Merry Christmas to all! May peace, joy, and love be yours this day and everyday of the New Year! As I said in the homily last evening, which you can read below, how would it be in our world if “Love” were applied more liberally and more often to address the problems of Church and State.
Being that we won’t be meeting again before the New Year, I wanted to take this opportunity to express to each of you my deep gratitude for all that each of you does to make the ministry of All Are One Catholic church in Winona a blessing to many. We don’t know how many people are touched by what we do here in Winona—us who attend, yes, but my homilies are shared far and wide, people tell me—so there is that and then, all the financial gifts which you so generously give do bring respite to people here in Winona, to our nation and to our world. Thank you all, so much!
I always say this to you each year, but I truly want each of you to know how humbled I am to pastor such a fine group of people—I am blessed!
A happy and holy New Year, 2022 to each of you! Let’s be the change we want to see in our Church and World—Love and peace—Pastor Kathy
Recently, I was asked by two young women who are interested in doing a documentary on the issue of women being ordained in the Catholic church to interview with them. As you might imagine, I was humbled to take part and time will tell, what comes of it—so stay tuned! One of their questions to me within the interview was, “Why have I remained a Catholic? One of the interviewers, a young woman with a one-year-old said that she was raised a Catholic and struggles with remaining Catholic due to several issues and I think was looking for some reasons to remain.
I told her there were a couple of reasons for me. First, it is because of the rituals within the Catholic church—something other Christian denominations don’t have to the extent that the Catholic church has, if at all. I know this because in my own personal, religious journey—that of mine and Robert’s, we have checked out many of these denominations and found them, “wanting.” The notion of “rituals” will be the heart of this homily, which I will get to in a minute. But, because “inquiring minds” “want to know,” the second reason I gave the interviewer, in not leaving the Catholic church is because, “it is my Church too,” and even though the hierarchy, or as a friend of this ministry named them, the “lowerarchy,” have said, “In choosing to ‘attempt’ ordination, I have left the Church,” I say, “No, it is the, priests and bishops who have left me and the other women following their God-given calls to ordination, by not realizing that “the Spirit is continually renewing the face of the earth.”
But for our purposes here, let us just turn to the wonder and blessing of rituals within the Catholic church and Christmastime, 2021. The prophet Isaiah proclaims in tonight’s Scriptures— “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…for a child is born to us.” Within these two lines, we see the beauty of “ritual” in both literal and spiritual ways.
First the literal. Christmas Scriptures and other stories about this time, always revolve around the Star, which both announces a special happening on earth and “shows” the literal way for those traveling to Bethlehem to see this “happening.” We think of the shepherds on the hillsides and of the Three Kings, who traveled a long distance as they studied the stars.
The spiritual or extended meaning of course is that a child, Jesus, who will become, the Christ, and also become, “Light” in a new way, showing us all, his sisters and brothers, the way, to live, each one of us, our one wonderful life, by how he in fact lives his own. For Catholics, whenever we light candles throughout the Church Year, we should recall how, our brother Jesus, is a light in the darkness of our sometimes, dark lives.
So, because my thoughts during this last week of Advent have been about this one “ritual” of “light” and “a light shining in the darkness,” I have been attracted to those who have specifically addressed this one beautiful symbol of light.
Sr. Joan Chittister penned a very instructive piece for the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) this week which basically speaks of how the “light” of Christmastime allows us to open wide our hearts. And of course, we must realize that she is speaking of more than, physical light. Her piece is entitled, “Christmas is not for Children.”
She makes a point of laying out how Christmas is different for people depending on a person’s age and certainly when one is either a child or has children in their lives, Christmas is about children. But from the standpoint of an octogenarian, which Sr. Joan is, with life, “waxing and waning,” as she says, her view is understandably, a bit different.
Being 80 and past, she says, “Christmas is about finding life where we did not expect it to be.” “Christmas,” she says, “calls us to live again.” Additionally, “Christmas calls us to hope—in the life of the crib—that this time, we can get it right,” she says. I would add, and in the life of any newborn, as I think it is fair to say that all parents of newborns have great hope in what this new life may bring.
“Life is for living,” Sr. Joan continues, “and we find the hope to do that each year, at the crib.” That is why, I think, it is important to keep our focus on the crib at Christmastime and not jump ahead to the “cross,” which will come soon enough, as we all know, as life “waxes and wanes.”
Sr. Joan concludes by saying and I paraphrase, for those who remember that “life is for the living,” “Christmas never finishes.” And this is what we all seek isn’t it? —that the joy and good will—love, actually, that so many display at Christmastime might be more, “the norm,” rather than, “the exception,” throughout the entire year. Someone this past week said as much on Face Book, in this time of COVID: “May love become the dominant variant!” Soon, I would say, soon!
Every year since 2012, we remember across this country, the slaughter of 20 six-year-olds at Sandyhook Elementary School. These innocents died due to the fact that, “in the darkness” of our inability as a country to come to terms with the madness of gun proliferation, we do not take our national obligation of dealing with, “this right” responsibly. How would it be different if love were truly the dominant variant here? A good Christmas question!
In another article in this week’s NCR, Michael Leach writes too about the “light” of Christmastime, basically saying that, “Our work on earth is “to glow” for God and become “light” to each other.” Here we see the extension of that “literal” notion of a star or a candle giving, “physical” light, to ourselves becoming that “light,” “glowing,” in the darkness of as Michael Leach says, “the weak and the strong, the celebrated and the ignored, those on the inside and those on the outs, those in the shadows and even the despised.”
Sometimes my friends, we feel overwhelmed by the needs of this world and our seeming inability to bring about change. And rather than do the perhaps small part that we can, we throw up our hands and do nothing. Michael Leach, in the above piece, reminds his readers, that through the Mystical Body of Christ, we “all belong” and what affects one of us, really does affect all of us, so that we feel the pain of a mother on the other side of the world who has no food for her children, and we do what we can to help. And when that sometimes doesn’t feel enough, Michael Leach gives us an additional piece of hope, “in the darkness.” He says that because of the “mystical-ness” of our spiritual body, which we can’t truly understand, that because our God loved us enough to send Jesus, to be that “first light,” we can literally send, “peace,” the gift of peace, which is that generous, spontaneous gift of God, known as “grace” which Titus speaks of tonight in the 2nd reading, and those suffering, will, in fact, feel it! And in the spirit of Christmastime, I believe this is so!
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not lift up two final images from tonight’s readings. Luke’s gospel tells the story of two, poor travelers coming to Bethlehem and finding, “no room at the inn,” and when they did find a place of respite, in a cave, it was the poor shepherds and not the “powers that were” who first heard of the birth of their child. I mention this, friends, a fact we all know, but I think at times, we all forget, because it signals what we must do next, how we must, in fact, be in our world. And so as, not to forget, in order that our mission as Jesus’ followers would be clear—each and every day, we must not look in high places, necessarily to find, “a light shining in the darkness,” but more so first, in simplicity and in beauty –we will always find, “the child” there and ultimately, the God of our hearts.
And finally then, because my first and best critic, Robert, tells me to share some good things along with the challenges, let me close with these good things:
- 2021 has brought several wonderful vaccines to combat COVID 19 and its variants and rather than lament those who won’t avail themselves to this protection and help us end this virus, just for tonight, let us be joyful that because of the vaccines, many, many more people have been spared.
- Doctors, nurses, and other hospital support staff have given mightily to care for and protect us—some even losing their own lives—let us be grateful for their dedication.
- Let us applaud the work and dedication of many within the Winona Sheltering Network (WSN) and its affiliate, Great River Asylum Support Partners (GRASP) in bringing this past April a Honduran family here seeking asylum and caring for their needs throughout this year—of housing, food, education, medical, and legal support for their case.
- Let us be most grateful for those within this sheltering network who have pursued buying a house for on-going assistance to those seeking a better life in our country along with all those who have so very generously contributed to making this purchase possible –yourselves included. I can most joyfully report to you tonight that on Tuesday next, we will be closing on this first house with a down payment equaling 2/3 of the purchase price!
- Finally, let us rejoice that during this Christmastime, another local group, Winona Afghan Support Network (WASN) will be welcoming an Afghan family of 4, two adults and 2 children to Winona –next week in fact—a holy family who will be moving into our newly closed upon house that will be 2/3 of the way paid for by then. If one was looking for the miraculous, here it is! Amen? Amen!