The past few days have reminded me why people try to leave city in the summer and I hope that you will all be able to do so. While you are away I have two requests: Please pick up bulletins from the parishes you will be attending. They can be very helpful in seeing what other places are doing. Also, if you are in a vintage Church, especially a Victorian one like ours, please take pictures and send them to me at [email protected] I am particularly interested in the color scheme in general and the columns of the church in particular.(To marbleize or not to marbleize that is the question.). Also, of course, how bathrooms were installed to fulfill both the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and aesthetic obligations. We members of St Charles are entrusted with a treasure and we will be guided by the most experienced and talented professionals available but there are a few preferences that we will need to set, and I would like as much information as possible. Consider this ecclesiastical and architectural crowd sourcing. I will share with you some of the most directly applicable pictures. Wishing you a great summer, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr William Smith
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 24, 2018
Many of the readings that we will examine this Summer from the Hebrew Bible bring us back to the Fall of Jerusalem, in its several stages from 597 to 586 BC, the subsequent captivity of the Jewish leaders in Babylon and the offer the Persian King Cyrus to send back to Jerusalem those who would work for him beginning in 539. Last week with Ezekiel, we saw the beginning of the exile; today we follow those who accepted Cyrus’ offer and returned to their homeland to be his administrators and rebuild the temple.
This was an arduous task and most of the leaders did not accept it, as it entailed a long journey to a mostly destroyed community. The first part of today’s reading gives us a sense of their understanding of their role. However, before examining this, let us first look at Isaiah. The name means: “Yahweh is salvation”. The book of the Prophet Isaiah was authored by several people over several centuries. The first Isaiah lived in the 8th century BC (c. 740 – 686). He had a keen sense that God acted in history and that He demanded obedience to his word and justice to his people. The Isaiah who we read today lived c. 520 BC and like the original Isaiah saw the hand of God in History.
1 Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
2 He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
3 You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
He knows that he has been chosen for a great task. He not only takes the name Isaiah but uses a common story that prophets are set aside before birth for their task (cf. Jeremiah: 1:10; 25:15 ff. and today’s feast and Gospel). He does not however understand his vocation and here he speaks as representative of his entire people. As we see in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the work of rebuilding the temple and indeed the society went very slowly, and it was soon clear the at the temple would not be unusually magnificent. If their purpose was purely national and to be judged by the standards of power and spender, it was not worth the effort or the trip.
Isaiah however is brought to a new revelation both for himself and for his people:
4 Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
5 For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
6 It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
The reason why the people were brought back to Jerusalem to once more offer true worship was to be God’s means of bringing all people to Him, they were the seed and the sacrament. It is here that the Jews understood their vocation as a people: We read in the book of Zechariah (8:23), a near contemporary to today’s Isaiah:
Thus, says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men of every nationality, speaking different tongues, shall take hold, yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”
Jesus understood this clearly and note that he brought the 12 Apostles, representing the 12 tribes to the upper room so that the Holy Spirit would begin with them and only after that did he send them into the world. In this he was exhibiting a very Jewish understanding of group solidarity and vocation. It is this which has characterized the Jewish people and from which we can learn. We have seen in our own age that many Jews were at the forefront of the fight for civil rights and other causes. This reminds us that our most powerful expression of the relationship with God is not as individuals, but as a community: a community that is not “saved” for itself, but to be a light to the ends of the earth.