Homily – 4th Sunday of Easter in an Almost Time of Safety

Friends, 20 + of us met this morning for a Zoom Mass! It was so good to be together again! Below, find my homily. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can help you in any way–call, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. –Pastor Kathy



   My friends, as has been mentioned, this Sunday reflects for all of us, just what a “good shepherd” is.  I shared the following description 6 years ago and would like to share it again as it gets us into the mind of our God. 

  Jesus, as the good shepherd is an image that over time has been a comforting one, even though most of us have never taken care of sheep.  Looking back to what taking care of sheep was like in Jesus’ time; we find that it was no picnic—being with these basically ignorant, smelly creatures for a couple of weeks at a time, which was common practice for sheepherders, leading them from one good pasture to the next, finding clean, unpolluted water to drink was no small task. Yet, given all this, we still hear that the shepherd who would be considered, “good” basically loved their sheep and would go the extra mile for each and every one of them.  We all remember the additional Scripture story of this “Good Shepherd leaving the 99 in search of one lost one.”

   Now, the Scripture story today from John is only more than, “just a story” if we indeed put it into our own lives and see what it might say for us.  We all know that our call as Jesus’ followers, is to walk in his footsteps, therefore, it seems that each of us should, today, hear our own call, “to shepherd others” where needed.

   The most current example I can think of is our effort here in Winona to bring a Honduran family seeking asylum in the United States to a place of safety as they pursue this “great life change” for their family. 

   This venture began last Sunday evening and into the wee hours of Monday morning, as three from our Great River Asylum Support Partners (GRASP), me included, as the official sponsor, drove to the Minneapolis airport to welcome and bring them to their, “new home,” for a while. 

   As I reflect on our first meeting; us with some Spanish, they with no English–each with cell phones—translation apps, on our parts, to find each other—it was with a good deal of emotion that we all, literally, fell into each other’s arms when we finally caught sight of each other!  It was akin to finding that lost one!  

   And since that mid-night ride on Sunday-Monday, last, a group of 40+ people have surrounded “our family,” as many of us now refer to them, with shelter, food, clothing, outings in the community so as to learn about their new home, assistance to get their oldest son into school in the Rios (bi-lingual) educational system, to name just some of what has been offered and graciously, so graciously, accepted.  And it is good to remember that this family came to our borders, literally running for their lives, so just about everything is needed, as they came with so little. 

   In the upcoming weeks and months, as they and we come to better know each other’s languages, more of their story will no doubt be made known to us. 

   We have all come to see how such a venture as this really does, “take a village” as we balance the needs of all:  for community, for alone time, for assistance—enough, but not too much so as to allow them to take charge of their lives, little by little. 

Right now, and for their first six months here; they are unable to get work permits which necessitates the need for our support.  But, for all of us, this family has already shown us so much love, gratitude, and graciousness—all the gifts we have wanted to give to them!

   I am presently reading, Bishop Michael Curry’s 2020 book, entitled, Love is the Way, which is his treatise, I believe, to so many problems facing our world—the more we can go to our hearts in dealing with many issues, the better response we will be able to make.  Bishop Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church and the 1st African American to lead the domination. 

   Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners Magazine, in a tribute to the book, had this to say about Michael Curry: “Michael Curry believes in love. Not the kind of love that sidesteps and softens our response to the most brutal realities of our deepest racist, economic, and human oppression. But rather, like Dr. King and more importantly, [as] Jesus said, the kind of radical love that may be the only thing that can finally overcome such radical sin.” 

   This past week, the news cycle has placed our country squarely looking at the issue of the deep-seeded racism that our country faces.  We have been dealing with this through the inequality of policing towards Blacks in our country and also in a more general way through the inequality in the economics under which minorities live in our country.  This has been demonstrated most clearly recently through COVID in elevated death levels and lack of services to these populations in general. 

   So, my friends, not any easy answers, when we attempt to live radically as Jesus did.  Peter tells us in the 1st reading today from Acts that much good can be and is done in the name of Jesus, the Christ, our brother from Nazareth.  He, in his life among us, was, Peter says, “the stone rejected,” initially, but that he would become, “the corner stone” upon which the whole house stands!

   I can’t help but think when reflecting on our Honduran family that their status now is like, “stones that are,” in some ways, “rejected”—they will have “to jump through many hoops” over the next many months to acquire asylum and they could yet be rejected and deported.  Our hope surely is, that they won’t be deported in the end because they, like all of us, have so much potential for good, if given the chance.

   John, in the 2nd reading today writes about how our God, “lavishes” love on each of us and that, “it has not been revealed what we will become.” 

   Greta Thunberg has been in the news again lately as President Biden had called world leaders to a virtual summit this past week to address the urgent need of climate change. Greta, you will remember is the “shy,” in her words, Swedish young woman who at age 15 decided to leave school and demonstrate, to the powers-that-be in our world and to literally, beg them to do something—not in 30 years, not in 10 years, but now, to save the planet for the next generation.

   At first, Greta demonstrated alone, but now she has a following of thousands! We never know friends, what our love can do, until we try to truly use it.

   My patron saint, Catherine of Siena, whose feast day is celebrated on April 30 minced no words when she said, “Cry out with a thousand tongues, I see the world is rotten because of silence.” She was always getting herself into trouble in the 14th Century with popes and such because she didn’t remain silent with what she saw as wrong in her Church—a good patron for me, I guess.

   And in conclusion, our present-day prophet, Sr. Joan Chittister has said in the past, but it is still just as true today, “To move from childish spirituality to adult spirituality, we must not be afraid to question any dogma, any sermon, any edict, writings, admonition—not to deny it but to wrestle it to the ground. Then we can be sure that neither magic nor authoritarianism will ever substitute for our search for God.

   And that’s it friends, our lives are truly about our search for God, never knowing when God will appear in our midst—perhaps in a Honduran family, seeking refuge here, among us! Amen? Amen!