Recently on the feast of the Holy Family, I noticed that the Lectionary for Mass had been defaced with the end of the reading crossed out. In practical terms, this was of very little consequence, as in many (if not most) parishes in Ireland, the lectors do not actually read from the Lectionary. The Lectionary often seems to be a decorative book that is placed on the lectern for no particular reason and has no function, and everyone uses the disposable mass leaflet to read from. Unlike the US where the missalette is itself a book, in Ireland this is a single sheet of paper that contains the texts for the Mass of the day.
But in any case, I did not like it (particularly as I was going to use a verse that had been edited out in my homily). Even when a reading offends modern sensibilities it is still part of the Bible. St. Paul tells us that “all scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness” (2 Tm 3:16, RNJB). We ought to remember that passages that we do not like or that challenge or annoy us are still in the Bible.
This is in no way to imply that every reading must be read in the Sunday assembly. Not every Biblical passage is proclaimed at Sunday Mass. Indeed some passages of the Bible aren’t found in the Lectionary at all. Additionally, in the current Lectionary for Mass occasionally a shorter version of a reading is provided that can be used for pastoral reasons. However, the choice of using a longer or shorter version is a choice of all those who are involved in the preparation of the liturgy and it should not be that we simply go with whatever the editor of the mass leaflet has decided.
This is what the General Introduction to the Lectionary says on the subject:
75. A middle way is followed in regard to the length of texts. A distinction has been made between narratives, which require reading a fairly long passage but which usually hold the attention of the faithful, and texts that should not be lengthy because of the profundity of their doctrine.
In the case of certain rather lengthy texts, longer and shorter versions are provided to suit different situations. The editing of the shorter version has been carried out with great caution.
3) Difficult Texts
76. In readings for Sundays and solemnities, texts that present real difficulties are avoided for pastoral reasons. The difficulties may be objective, in that the texts themselves raise profound literary, critical, or exegetical problems; or the difficulties may lie, at least to a certain extent, in the ability of the faithful to understand the texts. But there could be no justification for concealing from the faithful the spiritual riches of certain texts on the grounds of difficulty if the problem arises from the inadequacy either of the religious education that every Christian should have or of the biblical formation that every pastor of souls should have. Often a difficult reading is clarified by its correlation with another in the same Mass.
However, this experience is another example of why the current Lectionary in use in Ireland (and Australia, England & Wales, New Zealand and Scotland), is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be revised in one way or another. While it is true that on March 23, 1994, the Irish Episcopal Conference received permission from the Congregation for Divine Worship to include a shorter version of this reading in their Lectionary (Prot. N.2410/93/L). But no new edition of the Lectionary has been published since then. And instead of affixing a page with the new shorter version of this reading to the Lectionary, someone simply crossed out the longer version.