24th Sunday Ordinary Time – Morning after Morning

Reminders:

Meet and Greet after each Mass this Sunday, September 16.  Join us for coffee and get to know your fellow parishioners.

Media Outreach meeting September 18 at 7 PM at the Rectory. RSVP at [email protected]

Faith Sharing groups forming – sign up sheets at Mass or contact the Rectory at [email protected]

Family Faith Formation – classes for RCIA, completing sacraments, and religious education for children starting. See Fr. Smith after Mass.

 

First Reading September 16

Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 50:4c-9

 

We return today to the same world that we saw last week: Jerusalem after the return of the exiles around 520 BC. A miracle had occurred. Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed and the leaders brought into exile in Babylon. This should have been the end of the Jewish People. Yet God through the unlikely intermediary of Cyrus Prince of Persia has given them a chance to start again. Enough decided return to the ruins of Jerusalem that they could contemplate reconstruction. Yet they needed a second miracle to know why they were there.

Many seemed to believe that they would be rewarded by God for their faith in the common way of the world: comfort, wealth and power. They were living however Spartan lives in rubble as the employees of a foreign emperor. They asked Isaiah why God has abandoned them. Like their forefathers who left Egypt they began to believe they were better off in captivity.

In the passage immediately before today’s reading God answers them:

Where is the bill of divorce

with which I dismissed your mother?

Or to which of my creditors

have I sold you?

It was for your sins that you were sold,

for your crimes that your mother was dismissed. (Isaiah 50:1)

They were exiled because of their refusal to follow God but there was no bill of divorce or sale to anyone else. They were not abandoned permanently. God did not want to sever His ties with them but to chastise them. Note, however, this is not the past but the present. He is referring to them, not their forbears:

2 Why was no one there when I came?

Why did no one answer when I called?

Is my hand too short to ransom?

Have I not the strength to deliver? (50:2)

He called them to make a new Exodus following him to a new land and they did not follow with their hearts, only their bodies. Note the references to the Exodus in the next line:

Lo, with my rebuke I dry up the sea,

I turn rivers into a desert;

Their fish rot for lack of water,

and die of thirst. 50:3

 

The next line however marks a change and it is Isaiah who speaks:

 

4 The Lord GOD has given me

a well-trained tongue,

That I might know how to speak to the weary

a word that will rouse them.

Morning after morning

he opens my ear that I may hear; (50:4)

 

A better translation for “a well-trained tongue” would be the tongue of a disciple. His responsibly is not to convey information, however true, but to exhort the people to fulfill their tasks. This requires continued effort (Morning after Morning) and is not the message we might first have considered.

A key part of “Second Isaiah” are the four “suffering servant songs” in which he speaks as one who has taken on the burden of his people. This is the third. We will examine them in greater detail in Lent but let us only look at this one by itself.

5 And I have not rebelled,

have not turned back.

6 I gave my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;

My face I did not shield

from buffets and spitting.  (50:5–6)

Voluntary suffering was not common in the Old Testament, but it was not unknown. Jerimiah refers to himself as like a trusting lamb led to the slaughter. (Jer 12:19). This was however before the exile. Isaiah wishes to show them what is expected of them in this new world.

7 The Lord GOD is my help,

therefore I am not disgraced;

I have set my face like flint,

knowing that I shall not be put to shame.  (50:7–9)

 

However unpleasant life may become, he knows that God will never abandon him and dares those who thought him only oppressed to take him to court:

 

8 He is near who upholds my right;

if anyone wishes to oppose me,

let us appear together.

Who disputes my right?

Let him confront me.

9 See, the Lord GOD is my help;

who will prove me wrong?

Lo, they will all wear out like cloth,

the moth will eat them up. (50:8-9)

 

In the verse immediately following, he then addresses the people directly:

10 Who among you fears the LORD,

heeds his servant’s voice,

And walks in darkness

without any light,

Trusting in the name of the LORD

and relying on his God? (50:10)

 

He knows that they do not understand him, that they would be expected to follow God for seemingly no earthly reward does not make sense to them. But it is their role to trust God.

 

11 All of you kindle flames

and carry about you fiery darts;

Walk by the light of your own fire

and by the flares you have burnt!

This is your fate from my hand:

you shall lie down in a place of pain. (50:10–11)

If they think they are walking by light it is their own and not God’s. Their fate will be pain forever.

There are many statements to the effect that we learn by our successes when young and failures when old. God is teaching the people what he wants them to be mature disciples.

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)

The Jews were called to lead others to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They would need to learn that the required humility comes by sacrifice and suffering. It is not a lesson we want to live, but as a now deceased professor told me at 20, “wisdom makes a bloody entrance”, which I began to understand at 50 and hope to live at 70.

This is a necessary lesson for us as individuals and I think for the church as well. The prestige and power of the church have been declining for years and the recent cover up scandals will accelerate this trend. This diminishment comes at a bad time for the nation. Msgr. LoPinto and I will preach about the social teachings of the Church during the weeks preceding world day of the poor on Nov 18th. They are a valuable indeed unique way to analyze the world and create productive polices. The actual implementation of these policies through organizations such as Catholic charities allow our teachings to be made tangible. We may have great difficulties being both heard and funded. Nevertheless, the humiliation if embraced in the spirit of Isaiah can be a real purification from the root to the branch,

Next week we will read from the Book of Wisdom (2:12, 17-20) and its author will have some excellent suggestions for us, until then let us remember the words of G. K. Chesterton from his long poem, the “Ballad of the White Horse”. They may be the best commentary ever written on today’s reading:

But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark. . .

 

 

23rd Sunday Ordinary Time – Chosen Missionaries of His Love

Reading Matters: We have recently seen statements from American Bishops that are so different that they may seem that they are dueling. We need then to go to the most authoritative interpreters of Scripture and Tradition: the documents of Ecumenical Councils, officially issued Catechisms and encyclical letters and apostolic exhortations of Popes.

I would like to suggest the following: (Web sites appended)

Gaudium et spes ( Joy and Hope), the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.” (opening of English Translation) http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

 

Lumen gentium (Light of the World), the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ” (chapter 40) http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

The Catechism of the Catholic Church: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/

Evangelii gaudium (English: The Joy of the Gospel) by Pope Francis http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

 

First reading:

Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 35: 4-7b

 

We evolve; God does not. This simple truth can seem so obvious that we do not realize how significant it is. There is no “God of the Old Testament” as compared with the God of the new. There is the one “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” who with a Father’s love and care has sought to bring us to a greater maturity. Jesus expresses this beautifully when explaining why he would not permit divorce: “He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Mat 19:8)

Notice that Jesus is saying that he assumes both that their hearts are no longer as hard and that this is in accordance with the way he created humans. He is restoring us to our highest possibilities. Matthew reminds us again in chapter 5 of the great antithesis: “You have heard it said but I tell you” on topics from anger to divorce. Jesus is not only showing his power to make the law stricter, but our ability to live it more faithfully.

This can be accomplished only by the grace of Jesus and that this is the key moment; but, we should not believe that it came all at once. We see the guiding hand of God and the positive response of the people throughout the Old Testament. There are times in which the same book of the Bible or books written at approximately the same time can show several levels of development. Today’s passage is one such instance.

It is taken from the 35th chapter of the Book of Isaiah. As we have seen several times this summer there were at least 3 prophets who used the name Isaiah. We normally assume that the first 39 chapters were written by the first person to employ it in the 8th century BC.  Today is one of the exceptions and was written about 520 BC by one of the later uses after the Jewish leaders had returned from exile in Babylon to restore the temple in Jerusalem,

Time did not stand still. Although the Jews were removed from Judea, there were others who wanted it and moved to take over practical control. We are most familiar with the Samaritans, but another was the people of Edom which bordered Judea on the south. Land disputes were solved in those days by soldiers not lawyers and there was bound to be a conflict. This is reflected in chapter 34 of Isaiah.

God is pictured as summoning the nations to a court but there is no trial, just a verdict. Speaking of Edom:

their slain shall be cast out,

their corpses shall send up a stench;

The mountains shall run with their blood,

4 and all the hills shall rot;

The heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll,

and all their host shall wither away,

As the leaf wilts on the vine,

or as the fig withers on the tree. (Isaiah 34: 3-4)

 

This continues for the entire chapter and reflects the justice of God. He chastised his own people with the exile for their disobedience, now in fairness He is seen doing the same to those who took part of His holy land.

 

We read in today’s passage the corresponding blessings which obedience brings.

 

First encouragement:

 

4 Say to those whose hearts are frightened:

Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God,

he comes with vindication;

With divine recompense

he comes to save you. (35:4)

 

Vindication here means that he will show his justice to the whole world and the obedience of the Jews will be seen to have been worth the sacrifice. Being saved by divine recompense would mean being redeemed. In the Middle East, if someone was kidnapped or captured in a war, a redeemer – usually a family member – was appointed to ransom the person. God is so close to his people that he is the Redeemer and does it himself.

 

This will be experienced by everyone particularly those marginalized in their daily life.

 

5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,

the ears of the deaf be cleared;

6 Then will the lame leap like a stag,

then the tongue of the dumb will sing.  (35:5-6a)

 

But the Jews always remembered and put before all else the good of the community:

 

Streams will burst forth in the desert,

and rivers in the steppe. 

7 The burning sands will become pools,

and the thirsty ground, springs of water;

The abode where jackals lurk

will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus. (35:6b-7)

 

They will be treated justly for their obedience.

 

But one of those who felt comfortable using the name of Isaiah at the same time wrote:

 

6 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)

The Jews were to be not only recipients of divine justice, but also missionaries of His love. God’s love is beyond borders or race, class, nationality or any other wall we can construct.

This was not an ideocracy of Isaiah; we see an even more decisive statement at about the same time from the book of Zechariah:

20 Thus says the LORD of hosts: There shall yet come peoples, the inhabitants of many cities;

21 and the inhabitants of one city shall approach those of another, and say, “Come! let us go to implore the favor of the LORD”; and, “I too will go to seek the LORD.”

22 Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to implore the favor of the LORD. 23 Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men of every nationality, speaking different tongues, shall take hold, yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”  Zechariah 8:20–23

To be chosen by the God of Israel is to be a missionary for the God of Israel; the sign that a person or congregation has experienced true divine love is to feel the need to share it. This is a difficult thing to learn. When Jesus indicated that to his neighbors in Nazareth, Luke tells us:

28 When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.

29 They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. (4:28–29)

It will be no less difficult for us. Yet it is to this that we are called. Where there is no justice there can be no peace, but the peace brought by justice is not enough. It is not the Kingdom of God, only a cease fire; to show the Kingdom, it must be crowned with charity. If it is not, we have not known the Lord who brings both.

22nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Second Teaching

An invitation to Formation: When was the last time you did something serious to grow in the knowledge of your faith and more to the point allow that knowledge to form you? Confirmation, High School, a mandatory class in College? This year, we will again have a scripture sharing program which will meet throughout the week. It will be structured, but there will be little mandatory reading other than the scriptures. We have other ideas for the future. However, there is a possibility hiding in plain sight for now. St. Charles offers a program for Catholics who have missed Sacraments or Non-Catholics who wish to become Catholic. As we recognize the hectic lives of our parishioners and neighbors it meets one time per month for 2 hours and covers the basics of the faith. (The classes are also offered twice week, Sunday Afternoon and a weekday evening.) There is significant reading involved and needs to be taken seriously. Even if you have received all the appropriate Sacraments and are a regular church-goer, would this fit your spiritual needs here and now? More to come next week.

Funeral Mass: There will be a funeral Mass this Thursday, September 6th for Joseph Francis Monk. For exact time call the rectory or see the website after Tuesday.

 

First reading

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 2, 2018
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8

Today we read from the Book of Deuteronomy. It is literally translated as “second Law” but might be better called the second reading of the law. It is the 5th book of the Bible and concludes the Pentateuch/Torah and is composed as a series of addresses by Moses to the Hebrews as they prepare to invade Canaan. Moses reviews the law with the people and tells them that without it they will perish. We read from it last week to see how Joshua became the successor to Moses. At that time we saw the importance of the Torah and noted that it could better be translated as teachings than laws. This week we will look at why.

As we have many times seen in examining these readings the concerns of the time that the texts were written down are as important as when they occurred. Rabbinic Judaism held that Moses lived from 1391 to 1271 BC. Therefore, his original exhortation would have been in the late 1200s BC. This is obviosity a guess and we are not quite certain to what kind of group he was speaking nor exactly of what the law consisted.

We are on firmer ground during the reign of King Josiah who reigned between 640 and 609 BC. Two developments marked his times. In 627 the Assyrian king, who effectively controlled Judean kingdom, died and there was a succession battle. Josiah saw this as a moment to seek independence. Around the same time, he started to renovate the temple and discovered a copy of the law. This we may assume is the central part of the book of Deuteronomy.12:4-7. This discovery provoked a religious revival and part of this revival was editing this primitive version of Deuteronomy and adapting it for his day.

Therefore, as they sought to free themselves not only from military connection with Assyria but also its mental and spiritual dominion, Josiah’s editors included new material on refusing to follow foreign gods. This meant destroying temples and places of worship to other Gods in the countryside, worshipping only in Jerusalem (12:4-7) and not listening to any other god or supposed source of wisdom (6:14) They did not however fail to learn from the great prophets of the 8th century the importance of social justice. There are many instances of this but let us stop and ponder the following:

7 For the LORD, your God, is the God of gods, the LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes; 18 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.19 So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17–19

These were certainly noble aspirations but as we have seen Josiah was killed in 609 BC and a series of events led to the destruction of the temple and the exile of the leadership of Judea to Babylon by 587. Although it seemed the end of the people one of the great miracles of history occurred and Persian leader Cyrus offered the people an opportunity to return to Jerusalem as his colonial administrators. The final editor of Deuteronomy was one of those who accepted this invitation and we see that many passages of it reflect these concerns. The section we read today is one of the most affecting.

As we noted the book is composed as a series of sermons of Moses. Those written by the final editor wish to show both why a loving God would allow his people to be exiled and also how they were able to maintain themselves as a people without temple or homeland. Both of these elements may be found in the 4th chapter of Deuteronomy but today’s reading looks at the second point with greater detail.

It is important for us to remember that the final editor is looking at the full history of his people. He knows that the more prosperous upper kingdom – Israel – was snuffed out 200 years before, he feels the captivity in Egypt in his bones and has himself experienced the exile in Babylon. What has allowed them to remain a people? It cannot be armies or financial prosperity, nor even worship in the temple. His answer is their way of life.

1 “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. Deuteronomy 4:1–2

The statutes, decrees and commandments of Israel are more than the sum of their parts. They form a way of life, a teaching which linked everything from what one ate to how one treated aliens in ones midst to the intervention of God in their history. This then as now has sustained the Jewish people.

It is no wonder that his attitude to God for this is gratitude.

6 Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? 8 Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today? Deuteronomy 4:6–9

They understood that their community was the result of a covenant with God and that they ratified it by the way they lived. If they lived this life, they could not be separated from God and would last until the end of the ages.

We need to remember as well that this was the continuation of the Exodus, being led from captivity in Egypt to the promised land. It is the key experience of the Jewish people from which everything else must be understood. Moses and his future editors are telling the people as one that they participate in this journey by the life they lead even more than the animal sacrifices they offer. St Paul understood this and wrote in Romans:

1 I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

The early church built upon this and saw that loving each other was the first and truest sacrifice that opened the sacrifice of the Eucharist for us.

As we as a country and a Church undergo great trials and may like the ancient Israelites be pulled away from God let us remember other words of Paul in Romans:

35 What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? 37 No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35–39

21st Sunday Ordinary Time – Crisis

Faith sharing groups are forming for the Fall. It will be a six week session starting around 9/30 or 10/7. Suggested times are an hour before each Sunday Mass, or other times during the week if there is interest. Please contact the Rectory at [email protected] or call 718-625-1177 to join.

Save the date: 9/16 Meet and Greet after each Mass.
Speak with Fr. Smith after Mass if you are interested in completing your sacraments, have a new child to be baptized, or would like to be married at StCharles.
We would like to invite parishioners with expertise in PR, advertising, media relations, marketing and communications to a meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 7 PM in the Rectory at 31 Sidney Place.  The goal is to plan a strategy for outreach and growing the profile of St Charles in the Brooklyn Heights community and beyond.  Food will be served. Please RSVP to [email protected]stcharlesbklyn.org or call (718) 625-1177 so we can order enough food.

First Reading – Aug 26

The book of Joshua is the sixth book of the Bible. The first five books, Torah/ Pentateuch, began with the creation of the world and concluded with the death of Moses as the Hebrews were entering the promised land. Before dying, Moses tells the Jewish people and his successor Joshua:

18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. 19 If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 8:15

The book of Joshua not only tells the story of the military conquest of Canaan by Joshua and the Hebrew army but the increasing realization by the Hebrews of this wisdom of Moses: History reveals that the God of the Hebrews is powerful and faithful and that “wealth” in every sense of the word can be found only in a relationship with Him.

This relationship is formed and maintained by covenants. There were several kinds of covenants and ceremonies surrounding them. We have seen the covenants which join the people to God and each other as a family. This is sealed and maintained by offering a sacrifice and then having a meal. Originally this was literally done as a family with the father presiding but eventually was stationed in the temple with priests offering the sacrifice. Today’s reading reveals another kind of Covenant one that joins a clan or tribe to a superior power  usually a king. Crossword puzzle aficionados will know it as a “suzerainty” treaty. It would be celebrated by the entire people at key moments in history and follow a traditional formula. This would have been common throughout the ancient near east. Tribes would need to connect with other tribes and peoples to survive in a very dangerous neighborhood.

This instance comes at the end of Joshua’s life.

1 Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God,

2 Joshua addressed all the people: Joshua 24:1–2 a

He has led the people well and his passing will require a commitment of the next generation. Although the form that they will use to express this commitment will be common to their world the content will be completely different. They will proclaim that their God and not a political or military entity will be their most binding commitment.

Scholars have found 6 elements to these treaties throughout the ancient near east, and we find all of them in Joshua 24. As part of the format is to list what God has done for them somewhat extensively, we will give only the outline:

 

  • The Preamble: The more powerful Party gives his titles, as always in Judaism God is not bound by human titles but only shows how he has revealed himself as he who brought Abraham to the land of Canaan. 24:2/3
  • The historical prologue: God reminds the people of the many deeds he did for them most importantly leading them from Egypt but also the battles which allowed them to conquer the land. 24:3-13
  • The stipulations of the treaty:

14 “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the LORD. 24:14 

Although not strictly part of the treaty, the book includes a dialogue between Joshua and the People.

15 If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. 24:15-16

It is important to note here the reasoning of the people”

17 For it was the LORD, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among all the peoples through whom we passed.  24:17

God has revealed himself in history not in myth and legend and they have responded in kind.

This is where our passage ends but we should look at the rest of the chapter to see the completion of the treaty.

  • The recording of the treaty:

So, Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem,[1] 26 which he recorded in the book of the law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was in the sanctuary of the LORD. 24:26

This would in most circumstances be in the temple of the God of the more powerful King, but God reigns everywhere, and it is seen in His laws and statutes.

  • The invocation of the witnesses:

27 And Joshua said to all the people, “This stone shall be our witness, for it has heard all the words which the LORD spoke to us. It shall be a witness against you, should you wish to deny your God 24:27

The witnesses would normally be important elders of both parties, but God is His only witness.

  • Curses for disobedience

 If, after the good he has done for you, you forsake the LORD and serve strange gods, he will do evil to you and destroy you.” 24:20

They are usually more elaborate, but God speaks clearly and briefly.

These re-commitment ceremonies took place during times of crisis. Crisis usually means a situation that has spun out of control and must be fixed. We usually speak of crisis management: restoring some degree of stability and order. Remember the financial crisis of 2008? Emergency measures were instituted, and the situation was managed well enough that there was not a complete financial meltdown. There was however no radical change.

There can be however another kind of crisis. Our word derives from the Greek word “Krisis” – break. It took on the meaning of an inevitable judgement that would divide a time or life: before and after. Interestingly, it enters English as a medical term. The crisis was the time when the illness would either kill or leave. Joshua’s impending death was a krisis: the people either had to participate in this ceremony and stay with their God or refuse and go elsewhere.

This prepares us for Jesus. Knowing Jesus cannot be managed – it requires acceptance or rejection. It is a krisis: there is a before and after truly knowing and accepting him. This is the most basic time of change and challenge, but there can be others.  Our present bishops’ accountability scandal is such a krisis.  This is a sickness that could be unto death; we will speak in the future of a before and after whatever the outcome, but whatever answer emerges will be from the Gospel.

Bishop DiMarzio Statement on PA Report

Bishop DiMarzio has asked that we distribute his statement on the Pennsylvania report here:
Bp. DiMarzio Statement on PA Report

We urge anyone who is a victim of sexual abuse, or is aware of sexual abuse committed by a member of the clergy, a diocesan employee, or volunteer to report it. Allegations called into the diocesan reporting line at 1-888-634-4499 will be immediately turned over to law enforcement and callers will be met with compassion, support and concern.

20th Sunday Ordinary Time – Wisdom as a way of life

This week’s notes:
Former Parochial Vicar Fr. Anselmus will be saying the 12:10 PM Mass this Thursday, August 23. Welcome back!

Save the date: 9/16 Meet and Greet after each Mass.

Speak with Fr. Smith after Mass if you are interested in completing your sacraments, have a new child to be baptized, or would like to be married at St. Charles.

We would like to invite parishioners with expertise in PR, advertising, media relations, marketing and communications to a meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 7 PM in the Rectory at 31 Sidney Place.  The goal is to plan a strategy for outreach and growing the profile of St Charles in the Brooklyn Heights community and beyond.  Food will be served. Please RSVP to [email protected] or call (718) 625-1177 so we can order enough food.

First Reading
Aug. 19, 2018
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proverbs 9:1-6

It is odd to say but the college seminary was an exciting place to be in the late 60s. It may at first seem parochial but to ask why one would privilege a classroom when so much was happening in the streets is to show how far we have slipped from the ideal of a liberal arts education. The aim was to take experiences from the world and examine them with the best ideas available. Many of us were taken aback that we were so comprehensively exposed to the best of pagan thought, old and new, but were gratified by the vigorous Catholic interpretation and indeed amplification of the best of humanism. Fr Robert Lauder’s weekly column in our Diocesan Newspaper, the Tablet, is an example of that tradition. (For full disclosure, Fr Lauder was my teacher then and is a close friend now.) As an example, recently he spent 10 weeks examining personalism, the philosophy he shares with Pope Francis, and showed how the themes that emerged in the late 60s of freedom, community and commitment by decidedly Non-Christian authors could be enhanced by a belief in Jesus.

This is reflected in the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament. It includes the books of Job, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, many Psalms and as we read today the Book of Proverbs. Wisdom was a term used throughout the ancient Middle East. It was a compendium of reflections used to train young members of the governing class to be wise leaders. The Jewish Elders wanted to show that they could answer the questions of their young in a way that would have made sense to their children but also reflected their traditions and belief in God.

The Book of Proverbs is particularly interesting because it collects Proverbs, short pity statements, from about 1000 to 350 BC, from the court of King Solomon to the rebuilt temple in occupied Jerusalem. The section that we read today is somewhat different because it not a collection of these sayings but part of an extended song to wisdom sung by a father to his son.

Much of what he will say is common sense and would have been repeated by any good father then as now: avoiding bad companions and illicit sex are the first lessons. Yet in chapter one he states:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7)

His son should follow the way of right not only for his own peace of mind and good fortune but because of his belief in a God who is involved in history both social and personal. A good Egyptian would not perhaps act much differently in most things. He would not steal or lie but he would not do so as a consciously religious act. We see what kind of religious acts were special to the Jews by looking at Creation. The Jews were unique in holding that the world was created by a loving God. Unlike the other religions of the time the Jews came to see their God as all powerful, he created rather than merely formed the world, and he did so consciously and lovingly certainly not by accident, pride or spite. Thus

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth,
established the heavens by understanding;
20 By his knowledge the depths break open,
and the clouds drop down dew (3:19-20)

By acting wisely, we are reflecting the way the universe is made and showing God we appreciate his love for us.

Our passage today reveals an emphasis on community. This would have been shared with other ancient peoples, but the author wishes to show that the distinctly Jewish understanding of the Divine/ human relation created a deeper bond.

1 Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
2 She has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
3 She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
4 “Let whoever is simple turn in here;
to him who lacks understanding, I say,
5 Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
6 Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.

Note that Wisdom is personal but not private. It is not obtained by one-on-one instruction but in a community. The simple and those who lack understanding are not invited to a tutorial but to a banquet. People will grow together.

They can also shrink together as well. A characteristic of ancient writing is clarification by comparison. If there is a Dame Wisdom, there will also be a Dame Folly and in this same chapter we read:

13 The woman Folly is fickle,
she is inane and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house
upon a seat on the city heights,
15 Calling to passers-by
as they go on their straight way:
16 “Let whoever is simple turn in here,
or who lacks understanding; for to him I say,
17 Stolen water is sweet,
and bread gotten secretly is pleasing!”
18 Little he knows that the shades are there,
that in the depths of the nether world are her guests! (Proverbs 9:13–18)

Like Dame Wisdom she invites the simple and those who lack understanding but not to a sumptuous meal but to stolen water and the way is not to understanding and wisdom but to the nether world.

Wisdom is a way of life not just a set of practices and we may find that people may say the same things and seemingly act the same but because they are doing it for different reasons ultimately divide from each other. Recently Pope Francis declared capital punishment inadmissible in all cases. This will strike a cord with many who do not share our faith. This is wonderful, but we must remember that the Pope holds this and exhorts everyone to do the same because of his belief that we are made in the likeness of God and that likeness can never be completely obliterated. This same belief informs the church’s implacable opposition to abortion. Living in a libertarian society we can expect conflict with some of the same people who most enthusiastically applaud the Pope for his stand on capital punishment.
This is not to deny that we can learn from the wisdom the modern world has obtained through psychology, anthropology and the other social sciences, but we must be like the authors of Proverbs and the wise men who taught me a half century ago and begin with an experience of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We cannot have the morality of the Judeo-Christian world unless we have the experience of the Judeo-Christian God.

19th Sunday Ordinary Time: Exodus and Liturgy

Contact information for Fr Smith: Tel.: 718.625.1177 ext 409 or email ([email protected])

Meet and Greet:

We will meet and greet our new parishioners including the students who will be joining us for the year after all the Masses (9:00 AM, 11:15 AM, and 7 PM) on Sunday, September 16, 2018

If you are have just moved to the community please attend; if you are already a parishioner please bring anyone who might be interested.

Outreach Committee:

We are seeking parishioners to help in our outreach efforts in the community. We will have an organizational meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 7 PM in the Rectory at 31 Sidney Place. Food will be served. Please RSVP to [email protected] .

 

 

Adult Education and Sacraments:

 

Sacraments:

Baptism, Communion and Confirmation: Non-Catholics who wish to become Catholic or Catholics who wish to receive Baptism, Communion or Confirmation are asked to call or email Fr Smith. The classes will begin in the Fall.

Marriage: St Charles Parish congratulates those who will become engaged this summer and we wish to accompany you on your way to the altar and beyond. Please contact Fr Smith at your earliest convenience. This includes those who will be married in another Parish and especially those who will be married in another country.

 

Scripture Program:

The Scripture program will begin again in the Fall. As previously they will be small groups which will meet at various times and places throughout the week. If you are interested, please call Fr Smith.

 

First reading:

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 12, 2018

1 Kings 19:4-8

 

The first readings for the Sunday Mass are chosen to compliment the Gospels. They are interesting and beautiful, but would not be chosen for a systematic exploration of the Old Testament. Sometimes, however, a reading can put several Old Testament themes and experiences we have been reviewing in a new light. This is one of those times. Let us remember the readings from the last two weeks.

 

We met Elijah two weeks ago. He appeared seemingly out of nowhere in Israel, the northern kingdom of Jews, around 870BC. This was about 50 years after the death of Solomon and dissolution of the United Kingdom of the Hebrews. The nation was prosperous but had compromised the worship of the Lord. In the name of God Elijah cursed them with a drought and then fled from the anger of the King and Queen and hid throughout Israel. The section immediately preceding today’s reading says:

1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done—that he had put all the prophets to the sword. 2 Jezebel then sent a messenger to Elijah and said, “May the gods do thus and so to me if by this time tomorrow I have not done with your life what was done to each of them.” (1 Kings 19:1–2)

 

This time Elijah leaves Israel entirely and goes to Beersheba in the southern kingdom of Judea. He is tired and walks into the desert, begs God to take his life and then falls asleep.  God sends an angel, wakes him up and gives him food and drink. He falls asleep again and the angel again wakes him up and this time both feeds him and gives him a mission:

 

7 but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”

8 He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. (1 Kings 19:7–8 )

Now we should remember that Elijah’s ministry has not been without effect. Although the land was cursed with drought God has miraculously fed him and cared for those who took him in. Also, he has had a major triumph over the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. They were not only humiliated but also killed by the direct power of God. (1 Kings 18)

God did not abandon Elijah, but he chose him as a prophet not as a spectator and he would not let him abandon his role and responsibilities. We see this throughout the entire old testament the chosen people often lose their desire to be chosen. They forget that this their identity and God needs to remind them.

Memory though had a specific meaning for Semitic people. The base word is Zakhor and from it comes the idea of zikkaron. This is the recognition that there were some events so important that they reflect the unique action of God. We remember them not by bringing them to mind but by bringing them to life; commemoration is not enough there must be participation. The key event for the Jewish people was the Passover/Exodus in which Moses led the people through the red sea and after 40 years of wandering in the desert to the promised land. This event made them a people and remembering it was more than simple commemoration. To this day Orthodox Jews believe that when they celebrate the Seder they join with Moses and the people on Exodus. This has been put very well:

Those present are not only remembering something in the past, as if they were witnessing the event from afar, but are participating in the actual Exodus through the liturgy. Their celebration is a part of God’s ongoing saving activity, not only in the past, but here and now (Folke T. Olofsson)

The way we connect to these events is liturgy: the public act of worship of the entire community

Now let us remember last week’s reading from Exodus. Although God has led them out of Egypt and given them a great victory over Pharaoh, they sulk and wish for the safety of their chains. We do not know how much of the feeding with manna is historical, but we do know that it is liturgical. This was a liturgical act because it was a ritual means of participating in the Exodus. Participation in the Exodus is not reproduction of details but connection with the reality behind it. They experienced the Passover/Exodus and then continued it.

In this week’s reading, Elijah is sent to Mt. Horeb; it is another name for Sinai, and it was there that Moses went to stay with God and received the Ten Commandments.

18 But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24:18

Elijah’s meeting with God on the mountain was also memorable.

 

11 Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?” (1 Kings 19:11–13)

 

Elijah is here acting out a liturgy; he is remembering the Passover. The echoes of the Passover/Exodus and wandering in the Elijah story are so many that they would be distracting to record here, but note how God reveals his power but also his freedom to act. He causes the usual signs of theophany, divine revelation, seen with Moses and expected by Elijah but chooses not to be in them. He shows himself in a tiny whispering sound. Elijah hears that sound and continues his journey.

Christians have inherited this sense of memory as participation most clearly in the Eucharist. Each Mass is not another sacrifice of Jesus; it is our participation in Jesus’ once and for all sacrifice on Calvary. The ritual can change, as many of us have seen in our own lifetimes, but the reality does not. The Exodus, as we have seen, means lead out by God’s power. We need to remember that we are led to a place by God’s love. Like the Hebrews and Elijah in the desert we know that we must begin by “remembering” God’s decisive intervention in the world. Like them, we do not know where we will end, but we do know that it will be with Him.