Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Jeremiah 33:14-16
These verses are an almost verbatim repetition of Jeremiah 23:5-6. In the precritical age, readers would have had no difficulty in supposing that Jeremiah spoke the same oracle on two separate occasions.
The common opinion among scholars today is that Jeremiah 23 contains the prophet’s original oracle, and that Jeremiah 33 is a revival of this oracle by one of his disciples in a later situation.
Jeremiah had predicted that the Davidic dynasty would be restored shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 586. But the years of exile were prolonged and the promise went unfulfilled. The exiles were tempted to abandon their ancestral religion and adopt the religion of the surrounding nations.
In this situation a later writer repeats Jeremiah’s prophecy. No doubt its partial fulfillment was discerned in the return from exile, but Christian faith has seen in it a promise that was not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus, the real Messiah.
While we should not read into the phrase “The Lord is our righteousness” the full Pauline meaning of “righteousness,” the use of the word here provides a background for Paul.
Righteousness is not an ethical or moral quality but the saving act of Yhwh. The restoration of the Davidic monarchy after the Exile will be seen as Yhwh’s mighty act of salvation. Christian faith will see the advent of Christ as God’s final act of salvation.
Responsorial Psalm: 25: 4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
Other verses of this psalm are used on the twenty-sixth Sunday of the year in series A, the first Sunday of Lent in series B, and the third Sunday of the year in series B.
The idea of Yhwh’s righteousness is picked up in the words “truth” (that is, God’s fidelity to his promise) and “salvation” in the first stanza, and “steadfast love,” “faithfulness,” and “covenant” in the third stanza.
The psalm, accordingly, should not be interpreted moralistically. It speaks of patient waiting for the advent of Yhwh’s righteousness.
Reading II: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
This reading straddles two halves of 1 Thessalonians. In the first half the Apostle reviews his relations with the Thessalonians to date. He is led to thanksgiving and an expression of his loving concern.
This section concludes with a blessing or intercession. Paul prays that his converts may continue to grow in holiness until the parousia, the “coming” of Christ, which he expects to happen very soon. This is the first paragraph of our reading.
The second paragraph marks the beginning of the second part of the letter. This contains specific ethical exhortations and a discussion of several theological problems of concern to the young community.
Before taking up specifics, Paul reminds his readers in general terms of the catechetical instructions that he had given them during his foundation visit. His original instructions were given “through the Lord Jesus.”
What precisely does this mean? Paul generally chooses his Christological titles carefully, with an eye on context.
The catechesis of the Church rests upon the words of the historical Jesus perpetuated by the living Lord in his Church.
Tradition is not something left behind by a Jesus now dead, but a process inaugurated by Jesus in his earthly life and constantly reenacted as a living word by the exalted Kyrios.
Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
In series C we will be reading the Gospel of Luke in course. Today’s selection, however, is out of course in order to present Luke’s future-apocalyptic teaching on the first Sunday of Advent, where it is particularly seasonable.
Although Luke follows Mark in his location of the apocalyptic discourse (just before the passion narrative), he draws much of its content from his special material. Only in Luke 21:25, 26b, and 27 does he follow Mark closely.
The synoptic apocalypse was constantly adjusted so that it could speak to the ever-changing situation of the early Christian community.
Luke’s version, unlike Mark’s, regards the Church as here to stay. This lengthy period is marked by “distress of nations” and by human fear and foreboding. And in the Christian community, slackness is setting in.
There is dissipation, drunkenness, and the “cares of this life” (see the interpretation of the parable of the sower). In such a situation Luke calls upon his contemporaries to watch and pray.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University