The word of the day is “open.” Among our readings today is Isaiah 50:4-11. The prophet writes, “The Lord God has opened My ear, and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away” (NKJV Isaiah vs. 5). This statement is especially appropriate for tonight’s reading of the Twelve Gospels of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
These passages are both meaningful and challenging. Throughout the service, our natural human nature makes it difficult for us to stand and concentrate on the readings. Thus, we might ask with what spirit will we hear and pay attention to them?
With what Spirit Will We Listen?
With what spirit will we hear listen to the story of our salvation? Will our reading and hearing be no more than a tradition to uphold? No more than a duty to perform? No more than an arduous task to be endured?
Worthy to Hear the Holy Gospel
Note that before the first reading, the priest will pray, “May we be made worthy to hear the Holy Gospel.” In some traditions, this petition is repeated before each Gospel excerpt. What will be read is the story of the Passion of the Lord from His Farewell Discourse and Betrayal in the Garden to His Burial and the Posting of the Guard at the Tomb. There is no reading, no story, no series of events greater than this. To hear these Gospels, we must “Be attentive,” unplug our ears, open our hearts and minds. The prophet Isaiah says, “Who among you fears the Lord? Let him listen to the voice of His servant” (OSB Isaiah 50:10).
What “counts us worthy” of hearing the Gospel? It is fear, love, and a heart open to the Spirit. The Scriptures can only be rightly understood by the same Spirit that inspired them. Those who do not listen to them in that Spirit will not comprehend them. The Lord said in the Gospel of Mark, “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside, everything is in parables, so that they may be ever hearing but never understanding…” (Mark 4:11-12). Accordingly, to be made “worthy” to hear the Holy Gospel is given by the grace of the Spirit of God. Thus, we respond to the priest, “Lord have mercy!” So may the Lord hear and answer our prayer that we may be made worthy to open our ears to hear the Gospel of our redemption this evening.