Our charge this week is to, “Arise and shine!” These words are full of action and challenge–they speak about, “showing up,” “doing our part,” “being our best!” And as a new year dawns, when better to begin again?!
As we all move through now, to the end of a year, 2020, that has tried us in so many ways; let us look forward with patience, perseverance, and hope that our country can grow to become more united, more open, more generous and more loving toward one another.
And as we speak about a New Year coming; I must take this opportunity to thank each of you reading this for all your gifts–financially, materially, emotionally, and spiritually in this past year. Our community, All Are One, exists because of you and me and all the ways that we have collectively listened to the Spirit of our brother, Jesus these past years–coming up on 13 in May of 2021. None of us could have done this alone–a woman priest with no community couldn’t have gone far–it is that simple. Your faith, first of all, believing that even though the powers-that-be said and continue to say that we, as a community are “invalid,” you all with your presence called the lie to this on-going lie.
I love you all and as always am humbled to have the great opportunity and privilege to pastor you all. Together, we have been able to reach out in many ways this past year, sharing with those who have less.
With much gratitude then, I wish for each of you, the very best in 2021–all that you most need.
Love and peace, Pastor Kathy
P.S. Please email, firstname.lastname@example.org or call, 507-429-3616 if I can be of help in any way.
Dear Friends, I write this on the second day of Christmas–remember, keep celebrating for all of the 12 days and the celebration can be as small as doing just one thing that shows the spirit of this lovely time of year–perhaps a call to a friend or family member that you know could use one–a sharing of something that is special to you with another, thus showing a bit more of who you truly are. If the technology works for me this morning, I hope to send you a musical recording that one of my sisters in ministry shared that is hauntingly beautiful. Included here then are the readings for Sunday and my homily and other prayers for your Sunday reflections. Have peace, love and joy–the best gifts of Christmastime and please don’t hesitate to call, 507-429-3616 or email, email@example.com if I can be of help, in any way to you. Pastor Kathy
The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
Let Us Pray
O God, Creator of all, you ordered the earth to bring forth life and crowned its goodness by creating the family of humankind. In history’s moment when all was ready, you sent Jesus to dwell in time, obedient to the laws of life in our world. Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all that we may share in your life forever. We ask this in Jesus’ holy name, Amen.
My friends, being that my small family of three “bubbles”—a total of 7, in this time of COVID is gathered at our home, and having not a lot of extra time (but, I’m loving it!), I decided to use my homily of three years ago, with a few updates for today. I think it still rings true!
One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas Season is to sit in front of the Christmas tree and look at the lights along with the decorations and think about where each of them came from. The most special ones are from family and friends over the years and speak to those relationships, for that is really, what Christmas is all about—relationships. And of course, the primary relationship is between God and us and God’s generosity in becoming one-with-us, Emmanuel!
We name today, “Holy Family Sunday” in deference to the earthly family of Jesus—Mary and Joseph and more than likely, other children who came to this couple due to the love they shared with and for each other. Jesus, our brother, most assuredly, was raised within a family of much love and caring to have allowed him to give back so much love to the world in which he lived and grew “in wisdom and grace.” Nothing comes from nothing,” an old movie line goes.
This Sunday is for families because really, all families are holy, as a good friend reminded me just recently—or, at least have the possibility of being, “holy.” I would dare say, most, if not all families begin with love, because that is what is best in all of us—we are, in fact, hard-wired for this best of gifts. Life sometimes takes families in different directions, but at their beginnings, love is there.
Love isn’t always easy, either within families, or within the greater world and that is why, as we talked about on Christmas Eve, it is so important to live, “in the present.” This week’s Scriptures do, in fact, call us to do just that—live in the present. In the best of times—we can do what Sirach asks in regard to caring for our families—showing respect, kindness, love, understanding and mercy. As we attempt to live in the present, it will mean that we have to let go of past hurts and just keep looking and reaching out toward the good, and expecting to see the good in those that we may have difficulties with in life. The importance of the past is to learn from it, taking its lessons into the present where we can effect change.
Our families, for good or bad, have a deep effect on each of us, for this is where we came from. Most parents love their children fiercely and in the best of times, parents let their children know of their love for them. In some cultures, it was thought that letting children know this one special truth, that their parents love them, would in fact, spoil them. In actuality, the opposite is really true—the “not telling,” or showing the love, dampens the relationship. We are each in need of knowing that we are loved, that we make a difference—this year more than in most among so much that has been very difficult. But being that this is Christmas time, I would be remiss if I did not say, among those things that were difficult and at times, not even good, that there was much that was very good—I will let you fill in what has affected you in both areas.
Paul tells us beautifully today, in his letter to the Colossians, what this love looks like: clothing yourselves with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Each of us friends, have these gifts, because each of us came from God and God, we know, is good. Anything we encounter in life that is not good, is not of God.
Paul continues in his letter today speaking of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, saying that over this, we must put on love, which binds the rest and makes them perfect. He also instructs us to be thankful and to do whatever we do, in Jesus’ name. Think what a different world it would be if we did everything in Jesus’ name! There would be much that we would think twice about doing! Finally, Paul cautions us to take our relationships seriously—couples in love should avoid bitterness; if we are blessed with children; we shouldn’t nag them, less they lose heart.
One year, in the past, I came upon ten suggestions for the New Year from Jim Wallis of Sojourner Magazine. I was struck by his first suggestion—that we who claim to be “Christian,” or followers of a different religious group, would basically take what we believe and hold it in one hand, and the newspaper ( or our world) in the other. For us, that would mean, the words and actions of our brother, Jesus must be in our thoughts, the very fiber of our beings and every action we do must reflect that memory. The acronym, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) is a question that should always be close in our consciousness as we live our lives.
Our readings for this Holy Family Sunday conclude today with the beautiful gospel from Luke telling the story of Mary and Joseph presenting the baby Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem as prescribed by the law. So what should this story tell us? First, it tells us that Joseph and Mary followed the dictates of the law that guided their lives. God had been faithful and it was their place to be faithful too!
Secondly, it is important for us to remember the context within which this gospel took place—Mary and Joseph and the baby were, “on the run” as the baby’s life was in danger from one who was into his power and control, yet they made the decision that this point of righteousness must be done. Presenting Jesus at the temple was a must and it was within that action that their very life’s purposes were confirmed—this child put into their safe-keeping, was the “Messiah of God,” as was proclaimed by Simeon and Anna.
As we reflect on the lives of Mary and Joseph; it seems logical, or as my grandson would say, using one of his “new” words, “obvious,” that there must have been times in the everyday-ness of life that they doubted all that was ahead of their sweet baby, so this confirmation was so important and one that, as Scripture says, Mary “would treasure in her heart.’
The more we can allow these Scriptures to come alive for us, the more the stories will affect us and allow us to live in like manner. There will be times in all of our lives that we will doubt God’s presence much like Mary and Joseph doubted, but that is the time for us to go deeper, to remember all that we believe in, all that we professed to at our confirmations, that renewed our baptismal promises made for us as babies and then move forward on the words of Jesus, that he would never leave us, but be with us—always! Peace and love and a blessed New Year, 2021!
O God, at this Christmas season—help us to remember what a gift you have given us in Jesus entering into our humanity, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
O God, be with all elected officials—instill within each one, the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Be with the leaders in our country to work toward unity for the good of all the people, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling with Covid—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
O God, we are grateful for the spirit of generosity and love that we experience at this time of year—give us the desire and strength to be generous and loving people throughout the entire year, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
O God, as we come to the end of a year and look forward to a new one with new beginnings, let us strive to be people of peace, not conflict—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response:“Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
In thanksgiving for the graces bestowed on our community, All Are One, during 2020, continue to give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this next year, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, this past year—especially from COVID, give them your peace, help each to learn how to be a family anew, we pray—“Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, the gift of Christmas is love. 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—Again my friends, we can’t be together today, but as always, we know that Jesus is always with us, even though we can’t share in the bread of the altar.
Prayer of Communion
Loving God, we want to live as the Holy Family did, in peace with you and one another. May our lives, with all its ups and downs, strengthen us to reach out to others in their need . Grant this through Jesus’ wonderful name and the Spirit of us all, Amen.
https://youtu.be/UaQ3nky4-t0 Alternate Lyrics by Jennifer Henry… Mary did you know,that your ancient wordswould still leap off our pages? Mary did you know,that your spirit songwould echo through the ages? Did you know that your holy cry would be subversive word,that the tyrants would be trembling when they know your truth is heard? Mary did you know,that your lullabywould stir your own Child’s passion? Mary did you know,that your song inspiresthe work of liberation? Did you know that your Jubilee is hope within the heart of all who dream of justice, who yearn for it to start? The truth will teach, the drum will sound, healing for the painThe poor will rise, the rich will fall. Hope will live again. Mary did you know,that we hear your voicefor the healing of the nations? Mary did you know,your unsettling crycan help renew creation? Do you know, that we need your faith,the confidence of you,May the God that you believe in,be so true.
Dear Friends, my best wishes for each of you on this cold Christmas morning in Minnesota–something like minus 2 below! We met as a community last evening for a Zoom Mass and if I recalled everyone present, it was 32! We celebrated the over-the-top love of our God in sending us our brother and friend, Jesus, the Christ! We prayed for those of you who couldn’t be with us and send you greetings of peace, love and joy! Thank you to all of you who could join us last evening –it was a special time! Below, find my homily. Stay safe and well and hopefully our next Christmas liturgy can be in person! Please call, 507-429-3616 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org if I can be of help to you. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
My friends, as Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred in the beloved, Christmas Carol is fond of saying and I paraphrase, “I like to think of Christmas, when it comes around each year as a good and kindly time, when people open up their closed hearts, even for a while…”
The Scriptures for this Christmas Eve liturgy, just read for us speak to this sentiment beginning with the prophet, Isaiah, who proclaims that, “The people walking in darkness are seeing a brilliant light.” He continues, “God, you have made the nation greater—you have brought them abundant joy.” Paul, in his letter to Titus is speaking of the Incarnation and says, “The grace of God has appeared!” And finally from Luke in tonight’s gospel, we hear from the angels to the lowly shepherds, [we bring you] “news of a great joy to be shared by the whole people.” The angels’ greeting was prefaced, and this is important, by the words, “Do not be afraid!” This is important because whenever God is present; we can know and trust that whatever else happens, “fear” will be done away with!
In addition to that, going back to Paul’s words to Titus, “The grace of God has appeared,” we must remember that “grace” is that fancy spiritual word simply meaning that the “divine” has come into our midst to show us how to respond in our human natures with the Divine that is truly ours as well. In fact, our whole human journey is an invitation, from our God to respond to that which is best in each one of us. And that is why Fred’s comments touch most of us so deeply—to in fact, “open up our closed hearts,” because we were made for precisely, this!
Sister Joan Chittister says, “Only Christianity, of all the religions, argues that the Creator has taken on the flesh and blood of creation in order to bring us to [in fact] assert the divine in ourselves,” or as I often tell you, “the best that each of us has to offer!” The poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning says of it, “Earth is crammed with heaven!”
The Vatican is trying to make this same statement with the unique Crèche it has on display in the courtyard this year, depicting God’s Incarnation among us in present day and time. This new Crèche has astronauts and other “every day” people showing up at the Nativity scene and in effect, making the statement that any and all of created life is welcome here because Jesus came for all of us—to shed light in our darkness, to raise each of us up—to say as the Creator once did, “It is good!”–it is all very good!
The feast of Christmas is about living in the present. This is what Francis of Assisi had in mind when he established the first crèche and it was a living crèche—he brought in real, live people to enact this grace, this joy of our God choosing to come among us!
Most Christian families set up Christmas cribs each year and the real purpose and meaning behind that should be for us to remember, and to never forget this great grace bestowed upon all of us. And really, this is just our starting place—first, to remember, but then, to follow—to do likewise as our brother Jesus did.
In Joan Chittister’s Christmas column this week, she says of it—“We must realize, [to come and see] where there are no lights and take some there: to hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons—to dark neighborhoods.”
This year, amid the dangers of COVID, we have had to curtail our visits to many of these places where we might have, hopefully, brought, “light.” One of the perhaps good things of this time of pandemic, which no one could have anticipated, is that it has, in the wake of this virus, called us to be inventive—doing our best, through Zoom meetings and Masses, family gatherings through many, on-line avenues, to keep in touch and “light” some dark places.
I will share just one that I became aware of recently through my affiliation as a Cojourner with the Rochester Franciscans. One of the Sisters invited us to send a Christmas greeting to a prisoner in the State that she has been in regular contact with before COVID took over our lives, collectively. Many of us agreed to do this and in part it is about, as Paul says to Titus in tonight’s 2nd reading, [when we choose to follow Jesus’ light, we become] “eager to do what is right.”
And friends, if we can do that, then the Christmas story will not be something that we simply, remember, but something that we live out, today and every day! Amen? Amen!
Christmas, simply put is about, love! Simple, on the one hand, but profound too. This past year, living with COVID along with other forms of unrest, has called forth our best, as we search for responses. We are “Christmas People” though–always striving to model our God’s over-the-top love for us, especially in the sending of Jesus to be one-with-us!
Hoping “to zoom” with many of you on Thursday evening as we remember this wonderful “grace” in our lives. If you can’t be with us, do know that we are thinking of you and missing you–may all the best of Christmas gifts be yours, peace, love and joy! Call me, 507-429-3616 or email, email@example.com if I can be of help to you.
Dear Friends, we are concluding our journey through Advent this next week and awaiting with joy all the ways that our brother Jesus chooses to come into our lives beginning with Christmas and on through our life times. Our faith calls us to be aware and to see all the opportunities to come to know Jesus better through all those who come into our lives–because, you see, he is there if we can “see” more with our hearts instead of only with our heads. We will gather on Christmas Eve for a Zoom Mass and details of that will come next week. Hopefully, many of you reading this can join us–everyone is welcome whether you are a regular member or not! Wishing you all the best gifts of this Season–peace, love and joy! Please be in touch if I can help in any way–by phone, 507-429-3616or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. My gratitude to each of you, Pastor Kathy
Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.
Let Us Pray
All-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Jesus the Christ, who lives and loves us, forever and ever— Amen.
My friends, we have come to the last Sunday and week of the Advent Season as we await in memory that first coming of our brother and friend—Jesus, the Christ into our human existence.
The point of the Scriptures today seems to be to “root” our friend and brother—Jesus, clearly into the history of the Israelite people—through the family of David, a shepherd. The other piece to remember as we read today’s Scriptures is that this “rooting” in Old Testament times was seen to have happened through the male line, thus we have the addition in today’s gospel reading from Luke that mentions the fact that Mary is engaged to Joseph who is of the “house of David,” even though, if we believe the entire story laid out in this gospel reference; Joseph will have nothing to do with Jesus’ conception or ultimate humanity where genetics are concerned.
The piece that the text does not mention is the fact that Mary is of the house of David too; but at this time, women weren’t seen as contributing anything to a birth except as a receptacle for growth, thus the omission of this significant aspect.
Unfortunately, this misguided notion, that genetically, women played no part in determining their offspring prevailed well into the 19th Century, probably because the science wasn’t yet there to call a lie to this fallacy even though most people could see the likenesses of women in their children. And if truth be told, the patriarchy that prevailed in Church and State for far too long helped to hold these ideas in place.
But, by 1854, it was realized that women did play a significant part in the creation of children, thus, Pius IX found it necessary to establish the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which states that Mary, the mother of Jesus was conceived without the stain of original sin, so as to make her, in their eyes, a “perfect” receptacle for the Messiah.
Now, that seems all nice and tidy—right? Wrong! You see, the very definition of humanity includes the fact that we are not yet perfect, therefore, if Mary was without sin at birth and ever after, then she wasn’t human and couldn’t give that component to Jesus, who as God simply wanted to be one-with-us, perfect or not.
Again, unfortunately; we see the Church, in its hierarchy, trying to move our God, far away—on a pedestal, out of sight and certainly not a part of our everyday, messy, at times, lives. I always think of Paul’s wonderful letter to the Philippians, chapter 2 where he says of Jesus, “His state was divine, but he did not cling to it, but became as all of us are…” Now, that doesn’t sound like a God who wanted to come into a perfect existence, but rather one of possibilities.
We see this same problem of humans not getting it right in the first reading from Samuel today. David, whom we know started his life as a shepherd boy, the youngest of Jesse’s 8 sons, the most unlikely pick for king, was in fact, the one, chosen; not because he was perfect, but because God saw his potential if he was given the chance.
David, like us, had to learn as he moved through his life. The Scripture selection chosen today includes David’s concern that a temple be built to house the Ark of the Covenant. In David’s mind, God needed a temple because he—David lived so lavishly that it only seemed fitting that God “be housed” in like manner. We see that God doesn’t address David’s concern, because what God wants is that David would become a good king who truly cared for his people.
This theme of being a “good leader”—someone who basically says, “Yes” to God and then proceeds on, not always knowing at the outset what the “yes” will mean, follows through each of today’s readings culminating in Mary’s “yes” in Luke’s gospel to give birth to the Messiah.
The “glory,” we see comes not through power and wealth amassed, but through the person called; David-Mary-Jesus and us!
The Advent and Christmas-time Scriptures always include the fact that Jesus, our Savior, mentor and friend comes for the poor and he shows this by his own birth in Bethlehem, in a stable with shepherds among his first visitors. A good time to remember that David began as a shepherd too!
So, what am I saying—that we must all be shepherds? No! But what we must be about is simplicity in our lives. We must be about truth—and about more than amassing wealth and status. Jesus came simply into our existence to show us the face of God in human form so that we could then go out and do likewise.
If we get lost in the material, forgetting the love as my mother-in-law, Margaret was fond of saying, then; we will never be able to see the face of God in others!
I spent time at the beginning of this homily trying to set the story straight where women are concerned in the whole of Salvation History, because this is part of the truth of why Jesus came. He came for each of us, to lift up our humanity, basically saying, by his presence in it, that, “It is good!”
Our task then, as his followers, is to continue this good work, saying by our own actions of inclusion, justice, mercy and love, that we, in fact—get it! We understand that the heart, which is wiser than the head, is what it is all about, as we face every day life and people.
So, my friends, this Christmas-time, let us be about love, not judgment, not rule-keeping, and not about the cross in our “rear-view mirrors,” not worshipping God in the too small boxes that have been given us, but widening our view, “opening some windows,” and thus, seeing through hearts that can include all! Amen? Amen!
O God, as we complete our Advent waiting—help us to remember what a gift you have given us in Jesus entering into our humanity, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
O God, may the wisdom and grace of the Spirit overshadow all the newly elected to be people who will truly work to care for the least among us and strive to bring peace to our country—uniting us under this common purpose, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind, and spirit–especially those struggling with COVID at this time—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
For those in our midst who have less than the basics of life, help each of us O God, to be challenged to do what we can to make a difference in their lives, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
O God, as we come to the end of a year and look forward to a new one with new beginnings, let us strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response:“Come, Jesus, Come.”
6. Loving God, be the strength for what each of us most needs in life, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us; give us patience to be the people you want us to be, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts and for those of others—then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, fill each of us with your goodness—goodness that can see beyond our own needs to the needs of others. As we prepare for your wonderful coming among us, let us hearts always to be open to new ideas, ways we haven’t thought of yet to make our world better. As you came simply into our world, help us to search out ways to live more simply in order that we can be good stewards of our planet. Surround us constantly with your love and mercy and help us to respond to our world through these same gifts. We ask all of this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit, God, living with us and loving us forever and ever, Amen.