Building Updates, 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

BUILDING UPDATE

Last week I signed the contract for the next stage in the restoration of the exterior of the Church. This week we received our DOB approval!  PPM, our contractor, is in the process of having his expediter pull the permits for work.  The shop drawing and submittal process has begun.  We will get an update on when they will begin work onsite once the permits are available to be pulled.  The abatement team is back onsite finishing any window caulking that remains and removing all of the caulking in the corners of the building.  We have coordinated them with PPM so they will not have issues in disrupting one another’s work.  The abatement team anticipates completion of all abatement work in August except the area behind the sidewalk bridge which will be done when it is removed later in the project.  We anticipate work fully mobilizing onsite within the next 2-3 weeks.

 

Meanwhile many of our vacationing parishioners have been sending bulletins and pictures from the parishes they are attending over the summer. I am interested in every Church bulletin, the interiors of Victorian Churches and particularly creative restroom additions. Our architects, Li Saltzman, (http://www.lisaltzman.com/) will devise a plan to install a restroom and more importantly for the look of the Church access to it but we need to tell them what we as a parish need. An example: would one changing table be enough? There will be more questions.

 

Wishing you a blessed week no matter where you are, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr Smith

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

The Mass and reception for people taking the bar exam will be on Sunday, July 22 at and after the 7PM Mass. This is for everyone, not just parishioners,  and we ask you to invite your friends. Lawyers who can give knowing encouragement are particularly welcome.

 

FIRST READING

15TH Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 7:12-15

 

Our first reading today brings us to the 8th century BC and requires us to look at the political and geographical realities of the time. After the death of Solomon about 931BC the Kingdom of David was divided in two: the northern kingdom with 10 tribes, with its capital at Bethel and a southern kingdom with 2 tribes with its capital in Jerusalem. Both kingdoms were situated between Egypt and whatever political entity was strongest in the north: Babylon, Assyria, Persia. The names would change but the need to play one off against the other was the same.

King Jeroboam II was king of Israel between 783-743BC. He was a talented politician and saw that Assyria, the dominant power in the north at the time, was experiencing internal discord. He was able to expand his country’s boundaries and its trade bringing unparalleled prosperity. This prosperity also brought ignorance of God. This does not mean a lack of cultic devotion. They were able to maintain two main shrines (Bethel and Gilgal) with many sacrifices and pilgrims but they did not remember that their God was a one of Justice. The Lord’s relationship with his people was not exclusively with the rich and rewarded but with the poor and inconvenient as well.

It is to this world that Amos is sent. He is not an official prophet. Indeed, he is a man of the land. He also is assumed to have been sent from the Southern Kingdom commissioned to address the apostasy of the north. As all prophets he uses his specific background to reveal the wider problem.

 

11 Therefore, because you have trampled upon the weak

and exacted of them levies of grain,

Though you have built houses of hewn stone,

you shall not live in them!

Though you have planted choice vineyards,

you shall not drink their wine!

12 Yes, I know how many are your crimes,

how grievous your sins:

Oppressing the just, accepting bribes,

repelling the needy at the gate! (Amos 5:11–13)

 

This is reflected in the archeology of ancient times and the contemporary, one might even say universal, experience of taxation. . We see that the houses of the rich grew in size during this period but those of the poor got smaller. Also, that levies of grain were much like poll taxes and disproportionally affected the poor. To absolve themselves many of the prosperous gave expansively to the places of worship. Amos writes

21 I hate, I spurn your feasts,

I take no pleasure in your solemnities;

22 Your cereal offerings I will not accept,

nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings.

23 Away with your noisy songs!

I will not listen to the melodies of your harps.

But if you would offer me holocausts,

24 then let justice surge like water,

and goodness like an unfailing stream. (Amos 5:21-24)

 

Today’s reading is particularly provocative because it is a confrontation at the royal sanctuary in Bethel with the chief priest, Amaziah. He assumes that Amos is a “guild” prophet seeking to be connected and paid by the court or temple. He tells him:

“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying,

13 but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” Amos 7:12–13

He basically is accusing Amos of biting the hand that he wants to feed him. For Amaziah a prophet to survive needs to be on someone’s payroll and he who pays he piper calls the tune. Thus, the power of Amos’s answer:

 “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. 15 The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel. Amos 7:14–15 (NAB)

 

As we have seen with Ezekiel he was not inducted into a company of professional prophets but called by God and given a mission. He does not report to king or priest but to God alone. The tame prophets where unable to hear the voice of God. In Upton Sinclair’s famous phrase:” It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

 

The guild prophets, company men, could not write the next section of the book:

 

16 Now hear the word of the LORD!”

You say: prophesy not against Israel,

preach not against the house of Isaac.

17 Now thus says the LORD:

Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city,

and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword;

Your land shall be divided by measuring line,

and you yourself shall die in an unclean land;

Israel shall be exiled far from its land. (Amos 7:16–17)

And so, it came to pass. The Assyrians got themselves back together and destroyed Israel in 721BC. We have seen that prophets may comfort the afflicted, but they afflict the comfortable and just as the “what” of the prophet’s message may shock and surprise us so too we may be taken aback by the “where”. Amaziah was angered at the message of Amos but truly enraged that an immigrant would dare to chastise him in his own place of worship. I can sympathize. The most personally prophetic message that I have experienced was reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: painful, passionate and from prison.

As we look at the wisdom of the Old Testament, let us remember that the Lord’s message will undoubtedly be one we do not want to hear and may very well be from a place we do not want to look.

 

Bar Exam Mass 7/22;14th Sunday Ordinary Time

Picture: Ezekiel’s vision, Walters Manuscript W.51, fol. 339v – Vulgate Bible. https://www.flickr.com/photos/medmss/8738345467/in/photolist-ejbiEK-gZnih7/

MASS FOR THOSE TAKING THE BAR EXAM:

There will be a special Mass for those taking the Bar exam July 24-25 at 7:00PM on Sunday July 22nd. We will bless those who will be taking the exam and have a brief reception for them after Mass. Please come and offer your prayers and show them fellowship.

 

First Reading
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 3:2-5

If any of those young men recently ordained to the Priesthood for our Diocese were to say that he became a priest because he thought it a good career choice, we would be justifiably shocked. We expect a priest to have a vocation, which literally means a call from God. A priestly vocation would have been somewhat bewildering to the Jews; the priesthood was inherited. You were a priest if your father was a priest. They did however understand vocation and call. True prophets were called, and we have the vocation stories of many of them. They are all of interest, but none is more fascinating than Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was a priest, He was born and spent his early years in Jerusalem. When Jerusalem rebelled against Babylon and was conquered in 597BC he was one of the leaders that was deported to Babylon. As a person with education he would have been useful to his captors in their bureaucracy, but as a priest without a temple his religious purpose was seemingly over. Yet

2 On the fifth day of the month, the fifth year, that is, of King Jehoiachin’s exile,

3 the word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar.—There the hand of the LORD came upon me. (Eze 1:2-5)

 

He receives a blinding vision of the throne room of God. It is very detailed and may or may not have definite references to his time. That is not particularly important. The very majesty of it is a sign that the God of his Fathers is no local deity but can reach them in the very stronghold of Babylon. His covenant with his people still endures and indeed will strengthen.

For the people the convent with God would have required sacrifice in the temple; without it, how could they maintain this relationship. All would be confused, and many would have despaired and would worship the Gods of Babylon. The section that we read today comes immediately after this long vision of the majesty of God. Ezekiel receives his orders.

2 As he spoke to me, spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking  say to me: Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have revolted against me to this very day.

 

As Ezekiel will tell his people repeatedly and unsparingly they are in this situation because they refused to accept the leadership of God and thus rebelled against him. Many verses of this book review with the people the events that led to this disaster and what they mean, God tells him that for this he should not expect to be well received but

 whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

A prophet reveals the presence of God both in judgement and mercy. He is not bound by time or place but speaks God’s word and that alone to the people.

 

This is brought out very powerfully in the section of Ezekiel which follows our reading today:

8 As for you, son of man, obey me when I speak to you: be not rebellious like this house of rebellion, but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.

9 It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me, in which was a written scroll

10 which he unrolled before me. It was covered with writing front and back, and written on it was: Lamentation and wailing and woe! (2:8-10) Son of man, he then said to me, feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you. I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. (3:3)

The prophet does not speak for himself but for God. It may be a difficult message to hear but as it is from God it is “sweet as honey” to speak.

Although Ezekiel died before the people were offered a way back to Jerusalem he assured them in the name of God that they would return and rebuild the temple. Although the task was difficult and dangerous enough accepted that the temple was rebuilt and its worship restored. There truly was a prophet among them

Certainly, people of my generation (Sexagenarians and above)) may feel like “strangers in a strange land”. (Exodus 2:22) The world has changed and we may feel lost when what made sense before no longer does for us much less for younger people. But God never abandons his people: there are prophets among us. As we read though the prophets of the Jews this summer, I hope that we will be able to recognize them and hear them more clearly.

Let us take one hint from today’s first reading for perilous and divided times. The prophets will often start by examining the faults of “the nations,” that is other people. But invariably they will raise to crystal clarity the sins of God’s own people. It will be the same with us. Whether you wish to “Make America Great again” or have joined the “resistance”, to use the most hyperbolic language of the day, you will not hear the voice of a prophet addressed to someone else. You will hear only the Word spoken to you. Prophets are not sent to them but to us, not to me but to you.

 

Independence Day Week/13th Sunday Ordinary Time

July 4th Greetings:

Best wishes for Independence Day. Wherever we are it is time to pray that our republic has the strength which, as our first reading tells us, only comes from virtue. Mass will be celebrated on July 4th at 12:10PM.

 

Sacraments:

Sacramental preparation for non-Baptized people who would like to be Baptized, for Baptized non-Catholics and for Catholics who have not received Holy Communion and/or been Confirmed will begin in the Fall. The classes recognize the busy schedules of members of our community and are quite flexible. Please see Fr Smith after Mass, call him at 718-625-1177 ex. 409 or email him at pastor @stcharlesbklyn.org.

 

First reading

Wisdom of Solomon” (1:13-15, 2:23-24)

Thirteenth Sunday of the year

July 1, 2018

 

The reading from the Old Testament this weekend is from the Book of the “Wisdom of Solomon” (1:13-15, 2:23-24.) Although it sounds ancient it is perhaps the last book in the Old Testament and could have been written as late as 30BC. Also, although it takes the name of King Solomon of Jerusalem from about 1000BC it was most likely written in Alexandra Egypt for the children of the Jewish elite who were immersed in the Roman world and tempted to give up their faith. There is much of interest here.

The conceit of the book is that King Solomon is presenting to the other kings and princes of the world the mind of God. Note it is assumed that God has created the entire world and his laws are based on this creation. Memorably he begins:

 Love justice, you who judge the earth;

think of the LORD in goodness,

and seek him in integrity of heart; (Wisdom 1:1-3)

 

Justice connects us to reality and reveals God’s Goodness. It may be found only by those with integrity of heart. The consequences of this are revealed in the first part of today’s reading:

 

13 Because God did not make death,

nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.

14 For he fashioned all things that they might have being;

and the creatures of the world are wholesome,

And there is not a destructive drug among them

nor any domain of the nether world on earth,

15 For justice is undying. (Wisdom 1:13-15)

This is an important passage because it directly addresses prominent Greek ideas which would have been attractive to the young elite. When older Jewish writings promised life to those who lived justly they meant health, prosperity, children, etc. in this life. If there was an afterlife it was a pale reflection of this one. Wisdom claims that there is an afterlife that is positive and robust because the world reflects the goodness of God and just as god is everlasting so is his creation especially we who are specially created in his likeness.

The life of which he speaks is not so much continuing breathing but an existence which reflects the presence of God. To deny the image of God in the way we live our lives is to invite destruction of our very being. We were created for bliss, but we can embrace destruction. As the concluding section of today’s reading puts it:

23 For God formed man to be imperishable;

the image of his own nature he made him.

24 But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,

and they who are in his possession experience it.

Although this is not a prophetic book, it speaks to some of the same issues and gives a more philosophical understanding for thoughts and actions. Justice is not just something nice but reflects the way the world is created. To be unjust is to be literally unreal and dying in the here and now. Justice is also not just a series of actions that can be detached from the rest of one’s life, but part of our very being. As we saw in the very first lines of this book, without integrity of heart, wisdom will always escape us, because whether a king or a pauper only the just person can live a worthy life.