Homily – 4th Sunday of Advent in a Time of Pandemic

Dear Friends, we are concluding our journey through Advent this next week and awaiting with joy all the ways that our brother Jesus chooses to come into our lives beginning with Christmas and on through our life times. Our faith calls us to be aware and to see all the opportunities to come to know Jesus better through all those who come into our lives–because, you see, he is there if we can “see” more with our hearts instead of only with our heads. We will gather on Christmas Eve for a Zoom Mass and details of that will come next week. Hopefully, many of you reading this can join us–everyone is welcome whether you are a regular member or not! Wishing you all the best gifts of this Season–peace, love and joy! Please be in touch if I can help in any way–by phone, 507-429-3616 or by email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. My gratitude to each of you, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

All-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Jesus the Christ, who lives and loves us, forever and ever— Amen.

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Readings:

  • 2 Samuel 7: 1-5,8-11,16
  • Romans 16: 25-27
  • Luke 1: 26-38

    My friends, we have come to the last Sunday and week of the Advent Season as we await in memory that first coming of our brother and friend—Jesus, the Christ into our human existence.

   The point of the Scriptures today seems to be to “root” our friend and brother—Jesus, clearly into the history of the Israelite people—through the family of David, a shepherd.  The other piece to remember as we read today’s Scriptures is that this “rooting” in Old Testament times was seen to have happened through the male line, thus we have the addition in today’s gospel reading from Luke that mentions the fact that Mary is engaged to Joseph who is of the “house of David,” even though, if we believe the entire story laid out in this gospel reference; Joseph will have nothing to do with Jesus’ conception or ultimate humanity where genetics are concerned. 

   The piece that the text does not mention is the fact that Mary is of the house of David too; but at this time, women weren’t seen as contributing anything to a birth except as a receptacle for growth, thus the omission of this significant aspect. 

   Unfortunately, this misguided notion, that genetically, women played no part in determining their offspring prevailed well into the 19th Century, probably because the science wasn’t yet there to call a lie to this fallacy even though most people could see the likenesses of women in their children. And if truth be told, the patriarchy that prevailed in Church and State for far too long helped to hold these ideas in place.

   But, by 1854, it was realized that women did play a significant part in the creation of children, thus, Pius IX found it necessary to establish the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which states that Mary, the mother of Jesus was conceived without the stain of original sin, so as to make her, in their eyes, a “perfect” receptacle for the Messiah.  

   Now, that seems all nice and tidy—right?  Wrong!  You see, the very definition of humanity includes the fact that we are not yet perfect, therefore, if Mary was without sin at birth and ever after, then she wasn’t human and couldn’t give that component to Jesus, who as God simply wanted to be one-with-us, perfect or not. 

   Again, unfortunately; we see the Church, in its hierarchy, trying to move our God, far away—on a pedestal, out of sight and certainly not a part of our everyday, messy, at times, lives.  I always think of Paul’s wonderful letter to the Philippians, chapter 2 where he says of Jesus, “His state was divine, but he did not cling to it, but became as all of us are…”  Now, that doesn’t sound like a God who wanted to come into a perfect existence, but rather one of possibilities. 

   We see this same problem of humans not getting it right in the first reading from Samuel today.  David, whom we know started his life as a shepherd boy, the youngest of Jesse’s 8 sons, the most unlikely pick for king, was in fact, the one, chosen; not because he was perfect, but because God saw his potential if he was given the chance. 

   David, like us, had to learn as he moved through his life.  The Scripture selection chosen today includes David’s concern that a temple be built to house the Ark of the Covenant.  In David’s mind, God needed a temple because he—David lived so lavishly that it only seemed fitting that God “be housed” in like manner. We see that God doesn’t address David’s concern, because what God wants is that David would become a good king who truly cared for his people. 

   This theme of being a “good leader”—someone who basically says, “Yes” to God and then proceeds on, not always knowing at the outset what the “yes” will mean, follows through each of today’s readings culminating in Mary’s “yes” in Luke’s gospel to give birth to the Messiah. 

   The “glory,” we see comes not through power and wealth amassed, but through the person called; David-Mary-Jesus and us! 

   The Advent and Christmas-time Scriptures always include the fact that Jesus, our Savior, mentor and friend comes for the poor and he shows this by his own birth in Bethlehem, in a stable with shepherds among his first visitors. A good time to remember that David began as a shepherd too! 

   So, what am I saying—that we must all be shepherds? No! But what we must be about is simplicity in our lives.  We must be about truth—and about more than amassing wealth and status.  Jesus came simply into our existence to show us the face of God in human form so that we could then go out and do likewise. 

   If we get lost in the material, forgetting the love as my mother-in-law, Margaret was fond of saying, then; we will never be able to see the face of God in others!

   I spent time at the beginning of this homily trying to set the story straight where women are concerned in the whole of Salvation History, because this is part of the truth of why Jesus came.  He came for each of us, to lift up our humanity, basically saying, by his presence in it, that, “It is good!” 

   Our task then, as his followers, is to continue this good work, saying by our own actions of inclusion, justice, mercy and love, that we, in fact—get it! We understand that the heart, which is wiser than the head, is what it is all about, as we face every day life and people. 

   So, my friends, this Christmas-time, let us be about love, not judgment, not rule-keeping, and not about the cross in our “rear-view mirrors,” not worshipping God in the too small boxes that have been given us, but widening our view, “opening some windows,” and thus, seeing through hearts that can include all! Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”

  1. O God, as we complete our Advent waiting—help us to remember what a gift you have given us in Jesus entering into our humanity, we pray—Response:  “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • O God, may the wisdom and grace of the Spirit overshadow all the newly elected to be people who will truly work to care for the least among us and strive to bring peace to our country—uniting us under this common purpose, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind, and spirit–especially those struggling with COVID at this time—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • For those in our midst who have less than the basics of life, help each of us O God, to be challenged to do what we can to make a difference in their lives, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • O God, as we come to the end of a year and look forward to a new one with new beginnings, let us strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat people and our world accordingly,  we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”

 6.  Loving God, be the strength for what each of us most needs in life, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”

  • For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us; give us patience to be the people you want us to be, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • 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:  “Come, Jesus, Come.”

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts and for those of others—then response

Let Us Pray

Loving God, fill each of us with your goodness—goodness that can see beyond our own needs to the needs of others. As we prepare for your wonderful coming among us, let us hearts always to be open to new ideas, ways we haven’t thought of yet to make our world better. As you came simply into our world, help us to search out ways to live more simply in order that we can be good stewards of our planet. Surround us constantly with your love and mercy and help us to respond to our world through these same gifts. We ask all of this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit, God, living with us and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, we won’t be together in person, but through our hearts, remembering that Jesus is always with us!

Prayer of Communion

O Jesus, as Christmas draws near make us grow in faith and love to celebrate your coming, you who have graced our humanity by entering into it. We ask this in your holy name—Amen. 

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Homily – Gaudete Sunday – 3rd of Advent in a Time of Pandemic

Dear Friends,

Again this week, we won’t be meeting “in person”–the best we have been able to do in this time of pandemic is the monthly, or so, Zoom Mass with our next one being, Christmas Eve. But for now, we are to Gaudete Sunday, part-way through this season of mounting joy as we await the coming of our brother Jesus, who, as my friend, Fr. Jim Callan of Spiritus Christi Parish in Rochester, NY is fond of saying, “is coming and coming and coming throughout history.” If we were to reflect on nothing more than this for the entirety of Advent, that our God is coming and wants to continually come into our lives, we would have ample to think on…

All the readings for this Sunday of Rejoicing (definition of Gaudete), reflect this sense of joy. May each of you, as you prepare for this wonderful feast of Christmastime know the joy that only our God can bring! Notice that I said, “Christmastime,” as we celebrate officially for 12 days, but every day is really “Christmas” from a certain standpoint, because what this feast is really all about is the over-the-top love of our God for each of us and that is something we can celebrate all year long!

My continual prayer for each of you is that you would stay safe and well in this time of pandemic as we await the vaccines. Please continue to mask and social distance as it will take some time to get everyone the vaccines that they need. If I can help you in any way, please do not hesitate to be in contact, by phone, 507-429-3616, or by email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. –Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

Rejoice always in our God—let us say it again—Rejoice! God is near!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Creator God of Jesus, the Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church:  the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time.  Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will give us for he is our brother and friend, forever and ever—Amen.

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Readings:

  • Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11
  • 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
  • John 1: 6-8, 19-28

Homily

My friends, the Latin word, “Gaudete” means, rejoice.  Throughout this Advent Season; we have been on the cusp of rejoicing and with this Sunday; we are given full permission to do just that! The whole of Advent reflects on the mounting joy that we as a people should come to with the realization that our God loves us enough to want to be, “one-with-us”, Emmanuel. 

   All of our readings for this Sunday speak of this joy as we come to fully see this truth that our God wants nothing more than to be among us, showing us the way, through Jesus, to be our best selves, sharing with all our sisters and brothers who inhabit this beautiful earth with us. 

   The prophet Isaiah proclaims that this loving God will be present—visible, that is, first, to the poor.  God will show mercy to the “broken-hearted” and “liberation to those in prison.”  Jesus, the most perfect manifestation of this merciful God thought this prophecy of Isaiah was so important that he announced the beginning of his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth in the synagogue by quoting this very prophecy of Isaiah. 

   Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians continues Isaiah’s prophecy; in effect, telling us how we should be in the world by encouraging us to, “accept only what is good” and “avoid any semblance of evil.” He concludes his instruction with a blessing; “May the God of peace make you whole.”

   We move to John’s gospel this week for a clearer picture of just who the Baptist, also, by name of John, truly was.  John the Baptist names the One to come after him, “the strap of whose sandal he is not worthy to loose, ‘the Light.’”  And in these times of darkness from a virus within, taking thousands of lives daily in our country and around our world, to viruses without; racism, sexism, clericalism—to name but a few; when did we ever need, “light” more?

   John the Baptist is said to be, “a voice crying in the wilderness—make straight our God’s road.”  The image of someone, “crying in the wilderness,” is a most poignant one for me at present due to a situation that I encountered recently of which I will speak to in a general way. 

   Probably all of us during this troubling year—2020, that has included COVID 19 and separation from family and friends in order to keep us all safe, racial unrest—precipitated anew with the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day, and a most contentious presidential election, have been part of discussions with family and friends over these issues.  I believe there is a great divide in our country over these topics, to the point that family members and friends have at times been unable to even talk with each other due to an impasse around these issues. 

   Probably the most egregious aspect, in my mind, in these impasses has been the fact that our president has stoked the flames of unrest rather than try to bring about peace. 

   I raise this issue today because recently I found myself thrown into a discussion with people that I have considered friends who were unable or unwilling to discuss a “bombshell” dropped on us by one within our group of friends concerning how we should see, “the absolute fraud” of our recent presidential election.  And what made this so difficult was the passion of the person trying to claim, what in my mind is pure fanaticism which has been rejected across this country in court after court as baseless. 

   And what makes a situation like this so hard to deal with is the fact that groups wanting to remain intact will refuse to express any truth to the contrary in order to “save the group” from imploding upon itself.  I have in fact done this in the past—said nothing, in order to, “protect the group,” but this time I felt a need to speak against the message being laid upon us for the reasons I expressed above.  I felt like John, “as one crying in the wilderness.”  And the equally sad part, as I reflect on this, is that this person most likely feels that they are too, “crying in the wilderness.” 

   One of the side effects of telling lies—something our president has been found guilty of in almost every day of his 4-year presidency is that there are people, too many people, who for whatever reason, believe him and will go to any lengths to support him as is apparent in his and their protracted appeals to have the election overturned in his favor. 

   As David Brooks, a traditionally conservative columnist for the Washington Post spoke of it recently, and I paraphrase; there is no talking to such individuals—I have tried—they are emotionally entrenched and logic and facts will not dissuade them.  One just has to let them eventually see it, if they can.

   So where does that leave someone who is trying to follow Jesus who encourages us to see, “the face of God” in all that we meet?  I must say that it leaves me most perplexed and I can only ask Jesus to show me his “light” to adequately find my way through. 

   Perhaps some “light” for me and others comes in Paul’s words today to the Thessalonians, “Accept only what is good,” “avoiding any semblance of evil.” In my position as a pastor, writing to you to hopefully, “spiritually uplift, and to challenge,” I struggle to remain non-partisan and the only way that I can teach, as it were, is to repeat what Jesus said so often, “Check the fruits.” 

   If your action or the actions of others bring peace—for the most part, a willingness to care for others beyond oneself, and a sense of overall, well-being; I believe we can name that as, “good.” If not, then perhaps, we are not, “avoiding any semblance of evil.”

   So my friends, my apology to each of you for reflecting out loud in this homily, but I thought that perhaps there was value for you as well. In conclusion; I think it is a good reminder that Jesus’ entire ministry was about bringing life and life to its fullness.  And once again, Paul’s blessing, in that light, rings true—“May the God of peace make [us] whole.”   Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”

  1. O God, bless our Advent waiting—help us to prepare simply for your coming among us and share abundantly your gift of love with others, we pray—Response:  “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • O God, may the wisdom and grace of the Spirit overshadow all elected leaders to be people who will truly work to care for the least among us and strive to bring peace to our world, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially help those struggling in any way today—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • For those in our community who have less than the basics of life, help each of us O God, to be challenged to do what we can to make a difference in their lives, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • O God, as we come to the end of a year and look forward to a new one with new beginnings, let us strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to turn some ways of thinking on “their heads,” we pray—    Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”

 6.  Loving God, be the strength for what each of us most needs in life, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”

  • For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
  • 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:  “Come, Jesus, Come.”

9. Loving Jesus, in this Season of Love, unite hearts in our country around all that is good and true—help us to heal broken hearts by speaking truth to power, we pray—

    Response:  “Come, Jesus, Come.”

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

Let Us Pray

Loving God, fill each of us with your goodness—goodness that can see beyond our own needs to the needs of others. As we prepare for your wonderful coming among us, let our hearts always to be open to new ideas, ways we haven’t thought of yet to make our world better. As you came simply into our world, help us to search out ways to live more simply in order that we can be good stewards of our planet. Surround us constantly with you love and mercy and help us to respond to our world through these same gifts. We ask all of this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit, God, who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be physically present to each other, nor receive the bread of the altar, but please know that Jesus is with us—each one, each and every day!

Prayer of Communion

God of wonderful mercy, may your divine help, free us from all that clutters our way to you.  Prepare us for the birthday of our Savior who lives among us, always and forever—Amen. 

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Homily – 2nd Sunday of Advent in a Time of Pandemic

My friends, I have always thought that one of the most appealing aspects of the Catholic church is its richness of symbols and within the holy season of Advent, we certainly do see the truth of this.  From the greens of the Advent Wreath which express so simply and wonderfully our hope in a God through Jesus who will come again to us and our world to the liturgical color of blue, and the continual lighting of candles—one more for each passing week, shedding light into our existence—this season is full of announcement and preparation, longing and mounting joy!

   Today, I would like to speak about the liturgical color of blue and its meaning in light of Vatican Council II.  I checked into sources—Catholic Directory and other on-line sources for some history on the newer use of the royal blue and white for Advent as opposed to the purple and pink colors of older times—pre-Vatican II and found the information, “sketchy” at best—almost as if it had never been done. 

   If you are a frequent visitor to a traditional Catholic church in present day, you will see the Advent Wreath adorned with purple candles and a pink one for Gaudete Sunday. The vestments of the priest and any drappings in the liturgical space are purple as well. 

   Here at All Are One, Advent’s color has always been and will continue to be blue. I checked with a local liturgist as to his recollection of the starting of the use of blue for Advent and the return to the purple and he seemed to connect the start and finish of the blue for Advent with particular priests serving the parish.

   So, what are we to make of this?  A good place to start would seem to ask what the color “blue” represents and then look to its significance liturgically. 

   The color blue is reflective of the blue “of the sky” and of “the ocean.” Back in history when colors were first given to the Seasons of the Church Year, around the beginning of the 5th Century, 431 A.D. to be exact, blue was given to Mary, our mother and sister.  The color blue also signifies the “healing of God” as well as, “the Word of God.”  Blue is additionally seen as signifying, “positive light.” Another source spoke of “the Waters of Genesis” and the “beginning of a new creation,” when considering the color, blue. 

   I personally have always connected the changing of the Advent color from purple to blue with the changes that came over the years from the Second Vatican Council—not that this change was made immediately, but in the years after the Council, as those who were more forward thinking tried to be faithful to Pope John’s call that we update our liturgies through language and other rituals, to become more relevant in peoples’ lives and perhaps become more true to the real purpose of the season. And the thinking of course was that the theme of Advent and the theme of Lent are not the same and so should be reflected in different liturgical colors with different meanings. In the past and apparently now in the present, in the traditional church; we are saying that each season is penitential and about suffering, which surely isn’t right.

   So, my friends, as close as I can determine, the blue color for Advent came into being during the late 80’s or early 90’s in many parishes and then during of the end of the papacy of John Paul II (died in 2005) and that of Benedict XVI (he resigned in 2013), we reverted to the purple.

   Anyone familiar with the 28 year reign of John Paul II knows that throughout his time in leadership; he was about moving the Church back to pre-Vatican II times, and for the most part, Benedict XVI followed suit.

   So, why is this important?  I can only really speak for myself because as I said earlier; one is hard-pressed to find much where ministers of the Word and the Altar are willing to publically speak to the good of the use of the color blue to distinguish Advent from Lent, which as I said above, also uses the color purple. 

   The color purple has always stood as a symbol, a sign of a time of “penitence and fasting”—for looking deeply into our lives and asking sincere questions about, how am I doing with the “Christian Experiment”–with truly following in the footsteps of our brother Jesus?  Now for the Season of Lent, this seems an appropriate task, but not for Advent. 

   Our readings for this Second Sunday in Advent let us know that. Isaiah clearly states, “Console my people—give them comfort—speak tenderly to Jerusalem’s heart—that its time of service is ended—make a straight path for our God.”

   Peter, in the second reading, continues the theme of rejoicing—“what we await are new heavens and a new earth.” These ideas, commendations and salutations do not speak of penitence and suffering, signified by the color purple. They do in fact speak of new life—a new creation—a reason to rejoice!  Thus, the color, blue, which means all of that! 

   One of the reasons I did find, from an obscure liturgist for not using the color blue was that it would signify that the entire season of Advent is about Mary—her color, “again, being blue.  Now I agree that the whole season is not about Mary, but I think we would have to agree, she does have a significant part to play!  And when considering blue for Advent, let’s not forget that, as stated, blue is also used to signify a “new creation,” “the beginning and ending of days in the blue sky” and the “healing of God”—so evident in Isaiah’s words, “to the heart” of Jerusalem—“your time of service has ended.”

   In deference to Mary and “making the error” of somehow dedicating the whole of Advent to her; I think there are greater errors that have been made over time; slavery, the Inquisition, the Crusades, to name a few, but I digress…except to say, it seems that only a man could have such a worry as this one with regard to Mary. As an end note, it probably is not giving Mary too much credit to acknowledge her rather significant place in the history of bringing Emmanuel among us through her simple, yet most profound “Yes.”  How many of us could have shown such strength?

   In Mark’s reading, today’s gospel, where he presents us with John the Baptist, the theme of a merciful, loving God coming—wanting even, to be, One-With-Us, Emmanuel, is continued.  The Jewish people awaited the coming of the “Messiah,” one to conquer their enemies, the Romans—specifically, for so long, that it was literally, part of their, DNA.  But for all their waiting, they really didn’t understand how this “messiah” would appear—they saw it rather, one-dimensionally, and we can hardly blame them, because so often, our faith is rather, one-dimensional too—it is only with the passing of time, that we in our present times, can have 20-20 vision, so to speak. 

   John the Baptist’s words this week, while familiar, do not tell us much about how this Jesus, as Messiah will come among them. What it does tell us about is John’s sense of his relationship with the Messiah—“One more powerful than I” and of whom, “I am not fit to untie his sandal straps,” but here is the hope we should have, “he will baptize you with the holy Spirit,” whereas I have only baptized you with water.  Now, it will take these first believers a long time to understand just what John means, but in hindsight, our present day vision is clear—this is something for all of us to rejoice over—thus the color blue, for “new life,” a new creation,” not purple, representing, a time of penitence and suffering.

   Now you may think that I am protesting too much, but let me only remind us all that Jesus came, was with us for a time, and then left his Spirit that we would not see with only one-dimensional eyes, but see on two, three and even more, dimensional levels, “continually renewing the face of the earth,” realizing that Jesus first came for the lowly, thus his own birth in a stable in Bethlehem.  This may not be Good News for all, but it certainly is for the lowly and if we are truly to follow him; we must see our path in sharing the goods of this earth with all. 

   In 2021 and going forward; we once again have the chance to care for all through a new administration in Washington who will try, I believe, to care for all and the Church Universal should come aboard with this plan and not just see serving life only one-dimensionally, but on many dimensions, so that we all have a place at the table.

   For this reason, my friends, I have spent so much time in this homily discussing the color blue versus the color purple as I see this as a prime example of our Church wanting to stay stuck in the past, focusing on ourselves through “penitence and suffering” in shades of purple rather than focusing on a “new creation”—“a new earth” that seeks to eradicate world hunger, inequality in every form, systemic racism, a virus we can’t see that has dealt so much pain and suffering to so many.  We can most effectively show that now, in this Advent, through shades of blue—new life, really! Amen? Amen!

Homily – 1st Sunday of Advent in a Time of Pandemic

Dear Friends, we are beginning the beautiful season of Advent and the start of a new Church Year with the Cycle B texts and the Gospel of Mark, the apostle. Mark tends to be someone of few words–just the facts, we might say. These four weeks are a wonderful opportunity for us to check in with our loving God who continually waits for us… Advent is a time of waiting–putting off for a bit the joy of Christmas as we prepare our hearts and minds as we would prepare for any special guest to our home.

We find ourselves now living amid a pandemic, hoping for many good changes with a new administration in Washington. These are hard times calling for the best from each of us. We are completing our Thanksgiving weekend and for many of us–most of us, this holiday of family and friends looked different as we are struggling to come to terms with a virus we can’t see and for unity to be restored within our country realizing that we can get through this time if we all work together. Let that be our prayer going forward. If I can be of help to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to be in contact: 507-429-3616 or aaorcc2008@gmail.com.

Peace and love to all–Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

To you, my God, I lift my soul, I trust in you; let me never come to shame.  Do not let my enemies laugh at me. No one who waits for you is ever put to shame.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Mother and Father God, in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of Jesus’ coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother, you, our Creator, and the Spirit of us all, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Readings:

  • Isaiah 63: 16-17, 64: 1-8
  • 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
  • Mark 13: 33-37

Homily

      My friends, you know, because I share with you every year, that Advent is probably my favorite time in the Church Year. This time of “expectant waiting” is then followed by my next favorite time, the Christmas Season, which says, in so many ways, how much our God loves us.  And, if we can make the connections—in our own lives, through the ways we reach out in love; we will continue this precious gift of loving, first bestowed on us by our God.  But, I am getting ahead of myself—back to that “expectant waiting” for a bit.

   The whole notion of expectant waiting is such a rich and life-giving concept.  For those of you who have been blessed with physically carrying new life, the idea of pregnant expectation can be very meaningful this time of year.  But whether or not one has actually carried physical life within; we have all grown the “life” of new ideas within, or made plans to renew our world through education and projects that benefit not only us, but the wider world.  And, we know the joy of carrying such tasks to completion. 

   That is where we are in our Church calendar—expectantly awaiting the time when our God will be fully present in our midst—a phenomena that happens little by little our whole lives until it comes to completion at the end of our time here—at the end of our journey of love.

   Kathleen Norris, in one of her less known books, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, speaks some wisdom on the notion of “waiting.”  “Waiting,” she says, “seems at odds with progress”—[what most of us, or many of us seem to be about in our modern world] and we seldom ask whether it might have a purpose in and of itself.  Etymology helps us here, [she continues], for when we look up the word, wait, we are instructed to see, vigor.  Waiting then, is not passive, but a vigilant and watchful activity designed to keep us aware of what is really going on. Isaiah evokes this radical waiting,” [she says], “as a source of vitality:” ‘Those who wait for [Our God] shall renew their strength/they shall mount up with wings like eagles,’ (Isaiah 40: 31).

   Both Isaiah in chapter 63, today’s 1st reading, and in the Gospel of Mark, continue this theme of “waiting expectantly” and underscore the notion that this activity is anything but, stagnant.  Mark as a writer, tends to be a “man of few words,” getting right to the point—“stay alert—be constantly on the watch.” 

   If we ask any child this time of year about “waiting” for Christmas to come, we probably will hear, “I can’t wait!”  Children don’t see any purpose in waiting, but we adults know the truth of what Kathleen Norris and Isaiah are saying—that waiting makes us strong and that, this is good for us. And we will tell our children and grandchildren much the same. 

   In truth, I must add that even though we adults know this truth—that waiting makes us strong; we too, at times, find it hard, to wait.  In this time of pandemic; we find ourselves waiting for many things: new leadership that is truly concerned about all the people, a vaccine so that we can all, once again, feel safe from a virus we can’t see, thus ushering in that time when we can all be physically together again—Zoom Masses are the next best thing, but I think we are all longing to be in each other’s physical presence again!  I believe Paul’s words to the Corinthians on this 1st Sunday of Advent ring true for us, “I continually thank my God for you because of the gift bestowed on you in Christ Jesus.”  Or, in simpler terms—I feel so fortunate that our loving God gave us to each other—as a community.

   And again, Isaiah reminds us, “No ear has ever heard, nor eye has ever seen any God like you.”  Additionally, he reminds us that this God is, “intervening for those who wait,” [that God is whatever you need God to be, including], “our mother or father,” [that we are truly], “the work of [God’s] hands!”

   So, my good friends, if you, like me, set up an Advent Wreath of life-giving green boughs and blue candles, representing “hope” in the green, the strength of our mother-sister, Mary, and the blessed nature of her son, Jesus, ever “waiters,” with us, of God’s goodness, in the blue, with a white candle for the third week, representing the joy over a God “wanting” so much to be with us, and, “almost here,” then you have much symbolism to reflect on these next four weeks!

   Besides the idea of “expectant waiting,” the other over-riding theme of Advent is that of hope.  Kathleen Norris makes the connection well, I think, of “expectant waiting” and hope in the notion of, “making a hop.”  She says of it, “To hope is to make a leap, to jump from where you are to someplace better.  If you can imagine it, and dare to take that leap, you can go there—no matter how hopeless your situation may appear.

    Advent is a special time given each of us to truly consider who we are at our core—what it is that we get up for each day—what it is that drives our lives.  I call this our “spiritual selves,” that deep part of us that is the best we have to offer.

   Last week we concluded the Year of Grace 2020, which included so much—for so many—a year to remember, perhaps to forget.  We celebrated, not a king above us, but a servant, among us.  Jesus, our brother and friend, an ever-present example, shows us the way through the beautiful days of Advent and into the Christmas season—may we be “expectant waiters,” vigilant—staying fully awake, keeping our hold on hope and living with full hearts.  Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “O God let us see your face.”

  1. O God, be with us each day of this holy season of Advent—draw us ever closer to you that we might truly see you in each person that we meet, we pray—Response:  “O God let us see your face.”

2.  For all elected leaders in our country, may the wisdom and grace of the      Spirit overshadow them to be people who will truly work to care for the least among us and strive to bring peace to our world, we pray—   Response: “O God let us see your face.”

  • O God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit, and especially be with those walking with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses today, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
  • For those in our midst who have less than the basics of life, help each of us O God, to always see them,  and work to alleviate the core causes of their suffering, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
  • For our world and its people, that peace would reign in our hearts and that we would strive to bring peace to our world, especially assist us as a nation to work for unity,  now, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
  • For all those who suffer from mental illness, all those who are depressed, lonely and sad, help each of us to bring your love, dear Jesus, we pray—   Response:  “O God let us see your face.”
  • For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”

8.  Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones from COVID and all other causes, this week,—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:  “O God let us see your face.”

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

Let Us Pray

Loving and merciful God, we praise you today for all your compassionate care toward each of us, especially in your most generous gift of Jesus to us. Give us the strength to always follow his path, sharing the gifts of our earth and world with all, especially the least among us. Be with us this Advent to share your gifts of faith, hope, love and mercy with all who come into our lives. All of this we ask of you who are our God, living and loving us in Jesus, the Creator and Spirit, forever and ever—Amen!

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Let Us Pray—Again, we are not meeting in person, but through our prayers and even though we can’t share the bread of the altar, we know that you, Jesus, are always with us. 

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, may the time we spend with you, teach us to love heaven. May its promise and hope guide our way on earth and especially during this Advent.  We ask this through you with the Creator and Spirit who lives and loves us forever and ever. Amen.

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Homily – Last Sunday of the Church Year in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

This is coming a bit early, but I will be away this weekend and wanted you all to have this material in preparation for Sunday–Pastor Kathy

We have come to the end of this Year of Grace and with all endings, come beginnings! How wonderful for all of us! But back to this Sunday which is a celebration of our brother and friend, Jesus, the Christ who now lives in glory, but yet is with us always as that same brother and friend for us to look up to and to follow. May our prayer this week for each other be one of gratitude for all that is, along with a prayer that each of us strives to be all that we can be for ourselves and for others.

May each of you know peace in your daily lives, especially during this time of pandemic. And as we move toward our annual, national feast of Thanksgiving which for most of us will look quite different this year due to the need that we all practice safety for the good of us all–I extend from Robert and I the utmost sense of gratitude for each of you–stay safe and well!

We will have the treat of a homily from Pastor Dick Dahl this Sunday–thank you Dick!

Please be in touch if I can help you in any way, or if you just would like to talk–507-429-3616 or aaorcc2008@gmail.com.

Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

The lamb that was slain is worthy to receive strength and divinity, wisdom and power and honor; to him be glory and power forever.

Let us pray

Opening Prayer

All Good Creator, God of love, you have raised Jesus, the Christ from death to life, resplendent in glory as our true Model in all of Creation.  Open our hearts, free the entire world to rejoice in Jesus’ peace, justice, and love.  Bring all humankind together in Jesus, our Brother, whose kin-dom is with you, loving Creator and with your Spirit—all, One God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen

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Readings:

  • Ezekiel 34: 11-12
  • 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28
  • Matthew 25: 31-46

Homily

Do you feel you know God, that you experience God? We seek God in many ways and places. Some say God seeks us. 

We are given many images by which to find God in the Scriptures. The first reading today is from the prophet Ezekiel who spoke from exile in Babylon. He spoke of the Lord God in the image of a shepherd and did so more than anyone else.  Ezekiel was using the image to refer to the kings of Israel who acted more for their own profit than for the needs of the people. He presents the Lord God, however, as a different kind of shepherd of his people. He searches for his sheep who are scattered. When he finds them, he examines them. The injured he binds up and the sick he heals. He cares for each one. He will bring them back to good grazing land.

Ezekiel was encouraging the Israelites in exile that the Lord would restore them, free them from captivity and bring them back to their homeland. He is to them what a good shepherd is to his flocks. Centuries later Jesus used this image when he identified himself as the good shepherd, not literally, but with the connotations Ezekiel had given to the image. He also used Ezekiel’s description of how shepherds separated the sheep and goats in their flocks. They did this at night because goats need protective cover more than sheep do. But Jesus will use the image of this separation in a different way.

What does this have to do with today? We’re not looking for a shepherd. But we are privileged by Jesus to see God as one who cares about us, individually and collectively. God does not abandon us in whatever form of misery we may find ourselves.

In the Church’s Liturgical Year today is called the Feast of Christ the King. Strange isn’t it that the church insists on giving Jesus a title he never claimed or sought for himself. Why does the tendency to identify greatness with worldly titles and images often override the images Jesus gave of himself and his followers—meek of heart, often persecuted and misunderstood, etc.?

We know that after the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire early in the fifth century, church leaders became more accustomed to power and prestige, rather than identifying with the persecuted outcasts of society as Jesus had done. They downplayed and may have forgotten the basic message of Jesus in his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, you when they persecute you and say all manner of falsehoods about you because of me; rejoice then, the kingdom of heaven is yours.” 

The Gospel reading today changes our focus from the past to the future. Matthew describes Jesus in glory surrounded by angels, before the nations of the earth. He is described as saying, “Look, paradise stands open for you.” Then, astounded at being addressed as friends by him whom the angelic hosts are clearly unable to behold, those saved ask, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you? Master, when did we see you thirty and give you a drink? When did we see you, whom we hold in awe, naked and clothe you? When did we see you, the Immortal One, a stranger and welcome you? When did we see you, lover of all, sick or in prison and come to visit you?

The answer to those questions brings us finally from the future to the present. Word has it that he is truly alive and among us. When and how do we find and see him? 

After all, we believe him to be the most important person who ever walked the earth, God himself in human form! Shouldn’t we expect to find him among the powerful and famous? The people in ties and suits? The bishops in brocaded vestments or priests in Roman collars?  Hardly in homeless shelters or crack houses, in refugee camps and cages along our southern border.

We thus can easily, instinctively, get it all wrong. We must listen to him: He identified the least human person with himself. He insists that we all bear the presence of the Most High, no matter how diminished or devalued we may seem. Perhaps then the first place to look for Jesus today may not be in seats of power like the White House or the Vatican.

Let’s spell out this most revolutionary message as it has been lived out in time: Before contemporary time, entire tribes of indigenous peoples disappeared in North and South America, sacrificed to idols of gold. Jews were banished or forcibly converted long before the abominable “final solution.” Holy “religious” wars were launched in the name of God. Children of every color and tribe have been traded or killed upon birth.

To such a bleak history, the Lord of history has spoken: “As often as you have done this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me.”

Like all of holy Scripture, the parable of the end times is a judgment on the world. In human mayhem, we dismember the body of Christ. “You have done it to me.” The starving, the unwanted old, the criminal, the enemy—“the least”—are him.

This judgment of God is a moral command as well. In the eyes of Christ’s followers, the bodies of the wounded and murdered are bodies of Christ. Thus, killing is sacrilege. All wars are unholy. Implementing the death penalty is an ungodly act.

Scripture, in its greatest depth, does not merely present a moral challenge or a judgment on the world. It is, rather, a story of the mystery of salvation. For at the end of history, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made human flesh, will tell us again, “Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me.” These words that challenge us are the very words that save us. (John Kavanaugh, SJ)

This may lead us to think he is only among victims of poverty, famine and war in foreign lands. On the other hand, as Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS writes, those in need are also actually very near us. Wherever there is human need, there is Christ and we are called to respond.  

In Matthew’s great parable of the last judgment the blessed and lost are separated by one norm: the care of others. If you and I accept, with our mind and heart and actions, the vision revealed by God’s Word, then he will address us as friends. He will say: “Inasmuch as you received, clothed, fed, and gave a drink to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, that is, to the poor, you did it to me. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me.”

Where is he then? How can we find him? Everywhere. 

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “Jesus, our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”

  1. Bless us Jesus, help us to find, and take time, each day to spend with you, that we might better be able to model our lives after yours, we pray—     Response:  “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
  • Jesus, you lived a kingly life in the truest sense, help us to respond in our world with the compassion and love that you did in yours, we pray—    Response:  “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
  • For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community, be with them and their families, who know the uncertainty of unresolved issues, be it in body, mind or spirit, we pray—Response:  “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
  • For all who are suffering because of war and conflict around our world today—help us as creatures gifted with this planet to beat our swords into plowshares enabling us to be people of peace, instead of conflict, we pray—Response:  “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
  • For those in our world who suffer because of how our loving God created them, enable us all as your people to appreciate differences as gift, especially as we see these differences in our youth, in women, in those of our LGBTQ community and elsewhere—help us to see all as “equally blessed” we pray—Response:  “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
  • For our community, All Are One, show us the ways to reach out to other Christian communities, to our non-Christian brothers and sisters,  for which we may work toward that day when we will truly “be one” and gathered around the same table of praise and fellowship, we pray—Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
  • For all those who have died in this week and for their families—from COVID and all other causes—may they all be at peace, we pray,  Response:  “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”

8.  For our country as it struggles toward justice and truth, and well-being for all, we pray—Response:  “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”

          ***For all the silent intentions on our hearts, pause, we pray—Response:

Let Us Pray

   Good and gentle God, we praise and love you for sending us Jesus to show us the way to life and love. Continue to be our strength in each year of our life, constantly drawing us through the mystery of Jesus’ life on our earth, closer to you and to him. Let us always be convicted of having followed his lead—let us never fear of doing the right thing, no matter the personal cost. Grant us your peace as the sign that we have at least attempted the way toward justice for all. As we finish this Year of Grace, help us to make a truthful review of our lives and recommit ourselves to love, mercy, justice, truth, and all-around goodness. We ask this of you, of Jesus, our model of kingly life in the truest sense, of the Living Spirit—all One God, living with us and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—again, even though we cannot be at the table together in a physical way, let us remember that our brother, Jesus is always with us.

Prayer for Communion

Loving God, you gave us Jesus, the Christ, our true Model in all of creation as “food” for everlasting life.  Help us to live by the Gospel and bring us to the joy of Jesus’ kin-dom where all goodness and love exists, forever and ever, Amen.

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