4th Sunday Ordinary Time – Called to be Faithful

Reminder: Bishop’s Visit at the 9 AM Mass this Sunday. Please join us to welcome Bishop DiMarzio. As it is the Feast of St. Blaise, the traditional Blessing of the Throats will be offered en globo – we can all use the help at this time of the year.

From Pope Francis:

Moreover, in the social web identity is too often based on opposition to the other, the person outside the group: we define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice (ethnic, sexual, religious and other). This tendency encourages groups that exclude diversity, that even in the digital environment nourish unbridled individualism which sometimes ends up fomenting spirals of hatred. In this way, what ought to be a window on the world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism…

“Message from the Holy Father Francis for the 53rd World Day of Social Communications”

http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2019/01/24/190124b.html

 

Update on Renovations: Continue reading “4th Sunday Ordinary Time – Called to be Faithful”

3rd Sunday Ordinary Time – Reading the Law, Recognizing Reform

Sacraments:

Infant Baptisms:

Infant Baptisms are normally scheduled for the 11:15 Mass on Sundays. The next Baptism will be on February 24th. There will be no Baptisms on Sunday during Lent. The next Sunday Baptism will be on Easter Sunday, April 21st at the 11:15 Mass. There will be no Baptisms on April 28th. The regular schedule will begin again on Sunday, May 26th.

If your family is unable to attend on these dates, we will try to accommodate another, non-Sunday, date. A required Parent Class is held on the 2nd Sunday of each month.

Marriage:

Please contact Fr Smith as soon as possible. A destination wedding still requires the Parish to collect the documents and provide the instruction.

 

Lent Faith-Sharing Groups

Again for this coming Lent, St. Charles is organizing small groups of individuals who would like to participate in prayer, reading and reflection on scripture, and discussion of our faith, in preparation for Easter.  Past participants will tell you it is a great experience!  Sessions meet weekly starting after Ash Wednesday (March 6) and concluding before Holy Thursday (April 17).  They last about an hour and there is no need to attend every session.  One group will meet Sundays at 8 am –you can join that group, or we’ll schedule groups for any other time there is demand!  If interested, please sign up on the sheets in the back of the church, or contact Jane Olson ([email protected]) or contact the rectory.

Food Pantry Collection:

Last weekend, in addition to the canned food donated at the back of the church, we collected $2,050.00 to help replenish the Catholic Charities’ Food Pantries. On behalf of Msgr. LoPinto, we are truly grateful for your contributions. Let us pray that people will come to their senses and this will never be necessary again.

Reminders:

Meet & Greets after each Mass this Sunday, January 27 – coffee and breakfast after 9 am and 11:15 am Masses; wine and cheese after 7 pm Mass.

Bishop’s Visit – Bishop DiMarzio will be celebrating the 9 am Mass next Sunday, February 3. Please come to welcome him to our parish.

 

 

First Reading:

Third Sunday of the Year

Jan 27, 2019

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

 

Many times in the last few months we have read from the prophets who accompanied the Jews returning to Jerusalem after the exile in Babylon. Today we will read from Nehemiah, a Jewish layman who was governor of Jerusalem around 425 BC. Although not a historian in our sense of the word, he does provide a wider context than the prophets. Also, as an administrator, he provides another perspective.

He is usually and correctly linked with Ezra. Ezra was a priest who reestablished worship, and as we will see today reemphasized the power and meaning of the Law. Ezra would have begun his work In Jerusalem around 450 BC but he is usually depicted as working with Nehemiah. The section we read today is narrated by Nehemiah, but speaks of the activities of Ezra.

At this point in Nehemiah’s story, the walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt and what we would now call an income stream established to maintain them. Now that safety has been assured, there were no more excuses for religious laxity. So:

2 On the first day of the seventh month, therefore, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. Nehemiah 8:2

The seventh month is not chosen accidentally. It is a time of festivals: the “Day of Atonement” and “Feast of Booths”. The feast of Booths celebrates the first Exodus in which the Jews were freed and given the law to sustain and guide then. The Jews have again experienced an Exodus and will again receive the law.

This is to be all people – “men, women, and those children old enough to understand”. They will be asked to make a commitment to God and to themselves. Ezra then reads the Law to them. This depiction may sound familiar for two reasons:

First, we have seen it before. King Josiah in the time of Jeremiah (622 BC) “found” a copy of the Law when renovating the temple which had been lost to the people and called them together to read it to them. (2 Kings) Ezra is seen indeed as the new Moses and he or his disciples provided the final revisions of the Torah – or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible – and the historical books such as Kings.

Also, people who have attended Synagogue services will see great similarities to the synagogue services of today. Ezra stood on a raised platform with community leaders on either side, opened the Torah and interpreted it for them. Please note that we do not know when synagogue services began, but the Law as the means by which the People are maintained is a legacy of the exile when they did not have temple worship. Although they now have the temple again, they recognize that most Jews will be unable to participate in its worship and that emphasis needs to be placed in local communities. This becomes more important when the priests of the temple are found to be so corrupt that even if the sacrifice offered there is valid, it is less and less satisfying.

9 Then (Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and) Ezra the priest-scribe (and the Levites who were instructing the people) said to all the people: “Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep”- for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. Nehemiah 8:9

The reading of the Law was not without effect. We must remember that there was much grumbling among the people about the difficult conditions. This of course is reflected in the discontent of the ancestors as they left Egypt and in the desert “yearned for its fleshpots”. The immediate reaction to the reading of the Law was recognition and remorse.

Thus, the importance of both Nehemiah, the “civil” authority, and Ezra, the “religious”, assuring the people that God is forgiving and that they should receive the Law with joy and celebrate it, not with sack cloth and ashes, but with a feast.

This is key, but Nehemiah has more to teach us. After he established security and assisted Ezra in a religious revival, he returned to Persia. Those whom he placed in positions of importance were not able to lead the people and they became lax in observing the Law. Their faults included working on the sabbath, insufficient care of the temple and the unjust withholding of wages from the temple workers. Upon his return, Nehemiah addressed these failings quickly and efficiently.

This reminds us of some issues about reform. Reform begins when people realize that the previous ways of doing things no longer work. This can be for many reasons, but the recognition of malfunction is always the same. It can also be addressed in many ways, but however sincere the intention, the work is not completed until it has been institutionalized. The boring details of who reports to whom, how long does someone serve and the countless other items of procedure and administration are critical for success. Even then reform requires constant vigilance and commitment.

We see this all around us. Our system of government requires people to enter public service. This is ironic at best to say when many who supply key services for us have been asked to work without pay. This is a frightening example of institutional failure.

Let us look at the church. My generation grew up with Second Vatican Council. We were filled with hope and expectation of miraculous change. But many of us did not take law and the simple running of the machine seriously. It didn’t seem important until 2002 when we realized that we did not have an institutional response to clerical abuse.

The Jews returned to Jerusalem with great prophets, but they would not have succeeded without committed administrators. Neither will we.

 

2nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Lord of Time; King of Now

Food Pantry
As a result of the Government Shutdown, many federal employees (including our own parishioners) have had to resort to food pantries and other meal support. If the shutdown continues through February, SNAP/Food Stamps will not be distributed in March, which will place even more people in need. 

Catholic Charities’s food supplies have been particularly depleted over the past week. Msgr. LoPinto has asked us to make an emergency appeal for canned food donations. Please bring your donations to the back of the church after Mass or you may bring them to the Rectory during the week. Alternatively, you can donate online at https://stcharlesbklyn.weshareonline.org/CatholicCharitiesFoodPantry . 100% of your donation will be used for Catholic Charities’ Food Pantry.

If you are in need of food, visit the Catholic Charities Food Pantry in our parish at 191 Joralemon Street, 1st Floor (around the corner from the Church) on Thursdays from 9:30 AM – 3 PM. A list of other Catholic Charities’ sites and times of operation are at https://www.ccbq.org/what-we-do/taxonomy/term/13/food-pantry-services.

Sergio Sandi – Beethoven Sonatas Recital – Saturday, January 19th, 7:30 PM at the church.
Suggested donation $10. See here for more information.

Meet & Greets – Sunday, January 27 after each Mass
Our next Meet & Greets will be next Sunday, January 27. We will be offering coffee and breakfast after the 9 and 11:15 AM Masses, and wine and cheese after the 7 PM Mass. Please join us for hospitality and fellowship!

Bishop’s Visit – Sunday, February 3, 9 AM
Bishop DiMarzio will be visiting St. Charles on Sunday, February 3rd, and will be celebrating the 9 AM Mass that day. Please join us to welcome him together as a parish community that morning. While we will still have the 11:15 AM and 7 PM Masses as usual, it’s also Super Bowl Sunday, so perhaps the 9 AM Mass will best fit your schedule that day.

Winter Storm Warning
Snow, ice, and high winds are forecast for Saturday night and Sunday. We anticipate all Masses and activities to be held as scheduled, but please take into account your personal safety in your travel decisions.

 

First Reading

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 62:1-5

 

Today’s reading from Isaiah is remarkably uplifting poetry, all the more amazing in that it is essentially a motivational talk to encourage the Judeans to plant crops and pay taxes. It is, though, more powerful than that.

We have read Isaiah many times in Advent and Christmastide and have discovered that several people used the name, and the one we read today wrote around 500 BC from Jerusalem. He was among the Jewish leaders who accepted the invitation of King Cyrus of Persia to leave Babylon and return to a devastated Jerusalem. When there, they could rebuild their temple and nation. Whatever romantic illusions they may have had were set to rest by the realities. Funding was never as great as they desired, those who took over the land in their absence –the Samaritans – were first suspicious and then hostile and the sheer extent of the task proved very discouraging. They were also reminded that they were a very small part of a very large empire which demanded taxes for its treasury and food for its soldiers.

In the section immediately after what we read today, we hear:

8 The LORD has sworn by his right hand

and by his mighty arm:

No more will I give your grain

as food to your enemies;

Nor shall foreigners drink your wine,

for which you toiled.

9 But you who harvest the grain shall eat it,

and you shall praise the LORD;

You who gather the grapes shall drink the wine

in the courts of my sanctuary. Isaiah 62:8–9

 

From this we may infer that the food grown by the newly restored Judeans was taken by the Persian authorities, and Isaiah is assuring them that God will help them.

Today, we hear Isaiah call to his people.

 For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,

 and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,

 until her vindication emerges in brightness,

 and her salvation as a flaming torch

 

He is repeating the familiar idea of reversal.  The Jews were once captive but will now be so changed that they will need a new name:

Nations shall behold your vindication,

and all kings your glory;

You shall be called by a new name

pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.

3 You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,

a royal diadem held by your God.

4 No more shall men call you “Forsaken,”

or your land “Desolate,” Isaiah 62:2–4

 

Yet not any new name, Jerusalem will become the “wife” of God himself:

 

But you shall be called “My Delight,”

and your land “Espoused.”

For the LORD delights in you,

and makes your land his spouse.

5 As a young man marries a virgin,

your Builder shall marry you;

And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride

so shall your God rejoice in you. Isaiah 62:5

Isaiah is telling his people that that they must deepen their understanding of their relationship with God. It is not a contract or an arrangement. It is a covenant in the deepest sense: God and his people will share a common life. This is the motivation to continue to rebuild the temple and reestablish the people: a call to the deepest intimacy,

This has taken on a very contemporary resonance. The (ongoing) shutdown of government has many people, including some of our own parishioners, working at very critical jobs without pay. As these are people with options – indeed may have taken a reduction in salary to serve the public sector – we should thank them for their service, but still might wonder – why they are doing this? Some I would assume are responding to a vision that motivates them to do more than what makes common sense. There are, thank God, people in every age who do.

This week we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Every biography of Dr King notes the shear amount of detail work he had to do to accomplish his goals. By any purely rational calculus he and those who followed him were squandering their lives. Yet, he articulated a vision that made it seem not only a reasonable, but a natural course of action.

I reread Dr King’s “Letter form a Birmingham Jail” every year at this time. It is addressed to well-meaning white clergymen who felt that Dr King was impatient and that as he was on the right side of history, he only had to wait. One favorite section below is a reminder to all of us in a difficult time about inevitably:

“… The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

When we hear a prophet like Isaiah or MLK, we need to ask about our own vision both as individuals and as a Parish. Both knew that God was on their side, but that if He was kind and merciful, they must be just and wise. Scripture says: “Where there is not vision the people die”. (Proverbs 29:18) This is a diagnosis, but also a prescription. It requires us to look at what we believe, but for the prophets emerging from the Hebrew bible, it requires us to examine how closely our vision compares to the Word of God. If the vision is ours alone, we shall be both desolate and forsaken; if it is God’s, we shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem held by our God.