Over the course of a year, Catholics will listen to over 52 Gospel readings (not including Holy Days or weekdays). Some of these readings are longer than others (like Palm Sunday), but all are aimed at reaching the depths of our hearts.
Saint Paul writes that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 RSVCE, emphasis added). When we hear the Gospel reading on Sunday, are our hearts opened and pierced by God?
Unfortunately for many of us, the Sunday Gospel reading goes in one ear and out the other. Homilies by priests can sometimes hit home-runs that stick with us for weeks to come and really make the Gospel come alive, or by the time Mass is over we can ask ourselves, “what did the priest say during the homily?”
Now I am not leaving all the blame on the priest.
It is not easy preparing a homily and so I do not want to say that they are not doing their best effort. We do not know the struggles of our parish priest and so let’s not use him as a scapegoat.
We all have our good days and our bad days and for us who sit in the pews, we can be tempted to daydream or are distracted by a whole host of things. Additionally, we have a duty to come prepared to Mass, which often does not happen at all. For most of us, hearing the Gospel on Sunday will be the first time we hear/read that particular Gospel passage. This stacks the deck against us on a human level as it is almost impossible to remember a block of text when we only hear it once.
So what should we do to let God reach the depths of our heart in the weekly Sunday Gospel reading? Here are 3 tips to get started:
1. Read the Sunday Gospel Reading before Sunday
This is the most obvious piece of advice that we most often hear. Humanly speaking, we are more apt to remember something if we continually read it or hear it. In fact, the best case scenario would be reading the Sunday Gospel out loud. This engages more of the senses and helps keep it in our memory. That we when we hear it on Sunday, we will already be familiar with it. That is why having a Daily Missal or reading it on the USCCB website are vital to preparing ourselves for Sunday.
2. Read a Biblical Commentary on the Gospel Passage
For most of us, we have not received a theological degree whereby we can give an in-depth exegesis of any passage from the Bible. So we must rely on other scholars who know the Bible cover-to-cover. I personally suggest two commentaries: Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament and The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles [The Navarre Bible: Reader’s Edition]. Both commentaries are rich in Catholic biblical tradition and help a lay person dive into a text that otherwise might seem daunting.
3. Keep a Daily Journal after Sunday
While we might feel prepared to tackle the Sunday Gospel by the time Sunday morning rolls around, we often fail to keep the Gospel alive when the alarm sounds on Monday morning. The Gospels are meant to be lived out in our day-to-day life and should rightly act as daily spiritual nourishment. So how can we keep the Gospel alive? One very effective way is by keeping a daily journal that focuses on the Sunday Gospel reading. It means taking the Gospel passage with you everyday in prayer and practicing Lectio Divina. That way we can allow the Sunday Gospel reading to not only remain in our memory, but most importantly to pierce our hearts.
Let us allow God’s Word to pierce our hearts so that we are not only Christians in mind, but most importantly in the depths of our soul.