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Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, July 15, 2012
(Lectionary index # 104B)

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.

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, July 15, 2012
Before the first reading:

In the northern kingdom of Israel, Amaziah was a corrupt priest with a cushy job in a royal sanctuary. The prophet Amos has criticized him, the king and other leaders for their neglect of the poor. Amaziah tries to banish Amos to the southern kingdom, Judah. Amos defends himself.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

We begin today a seven-week survey of the Letter to Ephesians. Its main themes are that God had always been planning to spread favor not just to Jews but to the Gentiles, that this long-concealed plan has now been revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and that Jews and Gentiles are to be reconciled.
Before the gospel acclamation:

In the first half of Mark's gospel, Jesus' reputation has grown because of his teaching and miracles. He has started some controversies. His disciples have accompanied him closely. Now Jesus sends them out to spread his message and works further.

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, Amos 7:12-15 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: In our Sunday-by-Sunday journey through Saint Mark's gospel this year, we're at the point where Jesus sends his disciples out to preach and heal. He prepares them for rejection ("If a place won't hear you, shake its dust from your feet.") This first reading is about the rejection of an Old Testament prophet.

The Historical Situation: For a long time, the territory we call the Holy Land was divided between a northern kingdom called Israel and a southern kingdom known as Judah. The city Jerusalem was in Judah. In the northern kingdom, at Bethel (Hebrew for "House of God") there was a very ancient shrine. Its priesthood was older than that established by Moses' brother Aaron. Israel was prosperous, at least for the upper classes, in the 8th century B.C.E., and the Bethel priests were comfortable cronies of the king.

In this milieu lived a man named Amos, street-smart and a savvy observer of the human condition. He knew his tradition. Amos remembered how his people's God had chosen a rag-tag band of slaves in Egypt, made them his own, and led them to freedom. Amos knew that this God of the poor was not happy with the current neglect and exploitation of the poor by the powerful. So he spoke up. As prophets do, he predicted the overthrow of throne and shrine by the hand of God. And as the reactionary do, the priest of Bethel told Amos to get out. That's what Amaziah is doing when he urges Amos to go south to Judah.

Proclaiming It: In your proclamation, try to capture the drama here. The priest is angry, or perhaps weary, and wants the prophet to leave his turf. The prophet (use a different tone of voice) is defensive. He protests that he didn't appoint himself prophet; only God did that.

Second Reading, Ephesians 1:3-14 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: From today through the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, we'll read from Saint Paul's letter to the Ephesians. (It might not be Saint Paul's letter, and it may have been addressed more broadly than to Christians at Ephesus. See the Introduction in The New American Bible for a discussion. You can give your service as lector without knowing these fine points, but you should know what follows.)

The Theological Background: There are two elements of this reading that you should keep at the forefront, and not let get lost in the long sentences:

One way to paraphrase Paul's teaching is this: We used to think God's plan was to keep the Jews as his Chosen People exclusively. Now Jesus has revealed that God's plan was always eventually ("in the fullness of time") to bring the Gentiles into his choice, too. The main implication, pastorally speaking, is that "we" (Jews) and "you" (Gentiles) can no longer ignore one another. "We" are not superior to "you", and "you" can no longer disdain "us" as smug and weird.

This prospect excited the author of Ephesians, (See how Paul expressed it in Romans 9-11) and makes this passage quite dramatic.

Proclaiming It: To convey that excitement to your congregation, emphasize the mystery which we now have the wisdom to understand, and the plan to bring all things into one under Christ.

Then in the final paragraph make sure your congregation hears the contrasts between "you" and "us" so they'll get a feel for the great reconciliation described here.

A Homily-Starter based on the readings

I recently heard an excellent homily based on today's gospel. Building on Jesus' injunction that his missionaries travel light, the preacher asked us about the baggage we carry through life, baggage in the sense of our dispositions, expectations, fears and the like.

I would amplify that with these links to the first and second readings. The priest Amaziah had grown comfortable with his baggage, his cozy position in the Bethel sanctuary, and that institution's alliance with the institution of kingship. This prevented him from hearing the prophecy of Amos. And in Ephesus, Jews and Gentiles had, like Jews and Gentiles elsewhere, carried baggage in the form of prejudice about each other. Saint Paul blesses God for letting both groups shed these burdens, embrace each other, and reveal God's long-hidden plan. What prejudices burden us, keeping us from cooperating in God's universal plan of salvation? To what comforts are we so loyal that we are deaf to the Word of God?

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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.

Archived weekly column of the late Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137.) From the site of the Saint Louis Review.

Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group

The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Saint Louis University's excellent new site for liturgy

Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries.

(Caveat lector. As of June 7, 2012, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's July 12 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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