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Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C,
August 18, 2013
Lectionary Index #120

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.

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, August 18, 2013
Before the first reading:

The prophet Jeremiah insisted that his nation's defeats were due to bad faith on the part of their rulers. This reading describes an episode of their wrangling over how to punish the prophet.
Between psalm and second reading:

The letter to the Hebrews bolsters the faith of Jewish converts who missed the rituals and institutions of Judaism. Today the letter imagines them as athletes in a stadium. The fans cheering for them are ancestors who struggled for the faith in the past.
Before the gospel acclamation:

This gospel passage reflects the fact that Jesus' early followers had to recall his words about how loyalty to his teachings would cause conflict and division.

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, Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

As usual, the first reading warms us up to hear today's gospel, Luke 12:49-53. There Jesus speaks with prophetic bluntness about how his mission will divide those who accept him from those who don't.

The prophet Jeremiah lived from about 650 B.C. to perhaps 580 B.C. Most of his work was in Judah's capital Jerusalem. He tried to keep the people and several kings faithful to God amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing like that which prevails in our own capitals today. Jeremiah was blunt about what was right and what was not, and he suffered at the hands of the powerful because of his outspokenness. Judah's defeats at the hands of foreign enemies were the result, Jeremiah insisted, of the bad faith of the king and other leaders among the people. This and similar statements seemed seditious to some. They were still reluctant to kill him outright, so they got the king to order Jeremiah thrown into a pit and kept there. Then someone else got the ear of the wishy-washy king, and successfully argued for Jeremiah's release.

Out of its context, it's not a very interesting story, is it? But you can still proclaim it in a way that gets the attention of your congregation, and perhaps wins their sympathy for the prophet. Start by working on the tone of voice you'll use for those who want to silence the prophet. When you describe their appeal to the king, make them sound indignant and pious and hypocritical. Make the king sound like the wimp he is when he says "He is in your power."

Then pause, for the scene changes (and the Lectionary leaves out a verse of the original text). When Ebed-melech speaks to the king in Jeremiah's favor, his voice through yours should sound like a public defender tearing apart the prosecution's flimsy case against an innocent defendant.

Second Reading, Hebrews 12:1-4 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

This letter was written for the sake of Jews who had become Christians, and who were promptly rejected by other Jews. Kicked out of synagogue and cut off from family and old friends, from the comforting rituals and institutions they had known, these folks needed their faith bolstered. So the previous chapter, covered in last Sunday's second reading and lector's notes, praises a long list of faithful Jews from the past, particularly Abraham, detailing some of the difficulties they faced. Those heroic figures are the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in today's passage.

The author wants his audience to think of themselves as athletes in a race in a stadium, where the witnesses are like spectators surrounding them and cheering them. Jesus, on the other hand, is not a cheering witness, but the supreme example. The sentences describing his fidelity are not just images; they're strong and direct statements.

To get into the mood to proclaim this, think of how you might counsel one of your children who has to work up the courage to do something difficult and unpopular. A youngster might know he should be kind to the kid in class that the others like to tease. A more mature child might know she has to break up with an unsuitable boyfriend. You, the wise parent, are sympathetic to your child's torment, but you want her or him to do what's right. While sounding accepting and not judgmental, you give all the encouragement you can. That's what the author of Hebrews was doing.

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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 June 29, 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
Dan covers a different passage from Jeremiah as first reading.
The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes
Father Frank Cleary's 2001 column on today's second reading (Log in using 0026437 and 63137), from the site of the Saint Louis Review..

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: August 16, 2013