Again, we won’t be meeting in person for Mass this coming Sunday, but hopefully, we can do so the first Sunday in February. We are challenged this week to trust that our God in Jesus walks with us every day as we attempt to live as Jesus did. Below you will find a listing of the readings for Sunday, accompanying prayers and a homily for your reflection. Please be in touch if I can help you in any way in the interim–firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-429-3616. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
Sing a new song to our God. Sing to God all the earth. Truth and beauty surrounds God—God lives in holiness and glory.
Let Us Pray
Gracious God, the love you offer always exceeds the furthest expression of our human longing, for you are greater than the human heart. Direct each thought, each effort of our life so that the limits of our faults and weaknesses may not obscure the vision of your glory or keep us from the peace you have promised. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, with you our Creator and the Spirit of us all—one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
- Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19
- 1 Corinthians 12: 31–13: 13
- Luke 4: 21-30
My friends, today’s readings from the prophets, Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus come to me and perhaps you at a very significant time. Many of us Catholics have been invited by Pope Francis to share with the local church, our thoughts, concerns and more as we all, “journey together”—which by the way is the definition of “synodality,” toward the 2023 Synod on Synodality.
In the earlier years within the Church, historians and theologians tell us, there was more “inclusivity of voices,” i.e. the laity, in making decisions concerning the People of God. But as the papacy’s power grew over time, the laity and their opinions were technically eliminated, or at least, not sought. So, the coming Synod on Synodality, called for by Pope Francis is, as I understand it, intended to change this. At face value, that all sounds good, and I will leave it there for now.
Another new piece of information that I would like to throw into the mix as we reflect on this Sunday’s Scriptures is an article written by Sister Linda Romney, Erie, Pennsylvania Benedictine in the Global Sisters’ Report. The article addresses what communities of religious sisters would look like without patriarchy. A very good question to reflect on as we all are being asked to “weigh in” for the Synod on Synodality. This too, I will leave for now and focus on the message of the Scriptures and later, see if we can make some connections.
In the first reading from Jeremiah, we hear our God saying to the prophet that his connection to God started even before he was conceived! Think about that! And as you do, hopefully you can realize and believe that the same is true for each of us! Jesus, in fact, confirmed this again and again throughout his earthly life. The rest of this reading is a call and a challenge to Jeremiah, [to] “brace yourself for action, stand up and tell [the people] what I command you.” More on this in a bit.
The prophet Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, tells them and us, in no uncertain terms how we are to be in the world, following in our brother Jesus’ footsteps. I am sure you all recalled this beautiful treatise on love that many couples who marry each year choose as one of their readings.
And finally, the readings for this week conclude with a continuation of Luke’s gospel from last Sunday. You will recall that the previous gospel ended with Jesus’ prophetic and challenging words, “Today, in your hearing, this Scripture passage is fulfilled.” Today’s gospel then, begins with the above words with the hearers able to comment. A novel idea, don’t you think?! 😊
We find that his neighbors and friends, in his hometown of Nazareth seem to have two responses: On the one hand, “they marveled” at his ability to preach and prophesy; but on the other, they seem to doubt— “Is this not the son of Joseph and Mary?”
These hometown folks seem to foreshadow the response of people throughout history to the present–rather than see a message, “as graced” and coming from the Spirit of our Loving God, we doubt and stay stuck in, “the way it has always been. For Jesus, where there was no faith, he simply didn’t have the power to act, as all prophets before him and perhaps, after him.
So my friends, let’s take these Scriptures as a lens to address the issues I raised at the start of this homily: First, the synod coming up in 2023. We are all invited through our pope, Francis to “journey together” these next two years, sharing our truth, as inspired by the Spirit—seemingly freely, about “what church is” for us now and perhaps what we would like it to be. Many of us could probably mouth Jeremiah’s words in the first reading today about why we are reluctant to speak the truth we know, “to be from God.” Simply put, “we are afraid,” that like Jesus, we will be abused, ridiculed, not believed—the comfort I feel [perhaps] in my present situation will be upset or whatever our concern may be.
And we see God’s response to the fearful Jeremiah and ultimately to us—our God says, “I am with you, do not doubt that! The priests and people will fight against you but will not overcome you!” Additionally, our God says, and I paraphrase—do not be afraid of what the people will do to you if you speak, be afraid of what I will [think, feel] if you don’t!
Secondly, let us look briefly at Sister Linda Romney’s article in the Global Sisters Report. The question she is basically asking communities of sisters to look at, is how their communities would function without patriarchy.
I think it is fair to say that many, if not most sisters in communities across this country and around the world don’t speak out against the bishops and pope because they fear the consequences. The review of women religious conducted by Benedict XVI is still in the memories of many.
Like with Jeremiah, this fear is a high hurdle to get over. It is at this point that these bodies of religious women should heed our God’s words to the prophet: Really, you should fear more my response if you don’t speak out. Linda Romney is asking a “stellar” question for our time—one that I truly feel religious women can’t ignore. Why do religious groups of women fail to speak out on issues that they know they should until the bishop says it is, okay? And those not ordained, or part of a religious community are not left off the hook. Remember the words of our God to Jeremiah—Our God will not let us fail when we speak the truth that God gives us.
Paul then, tells us how we all should go about asking our questions—basically, with love. And by, “love,” I mean, “tough love,” that has at its basis, what is good for all, across the board–beginning with the poor and disadvantaged, the abused and alone, the forgotten ones, the misunderstood, and we do this all in the memory of Jesus of Nazareth.
With regard to Linda Romney’s question of how religious life would be different without patriarchy, I wonder, often, why we do not see Church fathers, with perhaps Pope Francis as an exception, on some issues, speaking out in unison on any number of social-justice concerns. If the men want to lead, then they should do that–otherwise, respectfully, get out of the way and let the women try—I don’t believe we would do a worse job! But ideally, I would like to see our Church work together, women and men realizing that each group, in its individuals, is hearing from the loving Spirit of our God and has a piece to add. And so, I would say, do gays and lesbians, trans and queer and so on…individuals.
Why does our Church leadership always “punish” rather than “listen” when a new idea is raised or acted upon? Why do Church men feel they need to have the final word on everything—who gave them that power? And how arrogant of them to assume they should have the final word where communities of intelligent, capable, and holy women are concerned. Is it fear, on their part, about losing control? Perhaps. But if we are ever to have a Church, that truly, “journeys together,” women and all others considered as “different, unworthy, whatever it might be, must be included.
And friends, at the end of the day, these tough questions, raised by Sister Linda and all others who will submit their thoughts and concerns in preparation for this synod must be addressed and considered with the kind of love that Paul speaks of today in the second letter to the Corinthians.
Paul lets us know that “Love never fails,” because true love, “is patient, kind, not jealous, proud or snobbish, rude or self-seeking—nor is it angry, nor does it hold a grudge.” It “rejoices [though] in the truth, not in what is wrong.” Additionally, “there are no limits on its trust, hope and power to endure.”
My friends, the love spoken of here is not a childish kind of love, but will take an adult, mature response every day of our lives. If our so-called “love” is less than the above, then, as Paul says, we are just “a noisy gong.” And finally, he warns us that, “our sight is imperfect now” and that only later will we, “see clearly,” but we are still expected to try and face our world with love. Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful:
- Loving God, be with all elected officials—instill within each one, the wisdom of your Spirit to always have the interests of those most needy among us at heart, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
2. Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind, and spirit–especially those struggling with life—threatening illnesses—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
3. O God, help us to be true followers of Jesus, willing to speak truth to power for those who most need our advocacy today, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
4. O God, help us to strive to be people of peace—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat all people and our world accordingly, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
5. For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this year to those most in need of our ministry, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
6. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID, from ignorance, and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs, you may say them out loud—then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, we thank you for your great love for us in sending us Jesus, our brother and friend. Help us to model our lives after his, selflessly giving to those in need, being people of truth, faith and trust in your word. Let our lives reflect mercy, goodness, and joy to all that we meet. Help us as a faith community to realize our responsibility to always be welcoming of all who come to our table—help us to be good listeners of other’s stories respecting their journeys to you even if the path they take is different from ours. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray
Prayer of Communion
Loving God, may your Spirit within us increase our love and hold us in the joy of your kin-dom. We ask this in Jesus’ name and with that same Spirit, One God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.