Chapter and Verse
Updated: Mar 10, 2021
A Lenten Devotional Teaching for Wednesday, March 10th, 2021
Part of the responsibility of the Church is to instruct our members in the right practice of faith. Chief of which is to dispel false teachings and misinformation. How can we expect to discern truth from fiction in this age, without someone to explain it to us?
If simply reading the Bible were sufficient, there would only be one group claiming to be the Church. However, there are tens of thousands of groups, each using the same book, coming to a variety of different conclusions. Our challenge this Lent is to learn and discern what it means to become authentically Catholic.
Contrary to certain criticisms, Catholic Christians have an intimate connection to the Word of God, the Bible. Holy scripture inculcates all that we do. Bible verses and passages are woven throughout our liturgies. In fact, daily mass attendees will be exposed to virtually the entirety of scripture over a three year period. From the very beginnings of the Church Age, the early Fathers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wove together both Word and Sacrament into an inextricable bond.
Those outside the Church, or within non-Catholic denominations think that because most of our scripture readings, or homilies don’t call our “Chapter and Verse,” that somehow we’re trying to hide something. That’s basically what I was taught as a young Evangelical Christian.
Why is it that the Catholics do not mention the chapters and verses when they read during Mass? As a young man, I heard pastors and Bible teachers proclaim that it is because Catholics do not want people to know the Bible and to know the truth that, and that’s why they don’t call the chapters and verses. This was actually a stumbling block for myself as I journeyed to the Catholic Faith. That is, until I realized that those former teachers were merely parroting misunderstandings, and teachings of man.
So, for you, my readers, either Protestant Christian, or young Catholic Christian, let me offer you a brief explanation. Catholics do not read the Bible at Mass rather they proclaim the Bible at our liturgies. What does it mean to read? To read is to look and comprehend the meaning of characters or symbols that are composed, while to proclaim is to announce. What the Catholics do is to announce the word of God from the scriptures. Every Catholic ought to have the Liturgical Calendar or the Missal that contains all the readings. Therefore, every average Catholic knows where the readings of of the day are going to come from not just readings of the day or the next, but at every mass. As such, the catholic should have, and are encouraged to preview the daily readings at home before coming to Mass.
When we come for Mass, only the Lector and the Priest or Deacon is allowed to proclaim from the text. Every other person is to listen to the proclamation not to read from his own text because at that moment we are not doing rehearsals. At that moment we are proclaiming or announcing the word of God and everyone is supposed to listen. That is why after the Lector has finished reading he or she concludes THE WORD OF THE LORD and after a Priest or Deacon has finish proclaiming the gospel he concludes with THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD. To mention the chapter and the verses is to tempt people to open their text and by so doing, we reduce ourselves to reading the Bible instead of proclaiming it.
What we do while proclaiming the Bible is the liturgy of the Word. Just as Ezra read in Nehemiah 8:2-9 and the people listened and even wept, so all are supposed to listen, that the WORD may sink into their hearts. The word then needs to be explained by the deacon, priest or bishop, through the sermon or homily. This homily has the character of DOCERE (teaching the listener), DELECTARE (delighting the listener) and MOVERE (moving the listener), Just as it did to the people of Israel in Nehemiah 8:9. It moves the listener to an action of love, then the word becomes flesh at the table of Eucharist (John 1:14). And the flesh is consumed by the listener through the reception of the Holy Eucharist. Here the listener becomes the LIVING WORD OF GOD.
This was quite a revelation that I learned as a convert to Catholicism. I pray that it helps you understand more fully our particular practice of faith.
Dearest Lord, and Most High God, we your lowly people praise and adore You. Please we pray that open our senses to the truth of your Holy Word. Allow us, we pray, to rightly understand how you would have us believe and practice our Christian faith. Help us to understand that it is only through a properly formed conscience and faith in Jesus Your Son, that we have the blessed hope of eternal life in your presence. AMEN