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Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Men from east and west will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

The Word This Week

It’s probably a nightmare we all share to some degree or other - being locked out of the house, the sales, the big match, or missing the train, the boat or plane. Contemplating watching the crowds that have got inside, while we can do nothing, can be unnerving. Complacency can leave us in this situation: today the Lord warns all who listen to him to be careful, taking nothing for granted, but making sure that we are (spiritually at least) like the people waiting with their sleeping bags and thermos flasks by the front door of the ticket office.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 36:18-21.

A wonderful, boisterous reading, filled with colour and excitement, as the prophet sees the procession of the nations of the Lord - strange sounding names (don’t worry about them - say them as they look), strange forms of transport, all flowing towards the Temple in Jerusalem. Just picture what Hollywood could do with this scene, and then try to read it! So your tone should be excited, confident, positive. Be aware of the “shape” of the reading: first, after a “headline”, the messengers are sent to all the strange sounding places; then they return, bringing with them the “brothers” from all the mountains. This is the gathering of the tribes of Israel - Isaiah would have proclaimed this with joy and gladness - so should you! Practice the lists - of places and of means of transport - so you can rattle them off fluently, and use them to create a picture. Underline the words “all” and “every” whenever they crop up. But above all enjoy this reading!


Second Reading: Hebrews 12:5-7.11-13.

At first gance this seems a rather negative and gloomy reading - but it isn’t. The author is trying to explain why being a Christian sometimes seems rather hard and difficult: it’s because the Father loves us, and like any loving Father sometimes has to correct us, to bring us back (if we will listen) to the right path.  It starts well, by engaging the congregation with a question - as always, don’t be afraid of letting “you” mean the people listening to you read. From then on there should be a tone of gentleness in this reading, since it is all about encouragement - even when it uses words like “punishment”. A key line is the one which talks about punishment being no fun at the time, but later “bearing fruit in peace and goodness.” Watch the last sentence - it’s a bit short of commas, so make sure you put the pauses in the right places.


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