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Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, October 23, 2011
Lectionary index # 148

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.


Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, October 23, 2011
Before the first reading:

In few, if any, ancient societies, did aliens have rights. In few ancient religions did gods care for widows and orphans. The way of life of God's people was to be different.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Saint Paul greets a community who had received the gospel eagerly and set a good example for other churches. They were all expecting God to bring the world to an end very soon.
Before the gospel acclamation:

The scriptures of the Jews contained over 600 laws, of varying detail. It was customary to argue over how to summarize them, and how to weigh their relative importance. Here they are the subject of a contest between Jesus and one of the groups that would later persecute Matthew's community.

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 22:20-26 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: This year, we've been making our way through the chapters of Saint Matthew's gospel every Sunday of Ordinary Time. The editors of the lectionary usually pick a first reading that resonates with the day's gospel. In today's gospel, Jesus sums up the Law of God in a formula you'll surely recognize. This passage from Exodus prepares us to hear that.

The Historical Situation: This passage is part of a long narrative, Exodus, chapters 19-24, in which the Hebrews, liberated from Egypt, have wandered into the desert of Sinai. At the risk of oversimplifying things, let us summarize: God announces his desire to enter a covenant with the people. Moses is the mediator. God manifests himself in terrifying thunder, lightning and clouds. God gives the terms of the covenant in various paragraphs, on several occasions. The people assent to the terms. These include the familiar Ten Commandments, and paragraphs that elaborate the commandments in great detail, ritual prescriptions and much more. This is the context of today's first reading.

The Law which God gave through Moses was, in its time, revolutionary in a way that modern people usually underestimate. To put it simply, the Law civilized these people. In few ancient societies did anyone have the courage to say it was wrong to oppress an alien or take advantage of the poor. Nor did other ancient people fancy that their gods cared for widows and orphans. The behaviors codified in this law really liberated these people, and allowed them to begin to build an excellent, humane society. We should not overlook this when we find reading the code so tedious. Humans and their societies will never be without sin, but the Law lifted this society out of barbarism. And so it was a great gift.

Proclaiming It: So when Moses spoke these words the first time, he really got people's attention. When you proclaim them again, speak as if you expect the same, because you appreciate the stature of the Law you are announcing.

You might do this if you want to emphasize the revolutionary character of the Law, as described above: Emphasize the word you every time it occurs. Think of how you would address a child who wants to do something foolish because "all the other kids are doing it." "And if they all jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" When God spoke the Law, Israel should have heard implied "I expect more of you than, sadly, I can yet expect of other peoples." (There would come a time, of course, when God's favor, and high expectations, would be shown to extend to all peoples, but we're not there yet. We're only in the Sinai a few weeks out of slavery.)

Second Reading, 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: Paul is congratulating his audience on the positive effects of their example. They received the gospel with ready faith, and withstood persecution with joy. Those actions bolstered the faith of Christians elsewhere who heard about them.

A Little More History Evident in the Passage: First Thessalonians is the earliest letter we have from Saint Paul. As we'll see in the weeks ahead, Paul and these earliest Christians believed that Jesus would come again very soon. This is what Paul means when he congratulates them because they "turned to God from idols ... to await his Son from heaven," the Son who "delivers us from the coming wrath." That "wrath" means the judgment they expected God soon to visit upon the earth, much to the detriment of the non-believers. Their conviction was that God was soon to bring history to its end with the return of Jesus in glory. This expectation fades over the years during which the New Testament scriptures were composed. Some gospel passages, for example, show evidence of original composition by believers who expected Jesus to return very soon, then later editing by believers who realized that Jesus' return was indefinitely delayed. How the early church switched gradually from that short-term readiness to a long-term vision is a noble part of our heritage.

Proclaiming It: Achaia, what is modern Greece, is pronounced a KI yuh, with a long I sound in the second syllable. To decide what inflections to give the pronouns, notice this: the Thessalonians imitated Paul and the Lord, then the Macedonians and Achaians imitated the Thessalonians. That there are three parties ("us," "you," and "them, the Macedonians and Achaians," should be clear to those listening to your proclamation. It might help you capture the spirit of Paul's letter if you imagined yourself introducing the guest of honor at a testimonial dinner. How positive and enthusiastic would you want to sound?

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."
Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group. Dan explains the texts verse-by-verse, and sometimes word-by-word, with cross-references to other Bible passages. Especially useful if you're puzzled about the meaning of a word or phrase in the readings. At the link above, Dan writes about our gospel of today and a first reading from Leviticus. To read Dan's notes on our second reading of today, click here.
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.

The Text This Week; links to Lectionaries of many churches, homilies, art works, movies touching scriptural themes, and other resources on the week's scripture Saint Louis University's excellent Sunday liturgy site

Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries.

(Caveat lector as of September 23, 2011. Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact future URL of SLU's 30th-Sunday offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

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: September 23, 2011