2nd Sunday of Lent – Look at the Stars


The first session of lecture, prayer and discussion on the Crucifixion met last Thursday. It was wonderful seeing members of St Charles and Grace Church praying and discussing a matter of our common faith so intently together. You may find the Podcast of the address and the music at our website here. I hope you will find the talk enlightening and the music uplifting, but the most valuable part of the evening was the discussion. This is the kind of topic which calls out for an examination from as many perspectives as possible. I hope that you will be able to attend next Thursday’s session at Grace Church and add your heart and voice to our Lenten journey.

(A question on Gnosticism arose at the meeting; you will find an excellent article on this at the end of this post.)

Fr. Bill and Rev. Dr. Allen F. Robinson, Rector of Grace Church Brooklyn Heights at “The Crucifixion” lecture on March 14.


I will be celebrating my 40th Anniversary of Priestly Ordination on Sunday, March 31st at the 11:15 AM Mass. I ask for your prayers and thank you for the tremendous affection and support you have shown me in my relatively brief time at St Charles. As this is Lent, there will be no reception or other commemoration. I expect to be alive for my 50th Anniversary and will have something then.

– Fr Bill


Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 15:5–12, 17–18


Today we read a section from the 15th chapter of Genesis. It is the origin story of the Jewish people. Dating the portrayed events – much less separating fact from legend – is essentially impossible. Memories would have been passed down for a millennium before they were written down about 500 BC. Along the way they would have been influenced by historical events, theological assumptions, and real estate conflicts. What we shall see, however, is that the Jews could not understand themselves without prophecy and covenant.
Continue reading “2nd Sunday of Lent – Look at the Stars”

1st Sunday of Lent – Enter to Give Thanks

Upcoming events this week

  • Living Lent Prayer Groups: 2 groups meeting at 8 am and 6 pm at the Rectory starting this Sunday
  • Book Club: in the Sacristy after the 11:15 AM Mass this Sunday. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Latham 
  • Eucharistic Adoration: Weekdays from 9 am – noon. Spend an hour with Jesus.
  • Media & Communications Committee Meeting: Monday at 7 PM at the Rectory

Think Out of the Box:
See what you can do to Celebrate, Reflect, Worship, Connect and Act! Download our flyer with all of our opportunities this Lent:
Lent Flyer 2019 – St. Charles Borromeo

The Crucifixion: prayer and discussion series

Thursdays at 7 PM from 3/14 – 4/4

Every week at Mass we make our Profession of Faith and say: “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death and was buried.”.

Would your relationship with Jesus be any different if we proclaimed instead that he died by hanging or decapitation?

Together with our neighbors at Grace Church we will examine why the Crucifixion is so important in knowing and loving Jesus and in our own attempts to follow him. We will use Fleming Rutledge’s stunning book “The Crucifixion” as our text, but compliment this with prayer and discussion. We are most happy to have Fr. Allen Robinson, the Rector of Grace Church, joining us here at St. Charles and inviting us to continue our exploration at Grace Church next week. The first lecture/discussion will be at St. Charles this Thursday. A light collation will be served at 7:00 PM.

150th Anniversary of the Church Building

As many of you may be aware, St. Charles Borromeo Parish was founded in 1849 and the original church building was on the site of what is now Mary McDowell Friends High School. The original church edifice was badly damaged by fire in 1868 and the parish moved into our current home on May 23, 1869.

So this Memorial Day weekend will be the 150th Anniversary of our beloved St. Charles church building. To celebrate and commemorate this important hallmark in our parish and community history, we will be holding an anniversary celebration on the following weekend, June 2. There will be food and beverages, live performances, icebreakers, games, and so much more! Our goal is to host an event that will be enjoyable for every member of our parish family. In order to make this possible, we are looking to recruit some volunteers (meaning it is a short term commitment) to help us plan and execute our celebration. If you are interested in participating and helping plan the celebration, please speak to me after mass or email [email protected]


First Reading
First Sunday of Lent
Deuteronomy 26:4–10


The book of Deuteronomy is the last book of the Pentateuch or Torah – the first five books of the Bible. It is written as discourses by Moses to the Israelites as they are about to enter the promised land. This would have been about 1250 BC. But as we have seen when we have discussed the Pentateuch, its final edition was around 500 BC after a substantial number of the Jewish leadership returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. We will need to keep both these experiences in mind as we read today’s passage.

1 “When you have come into the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage, and have occupied it and settled in it, 2 you shall take some first fruits of the various products of the soil which you harvest from the land which the LORD, your God, gives you, and putting them in a basket, you shall go to the place which the LORD, your God, chooses for the dwelling place of his name. (D 26:1-2)

It is assumed here that Joshua has successfully invaded the land and that the Israelites have become farmers. This would mean that they are settlers and are able to have a permanent sanctuary – place of worship and a permanent priesthood. As herders they would not have had a place of worship but would have offered sacrifice whenever and wherever they could. They would also not have had a permanent and hereditary priesthood, but the sacrifices would have been offered by the chief or clan leader. This is a fundamentally different world.

3 There you shall go to the priest in office at that time and say to him, ‘Today I acknowledge to the LORD, my God, that I have indeed come into the land which he swore to our fathers he would give 4 The priest shall then receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God. Deuteronomy 26:4 (NAB)

Having been given the land the Jew is to live in a state of permanent thanksgiving and their rituals as we read today were designed to celebrate this.

The first part is telling the story.

5 Then you shall declare before the LORD, your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong and numerous. .’ Deuteronomy 26:5 (NAB)

They entered Egypt as a clan, not really a nation. In Egypt they prospered and because of their common worship became a people. They were then oppressed, but saved by the power of God. Now they offer thanks to God for their deliverance, prosperity, and community.

10 Therefore, I have now brought you the first fruits of the products of the soil which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And having set them before the LORD, your God, you shall bow down in his presence. Deuteronomy 26:10

Our selection for Mass ends here but the celebration of thanksgiving continues with a meal:

11 Then you and your family, together with the Levite and the aliens who live among you, shall make merry over all these good things which the LORD, your God, has given you. Deuteronomy 26:11

As with the more formal temple worship that will develop after Solomon, the offering – sacrifice – ends with a meal. The situation assumes a very prosperous farmer. Note that he has a family and a Levite – house priest. Note especially that as the Jews were once aliens, they are commanded to bring those aliens among them to their thanksgiving table.

Thanksgiving must be shared and the passage which follows this speaks of a special tithe every three years:

12 “When you have finished setting aside all the tithes of your produce in the third year, the year of the tithes, and you have given them to the Levite, the alien, the orphan and the widow, that they may eat their fill in your own community, 13 you shall declare before the LORD, your God, ‘I have purged my house of the sacred portion and I have given it to the Levite, the alien, the orphan and the widow, just as you have commanded me. In this I have not broken or forgotten any of your commandments.

Notice that the care of those who have been ignored or dispossessed is not “charity” or a matter of discretion, but a commandment and thus a matter of Justice. It is part of the covenant that has and is as important and essential as sacrifice itself.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the next section recommits the people to that covenant:

This day the LORD, your God, commands you to observe these statutes and decrees. Be careful, then, to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.

17 Today you are making this agreement with the LORD: he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees, and to hearken to his voice.

18 And today the LORD is making this agreement with you: you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you; and provided you keep all his commandments,

19 he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations he has made, and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God, as he promised.” Deuteronomy 26:16–19

This would have been especially important to the Jews struggling to restore the temple but also their way of life in Jerusalem. They needed to be reminded that they must maintain proper worship and that meant one centered on gratitude to God and inclusion of all. It also meant that worship could be conducted with great solemnity and precision, but if it was not matched by care of the poor and obedience to the commandments, it would be not only ineffective but blasphemous. They would not be peculiarly the people of God.

So indeed, it is with us. The world Eucharist means “to give thanks”, and we do so for greater reason than the Jews and to celebrate a deeper freedom. Our Exodus is not to a promised land but to a new existence.

8th Sunday Ordinary Time – Wisdom and Worship

Reminder: Marti Gras Meet & Greets after each Mass tomorrow – serving King Cake, beads and fellowship.

Ash Wednesday – March 6
Day of Fast and Abstinence

Mass with Ashes
At the Church: 7 AM, 12:10 PM, 7 PM
At Pierrepont House (55 Pierrepont St): 1:30 PM

Families & Children Service with Ashes: 4 PM

Confessions available:
after the 7:00 AM Mass
before and after the 12:10 Mass.
before and after the 4:00 PM service
from 7:00 PM until the last person leaves

Think Out of the Box: see what you can do to Celebrate, Reflect, Worship, Connect and Act this Lent. Share our flyer attached here: Lent Flyer 2019 – St. Charles Borromeo

Special Mass for Victims of Clergy Abuse

There will be a Mass for victims of abuse this

Saturday March 9, 2019 at Noon at the Church 

First reading

Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time

March 3, 2019

Sirach 27:4-7


It is a general if not quite universal characteristic of elites that they wish not only local acclaim, but to be recognized as a member of cosmopolitan or even international leadership. This is revealed by common taste and shared ideas. A good hotel in Seville will provide the same services and amenities and look much the same as another in New York. There might be some nods to local customs and taste, but the toiletries are all the same.  There may be some changes in emphasis on major ideas, but cultural elites strive to attain commonality if not unanimity on the basics. The “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” of the United Nations was signed in 1948 by 46 of the then 58 members with none voting against it. There were different interpretations as subsequent history has shown, but there was nonetheless a common language

We see this as well in the Bible. The cultural elite of the ancient near east – which encompassed Egypt, Assyria and Babylon as well as the Israelites – prided themselves by living by wisdom.  This usually consisted of the sayings of sages and wise men commenting on how to live a good and virtuous life. We find this wisdom in Proverbs, Job, The Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and some of the Psalms. There are some references to the Jews’ particular understanding of God, but very little that an Egyptian or Persian follower of wisdom could not agree. The Torah or Prophets were not quoted in any explicit way. This was true for so long that dating the origin of these sayings is almost impossible.

Until the Greeks. After the conquests of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) and the kingdoms which followed, a radically different world view emerged. Often called Hellenism, it was the official way of life of the cultural elite of the Greek Kingdoms. This included the Seleucid Empire which ruled Judea, and the elite of Jerusalem would be enticed to embrace it.

This is where we are today with Sirach. He lived most likely in Jerusalem around 200 BC; he is one of the great intellectual and cultural heroes of Judaism. He understood the threat to the integrity of his faith and became a teacher of the young Jewish elite. Think of him as the earliest Jesuit: give me a boy and I will make the man.

Although he was a man who could quote Homer and the sages of Egypt, he did not seek merely to show that Jewish wisdom was compatible with that of the Greeks. If he played by those rules, the young men would soon give up Judaism. He taught that what the Greeks called wisdom or philosophy needed the revealed word of God and the worship of the God of Israel to be complete.

At the very beginning of the Book Sirach says:

1 All wisdom comes from the LORD

and with him it remains forever.

5 To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?

Who knows her subtleties?

6 There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,

seated upon his throne:

7 It is the LORD; he created her,

has seen her and taken note of her.


This is a forthright statement about the connection between wisdom and the God of Israel. It would have been considered a development over previous understandings but not a radical shift. Note however the following:

1 How different the man who devotes himself

to the study of the law of the Most High!

He explores the wisdom of the men of old

and occupies himself with the prophecies;


Sirach 39:1


The study of the law would previously have been considered too provincial to be “Wisdom”. A young cosmopolitan would never have quoted it even among Jewish friends.


5 He travels among the peoples of foreign lands

to learn what is good and evil among men.

6 His care is to seek the LORD, his Maker,

to petition the Most High,

To open his lips in prayer,

to ask pardon for his sins.

Then, if it pleases the LORD Almighty,

he will be filled with the spirit of understanding;

He will pour forth his words of wisdom

and in prayer give thanks to the LORD

Sirach 39:5–6 (NAB)

Sirach goes further. If the young aristocrat were to travel, he should seek to learn from all. Remember, Sirach did not distain what we would call secular learning but must always judge it by the traditions of his people. When he does so he realizes that the LORD offers him a covenant and a relationship.  Therefore, he must pray – converse with Him –  and realize that he can be forgiven. Thus, wisdom can enter his life.

Recognizing this relationship with the Lord he emphases, as no other Jewish wisdom teacher did, the importance of temple worship. Nowhere else do we see a call to revere the Temple worship and the priesthood:

29 With all your soul, fear God,

revere his priests.

30 With all your strength, love your Creator,

forsake not his ministers.

31 Honor God and respect the priest;

give him his portion as you have been commanded:

First fruits and contributions,

due sacrifices and holy offerings. Sirach 7:29–31 (NAB)

But as the prophets he does not believe that the mere saying of words of offering and the right sacrifice is enough. Justice and charity are needed to complete worship. This is the essence of wisdom.

1 To keep the law is a great oblation,

and he who observes the commandments sacrifices a peace offering.

2 In works of charity one offers fine flour,

and when he gives alms he presents his sacrifice of praise
Sirach 35:1–2

The Law, worship, and charity is the background and context for everything in Sirach even in the most secular parts. Today’s reading is in a section on business dealings. Sirach is not pro-business: he thinks that it leads to injustice and greed. He often heavy-handedly suggests that his young students enter public service. Nonetheless, he offers shrewd advice.

The chapter begins with:

1 For the sake of profit many sin,

and the struggle for wealth blinds the eyes.

2 Like a peg driven between fitted stones,

between buying and selling sin is wedged in.

3 Unless you earnestly hold fast to the fear of the LORD,

suddenly your house will be thrown down.
Sirach 27:1–3

It is by following the law of God and maintaining worship that we can engage in business but one we should always be on guard: assume dishonesty and let people reveal themselves in their speech.

5 As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace,

so in his conversation is the test of a man.

6 The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;

so too does a man’s speech disclose the bent of his mind.

Sirach 27:5–6

It has been my good fortune to know many people with different religious beliefs than mine or indeed no explicitly religious belief at all. They are good people whose moral behavior would not have significantly differed from my own and in some cases demonstrated superior virtue. What is the difference? I think, indeed hope and pray, that my acts reveal more than anything about me, but about the LORD whom I worship. As Sirach has shown us, Wisdom and Worship are inseparable, and in the acts of the believer reveal not the presence of personal virtue as much as the presence of the source of virtue.

7th Sunday Ordinary Time – Doing the Right Thing

A Note to Parishioners

Last week, the Diocese of Brooklyn published a list of over a hundred priests who have been creditably accused of molesting children since 1916. Fr. Charles Kraus who served as pastor of St Charles from 1989–2007 was on that list. He was in the section of those for whom the accusations were made and investigated only after their deaths. Although “credible” is open to several interpretations, those who have performed the investigations are well respected professionals and there is no reason to doubt their conclusions. Although many, if not most, of our parishioners were not members of the Parish during his tenure, a good proportion of us, whether from this Diocese or not, will discover that at least one priest we know will be revealed as a predator. I am one of you. A priest who I grew up calling Uncle and who was a great and positive influence on me was also on that list. I am devastated.

Let me first assure everyone that St. Charles has instituted every procedure mandated by the Diocesan Safe Environment office. Maureen Pond and her staff at the Parish Religious Education Office are to be particularly commended for their diligence. We all commit ourselves to continuing vigilance.

We must also pray for those who have been victimized. The Diocese has an annual Mass of hope and healing for the survivors. This year it will be at St. Athanasius Church on April 30th Further information will follow. We will also have a Mass for everyone touched by this horror at St. Charles on the first Saturday of Lent – March 9th – at 12:00 Noon. For hope, we too need healing.


First Reading

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Feb 24, 2019

1 Samuel 26: 7-9, 12-13, 22-23


We return today to the world of the prophet Samuel and the beginnings of kingship in Israel. Let us briefly review the situation. After the Israelites had settled in the Promised Land, around 1250 BC, they formed a confederation of tribes. These were independent but would form alliances when there was an external threat. This worked for almost 140 years, but by 1100, foreign powers – especially the Philistines – obtained superior weapons and were more efficiently organized. In order to respond effectively they needed a centralized government, which at that time meant a king. As we said previously, the Scriptures were ambivalent at best about kingship, but the books of Samuel make it clear that God’s people must always be led by God.

The first king is Saul. He is a formidable warrior and military commander. He improves the states’ fighting ability but does not set up structures of government. He organizes an army but not a court. He is acting like a chieftain not a king, both administratively and spiritually.

This is shown by the incomprehensible destruction of the city of Amalek.

8 He took Agag, king of Amalek, alive, but on the rest of the people he put into effect the ban of destruction by the sword. 9 He and his troops spared Agag and the best of the fat sheep and oxen, and the lambs. They refused to carry out the doom on anything that was worthwhile, dooming only what was worthless and of no account. 1 Samuel 15:8–9 


Saul was instructed to destroy the city state of Amalek totally: a ban of destruction. He did so, but kept the king alive and took all that was worthwhile. Samuel confronts him and he lies to him. He said that he had taken the sheep and oxen to offer them as sacrifice to God. After Samuel pressures him, he admits the real reason:


24 Saul replied to Samuel: “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed the command of the LORD and your instructions. In my fear of the people, I did what they said. 1 Samuel 15:24

He shows himself a weak leader afraid of his people but also a faithless person. He reveals this by referring to God as “your God” to Samuel and “their God” to the people,  but not his God. He completely alienates himself from God when he consults a witch to contact the deceased Samuel. Samuel tells Saul that

17 The LORD has done to you what he foretold through me: he has torn the kingdom from your grasp and has given it to your neighbor David. 19 Moreover, the LORD will deliver Israel, and you as well, into the clutches of the Philistines. By tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the LORD will have delivered the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 28:17–19

This is not the first time that Saul has been told that David is to replace him, yet he does not stand aside. He does not realize that his authority comes from God. He is a king who in every way does not understand what it is to be a king.

We can now better understand today’s passage from 1 Samuel. Saul had become very jealous of David, who, although originally hired as a singer to relieve Saul’s headaches, has proven himself a capable military leader. So much so that when he returned from one particularly impressive victory:

7 The women played and sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 8 Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought: “They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship.” 1 Samuel 18:7–8


Saul is clearly showing that he has put his own feelings ahead of the kingdom. David has by this time fled the presence of Saul and gathered an army of those alienated by Saul around him. When David sees Saul’s army, he and Abishai, a trusted lieutenant

went among Saul’s soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him. 1 Samuel 26:7

Abishai sensibly suggests that they kill Saul on the spot and end David’s persecution. David says to him:

9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him, for who can lay hands on the LORD’S anointed and remain unpunished? 10 As the LORD lives,” David continued, “it must be the LORD himself who will strike him, whether the time comes for him to die, or he goes out and perishes in battle. 11 But the LORD forbid that I touch his anointed  1 Samuel 26:9–11a


They took his spear and water jug and returned to their camp. David understands and respects the meaning of kingship more than the king himself.  He particularly understands that the king was chosen, anointed and installed by God Himself and his office should be determined by God alone.


David calls over to Saul in his camp:


19 Please, now, let my lord the king listen to the words of his servant. If the LORD has incited you against me, let an offering appease him; but if men, may they be cursed before the LORD, because they have exiled me so that this day I have no share in the LORD’S inheritance, but am told: ‘Go serve other gods!’ 20 Do not let my blood flow to the ground far from the presence of the LORD. Samuel 26:19–20


Note that David’s concern is that he may be forced to serve another king and will serve their gods as well. In our terms, he may lose his faith. This God-centeredness is the major difference between David and Saul.


This week the Pope has met with the presidents of every bishops conference in the world to remind them what being a bishop is. He is a shepherd and like the good shepherd must be prepared to lay down his life for the sheep. He will always be human and thus imperfect. The Bible reveals both Saul and David to be deeply flawed men. David however is aware of his frailty and deep sinfulness as revealed by the story of Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, but he ultimately has the humility to ask for forgiveness and to recognize his responsibilities. The Bible uses this comparison again and again. Both Judas and Peter betray Jesus at the end. Both realize this, but Judas is unable to ask for forgiveness and kills himself. Peter reconciles with Jesus and becomes the first Pope. We ask this of our leaders, not that they embrace perfection, but with true humility embrace Jesus.


6th Sunday Ordinary Time – Weeping

Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse

This week Pope Francis has summoned the heads of all the Bishops’ conferences throughout the world to the Vatican for a summit on clerical sex abuse. Let us keep in our minds and hearts those who have been victimized by Priests and pray that our leaders will be open to the Holy Spirit. A prayer is provided below:

God of endless love,
ever caring, ever strong,
always present, always just:
You gave your only Son
to save us by the blood of his cross.

Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace,
join to your own suffering
the pain of all who have been hurt
in body, mind, and spirit
by those who betrayed the trust placed in them.

Hear our cries as we agonize
over the harm done to our brothers and sisters.
Breathe wisdom into our prayers,
soothe restless hearts with hope,
steady shaken spirits with faith:
Show us the way to justice and wholeness,
enlightened by truth and enfolded in your mercy.

Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts,
heal your people’s wounds
and transform our brokenness.
Grant us courage and wisdom, humility and grace,
so that we may act with justice
and find peace in you.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen

Watch Out for Email Scams

This week, people from several Brooklyn Heights organizations, including our church and other churches in the area, received emails urgently asking people to buy gift cards and send the codes via email. These all purported to be from organization leaders, but came from fraudulent email addresses. Stay safe by keeping these tips in mind:

  1. We will only ask for contributions from our online giving site on WeShare, https://stcharlesbklyn.weshareonline.org or the sites on the Diocese’s Giving page, https://dioceseofbrooklyn.org/giving/ , or we will ask donations to be physically brought to Mass or the Rectory Office.
  2. Check to see if the request comes from someone you trust: even if the From: name is someone you know, the email address may not be their address. Be wary if the message is poorly worded or does not “sound” like something the sender would write.
  3. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to independently confirm the email – give them a call or text or ask in person. You can always call the Rectory at (718) 625-1177.

Continue reading “6th Sunday Ordinary Time – Weeping”

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”



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

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


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.


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.


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.