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Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, November 6, 2011
Lectionary index # 154

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.

Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, November 6, 2011
Before the first reading:

Some Jews lived in the hostile pagan environment of Alexandria, Egypt, about 100 years before Jesus. An anonymous author wrote for them a book praising the wisdom of their faithful ancestors. In this passage he personifies that wisdom as someone whom they would find very attractive.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

For several years, the earliest Christians expected Jesus soon to return in glory and bring history to its climax. When some Christian friends died before Jesus came back, they wondered how it would all work out. Saint Paul gives his answer in this, from the earliest of his letters.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Saint Matthew's community lived in a time of uncertainty and turmoil. Everything seemed possible. They remembered a saying of Jesus and applied it to the need to be prepared.

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, Wisdom 6:12-16 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: Our year-long trek through Matthew's gospel nears its end. Today's gospel passage is from the section where Jesus talks in parables about his coming again, and bringing human history to its climax. It's almost the end of the liturgical year. The wise are prepared. Interestingly, Jesus' parable has five well-prepared, wise women, and the first reading personifies wisdom as a woman.

The Historical Situation: In many of our readings, we hear from prophets and historians addressing Jews concentrated in their rather exclusive homeland. The Book of Wisdom was written in a different situation. Its audience was the dispersed Jews living in the cosmopolitan city Alexandria, in Egypt, around 100 B.C.E. (For more on Alexandria and its Jewish residents, click here.) The author wanted his fellow Jews to embrace wisdom, by which he meant faithful adherence to their ancestral religion in their somewhat hostile environment.

The "Psychological" Situation: You know how much a man enjoys the attentions of an attractive woman. If you're a man, you enjoy such attention or you would if it were offered. If you're a woman, you've made wry observations* about men who seek it, subtly or not. The author of Wisdom is wise about this aspect of human nature. To "sell" his notion of wisdom, he personifies it as a woman "resplendent and unfading," eager "to make herself known in anticipation of [her suitors'] desire," who "graciously appears to them" everywhere. Who wouldn't relish the company of such a woman?

Proclaiming It: Before preparing your oral interpretation, read the passage to yourself again with the above interpretation in mind. Take a moment to appreciate the brilliance of the author's tactic. Then resolve to proclaim it in a way that makes your listeners want wisdom as much as man has always wanted woman.

Note that the word "wisdom" appears only two times in the text. So listeners who let their minds wander even a moment, then come back to attention, will be puzzled by the pronouns in your proclamation. "Who is this 'she' the lector talking about?" they'll ask themselves. "Mary? Joan of Arc? The Little Flower? I'm missing something here." Well, give them a hint by emphasizing the word "wisdom" at both opportunities.

Second Reading, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: First Thessalonians is the earliest of Paul's letters that we still have. When he wrote it, the contemporary Christians, including Paul, expected Jesus to come again in glory quite soon, certainly within their own lifetimes. These paragraphs address a troublesome point: will the few Christians who die in this short period somehow miss out on the benefits of Jesus' return. Paul says no (although he doesn't say it simply), because what God has wrought in the death and resurrection of Jesus is powerful enough to save even those already "fallen asleep."

Proclaiming It: Be sure to read with plenty of contrasting tones of voice, to help the listeners distinguish what Paul promises to those already dead and what lies in store for those still living. Remember that your listeners probably don't know what you just read; even though they sing every Sunday, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again," that hope is unlikely to inform their hearing of the reading. So give them a little help.

For more on how the Thessalonians prepared for Jesus' early return, see the passage next Sunday, the last before the feast of Christ the King. Today's passage, by the way, is the source of the teaching about "the Rapture," so popular in some Christian circles and the premise of the "Left Behind" novels. The Greek expression translated "[we] will be caught up" is, in the Latin Vulgate, "rapiemur." That verb's past participle is "raptus." Of course, Rapture-theory proponents overlook the fact that Paul eventually stopped hoping for Jesus' quick return. By the time the Apostle wrote Romans, he believed the world's Jews would become Christians before the Lord would return.

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* For another wry observation about this human foible, by no less than Albert Einstein, click here.

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. Dan explains the texts verse-by-verse, and sometimes word-by-word, with cross-references to other Bible passages. Especially useful if you're puzzled about the meaning of a word or phrase in the readings.
On today's page, the reading from Wisdom is an alternative, after a passage from Amos.

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 Lectionaries of many churches, homilies, art works, movies touching scriptural themes, and other resources on the week's scripture Saint Louis University's excellent new liturgy site
Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries.

(Caveat lector. As of October 3, 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: October 30, 2011