Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's with the "shorter form?"

On many Sundays, the Catholic lectionary (i.e. the book with the assigned Scripture readings for the day's Mass) allows for a "shorter form" of one or more of the readings. Apparently, the intention is to provide a quicker reading for the "congregation on the go." But, I have noticed (and it has long bothered me) that in fact, quite often the shorter forms of the readings just happen to leave out the, shall we say, "more difficult" parts of the readings.

In other words, it often seems that if a Gospel reading quotes Jesus as affirming that not all will be saved, there's a pretty good chance that that reading will be offered, in the lectionary, in a "shorter version" which just happens to snip out the parts that make some people squeamish. This has long bothered me.

Apparently, I am not the only one that has noticed this. Father George Rutler, pastor of Our Saviour Catholic Church in New York City, penned a column on Sunday which echoes my sentiments exactly. He wrote, in part:

I have noticed that when the present Lectionary occasionally proposes a “Shorter Form” for one of the Gospel readings, the lines edited are something Our Lord said that comfortable people would rather He had not said. The “Shorter Form” of the Parable of the Wedding Garment remarkably leaves out the wedding garment. It is like dropping the last chapter of an Agatha Christie novel. I cannot imagine how any congregation would be so rushed that it could not find time for the thirty seconds it takes to read that warning about  coming to the nuptial feast of the Eucharist  unclothed in baptismal virtue, without sins confessed. If that is not suitable for the general audience, there is something wrong with the general audience.

Well said, Father Rutler. You can read the rest of his piece here.