30th Sunday Ordinary Time: Invitation to Union

READING MATTERS:

There are three stages which should normally be followed in the reduction of social principles into practice. First, one reviews the concrete situation; secondly, one forms a judgement on it in the light of these same principles; thirdly, one decides what the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles. These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: observe, judge act.

Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 1961 (# 236)

 

A very fine and relatively brief examination of “see, judge, act” was produced by the Australian Bishop’s Conference and may be found at http://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/social-teaching/10-social-teaching/94-catholic-social-teaching-series-reading-the-signs-of-the-times

(There will also be copies at the entrances of the Church)

 

HOMILY HELPS:

For those who would also like a homily more directly on the readings for Sunday while we are speaking on Catholic Social Teachings, Bishop Robert Barron’s homily this week is exceptional. It is 14 mins long and may be found at: https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/coming-home-from-exile/5914/

 

NOTE ON STAYS IN HOSPITAL:

We remind our parishioners that due to the shortage of Priests it is difficult for hospitals to arrange for a Priest to anoint other than the most serious cases. I would ask that parishioners entering the hospital contact me to arrange appropriate prayer. This includes childbirth: there are special prayers for both wife and husband,

Fr Smith

 

BLESSING FOR NYC MARATHON PARTICIPANTS:

A special blessing for all those running the NYC Marathon on Nov. 4 will be offered at all of the Masses this Sunday, October 28.

Nov.1: All Saints Day: Holy Day of Obligation

Masses at 12:10 PM and 7 PM.

ALL SOULS NOVENA:

There will be a Novena of Masses for all the faithful departed. They will be celebrated on:

  • 1) Friday – Nov. 2 – 12:10PM
  • 2) Saturday – Nov.  3 – 12:00 Noon
  • 3) Sunday – Nov. 4 – 7:00PM
  • 4), 5), 6) – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – Nov. 5, 6,7 – 12:10PM
  • 7) & 8) Friday – Nov. 9th – 12:10PM and 7:00PM
  • 9) Saturday – Nov. 10 – 12:00PM

(Envelopes may be found in the pews and entrances to the Church or by contacting the rectory.)

PARISH PATRON SAINT FEAST DAY:

The Feast of St. Charles Borromeo is next Sunday, Nov. 4. We will celebrate it as a Solemnity at all the Masses.

 

FIRST READING

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 31:7-9

 

Although this is only the second time we have looked at the Prophet Jeremiah his influence can be felt throughout the exile from and return to Jerusalem. As we will see today his hand can be clearly felt in the writings of Isaiah. He was an aristocrat and very much involved with the politics of his time and place. He was also a prophet who recognized that the people had lost their way and become corrupt. The kings of Judea formed alliances with the major powers of the day whether Egypt to the south or whoever was the power in the north. After the loss to the Egyptians at the battle of Megiddo in 609 BC – so disastrous that it gives the name to “Armageddon” the final battle in the book of Revelation – they had to make an alliance with the Babylonians who extracted a punishing tribute. Jeremiah believed that this was part of God’s purification of His people and urged them to accept it. Others convinced the king to rebel against Babylon which they did with great incompetence. The Babylonians would after each attempt deport more of the Jewish leadership to Babylon. Finally. in 587/86 they had enough and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.

The passage that we read today is a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon around 590BC. Although many considered him a traitor and Babylonian sympathizer, Jeremiah believed that the mighty empire of Babylon was merely an instrument of the God of Israel. This idea will as we have seen be developed by Isaiah into the image of the Jews as the light to the Gentiles.

After assuring the exiles that God has not forgotten them and will call them home Jeremiah writes:

At that time, says the LORD,

I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel,

and they shall be my people.

With age-old love I have loved you;

so I have kept my mercy toward you.

4 Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt,

O virgin Israel;

Carrying your festive tambourines,

you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers.

5 Again you shall plant vineyards

on the mountains of Samaria;

those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits. (Jeremiah 31 3-5)

 

God has shown himself to be loving, faithful and involved in the past, present and future of His people.

 

The section we read today expands on this but is more inclusive:

7 For thus says the LORD:

Shout with joy for Jacob,

exult at the head of the nations;

proclaim your praise and say:

The LORD has delivered his people,

the remnant of Israel. (Jer 31:7)

 

God will not act in secret but will openly guide his people who, although a tiny power, are the head of the nations because of His presence and participation. Jeremiah is convinced that the people who are presently in Jerusalem are still holding on the myth of political power and influence but the people in the exile are learning humility.

 

8 Behold, I will bring them back

from the land of the north;

I will gather them from the ends of the world,

with the blind and the lame in their midst,

The mothers and those with child;

they shall return as an immense throng. (Jer. 31:8)

 

 

We need to acknowledge that immense throng is an exaggeration, but note instead the references to all kinds of people. He speaks of the crippled and mothers and children. These are people who were not highly regarded in the ancient world. He does not mention strong warriors and great scholars.

 

9 They departed in tears,

but I will console them and guide them;

I will lead them to brooks of water,

on a level road, so that none shall stumble.

For I am a father to Israel,

Ephraim is my first-born. Jeremiah 31:7–9 )

 

He acknowledges that this will be bittersweet. Although Jerusalem has not yet been destroyed Jeremiah is very clear headed as to what will occur. But, because God will lead them, they will able to find their way in peace and safety. Note most especially that he calls Ephraim “my first born”. Ephraim was one of the 10 tribes which were conquered by and lost to the Assyrians in 721 BC. God’s desire is not only to restore the worship of the Jewish people but to restore the people themselves both north and south. As we have also seen in other writings this final union of all he people will be the responsibly of the Messiah.

This letter is in a wider section in which God tells the people that he wishes to form a new covenant with them.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jer 31:33)

 

Although a convent has clearly defined rights and responsibilities it does not spell out every contingency like a contract. It is primarily a pledge of relationships, In this case between God and Humanity and between all men and women. It should be acknowledged as a sharing of life and love and thus is usually ratified with a common meal. This is the origin of both the sacrifices in the Jewish temple and the Eucharist.

This covenant is new not in its content, we can presume that for at least Jeremiah it is identical to the covenant with Moses on Sinai. To be somewhat simplistic, none of the ten commandments were removed nor another added. It is the form which is different.  It will be given internally. Fulfilling the covenant will become natural behavior for every individual. Thus, it truly will be written on our hearts.

We note however that this is not a description of present reality but a prophecy. We do not know how Jeremiah thought this would be fulfilled and very few Jewish authors think that it ever was. We as Christians of course find it fulfilled at Pentecost, but there is great wisdom here nonetheless.

Today’s reading correctly prophesies the return of the people to Jerusalem and that it would be led by God for the instruction of the nations. This external journey – Exodus – of the beginning of chapter 31 is paralleled by an internal one in is later verses. God’s teaching and presence becoming truly part of our very being. We see this not only in some of the doctrinal teachings of the church but also in the social teachings we have been reviewing at Mass. The call to solidarity is not a mere contract for goods and services  but an invitation to union and participation. If our love for each other is not written in our hearts, it will not be found in our world.

 

 

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

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

READING MATTER:

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

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

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

 

FIRST READING:

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Oct 14, 2018

Wisdom 7:7-11

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.

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

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

 

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

In swaddling clothes and with constant care I was nurtured.

5 For no king has any different origin or birth,

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

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

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

7 Therefore I prayed, and prudence was given me;

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

 

He sees it as more important than anything else.

8 I preferred her to scepter and throne,

And deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,

9 nor did I liken any priceless gem to her;

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

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

 

It also is the most long lasting:

And I chose to have her rather than the light,

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

10 Receive my instruction in preference to silver,

and knowledge rather than choice gold.

11 (For Wisdom is better than corals,

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

and sent your holy spirit from on high?

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

 

27th Sunday Ordinary Time: Yahweh in Genesis

Reading Matter

Pope Paul VI will be canonized (declared a Saint) next Sunday (Oct 14th). We encourage you to  commemorate this event by reading this selection from the Apostolic Exhortation issued on Dec 8th 1975. Evangelii nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World). We might be reminded of the words of St Francis: “Preach always, when necessary use words”.

In the midst of their own community, (Christians) show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization. The above questions will ask, whether they are people to whom Christ has never been proclaimed, or baptized people who do not practice, or people who live as nominal Christians but according to principles that are in no way Christian, or people who are seeking, and not without suffering, something or someone whom they sense but cannot name. Other questions will arise, deeper and more demanding ones, questions evoked by this witness which involves presence, sharing, solidarity, and which is an essential element, and generally the first one, in evangelization.”[51]

 

Adult Sacraments and Religious Education:

Seekers and Wonderers: If you are a Catholic who has received all the Sacraments or a non- Catholic who is interested in the Catholic Church but do not know enough to commit we invite you to join our Adult preparation Class which starts Oct 7 after the 11:15 Mass. Just show up on Sunday or call Fr Smith during the week.

Adult Baptism, Confirmation and Communion: Please come to the first class on Sunday Oct 7th after the 11:15 Mass or call Fr Smith during the week.

Marriage: We congratulate those who were engaged this summer and ask them to contact Fr Smith as soon as possible. Even if you are not getting married at St Charles we are responsible for the preparations and wish to make them as uplifting and pleasant as possible.

 

Children’s Baptism:

Whether you have had a child Baptized before or if this is your first time we are here to assist you. The regular time for Baptisms is the 11:15 Mass on the fourth Sunday of the Month and the pre-baptismal class is at 2:00 PM (in the Church) on the second Sunday of the Month. Sunday Baptisms are not usually celebrated during Advent and Lent and we recognize scheduling difficulties during the year and will always seek to accommodate. Please see Fr Smith after Mass or call him in the rectory.

 

NEIGHBORHOOD NOTICE:

On Thursday afternoon WNYC’s Noon Program “All of It” had an enlightening discussion on the situation with the BQE. The link may be found below – this section lasts about 30 Mins. https://www.wnyc.org/story/bqe-debacle-whats-next-nyff-cheerleaders-fight-fair-pay?play=742438

 

FIRST READING:

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2018

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 First Reading: Genesis 2:18–24

 

Many of the scripture passages we have examined have been from the Torah/Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). We have seen that it has a long editorial history with roots at the very beginning of the Israelite people (c. 1400 BC) but was not written down in its final form until after the return from Babylon. (c. 500 BC). Another interesting element in its composition is that scholars can locate 4 or 5 traditions within it. This is reflected in the inconsistencies and duplications within the books. The most famous are the two creation stories in the book of Genesis. They reflect two of these traditions, the Priestly and the Yahwistic.

The Priestly tradition opens the book of Genesis. It is characterized by majesty and order:

1 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,

2 the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:1–3

 

We then see God call forth the universe by his command. When that was done he created humanity:

 

26 Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”

27 God created man in his image;

in the divine image he created him;

male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:26–27

 

All this is done by God’s word and shows His superiority over the creation he has called into being. Although this is the first tradition we encounter in Genesis, it is the last one to be formulated and reflects the situation of the Jews who returned to Jerusalem after the exile in Babylon. The temple had been restored and the leaders knew that to maintain themselves as a people they needed to be formed by religious practice and law. The priest then emphasized the transcendence and power of God which they had experience in this return.

The Yahwist, so called because he uses the name “Yahweh” for God, has a different perspective. He makes his appearance immediately after the Priestly God has established the Sabbath. Here the world is formed into being by a relationship with God. Here, God gets his hands dirty.

First, notice that that it begins with a wasteland.

 while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the LORD God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, Genesis 2:5

Having given life giving water

7 the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

There is a significant play on words here: Adam the first human is made from the soil: asamah. Humanity is not to ever lose sight of where we came from. Also, too much can be made of blowing the spirit of life into Adam. This is not giving a soul – the Hebrew language certainly at this stage would have no word for it. Our special status is that God speaks to us in a way that he does not with other creatures. He desires a relationship with us and it is that which makes us human but full humanity requires not only a relationship with God but with other humans.

 18 The LORD God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” Genesis 2:18

He then forms from the ground the many animals and gives them to Adam to name. God formed the animals, but Adam had dominion over them. None however could prove a true companion

21 So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

22 The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man,

23 the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

This one shall be called ‘woman,’

for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.” Genesis 2:21–23

 

Man and woman are created from the same material by the same God, and are thus equal in his sight. It should be noted that the same word used for woman as helpmate is used also for God repeatedly in the Old Testament.

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. Genesis 2:24

The relationship of husband and wife is so close that the relationship becomes an identity. As we will see in next week’s sermons at Mass on Catholic social teaching this is the bedrock of a just society. A society can only be as strong as its families.

The Yahwist is often considered a mere collector of myths and folktales, but he is a sophisticated author. He tells 10 stories in Genesis that range from Adam and Eve (3:1-24) to the Israelite’s worship of the Gods of Moab (25:1-25).  All are a violation of the convent with God, and most a denial of the marital bond. He knows that this disobedience begins in the human heart. As God said to Cain:

7 If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.” Genesis 4:7

Cain, refusing to listen to the Lord’s words kills his brother Abel and becomes a “restless wanderer on the earth” (Gen 4:12). Sin is the bringer of discord,  personal and societal.

There is eternal value in the work of the Yahwist. Our dignity is not given by our social circumstances or intelligence or even goodness – it is gift from God, indeed from his continual relationship with us. No one but God can take that dignity from us. If we do not embrace this dignity, then we will experience our relationship with God, if at all, as breaking one law after another. But if we do embrace it, then our lives will be characterized by a dialogue with Him that will bring us joy now, and bliss forever.

25th Sunday Ordinary Time – Why do good?

September 23

Adult Sacrament Classes: The meetings for Adults who wish to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist will begin on Sunday, Oct 7th after the 11:15 Mass in the Rectory. They will be held about once per month for 2hrs. Because we recognize that many of our parishioners must travel for work there will be another opportunity during the week to participate.

A special invitation to any adult in the Parish to participate. This is a wonderful opportunity to not only update your knowledge of the Church’s teaching but also to experience true spiritual formation.

Please contact Blanca Anchundia at the rectory (718.625.1177) to get the book we will be using and read the first 2 chapters before the first meeting.

Church renovation: The abatement work at the church is now substantially complete with only a few small areas still in progress.  The closeout paperwork has been filed and once approved it will allow the restoration work to get fully underway.  The paperwork for the restoration work, the surveying of the existing conditions by the contractor, and the planning of the logistics to complete everything have been underway for the past several months.  This advanced planning will allow work to flow smoothly and minimize delays.  In the next few weeks mockup areas of exterior restoration work will begin to pop up for both architect and Landmarks review and approve.  Masonry and exterior wood restoration work will begin as well.  There will remain a lot of work behind the scenes finalizing details for the window coverings and materials to match the existing.  This work will all begin to catch up to the masonry restoration over the next weeks and months.

Meet and Greet: We would like to thank all those who participated in the Meet and Greet last Sunday. Special thanks for the generosity of the Fitzpatrick/Lorelli foundation, Luzzo’s Pizza and Beth Lieu. Hope to see you all again next month.

Special Preaching Series: In preparation for the second “World Day of the Poor” on Sunday, Nov. 18th, all the homilies at all the Masses will be on the Social Doctrine of the Church. You will find further information on this every week on the Parish Website and our weekly email updates.

 

First Reading – September 23

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom of Solomon 2:12; 12-17

 

The readings for the last 2 weeks have been from Isaiah and their events have unfolded in the Jerusalem of 520 BC. We have seen the great miracle of the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon but have seen as well that at least some had a fundamental misunderstanding of what had occurred.  They thought that they would be rewarded with riches, position and power. Instead they were essentially frontiersman. Indeed, last week Isaiah told them that the way to understanding would be through suffering and sacrifice. Why then do good rather than bad, and what indeed is good? Today’s reading gives at least part of the answer.

We return today to the book of Wisdom. We read from it several months ago; let us take a moment to remember its background. Although it sounds ancient, it is perhaps the last book in the Old Testament and could have been written as late as 30 BC. Also, although it takes the name of King Solomon of Jerusalem from about 1000 BC, it was most likely written in Alexandra Egypt for the children of the Jewish elite who were immersed in the Roman world and tempted to give up their faith.

Alexandria was an important commercial but also intellectual center, and the author of Wisdom is well versed in all the alternatives to Judaism, from Greek philosophy to the cult of Isis. He is however first and foremost a person of his tradition. He answers the questions that his young people might have from Scriptures and shows the superiority of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

We saw before that the bedrock of wisdom is justice, “For justice is undying”. But there are those who do not place justice at the center of their lives:

1 they who said among themselves, thinking not aright:

“Brief and troublous is our lifetime;

neither is there any remedy for man’s dying,

nor is anyone known to have come back from the nether world. Wisdom of Solomon 2:1 (NAB)

 

They look at their world and do not experience anything permanent.  So they conclude:

6 “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are real, and use the freshness of creation avidly”. (2:6)

If acquisition and consumption are all that is then we take whatever we can from whoever has it. In words that are almost chillingly contemporary:

10 Let us oppress the needy just man;

let us neither spare the widow

nor revere the old man for his hair grown white with time.

11 But let our strength be our norm of justice;

for weakness proves itself useless. Wisdom of Solomon 2:10–11

 

The section that we read today begins here:

12 Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;

he sets himself against our doings,

Reproaches us for transgressions of the law

and charges us with violations of our training. Wisdom of Solomon 2:12 (NAB)

 

We are reminded here that those being addressed received a good Jewish education. They know what is good and right and are unnerved by those who live the good life. They therefore seek to test him and more to the point God himself.  “Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” Wisdom of Solomon 2:20

Our passage ends here but let us read further.

21 These were their thoughts, but they erred;

for their wickedness blinded them,

22 And they knew not the hidden counsels of God;

neither did they count on a recompense of holiness

nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.

23 For God formed man to be imperishable;

the image of his own nature he made him.

24 But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,

and they who are in his possession experience it. Wisdom of Solomon 2:21–3:1 (NAB)

Here we see the importance of creation. We assume that there was a beginning, but this was unique in the ancient world. Non-Jews believed that we were made in all sorts of ways for all sorts of  reasons, They were  rarely good and never loving. Humanity was formed by accident, contempt and spite. For the Jews there was a real creation and one that was conscious and loving. As we were created by a God who was both just and loving the author of wisdom could not conceive that those who responded to that love would not live forever. Being good is acting in conformity to the way we were made. It is in our terms being authentic. It is only the Good who live a life which is truly human and will continue in the world to come. (What happens to those who are bad is left somewhat underdeveloped in Wisdom.)

Now this requires some clarification. Like Daniel and the author of Maccabees Wisdom holds that there is a life after death, but his approach reflects Greek thinking and speaks of immortality or at least its possibility built in to us at creation. The others –  and indeed the one accepted by Christians –  is the resurrection of the Body. This is an even greater gift because it is not a mere extension or continuation of human life – although perfected and without pain or want – but a transformation into a new life. We are not here to be the best we can be but to become Jesus. It is good for us to reflect however on Wisdom. It is only because creation is good and that goodness calls to us that we can be open to the transforming grace of Jesus.

Yet there are this-worldly consequences to how one lives. Because the evil do not know the “councils of God” they do not realize what is truly real and sustaining here and now. Although their lives may often seem better – particularly in material possessions – lack of authenticity ultimately makes one blind, dumb and unhappy. We are, as has been said, not punished for our sins we are punished by our sins.

As we said previously the author of the book of Wisdom was a very learned elder who responded to the many options facing a young person in his very cosmopolitan city. Today he responds directly only to a most superficial, if nonetheless pervasive world view. He reveals however many points of contact with the great western classical authors. Aristotle would have concurred with him that happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence. He would have affirmed Aristotle’s observation that this is obtained by doing good in Aristotle’s terms by exercising virtue. But here is a major difference which would be revealed by suffering and sacrifice. For Aristotle, a virtuous person may have to suffer even being martyred to avoid vice. Suffering, however, would not offer any understanding in this world nor connection to a higher power. His God is principally found by reason; the God of the Jews, however, is found in revelation. There is a different relationship. This will be seen more clearly with Jesus, but it is found in Wisdom as well.

Last week we concluded with a quote from GK Chesterton, perhaps the most famous convert to Catholicism in the last century. Let us end this week with one from Oscar Wilde, on the surface, the most surprising: “Clergymen and people who use phrases without wisdom sometimes talk of suffering as a mystery. It is really a revelation.”

 

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