Homily – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, this 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time gives us a selection of readings that calls us to ponder the place of law versus love in our lives.  Moses, James, and Mark, speaking for our brother Jesus, are asking, encouraging, and even imploring at times, for the people, to consider the laws given—yes, but to not get stuck there.  Laws are guides, which must always be laid upon our hearts, to get their full meaning, their full import—in my view, this is what our brother, Jesus did. 

   Mark gives us Jesus’ words, who is actually quoting Isaiah, in this regard.  “These people honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.”  Jesus is trying to get the Pharisees and us, by extension, to see that what makes us, “unfit” or “unacceptable” (which, by the way, we never are in God’s eyes) doesn’t come from the rituals we do or don’t do—evil, but just as much, good, and the capability for either, reside in our hearts and just as selfishness, injustice, and all other evils come from our hearts, so do, mercy, understanding, kindness and all-abiding love. 

   It may be easy for us to incriminate the Pharisees today, as did Jesus, saying, “They just don’t get it!”  But, my friends, how about us?  Are we any better? 

   Most of us here are old enough to remember pre-Vatican II times when our lives were pretty well ordered by fasting, abstinence from meat, obligations for Mass on Sundays and holydays.  It might be good to reflect back on these times and truthfully answer whether those practices and laws were done out of love, or more so, out of fear—fear that I might not go to heaven when I die.

   I have memories of being at weddings, complete with Mass on Saturdays and people asking the priest if this would “count” for their Sunday obligation?  When I was ordained, there were people on both sides of my family who couldn’t bring themselves to attend because, “Father said they shouldn’t.” Even the bishop scolded me for “confusing” the people. Both these examples are about following the law, not much else.

   Some might say that in pre-Vatican II times it was easier, “to be good” –we knew if we did, 1-2-3, we were a, “shoe-in” for eternal reward.  After Vatican II, we were more encouraged to do the “loving thing,” whether or not there was a law demanding it, or at least this is what my read of the Scriptures told me.  Vatican II encouraged us to dig into the Scriptures more, which previously hadn’t been encouraged, and see what in fact, Jesus did—what in fact, the powers that were operative in his time, crucified him for.

   When all is said and done; it was because he advocated for the “widows and orphans,” that James talks about in the 2nd reading today, that those in Jesus’ time, with power to make a difference, would afford justice to these abused and forsaken ones. Not sharing with these lowly ones, of course added to their power through accumulated wealth, so they weren’t about to change.

   Jesus, many times, had to stand alone, as he sought justice for those who needed it.  We, my friends, if we choose to follow our brother can really expect no different as we advocate for the “widows and orphans” of our day.

   And who are these present-day “widows and orphans?” They are those in our midst without homes, not enough food, immigrants seeking asylum at our borders who can’t make it past the “red tape.”  They are those suffering today as a result of climate change—too much rain, not enough rain—resulting in wild fires and crop loss, more powerful and devasting storms, and the list goes on to include those in this country whose government was formed to recognize all as equal and free—with justice for all, who still today carry the burden of racism, sexism and every other “ism” that seeks to divide rather than unite us as a people. 

   Yet, the Scriptures today give us hope.  Moses tells the people, and again; we are meant to see ourselves by extension, that their God is very close to them and has given them the commandments to help them live well. 

   James tells the people and us that, we should, “humbly welcome the Word planted in [us] because it has power to save [us].”  But he continues, don’t just listen, but act on the Word! 

   In today’s Gospel, it is precisely, failure to act on the Word that Jesus is getting after the Pharisees about.  They are only, “scratching the surface” with all their ritual acts of cleanliness, “on the outside” –he wants them to look inside to see if the actions that are coming from within are, likewise, “clean.”

    My friends, there is always that tendency for any of us to just follow, “the letter” of the law, instead of the “heart” of the law.  The pre-Vatican II laws told us to get ourselves to Mass every Sunday and that apparently was enough to be within the law.  Vatican II said, “Yes, come to Mass—receive the Body and Blood of Christ, but then remember your call to, “be bread” for the world.  Or, as I shared in an earlier homily, from a black sister priest within Roman Catholic Women Priests, “Do Jesus, just do Jesus!”

   It is always easier to stay, on the surface, it’s less messy there—but going a little deeper opens up so many more possibilities for being all that we can be—our best selves. 

   Perhaps then, a way to tie everything together would be to say that living, “out of our heads” may help us to do the sensible—perhaps even, “right thing,” as it is determined by law; but it seems to me that our brother Jesus demonstrated quite clearly throughout his earthly life that it is always better to do, “the loving thing” and if we get “crucified” for that, we will at least know, that we were part of the solution, instead of part of the problem, plus we will be in some very good company.  Amen? Amen!

Bulletin – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • Mass on Sunday, August 29, 2021 at 10 A.M.
  • We will be abiding by CDC guidelines at our Masses and all other previous precautions–mainly, the wearing of masks!

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Dear Friends,

We continue to be challenged in this Ordinary Time that, in its readings, always seem to be, “extraordinary,” –challenging us to be our best. The readings this week ask, “Do we simply, ‘hear’ the word, or do we, ‘act’ upon it?”

Come; let us ponder this and more together this week.

Peace and love,

Pastor Kathy

P.S. I am always here to help if you need me, 507-429-3616 or aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate to be in touch!

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Readings:

  • Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8
  • James 1: 17-18, 21-22, 27
  • Mark 7: 1-8, 14-16, 21-23

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Homily – 21st Weekend in Ordinary Time

My friends, we come together again—to be community, and we thank our loving God who has called us to be such.  We are also grateful that in the milieu of a sitting bishop who does not accept our existence as a church—in good standing, nor its pastor as legitimately ordained within its ranks, we have the faith to believe and to accept what we do here as legitimate, good, and holy, so I applaud all of you for that. 

   The readings for this weekend call us to add another theme—that of “faith” to what we should be pondering this week.  The past 5 weeks have called us to concentrate on what being, “bread for the world” is all about. 

   In most countries around the world, “bread,” in some form, is a staple of everyday sustenance, so to take that element of daily food and enlarge upon it, saying in faith, as did our brother, Jesus, that when you eat this bread, in the context of the liturgy, you are eating, “my body,” is quite an astounding thing! Do we totally understand how this happens? No…., but our faith, which is stronger than our doubt, helps us to believe in what we can’t truly fathom.  Additionally, when the Eucharist is introduced around the world, it would behoove those who do so to have communities use whatever form of bread that is common to the people, to bring home the point that our God, in Jesus, “sustains” as does the bread of their daily lives, in the same way, only in so much greater a way.

   As we think about what “bread” represents in whatever form it takes around the world, we can understand more fully the greatness of the gift that Jesus left us.  “Bread” is a universal term for “life”–that element that keeps us physically going and as a result, emotionally and spiritually as well.  It is for this reason—that our physical bodies need to be fed, that when missionaries go into a country, they see to peoples’ physical needs first, because until the basic needs are met, nothing of a higher nature can be attempted, and accepted. 

   I have mentioned in past weeks that I am reading, Ibram Kendi’s book, Stamped from the Beginning, on racism, and given the above truth that our physical bodies must first be fed before our minds, hearts and souls can be lifted up, one realizes the fallacy of the Europeans coming to our shores thinking they could, “use and abuse” even, the bodies of slaves, yet, “save their souls.”  And in fact, to add insult to injury, that this ultimate, “saving” they thought, justified enslaving their bodies!

   Each generation has its own issues to deal with and to somehow make sense of as humans, as perhaps followers of a greater entity than themselves.  Joshua, preaching to the Israelites, puts the question to his people— “Do you believe in Yahweh?” He lets them know that it is important to believe in some god, either Yahweh, as Joshua does, or another one.  This belief, he makes clear, will make them strong, following someone who guides and shows them the way.  Joshua reminds them as well that this God, Yahweh, has been there for them in the past and will continue to be there in the future. 

   Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians says as much as he teaches the people about how they should be, in relationship with others.  This should be an equal relationship—no one should be over another—no one master—no one slave.  All of you will remember today’s reading, as in older texts speaking of “wives obeying their husbands,” which speaks to an inequality within relationships.  The group, Priests for Equality,  has made this reading more inclusive for women in the current form, plus has opened up an otherwise “closed” reading to gay couples.   

Paul continues, “Love others as you love yourselves,” which would seem to point, in action, to each of us being inclusive of all others and treating them with equality.  Groups like, Priests for Equality, encourage us to look at our Scriptures from time to time, to see if, in fact, the written words are true to the message of Jesus, or if the words that at one point in time, had meaning, still hold true to our experience and understanding today. 

   A very good case in point is the recent feast day of Mary’s Assumption, body and soul into heaven and its adjacent feast, the Immaculate Conception, which both really call into question, Mary’s humanity and likewise, that of Jesus; if in fact, Mary was truly conceived without original sin.  Until very late in our history, women were not given credit for supplying half of the chromosomes making up a fetus but were seen merely as a “receptacle” for the growing child. 

   Now that we do realize this significant role that women play in the conception of every child, it would behoove us to update the Marian feasts as well.  It is always good to remember that our loving God made us imperfect as we are and chose in time to enter into our “imperfectness.”  If God is OK with that fact—we should be as well and not come up with untruths that “support” a certain way of thinking!  In my mind, it says so much about this good God of ours choosing to come into our “imperfect” existence showing us how to make the best of this gift.

   We move then to the gospel today from John which continues the previous weeks’ selections from this same chapter where John is recording Jesus’ words about,  “Eating his flesh and drinking his blood,” and that if we are going to be part of him, must be accepting of these and other, hard truths.  

  It is at this point that we need to reflect back to my earlier words about the place of “bread” in the lives of us all, of how we need physical, emotional, and spiritual “bread” to sustain us in life.

   We know from reading Jesus’ teachings in Scripture that his words were always meant to be taken more than just in a surface way. Jesus was known for, “turning concepts on their heads” such as when he preached on, “caring for your friends,” something everyone already believed and probably, for the most part, practiced.  But, he taught something new—sharing that he also wanted us, as his followers, to care for our enemies. 

   We know too that Jesus’ teachings most often had a deeper, or second meaning such as in the parables.  Take that of the “Pearl of Great Price”—not just about an actual pearl buried in a field, but about what we truly hold most dear in life—what are we willing to give up to have what we consider most dear in life?  This question then calls to mind, “Is my life just about me, or is it truly about, others, too?  Many today, by the wider world, are being called upon to reflect on their responsibility to get vaccinated to assist those they share this world with, because this action is truly not theirs to decide, just for themselves—personal freedom is always about considering how that freedom affects the freedom of others.  If one lives on an island by themselves, that is another story!

   The people in Jesus’ time as people in present day experienced and will continue to experience things that we just can’t understand, like, “eating his flesh and drinking his blood.”  Perhaps Jesus meant so much more than the physical body and blood, maybe, he was speaking about, “his life—his teachings, all of him,” shared for the world.  Sometimes the confusion can call us to turn from the true message of Jesus because we want to believe in something we can get “our heads around.”  If that is the case, then Jesus’ message won’t be for everyone, especially those living just, “out of their heads.” The message of Jesus calls us to more—to living, “out of our hearts.” 

   May we each today pray for the strength to believe and have faith, even when we don’t always, “have the sight!”  Amen? Amen!

Bulletin – 21st Weekend in Ordinary Time

  • Mass on Saturday, 4:30 p.m. August 21, 2021–REMEMBER TO WEAR A MASK! We will continue the precautions as in previous weeks of no-hand-holding during prayers, no physical contact during the “Kiss of Peace,” and communion will be in bread form only. Thank you for taking these precautions for the safety of all.
  • You no longer need to save the date, September 12, 2021. We had planned a special liturgy for this Sunday as a special way to remember Eric Bartleson who died during the height of the pandemic last year when we weren’t meeting physically and couldn’t adequately remember him for the significant part he played in the beginnings of our parish and for his long-time service as president of the board for 10 years. Due to COVID and to the current flare-up of the Delta variant, we will post-pone this special liturgy until November when we traditionally remember those loved ones among us who have died. Hopefully by then, we will be at a safer place to have a Celebration of Life for Eric complete with refreshments! We can also remember in a special way at this time all those who have died from our community. More to come on this as we get closer.

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Dear Friends,

The readings this weekend are full of challenge as always! Believing in Jesus, our brother, can never be said to be, “easy”–it calls for our best as he showed us so well!

Come; let’s ponder this mystery once again this week.

Peace and love,

Pastor Kathy

P.S. Please remember that if I can be of any help to you, not to hesitate to call, 507-429-3616, or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com.

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Readings:

  • Joshua 24: 1-2, 15-17, 18
  • Ephesians 5: 21-32
  • John 6: 60-69

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Homily – Assumption of Mary into Heaven–a new look at this old friend

My friends, as I mentioned in the bulletin this week, “The Assumption” is somewhat of a curious feast in that we don’t hear of this event anywhere in Scripture and it was only promulgated as a holy day of obligation in 1950 by then, Pope Pius XII.  The “obligation” piece, that is, to attend Mass on that day, no matter which day August 15th would fall on, should tell us something about the mindset at the time in “controlling” the narrative. 

   Thus, I would propose that, even though part of the thinking may have been to give, honor and glory, and rightly so, to Mary, our mother, sister and friend, the primary purpose was to keep her in her place—a place that the powers-that-be had determined for her. And of course, by extension, to keep all women in their places.  If this were not the case, why not lift her up in more profound ways, for the life she lived on earth? For, in reality, she was the first woman priest giving the world the body and blood of Jesus! But, for obvious reasons, given the hierarchical Church’s stance on women priests, this is something they wouldn’t want to be teaching.  So, let’s leave that for a bit and go to the Scriptures that I have selected from those available for this Sunday.

   If today weren’t August 15th, the designated day for this feast, as mentioned above, we would be using readings from the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  As a result, I chose the 1st two readings from the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the gospel from the feast of the Assumption—Mary’s wonderful canticle to Elizabeth in the face of Elizabeth’s faith in what God had done in her, but more so, what God had done within Mary.  The interesting thing is that I found the three readings fitting marvelously, together.  Each of these readings, from Proverbs, Ephesians, and Luke speak of “wisdom.”  Let’s take a look.

   Proverbs is already considered, “Wisdom Literature,” so it would not be unusual to find the theme of “wisdom” there.  My take on this reading is that we are being called, “past the words on the page,” to see a deeper meaning, and to grow in “understanding” of the nature of life.

   In both the Proverbs and the Ephesians’ readings, the idea of being, “foolish” in how we live, and act, is raised.  Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Keep careful watch over your conduct. Do not act like fools, but be wise and thoughtful…”

   And then the gospel! —talk about wisdom and in one so young!  Scripture doesn’t give us the details, but this trip to see Elizabeth had to be quite treacherous, yet Mary knew that this was what she needed to do, no matter what, and we see how she is blessed in this effort—the confirmation of what her, “yes” truly meant and that what she knew instinctively had happened within her body, was true—as Elizabeth confirmed it! Imagine a presence coming to you, conveying in some way that you would conceive an unearthly child and that your, “yes,” would give this ONE, humanity! Think about that!

   Why do we never hear the wonder of this preached about in our churches?!  Probably because it is much easier to have a docile virgin who once in time uttered a simple, “yes,” and was then relegated to a pedestal—out of sight, out of mind, never to be heard from again.  Talk about “foolishness” and who is and who is not, “foolish!”

   But, my friends, Mary’s canticle gives the lie to this type of thinking—she has a voice in this reading that must be heard, again and again, and that is why I have chosen the words of the sung, Canticle of the Turning, by Rory Cooney to be prayed today as our beginning and ending prayer.   Within both, Mary speaks of a God who, “has done great things in her,” which would seem to attest to the fact that this same God thought her quite capable to minister in this world.  She speaks about a God that has and continues to show, over-the-top mercy to each and every one of us.  Additionally, she speaks of a God who has and will continue, “to scatter the proud in their conceit, and depose the mighty from their thrones…raising up he lowly,” in all justice.  This God she says, “will fill the hungry and turn the rich away empty.”  Wow! No withering vine here! There is a reason that those of us women who have, “attempted,” in the words of the hierarchy, ordination within this Church sing this beautiful and powerful canticle at our ordinations!  And, it would seem, those into their power and with controlling on their minds, would not lift up such a memory! It is kind of like lifting up, “the subversive memory of Jesus of Nazareth!”  If we do so, in both cases, it calls us all to quite a different reality, I would think! 

   But instead, our hierarchy is satisfied to proclaim a feast that takes Mary into heaven, body, and soul.  Part of me wants to say, without insolence, but more, just as a query— “So what?” Is this all you can come up with? —in the face of so much!

   Mary, our mother, sister, and friend came into existence as a singular, faith-filled, strong, and devoted woman—someone to be taken seriously, as many do, because of the love, mercy, justice, and honesty she gave the world through her wonderful son, Jesus, the Christ! She is a model for women and men too! The time has come that our Church, in its hierarchy, take her seriously too, by giving us a truer picture of who she truly was and can be for all of us!    Amen? Amen!