I always was a big ham.
From about age three I was dancing on amphitheater stages at the park and shouting “crucify him!” with as much gusto as I could muster during Good Friday services. I thrived in dramatic moments and in front of crowds. I also felt deeply connected to my faith and longed to get involved at church. To my chagrin, my parents wanted to leave altar serving to boys discerning the priesthood. “You’ll find your place to serve,” they told me. “You just have to be patient.”
In middle school I found that place when my dad and I started lectoring together. It was such a joy. As a literary enthusiast, I savored the words and tried out inflections for effect. And my dramatic flair was tickled as I told epic stories in front of the congregation. Around this time I began to read The Word Among Us reflections on the daily Mass readings with breakfast, and throughout high school, I learned how to truly dig into the rich characterization, poetry, and symbolism present in scripture. Most importantly, I learned that God had something personal to say to me when he spoke through his Word. It was uncanny how often the Mass readings were relevant to something that had happened that day. I began to discover motifs and allegories not only on the pages of the missal but in my own life.
I always prayed that my experience with the relevance of scripture would overflow into the listeners when I lectored. What a gift, to be the one who spoke the words of love that God was whispering to someone feeling unlovable, to be the mouthpiece of God’s challenge for a sleeping soul, to bring a thrill of joy to someone who felt trapped in sorrow.
“But isn’t all this pretty attention-seeking?” nags the voice in my head. Possibly. But in the proper context, the lector should be somewhat invisible. Just like a great actor “becomes” a completely different person when the character they inhabit takes over, so too should lectors fade into the background of the message and the One they speak for. Certainly, each actor and lector will approach a character or text in a unique way that points to their specific God-given sensibilities and experiences, but the goal is to let those aspects of personality serve the larger picture of what they are trying to portray. Contrary to the self-centered diva, lectoring can be a lesson in the art of self-forgetfulness, self-gift, even death to self.
On the opposite end of the naysayer spectrum lives a little voice that whispers, “How could you stand up in front of people and make a fool of yourself when you might mess up?” The answer, however, is the same as before: serve the message. God can make great things come out of real mess-ups. Just look at what good came out of the Crucifixion. So now, reader, I ask you to consider how God is calling you to enter more deeply into the message of salvation. That may start with five minutes a day looking over the Mass readings and ask God how this applies to your life. It may be something more radical, like volunteering to be a lector at St. Andrew. Just know that Jesus is always calling us deeper, and we have been given a great gift to bear the story of salvation. Take a risk – maybe you are called to be the mouthpiece of God as a lector.