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Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, July 21, 2013 Lectionary index # 108
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.
Who should announce these before the first and second readings, and before the gospel acclamation? They're not Scripture, nor homiletic, so they shouldn't be delivered from the ambo. They're a modest teaching. So let the presider say them from the chair. Let the lector turn toward the presider and listen.
Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.
|Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, July 21, 2013|
Before the first reading:
This story was meant to remind Jews of the greatness of their ancestors Abraham and Sarah, and to propose them as models of good behavior. Abraham could sense that his visitors were extraordinary, and he chose to entertain them lavishly. He lacked only one thing, and his visitors promise that to him within a year.
Between psalm and second reading:
Church elders at Colossae asked Saint Paul to help them settle some disputes. So here Paul sets out his credentials. His authority comes strictly from his imitation of Christ and his insight into God's eternal plan.
Before the gospel acclamation:
Jesus breaks two of his culture's rules in this famous short passage. He teaches a woman and he lets her prefer learning to housekeeping.
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).
The Literary Background: The detailing of Abraham's obsequious courtesies are meant subtly to give hearers two important notions about the grand status of the patriarch. He was wealthy enough to play the very generous host with the best of his contemporaries, and he was spiritually keen, sensing that his visitors were disguised angels. His life was imperfect, and he needed God, of course; his protracted childlessness is a constant reminder of that. Thus the visitor's prediction that Sarah would have a son within the year is really the point of this story.
Another interpretation: Roger Karban argues persuasively that the lesson really is hospitality. The kernel of his interpretation: If you believed in the "total otherness" of God (i.e., if you believed God was essentially different from the hand-made idols worshiped by your neighbors), then you honored your God by being courteous to those who were like God in their otherness. Those were the strangers and the travelers you encountered. Abram's God had already inserted plenty of strangeness into the patriarch's life. Our natural instincts are to distrust strangers and view them as competitors for scarce resources (Abram and Sarah had escaped a nasty dose of pagan inhospitality in Egypt, and Abram's kinsman Lot, in the company of two of these mysterious visitors, would experience reprehensible inhospitality in Sodom in the next chapter.)
Proclaiming the Passage: Let's stick with the hospitality theme, since it prepares the assembly for the gospel, if only for a secondary theme of the gospel.
Speak the first sentence as if it were a title, and pause. Dan Nelson explains convincingly "The first half of the verse is the chapter heading. Without it the story is about three messengers; with it, these are no messengers, earthly or heavenly, but Yahweh himself. In 18:22 the men (cf. 19:1, "two angels") go toward Sodom, while Abraham remains before Yahweh." So your pause lets the story begin at a logical place, "Looking up, Abraham saw three men ..."
Make sure your hearers can picture Abraham's exaggerated gestures. Overact it, if you will. First he promises water, then food. Then he orders Sarah to bake rolls, and a servant to cook a steer. He adds curds and milk to the menu, then serves as waiter while his guests eat. The lavishness borders on the comic.
Make a pause, that is, (forgive me) a pregnant pause, before the last sentence, the visitor's promise, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son." That's how this passage fits into God's whole scheme to make a people, choose them, and from them to bring forth the Savior.
To prepare to read this, imagine yourself as Abraham telling the story of how you entertained the three divine visitors. You're regaling friends and admirers. How would you sound if you were telling the story in the first person? Recreate the breathless frenzy of one making a meal for drop-in visitors. Make your listeners wait for it as you prepare to announce the promise of a son.
Proclaiming the Passage: Unless you have in your mind an outline like the above, your proclamation may sound like an aimless ramble. Modern punctuation in translations of ancient texts is by nature arbitrary. Supplement the punctuation here by pausing where the logic demands it.
The passage may still be hard for people to understand. You may decide to go for modest, reachable goals, such as one or two memorable phrases. One is "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake ..." Another, "in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ." And a third is "Christ in you, the hope for glory." Say these with clarity and conviction, and some listeners may take away a morsel for meditation and spiritual nourishment that sustains them for a long time.
|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: Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.||
Saint Louis University's excellent new liturgy site
Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries. (Caveat lector. As of May 27, 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).
Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group
In an undated page labeled Proper 11, Dan covers the same first reading and gospel used in the Catholic lectionary, and Colossians 1:15-28, the verses preceding the second reading treated here.
|The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes|
|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.