Ask your presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):

Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, November 5, 2023

Before the first reading:

After the return of the people Judah from exile, their priests were indifferent about their duties and unfair in their judgments. The prophet Malachi expresses God's outrage at this.

After the psalm, before the second reading:

Saint Paul contrasts himself to some other religious teachers who had visited the Thessalonians. Paul's credentials include the fact that he supported himself during his visit.

Before the gospel acclamation:

The community of the evangelist Matthew continues to ponder why other Jews rejected Jesus, and the nature of real leadership among God's people.

First Reading, Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10

Our Liturgical Setting: This year, we've been making our way through the chapters of Saint Matthew's gospel every Sunday of Ordinary Time. The editors of the lectionary usually pick a first reading that resonates with the day's gospel. In today's gospel, Jesus criticizes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day. Today's first reading prepares us to hear that.

The Historical Situation: The priests of this period (around 450 BC, after Judah's return from the exile in Babylon) were indifferent about their rituals and their teaching responsibilities, and often unfair in the judgments they made among the people. Malachi expresses God's outrage at this.

Proclaiming It: Notice that the person of the speaker changes in the last three short sentences. Where the prophet had been speaking in the voice of God, he switches to his own voice for three rhetorical questions. Pause before starting to proclaim those questions. Modulate your tone of voice, if you can, to bring out the difference.

You can express the divine outrage by building your volume and sharpening your tone through the first sentence and the long second sentence, until you're practically shouting "I will send a curse upon you."

When introducing the reading, pronounce the author's name MAL uh kie, where the accented first syllable rhymes with "pal," and the third syllable sounds like "eye."

Second Reading, 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13

The Historical Situation: Paul reminds the Thessalonians that, while he was among them, he was careful not to sponge off them even for his own livelihood. This puts him in contrast with other itinerant teachers of religions and philosophies in those days (and with some modern televangelists).

The Theological Background: This helps Paul make the case that what the Thessalonians received was not just human words but the word of God.

Proclaiming It: Notice the affection evident in the first few sentences. Read them with tenderness in your voice. Change your tone to something more triumphant than tender for the last paragraph. When you come to the climax in the last sentence, slow down:

A Theological Reflection: As a liturgical minister of God's word, you're carrying on Paul's mission, sharing Paul's goal (letting the word of God get to work in those who believe). This calls for zeal like Paul's, and love on your part for those to whom you speak.


Links to other smart commentaries on this week's readings

Credit for the picture at the top:

Women Sewing beside her Sleeping Child, by Jean Fran├žois Millet, French, 1814-1875, painted 1858-1862, now owned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A

Taking a break from the condemnations of religious leaders in today's gospel and first reading, the editors of the lectionary opted for a responsorial psalm that echoes an image from the second reading. The thoughtful curators of the Art in the Christian Tradition website suggested this image for pairing with Psalm 131.

This page updated September 14, 2023