Sunday Readings November/December 2017

Breaking the Word Sundays
Sundays in November and December 2017
Robert Draper

The Lectionary of the Church, in a careful and deliberate way, offers a rich selection of passages from the sacred Scriptures for God's people to savour and ponder. The choice offers the reader the opportunity to reflect on the liturgical seasons, on the insights of the individual inspired writer, and on the faith of the Church expressed therein, as well as giving the listener (and preacher) the chance to use these readings to help interpret the 'signs of the times' in the contemporary world. Underlying these aspects of the Word of God is always the assumption that the Word is given to us to challenge us - to call those who hear it and ponder it to a more faithful living of the Christian calling. The reflections that follow are offered with that understanding, and with the hope that they might encourage readers to enter even more deeply into the living Word of God. Robert Draper is a parish priest in Dorset and a Vicar General of the Diocese of Plymouth.

sundayTraditionally in November the Church prays especially for the dead and that ties in with the celebration of All Souls and the readings of the Liturgy which take on the theme of 'the end time' as we close one liturgical year and open another. The parables that make up the Gospels of the last three Sundays of the year have a strong apocalyptic flavour, as do all the readings of the first two Sundays of Advent. The end of this series of reflections is marked by the great Feast of the Incarnation - 'the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.' There is great scope in the readings for these various Sundays to explore the great hope that the Christian faith offers.

Sunday 5 November
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary time
Malachi 1.14-2.2,8-10
Palm 130
1Thessalonians 2.7-9.13
Matthew 23.1-12

There is a dramatic contrast within today's readings on the subject of ministry as service. The prophet Malachi and Jesus in the Gospel castigate their contemporaries who have responsibility for the practice and teaching of the faith to others. The prophet denounces the priests for their partiality and for causing the people to stumble - that has led to their being held in contempt. Jesus acknowledges that the scribes and Pharisees should be listened to when they teach, but he lambasts them for not heeding the teaching themselves, but for being pre-occupied with their own status. In striking contrast Paul describes his own ministry to the Thessalonians, and the image he chooses is that of a mother's self-sacrifice for her children. He emphasises just how much his love leads him into renouncing self. Anyone encountering these passages will be struck by how strikingly different the model of service is portrayed. That will invite a reflection on how we perceive ministry, especially for those who have been entrusted with the care of the People of God. Paul clearly offers the model of Jesus: 'who came to serve and not to be served.' Given that all the baptised have a duty of care to their brothers and sisters, these passages should have an impact on all who hear.

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