Monday, August 30, 2010

Converging on the Word

Today's readings would be a lectionary masterpiece if they had been planned to converge, as they do, on the power of the Living Word of God. But since it is a matter of two self-contained cycles just "coincidentally" matching perfectly, it has to be chalked up to the Holy Spirit as one of those unappreciated divine masterpieces that we live in so nonchalantly.
The first reading is from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. (My dad, a longtime lector, used to say, "Seems like all we ever read is Corinthians...") The English translation gives us just three sentences from this "apologia" of Paul's. He is not apologizing in any sense for failing to decorate the Gospel with rhetorical flair and a hint of his vast knowledge. "Weakness and fear and much trembling" are not exactly the first terms that would come to mind if we were asked to describe the Apostle Paul, but this, he says, it was characterized his preaching in Corinth. All to prove that the only thing worth knowing was "Jesus Christ and him crucified": This is certainly not the Jesus the people of Nazareth knew that day in the local synagogue. They commented about how well Jesus preached that day from Isaiah, he, Jesus "the son of Joseph." Focused on gracious words, they took a pass on the grace itself!
The responsorial psalm is a set of strophes from Psalm 119, the Goliath of the Psalter (176 verses!). The section chosen for today is a perfect expression of the prayer of Paul at Corinth, or Jesus at Nazareth. If it had also been the genuine prayer of the people of Nazareth (all but Mary, sad to say) they could have welcomed the "sublimity of words and wisdom" Jesus spoke and not just admired it.


Left-Footer said...

Thank you for this very helpful commentary.

Sr Anne said...

You're welcome! I noticed one more thing when I looked at the Gospel in context (i.e. in my Bible and not just the Missal!): Luke prefaces the story with "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit..." So the whole Nazareth event is "in the power of the Spirit"--and St. Paul had insisted that the Corinthians' faith be rooted in "a demonstration of spirit and power... on the power of God." Significant, I think.
Last year, I believe, I wrote about the connection of this Gospel with Psalm 45 ("graciousness is poured upon your lips").