Homily – 3rd Sunday of Easter in an Almost Time of Safety Again

Dear Friends, Easter is a wonderful time for us to look back and to look forward. Looking back at all that our brother Jesus was and did and is for us –studying “his path” and trying to do likewise, ourselves, as we move forward into each day. We are told this week, the he “is our Advocate before God” –a very comforting thought, I think. Our God is always encouraging us through the memory of Jesus of Nazareth, to be our best. That is my challenge to myself and to each of you reading this. Please always know that I am here for you should it help to have an ear to listen…you can contact me as always by phone, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com. Peace and love to you all–each of you, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy; praise the glory of God’s name; proclaim God’s glorious name, Alleluia!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving God, author of all truth, a people once in darkness has listened to our Word, Jesus, the Christ. We followed him as he rose from the tomb. Hear the prayer of your newborn people and strengthen us as Church to answer your call.  May we rise and come forth into the light of day to stand in your presence until eternity dawns.  We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.

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Readings:

  • Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19
  • 1 John 2: 1-5
  • Luke 24: 35-48

Homily:

   My friends, we continue our journey through these six weeks of Eastertime.  We are reminded as are the apostles, by Jesus, that “all of this” is happening according to a plan—bigger than them, in other words.  Jesus reminds them and us that he is indeed the Messiah spoken of by all the prophets who came before him. 

   He reminds them that even though his actual presence on earth, in their midst, as a messiah—different perhaps, than what they expected, is, and was, what their God expected and wanted.  Jesus’ messiahship was never about, “saving” them from the Romans, but always about saving them from themselves—as humans and assisting them to become their best selves.

   Peter, post-resurrection, clearly has or takes the responsibility to instruct the Jews and others about Jesus, who they allowed to be crucified.  Peter appears to us in today’s 1st reading from Acts, to be compassionate and understanding of their complicity in Jesus’ death, saying, “You acted out of ignorance,” not understanding all the prophets that came before him, saying that all would happen as it did. 

   But Peter continues—now is the time, “to reform your lives,” and “listen to everything” [pondering what Jesus, the prophet, has told you].  His coming among us was all about letting us know that our God is in love with us—each of us, wanting us to be our best selves, for ourselves, others, and our world.

   John, in his 1st letter, which serves as our 2nd reading today, tells us clearly how we are to become our best selves:  We must come to know this God who loves us so much, and we can be sure that we do, by “keeping the commandments of God,” John says.  Jesus in fact makes that even more simple— “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

   Now, you are probably thinking—that is not at all simple, and you would be right!   When we really think about it, our thought processes go something like this: “Why of course I love God, but my neighbor? —well, that is another story!” Yet, our brother, Jesus asks us in so many words, “How is it that you can say you love God, whom you have never seen, but can’t love your neighbor, whom you have seen?”

   This is perhaps something good for us to ponder these days and weeks of Eastertime.  And maybe a sharper focus might be, to contemplate never doing anything to a “neighbor” that we wouldn’t want done to ourselves.  And, I think, a comfort in our struggle to be our best selves is to remember John’s words today, that, “Jesus is our Advocate with God.”  I have always been comforted in the knowledge that our brother, Jesus, having been a human, in every way and tempted in all the ways that we are, chose to be his best self, so as to show us the way.

   Jesus continues, we see, in the gospel from Luke today to, “open the eyes” of the apostles to what his presence on earth truly means—to what their true parts are, in carrying on his work in the world.  And friends, this is about us too!  What are we being called to do?

   I believe a significant piece to keep in mind, is Jesus’ demeanor in all his dealings after the resurrection with his beloved apostles and disciples.  As we discussed last week, Jesus’ appearances were always accompanied by the words, “Peace be with you.” 

   I believe Jesus knew that his disciples were afraid and confused.  He would send his Spirit to give them strength and that would help, but his peaceful presence among them would do the most good.

   My friends, we—in our lives, following in Jesus’ footsteps, are called to all that these first disciples were called to.  We are called, as were they to see beyond what our eyes tell us—to in fact show that we love God, whom we do not see by loving those in our midst, whom we do see. Seeing Jesus in his risen form, will look to us much like it did for those 1st believers—seeing him, in the actions of love.  Whenever we see unselfish love—true love, that is, “we see the face of God,” as I was recently reminded in the epic play, Les Misérables. 

   Seeing Jesus in our midst, now, is all about being able to see the “extraordinary” in the ordinary.   We all know those times when we see family, friends, colleagues doing the patient work of bringing about the kin-dom—going the extra mile—speaking the kind word, giving the gentle touch, sharing the warm smile, the word of support when no one else is stepping up, being the catalyst for others doing the same.

   Our city of Winona will have the opportunity, soon—we hope, and for some time, to see Jesus in his life among us through the lives of a Honduran family that will come here as they seek asylum from abuses, they suffered in their own country and even at our border.  These young parents of two will strive for a better life for their family among us and with our assistance.

   In conclusion then, Jesus’ words are apt. “You are my witnesses” [that love is stronger than death.]  Amen? Amen! Alleluia!

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Prayers of the Faithful:

Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”

  1. Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially the least among us—let them be foremost in our minds and hearts,  we pray—    Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  •  Risen Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, you who desired to heal the  minds, hearts and bodies of those in your midst, grant us health in these same ways, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, grant each of us a renewed faith during this Easter Season to remain true to you living our lives in truth and justice and always with love,  we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, our brother and friend, give hope to those who are suffering now due to job loss—illness of any kind, especially COVID 19, the ravages of nature, —show them the way through this painful time, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus,  you gave us the gift of forgiveness—give us the generosity and care for others and for ourselves to be able to forgive, and to accept forgiveness from others,  we pray—     Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, with each meal we partake in, remind us that you used common, everyday situations to expound on the love of Abba God—help us to see your face in all the ordinary events of our lives, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts.  Additionally, be with our Honduran family, entering soon into our community, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:Hear us O Risen Jesus.”

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

Let Us Pray

   Jesus, you have truly risen!  Alleluia!  Be the strength we need each day to be people of the resurrection—true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world.  Give us the strength and grace to do what we can to make our world better—help us to be the change we want to see. Let us truly be Easter people of joy, people of forgiveness.  We ask all of this of you, our Brother and Friend and with the Creator and your Spirit of Truth— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be together, nor receive the bread of the altar, but remember that Jesus is always with you—Always! 

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, our brother and friend, look on us, your people, with kindness, as you looked upon your apostles, disciples and friends long ago. By these Easter mysteries, bring us to the glory of the resurrection. We ask this again in your wonderful name, Amen.

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Homily – 2nd Sunday of Easter in an Almost Safe Time Again!

Dear Friends,

Jesus asks us this week in the Gospel, just what do we believe?–perhaps a good question to ponder this week. We continue to be in this time of pandemic that doesn’t allow us to live as we might like to–we have had to be creative in how we reach out to others. Perhaps this time has made us appreciate others more–not a bad outcome if in fact true. Maybe this time has encouraged us to look again at how we live in our world and protect it, helping, not harming, the environment. Maybe these times have caused us to realize in a new way how everyone’s life, day in and day out, is not always on a level playing field. Friends, Easter calls us to these questions and more–may we each be blessed as we ponder and search for the best ways to be in our world that so needs people who can live from their hearts. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

P.S. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if I can help in any way. Email-aaorcc2008@gmail.com or by phone-507-429-3616.

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Entrance Antiphon

Like newborn children we should thirst for milk on which our spirits can grow to strength. Rejoice in the glory that is ours and give thanks for being called to be part of God’s kindom. Alleluia!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving and merciful God, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive!  From the waters of death you raise us with him and renew your gift of life within us.  Increase in our minds and hearts the knowledge and awareness of the risen life we share with Jesus, who is the Christ.  Help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, who lives and loves us with you and the Spirit Sophia—one God, forever and ever. Amen.

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Readings:

  • Acts 4: 32-35
  • 1 John 5: 1-7
  • John 20: 19-31

Homily

My friends, I believe many of us enjoy the post-Easter Sunday readings from the Acts of the Apostles that lay out for us how these first followers of Jesus, our brother, chose to live following the memory of his life, death, and resurrection.  We marvel at how they shared with one another, “No one was needy among them,” And it is easy, reading such text, to make the leap to the present and say, “Why can’t we do this in our world today?”  At the very least, why can’t we see to it that, “no one is hungry?”

   A reality check brings us to the fact that, “good ideas” and the people advocating for such, are always more successful at first.  Our continued reading in Acts will show that the love and sharing of everything in common grows thin in the day-to-day living out, of this most, amiable goal.  But does that mean we shouldn’t continue to try to see to it that there is, “no one needy among” [us]?   I would say, “No!”  As we live and grow, we are always called to more, not less, if we are truly trying to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. 

   This brings us nicely into the key thoughts that I gleaned from a select podcast within a group of such, entitled, All My Relations.  I became aware of this from my daughter, Eryn, who indicated that it might be good to use in a homily—sometime. She was right, so here goes.

   The issue being discussed in this particular podcast was the fire in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on April 15, 2019, nearly two years ago.  Two women, one a protagonist and the other, an antagonist, are speaking for or against, as the case may be, the fact that within hours of the fire, two prominent people were able to raise 300 million dollars to repair this icon of the Catholic church, a symbol for many of their long-held faith in the goodness of Christianity in their lives. 

   The woman speaking for the goodness—the rightness of these financial gifts seemed to be saying that it is all about peoples’ “sacred places,” and that it is important that we, “hold space for each other” when such tragedies happen in order that people can grieve. 

   The second woman stated that if this is so, why in the past has the same not been done when black church fires have happened?  Additionally, the antagonist takes issue with the Catholic church and the system represented by Notre Dame.  She criticizes the Catholic church as the biggest business in the world and suggests that the money might have better been used to feed everyone who is hungry in our world.  In her mind it is all about, “the will,” to do the right thing. 

   The main issue raised by the protagonist was that “now was not the time,” to make connections between the Notre Dame fire and other tragedies—that we should, “hold space” for others when tragedies happen and make connections later.  The antagonist follows with, “if not now, when?” She goes on to say that when another, yet another mass shooting happens, we can’t stay, “in the moment” and simply grieve, but must raise the obvious need that now, new, stricter, laws are needed to end violence with guns!

   So, my friends, no matter how you may look at this issue, from the side of the protagonist or the antagonist, the issue must be faced that much inequality remains within our world—a truth that is being played out in so many areas today: in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the murder case of George Floyd, in the inequality of vaccine distribution among black, indigenous, and otherwise poor communities which underscores the larger issue of “racism” in our country and the list can go on.  As Christians, who say we follow Jesus, our brother, we too must “hold space” for the lives and goodness of all—no exceptions.

   Easter, a period of six weeks every year, a time really of new life, calls each of us to remember all that Jesus did while physically with us.  When that time ended, he told those 1st followers, who wanted him to stay with them, that he would always be with them—in a different way, but that they would never be alone.  Additionally, he let them know that now, they must be his hands and feet, eyes, and ears—but more so, his heart in our world. 

   The first letter of John, the 2nd reading today seems to be saying that our God is always about “loving those that God has sent.”  This really includes all of us in the grandest sense.  In other words, our God is able to “love all of creation” through our loving actions in the world.  As Jesus said so well and so simply— “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” –that’s it!

   I personally love that Jesus’ greeting most times after the Resurrection and especially in today’s gospel is, “Peace be with you!”  As you all know, if you regularly read my homilies; I have been working with the Great River Asylum Support Partners (GRASP), to assist a family from Honduras seeking asylum in this country and especially now, in Winona, MN! I believe if we were to ask them the question about what they are most seeking in this country, “peace” from the fear of losing their lives to gang violence in their own country would be high on their list.  Jesus’ prime message, after his Resurrection was to say to his faithful band who once again found their strength, through the Spirit, that he was now sending them—in his place. 

   He gave them and us, by extension some simple commands to follow—tools to use: “Whose sins you retain—whose sins you forgive—it is done!  He was basically saying—do what you feel, in your heart is right! This is not, you see, necessarily about a stated law.

   I have recently been re-reading Thomas Merton’s, Seven Story Mountain and it strikes me, that his basic struggle in life before his conversion to Catholicism and his entrance into a Cistercian monastery was to choose, in his own personal life, “the right thing” to do, as directed by his heart.

   In today’s gospel, Jesus is pressing Thomas, the apostle, and us too, to get out of our heads and into our hearts.  We say we believe, even though we have never seen Jesus, as did those 1st apostles.  The challenge is to name for ourselves, just what, in fact, we actually believe, because it makes all the difference in what we do next.  We are told that those 1st followers “ran” to tell the others that they had seen Jesus!  Does our faith cause such excitement within us that we would “run” to share it—to act upon it?

   Easter is all about bringing “light” into the “darkness” of what life can sometimes be.  And as our friend, Joan Chittister has said of Easter, “it is not a nice fairytale with a happy ending—it is just the beginning!  Amen? —Amen! —Alleluia!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”

  1. Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially the least among us—let them be foremost in our minds and hearts, we pray–       Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • O Risen Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, let us pray today in a special way for people who need “peace,” now, more than ever, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Jesus, risen Savior, you who were a healer in every way, freeing people’s minds, hearts and bodies of  illness of every kind, grant us health in these same ways, we pray—      Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, grant each of us a renewed faith during this Easter Season to remain true to you in good times and in bad,  we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus,  our brother and friend, give hope to those who are suffering now due to job loss, illness of any kind, the ravages of weather—show them the way through this painful time, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus,  you gave us the gift of forgiveness—give us the generosity and care for others and for ourselves to be able to forgive, and to accept forgiveness from others,  we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, in your new, resurrected life, continue to be our constant model of one who lived very simply upon the earth, and show us new ways to live accordingly, especially when we try to feed the physically hungry in our world, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Risen Jesus, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts. We pray too for the success of the new family coming to our community soon from Honduras that their quest for asylum might be granted, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all   other causes, give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”

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

Let Us Pray

   Jesus, you have truly risen!  Alleluia!  Be the strength we need each day to be people of the Resurrection—true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world.  Give us the strength and grace to do what we can to make our world better—help us to be the change we want to see. Let us truly be Easter people of joy, people of forgiveness.  We ask all of this of you, our loving Savior and with the Creator and your loving Spirit— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—Again, we must be apart and cannot share the bread of the altar—but remember, and don’t ever forget, Jesus is always with us!

Prayer of Communion

 Loving Jesus, may the Easter sacraments, Baptism and Eucharist that we have received, live forever in our minds and hearts.  We ask this in your wonderful name. Amen.

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Homily – Easter Sunday in an Almost Safe Time Again!

   My friends, we come to this Easter Sunday—the second one we are recording during this time of COVID 19, or “coronavirus”—a word that over a year ago was foreign to most of us—a second Easter, now, that we have been apart.  And we ask, “What can we make of all of this—what should we make of all of this?

   As I said in the bulletin of this past week, “Our Christian lives are all about, living and loving, dying and rising.”  And of course, I was, as you know, not just speaking literally. Our Christian lives have always meant more, or should mean more than mundane actions, day to day, through our lifetimes.  In order that, “living and loving” in our own personal lives can truly stand for something significant, we must, many times, “die to ourselves” as our Scriptures instruct, as Jesus, our brother demonstrated so well in his own precious years upon this earth.  Our lives can never be just about us.  If we are truthful with ourselves, we have seen in the recent past in Washington what selfishness looks like in human form.  And we all have examples of what the opposite looks like too. 

   In our Scriptures today—the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles has Peter proclaiming, “We are eyewitnesses to all that Jesus did!” In other words, his living, loving, and giving for others, even unto death and the hope of rising to new life one day! And why is this important?

   Well, being that it is Easter, let’s take a look.  Probably for most of us Christians who have lived a “few” years—decades even, the idea of the Resurrection has always been one of those items we take on faith, and as is the case with most stories that we have heard a number of times, after a while, we cease to think much about them or maybe even with thoughts that aren’t too profound.  Usually, this happens with things that we can’t, as it were, “get our heads around.”

   But say we did come at the Resurrection of Jesus just on a head level.  There is enough in John’s gospel today—if we are really thinking, to let us know that something, “out of the ordinary” had happened. 

   We know that the Jewish “powers” at the time of Jesus’ death (the non-believers) were afraid that his followers who did believe in Jesus’ promise to, “rise again,” (even though they did not know what “rising” would look like) would steal his body and say that they had witnessed the Resurrection.  The Jewish elites, not wanting that to happen, posted a Roman guard at the entrance to the tomb.

   So, let’s look at the words of Scripture in the gospel from John today.  We are told that Peter “observed the linen wrappings on the ground and saw the piece of cloth that had covered Jesus’ head lying not with the wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.”  Why, we might ask, is this detail necessary or important to include here?

   Well, the truth is, if Jesus’ body had truly been stolen, would anyone stop to unwrap it and carry it around naked? And if all were happening naturally, the body would have already begun to decay.  Additionally, why would the face covering have been laid in a different place and folded even?  The exegetes “using their heads” have concluded that, these are signs that point to a resurrection, not a grave robbing! 

   Now, it’s important as well to remember that 2,000 years ago, people were not embalmed, but simply washed and wrapped in clean linen and buried by day’s end. Spices were often added for obvious reasons and that was why the Scriptures tell us that the women were going to the tomb—to add the spices that they couldn’t buy before Passover began—only to find, that their spices weren’t needed and that perhaps a manifestation that they had no way of comprehending—that of the Resurrection, had truly happened!

   John’s gospel names Peter’s companion as, “the other disciple” who went into the tomb next as having, “seen and believed.”  All of this, “the other disciple” whom we believe to be, John, the apostle and author of the gospel, saw with his mind first, made all the connections and responded from his heart, “Jesus is risen, and I believe it!” 

   And finally, the other viable proofs that we have come from those who personally saw Jesus after the Resurrection and that is why I always feel that it is necessary and important to read the complete account from John, including Mary of Magdala’s encounter with Jesus in the garden.  If we were looking for proof—we have it here and it is also a foreshadowing of how we know that there is life after this life. 

   The Scripture, in the extended version, tells us that Mary encountered someone in the garden that she thought was a grounds keeper and that she only realized that it was truly Jesus when he said her name, “Mary”—the way only he would say it.  In other words, Jesus was not recognizable to Mary in this new form.  Whatever “resurrection” is, it clearly is different than being brought back to life, as was the case with Lazarus whom Jesus rose from the dead. 

   We recall that the same thing happens to the disciples on the way to Emmaus in another reading. Someone joins them along the road, whom they do not recognize and who goes on to explain all that has happened the last few days in Jerusalem.  And then, it is only in the “breaking of the bread” that these disciples recognize Jesus—in an action that he often did with them. 

   So, why is it important for us to delve so deeply into these Easter Scriptures?  The answer my friends is two-fold.  First, Easter calls us to initially believe that what Jesus taught all those years ago is not just a nice, religious story, but a life-giving one that once we take out of our heads and lay on our hearts, can make all the difference in our lives and in the lives of others and in our world as we truly try to live and to love as Jesus did. 

   Now, many of us are prone to shy away from such a life saying that we could never be in our world as Jesus was in his and I believe Michael Gerson, in an opt-ed piece in the Washington Post on Good Friday, that I have shared, suggested otherwise. 

   He was connecting the horrors of Good Friday and the events leading up to it to what so many have experienced this past year in the wake of COVID 19.  He pointed to the relation between families who lost loved ones and couldn’t be with them as they died due to the contagion—the loneliness of that for the patient and the family with the loneliness of Jesus in the garden the night before he died when all his apostles could do was sleep instead of being with him for support. 

   Michael Gerson basically told us in this fine piece that we, each of us, have a friend –someone who knows the sufferings we are called to take on in life because our God experienced it all in Jesus. 

   And in other words, the days of Holy Week are not just a good, holy story of so many years ago, but are a blueprint, really, of our lives as Jesus’ followers.  Gerson’s piece details how, through the experience of our brother, Jesus, our, at times, human doubt, is sanctified in the human doubt he experienced on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

   Doubt and faith go hand in hand. “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.”  We believe, yet sometimes we doubt, and we know that our brother, Jesus understands these times for all of us.  I think the beauty of Holy Week, coming to the joy of Easter is really about our God who showed such over-the-top love for us in Jesus—showed us that living up to our human potentials for ourselves and for others is possible and that Jesus will be with us every step of the way, as we try. 

   So, my friends, may those that we meet and greet, associate with, and care for in this world always be able to “recognize” us as Jesus’ followers by our “familiar” actions of love for them!  Amen? Amen! Alleluia!

Homily – Palm Sunday in a Time of Almost Safety Again!

A group of nearly 30 met on Zoom today to begin Holy Week–the holiest week of the year! Included here you will find my homily. Enjoy–be challenged and be blessed!–Pastor Kathy

P.S. Please be in contact if I can help you in any way or you would just like to chat. aaorcc2008@gmail or 507-429-3616.

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My friends, it was my thought as I prepared for this homily, to make it brief and to the point in light of the fact that our Palm Sunday Mass is full of extra things –so we will see how I do! 

   As I suggested in the bulletin earlier in the week, Palm Sunday sets us up to begin the “holiest” week of our Church Year—not at all, “the happiest” week.  Being “holy,” in my mind, is all about doing those things, in my one precious life, that are not specifically about my needs, but more broadly, about the needs of all of us. And for those who regularly read my homilies, you know that I always uplift the need that we must include ourselves in the good we do for others, otherwise, “our cups run dry!”  So, in other words, look for that balance in your lives—good for self and good for others—you and all others are worthy of good in your lives!

   Back then, to the “holiest” of weeks and why that is so.  Jesus, of course, is our focus and if we would know how it is that we can be “holy” too, we have only to keep our eyes on him.  From the get-go of this holiest of weeks; we see Jesus as a man of the Scriptures.  That first, short reading from Mark with which we began today, tells of his joyful entry into Jerusalem.  And how did he come into the city—on a horse with royal trappings—as a king in all his glory?  No, he came on the back of a donkey as the Scriptures said the Messiah would come.  Just as in his birth—he came simply, unadorned—for the poor. This is a piece that we simply can’t, nor should we miss. 

   Isaiah, in the 1st reading today, tells of what the life of the Messiah will be like.  Insults will be part of the life of this Messiah and those who follow such a person.  This is so because messiahs, prophets and the like will be compelled to speak truth to power, as it were, demanding for the least among us, justice in their lives.  Those who are into their power, wealth, or prestige, will not take such demands lightly—there will always be the need to silence such ones—to denigrate them.  But the prophet, Isaiah, is encouraging, saying that such people should know that even though denigration may come; they should not fear because, just as with Jesus, our God will be with us. 

   And even so, we hear the purely human cry that Jesus will utter, later in the week, with the psalmist today: “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”  This cry of the psalmist today is one that has been repeated and echoed throughout the history of the world from Jesus and onward as he struggled and as his followers have struggled, in his footsteps, to save our people from injustice of every kind.  

   Jesus would ultimately pay the supreme price for such goodness, but because of who he was, he could do nothing else—turning away, remaining silent, protecting himself as many of our bishops seem to have chosen to do, was just not an option.  This is the true story of Calvary. Calvary was his world’s price for asking/demanding even, that the powers-that-be, be their best for all. 

   Palm Sunday, today, gives us a taste of what the entire week will be like, as Paul, in his beautiful letter to the Philippians continues: “Your attitude must be the same as that of Jesus…he took on the image of oppressed humankind…and for this reason, at Jesus’ name, every knee should bend—in the heavens, on earth and under the earth.” 

   My friends, I began today speaking of Holy Week as the holiest of weeks.  Holiness is not about, as I said, silence in the presence of evil, or fear to stand up and say what is right—is truth in any situation, even if we stand alone. 

   A family member recently said to me, “I need to write to the bishop and tell him that we need to hear from him on issues like climate change and gun violence.” I encouraged her to do it! You would think that would be, “Bishop, 101!”

   This week’s National Catholic Reporter (NCR) challenged the nation’s bishops as well, asking, where is their collective voice on climate change in particular, suggesting that if we don’t have an earth that is viable to live on, is that not too, a life issue!

   When we think of what actions are indeed, “holy,” I would lift up a statement made by our president at his first news conference this past week.  When speaking to reporters about the youth coming to our borders unaccompanied by parents and his decision to allow them into the country, he stated that unlike his predecessor, he would not turn them away alone—to go back to the violence they had left, “he just wouldn’t do it!”

   And of course, he has received criticism for this action, but he has made it clear that his actions are based on what is good and right; not on what is easy.

   Each of us, my friends, have like decisions to make in the course of our lives—hard decisions like the racism that lies at the roots of our democracy—an experiment that is touted in our Constitution, claiming that every person has the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

   Additionally, we, as a country of many, diverse people, trying to live out this democratic dream, must—simply must come to terms with gun violence in our United States. We all know what needs to be done and now is the time to do it!

   In our city of Winona, a Steering Committee that is an off shoot of the Winona Interfaith Council, going now under the name of Great River Asylum Support Partners (GRASP) is actively preparing to accept a family from Honduras and perhaps more in the future coming to our southern border seeking protection from life-threatening violence in their own countries. It will be our intention to help these families and individuals work toward full citizenship should they be granted asylum. At this writing, our group just heard that we have been accepted to receive our first family in a matter of weeks! I believe that all of us involved in this effort have a mixture of anticipation for being able to help in the ways that we can, but also the realization that this will not always be, easy.

   I believe what motivates our group is the knowledge that this is the right thing to do, plus the realization that the life-giving aspects will go both ways—us to them, but also all that they will give to us being from another country and culture, language, and lifestyle.  I will keep you all informed about the ways going forward that you will have opportunities to assist this endeavor.

   So, as we begin this holiest of weeks, let our prayer be that we, each one, might walk into it and through to the Resurrection, following in our brother Jesus’ footsteps, unafraid, trusting as he did, that our Abba God will be with us.  Amen? Amen!

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Homily – 5th Sunday of Lent in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

We are challenged once again to grow large hearts and have clear minds as we face our world with the Scriptures in hand. Much challenges us these days of which we will discuss today. Rather than let all that isn’t right send fear through us, Lent calls us to give, always, as best we can, a loving response–it’s what Jesus did when he lived physically among us and it is what we must do as well.

We will look forward the next two Sundays after this one, to a pair of Zoom Masses, March 28, Palm Sunday and April 4, Easter Sunday! I will send out the links the Saturday before each Mass.

Please continue to stay safe and well even with your vaccinations as you get them–we are getting close but not there yet! Please call 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com if I can be of help in any way. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

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Entrance Antiphon

O God of Justice, defend my cause against the wickedness of this world.  Rescue me from those who would act with deceit and injustice.  You O God are my refuge.

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving God, love led Jesus to accept the suffering of the cross that we might glory in new life with him.  Change our selfishness into self-giving. Help us to embrace the world you have given us, that we may transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.  Grant all this through Jesus, the Christ, with you and the Spirit—one God, who lives and loves us forever and ever—Amen.

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Readings:

  • Jeremiah 31: 31-34
  • Hebrews 5: 7-9
  • John 12: 20-33

Homily  

As I said in the bulletin, these unfolding, last days of Lent give us quite “a plate” of issues—ones that need our attention as followers of our brother Jesus: how LGBTQs are looked at and respected in society—raised anew by Pope Francis, our newer issue of racism, although one that has been with us for a while—against Asian Americans in light of this past year of pandemic, fueled through the incompetence and lack of empathy of former, so-called leaders in Washington, and the ages-old racism at the heart of this country for our black sisters and brothers played out now in the present as we prepare for the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.  And while all these issues are of great importance; I wish to concentrate on Pope Francis’ recent comments on the blessing of same-sex unions in light of today’s Scriptures. 

   The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has recently stated that Francis is giving us “whiplash” and they have even called him a “hypocrite” because of his statement that priests may not bless same-sex unions.  And if you haven’t kept track of the “whip-lash-like” statements—here’s a bit of the back story. 

   In Pope Francis’ attempt to reach out to the LGBTQ community, he has stated that they are loved by God and the Church and even admits that God created them as they are.  Now if all the above is true, then any thinking, compassionate person has to be asking, “What kind of God creates a person a certain way, wanting this “spiritual” being to have a truly “human” experience while here, as we have spoken of in the past, but wouldn’t want them to find and express love in the ways of their own particular makeup?”  I would say this is a cruel God indeed!  But we all know that it is not God making this law, but the men who state that they are speaking for God. 

   Unfortunately, this otherwise compassionate leader (Francis) who has shown us in other ways—toward the earth (Laudato Si), and initially toward gays in his statement, “Who am I to judge?”— (although, he has no such compulsion where women are concerned—a whole other story—my apologies—I couldn’t help myself!) that he does have an open mind—to an extent.  As others have said, “His statements of support for gays, up to this point have not been against, “any law already on the books.”  That is apparently the difference with this newest statement. 

   His signature to the statement that priests do not bless same-sex unions, “because God doesn’t bless sin,” is about the law and in this writer’s mind, totally wipes out any previous verbiage about “loving” these sisters and brothers.  This statement is so indicative of the person who compartmentalizes their thoughts and feelings and unfortunately, men in our society have a penchant for doing this more so than women—another good reason for having more women involved in leadership roles to off-set this incomplete thinking.  In today’s first reading from Jeremiah, this prophet says that God will write laws on our minds, yes, but our hearts as well!

   So, let’s look at Francis’ statement in the light of NCR’s concern that he is causing, “whiplash” and their indictment of “hypocrisy.”  Frankly, the statement to any group of people that, one, “they are loved,” which, by the way indicates, “acceptance” of who they are, yet two, does not want them to act on their natural impulses as a human being is, in the words of a sister-priest friend, “crazy-making.” 

   Now, in order that I not be, “unclear,” it is one thing if a person is called to be celibate, but to say that an entire group of people must be celibate because the powers-that-be want sexual encounters to be simply between one man and one woman in order to call their union, “a marriage” is simply unjust.  And to then, call it a “sin” and blame it on God, is an abomination in my humble opinion! And finally, I would say to Francis, if that is your God—you may keep “Him,” thank you very much! 

   I would also like to take time in this homily to express my extreme sorrow to all of my gay and lesbian friends in committed relationships who have no doubt been hurt by the callousness of Francis’ words in your regard.  And as one who has had the privilege of blessing unions of such friends, let me extend the offer once again to any and all who might want their union blessed within the Catholic church—I am here for you.

   And on a final note; I would like to address the almost inordinate need, it seems, to have so much of Church life adhere around the concept of “sin.”  We need to be baptized to wash away our “original sin” when our God sees us first and foremost as most loving parents do their own children—original “blessings.” *

*the notion of “original blessing” comes from Matthew Fox

Jesus then, needed to come to earth to die on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, to appease an unforgiving God for “the sin of all humans,” and now, priests cannot bless same-sex unions because, “God does not bless sin.” Interesting isn’t it that in all the ways any loving couple expresses love, compassion and understanding in this world, the one area that is zeroed in on is the physical, intimate sharing that can so strengthen them for all else that they do in this world?

   And if we want to discuss “sin” let’s look at the sin of clergy-sex-abuse of minors and others and the decades that this went on within the Church unaddressed and now even not fully addressed because of the system of clericalism that allows it to remain.  Clericalism, we all know, is the system that sees, bishops and priests as basically better than those that they supposedly, serve.  I think many, once faithful Catholics have little desire these days to take their, “less than perfect lives” to the scrutiny of men in the confessional that they feel are basically, untrustworthy.  This Sacrament has basically fallen to the wayside for most Catholics when it once had the potential for so much good. 

   So, my friends, by way of reigning this in and concluding; I would say to Francis, his bishops and priests, that it is time to wake up— “get out of the box,” concentrate on the love, more, as my dear, deceased, mother-in-law, Margaret was fond of saying—get their brooms out and uncover again, the footsteps of Jesus.  He always moved first with acceptance, honesty, mercy—basically love and then challenged every last one he encountered, to try again—to be their best. 

   The writer to the Hebrews today tells us that, “Jesus was heard because of his reverence” [for the people].  Jeremiah the prophet began our instruction today saying that God has “put [the] law in [our] minds and on [our] hearts.”  We must never separate the two, my friends—as the mind helps us to understand what might be needed in any situation, but the “heart” allows us to make the personal decision that is best in each situation.  An “engaged” heart could never separate a person from their action, saying they “love the person” but naming the loving action between two committed people, regardless of gender, “a sin”—just couldn’t do it!

   In John’s gospel today, Jesus’ words come to us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain.”  Simply put, we need the gifts of all—as the grain mingles with the soil, is “watered” by the life experiences of all, that single grain bursts open and is capable of taking on more and beautiful new life.  Many in our family witnessed this phenomenon in the New Year with the generous gifts of our son and daughter-in-law, Isaac and Lauren in an amaryllis bulb fully potted and ready to go once we watered and fertilized it.  We each got different shades with beautiful names that once we put them in motion developed leaves, stalks and after several weeks, buds of the most beautiful hues.  We shared via texts and emails with our generous “givers” what came of their love—to the delight of us all! 

   And the true wonder is that after all that production, the bulb is completely spent (dead it seems) in the production of something so new, different, and beautiful. Then, with care that same plant is cut back, grows new stems and in the process a new bulb to start all over again!

   That’s what love does in us too my friends.  And I truly think that in order for our Church to grow and become significant in our world once again it must do the same.  Jesus was right when he said, “Unless the grain falls into the ground and dies—it remains only a single grain.  Amen? Amen!

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Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”

  1. Loving God, let my actions always reflect a heart committed to you, where love is what determines how I respond to what life brings, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • Loving God, help our country and our world to be people who love peace and strive to bring it about—thank you for being our strength and our light,  we pray—Response:  “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • Gracious God, bless each of us with healthy bodies, minds and spirits–be with those who most need you today, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • O God, show us the ways during this holy season of Lent to grow closer to you, we pray—     Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • O God, thank you for work and the ability to work and we ask you to be with those who have lost their jobs; give them hope for a new day, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • Loving God, teach us to live as though the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world were in our hands, because they are, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”

7.  Loving God, instill in our country’s people the flexibility and patience needed to struggle through uncertain times—be with our leaders to bring justice, hope and peace to our country and to our world,  we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”

  • For our community, All Are One, continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts, we pray—Response: “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”
  • Loving Jesus, be with all those who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—            Response:  “Create a pure heart in me, O God.”

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

Let Us Pray

   Good and merciful God, you are our light and our love.  You have written your promises of love on our hearts—help us to remember and never forget your covenant with us and enable us to do our part in loving response. As Lent draws to a close soon, continue to lead us in your path helping us to realize that our hour is upon us too—that now is the time to be your people and act as we say we believe.  Help us to remember that we are your hands, eyes, ears and heart for our world—help us to have your passion to work for justice and understanding for all in this world, especially those who are poor or disadvantaged in any way.  All this we ask of you, in Jesus’ loving name and with the Spirit—one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

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Let Us Pray—We can’t be together once again, but soon, hopefully! Jesus is always with us though! Remember!

Prayer of Communion

Jesus, you are the light of our world—give us the light of life to comfort your people, we ask this in your loving name—Amen.

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