GILM 76-77: Difficult Texts and Omitted Verses

76. In readings for Sundays and solemnities, texts that present real difficulties are avoided for pastoral reasons. The difficulties may be objective, in that the texts themselves raise profound literary, critical, or exegetical problems; or the difficulties may lie, at least to a certain extent, in the ability of the faithful to understand the texts. But there could be no justification for concealing from the faithful the spiritual riches of certain texts on the grounds of difficulty if the problem arises from the inadequacy either of the religious education that every Christian should have or of the biblical formation that every pastor of souls should have. Often a difficult reading is clarified by its correlation with another in the same Mass.

I’ll admit this section was a bit of a puzzle for me. It is true that some “difficult” texts are avoided–not omitted entirely. A few years back, we covered three omitted psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH 131). The reason? Difficulty with the curses. GILH concedes that lay people and clergy should confront and understand difficult Biblical passages. Ignorance is not really an excuse.

One tamer example that comes to mind is when ancient cultural customs (such as the place of women) are touted as part of proper teaching. To a degree we can blame a fundamentalist mindset. And perhaps a selective approach to aspects that are attractive for some believers, but less laudatory for others.

77. The omission of verses in readings from Scripture has at times been the tradition of many liturgies, including the Roman liturgy. Admittedly such omissions may not be made lightly, for fear of distorting the meaning of the text or the intent and style of Scripture. Yet on pastoral grounds it was decided to continue the traditional practice in the present Order of Readings, but at the same time to ensure that the essential meaning of the text remained intact. One reason for the decision is that otherwise some texts would have been unduly long. It would also have been necessary to omit completely certain readings of high spiritual value for the faithful because those readings include some verse that is pastorally less useful or that involves truly difficult questions.

It’s not completely convincing this principle has been applied well in all circumstances. Advocates for women have noted the omission of the women who formed Timothy’s faith, to give one example of a passage that certainly wasn’t problematic for its length.

Regardless of how one feels about omitted verses or selections that should be omitted or edited, these two sections would probably attract a lion’s share of discussion if a Lectionary were to be reassembled today. The choices are not easy, to be sure.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in General Introduction to the Lectionary, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

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