Homily – 1st Sunday of Lent in a Pandemic

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Entrance Antiphon

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

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

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

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Readings:

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

Homily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “We are grateful, O God.”

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

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

Let Us Pray

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

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Prayer of Communion

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

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Homilies – 6th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Time of Pandemic

Dear Friends,

We continue this week in [Extra] Ordinary Time to be challenged by our brother Jesus to, as always, be our best selves. He asks us “to be willing,” to basically show up and do our part! This kind of challenge is never convenient, often not fun, but the “good stuff” of being Jesus’ followers. Peace and love to you all–stay safe and well–Pastor Kathy

P.S. Please call or email should you wish to chat or if I can be of any help to you–507-429-3616, aaorcc2008@gmail.com.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Entrance Antiphon

Loving God, be my rock of safety, the stronghold that saves me. For the honor of Your name, lead me and guide me.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Creator God of heaven and earth, the loving plan of your wisdom took flesh in Jesus, the Christ and changed humankind’s history by your perfect act of love. May we fulfill in our lives your loving outreach to our world—we ask this in Jesus’ name, along with you our Creator and the Spirit who all live and love us forever and ever, Amen.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Readings:

  • Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
  • 1 Corinthians 10: 31–11: 1
  • Mark 1: 40-45

Homily

   My friends, in today’s gospel from Mark, we hear Jesus’ compassionate words as the Scripture passage says, “He was moved with pity.” A leper comes to him and says, “If you are willing—you can heal me.” And Jesus’ response comes to us, “as the light in the darkness” that each of us so needs in these times fraught with a pandemic, economic instability, systemic racism, unaddressed clericalism within our beloved Church and so much more. I might add, many live, in hope, that at least 17 individuals in Washington might be “willing’’ to do the right thing for our democracy this week.

   Jesus responds as we expect that he would: [Yes,] “I am willing!”  It’s a simple, yet compelling statement. 

   A bit of cultural, back story is important to truly know just how “compelling” Jesus’ statement is.  The time in which he lived had the cultural practice of shunning people with illness that they couldn’t explain—any skin inflammation or sore was considered to be “leprous” and people were literally afraid for their lives of such things that they didn’t understand.  The result then was to send such afflicted people out of the community in which they lived.

   Now it is bad enough to do this when a person is vulnerable and most in need; but the added piece was the “community” was everything to the Israelite people and to be put outside of that community was a death sentence for them.  This was so because no one cared for their physical needs and this, as a result affected them not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.  Additionally, people connected physical illness with sin—a double bind that most people of the time wanted nothing to do with!

   Because of fear, the community responded in less than a human way and thus, Jesus’ reaction to the social outcast who dared to present to him is so much more compelling! “I am willing!” 

   There has been much in this past year of pandemic that has called each of us to, in effect say, “Yes, I am willing!”  And in those things where I have asked your assistance to serve those less fortunate; I am truly grateful for those of you who have stepped up and said, “I am willing!” I will share just a short list here:

  • February Home-Delivered Meals—to all who have and still are participating, with special mention to Michael Maher for once again organizing this outreach.
  • For those helping a young family with some meal assistance during a hard time for them.
  • For those continuing to make meals for the Catholic Worker.
  • For the continued generous financial giving of so many of you so that we can reach out in significant ways in our city, nation, and world.

   While the above wonderful actions are about physical ways that people within our community have said, in effect, “Yes, I am willing,” our brother, Jesus, continues to call each of us “to be willing” to make those significant changes in our lives that sometimes call us to go deeper and even sometimes, to stand alone. 

   I am speaking of changing our hearts and minds—perhaps our ways of thinking, to see, “a bigger picture,” to include a stranger, to listen to the story of someone whom, on the surface, we may not even like, or fear. 

Fear is a powerful emotion that might cause us to be less than human, less than Christian—to do things within a group that we might not do alone. 

   This past week, the House Managers of our United States Congress made a compelling case for why Donald Trump should be convicted of high crimes and misdemeanors, calling senators, some of whom are far from saying, “I am willing” to make this personal—for themselves, for their families, for our country—not just another political exercise.  It has been said, “the greatest way for evil to triumph is that good [people] remain silent.”

   There is much in our beloved country that needs fixing—from those who would tear our democracy asunder as on January 6th, people whom I believe live and act in our world out of a great deal of fear, to meeting the needs of all our people, those abused because they were born with beautiful black and brown skins, as women, as people who love differently than what some consider, “normal,” and the list can go on. 

   I am part of a new group in the Winona Community who is trying to assist those coming to our southern borders seeking asylum from countries where they have been abused and fear for their lives.  Pastor Dick Dahl joins me in this group.  Our Steering Committee of perhaps 8-10 people spent some time “dreaming” in a recent call about where we would like to see this mission in say, 2,3,5 years.  This is the real “heart work” that our humanity and our spirituality—our very faith demands of us—that our brother Jesus is calling us to today in the story of the leper who “assuring” Jesus that, he can help, “if he is willing.”

   After our Steering Committee Meeting this week, I spent some one-on-one time with a member as we talked about what is truly needed from us as members of faith groups when we try to meet the needs of those seeking asylum.  Basically, we agreed that our faith challenges us to make the hard decisions, even if we must stand alone.  Part of our joint “dreaming” was to recall the words of Teilhard de Chardin, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, [humans] will have discovered fire.”

   My friends, Paul tells us this week through the Corinthians, that, “whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.  To me, that says, because our God lives and breathes and acts through each of us, we show our glory and become all that we were meant to be. 

   The reading from Leviticus gives the Old Testament rendition of what the people in Jesus’ time were still living with—the notion that one of us, any of us would ever be considered, “unclean” and must be shunned.  Moses lived some 1300 years before our brother, Jesus, and in his time, he shows us the way—[Yes] “I am willing” to say that is wrong and to help you.  We, as Jesus followers must do the same, my friends—we must in our times, be willing too to right the wrongs!  Amen? Amen!

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Jesus, be with us.”

  1. Jesus, our Brother, as we reflect on making choices that affect ourselves and others in wholesome ways, give us the strength to move ahead and be true disciples in action, we pray—Response: “Jesus, be with us.”
  • O God, be with all world leaders—in our country and throughout the world—instill within each the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Help all to find the ways to peace, we pray—Response: “Jesus, be with us.”
  • Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind, and spirit–especially those with COVID, but with all other illnesses too, struggling today, many times beyond what they feel capable of bearing—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Jesus, be with us.”
  • Loving Jesus, help those looking for work to find what they need, be with those offering work, help each to move in justice to offer a living wage, we pray—Response: “Jesus, be with us.”
  • O God, help us always to strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it, help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response: “Jesus, be with us.”
  • Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, to be your loving servants, we pray—Response: “Jesus, be with us.”
  • For our community, All Are One, continue to give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, help us to discern the new ways you may wish to lead our community, we pray— Response: “Jesus, be with us.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Jesus, be with us.”

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

Let Us Pray

Loving God, be our strength, give us your wisdom; show us the way to make the choices for life and goodness in our world. Let our fear dissipate as we consider what needs to be done as your disciples.  Give us your heart to love our world and your people. Let us never be afraid to speak or act for the truth especially when people suffer for lack of the truth. Help us to be able to walk a bit in others’ shoes especially those we find hard to love—give us your understanding and your mercy always.  Surround our lives with your care. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Loving Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, living within us and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be together physically at the table to share Jesus in a physical way—but remember that Jesus is ALWAYS with us!

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, holy One, you give us food from heaven. May we always hunger for the bread of life. Grant this in your loving name—Amen.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Homily – 5th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends, today’s readings call us to consider our faith, what it means perhaps and how much it is a part of our days as followers of our brother Jesus. There is much more to be hopeful about it seems in 2021 than there was in 2020 and I think many of you would agree. There is a new tone in Washington–less negative with a willingness to work together “putting forth a bud”–hope springs eternal within me! I wish each of you peace and love–do stay safe and well as we move ever forward! As I said in the bulletin, if you need any help from me or just a listening heart, before I get to you, don’t ever hesitate to call, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com.–Pastor Kathy

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Entrance Antiphon

Come, let us praise our God.  Let us bow down in the presence of our maker, for God is above all.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

In faith and love we ask you, loving God to watch over your family.  In your mercy and loving kindness no thought of ours is left unguarded, no tear unheeded, no joy unnoticed.  Through the prayer of Jesus may the blessings promised to the poor in spirit lead us to the treasures of your heavenly kindom.  We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name and with the Spirit, one God, who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Readings:

  • Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
  • 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23
  • Mark 1: 29-39

Homily

My friends, as I was writing this on Thursday, here in Winona, Minnesota, it was snowing—just as predicted, and I always marvel that weather people are quite accurate in predicting weather patterns, even a couple of weeks out—but at the same time, it’s what they do—right? And they should be good at it!  We might say the same for ourselves as followers of our brother Jesus—as Christians.  Let me explain. 

   Most of us as adult Christians—our particular brand being, “Catholic” knows the tenets of our faith—those things that make us who we are:  one, holy, catholic and apostolic.  We all learned that these four define us as the one, true Church of Christ—that we are to be holy, that everyone is welcome and that all the teachings we believe in come from the apostles and to this day are reinforced by their successors, the bishops, with the Spirit’s help.  Now, that all sounds neat and clean, but whether it is true in practice is quite another thing. We will leave that for now.

   Today’s readings for this 5th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time suggest that faith is very important and that our faith should help us to stand firm in the face of all that comes our way in the course of our lives.  There are times when we don’t understand why life takes a certain turn—why suffering happens and as we look back on such times, realize that it is only our faith that got us through, believing that God does want good for us and not bad. 

   We see this in the 1st reading today from Job.  He is basically a good man, actually, a very good man, yet we know, “the rest of the story,” that is not shared in this selection.  We know that Job loses his wife and children, all his animals—everything really of value to him.  And on top of all that, suffers a terrible skin affliction.  What are we to make of that?

   Job we know remains faithful to God, does not blame God for what has happened, even though his friends say that he should.  The reading today shows Job’s humanity—the discouragement that we humans feel at times for why unjust things happen.  Job, it seems, “discusses” all this with God trying to come to terms with what has happened—in fact, leaning on God, a source of strength he senses, beyond his own ability to cope. 

   We see Paul’s humanity coming through as well in today’s selection from 1st Corinthians.  He seems somewhat down in this reading, saying that he basically can’t do anything but, “preach the Gospel”—and he wants to, even though it’s hard.  He tells us that he, “becomes” whatever is needed to share the Good News of Jesus—if that means—becoming poor, someone who is abused—so be it.  What is most important to Paul is that all and any people that he can get to, would know and understand and come to believe in Jesus, the Christ.

   We can hardly read this and not ask ourselves if we are anywhere close to this in our own personal faith.  I know from myself; I am not prone to “preaching” with words, but more so, with actions, or as St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach at all times, if necessary, use words.”  I don’t of course do this perfectly, but believe actions, more than words, are most important.  I believe that Paul probably did both.  He was compelled by his faith to do so. 

   With Paul, as with Jesus in today’s gospel; we see an urgency—really, to touch as many people as possible.  After a time of prayer alone and his return to his apostles; Jesus is told that the people he cured the night before are asking for him; but Jesus feels the need to move on—to share with more people.  Again, is our faith—our constancy in “preaching” the word, however we may do that, as strong, moving us with such urgency? 

   We should not miss the genuine concern that our brother Jesus demonstrates in caring for Simon’s mother-in-law.  We read in Mark, “Jesus went over to her.”  This simple comment stood out for me in light of reading Mary Trump’s book this past week about her uncle, Donald.  She relates a time early in his presidency when the whole family was invited to the White House to celebrate his two sisters’ birthdays.  Rather than Donald meeting them all at the door with a hearty welcome, the family was led to the Oval Office where the president was sitting and remained so while they all stood. 

   My friends, we might put all the readings for this 5th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time together under the title of, “Faith and What it Calls Us to Do.” We could look at the issue of suffering displayed in the readings from Job and Paul and blame God, asking why, if you say you love us, do you let such things happen, especially to those who are doing a good job, “preaching” the word? 

   As many theologians have instructed over the years, a god who would cause people to suffer, is not a god that one should believe in.  Anyone who has ever been serious about having a meaningful relationship with God has come to believe at least two things: 

  1. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us, but God is most assuredly there with us to work through whatever life brings. 
  2. Suffering, as well as joy-filled happiness is part of each person’s life and each is an opportunity to grow, to become more of who we are meant to be.  This is precisely where faith comes in .

   And granted, in happy times; we are much more able to stand in faith, believing that ultimately there is a God who wants good for us and not bad, but suffering seems a part of each person’s life–what we do with it is something we get to choose and our faith tells us that whatever we choose, our brother Jesus will be with us. Therefore my friends, it would seem that our lives as Jesus’ followers call us to be more than we would be if left to our own defenses—I think we call that grace. 

   I would like to now return to a thought I left hanging earlier.  We as Catholics live by four tenets—mainly that we are people in community who claim to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.  Simply put, we are a people united—striving to be holy, simply put, good, caring and just people, true to the teachings of Jesus and following the ways of the apostles guided in our day and through time by our bishops and other leaders. 

   From time to time, it is good to look at all the above to see how we are doing.  I think the tendency in our leaders as well as within ourselves is always to be less, rather than more of whom we can be and perhaps that is part of the suffering we experience in our human lives.

   The first tenet of our faith is, “oneness”—we are for each other or should be—not just “preach” with words, but with actions. Our country is finally beginning to look at the systemic racism that has plagued us for longer than we have been a country. If in fact we could deal with this issue truthfully and with a will to change, would we not then, be truly, holy?

  The next tenet, “apostolic,” meaning, coming from the apostles and reinforced through time, by bishops—primarily, but others too, guided by the Spirit is one, in my mind that is often missing the guidance of the Spirit. A Church guided by the Spirit would instinctively know that proclaiming to care for life in the womb, but deny that same life throughout its human existence is wrong.  A Church guided by Jesus’ Spirit would instinctively know that all must be welcomed to our communion tables and that all calls to priesthood must be considered, be they female or male.  A Church that claims to be “one” would recognize all as equal, be they black or white, red or yellow, whether gay or straight or both. A Church that is “apostolic” living Jesus” message as articulated  by his first apostles, women and men of faith, led by the Spirit would speak vehemently against the selfish notion of  “America First.”

   My friends, our lives as Jesus’ followers will always, always call us to be more, to be bigger, grander, and more noble than our smallest, “good-enough” images of ourselves.  We see this in Pope Francis, in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and we must strive for this goodness in ourselves.  We must be good listeners of each other’s stories and take them to our times of prayer as did Jesus, so that through our collective sufferings and joys, we can be that more which our world so desperately needs and then our “preaching” will be about action, not just words! Amen? Amen!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”

  1. O God, as we see Jesus reaching out to all, making everyone welcome, help us to see opportunities in our everyday lives to do the same, we pray—Response: “Jesus our brother, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving God, surround your people throughout our world who most need you, helping them to find their way toward whatever is most needed in their lives, aided by a concerned world—help each of us to do what we can to support the poor and suffering wherever they might be, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”

3.  Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling with life—threatening illnesses—COVID and all others—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”

  • O God, help us to be true followers of Jesus, willing to speak truth to power to help alleviate the struggles of those abused in this world and in our Church, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
  • O God, help us to 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: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
  • For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this year to those most in need of our ministry, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”

 7.  Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, be with those our friends and relatives who are newly bereaved to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:  “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”

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

Let Us Pray

Gentle God, you who loves us beyond all imagining—be close to us each and every day, shadow us under your wings and be the strength that we need to live as you did, conscious of being inclusive of all, loving others when it is easy and when it is not so easy. Give us the strength and courage to live out our mission, given by you for the people of God. Give us your deep and abiding peace that we would not worry, but trust and believe that you will always be with us. All of this we ask of you who are God, in the Creator, Savior and Spirit, living and loving us forever and ever—Amen!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be together physically, nor receive the Bread of the Table—but let us always remember that Jesus is with us!  Always!

Prayer of Communion

Loving God, we ask that you would help us to bring your salvation and joy to all people in our world.  We ask that we might do this well through Jesus, our Brother and Friend, who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Homily – 4th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

We continue on this week in the Ordinary Time of our Church Year that I have called [Extra] due to the on-going challenge that this time of year always calls forth from those who consider themselves serious Christians–that is, following in Jesus’ footsteps–not always the most “chosen” path to follow, even among those who call themselves, “Christian.” This week we are blessed with a homily from Pastor Dick Dahl–thanks Dick! We are encouraged to think about “who” are “prophets” in our midst, even among those who we might not consider…

Please stay well friends and be in touch if I can help you in any way, by email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com or by phone, 507-429-3616.

Peace and love,

Pastor Kathy

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Entrance Antiphon

Be with us O God—keep us safe and gather us together from among the nations, that together, we may proclaim your holy name and always give you praise.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving God, help us to love you with all our hearts and to love all people as you love them.  Bless all of us with the gift of your kin-dom. May we serve you with our every desire.  We ask this of you, in Jesus’ name and with the Spirit, One God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Readings:

  • Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
  • 1 Corinthians 7: 32-34, 35
  • Mark 1: 21-28

Homily from Pastor Dick Dahl

Friends, I will begin today by sharing the thoughts of various biblical commentators on today’s readings after which I will pose some questions for us to think about and answer for ourselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit poured in our hearts, by our Mother/Father God through Jesus.

First Reading
Deuteronomy 18:15-20

One theme in today’s readings is authority. In this first reading Moses tells the Israelites that the Lord will raise up a prophet, and the Lord says, “I will put my words in his mouth.” 

The challenge is how to recognize one who speaks with such authority? Tracing the line of authority was very important in Jewish biblical culture–for example, who did this rabbi study under and by whom was he trained? In our culture we have often connected authority with the source of one’s education (Harvard, Winona State) or their title or role in life–professor, priest, doctor, teacher, policeman, or parent.

Pope Francis said the following about prophets: Being prophets may sometimes imply making waves. I do not know how to put it. … Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say “a mess.” But in reality…prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.  “A Big Heart Open to God” America Magazine, Sept. 30, 2013)    John Lewis called it “making good trouble.” 

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 7:32-35

A Thimbleful of Love

The reading from Corinthians will probably infuriate its share of people. To top it off, Paul says it’s for our own good. (However) there is ample evidence that celibacy and virginity guarantee neither single-minded service nor whole-hearted devotion to the Lord. Also who can doubt that among married people are numbered some of the holiest people we know? And, among priests and religious, who has not found people capable of prodigious mediocrity? Or worse.

Certainly an unmarried person devoted to God will have more time for service of others, especially on an emergency basis, and also have more time for quiet and isolated prayer. All mothers and fathers I have ever known, immersed in the demands of labor and family, have in some way sighed for the time to do such things.

But the crucially operative word is “devoted to God.” If that is not there, all the “worry-less” free time in the world will not yield a thimbleful of love. And as Paul has written elsewhere, with “devotedness to God” even the most ordinary experiences of parenting, family, and spousal love can be astounding revelations of God’s grace and intimacy in our lives. John Kavanaugh, SJ

Gospel
Mark 1:21-28

Teaching With Authority

Mark viewed the fact that Jesus acted with authority so important that the dramatic healing of the demoniac in the Caperrnaum synagogue is the first action that he narrates after the calling of the first disciples. Each evangelist chooses a different deed of Jesus with which to begin the story of his public life—Matthew begins with the Sermon on the Mount, Luke with the reading of Isaiah in Nazareth, but Mark chose this scene at Capernaum in which the people are struck by the way Jesus taught as one having authority followed by his deliverance of a man possessed by an unclean spirit. 

And his presentation of the event is nearly as startling and puzzling as the original experience must have been for those present that evening in the synagogue. A word of command is followed by convulsion and a scream, resulting in complete liberation.  

Curiously, the crowd murmurs, “What is this? A new teaching with authority!” They have just witnessed a powerful example of therapy, and they call it pedagogy. What’s more, though they refer to teaching, the account has mentioned not a word of Jesus’ teaching.

This powerful episode puts in bold relief the truth that the gospel we respond to in faith is not simply a new set of ideas but a truth that is meant to transform our lives. And it is that transformation which mediates God’s power to deal with the evil in the world. The power of the kingdom of God over the kingdom of Satan is achieved by the creation of a new human family made up of everyone who does the will of God. A community of converted people is God’s secret weapon against the power of evil in the world.

Let us be encouraged that weakness is an opening for God’s healing and liberating power. When we find ourselves depressed and oppressed by the evil we detect in society (and even in ourselves), perhaps we best hear the authoritative teaching of Jesus when we hear it as a call to our own further conversion. If that seems to touch us where we are weakest, let us be encouraged that such weakness is an opening for God’s healing and liberating power. As Paul said, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2 Cor 12:9) Dennis Hamm, SJ

It is not the unclean spirit and the possessed man that trouble Jesus’ audience. They are disturbed because Jesus is acting totally out of line with his inherited status. This artisan from Nazareth dares to teach “as one having authority” in the Capernaum synagogue. Who gave him authority to teach? As the listeners puzzle over Jesus’ behavior, his teaching, and his manner of teaching, a man possessed by an unclean spirit interrupts the setting by shrieking.

The spirit who possessed the man in the synagogue is central in this story because he knows Jesus’ identity far better than Jesus’ compatriots do. He knows Jesus is “the Holy One of God.” Much to the amazement of the people, Jesus is not controlled or cowed by this unclean spirit. Instead, Jesus shows that his power is stronger than that of the unclean spirit. Jesus commands it to come out of the man, and it does!

The people now have an answer to why Jesus teaches “with authority, and not as the scribes.” Clearly, Jesus possesses powers stronger than those of ordinary human beings. Mark concludes by noting: “At once his reputation began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.”

The Western tendency to rationalize the ancient understanding of spirits is rooted in the fact that Westerners have much more power over their lives and circumstances than the ancients believed that they had. Today’s reflection invites Westerners to consider how wisely or imprudently they use their power. John J. Pilch

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After considering the above reflections (in which I inserted a few words in parentheses), I suggest we think about who we recognize as speaking and acting with authority. We live in a time saturated with misinformation and outrageous conspiracy theories that shockingly otherwise intelligent people believe and base their lives on. The very existence of objective truth has been questioned and often derided as “fake news.” It reminds me of the words attributed to Pilate, “What is truth?” before he buckled to the pressure of the crowd and condemned Jesus to death.  In brief, who is authentic? Who expresses God’s words and love to us?

Many today, after the fact, point to Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, John Lewis, and Archbishop Oscar Romero, among others. There are also likely people in your lives who act with such authenticity, whose words and lives exude authority without the unnecessary accutrements of titles or degrees.

I think of Pope Francis—not because of his title but in view of the authenticity of his words and actions. In his recent encyclical letter (Fratelli Tutti), addressed to all his brothers and sisters, he begins by describing how Francis of Assisi, even during the time of the Crusades, made an arduous journey to Sultan Malik-el-Kamil in Egypt. The Pope writes, “Francis went to meet the Sultan with the same attitude that he instilled in his disciples: if they found themselves “among the Saracens…”, without renouncing their own identity they were not to ‘engage in arguments or disputes, but be subject to every human creature for God’s sake.’  In the context of the times, this was an extraordinary recommendation. ….Francis urged that all forms of hostility or conflict be avoided and that a humble ‘subjection’ be shown to those who did not share his faith.”

What a message to us now, at this time! Pope Francis offers St. Francis as a model to free ourselves “of the desire to wield power over others” and to seek “to live in harmony with all.” Pope Francis felt encouraged by the Grand Iman Ahmad Al-Tayyeb whom he met in Abu Dhabi. Together they declared, “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis is seeking to guide us as St. Paul sought to do with the Christians at Corinth, namely to help us “devote ourselves entirely to God.”

In today’s Gospel reading, in place of writing any words of Jesus’ new teaching, Mark demonstrated it–by describing Jesus calling out the unclean spirit from the man convulsed by it. We are challenged to be mediators of Jesus’ all-inclusive love as we seek to overcome the lies and evil of untruth and divisive tribalism expressed in hostility toward immigrants, people of races different than our own, greed, and disrespect even for the planet that nurtures us. We have humble but powerful prophets from the past and from the present to guide us.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”

  1. Jesus, our Brother, as we reflect on living our ordinary lives extraordinarily well, give us the strength to be true disciples in action, we pray—Response:  “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
  • O God, be with all world leaders—and those in our country, especially our new president and vice-president and throughout the world—instill within each the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Help all to find the ways to peace, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
  • Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling today with illness beyond what they feel capable of bearing,—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response:  “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
  • Loving Jesus, help those looking for work to find what they need, be with those offering work, help each to move in justice to offer a living wage, we pray—Response:  “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
  • O God, in this new year help us to strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it, help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
  • Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, we pray—Response:  “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
  • For our community, All Are One, continue to give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, help us to discern the new ways you may wish to lead our community, and make it possible to soon be together again, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, be with those our friends and relatives who are newly bereaved in this New Year, to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”

             9. Be the light that individuals, family members and friends, and church communities need to work through the divisions caused by the past four years, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”

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

Let Us Pray

Loving God, be our strength, give us your wisdom; show us the way to be true lights in our world. Let our fear dissipate as we consider what needs to be done as your disciples.  Give us your heart to love our world and your people. Let us never be afraid to speak or act for the truth especially when people suffer for lack of the truth. Help us to be able to walk a bit in others’ shoes especially those we find hard to love—give us your understanding and your mercy always.  Surround our lives with your care. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Loving Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, living within us and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Let Us Pray—Again my friends, we can’t be together, but please remember that Jesus is always with us!

Prayer of  Communion

Loving Jesus, always invigorate us with faith in You and help us to share You with our world—we ask this in your wonderful name, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Homily – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

This Sunday brings us once again to what the Church calls, “Ordinary Time”–an in-between time when no big feast days are happening, but a time that, even so, is not without challenge–following our brother Jesus, means–we are always called to be our best. And these troublesome times in which we live call us to stand up for right, to speak the truth when just, plain truth is called for! My prayer for each of you is that you might more regularly, be able to do that. It won’t always be easy, but with compassionate words, it will always be right! Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

P.S. Please never hesitate to be in touch if I can help you in any way–by phone, 507-429-3616 or by email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Entrance Antiphon

May all the earth give you praise and honor and break into song to your holy name, O God, Most High and Most with us.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

All loving and ever-present God, your watchful care reaches from end to end, loving all that you have created.  Help us to always embrace your desire for good in us. Give us the strength to follow your call, so that truth may live in our hearts and reflect peace and joy to those who believe in your love. We ask this of you all good and loving Creator, Savior and Spirit, One God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Readings:

  • 1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19
  • 1 Corinthians 6: 13-15, 17-20
  • John 1: 35-42

Homily

My friends, in today’s gospel from John, our brother Jesus responds to the disciples’ question, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” with a very intimate response—“Come and see!” His response is in tone and content akin in intimacy to their question.  By the time they asked it; they apparently had seen and heard enough of, and about Jesus, that they definitely wanted more. 

   We might compare this scene and desire to know more and perhaps take next steps to the situation of two people falling in love.  After a time, when they are sure that, “this is the one!” one or both decide to take their “love” home to meet their family—they want to take the next step!

   Andrew and John, the disciples who inquired where Jesus was staying had more than likely witnessed his baptism in the Jordan—maybe even heard the heavenly words, “This is my beloved, in whom I am well-pleased!”  We don’t know, but something affirmed the words of the Baptist within them, that, “This is the Lamb of God” and they took the next step to follow him.

   Jesus posed another question prior to the above exchange which is also significant, I think, in the interchange between the would-be disciples and their Rabbi.  Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?”  It is an interesting question and a deeper one than simply noticing that these two men are following him.  Jesus, I believe, is asking them, what is it that you truly want—what is it that is on your heart?  These questions are truly “heart” questions.  And what do I mean by that?  These questions are about what these men truly want in life on a very deep level.  They don’t for sure have all the answers, nor have they truly thought out what following this Rabbi will mean—but on a deep level, they just know, this is right and that they must take this next step. 

   I just finished reading Kamala Harris’ 2018 book, entitled, The Truths We Hold, written after she was elected to Congress as a senator from California, but before becoming the Vice-Presidential candidate and ultimately, along with Joe Biden were elected to lead our country in the two top positions.  Before moving into this final position for which she will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021; she was one who listened on a deep—heart level for the ways she should go, always keeping in mind serving the people most in need.  It was why she became a lawyer, why she ran for and became District Attorney of San Francisco and then Attorney General of California. 

   Being a woman of black and South Asian descent; she knew what minorities live with, including discrimination which steeled her along the way to fight for justice for all—that no one would be without a voice. 

   Early on in her career as a senator and in her position on the Judiciary Committee; she was called upon to be part of the confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanagh for a lifetime position on the Supreme Court.  Within these hearings the country came to know Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who put her life in danger to come before the Senate hearings and tell her very personal story of attempted rape at the hands of a younger, drunk, Brett Kavanagh.  Because the Trump administration was determined to get Kavanagh confirmed to the Supreme Court due to his conservative views, placating his base, due process was not followed in truly investigating Blasey Ford’s allegations or those of two other women who came forward with similar charges. 

   Kamala Harris, truly her mother, Shyamala’s daughter, who spent her professional life searching for a cure for breast cancer, has always been an advocate for women— listening to her heart and then moving ahead.  Even though Christine Blasey Ford’s painful public testimony didn’t ultimately work to stop Kavanagh’s confirmation, Harris stated that it was not without merit, because it encouraged other abused women with no voices and those with voices who weren’t listened to, to come forward and tell their stories too!  “On the day that Dr. Ford testified, the National Sexual Abuse Hotline saw a 200 percent increase in calls [!]”

   My friends, I share this today because it fits so well into the chosen Scriptures of this Sunday.  Today’s readings are all about God’s call in life, to each of us, whomever and wherever we are to live out our dignity and divine natures through our one, wonderful human life.  Andrew and John heard the call to take the words “on stone tablets and make them ‘flesh’ within them—on their hearts,” as Franco Zeffirelli said so well in his 1977 epic film, Jesus of Nazareth.

   The boy Samuel is instructed by his mentor, Eli, to respond to God’s call very simply, “Here I am, I am listening [!]”  The intention of course is that Samuel will do God’s will and the Scriptures tell us that indeed, for Samuel, this was the case. 

   The fact that each of us is called to do God’s will, “committing” acts of justice, peace, mercy and love in our world as did our brother Jesus before us, as does Kamala Harris in the present, is confirmed as right by Paul’s words to the people of Corinth in today’s second reading, “Your [bodies are temples] of the Holy Spirit.”  In other words, “we would only expect this kind of action from you!”

   My friends, these are such troubling times where one, self-centered person has been able to turn otherwise intelligent people against scientists, environmentalists, historians, economists and journalists—all people who have devoted their lives to their craft, as is quoted in a Facebook piece by Bob Farnham. The reasons are many, but the reality is the same—our country has become much divided. Worse yet, for us who have come out of a Catholic background, is that this devotion to one person on the “seeming support” for one life issue has severely divided our families and our churches to the point that we can’t even communicate with each other. This inability to communicate seems to be based on whether we can agree with a black and white view of the world that names our living God as vengeful, hateful and with no understanding or mercy for the “gray” areas in life where many people find themselves. 

   With a thought toward what is needed in these troubling times where some people are convinced that it is their right to tell others what they must believe, how they must act and how they must vote; the words of Pope Francis are instructive: “The Church is called to form consciences, not to replace them.” 

   My friends, that is why I try very hard, to simply challenge your well-formed consciences, not to tell you what to believe, or how to act.  Each of you knows “right” when you experience it and likewise, “wrong” when you experience that too! Peace, for the most part, is the by-product of doing what is “right.”  Anxiety, tension and anger are just some of the by-products of doing what is intrinsically wrong or evil. 

   As we move into this New Year more with each passing day, may our hearts be filled with hope and anticipation as we strive, “to listen” to our God, through the world around us, the poor, the suffering, those without “voices,”  as we likewise strive after what is right and good at the “heart” level—doing all that we can—to be our best selves, not only for us as individuals, but for all of our brothers and sisters in this world.  Amen? Amen!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Come, O Jesus, hear us”

  1. Jesus, our Brother, as we welcome Jesus, our Messiah into our midst today, help us to be able to respond as Samuel did, “Here I am, I come to do your will,  we pray—Response:  “Come, O Jesus, hear us”
  • O God, be with all elected officials, especially our new leadership coming into office on January 20th —instill within each one, the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Help all world leaders, to find the ways to peace, we pray—Response: “Come, O Jesus, hear us”
  • Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling with life—threatening illnesses, COVID and all others—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response:  “Come, O Jesus, hear us”
  • Loving Jesus, help those looking for work to find what they need,  we pray—Response:  “Come, O Jesus, hear us”
  • O God, in this new year help us to strive to be people of peace—be with all in our country to strive for unity—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, O Jesus, hear us”
  • Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, we pray—Response: “Come, O Jesus, hear us”
  • For our community, All Are One, during this New Year, 2021  continue to give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this year to those most in need of our ministry. We pray additionally that we again soon join in person as a community, we pray—Response: “Come, O Jesus, hear us”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially from COVID, but from all other causes too—give them your peace, we pray—Response: “Come, O Jesus, hear us”

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

Let Us Pray

Loving God, you know what we most need today—be our strength, our peace—give us your heart to love our world and your people. Let us never be afraid to speak the truth especially when people suffer for lack of the truth. Help us to be able to walk a bit in others shoes especially those we find hard to love—give us your understanding and your mercy in these cases. Surround our lives with your care. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Let Us Pray—Again my friends, we can’t be together nor receive communion, but just know and remember that our God in Jesus is always with us. 

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, fill us with your Spirit and make us one in peace and love—we ask this of you, the Creator and Spirit of us all, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________