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Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, June 2, 2013
Lectionary index # 87

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.

Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, June 2, 2013
Before the first reading:

The ancient Israelites were proud of their God and of their temple built in God's honor. They also knew their pagan neighbors prayed to as many gods as they thought might help them. This reading reveals how King Solomon hoped that Israel's God would respond to pagans' prayers.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Some early Jewish Christians argued that even Gentile converts to Christ needed to observe the laws of Moses in order to get right with God. This idea was current among the Galatian Christians, and Saint Paul argues forcefully to correct it.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Saint Luke's gospel and his Acts of the Apostles explain for Gentile Christians how their new religion started in but separated from its Jewish roots.

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, 1 Kings 8:41-43]

The Historical Situation and Theological Background: The Books of Kings were written well after the events they describe by an author who had this intent: His main interest is in keeping his audience faithful to the Lord. So he tells the story of each of Israel's kings, with emphasis on how the king was or was not faithful. "The faithful prosper; the unfaithful pay for their defections," as the Introduction to 1 Kings in The New American Bible explains.

Solomon was the third king of Israel, famous for his wisdom and for building the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. That became the focus of national pride. It helped the Israelites feel they had arrived, and need no longer think of themselves as poor desert nomads. The Solomon stories in 1 Kings helped later generations feel pride in their heritage.

This passage is from Solomon's public prayer during the dedication of that Temple. He recites a catalog of the kinds of prayers likely to be addressed to God from this temple: prayers for judgment against enemies, prayers for mercy when people have sinned, prayers for rain and for relief of famine, prayers for guidance in time of war, and more. The instance cited in our text today is the prayer of a foreigner, by definition not a strict believer in Israel's God. Answer his prayers, anyway, Solomon advises the Lord, because that will increase God's renown among the nations, and, not insignificantly, the international stature of Solomon the Temple-builder and the people he rules.

Today's text in liturgical context: This passage reminds us of a theme to be taken up by Saint Luke, who wrote for congregations of Christians who had been fairly cosmopolitan Gentiles. These converts were curious about how the movement started by the Jewish reformer Jesus had come to break out of Judaism's famous exclusivity and embrace them. Luke's answers include today's gospel passage and a similar one that we'll hear on the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Your Proclamation: Try to sound like Solomon. You're devout, and you want everything to glorify God. But you're cunning, too, and there's more than a little self-interest in what you say to God. Don't be shocked at this suggestion. Remember this is a story told by and for a later generation. They put these words in Solomon's mouth for at least three purposes: to build up their own faith that had been trampled by events, to remember that even sinful people and kings can be God's instruments in history, and to remind themselves that the real God of the universe has a plan and an embrace that reach beyond their [our] narrow understandings.

Second Reading, Galatians 1:1-2, 6-10]

These comments are a reduced selection from Lector's Notes for the Vigil of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. That feast proper is June 29, annually.

The Historical Background: Early Christianity struggled with the question of how much it should retain of it Jewish roots. Jewish converts didn't just become Gentiles when they accepted Christ. They kept many of the practices they had grown up with. Some of them insisted on imposing the same requirements on Gentile converts who had never been Jews. Paul weighed in heavily against this notion. Galatians is his earliest extant treatise on the question, and the letter to the Romans is his masterpiece.

Paul framed the issue this way: If you think you're saved by keeping rules (Jewish rules or others) and doing good deeds, or knowing the right theological propositions, you're just trying to save yourself. This is so even if you're keeping rules from a source as excellent as God's law revealed through Moses and passed down by generations of Jews. You're not letting God save you. You're not acknowledging your sinfulness. You're insulting God by trying to pay for something that God wants to give you as a gift. You're trying to control the situation instead of letting God be in control. Salvation is a grace, and every grace is a gift. It's not something earned. We're not worthy of it and we're not supposed to be.

Paul knew the Galatians needed this lesson most convincingly, so in the verses you'll read today, he is as emphatic as I was in the prior paragraph. And in the verses following today's selection (verses 1:11-2:14 in particular), he details the sources of his authority and how he bested even the estimable Cephas (Peter) in a debate about this teaching.

Proclaiming it: Today's short passage is a rather isolated fragment of that bigger picture. Absent a homilist ambitious enough to put this in context, the lector might try this: Express Paul's vehemence. He is "astonished" at the choices made by the Galatians, giving in to the "trouble-makers" who would "pervert the gospel of Christ." He even curses the hypothetical angel who might collude in this false teaching. One cannot get more emphatic than that. And if the lector makes a dramatic expression of Paul's outrage, maybe the listeners will wonder what the fuss was all about, and maybe the homilist will be forced, eventually, to tell them.

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."
Because of the way the Lent/Easter season slides around in the calendar from year to year, this Sunday is most often left uncelebrated. Since the dawn of the World Wide Web, most of the usual suspects cited here have not written about today's readings. The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes

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Last modified: May 5, 2013