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Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, September 11, 2011
Lectionary index # 130

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-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, September 11, 2011
Before the first reading:

Jesus ben Sirach was a Jerusalem sage living about 200 years before Jesus of Nazareth. His book tries to show the superiority of Jewish wisdom to both Jews and the pagans living among them. He often showed that God's preferences and assumptions differ from ours.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

In prior verses of this letter, Saint Paul asks the more mature members of his audience to behave a certain way toward the less mature. Now he gives his reason: not just because that would be right or kind, but because all just belong to Christ.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Jesus gives one statement and one parable about forgiveness. There are surprising elements in each.

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, Sirach 27:30-28:9 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: As Lector's Notes like to say when introducing passages from this book, Sirach is a very late book (around 180 B.C.E.), when compared with the books of Moses or the prophets. By this time in Israel's history, the great theological battles about monotheism are over, the kings have come and gone, and the Exile is a distant memory. The prophets have been silent for a long time, and many Jews are living in cities where pagans are the majorities. In these circumstances, writers asked how one should live a good life, what moral and spiritual choices should one make, what behavior is honorable in a religious person?

This passage says, in various ways, that it's unwise to nurse grudges and wise to forgive. Not just wise in the sense of crafty, but virtuous. It prepares us to hear today's gospel passage, the familiar parable of the unforgiving steward, Matthew 18, 21-35.

Proclaiming It: Reading that gospel passage is more important than usual for the lector's preparation this week. Read it and dwell for a moment on the outrage you feel when that servant, forgiven so much, is so harsh with one who owes him so little. Imagine yourself in the master's shoes, shouting "You worthless wretch!" (I like that old translation better than "You wicked servant." Who decided to subdue it so?) Now remember that feeling when you pronounce the rhetorical questions:

Because the phrases are short, be careful not merely to rattle them off. Pause briefly between phrases. Read the last sentence as if it had this punctuation:

Think of the commandments:

Second Reading, Romans 14:7-9 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: Here's the context of this reading: Paul is appealing to more sophisticated members of the church not to do legitimate things that nonetheless scandalize those who are less wise. You could do those things (for example, eat un-kosher foods), but you should not because you have brothers and sisters who still believe it's wrong. Paul is asking for forbearance and charity from the smarter set.

The Theological Background: Not an unusual request, of course. But the reason Paul gives is unprecedented. Do it not just because it's right or it's the kind thing to do; do it because you belong to Christ.

Proclaiming It: Steep yourself in that notion that you belong to Christ, that you live for the Lord and die for the Lord, before you proclaim this passage to the assembly.

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.
Dan's church prepares for today's gospel with a different passage from the Hebrew Scriptures, Genesis 50:15-21, a powerful story of forgiveness. Dan also covers a longer selection from Romans 12 than the above, putting it all in context.
Bible Study pages of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, Mississippi.
This page has interesting things to say about the Book of Sirach.
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.

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 17, 2011, 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 posts its pages only a week before the given Sunday, and 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: August 20, 2011