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Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, February 19, 2012
Lectionary index # 80

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.

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, February 19, 2012
Before the first reading:

The people of Judah, weakened by two generations in exile, are returning from Babylon to their homeland. The prophet urges them not to remember the unfaithfulness that brought on their exile, but to take hope in a new, merciful relationship with God.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Saint Paul had upset some Christians in Corinth by canceling plans to visit the community. He defends himself against their criticism, and states his defense in the larger context of praise for the faithfulness of God.
Before the gospel acclamation:

The second chapter Mark's gospel introduces two new themes about Jesus, the fast-moving, increasingly popular healer and herald of the reign of God. For the first time, here Jesus forgives sin and raises the hostility of the leading scribes.

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Guest writer: The late Hugh M. Kahler, who long helped lectors prepare at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, Marquette, Michigan, USA, helped write today's Notes.

First reading, Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: We've recently begun a year-long sequence of readings from the gospel of Saint Mark. Jesus has quickly become famous for healing many and even driving out an evil spirit. In today's gospel, he breaks controversial new ground by telling someone, "Your sins are forgiven." The newness of what Jesus is doing, including the forgiving of sins, seems to prompt the choice of this passage from Isaiah, where God promises surprising new things, including the forgiving of sins, to his people Israel.

The Historical Situation: The middle section of Isaiah, chapters 40-55, is set in the period when the Jews were being permitted to return home from their exile in Babylon. Some characteristics of these chapters are:

Proclaiming It: Proclaim this passage with concern and joy. The phrases are short, and many are poetically "doubled," that is, they say the same thing two ways. This gives them a rhythmic, songlike quality. Consider these verses, read left-to-right:

Remember not the events of the past, the things of the past remember not.
In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.
Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob for you grew weary of me, O Israel.*
You burdened me with your sins, and wearied me with your crimes.
It is I who wipe out ... your offenses; your sins I remember no more.

So make it sing in your proclamation, or at least make it sound rhythmic. When you repeat the Lord's complaint about the people burdening and wearying Him, preserve His dignity; don't make Him whine.

The whole passage moves to a climax in verse 25. God declares that he is forgiving the people: "I, I, for my own sake, wipe out your sins." God's grace triumphs over the idolatry of the people, over the idols themselves, and over any delusion the people had of saving themselves. As lector, state this triumphantly.

*Jacob and Israel were two names of the same patriarch, grandson of Abraham, very many generations back. See Genesis, chapter 33 and chapter 35 about his dual names. Both names are often later applied to the whole nation of his descendants.

Second Reading, 2 Corinthians 1:18-22 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Background: Paul's calling as an apostle was difficult and challenging. He enjoyed the love of the Christian community in Corinth. But these people, with their Greek philosophical ferment, seaport morals, and internal rivalries, did not make Paul's life easy. He had paid the Corinthians one visit, and had since told them of his plans for another visit. But his cancellation of that visit, for the sake of other apostolic duties, made some Corinthians very critical of Paul.

Part of Saint Paul's genius is to take a trivial event (here, "You call me wishy-washy because the big picture required that I change my plans.") and turn it into an occasion for a profound teaching. The verses preceding today's Lectionary selection say:

Paul makes a quick segue from self-defense to a beautiful statement about the fidelity of God, proven in the unequivocal "Yes!" that is Jesus Christ, and in the "Yes!" that is the gift of the Spirit.

Proclaiming It: Every triumphant "Yes!" in this reading should sound joyful and confident, and distinctly contrasted from the words surrounding it. So the pauses are important here. Do not go too fast. Allow time for the MEANING to sink into the hearts of your listeners.

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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 Sunday liturgy site.

(Caveat lector. As of Janaury 5, 2012, 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).

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: January 28, 2012