Homily – 6th Sunday of Easter in an Almost Time of Safety

Dear Friends, as we continue in the Easter Season, not surprisingly, the continual theme is, “love” –that which is given, first by God, and then, with the expectation that we would love in return. We do that best by loving those all around us, when it is easy and when it is not so easy. We probably are able to love in these ways best, if we keep our eyes on our brother, Jesus, who truly has shown us the way. This week we remember the gift of our parish and that against many odds, we were called into existence nearly 13 years ago–a gift truly to be grateful for! I know that I am grateful for all of you. So, today, let us pray that our good God would continue to bless us and show us how to love well in our world. And lastly, let us remember all the women who have loved us, “mothered” us during our lives!

Please don’t hesitate to be in touch if I can help you in any way–to listen, to chat, whatever the need might be . 507-429-3616. or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

Speak out with a voice of joy; let it be heard to the ends of the earth: Our loving God has set us free, Alleluia!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Ever living and loving God, help us to celebrate our joy in the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ and to express in our lives the love we celebrate. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, who now lives and loves us in a new way with the Creator and the Spirit—all God—living and loving us forever and ever—Amen.

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Readings:

  • Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48
  • 1 John 4: 7-10
  • John 15: 9-17

Homily  

As we age my friends, the thought comes to many of us, that we don’t want to be, “just spinning our wheels,” doing those things that don’t matter as much—and the fact is that for many of us, we endeavor, to become, “the change” we want to see!

   It would seem, according to Peter, in the 1st reading from Acts that the only thing that can stop us, who have received the Spirit, is our “unwillingness to love,” and in every situation, to do the most loving thing.

   Think for a moment how it would be in our world if we tackled some of the most serious problems from a standpoint of love—first.

  • Think of issues around “policing” in our country.  If part of the training of police officers was to be cognizant first and foremost that their role in society is to be about service, not power-over or control.  Too many law officers come charging into a scene, guns out and loaded—ready to fire, voices raised—often shouting, escalating rather than de-escalating whatever is happening, and most unfortunately, as is evidenced by too many recent killings at the hands of police officers, targeted at our Black brothers and sisters. 
  • Think of the disparity between the rich and the poor in this country as far as the basics of daily living go—when some people need to work three jobs to keep food on the table as compared to the 1% in this country along with the wealthiest companies, who made huge profits during this past year of the pandemic.  Love applied?  I think not!
  • Think too of those in our Congress who continually fight to protect the wealthiest in this country from paying their fair share of taxes, often allowing them to pay none at all.  Public servants should be about service, not greed, not power, not control, if and when, love is applied. 
  • Think of those in Congress, given the privilege of that office by the voters, who continually do nothing for the betterment of the people they represent—who are only, ultimately, interested in being re-elected.  It is this most, unloving attitude and concern that is behind the present push to unseat Liz Cheney, Republican, in the U.S. House from her leadership role.  She will not lie and is willing to lose her power in order to do the right thing! 
  • Think of our Catholic church leaders, bishops, priests—ordained to serve, the People of God, voiceless, many of them, in the face of Black/White disparity, in wages, in positions of power, that we know as racism, voiceless to speak for justice where women are concerned in calls to priesthood, and to leadership, because their power, and control of their system is paramount.  What, indeed, would our beloved Church look like if “love” were the guiding principle?  Someone once said, “It would be like discovering “fire” for the second time!”

   My friends, I don’t know about you, but I personally so long to hear within our Church leadership, that the reason for any particular action is based on the memory of Jesus of Nazareth!  We do follow him, correct?!

   Our good Pope Francis is the most consistent one in leadership to speak from the memory of Jesus of Nazareth, but even he falls short where women and our LGBTQ community is concerned.  We should pray earnestly for him who has spoken most beautifully in Fratelli Tutti about protecting all of God’s created life, and even in, Laudato Si, where a, “change of heart” is called for as one of the key points and that he soon can walk back his inability to truly love and care for the two groups named above.

   Our God’s love is intended for all, not just for us and our family—even the first apostles struggled with this idea of whether Jesus’ love and message of right living was just for the Jews—or in fact, the Gentiles—everyone else too.

   On Monday, our parish will celebrate 13 years of existence and we have been an experiment in Winona as to if a Vatican II parish is possible.  I humbly believe that the experiment is working! 

    This ministry of 13 years, the 10th of May, has always been about what we do here together, as equals.  This is reflected in the invitation that I repeat at the beginning of our Eucharistic Prayer when we have new people among us, reminding all present that by praying the beautiful words of consecration together, we do make Jesus present!  We must remember that we are all celebrants here—I have the privilege of presiding, but it is together that we make Jesus present among us by our jointly prayed words.

   Peter, again from the 1st reading today, in response to those around him, wanting to show him, “honor,” says, “Get up!” [I am but a human like you and the Spirit works through all of us who want that gift of power and strength].

 It would seem to me, that our Catholic leaders need to have the mind of Peter and realize their awesome calling to lead and to do that leading, not in a “power-over” fashion, but, “with” the People of God, all empowered by the Spirit.

   As the weeks of Easter are winding down, it is good for us to remember that for the past six weeks, the “message of love” has been almost redundant in the Scriptures.  The purpose, my friends, in my mind, is that in the busy-ness and distractions of our modern lives, we won’t allow ourselves to forget this one simple message of love.  Our brother Jesus speaks this message in the Gospel today and it is echoed in the 2nd reading, also from John, that our God has first loved us, and our task is to, “love God back” through all of our daily encounters, day in and day out throughout all of the precious days of our lives.

   Jesus’ words, “Love one another as I have loved you,” along with his desire that we would call each other, “friends,” remembering that, as he said, “no greater love can be found than that you would lay down your life for a friend. These ideas, it would seem, must always be present to us, on our hearts and minds so as to better live our lives—in his memory.

   Today is also Mothers’ Day and ideally, most mothers would and do, give their best for their children.  When this isn’t the case, many in this world have found “mothers” who have given them the emotional, and spiritual love needed to become whole people.  For all these women, physical, emotional, and spiritual moms, we give our undying love and gratitude today for the places they have held in our lives.

   In conclusion then, as we remember this week, our 13 years of being a parish, let us keep in mind the ways we have grown as a community of faith, one that has generously given of its surplus time and talent in countless ways to our city, country, and world.  We have stood up for the right and privilege of women as well as men being able to answer their God-given calls to priesthood and for the right of all individuals, regardless of lifestyle choices to be welcome at our table.

   Additionally, as a community of faith, we have, these 13 years, stood for inclusivity, for welcome and for the message of Jesus.  We are grateful for the responsibility of being a true Vatican II parish in this our hometown of Winona, MN.  May we, with God’s grace continue to be true to this call now, and into the future.  Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Loving God, hear us.”

  1. Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially the least among us, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray—Response:Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, you who said that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend, give us hearts that strive to love unconditionally, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, grant each of us a renewed faith during this Easter Season to remain true to you living our lives in truth and justice and love, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, give hope to those who continue to suffer now due to the selfishness of others in our world economies, and be with those who can truly make a difference in producing more equity in our world, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, you call us friends—help us to always remember that you desire a relationship with us that is close, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, help us to see you every day in the faces of all we meet—help us to see your face in all the ordinary events of our lives, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—soon to be 13 years old—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts, we pray—      Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, send your Spirit into the lives of all your followers to enable them to do all within their power to renew your church so in need of that renewal, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give each one your peace and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”

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

Let Us Pray

   Jesus, be the strength we need each day to be people of the resurrection—true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world. Let us look at your people, always with love, remembering that you have called us friends—that you have given all that we might have eternal life with you. Let us always remember your never-failing love for each person and that because you have loved us so fully, we too must love fully in return.  Give us ever more open minds that we might see your face in each person we meet and therefore cease to judge others, but simply try and understand, to put ourselves in another’s shoes and then to simply look on them with love. We ask all of this of you, our loving Brother and with the Creator and your loving Spirit— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be together physically, but always remember that Jesus is with us! 

Prayer of Communion

Loving God, you restored us to life by raising Jesus from death.  Strengthen us by the Easter knowledge: may we feel it in our daily lives—we ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.

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Homily – 5th Sunday of Easter in a Time of Almost Safety

Dear Friends, we continue on in the Easter Season and “Alleluia” truly is our song! The readings for this week are about the challenge, in love, to not just speak about it, but to do the loving thing. We hear of our loving God’s desire to be one with us, in Jesus, in the beautiful story of the vine and the branches and the invitation to be “one with God, living in God as God does, indeed, live in us.” Pastor Dick Dahl has given us some wonderfully engaging, challenging and comforting thoughts for this Sunday. Thank you Dick!

Please know that I am here for you if need be, to help, to listen, even to chat–I am a bit behind on my regular calls with some commitments to our new Honduran family in town. For those of you in the Winona area who might wish to help with an evening meal and if you didn’t receive the newest signup tool, let me know and I will send it out. My contact information is: aaorcc2008@gmail.com or by phone, 507-429-3616. Peace and love to all, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

Sing to our God, a new song, for God has done marvelous deeds!  Our loving God has revealed to the nations saving power, Alleluia!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Good and gentle God, look upon us with love. You have revealed to the nations your saving power and filled all ages with the words of a new song.  Hear the echo of this hymn, sung in love and praise to you in this season of joy.  We ask this of you, and with the Spirit, in Jesus’ wonderful name—Amen.

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Readings:

  • Acts 9: 26-31
  • 1 John 3: 18-24
  • John 15: 1-8

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Homily from Pastor Dick Dahl

Recently Father Richard Rohr had a week of meditations on “Friendship and Grace.” I’m taking the following statement out of context from one of them, but it is still accurate: “… free and gratuitous love is the only love that validates, transforms, and changes us at the deepest levels of consciousness. It is what we all desire and what we were created for. Once we allow it for ourselves, we will almost naturally become a conduit of the same for others. In fact, nothing else will attract us anymore or even make much sense.”

In today’s Gospel-reading Jesus expresses his desire for this kind relationship with us. He says that just as branches share the life of a vine, so it is with him and his followers. How amazing is it that we can not only imagine but can actually share such a life-sharing intimacy with him! He desires it…with you and me. “Remain in me” he says eight different times.

This living bond with him is not experienced in isolation. We may experience it most often through our relationships with other people, and even other creatures such as cherished pets or the beauty of birds or trees and the awesome reflection of his presence in all of creation.

 He says we remain in him when we let his word, his example, guide us. He seemed to always reach out to those whom others rejected or feared—the sick, the disabled, tax collectors, prostitutes, Roman soldiers, foreigners, and the list goes on. Our previous President told people to fear strangers and immigrants. He described them as rapists and murderers. Strangers and outcasts, however, are people whom Jesus welcomed and loved. Or to put it another way, as Matthew’s Gospel does, at the Last Judgment Jesus himself will say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Several in our community, including many of you, very recently welcomed a family who had fled terror in their homeland. In them we met, as it were, other branches of the vine who is Jesus. What we have in common is not the same language or nationality, but the dignity we share as human beings. They are enriching us by the example of their courage, their warm gratitude, and the humility they show in accepting the love and support offered them by those of us who are at first strangers but almost immediately become friends.

Today’s first reading from the acts of the Apostles describes how the first Christians learned to become open and welcoming to the man they greatly feared. They knew of him as one who sought to capture and imprison them. Saul the fervent Pharisee must have seemed to them the way an undocumented immigrant family would feel if they heard a person from ICE or the Border Patrol knocking on their door. Saul, however, was transformed into Paul by an intense encounter with the resurrected Jesus. With the help of Barnabas as intermediary, the early Christians opened themselves to accept and welcome Paul into their community. And what a difference he was to make!

Jesus used the metaphor of the vine and its branches to reveal not only how we live vitally connected with him and others. He used it also to teach us that just as pruning is necessary for branches on a vine to grow back with greater vitality to produce more fruit, so it is for us. He used it to teach us about those aspects of life that none of us like to face or think about. Jesus does not hide us from the painful part of life anymore that he hid from it. Suffering takes many forms. It can be anxiety and soul-crushing depression or the slow crucifixion of addiction. It can be physical illness, pain, or mental and emotional confusion and loss. It may shake us to our core from disappointments, failure, betrayal, deaths of those we love most dearly making us question whether we can or even want to go on.

 We likely do not feel blessed when we have such experiences. We don’t want them any more than Jesus did. However, even if we feel alone and abandoned, the Spirit never leaves us. The Holy Spirit is the life force that makes us one with Jesus, just as a vine nourishes its branches. The love that binds us to Jesus is powerful; it is the Holy Spirit…promised and given to us.

This is what it means to be connected to the vine and to remain in him. Pruning is never fun, but, like branches on a vine, it can free us and transform us in ways we would never have expected.

This is the paradox of sharing in his passion, his death and resurrection.

In today’s second reading John writes: If at times your sense of unworthiness leads you to question God’s love for you, John assures us that God knows us better than we know ourselves. Our faith in the Lord and love for others are the sure signs of God’s gratuitous love that transforms and validates our lives.

So, in summary, today’s readings proclaim the here and now personal relationship that Jesus wants and has with each of us. He repeats to us, “Remain in me.” His Spirit enables us to do this by living his word, through openness to others, especially those in need, those who seem different and at first “other.” But just as the early Christians overcame their fears of their former persecutor Saul, we can challenge ourselves to seek beyond the differences that divide us to find what we have in common with others.

And finally, Jesus prepared us for the pruning that our lives may experience. He called blessed those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; those who hunger and thirst for justice (righteousness), for they shall be satisfied; those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Loving God, hear us.”

  1. Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially the least among us, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray—Response:  “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, you who said you are the vine and we are the branches, we ask that you would always remain close to us guiding our lives in the ways of love, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, grant each of us a renewed faith during this Easter Season to remain true to you living our lives in truth, justice and love, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, give hope to those who continue to suffer now due to job loss and for those who live daily with the threat of losing their jobs—show them all the way through this painful time, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, help us to look to Mary, your mother that she might be a guide for us toward compassion, strength and care for our world, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, help us to see you every day in the faces of all we meet—help us to see your face in all the ordinary events of our life , we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—especially now as we celebrate 13 years of existence on May 10, 2021—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Jesus, send your Spirit into the lives of all your followers to enable them to do all within their power to renew your church so in need of that renewal, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
  • Risen Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:  “Loving God, hear us.”

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, we pray, 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—the energy to always seek after peace through the gifts of lovingkindness and mercy.  Help us to remember that our real task in this world as followers of Jesus, our brother, is to love your people and this world. Help us always to look for inspiration from your mother Mary, a pillar of strength, faith, gentleness and courage. We ask that we might have the strength for these great tasks.   All this we ask of you, Creator God, Jesus, our Brother and your Spirit, one God, living and loving us, forever and ever, AMEN. 

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Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be together in person, but do always remember, that Jesus lives on in and with and through us!

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, be with us each and every day. We believe as you told us that you are the vine and we are the branches and that if we live in you, you will live in us and bear much fruit.  Give us the grace to follow your lead—we ask all of this in your loving name, Amen.

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Homily – 4th Sunday of Easter in an Almost Time of Safety

Friends, 20 + of us met this morning for a Zoom Mass! It was so good to be together again! Below, find my homily. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can help you in any way–call, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. –Pastor Kathy

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Homily

   My friends, as has been mentioned, this Sunday reflects for all of us, just what a “good shepherd” is.  I shared the following description 6 years ago and would like to share it again as it gets us into the mind of our God. 

  Jesus, as the good shepherd is an image that over time has been a comforting one, even though most of us have never taken care of sheep.  Looking back to what taking care of sheep was like in Jesus’ time; we find that it was no picnic—being with these basically ignorant, smelly creatures for a couple of weeks at a time, which was common practice for sheepherders, leading them from one good pasture to the next, finding clean, unpolluted water to drink was no small task. Yet, given all this, we still hear that the shepherd who would be considered, “good” basically loved their sheep and would go the extra mile for each and every one of them.  We all remember the additional Scripture story of this “Good Shepherd leaving the 99 in search of one lost one.”

   Now, the Scripture story today from John is only more than, “just a story” if we indeed put it into our own lives and see what it might say for us.  We all know that our call as Jesus’ followers, is to walk in his footsteps, therefore, it seems that each of us should, today, hear our own call, “to shepherd others” where needed.

   The most current example I can think of is our effort here in Winona to bring a Honduran family seeking asylum in the United States to a place of safety as they pursue this “great life change” for their family. 

   This venture began last Sunday evening and into the wee hours of Monday morning, as three from our Great River Asylum Support Partners (GRASP), me included, as the official sponsor, drove to the Minneapolis airport to welcome and bring them to their, “new home,” for a while. 

   As I reflect on our first meeting; us with some Spanish, they with no English–each with cell phones—translation apps, on our parts, to find each other—it was with a good deal of emotion that we all, literally, fell into each other’s arms when we finally caught sight of each other!  It was akin to finding that lost one!  

   And since that mid-night ride on Sunday-Monday, last, a group of 40+ people have surrounded “our family,” as many of us now refer to them, with shelter, food, clothing, outings in the community so as to learn about their new home, assistance to get their oldest son into school in the Rios (bi-lingual) educational system, to name just some of what has been offered and graciously, so graciously, accepted.  And it is good to remember that this family came to our borders, literally running for their lives, so just about everything is needed, as they came with so little. 

   In the upcoming weeks and months, as they and we come to better know each other’s languages, more of their story will no doubt be made known to us. 

   We have all come to see how such a venture as this really does, “take a village” as we balance the needs of all:  for community, for alone time, for assistance—enough, but not too much so as to allow them to take charge of their lives, little by little. 

Right now, and for their first six months here; they are unable to get work permits which necessitates the need for our support.  But, for all of us, this family has already shown us so much love, gratitude, and graciousness—all the gifts we have wanted to give to them!

   I am presently reading, Bishop Michael Curry’s 2020 book, entitled, Love is the Way, which is his treatise, I believe, to so many problems facing our world—the more we can go to our hearts in dealing with many issues, the better response we will be able to make.  Bishop Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church and the 1st African American to lead the domination. 

   Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners Magazine, in a tribute to the book, had this to say about Michael Curry: “Michael Curry believes in love. Not the kind of love that sidesteps and softens our response to the most brutal realities of our deepest racist, economic, and human oppression. But rather, like Dr. King and more importantly, [as] Jesus said, the kind of radical love that may be the only thing that can finally overcome such radical sin.” 

   This past week, the news cycle has placed our country squarely looking at the issue of the deep-seeded racism that our country faces.  We have been dealing with this through the inequality of policing towards Blacks in our country and also in a more general way through the inequality in the economics under which minorities live in our country.  This has been demonstrated most clearly recently through COVID in elevated death levels and lack of services to these populations in general. 

   So, my friends, not any easy answers, when we attempt to live radically as Jesus did.  Peter tells us in the 1st reading today from Acts that much good can be and is done in the name of Jesus, the Christ, our brother from Nazareth.  He, in his life among us, was, Peter says, “the stone rejected,” initially, but that he would become, “the corner stone” upon which the whole house stands!

   I can’t help but think when reflecting on our Honduran family that their status now is like, “stones that are,” in some ways, “rejected”—they will have “to jump through many hoops” over the next many months to acquire asylum and they could yet be rejected and deported.  Our hope surely is, that they won’t be deported in the end because they, like all of us, have so much potential for good, if given the chance.

   John, in the 2nd reading today writes about how our God, “lavishes” love on each of us and that, “it has not been revealed what we will become.” 

   Greta Thunberg has been in the news again lately as President Biden had called world leaders to a virtual summit this past week to address the urgent need of climate change. Greta, you will remember is the “shy,” in her words, Swedish young woman who at age 15 decided to leave school and demonstrate, to the powers-that-be in our world and to literally, beg them to do something—not in 30 years, not in 10 years, but now, to save the planet for the next generation.

   At first, Greta demonstrated alone, but now she has a following of thousands! We never know friends, what our love can do, until we try to truly use it.

   My patron saint, Catherine of Siena, whose feast day is celebrated on April 30 minced no words when she said, “Cry out with a thousand tongues, I see the world is rotten because of silence.” She was always getting herself into trouble in the 14th Century with popes and such because she didn’t remain silent with what she saw as wrong in her Church—a good patron for me, I guess.

   And in conclusion, our present-day prophet, Sr. Joan Chittister has said in the past, but it is still just as true today, “To move from childish spirituality to adult spirituality, we must not be afraid to question any dogma, any sermon, any edict, writings, admonition—not to deny it but to wrestle it to the ground. Then we can be sure that neither magic nor authoritarianism will ever substitute for our search for God.

   And that’s it friends, our lives are truly about our search for God, never knowing when God will appear in our midst—perhaps in a Honduran family, seeking refuge here, among us! Amen? Amen!

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Homily – 3rd Sunday of Easter in an Almost Time of Safety Again

Dear Friends, Easter is a wonderful time for us to look back and to look forward. Looking back at all that our brother Jesus was and did and is for us –studying “his path” and trying to do likewise, ourselves, as we move forward into each day. We are told this week, the he “is our Advocate before God” –a very comforting thought, I think. Our God is always encouraging us through the memory of Jesus of Nazareth, to be our best. That is my challenge to myself and to each of you reading this. Please always know that I am here for you should it help to have an ear to listen…you can contact me as always by phone, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Peace and love to you all–each of you, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy; praise the glory of God’s name; proclaim God’s glorious name, Alleluia!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving God, author of all truth, a people once in darkness has listened to our Word, Jesus, the Christ. We followed him as he rose from the tomb. Hear the prayer of your newborn people and strengthen us as Church to answer your call.  May we rise and come forth into the light of day to stand in your presence until eternity dawns.  We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.

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Readings:

  • Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19
  • 1 John 2: 1-5
  • Luke 24: 35-48

Homily:

   My friends, we continue our journey through these six weeks of Eastertime.  We are reminded as are the apostles, by Jesus, that “all of this” is happening according to a plan—bigger than them, in other words.  Jesus reminds them and us that he is indeed the Messiah spoken of by all the prophets who came before him. 

   He reminds them that even though his actual presence on earth, in their midst, as a messiah—different perhaps, than what they expected, is, and was, what their God expected and wanted.  Jesus’ messiahship was never about, “saving” them from the Romans, but always about saving them from themselves—as humans and assisting them to become their best selves.

   Peter, post-resurrection, clearly has or takes the responsibility to instruct the Jews and others about Jesus, who they allowed to be crucified.  Peter appears to us in today’s 1st reading from Acts, to be compassionate and understanding of their complicity in Jesus’ death, saying, “You acted out of ignorance,” not understanding all the prophets that came before him, saying that all would happen as it did. 

   But Peter continues—now is the time, “to reform your lives,” and “listen to everything” [pondering what Jesus, the prophet, has told you].  His coming among us was all about letting us know that our God is in love with us—each of us, wanting us to be our best selves, for ourselves, others, and our world.

   John, in his 1st letter, which serves as our 2nd reading today, tells us clearly how we are to become our best selves:  We must come to know this God who loves us so much, and we can be sure that we do, by “keeping the commandments of God,” John says.  Jesus in fact makes that even more simple— “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

   Now, you are probably thinking—that is not at all simple, and you would be right!   When we really think about it, our thought processes go something like this: “Why of course I love God, but my neighbor? —well, that is another story!” Yet, our brother, Jesus asks us in so many words, “How is it that you can say you love God, whom you have never seen, but can’t love your neighbor, whom you have seen?”

   This is perhaps something good for us to ponder these days and weeks of Eastertime.  And maybe a sharper focus might be, to contemplate never doing anything to a “neighbor” that we wouldn’t want done to ourselves.  And, I think, a comfort in our struggle to be our best selves is to remember John’s words today, that, “Jesus is our Advocate with God.”  I have always been comforted in the knowledge that our brother, Jesus, having been a human, in every way and tempted in all the ways that we are, chose to be his best self, so as to show us the way.

   Jesus continues, we see, in the gospel from Luke today to, “open the eyes” of the apostles to what his presence on earth truly means—to what their true parts are, in carrying on his work in the world.  And friends, this is about us too!  What are we being called to do?

   I believe a significant piece to keep in mind, is Jesus’ demeanor in all his dealings after the resurrection with his beloved apostles and disciples.  As we discussed last week, Jesus’ appearances were always accompanied by the words, “Peace be with you.” 

   I believe Jesus knew that his disciples were afraid and confused.  He would send his Spirit to give them strength and that would help, but his peaceful presence among them would do the most good.

   My friends, we—in our lives, following in Jesus’ footsteps, are called to all that these first disciples were called to.  We are called, as were they to see beyond what our eyes tell us—to in fact show that we love God, whom we do not see by loving those in our midst, whom we do see. Seeing Jesus in his risen form, will look to us much like it did for those 1st believers—seeing him, in the actions of love.  Whenever we see unselfish love—true love, that is, “we see the face of God,” as I was recently reminded in the epic play, Les Misérables. 

   Seeing Jesus in our midst, now, is all about being able to see the “extraordinary” in the ordinary.   We all know those times when we see family, friends, colleagues doing the patient work of bringing about the kin-dom—going the extra mile—speaking the kind word, giving the gentle touch, sharing the warm smile, the word of support when no one else is stepping up, being the catalyst for others doing the same.

   Our city of Winona will have the opportunity, soon—we hope, and for some time, to see Jesus in his life among us through the lives of a Honduran family that will come here as they seek asylum from abuses, they suffered in their own country and even at our border.  These young parents of two will strive for a better life for their family among us and with our assistance.

   In conclusion then, Jesus’ words are apt. “You are my witnesses” [that love is stronger than death.]  Amen? Amen! Alleluia!

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Prayers of the Faithful:

Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”

  1. Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially the least among us—let them be foremost in our minds and hearts,  we pray—    Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  •  Risen Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, you who desired to heal the  minds, hearts and bodies of those in your midst, grant us health in these same ways, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, grant each of us a renewed faith during this Easter Season to remain true to you living our lives in truth and justice and always with love,  we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, our brother and friend, give hope to those who are suffering now due to job loss—illness of any kind, especially COVID 19, the ravages of nature, —show them the way through this painful time, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus,  you gave us the gift of forgiveness—give us the generosity and care for others and for ourselves to be able to forgive, and to accept forgiveness from others,  we pray—     Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, with each meal we partake in, remind us that you used common, everyday situations to expound on the love of Abba God—help us to see your face in all the ordinary events of our lives, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts.  Additionally, be with our Honduran family, entering soon into our community, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:Hear us O Risen Jesus.”

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

Let Us Pray

   Jesus, you have truly risen!  Alleluia!  Be the strength we need each day to be people of the resurrection—true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world.  Give us the strength and grace to do what we can to make our world better—help us to be the change we want to see. Let us truly be Easter people of joy, people of forgiveness.  We ask all of this of you, our Brother and Friend and with the Creator and your Spirit of Truth— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be together, nor receive the bread of the altar, but remember that Jesus is always with you—Always! 

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, our brother and friend, look on us, your people, with kindness, as you looked upon your apostles, disciples and friends long ago. By these Easter mysteries, bring us to the glory of the resurrection. We ask this again in your wonderful name, Amen.

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Homily – Easter Sunday in an Almost Safe Time Again!

   My friends, we come to this Easter Sunday—the second one we are recording during this time of COVID 19, or “coronavirus”—a word that over a year ago was foreign to most of us—a second Easter, now, that we have been apart.  And we ask, “What can we make of all of this—what should we make of all of this?

   As I said in the bulletin of this past week, “Our Christian lives are all about, living and loving, dying and rising.”  And of course, I was, as you know, not just speaking literally. Our Christian lives have always meant more, or should mean more than mundane actions, day to day, through our lifetimes.  In order that, “living and loving” in our own personal lives can truly stand for something significant, we must, many times, “die to ourselves” as our Scriptures instruct, as Jesus, our brother demonstrated so well in his own precious years upon this earth.  Our lives can never be just about us.  If we are truthful with ourselves, we have seen in the recent past in Washington what selfishness looks like in human form.  And we all have examples of what the opposite looks like too. 

   In our Scriptures today—the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles has Peter proclaiming, “We are eyewitnesses to all that Jesus did!” In other words, his living, loving, and giving for others, even unto death and the hope of rising to new life one day! And why is this important?

   Well, being that it is Easter, let’s take a look.  Probably for most of us Christians who have lived a “few” years—decades even, the idea of the Resurrection has always been one of those items we take on faith, and as is the case with most stories that we have heard a number of times, after a while, we cease to think much about them or maybe even with thoughts that aren’t too profound.  Usually, this happens with things that we can’t, as it were, “get our heads around.”

   But say we did come at the Resurrection of Jesus just on a head level.  There is enough in John’s gospel today—if we are really thinking, to let us know that something, “out of the ordinary” had happened. 

   We know that the Jewish “powers” at the time of Jesus’ death (the non-believers) were afraid that his followers who did believe in Jesus’ promise to, “rise again,” (even though they did not know what “rising” would look like) would steal his body and say that they had witnessed the Resurrection.  The Jewish elites, not wanting that to happen, posted a Roman guard at the entrance to the tomb.

   So, let’s look at the words of Scripture in the gospel from John today.  We are told that Peter “observed the linen wrappings on the ground and saw the piece of cloth that had covered Jesus’ head lying not with the wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.”  Why, we might ask, is this detail necessary or important to include here?

   Well, the truth is, if Jesus’ body had truly been stolen, would anyone stop to unwrap it and carry it around naked? And if all were happening naturally, the body would have already begun to decay.  Additionally, why would the face covering have been laid in a different place and folded even?  The exegetes “using their heads” have concluded that, these are signs that point to a resurrection, not a grave robbing! 

   Now, it’s important as well to remember that 2,000 years ago, people were not embalmed, but simply washed and wrapped in clean linen and buried by day’s end. Spices were often added for obvious reasons and that was why the Scriptures tell us that the women were going to the tomb—to add the spices that they couldn’t buy before Passover began—only to find, that their spices weren’t needed and that perhaps a manifestation that they had no way of comprehending—that of the Resurrection, had truly happened!

   John’s gospel names Peter’s companion as, “the other disciple” who went into the tomb next as having, “seen and believed.”  All of this, “the other disciple” whom we believe to be, John, the apostle and author of the gospel, saw with his mind first, made all the connections and responded from his heart, “Jesus is risen, and I believe it!” 

   And finally, the other viable proofs that we have come from those who personally saw Jesus after the Resurrection and that is why I always feel that it is necessary and important to read the complete account from John, including Mary of Magdala’s encounter with Jesus in the garden.  If we were looking for proof—we have it here and it is also a foreshadowing of how we know that there is life after this life. 

   The Scripture, in the extended version, tells us that Mary encountered someone in the garden that she thought was a grounds keeper and that she only realized that it was truly Jesus when he said her name, “Mary”—the way only he would say it.  In other words, Jesus was not recognizable to Mary in this new form.  Whatever “resurrection” is, it clearly is different than being brought back to life, as was the case with Lazarus whom Jesus rose from the dead. 

   We recall that the same thing happens to the disciples on the way to Emmaus in another reading. Someone joins them along the road, whom they do not recognize and who goes on to explain all that has happened the last few days in Jerusalem.  And then, it is only in the “breaking of the bread” that these disciples recognize Jesus—in an action that he often did with them. 

   So, why is it important for us to delve so deeply into these Easter Scriptures?  The answer my friends is two-fold.  First, Easter calls us to initially believe that what Jesus taught all those years ago is not just a nice, religious story, but a life-giving one that once we take out of our heads and lay on our hearts, can make all the difference in our lives and in the lives of others and in our world as we truly try to live and to love as Jesus did. 

   Now, many of us are prone to shy away from such a life saying that we could never be in our world as Jesus was in his and I believe Michael Gerson, in an opt-ed piece in the Washington Post on Good Friday, that I have shared, suggested otherwise. 

   He was connecting the horrors of Good Friday and the events leading up to it to what so many have experienced this past year in the wake of COVID 19.  He pointed to the relation between families who lost loved ones and couldn’t be with them as they died due to the contagion—the loneliness of that for the patient and the family with the loneliness of Jesus in the garden the night before he died when all his apostles could do was sleep instead of being with him for support. 

   Michael Gerson basically told us in this fine piece that we, each of us, have a friend –someone who knows the sufferings we are called to take on in life because our God experienced it all in Jesus. 

   And in other words, the days of Holy Week are not just a good, holy story of so many years ago, but are a blueprint, really, of our lives as Jesus’ followers.  Gerson’s piece details how, through the experience of our brother, Jesus, our, at times, human doubt, is sanctified in the human doubt he experienced on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

   Doubt and faith go hand in hand. “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.”  We believe, yet sometimes we doubt, and we know that our brother, Jesus understands these times for all of us.  I think the beauty of Holy Week, coming to the joy of Easter is really about our God who showed such over-the-top love for us in Jesus—showed us that living up to our human potentials for ourselves and for others is possible and that Jesus will be with us every step of the way, as we try. 

   So, my friends, may those that we meet and greet, associate with, and care for in this world always be able to “recognize” us as Jesus’ followers by our “familiar” actions of love for them!  Amen? Amen! Alleluia!