Q: Why does the lectionary offer shorter and longer versions of the Sunday readings? This question especially has come up given the Cycle A gospels for the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent, which as you know, are such powerful and rich stories. By practice, we always use the longer version of a reading whenever the option is given. But I’m curious, how it came to be this way versus no option, just read what is provided.
A: Here’s paragraph 80 from the introduction to the Lectionary for Mass. As you’ll see, at the time of the lectionary reform in 1969, the group preparing the new books exercised pastoral care over the various types of groups that would be hearing the readings in their new order for the first time:
“A pastoral criterion must also guide the choice between the longer and shorter forms of the same text. The main consideration must be the capacity of the hearers to listen profitably either to the longer or to the shorter reading; or to listen to a more complete text that will be explained through the homily.”