Blessings at 6/23 Masses for those moving in and out of the neighborhood

Summer is a bittersweet time of year. Many people will be moving into our community and will be “interviewing” parishes. If you are one of these, I hope that you will consider St Charles for your spiritual home, and I would love to speak with you. The bitter part is that about a dozen individuals and families, on the average, will moving from the neighborhood. For whatever reason you are leaving us – more space, schools or business transfer – we have loved having you and hope that St Charles has been a positive part of your life. We wish you many blessings and would like to do so publicly. All our moving parishioners will be blessed at the Masses on Sunday, June 23rd, the Solemnity or the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Please let us know if you will be attending any of these services by RSVPing with the form below. Whether you can attend or not, please know that we will pray for your continued success and happiness no matter where you go.

RSVP for Moving Parishioners

RSVP for Moving Parishioners

Please RSVP if you are moving and would like to receive a blessing at Mass on June 22nd.

Most Holy Trinity – Wisdom Beneath and Above All Things

Painting: The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities, about 1675-82, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

First Reading

June 16, 2019

Proverbs 8:22-31

 

This week the first reading returns to the Old Testament with a section from the Book of Proverbs. It is primarily composed of short and pithy sayings expressing the ethical standards and beliefs of the day, usually referred to as Wisdom. Wisdom in this sense was not exclusive to the Jews and was used throughout the ancient Middle East. The Book of Proverbs 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. Wisdom may also be found in the books of Job, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes and many Psalms.

The Book of Proverbs is particularly interesting because it collected materials from about 1000 to 350 BC, from the court of King Solomon to the rebuilt temple in occupied Jerusalem. As I mentioned it is mostly composed of short statements, but the section we read today is different. It is a song within a song. As we saw the first time we read this book, the first third is a song sung by a father to his son on the virtues of following wisdom and living a good life. Today’s reading is a song from Wisdom herself within this song.

Before looking at it directly, we need to look at its context. It occurs after the father has told his son about “Dame Folly”. She preys on young men who have not been living an upright life.

10 And lo! the woman comes to meet him,

robed like a harlot, with secret designs—

11 She is fickle and unruly,

in her home her feet cannot rest; Proverbs 7:10–11

 

The unaware follow her:

22 He follows her stupidly,

like an ox that is led to slaughter;

Like a stag that minces toward the net,

23 till an arrow pierces its liver;

Like a bird that rushes into a snare,

unaware that its life is at stake.

Proverbs 7:22–23

 

Compare this to Wisdom:

1 Does not Wisdom call,

and Understanding raise her voice?

2 On the top of the heights along the road,

at the crossroads she takes her stand;

Proverbs 8:1–2

 

She does not lurk in the darkness nor does she seek to entrap youth, but speaks openly and with understanding, appealing not to base instincts but to that which is highest in us.

 

8 Sincere are all the words of my mouth,

no one of them is wily or crooked;

9 All of them are plain to the man of intelligence,

and right to those who attain knowledge.

10 Receive my instruction in preference to silver,

and knowledge rather than choice gold.

Proverbs 8:8–10

 

Note she also speaks for herself. She offers more than information or even good counsel:

17 “Those who love me I also love,

and those who seek me find me.

18 With me are riches and honor,

enduring wealth and prosperity.

Proverbs 8:17–18

 

Wisdom offers a personal relationship which is greater and offers more than the folly of the world. We begin today with the clear statement that Wisdom is of divine, not human making:

22 “The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways,

the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; Proverbs 8:22

 

Although Wisdom was international and thus not purely Jewish, the author of Proverbs carefully and subtly weaves his moral instruction into the traditional Jewish cosmology though the Hebrew creation myth.

We read

24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,

when there were no fountains or springs of water;

Proverbs 8:24 (NAB)

 

Compare this with

1 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,

2 the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Genesis 1:1–2 (NAB)

 

These parallels continue for several verses, and end with

30 Then was I beside him as his craftsman,

and I was his delight day by day,

Playing before him all the while,

31 playing on the surface of his earth;

and I found delight in the sons of men. Proverbs 8:30–31

 

Creation is a key concept for Jews and is unique in the ancient world. For most people, the world came into being in many ways from accident or spite, but not by the actions of a powerful and loving God. As we look at the world around us, the extent and depth of chaos calls this belief into question. That there is an order to the world and that it reflects a caring God is a daring statement.

Key to this is that Wisdom is hard wired into the world. Creation indeed was a celebration and one which gives joy.

5 while David and all the Israelites made merry before the LORD with all their strength, with singing and with citharas, harps, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals. 2 Samuel 6:5

Because wisdom reflects the way the world was formed, we can only find happiness in living a “wise life”. This chapter of the Book of Proverbs concludes:

33 instruction and wisdom do not reject!

Happy the man who obeys me,

and happy those who keep my ways,

34 Happy the man watching daily at my gates,

waiting at my doorposts;

35 For he who finds me finds life,

and wins favor from the LORD;

36 But he who misses me harms himself;

all who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8:33–36

Our ancestors found comfort, strength and guidance in the knowledge that there is an order and purpose in the universe. The Lord not only created the sea and sky, but also the moral universal as well. To deny this structure would have been as foolish as denying the physical world. It is to surrender to Dame folly.

Like them we live in a time and place which has seen many developments in society and culture. Many of these are from other lands and nations and can offer us important insights. We have much to learn from psychology, anthropology and the sensibility of the Global South. We should not ignore this opportunity. Yet, this can lead to a confusing mix of ideas and theories. As we live in the post-enlightenment Global North, the most likely result will be that they will be interpreted according to cultural individualism. Like our ancestors, we have the assurance of God that the world has been created by Wisdom which has put love beneath and above all things.

Pentecost – Though Many, One Body

We celebrate this week the feast of Pentecost. It is a Jewish feast – indeed one of the great pilgrimage feasts – when Jews were encouraged to go to Jerusalem and offer sacrifice. It was originally a harvest celebration, but quickly became connected with the Exodus and the giving of the Law. Pentecost means 50 – it is celebrated by Jews 50 days after the Passover and commemorates Moses bringing the law to the people.

Luke takes great time and effort to set up the situation. He tells us immediately that this is important.

 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. Acts 2:1

He is indicating that what follows must be interpreted in light of Pentecost: very basically, looking at how they will live their lives.  In Luke’s gospel, when Jesus knew that it was time for him to offer himself up, he writes:

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

After setting the stage, Luke shows us a very powerful manifestation of the power of God:

2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 3 Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. Acts 2:2–3

This is clearly reminiscent of the giving of the law on Mt Sinai:

16 On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 But Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stationed themselves at the foot of the mountain.

18 Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the LORD came down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.

19 The trumpet blast grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking and God answering him with thunder. Exodus 19:16–19

The Hebrew word for Spirit is the same for wind (ruah)

This was predicted in Luke’s gospel at Jesus’ Baptism.

16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. Luke 3:16

We do not experience the Spirit as spectators. The Spirit must enter us, thus we are filled with the Spirit. This is the pattern in Luke’s Gospel usually before someone does or says something “inspired”. To take one example, Elizabeth at the very beginning of the Gospel

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, Luke 1:41

The Spirit especially in Acts is also not for personal edification or even wisdom but for the proclamation of the Gospel.  As Jesus was being taken up into heaven, he told the disciples:

 8 But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

The Spirit has a great repertoire of gifts. Speaking in tongues is emphasized in Acts. Note this is not ecstatic speech which is not understandable, but is more like music than oratory. It is the ability to be understood by all people. As we have seen reading Acts all these weeks the good news of Jesus is for all and requires that the church speak to every person intelligibly.

4This point is made several times in Acts most clearly for Peter when he Baptizes the Centurion  Cornelius:

46 for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God” Then Peter responded7 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the holy Spirit even as we have?” (Acts 10:46-47)

Later Paul “completes” the Baptism of disciples in Ephesus who had only the Baptism of John: And when Paul laid (his) hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” 

As we saw, the Jewish feast of Pentecost was a pilgrimage feast and Jews from all over the world would seek to attend much as Muslims today will seek to make the Hajj to Mecca. The list of places which next follows would have shown the original readers that the whole world had heard the word of God. It would be like us saying that people from all the continents were present.  Yet, as always with Luke, there is a further dimension.

Remember that the “inhabitants of Mesopotamia” were the Assyrians and Babylonians who had oppressed the ancestors of the Jews. They were slaves in Egypt and now under Roman domination. The preaching of the Gospel to them fulfills the promise of the prophets that the God of Israel would be a light to all. Remember the words of Isaiah.

22 Although the LORD shall smite Egypt severely, he shall heal them; they shall turn to the LORD and he shall be won over and heal them.

23 On that day there shall be a highway from Egypt to Assyria; the Assyrians shall enter Egypt, and the Egyptians enter Assyria, and Egypt shall serve Assyria.

24 On that day Israel shall be a third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the land, 25 when the LORD of hosts blesses it: “Blessed be my people Egypt, and the work of my hands Assyria, and my inheritance, Israel.” Isaiah 19:22–25

In Acts, the witness of the Apostles and the promise of God will be fulfilled. This is what we have seen working out in the last few weeks.

One final observation before we leave the Acts of the Apostles until next year, when we will explore a different set of readings from it. As we have seen many times, Luke connects his Gospel with Acts with some of the same themes. One of these is the importance of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is the only person to appear in the beginning and body of the Gospel and also in Acts.

After the Ascension of Jesus, the Apostles return to the upper room:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (Acts 1:14)

She is the first disciple in the Gospel, and now in Luke is the perfected disciple. Even Mary cannot be follower and witness to Jesus after the Ascension without being filled with the Spirit. She as always represents us. Her ministry begins and ends by being filled with the Spirit. If we wish our Acts to be truly Apostolic, then so must ours.