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!

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.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Homily – Baptism of Jesus – in a Time of Pandemic

Dear Friends,

We are just into this New Year a week and already, so much has happened. If COVID 19 wasn’t enough to try and get our arms around, as we await our personal chance for a vaccination, the terrorist attack from within, incited by our president upon the heart of our country and its democracy, the Capitol in Washington, has left many of us in a state of shock. A new year is always a time to take a look at how we are doing and the aftermath of January 6, 2021 has given all of us cause to do some real, soul-searching. What is it that we truly believe? Who is it we say we follow? When perhaps we are lost in the way to go or who to follow, we should as Jesus instructed, “Check the fruits!”

May each of us be blessed to know the right ways to go and in that find peace and joy.

If I might be of help to you in any way, please be in touch–507-429-3616 or aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Please stay safe and well.

Love and peace, Pastor Kathy

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Entrance Antiphon

When Jesus had been baptized, the heavens opened and the Spirit came down like a dove to rest on him.  Then a voice was heard: This is my Beloved, My Own, in whom I am well-pleased.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving Creator, you revealed Jesus as your Beloved, Your Own by the voice that spoke over the waters of the Jordan.  May we all who share in the life of Jesus, the Christ follow in his path of service to all people and reflect the glory of his kin-dom, even to the ends of the earth.  We ask this in Jesus’ name with You and the Spirit, who Three live and love us forever and ever—Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Readings:

  • Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7
  • Acts 10: 34-38
  • Mark 1:7-11

Homily

My friends, I always find it interesting that the liturgy of the Church Year moves us so quickly from the seeming, peace and tranquility of a baby in a crib surrounded by the love and care of his parents to the adult Jesus being baptized by John. Of course last week, we did find the boy Jesus in the temple, but that is all until his baptism which is recorded for us today.

   But even the story of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem that tells us so wonderfully of our God’s love for us humans—coming among us, is, as we know—fraught with danger and anything but peace.  The baby that came, seemingly, so mysteriously into the lives of Mary and Joseph; they would very soon have to protect through their escape into Egypt from forces who meant to harm him.

  This past week on January 6, 2021, we officially completed our remembrance of the Christmas Season with the Epiphany—the Manifestation of our God coming among us. The Magi—astrologers from the east, also known to us as, The Three Kings, made their return to their own country, signaling that this great story of love would be shared not just with the people of Israel, but with the entire world.

   Amid the story of a baby coming among us—the manifestation in human form of our God’s love for us; a scene of destruction also played out in present time at our nation’s Capitol.  As Senator Mitt Romney said of it, and I paraphrase; what happened here today was an insurrection encouraged by a selfish man’s injured pride and that man is the president of our United States. 

   This insurrection was meant to stop the acceptance by Congress of the 50 states certified votes which have basically proclaimed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, president and vice-president and who will be inaugurated as such on January 20th

   Now this ceremonious acceptance of certified votes which is done every 4 years after a national presidential election and usually is hardly noticed in the news cycle was high drama this past week.  A mob who violently broke into the Capitol were able to stop the proceedings for a time, but this body of elected officials was determined to do the people’s work and at 3 A.M. in the early morning of January 7, 2021; they completed their work announcing that Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris would be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.

   What I found most interesting, wonderful and bordering on the prophetic, was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s words beginning again, the work of the people later in the evening of January 6, after the Capitol rooms were once again made safe.  She reflected her strong Catholic faith and Christian stance in all of her significant life decisions, calling to mind that all the drama of this day happened on the Epiphany, the Manifestation of our God among us.

   I say this, “bordered on the prophetic” because if this joint body of legislators did, in any way, experience a kind of “epiphany” regarding the oaths each of them took just days before to support and uphold the Constitution of the United States rather than their own personal ambitions, which seems to be the driving force for some within this august body, well—good!

   So, my friends, we bring all this to the Scriptures of this Sunday that marks the beginning of Jesus’ public life among us.  Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah is a cause for hope, not only for the people of long ago, but most certainly, for us now.  I am especially comforted by the prophet’s words that the Messiah will be, “one so gentle as to not break the bruised reed.”  Additionally, the Messiah will be, “one who will bring justice,” and one who will, “neither waver nor be crushed, until justice comes for the people who await it.” 

   We see too from Isaiah’s prophecy that our God will be gentle as well in dealing with the Messiah—“I have taken you by the hand and I [will] watch over you.” The wonder of this message is that each of us—by extension, will be dealt with the same care as our God deals with the Messiah, our brother, Jesus. 

   The prophet Isaiah continues, “I have endowed you with my Spirit that you may bring true justice to the nations.” The justice that Isaiah speaks of is what he further names as, “a light to the nations,” [to those who live in darkness], that will, “open the eyes of the blind”—think of the “blindness” that we all have witnessed this week!  Isaiah also speaks of,  “freeing people from prison,” and again we all know that there are many “prisons” that people need to be freed from; racism, sexism, clericalism and so on. 

    And again, we hear words of comfort from our God through these of the psalmist in #29 today, “Our God will bless the people with peace.”  And we all need the gift of peace in these trying times!

   Our second reading from Acts and our gospel from Mark both speak of the prophecy of John letting the people know that Jesus the Messiah is coming soon! The apostle Peter in Acts reminds the greater Church that Jesus’ time among us was filled with his, “doing good works.” Our time among those that we live with can be about no less. These are troubling times, yet good times too. Many needs within our society have had a “big light” shone upon them through this pandemic that has sickened and taken life from the poor and our black and brown sisters and brothers to a far greater extent than from those who are light-skinned—again the issue of our deep-seated racism as a nation. 

   We saw evidence of this at the Capitol in the violence of January 6th perpetrated by white folk and the uneven response of police as compared to the over-the-top force this summer in Washington D.C. to quell the non-violent protests of black folk over the death of George Floyd. 

   Another of the works of justice that our Congress needs to be about going forward is also related to justice.  We all witnessed the wrangling in the Senate over stimulus checks before the Christmas holiday that finally gave $600 to people, many of  whom have been in need now for many months.  When talk of larger checks was raised, in the amount of $2,000, the word, “socialism” was thrown around by those who didn’t want the checks that high.  That is an interesting comment coming from lawmakers who are recipients of that same, “nasty” socialism themselves, in the medical care that they all receive.

   Many followers of our brother Jesus look forward to a new administration in Washington with the promise of more justice to those in need: a minimum wage that is fair and just, continued improvements to health care for all and a serious discussion and realization of the underpinnings of so much injustice through our national sin of racism, already addressed here, and all of this is just the beginning.  We have much work to do turning around the assaults to our physical world—its climate through selfish policies of the past era focused on greed instead of care for the earth and its people. 

   My friends, we have lived through so much pain and suffering within families and among friends in our inability to even talk with each other due to what amounts to a “cult” in the person of the current president of our country—from those who believe every word he utters to those who are simply abhorred by most of his actions.  

    Again, I find the need to apologize to those who may feel that I am using this opportunity to be political but please know that my intent is anything but that. In fact, this is what has been so frustrating for many people, myself included—there seems to be no way to call wrong, precisely that, when we see it, without being labeled  “partisan.” I believe Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator from the state of Alaska spoke well to this frustration after the events of January 6th.  While asking for the resignation of the president, she asked her Republican colleagues to consider their own culpability with the president’s actions in the past that actually made the terrorism of January 6th possible.

   Perhaps, it was appropriate that this era, 2016 to the present end in the deplorable display by some of the president’s  followers that we all witnessed this past week—the day of the Epiphany, incited because of, once again, as Mitt Romney said, “a selfish man’s hurt pride.” 

   Each New Year calls us and challenges us to be our best.  We are challenged in this New Year, 2021 to just that, no less!  This may seem daunting, but our Christian baptisms and confirmations are clear on this, on how we must be going forward.  When we aren’t always sure on the way to go, “check the fruits” as Jesus tells us. 

   Sister Joan Chittister ends her Christmas message of a few years back, yet still true, like this: “When the season of Christmas ends, we must all deal with the question of what we do with the fact that Jesus did become flesh.  “If that’s true,” [she says], “then all flesh is holy, all people are valuable, all human beings are a spark of the Divine…what does that then say about racism, sexism, ageism and nationalism?”

    The short reading from Acts today says that we must have the mind and heart of Jesus…

   A Rochester, MN Franciscan Sister, Diane Frederick, whom I too consider a sister as a Cojourner with this group of women religious, wrote a homily for Epiphany where she spoke of the “Star” that led the Magi to Bethlehem as one that they were willing to change their lives for.  She asks us to consider what “stars” are calling us? 

   And finally, as we consider what change we might be about in this New Year to make our world even a bit better, the words of Seneca, a Roman philosopher living during the time of Jesus is known to have said, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare—it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” 

   My friends, may our good God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, our brother and friend, be the “star” that we follow.  Amen? Amen!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”

  1. O God, as we move from the Christmas Season commemorating  Jesus’ baptism today, help us to move more fully into following him, our servant leader, we pray—Response:  “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
  • O God, be with all elected officials—instill within each one, the nobel sense to act upon the oaths they took to serve our Constitution and the people of this country, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
  • 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: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
  • O God, help us to be true followers of Jesus, willing to speak truth for justice  for those who most need our advocacy today, we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
  • O God, in this new year, help us to strive to be people of peace in our country, so divided—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: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
  • Loving God, help each of us to be your lights in our world,  we pray—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
  • 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—Response: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”
  • 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: “Light to the Nations, hear our prayer”

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

Let Us Pray

Loving God, we thank you for your great love in sending us Jesus, our Brother and Friend. Help us to model our lives after his, selflessly giving to those in need, being people of truth, faith and trust in your word. Let our lives reflect mercy, goodness and joy to all that we meet. Help us as a faith community to realize our responsibility to always be welcoming of all who come to our table—help us to be good listeners of other’s stories respecting their journeys to you even if the path they take is different from ours. Be with our members, Bob and Michael this week, as each continues to heal.  Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Let Us Pray—Again, we are separated, but Jesus, our brother is with us, just the same—we must always remember that!

Prayer of Communion

O God, may we follow after Jesus,  becoming your children in name and in fact.  We ask this in his wonderful name—Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Homily – Feast of the Epiphany in a Time of Pandemic

Dear Friends,

We have moved into a new year–a time of beginnings, of refocus and the hope and challenge to be about all that is best in each of us. We have completed a year filled with much challenge, with sadness and loss and not always a clear path to follow. Our prayer going into this New Year, 2021 might well be that we can keep our eyes on all that unites, turn our backs on all that divides and remember that we don’t do this alone, but that our good God, in Jesus, our brother, walks with us and shows us the way.

Please don’t hesitate to call me, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com if I might be of help in any way. Blessings–peace and love, Pastor Kathy

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Entrance Antiphon

Today, Jesus is manifested to the world, as our light, our way, and our truth.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

O God, you revealed the First-Born to the nations by the guidance of a star. You have revealed to people of faith the wonderful fact of the Word made flesh.  Your light is strong, your love is near; draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes, to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete.  We ask this through Jesus, the Christ, who lives with you and the Spirit, and loves us forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Readings:

  • Isaiah 60: 1-6
  • Ephesians 3: 2-3, 5-6
  • Matthew 2: 1-12

Homily

My friends, the prophetic words of Isaiah today, “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” anchor each of us who say that we follow the Christ, who lived in time—physically manifested as Jesus, our human brother, in what our physical responses must be going forward—to arise, get up and shine—to do our part!

   The prophet continues—“though night still covers the earth and darkness the people.”  In other words, “We aren’t there yet!”  The psalmist sheds some “light” or clarity; we might say, on what this, “there” is.  “A follower of the light will: be one who rescues the poor when they cry out and the afflicted when they have no one to help—having pity on [them] and saving their lives.”

   This is the feast of the Epiphany, a word meaning, “manifestation.”  This feast, which traditionally ends the official 12 days of Christmas, even though, as this year, it falls before January 6th, is all about sharing our God’s great love for us, in Jesus—with the world.  The purpose really, for the astrologers—“the Three Kings”—from the east, is to once again, anchor within our Christian history the fact that Jesus’ love, as a manifestation of God’s love, is meant for all, as these “star-gazers” will then carry the message of what they saw and experienced in Bethlehem back to their own people, and on and on.  This message is echoed too by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “We are all heirs.” 

   We know that “light attracts light,”—or we might say, “Good attracts good.”  Another prophet in our present time, who lived among us for too few years, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot put out darkness, only light can do that,” gives us another piece of the truth when confronted with evil or darkness in our world. 

   Throughout most of this past year that presented us with so much darkness: a virus uncontrolled—spreading among us, racism—a 400 year-old scar on our humanity, flared by yet another death of a black brother at the hands of the police, a plummeting national economy caused ultimately, by a lack of leadership in controlling the virus and a most contentious presidential election underscored by an unprecedented campaign of lies—the truth of which was proven again and again. 

   My dilemma, as your pastor has been and continues to be, to point you and me to the truth, based on the Scriptures and primarily on the words of our brother Jesus, without at the same time, appearing to be politically-minded, one way or another.  Because of the fear of straying into a political versus a spiritual tone, keeping it, “neat and clean,” I don’t always speak as clearly as I should.  Today, I would, in the “light” of this feast of, “Great Light” and manifestation, correct that error. 

   You will recall that in the past, I have instructed us all, on many occasions, to keep our eyes, always, as Jesus tells us, “on the fruits” of any action, so as to know how to decide, what is basically right and basically wrong.

   I recently became aware of a written piece that was done in response to a family letter expressing hope in the New Year for better times and I feel it is indicative of the themes of “dark” versus “light” as we strive to see “the fruits” of words and actions, and it is for this reason that I make the following comments.

   And just so that you are clear with where I am going; I will name the “fruits,” in my mind, that indicate “light” or good and then those, in my mind, that indicate, “darkness” or evil. 

          Light or good—words that unite, not divide-disagreement expressed in a way that keeps conversation going, allowing for the possibility of change of mind—does not stop it cold, statements of fact that can be proven, a sense that even if I disagree with someone, peace and good will still be present, a sense that a person cares about more than just their own needs

          Dark or evil—derogatory statements about people one disagrees with, words that shame the person we hope to convince, a refusal to hear any rebuttal to the statements I may hold as true, an acceptance of the words and actions of another that appeal to the worst tendencies within me, an acceptance of the words and actions of another that leave me constantly angry, suspicious and anxious, a sense that I am basically in the presence of a selfish person

   As you can see; I have laid out the polar opposites and in our encounters in this world; we will find people all along the continuum from what we think is, “good” to that which we think is “evil,” and again the instruction is to, “check the fruits.” 

   Now this can be “tricky” as some rhetoric might initially sound or appear good, but in the end really causes more evil-unrest-division than good-unity and peace. 

   Unfortunately, the Christmas-time response to a letter expressing hope that I became aware of was indicative of all the polar opposites of goodness and light.  And in my counsel to you, to, “check the fruits,” I found I needed to do the same. 

   When supporting the words and actions of another and in this case, it was of the president of our United States, it causes you to use derogatory and abusive words to describe your opponents, shaming words for those who don’t agree with you and threats that if you try to respond, your words will be destroyed, leaves me wondering if there is any “light” to be found in your connection with this person.

   Then, there is the equally disturbing fact of those who support this president because he has promised to give them an end to abortion while at the same time ignoring and denying these same beings any physical helps once they are here!  Again, we must “check the fruits”–in this case, or in any situation.  While no one is perfect, perhaps let us look to who may be trying to care for the most of us as opposed to only themselves.   And in this case, it might be good not to listen to an individual who has been caught in lies almost every day of his presidency. 

   I have never in my adult life experienced so much division in our country as now, where reparable news outlets are seen as fraudulent, merely on the word of one person, where so many families and friends are divided and encouraged to be so on whether you are on the side of this president or not. When needed changes in our country are held up because of the narcissistic needs of one individual, can there be any good there?

   My friends, I only share this example on this Sunday manifesting the “great light” that has come upon us in our brother Jesus, a light that we must share with all those around us in order to name all, in my view, that is not “light!”  I know that there are those who will criticize me for being, “political,” but I ask that you simply, “check the fruits.” 

   Often times, the Universal Church preaches that Jesus came to, “save us from our sins” and while there may be a tad of truth in that—I would state it differently–“He came to save us from our human tendencies to be less than we can be.”  If we allow God, in Jesus, to be truly God, then we would see Jesus’ coming among us to be a wake-up call, challenging us to be our best selves, following his example, calling a lie a lie, if need be.

   If one is going to lose their relationship within their family over an issue; I would rather it be over good, than evil. I believe that the reason the hierarchical Church strays from the truth about Jesus’ real coming is because they know what that truth leads to—Jesus was crucified because of how he lived, not because of us, taking on the powers-that-be in Church and State when he saw that they did not truly care about the people. This misguided theology of Jesus coming to die for our sins is really about our humanity in darkness winning out—calling for nothing from us, which is about, “light,” but laying all of the solution at God’s door.  Thank God, who saw us as capable of so much more and who will continually ask this, “more” of us beginning with the wonderful gift of “light” which is the Epiphany—the manifestation of our God among us!  Amen? Amen!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”

  1. O God, as we conclude this Christmas season—help us to remember throughout the year what a gift you have given us in Jesus entering into our humanity, we pray—Response:  “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • O God, be with all elected officials, especially those in Washington—instill within each one, the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Help our country to work on being united, and to say, “no” to all that divided us in 2021, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • O God, we are grateful for the spirit of generosity and love that we experience at this time of year—give us the desire and strength to be generous and loving people throughout  the entire year, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • O God, as we begin a 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 and help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • In thanksgiving for the graces bestowed on our community, All Are One, during 2020—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 next year to those most in need of our ministry, we pray—

Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”

  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:  “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts and all those in our community—pause, then response

Let Us Pray

Loving God, the gift of Christmas is love. We thank you for your great love for us in sending us Jesus, our Brother and Friend. Help us to model our lives after his, selflessly giving to those in need, being people of truth, faith and trust in your word. Let our lives reflect mercy, goodness and joy to all that we meet. Help us as a faith community to realize our responsibility to always be welcoming of all who come to our table—help us to be good listeners of other’s stories respecting their journeys to you even if the path they take is different from ours. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Let Us Pray—again, we cannot be together in person, but always remember that our loving God walks with us—always!

Prayer of Communion

O God, loving Creator, Guide us with your light—help us to recognize Jesus, as the Christ, our Savior, and welcome him with love, for he is our Brother and Friend, forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Homily for Holy Family Sunday in a Time of Pandemic

Dear Friends, I write this on the second day of Christmas–remember, keep celebrating for all of the 12 days and the celebration can be as small as doing just one thing that shows the spirit of this lovely time of year–perhaps a call to a friend or family member that you know could use one–a sharing of something that is special to you with another, thus showing a bit more of who you truly are. If the technology works for me this morning, I hope to send you a musical recording that one of my sisters in ministry shared that is hauntingly beautiful. Included here then are the readings for Sunday and my homily and other prayers for your Sunday reflections. Have peace, love and joy–the best gifts of Christmastime and please don’t hesitate to call, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com if I can be of help, in any way to you. Pastor Kathy

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Entrance Antiphon

The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

O God, Creator of all, you ordered the earth to bring forth life and crowned its goodness by creating the family of humankind. In history’s moment when all was ready, you sent Jesus to dwell in time, obedient to the laws of life in our world.  Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all that we may share in your life forever.  We ask this in Jesus’ holy name, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Readings:

  • Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14
  • Colossians 3: 12-21
  • Luke 2: 22-40

Homily

My friends, being that my small family of three “bubbles”—a total of 7, in this time of COVID is gathered at our home, and having not a lot of extra time (but, I’m loving it!), I decided to use my homily of three years ago, with a few updates for today. I think it still rings true!

   One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas Season is to sit in front of the Christmas tree and look at the lights along with the decorations and think about where each of them came from.  The most special ones are from family and friends over the years and speak to those relationships, for that is really, what Christmas is all about—relationships.  And of course, the primary relationship is between God and us and God’s generosity in becoming one-with-us, Emmanuel!

   We name today, “Holy Family Sunday” in deference to the earthly family of Jesus—Mary and Joseph and more than likely, other children who came to this couple due to the love they shared with and for each other.  Jesus, our brother, most assuredly, was raised within a family of much love and caring to have allowed him to give back so much love to the world in which he lived and grew “in wisdom and grace.”  Nothing comes from nothing,” an old movie line goes. 

   This Sunday is for families because really, all families are holy, as a good friend reminded me just recently—or, at least have the possibility of being, “holy.”  I would dare say, most, if not all families begin with love, because that is what is best in all of us—we are, in fact, hard-wired for this best of gifts.  Life sometimes takes families in different directions, but at their beginnings, love is there. 

   Love isn’t always easy, either within families, or within the greater world and that is why, as we talked about on Christmas Eve, it is so important to live, “in the present.”  This week’s Scriptures do, in fact, call us to do just that—live in the present.  In the best of times—we can do what Sirach asks in regard to caring for our families—showing respect, kindness, love, understanding and mercy.  As we attempt to live in the present, it will mean that we have to let go of past hurts and just keep looking and reaching out toward the good, and expecting to see the good in those that we may have difficulties with in life.  The importance of the past is to learn from it, taking its lessons into the present where we can effect change.

   Our families, for good or bad, have a deep effect on each of us, for this is where we came from.  Most parents love their children fiercely and in the best of times, parents let their children know of their love for them.  In some cultures, it was thought that letting children know this one special truth, that their parents love them, would in fact, spoil them.  In actuality, the opposite is really true—the “not telling,” or showing the love, dampens the relationship. We are each in need of knowing that we are loved, that we make a difference—this year more than in most among so much that has been very difficult.  But being that this is Christmas time, I would be remiss if I did not say, among those things that were difficult and at times, not even good, that there was much that was very good—I will let you fill in what has affected you in both areas.

   Paul tells us beautifully today, in his letter to the Colossians, what this love looks like: clothing yourselves with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Each of us friends, have these gifts, because each of us came from God and God, we know, is good.  Anything we encounter in life that is not good, is not of God.

   Paul continues in his letter today speaking of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, saying that over this, we must put on love, which binds the rest and makes them perfect.  He also instructs us to be thankful and to do whatever we do, in Jesus’ name.  Think what a different world it would be if we did everything in Jesus’ name! There would be much that we would think twice about doing!  Finally, Paul cautions us to take our relationships seriously—couples in love should avoid bitterness; if we are blessed with children; we shouldn’t nag them, less they lose heart.

   One year, in the past, I came upon ten suggestions for the New Year from Jim Wallis of Sojourner Magazine.  I was struck by his first suggestion—that we who claim to be “Christian,” or followers of a different religious group, would basically take what we believe and hold it in one hand, and the newspaper ( or our world) in the other.  For us, that would mean, the words and actions of our brother, Jesus must be in our thoughts, the very fiber of our beings and every action we do must reflect that memory.  The acronym, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) is a question that should always be close in our consciousness as we live our lives.

   Our readings for this Holy Family Sunday conclude today with the beautiful gospel from Luke telling the story of Mary and Joseph presenting the baby Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem as prescribed by the law.  So what should this story tell us? First, it tells us that Joseph and Mary followed the dictates of the law that guided their lives.  God had been faithful and it was their place to be faithful too!

   Secondly, it is important for us to remember the context within which this gospel took place—Mary and Joseph and the baby were, “on the run” as the baby’s life was in danger from one who was into his power and control, yet they made the decision that this point of righteousness must be done.  Presenting Jesus at the temple was a must  and it was within that action that their very life’s purposes were confirmed—this child put into their safe-keeping, was the “Messiah of God,” as was proclaimed by Simeon and Anna. 

  As we reflect on the lives of Mary and Joseph; it seems logical, or as my grandson would say, using one of his “new” words, “obvious,” that there must have been times in the everyday-ness of life that they doubted all that was ahead of their sweet baby, so this confirmation was so important and one that, as Scripture says, Mary “would treasure in her heart.’ 

   The more we can allow these Scriptures to come alive for us, the more the stories will affect us and allow us to live in like manner. There will be times in all of our lives that we will doubt God’s presence much like Mary and Joseph doubted, but that is the time for us to go deeper, to remember all that we believe in, all that we professed to at our confirmations, that renewed our baptismal promises made for us as babies and then move forward on the words of Jesus, that he would never leave us, but be with us—always! Peace and love and a blessed New Year, 2021!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”

  1. O God, at this Christmas season—help us to remember what a gift you have given us in Jesus entering into our humanity, we pray—Response:  “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • O God, be with all elected officials—instill within each one, the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Be with the leaders in our country to work toward unity for the good of all the people, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling with Covid—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • O God, we are grateful for the spirit of generosity and love that we experience at this time of year—give us the desire and strength to be generous and loving people throughout the entire year, we pray— Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • O God, as we come to the end of a year and look forward to a new one with new beginnings, let us strive to be people of peace, not conflict—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: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • In thanksgiving for the graces bestowed on our community, All Are One, during 2020, 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 next year, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, this past year—especially from COVID, give them your peace, help each to learn how to be a family anew, we pray—“Hear us, Jesus our Light.”

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

Let Us Pray

Loving God, the gift of Christmas is love. We thank you for your great love for us in sending us Jesus, our Brother and Friend. Help us to model our lives after his, selflessly giving to those in need, being people of truth, faith and trust in your word. Let our lives reflect mercy, goodness and joy to all that we meet. Help us as a faith community to realize our responsibility to always be welcoming of all who come to our table—help us to be good listeners of other’s stories respecting their journeys to you even if the path they take is different from ours. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Let Us Pray—Again my friends, we can’t be together today, but as always, we know that Jesus is always with us, even though we can’t share in the bread of the altar.

Prayer of Communion

Loving God, we want to live as the Holy Family did, in peace with you and one another.  May our lives, with all its ups and downs, strengthen us to reach out to others in their need . Grant this through Jesus’ wonderful name and the Spirit of us all, Amen.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The musical piece I promised:

https://youtu.be/UaQ3nky4-t0
Alternate Lyrics by Jennifer Henry…
Mary did you know,that your ancient wordswould still leap off our pages?
Mary did you know,that your spirit songwould echo through the ages?
Did you know that your holy cry would be subversive word,that the tyrants would be trembling when they know your truth is heard?
Mary did you know,that your lullabywould stir your own Child’s passion?
Mary did you know,that your song inspiresthe work of liberation?
Did you know that your Jubilee is hope within the heart of all who dream of justice, who yearn for it to start?
The truth will teach, the drum will sound, healing for the painThe poor will rise, the rich will fall. Hope will live again.
Mary did you know,that we hear your voicefor the healing of the nations?
Mary did you know,your unsettling crycan help renew creation?
Do you know, that we need your faith,the confidence of you,May the God that you believe in,be so true.

Much love,Angela 

Attachments areaPreview YouTube video “Mary, Did You Know?” (Lowry & Greene; alternate lyrics by Jennifer Henry) 12/22/20 #VirtuousPub“Mary, Did You Know?” (Lowry & Greene; alternate lyrics by Jennifer Henry) 12/22/20 #VirtuousPub