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Twenty-ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C,
October 20, 2013
Lectionary index # 147

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.


29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, October 20, 2013
Before the first reading:

The Israelites, only recently freed from slavery in Egypt, and still far from their promised land, meet resistance from a warlike tribe. This portrait of Moses, resolute and able to inspire confidence, encouraged later generations who preserved this story.
Between psalm and second reading:

The New Testament's "pastoral letters" are in the form of exhortations from a senior apostle to a member of the second generation of church leaders. But the letters also address the whole church. Today's passage reminds leaders and members of our sources and our priorities.
Before the gospel acclamation:

For Jesus' time and place, the two characters in today's parable were extremely unusual: and outspoken woman and a man who cared nothing about others' opinions of himself. Jesus compares us to one and contrasts the other with God our Father.

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, Exodus 17:8-13 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Story Thus Far: The Israelites are not far in miles or months from their slavery in Egypt. They are still learning the ways of the Lord to whom Moses has introduced them when he rallied them for their escape. But in this story, happily though it ends for the people, the Lord is conspicuously absent. As Father Roger Karban notes, "Though we presume Yahweh ultimately brings about the Israelite victory, the Sacred Author never mentions Yahweh in this reading. Moses alone tells Joshua to engage Amalek in battle, and Moses alone keep his hands raised (with the help of Aaron and Hur) to assure his peoples triumph."

The Literature: The events that underlie the book of Exodus took place in the 13th century, B.C.E. The book as we have it now is a synthesis of several threads of tradition, created and refined over long periods. Here's a summary of John F. Craghan's treatment of Exodus as literature in The Collegeville Bible Commentary - Old Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1992). It is popular literature, not scientific history, with several sources. Of the sources, Craghan says, "Given the centrality of the Exodus for Israel's faith, one should not be surprised to find a number of theologians at work. Exegetes [Bible scholars] usually point to at least three theologians in the composition of this work. The first is the Yahwist ( = J ) who writes in the tenth century B.C.E. during the heady days of the Davidic-Solomonic kingdom. The second is the Elohist ( = E ) who reflects a period of religious turmoil and syncretism in the eighth or ninth century B.C.E. The third is the Priestly Writer ( = P ) who struggles to offer a picture of hope during the debacle of the Exile in the sixth century B.C.E. It would be wrong for the reader to attempt to harmonize their sometimes conflicting views. Rather, the reader must allow such theologians the requisite freedom to interpret. Such a stance recognizes that these writers judged the past in the light of their present and with a view to the future needs of Israel." (Ambitious readers may want to tackle the first article, by Ronald Hendel, in the Winter, 2001, Journal of Biblical Literature, for more on the literary composition of Exodus.)

Interesting to you, I hope, but not much help in getting prepared to read the passage to a Sunday assembly, is it? Ideally, we would learn what situation prompted the ancient editor to craft the passage this way. We'd have some certainty about how he applied his tradition to the needs of his people. We'd know from what aberration or temptation he was calling them back to the basics. The lector would try to take on that purposeful mind-set, perhaps with an "Aha!" recognizing similar needs in the life of the listening congregation. (So should the preacher.) But it's hard in this instance to figure out what those original needs were. Something prompted the editor to emphasize the steadfastness of Moses, and to praise Moses to the point that the Lord Yahweh is only implied, not mentioned. (Nevertheless, both Craghan and the New Jerusalem Bible say the source of this is the Yahwist. Perhaps they just eliminated the others.) So my advice to the lector is to meditate a bit on the stature of Moses. What a daring thing he undertook with a band of slaves. How resolute he had to be in rallying them to overcome their fears. How well he knew the Lord.

Your Proclamation: This story has some vivid images that you should get across with careful phrasing and contrasts in your tone of voice. Joshua is Moses' military commander. The name of the enemy leader is pronounced "AM uh lek" with a short a in the first syllable.

Moses clearly saw his staff as an awesome thing. Let a trace of awe be heard in your voice when you say, "I will be standing on the hill with the staff of God in my hand." When you get to the sentence, "As long as Moses kept his hands up, ..." slow down so that your hearers have a chance to fix this image in their minds. Your slowing down will also help them catch the elegant but archaic phrase, "had the better of the fight."

The translator, if not the original author, certainly enjoyed turning the phrase, "And Joshua mowed down Amalek ..." You should read it aloud with a certain relish, too.

Second Reading, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Every lector's favorite passage? Lector, here is your raison d'etre. Scripture makes those who belong to God competent and equipped for every good work. For the moment, your good work is to proclaim the very scripture, and competently.

The Historical Setting: Of course, Timothy had an office in the early church that included the proclamation and teaching of scriptures as part of a larger charge. Paul, seasoned senior apostle, through this whole letter, has been giving his young friend (and Timothy's local church, too) advice on a number of things. They're all built on the foundations mentioned here:

Proclaiming it: Your proclamation should sound like a senior giving advice and encouragement to a beloved junior. But this is not a speech; rather, it's a written exhortation, so the sentences are longer than they would be in locker-room pep talk. You'll have to speak slowly and break the sentences into phrases that your assembly can take in by hearing.

Break briefly before the final paragraph, and invoke God and Christ Jesus solemnly. After all, there's no higher power a writer or speaker can invoke to back up the imperatives that follow.


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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 August 31, 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 Genesis 32:22-31 as first reading today.
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.) (From 2001, the essay is about today's first reading and gospel).

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: October 20, 2013