Dear Friends, we continue on with Ordinary Time which I have chosen, as you know, to call, “extra” in that each week, as in this 24th Sunday, we are continued to be challenged–as we all know, this is not a time to let someone else be “Christian” but in fact, do it ourselves! I am concentrating on the virtue of hope this week as it is a virtue that sustains us for the long haul. Please do be in touch if I can be of help to you in any way–by phone, 507-429-3616 or by email, email@example.com. Peace and love to each one of you, Pastor Kathy
O tender and compassionate God, you are slow to anger and rich in lovingkindness and mercy. You hold our offenses farther away than the east is from the west. Holy is your name and forever to be praised!
Let Us Pray
Good and loving God, we believe that we do not live for ourselves, but for you and your people—help us to always keep in mind that you love us and want good for us and all of our brothers and sisters in this world. We ask this of you who are our Creator, Savior and Spirit—living and loving us forever and ever, Amen
- Sirach 27:30 — 28:7
- Romans 14:7-9
- Matthew 18: 21-35
My friends, as I said in the bulletin earlier in the week, my intention on this Sunday is to concentrate on the virtue of hope, reminding us in part, that as a community; we can be humbly proud of the ways we have reached out in generosity through our monetary gifts that have helped so many in our city, nation and world—garden produce, and other supplies to the Winona Voluntary Services food shelf along with regular meals to the Catholic Worker in Winona. And of course there is the regular delivery every February of Home Delivered Meals that our community has taken on. All of this fits well into the comments that I wish to make this week concerning hope, for such generosity in ourselves and others tells us that good abounds—something we all need to know from time to time.
Hope gets us through a great deal in life because, as Father Richard Rohr says, you can’t have hope without faith and those two lead to love. So, we have a trilogy with which to face our world. More on his thoughts in a bit.
Thinking about this threesome of faith, hope and love, which speak not just to our mindset as we face our world—faith and hope, our values, let’s say, but to the natural action which must follow from the first two—to show love in our world. The Scriptures for this week help to show us the way.
Thinking about, “having hope”—expecting the best from ourselves and others, the prophet, Isaiah, tells us not to hold onto anger, but instead—to forgive and to pray. He goes on to instruct and ask, “If we don’t do good to our neighbors, can we expect good from God?” Well, actually—yes we can!—because God isn’t like us in this regard! But, I think God would want us to, “Shoot for the best!”
Isaiah continues by saying—“Show mercy and refuse to hate.” Our human natures don’t immediately respond to ill treatment by, as Jesus tells us, “turning the other cheek,” so we know that we have to work on, “being our best.”
And our loving God, through the psalmist today, shows us the way—by proclaiming, “Our God is tender and compassionate, slow to anger, most loving!” This week perhaps today even, so as not to forget, you and I might want to think over, how we are like our good God in this regard—tender and compassionate, slow to anger and most loving. Talk about bringing hope to our world!
Paul, in his letter to the Romans simply says that Christ is our model—both in life and in death. It is good for us to recall that Paul never knew Jesus physically in this life—his first encounter with him was on that fateful day when he saw Jesus as a blinding (literally and figuratively) light! So Paul’s impressions and words are always about more than the human Jesus—they are about the all-encompassing, Christ. We will let that be too, for the moment.
And the final reading for today comes from Matthew’s gospel speaking about the ruler who was, “moved with pity” for the plight of his official—in the matter of a debt to be paid. Jesus, our good brother always uses stories and parables from people’s lives to teach the way that we, then and now are to go—are to live our lives.
So friends, moving back to my original intention of concentrating on hope, I would like to spend a few lines sharing just some of the nuggets from the first chapter of Father Richard Rohr’s newest book from 2019, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe. Some of you, I know, are familiar with this book.
As with many of Father Richard’s books, you don’t read them right through and must out of necessity, read some sections twice as they are so profound—this book is such an example, but one that I would highly recommend. Robert and I are known for, “reading out loud” our respective books to each other—something like, “listen to this…!” and then proceed to share the quotable quote. With this book; I told him that he must read it himself as there is so-much-good in it!
So hang on folks…! Richard, in his Introduction, which he entitles, “Before We Begin,” shares English mystic, Caryll Houselander’s startling experience while making an underground railway journey in London. He does so because he says she “poignantly demonstrates…the Christ mystery” in her telling of this experience.
For Rohr, the “Christ mystery,” simply put, is that God is in every thing that is created. Notice that he says “every thing” and not, “everything” to make the point that every-single-created-thing is infused with Christ.
Going back then to Houselander’s “startling experience,” she spoke about “quite suddenly” seeing, “with [her] mind, but as vividly as a picture, Christ in all of them”—all the inhabitants of the railway car, that is. She continued, “but I saw more…I saw Christ…living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them—and because [Christ] was in them, and because they were here, the whole world was here too…not only the world as it was at that moment, not only all the people in all the countries of the world, but all those people who lived in the past and all those yet to come.”
Now imagine how each of us might think and act differently in our respective lives if we could, even on occasion, see all of creation—all people and things—the world, in all its beauty as Christ—the very manifestation of God! Houselander says that after leaving the underground railway, her “startling experience” remained for a while—“seeing Christ” in the living out of individual lives—but then, it vanished. In future, she like us, would have to purposefully, “seek for [Christ] in other human beings and in creation, but I would have to think that because of this profound experience, she would make it a point to do, more often!
And Father Rohr moves on from there getting to a point that he truly wants us to understand. “Christ is God and Jesus is the Christ’s historical manifestation in time.” Now there is a statement to think on for a bit. Rohr continues saying that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but the reality of our loving God’s desire to be truly part of all created life. With that in mind, he makes this fantastic statement, “God loves things by becoming them[!] Jesus lived as a human being to show us in the best sense, how to be human! Rohr says, Jesus came to show us how to be human, much more than how to be spiritual…” Again, a statement to ponder…
So friends, getting back to hope then and the message of the Scriptures today from all the writers; that we try and forgive and not hold onto our anger, even when we feel it may be justified and pray instead for whom or what causes us to be angry, take tenderness and compassion into our world—some pity too for that which strikes us as less than Christian or even human because if it is so, as Rohr and Houselander say, that our God truly lives within “every thing,” then doesn’t it behoove us, as followers of our brother, Jesus, to react with more than the status quo response, “I just can’t!” I believe our status as Christian believers does demand a bit more. Even Rohr says with regard to Jesus’ coming to teach us how to be more human than spiritual, “still seems to be in the early stages.”
So friends, lots of thoughts and how to bring it all together…I think we might best do that by returning to the notion of “hanging onto the hope,” which you will recall from the beginning of this homily, is uniquely joined with the virtues of faith and love, as Rohr laid out. Because of our hope, which we might agree is bred into humanity—that striving for what is best in us and others—unless it is compromised along the way, moves us then to faith, a believing that the best is possible and because of that belief, then love follows—that giving of ourselves for all that is truly good in our world—for us and others, and never one, in exclusion of the other.
Many of us in these modern times have heard about “having a personal relationship with Jesus.” I too have thought of my relationship to Jesus as a personal one. But Rohr basically says that if we stop there—something strictly between Jesus and me, then we have missed the point of the Incarnation.
In fact, Rohr says that there have been three incarnations of our loving God. The first was at the creation of all life, the second was Jesus’ Incarnation into humanity and the third is the continual, that is, ongoing to the present and beyond of Christ into all people and this world of beautiful life. This beautiful notion he says was halted with the Roman inclusion into the catholic—small c, meaning—universal church of the 3rd Century.
We need to get back to the church that Jesus prayed for in his priestly prayer the night before he died—a church where, “all would be one.” And again, as you all know, that is the very reason why our community of believers, our piece of the Body of Christ is named, “All Are One” where all are welcome at the table where we attempt to be accepting of every one. Richard Rohr would say, “Take your Christian head off, shake it wildly, and put it back on!
And that my friends is truly something we can hope in! Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For each of us here and in our wider world, give us the strength to be able to forgive from our hearts realizing that we all need forgiveness, we pray—Response: “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For each of us here and for our entire Church, help us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, we pray—Response: “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community, and help all to hang onto the hope, we pray—Response: “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For those who are suffering from hurricanes, related storms, and fires caused by climate change, we pray—Response: “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For our country, especially the people of New York who lost so terribly 19 years ago, on 9/11, that peace and forgiveness would reign in our hearts—that we would do all in our power to bring peace to our world, we pray–Response: “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For our community, All Are One, separated now, continue to send your Spirit upon us to enable us to be an inclusive community, open and welcoming to all, we pray—Response: “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week from COVID 19 and from other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Creator, Savior and Spirit, You see into our hearts and know our needs before we ask—give us what we most need today. Allow us to have your lovingkindness and your compassionate heart to see beyond the evil that sometimes seems to be present in people and situations and see the cause and do all that we personally can to alleviate that. Help each of us to hang onto the hope in these troubling times—we ask this of You, Loving Creator, Savior and Spirit—One God, living and loving us forever and ever—Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again, the bread of the table—Jesus’ ever-present body, cannot be ours, as a community, but enable us to remember that you are always with us, in each other.
Prayer after Communion
God of mercy, may the fact that you are always with us make us strong in your love and faithful in our witness to your truth. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name—Amen.