely went through the motions of reading, and the message did not come out clearly as a result.  During our last lectors' training, Fr Steve exhorted us to pray more and to seek the Lord in a personal way.  This was what we ought to focus on, and the rest would follow.

I believe that every lector's first duty, more than wearing the proper uniform, is to pray and reflect on the mass readings daily, and to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.  We serve not because we are worthy, or we speak clearly, or we are holy, but because God wants to use us to speak to His people.  It has been said that Catholics do not know Scripture, but if we would only listen closely during Mass, we would know God's Word by heart and live it out a little more passionately.

The occasional lisps and slurs are normal, but what matters is to speak slowly and prayerfully, and to speak to the congregation, not just to the microphone.  It does not matter if I lack sleep, or feel like crying for some reason, or am guilty of being late, when I stand up the Spirit Himself shows me where to pause and  where to speak more emphatically.  

This morning, I had goose bumps while reading because of the sheer joy I felt at God's promise to provide food for the hungry.  I saw how good He was, and how true to His promises.  The responsorial psalm quieted my heart and planted more hope.  By the time I got to the second reading, I was smiling inside and thought, Was I allowed to smile while reading?  I could not help it - as I was saying that nothing could separate us from the love of God, my heart was leaping with joy, and I had to share it.  I hoped all of who were there could hear what God was saying, how unconditional His love was, and how eternal.  

It was probably the state of my heart that allowed me to be more open to God's message of love.  Today, I felt His healing and His blessing.  His promises are true.  I not only read it, I also witness it in my life.

Let's go the readings once more and be delighted at the immensity and the certainty of God's love for each and every one of us.

August 3, 2008

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary TimeReading 1
Responsorial Psalm
Reading 2

Reading 1
Is 55:1-3

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18

R. (cf. 16) The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Reading II
Rom 8:35, 37-39

Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ? 
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? 
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us. 
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

It was thus with much joy and hope that I listened to the Gospel and to Fr Brian's homily afterwards.  Surely we all have felt like the disciples at some point, faced with limited resources and unable to fathom solutions to our problems.  On those days we would do well to remember what happened when Jesus fed the five thousand.

Mt 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. 
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. 
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. 
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.” 
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.” 
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” 
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. 
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds. 
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full. 
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children. 

And to all of that, I say, this is the word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

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