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Third Sunday of Lent, Year C, March 3, 2013 Lectionary index # 30C

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Users of the Revised Common Lectionary can find Lector's Notes about Isaiah 55:1-11 in several pages, most completely in Notes for the Easter Vigil, which is when the Catholic Lectionary features the passage as a whole.

A digest for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

The presider may speak these before the first and second readings, and before rising for the gospel acclamation. Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.


Third Sunday of Lent, Year C, March 3, 2013
Before the first reading:

The Hebrew descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had become slaves in Egypt, and lost their memory of the Lord. Here the Lord startles and reintroduces himself to the Hebrew who will later lead the people back to their homeland.
Between psalm and second reading:

Today's second reading is Paul's homily based on the Exodus story begun in the first reading. Paul's audience in Corinth was a rather disorderly bunch, so the Apostle's interpretation of the Scripture is stern.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Jesus, too, gives his audience a stern warning about the need to repent. He cites two contemporary events now lost to history. The closing parable alerts all not to take their status with God for granted.

To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).

First reading, Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Story Thus Far: Last week we heard God's promises of family and land to Abraham. Abraham's son Isaac sired Jacob, whose twelve sons left the land given to Abraham, and went to Egypt, temporarily, they hoped, to escape a famine. But they stayed and grew numerous, so the Egyptians, who called the descendants of Jacob "Hebrews," enslaved them. The Pharaoh's daughter adopted a Hebrew baby, naming him Moses. He grew into an adult in the Egyptian court, then lost favor. He left Egypt for Midian (location debatable), married, and got a job.

That all explains why Moses is in the desert, why both Moses and the other Hebrews back in Egypt need to be re-introduced to the God of their ancestors, and why God wants to lead them to "a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey."

Trisecting and Proclaiming this Passage: It will help your proclamation if you divide the passage into three sections (which may not match the paragraph divisions in your lectionary):

A Theological Reflection about that Name: The English expressions "I am who am" and "I AM" are two of several possible translations of an essentially untranslatable Hebrew expression. They give God a name without putting God in any ready category, without removing any of the divine mystery. That the name is a sentence, not a noun, is suggestive: This is a God who does things, who acts, who intervenes in human history, who saves, who cares. It's also instructive that, both before and after announcing the mysterious name, God insists he is the God of Israel's ancestors. This is to prepare the slaves to reclaim their free and noble heritage. All this is appropriate for early in Lent, because it begins the story that will climax so dramatically in our required reading on Holy Saturday, when Moses finally does lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Background: Lector's Notes have often stated that Corinth was a wild and woolly place, and the Corinthian Christian community needed some strong governance from the Apostle. As I learned in 2001 from the excellent book about Jesus, called Desire of the Everlasting Hills, by Thomas Cahill (New York: Random House, 1999), Corinth, which had been "destroyed by the Romans in the second century B.C., but reestablished by Julius Caesar as an exile for undesirables, had become a boomtown, full of retired army grunts, resettled freedmen, and assorted misfits and refugees from more conventional lifestyles, a place where anything might happen. To his Corinthian converts, who were always giving him hives, Paul sent his most eloquent exposition of the life of a true believer, hoping that with such a detailed descriptions they would finally get things straight."

The Apostle's Literary Method (and allusions to our great liturgy of baptism at the end of Lent): Unusual for a second reading, this passage is Paul's commentary on today's first reading. For the sake of his unruly, sorely tempted converts, Paul summons up a cautionary tale. The Israelites, led by Moses, passed miraculously through the sea when they escaped Egypt. They were led across the desert by a cloud. (Their encounters with these watery elements amount to baptism, Paul says.) God gave them water from the rock when they were thirsty. (Paul depicts Christ retroactively present in this event.) Despite all these wonders, many were still faithless, so God let them die in the desert without reaching the Promised Land. The Corinthians are in the same danger, and Paul warns them sternly, "Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care lest he fall."

Your Proclamation: The first few repetitive sentences, up to "and the rock was Christ," all prepare the recipients for the bad news, "God was not pleased ..." So, unusual for Lector's Notes, I recommend you go through those sentences in a repetitive pattern, but break the pattern at "Yet God was not pleased ..." which should sound conclusive.

In the remaining sentences, don't be afraid to sound stern (Paul wasn't). Pronounce the last sentence slowly and with foreboding. Someone's life may depend on hearing this warning and taking it to heart.


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Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: courtesy of The Evangelist, official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, or of The Belleville Messenger, of the Diocese of Belleville.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.

Saint Louis University's excellent Sunday liturgy-preparation site

(Caveat lector. As of January 18, 2013, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

Father Frank Cleary's column on the first reading, from 2004, courtesy of the Saint Louis Review. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137.)
The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes
Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group
Dan's undated page has the heading "Lent 3," and treats Isaiah 55:1-9 as first reading this Sunday.

The Lectionary selections in the frame at the left, if any, are there for your convenience. The publishers of the page in that frame have no connection, except for membership in the one Body of Christ, with the publisher of this page. Likewise the publishers of the pages on the links above.


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Last modified: January 18, 2013