Jesus asks us this week in the Gospel, just what do we believe?–perhaps a good question to ponder this week. We continue to be in this time of pandemic that doesn’t allow us to live as we might like to–we have had to be creative in how we reach out to others. Perhaps this time has made us appreciate others more–not a bad outcome if in fact true. Maybe this time has encouraged us to look again at how we live in our world and protect it, helping, not harming, the environment. Maybe these times have caused us to realize in a new way how everyone’s life, day in and day out, is not always on a level playing field. Friends, Easter calls us to these questions and more–may we each be blessed as we ponder and search for the best ways to be in our world that so needs people who can live from their hearts. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
P.S. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if I can help in any way. Emailfirstname.lastname@example.org or by phone-507-429-3616.
Like newborn children we should thirst for milk on which our spirits can grow to strength. Rejoice in the glory that is ours and give thanks for being called to be part of God’s kindom. Alleluia!
Let Us Pray
Loving and merciful God, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive! From the waters of death you raise us with him and renew your gift of life within us. Increase in our minds and hearts the knowledge and awareness of the risen life we share with Jesus, who is the Christ. Help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, who lives and loves us with you and the Spirit Sophia—one God, forever and ever. Amen.
- Acts 4: 32-35
- 1 John 5: 1-7
- John 20: 19-31
My friends, I believe many of us enjoy the post-Easter Sunday readings from the Acts of the Apostles that lay out for us how these first followers of Jesus, our brother, chose to live following the memory of his life, death, and resurrection. We marvel at how they shared with one another, “No one was needy among them,” And it is easy, reading such text, to make the leap to the present and say, “Why can’t we do this in our world today?” At the very least, why can’t we see to it that, “no one is hungry?”
A reality check brings us to the fact that, “good ideas” and the people advocating for such, are always more successful at first. Our continued reading in Acts will show that the love and sharing of everything in common grows thin in the day-to-day living out, of this most, amiable goal. But does that mean we shouldn’t continue to try to see to it that there is, “no one needy among” [us]? I would say, “No!” As we live and grow, we are always called to more, not less, if we are truly trying to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
This brings us nicely into the key thoughts that I gleaned from a select podcast within a group of such, entitled, All My Relations. I became aware of this from my daughter, Eryn, who indicated that it might be good to use in a homily—sometime. She was right, so here goes.
The issue being discussed in this particular podcast was the fire in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on April 15, 2019, nearly two years ago. Two women, one a protagonist and the other, an antagonist, are speaking for or against, as the case may be, the fact that within hours of the fire, two prominent people were able to raise 300 million dollars to repair this icon of the Catholic church, a symbol for many of their long-held faith in the goodness of Christianity in their lives.
The woman speaking for the goodness—the rightness of these financial gifts seemed to be saying that it is all about peoples’ “sacred places,” and that it is important that we, “hold space for each other” when such tragedies happen in order that people can grieve.
The second woman stated that if this is so, why in the past has the same not been done when black church fires have happened? Additionally, the antagonist takes issue with the Catholic church and the system represented by Notre Dame. She criticizes the Catholic church as the biggest business in the world and suggests that the money might have better been used to feed everyone who is hungry in our world. In her mind it is all about, “the will,” to do the right thing.
The main issue raised by the protagonist was that “now was not the time,” to make connections between the Notre Dame fire and other tragedies—that we should, “hold space” for others when tragedies happen and make connections later. The antagonist follows with, “if not now, when?” She goes on to say that when another, yet another mass shooting happens, we can’t stay, “in the moment” and simply grieve, but must raise the obvious need that now, new, stricter, laws are needed to end violence with guns!
So, my friends, no matter how you may look at this issue, from the side of the protagonist or the antagonist, the issue must be faced that much inequality remains within our world—a truth that is being played out in so many areas today: in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the murder case of George Floyd, in the inequality of vaccine distribution among black, indigenous, and otherwise poor communities which underscores the larger issue of “racism” in our country and the list can go on. As Christians, who say we follow Jesus, our brother, we too must “hold space” for the lives and goodness of all—no exceptions.
Easter, a period of six weeks every year, a time really of new life, calls each of us to remember all that Jesus did while physically with us. When that time ended, he told those 1st followers, who wanted him to stay with them, that he would always be with them—in a different way, but that they would never be alone. Additionally, he let them know that now, they must be his hands and feet, eyes, and ears—but more so, his heart in our world.
The first letter of John, the 2nd reading today seems to be saying that our God is always about “loving those that God has sent.” This really includes all of us in the grandest sense. In other words, our God is able to “love all of creation” through our loving actions in the world. As Jesus said so well and so simply— “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” –that’s it!
I personally love that Jesus’ greeting most times after the Resurrection and especially in today’s gospel is, “Peace be with you!” As you all know, if you regularly read my homilies; I have been working with the Great River Asylum Support Partners (GRASP), to assist a family from Honduras seeking asylum in this country and especially now, in Winona, MN! I believe if we were to ask them the question about what they are most seeking in this country, “peace” from the fear of losing their lives to gang violence in their own country would be high on their list. Jesus’ prime message, after his Resurrection was to say to his faithful band who once again found their strength, through the Spirit, that he was now sending them—in his place.
He gave them and us, by extension some simple commands to follow—tools to use: “Whose sins you retain—whose sins you forgive—it is done! He was basically saying—do what you feel, in your heart is right! This is not, you see, necessarily about a stated law.
I have recently been re-reading Thomas Merton’s, Seven Story Mountain and it strikes me, that his basic struggle in life before his conversion to Catholicism and his entrance into a Cistercian monastery was to choose, in his own personal life, “the right thing” to do, as directed by his heart.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is pressing Thomas, the apostle, and us too, to get out of our heads and into our hearts. We say we believe, even though we have never seen Jesus, as did those 1st apostles. The challenge is to name for ourselves, just what, in fact, we actually believe, because it makes all the difference in what we do next. We are told that those 1st followers “ran” to tell the others that they had seen Jesus! Does our faith cause such excitement within us that we would “run” to share it—to act upon it?
Easter is all about bringing “light” into the “darkness” of what life can sometimes be. And as our friend, Joan Chittister has said of Easter, “it is not a nice fairytale with a happy ending—it is just the beginning! Amen? —Amen! —Alleluia!
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—let them be foremost in our minds and hearts, we pray– Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- O Risen Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, let us pray today in a special way for people who need “peace,” now, more than ever, 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, we pray— Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Risen Jesus, grant each of us a renewed faith during this Easter Season to remain true to you in good times and in bad, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Risen Jesus, our brother and friend, give hope to those who are suffering now due to job loss, illness of any kind, the ravages of weather—show them the way through this painful time, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Risen Jesus, you gave us the gift of forgiveness—give us the generosity and care for others and for ourselves to be able to forgive, and to accept forgiveness from others, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- 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 accordingly, especially when we try to feed the physically hungry in our world, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- 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 always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts. We pray too for the success of the new family coming to our community soon from Honduras that their quest for asylum might be granted, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes, 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 the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, we pray, then response
Let Us Pray
Jesus, you have truly risen! Alleluia! Be the strength we need each day to be people of the Resurrection—true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world. Give us the strength and grace to do what we can to make our world better—help us to be the change we want to see. Let us truly be Easter people of joy, people of forgiveness. We ask all of this of you, our loving Savior and with the Creator and your loving Spirit— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again, we must be apart and cannot share the bread of the altar—but remember, and don’t ever forget, Jesus is always with us!
Prayer of Communion
Loving Jesus, may the Easter sacraments, Baptism and Eucharist that we have received, live forever in our minds and hearts. We ask this in your wonderful name. Amen.