Your diocese may be celebrating today ...

the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).
If you're not sure, ask your liturgy committee or pastor. If so, click here for Lector's Notes for that feast.

Ask your presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):

Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, year B, June 3, 2018

Before the first reading:

Today's gospel will show us Jesus provoking anger by violating the sabbath rest. This older story says why there is a sabbath rest in the first place: Slaves don't get a day of rest; you're no longer slaves; exercise your privilege and rest on the sabbath.

After the psalm, before the second reading:

In Athens, Saint Paul had tried to win converts with clever arguments, but he failed. He then went to Corinth and preached more modestly, and a lively Christian community sprang up, so lively that some members criticized Paul and questioned his authority. Paul reflects on the meaning of his sufferings.

Before the gospel acclamation:

Saint Mark's gospel tries to convince its readers to accept suffering rather than escape it. So Mark is blunt about what Jesus did that brought on his own suffering.

First Reading, Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Our Liturgical Setting: This year, we're traversing the gospel of Saint Mark Sunday by Sunday. Mark's gospel is balanced around the famous scenes, Mark 8:27-38, where Peter recognizes that Jesus is the Christ (in Hebrew, "the Messiah") and Jesus immediately announces that he has to suffer, die, and be raised from death, all to fulfill his Messianic mission. Today's gospel passage, Mark: 2:23-3:6, lays the groundwork for Jesus' dire prediction; it shows him violating the legalistic Sabbath regulations and irritating some influential Jewish leaders, who begin to plot his death.

The Text's History: All that said, the first reading gives us, in its last two sentences, the reason for the Sabbath rest in the first place:

Slaves work every day. Free people get a day off.
You're no longer slaves. Act like free people.

That's right. The original purpose of the sabbath was not to give people a day to worship, although that's a good thing. It was to remind the people that the Lord God, with strong hand and outstretched arm, had liberated them from slavery in Egypt. Even the Hebrews' own slaves, even their animals, were to take a day of rest.

Proclaiming it: How will you express this in your proclamation? Pause significantly before the sentence "For remember ..." Say this and the last sentence very solemnly. Attack the words "That is why." That's what you want your listeners to remember.

A Homily Starter: Had Jesus lost sight of this great truth when he violated the Sabbath rest? That's really for the homilist to explain, but the short answer is no. Custom had obscured the meaning of the Sabbath with excess legalism, and Jesus was working on a greater liberation.

Second Reading, 2 Corinthians 4:6-11

The Historical Background: In sophisticated, cosmopolitan Athens, Paul had tried to preach the gospel in a clever, intellecutal way, and got laughed out of town. See Acts of the Apostles 17:16-33. He went immediately to Corinth, where he founded a Christian community by means much more modest than his failed Athens plan (See Acts 18).

This time the gospel took root and flourished. Paul realized it was the Spirit of God, not his own work, whether harder or smarter, that brought this about, The evidence of this is in this introduction to Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. But things still didn't go smoothly for Paul himself. Some Corinthian Christians challenged his authority (see last week's lector notes). That's why he says his message is a great treasure, but the bearer of the message, Paul himself, is quite beat up and bedraggled. To mix the metaphor a bit, the messages is the finest wine, but the vessel isn't Waterford, it's throwaway Styrofoam©.

As you proclaim this, try to keep in mind Paul's mindset. He's a little sorry for himself, but he's very excited about Jesus and the community in Corinth. By varying the pitch of your voice, you can bring out this contrast.

 

Links to other smart commentaries on this week's readings

Credit for the picture at the top:

The image may come from Egypt, the figures may be slaves, and the slaves may be Hebrews.

Or maybe not. Maybe none of the above is accurate. On the Web, few topics are more contentious than religion and race. Copies of this image abound, as do contradictory claims about its content.

Lector's Notes should be easily readable on any device, including small-screen ones like cell phones and tablets. This is among the first of a few hundred pages to be converted to a responsive format (responsive to the kind of screen you are using). So when you're not serving as lector, and you arrive at church and mute your cell phone, you can brief yourself on the readings you're about to hear. Format conversion is a work-in-progress and will be so until maybe April of 2018.

This page updated April 18, 2018