Bible Verse Omitted from the Lectionary Readings

As I have been working slowly through the Lectionary to write Lectio Divina meditations on it, I have noticed many times where the Lectionary omits verses right in the middle of a reading. This can be very distracting if you are trying to study the Bible based on the readings for the week or the day because you have to keep switching back and forth from your Bible to your missal. And sometimes, the verses omitted are vital to understand what is going on in the text.

After encountering this the umpteenth time, I resorted to some Googling to find an answer as to why these stray verses got omitted by the Lectionary. I found the official introduction to the Lectionary which explains the problem thus:

  • 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. (see catholicliturgy.com)

I don’t quite understand how “pastoral grounds” apply all the time. I think the omission of certain verses is often quite jarring and unhelpful to someone trying to understand the text. For example, I’m working on the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C which has 2 Macc 7:1-2,9-14 for the First Reading. It the story of the seven sons getting executed before their mother by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. But by cutting out verses 3-8, the pronoun “he” in verse 9 is stripped of its antecedent which was the second brother. As the reading is presented it seems as though the first brother is being mentioned by “he” in verse 9. It also makes very little sense that there is a “third” brother since we never met the second one–although we do here his voice, it seems like the first is speaking because of the “he” problem. And it makes even less sense that he holds out his hands and says he disdains them because without vv. 3-7 we are not told that the first and second brothers got their hands and feet cut off.

I suppose that these particular things are minor points, but they illustrate a greater difficulty with omitting verses. And the main thing that I think was probably the “pastoral ground” for omitting the verses has to do with the graphic violence associated with the torture of these men (e.g. cutting off the hands and tongue, frying, etc.) Yet I think the violence is what makes their martyrdom such a powerful story, such an astounding witness, such a great example of courage.

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