Fr. Bob Writes – September 29, 2013

The gospel is Jesus’ telling of the parable of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus.  Lazarus is a Hebrew name meaning “God is my help.” The rich man is not named, but has often been called “Dives,” which is simply a Latin word meaning “rich.”
The rich man is dressed in purple and linen. You might expect to see a U.S. senator wearing a dark suit, white shirt and red tie.  Style and color of clothing has often denoted position or wealth through the ages.  For many centuries before and after Jesus’ time on earth, purple cloth, especially linen, was the mark of distinction.  The territory of Phoenicia, for example, means “land of the purple,” and was the centre of the ancient purple dye industry.  Rome, Egypt, Persia, Israel and other countries used purple as the imperial standard.  Purple dyes were rare and expensive.  Only the rich had access to them.  Their purple colorants used came from different sources, most from the dye extraction from fish or insects of which thousands were needed to extract a single gram of dye.  The symbolism of purple-scarlet accounts for the color of the clothing worn by cardinals of the Catholic Church.
The house of the rich man was likely a busy place with many people coming and going.  With the addition of passersby on the street, the area outside of the gate was a good location for begging.  Beggars claimed their locations and respected the rights of one another to their places.  The rich man, then, saw Lazarus frequently and was sufficiently aware of his presence to know his name.  But not sufficiently aware of his duty under the covenant with God to help a fellow Jew, his “brother,” in his  need (see eg Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 10:18).
The Greek word “Hades,” used in the gospel for the final resting place of the rich man, was the name of the place and the Greek god of the underworld (the Hebrew name was “Sheol”).  Most cultures of the ancient world believed that the dead, good and bad alike, went to a dark and gloomy underworld existence where they languished forgotten by everyone, even God (see for example Psalm 88).  Only in post-exilic Israel (from the 5th century B.C. on) did some Jewish thought turn to a more blessed option for those who died in God’s grace and was commonly referred to as the “bosom of Abraham.”  This was a reference to the way people reclined at special dinners rather than being seated.  The guest of honor reclined at the right side of the host and could literally lay his head back against the chest of the host.  This was the location of the beloved disciple at the Last Supper (John 13:23).
The final request of the rich man to send Lazarus to his family’s home to warn his brothers may have some indirect reference to the other Lazarus in the gospel account (John 11) whom Jesus will raise from the dead, but it refers more directly to his own resurrection, which will not be accepted by the majority of his detractors.  Eyes closed to seeing the good in someone usually stay closed.  Those who were opposed to Jesus will use any possible line of reasoning to bring disrepute to anything that would give testimony to him and his message.

Fr. Bob Writes – September 22, 2013

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” (William Shakespeare, Richard II)

This quote above comes at the beginning of a recent movie, “The Queen.”  In it, Helen Mirren gives a wonderful portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II at a critical moment in her reign, just after the tragic death of Princess Diana in Paris in 1997.  The movie skilfully depicts Elizabeth caught between two opposing forces.  On the one hand, her own upbringing, centuries of royal breeding, and the advice of her husband  and royal advisers are all telling her to ignore the worldwide furore over Diana’s death, and carry on as normal, in a suitably aloof statesmanlike manner.  On the other hand, her own government, and millions of her royal subjects, who are beside themselves with grief over what happened, are urging her to tear away the mask and make some kind of acknowledgement of the tragedy and tribute to Diana.  One cannot but feel for the Queen, who appears as someone caught between two worlds and having to navigate in an environment she no longer recognises.

St Paul tells us in our second reading this Sunday: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions.”  Do we pray for our rulers?  Yes, we cuss them, complain about them, laugh at them when they make blunders.  But do we pray for them?  Paul goes on to say “This is right and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.”  Why is it “right and acceptable” in God’s sight to pray for our leaders?  Firstly, Paul says that our rulers have the responsibility to ensure we are able to lead “quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and dignity.” Without some sort of responsible leadership in our country, our society, our world, we would have anarchy, the breakdown of civilization, and chaos.

Furthermore, St Paul says that God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Even if our leaders are not particularly Christian or even righteous, even if their decisions and actions often go against what we hold as important religious values, the answer is not to curse them or dismiss them, but to pray for them.  Pray for their conversion to Christ, a heartfelt conversion which will influence all their political and social behaviour.  Pray for their well-being, and their family’s well-being.  Pray blessing on them, even when the kind of stands they take grieve our hearts or even infuriate us.  The National House of Prayer in Ottawa have a campaign of prayer going, where each politician is assigned to a particular intercessor, who makes it their responsibility to contact the MP and let them know they are praying for them.  Who knows what effect such prayers are having on their consciences and decisions? And on the well-being and security of our country?

St. Philip Church to Hold Sound System Fundraiser!

Gracenote Concert on October 5, 2013!

Mark your calendar for this parish fundraiser for St. Philip Church!

On Saturday, October 5, 2013 at the St. Philip Parish Hall. An evening of toe-tapping, finger-snapping music featuring many styles of music from bluegrass, jazz, blues and country to contemporary favourites.

Tickets are $12 per person or $30 per family.

Contact Nancy or Garnet at 613-838-4501 or visit Gracenotemusic.ca for more information.