Updates & 17th Sunday Ordinary Time

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 and 11:15 AM and 7PM) 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.

Church restoration: Active work will begin again this week.

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

Religious Education:

Youth: Our program will begin again in September, please call or email the Parish office (718.625.1177) to register.

Adults:

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

Liturgical Ministries:
We need more Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers. If you have recently moved into the Parish and were either a Lector or a Eucharistic Minister in a previous Parish, the Military or Campus Ministry or if you feel called to one of these ministries, please contact Fr Smith.

First reading
The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 29, 2018
2 Kings 4:42-44

Today we turn back to Israel, the northern kingdom, about 50 years after the death of Solomon and the dividing of the unified kingdom. Israel was prosperous but unstable. Several families vied for the kingship and although the they built temples for those who wished to worship the God of their fathers this was more to prevent them from visiting the temple in Jerusalem than for the sincere worship of God. There were many in the land including the king who worshiped other gods. Ahab who ruled from about 870 to 852 BC was the most notorious. It is instructive that his wife Jezebel’s name means “Where is Baal”: the name of a pagan God.

Near the beginning of Ahab’s reign, the prophet Elijah appeared without warning and said to Ahab at the temple at Gilad:

As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word (1 Kings17)

This was for the sin of apostasy. The authors of Kings insisted that all the troubles which will follow came from the turn to other gods. Elijah immediately fled after this and began a protracted contest with Ahab and Jezebel. After several years God tells him:

Return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place (1 kings 19:15-16)

Note that God is telling him to annoint not only the civil leader of Israel, Jehu, but also the leader of a pagan foreign country, Hazael, and the religious leader of Israel as well, Elisha. God is Lord over every nation and every part of life. Hazael and Jehu eventually destroy Ahab but there is more to the story than that.

Unlike the previous prophets we have seen they have left no writings and all we know is what the authors of Kings tell us. They were both fearless, dedicated and were able to perform great miracles. The authors wished to show this continuation. Thus, Elisha asks for a “double portion” of Elijah’s sprit. This was a way of asking to be his “first son” and principal heir.
It was also reflected in the miracles they performed. The miracle we read today is the 3rd in 2 Kings 4. The first is the widow’s oil. A member of Elisha’s company of prophets has died in debt and his children are about to be sold into slavery. His Wwdow asks for Elisha’s help and he asks,

“Tell me, what do you have in the house?” She answered, “Your servant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.” 3 He said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not just a few. 4 Then go in, and shut the door behind you and your children, and start pouring into all these vessels; when each is full, set it aside.” 5 So she left him and shut the door behind her and her children; they kept bringing vessels to her, and she kept pouring. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” But he said to her, “There are no more.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your children can live on the rest (2 Kings 4:4-7)

Elisha performed a similar miracle (1 Kings 17:14-16). The next wonder is a miraculous birth (2 Kings 4:8-17) to a couple who has shown charity to him and returning that child to life after a fatal illness (2Kings 4:18-37) These too resemble miracles of Elijah.

Now let us look at today’s passage. We must remember the situation. There is a famine and people wish to keep all the food they can. Yet there is custom to give the first results “fruits” of the harvest to the temple or to a someone clearly sent from God:

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack
Elisha had a substantial number of followers:

Give it to the people and let them eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left (2 Kings 4:43-44)

Elijah also performed a miracle of multiplying food for his household. Elijah and especially Elisha were involved in the affairs of state and participated in political decisions that effected the entire nation and because they worshiped the God of Israel they cared for the people of Israel. The pagan gods worshiped by Ahab, Jezebel and their priests and courtiers did not care for the people and could be placated by worship indeed occasionally by human sacrifice. The prophets we have been looking at this summer have shown us that the God of Israel cares for His people and no amount of worship however splendid will be accepted unless it is complimented by Justice. Thus, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha not only win battles and serve the needs of state but comfort the common people who in most religions fall beneath the radar. God wishes his love and concern to be felt from the top to the bottom of society and his mercy will not fall on the king or prince who ignores this responsibility.
We no longer have kings or princes, but we do have the rich and powerful. It is convenient for us to believe that they are the 1% and if someone is part of that to argue that the real power is in the top .1%. This is a comforting illusion. A recent article in The Atlantic monthly (June 2108) by Matthew Stewart argues that America is developing a virtually hereditary aristocracy, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/the-birth-of-a-new-american-aristocracy/559130/. Essentially this is the top 10% by income families in the country. The top 10% have a disproportionate share of not only the nation’s wealth but its opportunity. He is just one of the authors examining the hereditary nature of wealth and power. Several authors suggest that 20% of families will improve their financial and social situations the rest will barely hold on or fall behind.

I think most of us would fall into at least that 20% and what would Elijah and Elisha have to say to us? Would they tell us not to use our advantages to help our children, grandchildren and other family members? I do not know, and I do not think very many of us would do so even if they did. I do think that they would tell us to question how our decisions, especially in a democracy our choice of candidates for public office, would affect the poor and marginalized. What would the world be if every Christian, Jew and Muslim followed that advice?

Bar Takers Mass 7 PM Sunday; Sacramental Preparation; 16th Week Ordinary Time

This weekend:

Next week several of our parishioners will be taking the Bar Exam. The 7:00 PM Mass this Sunday will be celebrated for them with a special blessing for the day. We invite not only anyone who is taking the Bar exam but also lawyers who can give them encouragement and support. A wine and cheese reception will follow.

Sacramental Preparation:

Classes for those who wish to become Catholic or for Baptized Catholics who wish to receive Eucharist or Confirmation will start in the Fall. Anyone interested is asked to see Father Smith after Mass or to call the Rectory. 718-625-1177 ext 409

Individual Meetings:

We will be continuing to have individual or relational meetings between parishioners. This is neither an interview nor a request for parish feedback but an invitation to connect to Saint Charles Parish by connecting first with each other. Should you wish to participate please call Fr Smith at 718-625-1177 ext 409, email him at [email protected] or sign the registration sheet in the rear of the Church. A member of the team will contact you.

First reading:

16th Week in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 23:1-6

Today we return to 6th Century Jerusalem and the commanding figure of the prophet Jeremiah. He was active from about 627 to 585 BC and saw the sputtering and fall of the Kingdom of Judea. As an aristocrat he was very visible in the city and this gave him some freedom to maneuver. Ultimately however this made him an obvious target and he escaped execution several times only because of his connections. None of this prevented him from speaking the word of God forcefully to high and low, native and foreigner.

In the 100 years following the fall of Israel in 721, the northern kingdom of the Jewish people, Judea, the southern kingdom, was subject to the Assyrians. Like all subject peoples they were looking for a chance to escape. In 627 disturbances following the death of the Assyrian King seemed to provide the opportunity. For a while they were able to carve out some space amid the warring parties, but then the Babylonians grasped so much power that the Assyrians made an alliance with the Egyptians, usually their great rivals. Josiah, the king of Judea, realized that this would effectively end any independence they could have and fought the Egyptians in 609 at Megiddo. He suffered a disastrous defeat and the Judeans needed to be rescued by the Babylonians. Things quickly fall apart. There were several kings in his period who tried both to satisfy the people’s desire for independence and the demands of their Babylonians overlords. They ultimately failed and in 597 the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem and began the first series of deportations of the leadership to Babylon. A puppet king was installed but he could not control his people and the Babylonians, deciding that this was hopeless, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple in 586.

Jeremiah was involved in all these events, and although passages in the Book of Jeremiah are notoriously difficult to date, today’s section is usually assumed to have been written between the first and final deportations. There may have been some editions later, but Jeremiah’s intent and prophetic word is clear: the job of a king is to protect the people and keep them together, and the Judean kings failed.

1 Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

We should not be overly critical of the kings of Judah: they were between a rock and a hard place, and they needed to articulate a vision of sharing a “National” God without civil independence. This is difficult, but necessary, for as we read in the book of Proverbs: “Without vision the people perish” (29:18)

It was necessary then for God himself to bring the people back.

3 I will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. (23:3)

When he does he will raise up shepherd for them who will keep the flock together:

4 I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

The chief shepherd, the king, will be from the House of David. He will share vison that it is God who leads the people and after their time in Babylon will know that the power of the Lord is everywhere and at every time. They are bound not only by a shared history but by acting justly and righteously, here and now.

5 Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;

As king he shall reign and govern wisely,

he shall do what is just and right in the land.

6 In his days Judah shall be saved,

Israel shall dwell in security. (23:5-6a)

He shall be the way that God will use to be present to his people and thus his name will be “The Lord our justice”.

Although this may seem mere wishful thinking we know that it was the occasion of a great miracle. The Persians conquered Babylon and offered the Jews the option to return home and rebuild their capital and temple. Enough did that they were able to reestablish themselves, as if not an independent nation, but a people with enough freedom of worship to maintain their identity. But perhaps the greatest miracle was still to come.

It is said that history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Some of the same notes which occurred in the days before the deportations to Babylon were heard again in the generation after Jesus. Those who wished to revolt against Rome eventually attained power in Judea with predictable results. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD and after the mere hint of revolution a generation later Jerusalem was closed to Jews. This should have been the end of Judaism, but it opened a time of unparalleled intellectual and spiritual creativity. They had learned their lesson and realized that God gave them a promise, not a roadmap; they were a people because they shared a relationship with God and that relationship defies the limits of both time and space.

We are called to continue this song.  It would be foolish to try to take direct lessons from the ancient Hebrew prophets. This was well before the nation state and the separation of church and state would have been incomprehensible. But there are insights which we could profitably examine. It was a commonplace that the taxes needed to pay the tribute to whatever empire controlled the region were unfairly leveled against the poor. This gave them little reason to accept a national vision of unity between God and the people. Gross unfairness destroys unity and the prophets saw this in “religious” terms and fought against it. If we share this belief, then we will not follow a shepherd who fails to lead us to the unity that comes from Justice and we as a nation will hold a vision that will never perish.

 

Building Updates, 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

BUILDING UPDATE

Last week I signed the contract for the next stage in the restoration of the exterior of the Church. This week we received our DOB approval!  PPM, our contractor, is in the process of having his expediter pull the permits for work.  The shop drawing and submittal process has begun.  We will get an update on when they will begin work onsite once the permits are available to be pulled.  The abatement team is back onsite finishing any window caulking that remains and removing all of the caulking in the corners of the building.  We have coordinated them with PPM so they will not have issues in disrupting one another’s work.  The abatement team anticipates completion of all abatement work in August except the area behind the sidewalk bridge which will be done when it is removed later in the project.  We anticipate work fully mobilizing onsite within the next 2-3 weeks.

 

Meanwhile many of our vacationing parishioners have been sending bulletins and pictures from the parishes they are attending over the summer. I am interested in every Church bulletin, the interiors of Victorian Churches and particularly creative restroom additions. Our architects, Li Saltzman, (http://www.lisaltzman.com/) will devise a plan to install a restroom and more importantly for the look of the Church access to it but we need to tell them what we as a parish need. An example: would one changing table be enough? There will be more questions.

 

Wishing you a blessed week no matter where you are, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr Smith

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

The Mass and reception for people taking the bar exam will be on Sunday, July 22 at and after the 7PM Mass. This is for everyone, not just parishioners,  and we ask you to invite your friends. Lawyers who can give knowing encouragement are particularly welcome.

 

FIRST READING

15TH Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 7:12-15

 

Our first reading today brings us to the 8th century BC and requires us to look at the political and geographical realities of the time. After the death of Solomon about 931BC the Kingdom of David was divided in two: the northern kingdom with 10 tribes, with its capital at Bethel and a southern kingdom with 2 tribes with its capital in Jerusalem. Both kingdoms were situated between Egypt and whatever political entity was strongest in the north: Babylon, Assyria, Persia. The names would change but the need to play one off against the other was the same.

King Jeroboam II was king of Israel between 783-743BC. He was a talented politician and saw that Assyria, the dominant power in the north at the time, was experiencing internal discord. He was able to expand his country’s boundaries and its trade bringing unparalleled prosperity. This prosperity also brought ignorance of God. This does not mean a lack of cultic devotion. They were able to maintain two main shrines (Bethel and Gilgal) with many sacrifices and pilgrims but they did not remember that their God was a one of Justice. The Lord’s relationship with his people was not exclusively with the rich and rewarded but with the poor and inconvenient as well.

It is to this world that Amos is sent. He is not an official prophet. Indeed, he is a man of the land. He also is assumed to have been sent from the Southern Kingdom commissioned to address the apostasy of the north. As all prophets he uses his specific background to reveal the wider problem.

 

11 Therefore, because you have trampled upon the weak

and exacted of them levies of grain,

Though you have built houses of hewn stone,

you shall not live in them!

Though you have planted choice vineyards,

you shall not drink their wine!

12 Yes, I know how many are your crimes,

how grievous your sins:

Oppressing the just, accepting bribes,

repelling the needy at the gate! (Amos 5:11–13)

 

This is reflected in the archeology of ancient times and the contemporary, one might even say universal, experience of taxation. . We see that the houses of the rich grew in size during this period but those of the poor got smaller. Also, that levies of grain were much like poll taxes and disproportionally affected the poor. To absolve themselves many of the prosperous gave expansively to the places of worship. Amos writes

21 I hate, I spurn your feasts,

I take no pleasure in your solemnities;

22 Your cereal offerings I will not accept,

nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings.

23 Away with your noisy songs!

I will not listen to the melodies of your harps.

But if you would offer me holocausts,

24 then let justice surge like water,

and goodness like an unfailing stream. (Amos 5:21-24)

 

Today’s reading is particularly provocative because it is a confrontation at the royal sanctuary in Bethel with the chief priest, Amaziah. He assumes that Amos is a “guild” prophet seeking to be connected and paid by the court or temple. He tells him:

“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying,

13 but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” Amos 7:12–13

He basically is accusing Amos of biting the hand that he wants to feed him. For Amaziah a prophet to survive needs to be on someone’s payroll and he who pays he piper calls the tune. Thus, the power of Amos’s answer:

 “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. 15 The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel. Amos 7:14–15 (NAB)

 

As we have seen with Ezekiel he was not inducted into a company of professional prophets but called by God and given a mission. He does not report to king or priest but to God alone. The tame prophets where unable to hear the voice of God. In Upton Sinclair’s famous phrase:” It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

 

The guild prophets, company men, could not write the next section of the book:

 

16 Now hear the word of the LORD!”

You say: prophesy not against Israel,

preach not against the house of Isaac.

17 Now thus says the LORD:

Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city,

and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword;

Your land shall be divided by measuring line,

and you yourself shall die in an unclean land;

Israel shall be exiled far from its land. (Amos 7:16–17)

And so, it came to pass. The Assyrians got themselves back together and destroyed Israel in 721BC. We have seen that prophets may comfort the afflicted, but they afflict the comfortable and just as the “what” of the prophet’s message may shock and surprise us so too we may be taken aback by the “where”. Amaziah was angered at the message of Amos but truly enraged that an immigrant would dare to chastise him in his own place of worship. I can sympathize. The most personally prophetic message that I have experienced was reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: painful, passionate and from prison.

As we look at the wisdom of the Old Testament, let us remember that the Lord’s message will undoubtedly be one we do not want to hear and may very well be from a place we do not want to look.