Homily – 33rd Weekend in Ordinary Time

My friends, times away, as Robert and I experienced these last three weeks are good, reflective experiences as the time away from daily tasks and concerns, allows us to focus on the perhaps, deeper meanings of what each of us takes for granted in the comfort of our own homes.  Even this aspect, “the comfort of our own homes” was called into question for us as we traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to check out what was happening there.  Our intent was not to be active, but just to observe.

The fact that became clear to me after going through several check points in our country near the border was that we would never be detained, because of course; we had the right color of skin!  The questioning from the very cordial border patrol people went something like this:  “Hello folks, are you both U.S. citizens? Our response—“Yes.” Where are you heading?”  We usually said we were from Minnesota and heading home, just here vacationing.  We were then asked if we had anyone in back to which we answered, “No.” Now, we could have had the whole back of our camper full of immigrants (which we didn’t), but they didn’t ask to look, nor did we have to actually prove that we were U.S. citizens.  But again; we had the right color of skin! I had to believe that if I was dark-skinned; I would have had to show my papers and our car would have been searched—we saw as much at these stops when dark-skinned individuals came through.

But amid events like this that were a bit disconcerting; we did experience many wonderful days marveling at the grandeur of this beautiful country that we call home.  In the midst of gigantic, sequoia trees one can only look up and say, “Wow!” Trees that tower above you more than 200 feet, that have lived thousands of years makes my own life seem, minuscule in the face of that!

We saw cliff sides in Yosemite National Park in California that again, left us speechless in their grandeur.  Arches in stone in Utah in the Arches National Park carved beautifully by Mother Nature over eons, deserts that go on and on in their dryness, yet muted, beautiful colors.

We even took some time to visit a sister of Robert’s and her husband in Arizona as part of our trek south and west spending time sharing life memories and of how those experiences made them who they are—they smiled remembering, we laughed and enjoyed each other.

I can’t do justice to all we saw, experienced, thought about, meditated on in our time away, but I can say, gratitude is a great part of what I feel as I look back on these days—gratitude to those who cared for our doggie, and other things around home and church and gratitude for the opportunity just to be away.

This time of year in the Church calendar calls us as well to this deep kind of reflection, something that is good to do whether we can leave our homes for a time or not.  Today’s readings bring us to the end of our Church Year, a good time to look back, assess our times of faith and living out of that faith as well as  a time to look forward, with hope to a new season, Advent, in just two weeks. Next Sunday we will celebrate in a very special way, Jesus, our brother, our model, our friend and with gratitude, look to him in thanksgiving for showing us the way, the truth and the life.

Today’s readings speak of “end times” and without proper understanding of the true meaning of these readings, they can be disturbing.  First, we have to understand that the ancient Israelite people had a concept of two different times—the “end times” and “the end of time.”  The end times were thought to be a time of transition, when suffering and hard times would be no more, when the Chosen One, whom Christians believe is Jesus, the Christ, will come again in glory to make all things right and the kin-dom will be celebrated before the face of God, in that wonderful reality.  It is a tremendously hope-filled image that is attractive to many people. The cinema has played into this image of a time of justice when good, will reign—in the epic series, The Lord of the Rings, and in the Star Wars movies.

The “end of time” is another time, and when that time will come, none of us knows, or in fact understands just how it will be—it would appear that Jesus, in his humanity didn’t even know. We will just have to trust that all will unfold according to God’s loving plan. The reading from Hebrews today says as much—that in fact, in Jesus, all will be well.

So why, we might ask,  are we given frightening images—of the sun and moon going dark—of stars falling from the sky?  The reading from Mark has an apocalyptic tone, and part of that, the exegetes tell us, was a way to cover the subversive tone of these writings from the enemies of the people.

The Israelites were told overtime, that what they were suffering would come to an end—the Chosen One would come to alleviate their sufferings—this was their hope.   This knowledge that their God did hear their cries and would come to save them, gave them the will to go on.  In faith, we must believe the same, especially in these times of mass murders through firearms that we as a people can do something about.  Through cataclysmic fires and storms brought on by climate change, also within our power to fix.

It has been thought that the reference to the “heavens and earth passing away” referred to the destruction of Jerusalem.  It encouraged fidelity when the people’s world seemed to be crumbling around them.  And for each of us, this type of reading gives us courage in our struggles through life because there is reason to hope—we are not alone, our God is with us.  Mark tells us today that “the heavens and the earth may pass away, but not Jesus’ words”—God will always be with us.

The placing of the “end times” reading on this weekend is appropriate as our Church Year is winding down, setting the stage for the wonderful season of Advent.  This weekend’s readings serve then as a beginning to a time of transition in our Church Year, but also in our personal lives.  They also remind us of the end of time, whenever and however that might come to be.  The end of time—our personal time, when our life as we know it, comes to a close, need not frighten us if we strive in our lives to do our best, always keeping our eyes on Jesus, who truly shows us the way.  The thought then of our God—Jesus, the Christ, coming “in the clouds,” with great power and glory,” should bring us joy and anticipation, not fear and dread.

Many people over time, from those people who were the first Christians, followers of Jesus, thought that the “end times” were inaugurated with Jesus and that the end of time would follow shortly.  Jesus, they thought, had come to make all things right, get us on the path of goodness—mercy, love, justice, compassion and once we got it, Jesus would return and take us all, the faithful, with him, to heavenly glory.  It seems it has taken us all, collectively, longer to “get it” then those first Christians thought.  It is evident, if we look around our world that there is still much that we as a nation need “to get” our heads, but mostly, our hearts around, and at the same time, much to be hopeful about as well. And when the end of time will come, no one knows, and perhaps it is not something we need worry about, but rather, to concentrate on the transition in our own lives.

As we look around our world, the culture in both Church and State seems to be in need of some deep reflection and transition—from a culture that seems to be about the individual more than about the collective, especially those most in need.  In Daniel’s first reading; we read also about, “a time of turmoil,” and Daniel’s counsel that, “the wise will shine like the bright heavens.”  Friends, let us pray today and each day that we will find within ourselves the strength, the will, to be those “bright lights” doing the piece that is ours to do.

This week then, as we ever so relentlessly move toward the end of our Church Year, anticipating the beautiful season of Advent, recalling that our brother Jesus is always with us, showing us the way, let us pray for each other that we might let his example of truth, goodness and justice for all seep into our hearts in order that our encounters with others might more regularly move from the surface to become empathic encounters, true communions with them, and through them, with our loving God. Amen? Amen!

Homily – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends, here is Pastor Dick Dahl’s homily from yesterday–enjoy! Pastor Kathy
P. S. See you next Saturday!

At the end of the War of 1812 over 2,000 British solders were killed in the battle of New Orleans with only 15 American casualties. This bloodbath took place because news that the Peace Treaty had been signed in Belgium two weeks earlier had not crossed the ocean yet. Today, however, thanks to satellites and modern communication we seem to know about every tragedy, both of natural and human origin, within hours, if not minutes of its occurrance.

So while we were still in shock from the horror of the slaughter of our Jewish brothers and sisters at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, we heard this week of an even more deadly killing of teenagers at a dance hall in Thousand Oaks, California. Next came word that the neighboring town of Paradise had been incinerated by an out-of-control fire in which nine more people died. We also hear daily of some decision by our own President that shows no compassion or understanding for the suffering of people coming to our southern border, seeking refuge from unbelievable fear and suffering in their countries of origin.

With such awareness, sometimes one wants to turn off the news, close one’s ears, withdraw and hide somewhere. Yet when we come together here and gather to celebrate the Eucharistic meal, the Word of God speaks to our hearts, challenging us and enabling us to face the reality around us.

Today’s first reading takes place during a devastating draught that affected not only Israel but people in neighboring regions as well. To save Elijah the Lord sent him to a city in Sidon where he met a widow about to prepare a meager meal for herself and her son with the last bit of food she had. Elijah first asks her to bring him a small cupful of water. Then he asks for a crust of bread, and finally for her to make him a little cake. She was not a Jew and she responded to his request, “As the Lord, your God lives, I have nothing baked and only a handful of flour and a little oil left.” But when he entreats her in God’s name to fulfill his request anyway, she gives him all she has.

This story of response to the needs of a stranger, of responding to a God she did not even know, with all she had is an incredible example of generosity .

In the Gospel reading, Jesus observes another widow. He watches her literally putting a pittance, two coins, into the Treasury, but it was all she had. Again an astounding example of giving with all one’s being.

The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews focused on Jesus who gave all he was and had as his blood poured out in the new Covenant–in which we participate in this meal of bread and wine.

What does it mean, then, when the first and greatest commandment calls us to love God with our whole being?

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), the brilliant French Jesuit priest, mystic, and paleontologist, had much to say about love. For Teilhard, “love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mysterious of the cosmic forces.” Divine love is the energy that brought the universe into being and binds it together. Human love is whatever energy we use to help divine love achieve its purpose. . . .

Religion, from the root religio, means to reconnect, to bind back together. We must all overcome the illusion of separateness. It is the primary task of religion to communicate not worthiness but union, to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God,” as St. Paul states in his letter to the Colossians (3:3).

Christianity has put major emphasis on us loving God. But some speak of their overwhelming experience of how God loves us! In the 1890s the Englishman Francis Thompson wrote a poem called The Hound of Heaven. In it he describes God as a great hound ever seeking us, running to find and save us through the endless byways of our lives. God’s loving us comes through in most of the writing of mystics: God the initiator, God the doer, God the one who seduces us. It’s all about God’s initiative. The mystics invariably find ways to give that love back through forms of service and worship; but it’s never earning the love, it’s always returning the love.

To love God is to love what God loves. To love God means to love everything . . . no exceptions. In his book, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

Of course, that can only be done with divine love flowing through us. In this way, we can love things and people in themselves, for themselves—not for what they do for us. That’s when we begin to love our family, friends, and neighbors apart from what they can do for us or how they make us look. We love them as living images of God in themselves, despite their finiteness.

Now that takes work: constant detachment from ourselves—our conditioning, preferences, and knee-jerk reactions. Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, from whose daily meditations most of this homily was formed, writes that we can only allow divine love to flow by way of contemplative consciousness, where we stop eliminating and choosing. This is the transformed mind that St. Paul wrote about in his letter to the Romans (12,2) that allows us to see God in everything and empowers our behavior to almost naturally change.

Homily – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

dear friends,

below find Pastor Dick’s homily from Sunday in my absence–sorry for the lateness, but we don’t always have internet in the mountain areas that we have been visiting. He has given us once again a wonderful piece! be well all–pastor kathy

The first reading today looks back over 3000 years. The Hebrew
people had been liberated from slavery in Egypt, entered at Sinai
into a Covenant with Yahweh, wandered for years through the
wilderness, and were now finally about to enter the land of
Canaan where they would begin their life as a people. Then they
heard proclaimed what would be the foundation of Israel and the
Jewish community down to this day:

(In Hebrew, “Shema Yisra’el”) “Hear, O Israel, The Lord is our
God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord your God
with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your
whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you
today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when
you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and
when you get up.”

Then the reading from Mark’s Gospel moves us forward a
thousand years. In chapters 10 through 12 Jesus had been
questioned repeatedly: Pharisees asked him, “Is it lawful to a man
to divorce his wife?” A rich man asked him, “What must I do to
inherit eternal life?” Chief priests and scribes asked him by what
authority he had driven money changers and sellers from the
temple area. Herodians and Pharisees asked him, “Is it lawful to
pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Sadduccees who taught there
was no resurrection asked him whose wife a woman would be at
the resurrection after having been married to seven brothers?
Despite being peppered, as it were, by hostile questions from
various religious and civil leaders, a sincere question came from a
scribe, “Teacher, which is the first of all the commandments?” To
which Jesus answered with the words we heard earlier from
Deuteronomy, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your
soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus then
added from Leviticus, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your
neighbor as yourself.’” Then he said, “There is no other
commandment greater than these.”

The scribe responded that to love God with one’s whole being and
one’s neighbor as oneself was worth more than all burnt offerings
and sacrifices. Jesus saw he had understood.

It seems so clear. Do we understand as well as that Jewish scribe
did? I think it sounds easier than it is. Yet Jesus repeatedly
showed us how. He always reached out to those who were
outsiders and different—lepers, Samaritans, a tax collector, a
Roman soldier, a prostitute, non Jews.

Who do you not love? Who do you hate? No one? Which political
leader? Which White Nationalist? How about members of ISIS?
Are there fellow citizens — neighbors — you can’t stand? Maybe
even members of your own family? Yet Jesus says to us, “There is
NO OTHER commandment greater than these, “Love God with
your whole being and your neighbor as yourself.” He did not list
any exceptions.

When people hold beliefs that I disagree with or even find
abhorrent, am I honestly able to love them? People who abuse
power and privilege and demean others, who even abuse others?
Yet, Jesus says to me, “There is NO OTHER commandment
greater than these, “Love God with your whole being and your
neighbor as yourself.”

Last Monday night in response to the slaughter of eleven Jewish
men and women and the wounding of others, many of us came
together with others from different religions or no religion at
Wesley United Methodist Church to mourn and give support.
One of the speakers was Mark Peterson, our mayor. He spoke
about the hostility toward the stranger that has stained this
community through the years. In the late 1800s when Frederick
Douglas, the former slave and courageous Abolitionist leader,
visited here, he was denied housing. The Ku Klux Klan was active
here in the 1920s. Immigrants such as Hmong families were
greeted with suspicion and hostility as recently as 40 years ago.
Mayor Peterson, however, cited the ways the Winona community
has changed. He praised the work of Project Fine and the fact that
a few years ago, Winona was the first city in Minnesota to declare
itself a “Welcoming Community” to all who come here.

None of us seek suffering for ourselves or our loved ones. Most of
us, I believe, don’t wish suffering on others. But it can be
challenging to love those who differ from us in ways that grate on
us. Yet experience has demonstrated over and over again that only
love brings about change. We can argue our position on politics,
religion or anything else until we are blue or red in the face. Only
when we establish an emotional connection, can a breakthrough

We are called to love…everyone. It is more important than
anything else we can do. No religious activity takes precedence
over loving God and other people. Mother Theresa said, “We
cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great

We need to ask Jesus to teach us, to help us to learn how to love as
he does. It can seem overwhelming, but in a recent meditation
Father Richard Rohr quoted the following from the Jewish
Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief:
Do just(ice) now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now.”
Fr. Rohr added, “Love protects us from nothing, even as it
unexplainably sustains us in all thing

Homily – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends; this Sunday’s readings are a wonderful treatise on what ministry is all about—at least as Jesus intended it, and, as it was laid out by the prophets, Jeremiah and Paul.  And when I speak about “ministry,” I don’t mean that which I do alone, but what each of you do as well, in your everyday lives. I think we don’t often consider what we do in our everyday lives as “ministry”—that’s something for the pastor, we might think.  But, I am here to tell you that it is for each of us, as Christians, as followers of our brother, Jesus.  We can’t miss the prophet, Jeremiah’s injunction to his hearers that we are called to care for the poor, the lowly and those in need.

I was reminded of this—that each of us is called to ministry during the past week when I attended a Pastoral Care Week celebration for volunteers at Winona Health.  If we so chose; we could have our hands blessed for the ministry that we do. This blessing signifies that the work that you do for family, friends, students, neighbors, spouses and strangers, is holy work.  Today, after communion, I will offer this blessing to you, should you choose to have your hands blessed.

Another part of the Pastoral Care Week celebration for those participating was to share stories of the ways that they were blessed in visiting others, sharing the rosary, or sitting with those in the last stages of life.

One story shared was of the chaplain being called to the room of a dying resident at Lake Winona Manor and finding out from a family member that the rosary had been very important to this person, the chaplain asked if the resident had a rosary. Finding that she didn’t, the chaplain brought one from the office and put it into her hands.

It turned out that a volunteer was in the nursing home on this particular day praying the rosary with a group of residents in the chapel.  The chaplain, whose background wasn’t Catholic, asked the volunteer if she would stop by the resident’s room when she was finished with the larger group and pray with the dying resident.  The volunteer did and as she prayed the familiar prayer, the resident died peacefully.

So, we never know what our action will mean for someone, when we take the extra time as the volunteer did to reach out to another—a time that the Spirit will work through us for the good of another.  Once again then; I would like to encourage us in our daily tasks in our families, with friends, at our jobs, to recall that it is God’s work through us, if we so choose.  This is what being a Christian really means—making it about all that we do!

The writer to the Hebrews reminds all of us as “ministers” that ministering to others is a privilege given us by God, not for ourselves, but for the people and additionally; we serve others best when we do it out of “our own weakness,” being aware, as the psalmist says, [that] “God has done great things for us.”

I do have to say that those who profess to be pastors cannot miss the Hebrew writer’s message that what we do must never be for ourselves, our own aggrandizement, but for the people we supposedly, serve.  The gift of ministry must always be seen in this light.  This idea should be key as our Church hierarchy consider, if they do, renewing our beloved Church.

Our brother Jesus, too, demonstrates, as he always does, how our ministry to others should be carried out, in the beautiful story of the blind man, Bartimaeus. I believe we can learn much if we look closely at what he asks of Jesus.

His first request is that Jesus would, “have mercy” on him. And when we think of it friends, isn’t this the prayer in each of our hearts as we face our world?—have mercy on me! Jesus’ apostles don’t quite get, yet, what their calls are to be about—they are more into silencing Bartimaeus, because he is making a ruckus! Would that more of us in our Church, our world, would make a ruckus!—especially in the face of so much injustice, so much untruth, so much, at times, down-right evil!

But Jesus shows his apostles and us the way—“Bartimaeus, what is it that you want?”  To Jesus’ question comes Bartimaeus’ beautiful, simple answer, “I want to see”—[God, I just want to see!]

Friends, what would it be like if each of us, in our lives could pray, Bartimaeus’ simple prayer?—because you see, no pun intended, each of us is “blind” in many different ways!  Some of us are into control in our lives, some of us may be selfish with our time and talent, some may be judgmental—unfeeling of what others may be walking with—all ways that we are “blind” and cannot truly, “see.”  I know, in my own life; I can tick off many of these things.

Additionally, what would it look like in the lives of the bishops around our world meeting this month in Rome, on the topic of “youth” in our Church and of how to keep them connected to the Church.  They might begin by truly listening to the youth in our world, especially those who have disengaged and ask them Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And by listening as Jesus did, they would most assuredly get to the truth!

A large contingent of women has been in Rome this past month, asking to be heard as well.  Their “calling card” of late has been, “Knock, knock!” The supposed response; “Who’s there?” To which the women respond, “More than half the Church!” As you all know, women had no voice, as usual, no vote in these proceedings. When the women asked, “why”—the response, an untruth was given: “Well, because you have to be ordained to vote.”  This answer was given, a lie, in the face of the fact that two religious brothers attending, had votes!

Of the women who attended this meeting, a group from the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), RCWP’s sister group in the southern states of this country, South and Central America, one woman, Deborah Rose-Milavec and Kate McElwee of NCR, sent some encouraging news.

First, they delivered a statement with over 9,300 signatures entitled, Votes for Catholic Women, asking that at least Catholic Religious Sisters be given a vote, as they were on the same par as the religious brothers.  This was part of a document of over 200 pages explaining their position and why this was important. This document was entitled, Catholic Women Speak. 

 To their surprise, on day 23, Cardinal Bo of Myanmar, Burma, held up a copy of the document for all to see (this document had been made available to every bishop in attendance) and he said that he was going to begin reading it! Later, he said with great humility and compassion, it was reported, “there is the need to put a laser focus on women because of the suffering they endure in his country and around the world.”  This statement, to the women observers, was a huge development!  One had the sense that some “listening” by some, was happening—that some, “blindness” was being lifted.

In conclusion then, reflecting back to the Gospel where the apostles were trying to silence Bartimaeus, let us all agree that to stand by in silence, in the face of those trying to right an injustice is over!  The Spirit of our brother, Jesus, demands that we speak for the good of all. On November 6th, we have such an opportunity—do use it for the good of all!

A friend recently sent me these lines from The Talmud, the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law:

Do not be daunted, by the enormity of the world’s grief.

          Do just[ice], now.

          Love mercy, now.

          Walk humbly, now.

          You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.   Amen? Amen!

Homily – 29th Weekend in Ordinary Time

My friends; the psalmist prays the prayer of our hearts today in our human, Christian experience of life, “May your faithful love be upon us, as we place all our hope in you.”  Our faith tells us that we have “a high priest” as spoken of in Hebrews, our second reading today, who has suffered everything that we have, so truly understands what we walk with in our lives.  Jesus, having taken on fully our human experience knows what it feels like to lose loved ones, to be misunderstood, and to be lonely—that is why he is so perfect to turn to.

When I reflect on the psalmist’s prayer today; I find myself thinking that this very prayer, in similar words is the prayer of my brother and his family as they stand and watch, support and give Stephanie all that they can, “May your faithful love be upon us, upon her, as we place all our hope in You.”  This extended family of mine have known God’s “faithful love” in the support and prayers of many family members and friends, of you, some known and many, unknown, but faithful to the task of supporting a “sister for the journey” and her family in their time of need.

I know I have personally been comforted in this time of healing for Stephanie with the queries of people, my friends and acquaintances asking, “How is Stephanie doing?”  When I talk with my brother, I let him know of your “faithful” support and he is so grateful and says, “Well, it’s working!” And as the writer to the Hebrews says today, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace, and receive mercy and favor, and find help in our time of need.”

Another piece of my week was to spend time thinking about a new NOVA presentation on Public TV on Addiction that high-lighted the opioid crisis in this country.  The piece was filled with heart-breaking stories of lives ruined and lost due to addiction to pain-killing drugs that were prescribed for people’s pain and that advanced over time to be drugs to satisfy an ever-growing need for the drug itself.

With the addiction, the ability to make good decisions for self, family and the worthwhile things in life evaporates before the staggering physical need for the drug.  The film talked of the drugs, OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl and the ever more deadly effects of each.  Those who were able to turn their lives around, with help, as one doesn’t do this alone, the story made clear, no doubt prayed words similar to, “May your faithful love be upon me, as I place all my hope in You.”

A compelling part of this story was to realize that addiction of any kind, whether due to drugs—opioids and alcohol, to eating, gambling, whatever it might be happens to ordinary people. People don’t wake up one morning, as one man said, “wishing to be an addict!”

Another compelling piece for me was the passion that several of the doctors interviewed had around the whole notion of restructuring how this country deals with addictive drugs, drugs we have made illegal. There are some trials going on in this country and in Canada to assist people addicted to get drugs to help them “come down” from their addictions and to help their bodies to re-program so as to eventually not need the drugs.

Professionals have discovered that abstinence alone from these dangerous drugs is not the answer because those so afflicted don’t have the strength or will power to combat the addiction without help.

The final compelling piece for me was the clearly stated fact that due to poverty, unemployment, ignorance, childhood loss and trauma and a host of other things that can befall a person in life, the situation is set up for depression, mental illness, lack of community and supports—all of which make a person more susceptible to getting hooked on drugs as a means to feeling better.  Our country needs to do much better to address all these problems!

It seems to me that this calls on all of us to address inequalities in our great nation between the rich and the poor, seeing that all our people have the right to the basics; food, housing, clothing, education, medical care, and meaningful employment and voting for those individuals who will work for this justice for all.

Our faith, our religion, that we hold dear, calls us to no less than this kind of concern and response.  Jesus is clear on this point in the Gospel today—we must serve others, not strive to be served!

In closing friends; I want to comment briefly on the clear references to “suffering” in today’s readings—what are we to make of that? In the selection from Isaiah today; we recognize this as part of the Servant Song that we often read during Lent and Holy Week, describing the sufferings that will come to the Messiah.  We have to look beyond the words, to see the reality that can come from the inevitable sufferings that each of us must bear in this life; illness, misunderstandings, loss of all kinds, and death.

We don’t wish to experience any of these down times, but it is precisely through many of these burdens that we can come to experience the real goodness of others and what is truly important in life—much like my brother’s family is going through at present.  And our brother Jesus, “God With Us,” can be a real strength in all of this.  I often tell people in time of need, to simply utter Jesus’ name—that there is great power in that.

Our God doesn’t wish us to suffer, but, suffering happens—it is part of our human, imperfect condition.  But one thing of which we can always be certain—we never stand alone—our God, in Jesus stands with us, wants to be with us, if we but allow it, if we but ask.

Life for each of us was intended to be good.  If we look around our world and see that it is not good for everyone; we must ask ourselves if we have done our part to make it so.  This earth is our experiment, not God’s—if it isn’t turning out right; we can only blame ourselves, collectively, for when God gave it to the first creatures, God said, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers and fill the earth—and be responsible for it” (Gen.1:18).  Amen? Amen!