Adult Sacrament Classes: The meetings for Adults who wish to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist will begin on Sunday, Oct 7th after the 11:15 Mass in the Rectory. They will be held about once per month for 2hrs. Because we recognize that many of our parishioners must travel for work there will be another opportunity during the week to participate.
A special invitation to any adult in the Parish to participate. This is a wonderful opportunity to not only update your knowledge of the Church’s teaching but also to experience true spiritual formation.
Please contact Blanca Anchundia at the rectory (718.625.1177) to get the book we will be using and read the first 2 chapters before the first meeting.
Church renovation: The abatement work at the church is now substantially complete with only a few small areas still in progress. The closeout paperwork has been filed and once approved it will allow the restoration work to get fully underway. The paperwork for the restoration work, the surveying of the existing conditions by the contractor, and the planning of the logistics to complete everything have been underway for the past several months. This advanced planning will allow work to flow smoothly and minimize delays. In the next few weeks mockup areas of exterior restoration work will begin to pop up for both architect and Landmarks review and approve. Masonry and exterior wood restoration work will begin as well. There will remain a lot of work behind the scenes finalizing details for the window coverings and materials to match the existing. This work will all begin to catch up to the masonry restoration over the next weeks and months.
Meet and Greet: We would like to thank all those who participated in the Meet and Greet last Sunday. Special thanks for the generosity of the Fitzpatrick/Lorelli foundation, Luzzo’s Pizza and Beth Lieu. Hope to see you all again next month.
Special Preaching Series: In preparation for the second “World Day of the Poor” on Sunday, Nov. 18th, all the homilies at all the Masses will be on the Social Doctrine of the Church. You will find further information on this every week on the Parish Website and our weekly email updates.
First Reading – September 23
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom of Solomon 2:12; 12-17
The readings for the last 2 weeks have been from Isaiah and their events have unfolded in the Jerusalem of 520 BC. We have seen the great miracle of the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon but have seen as well that at least some had a fundamental misunderstanding of what had occurred. They thought that they would be rewarded with riches, position and power. Instead they were essentially frontiersman. Indeed, last week Isaiah told them that the way to understanding would be through suffering and sacrifice. Why then do good rather than bad, and what indeed is good? Today’s reading gives at least part of the answer.
We return today to the book of Wisdom. We read from it several months ago; let us take a moment to remember its background. Although it sounds ancient, it is perhaps the last book in the Old Testament and could have been written as late as 30 BC. Also, although it takes the name of King Solomon of Jerusalem from about 1000 BC, 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.
Alexandria was an important commercial but also intellectual center, and the author of Wisdom is well versed in all the alternatives to Judaism, from Greek philosophy to the cult of Isis. He is however first and foremost a person of his tradition. He answers the questions that his young people might have from Scriptures and shows the superiority of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
We saw before that the bedrock of wisdom is justice, “For justice is undying”. But there are those who do not place justice at the center of their lives:
1 they who said among themselves, thinking not aright:
“Brief and troublous is our lifetime;
neither is there any remedy for man’s dying,
nor is anyone known to have come back from the nether world. Wisdom of Solomon 2:1 (NAB)
They look at their world and do not experience anything permanent. So they conclude:
6 “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are real, and use the freshness of creation avidly”. (2:6)
If acquisition and consumption are all that is then we take whatever we can from whoever has it. In words that are almost chillingly contemporary:
10 Let us oppress the needy just man;
let us neither spare the widow
nor revere the old man for his hair grown white with time.
11 But let our strength be our norm of justice;
for weakness proves itself useless. Wisdom of Solomon 2:10–11
The section that we read today begins here:
12 Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training. Wisdom of Solomon 2:12 (NAB)
We are reminded here that those being addressed received a good Jewish education. They know what is good and right and are unnerved by those who live the good life. They therefore seek to test him and more to the point God himself. “Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” Wisdom of Solomon 2:20
Our passage ends here but let us read further.
21 These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
22 And they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.
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. Wisdom of Solomon 2:21–3:1 (NAB)
Here we see the importance of creation. We assume that there was a beginning, but this was unique in the ancient world. Non-Jews believed that we were made in all sorts of ways for all sorts of reasons, They were rarely good and never loving. Humanity was formed by accident, contempt and spite. For the Jews there was a real creation and one that was conscious and loving. As we were created by a God who was both just and loving the author of wisdom could not conceive that those who responded to that love would not live forever. Being good is acting in conformity to the way we were made. It is in our terms being authentic. It is only the Good who live a life which is truly human and will continue in the world to come. (What happens to those who are bad is left somewhat underdeveloped in Wisdom.)
Now this requires some clarification. Like Daniel and the author of Maccabees Wisdom holds that there is a life after death, but his approach reflects Greek thinking and speaks of immortality or at least its possibility built in to us at creation. The others – and indeed the one accepted by Christians – is the resurrection of the Body. This is an even greater gift because it is not a mere extension or continuation of human life – although perfected and without pain or want – but a transformation into a new life. We are not here to be the best we can be but to become Jesus. It is good for us to reflect however on Wisdom. It is only because creation is good and that goodness calls to us that we can be open to the transforming grace of Jesus.
Yet there are this-worldly consequences to how one lives. Because the evil do not know the “councils of God” they do not realize what is truly real and sustaining here and now. Although their lives may often seem better – particularly in material possessions – lack of authenticity ultimately makes one blind, dumb and unhappy. We are, as has been said, not punished for our sins we are punished by our sins.
As we said previously the author of the book of Wisdom was a very learned elder who responded to the many options facing a young person in his very cosmopolitan city. Today he responds directly only to a most superficial, if nonetheless pervasive world view. He reveals however many points of contact with the great western classical authors. Aristotle would have concurred with him that happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence. He would have affirmed Aristotle’s observation that this is obtained by doing good in Aristotle’s terms by exercising virtue. But here is a major difference which would be revealed by suffering and sacrifice. For Aristotle, a virtuous person may have to suffer even being martyred to avoid vice. Suffering, however, would not offer any understanding in this world nor connection to a higher power. His God is principally found by reason; the God of the Jews, however, is found in revelation. There is a different relationship. This will be seen more clearly with Jesus, but it is found in Wisdom as well.
Last week we concluded with a quote from GK Chesterton, perhaps the most famous convert to Catholicism in the last century. Let us end this week with one from Oscar Wilde, on the surface, the most surprising: “Clergymen and people who use phrases without wisdom sometimes talk of suffering as a mystery. It is really a revelation.”