20th Sunday Ordinary Time – Wisdom as a way of life

This week’s notes:
Former Parochial Vicar Fr. Anselmus will be saying the 12:10 PM Mass this Thursday, August 23. Welcome back!

Save the date: 9/16 Meet and Greet after each Mass.

Speak with Fr. Smith after Mass if you are interested in completing your sacraments, have a new child to be baptized, or would like to be married at St. Charles.

We would like to invite parishioners with expertise in PR, advertising, media relations, marketing and communications to a meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 7 PM in the Rectory at 31 Sidney Place.  The goal is to plan a strategy for outreach and growing the profile of St Charles in the Brooklyn Heights community and beyond.  Food will be served. Please RSVP to [email protected] or call (718) 625-1177 so we can order enough food.

First Reading
Aug. 19, 2018
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proverbs 9:1-6

It is odd to say but the college seminary was an exciting place to be in the late 60s. It may at first seem parochial but to ask why one would privilege a classroom when so much was happening in the streets is to show how far we have slipped from the ideal of a liberal arts education. The aim was to take experiences from the world and examine them with the best ideas available. Many of us were taken aback that we were so comprehensively exposed to the best of pagan thought, old and new, but were gratified by the vigorous Catholic interpretation and indeed amplification of the best of humanism. Fr Robert Lauder’s weekly column in our Diocesan Newspaper, the Tablet, is an example of that tradition. (For full disclosure, Fr Lauder was my teacher then and is a close friend now.) As an example, recently he spent 10 weeks examining personalism, the philosophy he shares with Pope Francis, and showed how the themes that emerged in the late 60s of freedom, community and commitment by decidedly Non-Christian authors could be enhanced by a belief in Jesus.

This is reflected in the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament. It includes the books of Job, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, many Psalms and as we read today the Book of Proverbs. Wisdom was a term used throughout the ancient Middle East. It was a compendium of reflections used to train young members of the governing class to be wise leaders. The Jewish Elders wanted to show that they could answer the questions of their young in a way that would have made sense to their children but also reflected their traditions and belief in God.

The Book of Proverbs is particularly interesting because it collects Proverbs, short pity statements, from about 1000 to 350 BC, from the court of King Solomon to the rebuilt temple in occupied Jerusalem. The section that we read today is somewhat different because it not a collection of these sayings but part of an extended song to wisdom sung by a father to his son.

Much of what he will say is common sense and would have been repeated by any good father then as now: avoiding bad companions and illicit sex are the first lessons. Yet in chapter one he states:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7)

His son should follow the way of right not only for his own peace of mind and good fortune but because of his belief in a God who is involved in history both social and personal. A good Egyptian would not perhaps act much differently in most things. He would not steal or lie but he would not do so as a consciously religious act. We see what kind of religious acts were special to the Jews by looking at Creation. The Jews were unique in holding that the world was created by a loving God. Unlike the other religions of the time the Jews came to see their God as all powerful, he created rather than merely formed the world, and he did so consciously and lovingly certainly not by accident, pride or spite. Thus

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth,
established the heavens by understanding;
20 By his knowledge the depths break open,
and the clouds drop down dew (3:19-20)

By acting wisely, we are reflecting the way the universe is made and showing God we appreciate his love for us.

Our passage today reveals an emphasis on community. This would have been shared with other ancient peoples, but the author wishes to show that the distinctly Jewish understanding of the Divine/ human relation created a deeper bond.

1 Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
2 She has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
3 She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
4 “Let whoever is simple turn in here;
to him who lacks understanding, I say,
5 Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
6 Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.

Note that Wisdom is personal but not private. It is not obtained by one-on-one instruction but in a community. The simple and those who lack understanding are not invited to a tutorial but to a banquet. People will grow together.

They can also shrink together as well. A characteristic of ancient writing is clarification by comparison. If there is a Dame Wisdom, there will also be a Dame Folly and in this same chapter we read:

13 The woman Folly is fickle,
she is inane and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house
upon a seat on the city heights,
15 Calling to passers-by
as they go on their straight way:
16 “Let whoever is simple turn in here,
or who lacks understanding; for to him I say,
17 Stolen water is sweet,
and bread gotten secretly is pleasing!”
18 Little he knows that the shades are there,
that in the depths of the nether world are her guests! (Proverbs 9:13–18)

Like Dame Wisdom she invites the simple and those who lack understanding but not to a sumptuous meal but to stolen water and the way is not to understanding and wisdom but to the nether world.

Wisdom is a way of life not just a set of practices and we may find that people may say the same things and seemingly act the same but because they are doing it for different reasons ultimately divide from each other. Recently Pope Francis declared capital punishment inadmissible in all cases. This will strike a cord with many who do not share our faith. This is wonderful, but we must remember that the Pope holds this and exhorts everyone to do the same because of his belief that we are made in the likeness of God and that likeness can never be completely obliterated. This same belief informs the church’s implacable opposition to abortion. Living in a libertarian society we can expect conflict with some of the same people who most enthusiastically applaud the Pope for his stand on capital punishment.
This is not to deny that we can learn from the wisdom the modern world has obtained through psychology, anthropology and the other social sciences, but we must be like the authors of Proverbs and the wise men who taught me a half century ago and begin with an experience of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We cannot have the morality of the Judeo-Christian world unless we have the experience of the Judeo-Christian God.

19th Sunday Ordinary Time: Exodus and Liturgy

Contact information for Fr Smith: Tel.: 718.625.1177 ext 409 or email ([email protected])

Meet and Greet:

We will meet and greet our new parishioners including the students who will be joining us for the year after all the Masses (9:00 AM, 11:15 AM, and 7 PM) on Sunday, September 16, 2018

If you are have just moved to the community please attend; if you are already a parishioner please bring anyone who might be interested.

Outreach Committee:

We are seeking parishioners to help in our outreach efforts in the community. We will have an organizational meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 7 PM in the Rectory at 31 Sidney Place. Food will be served. Please RSVP to [email protected] .



Adult Education and Sacraments:



Baptism, Communion and Confirmation: Non-Catholics who wish to become Catholic or Catholics who wish to receive Baptism, Communion or Confirmation are asked to call or email Fr Smith. The classes will begin in the Fall.

Marriage: St Charles Parish congratulates those who will become engaged this summer and we wish to accompany you on your way to the altar and beyond. Please contact Fr Smith at your earliest convenience. This includes those who will be married in another Parish and especially those who will be married in another country.


Scripture Program:

The Scripture program will begin again in the Fall. As previously they will be small groups which will meet at various times and places throughout the week. If you are interested, please call Fr Smith.


First reading:

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 12, 2018

1 Kings 19:4-8


The first readings for the Sunday Mass are chosen to compliment the Gospels. They are interesting and beautiful, but would not be chosen for a systematic exploration of the Old Testament. Sometimes, however, a reading can put several Old Testament themes and experiences we have been reviewing in a new light. This is one of those times. Let us remember the readings from the last two weeks.


We met Elijah two weeks ago. He appeared seemingly out of nowhere in Israel, the northern kingdom of Jews, around 870BC. This was about 50 years after the death of Solomon and dissolution of the United Kingdom of the Hebrews. The nation was prosperous but had compromised the worship of the Lord. In the name of God Elijah cursed them with a drought and then fled from the anger of the King and Queen and hid throughout Israel. The section immediately preceding today’s reading says:

1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done—that he had put all the prophets to the sword. 2 Jezebel then sent a messenger to Elijah and said, “May the gods do thus and so to me if by this time tomorrow I have not done with your life what was done to each of them.” (1 Kings 19:1–2)


This time Elijah leaves Israel entirely and goes to Beersheba in the southern kingdom of Judea. He is tired and walks into the desert, begs God to take his life and then falls asleep.  God sends an angel, wakes him up and gives him food and drink. He falls asleep again and the angel again wakes him up and this time both feeds him and gives him a mission:


7 but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”

8 He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. (1 Kings 19:7–8 )

Now we should remember that Elijah’s ministry has not been without effect. Although the land was cursed with drought God has miraculously fed him and cared for those who took him in. Also, he has had a major triumph over the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. They were not only humiliated but also killed by the direct power of God. (1 Kings 18)

God did not abandon Elijah, but he chose him as a prophet not as a spectator and he would not let him abandon his role and responsibilities. We see this throughout the entire old testament the chosen people often lose their desire to be chosen. They forget that this their identity and God needs to remind them.

Memory though had a specific meaning for Semitic people. The base word is Zakhor and from it comes the idea of zikkaron. This is the recognition that there were some events so important that they reflect the unique action of God. We remember them not by bringing them to mind but by bringing them to life; commemoration is not enough there must be participation. The key event for the Jewish people was the Passover/Exodus in which Moses led the people through the red sea and after 40 years of wandering in the desert to the promised land. This event made them a people and remembering it was more than simple commemoration. To this day Orthodox Jews believe that when they celebrate the Seder they join with Moses and the people on Exodus. This has been put very well:

Those present are not only remembering something in the past, as if they were witnessing the event from afar, but are participating in the actual Exodus through the liturgy. Their celebration is a part of God’s ongoing saving activity, not only in the past, but here and now (Folke T. Olofsson)

The way we connect to these events is liturgy: the public act of worship of the entire community

Now let us remember last week’s reading from Exodus. Although God has led them out of Egypt and given them a great victory over Pharaoh, they sulk and wish for the safety of their chains. We do not know how much of the feeding with manna is historical, but we do know that it is liturgical. This was a liturgical act because it was a ritual means of participating in the Exodus. Participation in the Exodus is not reproduction of details but connection with the reality behind it. They experienced the Passover/Exodus and then continued it.

In this week’s reading, Elijah is sent to Mt. Horeb; it is another name for Sinai, and it was there that Moses went to stay with God and received the Ten Commandments.

18 But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24:18

Elijah’s meeting with God on the mountain was also memorable.


11 Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?” (1 Kings 19:11–13)


Elijah is here acting out a liturgy; he is remembering the Passover. The echoes of the Passover/Exodus and wandering in the Elijah story are so many that they would be distracting to record here, but note how God reveals his power but also his freedom to act. He causes the usual signs of theophany, divine revelation, seen with Moses and expected by Elijah but chooses not to be in them. He shows himself in a tiny whispering sound. Elijah hears that sound and continues his journey.

Christians have inherited this sense of memory as participation most clearly in the Eucharist. Each Mass is not another sacrifice of Jesus; it is our participation in Jesus’ once and for all sacrifice on Calvary. The ritual can change, as many of us have seen in our own lifetimes, but the reality does not. The Exodus, as we have seen, means lead out by God’s power. We need to remember that we are led to a place by God’s love. Like the Hebrews and Elijah in the desert we know that we must begin by “remembering” God’s decisive intervention in the world. Like them, we do not know where we will end, but we do know that it will be with Him.

Exodus & 18th Sunday Ordinary Time

Greetings from St Charles:

Contact information for Fr Smith: Tel #718.625.1177 ext 409 or email ([email protected])

Summer is a slow time and many of us are away but for those of us still here, I would like to invite you to have a relational (individual) Meeting with a member of the Parish. I try to meet with all new parishioners and I ask you to contact me to arrange a time. We also encourage everyone to meet with other people so that we truly get to know each other and by that to know Jesus better. To speak with me see the above information, to arrange meeting with another parishioner, please contact the rectory at 718.625.1177 or email at [email protected]

Youth: Youth: Our program will begin again in September, please call or email the Parish office (718.625.1177) to register.
Adult spirituality: The Scripture program will begin again in the Fall. As previously they will be small groups which will meet at various times and places throughout the week. If you are interested, please call Fr Smith.

The parish bulletin which may be obtained in the church or on-line at https://www.stcharlesbklyn.org, has a collection of wonderful quotes from Pope Francis and the Mass readings for every day of the Week.

Summer is a time when St Charles will receive new parishioners. We welcome everyone and hope that you will find St Charles a true Church family. There will be a “Meet and Greet” after all the Masses on September 16th – 9:00 and 11:15 AM and 7:00PM – to welcome our new parishioners. We especially look forward to greeting the students from our local dorms and parents with school aged children. We remind our present parishioners to invite anyone who might wish to join us to Mass that day.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 5, 2018

We read today from the Book of Exodus. It is the second book of the Bible and means “Going out” in Greek reflecting the “going out” of the Hebrews from captivity in Egypt. It forms part of what Christian’s call the Pentateuch, (first) five scrolls, and Jews “The Torah” usually translated as “The Law” but more accurately “the Teachings”. Until the last 200 years it was held that the Pentateuch was written by Moses during the wandering in the desert but now is seen as being written by several authors over several hundred years. As the Pentateuch is a collection of legends, laws, stories and bits of memory it might best be considered a work of editors from about 600BC – 400BC than authors in the modern sense of the word. The period of composition then would have been from the last days of the Kingdom of Judea to the time of Persian rule when all pretense of even an honorary king from the line of David had disappeared. Its last editor was most likely a priest who wished to show that the Hebrew people, now best called Jews, “People of the land of Judea”, were kept together by majesty of worship and law not the might and cunning of Kings.
The section we read today occurs six weeks after the Hebrews have left Egypt. The last Oasis, place of water, is behind them and their provisions are exhausted. They face a severe shortage of food and there is no place to obtain provisions. The people begin to grumble and express the concern that they will face a long slow death.

“Would that we had died at the LORD’S hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”

The Lord’s hand here means a “natural” death from Old Age or accident. Fleshpots mean the cauldrons in which meat is cooked. It was quite unusual to eat meat but they are indicating that they may not have had meat regularly but had enough that they missed it. G.K Chesterton wrote that Christianity was not tried and found wanting but found difficult and left untried” This is true of any authentic attempt to follow God as the Hebrews are discovering it in the desert.
Notice however the next scene:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the
people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they
follow my instructions or not (16:4)

The first and most important thing is That God is not bowing to pressure. He sees the need and responds with graciousness. Psalm 105 reads

They asked, and he brought quails,
and gave them food from heaven in abundance (105:40)

Also, they are to go out each day and collect the Mana. This is the secretion of insects living in the tamarisk tree that is still eaten by Bedouins today. It emphasizes not only God generosity but also that it can be received only by changing one’s life to be in turn with God’s demands. The quail also were a sign of God’s generousity. They would not have had such a luxury in the city. God’s care is overwhelming.

For the meaning however we need to read the final lines of our passage.

15 On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?” for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat”.

The Hebrews who left Egypt were city people Mana would have been foreign to them and them quite reasonable asked what it was, Moses does not answer as a naturalist but as a prophet. “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat”.

We cannot be certain how much of this relates historical events. As an example, Mania is available only in certain months of the year and only where there are tamarisk trees and quail, can be numerous when migrating, but are simply not in the Middle East for more than a few weeks in the year. This should not be surprising as they relate events that are literally pre-historic, before reliable and consistent records. This is not the case however for the time when Exodus attained its final edition, The Jews were a highly literate people who have left us their reflections on their history. They have had a culturally near-death experience. What other people were cut off from the center of their religious existence, the temple, deported to another land then were able to return and start again eventually building a much grander place of worship all he while under forging domination? The only guidance they could find was from their own history and the liberation from bondage of Egpt: the exodus. The stories which they put in the final edtion were those that had the most to teach them about how to live in their present mment and situation,

The task of those who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon was a daunting one. As we see in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra some were discouraged and wished to return “home” to Babylon as many of the Hebrews wished to turn back to Egypt. Look at the support and confidence they would hate received by reading the stories of the “first” exodus. Not only the triumph at return to the Land but also God’s care for their physical as much as their spiritual needs. Faithfulness to God is always rewarded.

We live in a time of Exile, literally, culturally and spiritually. There are more displaced people today than even after the second world war, there are also people who feel that the world that they knew and loved has been taken from them or never arrived. It is easy to think of non-college educated white men who fear the inevitable change of America into a majority minority (non-white) country. Yet perhaps more of us either are part of or know families who mortgaged their homes and future to give their children the best educations possible and now discover that they may never get out of a mountain of debt and the children will never have lives as secure and prosperous as they did. Personally, I sometimes feel that I have gone to bed in America but have woken up in France. I can, should I so desire, freely worship God but the institutions created to make that worship real diminished by the judicial and administrative actions of the State.

Like the Hebrews and Jews before us we have brought ourselves to our own man-made exile and need to ask ourselves if will join them in a God led Exodus?