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Talking to Myself


A member of my parish approached me after Mass and asked, “Why do you talk to yourself after you read the Gospel?”
 
Because she used the expression “talk to yourself” — which has a negative connotation — her question confused me.
 
Then she explained: “After you read the Gospel, I always see your lips moving. What are you saying?”

Oh.
 
She was referring to the prayer the priest or deacon recites: “Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.”
 
The reason our parishioner interpreted this prayer as “talking to myself” is that the rubrics in the Roman Missal instruct the priest or deacon to say those words “quietly.”
 
I don’t know the reason for that instruction, but the prayer makes an important point about why we read or listen to the Gospel at all.
 
The words do not imply that the proclamation of the Gospel is a sacrament that imparts grace in the same way as, for example, the sacrament of penance.
 
They do imply, however, that the proclamation of the Gospel can lead to grace if those who hear it take it to heart and practice it in their lives.
 
In fact, the prayer calls to mind, perhaps deliberately, words attributed to Peter in the Acts of the Apostles.
 
Peter had healed a disabled beggar at one of the gates of the Temple in Jerusalem, and bystanders were astounded.
 
Peter asked why they were surprised at the healing, as though he had accomplished it with some power of his own; the power, he said, came from Jesus, the Christ, whom many of these same bystanders had rejected when he was among them.
 
Peter charitably chalked up their behavior to ignorance, but added, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away. . . ’’ (Acts 3:1-19).
 
The crowd in the temple had heard Peter’s discourse; grace would come if they were “converted” — that is, if they internalized what he had told them and acted upon it.
 
Since the parishioner asked me why I talked to myself, I have mused over the possibility that we deacons and priests are instructed to say those words quietly to remind ourselves not to feel self-important because we are assigned to proclaim the Gospel.
 
We have the vestments, the place at the ambo, and the Book of the Gospels, but it is Jesus Christ — not the raiment, not the minister, not the ambo, and not the words printed on the page — who speaks to all of us in the words of the Gospel, who calls us to conversion, and who saves us from the consequences of sin.
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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