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Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C,
August 25, 2013 Lectionary index # 123

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.

Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, August 25, 2013
Before the first reading:

A late prophet surprises his Jewish audience with news that God's favor extends to pagans. Some pagans are even going to get the prestigious positions of priest and Levite.
Between psalm and second reading:

The Hebrews addressed in our second reading were Jewish converts to Christ. They suffered because they were cut off from the dear religious comforts of their past, and were persecuted. The author interprets these trials as discipline given by a loving parent.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Saint Luke's audience were somewhat sophisticated pagan converts to Christ. They wondered how their new religion developed from the long-exclusive Judaism. Luke recalls some saying of Jesus that address that question.

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, Isaiah 66:18-21 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: Today's gospel (Luke 12:49-53) has Jesus continuing his fateful way to Jerusalem. In particular he answers a question that vexed the early church, "How did the favor of God pass from the originally chosen people to the broader, amorphous group of Gentiles, including the evangelist's audience of Christians of pagan origin?" A prophet some 500 years earlier than Jesus had predicted a similar change, and his oracles were appended to the book of the prophet Isaiah. One of those oracles is today's first reading.

The Historical Situation: Almost everything changed for the Lord's chosen people when many of them were taken off into Exile in 587 B.C.E. They returned around 540. The third part of the book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapters 56-66, was written in that situation, returning exiles trying to put everything back together in Jerusalem.

In the prophet's view, one thing that's changing is that the Lord now declares the desire to be the Lord of other people in addition to the Jews. Further, some of the converts are to be missionaries (the "fugitives" of today's reading) to still other pagans. All these people, once aliens in regions with strange names, are to come to Jerusalem by every means of travel, bringing offerings with which to worship the Lord. And even the hereditary posts of priests and Levites can be held by these outsiders.

Your Proclamation: Those are very, very big changes, and when you proclaim this, you should sound like the prophet stating something that amazed him and that he knew would leave his audience dumbfounded. Emphasize every word that refers to the others:

Those difficult pronunciations: Click on each of the following words to hear them pronounced on the authority of Net Ministries: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Mosoch, Tubal, and Javan. (If your browser is not configured to play .wav files at a single click, then click here and follow the links from the initial letter to the specific word.) Years ago in this space I argued that confident pronunciation (that sounds prepared, not an improvisation) was as good as informed pronunciation. I've changed my mind, if for no other reason than that you, the lector, should be convinced you're doing every part of this ministry as well as you can.

Second Reading, Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

How Their Historical Situation Differs from Ours: We've seen two Sundays ago and last Sunday how the letter to the Hebrews tries to bolster the faith of a persecuted people by appealing to their tradition. We know that tradition as the Old Testament, but these folks didn't yet see that they were "in" the New Testament. Their tradition was just their tradition. The quoted "exhortation addressed to [them] as children" was Proverbs 3:11-12. And the tradition did not have some of our sophisticated ways of thinking.

For example, we (can) distinguish the good that God does and that God wants, from the evil things that God forbids but permits to us free subjects. We know that God wants our freely given love, so we're never coerced. We know that the truly innocent can suffer (look at Jesus!) at the hands of others, and that our own sins bring deserved grief on ourselves and undeserved pain on others. Nor are we blind to the fact that wicked people often "get away with it," at least in the short run. And we have seen that God providentially brings good out of evil, without actually causing the evil.

The Ancient Author's Theological Assumptions: The author of Hebrews takes a different tack in explaining the suffering of his audience. It's God's discipline, given in love, as we would give discipline to a child whom we want to become mature and responsible. (Maybe we should speak of "giving" discipline instead of the customary "imposing" discipline.)

Your Proclamation: That we might use explanations other than divine discipline to make sense of our suffering does not invalidate, by any means, this passage from the word of God. To proclaim this, do your best to take on the mindset of the author. Think of your audience as struggling, wavering, tempted and persecuted (many are, even if they're putting up a brave front). You are speaking in loco parentis (in the place of a parent) to someone whom you love and whose suffering you can't easily or magically fix. You believe in their power, with God's help, to endure faithfully, but you're realistic about their pains. Tell them what they need to hear, in the honest, loving tone of voice they also need to hear.

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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 guessing about the exact web address of the SLU offerings. If you get "Error 404, page not found," try this link.

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: July 29, 2013