Always call retreat.
I hate--hate--HATE introductions to the Sunday readings. The only place I have ever heard them is in--wait for it--the Diocese of Saginaw. Ham-handed displays of quasi-scholarship, none of which seems to have gotten past circa AD 1981 (see also the introductions and footnotes to the various iterations of the NAB), they are the usual histo-crit article. Heather says they invariably make her feel talked down to, as though she is unable to get anything from the reading without being sufficiently innoculated by the intro first.
My personal peeve is that they give the listener (far too many of whom are the clueless victims of the same catechetical system that gives us the Dan Brown Fan Club) every reason to tune the reading out, if not dismiss it outright.
For example: last week, the second reading was from St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. So, natch, the apparatchiks at the Chancery had to assert, with the usual metaphysical certitude, that Ephesians wasn't really written by Paul, but rather by some later writer. How this unproven (not to mention unprovable and a thesis contrary to every Church father who commented on the letter)hypothesis contributes anything to the understanding of the reading and its application to the Christian life is, of course, beside the point. The really important thing is that the author of the introductions has a couple of credit hours in sacred scripture, likely from the local pastoral institute, and therefore Knows More Than You. Snockered on Jagerbultmann, he can't stop himself from demonstrating his junior college erudition to the unfortunates who compromise his captive audience. And, of course, immediately after this hokery, the audience is faced with whiplash as the lector announces "From the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians."
This week: Second verse, same as the first.
But since this week involved that worrying submission passage, the audience really, really, really needed to have the lectionary passage whited out in the worst way.
They've had documented examples of fainting episodes where women have heard the long form of Ephesians 5, you know.
So we got quite the introductory paragraph this week: "The writer" was commenting from "a culturally-conditioned viewpoint," and "the important thing is not to attempt to recreate ancient social patterns." No, "the greater point is to understand the love we are supposed to have for each other in Christ."
Oh, but that's not the really pathetic part. You see, after spending a paragraph preparing people to dismiss the passage...they used the short form--which emphasizes the husband's self-sacrificial duty to his wife.
The jackass tergiversations gave the husbands in the audience the license to dump that passage, too! Wasn't that "culturally conditioned," too? Not something we are supposed to recreate for our times? Hard to interpret it any other way.
How's that 50% Catholic divorce rate working for you?
In a culture that has managed to embrace all of the hideous vices of the ancient pagans, invent a few more and refuses to embrace the old pagan virtues, we might just want to start listening to the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Instead of impatiently waving him off.