Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, June 12, 2016
Zechariah the prophet convicts Israel of sins and threatens that it will be occupied by enemies as punishment. He names a specific sin, the stabbing of an innocent man. He also predicts that the people can become purified from their sins.
Some early Jewish converts to Christ insisted that pagan converts become practicing Jews as part of their accepting Christ. The Apostle Paul overturns such distinctions.
Jesus accepts the designation of Messiah, but orders his followers not to proclaim him so publicly. He has more to teach about the nature of his Messiaship.
Our Liturgical Setting: We resume liturgical year C's journey through Saint Luke's gospel. In today's passage, Luke 9:18-24, Peter answers Jesus famous question, "Who do you say that I am?" naming Jesus "The Messiah of God." Jesus' response is to predict his suffering, death and resurrection, and, within a few verses, to set his face resolutely for Jerusalem. Perhaps the first reading was chosen with those fateful events in mind.
The Historical Situation: The book known as Zechariah comes from two different sources. Scholars call chapters 9-14 Second Zechariah. It's later than most of what we read from the Hebrew Scriptures, from the period after Alexander the Great conquered Judah in 333 B.C.E. By this time, Judah had been a subject state for a very long time. From generation to generation, only the names of its overlords had changed. The prophet begins (Zechariah 9:1-8) by announcing that the Lord will invade the lands of Judah's foes (some near and some far) and liberate Judah. The same prophet also introduces a new variation on Israel's hope for a Messiah (meaning "Anointed One" in Hebrew, that is, a king). The Messiah is to be "meek, and riding on an ass" ...He shall banish the chariot, horse and warrior's bow. He shall proclaim peace to the nations. The prophet also borrows from Deutero-Isaiah the image of an anonymous person whose suffering brings healing and redemption to the people.
Proclaiming It: That's what's behind the few verses you are to proclaim. The offer of a spirit of grace and petition is hopeful. More stern is the prediction that the people will regretfully and mournfully view someone "whom they have pierced." But these people knew that griefs came as a consequence of their sins, and that life is always a mix of blessings and curses, of sin about which they were realistic, and of divine gifts like the "fountain to purify."
This mix of such contrasts in so few words makes for a difficult proclamation. Use contrasting tones of voice, then, for the hopeful and mournful elements. Here's a source of help in pronouncing Hadadrimmon and Megiddo.
The Historical and Theological Background: The earliest Christians believed they were believing in the ultimate fulfillment of Judaism. It was a big shock when Gentiles, who had had little taste for things Jewish, joined them as believers in Jesus. It was none too comfortable for the Gentile Christians, either. Working out how to integrate these groups, long antagonists, was the early church's great controversy.
After Paul had made converts among Gentiles in Galatia, Christians of Jewish origin came there, questioned Paul's standing as an apostle, and told the Gentile Christians that the gospel required that they observe Jewish law and religious practice. The letter to the Galatians is Paul's vigorous (to put it mildly) corrective to this error:
This reference to the cross is part of the kernel of Paul's argument: That what God wrought for us in Christ is so thorough that there's no need for old observances. Faith is accepting that God wants to give us what we couldn't earn by legal observance. Living in the flesh, here, means trying to justify oneself before God by keeping laws. Living in the spirit is living by the faith described above.
Proclaiming It: All the above is absent from the text of what you are to proclaim, but it certainly undelies the meaning of it. When verse 26 says, "Through faith you are all children of God," it means faith as described above, contrasted against religion as legal observance. To be baptized is literally to be saturated in Christ, and to be clothed with Christ is to conform to him in one's external behavior, as well as internally. The distinction between Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) is abrogated, as we saw above; but it goes further: our unity in Christ abrogates distinctions between slaves and masters, men and women.
The "promise" in verse 29 is the original covenant God made with Abraham, ancestor of all the Jews. Because it's earlier than the covenant God made with Moses, when the law was given, the promise is superior to the law. So those who become Abraham's heirs according to the promise have a better "deal" than any who just keep the legal covenant given through Moses.
How should you sound when you proclaim this? Well, how do you feel when pondering these saving truths? Imagine how it would feel if Rwanda's Tutsis and Hutus could suddenly find themselves reconciled, or Iraq's Sunni and Shiite, America's blacks and whites, Christendom's Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. Think of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, of Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven's Ninth Symphony there, the chorus singing "Freiheit!" in place of the poet's "Freude!" Those events, some hypothetical yet and one real, are pale reflections of the reconciliation you'll be reading about.
A background photo from the website of the realty company La Source Immobilier.
Lector's Notes should be easily readable on any device, including small-screen ones like cell phones and tablets. This is among the first of a few hundred pages to be converted to a responsive format (responsive to the kind of screen you are using). So when you're not serving as lector, and you arrive at church and mute your cell phone, you can brief yourself on the readings you're about to hear. Format conversion is a work-in-progress and will be so until maybe April of 2018.
This page updated May 21, 2016