Each time you go to Mass you hear a series of Scripture readings. Some are read by a lector, some of it can be sung, and some is read by a priest or deacon.
The readings may seem arbitrary. Some Old Testament, some New Testament, a Psalm, some Gospel…the readings may not immediately seem to tie together.
The truth is that there is a structure to it – the readings are scheduled out on a multi-year rotation and each day’s assigned readings usually form around a specific theme.
If you are looking for a mini-retreat each day, a way to disconnect yourself from the busy world and sync up with the liturgical schedule of the Church while becoming more familiar with the Bible, the daily readings are the way to do it.
About The Cycle of the Daily Readings
If you were to go to Mass every day of the year for three years, or simply read the daily readings each of those days, you would essentially have heard or read the entire Bible.
There are two cycles to the daily readings: the Sunday cycle and the weekday cycle.
The readings for Sundays go on a three year rotation. The year starts at the beginning of the new liturgical year, at the beginning of Advent, rather than starting on January 1. The years are labeled Year A, Year B, and Year C.
Each Sunday there is a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from the Psalms, a reading from the New Testament, and a reading from the Gospels.
The first reading, from the Old Testament, is usually a reflection on the theme of the Gospel reading. The second reading (from the New Testament) is a portion of one of the epistles, which are letters written to early church communities.
In general the readings flow continuously from week to week through an entire book of the Bible, although some sections of books are skipped for various reasons.
Each year of the cycle for Sundays focuses on the a different Gospel. Year A mostly takes its Gospel readings from the Gospel of Matthew, Year B is Mark, and Year C is Luke. The Gospel of John is read during the Easter season every year.
The readings for weekdays are actually on a two year rotation. The years are labeled Year I and Year II, with Year I occurring in odd-numbered years ( like 2015 and 2017) and Year II occurring in even-numbered years (such as 2014 and 2016).
On most weekdays there is a single reading, from either the Old or the New Testament, and a Psalm and a Gospel reading. The reading is taken more or less continuously from a single book in the Bible each weekday until that book is complete and another is started.
The Gospel reading for weekdays is the same for both years, working through Mark and then Matthew and then Luke, with John being read during the Easter season.
During liturgical seasons such as advent and lent the readings are chosen to be relevant to the season.
There are designated options for the readings on special days such as saints’ feasts. There are also designated Mass readings for events such as weddings and funerals.
The only approved translation of the Bible that can be used for the readings in English-language Masses (at least in dioceses in the United States) is the New American Bible. If you are reflecting on the daily readings on your own outside of Mass, however, you are free to use any translation you like.
Where to Find the Daily Readings
Many websites, apps, and books offer a list of the readings for each day. My favorite website resources is the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which I simply set as the home page for my browser so that the daily readings are the first thing to open each day when I go online.
The USCCB website recently added the option to have the daily readings sent straight to your e-mail. This is a great option – who doesn’t check their email at least once a day?
You can subscribe for this service by filling out the box at the bottom of their page, which says “Get the daily readings sent to your email every morning.”
My favorite app for the daily readings is called “iBreviary.” This app is mostly known for providing the Liturgy of the Hours prayers each day, but it also has options for reading the daily readings and other prayers and readings.
There is a variety of publications that will provide a list of the readings for each day. Often they will also offer a reflection on the readings. My favorite of these is called “Magnificat.”
This is a monthly booklet that you can subscribe to that includes the daily readings and a reflection on the Gospel. In addition it also includes information about saints, and prayers for morning and evening.
Audio of Readings/Homilies
I am on the go much of the day, walking or driving to work and other appointments. I like to have audio to listen to while I am walking or sitting in the car, so podcasts of the daily readings, and also podcasts of homilies to accompany the readings, are a great option.
The USCCB, in addition to providing the readings online and via e-mail, also provide a podcast of the readings. It only takes three or four minutes to listen through the readings for the day, and you can usually download the readings for the day up to a month ahead of time in case you will not have access to a computer for a few days.
The USCCB podcast feed can be found here:
It can also be useful to listen to a daily homily that reflects on the readings, like the podcast version from Catholic News Agency. Your own parish may even offer daily homilies to download, so ask the parish to find out if this is the case.
The USCCB Daily Homily can be found here:
Do you have a favorite tool for getting the daily readings? What is it?