I'm back to reading Remember Jesus Christ by Fr. Cantalamessa. The second chapter is entitled 'Do You Believe? The Divinity of Christ in the Gospel of John.'
'The issue is knowing whether biblical inspiration still has some meaning for Christians or not - whether, when we exclaim, "The word of the Lord!" at the end of the Scripture reading, we believe what we say or not.'
Too often, when I go to Mass, the readings are proclaimed in such a joyless, lackluster way that you wonder if the person reading them aloud is still asleep. Mass then becomes what all the critics say it is: B-O-R-I-N-G. I've listened to readers that have bored me to tears - but this is God's word! This is amazing material, people! How can you not want to read with fervor, devotion, passion, that those in the pews sit up and take notice - "This person truly believes what they are reading!"
Ah, but there's the rub. One, do those who are proclaiming truly believe they are reading God's word? There are some that read in monotone, others in a singy-songy voice, still others (I kid you not) provide different 'voices' for each 'character'. Do those who proclaim truly believe that what they are reading is not just a story, with well-loved characters? Too often, I think, the Bible becomes just that - a well-loved story that we can put on the shelf and pull out whenever we need to get some sleep.
Two, we in the pews forget that these 'characters' were real people, with hopes and dreams, failures and pains; who were all just trying to follow God's will. Who had their own dreams dashed, but replaced by something more that God gave them. John the Baptist, Moses, Elijah, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Ruth - all were real human being touched by Some One greater. We (I) start to cease being amazed at these individual people and their life, how God moved and worked in their lives.
One of my favorite fiction books (that I've read recently) was by David Maine, called "Fallen". It tells a fictionalized tale of Adam & Eve (but mostly told from Adam's perspective). The book helped me get into (under) Adam & Eve's skin, to help me see a little of their bewilderment, their pain, their emotions. Yes, it is fiction. But it made me see them as human, not just mythologized characters.
Another challenge we face is one of making the Scriptures come alive though the readers are lackluster. How do we still mentally engage when the words are lulling us to sleep? This is something that I face a lot, since I'm already distracted with the children. Something that has helped me (us) is on the way to church (in the car), I will read the readings aloud for us all, along with the reflection for Mass provided (I love the Magnificat magazine!). Since I've started doing that, I've definitely noticed a difference in my mental prayer at Mass. I hope that it has helped my husband as well.
So, do we mean what we say or not: "The Word of the Lord"? It's not just a story.