As we approach the end of the church year, our readings from the Gospel of Mark deal with the final days of Jesus’ ministry. In that period, Jesus was in direct conflict with the religious leaders in Jerusalem. In today’s passage, Jesus contrasts the simple faith of a poor widow, expressed by her generous giving, with the show of religiosity put on by the scribes and the rich.
The first reading completes the story of Ruth. By taking advantage of the rule in Leviticus that a male relative of a childless widow must marry her and produce children, Ruth, with Naomi’s wily planning, is married to Boaz and their descendants included the royal family of Israel and were ancestors of Jesus.
The passage from Hebrews, which we are reading through at this time, deals with the eternal nature of Jesus’ priesthood. Unlike the symbolic sacrifices of the old priesthood, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection and ascension have made him uniquely able to take away the sin of the world for all time.
The people of God in every age have gathered in the Eucharist to respond to salvation in generous and loving ministry to each other and the world. Made part of Jesus’ own sacrifice in baptism, we are joined with his sacrifice in the Eucharist. Thus, our own sacrifices, like those of the two poor widows, are given the eternal significance of Jesus’ own dying and rising. What is lacking in us through our own imperfection is made perfect in Christ.
In the perennial seasonal epic, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the final exchange between Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present is both profoundly brooding, as it is chillingly expositive. In this scene, Scrooge is confronted by two figures of children who cling to the legs of the Ghost of Christmas Present. They are described as, “yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility.” The Ghost names and remarks upon them: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all, beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom unless the writing is erased.” The echo of the Specter’s warning reverberates and lingers in all places where ignorance gives way to hatred and violence and want devolves into anguish and despair. Is there any means, one may wonder, to effectively and decisively confront these Dickensian realities?
For the Christian believer, this question is boldly answered, “Yes!” in the celebration of the first two days of November: the Solemnity of All Saints, and All Souls. These days, each, in turn, expresses the two foundational principles around which revolves the liturgical year and toward which develops the daily life perspective of the Christian. To the folly of ignorance, the Solemnity of All Saints responds with memory; to the scourge of want, All Souls offers hope. Memory and hope are the pillars of Christian liturgical and daily life and are the dynamic actions through which ignorance and want are defeated.
The first service of the St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Mission was held in April 1905. In December of that year, a lot, no. 331 Hawthorne Street was obtained for the purpose of erecting a church building.
Although the building was intended, initially, to contain two floors, only the basement level was completed and that space served as the place of worship for over eighty years of the church’s existence. Until improved finances afforded the erection of the edifice they envisioned, the fledging congregation constructed the basement, erected a roof over it and “finished off the interior” to serve as worship space snugly fitting two hundred congregants.
The structure we are now worshiping in was constructed in 1991. Through the diligence and hard work of the clergy and the people, in 2016 an additional wing was added housing the conference room and Rector’s office.
As the congregation of the early twentieth century, the congregation of today is, in large part, made up of immigrants and first-generation Americans. Unlike the earlier congregants who came, in the main, from Europe, those now attending are from the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, and the United States.
Welcome to St. Gabriel’s Parish.
Today’s liturgy directs our attention to God’s care for the
poor and less fortunate. In the Gospel reading we hear the
account of Jesus’ raising the young daughter of the Jewish
official, Jairus. Mark inserts within this story the healing of a
woman who had suffered hemorrhages for twelve years. The
girl and the woman, by the custom of their times, were both
regarded as of little value. But Jesus’ compassion extends to
them as it does to all people.
In the first reading, from Lamentations, we are assured
that whatever ill befalls us, God’s love for us will never fail.
God, we are told, does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.
Paul calls on the Corinthians to emulate the generosity of
other churches in giving to a collection to aid less fortunate
Christians. Jesus, Paul reminds us, became poor for us so
that we might become rich; that is, he became human so that
our humanity might be raised into the life of God. Thus, for
the sake of others, we follow Jesus’ example and share our
own material goods.
We gather in Eucharist as the People of God, called to be
the means by which God makes known the divine
compassion for all people. It is the poor and neglected in
society for whom God is especially concerned as Jesus
demonstrated in healing the sick. We are called and given to
the world to minister in God’s name.