Homily – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

    My friends, it would seem that this Sunday’s readings are offering a two-sided message for us to ponder.  “Ministry”—doing it, that is, is one side of the message, and doing it with “mercy” seems to be the other side. 

   Jeremiah begins today as he speaks simply, Yahweh’s message to the Israelites, gathering them from all places— “I guided them in my mercy,” leading them to streams of water.  The writer to the Hebrews lets us know that their “high priest” will deal with them, “patiently” and this is because the high priest too is, “beset by weakness.”  And this my friends is why we can turn to our brother Jesus in our weakness as he knows what it is to live a human life. 

   In the gospel today from Mark, we hear the beautiful story of Bartimaeus who is physically blind and of how Jesus, our human brother deals with him—with mercy and patience.  And the psalmist reminds us, “God has done great things for us!” 

   As you all know, because I have told you many times before, the wisdom of those who choose our Sunday readings, intend that we will not just read the messages contained within and think, “that’s good for them,” but go that next step and apply the wisdom to our own lives as well. 

   I will begin our application by going to the poignant story of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus.  What does he say?  “I want to see,” and we can imagine that in his need, he stresses this fact— “God, I just want to see!”  Jesus’ response is to deal with him mercifully. 

   The patience of which I spoke was used with regard to his apostles who attempt to keep Bartimaeus quiet.  Jesus needs to keep telling this lot to focus on what is most important—listening and then doing what they can to help. 

    With regard to us then—could Bartimaeus’ prayer be ours as well?  “God, I just want to see,” remembering of course, that there are several ways of being blind:  physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I know for sure, in my own life, when I am trying to seek a balance between being firm and being loving, that I pray, “O God, help me to see the piece that I am perhaps missing.”  

   I mentioned in an earlier homily that I have been reading, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  I just finished it this past week and when all is said and done; I find that what struck me most in his story of working with his mostly black, brothers and sisters, some as young as 14 years of age, on death row, was the apparent, “lack of mercy” that he saw in judges, prosecutors, and the general public, apart from family members in the cases he tried as a lawyer, and especially when the defendants were black. 

   Rather than the democratic standard of, “innocent until proven guilty”—the opposite was often true for black defendants—the assumption going in of, “guilty as charged,” –often with little work expended by the defense, to prove innocence.  It is perhaps a good lesson for us all as we check our assumptions, thoughts, and feelings where others are concerned—especially when we disagree with them. 

   An assumption/question coming from Scripture where our brother Jesus was concerned might be instructive as we ponder how we look at others— “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  We can simply fill in the town, tribe, family name.  It would seem that “mercy” is quite close to “love” –the virtue that we as Jesus’ followers must always apply in dealing with our world.

   So, we have laid out “the how,” we should minister (with mercy) as Jesus’ followers in our world; let’s now turn to the actual “ministry” that each of us is called to in our world.  I think sometimes, people feel that “ministry” is about what the priest or pastor does in a parish and has little to do with me, thank you very much, and that would be wrong if we thought that.  I give you myself as a prime example.

   For many years, I prayed that I/we would find a place, a community, where all would be included, all valued and was often disappointed as I looked, until one day, (and you all know my story) God basically said, “Kathy, why don’t you form that community?” 

   Each of us friends, is called to do our part.  Mine has been to pastor here at All Are One Catholic church—some of you have been called to speak truth to power through letters to the editor and to bishops and have done so with courage.  Others have spoken out to friends and family members about the rightness of women serving at the altars of our churches and others do it through their personal witness here in attending Mass presided over by an illicit, albeit valid woman priest.  

   So friends, don’t take lightly what each of you does here—not everyone has the courage that you have.  You can therefore, humbly and I do underscore that, “humbly,” pat yourself on the back and add a prayer that we, as a community, can always, humbly witness to the powers-that-be, that it is right for us to be here, whether we are ever recognized officially or not. 

   The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that being able to minister to others—something we do within this community through our concern for each other, as well as outreach in our larger community of Winona through Home Delivered Meals, monthly meals to the Catholic Worker house and financial gifts to local, national, and international organizations established to assist those in need is a gift we have received from God, not for ourselves, but for others.  In other words, God has opened our hearts to give in all the ways that we do, so that we truly can continue our brother Jesus’ work upon the earth.  All ministers, official and unofficial must always remember this!  Each and all have been gifted for service, not for us, but for others. 

   In conclusion my friends, let’s return a final time to our brother, Bartimaeus to learn what we can from him.  It is good to remember that he got the attention of Jesus and others because he was, “making a ruckus”—something we recall the apostles wanted to put a halt to.  Sometimes, in order to jump start some action, “a ruckus” may be needed. 

   In Bartimaeus’ time, most physical afflictions were seen as punishment for one’s sins.  Into the midst of that reality, Bartimaeus still implores, “God, I just want to see!”  Would that more of us were willing to make a ruckus when there just seems to be something wrong! 

   On every Thursday morning here in Winona, except for maybe Thanksgiving, the “postcard writers” –true ministers in every way, spend two hours, “making a ruckus” as they write our Congress people asking them to act on behalf of all the people they purport to serve.

   John Lewis, former Congress person, now gone home to God, “made a ruckus” throughout his many years in Congress—only he called it, “making good trouble.” 

   What would our world be like if we each could sincerely pray Bartimaeus’ prayer, “God, I just want to see” so that I am not blind to the real ways of suffering in my world.

   How would it be if the bishops around our country, meeting in November would decide to become real listeners of women, of youth and young adults, of the LGBTQ community, of all the down-trodden and ask each group the question our brother Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And then, do it!

   All of this “stuff” is not easy to do, granted, but we weren’t promised, “easy” when we signed on.  At our baptisms, others said, “yes” for us; at our confirmations, we said, “yes” for ourselves—yes to following in Jesus’ footsteps—that should mean something to each of us!  We shouldn’t be proud of an epitaph that reads, “He/She got through life pretty much unscathed.” 

   In that light then, my friends, I’d like to close with the following lines from The Talmud, the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law—something our brother Jesus would have been very familiar with. I have shared these words before, but thought they bared repeating:

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, as I mentioned in the bulletin, the readings for this weekend are a tutorial on how to follow our brother, Jesus.  Each of us in this present time is called to live out our baptisms and confirmations in ways that are meaningful for us now—in other words—taking those nice, challenging stories of the past and applying them to our lives.

   At a family dinner this past week, we had a conversation about, “following in Jesus’ footsteps” and of how different people see, “this call” in different ways.  Some, like Francis of Assisi lived out, in his life the literal meaning of Jesus’ words in Scripture, “sell all that you have, [and he was a rich, young man] give to the poor, and come, follow me.”

   Francis then, went on for the remainder of his life, preaching the Good News of Jesus, living most simply upon the earth.  Francis “preached” more often through action, than he did through words.  He is known to have said, “Preach always, if necessary, use words!” 

   Our family discussion centered upon the notion that there are many ways to follow Jesus—some may do it rather literally, as did Francis and his early followers, women included, through the example and life of Clare of Assisi, and others, like many of us, choose to follow Jesus balancing and sharing, family life, work, prayer, and service.

   However we choose to live our lives, our call is always to keep our eyes on our brother from Nazareth and keep checking—as we go, to see that of all the choices we can make throughout our lives; we continually attempt to do, the most loving thing.

   The Scriptures today, especially the gospel, tell us that we are here to serve, not to be served.  This command from our brother Jesus is often one of the hardest for many to fulfill.   On the one hand, we are here to have a human experience—spiritual beings though we are.  There is so much about our earthly lives that is most appealing, beautiful, and good, but we must always seek balance in the living out of all that is good.  “How much do I need and how much do I want?” as my dear, good mother-in-law, Margaret used to say. 

   Many of you are probably familiar with the PBS Masterpiece production of Downton Abbey.  Robert and I are presently re-watching the series, primarily because of its fine actors, writing and just because it is a good story.  As with any “good story,” there is struggle between good and bad, power and control and the natural challenges that come to individual lives in the face of all of the above.

   The piece that is particularly interesting in the light of today’s Scriptures, that we, live, “to serve” and not, “be served” is the clear separation of class that is so distinctly portrayed in the Downton Abbey series.  From the aristocracy that find themselves more concerned about the correct piece of clothing, the correct dining service, or the appropriate “table talk,” than about the love-less affect these protocols can often have upon those raised in the system to those looking on—the staff, who know that their lives can never be part of all this elegance except through living vicariously, the lives of their masters. 

   Interestingly though, the constant, “rub” of these classes upon each other opens up some real challenge to those who are served to see life through other’s eyes and appreciate the real struggles therein. 

   Perhaps this is some of the real appeal of a story that is well-written and willing to tackle some tough issues. Many of us, if not all can find ourselves within the story lines and ask ourselves how we view our world.  What is the focus from which we truly understand the problems that people unlike ourselves walk with, day in and day out? 

   I am presently reading, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson. Many of you are probably aware that he is a black lawyer, and I mention his race only to indicate that he does understand the racism faced by his black brothers and sisters.  He has worked on death row, with these “brothers and sisters” seeking justice, which has been denied them often times simply because of the color of their skin.  Stevenson found, time and time again, that crimes committed by white folks in Alabama, where he worked, that may get them, “a slap on the wrist,” landed black folk in jail with life sentences, sometimes even, the death penalty.  Again, in light of today’s Scriptures, Stevenson’s book title, Just Mercy, is another way of talking about the challenge to—certainly Christians, but more basically, to all humans, to do the “most loving thing.” 

   When a group of people are presumed guilty before any evidence has been looked at, we know that something is clearly wrong. I can’t even imagine what being black in this country, living with the day-to-day fear of being stopped by the police and the possible aftermath of that must feel like! Can’t even imagine! 

   When I hear horribly, unbelievable stories of our black brothers and sisters as Stevenson relates, of injustice, lack of understanding and mercy being dealt out, to say nothing of lack of human concern; I am reminded afresh, of the step-up that I enjoy, in having been born white, through nothing I had done, just as those born black, through no fault of their own, are condemned to a life, unfair from the beginning.

   As a country we should be better than this, advocating for those here who don’t have all they need to live as God intended. As someone has said, “This is our experiment here, not God’s—we have free will and can make of it whatever we so choose.” 

   The prophet Isaiah tells us today, “If you make yourself a reparation offering…” [you will basically increase your life—not only in physical days, but emotionally and spiritually too!]  And the prophet continues, “the will of Yahweh will prevail through you.” 

   On the surface, Isaiah is speaking about the coming of the Messiah—of what he will suffer in living out his human life, trying to be true to the law of love in service to others.  Digging deeper though, this reading is about each of us, my friends. Our brother Jesus has shown us the way and we must follow.  The writer to the Hebrews encourages us in our attempts in following Jesus—he was tempted in all ways as we are but did not give in to it.  This lets us know that we are not alone and have someone to turn to in all our trials. 

   A complete reading of the passage today from Hebrews, thought to perhaps have been penned by Paul’s disciple, Barnabas, lets us know that our life as humans will bring suffering too—it is what being human, an imperfect state is all about.  Through the examples I shared here today, I think we can see that whether rich or poor, black, or white, or any other differences that may set us apart, we are each called to struggle with the human condition.  Some of us may have more than others to begin with, but none of us, I truly believe makes it through our human journey and out the other side for what comes next without struggling with the meaning of life. 

   We must ask, “Is it all just about me, us—or are we called to get beyond ourselves—to serve, ultimately—to share, rather than to claim it all—everything in my path—for my own welfare?  Getting beyond ourselves will truly call us into service for others and that would seem to be the overall message from the prophets—Isaiah, Barnabas, and Jesus, through Mark, today.   Amen? Amen!

Homily – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, the clear theme, stemming from the Scripture readings today on this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, is to look to “wisdom” in our lives as we attempt to follow our brother, Jesus. 

   In the first reading from the Old Testament book of Wisdom, we hear the writer, thought to be, King Solomon, as he supposedly writes to the rulers of the earth, say, “I prayed, and understanding was given me…wisdom came to me…and I valued [her] above even my throne and scepter and all my great wealth was nothing next to this.” 

   The second reading from the New Testament book of Hebrews, often thought to have been written by Paul, but in more present day, it is thought that this letter many have been penned by one of Paul’s disciples, Barnabas, continues the idea of the 1st reading speaking to “wisdom” and the goodness, rightness of this gift in our lives.  The Hebrew’s writer speaks of God’s Word as, “living and active”— “piercing deeply,” able to judge the thoughts and, “intentions of the heart,” and that all, “is exposed to God.”  I believe we can look at these words and agree that the writer is speaking about the “wisdom” of God.

   The gospel from Mark today gives us a piece of wisdom that seems to frame our thinking and purpose here, by reminding us of Jesus’ words, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kin-dom of God.”  So, let’s try and unpack these readings and more clearly see their import for us today—as we have said recently, “not just nice stories, for past times, but for us, as well.

   The majority of people, ourselves included, live by the status quo—what are others doing? —and then, do the same—quite a natural thing to do. It definitely keeps the peace.  Unfortunately, living like the “status quo” doesn’t necessarily, call forth the best in us. 

   As Jesus’ followers—we are called to more, and deciding, “how to live,” we must go to our hearts—as that is where the truth lies.  Looking to the masses often brings more of, “comfort living” and acceptance of, “what is,” rather than, “what could be.” 

    I said above that the majority of us follow the “status quo” way of life, as frankly, it is the easier way to go.  And who of us is looking for trouble?  But my friends, that is often precisely, what our walk with Jesus calls us to do—make trouble, and not simply, for “trouble’s sake,” but for bringing about justice.   John Lewis, civil rights leader, and former congressman—now deceased, called this action, making, “good trouble!” 

   When we name the injustice, and there is so much of it in our country where non-whites, women, and  the poor, to name just a few groups, are concerned; we can many times find ourselves in the minority proclaiming this truth.  How many of us could be truly “convicted” of being a “Christian” on the evidence of our lived experience? I ask this question of myself and of you, because my dear friends, this is our true mission in this world.  Being a Christian should not slip us easily into the ranks of status quo living—what we might call, “comfort living.” 

   Three years ago, when we addressed these readings, I shared the story of a Catholic priest, Father Jim Callahan who pastors St. Mary’s parish in Worthington, MN. He works primarily with the immigrant population there who labor in the meat-processing plant owned and operated by Swift and Company. 

   Over the years, Father Jim has provided asylum protection for immigrants, here illegally, within the church walls when needed, against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  He, is of course, in the minority where male, Catholic priests are concerned—most, like Father’s Jim’s predecessor, don’t “want to get involved.”  And I would believe that his work continues, as should all of ours, in the tradition of our brother, Jesus. 

   We, each of us, needs to listen to “Lady Wisdom—Sophia,” too, as she makes known her truth to us, and then act.  The problems in our immigration system continue, gun violence still has a “life of its own,” on our streets and in our country; politicians—too many of them, have forgotten what they were sent to Washington or State Houses to do, violence against women and now, especially, Native women, continues.  All of these issues call to us, “to go to our hearts,” where Lady Wisdom lives. 

   The “lady” of which we speak when describing, “wisdom” is the term used from ancient times—pre-Christian in fact, denoting that wisdom has a feminine nature, character and face.  This notion was carried over then in Old Testament literature where Sophia (Wisdom) does indeed speak of the feminine face of God.  One wonders why, then, what was good and appropriate for our forebears in the faith, should be so hard for the present-day hierarchy to get their “heads” around.  As Sandra Schneiders said so well, “God is more than two men and a bird.”  Perhaps if they came at it, from their, “hearts,” where Lady Wisdom lives, it wouldn’t be so hard.

   A present-day example of coming at things with one’s head is the recent, unfortunate, in-action of Pope Francis as he made changes to the Code of Canon Law (Book VI) on offenses and punishments, in June of this year.  His in-action was his, “failure to correct the mis-characterization of the ‘grave crime’ of women following their authentic vocations to ordained ministry,” writes Kate McElwee of, New Women, New Church, a publication of Women’s Ordination Conference. 

   It should be remembered that by not correcting this error of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis is affirming that he believes too that the action of women following their God-given calls to priesthood is analogous to the grave crime of sexual abuse of children by male priests!  Francis, it seems, struggles between his “head and “heart” statements to the detriment of the Church.  There are day-to-day, random examples of his reaching out to the LGBTQ community and to women (heart) and when it comes to the official statement, he falls back on his “head” failing to do much that could be considered, “loving.”

   All the readings today speak to the need, as followers of our brother, Jesus, to get beyond the world of material things, what brings comfort and doesn’t overly, bother us—the status quo, as spoken of earlier. 

   That having been said, it is important to say as well that, “the comfort” that material things bring is not bad in itself, as long as we keep a balance.  I believe this was the caution that Jesus was trying to lay out for the apostles, and ultimately, for us—when he spoke of how hard it is for the rich to enter the kin-dom.  Because friends, the desire for more and more is a powerful deterrent for doing less and less for those in need. 

   This reminds me of a song made popular back in 1970 by country singer, Lynn Anderson, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.”  When first hearing this title, it would appear that the singer considers a “rose garden” a happy place to be, with no troubles, such as, when we speak of, “a bed of roses.”  But, in reality, we know that all rose bushes come with thorns. It strikes me that this might be a good way to view our God-given lives—the beauty and joy of “roses,” showing themselves in people and all of created life—yes, but the “thorns” of injustice, disagreement and more, that come along the way too, that we have to grapple with. 

   Wisdom calls us to this reality and much more.  We are here to enjoy our human existence, but to share it as well.  Jesus, it seems, did promise us a “rose garden.”

Amen? Amen!

Homily – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends, sorry for the lateness of today’s homily, but I was part of a celebration in Rochester to welcome 7 new Cojourners–lay associates with the Franciscan Sisters there. One of the 7, I had the privilege to mentor. So, a bit late today…

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   My friends, as I said in the bulletin this week, Respect Life Sunday gathers together ALL life and if it doesn’t, then it should!  If truth be told though, most of us would have to admit that when we hear the title, “Respect Life Sunday,” we think of the unborn.  Now, not that we shouldn’t go there in our thinking, but our Christian life really calls us to more—so much more. 

   Our brother Jesus gives us two fine examples in today’s Gospel: (1) He is addressing the cultural view of divorce and the place of women in this less than equal arrangement. (2) Jesus is speaking of the place of children in his culture and simply says, and I paraphrase, you can’t be part of me and a greater life, beyond this world unless you become like little children. Let’s look at these two, because both are so about, “respecting life.” 

   First is the example of women:  Jesus is not addressing, “divorce,” because of law, but because of love.  This reading is not about a “black and white” ruling with no exceptions but was in response to the hypocrisy of the men asking him the question. 

   We all know from other readings and other homilies that I have shared, that women had no place in the society in which Jesus was a part, unless they were the “property” of some man, i.e., a father, or a husband.  If these entities weren’t around, in the case of death of one or the other, or both, an adult brother or son, might take the woman in. 

   So, in the case of a potential divorce from an abusive husband, the woman would think twice or more about it, and in most cases, do nothing.  Whereas the man in the same situation certainly had more power. In fact, Jesus’ purpose here in discussing divorce is to raise up the fact that men, having all the power in their society, could stipulate as cause, “Inadequacy in the Wife,” when what he might really want is someone, younger and more pleasing in whatever way, and the woman could really do nothing about it. 

   Then there is the case of children, who just like women, had no power in their society.  Imagine the disbelief within the community to hear Jesus say, “Unless you become like little children,” you can’t be part of the greater life that I have come to offer.

   So, what might Jesus be saying here?  “Becoming like children,” certainly would have to include a purity of heart—a truthfulness of feeling and expression, a sense of wonder of all that is about us in our world.  We have all had those times when children express the unadulterated truth about something that causes us to stop in our tracks and proclaim, “Out of the mouths of babes!”

   This is what Jesus seems to be asking of his, “sisters and brothers” in the flesh—that we would respect ourselves, others, and act accordingly in our lives.  Our living is not just for ourselves, but indeed, for others, and it does matter that when we are claiming, “our freedom,” we are not stepping on others’ freedom. 

   Jesus was sent by the Creator, as spoken of today in the second reading from Hebrews, to show us that we are all, mightily loved and it seemed that the only way we could really know that was through the “expressed” example of One, sent by the Creator for that very purpose.  Jesus, in other words, is such a fine example of one who truly, “respected” all of created life. 

   October is also the month when we celebrate a “Jesus-like” figure (October 4th) who probably, more than any other human who has lived, showed us Jesus’ face in time.  Francis of Assisi is loved by many Catholics and others around the world for the simplicity of his lifestyle—a childlikeness that saw people and all of creation with joy, naming each as his, “sister and brother.”

   In the beginning of this homily, I spoke of the fact that, Respect Life Sunday is about more than, life in the womb, and went on to address how, in the Gospel Jesus speaks of the plight of women and children in his time.  Now, as we have said many times before, we don’t read the Scriptures as “nice stories” that have nothing to say to our present day.

   With that in mind, I lift up the fact that so many have lauded Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si and rightly so. His beautiful words speak to the fact, perhaps wish, that all are included in God’s love, people, and all of creation.  I, as a woman do though, still await the day that Francis can truly act on his beautiful, inclusive words, and include women in all levels of Church governance and full ministry at the altar as priests. 

   Interestingly, Francis is remembered for his very open comment when asked about the actions of gay and lesbian folks— “Who am I to judge?”  Who indeed, except for where women are concerned? Having said that though, Francis seems to be back-pedaling even with gay and lesbian folk in that he refuses to allow priests to bless their unions, naming them, as “sin.”

   Jesus, I believe, would be very pleased with the reading from Genesis, chosen for today and rewritten by the Priests for Equality, source of all our readings here at All Are One, because of how they have opened up this reading to include more than just heterosexual relationships.

   It is interesting to note that in their translation of this text, we don’t have, “genders” until after the “earth creature” is put to sleep.  Additionally, the derivation of the word, “a-dam” is, “earth creature” and not a name, “Adam” for the male creature created by the male God. And when “genders” are introduced, we see that each is given a choice, which indicates that there could be another choice as well. 

   It is this sensitive writing that finally opens up this Scripture for our gay brothers and sisters, for truly, “It is not good for the “earth creature” to be alone.” 

   So, my friends, bringing together all these thoughts and readings, we could say that the theme within this Respect Life Sunday is really about, “relationships” and how we deal with our world.  Not only must we respect life in its beginnings, but all through life—to the very end.

   We must make sure that we respect life in the hungry, the poor, the uneducated, the homeless, those who are lonely, those persecuted for the color of their skin, their gender, whom they love, those seeking asylum and so on, doing our part to make these situations better. 

   We also cannot live our lives from the standpoint of who has “the power,” but must be open to sharing all that we have.  This still tends to be a very patriarchal world in Church, for sure, but in State too.  Women must operate out of a whole different set of rules than men do.

   In Church this is all too obvious, and I have already lifted up this truth in today’s homily.  In State, women still lag behind men in comparable pay for comparable work.  Across the professions, women make 84% of what men do and at this rate they would have to work 42 days more to be equal to men in wages. And colored women and those of other nationalities have even lower percentages of equality to men with regard to wages.  Over the 25 years that I have tracked this inequality—women have made gains.  My question is, “Why has it taken so long,” if we truly, “respect” life?

   Regardless of whether you like Hilary Clinton, when she ran for president in 2016, it was clear that she was held to a different standard than the man she ran against, or we might say, any man she would have challenged. Rather than lifting up her lifetime of earned credentials for that position, news commentators often spoke about what she was wearing or discounted her for the “sins” of her husband. 

   Hillary’s part to play in breaking, “the glass ceiling” seems to have been to shine a bright light on this kind of discrimination so as to make it easier for up-coming women who want to serve our country. 

   Ah, yes, Respect Life Sunday—we should indeed respect life, but in all it’s many-faceted ways!  Amen? Amen!  

Homily – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

   My friends, as I said in the bulletin, this week’s readings are all about being, “prophets,” here and now!  Prophesy is the work of us all—followers of our brother, Jesus.  We can’t wait for someone else to do this great work but must see the work of speaking truth-to-power, Church or State, to any and all who are dealing out injustice in this world, as our own. 

   Additionally, to be clearer; we can’t see the work of the prophet as an extraordinary, once, or twice in a lifetime event, but for the true believer in Jesus, the Christ, closer to, an everyday event.  In other words, the ability and strength to be a prophet comes with our confirmations and should be practiced whenever the need arises.  Further, we must always be ready! 

   James, always short and to the point was and is truly acting in the role of the prophet in today’s 2nd reading.  He was taking issue with the rich who apparently saw no one’s needs, except for their own and says definitively: “Weep and howl for the miseries that are coming to you.”  Whether “the miseries” come in this life or the next, he doesn’t say.  My take would be that one’s life will always go better, be happier when it is shared with others.  The top 1% in our country are at present being asked to pay their fair share in taxes to support those with so much less. Unfortunately, many are objecting!

   Eldad and Medad, in the 1st reading today from Numbers were ready when the Spirit overshadowed them, calling them to preach what they had heard.  We see the interesting “dilemma” that arises for the people that Moses had gathered for God to share the Spirit with. Hearing that two other elders were preaching, who hadn’t been part of their select group, Joshua objects.  Moses needs to remind him and the others, that they haven’t been chosen to preach for themselves, or for Moses, but that the gift to preach, is given for the benefit of others.  Moses tells them— “If only all of God’s people were prophets!” 

   Too many times my friends, we shy away from speaking the words of justice for all—love, care, and concern for the downtrodden, a place at the table where all are welcome, because we have our eyes on what is not the most important issue—following protocol, the law—whatever it might be. 

   This failure to do what God is calling forth from us reminds me of my early days in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)—training to become a chaplain.  A wonderful supervisor, mentor, and friend, Southern Baptist minister, Mark Hart, in my training program gave me some fine advice during a time when I was grieving the fact that the Catholic church would not affirm me, or any women as called by God to minister to God’s people at the altar.

   Mark said to me one day when we were discussing this, “Kathy, you don’t need anyone’s permission, i.e., the Catholic hierarchy, to do what God is calling you to do!”  I believe today that such affirming words as this enabled me 15 years later, after the fact, to pursue ordination to the priesthood within the Roman Catholic Womenpriests because the call was about so much more than a church law that said that I couldn’t!  So, for me, there was never any fear of what I might lose by saying, “yes” to God. 

   Jesus, our brother, had to deal with this same issue that Moses had, with his apostles objecting to others outside their select group of believers preaching what the Spirit had given them.  Jesus simply says, “If they aren’t against us, then they are with us!”  Jesus is always widening the circle, not making it smaller!

   My good friend and soulmate from my convent days, Mary Ann Sinclair, has said of it, “The road is wide!”  In other words, there are many ways to God, and we should never discourage any of them. Mary Ann is also a fine artist and made for me a wall hanging to proclaim this very concept. (For those reading this on-line, you can go to our website, http://www.allareonechurch.org to view this hanging). For those in front of me, that hanging is behind me.  Because the “road is [indeed] wide,” my friends, our community, All Are One is open to Catholics, yes, but to all other faith backgrounds as well, who want to gather and pray with us.  That is also why I open the homily time to all of you because I realize that the wisdom of the Spirit comes to each of us—me, as well as you. 

   So, does this kind of thinking simplify our lives?  No, it doesn’t, but it does make life, incredibly more rich.  Three years ago, when I preached on these Scriptures, I included the wisdom of a writer for the National Catholic Reporter, (NCR), Miriam Williams, and her advice bears repeating:

   In a piece entitled, A Strong Faith Can Handle the Test of Startling Questions, she is responding primarily to religious evangelicals and other conservatives who want to have their faith all laid out for them—do this, do that and you’re saved! Williams writes that [she] “believes a strong faith can handle the test of ‘tough meat’ (my apologies to my vegetarian friends) when it comes in the form of startling questions.

 What if God sees nothing wrong with women delivering the Gospel?  What if homosexuality isn’t a sin? What if it is, but God has enough grace to cover it? What if the Bible is literary, but not literal?”   She goes on, “I chew, I listen for God in the bites.  I digest.  I am energized and satisfied, even as I wonder how much longer so many people will feel full on theology that starves them.” 

   My friends, our lives as Jesus’ followers call us “to go deeper” as mystic, Hildegard of Bingen is known for encouraging.  We must move beyond the political, the seemingly religious, the pious, the law, in all its coldness and respond from our hearts as Jesus did.  We must look for the truth in these troubling times, not in rhetoric, but in actions of goodness, kindness, compassion—devoid of arrogance and self-centeredness—deep enough to realize that when I look into the face of another, suffering due to something that I believe or have done; I can see my own face, and in all of that, the face of God. 

   Being “prophets” my friends in a world so big and so diverse—so seemingly more divided than any time that I can remember in my 71 years, calls for us to be big-hearted people.  People are across the board with political, religious, and cultural views, but at the end of the day, the faith of any of us, as humans, does call us to simply do the “loving thing” –that is bigger than whether we agree politically, religiously, or in any other way.

   A personal example came to me, fresh and open as I wrote this homily.  I have three brothers, all followers of the former president, so you know that we do not agree on much politically.  None of them came to my ordination, so not much in common religiously, either.  But just this week, one brother’s oldest daughter tested positive for COVID, unvaccinated, and by week’s end, had to be taken to the E.R. with low oxygen levels.  Luckily, my brother and his wife are vaccinated, but could not convince their three children and spouses to do so.  Maybe now, that may change.

   So, even though this angers me, because it didn’t need to happen, my response can’t be a “political” one, but a “heart” one.  How as a parent would I feel? What would I as a parent in that situation need to hear? Love, of course! 

   As we struggle friends to live as Jesus did, in our world; we realize, as a friend reminded me recently—love is always, the hardest lesson.  Our brother Jesus minces no words in today’s gospel when he addresses leading others astray— “better to have a millstone hung around your neck and thrown into the sea” [!]

   All this can at times sound so hard to do, but what gives me hope and strength each day is the knowledge that Jesus always has my back— “I will be with you all days…,” he said.  Amen? Amen!