5th Sunday of Lent–Materials, Homily and Prayers

Dear Friends, 

Once again, we can’t be together, but we can pray with each other at our “regular” time!  Here I have included my homily, the readings for the day and the prayers of the Mass that we would pray if we were together. 

I have asked the board and they agreed that we suspend our Masses until further notice to keep all of us safe–this pandemic is indeed calling us to new ways of being “church.” May Jesus’ Spirit be with you all. 

I am attempting to be in contact with each of you in the Winona area during this time–please know that I continue to pray for each of you and ask your prayers for me as well. If there is anything that any of you are needing and no one to ask, please know that you can ask me–truly! 

Blessings to each of you, 

Pastor Kathy

Readings for the day: 

  • Ezekiel 37: 12-14
  • Romans 8: 8-11
  • John 11: 1-45


My friends, as a newscaster, or perhaps a doctor—or both, said recently; our country has not experienced such a time since the Second World War, that has so mobilized our nation, in so many ways—from civic organizations to church groups—all are being called on to do our part—to be our best selves, caring for ourselves, our families and others.  And in many ways, it seems strange that the BEST way to care for others is to stay physically away from them!

That, of course, excludes our immediate family members.  But, because “social distancing” is in place, please don’t, “heart and mind” distance! Reach out in many and wonderful ways to family, friends, church members—maybe a neighbor you don’t talk to that much—check to see if they are OK, from a distance, of course! You might find it surprising how much a person is cheered by your call—loneliness and alone-ness are terrible burdens along with physical illness.  I made several calls to church members this week and that was the over-all feeling—one of gratitude.

The Scriptures for this 5th Sunday of Lent are filled with the commands and prompts to do that “heart and mind” reaching out that is so important these days.  Ezekiel speaks of a God who, in modern parlance, truly “has our backs.”  The psalm response from 130 today says, “With you [God] is kindness and plenteous redemption—I trust in God—my soul waits for you” [!]  Paul to the Romans reminds us that the Spirit, (if we listen) “brings justice, allowing us to move above our selfishness.”

The beautiful gospel from John relating the raising of Lazarus reminds us of the words that Jesus, our brother, heard, in going to his friend—“the one you love is sick.”  Jesus often in his earthly life had to balance his personal and public life with a focus toward the greater mission he was called to.  We see this dilemma in his decision not to go to Lazarus immediately.  We also see his agony coming out in his human response to the death of his friend—“Jesus wept.”

This pandemic brings for each of us a reality that “breaks open our hearts.”  A good reflection for each of us today and through this next week might be to ask, “What is it that breaks open your heart?”

A story that I heard this week did in fact, break my heart open:  It was of a 40 something year-old doctor in New York who contracted the coronavirus while caring for his patients and once he became ill, he died within a week!  Now what does this story tell us?  We know from reparable sources out of New York that with cases skyrocketing and not enough staff and equipment to protect them in the way that they should be, some will lose their lives.

The stories abound of those in hospital and nursing homes who can have no visitors in order that we can protect them from an enemy that can’t be seen and with no real means to stop, other than measures that keep us physically apart at a time when “closeness” would be such a comfort to so many.

So again, the palpable need that we not distance, emotionally and spiritually!

This came across the “airways” yesterday from the executive director of United Church Camps Outdoor Ministry:

“God is still here…stepping in with love…stepping in through you…your hands, your feet…your words, your actions…You! Go be love!

Our Scriptures today, especially through Jesus, my friends, tell us convincingly that our God will always be crying with us in our sadness, will always be with each of us to reach out in safe, but profound ways, to assist, through Jesus’ Spirit within us, those most vulnerable in our midst.

Within our Winona community, through the advocacy of our Interfaith Council of Churches, 8 homeless people have been given motel rooms at a local establishment to provide a dignified place for them to “shelter-in-place” as our governor has asked us to do for two weeks to stem the tide of the virus-spread.

Others in town are providing food for these individuals. If you are reading this and would like to assist in any way, please be in contact and I will tell you how.  If you are reading this outside of the Winona area, listen to what your own communities, through charitable groups are doing and assist in ways that you can.

One final thought in closing: This pandemic is teaching us many things; chief among them is how much better we can care for those in our lives who live with so little.  In better times, we can perhaps, set aside this knowledge, even ignore the problems of homelessness, the injustice of people trying to survive with less than a living wage while others have so much that they don’t know how to use it all.

But now, when an invisible enemy threatens us all—no matter our status or position, it would behoove us to balance the world’s goods.  Along with the dire statistics each day, I choose to concentrate on all the good “heart work” being done,

the generous giving, and I dream of after this pandemic is over, making the temporary housing arrangements in Winona, permanent ones.  In other places where this has been tried, getting people off our streets, the homeless have proved worthy of this second chance and done well afterward.  Any of us friends, with a little bad luck, could find ourselves on the streets. Let one of the lessons of this dire time be the “breaking open of our hearts,” to be Jesus’ true followers!  Amen? Amen!

Entrance Antiphon

Give us justice O God, and defend our cause against the wicked; rescue us from deceitful and unjust people.  You, O God are our refuge.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving God in heaven, the love of Jesus led him to accept the human condition, complete with life in all its goodness and the cruel death of the cross that we might glory one day in new life.  Change our selfishness into self-giving.  Help us to embrace the world you have given us, that we may transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.  We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name who lives with You and the Spirit, One God, loving us forever and ever, Amen.

Let Us Pray

Prayer after Communion

Loving God, may the power of these holy gifts free us from all that keeps us from You and help us to always please You in our daily lives. We ask this through Jesus, our brother and friend, Amen.

(Being that we can’t these days receive communion physically, I invite you to remember that our God in Jesus is ALWAYS with us!)

Prayers of the Faithful

Response:   “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. Loving God, as we continue our journey through the holy season of

Lent, give us eyes to see, ears to hear and the strength to do your

work of love in our world, especially now during this pandemic,

we pray—Response:  “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

 2. Loving God, help us to love those that society has cast aside,

we pray—Response:  “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. Loving God, help us to remember this Lent how much you love us

and help us to love you and your people in return,  we pray—

Response:  “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

4Loving God, be with your people through us, who most need you

today, we pray—Response:  “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. O God, help us strive to be people of peace, not war—let our

tools be justice, love, mercy, gentleness, and understanding,

we pray—Response: “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming, open hearts

that can invite any and all people to be part of us, always taking our

lead from Jesus who prayed that all would be one, we pray—

Response: “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week,—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause—we pray,

then response

Let Us Pray

Good and merciful God, you are our light and our love.  You have written your promises of love on our hearts—help us to remember and never forget your covenant with us and enable us to do our part in loving response.  As Lent draws to a close soon, continue to lead us in your path helping us to realize that our hour is upon us too—that now is the time to be your people and act as we say we believe.  Help us to remember that we are your hands, eyes, ears and heart for our world—help us to be generous with your love. All this we ask of you, in Jesus’ loving name and with the Spirit— one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.