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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Homily – 25th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends–we come once again this week with hearts full of faith, hope and love that we might be our best selves, following our brother, Jesus’ way in the world. We are not without struggles but if we work together, keeping our eyes on him, his words and actions, we can indeed be models in our world of truth, goodness and love. We all miss being physically together so the reminder goes out to keep each other in prayer and thought, reaching out to others in the ways that we can. If I can be of help in your journey, please do not hesitate to call, 507-429-3616, or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Peace and love–stay safe and well–Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

O God, you are good and compassionate toward all—every day, I praise you because you are gracious and merciful.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

God of mercy, the perfection of justice is found in your love and all humankind is in need of your love. Help us to find this love in each other that justice may be attained through following your example to love. We ask this through you our Creator, Jesus our brother and the Spirit who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

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Readings:

  • Isaiah 55: 6-9
  • Philippians 1: 20-24, 27
  • Matthew 20: 1-16

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 Homily 

My friends, once again this week; I think we can concentrate on the virtue of hope following the lead of the Scriptures. Recalling my homily of last week and the words of Father Richard Rohr in The Universal Christ; we can underscore that the virtue of hope never stands alone, but is supported by faith and love.  In other words, the three always stand together.  We need faith to hope and these two move us necessarily to show love in our world. 

   The prophet Isaiah begins this message of hope today in proclaiming that God thinks in a so much “bigger” way than we humans do.  This fact is confirmed in the gospel reading today from Matthew in the “puzzling,” to us, action of the estate owner who pays all the workers the same day’s wage regardless of whether they have worked the full day or just one hour.  More on this in a bit.

   The hope-filled theme continues in Paul’s faith-filled letter to the church at Philippi.  Paul “trusts and anticipates” that he will, “never be put to shame for [his] hopes.”  Again, it’s important to remember that Paul never saw Jesus, or heard him preach or teach or saw him heal—his relationship was with Christ, the Cosmic Lover of all created life; people, animals, nature—in all its beauty and power, all in fact that lives and moves in our world, according to Father Rohr and others who write on the Cosmic Christ.

   Paul continues by basically saying that, “Christ” will shine through you and me—all of creation, and not just people, if we allow it!—if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.  Richard Rohr says of it, “Anything that draws you out of yourself in a positive way—for all practical purposes—is operating as God for you at the moment.”  Rohr explains that God needs something to “seduce us out and beyond [ourselves]” and into relationship, and our God uses, “goodness, truth and beauty to do that.” 

   Rohr basically says that “relationship” is what God is all about in this world in dealing with us.  That is a far cry from the God that many in this world grew up with and a bad theology that is still being taught by some today—of an all-powerful being waiting to smack us when we do something wrong—of a God who would demand the life of Jesus in reparation for our sins.

   It is in Richard Rohr’s mind and heart that the God of “relationships” would never consider us,  an “original sin,” but indeed, an original blessing,” as others have written of it too!  Now that is hopeful!

   Returning then to the prophet Isaiah; we read this thought concerning the relationship our God wants to have with each of us, enhanced a bit by your pastor—God is still near—[always near, really!]  Additionally, our God has “pity” on us in all that life brings.  And, our God, “generously forgives.”

   Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, seems to be OK with the “Christ” he continues to know better, from that fateful day, “on the road to Damascus” when Jesus, the Christ proclaimed the God-head’s presence in, “a blinding light”—and onward throughout his life, in relationship with his God. He tells his hearers how important Christ has become to him, in that it doesn’t matter to him, “whether [he] lives or dies,” because for him, it is all about knowing Christ better, which he sees himself doing in either state.

   Therefore, Paul instructs us to live a life “worthy of the Gospel,” and this continues to be our challenge today.  And, how do we do that? Well, first off, we must read Jesus’ words—ponder them and make every attempt to follow in his footsteps.  Jesus’ only real purpose in coming to be with us was to show us the way and in that, we can more accurately say that, “He saves us” from ourselves! 

   Jesus showing us the way—which is, God’s way, is laid out so wonderfully in today’s gospel.  In order to truly understand this story, we must come at it through our hearts as our heads will simply fall short of its meaning.  Isaiah’s prophetic words, “God’s ways are not our ways,” are most instructive too! 

   So, let’s look at this gospel.  On a purely, human, face-value look; we might say that the estate owner in Jesus’ story is doing an injustice in paying the workers who only labored an hour the same wage as those who worked the entire day. 

   Several things are important to remember in teasing out this story—a point that is true of most of Jesus’ stories.  First, we must remember, as the prophet Isaiah said, “God’s ways are not our ways.”  We can probably be glad of that too when we see how some are treated in our world with much less justice, mercy and love simply because of the color of their skin, their gender, who they love, their culture, their age and so on.  It is good that the Cosmic Christ doesn’t treat each of us, not carrying any of these human-made burdens in like manner!

   The back story of the passage from Isaiah today shows the truth of this. Isaiah is basically reminding the Israelites that even though they have been unfaithful in their relationship with God, God, in turn, has always been faithful and Isaiah is asking them to do, “an about face,”  “while God can still be found.”  Even though Isaiah is giving them a bit of a threat here; we know, for a fact, from the life of Jesus, that our God will never leave us!

  So, let us truly get our hearts—not our heads into Jesus’ words today, that the “last will be first and the first, last!  In our present day, as our country struggles to face systemic racism; I believe we have a clear example of what Jesus was trying to teach the people of his time and us by extension. 

   Our black brothers and sisters have through this most recent, 2020 struggle, raised with full force, the slogan, “Black Lives Matter.”  Those in our culture who have missed the meaning behind this slogan have wanted to answer, “All Lives Matter” and the black community has pushed back because as they say, “We are trying to get the white folks to see that their lives have always mattered—for 400 years now, ours have not!” And that is why so many of our black sisters and brothers live in poverty and as a result die at a higher rate from Covid 19, are stopped more often by the police than are whites, and many times, killed even, by them.  So, in many ways, this issue fits right into what Jesus was saying to the sisters and brothers of his time and of course, to us. 

   I would like to conclude today with some comments I shared with you three years ago on this gospel as we try to truly understand what Jesus is saying when he says, “the first shall be last…” as I feel they are just as relevant today. You will notice some updates.

   Our loving God wants to share goodness with all and could it be that those who find it easier to maneuver in this world (those hired first) are being passed over for those who seemingly have so much less? For all the times that the workers hired last stood the entire day waiting to be hired and were passed over, could it be that the owner (God) is telling us that all the debts will be settled or perhaps evened-up one day? (Black Lives Matter) This was the thinking behind the old Negro Spirituals—that one day, there would be justice. Could it be that for those of us who smugly bask in our goodness; God might be instructing us to bring everyone into the fold—to remember that divine goodness is extended to all—clearly demonstrated in this Gospel reading, today.

   Our God is always about extending justice to all—to everyone who asks and God’s justice, unlike ours, is grounded in mercy—always extending another offer of help.  Isaiah prophesies today—“My ways are so far above yours!”  And that is why this parable today is so perfect—by human standards, it makes no sense, but by divine standards—it is so completely of God—for God’s love is insurmountable—over the top really!  Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  1. Help us O God, to strive to live justly in your world, with all your people,  we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  2. For each of us here and for our entire Church, help us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  3. For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community, be it in body, mind or spirit, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  4. For those who continue to suffer from hurricanes and related storms, flooding and fires, protect your people, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  5. For our world and its people, that peace would reign in our hearts and that we would do all in our power to bring peace to our world, remembering that peace begins with me, we pray— Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  6. For our community, All Are One, continue to send your Spirit upon us, especially now in this time of separation, to enable us to be an inclusive community, open and welcoming to all, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  7.   Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, due to Covid 19 and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  8. As we move toward national elections, help us as a people to elect those      individuals who will truly work for the good of all the people, we pray— Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, then response

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

Let Us Pray

   Good and gentle God, our source of all strength and wisdom.  We ask that you would give us peace—filled and loving hearts—the energy to always seek after peace through the gifts of lovingkindness, justice founded on 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. We ask that we might have the strength for this great task.   All this we ask of you, Jesus, our Brother and Friend, who lives and loves us forever and ever, AMEN. 

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Let Us Pray—Once again, we cannot share the Eucharist physically, but help us to always remember that you are with us, always!

Prayer after Communion

Dear Jesus, help us with your kindness. Make us strong through your presence always with us. May we put into action the saving mystery we celebrate, that you have come to be one with us and show us the way to God—we ask this in your wonderful name—Amen.

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Homily – 24th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends, we continue on with Ordinary Time which I have chosen, as you know, to call, “extra” in that each week, as in this 24th Sunday, we are continued to be challenged–as we all know, this is not a time to let someone else be “Christian” but in fact, do it ourselves! I am concentrating on the virtue of hope this week as it is a virtue that sustains us for the long haul. Please do be in touch if I can be of help to you in any way–by phone, 507-429-3616 or by email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Peace and love to each one of you, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

O tender and compassionate God, you are slow to anger and rich in lovingkindness and mercy. You hold our offenses farther away than the east is from the west. Holy is your name and forever to be praised!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Good and loving God, we believe that we do not live for ourselves, but for you and your people—help us to always keep in mind that you love us and want good for us and all of our brothers and sisters in this world. We ask this of you who are our Creator, Savior and Spirit—living and loving us forever and ever, Amen

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Readings:

  • Sirach 27:30 — 28:7
  • Romans 14:7-9
  • Matthew 18: 21-35

Homily

   My friends, as I said in the bulletin earlier in the week, my intention on this Sunday is to concentrate on the virtue of hope, reminding us in part, that as a community; we can be humbly proud of the ways we have reached out in generosity through our monetary gifts that have helped so many in our city, nation and world—garden produce, and other supplies to the Winona Voluntary Services food shelf along with regular meals to the Catholic Worker in Winona. And of course there is the regular delivery every February of Home Delivered Meals that our community has taken on.  All of this fits well into the comments that I wish to make this week concerning hope, for such generosity in ourselves and others tells us that good abounds—something we all need to know from time to time. 

   Hope gets us through a great deal in life because, as Father Richard Rohr says, you can’t have hope without faith and those two lead to love.  So, we have a trilogy with which to face our world.  More on his thoughts in a bit. 

   Thinking about this threesome of faith, hope and love, which speak not just to our mindset as we face our world—faith and hope, our values, let’s say, but to the natural action which must follow from the first two—to show love in our world.  The Scriptures for this week help to show us the way.

   Thinking about, “having hope”—expecting the best from ourselves and others, the prophet, Isaiah, tells us not to hold onto anger, but instead—to forgive and to pray.  He goes on to instruct and ask, “If we don’t do good to our neighbors, can we expect good from God?” Well, actually—yes we can!—because God isn’t like us in this regard! But, I think God would want us to, “Shoot for the best!” 

   Isaiah continues by saying—“Show mercy and refuse to hate.”  Our human natures don’t immediately respond to ill treatment by, as Jesus tells us, “turning the other cheek,” so we know that we have to work on, “being our best.” 

   And our loving God, through the psalmist today, shows us the way—by proclaiming, “Our God is tender and compassionate, slow to anger, most loving!”  This week perhaps today even, so as not to forget, you and I might want to think over, how we are like our good God in this regard—tender and compassionate, slow to anger and most loving.  Talk about bringing hope to our world! 

   Paul, in his letter to the Romans simply says that Christ is our model—both in life and in death.  It is good for us to recall that Paul never knew Jesus physically in this life—his first encounter with him was on that fateful day when he saw Jesus as a blinding (literally and figuratively) light!  So Paul’s impressions and words are always about more than the human Jesus—they are about the all-encompassing, Christ.  We will let that be too, for the moment. 

   And the final reading for today comes from Matthew’s gospel speaking about the ruler who was, “moved with pity” for the plight of his official—in the matter of a debt to be paid.  Jesus, our good brother always uses stories and parables from people’s lives to teach the way that we, then and now are to go—are to live our lives. 

   So friends, moving back to my original intention of concentrating on hope, I would like to spend a few lines sharing just some of the nuggets from the first chapter of Father Richard Rohr’s newest book from 2019, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe.  Some of you, I know, are familiar with this book. 

   As with many of Father Richard’s books, you don’t read them right through and must out of necessity, read some sections twice as they are so profound—this book is such an example, but one that I would highly recommend.  Robert and I are known for, “reading out loud” our respective books to each other—something like, “listen to this…!” and then proceed to share the quotable quote.  With this book; I told him that he must read it himself as there is so-much-good in it!

   So hang on folks…! Richard, in his Introduction, which he entitles, “Before We Begin,” shares English mystic, Caryll Houselander’s startling experience while making an underground railway journey in London. He does so because he says she “poignantly demonstrates…the Christ mystery” in her telling of this experience. 

   For Rohr, the “Christ mystery,” simply put, is that God is in every thing that is created. Notice that he says “every thing” and not, “everything” to make the point that every-single-created-thing is infused with Christ.

   Going back then to Houselander’s “startling experience,” she spoke about “quite suddenly” seeing, “with [her] mind, but as vividly as a picture, Christ in all of them”—all the inhabitants of the railway car, that is.  She continued, “but I saw more…I saw Christ…living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them—and because [Christ] was in them, and because they were here, the whole world was here too…not only the world as it was at that moment, not only all the people in all the countries of the world, but all those people who lived in the past and all those yet to come.”

   Now imagine how each of us might think and act differently in our respective lives if we could, even on occasion, see all of creation—all people and things—the world, in all its beauty as Christ—the very manifestation of God!  Houselander says that after leaving the underground railway, her “startling experience” remained for a while—“seeing Christ” in the living out of individual lives—but then, it vanished.  In future, she like us, would have to purposefully, “seek for [Christ] in other human beings and in creation, but I would have to think that because of this profound experience, she would make it a point to do, more often!

   And Father Rohr moves on from there getting to a point that he truly wants us to understand. “Christ is God and Jesus is the Christ’s historical manifestation in time.”  Now there is a statement to think on for a bit. Rohr continues saying that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but the reality of our loving God’s desire to be truly part of all created life.  With that in mind, he makes this fantastic statement, “God loves things by becoming them[!]  Jesus lived as a human being to show us in the best sense, how to be human! Rohr says, Jesus came to show us how to be human, much more than how to be spiritual…”  Again, a statement to ponder…

   So friends, getting back to hope then and the message of the Scriptures today from all the writers; that we try and forgive and not hold onto our anger, even when we feel it may be justified and pray instead for whom or what causes us to be angry, take tenderness and compassion into our world—some pity too for that which strikes us as less than Christian or even human because if it is so, as Rohr and Houselander say, that our God truly lives within “every thing,” then doesn’t it behoove us, as followers of our brother, Jesus, to react with more than the status quo response, “I just can’t!”  I believe our status as Christian believers does demand a bit more.  Even Rohr says with regard to Jesus’ coming to teach us how to be more human than spiritual, “still seems to be in the early stages.”

   So friends, lots of thoughts and how to bring it all together…I think we might best do that by returning to the notion of “hanging onto the hope,” which you will recall from the beginning of this homily, is uniquely joined with the virtues of faith and love, as Rohr laid out. Because of our hope, which we might agree is bred into humanity—that striving for what is best in us and others—unless it is compromised along the way, moves us then to faith, a believing that the best is possible and because of that belief, then love follows—that giving of ourselves for all that is truly good in our world—for us and others, and never one, in exclusion of the other. 

   Many of us in these modern times have heard about “having a personal relationship with Jesus.” I too have thought of my relationship to Jesus as a personal one.  But Rohr basically says that if we stop there—something strictly between Jesus and me, then we have missed the point of the Incarnation.

   In fact, Rohr says that there have been three incarnations of our loving God.  The first was at the creation of all life, the second was Jesus’ Incarnation into humanity and the third is the continual, that is, ongoing to the present and beyond of Christ into all people and this world of beautiful life.  This beautiful notion he says was halted with the Roman inclusion into the catholic—small c, meaning—universal church of the 3rd Century. 

   We need to get back to the church that Jesus prayed for in his priestly prayer the night before he died—a church where, “all would be one.”  And again, as you all know, that is the very reason why our community of believers, our piece of the Body of Christ is named, “All Are One” where all are welcome at the table where we attempt to be accepting of every one. Richard Rohr would say, “Take your Christian head off, shake it wildly, and put it back on!

   And that my friends is truly something we can hope in!  Amen? Amen! 

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  1. For each of us here and in our wider world, give us the strength to be able to forgive from our hearts realizing that we all need forgiveness, we pray—Response:  “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For each of us here and for our entire Church, help us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, we pray—Response:  “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community,  and help all to hang onto the hope, we pray—Response:  “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For those who are suffering from hurricanes, related storms, and fires caused by climate change, we pray—Response:  “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For our country, especially the people of New York who lost so terribly 19 years ago, on 9/11, that peace and forgiveness would reign in our hearts—that we would do all in our power to bring peace to our world, we pray–Response:  “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For our community, All Are One, separated now, continue to send your Spirit upon us to enable us to be an inclusive community, open and welcoming to all, we pray—Response:  “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week from COVID 19 and from other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:  “Forgiving and merciful God, hear our prayer.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, then response

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

Let Us Pray

Creator, Savior and Spirit, You see into our hearts and know our needs before we ask—give us what we most need today.  Allow us to have your lovingkindness and your compassionate heart to see beyond the evil that sometimes seems to be present in people and situations and see the cause and do all that we personally can to alleviate that. Help each of us to hang onto the hope in these troubling times—we ask this of You, Loving Creator, Savior and Spirit—One God, living and loving us forever and ever—Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, the bread of the table—Jesus’ ever-present body, cannot be ours, as a community, but enable us to remember that you are always with us, in each other.

Prayer after Communion

God of mercy, may the fact that you are always with us make us strong in your love and faithful in our witness to your truth. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name—Amen.

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Homily – 23rd Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends, we continue on in our journey, always attempting to be our best selves, warring at times against our purely human natures and our divine natures that ask, push us really toward being all that we can be. It was great last Sunday to be “together ” via Zoom–to see familiar as well as some new faces. Always feel free to invite family and friends to join us–part of our church name, All Are One, certainly implies that all are welcome to join us!

Entrance Antiphon

O God, today you ask us to harden not our hearts when we hear your voice. Be our strength in this task.

Let Us Pray—

Opening Prayer

O good and gracious God, in you, justice and mercy meet. With unparalleled love you have saved us from darkness and drawn us into the light of your life and love. Open our eyes to the wonders this life sets before us. Let us sing joyfully to you who are our Creator, Savior and Loving Spirit and who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

Readings: Ezekiel 33: 7-9, Romans 13: 8-10, Matthew 18: 15-20

The homily comes to us from Pastor Dick Dahl this week—thanks Dick—enjoy, friends!

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From exile in Babylon the prophet Jeremiah spent ten years trying to convince the Israelites who remained in Jerusalem and Israel to turn from their sinful ways. In the same way a verse from Psalm 95 calls out to us today, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” As much is at stake, for us today, as was for the Israelites, in 597 B.C.

Paul tells us what this means in his letter to the Romans. He had come a long way in his personal transformation from a Pharisee who believed that following over 600 rules was necessary to please God to the apostle of Jesus who tells us, “All the commandments …are summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

I’ve had a sign in my front yard for a couple years that reads, “Love everyone, no exceptions.” But what does this mean? Or better yet, how to do it?

I found some practical suggestions in an essay that my friend Jerry Windley-

Daoust recently wrote titled, “We Need to Stop Fueling Partisan Violence.”  In it he lists specific ways to curb partisan animosity. When I asked him if I might borrow extensively from what he wrote Jerry generously agreed. Here are thoughts from the ending of his essay:

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To reduce the chances of violent mass partisan conflict in the coming months, “Each of us needs to start disciplining our tongues and texts. No more partisan name-calling. No more angry screeds that reduce our ideological opponents to their most obnoxious beliefs and actions. No more ad hominem attacks — they’re no good at persuading anyone to come to your side, anyway. And no more childish self-righteous claims that our own party is morally superior — that “the other party started it,” or that our

party’s sins can be excused because the other party’s are worse.

“No more scrolling past the toxic rhetoric of our political allies, either. Instead, we need to actively disrupt those patterns of moral disengagement by pointing them out to friends and allies.

“We need to get to know people from the other party — not through superficial encounters, but substantial interactions. Researchers tell us that Americans are intentionally avoiding members of the other party more than ever before. Sticking with our own tribe is way more comfortable, but to temper partisan conflict, we need to take a deep breath, channel our inner grown up, and engage with people on the other side.

“I can hear a chorus of objections already — heck, I have my own. We see people in the other party saying and doing outrageous things. And the issues at stake in this election go to our most primal values: safety, personal liberty, human dignity. How can we “stand down” when the stakes are so high?

“Over the past few years, I’ve read many good books about how we might bridge the partisan divide. But perhaps the most powerful guide I’ve encountered in this quest is the writer and educator Megan Phelps-Roper.

“She’s the young woman who grew up picketing military funerals, synagogues, and other venues with hateful slogans because of her family’s involvement with the extremist Westboro Baptist Church. As a young adult, she and her sister bravely walked away from that lifestyle (and her family) thanks to the generous and patient persistence of a handful of people on Twitter.

“My friends on Twitter didn’t abandon their beliefs or their principles — only their scorn,” she said in a 2017 TED talk describing her experience. “They channeled their infinitely justifiable offense and came to me with pointed questions tempered with kindness and humor. They approached me as a human being, and that was more transformative than two full decades of outrage, disdain and violence.”

“After recounting her remarkable story, she offered a warning that is even more relevant today: “I can’t help but see in our public discourse so many of the same destructive impulses that ruled my former church,” she said. “This path has brought us cruel, sniping, deepening polarization, and even outbreaks of violence. I remember this path. It will not take us where we want to go.”

“Her TED talk is well worth viewing in its entirety. Here, though, I’d like to

summarize the four strategies she offers for having difficult conversations with people whose views you find repugnant.

“First, assume your opponent has good (or at least neutral) intentions. It’s easy to ride that initial wave of anger, Phelps-Roper says, but assuming ill motives pretty much kills any possibility of a constructive conversation. We get stuck imagining our opponent in the one-dimensional role of evil villain. Instead, we need to imagine them as complex human beings with a lifetime of experiences that led to the beliefs you’re contending.

Perhaps, too, we need to try to imagine them as their best potential selves — the way Phelps-Roper’s friends were able to imagine her in a better light.

“Second, ask questions. Asking questions opens the way to constructive dialogue because it lets your opponent know she is being heard; most likely, she will reciprocate by asking a question of you, too. “When we engage people across ideological divides, asking questions helps us map the disconnect between our differing points of view,” Phelps-Roper says. “That’s important because we can’t present effective arguments if we don’t understand where the other side is actually coming from.”

“Third, stay calm. This is difficult when our opponent’s rhetoric sends us into fight-or-flight mode, but it’s important — and powerful. Phelps-Roper recalls how one of her Twitter friends — a religious Jew who eventually became her husband — handled the tensest moments of their conversation by making a joke, changing the subject, or excusing himself from the conversation for a while.

“Fourth, make the argument. Phelps-Roper says that when we have strong beliefs, we can be tempted to assume “that we shouldn’t have to defend our positions because they’re so clearly right and good that if someone doesn’t get it, it’s their problem — that it’s not my job to educate them.” Uh-uh. If we want to change people’s minds, we need to do the work of showing them a different way of thinking. It’s not easy, because people’s strongest beliefs have usually evolved over a lifetime, and are tied up with

their tribal allegiances. But Phelps-Roper isn’t the only person who has been persuaded to change her way of viewing the world. And who knows? We might change some of our own views, too.

“It all boils down to this: There is always more to people than their worst ideas, beliefs, or behavior. And our allegiance to the American ideal of unity amid diversity must trump our allegiance to party and ideology. We should continue debating the best course for the nation as vigorously as we always have, but we should do so as fellow human beings, and fellow Americans. Because if we don’t, our 3 a.m. nightmares, about the future of democracy in America, may end up being worse than we ever imagined.”

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With that, I end my extensive quote from Jerry’s article. The challenge he raises is quite personal for me. My neighbors of 20 years with whom I’ve had a cordial relationship have just put up yard signs of the people in office running for reelection for which I have little respect. Despite our long and friendly relationship, my neighbors and I have never discussed our political or religious views. Their nonverbal expression of those views with the posting of their yard signs has made me feel almost ill.  This is not only the kind of situation Jerry wrote about. It is also what Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel. We come to truth in community. The bonds of sin are dissolved when we reconcile with each other. We experience Jesus’ presence when two or more are gathered together, if not in his name, at least in an effort to honestly understand and overcome differences.

Perhaps few have epitomized this effort better than our former President Abraham Lincoln. On March 4, 1865, a little over a month before the horrendous Civil War ended and 41 days before he was assassinated, he gave his Second Inaugural address and ended it by saying, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, …to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Prayers of the Faithful

      Response:   “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  1. For the leadership within the Catholic church, especially Pope Francis and all our bishops, that they would open themselves to the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, for all of us, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For those among us or in our wider community, who are suffering in any way today, we ask your healing touch O God, for this we pray—

     Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • May the wisdom and grace of the Spirit overshadow all those in public office and those asking for our votes, to strive to be people who will truly work to care for the least among us and to bring peace to our world, we pray—

Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • That we would not harden our hearts when we hear your voice asking us to care for your hurting world, we pray—

     Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • For our community, All Are One, continue to send your Spirit upon us to enable us to be an inclusive community, open and welcoming to all, we pray—

    Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • For the strength to follow in your footsteps Jesus, even if it brings shame and ridicule, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • For all those suffering from the ravages of hurricanes and fires, that they would find their way with the help of governments, with their neighbors and friends and you, O God, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

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

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, then response

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

Let Us Pray

   Good and gentle God, our source of all strength and wisdom.  We ask that you would give us peace—filled and loving hearts—let our hearts not be hardened but help us to be merciful to all and accepting of all in our lives and in our wider world. Help us to be the change we want to see in our world, realizing that all and any change begins with my change of heart. We ask all of this of you, our good and loving God, who is Creator, Savior and Spirit, one God, living and loving us forever and ever.  Amen.

Let Us Prayagain today we must be without the bread—your body, the wine—your blood—but truly remember that you are always with us—in our lives, in our prayers, in our loving of others.

Prayer after Communion

Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of yourself today—like a deer that longs for running streams, may we always seek after you in our lives and follow you faithfully—we ask this in your wonderful name, Amen.

Homily – 22nd Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Hello Friends, being that we had a ZOOM Mass today, I am just sending my homily–have a great week–enjoying the cooler weather–Pastor Kathy


My friends; let us look briefly at the Scriptures given for our reflection today in yet another Sunday of challenge in this “extra” Ordinary Time.

The prophet Jeremiah is lamenting—his walking the way of God and all the abuse he must endure—he just didn’t know his, “yes” would mean all of this!

The psalmist today is able to take things a step higher—“my soul thirsts for you, O God.”  Clearly this writer knows, as we all sang so beautifully, “Your love is finer than life!”

Paul, is his letter to the Romans, that we have been spending time with, of late, continues the challenge that we all so need in these trying times in which we live—do not conform yourself to this age—“be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.”

And in today’s gospel from Matthew, our brother, Jesus, says to Peter, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but of people.”  Again we see that “warring” between our humanity and our spiritual or divine natures that we have talked of in past weeks—the same struggle that Jesus warred against in his human life and in fact is warring against in the gospel reading today.

Cutting Peter a bit of a break; we must remember that his actions and words are based on his love for Jesus as his master and friend.  The character of Peter has proven throughout the Scriptures to be an impulsive one, but yet, one that is true and sound.  Remember that it was Peter, in last week’s gospel who fervently proclaimed, “You are the Messiah!”  I have personally longed this past week through the raging rhetoric of the administration occupying the White House, to hear some truth—some sound, even-handedness and did not.

In our beloved country, so engulfed at present by a pandemic that we have as yet been unable to get our hands around, due to a lack of leadership, an economic fallout as the result of the need for a lockdown during the initial days, to protect us all—another situation yet to be fixed as a million more people filed for unemployment benefits this last week, protesters from the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement underscoring the systemic sin of racism in our country evidenced once again by a police officer in Kenosha, WI shooting a black man in the back, not once, but seven times, the man in the White House did and said nothing to unite us as a nation—to comfort us in our collective pain—black and white, but instead, stoked the flames of division as he asked us to re-elect him.

Scientists the world over have warned that we may not have the time needed to save our planet from the global warming that is only too evident in the wildfires in California, more frequent and more intense, in the hurricanes that are coming earlier than in past seasons with LAURA devastating the south coasts of Texas and Louisiana this past week without a word of support from the president for what the people are going through—only touting his “accomplishments” during his first four years which include turning over many—too many safeguards put in place by his predecessor to protect our beautiful earth.

So my friends, let’s apply the Scriptures to all of this as we did last week.  In my homily of last Sunday; I spoke of the “hope” that I felt as I listened to the case being presented by the president’s challenger for his job.  This “hope,” an emotion I haven’t felt with regard to our country in a while, felt so good!

This week, I must admit, I didn’t listen to the speeches because I have found myself unable to do so with regard to this president and those in Washington who enable him in his unpresidential ways.  I have learned throughout my life, when I have encountered negative and at times, evil behavior, my best response is to not partake because it has the tendency to suck me into the black hole that it creates around itself and I will not make an exception with this man, president or not.

The prophet Jeremiah lamented that speaking the truth as God had given it to him had caused the people to turn against him and that it was difficult to live this way, yet in the end, God’s words burned within him and he must speak.

A woman from Nazareth named Mary found herself in somewhat the same situation of ridicule in her “yes” to God.  She found that she must say, “yes,” as her faith didn’t allow her to say, “no,” even though she didn’t know ahead of time, all that her, “yes” would ask of her.

We celebrated this woman, her faith and her strength in saying, “yes” to God in the feast of her assumption, body and soul into heaven on the 15th of this month and we ask her to give us that same strength and faith to live out our lives, saying, “Yes” to what God may be calling us to.  Her response to the trust that God had placed in her was her “Magnificat” that we have sung in the Canticle of the Turning in our opening hymn and will again sing in the closing hymn.

The times which we are living in are calling us to be our “best selves” and as last week; I am again challenging us with Jesus’ words in responding to these times, to—“check the fruits” in knowing who to believe.

I have been enjoying recently, a book by Franciscan, Father Richard Rohr, loaned to me by a friend, entitled, Eager to Love: the Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, which I feel says in many places—so well, what our stance as Christians, as followers of our brother Jesus, must be in our world.

He includes the thoughts of another Franciscan, Sister Ilia Delio to flesh out what we are to be about as Jesus’ followers. Rohr begins by saying, “God’s sending of Jesus was never plan 2”—to redeem fallen humanity, “but always, plan 1”—to simply show us the way home.  Sister Ilia basically says; to accept the death of Jesus as necessary to save us from our sins is to have missed the point.  She writes in her book on St. Clare, Clare of Assisi: A Heart full of Love, “Jesus’ death was all about him taking on the worst humanity could offer in order that we, his sisters and brothers could then recognize him in the sufferings of others.”  It was always in God’s plan that we would be about loving each other—always!

The harder task, my friends, always, is to love, which implies listening to others—really listening, and even when we can’t agree, asking God to love them through us—praying to not let ourselves, “get in the way.”

It would seem that first, we must cultivate a heart that can love, ears that can hear—and really listen and then, speak our truth as our God has given it to us, through prayer.  This was Jeremiah’s, Mary’s, Jesus’ and Paul’s way and it must be ours too!

Sometimes we may wonder if we have done the “right thing,” or what the “right thing” might be to do in the future and again, as Jesus said while physically with us, “Check the fruits” which may mean, what really serves people, what brings peace, comfort or well-being to the most of the people?

Doing the right thing should insure everyone, “a place at the table,” for one thing.  “Pro-life” means life, across the continuum.  What are we to make of ramping up the death penalty, now, in our country, after a hiatus of 17 years from this particular kind of cruel punishment—is it truly about, “doing the right thing,” or about speaking, “to one’s base” in an election year, under the guise of, “law and order?” Could we say that a Catholic cardinal who offers “prayer” to bolster the selfish needs of a sitting president rather than acting, as Jesus says, “out of the mind of God,” might be falling short of, “doing the right thing?”

We might compare and contrast that prayer with the one offered by Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK or more fondly, NUNS ON THE BUS, the previous week, which I will share in part, here.  She prayed that we might fight for a vision that is worthy of God and God’s call to honor the dignity of all of creation—a vision of a people, “grounded in community and care for all, especially the most marginalized—a vision that cares for the earth and heals the planet—a vision that ends structural racism, bigotry and sexism so rife now in our nation and in our history—a vision that ensures hungry people are fed, children are nourished, immigrants are welcomed.”

There can be no doubt my friends that Sister Simone’s prayer comes out of, “the mind of God” and shows us the way as we are challenged by our brother Jesus to know what is right, “by checking the fruits.”  Amen? Amen!