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Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Year B, November 4, 2012
Lectionary index # 152

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.

Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, November 4, 2012
Before the first reading:

These statements on the lips of Moses reflect the national pride that Israel derived from having the Law that God gave them. Israel needed this reminder during a time of national crisis.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Some Jews who became Christians missed the certainties and institutions of their former religion. The author of Hebrews assures them that they have things better with Jesus. Today the author compares the old priesthood of the patriarch Levi with Jesus, whom he sees as a new, singular kind of priest.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Mark's gospel moves inexorably toward the crucifixion of Jesus, brought on by Jesus' more and more heated arguments with leaders of the Jews. Today they tangle over Judaism's most sacred institution, the Law of Moses.

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First reading, Deuteronomy 6:2-6 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: Today's gospel, Mark 12:28b-34, is the climax of a series of contentious conversations between Jesus and the enemies who would soon conspire to kill him. The lector should read the gospel, and would do well to read it in context, beginning with Mark, chapter 11. You'll see that, by late in chapter 12, the stakes in this argument have become very high. Now the dispute is about the Law, historically Israel's most sacred institution, the foundation of every other institution. Mark's gospel traces Jesus' inexorable path to the cross; this climactic argument, after which "no one dared to ask him any more questions," is the last milestone on that journey.

The Historical Situation: All that said, the lector can understand the solemnity and gravity with which Moses speaks about the Law in the first reading. He's initiating the people's reverence for the Law, centuries before later leaders trivialized it. Moses is giving this band of runaway slaves something that will bring them dignity and purpose, stature and distinction among the nations of the world, a unique place in history. This gives Moses great pride and hope. But at the same time he worries that the people don't "get it."

Your Proclamation: The lector might imagine how a contemporary leader would sound giving a similar speech today. I've identified the situation as the beginning of nationhood for a new people, their transformation from slaves to citizens. I've named the speaker's emotions: hope, pride and anxiety. And the speaker names the source of all this: "The LORD is our God, the LORD alone."

So, lector, meditate on the kind of greatness to which God is calling the people before you. They're to be distinguished among the nations by their love of God and of neighbor. They're to prefer those loves to "all burnt offerings and sacrifices." They're to be closer and closer to the kingdom of God. Like Jesus, their behavior should be so good, their speech so evidently truthful, that no one can question them. That's the kind of people to whom you belong and to whom you speak.

Secondly, it's always possible that some individual in the congregation will hear in these words something deeply personal, something that his or her heart has been searching for. That person may be on the verge of conversion, about to leave behind false gods or the slavery of a life of sin, or trying escape the burdens of resentment. Let them hear the promise of long life (stretch out the word "l o n g"). Help them imagine a home where there is plenty of milk and honey (or a life with plenty of God-given security and peace of conscience).

Second Reading, Hebrews 7:23-28 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Background: Some Jewish converts to Christianity missed the comforting institutions they had enjoyed in Judaism. For them the author of Hebrews explains how they have greater benefits now. Today's passage focuses on the ancient priests and the sacrifices they offered, compared to the priest Jesus and his sacrifice. (The description "levitical" means in the tradition and family of Levi, the patriarch whose descendants had something of a monopoly on the job of priest in ancient Israel.)

Jesus the new priest is superior for three reasons:

Proclaiming It: In the assembly that gathers to hear you announce this on Sunday, few will be pining for the comforts of the ancient Jewish priesthood; neither will you, in all probability. Yet your task is to proclaim this in a way faithful to its original meaning. By the contrasts you use in your voice, be sure that the people understand that there's a contrast between the way of Jesus and the ways of the past.

You might prepare for this by meditating on the values in your own life, good, bad and indifferent, to which Jesus offers superior alternatives. Or think about ways your congregation is "stuck" in nostalgia for something long gone, and unable to enjoy the opportunities of the present.

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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."
Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's posts on the Web notes for a study group Click here for his treatment of our first reading

And here for his notes on our second reading (read last Sunday in Dan's church). (These are locally cached copies of Dan's pages, created to overcome a technical problem with his originals.)

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:
  • 2000
  • 2006 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 homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Saint Louis University's excellent site for Sunday liturgy

Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries.

(Caveat lector. As of September 30, 2012, 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).

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 10, 2012