Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday's Message: 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

Welcome back to another edition of Sunday's Message. Here, I will reproduce the readings for Mass from The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition. (I want to thank Greg Pierce at ACTA for giving me permission to do this weekly post.) While this is not an "official" Catholic edition, one of my hopes for doing this new series is to have a lively discussion on the renderings, compared to the more formal ones we are use to reading and hearing at Mass. Is there a place for a translation like this? Could this be a good Bible to give to a Catholic "seeker" or young adult? I have used it while teaching my high school theology classes, along with the NRSV and NABRE, and have had positive results. 

I would like to also propose a question each week to reflect upon, particularly in light of the rendering found here in The Message: I have a great love for Psalm 92, because it reminds me to offer joyful praise to God from dawn to dusk.  Unfortunately, I am so often inconsistent in doing so. I like how the NRSV renders it: "It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night."  As you all know, the Hebrew for "steadfast love" is that powerful and important word "hesed" which is variously translated.  I have always prefered the RSV/NRSV's "steadfast love" because it reminds me that God never withdraws his love from me, even though I may falter and not praise Him all day, from dawn to dusk, as I should.  So, my thought/question for the week is how can we do a better job at keeping our mind on the Lord more often during the day?  I know I am guilty of too often forgetting the abundant love and mercy that he shows me each and every second of each and every day.

Ezekiel 17:22-24
“‘God, the Master, says, I personally will take a shoot from the top of the towering cedar, a cutting from the crown of the tree, and plant it on a high and towering mountain, on the high mountain of Israel. It will grow, putting out branches and fruit—a majestic cedar. Birds of every sort and kind will live under it. They’ll build nests in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the field will recognize that I, God, made the great tree small and the small tree great, made the green tree turn dry and the dry tree sprout green branches. I, God, said it—and I did it.’”

Psalm 92
To announce your love each daybreak,
sing your faithful presence all through the night,
Accompanied by dulcimer and harp,
the full-bodied music of strings.
"Grow tall like Lebanon cedars;
transplanted to God’s courtyard,
They’ll grow tall in the presence of God,
lithe and green, virile still in old age.”
Such witnesses to upright God!
My Mountain, my huge, holy Mountain!

2 Corinthians 5:6-10
That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.
But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.

Mark 4:26-34
Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!
“How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it.”
With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.


rolf said...

The second reading from Second Corinthians in the Message is pretty bad! If you were to read it before reading a 'translation' you would have no idea of its theological meaning. The Message makes this reading sound like a bad camping trip, in which the scouts (disciples) hate sleeping in cramped little tents in the outback! But they are in good cheer because the are going back to the spacious mountain lodge where their camp counselor (Jesus) is?!?
The Message went so far wide and loose on this reading, not good!

Anonymous said...

As a somewhat tradional protestant I have to say that I am not particularly enamoured with the Message at the best of times.This 2Corinthian extract is to quote your contributer Rolf " pretty bad"
Ghastly , is my summation.
As to your question Timothy , as usual very penetrating, I use a publication entitled Daily Prayer for all seasons.Not to everybody ' s taste and certainly not Catholic but it does help to remind me
to be prayerful and thankful throughout the day.
But even using this I can forget !
Woe is me !

Unknown said...

Yeah, this Sunday's readings using The Message are a clunker all the way around IMO.

“How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut."
Pine nut?! I don't see how that clears anything up more than mustard seed. Even if someone didn't know how small one is, continuing with the reading would explain it well enough I think.

So, my thought/question for the week is how can we do a better job at keeping our mind on the Lord more often during the day? I know I am guilty of too often forgetting the abundant love and mercy that he shows me each and every second of each and every day.
Good question! I pray the Liturgy of the Hours when I can, the Rosary, personal prayer thrown in with both, and read the Bible. I'm also blessed with living in a rural area with a lot of His creation as a reminder.

"The Practice of the Presence of God" is an excellent read on the subject. I probably should get a copy for the Kindle to read again, and highlight.

Biblical Catholic said...

This week's selection is an excellent summary of why I don't like The Message.

It makes arbitrary, and completely unjustifiable, changes to the text (e.g. changing mustard seed to pine nut, birds to eagles)

It adds words that are not in the text (e.g. 'untying the knot'. really?)

It uses banal language that obscures rather than clarifies, muddies rather than enlightens (e.g. a shallow lame word like 'story' which doesn't really do justice to the text, rather than a deep and theologically meaningful word like 'parable' or 'similitude')

The Message is, in every possible sense of the word, bad. It is bad as a translation. It is bad simply as literature. It has bad theology.

And I agree that the epistle reading makes no sense at all. I have no idea what he is talking about, or what that passage is supposed to be.

Timothy said...

I'll be completely honest. There are weeks when I think "wow what was he thinking?" Other weeks I am surprised and interested. Still others I am convicted. I think ultimately this translation shows, both to its merits and faults, that we need to communicate the word of God in different ways. I agree with some of what you say BC, however, I actually liked his change from mustard seed to pine seed. It being a paraphrase, I think made the point better for a contemporary audience which most likely had never seen a mustard seed or tree.

I am glad this series has provoked reactions!

Biblical Catholic said...

I don't think one really needs to know what a mustard seed is or what a mustard tree looks like to get a gist of the meaning of the parable. The mustard seed is very small (not quite 'the smallest of all seeds' but it was the smallest seed known to first century Jews, and yet it grows into something very big. The point of the parable is that the Kingdom of Heaven starts as something very small (Jesus and his 12 disciples) and grows into something huge. It is similar to the parable of the leaven (just a little leaven makes the entire loaf rise) and to the parable of the net, that a net is cast into the sea and pulls up every kind of fish.

I don't think one really needs to be personally familiar with mustard seeds to be able to grasp the meaning of the parable.

Carl Hernz said...

It is problematic at best.

Changing mustard seed to something else might seem a "cool" way of getting a point across, but it destroys the cultural references. You see, mustard seeds were not planted in gardens because these plants would overtake the rest of the plants therein. Some rabbinical sources suggest that planting mustard in gardens during the Second Temple era was forbidden because of the loss that could be incurred to self and neighbors due to mustard's wild growth.

The point to this is that the planting of the mustard is not merely the miracle of a small start growing to something big, but a radical invasion of a plant that takes over. But you lose this if you change it to a pine seed. Also mustard plants rarely got so large that they could house birds, rarely that is. It was the rare and conquering mustard plant that overtook others that did so. Pine seeds grow into pine trees and always big. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom is something radical, greater than any other kingdom, overtaking them and bringing,I've to all, not just that it had humble beginnings. The pine tree reference robs the reader of this information.

A good paraphrase might use different words but it wouldn't do so at the price of important cultural references.

Biblical Catholic said...

Well, it is a disputed question of whether Jesus was referring to a mustard plant, which is a little bush that gets to be about 4 feet tall, or a mustard tree, which can grow to be about 15 feet tall and is big enough to attract birds, maybe not nests, but definitely birds come to perch in its branches.

If he meant the mustard plant, then the point is that mustard plants don't grow very large, but Jesus employs a degree of hyperbole, as if to suggest that the mustard plant is abnormally large, so that its growth has to be understood to be miraculous in nature.

It would be similar to saying that a fungus grew in your shower, but then it quickly took over the entire house. Okay, a fungus doesn't grow that big, a little fungus growing in the shower is not going to get so big that it takes over the entire house. so we can see that if someone is using this as an example that he is exaggerating to make a point.