“The Word of God is something alive and active” Hebrews 4:12
At every Mass, indeed whenever the Church celebrates a sacrament or any liturgy, we listen to something from the Word of God set forth in the Bible.
At Mass on Sundays we have a three year cycle. In year A our Gospels are taken mostly from St Matthew, in year B (eg 2021) we listen mostly to St Mark and the 6th Chapter of St John, and in year C we listen to St Luke. In the Easter season we listen to John’s gospel. The first reading at Mass, usually from the Old Testament, will have some thematic link with the Gospel. The second reading is usually taken from one of the New Testament letters to the early Christian communities. In addition to this we always pray one of the Psalms from the Old Testament at Mass. The priest’s homily is also prompted by these readings and so at every Mass we are given ample opportunity to reflect on God’s Word.
Any passage of scripture will have had a particular meaning given its historical context and the audience for whom it was originally intended. For example, the letter to the Hebrews, which is our second reading for the next few weeks, was originally intended for converts to Christianity from Judaism who would have been familiar with its quotations from the Old Testament and encouraged by the presentation of Jesus as the replacement and fulfilment of the Jewish priesthood.
Down the centuries though, Scripture speaks to people in different times and in different ways. For example, in times when communities were struggling or being persecuted, the letter to the Hebrews would have spoken powerfully about the ultimate victory of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
When we listen to the same passages today, there will be a new message for us in our own times and in our own situations. If we are tired and worried for example, we are lifted up by Hebrew’s message that Jesus felt weakness and was tempted just as we are, and is always there to show us mercy and to help us by his grace.