A truly Happy Easter to all! Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. God has vanquished death through him. The moment has finally come. With Mary and John and Peter we have looked into the empty tomb. (John 20:1-9). Unlike them we need not guess what happened. We know that Jesus has risen! We have heard him call our names as Mary did ( John 20:16-18). We have met him on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) and behind the closed door where the disciples gathered in fear. We have put our hands into His wounds with Thomas. (John 20:19-30). We had him serve us breakfast near the Sea of Tiberius (John 21:1-14). Through the four Gospel records and indeed in our own lives, we have seen him for ourselves, as they did many times over time. JOY, joy, death could not hold him. And now, death can not hold us.
As Pope Francis says in Urbi et Orbi, Easter, 2021 “The Easter message speaks concisely of the event that gives us the hope that does not disappoint: “Jesus who was crucified has risen.” It speaks to us not about angels or ghosts, but about a man, a man of flesh and bone, with a face and a name: Jesus…..the witnesses report an important detail: the risen Jesus bears the marks of the wounds in his hands, feet and side. These wounds are the everlasting seal of his love for us. All those who experience a painful trial in body or spirit can find refuge in these wounds and, through them, receive the grace of the hope that does not disappoint. The hope that does not disappoint is that we too shall rise. We shall rise from our pain, from the darkness of the tombs we may find ourselves in, from living half a life. we shall rise to full life-NOW and then FOREVER. Can you let your heart be lighter now.? Can we embrace this hope?
Indeed that is the question. Joan Chittister says that “Easter is not simply a day of celebration; it is as well, a day of decision.” Can we allow the Light in? Can we allow Jesus to come again in us? Can we embrace J Jesus living in us now? https://email@example.com via gmail.mcsv.net
When we allow Jesus to live again in us we may have to take unpopular stands and reach out to the most broken of this world. Here Pope Francis sounds like a peace activist, and indeed here he is just that. In this years Urbi et Orbi message, (To the city and the world, 4/17/2022) Pope Francis notes that as Jesus greeted the disciples in the upper room after rising from the dead he said “Peace be with you.” In a world where war and its ravages continue even on Easter “we need the Lord more than ever to stand before us and repeat to us, “Peace be with you!” “Let us allow the peace of Christ to enter our lives, our homes, our countries!”. “May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine”…”that in this terrible night of suffering and death, may a new dawn of hope soon appear!” The Pope said that he “held in his heart the victims, the millions of refugees, the orphaned children, and the elderly left to themselves. We hear especially the cry of the children…” ” He appealed to leaders to “hear the cry of their suffering and to make decisions in favor of peace” Quoting Albert Einstein(1955) he said “Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?” He also prayed for peace in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, Myanmar, and on the African Continent. He also prayed for victims of natural disasters. and those struggling in horrific social conditions and drug trafficking. He exhorted us to not surrender to evil and violence. “May we be won over by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility.”
I am glad for a Pope that renounces war and in fact renounces human destruction and weapons of human destruction. May we too follow Jesus in ways that need compassion and courage to stop destruction and violence and injustice. May we truly be Easter People! with St. Augustine of Hippo let us say: “We are Easter people and ‘Alleluia” is our song. Let us sing ‘Alleluia’ here and now in this life, even though we are oppressed by various worries, so that we may sing it one day in the world to come, when we are set free from all anxiety.”
For other Easter Reflections click here and put Easter in the search box on the right
While four of our beloved community members pictured here, including our beloved Pastor Judy Beaumont, Peace and Justice Activist, and Roman Catholic Woman Priest since 2021, are now risen with Jesus we continue to gather to love and serve one another- to LIVE JESUS, as the Salesians say. May we all follow our saints and our risen Jesus in standing for peace and justice-no matter what.
HE is Risen! Alleluia! We rise too!
Love, Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP and
the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers
In Silent Waiting for the Light: Our Holy Saturday Vigil with reflections of A Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Today is a day of silence as we wait and hope for the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Tonight we will gather for the Easter Vigil in our churches together. We will first sit in darkness as the Easter candle is lit from new fire and carried into the church. It is a wonderful moment as “the Light of Christ” is proclaimed three times by the priest leading the procession to the Altar. Beautiful prayers of God’s deliverance follows. The lights are now on.
Then in the LITURGY OF THE WORD, we follow salvation history, God’s work to reach humankind, from Genesis and Exodus through the Prophets and Psalms to New Testament and the Gospel. It is the history of the Jewish covenant leading up to Christ. As one who does not eat animal flesh I particularly love the image of the original creation, the Genesis reading that ends with how God provides food for all living beings from the trees and seeds, and the fruits of the land (Genesis 1:29). And God looked upon all of God’s creation and said “it was very good”. And I love the Exodus story where the Hebrew people are rescued by God from the Egyptian oppressors. And the efforts of the prophets and the praise, glory and sometimes agony in the Psalms. I love the gospel account of Mary of Magdalene and the other women finding the empty tomb and being commissioned as the apostle to the apostles by telling them ” He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him as he told you.” Mark 16:1-7. we know that at first, predictably, the men did not believe them (Luke 24:1-12), but then John and Peter ran to the tomb and found out that indeed he was not there, he was risen and they would meet him on the road, and in many other ways and places attesting to his full life in the days to follow.
In my Holy Thursday blog I noted the NY Times article “What if there were no Exodus in the Bible? and its explicit connection to the struggles of black people in this country and wherever slavery and racism and the dehumanizing of peoples reigns. Yesterday there was another excellent NY Times article by New Testament Professor Esau McCaulley on Easter and the Resurrection from the Black perspective. For a clear connection to today’s world and one which I and our Good Shepherd people embrace the reader may see:
The HOMILY then follows the reading of Salvation history. In Pope Francis’ homily today (4/16/2022) he asks that we allow the women of the Gospel to lead us. Referring to the Gospel account in Luke 24:1-12, he suggests that they SAW, HEARD and PROCLAIMED. He captures well the fear. “they were terrified”, and anxiety they had at being told and seeing that Jesus was not in the tomb. He suggests that we often prefer to leaver Jesus in the tombs of old understanding and in the small boxes of our own construction rather than allowing Him to be free and walk among us transforming our lives right now. The women listened carefully when they heard “He is not here”. He noted that we cannot welcome Easter if we continue to be dead. We must hear the words and accept them deeply within us that Jesus is not in a tomb of the past. He is here now with us acting among us, enlivening us. Indeed then the women RAN to proclaim the joy of the resurrection whether anyone would listen to them or not. They immediately became missionary disciples, apostles, sharing the good news not an “idle tale” from the past but testifying to what they had seen , heard and experienced right then. We too must allow Jesus to rise again from the small boxes where we have imprisoned him as if the past contains him. Jesus enters the tomb of our sins and our deep darkness and all that keeps us from rising with him. Pope Francis broke from his script and his face was clearly moved as he addressed the Mayor and Parliamentary and people of war torn Ukraine in their suffering. He said “we can only give you our closeness, and prayers and say have courage, we are with you. Christ is Risen! Yes, even in the midst of war and suffering the risen Christ is there. In the darkest places of our lives Christ is there and we welcome the risen Christ!
And truly too, the prayer of the women who are Roman Catholic Priests is that Pope Francis and the leaders of the church he must deal with can indeed “allow the women to Lead us” even as ordained priests. Several of us have walked the road of the priesthood for many years now and while we do not want particularly to lead we do want to be seen and heard and to proclaim the risen Christ with our brothers.
Next is the Liturgy of Baptism
After the reading of Salvation History those who have prepared for a period of time to embrace the Christian faith within the RC tradition come forth for Baptism and /or reception/initiation into the church. The baptismal creed is affirmed and all present also affirm their Baptismal promises. (When there are no new baptisms, all present affirm their Baptismal promises). As we die with Christ in Baptism so we are raised to new life in Baptism. They don white garments and receive the laying-on-of hands by the bishop and are sealed with holy chrism oil and receive Holy Communion. This is a moment of resurrection for all present.
For Holy Saturday reflections of earlier years please click on this link and put Holy Saturday into the search space top right.
Here are the two different times that some of our Good Shepherd members ready themselves to receive Baptism and also Confirmation-to rise with Christ into new life. The first picture is Confirmaton with Bishop Andrea Johnson as celebrant, and the second, two years earlier, with Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. The third picture is the baptism of Brenda Cummings who was confirmed two years later, far left, in the picture below.
And finally in the Easter Vigil we celebrate the Eucharist, our thanksgiving for the death and resurrection of Christ with those gathered. In the bread and wine Jesus comes among us in the Eucharist. He enters us with risen life. And we look forward to the time when we shall see him face to face.
And so this Holy Saturday we once again await Christ’s Rising and taking away our darkness. We welcome him to be with us and in our world fully alive now. We join the women in proclaiming that He Lives! Thanks be to God!
Bless you on this Holy Saturday,
Pastor Judy Lee
rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP,
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Today we walk with Jesus to the Cross. This is a “GOOD” Friday not for the ONE, or for the ones in our contemporary world, who will be crucified unjustly or wantonly killed by evil forces such as war, greed and poverty and illness and health care systems that leave so many out, but for the humanity that benefits from His love. It is a day when we accept that all who live shall die. And that evil and injustice sometimes reigns. It is a day when we feel the weight of loss and pain, even with Jesus on the Cross where he said finally “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And Who, even there, attended to the needs of his mother and disciples, giving them to one another. (John 18:1-19:42).
Our churches are bare today. The altar is stripped of all except the Cross. In a sense, our lives are bare today, and laid open before our loving God. In the Church today we read from the Word, we venerate and adore the Holy Cross, and we receive communion consecrated yesterday at the Lord’s Supper. In the Word we receive the suffering servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. We respond with Psalm 31 where we see ourselves as broken but continue to place our trust in our God who will save us in kindness. We reflect on Hebrews 4:14-16 about the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Then we read the Passion according to John (John 18;!-19:42.) After that we pray our intentions. Then we hold up the cross as each one of us bows before it, touches it or kisses the feet of Jesus. It is this physical sharing of the Cross that I miss the most this day in zoom ministry. The Cross pictured above was made by a friend for our Community. So many of the faithful have venerated and touched it. and several of them have now departed this earth and are living with Christ. It is truly holy in every way. I hope you will pray with the Cross today.
In our Good Shepherd Community of the poor and homeless, formerly homeless and those standing with us, before our worship in church, this day would begin with Stations of the Cross in the community. We carry our cross and we would stop at the hospital, the bail bond store, the drug infested houses, the school and the homes of the people . We would reflect on Jesus falling and Simon helping him to carry the cross and Veronica wiping his brow and all that happened on the walk to the Cross at each of these places. Then we would return to the church and pray together.
In the Good Friday Mass from Rome today, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa focusses on the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate. In considering Jesus before Pilate I have often focused only on Jesus while Fr. Cantalamessa the Pope’s homilist, focusses us on Jesus’ desire to have Pilate consider for himself who Jesus is. He sees this as Jesus’ love for the man who seems to hold his human fate in his hands. When Pilate asks “What is Truth?” It can be seen as an age-old philosophical question with no answer. But the Answer stood right there before Pilate, as Jesus said before “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”(John 14:6). It was Pilate’s chance to come to the knowledge of God through the love of God expressed in the presence, in the life and death, and of course, finally the resurrection of Jesus. It is a time when we too have the chance to know the Jesus who accepted a horrific death bringing those who love him into oneness with God with him. Today our hearts are moved to love this Jesus.
As I watched Pope Francis in the Good Friday Liturgy televised today, he was limping and the weight of both this day and his years were upon him. As he venerated the Cross, his face revealed that he was completely attuned with Christ. As he kissed the Cross he was one with it. For all who are growing older, have tasks that are ominous despite human frailty, and who love the Jesus of the Cross, be filled with Love today. Be united with Christ, pray through your Good Fridays, and Easter will come.
In our church on Good Friday we always sing the Spiritual “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” And I can still hear this sung by Mr. Leo Dyce in the church of my youth, with his rich baritone that actually did tremble. And on this day we too are there, and indeed, Jesus is with us as we too suffer our crosses. The one who knew the cross knows our crosses and lifts them so they do not crush us. So today we unite with Jesus on the Cross. And, “oh, oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble….” And, oh, we eagerly await the Resurrection.
Here is the link to my blog where you can click on
And put Good Friday in the Search section upper right on the site so you can see and read about our Good Friday reflections and observations in years past.
Be blessed to day as you unite your cross with Christ’s. As you stand by the Cross of Christ like his mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved. Today may you be the disciple that Jesus loved.
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
At his last Passover celebration Jesus, foretelling his death, took the bread gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them saying “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of (the new) covenant, which is poured our for many for the forgiveness of sins..” (Matthew 26: 26-28. See also Mark 14:12-26 and Luke21: 7-22. In Luke’s account of this last supper he records that the disciples were quibbling over who is the greatest and Jesus tells them: “For who is greater, the one who is at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22: 27) In the Gospel of John we have another part of that Passover celebration. Here Jesus washes his disciples feet and tells them that they should also wash another’s feet. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…” (John 13:1-17). And so on Holy Thursday we enact the washing of the feet and the sharing of the body and blood of Christ. With this, we too become the body and blood of Christ and we are commanded to serve one another.
First we note that Jesus is celebrating the Passover when he foretells his death and offers himself for us, for the sins of the world. Passover is an essential part of Jesus’ Hebrew faith and it is part of the covenant of God with God’s people to commemorate their freedom from slavery at God’s hand. The New York Times today had a wonderful article about the Passover Exodus account in the Scriptures. The reader would find it thought provoking particularly as we consider the words of Jesus “To Serve” with its subtext of “enact justice”.
For several years I have contemplated Holy Thursday in this blog. I am missing most the washing of the feet that we did at Good Shepherd. It is a moment of profound love and humility. The reader might go to
and where it says SEARCH on right top, put in Holy Thursday…many years will come up and each one will have a different meditation and pictures of our Good Shepherd Ministry on this holy day. I pray that the words and pictures of this day may move you this Holy Thursday. Move you to wash each other’s feet, and move you to become the body and blood of Christ.
Below is a lovely poem from one of our Roman Catholic Woman Priests-Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan, currently of the Detroit, Michigan area. She has graciously given us permission to print it here.
Dear Friends, Let us Serve One Another
For we are the Body and Blood Of Christ,
A blessed Holy Thursday to all,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholid Community and Ministries
Today we hail Jesus with palm branches and prepare for him to enter the holy city of Jerusalem, throwing our clothes on the little donkey to soften his seat and in front of his path on the road. The religious leaders ask Jesus to tell his disciples to quiet down, stop the joyful noise and “shut up”. Jesus replied that if they were quiet, “even the stones would cry out”.(Luke 19:28-40). The disciples and followers are on fire, the universe has a moment of joyful praise for God, for the love of God shown in the acts of healing and mercy that Jesus has shown, for the love Jesus has shown and will show even in the face of the betrayal and torture about to come. This joy and hope cannot be silenced for even the stones would cry out. Today we welcome the king who soon will be crucified. Evil forces cannot tolerate such love and joy. So next on this same day the Church also has us read the Passion, the account of Jesus’ last moments and crucifixion. ( Luke 22:14-23:6). And ultimately we are left to contemplate the meaning of all of this: of the joyous welcome and the apparent tortuous defeat of the goodness of God, of Christ. In hindsight we will also anticipate the resurrection.
But not today, not on Palm Sunday. Today we contemplate the best and the worst of our responses to the intervention of God’s love in our world- to the being of Jesus the Christ, very God and very man-shouting with joy for a moment and then standing by during his love and sacrifice under the most horrendous of actions, hanging him on the cross. This is our introduction to Holy week; to Holy Thursday and washing of feet and the Last Supper, Good Friday and the unbelievable cruelty of the crucifixion, and Jesus’ amazing love- even from the cross. And finally after being in the grave for three days, he will rise and Easter finally comes. Oh, thank God for Easter, for his rising again, for our rising again. But we cannot get ahead of the account.
This Palm Sunday Pope Francis focused on the forgiveness of Christ as contrasted to the “save yourself” of those who tortured him. Indeed our world is characterized by a save yourself mentality while God’s love is characterized by unceasing mercy and forgiveness; even to Jesus’ words from the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Not only does he forgive but he pleads for us saying we do not know what we are doing. Pope Francis stresses that violence and war crucify Christ again and again. He suggests an Easter truce in the Ukraine. We can only pray for this and for the cessation of that horrific war and crucifixion of the innocent. The Pope closes with “Father forgive them. Now let us do the same”. The challenge this Palm Sunday is for us to learn and practice forgiveness even from our crosses, and to cease from our violence that crucifies Christ again. It ends on a note God’s great love for us. Let us feel that love now. (,Some websites for the Homily of Pope Francis this Palm Sunday are: https://www.vatican.va>francesco ;
As we begin Holy week it is good to begin our meditations on Palm Sunday together. In past years we have reflected on Palm Sunday from a variety of perspectives that may interest the reader. For example https://judyabl.blog/2020/04/05-palm-sunday-triumph-hope-and-betrayal-sunday-april-52020/ . For a reflection of three women priests : https//www.judyabl.blog/2017/04/09/palm-sunday-reflections-by-women-priests- 4917/
May God bless you as you contemplate this Palm Sunday and the events of Holy Week,
as you go through this holy week with Christ,
with love and prayers,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Janet Lillian Blake led a fulfilling and wonderful life (1938-2021). She was a beloved mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin and friend to those gathered at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Center Moriches, New York on Saturday March 19,2022. She died in Hobe Sound, Florida where she and her husband James Blake lived for over forty years. She returned home to our loving God after a long bout with cancer. She was victorious in this battle for several years before succumbing and she was always thankful for the support of her loving family, especially Jim who cared for her until a brief hospice stay at the end, and her children Lori Whitlatch Post of New York and Timothy Whitlatch of Virginia and their families. Her brother Bobby Robinson of New York and niece and nephew Kathleen Knoppert and Kenneth Robinson and their families, also of New York, were also always there for her and in her heart, as were all of her loved ones.
The Scriptures were read by Ken Robinson and Kathy Knoppert, Janet’s niece and nephew. Ken read Isaiah 25:6-9, God will wipe away every tear and destroy death forever. Kathy read I Corinthians 13-“the greatest of these is love” which also speaks to the quality of Janet’s love for her family. The Gospel was John 14:1-6 where Jesus says that he is going to prepare a place for us and he will bring us to that place to be with him in eternal life. The grave, the end, is the beginning for those who believe in Christ and live a life of love. We prayed that our loving God will “grant Janet a place of rest and peace where the world of dust and ashes has no dominion. Confirm in us your hope that she will be created anew…to raise her up in glory to live with You and all the saints, forever and ever”.
At the graveside service Janet’s son Timothy Whitlatch gave the Eulogy. (He is top row right end in the group picture). It was a wonderful review of her life as a mother, and as a woman who loved life. Timothy remembered that his mother had a picture with an inspirational saying that she took from home to home with her -“Faith can break the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.” She also had a plaque of a little Dutch boy and girl that she labelled with “Lori” and “Tim.” I was reminded of an antique picture of a beautiful guardian angel with two children, a girl and a boy crossing a rickety bridge, because Tim said that she used to say “Angels with” whenever anyone left her. So this was our time to say to Janet: “ANGELS WITH”. Dearest Janet, the angels are with you and you are our angel now. Timothy ended the Eulogy with “Angels With”.
I am Janet’s cousin and was honored to be asked by her children to preside at her graveside service to commit her spirit to God forever. I last saw her a few years back with the rest of our family’s Florida contingent, our other cousins, Jack and Daniel McGarry and their spouses who lived near Janet on the East Coast of Florida. She was well then and she invited me to her home and we also had wonderful meals and parties with the whole Florida contingent. I was glad to reunite with my New York family to remember her. Because of my faith commitment even before my ordination in 2007 as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, I presided at other family funerals. Notably I helped to lay Janet’s father, my beloved special Uncle, Julian C. Robinson, to rest in the early 1990’s. As our faith filled grandmother, Ella Robinson Weinmann would say, “God’s love for us was from the cradle past the grave to forever.” And so we came together to celebrate Janet with our love as well on this day.
Janet was cherished by a large circle of loved ones, only some of whom could attend this Service of Commendation and Commitment. After the graveside service there was a warm and moving gathering at Buckleys in Center Moriches where those gathered looked at pictures and mementos of her life and shared stories and memories. There was much laughter and tears as the bonds were renewed and Janet was remembered.
At the end of the Service we asked that we take leave of Janet in the “sure hope of life eternal, let us go in peace and live lives of love and hope as Janet did”.
And we prayed the Irish blessing:
Dear Janet and your beloved family and friends,
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of God’s hand” Amen
ANGELS WITH, dearest Janet, Angels With…. Angels With dear family, Angels with….
With so much love from your family and friends
and your cousin, Judy
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
On Saturday afternoon, April 2, 2022, twenty-two members and friends of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida gathered to worship together and enjoy the family of God as they moved toward Easter joy. Our diverse and enthusiastic group ranged from those in their 20’s to our 93 year old senior member, several cultures and all genders and races and colors of the rainbow. As I looked at them I thought “oh, the beautiful face of Christ.”.
In the picture above, Pastor Judy Lee carries our Cross for the Altar table outside the homes of six members who live in the Goodwill Community for the physically disabled in East Fort Myers where we have met several times during the Covid 19 pandemic. Our Church Elder, Mr. Harry Lee Peter Gary (top left) opens his home for our setting up and our faithful member Pearl Cudjoe (top right) makes sure we have a meal for each one attending for our Fellowship Time after Church. Donna Girasi and Kathy Roddy and Stella Odie Ali (not pictured here) also brought wonderful food and desert for our meal time. Also in the picture are Donna Girasi (seated left) who read the Hebrew Scripture and Brenda Cummings (seated right) who read our New Testament Scripture. Next to her is our beloved Ellen McNally who always brings a table full of donated items for perusal after the service. Ellen, who is in her nineties has been doing this since we began our ministry of worship and a meal as Church in the Park in 2007. Mr. Gary and Brenda and Pearl have been with us faithfully since that time as well. Next to Ellen were Kathy Overby and Kathy Lauwagie, our snowbirds from Minnesota. We were so pleased to have them with us. This was a very hot day and all understood as we let them know that in the coming hot and rainy season we would no longer be able to meet outside. As one member said, God will provide a suitable worship space for another time.
We began by singing This is the Day Our God Has Made and asking God through song to Revive Us Again. To bring us back to full life.
Our worship theme this Fifth Sunday of Lent (using the Year A readings with the rising of Lazarus as the Gospel) was praying and interceding for our loved ones and assisting them to live. And, embracing resurrection, including our own rising up from the dead. With our care for others we, and they too, may rise from what keeps us from the fullness of life, now and forever-to rise from the dead. We also had special intentions for the people of the Ukraine and for peace there and everywhere, and for our member Joe Baker, who is currently hospitalized in ICU.
Our Readings were: Ezekiel 37:12-14 where God promises: “I will raise you from your graves, put my breath in you and you shall live.” ; Psalm 130 with the Response ” With You are kindness and plenteous redemption”; Romans 8:8-11 where we learn that the Spirit of Christ lives within us (and so we are empowered to serve one another); and the Gospel: John 11:1-45 where we see Jesus loving his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and Mary and Martha pleading for their brother who dies, and Jesus weeps with the sisters and friends before raising Lazarus from the dead.
The homily by Pastor Judy was a mixture of interactive style and preaching. Members felt free to dialogue with Pastor Judy as she preached and to talk with one another on the themes. This interaction underlined the theme of our job of interceding for and helping one another even as Mary and Martha interceded for their brother. They were extremely upset and simply would not let Jesus go until he did something even after their brother died. The two things Jesus did, crying with them and then actually raising Lazarus from the dead demonstrates what we as a faith community can do for one another and for all who need intervention. When action is not easy we can simply be with one another in our pain. That in itself is a great gift that helps. We reflected together on those we pray for and those we help with our actions and with our prayers. When we feel that we cannot do something to help our loved ones, we can pray, and that too is doing something. As Mary and Martha plead with Jesus to help- and he did, we too can bring the needs of those we care about before our loving God. God, of course already knows the needs of our loved ones, but it is good for us to try to meet those needs and if we cannot to pray, even to plead, to let God know about the pain of our brothers and sisters. Mr. Gary made the point that Jesus asked the family members to take the funeral clothes off of Lazarus. He reflected on how we sometimes put grave clothes on others rather than take them off. He prayed that we may learn to watch what we say and do that puts funeral clothes on others. That we may learn not to judge others but to help them live.
We took time here to call out names of those in need of prayers in our immediate circles and throughout the world. While we will pray together again as we do our general intercessions, right now we can pray, we can always pray. Part of our work for and with others in Christian service, prayer is work as well. And here I reflect that the prayers of our people never fail to move me, and I know they move our loving God as well.
We reflected on the lives of two of our members who make sure that others are helped. We remembered our Grandma Jolinda Harmon who now intercedes for us from heaven, who would always seek prayer and help for those she loved especially if she felt that help was beyond her. And just this week Angie Glover worried about her neighbor, our brother Joe Baker who lives right where we are meeting. She bothered the landlord until they went in and found him in bed in a pool of blood. He was immediately sent to the hospital where he remains in ICU. We prayed for Joe and we thanked Sister Angie for getting him the help he needed and for then visiting him and following up on his care. We talked about the self centeredness that sometimes keeps us from seeing or responding to the needs of our neighbors and loved ones. We asked God’s help to overcome inherent selfishness this Lenten season. We prayed to become God centered and other centered more than self centered. We saw that helping others helps us to rise up and live and prayed to be able to do this so that we too may rise again.
Our prayers included in specific and in general the need to stop violence in our communities and in the world. We centered on the Ukraine but also added many other places in the world including our own community. We sang Thank You God during Holy Communion. And we thanked Jesus for the sacrifice of His life, His body and Blood for us, noting that now we receive His body and blood and we become the Body Of Christ, serving one another. We sang What A Friend we have in Jesus, and affirmed that once again we have Decided to Follow Jesus.
We affirmed that though the road for us , like Lazarus, will lead to death, through Christ there will be and is Rising Again. We thanked God that Easter is coming!
After church we continued our fellowship with a meal and with celebrating our March- April Birthdays including Joelle White,15, and Timothy Vanderwarf,48. We were so thankful that our church family had another chance to meet and worship, and to enjoy such good companionship on the road to Easter.
Below are some of our members enjoying fellowship and a meal.
Thanks Be to God!
Love and Blessings, Easter is coming! Rise Up and Live!
Pastor Judy Lee, Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
On this day when LOVE is celebrated we send you all a love note from God, who is Love. And, we remember your loves with you and share our love with you as well. We want everyone to have a Valentine’s Day Message on this day, so consider this your very own card.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed God’s love among us: God sent God’s one and only Son into the world that we might live through him…..Dear Friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…” I John 4 7-10, 11.) On this day let us say I love you to our loving God, whose creation gives us beauty and order and awe and who loves us completely and fully, and knows us like know other and wants to be in relationship with us. Be loved by God today and always. And let us say I love you to one another.
When we remember our loves on this day, we may remember our grandparents, parents and family members here with us and gone before. We remember their love for us. We remember their sacrifices for us and their ways of giving to everyone, and especially to us. It may well not have been perfect love like God’s love, but it was the best they could do and often perfect for us. And here we are, living to remember their love and to continue loving as best we can. We remember the elders in our Church families and families of choice as well. Below are two wonderful women who went home to God in the past year after lifetimes of love and service and faithfulness in our Good Shepherd Church.
We remember our family members near and far away with so much love.
And our families of creation:
We also remember our lifetime friends, those who are still with us, and those who have gone home to God. We regret that only a few dear and special friends can be included here or this story would go on forever. And love does go on forever.
We also remember the animals who love us so well.
We Remember Our CHURCH FAMILY With Much Love For Valentine’s Day
We close here with remembering all of our loved ones on this day, only sorry that not all can be here in pictures, but be assured that they are here in our hearts.
May our loving God bless you on this Valentine’s Day and surround you with love and peace and joy.
HAPPY ST. VALENTINE”S DAY
With love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
“Im not scared of dying, and I don’t really care, if its peace you find by dying, well, let the time be near…” Blood, Sweat and Tears
Somehow the thinly veiled depressive note of “not really caring” about death comes through the words of Blood, Sweat and Tears’ song. And while it is true as the song says that a baby is born and life goes on after our deaths the resignation to, but not acceptance of, death is a subtext. Most of us do “really care” and many of us do everything we can to avoid even thinking about dying and death.
A lot of our contemporary music and a host of hymns, old and new, capture feelings about death and dying. Dolly Parton sings “I Will Always Love you”, and Aretha Franklin sang “The Day is Past and Gone” a traditional African American hymn about “the night of death” drawing near, praying for safety in the night and drawing into the bosom of God’s love “when we from time remove”. Vince Gill sings “Go Rest High On that Mountain” where he anticipates his brother’s welcome into heaven. Martin Luther King Jr’s favorite hymn was “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”. In hardest times and “when my life is almost gone…And the day is past and gone, Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.” And in the RC Church we sing “And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings…”and “I will raise you up, I will raise you up on the last day.” ( Yo los resucitare….en el dia final. “) This is the chorus of the hymn “I Am the Bread of Life” by Suzanne Toolan, RSM. ( Yo Soy el Pan de Vida). “I am the life, If you believe in me, even though you die, you shall live forever.” This is from the Gospel of John-John 6:35-40; and, John 11:25. Christ followers are filled with hope for life after death, for living on with Love, “in the bosom of God’s love”, as Aretha Franklin sang. Yet even the buffer of faith does not mean that facing death, one’s own or the death of a loved one is easy for anyone.
These songs speak to the grief process in losing a loved one, and to the feeling of death as ‘NIGHT” and then the hope of resurrection as Jesus was raised from the dead, and the sense of a peaceful and even happy afterlife. Yet, it is human to avoid thoughts of death and dying until we absolutely must face them in our lives.
A close friend recently told me that I seem to have an awareness of death that energizes my life. This was in the context of getting important things done while time permits. I am thankful to her for that observation as I have not thought about mortality awareness in quite a while. And, it is an important concept to deal with at various points in life. And it is important to deal with it from many perspectives, for me, most importantly, the perspective of faith.
When I was a Professor of Social Work for 27 years, ( from my thirties through my 50’s at three major Universities and one starting the MSW Program) I sometimes taught a Course called Human Behavior in the Social Environment, or Human Development. My primary teaching was in methods of helping people, in the one to one, small group, or organizational level, mostly individual and group clinical counselling. My specialty was group services and occasionally I liked to teach the Human Behavior Course, underpinning all interventions. I remember teaching that mortality awareness develops over the life span and happens differently for people depending on their life experiences, but that senior citizens are generally likely to develop this awareness most keenly. I was not a Senior as I taught this so I relied on life experiences that heightened my own mortality awareness, like the death of my beloved grandmother when I was twenty, which literally turned my life upside down; and my mother’s sudden death when I was forty-four that cut me to the core of my heart; and the early and difficult death of a dear friend who was like a brother to me in my fifties. Those deaths were deeply hard for me and heightened my awareness of death and the importance of relationships and life. Students would also share their death experiences sometimes happening in childhood and adolescence as well.
We talked about the life-giving potential of death awareness. We also talked about the anxiety and fear and repulsion that exists for some who prefer to forget and deny that awareness in order to cope. However, while I taught that the older years were the special province of such awareness, I was not yet there and could not deeply reflect on it. I can now. And I can attest that there is a very different feel to this awareness now. It is more deeply personal and more deeply challenging and energizing and, yes, more salient and imminent.
There are many recent articles online on Mortality Awareness, or Mortality Salience as some call it. For example, I like Why Being Aware of Your Mortality Can Be Good For You in The Apopka Voice, 7/5/20- https://www.theapopkavoice.com. It highlights the potential for motivation to overcome laziness and procrastination and to experience life the way you want it to be. It also highlights embracing spirituality as a major motivation as a way of accepting death awareness. Many articles talk about belief systems and faith as mitigating fear of death and enhancing acceptance of the reality. One article talks about the development of self-esteem as another key mitigating factor. In other words if we love ourselves we will take care of ourselves and place the emphasis on life, not death even while we are aware of it. For example one might see The Worm At the Core; On the Role of Death in Life (2015) by Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszcynski on Mortality Salience and something called Terror Management Theory. They see cultural world views including belief systems, and self esteem as helping to return death-fearful persons to a state of equilibrium. A controlled study of 51 persons by Daniel Spitzenstatte and Tatjana Schnell, 2020, shows a decrease in the fear of dying in people who were taught interventions on how to deal with death awareness. In other words learning about death and dying can decrease fear. This includes talking about it and not primarily using denial. (https.//www.doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2020.808737 ). Another important book on this subject is Gratitude by Oliver Sacks 92015,Alfred A. Knopf). These are essays written in the last months of his life which explores his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death. In it he says, My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return….(life) has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”.
Similarly those who work with and serve dying people, in pastoral care or in professional care of the dying and grieving, or in just being a friend to those facing such fears, are asked to confront their own mortality so they can serve well. An example is given of a medical doctor who avoids a patient who is dying because he feels that he can not do anything to prevent it. The doctor reflects his sadness that he did not at least sit with the patient and allow him to talk and express his feelings about his life and dying. This is important for those of us in ministry and other helping professions, and with those who have loved ones facing death, to note. We can “BE WITH” the severely ill and dying and not have to fix it. And this can happen best when we are comfortable with our own dying and aware of our own feelings about death.
My Reflections on Death and Dying
In my post-75 later Senior years I might say that I have become friendly with death. I can say that death is my friend, I know “she” is always around, yet, it is not the time to welcome her in. Far from being morbid or depressed or fearful of death, I know the time will come when I will welcome her, and my crossing over. I have experienced two cancers that were frightening. Thankfully, both cancers were “cured” by surgery without chemo or radiation following. I faced my mortality head on and quickly and was so thankful to live. I also faced the four cancers my beloved partner in life and ministry, Judy Beaumont, faced. Over almost fifteen years she beat three cancers, and the last one ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia) was not to be beaten. She fought, I fought with her. She went home to our loving God, in God’s mercy, on January 1, 2018. Three life threatening cancers were vanquished and she went on living life fully and joyfully, including in 2012 becoming ordained and serving as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest).
I am full of Life now, my health is excellent and my outlook, especially having found love again, such a miracle, is more positive than possibly it has ever been. I am happy. I am living every day-doing the ordinary, the sometimes easy, the sometimes difficult, and the sometimes extremely joyful things of living and of being the Pastor of our Good Shepherd Ministries. Aging is a series of challenges, mostly not too hard yet. Not being as fast as I was mentally, and physically is not easy for me. Pastoring is a joy and also a major responsibility. I love my family , my friends, my pets, my kitty rescue work which sometimes overwhelms, and most especially my beloved. Yet, I deeply know death is not our enemy. I know that God takes us home when it is (or perhaps will be) just too hard to remain here. Oh yes, when a loved one or even an animal I see in the natural world dies, I am stopped in my tracks. And here I want to stress that for those who have much loved pets, losing one is losing a family member and duly difficult, and in need of comfort. I pray for all of them, I pray that they are with Love, with our loving God, and I pray for those they left behind in loss and grief. I have been there so many times by now that I know deeply how they feel. I do not know what it is like to die, or to cross over , to make my transition into eternal life. But I have been with loved ones to that border. As both a person and a Pastor, many times I have shepherded some of my beloved people, and beloved pets too, as far as I could go. And many more times I have comforted the grieving, and lived my own grief. And, as I have described elsewhere, even as Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4-9) and it changed his life completely, I experienced the miracle of seeing the risen Judy Beaumont and it filled me with love and with the assurance of life eternal. It turned the “night of death” into the day of love for me. ( The reader may see, for example, my book “The Courage to Love and Serve: the Life Story of Rev. Judith Ann Beaumont-A Roman Catholic Woman Priest And A Saint For Our Times” (2020: Outskirts Press: pp. 292-302), where I describe the fruitful life of service and the fruitful death of Rev. Judy Beaumont, and her post-death appearance to me while blessing a newly ordained deacon at a RCWP (Roman Catholic Woman Priest’s) Ordination. So my Christian faith, and this miraculous experience, has given me a hope of rising again that will take me to the grave and rising, of others, yes, and to my own dying and rising.
In the last year or so, my blog https://www.judyabl.blog has described several difficult losses of my loved ones, and those I serve pastorally in love, and several funerals where I was called to preside. Despite my faith and belief in the resurrection, the reader will see how much I continue to love and miss these dear people. Accepting death as a friend does not mean that it is ever easy to accept the loss of a loved one. But it does mean that one can fully appreciate the fruitfulness of their lives and their entry into the life to come. And it does mean that there can be a real awareness that love does last forever.
So if you are reading this and are facing life threatening illness, or dying and death head on, take heart. There is nothing to fear, for our God is Love and the love we have in our hearts for our loved ones, and theirs for us, will last forever.
Happy Valentines Day-Love is FOREVER ,
Love and blessings, Pastor Judy Lee,
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP