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Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

The house built on rock and the house built on sand

The Word This Week

“Solid as a rock” is something we say about people we can trust and rely on: it’s an image which figures in our readings this Sunday: we are invited to consider where we are going to build our lives. What are the “props and supports” that will hold us up in times of difficulty and trouble? The Biblical texts teach us quite clearly that in the midst of a changing and sometimes unpredictable world, and even when we are let down by other people, there is something that we can always rely on – God. But relying on God does not always come easily – as Saint Paul reminds us, it springs from faith. Anyone who has faith can lean on God. We should “take courage”, and “hope in the Lord.”

Notes for Readers

First reading: Deuteronomy 11:18.26-28.32

Quite often our readings are made up of contrasting ideas: today Moses does this for the people – giving them a straight “50-50” choice between “blessing and curse”. There is almost a non-committal tone to Moses’ words – it is a genuine free choice: he will not stop them if they should choose to disobey. This is a good opportunity for a reader directly to address the congregation – with some eye contact if possible! The first paragraph is slightly different: Moses almost pleads with the people to remember what he has taught them. This is quite a short reading, and there is always a tendency to rush through. Remember that a short reading gives you more time to make the correct emphasis, and allow your tone of voice to “work with” the words. The choice that is being offered (both to the people of Israel and to your congregation) is a serious one: pause between each alternative (“a blessing… a curse”), so that people can think about what you are offering them!


Second Reading: Roman 3:21-25.28

A horribly difficult reading to start our journey through the letter to the Romans this year! The key to this reading is that anyone can be “justified” because of what Jesus has done. Typically, Saint Paul uses some difficult words and concepts to express this: remember, he is writing to a mixed group of new Christians, some of whom have spent all their life as faithful Jews, obedient to the “Law and the Prophets”, some of whom have been “pagans” (which simply means “non-Jews”). The biggest novelty that Paul is teaching is that “reconciliation” is not just about following the rule-book, but about accepting the “free gift of God’s grace”. You’ve only got two sentences in this reading, so you have to work out where to pause within each sentence. In the first sentence, you need to work out what is the “main clause”: the key words of the first sentence are: “God’s justice … has been revealed outside the Law.” Make sure you emphasise these. In the rest of the passage, Paul teaches that absolutely anyone, irrespective of religious background, can share in what he calls “justification”. Stress the word “both” when it appears; mentally underline the words “so as to win reconciliation through faith”, since this is the main promise of Paul’s teaching.


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