By Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
3/18.1 The ‘Reading of the Gospel’.
The first Reading of today’s Mass makes claim on our emotion as it narrates the return of the Chosen People to Israel after so many years of exile in Babylon. Once they reach Jewish soil, the priest Ezra, explains to the people the content of the Law that they had forgotten during the years spent in a foreign land. He read from the sacred book from early morning until midday. His audience stood and followed the teaching attentively and all the people wept. Their response is a lament compounded with joy as they hear God’s Law once more, and with grief also because their previous neglect of the law had brought about their exile.
When we gather together to take part in the Holy Mass we stand, in an attitude of watchfulness, to hear the Good News that the Gospel always brings us. We have to listen to it with a disposition which is at once attentive, humble and grateful because we know that God is speaking to each one of us in particular. We should hear the Gospel writes St Augustine, as if Our Lord were present and speaking to us. We must not say ‘happy were those who could see him’, for many of those who saw him crucified him; and many of those who have not seen him have believed in him. The very words that came from Our Lord’s lips were written down and kept and preserved for us.
We can only love someone we know. In order to get to know Christ many Christians dedicate some minutes each day to reading and meditating on the Gospels. This practice leads us by the hand, as it were, to the knowledge and contemplation of Jesus Christ. It teaches us to see him as the Apostles saw him, to observe his reactions, to watch the way he behaved and listen to his words which were always filled with wisdom and authority. The Gospels show him to us on some occasions moved with compassion at the plight of people in misery. At other times they show him full of understanding for sinners, or firm with the Pharisees who are presenting a false image of their religion. He is full of patience with those disciples who so often do not grasp the meaning of his words.
It would be very difficult to love Jesus Christ, to get to know him really well, if we did not frequently hear the Word of God, if we did not attentively read part of the Gospel each day. That reading – perhaps lasting only a few minutes – nourishes and increases our piety.
At the end of each Reading of Sacred Scripture the priest says, This is the Gospel of the Lord, and the faithful reply, Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. How is it we praise him? Our Lord is not satisfied with our bare words; Show me, he says. He wants to be praised with deeds. We cannot run the risk of forgetting God’s law, of allowing the teaching of the Church to remain in us as little more than truths which are diffuse and inoperative, or of which we have a merely superficial knowledge. To us this would mean an exile far more devastating than that of Babylon. God’s greatest enemy in the world is ignorance, the cause, and, as it were, the root of all the evils that poison entire nations and perturb many souls. 
We know well that the one great evil that afflicts so many Christians is the lack of doctrinal formation. What is graver still is that many people are turned astray by error, a sickness even more serious than ignorance. What a pity if we, because we lack the necessary doctrine, cannot show Christ to them and give them the light they need in order to understand his teaching!
 Neh 8:2-6; 8-10
 St Augustine, Commentary on St John’s Gospel, 30
 John XXIII, Encyclical, Ad Petri cathedram, 29 June 1959
Rev. Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
Rev. Francis Fernández-Carvajal is a Priest of the Opus Dei Prelature and the author of many popular spiritual works. His seven-volume series In Conversation with God provides over 500 meditations to be used throughout the liturgical year. It has sold over 2 million copies and has been translated into many languages.
In Conversation With God