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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

I am not here to bring peace, but rather division.

The Word This Week

When we consider the Christian life, we often think in positive terms: peace, light, joy, goodness, life. And yet, as the Scriptures remind us today, that Christian life must be lived in the midst of a world which is filled with more negative terms: division, distress, cruelty and death. The words of the Gospel may appear shocking to us: Jesus says that he comes to bring “division, not peace”, and this seems totally contrary to the message of the Gospel! And yet, Jesus is not announcing his desire – of course he wants peace, not division – but showing his understanding of the world in which we live. He is inviting us to weigh up the cost of the Kingdom, a cost he was willing to embrace: as the second reading tells us: “… Jesus, for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, endured the cross…” Whatever weighs us down, let us endure and persevere, so that the fire of God’s love may blaze over the whole earth!

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Jeremiah 38:4-6.8-10

Jeremiah, in his sufferings, is the prophet who most clearly looks forward to the ministry of Jesus. This reading tells of one of the occasions when Jeremiah was persecuted for his faithfulness to the Word of God. This reading today acts a prelude to the words of the Lord in the Gospel, when he reminds us of the costs of discipleship. You must seek to establish ‘tone’ or ‘mood’ in this reading, since it is the first taste the congregation have of the Scriptures today. It is dark  - the king is weak and fickle, his advisors are cruel and capricious, and Jeremiah is the victim of all this evil. Try to tell the story simply, without over-dramatising it. Make sure that when people speak, the congregation can have some sense of who is talking – your pauses are especially important in this! Also ensure that the most important part of the story – Jeremiah being thrown in the well to die – is not lost in the flow, but given its proper emphasis.


Second Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4

The second reading at Sunday Mass does not normally fit into the thematic links between the First Reading and Gospel, being a continuous reading through one of the apostolic letters. Very occasionally, however, it does “fit the theme” perfectly: today is a good example. The letter to the Hebrews was not written by Saint Paul, and you should be able to feel a difference in style today: the message comes across much more clearly. This helps you as you proclaim these words! Just be a little careful about the order of phrases within a sentence: you seem to get several clauses piled up on top of each other – make sure you know, in your own mind, which of them to highlight, otherwise the meaning will be lost. The first sentence is a good example: practice saying it out loud until you are happy that the emphasis is in the right place. Given the context of this Sunday, you would be right to stress the opposition that Jesus faced, and the endurance and courage he displayed.


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