Homily – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homily – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Do just[ice], now.

          Love mercy, now.

          Walk humbly, now.

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

Homily – 29th Weekend in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homily – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, as I always tell you, these Sundays in Ordinary Time are anything but “ordinary” and perhaps it is Jesus’ way of telling us that as his followers, our lives will not be ordinary.  There are plenty of people out there who live by the status quo, who look to others—see what most of the people are doing and then, follow suit. But not for us my friends—not if our intent is to follow Jesus.

His intent was to shake things up a bit and not just for the sake of shaking things up, but for the distinct purpose of making life better for all the people in his world.  He was about inclusiveness, equality, justice, expansiveness-of-heart (LOVE) and all of that, demanded more than the status quo.

In Jesus’ world half the population—by gender, had no voice—at the synagogue, they were placed in back behind a screen—no participation intended or expected.  In his society, due to ignorance, fear, or inconvenience, those with any kind of skin ailment (all called lepers) were shunned, living deplorable lives.  Children, like women, had no voice, no place, no power—unless they were independently wealthy themselves, the women, that is, which was rare.  As Jesus “grew in wisdom,” the wisdom talked about in our first reading today, the greatest gift the writer proclaims—in so many words; Jesus came to understanding and a righteous anger about the world in which he lived! The Scriptures tell us that Jesus also grew “in grace”—that “life force” that enabled him to move with power, speaking truth about the unequal conditions to the powers that ruled the world in which he lived.

For Jesus, the Scriptures ruled his world, not what his neighbor did or did not do.  It could be said of Jesus as the writer to the Hebrews proclaims today, “God’s word is living and active” [in this one].  And because this was true for Jesus, it must be true for us, and like him; we must act upon the truth we know—there must be something deep down that moves us beyond the comfortable and the convenient.  Most of us would consider this “deep down something” our morals, what when, “push comes to shove,” we can act alone, if need be, to do the right thing.

Today, I would like to tell you about a man who has visited our community twice this year, once in the spring and again, just two weeks ago, Father Jim Callahan. I would say of him, if it could be said of anyone, when push comes to shove, his eyes are on Jesus and he acts accordingly.

Eight years ago, when he was sent to pastor St. Mary’s Catholic church in Worthington, MN; he found two communities, basically an Hispanic community and an Anglo-American community—at least that is how they presented themselves for worship and the sacraments.  He asked “why?” the two separate communities and each answered, “They don’t want to be with us.”  So, as a true leader would do, he brought them together.  Prior to this, there were separate Masses, separate sacramental preparation times, etc.—duplication of all services.  Again, a true leader will find the path to inclusion.

And before I continue my story about Jim Callahan, a bit of an aside.  In the beginning I mentioned that he had been sent to Worthington to pastor the people of St. Mary’s Catholic church.  It is my contention that if the priests of this country and around the world would begin using the title, “pastor” instead of “father,”  “monsignor, or “most reverend,” they would go a long way toward helping themselves to get back on the right path to truly serving their people because every time someone addressed them as “pastor,” they would be reminded of what they are truly called to do and maybe not as easily go astray. That is why I tell you that if you need a title for me, “pastor” would be the one that I prefer.

So now, back to Jim Callahan.  Some of the back story to understand the separation and perhaps the feelings that, “They don’t want to be with us,” Father Callahan discovered eight years ago when he learned that there was an ICE raid on Worthington’s then, Swift plant that captured 1300 undocumented persons.  At that time, before his arrival, people fled to the church and found the doors locked.  When the priest was asked, “Why?” he basically said, “They didn’t want to be involved!”

Our gospel reading today seems to speak to this dilemma in the life of the Christian.  “How hard it is for the ‘rich’ to enter God’s kindom.” Jesus, of course is talking about those who are materially rich, but there are many ways that this Scripture can be applied—people are “rich” who have power, position and status in their communities, places of business, their families and to do something counter-culture, against the status quo can be difficult, if not down-right fearsome to do—there are penalties for being different! One part of us wants to do what is right, but it can be very hard.

This is where hope comes in—that ability to trust and move toward what is best for all believing in a good outcome.  The psalmist today says well, “When morning comes, fill us with your love and then we will celebrate all our days.”

My friends, our commitment as Christians, as followers of our brother, Jesus, doesn’t allow for such a response [as] “we don’t want to be involved.” In Jesus’ memory; we can hardly do less, than be involved! Father Callahan thought the same.  Two years ago, when the president issued his crackdown on the undocumented in our country, shortly after his election in 2016, Father Callahan and his community in Worthington made official what they had been doing right along by becoming a Sanctuary church, caring for their needy sisters and brothers in their midst as they worked their way toward citizenship. He made it known then that the doors of St. Mary’s would always be open to those seeking asylum or presenting with any other need.

In a talk that I attended at St. Mary’s University here in Winona approximately two weeks ago; Father Callahan gave some of his rationale for his actions in Worthington. First he spoke about the notion of “image of God” and that this is the core symbol of human dignity—that each of us is made in the image of God.  He reminded us that a common theme in the matter of immigration or other issues of power is always, “dehumanization”—if someone can be made out to be a criminal, a rapist, etc. we are perhaps “justified” in our abuse.

Next, he spoke of “the Word of God,” our Scriptures, our holy books—these words tell us the way we are to go! And finally, “the Mission of God,” that calls us to basically, “walk the talk.”  Father Jim shared that the hardest part of being an immigrant, “is to be no one to anyone!”

He went on to say that immigration is not a problem to be solved, but is about people who need to be healed.  We have to remember why these people have risked their lives to come to this country—for a better life for their children, free from bloodshed, fear and hunger.  And in this regard we must again remember our brother Jesus—who is God—the same God who takes on the form of the most vulnerable throughout history.

Father Jim shared his experience of listening to the stories of the immigrants and said, “In the face of that; you cannot NOT act!” In answer to a question from the audience that he describe an immigrant from his experience; he related the harrowing experience of a woman, in her struggle to get to this country, losting most of what all of us hold dear; spouse, children, livelihood and yet, in the end she could still express gratitude that even though her family was gone, she had been blessed to have them because they made her who she was today.

I would think that at times like this, a person would have to realize that they are in the holy presence of God! Father Jim concluded his comments by saying that in such matters as these, it is “Jesus who crosses borders” and that in our response as a country, as individuals, that the walls of our heart” are many times the greatest” borders to cross!

Finally my friends, I knew that I needed to share Father Jim’s story with you because he is really a soul mate to all of us in our ministry here—as the mission of St. Mary’s Catholic church comes from John 17 also—“that all may be one.” Indeed! Amen? Amen!

 

 

Homily – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, we come to this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time amid many other significant mileposts in this month of October in its first days.  Thursday was the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, one of our brothers in the faith who lived over 800 years ago, but has been and continues to be loved to this day by Catholics and others, the world over, due to his respect, care and actual delight in all of creation.  It has been said of Francis, that probably more than any human who ever lived; he lived closest to the life of our brother, Jesus.

The first Sunday in October on the Catholic calendar is always Respect Life Sunday.  Many staunch Catholics use this Sunday as their “flag Sunday,” so to speak, to uplift life within the womb and the need to defend that life and rightly so.  Those who take the longer view as did Jesus and Francis realize that all life, in every form, human and animal, animate and inanimate, must be respected and it is here that the issue of life moves into a gray area—which life, when, where, how, as we deal with our very complex world.

Our baptisms, confirmations, our well-formed consciences demand that we struggle with these life issues and with God’s help, come to the best decisions.  No one can do this tough work for us; we must each struggle in order to come to the best answer.

There is much in our world at present that causes us to “go deeper,” again as our sister, Hildegarde of Bingen wrote.  Some of the tough work at present is as follows:

  • Placing people on the Supreme Court that live by the values this country stands for, certainly among them, respect for life, all life, from beginning to end.  What happened in Washington this last week calls into question whether “respecting life” was even on the agenda, especially when it comes to women.  The candidate confirmed had been credibly charged with abusing women.
  • Finding just and compassionate ways to treat the alien residents among us—the current situation in Arcadia, WI with recent arrests by ICE are certainly cases in point. Our board, in your name has gifted, through the Winona Sanctuary Network, those working with affected families, $250.00. We are aware of one family, a young mother with a 10-month old who our gift will aid, both with material needs and legal assistance for her husband, and there are others, we are told.
  • As we consider the full range of issues included in Respect Life Sunday; we cannot forget, care for our beautiful blue planet. Wisconsin Public Television this last week aired a special report on the crisis of plastic on our planet—it is everywhere, so much in our oceans and it lasts forever! This is something we all have to be aware of and look for ways to use less and to properly care and redistribute that which is already here. San Francisco is a model in this regard.  They are striving to be self-sufficient in energy through the use of solar power by 2030 with measurable increments through the years! They have fountains throughout the city to fill water bottles, centers to recharge batteries for electric cars, and recycling is top priority there. The project is called The Years Project and cities with a will to do the same could replicate their efforts.

Our readings for this Sunday speak to the idea of “relationship,” both with God, our neighbors on this planet and with the most vulnerable among us.  In addition, these readings call us to our basic need as humans, for other humans—we can’t do it alone. The current situation in my family of origin with my sister-in-law, Stephanie reminds me once again of this.  The first reading from Genesis says as much and more—“it is not good for the earth creature to be alone—this is why people leave their parents and become bonded to one another.”

As an aside and here, I will shift our focus a bit; we can be most grateful for The Priests for Equality text in this regard as it aids us in seeing the equality and inclusiveness of our God.  In older texts, “Adam” is read as the male form of humanity and of course, created first by the male God—remember who wrote the text! But in this more inclusive text from PFE; we learn the true derivation of “a-dam”—which is, “earth creature.” Upon putting “a-dam” to sleep and dividing the creature in two, only then are male and female forms created!  And when the male creature noticed what had happened, he said, “This time, this is the one!” But we must notice too that the text does not say, “this is the only one,” who will make a good mate, thus our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers can read this text and find themselves within it—“this is why people leave their parents.

We always have to look for the grandest, most important message that our good, inclusive God is trying to convey.  And here, it is that the “earth creature” should not be alone—not that the man must bond with the woman.  Such a small reading of this text makes our God small too.  We might say, “Relationship, relationship, always, relationship!”

In conjunction then with “respecting life,” the second reading from Hebrews fits well too.  Here we read that because Jesus became, “little less than the angels,” human that is; he is not ashamed of us, but indeed uplifts humanity by calling us, “brothers and sisters!”  We see too in the Genesis reading the true disposition that we as humans should take toward our bodies—“the woman and man were both naked, but they were not ashamed.”  I know that is not the training I received growing up concerning my body!  Jesus then confirms this disposition in Hebrews through this writer declaring that Jesus is not “ashamed” either to take on human flesh.

The Gospel reading in fact takes this one step further in uplifting all of humanity, especially, the least among us.  Jesus is calling the community in which he lives to reverence, to respect, in deference to today’s special Sunday, for the very least among them—the children.  In Jesus’ time, as you know, children had absolutely no place, no power.  But, he changed all that in telling the people that unless they became like little children, they could not be part of the kin-dom.

Bringing this to our present day, if we are too to be like little children, how different might the month-long Synod on Youth in Rome among the bishops look if in fact any youth were invited to be part of the deliberations? How different might the actions of priests and bishops be with regard to clergy sex abuse if they had taken Jesus’ words here to heart?

Respecting life is really about reverencing life in all its forms as that first Francis, 800 years ago did.  Pope Francis has indicated to his world in Laudato Si his concern for our world, its environment and climate and he must continue to expand his notions in this regard to include true equality between women and men.  Only when the “earth creature” is seen inclusively as “God-infused” in its feminine and male forms, while different, still equal, can we truly celebrate Respect Life Sunday within our Catholic church.

When the clergy speak the same thought as I just did; they underscore the different, not the equal, really meaning, not equal, but in fact, different, and so, less than. Their actions through time with regard to position, inclusion within the highest places of the Catholic church are proof of that.  Women’s voices are missing—it’s as simple as that and because they aren’t included and considered, abuse can continue.

By extension, this abuse continues into society as well supporting the patriarchy there—the current Supreme Court fiasco is proof of that! Those who aren’t considered are ultimately, forgotten. On this Respect Life Sunday then, let us truly respect all life and live as though we believe that should be the case! Amen? Amen!