I probably can’t describe how I know if and when I’m hearing from the Almighty without sounding odd. Let’s just say I’ve (pretty much) learned how to distinguish God’s prompts from whatever is bubbling up from the simmering cauldron of my own ego. In any given situation, God is infinitely more creative and nuanced than I.
To the extent that I can get and stay conscious enough to choose, I choose to listen for the Holy Spirit. This process of discernment explains why I now ignore almost everything* but scripture text in The Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word (Note: capitalization in the original). I didn’t always dismiss the emphatic margin notes about which words or verses might rate extra emphasis.
In the beginning of my adventures as a lector, I paid attention to directives printed in the workbook. Yes, there’s actually a workbook that some parishes distribute to lectors. Yes, I actually heeded suggestions like:
“Speak this classic line slowly and with great warmth.”
“This is the climax of the text. Speak with greater energy. Take a pause before ‘Jesus.’”
“Make eye contact with the assembly. Speak like a loving parent or wise teacher.”
“This is another line to be delivered with utter conviction.”
I guess I wanted to do a good job or at least not screw up, a concept I now realize is laughingly absurd given everyone’s attention span during liturgy.
But was I supposed to be delivering an award-winning theatrical performance or engaging prayerfully with scripture so that others might be moved to do the same? And if I was supposed to be inviting deeper engagement with scripture, then why was I letting the workbook determine the essence of text?
Happy to report it didn’t take long for me to swing into this critical inquiry mode. This epiphany happened the day I read, “Stress the work of the Spirit here” but was blessedly able to hear,** “Go deeper.” And so I choose to go with God, trusting that at least in this domain of my life discernment eclipses defiance.
*I generally pay attention to the phonetic spelling for names and places; very helpful for tongue twisting passages like Acts 2:9-10.
**Not audibly but you know what I mean, right?