Fr. Harvey Chikumbu writes
WHY DON’T CATHOLICS CALL THE CHAPTER AND VERSES WHILE READING THE BIBLE AT MASS?
A young man approached me and asked; why is it that the Catholics do not mention the chapters and verses when they read during Mass? He then continued; our Pastor told us that it is because Catholics do not want people to know the Bible and to know the truth that is why they don’t call the chapters and verses. Well, I turned to him and smiled. Then I said to him, if you know the answer, why then do you ask me? In reply he said he was not convinced by the answer the Pastor gave him.
I then said to him; let me first correct you of one thing. Catholics do not read the Bible at Mass rather they proclaim the Bible at Mass. What does it mean to read? To read is to look and comprehend the meaning of characters or symbols that are composed, while to proclaim is to announce. What the Catholics do is to announce the word of God from the scriptures. Every Catholic ought to have the Liturgical Calendar or the Missal that contains all the readings. Therefore, every average Catholic knows where the readings of March 17 2021 are going to come from not just readings of the day or the next. As such, the catholic should have read the readings at home before coming to Mass.
When we come for Mass, only the Lector and the Priest or Deacon is allowed to proclaim from the text. Every other person is to listen to the proclamation not to read from his own text because at that moment we are not doing rehearsals. At that moment we are proclaiming or announcing the word of God and everyone is supposed to listen. That is why after the Lector has finished reading he or she concludes THE WORD OF THE LORD and after a Priest or Deacon has finish proclaiming the gospel he concludes with THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD. To mention the chapter and the verses is to tempt people to open their text and by so doing, we reduce ourselves to reading the Bible instead of proclaiming it.
What we do while proclaiming the Bible is the liturgy of the Word. Just as Ezra read in Nehemiah 8:2-9 and the people listened and even wept, so all are supposed to listen, that the WORD may sink into their hearts. The word then needs to be broken by the priest through the sermon or homily. This homily has the character of DOCERE (teaching the listener), DELECTARE (delighting the listener) and MOVERE (moving the listener), Just as it did to the people of Israel in Nehemiah 8:9. It moves the listener to an action of love, then the word becomes flesh at the table of Eucharist (John 1:14). And the flesh is consumed by the listener through the reception of the Holy Eucharist. Here the listener becomes the LIVING WORD OF GOD. Then I asked the young man, do you understand? He became speechless.