Bar Takers Mass 7 PM Sunday; Sacramental Preparation; 16th Week Ordinary Time

This weekend:

Next week several of our parishioners will be taking the Bar Exam. The 7:00 PM Mass this Sunday will be celebrated for them with a special blessing for the day. We invite not only anyone who is taking the Bar exam but also lawyers who can give them encouragement and support. A wine and cheese reception will follow.

Sacramental Preparation:

Classes for those who wish to become Catholic or for Baptized Catholics who wish to receive Eucharist or Confirmation will start in the Fall. Anyone interested is asked to see Father Smith after Mass or to call the Rectory. 718-625-1177 ext 409

Individual Meetings:

We will be continuing to have individual or relational meetings between parishioners. This is neither an interview nor a request for parish feedback but an invitation to connect to Saint Charles Parish by connecting first with each other. Should you wish to participate please call Fr Smith at 718-625-1177 ext 409, email him at [email protected] or sign the registration sheet in the rear of the Church. A member of the team will contact you.

First reading:

16th Week in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 23:1-6

Today we return to 6th Century Jerusalem and the commanding figure of the prophet Jeremiah. He was active from about 627 to 585 BC and saw the sputtering and fall of the Kingdom of Judea. As an aristocrat he was very visible in the city and this gave him some freedom to maneuver. Ultimately however this made him an obvious target and he escaped execution several times only because of his connections. None of this prevented him from speaking the word of God forcefully to high and low, native and foreigner.

In the 100 years following the fall of Israel in 721, the northern kingdom of the Jewish people, Judea, the southern kingdom, was subject to the Assyrians. Like all subject peoples they were looking for a chance to escape. In 627 disturbances following the death of the Assyrian King seemed to provide the opportunity. For a while they were able to carve out some space amid the warring parties, but then the Babylonians grasped so much power that the Assyrians made an alliance with the Egyptians, usually their great rivals. Josiah, the king of Judea, realized that this would effectively end any independence they could have and fought the Egyptians in 609 at Megiddo. He suffered a disastrous defeat and the Judeans needed to be rescued by the Babylonians. Things quickly fall apart. There were several kings in his period who tried both to satisfy the people’s desire for independence and the demands of their Babylonians overlords. They ultimately failed and in 597 the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem and began the first series of deportations of the leadership to Babylon. A puppet king was installed but he could not control his people and the Babylonians, deciding that this was hopeless, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple in 586.

Jeremiah was involved in all these events, and although passages in the Book of Jeremiah are notoriously difficult to date, today’s section is usually assumed to have been written between the first and final deportations. There may have been some editions later, but Jeremiah’s intent and prophetic word is clear: the job of a king is to protect the people and keep them together, and the Judean kings failed.

1 Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

We should not be overly critical of the kings of Judah: they were between a rock and a hard place, and they needed to articulate a vision of sharing a “National” God without civil independence. This is difficult, but necessary, for as we read in the book of Proverbs: “Without vision the people perish” (29:18)

It was necessary then for God himself to bring the people back.

3 I will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. (23:3)

When he does he will raise up shepherd for them who will keep the flock together:

4 I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

The chief shepherd, the king, will be from the House of David. He will share vison that it is God who leads the people and after their time in Babylon will know that the power of the Lord is everywhere and at every time. They are bound not only by a shared history but by acting justly and righteously, here and now.

5 Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;

As king he shall reign and govern wisely,

he shall do what is just and right in the land.

6 In his days Judah shall be saved,

Israel shall dwell in security. (23:5-6a)

He shall be the way that God will use to be present to his people and thus his name will be “The Lord our justice”.

Although this may seem mere wishful thinking we know that it was the occasion of a great miracle. The Persians conquered Babylon and offered the Jews the option to return home and rebuild their capital and temple. Enough did that they were able to reestablish themselves, as if not an independent nation, but a people with enough freedom of worship to maintain their identity. But perhaps the greatest miracle was still to come.

It is said that history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Some of the same notes which occurred in the days before the deportations to Babylon were heard again in the generation after Jesus. Those who wished to revolt against Rome eventually attained power in Judea with predictable results. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD and after the mere hint of revolution a generation later Jerusalem was closed to Jews. This should have been the end of Judaism, but it opened a time of unparalleled intellectual and spiritual creativity. They had learned their lesson and realized that God gave them a promise, not a roadmap; they were a people because they shared a relationship with God and that relationship defies the limits of both time and space.

We are called to continue this song.  It would be foolish to try to take direct lessons from the ancient Hebrew prophets. This was well before the nation state and the separation of church and state would have been incomprehensible. But there are insights which we could profitably examine. It was a commonplace that the taxes needed to pay the tribute to whatever empire controlled the region were unfairly leveled against the poor. This gave them little reason to accept a national vision of unity between God and the people. Gross unfairness destroys unity and the prophets saw this in “religious” terms and fought against it. If we share this belief, then we will not follow a shepherd who fails to lead us to the unity that comes from Justice and we as a nation will hold a vision that will never perish.


Building Updates, 15th Sunday Ordinary Time


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, ( 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



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.



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.


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.