Yesterday was the traditional day where the Church celebrates the Epiphany, a day where the magi brought treasures to the baby Jesus, namely Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. These gifts were symbolic of the role of Jesus.
The gold represents Christ’s kingship; frankincense, a sweet-smelling resin used in worship, his priesthood; and myrrh, an ointment used in burial, foreshadows his death.Why did the Magi bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh? (aleteia.org)
These gifts represent the treasures brought to Jesus. But what of those treasures that we ourselves can gain because Jesus has made himself known to us? What gifts can we receive by looking at the gifts from the Church?
One of the greatest gifts comes from the Word of God. A couple of days ago I mentioned The Bible in a Year podcast as a way to encounter God’s word. Another way to encounter God’s word is to read the daily readings used at Mass each day. They can be found on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The daily Mass readings can be a great source of hidden treasures. That is because there is a definite plan and purpose to the daily Mass readings. The Sunday readings are divided into three cycles or years. Each cycle emphasizes one of the synoptic gospels. They are the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each weekend we are invited to delve into the gospel for that year. Moreover, the first reading and the gospel usually highlight the same theme and are connected.
The daily readings, that is the readings for each day of the week, are divided into a two year cycle. They tend to be more sequential in nature. That is, we hear the gospels and the first readings as they occur in order in the bible. Therefore, the connection between the readings is not as strong.
Feasts and Saints
Another aspect of bible readings at Mass is that for days when the Church celebrates a saint or a major event in the life of Jesus, there are readings that more specifically reflect the nature of the saint or the theme. So, for example, if the Church celebrates the Transfiguration of Jesus, we might expect the gospel account of the Transfiguration to be read.
When the Church celebrates the feast day of a saint, the readings chosen for Mass are often reflective of the characteristic of the life of a saint. The readings used can draw out a quality of the saint celebrated, or serve as a reminder of the good things the saint did in their life. In fact, we can be encouraged by the reading to imitate the saint.
Where to find the readings
The book used at Mass for the readings is called a lectionary. But it is also the case that other companies print the readings in missals. These can be found online or in church supply stores. You can also find the readings online at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website. You can find both the daily readings for Mass on the daily readings link. You can also find the New American Bible on the website as well. One nice feature is that you can click the link on the daily Mass reading site to see the context of the reading, in terms of where it falls in the whole bible.
The online version of the readings also can help you to prepare for hearing the readings because you can look the readings up ahead of time. You can also prepare for an upcoming feast day by knowing when they occur. When it is the case that you know ahead of time, you are better prepared to encounter the Lord in his Word and in his saints.