29th Sunday Ordinary Time – Isaiah and the Undiscovered Country

Meet & Greet after Masses on 10/21

Enjoy fellowship with each other after each Mass this Sunday – coffee and pastries will be served. See flyer attached.


Update on Church Exterior Renovation

Work presence has picked up now. Mock-ups and samples are being presented to both the architect and Landmarks for approval, so materials can be ordered. Brick repair work is in progress. You will see the work gradually increase over the next several weeks until all materials are approved. That will continue in the exterior until Winter fully sets in and masonry work cannot continue. At that point other select work will take place until the weather warms enough for the masonry repairs to be completed. More detail will be provided as materials and samples are approved and work is in full swing.


Reading Matters:

A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — what gospel is that?

Preaching series of Catholic Social Teaching resource.

In 2004 at the request of Pope St John Paul 2nd, the Vatican press published the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”. The link below will connect you to the full text in English and in a very searchable format. This will allow you to explore any of the issues we have been discussing in some depth.


Note on Infant Baptisms:

There will not be Baptisms at Mass during Advent. Should this be the only time your family can attend we will make other provisions for you. Please note that the Solemnity of the Epiphany, Jan 6, falls on Sunday next Year and only Easter is a more appropriate day to be baptized.


First Reading

The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 53: 10-11


This week’s reading is from Isaiah 53 and is part of one of the “suffering servant songs”. We encountered them before when discussing Isaiah and found that they were written in Jerusalem after the return of the exiles around 520 BC. It was time of spiritual vertigo. Their temple – indeed most of Jerusalem – was destroyed by the Babylonians. An objective spectator would have thought Judaism dead and urged the Jewish leaders now in Babylon to make the best of it. Yet God though Cyrus, Prince of Persia, gave them an opportunity to start again. Enough returned to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding.

This was a great demonstration of God’s power, but the returning exiles were obviously disappointed. They expected not only the opportunity to once again offer sacrifice, but to be rewarded in more tangible ways. Yet there was no wealth to be found and they lived as homesteaders. How are they better off? What is God doing? In this reading, Isaiah gives a profound answer and one especially important for the present situation of our time and place.

This song begins with

1 Who would believe what we have heard?

To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up like a sapling before him,

like a shoot from the parched earth;

There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,

nor appearance that would attract us to him. Isaiah 53:1–2


It is important to note that the “we” here are the princes of foreign nations. This is the frame that Isaiah has decided to use, and it accomplishes two aims. It gives this an immediate international framework, prepares the reader for the conclusion, and teaches by irony. Insights which the Jews should have had first, come through foreigners and pagans.

Note as well that in the context of the Book of Isaiah the suffering servant is the people of Israel. Christians see Jesus in the suffering servant, and the New Testament makes this connection over 40 times but we will stick to the immediate context.

At first the kings look at Israel in the same way the Jews themselves did. As a defeated people Israel was “avoided by men” and “held in no esteem” 53:3.

Striking then is the change in attitude:

4 Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,

our sufferings that he endured,

While we thought of him as stricken,

as one smitten by God and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our offenses,

crushed for our sins,

Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,

by his stripes we were healed. Isaiah 53:4–5


That one person or nation could suffer for another is a new idea, but it has roots in Judaism itself with the scapegoat. The high priest places the sins of the people on the head of a goat and then

:2 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness. (Lev, 16;2)

The kings are asking the Jewish people to look at their recent history:

8 Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,

and who would have thought any more of his destiny?

When he was cut off from the land of the living,

and smitten for the sin of his people, Isaiah 53:8


They truly died as a nation; yet, even while they were in exile, prophets reminded them of their unbreakable connection with God. Recall the vision of Ezekiel:

4 Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. 6 I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD. 11 Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.” 12 Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Ezekiel 37:4-6, 11-12)

Isaiah is using the device of foreign kings to tell the people not only that they have been resurrected, but why. The speaker changes in verse 10, and Isaiah is speaking for God himself.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,

he shall see his descendants in a long life,

and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Isaiah 53:10


The purpose of Israel is not power, but presence: to be of God in the world and to accomplish God’s will. Isaiah famously says


It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,

to raise up the tribes of Jacob,

and restore the survivors of Israel;

I will make you a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)


Israel’s task is international: to bring all to the knowledge of God by living lives of righteousness. This any adult knows requires purification; although Israel was no guiltier than others because of the knowledge she has received and the task for which she is being prepared, she required punishment that was literally death and rebirth. Isaiah makes this clear at the very beginning of this section of the book:


 Comfort, comfort my people

      says your God.

     2    Speak tenderly to Jerusalem

      and declare to her

     that her term of service is over,

      that her iniquity has been pardoned,

     that she has received from the LORD’s hand

      double for all her sins. (40:1-2)


Given the events of this last summer the message of Isiah to the Church is loud, clear and painful.


The cover ups particularly concerning the rise of former Cardinal Mc Carrick reveal that we need revolution, not reform. This is not in doctrine or moral teaching. The change needs to be in pastoral practice and accountability in many areas. As this means a change in power, we can expect it to be bitterly fought.


We need to recognize what the Church is. We are not a club or self-help group. We do not exist for ourselves but for the world. Our job is not to save our souls but to be a light of the nations by bringing the good news to the poor. If we do that, we will know God here and now and live with him forever.


This is difficult and painful, and we will be taught how to do it by saints. In his homily last week for the newly canonized saints including Oscar Romero and Pope Paul the sixth, Pope Francis reflects this reality perfectly. The emphasis is mine, but the words are his:


“Let us ask for the grace always to leave things behind for love of the Lord: to leave behind wealth, the yearning for status and power, structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world. Without a leap forward in love, our life and our Church become sick from ‘complacency and self-indulgence.

“All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s word into practice in their lives, without being lukewarm, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind …. May the Lord help us to imitate their example.”



28th Sunday Ordinary Time: Wisdom is the Experience of God

Meet and Greet: Our next meet and greet will be after each Mass on 10/21. Volunteers needed to help set up – please email [email protected] if you can help.


The Bishops of the world have joined with young adults at a Synod for Youth. Before yawning, I ask you to read an excerpt from the official preliminary document, called the Instrumentum laboris

A large number of young people, mostly from highly secularized areas, are not asking the Church for anything, since they do not see her as a significant interlocutor in their lives. In fact, some of them expressly ask to be left alone, because they feel her presence to be bothersome or even irritating. This request does not stem from uncritical or impulsive scorn, but is deeply rooted in serious and respectable reasons: sexual and economic scandals […] ; the unpreparedness of ordained ministers […] ; the passive role given to young people within the Christian community; the difficulty the Church has in explaining her doctrinal and ethical stances in contemporary society.

This was not appreciated by the usual suspects, but may give many others some hope.



Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Oct 14, 2018

Wisdom 7:7-11


This week we return to the Book of Wisdom. As we have seen before, it is written as the teachings of King Solomon who lived around 1000 BC in Jerusalem, but was produced about 30 BC in Alexandria, Egypt. Its purpose was to instruct the children of the Jewish elite on living as Jews in a pagan world. The author was aware of the physical, financial and philosophical temptations that they would face, and labored to show the superiority of the traditions and beliefs of their faith.

The recent confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh has revealed, among so much else, the awful behavior of our own elites. More unpleasant for Catholics was that the behavior of students at Georgetown Prep, a leading Catholic – indeed Jesuit – prep school was indistinguishable from avowedly secular institutions. Many of our own parishioners are graduates of similar schools and have truly embodied the Jesuit desire to form “Men for Others,” but we need to ask, “What went wrong?” Does the author of Wisdom have anything positive to offer?

As we have seen, the author was deeply steeped in his own scriptures and traditions, and assumed that his listeners would at least know the basic stories. One of these featured King Solomon:

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night and said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”

6 Solomon answered: “You have shown great favor to your servant, my father David, because he behaved faithfully toward you, with justice and an upright heart; and you have continued this great favor toward him, even today, seating a son of his on his throne.

7 O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

10 The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.

11 So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this—not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right—

12 I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you. 1 Kings 3:5–12


The author is telling his readers that if they wished to be a great leader like Solomon they would need wisdom, and that no one is born with wisdom, he must ask for it and develop it. In the section immediately before what we will read at Mass:

In swaddling clothes and with constant care I was nurtured.

5 For no king has any different origin or birth,

6 but one is the entry into life for all; and in one same way

they leave it. Wisdom of Solomon 7:4–6

Our section begins with “Therefore”. Simply, a king has no special advantage over anyone else. He must pray that God give him wisdom.

7 Therefore I prayed, and prudence was given me;

I pleaded and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. Wisdom of Solomon 7:7


He sees it as more important than anything else.

8 I preferred her to scepter and throne,

And deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,

9 nor did I liken any priceless gem to her;

Because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand,

and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Wisdom of Solomon 7:8–9


It also is the most long lasting:

And I chose to have her rather than the light,

because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Wisdom of Solomon 7:10


Like Solomon, he discovered that Wisdom brings many gifts with her. In the last line of today’s passage, we read:

11 Yet all good things together came to me in her company,

and countless riches at her hands; Wisdom of Solomon 7:11


Oddly however, the next line from Wisdom was not included.


12 And I rejoiced in them all, because Wisdom is their leader,

though I had not known that she is the mother of these. Wisdom of Solomon 7:12


This line has a spiritual – perhaps even mystical – interpretation that reflects the experience, if not Solomon, of the author. The more he gave up earthly desires, the more he saw that whatever delights the world provides come from putting wisdom first. Compare this with Proverbs:


10 Receive my instruction in preference to silver,

and knowledge rather than choice gold.

11 (For Wisdom is better than corals,

and no choice possessions can compare with her.) Proverbs 8:10–11



In Proverbs, Wisdom is of great price, a bride, and a lover. But in Wisdom, she is a mother – not only the summit but the source of earthly happiness. Some writers say that for the author of Wisdom, the experience of wisdom is the experience of God.

It is this experience which matters most. Jesuit educators have been writing a great deal about the actions of their students in the Kavanaugh case. Much of it is anguished, all thoughtful, and I hope that it will bring real reform. Yet there is something missing: Us. Have we experienced wisdom and if we have, have we developed it in our lives and communicated it to younger people? Whether we have or not, we need to pray to receive it and allow wisdom to grow in our heart.


In the 9th chapter of the book of Wisdom, Solomon asks God for wisdom. Let us take to heart and put into action its last lines:


17 Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given Wisdom

and sent your holy spirit from on high?

18 And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight, and men learned what was your pleasure, and were saved by Wisdom. (Wisdom 9:17-18)


Catholic Social Doctrine Preaching Series

On Sunday, November 18, the Church will observe the second annual World Day of the Poor, a special day of prayer, reflection and action focused on those most in need. With this in mind, St. Charles has prepared a series of homilies, beginning on Sunday, September 30, designed to help reacquaint us with the seven themes of Catholic social teaching and examine ways in which these core pillars can help us turn our faith into action. Join us on a seven-week journey to deepen our faith and renew our commitment to living the Gospel!

See our flyer about the series here:

Catholic Social Doctrine-9-27-18

26th Sunday Ordinary Time – Hunger for the Spirit

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.


September 30th

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Numbers 11:25-29


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.