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Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Year C, November 3, 2013
Lectionary index # 153

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.

Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, November 3, 2013
Before the first reading:

Alexandria was an ancient university town, where pagans outnumbered Jews and dominated the philosophical debates. A Jewish sage wrote the book of Wisdom to help Jews keep their faith. Here he writes as if addressing God, but he's really explaining to pagans why his God does not always punish evildoers.
Between psalm and second reading:

All early Christians believed Jesus would come again SOON. Some believed he already had come again. They quit their jobs and otherwise acted irresponsibly. Paul corrects them in this letter.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Saint Luke's gospel explains to his Gentile Christian audience how a Jewish religious movement became their own new religion. Today he depicts Jesus, as he travels toward Jerusalem and Calvary, encountering Jewish critics of his generosity toward a sinner.

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, Wisdom 11:22-12:2 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Today's gospel, Luke 19:1-10, is about the repentance of a sinner and Jesus' favoring of him. So perhaps the purpose of this first reading is to illuminate that theme.

The Historical Situation: About a century before the birth of Jesus, sophisticated Alexandria in northern Egypt was the site of a famous university and two great libraries. There a learned and faithful Jew assessed the situation for Jews in his city. Many Jews had "assimilated" into the dominant pagan culture. They and native pagans sometimes ridiculed practicing Jews, so our sage wrote a book of Wisdom, to bolster the faith of his friends. (The Church cites this book often in the Lectionary, so this introduction may be familiar to users of Lector's Notes.) Today's passage could be the faithful one's response to one of the great philosophical questions always debated in a college town, "How come there's evil in the world?"

A Literary Consideration: But the sage answers instead the question, "How come God doesn't blot out the evil ones?" And the sage is not addressing skeptics in a coffee-house. He's coaching fellow Jews how to address the skeptics. He's bolstering fellow Jews so they won't be overcome by the arguments of the skeptics. And his method is to write as if he's addressing God, discussing the Israelites' great history with God. Here, specifically, he praises God for not annihilating the Egyptians when liberating the Hebrews from their grasp. (The lectionary takes a liberty and puts the first sentence in the third person.)

Your proclamation: Every sentence gives a new reason why God is merciful. Be sure you understand each one. And say them distinctly, with pauses between them. Note that one in the middle is in the form of a question; give it an inflection that sets it apart from the surrounding declaratives. You're not really telling God anything, you're trying to convince wavering souls that a merciful God is one they can believe in. The lector should sound reverent, prayerful and a bit awe-struck.

Second Reading, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Situation: The letters to the Thessalonians, the earliest letters we have from Saint Paul, capture a portrait of early Christians who expected Jesus to return in glory soon. We turn to letters of this kind as we wrap up a liturgical year, a year that will conclude in three weeks with the feast of Christ the King. We'll keep reading from this kind of literature for the first two weeks of Advent.

The Historical Setting: Ivan Havener, O.S.B., in The Collegeville Bible Commentary -- Old Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1992), says this about the origin and purpose of 2 Thessalonians:

Sentence by Sentence: That explains why the author prays for the addressees that God will fulfill their every honest intention and work of faith (because some were no longer working, using the "day of the Lord" scare as their excuse). The statements also explain the author's prayer that the name of our Lord be glorified (rather than become a source of scandal). (If that's not clear, think how you're embarrassed by money-grubbing televangelists speaking in the name of your Lord, or racists who quote the Bible to justify their prejudices. That's scandal.)

The last sentence is important, but long and complex to read aloud. Stripped of its many qualifying clauses, it says,

With that framework in mind, practice proclaiming the sentence (a paragraph, really), pausing and modulating your tone of voice so that the structure remains clear.

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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 September 30, 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 Isaiah 1:10-18 as first reading, and a few more verses of 2 Thessalonians
The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Archived 2001 column on the gospel, by 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: September 30, 2013