HOMAS JEFFERSON (d. 1826) published a special edition of the New Testament which removed any mention of Christ performing miracles because these were deemed unsuitable to “modern man,” who can solve all problems with science … unlike the foolish people of the Middle Ages. In an article reprinted by NLM, Fr. George Rutler mentions something I, too, have observed through the years. Our current Lectionary seems to imitate Jefferson, making optional many “difficult” passages. Here’s an excerpt:
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. [source]
Let’s examine a concrete example. For Catholic weddings, the Second Reading has a “Long Form” (Eph 5:2a, 21-33) and a “Short Form” (Eph 5:2a, 25-32). Please carefully notice the excluded verses:
Brothers and sisters: Live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us.
LONG FORM ONLY: [Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the Church, he himself the savior of the body. As the Church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.]
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his Body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.
LONG FORM ONLY: [In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.]
WHY WERE THESE verses excluded? Does it really take that much longer to read a few sentences? Or were they removed because they’re difficult? Even Annibale Bugnini admits that the “Short Form” should only be used if a reading is excessively long — not because it’s “difficult.”
Could this be caused by the USCCB changing the official Mass texts? No, you can see that the official Ordo Cantus Missae specifically allows the “difficult” verses to be omitted. Most people won’t notice which verses were excluded, because the layout makes them hard to detect.
Here’s another example, with the Gospel for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, which gives a “Short Form” (Mt 22:1-10) and a “Long Form” (Mt 22: 1-14):
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.
LONG FORM ONLY: But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Fr. Rutler’s observations are spot on:
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.
As a reminder, the Council fathers voted on the principles of reform, but left the reform itself in the hands of Pope Paul VI. Fr. Hanshell has commented, “Not all that has happened to the liturgy since the constitution was produced by the Vatican Council is in accordance with that document.” Many agree, and continue to call for a careful evaluation of how well the post-Conciliar reforms were implemented.
FINALLY, SPEAKING OF THE LECTIONARY, Fr. Deryck Hanshell remarked in one of his articles that lectors ought to proclaim the Word of God with “a certain reservedness,” never dramatically, which allows the Scriptures to reveal themselves. I could not agree more, and for this reason, I was very sad to discover a website that adds “expressions” to each reading, as in the following example:
UPDATE: Many other examples supporting Fr. Rutler’s assertions could be considered. Two that spring immediately to mind are the Gospel readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) and the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), but there are many more examples. The “shortened” readings are not the only ones to avoid “difficult” passages; for example, consider the 1st Reading for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). See also numbers 75-77 in the Introduction to the Lectionary.