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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Woman, you have great faith

The Word This Week

Today is one of those occasions when, even though the second reading is not chosen to correspond to the theme of the Gospel and first reading, it does in fact fit very well. Indeed, much of the letter to the Romans is explained in this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word: the whole theme is summed up in this: the Messiah came first of all to the people of Israel, to whom the promises were made in the past - but it could not remain there. The good news had to be taken to the ends of the earth, so that all peoples, indeed the whole of creation could welcome the Messiah and take a place in the Kingdom of God. All nations are welcome on God’s holy mountain: “Let all the peoples praise you, O God!”

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 56:1.6-7

You will have to be careful with this reading: there are some difficult technical words which a congregation might not catch, such as ‘integrity’, ‘manifest’, ‘Sabbath, ‘covenant’, holocausts’. Take special care to read them clearly. The whole point of this piece of Scripture is to confirm that righteous ‘foreigners’ can take their place on God’s holy mountain. The first paragraph acts as a prelude to this announcement: in the long sentence underline ‘Foreigners’ and what will happen to them: ‘These I will bring to my holy mountain.’ In the sentence about sacrifices, perhaps you should emphasise it thus: ‘...their sacrifices will be accepted’. Similarly, emphasise the last words: ‘...for all the peoples.’


Second Reading: Romans 11:13-15. 29-32

Be careful with the first line: ‘pagans’ for Paul is not a negative term, as it is for us today. The next line makes this clear: ‘I am proud of being sent...’ Paul develops the idea that has been present in this letter from the beginning: how to reconcile the two groups involved in the mystery of salvation: the pagans and the people of Israel. The former have accepted the message, while the latter seem to have rejected it. Compare last week’s reading to see how strongly Paul longs to see Israel accept the Messiah. 'My own people’ are the Jews: read through the first paragraph carefully, to identify who Paul is talking about. Exclamation marks don’t appear often in scripture: let the one near the end of the first paragraph tell you how to read that line! In the final paragraph be aware of the contrast that Paul is making: between the once obedient people of Israel and the once disobedient pagans, now that they have exchanged roles. Be sure to emphasise the last sentence, especially the word ‘mercy’.


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