Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete – Shout of Joy

Meet & Greets + Children’s Nativity Pageant

This Sunday, we will have our monthly Meet & Greets after each of the Masses. We will serve breakfast after the 9 and 11:15 PM mass, and wine and cheese after the 7 PM Mass. The Children’s Nativity Pageant will be held during the Gospel at the 11:15 AM Mass – this is a highlight of our Family Faith Program each year. Our special guests will be young adults from St. Vincent Services. Please join us for fellowship and good cheer in this special season!

Connecting at St Charles

Do you work insane hours? Do you travel so much you don’t know where you will be next week much less where you will attend Mass? Do you feel that you really don’t belong to any Parish and want to feel more connected to St Charles? Please join us this Monday, Dec 17th,  7:30 PM at 31 Sidney Place (The Rectory) Parlor Floor

Fr John Gribowich, a resident at St Charles who is continuing his studies in media at the University of California Berkley, will assist us in developing ways to connect with each other. He will be joined by Davd Plisky from DeSales Media.

I hope and pray that you will be able to attend.

Christmas Collections

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens was recently featured in the New York Times Neediest Cases column for its Intern and Earn program, which gets 16-24-year olds back on track in their home, school, or career lives. Read more at https://nyti.ms/2zG3cJW (free article). The second collection at Christmas will be dedicated to Catholic Charities.

We are also continuing to have the following collections:

  • Christmas Collection and Christmas Flowers for our Church – Give online at https://stcharlesbklyn.weshareonline.org/ChristmasSpecialCollection or use your mass envelope.
  • 7th Annual Toys for Tots drive at the The Custom House  – Unwrapped Toys & Gift Cards to be distributed by Catholic Charities. Drop off at The Custom House at 139 Montague Street by December 15th.
  • Family Faith Program Collection of Winter Hats, Scarves, Gloves for St. Charles Seniors – drop off unwrapped items at box at front of church by Sunday, December 16.

Thank you very much for your support!

Fr William Smith

Pastor

 

Third Sunday of Advent

Dec. 16, 2018

Zephaniah 3:14-18a

 

Today we read from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah. He is rarely quoted directly but will be somewhat familiar to classical music enthusiasts for providing the opening words to the Dies Irae, a hymn which was part of the old Requiem Mass.

A day of wrath is that day

a day of anguish and distress,

A day of destruction and desolation,

a day of darkness and gloom,

A day of thick black clouds

 

Zephaniah 1:15

 

He does however have much to teach us that is particularly suited to the Advent season.

He gives us a brief autobiography at the beginning of his book.

 

The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah.

Zephaniah 1:1

He is very well connected – a descendant indeed of the good king Hezekiah (716-687 BC), he also dates himself to the reign of the reforming king Josiah. (640-609) This would make him a slightly older contemporary of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. As we have seen before this was a time when the military power of Assyria was diminishing. The Jews were able to take some breathing room not only to attempt to obtain greater political autonomy but also greater religious independence. During the reigns of Manasseh and Amon (687-640) many foreign elements were added to Jewish worship and practice. This was good politics but bad religion. Zephaniah was the first prophet since Isaiah, and he encouraged King Josiah to purify religious practice. Much of the first chapter of Zephaniah is virtually incomprehensible to us because it speaks of pagan religious practices that were successfully purged from Jewish worship. For instance, “the Lord will punish all who leap over the threshold”, (Zephaniah 1:9) This refers to the worship of the pagan god Dargon. The effect however is familiar:

12 At that time I will explore Jerusalem with lamps;

I will punish the men …

Who say in their hearts,

“Neither good nor evil can the LORD do.”

 

Zephaniah 1:12 (NAB)

 

Once worship is adulterated and tradition weakened, ultimately belief is surrendered and God may seem irrelevant. It is Zephaniah’s message that the Lord is always a player.

For Zephaniah, the fish stinks from the head down.

1 Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted,

to the tyrannical city!

2 She hears no voice,

accepts no correction;

In the LORD she has not trusted,

to her God she has not drawn near.

3 Her princes in her midst

are roaring lions;

Her judges are wolves of the night

that have had no bones to gnaw by morning.

4 Her prophets are insolent,

treacherous men;

Her priests profane what is holy,

and do violence to the law. Zephaniah 3:1–4

 

A fairly comprehensive list and a realistic evaluation. Bad leaders bring bad ends. Realistic also is Zephaniah’s address to the poor:

 

2 Before you are driven away,

like chaff that passes on;

Before there comes upon you

the blazing anger of the LORD:

Before there comes upon you

the day of the LORD’S anger.

3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth,

who have observed his law;

Seek justice, seek humility;

perhaps you may be sheltered

on the day of the LORD’S anger.

 

Zephaniah 2:2–3

 

This reveals a unique feature of the Old Testament. The Lord is concerned about the poor and the marginalized, and calls those who are rich and prosperous to task for the means by which they obtained and maintained their prosperity and position. Characteristic as well is that – as we have seen before – the prophets will call down God’s wrath on foreign nations.

 

4 For Gaza shall be forsaken,

and Ashkelon shall be a waste,

Ashdod they shall drive out at midday,

and Ekron shall be uprooted.

Zephaniah 2:4

It goes on for quite a while and is very comprehensive, but is balanced by the oracles against the Jews themselves. As the history of the Jewish people clearly shows being the Chosen people is not a free pass. All are subject to the justice of God, but also his mercy. After He has shown His wrath on the nations, He will make them His own:

9 For then I will change and purify

the lips of the peoples,

That they all may call upon the name of the LORD,

to serve him with one accord;

10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia

and as far as the recesses of the North,

they shall bring me offerings.

Zephaniah 3:9–10

 

The Jews will be the means he will use to accomplish this:

 

11 On that day

You need not be ashamed

of all your deeds,

your rebellious actions against me;

For then will I remove from your midst

the proud braggarts,

And you shall no longer exalt yourself

on my holy mountain.

12 But I will leave as a remnant in your midst

a people humble and lowly,

Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD;

13 the remnant of Israel.

They shall do no wrong

and speak no lies;

Nor shall there be found in their mouths

a deceitful tongue;

They shall pasture and couch their flocks

with none to disturb them. Zephaniah 3:11–13

Here we see an important theme in the first testament. The Jewish people are not chosen for themselves, but to be the light to the nations and the means by which all people will come to know the Lord. Thus, Zephaniah speaks of a remnant that will live in Jerusalem after the others have been removed.

This is where our reading today begins. Before examining it, we need to look at a bit of editing. As we have seen before, the final editing of many of the books in the first testament was after the exile about 500 BC. Most scholars believe that this section was added as a fitting conclusion to the book.

It is a shout of joy for the saving work of God. It is also a very realistic one. We believe that God has entered into history and reveals himself through it. It takes time to see that those who live as if God matters will be vindicated. That what may have seen immediately as disaster was a means of holiness and that the God who is in our midst will:

18 as one sings at festivals.

I will remove disaster from among you,

so that none may recount your disgrace.

Zephaniah 3:18 (NAB)

Christmas Giving Requests

We ask for your help in our gift raising this Christmas season:

  • Christmas Collection for our Church – Give online at https://stcharlesbklyn.weshareonline.org/ChristmasSpecialCollectionor use your mass envelope
  • 7th Annual Toys for Tots drive at the The Custom House  – Unwrapped Toys & Gift Cards to be distributed by Catholic Charities. Drop off at The Custom House at 139 Montague Street by December 15th.
  • Collection for gift cards for St. Vincent Services young adult guests at 12/16 Family Faith Nativity Pageant – Donate online at https://stcharlesbklyn.weshareonline.org/FamilyFaithFormationGiftCards or in the basket at back of the church.
  • Family Faith Program Collection of Winter Hats, Scarves, Gloves for St. Charles Seniors – drop off unwrapped items at box at front of church.

We are grateful for any gift that you can make!

Second Sunday of Advent – Equality and Justice

Collection for retired and infirmed religious:

Sunday, Dec. 9th

All Masses.

 

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

at 7:30PM

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

Pastor.

 

Second Sunday in Advent

Baruch 5:1-9

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!

Remember, Israel,

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.

Baruch 5:9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1st Sunday of Advent – In Those Days

Two Hints for Making a Good Advent:

Advent is not Pre-Christmas. It has its own meaning and importance. Simply:

Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.” The weekdays from December 17 up to and including December 24 are ordered in a more direct way to preparing for the Nativity of the Lord. (General Instruction: #39)

Thus: Advent is split in two parts: until Dec. 16th the emphasis is on the second coming of Jesus, from the 17th on we focus on his first coming.

Hint one: Decorate your houses accordingly. Perhaps trim the tree over a few days or use advent wreath and candles at home.

“Early Advent” differs from the other seasons of the church year in that the first reading from the Old Testament is chosen first and the other readings flow from it. “The Old Testament readings are prophecies about the Messiah and the Messianic Age, especially from Isaiah. The readings from an apostle serve as exhortations and as proclamations, in keeping with the different themes of Advent.” (Lectionary for Mass Introduction, no. 93)

Hint two: The parish bulletin includes the readings for the day. Read them even if you are unable to get to Mass.

 

Feast of the Immaculate Conception:
Saturday, Dec. 8th

Noon.

 

Collection for retired and infirmed religious:

Sunday, Dec. 9th

All Masses.

 

Media Meeting:

An important pastoral reality is that belonging comes before believing. This is especially true for Catholics. We believe that we connect to God as members of his family, the Church, indeed through a particular Parish. Every parish has the same functions and responsibilities but will accomplish them in different ways. We at St. Charles are blessed with many young professionals. Some are part of married couples who have their children in our religious education program. We are happy to serve them with superior formation. Others however are not married or do not have children of school age. Many are road warriors who travel a great deal for work others are working through a pre-natal bucket list: doing all the things they will not be able to do post childbirth. Almost everyone works ungodly hours. Although many of them- indeed you – consider this your parish family and may even attend Mass weekly, it may not in the same place many weeks in a row. This does not develop the sense of belonging which is so necessary for spiritual growth. We do not know how to serve you and need new ways to communicate and connect. To accomplish this, there will be a meeting of anyone interested

with Fr. John Grimowich

on Monday, Dec 17th

at 7:30PM

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. I am not. This will require increased use of social media, virtual learning and Skype, all things I don’t understand and really don’t want to. The creativity of the entire community will be necessary for us to create a Parish in which we can all belong.

 

Hoping that you will be able to attend, I remain

In Christ

Fr. Smith

 

First Sunday in Advent

Jeremiah 33:1-16

Dec. 2, 2018

 

We first read Jeremiah in July in a passage that was quite typical of him. Speaking of and to the leaders of the Jews the Lord said through Jeremiah: “You have not cared for (the sheep), but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” (Jeremiah 23:2) Not a man noted for ambiguity. Yet todays reading is ambiguous on several levels but will reveal an important truth.

Let us first review Jeremiah’s place in history and scripture. He was an aristocrat active from 627 to 585 BC: two very important dates. A we saw previously in the 100 years following the fall of Israel in 721, the northern kingdom of the Jewish people, Judea, the southern kingdom, was subject to the Assyrians. Like all subject peoples they were looking for a chance to escape.In 627 disturbances following the death of the Assyrian King seemed to provide the opportunity. For a while they were able to carve out some space amid the warring parties but then the Babylonian’s grasped so much power that the Assyrians made an alliance with the Egyptians usually their great rivals, Josiah, he king of Judea, realized that this would effectively end any independence they could have and fought the Egyptians in 609 at Megiddo. He suffered a disastrous defeat and the Judeans needed to be rescued by the Babylonians. Things quickly fall apart. There were several kings in his period who tried both to satisfy the people’s desire for independence and the demands of their Babylonians overlords. They ultimately failed and in 597 the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem and began the first series of deportations of the leadership to Babylon. A puppet king was installed but he could not control his people and the Babylonians deciding that this was hopeless destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple in 586.

It is thought that Jeremiah escaped to Egypt where there was a flourishing Jewish community. He was however arrested and imprisoned several times and the vison which he shares today began in one of these incarcerations. The chapter begins:

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time while he was still imprisoned in the quarters of the guard: 2 Thus says the LORD who made the earth and gave it form and firmness, whose name is LORD: 3 Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell to you things great beyond reach of your knowledge. (Jeremiah 33:1-3)

The Lord begins by stating that he is the creator, but he then reveals that he is also their redeemer and savior:

6 Behold, I will treat and assuage the city’s wounds; I will heal them, and reveal to them an abundance of lasting peace. I will change the lot of Judah and the lot of Israel, and rebuild them as of old. 8 I will cleanse them of all the guilt they incurred by sinning against me; all their offenses by which they sinned and rebelled against me, I will forgive. (Jeremiah 33:6–8)

As we have seen repeatedly the Lord did not just create his people and then abandon them but entered into their lives and history.

The passage which we read today begins after the Lord detailing the good things he will do for his people.

14 The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. 15 In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. 16 In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The LORD our justice.” Jeremiah 33:14–16

Jeremiah is telling the people that this restoration will be the fulfillment of his promises to the line of King David. He has said this before:

5 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.” (Je 23:5–6)

There is however a difficulty Jeremiah 33:14 to 26 is considered an addition included after the return to Jerusalem. Please note that this is still inspired and completes the idea. The next section reads:

17 For thus says the LORD: Never shall David lack a successor on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 nor shall priests of Levi ever be lacking, to offer holocausts before me, to burn cereal offerings, and to sacrifice victims.This word of the LORD also came to Jeremiah: Jeremiah 33:17–18

When the people returned to Jerusalem, they did not have a king of the line of David, but they did have a priesthood and they saw that this and the law would be the means that they would stay as a people. AS we see with Jesus the hope of a Davidic King did not die but the day to day reality required priests. Also note that Jeremiah mentions every kind of temple worship. Both palace and temple were needed.

22 Like the host of heaven which cannot be numbered, and the sands of the sea which cannot be counted, I will multiply the descendants of my servant David and the Levites who minister to me. Jeremiah 33:22

As we have seen, the final editing of the Pentateuch (Torah) – the first five books of the First Testament – was completed about the same time and place as the final editing of Jeremiah. There was a strong influence by those who wished to recognize the necessity of the priesthood. The practical reality of their situation caused them to fill out and complete the thought of Jeremiah. There is a very powerful lesson here for all of us. We can only follow God if we worship Him.

 

Advent/Christmas Schedule

Sat., December 1
Holiday Fair
9 AM – 3 PM in the Church Narthex

Sun., December 2
First Sunday of Advent
Mass at 9 AM, 11:15 AM, 7 PM. Wreath Sales after all Masses

Sat., December 8
Feast of the Immaculate Conception: Holy Day of Obligation
Mass at Noon

Sun., December 9
Second Sunday of Advent
Mass at 9 AM, 11:15 AM, 7 PM

Sun., December 16
Third Sunday of Advent
Mass at 9 AM, 11:15 AM (Nativity Pageant), 7 PM

Sun., December 23
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Mass at 9 AM, 11:15 AM, 7 PM

Mon., December 24
Christmas Eve
5 PM Family Mass with Nativity Pageant

Tues., December 25
Christmas
Mass at Midnight, 9 AM and 11:15 AM (No 7 PM Mass)

Sun., December 30
Feast of the Holy Family
Mass at 9 AM, 11:15 AM, 7 PM

Tues., January 1
Mary, Mother of God: Holy Day of Obligation
Mass at 9 AM, 11:15 AM

Christ the King/Last Sunday of Ordinary Time – The Son of Man

READING MATTERS:

When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.

Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas: 1925, instituting the Feast of Christ the King.

Holiday Fair And Wreath Sale
St. Charles will be hosting a Holiday Fair, next Saturday, Dec. 1. If you’re interested in being a vendor
(tables are $25) or volunteering contact the rectory. There will also be a wreath sale on Sunday Dec. 2 after all the Masses.

Christmas Midnight Mass Choir

Our Music Ministry is organizing a choir to perform at the Midnight Mass. This is always one of the highlights of our Christmas season. All experience levels are welcome! Please come up to speak with Cantor Ulises Solano after Mass to sign up or email [email protected] .

Upcoming Baptism Arrangements:

Advent: The Sunday Liturgies for Advent are beautiful in and of themselves and alterations are not appropriate. Should it be necessary for a family to have a Baptism during this time, another arrangement can be made.

Christmastime: The appropriate Feast for Baptisms is the Epiphany, Sunday, Jan 6. We encourage people to schedule Baptisms at the 11:15 AM Mass on this day.

Ordinary Time: Baptisms will be scheduled on the regular dates: Jan 27th, Feb. 24th

Lent: As Lent is the time when the church prepares people for initiation into the Church, Baptisms are celebrated only in the case of an emergency during this period and not at a Sunday Mass.

Easter: Baptisms are encouraged on Easter Sunday, April 21st. (There will be no Baptisms on April 28th at the 11:15 AM Mass.)

 

 

CHRIST THE KING

(Thirty fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Daniel 7:13-14

 

When I was a young priest, there were still older ones who spoke about “Representative Men”. It was an Edwardian expression for someone with superior skills who we would want to represent us. This is where we begin with the title: “Son of Man”. Although it is somewhat vague on purpose and will be developed by Jesus in a rather surprising way, we must remember that it has a specific place in the Book of Daniel.

Our first reading last week was also from the book of Daniel and we saw that it was written about 165 BC in Jerusalem. The author wished to show that although pagan kingdoms were dominant for the short run, their power was subject to God – indeed the God of Israel. That reading was at the end of this discussion; today’s brings us back to the beginning.

Daniel is a young Hebrew aristocrat working in King Belshazzar’s civil service during the exile. He has dreams and the ability to interpret them. Chapter 7 opens with a vision of four immense beasts. They represented the four great kingdoms that had oppressed the Jews: the Babylonians, Persians, that of Alexander the Great and his successors, and the kingdom of Antiochus. As we saw last week, Antiochus was a totally despicable man who desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and eventually banned Judaism entirely. Look how Daniel introduces him:

 After this, in the visions of the night I saw the fourth beast, different from all the others, terrifying, horrible, and of extraordinary strength; it had great iron teeth with which it devoured and crushed, and what was left it trampled with its feet. (Daniel 7:7)

He virtually perfected evil. The next passage reveals how he killed off opposition in his own family and how he treated the world.

I was considering the ten horns it had, when suddenly another, a little horn, sprang out of their midst, and three of the previous horns were torn away to make room for it. This horn had eyes like a man, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly.  (Daniel 7:8)

After he is introduced the vision changes:

As I watched,

Thrones were set up

and the Ancient One took his throne.  (Daniel 7:9a)

 

This is God and very much the model for the Old Testament deity:

 

His clothing was snow bright,

and the hair on his head as white as wool;

His throne was flames of fire,

with wheels of burning fire.  (Daniel 7:9b)

 

The image is of a King with his court:

Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,

and myriads upon myriads attended him.

The court was convened, and the books were opened.  (Daniel 7:10b)

 

The first act of business was to deal with Antiochus:

 

I watched, then, from the first of the arrogant words which the horn spoke, until the beast was slain, and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up.  (Daniel 7:11)

The second was to reveal his successor. This is where we begin today:

As the visions during the night continued, I saw

One like a son of man coming,

on the clouds of heaven;

When he reached the Ancient One

and was presented before him (Daniel 7:13)

 

We need to remember that we are speaking of a society radically unlike our own; They did not believe in the separation of Church and State, and a God was always going to be involved with the institution and the execution of government. There are many interpretations of the figure of the Son of Man and none of them fit into our categories. Indeed, the title may have always been intentionally ambiguous. Although some commenters believe the Son of Man is an angel it is more likely that he is a Representative Man, a person of great nobility who, knowing that his power and authority come from the Ancient of Days, will rule wisely.

He received dominion, glory, and kingship;

nations and peoples of every language serve him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

that shall not be taken away,

his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14)

 

He may have been in some ways a sign of hope that a Jewish kingdom would follow Antiochus and that it would reflect a firm connection with God. This partially occurred with the Hasmonean Kingdom (142-63 BC) which followed the Maccabean rebellion. Yet only partially and as we have seen Daniel was very aware of the foibles of leaders and understood that the Justice of God will be fully seen only in the resurrection of the dead. There is a tension in Daniel between worldly and other worldly leadership that is both creative and perceptive. Not only were the Hasmoneans not effective or just rulers, but they were removed by the Romans who eventually installed the family of King Herod.

Perhaps because of this failure, post-Roman occupation Jews began to see the Son of Man as a fully otherworldly figure. Jesus builds on this and uses the title the Son of Man very effectively. It is not as fixed as Messiah and as we will see many times, including next week’s Gospel, He will adapt it for his own needs. (Luke 21:25-28)

But there are at least two things to learn from the original tension.

As we have seen in our most recent election cycles, religious language can be used by many politicians without a real connection to God. Words are not enough nor are necessary political skills. We have the right – indeed the obligation – to ask for more.  Democracy and the separation of Church and State are gifts to be cherished, but a lively connection with the living God is an even greater if rarer one. We need to search out, encourage and reward with public office those who we can find in our own community and those of other faith groups that bring this dimension.

The task may be more necessary, but it has become a bit easier. This year we have seen many women entering the political pool of candidates potentially doubling the number of recruits. There are more than representative (White, Christian and Jewish) men from whom to choose and build a society that is more representative of the “Son of Man”. It is He who ultimately will return on clouds to judge our efforts. (Luke 21:27)