VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Listening to the Scripture readings
at Mass is hearing God speak directly to his people, offering spiritual
sustenance and needed guidance for life's difficult journey, Pope Francis said.
For that reason, the prescribed texts should never be
skipped or substituted during the Mass, lectors should read clearly and people
should always listen with an open heart so that the words may eventually bear
fruit in good deeds, the pope said at his weekly general audience Jan. 31.
Continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, Pope
Francis spoke about the Liturgy of the Word and the importance of listening to
the Bible readings at Mass.
"In the Liturgy of the Word, in fact, the pages of
the Bible stop being something written and become the living word, delivered by
God himself," the pope said.
As the readings are proclaimed, people in the pews should
be silent and receptive, opening their hearts and minds to what is being said,
not looking around or making small talk and criticizing what other people are
wearing, he said.
"We have to listen, open our hearts, because it is
God himself who is speaking to us. So don't think about other things or talk
about something else. Understood?" he asked the thousands of people
gathered in St. Peter's Square.
"We need to listen! It is a question of life,"
he said, because as Jesus told the devil in the desert, "one does not live
by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."
People can receive spiritual nourishment from the
"table" of God's word, which is abundant and "rich" in so
many biblical offerings, he said.
It is obvious then why "some subjective
choices" are forbidden -- such as omitting the prescribed readings or
substituting them with nonbiblical texts, for example, like the newspaper for
bringing up a current event, he said.
"No. The word of God is the word of God. You can
read the newspaper later. However, right there, the word of God gets
read," not something else, he said.
Substituting God's word with something else
"impoverishes and compromises the dialogue between God and his people in
prayer," the pope said, while sticking with the prescribed readings
expresses and fosters ecclesial communion, helping everyone on their journey
The pope also insisted on choosing lectors who are
well-prepared and speak clearly, not people who garble their words "and no
one can understand a thing."
"The Lord's word is an indispensable aid for not
getting lost," he said. It is, as the psalmist says, "a lamp for my
feet, a light for my path."
"How can we tackle our earthly pilgrimage, with its
trials and tribulations, without being regularly nourished and enlightened by
the Word of God that rings out in the liturgy," the pope asked.
Also, he said, listening to God's word requires much more
than one's ears. It must go from the ears, to the heart and then to the hands,
resulting in good works in the world, he said.
"It's necessary to have an open heart to receive the
word," Pope Francis said. "God speaks and we turn to him to listen so
as to then put into practice what we have heard."