Homily – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This past week as Robert and I were looking for a movie “to escape” the news that is far from “good” these days; we came upon the older film, Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, and to my mind, watching him totally immerse himself in a role is always a good use of two hours.

It had been a while since we had seen this one and I had forgotten what a really wonderful film it is.  Most of us who have seen it always remember the catchy line, “Mama always says, “Life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going get.”  (Mama, you’ll remember was played by Sally Field, another fine actor).

This week Jesus asks us to think about and really take into our hearts, the question, “Who is my neighbor?” as he tells the story of the Good Samaritan.  Forrest Gump discovered the “Good Samaritan” in the person of Jenny, a childhood companion, who became a life-long friend, supporting him throughout her own troubled life, due to being sexually abused by her father as a child.

Jenny struggled throughout her life with abusive sexual encounters, drugs, and attempts at suicide as she tried to make sense of the abuse heaped on her, only to realize at the end of her relatively young life that she had been steadfastly loved from a young age by her friend, Forrest who had put up with his own abuse for not being born with a high I.Q.

I chose to remind us today of Forrest Gump because it struck me that his steadfast love for Jenny, no matter what she did or how she lived her life was akin to how our God loves each of us, in an over-the-top way, no matter what we have done during our lives.

Why our Church or any other Christian church, in the supposed memory of Jesus of Nazareth would ever teach his followers that “if you have done a lot of bad things during your life, then, when you die, you’re going to hell,” I simply can’t understand!  Such teaching flies in the face of the story of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus today.

In order for us to totally grasp the full intent of this story, we need to remember who the Samaritan people of Jesus’ time were.  During their exile to a foreign land, not all of the Israelites were taken.  Those that were not led into exile, living around Samaria began to intermarry and become lax in their Jewish faith—customs and beliefs.

When those in exile returned, they began looking down on their fallen away sisters and brothers and from that time on until Jesus entered the picture, Samaritans became the group to look down on, certainly not the ones they would name in answer to Jesus’ question, “Who is your neighbor?”

And as we know from our study of Scripture, Jesus was always one to turn things on their heads.  If the Samaritan was the only one who would show compassion to the traveler who had fell in with robbers, then what does that say about the long-held belief, lived out in the lives of the Israelites, that the Samaritans are ones to shun?

One theme that Jesus continually deals with throughout his short adult life of teaching and preaching and one that is significant in the story of the Good Samaritan is that of differentiating between the letter and the heart of the law.  The priest and the Levite who saw the suffering person and walked out of their way not to engage and connect with the suffering, were following the letter of the law—“such an encounter would make me unclean,” might have been part of their thinking or, it may have been the Sabbath, when no physical work was allowed, or we may have given the excuse when called on to help someone on the “other side of the road,” “across town” or anywhere else for that matter, that, “I don’t have time today, someone else will help, or, I don’t know them”–all excuses that I have used, sadly.

Jesus calls us to the heart of the law—to compassion.  Sometimes we truly can’t help, but “having compassion for,” “being concerned about,” another suffering person is the very least that is expected of us.  Also, by the fact that no nationality, or culture, or gender or belief system is mentioned regarding “the traveler” in Jesus’ story; we can be sure that Jesus means that there would be no limits, no boundaries around who we are required to help! Our concern can’t simply be about, “my kind, my people, my family—but about anyone and everyone who asks, even if all we can offer is our “troubled heart” in that we can’t do more.

I was very pleased and proud of an action that the All Are One board took this past week, in our name, in giving $500 to Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas where two Rochester, MN Franciscan Sisters, Mary Kay and Arnold work bringing compassion and support of all kinds to these needy and suffering in our midst.

I am reading a book now in preparation for a partial retreat I will be making with the Midwest Group of Women Priests in early August. As we think of so many traveling hundreds of miles, trying to escape unbearable living conditions south of our border, there are similarities to be found in the book by Brian McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian.  He is basically dealing with the issue of “heart versus law.”

Many today who are leaving denominational churches behind are doing so because they are hungering for something authentic, something real, that speaks to the very best within them—gets to the heart of the matter, because friends, unless something in this day and age can engage one’s heart, giving true purpose to what every day brings, many people just don’t want to make the effort—keeping the law for law’s sake is basically quite boring and useless to people—all of us who are hard-wired to love.

The people that McLaren talks with express the fact that they want to hear the message of Jesus in the churches they attend and they don’t–it is all about “obeying, praying, in the loosest sense of the word, and paying.”

Jesus hones in even closer in his message of the “heart versus the letter” of the law.  In his questioning of the lawyer, in today’s gospel, Jesus asks him to basically spell out the law—how does he interpret it? The lawyer answers correctly—“You must love the Most High God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

It is at this point that Jesus clarifies the law in the telling of the story of the Good Samaritan; basically that it is no good to say that we “love God” and “fail to love our neighbor,” whomever she or he may be.

The message today from our brother Jesus is confirmed in the other readings as well.  Moses in the first reading from Deuteronomy reminds the people that the law is already in their mouths and in their hearts—that it isn’t a hard law to keep, but that they will always have to remember to let their “hearts” lead.  God made each one of us already hard-wired, as I said above, this way—with love, with compassion.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians reminds us that Christ, now, in his Spirit, “holds all things in unity,” helping us to do our best.  We, each of us have to make suffering, any suffering in our world—personal.  What if this was happening to my family—my child, to my sister or brother, or husband or wife—how would I respond then?

The Scriptures are clear friends—there is no way that we can get this one wrong.  It reminds me of an email I received recently with a new hymn by composer, David Haas, entitled, “Christ, You Spoke to Us of Children.”  As the hymn begins in rather somber tones, an image of a child and an adult looking through a chained-link fence began to appear in the background and ever so slowly, as the hymn continued, the image grew and by the end, a Madonna and Child were clearly present.

Today’s Scriptures, friends, as every week, call us to never ignore suffering of any kind, because our God, in Jesus, who loves each of us so mightily, lives in that suffering! Amen? Amen!

Homily – Mary of Magdala Celebration

Dear Friends,

The Church calendar for this Sunday uses the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  All Are One Roman Catholic church chose this Sunday to celebrate the Apostle to the Apostles, Mary of Magdala whose feast generally falls on July 22nd.  We usually combine this day with a mass on the farm and an outdoor picnic and this was the Sunday that worked for everyone, so today then, we not only remembered Mary of Magdala, but all women and uplifted their status as gifted, qualified and equal in God’s sight to their brothers. 

We were happy to celebrate in a gathering of 42 great folks, great cooks and we enjoyed wonderful conversation. A special public thank you goes out to Sr. Ann and Joan Redig and to their assistant, Mary Ludwigson for the great work in the kitchen, all the prep and service during meal time. It was much appreciated!

 In addition, we celebrated within this liturgy the baptisms of Liam and Sunny Darst and welcome them into our Church in this wonderful way! We will support them in their attempts to be their best selves following the example of our brother, Jesus.

My homily follows:

My friends, each year, this celebration calls every one of us to the truth about our God, namely that this God of ours is all-loving—therefore, all-inclusive; about Mary of Magdala, faith-filled follower of the Christ, Jesus, our brother and friend, who was priest and prophet, and to the uplifting of all women to their rightful place in our loving God’s kin-dom.

And the importance of us doing this each year is not so that women can enjoy the power held by men in our Church, or to replace them, as the men who don’t want women ordained accuse, but about recognizing that our God does call women to service, not as “mouthpieces for men,” but to serve alongside them, equally.  If it were just about the power, there would be no purpose in us gathering for such a day!

I just finished reading Melinda Gates’ wonderful book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World and I would highly recommend it to you!  Melinda makes all the world connections, stating as other women have before her, but she does it in a very clear and crisp way, that when women are treated as second-class, less-good, less equipped for service, for jobs, for whatever the issue may be, and when that is supported by the culture, there is no way that women can succeed and if they do, it is always with much second-guessing of themselves and of their “rightness” to be in a position that they innately feel called to.

Gates, herself a Catholic, born, raised and educated, takes issue and rightly so, with the hierarchy and their stance against the ordination of women and I quote, “It would be impossible to quantify the damage that has been done to the image of women in the minds of the faithful as they’ve attended religious services over the centuries and been taught that women are, “unqualified” to serve God on equal terms.”

She continues, “…without question, the disrespect for women embodied in male-dominant religion is a factor in laws and customs that keep women down.  This should not be surprising because bias against women is perhaps humanity’s oldest prejudice, and not only are religions our oldest institutions, but they change more slowly and grudgingly than all others…” End quote.  And we should not be surprised that change within our Church is such a “slow” process when it is up to the same men benefitting by the system they have created, to change it! They will only come, kicking and screaming to this much needed change within our Church.  Very sad! Another reason for us not to wait for them!

Gates takes it a step further, “My own church’s ban on modern contraceptives is just a small effect of a larger issue: its ban on women priests. There is no chance that a church that included women priests—and bishops and cardinals and popes—would ever issue the current rule banning contraceptives.  Empathy would forbid it.”

The connection into the wider community of this disrespect for women and their rightful place in our churches and society was demonstrated well in a news item just a few days ago. It seems that in Nashville women have a tough time breaking into the music business, not because they have no talent, but because they aren’t men. The young woman spotlighted in the piece said that she was told by a promoter that if she was a man, he would take her record—that they already had ONE woman performer on their label! But friends, there is hope—it seems that there is an enlightened man there that is hosting shows now highlighting female performers to give them some visibility!

Through the words of President Jimmy Carter, in his equally great book of a few years back, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power, Gates further makes the connection to abuse of women in the Church and the abuse of women in the society and world at large.  President Carter says, “This system [of discrimination] is based on the presumption that men and boys are superior to women and girls, and it is supported by some male, religious leaders who distort the Holy Bible, the Koran and other sacred texts to perpetuate their claim that females are in some basic ways, inferior to them, unqualified to serve God on equal terms.  Many men disagree but remain quiet in order to enjoy the benefits of their dominant status.  This false premise provides a justification for sexual discrimination in almost every realm of secular and religious life.”  End quote. Or, we could basically say, if you hear it in church, it’s good in society as well!” And friends, on a personal note, I must say, it is the men who know that this is wrong and say nothing that I have the hardest time with!

We see how when one gender—and here, think, men, are in charge and they write the rules, lay down the dogmas, the face of God becomes male (Father, Son), those who serve at the altar are male, the unique voices, experiences and feminine ways of expressing who God is, are simply not there and a big piece of theology and liturgy goes missing.  Even Father Richard Rohr, Franciscan writer and teacher, known to many, whom I believe is doing some very good work, makes a disclaimer in one of his books that while he believes that God is not a man, he is more comfortable to use the regular words of Father and Son and the male pronouns for God. And to me Richard, that is simply not good enough! If you believe it, you gotta show it!

I think we all recognize that language is power and expression, and if there are no words in our theology of God that name God as Someone that women can recognize, then no wonder women turn from a God that can only be expressed in male terms! And I won’t even go into the issue of my pet peeve in society, the term, “you guys” that, in my mind is disrespectful of the wonderful creatures sitting before many speakers—women—addressed by this term and assumed by the speaker that they feel included. If we are worthy of a place in this society, we are worthy of a name too! We need to be more creative and inclusive!

Let’s look to our Scriptures today for a sense of how women are succinctly left out when churches are run by men alone.  In the very first line of the letter to the Romans, Paul states, “our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the Church.”  Now if Paul says she was a “deacon,” she was a deacon! Why does Pope Francis need more proof than that?!  The precedent has been set, but when one doesn’t want to see, they become “blind” to the truth.

We might also question why Paul needs to go to the lengths he does in introducing Phoebe and basically defending her “worthiness” for this position, except, that in this culture, women had no status.  It would seem that our Church fathers today would wish to continue this discriminatory practice.

In the Litany of Women for the Church, from Sister Joan Chittister; we are asked to remember all the holy women in the past and those in the present who have served and are serving, in the footsteps of our brother Jesus as missionaries, evangelists, prophets and priests.  Such a list would not have been constructed by hierarchical men in our Church, nor are these women foremost in their minds as evidenced by their discriminatory practices.

It almost seems, and Melinda Gates alludes to this, that men in power are reluctant to uplift the good that women do because they are threatened by having them appear superior.

We can look to our gospel today to see the truth of this.  We used John’s account of the resurrection story for the way it depicts women’s unique way of ministering to another—of the ways Mary was truly priest, prophet and evangelist.   You will recall that when this account is used on Easter morning, the official text uses only the first nine verses of Chapter 20 where here today, I read basically the next nine verses following what we hear in the official liturgical reading.  In the official reading, with the arrival of Peter and John to the tomb, the text says, “they saw and believed.” You will recall that Mary had already been to the tomb earlier and saw that Jesus’ body was not there and said as much to the apostles.  Next we read that, “As yet they didn’t understand …that Jesus was to rise from the dead.”  Then, we hear that they returned home!  Now, why would you end the reading there when the next nine verses are so much about why we proclaim, “Alleluia” for six weeks after Easter?!

In these next nine verses, Mary does see Jesus because she was not in a hurry to leave, just as she had not been in a hurry to leave Calvary on that fateful Friday before. And we know that who she saw was not the same Jesus that she had known—she didn’t recognize him the Scripture tells us and we must go the next step and ask why that was! The Scripture continues, she only knew him when he said her name, “Mary,” as only Jesus would say it.  And we can be sure from these Scriptures that when Mary left the tomb the second time, her news for the apostles was “Alleluia” material! Why would we not want that whole and profound story ever Easter morning, except as some have suggested, to control the story—to not give too much “uplift” to a woman!

Melinda Gates ends her book by bringing her thought and ours to a whole new level and we might say, this is why it is important to celebrate this feast, and on a Sunday as we would officially, if it were one of the other male apostle’s feast day, falling on a Sunday.  Melinda says that “equality,” the main theme of this homily and her book, is not the summit.

Equality, she says, “is only a milestone.”  The summit is not “equality,” it is “connection!” And the purpose of “connecting” is that we would better understand each other—that other’s trials might become, “ours,” that their joys would become “ours,” and vice versa.  Through the Gates’ Foundation, Melinda and Bill’s work of philanthropy around the world has taught them to be good listeners of other’s stories and by trial and error, they have done just that and have come away with a greater understanding of what people truly need in a given situation. They many times started out trying to fix a particular issue, coming out of their own stories as to what was needed, only to find out that wasn’t what was needed because they hadn’t focused on the needs of those they were trying to help.

Celebration and the uplifting of Mary of Magdala is a day for all of us, women and men.  As the Gates realized, assisting women with education and helping them to get material needs for their families, assisting them in spacing their children, not only helped the women and their children to be healthier and happier, but made the lives of the men better too, as we all can imagine.

The same is true friends for our Church—participation by all, men and women is all about truly revealing the face of our God who loves each of us beyond measure and when this happens, we all become more whole, more inclusive because we have become open to all—we are richer—we become more human, more holy, more God-like and as Melinda says well—we begin to know what it truly is, to love. And I believe this is what our God intended for all of us!  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

So, my friends; we are back to Ordinary Time with this Sunday, having walked through the Easter Season celebrating with Alleluias our praise for a God who has loved us beyond measure and one, in Jesus, who basically asks us to do the same.

We have celebrated along the way, Trinity Sunday, reflecting on a God who shows Godly goodness in three distinct ways—as Creator, Savior-Friend and Spirit of Jesus who walks continually with us throughout our lives.

Just last week, we contemplated, “The Body of Christ,” known to us, in a special way on the altar, but more importantly really, in our world, in each other, in all of creation.  For it has been said, “If we can’t find Jesus in the next person we meet, we really need look no further, because we won’t find him there either.”  So much mystery here, yet there is so much truth too.

Now today with our continuing of Ordinary Time; we discover once again that the Scriptures call us to anything but an “ordinary” response to life.  Each of the readings today are about “call”—the at times, urgency of it, but always, “the constancy” of it.

In the reading today from Kings, it seems that those called are cut a bit of a break in that, especially with Elisha, he can go home and finish up his affairs, say good-bye to his family, who in this Near Eastern world, are so important.  At this time and in this place, all security in their world was tied to their family.  But once that is done, Elisha is more than willing to follow Elijah.

In the gospel, we see more urgency in Jesus and must remember that his time is short—he is on his way to Jerusalem and for him and his would-be followers, the time is now!

So, are we to take Jesus literally here, or is there some wiggle-room in following his call?  I believe this is a time, looking at the entirety of the Scripture message, “that we be about love,” when Jesus is not telling us to be cruel to our families, “let the dead bury their dead,” but is more so saying that once we do say “yes” to being his follower; we are to be constant in carrying out our “yes,” through the ups and downs, much like a couple on their wedding day who says they will be in this, “for better or worse.”

We also see from the gospel, in its entirety, that everyone whom Jesus called didn’t follow the call in the same way.  Jesus called some to literally follow him around the region of Galilee and to carry that message beyond, while others were to serve him in place, in their homes—we think of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  So to us friends, through our life work, whatever that may be; we are called, each of us, to be our best selves, living moral, just, honest and good lives, serving others—caring for them, remembering to care for ourselves, as part of the equation, doing the right thing, doing what Jesus would do, when easy, but more so, when not easy.

I think of an example out of this past week as I participated in the first board meeting of the Winona Sheltering Network.  Following up on this idea of doing the right thing when easy or not so easy, one of the board members from one of the other Catholic churches in town, looked around the table,  saw another person and myself representing two of the other Catholic churches in town and asked why all the Catholic churches weren’t represented?  I answered his query by emphasizing what a difference it would make in the Catholic community if our bishop could come out publicly in support of this good work which includes, among other things, that of sanctuary and asylum for those needing either.

It was stated by another person that the bishop is in support of assisting immigrants to this country as he personally called the pastor of one of the Catholic parishes in western Minnesota who has declared their parish a sanctuary church to tell him that he supported his work among immigrants there.  Why not say that publicly and give Catholics all over this diocese permission, if they need it, but more so, the challenge, to do the same?  In my reading this past week; I came upon these words, “We are the Church, it’s time we acted like it!”

And certainly, I am not making light of the fact that this “standing up for others” will always be easy, for any of us, including the bishop, but I would expect that if a person is going to hold a position of leadership, then they had better lead or give up the position and let someone in there who will!

At this point in our journey of faith in this country, we face an urgency—just as Jesus did in his time, and it is for this reason that I criticize the bishop.  The time is now to do the right thing where immigrants on our southern border are concerned, the time is now to do something about gun violence in this country, the time is now to become a country once again that lifts up what is best in all of us instead of appealing to what is the worst, most selfish response to a world of suffering.

We need diplomacy, not angry rhetoric—we need understanding instead of war-like posturing.  Simply put, we need love instead of hate and the time for all of this is NOW!

Paul in his letter to the Galatians today, speaks of the guidance of Jesus’ Spirit.  Jesus told us that he would never leave us and the proof of that is his Spirit that is with each of us whenever we do that which Jesus calls us to do.  We will always be up against the human, man-made, (for the most part) laws that seek to control us, but we, as Jesus’ followers must always respond to the law that is written on our hearts—the law to love.

We can’t take our lead today from James and John who want to torch the town that is rejecting them.  We can never respond in like manner to those who have hurt and rejected us.  Our brother Jesus in today’s gospel didn’t reprimand the Samaritans for their rejection, but his own apostles for their lack of love. Amen? Amen!


Homily – Corpus Christi – Body of Christ Sunday

Friends, this feast today, Corpus Christi, or the Body of Christ, is a wonderful one in that it calls us very clearly, to the heart of the message of our brother Jesus, that each of us, be “bread” for our world.  Our Scripture readings today are all about feeding those who are hungry, giving hospitality, which Joan Chittister says, “is the sacrament of the self—in it we give ourselves away to those who need to rest their burdens for a while”—those who come to our homes, to our shores; we must give the best wine and food, and it isn’t mere food for the body, but for the heart and soul—the food of understanding of what another walks with.

We see this plainly in the gospel today from John.  Jesus not only sees and understands their physical hunger, but knows they are looking for more—to be loved and cared about, to be understood from one perhaps who truly knows the plight of their everyday lives—of how hard they have to work from morning till night to keep food on the table for their families.

And we too think of our brothers and sisters at our southern boarders—no matter the rhetoric out of Washington, these “neighbors” only want what each of us wants; security, food, and a roof over their heads, for themselves and their families.

Many women in our world, many of you here understand the sense of hospitality and care that Joan Chittister speaks of, that sense of giving people a respite from the cares of life. We were trained, growing up, we women, that when family and friends came to visit, we would always give them, “a little something” to eat before they left.

For me, it was my Aunt Eleanor on my mother’s side—I always enjoyed visiting her, because before we could leave, we had to have some, LUNCH, and my Aunt Eleanor was the best at laying out a spread! Not just coffee and cookies, mind you, but sandwiches, and perhaps even a luscious piece of cake with ice cream.  She truly knew how to treat guests.  And it was not just the physical food, but the “food” of friendship and fun!  It was almost too much! This everyday example is really eucharist in our everyday lives.

In the gospel today, we see Jesus doing the same as my Aunt Eleanor.  In this story, as well as throughout the entirely of the gospels, Jesus brings out the best, and is most generous with the gifts—12 baskets left over!

Jesus invited the people of his day to eat his body and drink his blood and upon hearing his invitation, found it confusing. This was because they were looking at his message in a purely physical way—the way our Church hierarchy has for far too long.   How can I eat another’s flesh and drink their blood?  Yet, Jesus said, they and we must do this to have everlasting life.

Surely, Jesus’ words held a deeper meaning—taking the words and actions of Jesus and making them so much a part of us that in fact we “eat” and “drink” them, his body and blood, soul and divinity—all of himself.  When he said, “Eat my body, drink my blood,” which is all of me, my life, flowing through me, my very Spirit, given by my Abba God, he was really saying, “Become like me!”

So we, as his followers, strive for that—to become more like him every day—“eating and drinking” of his words and actions—making them our body and blood, or in the words of the song, “bread for our world!”

And when you think about it, isn’t this what each of us strives for in life? To know when our time here is coming to a close, that we have made a difference, that what we feel is most important in life, that we have cared for ourselves and our families and extended care as well to all those who come into our lives, that our care has indeed extended beyond ourselves and our immediate families—that basically, the world is a better place because we were here—our life, “our blood,” so to speak, our essence has flowed out among those in our world.  I think it is significant that both Sister Joan Chittister and Father Richard Rohr, both in their early 80’s have felt the need at this time in their lives to write, perhaps, “one last book” and in their words, and I paraphrase; they didn’t want to die feeling they had not said, these final, most important words, given them, for our world!

As a final example, let’s look at Jesus’ last supper, indeed a meal of love with his faithful followers and no doubt, men and women were present. What happens there? Jesus breaks bread and pours wine and tells them that whenever they do this, he is there with them.  Just prior to this sharing, Jesus prays a beautiful prayer of love to God asking that God would bless all those given to him (his apostles, disciples and friends) and all who would believe because of their words (that’s us friends!)—he prayed that God would bless us all and keep us safe.

He prayed that they and we would love others as he had loved us and does love us, and we know that within a very short time of this prayer, his body would physically be broken and his blood physically spilled, just as he had so often broken and spilled his body and blood emotionally and spiritually, during the years of his short life— all of it, out of love for us—so that we would get this one message right. When we think of heads of state, of corporations, even religious organizations and what they put into writing about what they feel most important for their members, followers, to be about, none is as simple or eloquent as Jesus’ final testament—“I want you to love, as you have seen me love.”

Think what it would be like in our world if our country extended diplomacy with a bit of love and understanding, trying to see both sides of “the deal” not striving “to be great again,” but for a more humane resolution! Think what our Church Universal would be like if more love and less law was extended!

So, our brother Jesus, with a great deal of emotion—took the elements of the traditional Seder Meal, blessed and broke, poured and shared and raised them to a new level, saying, “When you do this, remember me—that I have loved you and so go out and love others!  If we stop at the single thought of eating his body and drinking his blood; we will be lost and confused like those first believers, hearing those words for the first time. We always need to go deeper where Jesus is concerned.

Many of us remember, as youngsters, learning that if the consecrated bread ever dropped while the priest was distributing it, everything must stop until it was reverently picked up.  Do we likewise stop everything in our world when Jesus’ body is “dropped and broken” through the trafficking of the young, through the sexual abuse of children by those who should be protecting them, through the concentration camps on our southern border, and through the ongoing violence of guns in our society—more guns than people in our United States of America, and we could go on!

I think Jesus used the simple language of eating and drinking to help the people, all of us,  see and understand the greater message he intended to share—simple eating and drinking was and is, the stuff of life, it was about keeping the body and mind, heart and soul together.  If people, all of us, could take in that simple concept of food and drink, giving us life and energy to live, and move it to a higher level, realizing that to begin to live as Jesus’ example to us, to take his actions, his words, his love, and eat of THAT “body” of truth and drink of THAT “life-blood” of goodness, then we would rise above our humanity, and in fact, be more like God.

Today, we are singing, “Let Us Be Bread” for a purpose! We are expected to be “bread” for our world and that “bread” is made up of goodness, mercy, caring, justice, understanding, and love.  And when did we ever live in a time that called for such “bread” more?  From the Vatican to the halls of Washington, calling each of us to let “our hearts break open with love,” as Melinda Gates speaks so well of in her new book, The Moment of Lift. 

When we can try and put ourselves in the shoes of those who don’t know justice in this world—having enough physical food for their families, a roof to cover their heads, being shown the respect that every human being deserves, then, and only then;  would all of this suffering cease! This is truly Jesus’ body and blood!  Amen? Amen!

Homily – Trinity Weekend

Dear Friends, 

This weekend we are treated to a fine homily by my colleague and friend, Dick Dahl who subbed for me yesterday as I officiated at a wedding out of town.  Enjoy! Thank you, Dick! –Pastor Kathy

“God for us, we call you Father. God alongside us, we call you Jesus. God within us, we call you Holy Spirit. You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things, Even us and even me.” This prayer of Father Richard Rohr’s is one way of being open to God as Trinity. Today’s homily is largely based on his recent two weeks of meditations about God as Trinity.

Although God revealed as Trinity is a central Christian belief, many of us were told we shouldn’t try to understand it because it’s a “mystery.” Fr. Rohr sees mystery not as something you cannot understand; rather, it is something that you can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say, “I’ve got it.” There is always more.

This homily’s message is simply this: Jesus revealed God as being all about relationship and connection. Jesus revealed that God is dynamic relationship itself. We hear this in today’s Gospel when at the Last Supper Jesus says, “Everything the Father has is mine…the Spirit will take from what is mine and declare it to you…(in fact) guide you to all truth.” Father, Son and Spirit is all about relationship and connection.

I find it striking that contemporary science, especially Quantum physics, affirms that the foundational nature of reality is relational; everything is in relationship with everything! The mystery of Trinity is embedded as the code in everything that exists. We are part of this dynamic relationship. Therefore this means we all belong. There are no outsiders.

The Trinity opens an amazingly expansive view of reality—all reality. In other words, all creation—galaxies, solar systems, black holes, and wonders beyond our imagining–all reflect the creative presence and signature, as it were, of the Divine relationship. Humans are not independent beings, nor is any part of creation; we all exist in radical relationship—ecosystems, orbits, cycles.

Beneath the ugly manifestations of our present evils–ecological devastation, brutality, indifference to the suffering and desperation of millions, hating each other for their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality—beneath all this dis-ease facing humanity right now is a distorted and painful sense of disconnection.

Many feel disconnected from God, from our planet, from each other, and even from themselves. This sense of isolation is plunging our species into increasingly destructive behavior and much mental illness. A dominant feeling described by a growing number of people, especially young people, is loneliness.

Nevertheless, Thupten Jinpa, who was the Dalai Lama’s English interpreter for many years writes, “We are born to connect.” He goes on, “Real life connectedness is the cure for loneliness. Opening our heart to others, caring for others, and allowing our heart to be touched by others’ kindness, living our life in ways that express compassionate care creates strong connections.” In fact he adds, “Our longing for connection, not just with our fellow humans, but with animals, is so deep that it determines our level of happiness.”

So, a sense of disconnection is based on an illusion. Nothing can stop the flow of divine love; we cannot undo this eternal pattern even by our worst sin. Nothing humans can do can stop the relentless outpouring force that Fr. Rohr calls the divine dance. Love does not lose, God does not lose. That’s what it means to be God!

As Trinity, God can be thought of better as a verb than a noun, God is a flow more than a substance, God is an experience more than a deity sitting on a throne. And we live naturally inside that flow of love—if we do not resist it. Infinite love is planted within humans and all of creation.

I repeat, whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect active communion between Three—a circle dance of love. God is Absolute Friendship. God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself. This pattern is mirrored in the perpetual orbit of electron, proton, and neutron that creates every atom, which is the substratum of the entire physical universe. Everything is indeed like “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27).

We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin. We call the Flow love. We really were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly.

Father Rohr, writes, “Once we allow the entire universe to become alive for us, we are living in an enchanted world. Nothing is meaningless; nothing can be dismissed. It’s all whirling with the same beauty, the same radiance. In fact, he says, “If I could name the Big Bang in my own language, I’d call it the Great Radiance. The inner radiance of God started radiating at least 13.8 billion years ago. We must realize that we are the continuation of that radiance in our small segment of time on Earth.”

Father Rohr says, “This is nothing I can prove to you. This is nothing I can make logical or rational. It can only be known experientially in the mystery of love when you surrender yourself to it, when you grant a blessed I-Thou relationship to every other thing—a plant, an animal, a single tree, the big blue sky—as Francis of Assisi put it, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.”

The essence of the Trinity undercuts all dualistic thinking. The contemplative mind sees similarity, connection, and meaning everywhere. We know the Trinity through experiencing the flow itself, which dissolves our sense of disconnection.

With this vision you will live in a fully alive and congenial universe where you can never be lonely again.”