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Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

They do not practise what they preach

The Word This Week

An awkward set of readings to sit through as a priest today! The more responsibility we have for the flock of God, the more is demanded of us. But for all God’s people, there is the need for constant vigilance, to be on guard against hypocrisy and complacency, the two greatest threats to our living God’s way and not our own, self-serving way. This is a prelude to the end: for the next three weeks we will think about the end of the world and the judgement that awaits. This Sunday’s readings should begin to encourage us not to fear and dread that day, but to look forward to it, by putting our lives in order and living as the Lord showed us.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Malachi 1:14 - 2:2.8-10
Try not to look at your Parish Priest when reading this one! Remember that by Baptism we all share in the priesthood of Christ, so if there is a message for anyone in this reading it is for all of us, for we are all priests in him. It’s very difficult to read a denunciation like this without going over the top, but still putting some expression into these powerful words. At the centre of the reading is the key word, ‘Covenant’: the covenant is the relationship between God and man, destroyed by sin, restored by Christ, in whom we find reconciliation. Are any of us without sin? The language of this reading might seem extreme, but it is a call to all of us to examine the integrity of our lives, and the ‘faith we have with one another.’ Read clearly and steadily, avoiding dramatic thunderings; keep some change of tone for the appeal in the last paragraph - and then leave the questions hanging in the air for a while, before you say ‘This is the word of the Lord.’

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9.13
In a sense there couldn’t be a greater contrast between the first and second readings today (one reason for always having two readers); but the theme is still the same: accepting God’s message as it is will shatter hypocrisy, and allow a living power among those who believe it. The tenderness of this reading is very important: the first three words lead in well to that: ‘Like a mother...’ Be careful with the first sentence, working out where to pause. Also watch the emphasis in the second paragraph, which is a single sentence: ‘Another reason why we constantly thank God for you | is that as soon as you heard the message - that we brought you as God’s message -| you accepted it for what it really is || God’s message | and not some human thinking...’


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