At Mass yesterday, Archbishop Harry Flynn, retired Archbishop of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese (who is giving a mission in my parish), spoke about the real presence of Christ not only in the Eucharist, but in the proclamation of the Word during Mass. I thought about his comment again later in the day when someone explained to me why he does not regularly go to Mass.
We know that God is constantly revealing Godself to us in many varied ways. Among those ways, God is revealed to us in Scripture, and praying with Scripture is a central prayer practice for many people, including myself. But I think we miss something if our experience of Scripture is limited to our own individual reading and prayer.
There is something that happens when the Word is proclaimed at Mass. I know that when I am a lector at Mass there is something going on that is very different from when I stand in front of a classroom teaching or when I deliver a paper at the conference. I feel the connection with God – no, more than connection – I feel the power of the Spirit moving through me as I am proclaiming. And I’ve felt that same presence of God when I’m sitting in the pew and hearing the Word. I close my eye and “see” and feel as much as hear the words, and I am completely aware of God in the Word. (Indeed, one of the first steps of my conversion back to Catholicism from Buddhism was my experience in Mass one Sunday hearing the Gospel passage about faith the size of a mustard seed.) And in a way that I can’t explain , or even understand, in rational or logical terms, I know it has something to do with koinonia – with the coming together of God’s people to share the Word and the Bread. God is present in that sharing in an incredibly special way.
So I read the Word and I pray with the Word, but I also know I would be missing something if I didn’t also experience the proclamation of the Word with the community at Mass.