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 2 hours. 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 Fr Smith at the rectory (718.625.1177 ext 409) 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.
Special Preaching Series: In preparation for the second “World Day of the Poor” on Sunday, Nov. 18th, 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.
Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
After a particularly frustrating day, St Teresa of Avila, the great reformer of the 16th century Church, famously said: “If this is the way you treat your friends O Lord, no wonder you have so few.” Moses feels like this today. To understand why, we need to take a step backwards.
The book of Numbers is the 4th book of the Torah/Pentateuch. It tells the story of the Israelites’ journey from the area around Sinai and, after decades of wandering, arrival at the outskirts of the promised land. It is a complicated book and marked by a very strange and dark humor. As we can easily see on a map the trip from Sinai to Palestine is not a long one and could have been accomplished in a few weeks. Here we are not talking about the military conquest that is found as we saw a few weeks ago in the book of Joshua. This is just getting there, but the difficulty was that God gave Moses the most efficient campaign strategy and the people refused to follow it. They were then doomed to wander until they leaned obedience. Their hardness of heart was such that it required all of the elders but 2 to die before they could finally enter the promised land. They complained constantly, and what and how they complained was very revealing.
At the beginning of the 11th chapter, we read that the Israelites lamented:
“Would that we had meat for food!
5 We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.
6 But now we are famished; we see nothing before us but this manna.” Numbers 11:4–6
In words which St Teresa would have understood, Moses said to God:
11 “Why do you treat your servant so badly?” Moses asked the LORD. “Why are you so displeased with me that you burden me with all this people? Numbers 11:11 13 Where can I get meat to give to all this people? For they are crying to me, ‘Give us meat for our food.’ 14 I cannot carry all this people by myself, for they are too heavy for me. 15 If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress.” Numbers 11:13–15
God’s reaction was two-fold. Most practically he answered the people’s desire for meat. After stating the root cause of the problem:
For in the hearing of the LORD you have cried, ‘Would that we had meat for food! Oh, how well off we were in Egypt!’
He answers their request:
18 “To the people, however, you shall say: Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, when you shall have meat to eat. For in the hearing of the LORD you have cried, ‘Would that we had meat for food! Oh, how well off we were in Egypt!’ Therefore the LORD will give you meat for food,
19 and you will eat it, not for one day, or two days, or five, or ten, or twenty days,
20 but for a whole month-until it comes out of your very nostrils and becomes loathsome to you. For you have spurned the LORD who is in your midst, and in his presence you have wailed, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” Numbers 11:18–20
Remember, I did say that there was black humor here.
31 There arose a wind sent by the LORD, that drove in quail from the sea and brought them down over the camp site at a height of two cubits from the ground for the distance of a day’s journey all around the camp.
32 All that day, all night, and all the next day the people gathered in the quail. Even the one who got the least gathered ten homers of them. Then they spread them out all around the camp.
33 But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it could be consumed, the LORD’S wrath flared up against the people, and he struck them with a very great plague. Numbers 11:31–33 (NAB)
He also addresses the even more basic need for what we would call religious education or formation and it is that we see today. There are two points of interest;
16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Assemble for me seventy of the elders of Israel, men you know for true elders and authorities among the people, and bring them to the meeting tent. When they are in place beside you, 17 I will come down and speak with you there. I will also take some of the spirit that is on you and will bestow it on them, that they may share the burden of the people with you. You will then not have to bear it by yourself. Numbers 11:16–17
The first part of our reading today continues this:
25 The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied. Numbers 11:25
The gift they received was to prophesy which does not mean foretelling the future but speaking ecstatically and exhorting and encouraging people. Moses is still the chief judge and leader, but he now has help in forming the next generation. This is the one which will enter the promised land, and they will need to be true and fervent believers to fulfill their task.
Now look at the next section:
26 Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; yet the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 So, when a young man quickly told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” 28 Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them.” 29 But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” Numbers 11:26–29
Joshua as Moses’ putative successor may well have been seeking to protect his own future power but Moses has a clearer idea of the real situation. Although for whatever reason Eldad and Medad had not been at the chosen place and the appointed time, nonetheless God wanted them and sent His Spirit to them. It is God who chooses who will speak for Him. That has been developed more fully throughout the years as vocation – a call from God. Although the spirit was given to us in the sacrament of Confirmation, vocation was often interpreted as being limited to priests and religious. It has been a great advance in our day that we now see it as being shared by all the faithful and a reflection of the universal call to holiness. We are all called to something in the body of Christ; we need, however, discernment in deciding to what we are called.
This book is called the Book of Numbers because of the two censuses taken in it. The first is at the start of the journey at Mt Sinai where they become versed in the law of the Lord and leave as a disciplined army of 603,550. Within a few weeks, as we have seen, the spiritual discipline that held them together began to unravel. Thirty-eight years after the first census, there is another as they prepared to enter the promised land. There were 601,730 men in arms.
These are the ones counted by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they counted the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 64 Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. 65 For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. (Numbers 26:63)
These are those who were catechized by prophets moved by the Spirit. They were formed by the word of God from their infancy. For a great task, great reliance on the Spirit is required —something the Apostles would discover in millennia to come. It is interesting that there are fewer soldiers in the second census than the first. As the Psalmist says:
Put no trust in princes, in children of Adam powerless to save. Who breathing his last, returns to the earth; that day all his planning comes to nothing (146 3-4)
The Body of Christ is suffering greatly and will only become healthy if we remember that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Spirit truly has been bestowed on us all.