Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pity the poor lector

Today is one of the worst possible days to be a lector. Not because the first reading contains lists of ancient and seemingly unpronounceable names, but because it is from the book of Lamentations. If you can get through today's description of the siege of Jerusalem without your voice breaking and throat tightening, I'm not sure I would like you very much. The Responsorial Psalm is almost an eye-witness account of the destruction of the Temple, as told to God in prayer. These two passages tell of the horror of war from the inside, and give those suffering those horrors a way to pray through the sorrow.
I kind of wish the priest where Mom and I went to Mass had looked at the readings in that sort of light. Instead, he focused repeatedly on the concept of punishment. The Bible does not hesistate to interpret political defeat and so on as signs of the people's infidelity to God, but in today's reading, part of an almost unbearable description of suffering, the Bible seeks to excuse the nation. Instead of accusing the people of infidelity, Jeremiah (the reputed author of Lamentations) explains that they were deceived by false prophets who did not forthrightly declare the sins of the nation; the false prophets spun comforting visions for them, and so they could not repent. The disaster was not so much "punishment" as a consequence of believing the wrong teachers.

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