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 and 11:15 AM and 7PM) 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.
Church restoration: Active work will begin again this week.
Contact information for Fr Smith: Tel #718.625.1177 ext 409 or email ([email protected]).
Youth: Our program will begin again in September, please call or email the Parish office (718.625.1177) to register.
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.
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
We need more Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers. If you have recently moved into the Parish and were either a Lector or a Eucharistic Minister in a previous Parish, the Military or Campus Ministry or if you feel called to one of these ministries, please contact Fr Smith.
The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 29, 2018
2 Kings 4:42-44
Today we turn back to Israel, the northern kingdom, about 50 years after the death of Solomon and the dividing of the unified kingdom. Israel was prosperous but unstable. Several families vied for the kingship and although the they built temples for those who wished to worship the God of their fathers this was more to prevent them from visiting the temple in Jerusalem than for the sincere worship of God. There were many in the land including the king who worshiped other gods. Ahab who ruled from about 870 to 852 BC was the most notorious. It is instructive that his wife Jezebel’s name means “Where is Baal”: the name of a pagan God.
Near the beginning of Ahab’s reign, the prophet Elijah appeared without warning and said to Ahab at the temple at Gilad:
As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word (1 Kings17)
This was for the sin of apostasy. The authors of Kings insisted that all the troubles which will follow came from the turn to other gods. Elijah immediately fled after this and began a protracted contest with Ahab and Jezebel. After several years God tells him:
Return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place (1 kings 19:15-16)
Note that God is telling him to annoint not only the civil leader of Israel, Jehu, but also the leader of a pagan foreign country, Hazael, and the religious leader of Israel as well, Elisha. God is Lord over every nation and every part of life. Hazael and Jehu eventually destroy Ahab but there is more to the story than that.
Unlike the previous prophets we have seen they have left no writings and all we know is what the authors of Kings tell us. They were both fearless, dedicated and were able to perform great miracles. The authors wished to show this continuation. Thus, Elisha asks for a “double portion” of Elijah’s sprit. This was a way of asking to be his “first son” and principal heir.
It was also reflected in the miracles they performed. The miracle we read today is the 3rd in 2 Kings 4. The first is the widow’s oil. A member of Elisha’s company of prophets has died in debt and his children are about to be sold into slavery. His Wwdow asks for Elisha’s help and he asks,
“Tell me, what do you have in the house?” She answered, “Your servant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.” 3 He said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not just a few. 4 Then go in, and shut the door behind you and your children, and start pouring into all these vessels; when each is full, set it aside.” 5 So she left him and shut the door behind her and her children; they kept bringing vessels to her, and she kept pouring. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” But he said to her, “There are no more.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your children can live on the rest (2 Kings 4:4-7)
Elisha performed a similar miracle (1 Kings 17:14-16). The next wonder is a miraculous birth (2 Kings 4:8-17) to a couple who has shown charity to him and returning that child to life after a fatal illness (2Kings 4:18-37) These too resemble miracles of Elijah.
Now let us look at today’s passage. We must remember the situation. There is a famine and people wish to keep all the food they can. Yet there is custom to give the first results “fruits” of the harvest to the temple or to a someone clearly sent from God:
42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack
Elisha had a substantial number of followers:
Give it to the people and let them eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left (2 Kings 4:43-44)
Elijah also performed a miracle of multiplying food for his household. Elijah and especially Elisha were involved in the affairs of state and participated in political decisions that effected the entire nation and because they worshiped the God of Israel they cared for the people of Israel. The pagan gods worshiped by Ahab, Jezebel and their priests and courtiers did not care for the people and could be placated by worship indeed occasionally by human sacrifice. The prophets we have been looking at this summer have shown us that the God of Israel cares for His people and no amount of worship however splendid will be accepted unless it is complimented by Justice. Thus, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha not only win battles and serve the needs of state but comfort the common people who in most religions fall beneath the radar. God wishes his love and concern to be felt from the top to the bottom of society and his mercy will not fall on the king or prince who ignores this responsibility.
We no longer have kings or princes, but we do have the rich and powerful. It is convenient for us to believe that they are the 1% and if someone is part of that to argue that the real power is in the top .1%. This is a comforting illusion. A recent article in The Atlantic monthly (June 2108) by Matthew Stewart argues that America is developing a virtually hereditary aristocracy, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/the-birth-of-a-new-american-aristocracy/559130/. Essentially this is the top 10% by income families in the country. The top 10% have a disproportionate share of not only the nation’s wealth but its opportunity. He is just one of the authors examining the hereditary nature of wealth and power. Several authors suggest that 20% of families will improve their financial and social situations the rest will barely hold on or fall behind.
I think most of us would fall into at least that 20% and what would Elijah and Elisha have to say to us? Would they tell us not to use our advantages to help our children, grandchildren and other family members? I do not know, and I do not think very many of us would do so even if they did. I do think that they would tell us to question how our decisions, especially in a democracy our choice of candidates for public office, would affect the poor and marginalized. What would the world be if every Christian, Jew and Muslim followed that advice?