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Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, July 28, 2013
Lectionary index # 111

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.

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, July 28, 2013
Before the first reading:

This is one of a series of stories meant to instill in late Jews some pride in the greatness of their early ancestor Abraham. This one describes how familiar Abraham was with the Lord God.
Between psalm and second reading:

In prior chapters, Paul has shown that Christ is superior to angelic mediators who might stand between God and us, and that Christ is our hope of glory. Today he declares that we receive Christ in our baptism. Symbolizing death and resurrection, baptism changes everything in our relationship with God, annulling our debts to God.
Before the gospel acclamation:

These familiar instructions were one way the earliest Christians prepared for the coming again in glory of Jesus, and the tribulations that would bring.

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, Genesis 18:20-32 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: The gospel today, Luke 11:1-13, is a collection of Jesus' sayings about prayer. So the first reading is the story of Abraham's intercession with God on behalf of some innocent potential victims.

The Literary Background: The context is this: The Lord God and two angels have, in disguise, visited Abraham, who welcomed them. (See last week's first reading, Genesis 18:1-10a). As Abraham gradually discovers their identities, they start a trip to nearby Sodom, and the ever hospitable Abraham accompanies them. God decides, since he has already promised Abraham greatness, to tell Abraham of his plan to destroy Sodom. This truncated selection of verses raises the question of why God wanted to destroy Sodom in the first place. The short answer is the residents' inhospitality (something loathed by all other Middle Eastern peoples) and their sexual perversity (despised throughout the Old Testament). Specifically, see the next chapter of the Book of Genesis. Better yet, get the whole story by going back to Genesis 12 and the following chapters, to learn all about Abraham, his kinsman Lot, why Lot settled near Sodom and Abraham didn't, and how Abraham came to be in the company of The Lord God and two other visitors (the two who "walked on farther to Sodom").

The Theological Situation: The next question is why was the destruction of Sodom was to be an all-or-nothing thing? Why couldn't the innocent have been spared and the guilty punished? At the time this was written, the author's community did not have our highly developed sense of the individual and his or her destiny. That moral and religious innovation was to be gift of later prophets and sages. In this early story, not even the Lord God is thought capable of distinguishing the individual from the collective.

How are you to proclaim this? Well, put yourself in character, mostly the character of Abraham, but also the character of the Lord God. In his opening paragraph, Abraham has to sound both respectful and persuasive. So he flatters the Lord God, "Far be it from you ... Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?" When you speak these words, make it sound like shameless flattery. Exaggerate it! How would Zero Mostel (Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof) have played this if Abraham's story were a musical? Remember, no matter how much you think you're hamming it up, the audio system in church smothers half of your expressiveness, so no one else thinks you're over the top. Quite the contrary.

Make God sound solemn and judicious in reply. Then revert to obsequiousness for Abraham's second round in the negotiations. Back to solemn, "I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there." The pace quickens and each of Abraham's bids becomes shorter and more daring. Maintain the sense of drama with pauses at each change of speaker. The congregation should be asking, "Now what's God going to say?" and "Good grief, is Abraham ever going to stop this gamble?"

Second Reading, Colossians 2:12-14 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Theological Situation: The Christians at Colossae were exposed to a variety of philosophical and theological teachings, many of which were incompatible with the gospel. Two weeks ago, in the first of this series of readings from Colossians, we saw that Paul had to establish that Christ was superior to any other possible mediator between humanity and God. Then in last Sunday's selection, we saw that Christ in us is our hope of glory.

Today the question is, "How, then, do we get Christ in us?" Paul's answer is that when we were buried in the waters of baptism, we were united with Jesus in his saving death, and when we emerged from the saturating waters, we were joined to Christ in his resurrection. (Paul assumes that the ritual of baptism obviously simulates burial and resurrection.)

Your Proclamation: So in the first sentence, emphasize the words buried and raised. Then pause before the next sentence, because it states that even our sins couldn't keep this burial and resurrection from having their saving effect.

Next, the sentence goes on but the imagery changes abruptly. Paul speaks of something like a modern criminal indictment, "the bond against us." The indictment is not simply overturned by the staid pronouncement of an appeals court. Rather, in a most vivid image, the indictment is snatched away and nailed to the cross! (Remember, a cross was not used merely to execute people, but to humiliate them utterly in the process. So there's nothing more null and void than something nailed to a cross.) So say this sentence triumphantly.

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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 new liturgy site

Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries.

(Caveat lector. As of May 28, 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
On an undated page labeled Proper 12, Dan covers the same first reading and gospel used in the Catholic lectionary, and Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19]. In treating the latter, Dan elaborates on the themes of Colossians: who is Christ, how we are incorporated into Him by baptism, how Christian teaching differs from the pagan ideas afloat in Colossae. Reading it will enrich your understanding of the whole letter.
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.

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Last modified: May 28, 2013