First Reading: Isaiah 52:13–53:12

Lectionary text

See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him
so marred was his look beyond human semblance
and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Who would believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
But the LORD was pleasedto crush him in infirmity.
If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,and their guilt he shall bear.Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.

NAB 1970

See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him–
so marred was his look beyond that of man
and his appearance beyond that of mortals
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Who would believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,
nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by men,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
But the LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.
If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.

NABRE

See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him—
so marred were his features,
beyond that of mortals

his appearance, beyond that of human beings—
So shall he startle many nations,
kings shall stand speechless;
For those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.
Who would believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye,
no beauty to draw us to him.

He was spurned and avoided by men,
a man of suffering, knowing pain,
Like one from whom you turn your face,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted,
But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
all following our own way;
But the Lord laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

Though harshly treated, he submitted
and did not open his mouth;
Like a lamb led to slaughter
or a sheep silent before shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
Seized and condemned, he was taken away.
Who would have thought any more of his destiny?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
struck for the sins of his people.
He was given a grave among the wicked,
a burial place with evildoers,
Though he had done no wrong,
nor was deceit found in his mouth.
But it was the Lord’s will to crush him with pain.
By making his life as a reparation offering,
he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days,
and the Lord’s will shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his anguish he shall see the light;
because of his knowledge he shall be content;
My servant, the just one, shall justify the many,
their iniquity he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the many,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
Because he surrendered himself to death,
was counted among the transgressors,
Bore the sins of many,
and interceded for the transgressors.

Comments:

When we read the Suffering Servant songs we can surely ask like the Ethiopian eunuch, “about whom is the prophet saying this? Himself, or someone else?” This gets to the root of my questions about Old Testament prophecy and typology. I once thought that to assign a meaning or immediate context other than the prophecies and types fulfilled by Christ was quite problematic, but I am nowadays quite comfortable with the two coexisting. The mother and child spoken of in Isaiah 7 almost certainly were individuals from the days of Ahaz, but did the delay of Judah’s fate by a few generations fulfill that prophecy? Not in the least! And so historical context and the grand sweep of God’s plan to be fulfilled in the fullness of time fit together quite comfortably. As for the servant, in the words of the (original) NAB’s infamous notes, “only in Jesus Christ is the prophecy perfectly fulfilled.”

To tighten our focus upon the subject at hand, it seems that the lectionary sometimes steers the NAB text away from inclusive language, but at other times does the opposite. The difference between the 1970 text and the lectionary is three words: “of man” to “human semblance”, “mortals” to “sons of men”, and “men” to “people.” Does this match up better with the Vulgate or Nova Vulgata? Who knows. It sounds a touch more traditional, and rolls off the tongue a bit better in its lectionary version, even if this is the only place I’ve ever encountered the word “semblance.” As for the NABRE, it retains nearly all of the rhythm and music of the earlier text while successfully updating the vocabulary a bit. It is most different from the 1970 NAB at the end, where it is a bit questionable whether they were in fact translating the same text. The NABRE is closer to the RSV in the close of chapter 53 now. Perhaps in the future I will compare editions of the Old Testament. The original NAB, while not nearly as loose and prone to paraphrasing, certainly was not shy about re-ordering verses thought to be misplaced. (I am in the Wisdom books in a read through of the Old Testament, and the 1970 NAB does this quite a bit in Job, where the Hebrew text is quite obscure in places. I’ve heard this is the case in the prophets as well.) The NABRE stepped back from this freewheeling apparently, but it would be interesting to see how that manifests itself on a verse to verse basis.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25

Lectionary text, which is identical to the NAB ’70 text

R. (Lk 23:46) Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.

For all my foes I am an object of reproach,
a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends;
they who see me abroad flee from me.
I am forgotten like the unremembered dead;
I am like a dish that is broken.

But my trust is in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.”

Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
Take courage and be stouthearted,
all you who hope in the LORD.

NABRE

In you, LORD, I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me;

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
    you will redeem me, LORD, God of truth.

To all my foes I am a thing of scorn,
    and especially to my neighbors
    a horror to my friends.
When they see me in public,    they quickly shy away.I am forgotten, out of mind like the dead;
    I am like a worn-out tool.

But I trust in you, LORD;
    I say, “You are my God.”
My destiny is in your hands;
    rescue me from my enemies,
    from the hands of my pursuers.
Let your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your mercy.
Be strong and take heart,
    all who hope in the LORD.

Revised Grail Psalms

In you, O LORD, I take refuge.
 Let me never be put to shame.
 In your justice, set me free;
Into your hands I commend my spirit.
You will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.

Because of all my foes
 I have become a reproach,
 an object of scorn to my neighbors
 and of fear to my friends.

Those who see me in the street
 flee from me.
 I am forgotten, like someone dead,
 and have become like a broken vessel.

But as for me, I trust in you, O LORD;
 I say, “You are my God.
 My lot is in your hands, deliver me
 from the hands of my enemies
 and those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant.
 Save me in your merciful love.
Be strong, let your heart take courage,
 all who hope in the LORD.

Comments:

The history of the NAB/NABRE psalms is a bit confusing. The Confraternity Bible project had a version of the Psalter from 1950, which they then replaced in 1955. This 1955 Psalter was translated from the Hebrew, but made sure their decisions and interpretations matched the textual choices made by the translators of the then-new Latin Psalter. I believe this is the same Psalter that Ronald Knox translated in the 2nd edition of his Psalter. (It was in the appendix of the 2-volume edition of his Old Testament, but is the Psalter of the Knox Bible published by Baronius Press.) The 1955 Confraternity Psalter was among the books re-branded as the New American Bible in 1970. (It is easy to forget that the only parts of the original NAB which were new in 1970 were the New Testament and the book of Genesis. Other parts of it dated back as far as 1952!) This Psalter was replaced in 1991 and then again in 2011.

So, unlike other parts of the Old Testament, the NABRE Psalter has quite a few alterations, which you can see in the bolded sections. One fruit of these comparisons I’ve done is that I’ve realized how much I love the old NAB Psalter. Those of us who only go to Mass on Sundays and feasts might not be familiar with it. On some Sundays, my parish will use musical settings that rely on the Grail or Revised Grail Psalms for their text. On weekdays, however, where the responsorial psalm is recited and not sung, we take it straight from the lectionary. Even though I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I am often surprised how often my “memory verses” of the psalms are not from the Grail Psalms but from the NAB ones. No lesser a scholar than Bruce Metzger was very complimentary of them in a review he wrote of the original NAB. The effort spent preparing them to be read aloud had borne fruit. I can usually say the same about the NABRE, but there are a couple places where the NABRE suffers in comparison here: “and especially to my neighbors” seems more like casual conversation than poetry. The distinction between “worn out tool” and “dish that is broken” is interesting. The biblical image, from my understanding, is an object that ought to be useful that is not. The “worn out tool” is something rendered less effective by use. Splitting hairs, yes, but what is this series about if not splitting hairs?

Once again, the Revised Grail Psalms are beautiful, prayerful, and a bit sanitized. I wonder what will happen when the Liturgy of the Hours is tinkered with. The recent scandals have pushed this important project to the back burner, but my expectations are: it will come out in 2030 at the earliest, the biblical readings will be from the 2025 NABRE, the old hymns will be restored, and the Psalter will be the Revised Grail Psalms. They will continue to sit on the fence about how one ought to pray the Intercessions, continuing the mass confusion for people who don’t know the Hours or are praying with people who learned the Hours from a different source. Also, it will need a head scratching decision that people can argue about on the internet. If I were a betting man, I would say they will eliminate the psalm-prayers without any explanation or even acknowledging they were there in the first place. What about the canticles? Did the Revised Grail people revise the canticles too? Some of the canticles could come directly from the NABRE, but others might not work so well.

Second Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Lectionary text, which is identical to the NAB ’86 text

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, 
Jesus, the Son of God, 
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, 
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace 
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

In the days when Christ was in the flesh, 
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears 
to the one who was able to save him from death, 
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; 
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Comments:

We don’t actually have anything to compare for the New Testament readings, as the lectionary text and the NAB ’86 New Testament text is identical. Since I don’t have much to say here, what changes get made in the revision of the New Testament? I did a quick “netherworld” spot-check of the Old Testament, and all the ones that I looked up had been replaced by “Sheol” in the NABRE, so “netherworld” to “Hades” might be a reality, even if “Hades” has become a synonym for Hell in the English speaking imagination. I bet they make it a bit more literal—sprinkling some more “and then immediately” to Mark, for example. I hope they keep the light traditional language and constructions that make it sound so wonderful proclaimed. If the revision is along the same lines as the NABRE revision of the Old Testament, which we expect, it looks like the word “behold” will survive in the liturgy for a couple more decades.

Gospel: John 18:1–19:42

Lectionary text and NAB ’86

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley 
to where there was a garden, 
into which he and his disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place, 
because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards 
from the chief priests and the Pharisees 
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, 
went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?”
They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
He said to them, “I AM.”
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, “I AM, ” 
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them,
“Whom are you looking for?”
They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
Jesus answered,
“I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill what he had said, 
“I have not lost any of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, 
struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.
The slave’s name was Malchus.
Jesus said to Peter,
“Put your sword into its scabbard.
Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”

So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus,
bound him, and brought him to Annas first.
He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, 
who was high priest that year.
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews 
that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus.
Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, 
and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.
But Peter stood at the gate outside.
So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, 
went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.
Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, 
“You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”
Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire
that they had made, because it was cold,
and were warming themselves.
Peter was also standing there keeping warm.

The high priest questioned Jesus 
about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him,
“I have spoken publicly to the world.
I have always taught in a synagogue 
or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, 
and in secret I have said nothing.  Why ask me?
Ask those who heard me what I said to them.
They know what I said.”
When he had said this, 
one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, 
“Is this the way you answer the high priest?”
Jesus answered him,
“If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; 
but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm.
And they said to him,
“You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said,
“I am not.”
One of the slaves of the high priest, 
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, 
“Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”
Again Peter denied it.
And immediately the cock crowed.

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.
It was morning.
And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, 
in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.
So Pilate came out to them and said, 
“What charge do you bring against this man?”
They answered and said to him,
“If he were not a criminal, 
we would not have handed him over to you.”
At this, Pilate said to them, 
“Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.”
The Jews answered him, 
“We do not have the right to execute anyone, ” 
in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled
that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.
So Pilate went back into the praetorium 
and summoned Jesus and said to him, 
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered,
“Do you say this on your own 
or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered,
“I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus answered,
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world, 
my attendants would be fighting 
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him,
“Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered,
“You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world, 
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

When he had said this,
he again went out to the Jews and said to them,
“I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover.
Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
They cried out again,
“Not this one but Barabbas!”
Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, 
and clothed him in a purple cloak, 
and they came to him and said,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they struck him repeatedly.
Once more Pilate went out and said to them, 
“Look, I am bringing him out to you, 
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
So Jesus came out, 
wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them, “Behold, the man!”
When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, 
“Crucify him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves and crucify him.
I find no guilt in him.”
The Jews answered, 
“We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, 
because he made himself the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid, 
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, 
“Where are you from?”
Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
“Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you 
and I have power to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him,
“You would have no power over me 
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin.”
Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, 
“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out 
and seated him on the judge’s bench 
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
“Behold, your king!”
They cried out,
“Take him away, take him away!  Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered,
“We have no king but Caesar.”
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, 
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, 
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others, 
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read,
“Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”
Now many of the Jews read this inscription, 
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; 
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, 
“Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
Pilate answered,
“What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, 
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, 
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, 
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another, 
“Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, ” 
in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.

This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, aware that everything was now finished, 
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, 
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop 
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, 
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken 
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first 
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, 
they did not break his legs, 
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, 
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; 
he knows that he is speaking the truth, 
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, 
secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, 
asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus.
And Pilate permitted it.
So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, 
also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes 
weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus 
and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, 
according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, 
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; 
for the tomb was close by.

Comments:

The passion narrative according to John leaves me speechless. The only thing I have to say about the translation is that I like that it is translated “I AM”. Do any other translations do this? When I read other translations, it seems a bit silly for the people who want to arrest him to fall down when Jesus says “I am he”. However, does translating those words this way make an interpretive decision better left in the footnotes? Of course, the context of this instance and others shows quite plainly that Jesus’ hearers interpreted this as being an expression of His divinity, no two ways about it.

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