We are challenged once again to grow large hearts and have clear minds as we face our world with the Scriptures in hand. Much challenges us these days of which we will discuss today. Rather than let all that isn’t right send fear through us, Lent calls us to give, always, as best we can, a loving response–it’s what Jesus did when he lived physically among us and it is what we must do as well.
We will look forward the next two Sundays after this one, to a pair of Zoom Masses, March 28, Palm Sunday and April 4, Easter Sunday! I will send out the links the Saturday before each Mass.
Please continue to stay safe and well even with your vaccinations as you get them–we are getting close but not there yet! Please call 507-429-3616 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org if I can be of help in any way. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
O God of Justice, defend my cause against the wickedness of this world. Rescue me from those who would act with deceit and injustice. You O God are my refuge.
Let Us Pray
Loving God, love led Jesus to accept the suffering of the cross that we might glory in new life with him. 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. Grant all this through Jesus, the Christ, with you and the Spirit—one God, who lives and loves us forever and ever—Amen.
- Jeremiah 31: 31-34
- Hebrews 5: 7-9
- John 12: 20-33
As I said in the bulletin, these unfolding, last days of Lent give us quite “a plate” of issues—ones that need our attention as followers of our brother Jesus: how LGBTQs are looked at and respected in society—raised anew by Pope Francis, our newer issue of racism, although one that has been with us for a while—against Asian Americans in light of this past year of pandemic, fueled through the incompetence and lack of empathy of former, so-called leaders in Washington, and the ages-old racism at the heart of this country for our black sisters and brothers played out now in the present as we prepare for the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. And while all these issues are of great importance; I wish to concentrate on Pope Francis’ recent comments on the blessing of same-sex unions in light of today’s Scriptures.
The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has recently stated that Francis is giving us “whiplash” and they have even called him a “hypocrite” because of his statement that priests may not bless same-sex unions. And if you haven’t kept track of the “whip-lash-like” statements—here’s a bit of the back story.
In Pope Francis’ attempt to reach out to the LGBTQ community, he has stated that they are loved by God and the Church and even admits that God created them as they are. Now if all the above is true, then any thinking, compassionate person has to be asking, “What kind of God creates a person a certain way, wanting this “spiritual” being to have a truly “human” experience while here, as we have spoken of in the past, but wouldn’t want them to find and express love in the ways of their own particular makeup?” I would say this is a cruel God indeed! But we all know that it is not God making this law, but the men who state that they are speaking for God.
Unfortunately, this otherwise compassionate leader (Francis) who has shown us in other ways—toward the earth (Laudato Si), and initially toward gays in his statement, “Who am I to judge?”— (although, he has no such compulsion where women are concerned—a whole other story—my apologies—I couldn’t help myself!) that he does have an open mind—to an extent. As others have said, “His statements of support for gays, up to this point have not been against, “any law already on the books.” That is apparently the difference with this newest statement.
His signature to the statement that priests do not bless same-sex unions, “because God doesn’t bless sin,” is about the law and in this writer’s mind, totally wipes out any previous verbiage about “loving” these sisters and brothers. This statement is so indicative of the person who compartmentalizes their thoughts and feelings and unfortunately, men in our society have a penchant for doing this more so than women—another good reason for having more women involved in leadership roles to off-set this incomplete thinking. In today’s first reading from Jeremiah, this prophet says that God will write laws on our minds, yes, but our hearts as well!
So, let’s look at Francis’ statement in the light of NCR’s concern that he is causing, “whiplash” and their indictment of “hypocrisy.” Frankly, the statement to any group of people that, one, “they are loved,” which, by the way indicates, “acceptance” of who they are, yet two, does not want them to act on their natural impulses as a human being is, in the words of a sister-priest friend, “crazy-making.”
Now, in order that I not be, “unclear,” it is one thing if a person is called to be celibate, but to say that an entire group of people must be celibate because the powers-that-be want sexual encounters to be simply between one man and one woman in order to call their union, “a marriage” is simply unjust. And to then, call it a “sin” and blame it on God, is an abomination in my humble opinion! And finally, I would say to Francis, if that is your God—you may keep “Him,” thank you very much!
I would also like to take time in this homily to express my extreme sorrow to all of my gay and lesbian friends in committed relationships who have no doubt been hurt by the callousness of Francis’ words in your regard. And as one who has had the privilege of blessing unions of such friends, let me extend the offer once again to any and all who might want their union blessed within the Catholic church—I am here for you.
And on a final note; I would like to address the almost inordinate need, it seems, to have so much of Church life adhere around the concept of “sin.” We need to be baptized to wash away our “original sin” when our God sees us first and foremost as most loving parents do their own children—original “blessings.” *
*the notion of “original blessing” comes from Matthew Fox
Jesus then, needed to come to earth to die on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, to appease an unforgiving God for “the sin of all humans,” and now, priests cannot bless same-sex unions because, “God does not bless sin.” Interesting isn’t it that in all the ways any loving couple expresses love, compassion and understanding in this world, the one area that is zeroed in on is the physical, intimate sharing that can so strengthen them for all else that they do in this world?
And if we want to discuss “sin” let’s look at the sin of clergy-sex-abuse of minors and others and the decades that this went on within the Church unaddressed and now even not fully addressed because of the system of clericalism that allows it to remain. Clericalism, we all know, is the system that sees, bishops and priests as basically better than those that they supposedly, serve. I think many, once faithful Catholics have little desire these days to take their, “less than perfect lives” to the scrutiny of men in the confessional that they feel are basically, untrustworthy. This Sacrament has basically fallen to the wayside for most Catholics when it once had the potential for so much good.
So, my friends, by way of reigning this in and concluding; I would say to Francis, his bishops and priests, that it is time to wake up— “get out of the box,” concentrate on the love, more, as my dear, deceased, mother-in-law, Margaret was fond of saying—get their brooms out and uncover again, the footsteps of Jesus. He always moved first with acceptance, honesty, mercy—basically love and then challenged every last one he encountered, to try again—to be their best.
The writer to the Hebrews today tells us that, “Jesus was heard because of his reverence” [for the people]. Jeremiah the prophet began our instruction today saying that God has “put [the] law in [our] minds and on [our] hearts.” We must never separate the two, my friends—as the mind helps us to understand what might be needed in any situation, but the “heart” allows us to make the personal decision that is best in each situation. An “engaged” heart could never separate a person from their action, saying they “love the person” but naming the loving action between two committed people, regardless of gender, “a sin”—just couldn’t do it!
In John’s gospel today, Jesus’ words come to us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain.” Simply put, we need the gifts of all—as the grain mingles with the soil, is “watered” by the life experiences of all, that single grain bursts open and is capable of taking on more and beautiful new life. Many in our family witnessed this phenomenon in the New Year with the generous gifts of our son and daughter-in-law, Isaac and Lauren in an amaryllis bulb fully potted and ready to go once we watered and fertilized it. We each got different shades with beautiful names that once we put them in motion developed leaves, stalks and after several weeks, buds of the most beautiful hues. We shared via texts and emails with our generous “givers” what came of their love—to the delight of us all!
And the true wonder is that after all that production, the bulb is completely spent (dead it seems) in the production of something so new, different, and beautiful. Then, with care that same plant is cut back, grows new stems and in the process a new bulb to start all over again!
That’s what love does in us too my friends. And I truly think that in order for our Church to grow and become significant in our world once again it must do the same. Jesus was right when he said, “Unless the grain falls into the ground and dies—it remains only a single grain. Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
- Loving God, let my actions always reflect a heart committed to you, where love is what determines how I respond to what life brings, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
- Loving God, help our country and our world to be people who love peace and strive to bring it about—thank you for being our strength and our light, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
- Gracious God, bless each of us with healthy bodies, minds and spirits–be with those who most need you today, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
- O God, show us the ways during this holy season of Lent to grow closer to you, we pray— Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
- O God, thank you for work and the ability to work and we ask you to be with those who have lost their jobs; give them hope for a new day, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
- Loving God, teach us to live as though the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world were in our hands, because they are, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
7. Loving God, instill in our country’s people the flexibility and patience needed to struggle through uncertain times—be with our leaders to bring justice, hope and peace to our country and to our world, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
- For our community, All Are One, continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all those who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray— Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, 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 have your passion to work for justice and understanding for all in this world, especially those who are poor or disadvantaged in any way. All this we ask of you, in Jesus’ loving name and with the Spirit—one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—We can’t be together once again, but soon, hopefully! Jesus is always with us though! Remember!
Prayer of Communion
Jesus, you are the light of our world—give us the light of life to comfort your people, we ask this in your loving name—Amen.