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Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Year A,
September 7, 2014
Lectionary index # 127

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-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, September 7, 2014
Before the first reading:

The prophet Ezekiel reports a vision in which God gives him certain very clear responsibilities.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Saint Paul spent much of the Letter to the Romans discussing the Law of Moses and its inability to save anyone. Now he pronounces a higher law.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Jesus instructs his followers on some fine points of getting along with each other. He gives all his disiciples an authority he has given previously to Simon Peter.

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, Ezekiel 33:7-9 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Theological Background: God wanted the people of Israel to have every chance to stay on the straight and narrow, turn from their sins, and avoid the destruction threatened by foreign invaders. So God takes a step to ensure that Israel has all it needs to stay morally upright. Most of all, they need a watchman, a human voice to challenge and correct them, so that the responsibility for their fate is only theirs. We'd call that fair; fair to the people if not to the hapless watchman.

But the watchman, the prophet Ezekiel, needs to be impressed with the importance of his duty. No prophet has an easy vocation (See last week's commentary about another prophet's calling), so God always takes pains to bolster the prophets, and in a variety of ways. Here Ezekiel gets straightforward orders assigning responsibility to him and to the people, with no if's, and's or but's tolerated.

Proclaiming It: The meaning of this passage isn't too difficult to discern, but the oral interpretation of it to an unprepared congregation will be challenging. It's hard to proclaim because it's one person talking to a second about the second's relationship to a third person and to a group.

When you proclaim this, imagine you are God talking to the prophet. You love him but you have to lay a heavy burden on his shoulders because you love the people and you're very worried about them. It should sound quite solemn.

Secondly, make every effort to speak slowly and distinctly. While the words are simple, the sentences are complex. Use contrasting tones of voice to distinguish "you" from "him" and "he." If you read this too fast or if you sound too flat, it will be lost on your hearers. Think of how carefully Ezekiel would have spoken his warnings to the wicked, knowing what was at stake!

Second Reading, Romans 13:8-10 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Theological Background: Most of Saint Paul's letters begin with a treatment of doctrinal questions. Then, having established important truths about Christ and our relationship to him, Paul usually writes a "morals" section, an application of the doctrine to the day-to-day behavior of the congregation receiving the letter. In the earlier doctrinal sections of Romans, Paul has written of the Law (by which he means the Law of Moses which the Jews so revered) and its inability to save anyone, no matter how well one keeps the Law. (Click here for a Sunday-by-Sunday survey of this spring and summer's readings from Romans, giving something of an outline of the letter.) In today's passage from the "how-to" section, he seems to be saying, "You still want the law? I'll give you the real law. Love one another. That fulfills the law. Enough said."

Proclaiming It: Read this slowly, and emphasize the word love every time it occurs. There's a long sentence in the middle that might tie your tongue if you haven't practiced. So practice. Read it aloud. Several times. Do it alone if it might embarrass you, or, better, before a small "congregation" like a family member or a friend.

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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 notes for a study group.

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.

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 new liturgy site
Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries.

(Caveat lector. As of August 1, 2014, 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).
This site keeps its back issues posted for only about eight weeks.

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 31, 2014