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Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year C, June 30, 2013
Lectionary index # 99

Twenty-second digests 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.

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, June 30, 2013
Before the first reading:

The Books of Kings include stories about very faithful prophets dealing with only fairly faithful kings. Written well after the events they describe, the books encourage their audience to put faith in God's promises. Today's passage is about a senior prophet choosing his successor.
Between psalm and second reading:

Some Jewish early Christians believed Gentile converts were obliged to keep the laws of Moses. Paul disputes this, labeling the old law a yoke of slavery, and calling all Christians to obey a new, higher law of love in Christ. This is life in the Spirit, he says, as opposed to life in the flesh.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Saint Luke makes his gospel pivot on this passage, the beginning of Jesus' final journey toward Jerusalem. There he, his disciples, and indeed readers of the gospel, know that the cross awaits him. This passage tries to prepare followers to accompany Jesus.

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, 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: Today's gospel, Luke 9:51-62, is the turning point of Luke's account, where Jesus "resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem" and his destiny there. Luke packs the passage with explicit and symbolic statements about the costs of being Jesus' disciple, in view of Jesus' journey toward his death. To prepare us for hearing the gospel challenge, the church recalls the call to discipleship of Elisha.

The Historical Situation and Theological Background: The Books of Kings were written well after the events they describe by an author who had this intent: His main interest is in keeping his audience faithful to the Lord. So he tells the story of each of Israel's kings, with emphasis on how the king was or was not faithful. "The faithful prosper; the unfaithful pay for their defections," as the Introduction to 1 Kings in The New American Bible explains. And when the author compares prophets to kings, the prophets are always the more faithful.

The gesture of draping one's mantle over a disciple is interesting, meant to signify a sharing of one's prophetic spirit. Later, when Elijah is drawn up to heaven, Elisha will retrieve his master's cloak and make it his own (See 2 Kings 2:7-18.)

The dialogue between the prophet and his apprentice is a bit puzzling. Elijah's testy question, "Have I done anything to you?" might mean "Hey, I'm not forcing you to be my follower. Make up your own mind."

The Lector's Proclamation: The name of the senior prophet in this story is Elijah ("ee LYE juh"). The name of the man whom Elijah drafts is pronounced "eh LISH uh" with a short e sound in the first syllable and short i sound in the second. You can safely pronounce the name of Elisha's town as "ah bell mah HO lah". Some readers of Lector's Notes suggest other pronunciations. However you say the names, help your listeners distinguish the senior prophet from the junior. Above all, decide ahead of time how you'll say them, and don't distract your listeners by improvising at the lectern.

As you proclaim this, read slowly and with expression when you describe Elijah's throwing his cloak over Elisha. That should sound strange to your listeners; give them a chance to absorb it and picture it in their minds. On a deep level, this rich and beautiful image will speak to their hearts. There's no need to "explain" it. Just don't rush it.

Say the last sentence slowly, with finality. That the one called finally followed the master is, after all, the bottom line.

Second Reading, Galatians 5:1, 13-18 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Background: Among the Christians in Galatia, some were teaching that, in order to be saved, Christians still had to keep the Jewish law, even to the point of being circumcised. Saint Paul argues forcefully that there should be no such requirement. That false obligation is the "yoke of slavery" in the first sentence of this reading.

Now the old Jewish law was not a bad thing, but it promised more than it could ever deliver. Keeping the law could not save anyone. Salvation, Paul teaches, comes as an undeserved gift through Christ. We accept it by faith. That the Jewish law is out does not mean there is no law at all. The higher law of Christian love governs us now.

The Theological Background: The contrast of flesh and spirit is a favorite theme of Saint Paul's. But here the term "flesh" has a nuanced meaning. Living in the flesh means not just being ruled by one's carnal desires. It also means trying to live by law alone, trying to keep the old law by one's own moral strength. That is, using the resources only of one's own flesh to control one's own flesh and make oneself right with God. Paul is sure it won't work; we're not that strong morally; he has tried it himself. Only the Spirit can make us right with God. Good practices, even religious practices, that people attempt on their own, cannot make us right with God.

Proclaiming It: Emphasize the two contrasts:

With smart phrasing, pauses at logical breaks, and above all with contrasting tones of voice, let the conflicts be clearly stated in your proclamation. Take comfort in the knowledge that this is not an easy passage for any lector to read or any assembly to understand. And the whole cycle of Lent and Easter readings has interrupted our Sunday-by-Sunday traversal of this letter. Blessed is the congregation where the preacher will tackle this reading in the homily.

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."
Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group
The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes
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 site

Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries.

(Caveat lector. As of May 5, 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).

Archived weekly column of Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137.)

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: May 12, 2013