Q: Can you provide any insight on the psalm response for this Sunday and/or the choice of a long and short form of the Gospel reading? The Psalm response is taken from the Parable of the Lost Son, but if the short form of the Gospel is read, then the Psalm response is perhaps out of context. Would it have made more sense for the psalm response to be one of the other responses when Psalm 51 comes up, such as “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned,” or “Create a clean heart in me, O God,” OR to just not give us a choice of a long and short form of the Gospel to ensure that the Parable of the Lost Son is read?
A: You’re seeing the results of last minute changes before the first edition of the lectionary was published. The previous missal had the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin on a Sunday after Pentecost, and the prodigal son on a Saturday in Lent. All the drafts of the lectionary put those gospels on two consecutive Sundays. The first edition combined them, but made the prodigal son optional to provide a shorter form, which made room for another passage from Luke in Year C.
Regarding the first reading, the drafts chose a passage about the people’s royal priesthood for the first reading on the first of those Sundays (Exodus 19:3-6) in order to harmonize with the second reading assigned to that day (Heb 12:22-25), which now comes two weeks earlier than this gospel. The first edition removed the harmonizations between the first two readings. To pair with the prodigal son, the drafts chose a prophecy about Israel’s restoration (Jeremiah 31:9-12b or 14). But the first edition combined the gospels and plucked Exodus 32:7-13, 13-14 for the first reading.
The drafts had two different psalms on those Sundays: 100 and 126. The first of these harmonized again with the second reading, something the first edition chose to avoid. The second, a psalm of Israel’s exile, fit after the passage from Exodus. But when the first edition chose a new first reading, it needed a new psalm.
The result is what you see: a classic psalm of repentance (51) paired with a refrain anticipating the gospel, but only if you use the long form.
This and more trivia coming soon in my book Words Without Alloy.