Collection for retired and infirmed religious:
Sunday, Dec. 9th
How do we connect to each other as members of St Charles today?
Many of our parishioners travel extensively or work exhausting hours. How can we feel that we belong to a Parish if we attend sporadically? This is not a matter of fulfilling one’s religious obligation. Our parishioners attend Mass literally all over the world and have shared many good ideas and excellent bulletins and web sites with me. We need to focus on a sense of participation and belonging. What we are calling a “Media Meeting” is not for techies only. They are very important and indeed essential, but we need road warriors and people working hard to make partner to tell us where they are and explore ways of connecting us all together.
To accomplish this, we invite you to join with Fr John Grimowich and myself
on Monday, Dec 17th
in the Rectory Parlor.
Fr John is a resident at St Charles continuing his studies in media at the University of California, Berkeley and is uniquely qualified to assist us to the next steps whatever they will be.
I urge as many people to attend as possible.
Fr William Smith
Second Sunday in Advent
Dec. 9, 2018
The book of Baruch is something of a misnomer. It is a collection of 5 “essays” in different forms by separate authors that use the name of Baruch – the secretary to the prophet Jeremiah. Baruch lived in the time of the exile c. 587BC but like the book of Daniel the book of Baruch, was compiled around the time of the Maccabean revolt c. 175-142BC. Baruch was well chosen to speak for them. He expressed the wisdom of the ancients who endured exile to those who were experiencing another exile and they hoped return.
The section that we read today is from the 4th section of the Book. It is a long hymn – a psalm – explaining why the Jewish people have suffered but how they can return to stability and happiness. Baruah’s generation saw the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and what should have been the end of the people, but as Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesized God was not abandoning his people but purifying them. The God who led them from slavery in Egypt centuries before would give them a new exodus and return them to Jerusalem from Babylon. Against all odds this occurred. The author of today’s Song sees a parallel to both exiles. It is so astute that the words could be applied in most cases to both the exiles in Babylon and the people reestablishing a degree of independence in 1st century Palestine. He is showing that the God who expresses himself in history may not repeat himself, but He does rhyme.
This section begins with the voice of Mother Jerusalem:
Fear not, my people!
6 You were sold to the nations
not for your destruction;
It was because you angered God
that you were handed over to your foes. Baruch 4:5–6
After recounting the history of God offering his love and the people rejecting it, mother Jerusalem says:
21 “Fear not, my children; call upon God,
who will deliver you from oppression at enemy hands.
22 I have trusted in the Eternal God for your welfare,
and joy has come to me from the Holy One Baruch 4:21–29
The situation that those to whom this is addressed were facing was the tyranny of Antiochus IV who sought to exterminate Jewish culture so thoroughly that the Jewish people would cease to exist. The people were still in the land but had to fight for control of it. The author of Baruch is asking if the leaders have control of themselves. Did they realize that this extreme oppression was not result of their political miscalculations or of the impersonal functioning of geopolitical forces but their betrayal of their relationship – covenant – with their God.
Fear not, my children; call out to God!
He who brought this upon you will remember you.
28 As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God,
turn now ten times the more to seek him;
29 For he who has brought disaster upon you
will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.”
This is a sentiment that we have seen so often that it is part of the DNA of the Jewish people. It earliest form was Deuteronomic history: “Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe (the law of God) , that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey. Deuteronomy 6
When the Jewish people observed the law, they prospered; when they did not, they faltered and failed. Even with the development of international political realities like the empire of Alexander the Jews were always cautioned not to see themselves as mere pawns of external and impersonal forces. God was always in control.
Now that is was possible for the Jews to have to take political control of their own land,s this was still true. Our passage today begins:
1 Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
2 , Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God
bear on your head the mitre
that displays the glory of the eternal name.
3 For God will show all the earth your splendor:
4 you will be named by God forever
the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. Baruch 5:1–2
Victory is at hand, but note the assumptions; It will be true victory only if it is wrapped in the cloak of justice from God and exists for the glory of God. Note also the connection of Jerusalem and worship. Only then will Jerusalem and the Jewish people be able to look for restoration:
5 Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;
look to the east and see your children
Gathered from the east and the west
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Baruch 5:5
The people are returning to Jerusalem and God is preparing the way for them
7 For God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
And that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. Baruch 5:7
This of course sounds very much like the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after the exile:
3 A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
4 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all mankind shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 40:3–5
As we have seen, the exiles differed: with Isaiah, the people were separated from Jerusalem physically; with Baruch, politically. The returns were also different – the Jews from Babylon knew it was by the power of God and that they did not have the final word. The Maccabees were military victors – did they realize that to God belonged the glory or did they delude themselves?
The measuring stick is clear. We know that God is with us when we as a people show concern for equality and justice. When we do not, we have created our own exile for which there is no return. The poem ends:
For God is leading Israel in joy
by the light of his glory,
with his mercy and justice for company.