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Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B,
September 2, 2012 (Lectionary index # 125B)

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.

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, September 2, 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.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

In the first of a series of readings from the epistle of James, the author corrects the belief of some early Christians that temptations come from God. He bluntly states his major theme about how the faithful person responds to God's grace with good works.
Before the gospel acclamation:

In today's gospel passage, Jesus calls his disciples to a higher form of purity than the mere ritual purity prescribed by the religious leaders. His criticism will lead to their conspiring against him.

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, Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

On Trinity Sunday earlier this year the first reading was from another part of this speech by Moses. We take the liberty of repeating the introductory paragraphs from that day's Notes.

The Historical Situation: Though it describes events set in the time of Moses, Deuteronomy was written much later, during the Exile, 587-539 B.C.E. (also known as the Babylonian Captivity). Internal corruption and external pressures had brought the people to the brink of extinction. Kings, priests, prophets, and temple had all failed to hold them together. The writers responded to this crisis by re-interpreting ancient legal traditions, putting them in the mouth of the great lawgiver Moses, in the hope of setting the Jews on a viable course for their future. On the surface, it's a story of origins. In its real purpose, Deuteronomy is about starting over, hoping to get it right and keep it going this time, where "it" is national identity expressed through loyalty to God's law.

The Literary Method: Deuteronomy retells history told in other books, punctuating the narrative with powerful speeches by Moses. Just as Deuteronomy's audience was having a very hard time holding on to faith and identity, so, the book reminds them, it was a struggle for their predecessors, ancient Israelites, to achieve or to maintain their strict belief in the one, true and invisible God. Elements of their past and enticements from pagan neighbors combined to tempt them. And we're tempted to say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Note Moses' two principal arguments:

Proclaiming It: To prepare to read this, recall when you've had to speak this way to a child or student of yours. Or recall a coach's locker-room half-time talk that motivated you. Think of George C. Scott's speech at the beginning of the movie Patton. Then imagine how much greater were the stakes when Moses first spoke this, and when the Deuteronomists (authors of the book), had to tell the story again. Finally, determine to make your congregation relive the Israelites' experience of hearing this. You want them to feel as proud of their God and of themselves as Moses did.

This Sunday we return to our series of readings from Saint Mark's gospel. Mark is keen to highlight how Jesus challenged and irritated the religious authorities of his day, who eventually had him crucified. Today's gospel sounds that note by showing how Jesus' contemporaries had trivialized the law. Read that gospel, then come back to this passage, about the excellence of the Law as originally given through Moses. With that contrast in mind, proclaim this passage to the assembly with enthusiasm like that of Moses.

Second Reading, James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Background of the Reading: Today we begin a series of five Sunday readings from the letter of James. The letter is addressed to Christians in general, rather than to a particular community like Saint Paul's letters. It's mostly about living a good Christian life, with little to say about doctrine or theological questions. In this it has been compared to Old Testament wisdom literature, on which see Lector's Notes of two weeks ago. Better is the 700-word Introduction to The Letter of James at the New American Bible site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The whole letter is a bit episodic, and this selection, skipping verses as it does, is more so. It helps to know that the editors of the N.A.B. entitle this section of the letter "The Value of Trials and Temptation (James 1:2-18)." To get this in context, read all of chapter 1. This explains, for example, why the first verse of our Lectionary selection has to state the obvious, that good gifts come from God. The context was that some believed that temptations came from God. Read all the author's verses to know his opinions on what comes from where and from Whom.

Your Proclamation: The sentences in the Lectionary passage are thus out of context, and some are long, making your task as lector very challenging. The editors kindly compensated by dividing the sentences into four paragraphs. Read them slowly, with significant pauses between the paragraphs. While paragraphs two and three are related to each other, the others are disjoint.

As one who has volunteered to proclaim the word of God to the people, you should relish the lines:

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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."
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.

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

(Available about 20 days before the Sunday) Of the four main sections (each containing several essays) on this Sunday's page, lectors will want to "Get to Know the Readings," while everyone, lectors included, can profit from "Praying toward [this] Sunday" and "Spirituality for [this] Sunday." And there are five worthy links for those planning "Music for [this] Sunday's Mass."

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: July 30, 2012