There are choices to be made with the first reading at Mass on the third Sunday of Lent.
Those using the readings for Year B have the option of using a briefer version of the reading that follows, or the full text, as given here.
In parishes where the first Scrutiny is being prayed, with those preparing for Baptism, a different reading altogether is used, to complement the reading from John’s Gospel of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well: the celebration of the scrutiny requires the use of the readings of Year A – which are also optional for use in any year, even when the scrutiny is not celebrated. You will find that alternative first reading at the end of this post.
God spoke all these words.
He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
‘You shall have no gods except me.
‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.
‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.
‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.
‘You shall not kill.
‘You shall not commit adultery.
‘You shall not steal.
‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’
The reading sets before us a properly ordered way of life – based on love of God and respect for the moral order. Law here sustains the good and noble life: it is a way to defend love.
Law gone wrong, or law ignored leads to disorder and disconnection.
But Exodus 20 reminds of how it should be.
- What law do you find less convenient to keep? Why? And with what consequence?
- What law helps you to come closer to God, yourself and your neighbour?
– – –
The first reading for when the first Scrutiny is celebrated is as follows:
Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’
Moses appealed to the Lord. ‘How am I to deal with this people?” he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’ This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’
The reading anticipates the Gospel’s talk of thirst, not for water only but for living water that quenches every thirst. Grumbling Israel is offered the very best but hardness of heart prevents it being received.
- What provokes grumbling in you?
- What does the grumbling prevent you from seeing/receiving?
Photograph is of 17th Century Commandments Board in the Parish Church, Diss.
Photograph (c) 2011, Allen Morris.