Letter from the pastor: Seventh Week of Easter
Part One: Scripture
The Sadducees never appear in the Old Testament. In the gospel, you might think they are allies of the Pharisees. Both the Sadducees and the Pharisees opposed John the Baptist and then Jesus. Most people are aware that these two groups differed on some essential points. For example, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection or in angels. But to know more about the Sadducees we must seek information outside of the Bible itself; they left no written record of their own, and they disappeared after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
The origins of the Sadducees is obscure, probably B.C.E. 1000, and their name likely comes from Zadok, the high priest at the time of King David. They were associated with the priesthood (Zachariah the father of John the Baptist was a priest) and identified with Jerusalem and its temple, not with rural regions of Galilee where the “Jesus movement” began.
The ancient source that tells us the most about the Sadducees is the first-century Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, who clearly did not like them. So, Josephus may have had an axe to grind. Scholarly assessments have gradually provided a more nuanced picture of the Sadducees.
The Sadducees were urbanites from aristocratic, wealthy families. Their alliance with the temple in Jerusalem, and their constant attempts to bolster their Jewish priesthood, created a significant gap between them and other Jews. They would have been offended by Jesus’ words about the temple (cf. Mt.21:12-13; Mk.15:29). Under Roman rule, the Sadducees were perceived to tolerate, and even cooperate with, the despised Romans.
The Sadducees, who preferred the written law only, also had little time for the Pharisees, who accepted oral interpretation of the law and the traditions of elders. Later rabbis, descendants of the Pharisees, describe serious differences with the Sadducees beyond the well-known debates about angels, spirits, and resurrection.
This week’s readings show how such controversies could erupt in heated debates, as when Paul draws attention to his Pharisaic identity as the reason for being hauled before the Sanhedrin and accused of improper teachings.
Given this background, it is unlikely from a historical viewpoint that the Pharisees closely joined the Sadducees in opposition to Jesus. Such a perception derives from a later time when Christianity became totally distinct from Judaism. If this extra-biblical material does reveal all we would wish to know about the Sadducees, it helps lift the veil somewhat.
Adapted from the writing of Ronald D. Witherup, PSS, Superior General of the Sulpicians, and author of numerous books.
Part Two: Re-Opening Churches
The Archdiocese of Newark values the need to be gradual in reopening churches. Cardinal Tobin will continue to dispense the faithful from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days. Those who are at risk because of an underlying health issue or who are 60 or older are strongly encouraged to avoid the risks posed by attendance at public celebrations of Mass. We will continue to live-stream the Sunday Mass in Spanish will be live-streamed at 9:00 a.m. and in English at 11:00 a.m.
Phase 1—Churches will first be opened for personal prayer only. Individuals and families may come to church for quiet prayer. Sacrament of Reconciliation may be celebrated, if social distancing can be maintained and masks are worn. Individuals and families who come for personal prayer should limit their time in the church to 15 minutes, so that we may maintain “social distancing.” The requirement of “social distancing” is impossible in the restricted space of the adoration chapel, and therefore, it will remain closed!
As Pastor, I have decided that the church will open on Sunday, 7 June 2020 for personal prayer only. This may take place from noon until 3:00 p.m.
Phase 2—Churches will celebrate public weekday Masses, funerals, weddings, and baptism, but attendants will be limited to 10 (ten) persons, including the minister. Participants with masks and passing temperature checks may enter provided the number does not exceed 10. (Date to be determined).
Phrase 3—Churches will be permitted to celebrate Sunday Mass publically with the obligatory practices of social distancing, use of masks and limited number of people present. Those who are at risk because of an underlying health issue or who are 60 or older are strongly encouraged to avoid the risks posed by attendance at public celebrations of Mass. We will continue to live-stream the Sunday Mass in Spanish will be live-streamed at 9:00 a.m. and in English at 11:00 a.m. All other sacraments will resume according to directives (Date to be determined).
In phase 3, to participate in the Mass, I request that people pre-register online or by phone on Thursday and Friday between the hours of 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. When we take into account “social distancing,” the capacity of the church is 92 persons. Also, on entering the church, participants will have their temperature checked. Those found to have a temperature will be asked to remain outside in the parking lot. The door on Amity Place and the side door opening to the garages and Rectory parking lot are designated as the ENTRANCE doors to church. The EXIT door will be the door of the St. Gerard Shrine leading through the Ruggiero garden to the plaza. Leaving the church, participants will have to practice social distancing and to wear facial masks.