Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
The Word This Week
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9.
There is an important contrast in the readings today, between human justice, so much based on revenge and retribution, and the justice of God, which so often seems gratuitous and merciful. Isaiah speaks the words of the Lord to those who accuse God of giving in by forgiving the wicked man who turns back to God. God, Isaiah reminds us, is rich in forgiving, and as far away from the human point of view as possible. This is a simple, but deep reading: there are two main sections: first the call to the wicked man to change his ways, with the assurance that he will be forgiven: this can be read with a sense of pleading or appeal. Second comes the answer to an unspoken accusation that this forgiveness is weak, that it is not right: my ways are not your ways - it is the Lord who speaks. You must understand why God says this, in order to convey to the listeners the full meaning of these phrases. Have a look at the third verse of the Psalm in order to broaden your understanding.
Second Reading: Philippians 1:20-24.27.
Paul is surprisingly unclear in this reading - but perhaps it is deliberate. Half way through he says that he is in a dilemma, he cannot make his mind up: should he be glad to be alive in Christ, or should he be keen to die and so be with Christ? To live or to die, that is the question. So perhaps Pauls lack of clarity in the first half of the reading expresses his confusion, and as reader, perhaps this is one occasion where not being clear might serve the purpose of the reading better. Build up to the words ...I do not know which I should choose, and imagine (but dont give) an exasperated sigh just before those words. Then Paul comes down to earth and explains his predicament: this must be stated very clearly, as a momentous choice between life in Christ (which is Pauls duty) and going to be with Christ in death (which is what he would much prefer). The last line seems to be tagged on, almost as an afterthought, by the compilers of the Lectionary. The best way to interpret it in this context is to see it as Paul having decided to stay and continue to guide the people in the way of Christ.