Pentecost Sunday – First Reading Commentary

Why the geese?
Wild geese were the ancient Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit .
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(Photo by Bahram Bayat on Unsplash)

Acts 2:1–11

The celebration of Feast of Pentecost brings together the literary brilliance of St. Luke and the ancient wisdom of Israel. The last element perhaps of more contemporary relevance than we might immediately think.

Luke understood himself to be writing a work of history. He did not follow the same conventions as a modern historian but his were clear and, once understood, could give a deep insight into the people and situations of the day. Luke’s work is in two parts: the “Gospel” and the “Acts.” The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, at the beginning of Acts, is the hinge. Luke, like a good historian of his day, would be very careful to have many links between the two works and indeed between the beginning of Acts and further sections. Continue reading “Pentecost Sunday – First Reading Commentary”

Volunteering with Catholic Charities

Bag packing at Catholic Charities: I would like to thank those who have volunteered to pack groceries for the food insecure on Thursday Mornings at 8:45 at the main office of Catholic Charities. (191 Joralemon Street). This is a wonderful way for people who live within walking distance to help our neighbors. This location feeds about 200 families throughout the week with the largest number on Thursday Mornings. Please let me (Fr. Smith) know if you wish to help. It is about 90 mins of intense work.

 Pop up Centers: The weekly ‘Pop up” food pantries however dispense food for over 1700 families. This is growing and more volunteers are needed every week to pack and distribute the food. The next “Pop ups” will be Continue reading “Volunteering with Catholic Charities”

7th Sunday of Easter – Sharing in Suffering and a Connection to Jesus

The Women at Christ’s Tomb and the Ascension (The “Reidersche Tafel”), Rome c. 400 AD
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Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 24, 2020
1 Peter 4:13–16

There is much that separates us from St Peter’s original audience. They lived almost 2,000 years ago in what is now Turkey. They would have originally been pagans and owed obedience to the Roman Emperor. But perhaps the key difference, spiritually, is that they expected to suffer for their faith, while we are shocked at the very thought of suffering for our faith. Continue reading “7th Sunday of Easter – Sharing in Suffering and a Connection to Jesus”

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading – “See How These Christians Love One Another”

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2020
1 Peter 3:15–18

Lucian of Samosata was a Roman Satirist who flourished around 180 AD. He would be a combination of Jay Leno and P.G. Woodhouse. He is mostly remembered now because of his satirical portrait of Christians and writing the first known work of Science Fiction. He thought that because Christians believed that, through the resurrection they had a literally new life both now and in heaven, they were extremely reckless and incurably gullible. The Christian would accept death rather than offering a bit of incense up to the gods but also would care for just about anyone without the simplest background check. His “Passing of Peregrinus” is still, I must admit, funny. He, quite possibly, coined the expression “See how these Christians love one another.”

It was not a compliment. Continue reading “Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading – “See How These Christians Love One Another””

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading

Fifth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:4–9
May 10, 2020

In today’s reading St Peter says “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pt. 2:5). We, who are accustomed to using Priest only for those ordained, may find this curious to say the least. The original hearers would have as well and for the same reason. We are all gentiles and to understand this passage we need to first comprehend the Jewish idea of covenant.

A covenant is an agreement that is more than a contract. It is a pledge to share life. A tribe would make a covenant with a King for protection or a nomadic chieftain with a landowner for grazing land. These were both life and death issues and the covenant was sealed by a meal to show its seriousness. An animal was sacrificed, and the parties ate it to share that life. Covenants require priests and the person who offered the sacrifice and recited the terms of the agreement acted as a priest. The nature of the priesthood depends upon the covenant. Uniquely, the Hebrews showed their fidelity to their covenant not only or even principally by offering sacrifices and gifts, but rather by adopting a way of life. Thus, obeying the law was the principal sacrifice. Continue reading “Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading”

Good Shepherd Sunday – Seeking the Hope Within

The Good Shepherd, c. 300–350, at the Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome (Wikipedia)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:20B–25
May 3, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the entire world to a standstill. This has caused considerable dislocation in every area of every society and has provided an opportunity to re-evaluate attitudes and world views. With the Internet, spokespeople for every philosophy and religion, new and old, have emerged to take advantage of this situation. Many of these are charlatans and huskers, but some intelligent and reasonable views have been raised. One of these is about the oldest: Stoicism.

We looked at the Stoics by comparing their view of fate with that of the great Jewish sage Ben Sirach. Fate was irresistible and unchangeable and the question for the Stoic is how to approach the inevitable. A Stoics facing the pandemic first ask, “Is what is happening to me under my control?” The Stoic answer is that the existence or non-existence of the disease, who will or will not contract it, and who will or will not die is simply not under our control. In the words of the great Stoic philosopher Epictetus: “I should be indifferent to things beyond my control. They are nothing to me. —Discourses 1.29.24.” Continue reading “Good Shepherd Sunday – Seeking the Hope Within”

3rd Sunday of Easter – Getting Our Hands Dirty in Love

Supper at Emmaus, Matthias Stom, 1633-1639


Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
1st Letter of Peter 1:17–21
April 26, 2020

This week we continue our examination of the 1st Letter of St. Peter. We saw last week that either Peter or a close associate who felt comfortable using his name wrote from Rome to converts in what is now Turkey around 70 AD. He began this letter by offering hope and today he will be more specific on where this hope rests.

As gentiles, they would have been struck by the idea of creation that Christians took from Jews. That a loving God brought the world into being would have been foreign perhaps unbelievable to them. Indeed, even now when we look at the world, it seems difficult to believe that it was made by all-loving and all-powerful being. There is simply so much evil in it that the alternative views that “creation” came from accident, greed, or outright hatred may seem far more likely.

Yet they made this decision and creation has its consequences. Once we accept that we were made intentionally and out of love, there are other things we will need to accommodate into our lives.

Continue reading “3rd Sunday of Easter – Getting Our Hands Dirty in Love”