Dear Friends, greetings once again in our new “normal” which has us meeting virtually, but together just the same. Hopefully you are each doing what is needed now to keep you and your family safe. Know of my loving thoughts and prayers for you and of my gratitude for remembering me in your prayers as well. A thought for this week might be to consider what God is calling you to, in particular, during this time–how might you grow to become your best self? Blessings on all your discoveries! Please let me know of any ways that I might be of service to you–call: 507-429-3616 or email; firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace and love,
Speak out with a voice of joy; let it be heard to the ends of the earth: Our God has set us free, alleluia!
Let Us Pray
Loving Creator God, the crown of your creation is Jesus, the Christ, born of a woman, but without beginning; he lived and loved for us, but lives forever. May our mortal lives be crowned with the ultimate joy of rising with him, who lives and loves us forever and ever, with you and the Spirit, Amen.
- Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17
- 1 Peter 3: 15-18
- John 14: 15-21
My friends, another week has passed in this time of pandemic and through my checks to those of you in the Winona area and even those that I have contact information for who are “sheltering in place” in different areas; I can report that all are safe and well! My prayer is that you all can stay that way!
An interesting article that I read from the National Catholic Reporter, (NCR) this past week, addressed the result of Catholics experiencing COVID 19 who became quite ill with the virus, but came out of it. In all cases, “gratitude” was the overarching feeling in women and men alike. Now, this feeling of gratitude is most understandable in those interviewed who were gravely ill to the point that each spoke of never being so sick and seriously wondering if they would make it through the night on any particular day.
Gratitude then became coupled for each one with the sense of a renewed and greater appreciation for life, not only their own, but the lives of others, their family members and even those outside of their families—our sisters and brothers in this world—they became, in other words, more sensitive to the needs of others that perhaps they had ignored or hadn’t let themselves be bothered with before. It seems that the “slowing down” that COVID 19 has brought forth in many of us, especially those of us with means, is a good thing in that it has awakened us to the reality with which many in this world live most of the time.
If you have been watching or listening to reputable news stations, you have heard the reports stating that those who live in poverty, and/or, are dark-skinned, have been hardest hit by the coronavirus. And the truth of the matter is that the poor in this world, who are poor for many reasons, suffered as a rule, even before the coronavirus pandemic, which should tell all of us who live with enough of this world’s goods, that there is something wrong with this picture—that is if we want to claim that we are followers of our brother, Jesus.
It seems that in much of what I am reading, there is that sense that we cannot go back to the “normal” that said that the discrepancy between the rich and the poor in this world is somehow, OK. We need to understand that when there aren’t enough dollars to feed one’s family, you buy what is cheapest and will fill bellies, not that which may be most nutritious and this leads ultimately to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and so on. All of this, of course makes a person more susceptible in a time of pandemic. We Christians know in our heart of hearts, that Jesus would not be OK with this!
This week’s Scripture readings are instructive in how we should respond to present day problems as Jesus’ followers, and go about sharing his message. The first reading from Acts lets us know that we must be inclusive of all—no exceptions! God’s love is big enough for all and that God wants “good” for everyone.
Before Jesus came into the lives of the apostles, none of them would have gone to Samaria to spread a doctrine of love and inclusion because mainline Jews made a point of ignoring their Jewish sisters and brothers in Samaria that they considered, as “less than” themselves. But with Jesus, they learned that they must not judge who is worthy and who is not. Thus we see Philip going to Samaria to share the “Good News” and the people’s response is one of joy! The fact that Peter and John then follow Philip to Samaria to “bring the Spirit” to them is basically saying, as we proclaim here at All Are One, that all are welcome!
The reading from 1st Peter continues this theme as he tells us to “venerate Jesus Christ in our hearts,” treating others, “gently and with respect,” as we share the reason for our hope. Jesus must always be the one we check back with when we don’t know what we are being called to do—what, in fact is the right way to go.
We see this lack of “checking back with Jesus,” the one Christians say they follow in the recent actions of Timothy Cardinal Dolan in his blatant support of the current U.S. president who has demonstrated a lack of Christian values through actions that show hatred of immigrants, children, women, the poor and disadvantaged and the list could on. I try, my friends, not to be political in my comments to you, but to simply lift up Jesus’ words for us to reflect on, “You will know them by their fruits.” Perhaps Cardinal Dolan feels that supporting our current president is what God is calling him to, but whatever else it might be, it certainly is not Christian!
In response to NCR’s editorial of a couple of weeks ago denouncing Dolan’s “cozying up to” Trump and lack of response from any other bishops or the pope, Catholics from around our country, Canada and England responded positively in support of NCR’s stance.
One of the responses was especially interesting coming from a British man who spoke to the phenomenon of what he calls, “American Christianity.” He says, “American Christianity is an ideology of racism, hierarchy, patriarchy and xenophobia. Christianity, he continues, is only a mask for hate, racism and bigotry. This “Christianity” (italics mine) is pro-life but only insofar as it excludes capital punishment and caging of kids in detention camps. American Christianity, he goes on, is about power and domination. Do not misconstrue it, he says, with Jesus of Nazareth—the guy that is famous for compassion, mercy and forgiveness!”
This British gentleman concludes his comments by recalling the rebuke of present-day Afro-American historian, Vincent Harding: “We first met the American Christian on slave ships. We heard his [God’s] name sung in hymns of praise while we died in the thousands, chained in stinking holds beneath the decks, locked in with terror and disease and sad memories of our families and homes. When we leaped from the decks to be seized by sharks we saw his name carved in the ship’s solid sides. When our women were raped in the cabins, they must have noticed the great and holy books on the shelves. Our introduction to this Christ was not propitious. And the horrors continued on American soil.”
My friends, in the Gospel today from John, Jesus tells us that he “will not leave us orphans”…that he will send us his Spirit. That Spirit, we know is not about sanctioning fear, suffering, hatred, power and control, but in affirming Jesus’ healing touch through love, caring, justice and understanding—basically, the works of mercy. We as Jesus’ true followers have always known this, and we simply must not lose sight of which actions constitute true Christianity.
We may at present may be lacking in the kind of true leadership that is needed in our American church, but that does not let us, “off the hook,” so to speak, in following the ways of our brother, Jesus.
This time of year is the usual time when bishops confirm new young people as adult followers of our brother, Jesus—a practice that will perhaps be postponed this year due to the coronavirus. But let those of us already confirmed in our faith truly live out our confirmations no matter how long ago that may have happened—may we as Jesus’ true followers cast out, through our love and caring response to our world and its people, the demons of mistrust, hatred, anger, violence, disinterest and disdain of those that we don’t understand. Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially the least among us—help us to do this primarily by following ever closer your way of goodness and justice toward all, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
2. O Risen Jesus, let your peace reign in our hearts—the kind of peace that comes from lives of loving service, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Jesus, risen Savior, you who were a healer in every way, freeing people’s minds, hearts and bodies of illness of every kind, grant us health in these same ways, especially for those suffering now from COVID 19, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
4. Risen Jesus, you who have said, you will never leave us—help us to look for you earnestly each day in the faces and lives of those we encounter, we pray— Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Risen Jesus, our brother and friend, you have promised that you will always be with us in your Spirit—increase our faith and help us to be comforted by your closeness, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
6.Risen Jesus, in your new, resurrected life, continue to be our constant model of one who lived very simply upon the earth, and show us new ways to live in our changed economic climate going forward—beyond COVID 19 to refocus on the needs of all in our world, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
7. Risen Jesus, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to remain a community during this time of pandemic, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially from the coronavirus—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
***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 gentle God, our source of all strength and wisdom. We ask that you would give us peace—filled and loving hearts—the energy to always seek after peace through the gifts of lovingkindness and mercy. Help us to remember that our real task in this world as followers of Jesus, our brother, is to love your people and this world. We ask that we might have the strength for this great task. We ask a special blessing this week for all those in this country and around the world giving frontline care to those afflicted with the coronavirus—keep them safe. All this we ask of you, Jesus, our Shepherd and Friend, AMEN.
Let Us Pray—Again the reminder my friends, that in this time of pandemic, our reception of Jesus must come in other ways—we must ask him and he will come to us in just the ways that we need. Then, we must share him, “the bread” and body with others.
Prayer after Communion
Loving and ever-living God, you restored us to life by raising Jesus, the Christ from death. Strengthen us by this Easter sacrament; may we feel its living power in our daily lives. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.