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Scripture Notes

Notes on the Sunday readings by Father Nicholas King SJ (Campion Hall, Oxford University, UK).

By kind permission of the Editor of Southern Cross.



18th Sunday – Year C (August 4th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 15:33

•    Qoheleth 1:2, 2:21-23
•    Psalm 90: 3-6, 12-14, 17
•    Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
•    Luke 12:13-21

What are the things that really matter in life? That is the uncomfortable question that the readings for next Sunday pose to us. The first reading comes to us from Qoheleth, or Ecclesiastes (“the Preacher”) as his Greek nickname goes, with the well-known refrain that goes “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. Then (leaping into his second chapter, for some reason), this deep and radical thinker offers an example of this “vanity”: “a person who has expended effort and wisdom and expertise and skill – and he leaves his portion to someone who has not put in the effort. This is also vanity and great wickedness”. Some scholars point out that Qoheleth hardly ever mentions God; but you can do God’s work without speaking of the Almighty, and the task of the Preacher is to expose the foolishness of the pursuits to which we normally give our energies, in order that we may find our way to God.

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16th Sunday – Year C (July 21st) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 15:31

•    Genesis 18:1-10
•    Psalm 15:2-5
•    Colossians 1:24-28
•    Luke 10:38-42

God is utterly generous; and we, who are made in the image and likeness of God, are at our very best when we reflect the divine generosity in our behaviour to one another. Next Sunday’s readings show some very striking examples of this.

The first reading is the splendid story of Abraham giving hospitality to God, disguised as “three men”. Now Abraham is 99 at the time of the narrative, and very sensibly “sitting at the gate of his tent, in the heat of the day”. However when he sees guests, the Middle Eastern instinct for hospitality takes over, and everything is done on the run from now on: he asks for the privilege of giving them some washing-water, some food, and some refreshment.

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14th Sunday – Year C (July 7th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 15:29

•    Isaiah 66:10-14
•    Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20
•    Galatians 6: 14-18
•    Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

This Christian faith of ours is not just a private luxury. We are charged with a mission, to go out and proclaim the message of the Kingdom to a world that stands desperately in need of it. We need courage for that, however, and so it is that next Sunday’s first reading, almost the last words of the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, tells the disillusioned people who have returned from Exile in Babylon that they are to “rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all those who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourned over her”.

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17th Sunday – Year C (July 28th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 15:32

•    Genesis 18:20-32
•    Psalm 138:1-3, 6-8
•    Colossians 2:12-14
•    Luke 11:1-13

Can you bargain with God? All of us like to think that we might (“If I’m good, will you give me this favour?”), but of course God is God, and beyond all our powers (including our powers of reasoning). In next Sunday’s first reading, the narrator starts us off with a God who apparently does not know everything; he begins by having to go and find out what is going on in Sodom, to see whether the reports that have reached him are really true. Somehow, though, Abraham knows what God has in mind, and starts bargaining with him: “If there were fifty innocent people in the city, would you sweep the place away?”

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15th Sunday – Year C (July 14th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 15:30

•    Deuteronomy 30:10-14
•    Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 37
•    Colossians 1:15-20
•    Luke 10:25-37

God’s commands are not to be seen as a crippling burden, but as showing us the way to life. Next Sunday’s readings tell us something of this important truth. In the first reading, Moses is reminding the people of Israel, just before they cross the Jordan (without him) into the Promised Land, of God’s expectations about how they are to live once they are there. It is not, however, a difficult matter, an impossible set of tasks, intended to catch them out: “Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and decrees that are written in the book of this Law, to return to the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul”.

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13th Sunday – Year C (June 30th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 15:27

•    1 Kings 19:16, 19-21
•    Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
•    Galatians 5:1, 13-18
•    Luke 9:51-62

There is for each one of us a call from God; and we shall never be compelled to accept it, for God always respects our freedom. Nevertheless, if we want our lives to go as they are intended to go, we need to listen out for that call, and answer it.

Which is what Elijah does in the first reading for the day; he is told to anoint Elisha as his successor. He indicates this to the future prophet by flinging his cloak over him, which is not necessarily the clearest form of communication. Elisha seems to get the message, however, but does not obey the call with sufficient urgency for Elijah’s taste; he leaves his oxen, it is true (and in that society that is a very considerable act of generosity), but instead of immediately following, he asks “May I kiss my father and mother, and come after you”.

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