Ministers of the Word are formally called Lectors or, informally, Readers. The lector delivers the readings and a deacon proclaims the Gospel. If a deacon is not present the priest proclaims the Gospel.

The readings of God's word must be listened to attentively and with reverence by all present. When the Scriptures are read at Mass it is God himself speaking to his people. In the Gospel reading Christ himself is present in his own word and God's word contained in Scripture is relevant for all people of every era.

Silence is an essential part of the Liturgy of the Word. Brief moments of silence during the liturgy after each reading are appropriate in order to promote meditation so that the Word of God is taken into the heart by the faithful, prompted by the Holy Spirit.

After the readings the priest or, sometimes, a deacon gives a homily. This practice began in the earliest days of Christian liturgy and explains the meaning of the Scriptural readings. The word homily means "explanation" in Greek. However, the liturgical practice of explaining the readings did not start with Christianity but was rooted in ancient Jewish customs. For example, in the book of Ezra the book of the Law was not merely read to the people. In the book of Nehemiah the Levites "helped the people to understand the law" (Neh 8:7) and the Levites "gave the sense so that the people understood the reading" (Neh 8:8)