Homily – 28th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends, we keep, “keeping on” in this time of pandemic when we can’t be together, but we trust in the support of each other, of love shared across the miles. We must keep our eyes on Jesus in all our frustrations and joys and commit to living our baptisms, our confirmations as he would, in his footsteps. My greatest wish for each of you is that you would have peace, love and joy in your lives. I am grateful for each one of you and for all that you do in our community and our greater world. Later, I will be sharing the minutes and the financial statement from our board meeting earlier this week completing the third quarter of our church year. In those statements you will see the generosity of this community which allows us every quarter to share our surplus with others in need and this quarter, it was substantial!

May each of you stay safe and well during these trying times. Please, never hesitate to be in contact if I can help in any way. By phone, 507-429-3616 or by email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Gratefully, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

O good and forgiving God, through you my life is at peace; I give you thanks for your goodness and willingness in calling and inviting me to your eternal banquet.

Let Us Pray

O God, our help and guide, make your love the foundation of our lives. May our love for you express itself in our eagerness to do good for others. Grant this through Jesus, your first-born and our brother who lives and loves you along with the Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

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Readings:

  • Isaiah 25: 6-10
  • Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20
  • Matthew 22: 1-14

Homily

My friends, in this fall-time of 2020 in the Midwest that has been graced, of late, with such beautiful weather as the earth is preparing to go dormant—all too soon; we are met with a God who wants us to know that we, each-one-of-us, is welcome at the table!  Something, really, that we shouldn’t take lightly, as our whole mission at All Are One is about this very idea!

   This fall-time of 2020 also finds us living through such turbulent times in our country as we battle a virus that we can’t as a nation, seem to get our arms around and apparently, this is so because of lack of leadership at the highest level to address the seriousness of this threat. 

   Our country has also been called this year, to face the truth, in the death of one more black man in May, of the inherent racism that underpins all that we are as a nation.  This death in May seemed to finally be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” after 400 years of slavery and its affects upon our black sisters and brothers in our country.

   Apparently, the perfect storm of the coronavirus and its overwhelming toll on the poor, on people of color, along with the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer while three other policemen, one of them—non-white, looking on, was enough for blacks and whites alike to finally, finally—demand change. Our Scriptures today, in two of the selected readings, one from the prophet, Isaiah, and the other from our brother, Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, say, in no uncertain terms, that we are all called to the table, each, and every one of us, and it is up to each of us, to rise to the occasion, if we can, if we desire, in fact, to do so! 

   First of all, the afore-mentioned Scriptures, starting with Isaiah, show us a God not often enough uplifted in the run-of-the-mill Catholic churches.  Isaiah’s God is “preparing a place, for all of us” and if our God can, “include all of us”—each one of us, why would we not see it as our duty, our call in fact, to do the same? 

   In the last four years; I have often wondered why so many Evangelical “Christians” and Catholics would support a man who in so many of his actions has advocated against immigrants in general, Muslims, and women.  The rhetoric and the writing and the excuse, even though some of these so-called Christians, said they, “had to hold their noses and vote,” was that he apparently would end, Roe v. Wade.  Somehow, for me, this is unconscionable, because life is life—all across the continuum.  If one is “pro-life,” that means you are for life in every instance!

   Apparently, I was not the only one who thought this way, because of late; I have been reading articles and book reviews tying these so-called “Christian” voters to the underpinnings of racism and misogyny and not just the issue of abortion as originally thought, thus the connection to the current president.  This is, of course, a whole other discussion for another time, but probably sufficed to say, history has proven through the concept of Manifest Destiny in American expansionism that the idea of white supremacy was driving this, coupled with the history of slavery prior to that and the patriarchal stance within our country supported by most churches, that the ideas of racism and misogyny are underlying reasons for so-called “Christians” and Catholics to vote as they did in 2016.  A new book, recently reviewed and critiqued by the National Catholic Reporter, The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism and Religious Diversity in America, by Jeannine Hill Fletcher, documents all of the above and more.  But, as I said earlier, this is another homily.  

   Looking back to today’s readings then, I believe we all can find a way forward.  Continuing on a note I began earlier, that of seeing our God as one who truly cares about all of us—each one of us, in fact; we hear the prophet Isaiah say, “Our God will wipe away all tears…take away all shame,” to say nothing of feeding us with the best food and wine at the banquet being prepared for us.  As I have said in the past, this is a far cry from the God we created in our own image who, for some, is authoritarian, distant and cold, just waiting to punish us for some misstep. 

   Our God’s goodness toward each of us is further displayed in the Church’s choice of the 23rd psalm, as a response to Isaiah’s words, to which we might sing Marty Haugen’s beautiful refrain, “Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.” 

   Paul, as he persists in prison, one of many times in his life of ministry, speaks to the Philippians and us with assurance that whether he lives in “poverty or plenty,” it doesn’t really matter because he knows the “strength” he has in Jesus, the Christ and basically, keeps on, keeping on!

   Paul’s example, in the times in which we live, is so very important to keep front and center, as we navigate our lives, which some days seem without hope of better times to come.  We must keep holding on, doing our part, striving to be our best amidst so many conflicting messages. All of us, I believe, look for leadership from without, but these present times are wanting for that and so we must turn within and find the “strength” of Jesus that Paul speaks of.

   Today’s gospel from Matthew gives us the familiar parable of the wedding feast and the desire of the ruler that his house would be filled to share the joy of his heir’s wedding. From the start, we have to refrain from the temptation to read the story literally, or we will miss its true meaning.

   The image of a wedding feast is a familiar one that Jesus uses to tell us of the joy—of all the good that has been prepared for us once we come to understand that as our God invites each of us; we must in turn open our lives and hearts to others—some would say, “this is heaven”—not so much a place as an attitude.

   Recently, I was reading some of the writings of Father Richard Rohr and he spoke of the notion of, “experiencing heaven on earth,” which he said, we can do, if we have such an attitude—he mentioned those who did, Francis of Assisi, Therese of Liseiux, Harriet Tubman and others. 

   Today’s gospel gives us the image of the “wedding garment” and its importance that each of us “acquires” such a garment and again; we must get beyond the literal meaning.  The “cloth” of this garment is basically the “attitudes” we develop throughout our lives toward all of creation, toward all of life, that we then “clothe” ourselves in.

   So our “wedding garment” should be made up of the virtues of mercy, justice, long-suffering and patience, to name some, and all together, they “create,”  “love for our world” in its entirety.

   COVID 19 has reminded us all that we are in life together—that in order to conquer this virus; we must be of one mind.  I believe the hopelessness comes when we witness a singlemindedness that sees only what is important to one, instead of—to all. 

   Today’s parable reminds us to, “check our own houses,” who we are—in fact, not just for ourselves, but for others.  We do want to “rise to the occasion,” unlike the guest in today’s gospel. 

   So, my friends, there is much to consider today, which basically comes down to, as we say so often—“being our best selves.” I have been acquiring some good quotes of late of ways to be, “our best selves” and I will conclude with those today for our reflection:

  • We cannot close our eyes to any form of racism or exclusion, while pretending to defend the sacredness of every human life.—Pope Francis
  • Let us not seek the Republican or Democratic answer—but the right answer.  Let us not try to fix the blame for the past.  Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.—John F. Kennedy
  • Fight for what you believe in, but do it in a way that others will follow you.—Ruth Bader Ginsberg
  • Everything is supernatural for those who know how to see.—Paul Tillich, Protestant theologian
  • There are a 1,000 ways to kneel and kiss the ground.—Rumi, 13th Century Persian poet, Sufi mystic and theologian
  • Additionally, from Rumi, “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.”
  • If we had been holier people, we would have been angrier, oftener.—John Templeton, investor—who believed in a higher purpose beyond profit for profits’ sake
  • And finally, from Sister Joan Chittister, Benedictine speaker and writer, “Do you want a test to know if your work in life is over, the philosopher asked?  If you are still alive, it is not!”  Sister Joan continues—as the rabbi and the disciple both well know, God needs us to complete God’s work. Now! Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”

  1. Help us O God, to strive to live justly in your world and with your people,  we pray—

       Response:  “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”

  • For each of us here and for our entire Church, help us to be the change we want to see in our Church and world , we pray—

       Response:  “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”

  • For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community,  in body, mind or spirit and especially for those afflicted with COVID 19, we pray—

       Response:  “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”

  • For those who continue to suffer from storms, flooding and fires, we pray—Response:  “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”
  • For our world and its people, that peace would reign in our hearts and that we would do all in our power to bring peace to our world, remembering that peace begins first and foremost, within each one of us, we pray—Response:  “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”
  • May the wisdom and grace of the Spirit overshadow all elected officials and those who ask for the privilege of elected office, so that they will truly work to care for the least among us and strive to bring peace to our world, we pray—Response:   “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”

7.  For our community, All Are One, continue to send your Spirit upon us, especially during these months of separation, to enable us to be an inclusive community, open and welcoming all, we pray—Response:  “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”

  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID 19 and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray— Response:  “Good and generous God, hear our prayer.”

***Let us pray for the spoken and silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response

Let Us Pray

Good and gentle God, our source of all strength and wisdom.  We ask that you would give us peace—filled and loving hearts—help us to be merciful to all and accepting of all in our lives and in our wider world. Help us to be the change we want to see in our world, realizing that all and any change begins with my change of heart. We ask all of this of you, our good and loving God, who is Creator, Savior and Spirit, one God, living and loving us, forever and ever.  Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, we are without the physical Eucharist, but we remember that Jesus is always with us—always! 

Prayer after Communion

Dear Jesus, we are grateful that you enable us to share your love with all that we meet. We ask that this may always be the case—you are our Creator, Savior and Spirit, One God, living and loving us forever and ever. Amen.

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Bulletin – 28th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

NO PHYSICAL MASS THIS WEEKEND-OCTOBER 11, 2020.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THE NEXT ZOOM MASS, OCTOBER 25, 2020.

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Dear Friends,

We continue in these weeks, winding down the Church Year, with such beautiful weather in the Midwest. We are told this week, as most weeks, that our God welcomes all of us, but most poignantly this week, in the story of those invited to the wedding feast.

Please be with us in spirit as we reflect on our need, “to rise to the occasion.”

Peace and love,

Pastor Kathy

P. S. If I can be of help in any way to you in this time of separation as a community, please don’t hesitate to be in touch by phone, 507-429-3616 or by email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com.

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Readings:

  • Isaiah 25: 6-10
  • Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20
  • Matthew 22: 1-14

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Homily – 27th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends, on this feast of St. Francis of Assisi, in addition to the Sunday message of “bringing in a harvest,” let us express our gratitude for the beautiful world in which we live–for all of creation as Francis and his followers did. Let us realize that we must be the change that we want to see! Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

P.S. Always remember that I am here for you, if I can help in any way–email-aaorcc2008@gmail.com.

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Entrance Antiphon

O God, you have given everything its place in the world and no one can make it otherwise. For all is your creation, the heavens and the earth and the stars:  all is your family, O God.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

O good and gracious God, Creator of the world to come, your goodness is beyond what our spirit can touch and your strength is more than our minds can bear. Lead us to seek beyond our reach and give us the courage to stand before your truth.  We ask all of this of you, of Jesus and of Spirit Sophia—one God who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

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Readings:

  • Isaiah 5: 1-7
  • Philippians 4: 6-9
  • Matthew 21: 33-43

Homily–Friends, the following homily comes to us this week from Pastor Dick Dahl–he gives us a good deal to think on–do enjoy!

In this time of widespread anxiety, illness, continuing racial injustice, evictions, job losses, bitter political division, and failed leadership we implore God to help and guide us. We live in God’s all encompassing presence. God has revealed his/her self in the gift of the natural world of which we are living members. God’s self-revelation began with creation and has continued in every part of it, in the lives of every person who has ever lived and, we believe, through the Covenant with Israel and the New Covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus.

I suggest we listen and reflect on some of the ways God has and continues to speak to our hearts and minds. In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the same image of a vineyard that Isaiah had used 800 years before him to tell the religious leaders of his time that they had refused to listen to the prophets his Father had sent them, including himself whose death they were about to demand.

Let’s begin then by listening to one of those messengers or prophets.  In the ancient history of Israel the prophet Samuel strongly advised the Israelites against their desire to be ruled by kings, but they persisted. About 300 years into this experiment the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading vividly expresses God’s disappointment and anger at those leaders who were supposed to care for his people but instead governed unjustly and cared mainly for themselves. They were soon to be invaded and experience devastation by the neighboring Assyrian army.

We also live in a similar time of widespread anxiety and suffering and lack of just leadership. I recently came across an article written by Dr. Amitha Kalaichandran, an epidemiologist and physician, that addresses our situation honestly but with a perspective that you may find helpful. 

Despite the deaths of about 210,000 fellow Americans from the Covid pandemic in just the last seven months (half as many Americans who were killed in four years of fighting in World War II), Dr. Kalaichandran writes, “we know that the grieving has only just begun. It will continue with loss of jobs and social structures.  Routines and ways of life that have been interrupted may never return. For many, the loss may seem too swift, too great and too much to bear, each story to some degree a modern version of the biblical trials of Job.”

“Job, of course, is the Bible’s best-known sufferer. His bounty — home, children, livestock — was taken cruelly from him as a test of faith devised by Satan and carried out by God. He suffers both mental and physical illness; Satan covers him in painful boils.

“Job is conflicted — at times he still has his faith and trusts in God’s wisdom, and other times he questions whether God is corrupt. Finally, he demands an explanation. God then allows Job to accompany him on a tour of the vast universe where it becomes clear that the universe in which he exists is more complex than the human mind could ever comprehend.

“Though Job still doesn’t have an explanation for his suffering, he has gained some peace; he’s humbled. Job became a fundamentally changed man after being tested to his core. He has accepted that life is unpredictable and loss is inevitable. Everything is temporary and the only constant, paradoxically, is this state of change.

“The Book of Job, however,  isn’t just about grief or just about faith. It’s also about our attachments — to our identities, our faith, the possessions and people we have in our lives. Grief is a symptom of letting go when we don’t want to. Understanding that attachment is the root of suffering — an idea also central to Buddhism — can give us a glimpse of what many of us might be feeling during this time.

“We can recall the early days of the pandemic with precision; jobs, celebrations, trips now canceled. In our minds we see loved ones who will never return. Even our mourning is subject to this same grief, as funerals are much different now.

“So, where does all of this leave us now? Dr. Kalaichandran suggests “it leaves us with a challenge, to treat our attachments not simply as the root of suffering but as fuel that, when lost, can propel us forward as opposed to keeping us tethered to our past. We can accept the tragedy and pain secondary to our attachments as part of a life well lived, and well loved, and treat our memories of our past “normal” as pathways to purpose as we move forward. We still honor our old lives, those we lost, our previous selves, but remain open to what might come. Creating meaning from tragedy is a uniquely human form of spiritual alchemy. 

“As difficult as it is now in the midst of a pandemic, it is possible…that we might emerge with a greater understanding of ourselves, faith, and our purpose….and begin to choose whether it propels us forward or keeps us stuck in pain, and in the past.

Dr. Kalaichandran’s words strike me as a way she tries to help us face and deal with our challenges, similar to the way St. Paul strove to help the struggling Christians at Phillipi deal with the conflicts internal and external to their community.

Another person we might turn to is Francis of Assisi who died at the age of 44 or 45 on this day almost 800 years ago and was canonized only two years later. His life and words have resonated with millions of people around the world since then. We might well ask why, and what meaning they may have for us today.

Francis was born into a very wealthy family. He was spoiled and renowned for drinking and partying as a teenager. He left school at age 14 and dreamt of becoming a Knight. This was the Middle Ages after all!

When war broke out between Assisi and Perugia, Francis got an expensive suit of armor and went off to battle. Warfare was hardly what he had envisioned. Most of his comrades were butchered and killed. He and others who were obviously rich were thrown into a miserable dank prison and held for ransom. After a year he was finally released but his outlook on what mattered in life was changed forever.

Instead of having wealth and comfort taken from him, he freely gave it up. He actually embraced poverty. Concern for the poor became a central theme of his life. His example drew others to join him. His life and message were uncompromising and simply: greed causes suffering for both the victim and the perpetrators.

When the local bishop was horrified at the hard life of Francis and his followers, Francis said, “If we had any possessions, we would need weapons to defend them.” He reasoned, what could you do to a man who owns nothing. You can’t starve a fasting man. You can’t steal from someone who owns no money. You can’t ruin someone who hates prestige. They were truly free.

Toward the end of his short life he was becoming blind. At this time he composed his Canticle of the Sun that expressed his and our kinship with all creation. Francis responded to God’s nearness in all of nature and especially in people who live on the margins of life, such as the leper, whose sores had repulsed him but whom he embraced and in so doing discovered Jesus. 

So, yes, many of us are anxious, some desperately hurting and uncertain how they can survive the present. Most of us, I suspect, wondering how we will survive the future, not only from the political turmoil, but the paroxysms our beautiful planet is going through, in part at least, from the abuse we have inflicted on it. However, we trust that we remain in the presence of God, more loving and powerful than all of us combined. In the metaphorical embrace of God, we pray to be attached to our Mother/Father God and his/her will more than anything else and trust the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us every step of our way.

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”

  1. Help us O God, to strive to be grateful people to you who has loved us beyond all imagining, we pray—Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • For each of us praying today, give us the strength to be people of justice, mercy and compassionate love for your world, we pray—

Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”

  • For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community, in body, mind or spirit and especially for those who are living with cancer, and other life-threatening conditions, we pray—      Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • For our world and its people, that peace would reign in our hearts and that we would do all in our power to bring peace to our world, remembering that peace begins with each of us, we pray—Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • For our president and first lady, as they experience COVID 19 personally, may they come to show more compassion for others suffering from this virus, we pray—

      Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”

  • For our community, All Are One, continue to send your Spirit upon us, especially during this time of separation due to COVID 19 and enable us to be open and welcoming to all, even those we might consider to be, “unlikeable,”  we pray—

Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”

  • For all in our midst who suffer from mental illness, that each would find understanding and compassion in their daily lives, we pray—Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • That each of us would strive to elect leaders who show us that they care of all of us, we pray—Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID 19 and from 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 each other’s needs, then response

Let Us Pray

          Dear God of us all…you know what we need before we ask…give us what we most need today.  Help us to keep our eyes on you that we wouldn’t get lost in the material things of this world, but ever strive to make our world a more just place in which to live for all your creatures.  Give us the wisdom to grow strong and beautiful vineyards in gratitude to you who has so generously given to each of us.  We ask this of you who are our God and who lives and loves us forever and ever. AMEN

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Let Us Pray—My friends, once again, we must be without the physical presence of Jesus through the bread of the altar, but trust and believe that Jesus is always with us….

Prayer after Communion

Loving Jesus, let your presence, which we share always, fill us with your life—may your love which we celebrate here touch our lives and lead us to you.  We ask this in your wonderful name, Amen.

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Bulletin – 27th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

NO MASS IN PERSON THIS SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2020–Feast of St. Francis of Assisi as well!

Next Zoom Mass, Sunday, October 25, 2020 at 10 A.M.–mark your calendars!

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This week we will be treated to a homily from Pastor Dick Dahl. Thank you Dick, in advance! Besides this being the 27th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time, it is also the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi–who probably more than any individual since our brother, Jesus, loved most perfectly the world and all its creatures.

We are likened today to a “vineyard”–called, each of us, to produce a “harvest.” This parable of Jesus represents good in our world as our God first showed us the way. May we ponder all this during the next week.

Peace and love,

Pastor Kathy

P.S. If I may be of any help to you, please don’t hesitate to call me, 507-429-3616 or email at aaorcc2008@gmail.com.

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Readings:

  • Isaiah 5: 1-7
  • Philippians 4: 6-9
  • Matthew 21: 33-43

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Homily – 26th Sunday in Extra-Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

Twenty-three of us met via Zoom today to celebrate Mass and our love for God and each other. If you weren’t able to join us today, hopefully you can next month, October 25, 2020! I hope this finds you all safe and well. Please call me, 507-429-3616, or email me, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. if I can help in any way, or if you just want to chat. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

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My dear friends, the last couple of Sundays I have concentrated on the virtue of hope being that the times in which we live have in many ways shown us a lack of leadership in our nation and our Church to truly address and lead us as our country struggles with a world-wide pandemic, systemic racism and an economy that benefits the rich on the backs of the poor. 

   Hope is that virtue that allows us to go on in the midst of much that feels without hope because we believe that there is more good than bad all around us. We believe even though we live in this country that is so divided and this division is encouraged by those who are our supposed leaders.  We, each of us, dare to hope because of our faith in a God who loves us all—beyond measure and asks us to be our best.  And by our baptisms and confirmations in this faith; we are committed to that, “very best” in our world.

  This past week; I shared a prose piece, by Elaine Griffin Baker on social media—a reflection really, on the general feeling or tone within our country at the present time—a sense of division that seems to experience little direction or healing from the powers-that-be, especially in Washington. The author went on to express feelings of past times when occupants in the White House, from both political parties, showed us, on a regular basis, through the arts, times with family and general tone what is good in our country and uplifted that even though everyone didn’t agree on all policies or how things were necessarily done.  The author then reflected on our present—where we as a nation are, lamenting that any and all good of past times is now gone and that we are bereft for lack of that good as we are constantly divided instead of united in any way.

   While I earnestly try in my homilies, as your pastor, to not take sides where politics are concerned; I thought this piece was worth sharing as it seemed to name the heaviness that lies upon our nation, our very hearts, regardless of political party in this September-time of 2020.   Jesus, while with us, always said, “Check the fruits”—you will know then, how to judge right from wrong.  While it is neither my place, nor right to tell you how to vote, be assured that I will always tell you to, “check the fruits” and go from there.

   While most who read the piece that I shared, agreed that it did reflect the somber, unhappy and divided tone in our country at present, one person challenged me by saying that, “She was surprised that I would share such a piece given my line of work.” Precisely because of, “my line of work,” I know that I have a responsibility always, always, to direct my parishioners to “check the fruits” and go from there.

   Today’s Scriptures seem to validate this stance from first to last. Beginning with the prophet, Ezekiel, who speaks of the struggle that we all face—day in and day out—between good and evil with our God desiring always, our best—that we would follow the correct way, by once again, “checking the fruits” and proceeding from there.  And this desire of our loving God, comes from One who will always love and accept us—this  we know from our brother Jesus—no matter what we do or how far we may stray. 

   Paul, in his beautiful letter to the Philippians today, shows us the way to be our best selves in the example of Jesus’ life among us.  I believe that Paul would agree with Elaine Griffin Baker as he says to the Philippians, “be united in your convictions, in your love—with common purpose and mind…having no competition among you, no conceit…having humility,” [in all things].

   And Paul continues, “Each of you, must think of the interests of others, not your own [alone].  Baker seems to be suggesting that the somber tone in our country appears to be about this very idea—“thinking only of oneself.”  Paul goes on, [our brother Jesus] “was emptied of himself—he was God, but did not cling to that truth, but instead, became like us.”  More on this in a bit. 

   Today’s psalm response, number 25, gives us even more advice on how we are, “to be” in this world, among our sisters and brothers—in the largest sense, as our God is and can continue to be, through us.  The psalmist writes of God’s, “steadfast love, humility, goodness and mercy”—we can’t go wrong following such “fruits” as these!

   And finally, our gospel from Matthew today, gives us the piece of advice that as followers of our brother, Jesus; we must always take.  It is such a simple response that it is probably no wonder that we miss it from time to time.  Jesus tells us, “If you say, ‘yes’ to God, then live that out.”  And my friends, for most of us, at our baptisms, our “yeses” were spoken for us and at our confirmations; we each affirmed those original yeses, so that our path is clear, whether we always acknowledge it or not. 

   Jesus’ counsel about “checking the fruits” refers not only to others, but to ourselves—we have to look for what is good and true, noble and upright, about what is reflective of our very best, what is just, merciful and loving—what brings out good in others and not bad—what includes everyone—truly, every one and when for the most part, we can see that these things are present; we can more clearly know how to proceed—that in fact—it is the way to go.  And conversely, the opposite is true as well—where there is belittlement, disregard for others and their needs, for justice and equality, abuse of all kinds for the betterment of self, lying and the pain that each of these causes; we can be equally sure, that these are “bad fruits” and should not be followed. 

   For those who regularly read my homilies; you know that I have recently been quoting from Father Richard Rohr’s book, The Universal Christ wherein he lays out for his readers, a God big enough to be meaningful to all in this world.  I would like to conclude this homily with a very hope-filled message for all of us in these seemingly, hopeless times. 

   Father Rohr’s words are indeed a challenge to each of us, but they are hope-filled in that if we, more often than not, attempt to follow them, our world, in its entirety—people, animals, plants and on down to the smallest possible element of life will become a shining example of God-with-us and in us and all around us and this is what he and others mean when they speak of the “Cosmic Christ,” a God big enough for us all.

   Father Rohr says and I will paraphrase in order to say more in less time and space, in a chapter entitled, “Original Goodness” as opposed to the concept that humans bound on the law came up with, “original sin,” that is, that basically from the beginning, each of us was “goodness” as only our God can create.  To quote Rohr exactly, “The Christian life is simply a matter of becoming who we already are [!]”  I think we can see that starting out in a negative vein (sin) is not the most conducive to ever thinking well of ourselves or others nor treating either with dignity. 

   Paul told us in the letter to the Philippians today, that at the name of Jesus, “every knee should bend.”  Considering that Jesus chose to become part of humanity, it would follow that he saw it as “good” and not as “sin” as Rohr would say.  Again, to quote Rohr directly, “In every age and culture, we have seen regressions toward racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism, lookism and classism.  This pattern tells me that unless we see dignity as being given universally, objectively and from the beginning by God, humans will constantly think it is up to us to decide.”  Additionally, Rohr says, “To try to build on no is, in the imagery of Jesus, to ‘build on sand.’ ”

   Rohr differentiates between law and love and basically says that because God always relates to us from the standpoint, first and foremost, of love, that we should do likewise in the ways that we relate to our world. Rohr says of it, “human commandments, [in Jesus’ mind] far too often took the place of love…mere obedience is far too often a detour around actual love. Obedience is usually about cleaning up, love is about waking up.”  Incidentally, this was why Jesus often didn’t follow many of the Jewish laws and was always getting into trouble because of it.

   So, my dear friends—these times it would seem, are calling us to a full “waking-up”–being true to our senses—to see and to hear and to discern with our hearts, not our heads entirely where good is being advocated for, where there is unity and not division—all basically uplifted in the original piece I mentioned as well as through our Scriptures today.  I might suggest that if we could, more often than not, let love stand before law, we could, and would, not only “bend our knee” at Jesus’ name, but in the presence of others and all of creation, too.  Amen? Amen!  

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