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!

Homily – 5th Sunday of Lent in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

We are challenged once again to grow large hearts and have clear minds as we face our world with the Scriptures in hand. Much challenges us these days of which we will discuss today. Rather than let all that isn’t right send fear through us, Lent calls us to give, always, as best we can, a loving response–it’s what Jesus did when he lived physically among us and it is what we must do as well.

We will look forward the next two Sundays after this one, to a pair of Zoom Masses, March 28, Palm Sunday and April 4, Easter Sunday! I will send out the links the Saturday before each Mass.

Please continue to stay safe and well even with your vaccinations as you get them–we are getting close but not there yet! Please call 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com if I can be of help in any way. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

O God of Justice, defend my cause against the wickedness of this world.  Rescue me from those who would act with deceit and injustice.  You O God are my refuge.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving God, love led Jesus to accept the suffering of the cross that we might glory in new life with him.  Change our selfishness into self-giving. Help us to embrace the world you have given us, that we may transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.  Grant all this through Jesus, the Christ, with you and the Spirit—one God, who lives and loves us forever and ever—Amen.

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Readings:

  • Jeremiah 31: 31-34
  • Hebrews 5: 7-9
  • John 12: 20-33

Homily  

As I said in the bulletin, these unfolding, last days of Lent give us quite “a plate” of issues—ones that need our attention as followers of our brother Jesus: how LGBTQs are looked at and respected in society—raised anew by Pope Francis, our newer issue of racism, although one that has been with us for a while—against Asian Americans in light of this past year of pandemic, fueled through the incompetence and lack of empathy of former, so-called leaders in Washington, and the ages-old racism at the heart of this country for our black sisters and brothers played out now in the present as we prepare for the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.  And while all these issues are of great importance; I wish to concentrate on Pope Francis’ recent comments on the blessing of same-sex unions in light of today’s Scriptures. 

   The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has recently stated that Francis is giving us “whiplash” and they have even called him a “hypocrite” because of his statement that priests may not bless same-sex unions.  And if you haven’t kept track of the “whip-lash-like” statements—here’s a bit of the back story. 

   In Pope Francis’ attempt to reach out to the LGBTQ community, he has stated that they are loved by God and the Church and even admits that God created them as they are.  Now if all the above is true, then any thinking, compassionate person has to be asking, “What kind of God creates a person a certain way, wanting this “spiritual” being to have a truly “human” experience while here, as we have spoken of in the past, but wouldn’t want them to find and express love in the ways of their own particular makeup?”  I would say this is a cruel God indeed!  But we all know that it is not God making this law, but the men who state that they are speaking for God. 

   Unfortunately, this otherwise compassionate leader (Francis) who has shown us in other ways—toward the earth (Laudato Si), and initially toward gays in his statement, “Who am I to judge?”— (although, he has no such compulsion where women are concerned—a whole other story—my apologies—I couldn’t help myself!) that he does have an open mind—to an extent.  As others have said, “His statements of support for gays, up to this point have not been against, “any law already on the books.”  That is apparently the difference with this newest statement. 

   His signature to the statement that priests do not bless same-sex unions, “because God doesn’t bless sin,” is about the law and in this writer’s mind, totally wipes out any previous verbiage about “loving” these sisters and brothers.  This statement is so indicative of the person who compartmentalizes their thoughts and feelings and unfortunately, men in our society have a penchant for doing this more so than women—another good reason for having more women involved in leadership roles to off-set this incomplete thinking.  In today’s first reading from Jeremiah, this prophet says that God will write laws on our minds, yes, but our hearts as well!

   So, let’s look at Francis’ statement in the light of NCR’s concern that he is causing, “whiplash” and their indictment of “hypocrisy.”  Frankly, the statement to any group of people that, one, “they are loved,” which, by the way indicates, “acceptance” of who they are, yet two, does not want them to act on their natural impulses as a human being is, in the words of a sister-priest friend, “crazy-making.” 

   Now, in order that I not be, “unclear,” it is one thing if a person is called to be celibate, but to say that an entire group of people must be celibate because the powers-that-be want sexual encounters to be simply between one man and one woman in order to call their union, “a marriage” is simply unjust.  And to then, call it a “sin” and blame it on God, is an abomination in my humble opinion! And finally, I would say to Francis, if that is your God—you may keep “Him,” thank you very much! 

   I would also like to take time in this homily to express my extreme sorrow to all of my gay and lesbian friends in committed relationships who have no doubt been hurt by the callousness of Francis’ words in your regard.  And as one who has had the privilege of blessing unions of such friends, let me extend the offer once again to any and all who might want their union blessed within the Catholic church—I am here for you.

   And on a final note; I would like to address the almost inordinate need, it seems, to have so much of Church life adhere around the concept of “sin.”  We need to be baptized to wash away our “original sin” when our God sees us first and foremost as most loving parents do their own children—original “blessings.” *

*the notion of “original blessing” comes from Matthew Fox

Jesus then, needed to come to earth to die on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, to appease an unforgiving God for “the sin of all humans,” and now, priests cannot bless same-sex unions because, “God does not bless sin.” Interesting isn’t it that in all the ways any loving couple expresses love, compassion and understanding in this world, the one area that is zeroed in on is the physical, intimate sharing that can so strengthen them for all else that they do in this world?

   And if we want to discuss “sin” let’s look at the sin of clergy-sex-abuse of minors and others and the decades that this went on within the Church unaddressed and now even not fully addressed because of the system of clericalism that allows it to remain.  Clericalism, we all know, is the system that sees, bishops and priests as basically better than those that they supposedly, serve.  I think many, once faithful Catholics have little desire these days to take their, “less than perfect lives” to the scrutiny of men in the confessional that they feel are basically, untrustworthy.  This Sacrament has basically fallen to the wayside for most Catholics when it once had the potential for so much good. 

   So, my friends, by way of reigning this in and concluding; I would say to Francis, his bishops and priests, that it is time to wake up— “get out of the box,” concentrate on the love, more, as my dear, deceased, mother-in-law, Margaret was fond of saying—get their brooms out and uncover again, the footsteps of Jesus.  He always moved first with acceptance, honesty, mercy—basically love and then challenged every last one he encountered, to try again—to be their best. 

   The writer to the Hebrews today tells us that, “Jesus was heard because of his reverence” [for the people].  Jeremiah the prophet began our instruction today saying that God has “put [the] law in [our] minds and on [our] hearts.”  We must never separate the two, my friends—as the mind helps us to understand what might be needed in any situation, but the “heart” allows us to make the personal decision that is best in each situation.  An “engaged” heart could never separate a person from their action, saying they “love the person” but naming the loving action between two committed people, regardless of gender, “a sin”—just couldn’t do it!

   In John’s gospel today, Jesus’ words come to us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain.”  Simply put, we need the gifts of all—as the grain mingles with the soil, is “watered” by the life experiences of all, that single grain bursts open and is capable of taking on more and beautiful new life.  Many in our family witnessed this phenomenon in the New Year with the generous gifts of our son and daughter-in-law, Isaac and Lauren in an amaryllis bulb fully potted and ready to go once we watered and fertilized it.  We each got different shades with beautiful names that once we put them in motion developed leaves, stalks and after several weeks, buds of the most beautiful hues.  We shared via texts and emails with our generous “givers” what came of their love—to the delight of us all! 

   And the true wonder is that after all that production, the bulb is completely spent (dead it seems) in the production of something so new, different, and beautiful. Then, with care that same plant is cut back, grows new stems and in the process a new bulb to start all over again!

   That’s what love does in us too my friends.  And I truly think that in order for our Church to grow and become significant in our world once again it must do the same.  Jesus was right when he said, “Unless the grain falls into the ground and dies—it remains only a single grain.  Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”

  1. Loving God, let my actions always reflect a heart committed to you, where love is what determines how I respond to what life brings, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • Loving God, help our country and our world to be people who love peace and strive to bring it about—thank you for being our strength and our light,  we pray—Response:  “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • Gracious God, bless each of us with healthy bodies, minds and spirits–be with those who most need you today, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • O God, show us the ways during this holy season of Lent to grow closer to you, we pray—     Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • O God, thank you for work and the ability to work and we ask you to be with those who have lost their jobs; give them hope for a new day, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • Loving God, teach us to live as though the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world were in our hands, because they are, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”

7.  Loving God, instill in our country’s people the flexibility and patience needed to struggle through uncertain times—be with our leaders to bring justice, hope and peace to our country and to our world,  we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”

  • For 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, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all those who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—            Response:  “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”

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

Let Us Pray

   Good and merciful God, you are our light and our love.  You have written your promises of love on our hearts—help us to remember and never forget your covenant with us and enable us to do our part in loving response. As Lent draws to a close soon, continue to lead us in your path helping us to realize that our hour is upon us too—that now is the time to be your people and act as we say we believe.  Help us to remember that we are your hands, eyes, ears and heart for our world—help us to have your passion to work for justice and understanding for all in this world, especially those who are poor or disadvantaged in any way.  All this we ask of you, in Jesus’ loving name and with the Spirit—one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—We can’t be together once again, but soon, hopefully! Jesus is always with us though! Remember!

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, you are the light of our world—give us the light of life to comfort your people, we ask this in your loving name—Amen.

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Homily – 3rd Sunday of Lent in a Pandemic

Dear Friends, if we look out of our windows in Minnesota today, we see bright sunshine and the hope of spring, not far off! Yet the reality of life in Minnesota is that on March 6th, we can’t yet believe that there is no more snow in our future. It is somewhat the same in our lives as Christians, as followers of our brother Jesus–for all the advancements and good things accomplished that we may be able to name, if we are honest, we would have to say that there is yet more to do to make us more equal in our country and in our Church. But rather than this cause us to be disappointed, or disillusioned, let it be something that energizes us as we daily strive to be our best. Pastor Dick Dahl has gifted us with a homily today that helps us along these lines. He mentions an endeavor of the Winona Sheltering Network–that of preparing to welcome an Honduran family seeking asylum to our Winona community should we be accepted. I will have more to say about this should we in fact be accepted and of how we as a parish and as individuals may assist these newcomers.

In the meantime, please stay safe and well and get vaccinated as soon as you can! I had hoped that by Easter this year, we might be able to consider meeting in person again, but all the best science says that all adults won’t be vaccinated until at least June, and even then, it will be a while, before we can consider ourselves safe. so, with that in mind; we will stay on Zoom a bit longer. The next scheduled Zoom Masses are on Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021 and then on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. Please be in contact with me by phone, 507-429-3616 or by email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com if I can help in any way, or if you would just like to chat. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

Our God says, “I will prove my holiness through you. I will gather you from the ends of the earth; I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your guilt. I will give you a new spirit.”

Let us Pray

Opening Prayer

God of all compassion and goodness, heal the wounds of our sins and selfishness.  Call us to prayer, fasting, sharing with others and to whatever we most need to grow closer to you and all in your household of the people of God.  We acknowledge our failings in love. When our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill us with hope and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy. Grant all this through Jesus, our brother and with the Spirit—who live and love us, God, forever and ever, Amen

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Readings:

  • Exodus 20:1-17
  • 1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
  • John 2: 13-25

Homily

Pastor Kathy writes, “We are challenged this week around the rule of law–a black and white approach versus the rule of love, which often responds to more of the ‘gray’ areas of life. Ponder what this means to each of us.”

Today’s Gospel reading thrusts before us Jesus’ disruptive actions and his perplexing words. I have been grateful this past week that Richard Rohr’s daily meditations have focused on “The difficulty of seeing clearly.”

The quotation of Jeremiah comes from a parallel moment in that prophet’s life, some six hundred years before. Standing at the gates of the Temple built by Solomon, shortly before the onslaught of the Babylonian conquest, Jeremiah had issued a strident wake-up call to his fellow Judahites: they were violating every commandment on the tablets—idolatry, stealing, murder, perjury, oppression of the alien— and now they were acting as if their Temple rituals were going to make them right with God without any need to change their behavior. Thus, they had turned the Temple into a false haven, a “den of thieves.” So according to Mark’s version, Jesus’ similar confrontation in the Temple was an acting out of the essential message of his preaching: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” —Mk 1:15

What a surprise now to turn to John’s version. Whereas in Mark the incident occurs during the final week, John introduces the episode early, right after the wedding feast at Cana. And John’s description is far more dramatic. In this version, Jesus makes a whip out of cords and we hear not simply of doves but of sheep and oxen. We witness a veritable stampede of livestock scarcely suggested in Mark’s version. And Jesus utters no quotations from the prophets but a direct command, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace”.

What a mess he made! Talk about disrupting business as usual and making a statement! But what was it! Was it heard, received, understood? The difficulty of seeing clearly! What does it mean to us?

The point was not drama but symbol. In this Gospel John shows Jesus acting out the full Easter meaning of his life: he can drive out the animals of the Temple sacrifice because his own self-offering on the cross will permanently fulfill the purpose of Temple sacrifice.

If we ask what really happened in that Temple scene, Mark probably brings us closer to the events of history. If we ask what is the deeper meaning of that happening, John’s meditation draws us deeper.  

Jesus’ clearing of the Temple was a prophetic action demonstrating that the expected reign of God was being inaugurated and that it will be an age for the inclusion of all, the end of business as usual—in the Temple and everywhere else—for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Disruptions upset one’s sense of order and security but are sometimes necessary to reveal what is deeply disordered in society but not seen clearly or at all. Protests have repeatedly erupted after unarmed Black men and women have been killed by police. I’m not talking about destructive actions, but about disruptive ones, meant to make us see more clearly systems of injustice that we have been blind to and that we are part of.

Undoubtedly some were surprised but grateful at the time for what Jesus did: the poor who had been overcharged for the birds or animals they were required to offer for sacrifice; the Zealots who protested the arrangement the religious leaders had made with the Roman occupiers; perhaps even some of the Pharisees who believed holiness came from living the precepts of the Law and not just sacrifices and prayers at the temple.

John, however, combines Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple with his prediction of the Temple’s destruction, words that the other Gospels place at different times during his ministry. His claim that the temple would be destroyed (which it would be 42 years later by the Romans in 70 AD) and that he would rebuild it in three days was thrown back at him jeeringly as he hung nailed to the wood of the cross. Only after his death and resurrection did his followers begin to understand what he had meant and that he was referring to his risen body. 

The cross is power and wisdom. But it is a paradoxical kind of power and wisdom—a foolishness in human eyes that is wiser than human beings, and a weakness that is stronger than we are. Only believers can penetrate the wisdom behind the folly, and the power behind the weakness. For all unbelievers, the message of the cross remains a scandal (for Jews) and folly (for all others).

John wants to make clear that the old order of worship is to be replaced by a new one—an order focused no longer on the old Temple but on the Body of Christ.

Father Rohr’s meditations that I referred to earlier focused on “The difficulty of seeing clearly.” They include insights from Brian McLaren, a colleague of Father Rohr, who writes about “contact bias:” This results when a lack of personal and ongoing contact with people who are different from us causes us to fail to see them for who they truly are. When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged. By distrusting and avoiding them, I never have sustained and respectful interactive contact with them, which means I will never discover that they are actually wonderful people to be around. . . .

In this way, the prejudice cycle spins on, unchallenged across generations. As prejudice persists, it becomes embedded in cultures and institutions, creating systems of racism and hatred, marginalizing groups who are stigmatized, dehumanized, scapegoated, exploited, oppressed, or even killed. . .

Our previous President referred to immigrants at the southern border as rapists and murders and wanted to build a wall to keep them out. But if we are willing to listen to [“the other”] and learn from them, we can break out of our contact bias, which opens us up to seeing in a new way. . .

On page after page of the gospels, Jesus doesn’t dominate the other, avoid the other, colonize the other, intimidate the other, demonize the other, or marginalize the other. Instead, he incarnates into the other, joins the other in solidarity, protects the other, listens to the other, serves the other, and even lays down his life for the other. 

The one we follow into mission and ministry—Jesus the Christ—was an avowed boundary crosser, a reformer of the religious and secular culture of his time. We are in good company when we follow the way of radical inclusion of those different from ourselves. 

The more we bump into the folks who are so-called “other,” the more we are stretched, the more we are pulled out of that bias and have new truths because we have tangible evidence of the beautiful, powerful creativity of our God who made all of this diversity for us to enjoy. 

Jesuit John Kavanaugh writes: The new commandment of love of God and neighbor, may seem folly, but God’s folly is wiser than human provision. We will always struggle with this. And since Jesus himself has promised to remain in our midst, we can look to him to heal our blindness and our guilt. 

In this spirit, a group in our community, under the aegis of the Winona Sheltering Network, have banded together to provide community sponsorship for individuals and families who have escaped terror and persecution in their home countries, traveled hundreds of miles only to be herded in unsafe camps at our southern border. Kathy and Robert have put their names on the line as the groups’ legal representatives as we wait to welcome our first family. I know that several of you are part of this group.

The sign Jesus offers in justification for this disruptive behavior is the genuine love, humility, and generosity that we ask of him to motivate and to guide us.

Recall that this is the Gospel that begins with a prologue announcing that the divine Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”

  1. Jesus, our brother and friend, as we continue the holy season of Lent, we ask that you would be our daily companion to be ever more like you, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving God, help our country and our world to be people who love peace and strive to bring it about—be with all world leaders to do everything in their power to use the tools of communication and negotiation and let war be the very last choice when there is disagreement, we pray—Response:  “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • Gracious God, bless each of us with healthy bodies, minds, and spirits–be with those who suffer with the daily uncertainty of illness of any kind, especially COVID, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • O God, help us to be people of strength as we strive to share your love with your entire household, and especially now as the Sheltering Network prepares to receive a Honduran family for asylum into our Winona community, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • O God, thank you for work and the ability to work—and be especially with all those who have lost their jobs and are looking for new work, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving God, teach us to think and act globally doing with less so that everyone can have the basics, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving God, be with your household of people, especially those suffering so terribly now in war-torn countries, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • For 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, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”

10. Loving God, show us as a nation the ways to truly make our country safer from gun violence, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—Pausethen response

Let us pray

   Loving God, you have given us Jesus to show us the way. Assist us during this holy season of Lent to always keep our eyes on him—his ways of loving and reaching out in care to all that he met. He was on fire, consumed; the Scriptures tell us, for the household of God—give us that same fire so that no one is ever left without someone caring for them in this world. You have shown us the way—give us the strength to be your true followers—we ask this of you who are our Creator, Savior and Spirit of the Living God, loving us always and forever—Amen.

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Let us pray—Again, we can’t be at the table together, but help us to know that you are always with us.

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, our Brother and Friend, your life gives us life—help us always to be your life for our world—we ask this in your loving name, Amen.

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Homily – 2nd Sunday of Lent in a Pandemic

  My Friends, about 20 or so of us gathered this morning for a Zoom Mass–it was very good to see those of you who could make it! I am sharing the homily here for your reflection. I wanted you all to be aware that we record each of the Zoom liturgies so that if any of you would like to view it, let me know and I can send you the link. And as always, please be in touch if I can help you in any way or if you would simply like to chat. 507-429-3616 or aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Stay safe and well–peace and love, Pastor Kathy

My friends, this Sunday’s chosen readings contain two of my favorite lines from New Testament Scriptures.  The first we read today in Paul’s letter to the Romans, beginning with the opening line, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The second comes from Mark’s gospel reading today out of the mouth of Peter.  We have just read that Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John as Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah and in his unbridled enthusiasm, Peter says, “How wonderful it is for us to be here!” 

   With these two lines as back drops, I would like to begin this homily.  The Genesis piece, read by Joan, is on face value, very difficult for many, if not all of us, to swallow. What kind of God could or would ask for such a sacrifice, such a show of filial support, we ask? And if this is what “faith” is all about, well I want nothing to do with that either!

   I often speak to you my friends about reading Scripture passages and getting beneath the surface story, because that is where the “truth” or the piece that we are intended to get, really lies. 

   I believe the question on most modern-day minds, us included, is why, apparently, Abraham makes no argument with God about what God is asking.  Remember, this son of Abraham and Sarah came late in life and was the only child this couple had.  Anyone of us would, if asked to sacrifice a son, a daughter, a loved one, object—I am quite sure!   

   So, let’s go deeper.  First off, we must remember the culture out of which this story came to get some clarity on the seeming “normalness” of Abraham’s response. 

The fact that Abraham’s culture practiced the ritual killing of their young, might explain Abraham’s response, yet given the no-doubt preciousness of this lone child, again it is hard to believe Abraham’s response.  And for the moms out there, is the question of whether Sarah knew what Abraham was up to on the day that he set off with their son, Isaac, alone.  All good questions, but perhaps not the ones to be concerned with here.

   An additional thought might be to ask why the Church hierarchy uses this reading that is so troubling to many of us, in light of Paul’s apparent belief that our God is good when he asks, “If God is for us,” and Paul believes that God is, does it matter, who else is against us?  The traditional hierarchical belief within Christian churches that God sent Jesus, the only begotten, to die as a sacrifice for the sins of humankind, is apparently a strong matchup to God’s initial request of Abraham—thus a good reading during Lent. 

   But the truth is, we see that God is, somewhat of a good God in that first reading, by giving Abraham a reprieve in the end once God is sure of the faith that Abraham possesses.  So, does that satisfy? Not really for me and probably not for you either. 

   So, let’s start again.  Present day theologians, such as Sandra Schneiders, Richard Rohr, Ilia Delio and John Shelby Spong, to name but a few, don’t agree that Jesus came to die for our sins, or that God asked him to do that.  This is “head” theology, instead of “heart” theology.  Unfortunately, at times, the hierarchical Church decides what it wants to teach, and then goes backward and tries to make it so.  Jesus came to show us how to live our ordinary lives, extraordinarily well—how to share the gifts of life with everyone, how to be just and merciful toward all—because we had forgotten that, and those who were into life “for power” and objected, killed him to silence his, most compelling message to the masses. That’s it really!  And in that light, the Genesis, Abraham story makes no sense to us, especially when it is connected to a belief that God’s only reason for sending Jesus was that he would die to appease God’s anger with the rest of us.

    Modern theologians such as those mentioned above, in their quest to fully understand Scripture and assist people over time to get closer to the mind of our God realize that through tradition, both spoken and written, a change of a word or two can make all the difference in better aligning meaning, past and present so that we can truly get our “hearts” and not just our “heads” around it. 

   Consider how it would be if the Genesis reading were more of a discussion between God and Abraham about faith, which we are told is the point of this story—something like this:  “Abraham, you say that you love me and believe that I would do anything for you—that I want only good and not bad for you—what would you do to prove your love for me?  What is it in your life that means most to you, your son? Would you give your son?”  And just as in the story where God supplies another ritual sacrifice, God would say, “Of course, I wouldn’t ask this of you—the death of Isaac whom I love as much and more than you do. 

   Such an alteration in this story, a re-telling, really, helps us to square the “Abba God” of Jesus with the God of Abraham. 

   My friends, Jesus’ Spirit is continually renewing the face of the earth, calling us to see and hear more clearly what is on the heart of our God, not to see our God, as we humans behave from time to time, miserly and tyrannical, but with largesse, always “having or backs” in today’s terminology. 

   So, as we move forward in this Lenten time, let’s hold on to the idea of how much our God loves us, wants good and not bad for us—proven so wonderfully in the person of Jesus, our brother and let us not lose sight of God’s expectation then, for us, that we every day strive to be our best, so as to make life good too for those we share this wonderful human experience with.  Then we can say with Peter, “How wonderful it is for us to be here!”  Amen? Amen!  

Homily – 1st Sunday of Lent in a Pandemic

Dear Friends, Lent is upon us–a gift our Church gives us each year to check in on our relationship with our loving God. As a Christian, are we true to what this asks of us?–basically that we live in the footsteps of our brother, Jesus, being good, merciful, kind, just and overall loving as we face each day of our life, for our welfare, but equally, for the welfare of others in our world. This is no small task so it is right that we would spend some concerted effort each year assessing how we are doing, knowing that we don’t do it alone, but that Jesus, our brother and friend, is always with us. My hope for each of you is that you are safe and well, and that you have peace of heart and mind–Pastor Kathy

P.S. Please don’t ever hesitate to be in touch if I can help you in any way or if you just would like to chat–507-429-3616 or aaorcc2008@gmail.com

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Entrance Antiphon

Our God says, “You shall call upon me and I will answer you. I will be with you in times of trouble; I will deliver you and honor you. Long life and contentment will be yours.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving God, through the gift of this Lenten Season, help us to understand the meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and teach us to reflect these mysteries in our own lives. We ask all this of you, Creator God, Jesus our Savior, and the Spirit who all live and love us forever and ever, Amen.

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Readings:

  • Genesis 9: 8-15
  • 1 Peter 3: 18-22
  • Mark 1: 12-15

Homily

My friends, today’s 1st and 2nd readings are basically about being saved—the Genesis reading is about Noah and the Flood, an event that kills every living thing—people, animals, and plants, except for those that made it into the ark.  Peter follows with a reading comparing the flood waters to those of baptism and of how “water” has the possibility of cleansing us—saving us, as it were. 

   Now whether you hold faith in the fact, that on the surface of the story from Genesis, God caused the flood to basically wipe out all that was evil, except for Noah and his family and the other creatures aboard the ark; there is a larger story that we should hold onto as we move once again into the holy season of Lent.  We will come back to that.

   Suffice it to say that stories of floods and other natural disasters in the times when the Old Testament books were written, were ways to describe events that possibly happened, but that the people didn’t understand.  And what they didn’t understand and couldn’t explain were put into the realm of God for cause and effect.

   So back to the larger story of the piece that we should hold onto from Noah and the Flood.  At the end of the devastation, we are told that God gives the sign of the “rainbow” and of how when a rainbow appears, from that day forward, it should remind the people of the covenant made between God and humans for all time. 

   The rainbow basically says—in its beauty, that our God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.  An additional piece, in the beauty of the rainbow, would be for us beautiful creatures, given birth and a chance at a human experience, through the magnitude of our loving God, to treat our world, all created life—plants, animals, to say nothing of people, with great reverence and care. 

   That is why, on a social plane, it is important, in fact necessary, for our country to be part of the Paris Climate Accords in order that we can work with other nations to protect our beautiful planet from global warming.  That is also why on that same social plane, it is important and necessary for our country to be part of the World Health Organization (WHO)—one that works with all countries involved to see that equity exists between all peoples—on matters of health—that vaccines, during this time of pandemic are equally shared between rich and poor countries alike—something that the WHO is calling member nations to task for at present.

   It is important my friends to always, as Christians, as followers of our brother Jesus, to walk in his path, to accept and believe in the God that he shows us through his life among us.  His Abba (Daddy) is one who loves each of us unconditionally, Jesus tells us, so to accept and believe in a god who would destroy all of creation out of anger and lack of patience with those this same god made “imperfect” in the first place, doesn’t seem to jive with the God of Jesus.

   So, friends, my study and humble opinion would challenge us to look deeper when Scripture readings don’t seem to be, “the way we should go.”  My study has shown me, over the years, that the writings of the prophets as opposed to the other stories of the people, in the times that they were written, without complete understanding or knowledge, are far better messages to hold onto and be challenged by in the active living out of our faith.

   The prophet Joel in the reading for Ash Wednesday is an example in point. The people in the time of Joel had the custom of “rending” or tearing their clothes, covering themselves with ashes to physically say that something was amiss in their lives that they needed to change and perhaps on a deeper level, to remind themselves that life is short—the grave is near and now is the time to start being their best.

   Christians use the sign of ashes for the same reason each Lent as we enter a time that calls us to return to our loving God, especially if we have been away, for whatever reason, returning to a God who does patiently await us, unlike the god of the Old Testament who loses patience with the people, if we stay to the surface level of the story. 

   Joel therefore tells the people, ourselves included, “Don’t rend [or tear] your clothes—but rend your heart—”tear it open,” so to speak, making it big enough to hold not just your own needs, but the needs of others too. 

   Jesus, in Mark’s gospel says basically the same, “This is the time of fulfillment—change your hearts and your minds.”  And being Jesus’ followers—we must do that and following our brother and friend will always mean, going deeper.  Looking back a final time at the story of the flood, we can only imagine the damage that such a catastrophic event caused—the chaos really.   Our present-day world has experienced floods that we have named “catastrophic” and the news media has shown us the devastation.

   Present-day scientists warn us that if we don’t tend to our earth and put a halt to activities that are causing our planet to heat up, there may soon not be the ability to turn this situation around. 

   My friends, Lent is a wonderful time that calls us each year to come to remember, if we have forgotten, our place in all of creation.  If we don’t remember that the earth, in all its beauty, is not only for our use, but for all our human sisters and brothers, our animal sisters and brothers too, as Francis of Assisi would name them.  If we don’t remember “our place,” it is possible that the “chaos” spoken of in the Genesis reading today could visit us in our time as it already has, in the fires in California and the floods on our southern and eastern coasts. 

   And as spoken of above, the inequality of resources in our country and world—be it in jobs, food, water, vaccines and more, to those that our great country allows to live in poverty due to racism, sexism, and the like—we can name our “ism” of choice.

   So my friends, perhaps this Lent, we might choose to, spend, “a bit more time in the desert” with Jesus, whether we do that through more prayer, more reading, more “giving up” or more “giving to”—whatever it might be as we bring into clearer focus who we are as individuals, what our true place in this grand universe is, and where we may have been remiss in sharing our gifts with others. A blessed Lent to all as we discover what is our piece to do for the good of all.  Amen?  Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “We are grateful, O God.”

  1. O God, as we begin the holy season of Lent, thank you for being our model in Jesus for reverencing your beautiful world, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
  • Loving God, as you help our country and our world to be people who love peace and strive to bring it about—thank you for keeping us from all evil, we pray— Response:  “We are grateful, O God.”
  • Gracious God, thank you for giving each of us health of body, mind and spirit–being with those who suffer from all debilitating diseases, COVID, along with cancer and mental illness,  we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
  • O God, you are with us, helping us to be true followers of Jesus, willing to speak the hard truths at times as we advocate for those who have no voice, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
  • O God, thank you for work and the ability to work and we ask you to be with those who have lost their jobs  and can’t find work, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
  • Loving God, as our country and world strives to end its economic woes, teach us to think and act globally  doing with less so that everyone can have the basics, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
  • Loving God, as you continue to bless our president and all world leaders—help them to be leaders of their people. Help them by their leadership to instill hope in our country and throughout the world.  Enable all of us to do our part to renew our country and our world, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
  • For our community, All Are One, as you continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people, and to always make a place of  welcome at our table,  we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”

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

Let Us Pray

   Good and gracious God, help us during this holy season of Lent to be your loving people. Help us to be intent on modeling our lives after Jesus—one who reached out to all, no matter what. Help us to take time during our days to sit quietly with you in order that we might grow closer to you. Remind us daily that you love each of us beyond all imagining. Give us grateful hearts and disciplined minds—let our Lenten sacrifices strengthen us for greater tasks of loving—all this we ask of you, Creator, Savior and Spirit, who all live with us and love us, forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, my friends, we cannot be together, nor receive Communion together from the table, but let us remember that Jesus is always with us.

Prayer of Communion

Dear Jesus, increase our faith and hope and deepen our love for you and your world in this spiritual communion. Help us to live by your words and to always seek you in our lives. We ask this in your loving name, Amen.

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