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

Dear Friends,

We continue our journey through Lent, keeping our eyes on our brother, Jesus who shows us the way. We hear this week that we are, “God’s works of art,” along with the challenge always to, “be our best selves” for us and for our world. Thinking about one of the messages that we always hear on our Lenten journey, that of “repenting,” this Sunday really calls us to see additionally, God’s mercy, in this consideration. My prayer for each of you is that you continue first and foremost, to be well and safe and get your vaccinations as soon as you can! Peace and love–call me, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com if I can help in any way, or you would just like to chat–Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

I will prove my holiness through you. I will gather you from the ends of the earth; I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your sins. I will give you a new spirit says our Loving God.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Creator God, Jesus, the Christ spoke peace to our fragmented world and brought humankind the gift of reconciliation by all he endured for us.  Teach us, the people who bear his name, to follow his example—may our faith, hope and charity turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, death to eternal life.  We ask this through Jesus, our Brother, one God with you and the Spirit, who all live and love us forever and ever—Amen.

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Readings:

  • 2 Chronicles 36: 14-17, 19-23
  • Ephesians 2: 4-10
  • John 3: 14-21

Homily

   My friends, as I said in this week’s bulletin, the readings chosen for this Sunday give us somewhat of a negative tone, reminding us of our sinfulness—perhaps an attention-getter? If that is the idea, to get our attention; I am here to say that the predominant theme of this week’s readings—that of the mercy of our good God, where we are concerned, is much more of an attention-getter for me. 

   Many of us have lived long enough to know that we aren’t perfect, that we don’t always act in the best ways that we are capable of.  On any given day, we may be feeling tired, frustrated, depressed, lazy—even selfish, and it is much easier to not respond, walk the other way, or crawl under our “blankies” and ignore what should be our best, most loving response to our world and its people.

   Enter our good God, personified in the person of our brother, Jesus.  No matter what we choose to do on any given day, our God’s response is always the same—we are loved and accepted first—but always with the gentle nudge to start again, try once more—in fact, to be our best. 

   With the above in mind, primarily the predominant theme of mercy—I would like to lift up three lines for us to consider—take within, ponder today and into the next week:

  • From Chronicles—”You can go home again [!]”
  • From Ephesians— “We are God’s work of art in Christ Jesus to do the great things God created us to do from the beginning.”
  • From John— “God sent the Only Begotten into the world to save us.” [As Jeremiah suggests above, maybe a stretch,  “to bring us home”]

   So, let us concentrate on that first line from Chronicles.  We can only imagine what joy the Israelite people felt upon hearing from Cyrus, the Persian, that now, after so many years in slavery, they could go home! It was a “merciful” gesture and reflective of the mercy that our God shows us all.  Sometimes, we may not be ready for the mercy our God offers and for that reason, we may too, like the Israelites, have to remain, “enslaved” for a time. 

   It is always important to remember my friends, that Scriptural stories that appear to be about one thing are always intended to take us deeper, show us more—about others, yes, but about ourselves too.  Lent is about realizing, as we go deeper, that we can always, “go home again,” too. 

   And that moves us nicely into the next line that I lifted up for us today from Ephesians— “We are God’s work of art” …called, “to do the great things God created us to do from the beginning.”  In other words, as someone wiser than me has said, “We are truly spiritual beings, here, having a human experience!  Our free will, both gift and perhaps, “hinderance” at times, depending how we choose to use it, does, as we know, allow us to choose the good and the not-so-good.

   Keeping this in mind—our ability to choose good or evil, is a very good reason to keep checking back with our brother Jesus as he is truly, our “north star,” pointing the way for us to follow. Now, we only need to do this, if we want to consider ourselves, Christians—his followers! When we are in doubt about a decision to go one way or another, we must consider if this action would be one Jesus would do and if we can answer, “No,” –then our path is clear.

   Now, that having been said, I must add my disclaimer for good, personal self-care.  We must always, always, consider ourselves in the equation of who we are caring for.  Even Jesus took, “time away,” to care for himself! 

   The third line from the gospel of John that I lifted up for us to consider is, again, “God sent the Only Begotten…to save us.”  I see this line really as an extension of what Paul said to the Ephesians.  What Jesus came to “save us” from, was ourselves—our humanity, our less than perfect selves—in other words, to show us the way so that we could and can do those “great things God created us to do from the beginning.”  We short-change ourselves when we simply consider that Jesus, “was sent” and “came to die for our sins.”  That leaves the action with Jesus alone.  I believe we were always meant to do our part and that is the fuller piece of Cyrus’ invitation to the Israelites that, “You can go home again.” 

   During this 4th week of Lent, as we consider, “how we are doing,” I think it is good once again to look at the “Incarnation” and ask ourselves what that was truly all about.  Simply put, rather than our God being about “wanting to punish us” for our wrong-doing, the Incarnation really tells us about a God loving us creatures so much as to want to be, “one-with-us” in the person of Jesus—of Jesus wanting to step into our sufferings, our joys—to be one with us—to again, show us the way. 

   Often during the Season of Lent, we hear the word, “repent.”  In conjunction with today’s first reading with the Israelites and us—by extension, being told that we, “can go home again,” it is good to remember, in this broader context, that, “repent” and “return” come from the same Hebrew word. 

   I think that many of us “long-time” Catholics, some of us, “cradle Catholics” have lived many of our years enduring a scourge we called, “good ole Catholic guilt” and at some point, decided that we weren’t going to continue doing the good we did because we would feel “guilty” if we didn’t. We wanted to have a higher motive.  The “black and white” rules, “Do this, don’t do that” fall into this category. And if living and doing the good you do falls under, “I will feel guilty if I don’t,” makes you a better person, then that is the way for you.  But I would suspect this is not the case for most of us. 

   Our readings for this 4th Sunday speak about the People of God continually, “choosing unwisely,” yet their God’s response was always to treat them in a loving way—in fact, God’s response came to be spoken about as, “lovingkindness”—one word. 

   God’s response to this People and to us was and is more than likely so because God knew most of what they and we do, we don’t do willingly, at least not in a pre-mediative way—it comes out of our human selfishness—at times, to protect us from supposed hurt, etc.  and causes us to do some of the “isms” that plague us, even to the present day—sexism, racism, ageism and so on.

   “Racism” is something our nation has been called to look at squarely in the wake of the death of George Floyd nearly a year ago, and his murderers being brought to hopeful justice in the next months.  But none of us can put this issue of racism at our roots to rest when these trials conclude—we are really all on trial here! 

   The whole notion of “sexism” in our country and around the world was raised this past week with our National Women’s Day, celebrating the many and varied accomplishments of women.  In fact, since 1987, March has been designated as National Women’s History Month.

   We might ask if such days even affect us—a good question to ponder in the remaining days of Lent. Where and when do I witness women placed in second class positions or denied entrance to a particular field simply because of how they happened to have been born—no fault of their own! And furthermore, what am I going to do about it going forward?

   One of the things I like to do to advance the cause of women for equality in our world in the realm of the Church is to search out “who” Mary, Jesus’ mother, truly was.  Our church hierarchy tends to put her on a pedestal, lifting up mainly that she said, “Yes” to God with no further input sought out or even asked for. 

   Lesley Hazelton, in a wonderful book entitled, Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother does well to further the cause of women as strong and called by God to witness to our God’s love.  The author stretches her readers’ minds and hearts to see this icon of Catholic faith as not someone to be placed on a pedestal, out of sight and consideration, but out front, challenging our Church to see the gifts of all.

   Hazelton delves into the culture within which Mary was born and lived. Women, and most were strong, or they didn’t survive, would most certainly have known much that was practical about caring for their health, their bodies, about bringing life into this world and caring for it, once here.  Mary, as one of these women would have taught her son all she knew about healing, about sustaining life.  Scripture tells us that Jesus grew, “in wisdom and grace.”  Certainly his mother added to his wisdom.  Yes, my friends, our God chose wisely in asking a woman to be part of the loving equation.

   And so, in conclusion, I call us back to our brother Jesus, whom we must always be checking “in with” in order to align our own actions for good in this world.  Jesus was always about helping the people of his time and that extends to all of us today as his followers, to live up to the fact that we are, “God’s works of art”—called to, “do great things.”  The “saving” of us that he does is to help us to be our best selves and we can do that if we keep “watching him” for the ways to be in our world.  We will then make of ourselves a true gift to, “go home with,” one day.  Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response:  “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  1. Merciful God, help us never to forget you—to always remember that you want good for us and not bad in this world, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving God, help our country and our world to be people who love peace and strive to  bring it about—thank you for being our strength and our light,  we pray—Response:  “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • Gracious God, bless each of us with healthy bodies, minds and spirits–be with those who most need you today, especially those suffering from COVID and all other illnesses, we pray— Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • O God, show us the ways during this holy season of Lent to grow closer to you, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • O God, thank you for work and the ability to work and we ask you to be with those who have lost their jobs, give them hope for a new day, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving God, be with all those around our world who are suffering in war zones,  we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

7.  Loving God, instill in our country’s people the flexibility and patience needed to struggle through these uncertain times—be with our leaders to bring justice, hope and peace to our country and to our world, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

  • For our community, All Are One, continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts, and bring us back together—soon, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear our prayer.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:  Merciful God, hear our prayer.”

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—Pausethen response

Let Us Pray

   Good and merciful God, you are our light and our love.  You have proven again and again how much you love us—help us to never forget that and to always turn to you to with our praise and petitions. During these remaining weeks of Lent, show us the way to you that we would always have the strength to follow your lead, you who have never been anything but LOVE for us. Help us to remember that we are your hands, eyes, ears and heart for our world—help us to be generous with your love. All this we ask of you, in Jesus’ loving name and with the Spirit—one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, we cannot be together at the altar, but our God, in Jesus is always with us!

Prayer of Communion

Loving God, you enlighten all who come into the world.  Fill our hearts with the light of the Gospel, may our thoughts please you and our expression of love be sincere. Grant our prayer through Jesus and with the Spirit, all one God, loving us forever and ever—Amen.

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Homily – 3rd Sunday in [Extra]Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

My friends, YHWH—our God, speaks to Jonah in the first reading, “Get up! Go!”

   The reading from Corinthians today may seem harsh, but we must remember that it comes right out of the times in which Paul and the early Christians lived—they thought that their brother and messiah, Jesus, would be returning soon.  Thus, the need to be prepared, to be ready, with no use bothering about the things of this world!

   From our perspective, looking back, clearly Paul and the others got it wrong.  Or, did they?  I think they perhaps had part of the truth.  Their sense was that Christ would be returning soon, but I think the piece that they and we often miss is that Jesus, the Christ, is here, right in front of us, in the next person that we meet—in the person we see each day—in the mirror!  So, always the need, to be ready, my friends! We all come from Divine dust, as someone said, and are here having a human experience.  How could we ever then, treat any person with disrespect, with a lack of understanding, without mercy or justice? 

   Now, I know you are thinking—but the people who are so hard to even abide—what do I do with them? I am not saying that it will always be easy—not at all. I am just reminding us of the words and actions of our brother Jesus that we don’t turn away, but keep trying and God knows, for each of us, there are those who are truly hard to love.  Amanda Gorman, young poet laureate, at this week’s Inauguration Ceremony spoke so well of it, “That even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.” Our life in Jesus, friends, calls us to this awesome task and as our new president said in his comments this past Wednesday, “There is nothing we can’t do, if we do it together!”

   And in the gospel from Mark, the evangelist with the fewest of words simply conveys Jesus’ message by telling us to, “Change our hearts and minds…”

   Being Jesus’ followers was then, in his time and now, in our time, all about seeing a bigger picture, acting with a larger heart than many are accustomed to doing. It simply isn’t enough to care for, “what I need,” “what I want,” “the people I love”—we must grow our hearts and souls to at least see the pain with which many people in our world struggle and once we see that pain, do our part to alleviate it. 

   This past Wednesday with the Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, many of us felt a weight of selfishness lifted with the promise from our new leaders that they will lead and care for all the people.  They, I believe, will lead out of their hearts and souls as they have proven in the past through their individual positions in state and national leadership. 

   They will no doubt be accused by their enemies of doing what they do for “political gain,” but they won’t let that get in their way as both are committed to closing doors on the virus from without rampaging across our country, COVID 19, on the virus from within—400+ years old, systemic racism, as well as fixing our economy so that it works for everyone, and finally beginning again to put policies in place to care for and literally save our beautiful earth, home to more than 7 billion of us, not to mention all the plants and animals!

   My friends, always in my words to you; I challenge all of us to, “look at the fruits” in the actions of those you choose to follow, to know if indeed, we are “walking and talking” correctly.  As I prepared for this homily, so many images were floating through my mind and heart from the Inauguration, that from my perspective was sculpted from start to finish to begin to heal the hurts of the past four years, to say in no uncertain terms that we as a nation are better than our past and want now to work on a future world that we are truly proud to hand to our children and grandchildren—to all who are coming next.  In that light, I would like to include here just some of the wonder-filled encouragement of many from the Inauguration Ceremony and others challenging us to be our best—to live in our world, in our time as Jesus did in his.

  • From our gospel today; we are reminded that Jesus always met people where they were in their lives and called them, in that time and place. In today’s gospel he calls fishermen and invites them to now, “fish” for people.  In our lives as parents, grandparents, nurses, farmers, social workers, educators—whatever it might be, Jesus calls us to give our world, as President Biden said in his inaugural address, our [very] souls—in other words, the best we have.
  • I was touched by the fact that Jennifer Lopez, within her singing of, This Land is my Land, This Land is your Land, she recited in her native tongue—Spanish, the words from our Pledge of Allegiance, “one nation, under God, indivisible—with liberty and justice for all,” signaling that this new administration in Washington will truly be aware of all in our beloved country.
  • I was equally touched by the black, female fire-fighter who delivered our Pledge of Allegiance, both in spoken words and sign language—one of the many times that brought tears to my eyes for this awareness of  those without the gift of hearing. 
  • For those who look forward now with hope for what the future brings and whose enemies think that all, those with hope propose to do, can’t be done—it is good to remember one of the great spiritual documents of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita, which teaches, “…effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure.” In other words, we might say, “attempting to do our best is always success!”
  • In this vein, when those who would look at our efforts negatively; I always remember Michelle Obama’s words, “When they go low, we go higher.”  My, friends, there will always be those in our path who will doubt that the good can rise, but we must keep our focus and keep moving on.  Amanda Gorman said, [don’t gaze on] “what stands between us, but what stands before us.”

   And in all of the above, we must remember as columnist David Brooks said in a bit of commentary on Wednesday, “the importance of gratitude.”  He reminded all the white folk among us that we should really have gratitude for our black sisters and brothers in the person of Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina who really was able to jumpstart Joe Biden’s campaign by his endorsement late in the primary season, which ultimately elevated Biden to the position of the Democratic nominee and now our president. I would add too, the name of Stacey Abrams in her stellar work in her home state of Georgia making it possible for many more people to vote.  And this, friends, Brooks reminded us, came from a group of people whom white folk have so abused for far too long.  Finally, David Brooks reminded us of the words of another, “where there is gratitude, joy cannot be far behind. “

   In closing then, as Amanda Gorman again said so well, [our] nation isn’t broken, but simply unfinished…there is always light.  If only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”  My friends, this is our call today in present-day prophets and in the words of Jesus; who often reminded us that, “he was the light of the world” and that we must be too! We are being called—here and now, my friends—every day of our lives! Amen? Amen!

Bulletin – Palm Sunday

Dear Friends,

NO MASS ONCE AGAIN THIS SUNDAY!!!–additionally, there will be no masses until further notice due to the corona virus and the need to “shelter-in-place.” 


For your information–our board has agreed to send $300 to the Advocacy Center (formerly the Women’s Resource Center of Winona) because they had to cancel their Spring Gala Event due to the corona virus.  This event is a huge fund-raiser for them each year.  It has been documented that domestic violence has gone up during this time of “sheltering-in-place,” thus the need to support their efforts.


We have come to Holy Week in this “new normal” of being “church” during this time of pandemic due to the corona virus.  Each day’s news brings unbelievable almost, numbers of sick people and likewise, deaths from this silent enemy.  Except for maybe since, World War II, our nation has not been so galvanized to fight an enemy and trying to remain sane and human as we do it.

Holy Week and its message of life, death and resurrection seem a fitting meditation for our present time.  Let us bring all our worries, our faltering faith and strength to our brother Jesus in the mystery of the cross.  Let us not lose sight though of the Resurrection–let each of us do our part as we, “shelter-in-place” for the good of us all.

Peace and much love,

Pastor Kathy

P.S.  I will send out sets of readings for each of the days of the Triduum–Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and of course, Easter Sunday–watch for those too!


Readings:  

Procession with the palms:  Matthew 21: 1-11

Readings for Mass:  

  • Isaiah 50: 4-7 Psalm Response:  “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” Psalm 22: 8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
  • Philippians 2: 5-11
  • Passion from Matthew 26: 14–27: 66

 

Sharing

Dear Friends,

For these last nine days of Advent waiting, here are Sr. Joan Chittister’s reflections–enjoy! She does a wonderful job of connecting these ancient reflections to the times in which we live.  –Pastor Kathy

For whom we wait
The O AntiphonsDecember 16: Tomorrow at Vespers the monastic community begins to sing the “O Antiphons,” ancient chants that mark the final days of the last week of Advent. The “O Antiphons” remind us for whom we wait: the Key of David, the Root of Jesse, Radiant Dawn, and more. When you think of Jesus, for whom do you wait: savior, magic-maker, brother? It is an important question. The way we think of Jesus is the way we think of religion. What is religion to you: a guide to life, a pseudo-supernatural trick, or an entree to the spiritual side of life?December 17:  “Come, O Wisdom from above.” Wisdom is the ability to see the world as God sees it. Try reading the newspaper today through the eyes of a God who was born in a stable, counted to be of no account, hounded by society from one place to another.

December 18:  “Come, O Sacred One of Israel.” It’s a shame that we limit the sacred to religious objects or special places. Here we are reminded that the Sacred One is becoming human and, in so doing, breathes sacredness into every human life. Make an inward bow to each person you meet today.

December 19:  “Come, O Flower of Jesse’s Stem.” Jesse is the unknown one, the ancestor of David, from whose line would come the messiah. Jesse is the one who began a great work but did not live to see its end. Jesse is the one who was able to believe and to wait. Point: We must plant seeds of truth, beauty, and peace even though we won’t see the flower.

December 20: “Come, O Key of David.” This antiphon is a searing cry for the kind of Christian commitment that opens doors and breaks down barriers between peoples. It calls us to devote ourselves to bringing unity to a divided world. Try to unlock one door that is keeping someone locked out of your heart.

December 21:  “Come, O Radiant Dawn.” But dawn will not come for most of the people of the world until we ourselves become the kind of people whose lives bring light to the poorest of the poor wherever we go, in whatever we do.

December 22:  “Come, O God of All the Earth.” We wait for the one who will end the anguished waiting for peace by people everywhere. To celebrate Christmas and at the same time to see certain countries or peoples as “enemy” is a contradiction in terms.

December 23:  “Come, O Come Emmanuel.” This evening the monastic community sings the church’s long, last wail of desire that, this time, the Christ will finally be born in us. Pray this antiphon today.

 —from The Monastery Almanac by Joan Chittister

Jimmy Carter Photo

IMG_20191103_121338053On our recent camping trip east and south, we planned to take in Sunday School with Jimmy Carter in Plains, GA. It was an absolutely awesome experience to be there in the presence of these two wonderful people! Unbeknownst to us ahead of time, everyone who comes to his classes is given a photo op with he and Rosalyn and they have a very efficient way of moving 250-300 people through in about a half hour! What was so wonderful was the fact that this good man broke his pelvis just two weeks before but wanted to get back to teaching class as soon as possible! He shared some sage wisdom at 95 years old that I will share at a later time. A truly remarkable man!