Homily – 1st Sunday in Lent

Dear Friends, 

Before I share the homily for today, a note about our liturgy next weekend. Robert and I will be away and Dick Dahl will be covering. This would ordinarily be our Saturday mass for the month, but due to spring break at WSU, Mugby Junction has very shortened hours next Saturday which would make it very difficult for Dick to do the liturgy. So we decided instead to have the Mass on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at 10 A.M. I hope this won’t inconvenience you too much but it was the only option open to us. So, plan on Mass next Sunday at the regular time instead of on Saturday afternoon. Thanks for your understanding—Pastor Kathy


Lent is upon us my friends.  We may come to this season with some “baggage,” let us say, of a past history of not so fond memories of long fasts and long church services to go to, feelings of guilt perhaps about not being good enough and part of the reason that Jesus needed to come and die on the cross.

If any of this sounds true for you, than I would like to invite you to come to this season with some fresh ideas and see these 40 days as a gift given by our Church to help us “open up” and grow closer to our God who loves us beyond all imagining.  Just as Jesus found it necessary before beginning his public life to go apart and prepare for the challenges he would face; we too need such times to do the same.  He knew that the challenges would be many—to speak truth to power, to let all his brothers and sisters—all of us, that is, know how much we are in fact loved, to address those “lording” their power and position over the less fortunate to change their ways, to call all of us to be our best selves for ourselves and for others.

He knew that he would be met by those ready to hear his message and those who would be resistant to it. All the more reason for him to prepare, to build his strength, and to wrap himself in the gifts of the Spirit of his loving, Abba God.  None of us can be the people that this world needs without strength, wisdom, knowledge, faith, the ability to heal in many ways—the ills of body, mind and spirit, words of truth and power—the gifts of the Spirit, basically. We all were given these gifts when we were confirmed and times of quiet and prayer can help us to realize once again these gifts we all have and use them in our world.

If any of you are looking for some good reading during this season; I will make available my library of spiritual books.  You can simply sign them out, enjoy, be challenged and bring them back when you can for others to use.

I would also call your attention to the films and speakers offered through the 2nd year of the Winona Interfaith Council as ways to open up to a larger world, as ways to be about things that our brother Jesus was in his world.  We have one coming up on Monday night at St. Mary’s Church in Winona in the Commons Room at 6:30 P.M.—the Puentes/Bridges Program that works with undocumented laborers in Wisconsin—this is rescheduled from an earlier time.

Today, we have the opportunity to receive ashes on our foreheads, a simple, but very telling reminder of our vulnerability and impermanence in this life. This gift of a human existence is temporary, in other words, and our life in Christ is always calling us to that reality and challenging us to be our best for whatever time we have.

In truth probably, none of us relishes thinking along these lines—I know I don’t and I don’t think Jesus did either, in his humanity—this was part of his agony in the garden I believe, knowing that his time in this life would end.

Lent calls us then to struggle with these questions of impermanence, of justice for all—sharing the goods of this world, extending mercy as Paul writes of our God to the Romans in today’s 2nd reading: “Here there is no difference between Jew and Greek, all have the same Creator, rich in mercy toward all who call.”

The first reading from Deuteronomy is a testament of gratitude for all that our God has done.  Lent can be a time when we become more grateful for the gifts in our lives that we regularly take for granted—gifts that in the impermanence of our lives could be gone tomorrow.

Lent additionally calls us to balance in our lives.  While I don’t believe it needs to be a “punishing time” of great fasting and abstinence; there is a place for such practices.  Jesus chose such practices because he probably instinctively knew that it would steel him against the trials, hurts and disappointments to come.  Additionally, he probably knew that such practices would give him the strength to be priest, (we might think, servant here) prophet and lover of his human family and all that, that would mean.

I think because, at times, much of the above is quite a task to take on; we don’t relish a time like Lent.  Usually, it comes in the Church Year, at least in our climate, in the dead of winter and it might make us feel dull, but through the 40 days, we begin to glimpse spring, when new life begins to burst forth.  This new life not only shows itself in material ways around us, but there is every chance that this new life will be seen in us as well if we have allowed ourselves to open up to the larger world around us—the world that so desperately needs true followers of our brother, Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah, in one of the readings of this past week challenges us to be about the fast that our God truly wants—the “fast” that calls us to care for the least among us.

We sang the beautiful refrain from Psalm 91 today, “Be with me God, when I am in trouble,” and our faith assures us that indeed, God will!  Our faith also calls us to the realization that God does deserve our love, our adoration and our homage, as the Gospel reminds us today and in our world is where we must show that love.

The kin-dom that Jesus left us is the world in which we live—if we can love this world and its people, and work for the good of all, then the love we owe to God who has first loved us, will be accomplished!  Amen? Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

Homily – 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

As I said in this week’s bulletin; this is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time for a while as move into the holy season of Lent with Ash Wednesday this week.  The ashes are a sign of our vulnerability in this life and point the way to a new and different life one day with God. I say, “a new and different life” because our God is with us, every day, closer to us than we are to ourselves, it has been said; but this will be different! In fact, we are told that we can’t even imagine what God has prepared for us! We will talk of this more as we move into Lent, but for now, let’s look at the messages of this week.

Our day in and day out life with our God as followers of our brother, Jesus, can be said quite well, I think in Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians today: [Be] “fully engaged in the work of Jesus.”

We might ask then—just what does this “work” entail? As you know; I am fond of saying, “It’s all about love!”  In any situation; we must apply the law of love, especially when we aren’t sure of the way to go in a particular situation that we are confronted with.  If we can answer that, love is being served, that we are doing the most loving thing in what we are choosing to do, that the needs of others and not just those of myself will be addressed, then we can be quite sure that we are more “fully engaged in the work of Jesus” as Paul says.

And more specifically, Sirach zeroes in on our actions saying that, “It is in conversation, in a person’s words that we will know their worth.”  It is another way of saying, “You will know the truth—the good of something, “by the fruits.”

Sirach’s words are fulfilled in Jesus’ words today from Luke, “All people speak from their heart’s abundance—a good tree does not produce decayed fruit any more than a decayed tree produces good fruit.”

As I listened to all the rhetoric coming out of Washington this week about “truth-telling” or lack of it; I thought that these words from our prophets serve us well today.  Whether a person is believable or not seems to stem from the impression they have made on us—through their words, but more importantly, through their actions!

Diane Bergant, scripture scholar speaks to this issue in her commentary on today’s readings.  As we all know, and she makes the point of saying; one only has one chance to make a good first impression.  The trouble with this, she continues, is that our culture often holds up less than good criteria for what makes a “good, or acceptable” person—many times the criteria have to do with external things; the clothes we wear, the shape of our bodies and so on.  And how unfortunate if we never go any deeper than that!

It is only in living—through our life experiences, and with others, she suggests, that we come to see what is most important about those we meet in our lives—what they are made of–on the inside.  This is called, “wisdom”—something we hopefully come to in our lifetimes.

When we are driven by the externals alone, she goes on, the genuine person loses out.  Part of our hopelessness, it seems to me, in viewing the combined stories of Church and State, at present, is the lack of genuineness, of truth,  of those willing to speak truth to power, boldly and with conviction, demonstrating what are the tenets of faith and integrity upon which many of these so-called leaders in both places, stand.

I was encouraged this past week in reading a National Catholic Reporter article on the newer bishops in this country, those in the age range of 50-59, and in particular, four that were named in the piece.  I want to tell you a bit about them as I feel the hope for our Church lays in their hands, their actions and others like them.

These men all attended Pope Francis’ meeting in Rome this past week on the crisis of clergy sexual abuse and as the article stated; they left energized and anxious to get to work!  These men, Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, MO, Steven Biegler of Cheyanne, WY, John Stowe of Lexington, KY and William Wack of the Pensacola/Tallahassee diocese in Florida all share the idea that “transparency and accountability” are the ways to go forward as opposed to the older idea that all troubles should be handled internally which we all know, clearly hasn’t worked.

The four men that I have named here believe that these ideas of “transparency and accountability” will be “key” at June’s National Bishops’ Meeting.  As Bishop Wack from Florida stated, [he] “sees himself and other younger ones as part of the solution” to this crisis within our Church.  I would lift up these men for our prayers in applying the “law to love” to this crisis.

The thought that these men are on the right track has been confirmed by the national/international organization, SNAP (Survivors’ Network for those Abused by Priests) when they praised the work of Shawn McKnight and Steven Biegler.

We can be encouraged by the words of Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, KY who has stated, “This is virtually been a part of my journey since entering the seminary 33 years ago.  I’ve been meeting with victims, he says, since my first year of priesthood.” It would seem that now is the best chance of something meaningful being done to address these grievous crimes!

Another item out of the news this past week has been the on-going story of the religious women in India who have spoken their truth to power with regard to a former superior of theirs that they are supporting who was allegedly raped by her bishop.  To date these women have received ridicule from other nuns, endured pressure from congregational leadership and apathy from Rome.

These tactics to silence truth-tellers are old and well-practiced within our Church and unfortunately, have been tolerated by the “faithful” because of clericalism, the institution that “lives” on the notion that the clergy are superior to the laity and with regard to women and children, allowing sexism and sexual abuse of both to flourish for far too long because they have considered these vulnerable ones less good than themselves.

Clericalism, sexism and the sexual abuse of children must, simply must, be on the agenda of the next bishops’ meeting because far too many hurt and disappointed Catholics have already ceased to care what they do.

According to Sirach, Bergant reminds us, the true test of the “pot” is seen in the firing.  In other words, none of this will be easy—change is always hard and especially for those who have been entrenched so long on a certain path.

But again, as Paul reminds us today; we must be “fully engaged in the work of Jesus.” If that had been the case, the sexual abuse of children could never have gone on this long, coupled with the cover-up of these heinous crimes. And it isn’t enough for us to lay blame, but we must all be part of the solution by demanding of the bishops, at least within this country, that they become part of the solution instead of, part of the problem. We need to write our bishop, John Quinn, each one of us and encourage him to join with Bishops Shawn, Steven, John and William to be forthright, strong and filled with love as they together try to dismantle the sin of clericalism that has allowed so much harm for so long.

Jesus had no time for hypocrites, a word that in the Greek, Bergant reminds us, means play-acting or pre-tense. It was Jesus who stressed that we should never correct others before we have corrected ourselves—the story of the speck in their eyes versus the plank in our own. Self-righteousness clouds our view of our own faults.

So, my friends, let us pray for strength, for all, to be steadfast in the belief that our God loves us all and we do this best by keeping our eyes on Jesus.  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the over 10 years that I have been preparing homilies for our community here at All Are One, it seems from my notes that I have never done one for this Sunday and next in the C cycle of which we are now in!  That happened I am guessing because of how the Church Year is laid out, basically, when Easter comes in the calendar.  You will note that Easter is about as late as it can be, falling on April 21st this year.

So, I looked for some exegesis on the readings for today from Diane Bergant.  She says that the story of David sparing Saul’s life is, “a striking example of respect and forgiveness, ‘of doing unto others what we would want them to do unto us,’” as our brother Jesus teaches in today’s gospel from Luke.

Jesus’ examples of “turning the other cheek,” giving and giving, not only the top garment, but our inner garment too to those who would ask, spells out quite well the extent to which we must share with others.

For those who would read this gospel literally, which we should never do; a disclaimer.  Should we in our relationships ever allow ourselves to be abused with regard to living in harmony with others? The answer is most assuredly, “No!”

I think that Jesus always made the point of carrying the example to the extreme because he knew of our human tendency to give less than we are capable of giving.  The idea, I believe, in praying over Jesus’ message is to look for a balance in our lives that cares for ourselves with enough left to do our share in raising others to a level of dignity that each person deserves.

I personally find sometimes in working with others who have fallen on hard times, like some that I encounter at the Winona Warming Center—having less than the basics to live a dignified life; that some of these individuals present character traits that are less than good. Sometimes when “life happens” as we say, to people; they acquire habits of rudeness toward others, lack of concern, a kind of, dog-eat-dog mentality born perhaps out of the pain they themselves have suffered in life.

Now while I can understand this kind of behavior, due to how someone might have to live; I know too that to condone people acting in this way doesn’t allow them to rise to be their best—what God calls each of us to, in our humanity.  Sometimes tough love is required in a world that must serve the needs of all.

Jesus calls us to this task when he says that we shouldn’t accept the abuse—that we should do or say something that lets an abusive person know that we don’t approve of their less-than-good actions toward us or others—we are always challenged to somehow overcome evil with good. As Christians we are then further instructed to forgive, while not accepting the bad behavior and certainly never to retaliate.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians today, reminds us that we must not only model ourselves on the first human—Adam, but on the second human—Jesus.  In other words; we must be both human and spirit; and blending the two; we can come more and more to image our brother, Jesus, the Christ.

Diane Bergant writes more on this golden rule of, “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us” by saying that sometimes our culture encourages us toward an opposing rule, that of, “doing unto others before they do unto us.”  We all instinctively know within our spirits that we must never respond to our world in this way, while we struggle with our humanity to act in just this way.

I know within myself that I have responded in less than good ways when others have been unjust or unkind to me, but in a more passive way—not necessarily noticeable to others, but noticeable to me.

To be slighted by another, shown an unkindness or a lack of concern; I might make the decision to show a lack of concern for them—nothing overt; but unkind and unChrist-like, just the same.

And the piece for us to be aware of is that the actions of unkindness and retaliation ultimately hurt us more than they do the target of our less-than-good actions.  They rob us of our peace and joy.

With regard to how we respond to our world and the people we encounter and associate with, as baptized followers of Jesus; we are always called to take the high road, never acting out of the human tendency “to do first” before it is “done to us,” but most assuredly, to do unto others as we would expect and want them to do unto us.  Anything less is simply, not Christian.

And as I stated earlier, this means keeping ourselves as part of the equation—it is never good or right to allow ourselves to be abused with the notion that this example of “turning the other cheek” is what Jesus wants us to do.  Balance, always balance, respects the fact that our God loves me as well as all others.  An alternative way to speak about the golden rule is to say, “Love your enemies, and, love yourself.”  It’s a package!

In conclusion; we must focus on probably the hardest part, forgiving those who have hurt us.  Jesus, our brother, showed us the way from the cross, Bergant reminds us—“Forgive them Abba, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

In reflection upon this final piece of Christ-likeness, it seems to me that if I can get my head and heart around the fact that someone “doesn’t know what they are doing,” for whatever reason, then I don’t have to give their action as much weight. Better, I think, to move on, responding as a Christian, as a true believer would and should.  After all, as Bergant concludes her remarks, “Violence and hatred will be eradicated from this world only if we refuse to perpetuate it.”

According to a Pew Research Report in 2010; there are 2.19 billion Christians around the world.  Imagine; if you can, what this world would be like if we all really lived and treated the earth and its people as Jesus did!  That would seem to be our challenge for this week, and each week—Amen? Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

Homily – 6th Weekend in Ordinary Time

This weekend in Ordinary Time once again gives us so much to think about.  Each of our writers; Jeremiah, Jesus and Paul is speaking from their place in history and beyond, to us, now, messages of challenge, hope and love.

Having just celebrated a whole day dedicated to love this past week; I’d like to concentrate on this topic.  I think it’s wonderful to have one day that calls us to remember in special ways those we profess to love, but maybe in the busy-ness of our lives, forget to often tell them.  Such a day gives us that opportunity.

Now while it is true that Valentine’s Day or Christmas Day or any other holiday in the business world is about the bottom line, with us being encouraged to buy; what I am talking about is so much more than that.  Like following our brother, Jesus, which always involves more than meets the eye, telling someone we love them goes so much deeper too.  The giving of flowers or candy is hopefully just a token of our day-in and day-out feelings.

I always think of Tevye’s question to his wife, Golda in Fiddler on the Roof: “Do you love me?” Golda goes through a series of tasks that she has done for him for 25 years; cleaning his house, preparing his food, giving him children and so on.  He persists, “But Golda, do you love me?” To which she finally says—that basically, doing all that, “I guess I do!”

As Jesus always said while among us, “You will know what is in someone’s heart by their actions”—the fruit on the tree!

Jeremiah in attempting to tell the Israelites what is best in life, that is— putting their trust in God, for it is God who gives us hope, says a curious thing with regard to the “heart,” the place where most of us locate, or at least, associate with love and I find that I must disagree with him. The human heart, Jeremiah says in today’s first reading, is more deceitful than anything else.”  In defense of Jeremiah first off; I would say that he is referring basically to the heart as the source of our emotions and therefore can’t be trusted, because many things can affect them.

There has been a great deal of study done on the human heart since Jeremiah said these words and during a week that annually devotes an entire day to love; I think it is appropriate to share some of the wisdom of the ages.

In an address given recently by Rochester Franciscan Sister Charlotte Hesby to the Sisters and Cojourners, she shared the words of author, Cynthia Bourgeault:  “According to the great wisdom of the West (Christian, Jewish, Islamic), the heart is first and foremost an organ of spiritual perception. Its primary function is to look beyond the obvious…see into a deeper reality…where meaning and clarity come together in a whole different way.  Amazingly she says that the heart is not a metaphor, rather points to Ezekiel 36:26, and Eastern Orthodox tradition which both make clear that it is the “heart of flesh,” the physical heart which is meant.  So the muscle pumping so faithfully in our chest is likewise that which sees the Holy in all that is! This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.  The prophet’s words, [given by God], “I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

So, where am I going with all of this?  I would say that of the messages that are contained in today’s readings; those of challenge, hope and love, love is the one that we have to really grow to understand in our lives as Christians, as followers of Jesus, especially if, as Cynthia Bourgeault says, [the heart is that], “which sees the Holy in all that is.”  What better action for any of us to be about than seeing the Holy in all that is?

I believe most of us would agree that love—true love, is that feeling-emotion-action that originates in our hearts.  And as Bourgeault seems to indicate, the heart that can truly love and act upon that love is a spiritual and ultimately, very good thing for us spiritual beings here having a human experience.

I believe she is talking about a greater purpose than was Jeremiah in today’s first reading; but then, he was making an all-together different point—that trusting in God is the best thing we can do. I would add though, that the God who gave us hearts capable of love that can at times “break them open,” would want us to trust our hearts as well, because the heart, it would seem, is so much a part of what makes us spiritual beings.

Love is the only answer for Jesus’ life among us—teaching, preaching, speaking truth to the powers that were in his world, knowing that full well, such actions would not bring him to a good end—but love to him was more than safety.

This past week; I read a talk given recently by Roy Bourgeois, former member of the Maryknoll Priests and Brothers who lost his status and place within Maryknoll, a community he gave 40 years of his life to because this organization thought it more important to be safe, than to allow their hearts to break open with love.

Roy lost all because he acted on the call of the Spirit to support his friend Janice Sevre-Dusynska who told him she was being called, just as he was, to be a priest.

Roy, coming out of a culture in the deep south and a Catholic parish that relegated blacks to the last 5 pews in the church, claiming, even as they professed to believe in Jesus and his Scriptures, that this was “tradition” and not racism, finally awakened as he listened to more and more women claiming that God was calling them to priesthood and that, as he had learned, “tradition” could no longer be the reason to commit sins of racism or sexism.

This awakening allowed Roy to proclaim, “What I came to, is that as a Catholic priest; I was in a profession that discriminated against women.”  Being safe wasn’t enough for Roy anymore and even though he lost much, he said, he has never been more, free.

So, my friends; we might say with Jeremiah today that we are blessed who put our trust in God and in all the good our God gives us to share with our world, love being a most significant gift.   We simply must give from our hearts allowing them to break open for our world, actions that may not keep us safe, but will surely allow us to “see the Holy in all that is.” Amen? Amen!

 

Homily – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, this 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time continues to call us, due to our baptisms, to follow our brother, Jesus.  The call comes, down through history, even before Jesus’ time among us through the words and actions of the prophet, Isaiah.  Isaiah, like us at times, doesn’t feel up to the task, but through encouragement; he answers God’s call, “Here I am, send me!”

Paul is fully aware of his background, of how he tortured the Church of his brother, Jesus, yet Jesus chose him anyway, calling him to be his best.  “By God’s favor, I am what I am,” Paul explains.

And if we needed anymore assurance that we are called and that Jesus will walk alongside us, it is our brother who confirms with words that encourage, “Do not be afraid!”  In today’s gospel, it is mere fish that are caught, but this is only the beginning for Jesus as he lets these fishers know that now they will “fish for people.”

And again, we should see that this is not just a story telling of a great catch, once in time, but a story showing us the way.  Jesus came into humanity for more than fish! He came for each of us! He came to make our human experience here not only good for us, but good for all humanity through us.

Lately, many of us have felt discouraged and appalled even, by actions of those with the responsibility to serve, both in State and in Church and we wonder if there is even anything to be done because there seems to be one standard for us to follow and when it comes to those with responsibility to serve, there is a whole different standard, if any at all.

But it is this kind of thinking that we absolutely must not let ourselves fall into—we must continue to hope and give those around us reason to hope as well. We should not take our lead from those who have abused their power through self-serving actions aimed at power and control, but listen with our hearts to the needs of those around us.

One story of this past week that gave me hope that some change might be on the horizon within our Church was part of a series that the National Catholic Reporter is doing on seminaries in this country.

We know that Pope Francis has spoken against clericalism—that affliction that allows priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes to see themselves as a step above the people they purport to serve instead of as servants among the people, who are only there, as Paul says, “by God’s favor.”

As we might imagine, NCR’s coverage of seminaries has uncovered those who are against Francis and any change to the way things are; but in the 4th part of their series, a seminary in Oregon, at St. Benedict, Mount Angel Seminary is combating the tendency toward “clericalism” through “screening, service and reflection.” Instructors, as well as students there, say that they see little, or none of it.  Being aware of it and having tools in place to curb this tendency, seems to make all the difference.

Another example from this past week came on the PBS News Hour’s regular segment, Brief, But Spectacular.  This particular segment addressed a young woman’s “Brief, but Spectacular Take on Being Deaf.”  She told of how her mother didn’t teach her sign language when it was discovered that she was born deaf because her mother wanted her to learn to speak. She relayed how her mother practiced and practiced with her to get her to say the word, “up,” by picking her up, getting her to go upstairs, saying after each action, “up.” She even took the little girl’s fingers and pressed them against her own throat so that she could feel, “up” even if she couldn’t hear it.  She said, she will always remember the day when she was finally able to say, “up,” and her mother cried tears of joy! It was then that her mother knew that one day, her daughter would truly speak!

And the story takes another twist that makes it even better. The little girl grew up, became a speaking adult, telling of all the struggles along the way, from those she encountered who weren’t deaf.  When someone can’t hear, their learned speech is always going to sound different from those who can hear, thus comes the ridicule from those who don’t know better.

One day, another deaf person came up to her and began signing as a way to communicate.  She told of how she was then embarrassed because she didn’t know how to communicate.

The gospel today telling of the great catch of fish lets us know that the only way that all the fish could be brought in was if they all worked together, sharing their boats, their strength and their expertise.   None of us manages in this life trying to go it alone.  We need each other for hope, for mutual support, for added strength when ours runs low, as in both the stories that I related today.

There are many ways to bring “the fish” home and that is why we are all so wonderfully, but differently made.  It is simply ignorance to say that Jesus cannot be made manifest in a woman as well as in a man. And it is simply cruel to say that couples who are of the same sex cannot have as committed and meaningful a relationship as those who are of different sexes.

And when so-called, “men of God” have been allowed for so long to live clerical, dishonest, power-over lives, more about themselves than those that they are called to serve, it is time to say to them, “Enough!”

Jesus’ love incarnate was always about seeing the whole, big picture of how really big our God’s love is, for each of us, in all our diversity, called to serve and to bring each other home.  Amen? Amen!