Homily – Pentecost – 1st Communion Sunday

Dear Friends,

Today All Are One Roman Catholic church celebrated our first-ever, First Communion! With the challenge of Pentecost–being filled with Jesus’ Spirit, it seemed appropriate to also be accepting one of our members into fuller participation with us. Being a smaller parish, we were able to individualize this special day for one young man. It was a joy to celebrate with you Liam!  Below, find today’s homily–Pastor Kathy


Today friends, is a very special day! Our Church remembers it as Pentecost—“pente” from the Greek meaning, “fiftieth.”  Now, I think we can be quite sure that the “coming of the Spirit” didn’t happen exactly fifty days after Easter and when it comes right down to it, whether it was five or fifty days, is not as important as the fact that Jesus did, indeed send his Spirit, a person, a force, his life-blood—to be with those first apostles and disciples and ultimately, us, in a special way, in his physical absence, so that he could indeed say, “I will not leave you alone!”

Today is also special because of the fact that our friend, Liam Darst will receive his first communion in the presence of his family and friends and by doing so, become ever more a part of this community. Liam has prepared for a long time to be ready for today and we are all so happy that this day has finally come!

He and I have been preparing for at least 17 weeks as there are 17 chapters in the book of preparation and it has been even longer as several weeks we had to cancel because of snow storms!–we all remember those days, not so long ago when we could barely find our front doors amid the snow piles!

But alas, spring has come, we are on the cusp of summer and new and abundant life seems to be all around!  Pentecost is really all about new life, beginning back there 50 days ago with Easter and the new life of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  Pentecost represents the new life that is possible in each of us through our connection to our brother, Jesus, first in our baptisms and then through our more adult response in our own confirmations, our own reception, or coming of the Spirit into our lives.

The reading today from Acts says that those in the room “were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak as the Spirit enabled them.”  Those of us here who have experienced our own “coming of the Spirit” into our lives have that same power of that first Pentecost which the Spirit gives, to enable us to be our best selves—to speak, to act, to do that which is needed in our world, even when we might have to stand alone to get it done.

We marvel at what we hear in the Scriptures today about what that first Pentecost was like—what these first “receivers” of the Spirit were able to do, but we, my friends, have that same power to do good, if we but choose to use it!

Liam and I spent time talking about what it would be like to receive Jesus in a special way in communion and how this “receiving” would help him to live a better life.  We talked about how God, in Jesus is, with us in a special way, always, living in us, through our parents, our sisters and brothers, our friends and then, in holy communion, in a special way.

We talked about it, trying to understand “how” this can be that Jesus is present to us in this special way, when the bread, we are told, “is his body” and the wine or grape juice, we are told, “is his blood,” yet it still tastes like bread and wine or juice.  So, he thought about it for a while and being inspired by the Spirit, said, “It’s a miracle!”  And Liam, indeed, it is! Where Jesus and his Spirit are concerned, speaking of “miracles” is always the truth!

In the first reading from Acts today; we learned that there were many different nationalities present in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost, speaking in many different languages and each one understood what the apostles had to say about their friend, Jesus, in their own tongue!

Liam and I spent time talking about as he grows and matures; he will understand even more fully how much God loves him—loves us all, and that is why we receive communion when we come to Mass, when we are ready, to have that sense that Jesus is always with us, helping us to be our best selves.

And one day, you Liam, will be old enough to take that next step—to be confirmed in your faith as so many here have already done.  But for now, your first holy communion is enough!

In the reading from Corinthians today, we hear that the Spirit of God gives each one a special gift that we are intended to use for the good of all—the gifts of the Spirit are never intended just for us.

We have probably all been aware of times in our lives when we “spoke” words either orally or in written form for the “good of all” that were profound and we wondered, “where did that come from?” It was the Spirit, my friends, speaking, writing, teaching through us for the good of all.

So Liam that is what you have to look forward to from this day onward, first through your first reception of communion today and later, as you grow, through Jesus’ Spirit.

And in conclusion, I say to you and to each of us, God’s love through Jesus is always there for us, especially through his Spirit.  Remember Liam, we talked about a way to understand “spirit” is to think about all that makes up who each of us is—all that makes us unique.  There is no one like you Liam, in this entire world,  and who you are is what our God wants you to share with this world, in whatever ways you choose to do that.  The same is true for all of us!  And Jesus gives us our “marching” words, so to speak in today’s gospel, “Peace be with you!”—and in case, we didn’t get it the first time, Jesus says it again, “Peace be with you!”

Liam, my friend, and to each of us today, we will always know if we are doing the right thing if the overall feeling we are experiencing is, peace.  Blessings on you especially today, Liam and on all of us!  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 7th Sunday of Easter/Ascension

My friends, we are coming to the end of the Easter Season with today and concluding next Sunday with Pentecost—the coming of the Spirit among us! This past Thursday, the Church remembered the day that Jesus was with the apostles one moment and then suddenly wasn’t with them, at least physically.

He told them and us that he would never leave us, so we knew that he certainly meant more than physical presence.  A close look at Jesus’ life and words tells us that his message to those first apostles, disciples and ultimately to us, was always “loaded,” so to speak, with more than meets the eye.  The above example of his being with them and then physically leaving them along with his additional message that, in fact, he would be with them always, is a case in point—many layers and ways to understand what he has said.  The parables are other examples of this.

I believe our Church would be stronger and more meaningful to more people if the hierarchy remembered this—Jesus’ ultimate message, the one he truly wants us to get, isn’t on the surface, alone, but goes much deeper.

In deference to Ascension Thursday, celebrated this past week; I looked up the list of holy days within the Catholic church that are still considered, “days of obligatory Mass attendance,” being that we don’t usually meet for Mass on these days and I found an interesting thing.

Most years the Church considers, besides each Sunday, six days that are days of obligation to attend Mass.  Those days are: January 1, the Solemnity of Mary—this is a feast to Mary, our mother and sister that apparently is about “being serious and dignified.”  I think we might do better to say, this is a feast to remember that Mary was one of us and did a wonderful job of it! “Solemnity” seems to speak of putting someone on a pedestal, out of sight and mind.

Moving on, we have the Ascension of Jesus, usually celebrated 40 days after Easter—which the Church remembered this last Thursday. This one too should have its name changed—where is Jesus ascending to? For a long time now the “three tiers” idea of our universe; heaven, earth and hell has been dispelled with—probably since astronauts have gone further and further into space and haven’t run into heaven yet! Although, on a larger plane, what these same astronauts have discovered out beyond the earth could be said to be quite “heavenly.”

Next, we have the Assumption of Mary, body and soul into heaven—again we have the notion that she is going up somewhere. This feast day grew out of the notion that because she carried the Christ Child in her womb, we couldn’t just let that precious body rot in the ground. Here again, the Church misses the point of our loving God choosing to be one with us, in our humanity. Humanity thus, is a good thing, not something we need to belittle and thus, the gift our God has given us.

Then, comes November 1, All Saints Day, which is a good one in that it remembers that all of us, are of God.

Next, we have the Immaculate Conception celebrated on December 8 and in my opinion, this is a feast that the Church really needs to lose because of the wrong-headed theology it demonstrates. If Mary was truly conceived without sin—or in other words, perfect, then she wasn’t human, which by definition means, “imperfect,” thus, there goes Jesus’ humanity.

We conclude with Christmas, December 25—God with us!  But, and this seems to be important, if January 1, August 15 and November 1 fall in any calendar year, on a Saturday or a Monday, there is no obligation to attend Mass because, I guess, the Sunday obligation “spills over” in either direction and “covers us.”  Certainly, folks are encouraged to attend Mass, but no penalty of “sin” if you don’t! Sounds kind of anal to me!

Now, you might be wondering why Christmas, the Ascension and December 8 aren’t included here.  Well, the Ascension always falls on a Thursday, and the Sunday obligation can’t stretch that far, I guess, so it has to be a holy day, Christmas is always a holy day no matter what day if falls on as well as December 8. Now, why December 8 is always a holy day, I can’t tell and besides; I have already said that we should lose this one!

And why then, if Christmas is a holy day, is not Easter? Well, Easter is always on a Sunday, so that is covered too! Double anal!!

This all makes me think of Jesus railing at the Pharisees for “tying people up in knots” with over 600 rules and regulations for daily living, as he tried instead to get them back to the “heart” of the law, instead of the “letter” of the law.

So, why am I picking on the hierarchy here?! Precisely for the same reason that Jesus picked on the Pharisees and the other hierarchy of his time—he wanted them to get beyond rules, which are merely meant to control people and get to the heart of the law, meant to set people free to be their very best selves.  Love God, and love your neighbor as you would want to be loved and appreciated—that’s it and if you do that, there is no need for days of obligation. Completing days of obligation is really the easier thing to do, rather than being about, “loving God and others.”  I have known people in my life who have kept all the rules, except the one to show love and mercy.

This whole Easter Season, in its readings, set up by people more gifted than the “rule makers,” is intended to help us see the glory of God made visible to us through the life, death and resurrection of the human and divine, Jesus of Nazareth.

We know that his life, death and resurrection singled him out from among humans because people were drawn to him through his words, his actions and something very special they saw within him.  Even those who had never seen him in the flesh, or heard his words, like Stephen in the Acts’ reading today, and was stoned to death rather than be silent about this man who had so captivated his life.  The apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, once known as Saul holding the garments of those who persecuted Stephen, became the greatest evangelizer of Jesus, sight unseen, that the world has ever known—granted he did have the “throwing off the horse” experience!

The message from Revelation today is a simple one too, “I am coming soon” and again we know that this has many layers of meaning.  The reading from John is from the beautiful 17th chapter that speaks so intimately of our God’s desire to be “one with us”—the very chapter where the name of our parish is taken from.  The Incarnation, in its very best sense was all about this—to be one with us as Jesus was and is one with the Creator.  Nothing here about keeping laws, rules, obligations—6 or 600!

Just love, love God, love each other. That was what was missing in Jesus’ time—the hierarchy of his time was into pressing the people with obligations and they, as my dear mother, through marriage, always used to say, “had forgotten the love.”

So, my friends, that is why I pick on the hierarchy as Jesus did in his time—to challenge them and us to remember the love—that is the only obligation we must ever keep—to remember the parables, the teachings and the wisdom of our brother Jesus—all about love.   Amen? Amen!

Homily – 6th Sunday of Easter

Friends, it would seem that in the reading today from Acts; we have one of the first tests of “law over love,” and actually, quite a narrow view of what Jesus had in mind for his fledgling community of followers.  A close read of the Scriptures will show us that our brother, Jesus, always checked his responses against what was the most loving thing to do and ignored any law that was absent of love.  No wonder he got into trouble!

Proceeding to the second reading from Revelation, we see a vision of a new heaven and a new earth that speaks distinctly to this broader “law”—love first!  I had to marvel on the imagery of “wall” and “temple,” “sun” and “moon” and the expansiveness of these images—walls with doors, 12 of them and names on the doors!—a true sense of welcome!

Compare that to the wall that the U.S. president wants to construct—an edifice to keep people out.  Perhaps if there was more of the “light of the Spirit,” which truly is the life of all of us in God’s creation, this proposed “wall” could become a “door” of welcome.

This past couple of weeks; there has been much written on the question of opening the diaconate to women within our official Catholic church.  First there was Pope Francis’ conclusion, after listening to his commission looking at the issue for the past three years, that it can’t be done because the research is “indefinite,” when in all truth, there is more than ample proof that women served in this role, the same as men did, in the earlier days of the Church.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans mentions “Deacon Phoebe” as well as catacomb images of women serving as “table ministers.” In St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, a lineup of women ministers is depicted, some with the title of “presbytera,” meaning “priest,” and another with the title of “Episcopa,” meaning, “bishop.”

In a recent response to Francis’ conclusion that women cannot serve as deacons now, Jaimie Mason, National Catholic Reporter (NCR) columnist penned an article entitled, “Why Does Francis’ Passion for Justice and Unity Stop Short of Women?” I would like to share several of her key ideas here as I think she has said well the truth of our institutional church at present.

As she points out, this latest episode is yet another example of the Catholic church’s perpetuating and justifying notions of gender inequality that are the root of women’s suffering globally.”  Wow, that is quite a mouthful!

Let’s be clear on what she is saying here.  Because the Church hierarchy is treating women as non-equals to themselves and all other men, not worthy or acceptable for table or any other sort of priestly ministry; they do, in effect give the rest of the world (globally) permission, whether in Church of State, to do the same!

In reality, this looks like, no real positions of power or influence to change policy, no real consideration of their true needs, and we see that played out in all the current discussion around abortion, unequal pay for equal work and we could go on.

Jaimie Mason continues, “It is incomprehensible that Pope Francis and the hierarchy continue to blame God for [their] long history of sinful misogyny into the 21st Century. Francis’ boundless energy and dedication to peace and justice stands in stark contrast to the dithering way he is handling the question of women deacons in his own Church,” she says.

“His passionate cause for unity among churches and with people of other faiths, it seems, stops short of the women of his own church who are asking simply for more inclusive ways to serve.

Another writer for the NCR, Joshua McElwee, recently said, “Sadly, patriarchs still seem to dominate Francis’ religious imagination—it is interesting to note that in the same news conference on women deacons, the pope also reflected on the richness of his meeting with the Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch.”

Francis seems in every other instance where “women” are not the issue, to be open-minded.  In a response to people who don’t agree with his stance on women deacons, Mason has given us his response, “If you don’t like it, you are welcome to leave the Church!”   Think of this, reflecting on our brother Jesus, responding to the fact that all, (women, the poor, the sick) weren’t welcome at the temple. Jesus took the meal and the worship to the hillsides where everyone was welcome!

This apparently close-minded view of Francis, Mason says, comes from a papacy “not known” for “splitting theological hairs” except where women are concerned.  In 2013, she continues, he acknowledged that many people see the Church as a “relic of the past” and a “prisoner of its own rigid formulas.” Additionally, in 2015 the pope told the bishops at the Synod on the Family, “the Church should not be a stuffy “museum of memories; but have the courage to change if that was what God wants.”  Indeed Francis!

And last year, the final document of the Synod on Youth called the inclusion of women in the Church’s decision-making structures a “duty of justice” that requires a “courageous cultural conversion.”

Instead, Francis has communicated like so many popes before him that women’s legacy of leadership requires further questioning and their participation in ministry alongside men could be a dangerous step and therefore must be indefinitely stalled.  Jaimie Mason says, [it is] “becoming clearer and clearer that the pope is afraid of women in his church having even the modicum of sacramental participation that the diaconate would give them.”

She concludes, “in his six years of papacy Francis has been celebrated for his constant calls for courage, encounter, dialogue and risk-taking.  How long, Mason asks before he offers the same regarding women?”

I began this homily speaking about love versus law—this is a notion that we must all keep in mind when grappling with these tough issues—is love being served and if not, our action is not of God.  Jesus in John’s gospel selection for today lets us know how we can be sure that we are making the best choice—we should have and know “peace” in our hearts.  Granted, this will not be an easy peace, but beneath the possible ridicule that doing the loving thing might bring, peace will be there—that sense that we have done the right thing.  Amen? Amen!

 

Homily – 5th Weekend of Easter

A day or two ago when I was lamenting to my sister-in-law, Jane, that I hadn’t yet written my homily and that time was short due to Mass being on Saturday this week; she said, “Make it short!” So Jane, this one’s for you!  The truth is; I always begin thinking about what I might write early in the week, but for one reason or another, this week, it just didn’t get done until yesterday!

As I suggested in the bulletin this week; hope might be a virtue for each of us to hold onto during the Easter Season and especially during the times that we currently find ourselves. We look to Church and State for leadership and find little in either place to be hopeful about.  That having been said; we do need to applaud the Minnesota bishops for their March 25, 2019 statement in support of “Driver’s Licenses for All,” already passed in our State House and slated to be taken up by our State Congress soon.

As you know, this would give the undocumented already living and working in our state more safety in driving as they would need to pass the same exam as we all do, which makes driving safer for all of us, plus it would allow them to get insurance, which again, protects us all.  In addition, it is the neighborly thing, and dare I say, Christian thing to do for those who harvest our crops and care for our animals that supply our state with dairy products and other produce—jobs that we basically don’t want to do.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the joint letter from the Minnesota bishops; I have put it on our website and our Face Book page—please take the time to read it!  Now if these same bishops could be in touch with each of their parishes, calling attention to their joint stand and encouraging dialog with their people through real, individual leadership; this would be great!

After you read their letter, you might take the next step and email our senator, Jeremy Miller, asking him to get on board with this most needed measure and support the bill coming before him very soon.  At present, this is clearly a political issue for him and we need to raise the bar so that he can make this a human, perhaps even, a spiritual issue.

With regard to all that is happening in Washington, or lack, thereof, our best action might be to pray along with those early Gentile followers of Jesus brought into the fold by Paul and Barnabas, spoken of in the first reading from Acts today.  And the prayer I am talking about is that of a committed, consistent person, every day, in every way.  I have realized, with some of the wisdom of the years, that I cannot make anyone change except for myself, but I can ask the Spirit of Jesus who we are told is continually, “renewing the face of the earth” to open the minds and hearts, ears and souls of those in public and church service to re-commit themselves to that noble goal that got them involved in the first place for the good of themselves and for all of us!

Luke, in the reading from Acts today also challenges us to “right living,” “persevering in our faith,” no matter, “the trials that we must undergo,” ever believing that we can, and do make a difference.  None of us can do it all, but each of us can do our part, no matter how small that might be.  The virtue of hope helps us to do this!  We should pray for an increase of faith and hope every day.

Each of the Scripture readings for this Easter weekend has a nugget to hold onto—to hope and believe in.  Revelation tells us that our God will always be with us,  that we will live to see an end to death, mourning, crying and tears, because Jesus has, “made all things new!”

My friends, I have to hope and believe that these Scriptures are true or I couldn’t do what I do pastoring this parish, in the face of no visible support from my brother priests. My prayer and wish for each of you is that you would continue to believe and never lose hope that good always triumphs.  I am grateful to each of you for all the generosity that I see in you, week after week, year after year.  We all here are an experiment attempting to show what an inclusive, Vatican II church can look like, a church in the memory of Jesus of Nazareth.  Have we succeeded?  I don’t know, but probably the true measure of our success or not will lie in Jesus’ words to us in today’s gospel from John—“all will know that you are my disciples,” [if they see you truly loving one another].

So friends, if we can own up to any action in our lives and truly say, “I did it out of love for God and my sisters and brothers on the journey,” then, we have been a success. If all we can say is, “I followed the law,” that really doesn’t make the grade! Following Jesus is really about opening our minds, hearts and souls to the face of God, all around us, in every creature, in all of creation—that is what Easter and the Incarnation are really all about and if there is a reward at the end of all that, well, good, but not a reason to do it in the first place!  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 4th Sunday of Easter–Mothers’ Day

Dear Friends, 

I asked my daughter, Eryn Redig Potthast to do the homily this morning reflecting on what it means to be a mom. In addition, I told her if she could “tie” her reflections to the Scriptures of the day, all the better. Now with all humility, even though she is my daughter; I think she did an excellent job, on both counts! Thank you Eryn and Happy Mothers’ Day! 


 

Thank you for the opportunity this morning to share a few thoughts with you on this Mother’s Day, 2019.  The readings today don’t expressly talk about being Mothers, but there is some wisdom to be seen, I believe, that we can tie into this special day.  

To begin with, in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see Paul and Barnabas trying to convert the Gentiles after they run into trouble with their own people who become jealous of the popularity they are gaining with the city.  You have to want to see this, but this isn’t too different from being a parent, and often a Mom, especially with a strong-willed child. You can try all the arguments – “But this really is good for you! I’m just trying to help! I’m actually giving you something you want!”  In the case of Paul and Barnabas, it’s everlasting life being offered (pretty good right?), but with your kids, it could be anything. Sometimes though, if it isn’t their idea, or they see someone getting more attention than them, well, there isn’t much you can do to change their mind.  What you find you can and need to do, as a parent, is be patient, which is by no means easy. God, as parent, has to become patient with us too, as we figure out what is good for us, and come to our own decisions. It takes longer, but in the end, if you can own that decision, you are much more likely to want to stick with it.  God, thankfully, is a patient parent, a patient Mom.

In the second reading from Revelation, although it probably is not directly referring to this, in light of the day we are celebrating, I’m going to see this as a metaphor for a parent who is responsible for nurturing and caring for life.  First of all, we see an immense crowd with all represented – all types, all nations, all tribes, all languages. So, this applies to us all. And in this reading, these are those who have been tested – parents, yes? Who of us who are parents (or those who have cared for children) have not been tested? Repeatedly?  But in the end of this reading we see the beautiful idea of the Shepherd, taking care of us. They will never be hungry, never thirsty, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes. If that isn’t a parent, I don’t know what is. At our basic levels, isn’t this what we are doing? Elliot says to me, “Water in my eyes!” when he gets upset or needs comforting.  I know that means he wants me to wipe away his tears – and I do so because I am his Mom. God is a Shepherd – a Mom Shepherd.

The Gospel from John is short and sweet, but it talks about the Good Shepherd – The Sheep will hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. When you first become pregnant, what do people always tell you?  Talk to your baby so he/she will know your voice. I used to read to Elliot when I was pregnant, and Adam and I would talk and sing to him. He knew our voice. My Mom came and helped us out for 6 weeks, as you all remember, when Elliot was born, and she spent a lot of time with him and talking to him when he was so little – they know each other now on a level that few other do, because of that voice connection.  I think the important take away here is that we are connected deeply to people because of communication in many forms, but that connection through our voices is unique to each of us and because of that, we know where are loved ones are when they call out to us. When Adam and I would walk into the NICU after Elliot was born, we could hear his cry from down the hall because we knew his unique voice. Each time I hear his voice in a crowd of other kids, I know him because I know his unique voice.  God is the parent who knows our unique voices.

So that’s the readings, but I have just a couple more thoughts about Mother’s Day.  There was a time in my life when I thought I would never be a Mom, even though I always wanted to be one.  My hold up was that I wanted to find the right person to share the experience with and raise a child with, but I hadn’t found him yet and thought I never would.  So, I immersed myself in my friends’ kids and tried to be, not their Mom, but someone who could be a responsible person in their lives who they could depend on. Then I found Adam and we are now on this parent adventure together, but that time of being a surrogate parent to those cool kids was something I always treasure (and thank my friends for allowing me to be a part of that).  It truly takes a community to raise a child, right?

When Mom asked me to consider doing this reflection, I thought, huh, so what do I have to say about being a parent?  Or a Mom? These five years have gone fast and being a parent is hard work, but so unbelievably rewarding – and I’ve learned so much! I look around this room though, and I see a wealth of wisdom to draw on from those who have been on the journey much longer than I.  For that I’m eternally grateful. And Mom and Dad, after experiencing some of this stuff, especially with Elliot where I can see myself looking straight back at me, I respect you even more than I grew to do over the years already.☺ There were times when I know raising me was not easy but I’m so glad you took the time to be patient with me, to be a Shepherd to me, and to get to know my own unique voice.

Raising a child is not easy and it takes many wonderful people to help bring a pretty cool kid up in this world.  I was lucky growing up because I had my Mom and Dad, but I also had my Grandma and Grandpa Redig living across the yard from me, and I had my Aunt Jane and Joan growing up with me too.  It was like having another two Moms available to help guide me, give me advice, and keep an eye on me. There are many people in this world who aren’t biological parents, but they sure put in the time, love, and care, and are devoted to kids in the same way.  And these women should be celebrated today too because they are the support system that make this lifelong job a whole lot easier.

So today, I ask you to celebrate all those women in our lives who help to bring up the little people in our lives.  Our lives are much bigger, richer, fuller, and complete because of all who care for children. We strive today, together to be patient, to shepherd our little people, and to let those unique voices shine.

Amen? Amen!