In the venerable Haggadah, or ritual text for Passover, is the sentence: “A wandering Aramean was my father (arami oved avi).” While the rabbis have different interpretations of Deuteronomy 26:5, the reference most likely is to Jacob, whose mother was a foreigner from Aram-Naharaim, and who spent quite a long time there himself working for his uncle Laban. Oved means a dangerous kind of wanderlust, as when an animal strays from the path. If oved is read as ibed, which is possible in the Hebrew system, it can mean actual destruction: “An Aramean destroyed my father.” Laban made a covenant with Jacob promising not to carry through with his threat, but we can read into the passage a warning against wandering too far. My rabbinical interpretation is that one should not wander far beyond Manhattan. As New York is caput mundi, which we loosely translate as the center of the universe, it is literally eccentric to leave this island, made so by three rivers and the Atlantic Ocean. This is why I have been around all summer, enjoying the city with its exodus of natives and influx of tourists. There have been quite a few Euros in the collection.
While I do not understand the itch to travel to places one has not been to before, I am impressed by the number of people who visit here from many distant places and recognize the church, making it their home away from home. Our location and other circumstances have made this parish significant to many people, and the influence – God willing for good – of our few square feet on Park Avenue, should give us a special sense of responsibility. What we do here can affect many more besides ourselves.
Our Holy Father has reminded the whole Church that we are “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), even if we should happen to be stationary ambassadors. Pope Benedict has dedicated a new year, beginning in October, as a “Year of Faith” to rekindle the theological virtue of Faith in our own souls and to communicate it to others. Each of you will do this in a different way depending on your state in life. This is a prime time to consider how we can be more effective disciples of Our Saviour. In many ways, September more than January is the start of a new year, as the regular pace of things resumes. Strengthening our Faith is not so much a matter of doing new things, as it is enlivening what is already here. Our Lord did not say that He makes all new things, for then He would only be a fashion designer, and new fashions become old-fashioned faster than anything. He says, “Behold I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5), and by so saying he commissions each of us to do the same “through Him and with Him, and in Him.”
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Filed under: Catechesis |