BEGIN BIBLE STUDY WITH
The Sunday Readings and the Lectionary
beautiful happens every Sunday. Around the world, in many languages, Catholics who’ve
come together to celebrate the Eucharist are
listening to the same Scripture readings. And, many Catholics during that week study
the same Scripture readings.
The Sunday readings
come from the Church’s official list of readings for liturgical use, the lectionary. (Lectionary
comes from lectio, the Latin word for
reading. Lay people who read and proclaim the Word of God at Mass are called
The shared Sunday readings help all Catholics, wherever they may live, experience
the rhythm of the Church year and learn about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the
(The Lectionary for Mass also includes weekday readings.)
the first reading is taken from the
Old Testament. (From Easter to Pentecost, it’s taken from Acts of the Apostles.)
Both this reading and the psalm have
been selected because they relate to the gospel reading in some way.
The gospel reading either reflects where we
are in the Church year or is part of the three-year Sunday cycle of reading through
the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, each in turn. During the seasons of Lent
and Easter, we hear the gospel of John. On Sundays outside of Advent/Christmas and
Lent/Easter, we read through Matthew, Mark or Luke, depending on the year.
The second reading is taken
from the New Testament letters (epistles) attributed to Paul, Peter, John, and James.
During Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter, this reading, and all the readings, relate
to the seasonal theme.
On Ordinary Sundays, though, you won’t hear
any connection between this reading and the other readings. The Church is simply
moving through one of these letters, selectively but in order, so Catholics can
get familiar with it.
Study with the Sunday Readings
With three proclaimed readings and a sung or spoken psalm, the Sunday readings offer
an easy and interesting way to begin your study of Scripture and grow in your relationship
with Christ as you stay in touch with the Church year.
For the gospel reading you might:
Focus on the primary gospel for the year
(Matthew, Mark, or Luke), studying it piece by piece and reflecting on it
during the weeks of Ordinary time.
Focus on the gospel readings we hear during the special
liturgical seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter.
If you want to ease your way into Bible study, you could start with studying just
the gospel of the year, or just the gospel readings during one of
the special liturgical seasons.
For the second reading you might:
Follow one of the letters read section-by-section at Mass
in Ordinary time, learning about it and reflecting on it each
week. For example, if you know from the lectionary that you'll hear selections from
Galatians over the next four weeks, make that your Bible study for those weeks.
Make a study of the Acts of the Apostles during the Easter
season, as it's proclaimed in the first reading on the Sundays
from Easter to Pentecost.
Finally, you might choose to study and pray only the Sunday
psalm, particularly if you'd like to bring Scripture more deeply
into your spiritual life. Learn something about the book of Psalms and pay attention
each week to how the psalm connects with the other Sunday readings.
(Since the Old Testament Mass readings are selected for their connections to the
gospel, it's hard to begin Bible study with them. See Start with a Biblical Book
for better places to begin with that part of the Bible.)
Choose whatever focus in the Sunday readings seems right for you. And don't forget
to ask someone to join you in your study!
RESOURCES: Study the Sunday Readings
You’ll get the
most out of your study and reflection if you use a simple lectionary-based Bible
The books of
the Bible were produced in long-ago times and places, by people who lived in different
cultures and had different understandings of the world from our time and place.
These books have also had a long life in the teaching and worship of the Church.
Using a lectionary
study resource is like taking a tour of a new place accompanied by a guide who really
knows how to explain it. You get:
on time, place, and language to help you make sense of what you read.
Key themes and
teachings important for Catholics.
Ideas for relating
the readings to your life and world.
are published for Bible study and prayer based on the Sunday readings. Here are
Focus on the Gospel
Sunday by Sunday (weekly publication)
A short (four small pages), easy-to-read resource that emphasizes explaining
and reflecting on the gospel reading, as well as reflecting on the Old Testament
reading. Includes questions to think about as well as opening and closing prayers.
You subscribe with the publisher and receive four issues a month.
An excellent beginning resource for
groups. Works well with families.
Living with Christ (monthly publication)
This resource offers all the Mass readings for a month, provides
background help for the Sunday gospels, and includes reflections on teachings from
the saints and Christian spiritual masters.
A nice beginning resource for starting Bible study and learning more about the Catholic
faith. Works best for
At Home with the Word (annual publication)
This resource comes out once a year with background, reflections, and the
text of the Sunday readings. Includes good basic teaching: an introduction to the
gospel of the year (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) and to the gospel of John; a simple
guide to studying and praying the Bible; Scripture insights; unique prayers for
each week; and connections to Catholic virtues and morality.
My favorite lectionary-based resource for getting started with Bible study. Works
well with individuals or groups. Can easily be adapted by parents to work with families.
Focus on Other Sunday Readings
Since most lectionary-based
resources focus on the Sunday gospels, you'll have to do a little work to find simple
help for the other readings I discussed above. If you'd like to try, here are some
Read the introduction
in your Bible for whatever reading you've chosen (the New Testament
letter, the Acts of the Apostles, or Psalms).
Get a relevant issue of Scripture from Scratch
and keep referring to this overview as you continue your study: