Glory Halleluiah! A question has appeared in the Liturgical question box, and it fits right into where we are in our discussion of the Holy Mass. The question is this; “how were the readings chosen? Of all the messages in the Bible why are these chosen as more important?” This is an excellent question.
The Lectionary, or book of readings used at Mass, has a long history in the Church. Prior to the Second Vatican Council there was only a one year cycle of readings. This means that the same reading would be heard on the same Sunday or Feast Day every year. Now we have a three year cycle for Sundays (Years A, B, and C) and a two year cycle for weekdays (Years 1 and 2). This allows for a greater variety of scriptures to be used, in fact, if one were to go to Mass every day (which is a good idea by the way) they would hear almost all of the Bible (with the exception of some of the more obscure passages) over the course of three years.
The readings that have been chosen to be part of the Lectionary were chosen by a group of scripture scholars, bishops and priests and reflect the season, feast day, or theme of any given Mass. On Sundays the first readings is taken from the Old Testament, the Second reading from the New Testament and the Gospel is from one of the four Gospels. If we pay attention we will find that there is usually a theme or connection between the readings chosen. Granted, sometimes I even wonder why a particular passage was chosen when another reading might fit in better, but the Holy Spirit works through the Church, and He must have a reason, even if you and I don’t understand what it is.
There is a common misconception that Catholics do not read the bible, but protestants do. This may be true when it comes to our private bible reading, but when it comes to our liturgical celebrations Catholics by far have more scripture than any protestant denomination. There is a wonderful book entitled “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” by David B. Currie. In the book he recounts his journey from Protestantism to Catholicism, part of which was his own survey looking into which Church was really a “bible based church.” He did an informal study of what percentage of any given denomination’s worship service was actually scripture reading. The results are amazing. “The Evangelical Church…spent less than 6 percent of its Sunday Service in Scripture. The fundamentalist church….which considers itself biblically based spend 2 percent of its morning in Scripture….Catholics at Mass spend more that 26 percent of the time is Scripture.” Surely, for us as Catholics scripture is important, and that is why we spend so much of our time at Mass reading Sacred Scripture.