Yesterday , February 17,2021 was the first day of the Lenten season or Ash Wednesday. It is the day Christians gather to begin the forty day journey with Christ to the Cross and to resurrection, to ever new life. We begin assessing our lives and admitting to the many ways we can find to move away from God and God’s ways to focus on ourselves alone and to avoid opportunities to show love to God and to our neighbors. We take to heart, to the depths of our hearts, the words of the Prophet Joel: (Joel 2:2-18 The Inclusive Bible Version-Priests For Equality)
“Even now-it is Your God who speaks-
return to me with your whole heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.
rend your hearts, not your garments.
Return to Your God, who is gracious and merciful
and ready to forgive…..”
We pray Psalm 51 together asking;
” God, create a clean heart in me,
put into me a new and constant spirit.
Do not banish me from Your presence,
do not deprive me of Your Holy Spirit.
RX Have Mercy O God, in Your goodness
Be my savior again, renew my joy
keep my spirit steady and willing;
Open my lips,
and my mouth will speak out Your Praise.”
Just take a moment and ask where has your joy gone lately? Because of Covid isolation and the personal things each of us face, life can often be described more as drudgery or obligation than joy or willing and ready spirit, filled by God’s Holy Spirit. We thank God for the opportunity to come together as best we can, some only by zoom, some in small groups, and some alone, to focus on what is happening in our lives and spirits. We thank God for this time of Lent to get our bearings again. To ask God for the joy of salvation, for the wisdom and strength to clear out the debris and begin again in love of God and follow Christ as he makes his way toward the inevitable cross-and then-to the life beyond the cross. How we all need that life!
We hear from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2) that we are ambassadors for Christ,”as though God were making the appeal directly through us. Therefore we implore you in Christ’s name:be reconciled to God…..As Christ’s co-workers we beg you not to receive the grace of God in vain…..’Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of Salvation!”
And why not now? Why not now to reignite the joy of salvation within ourselves and our communities. Indeed, NOW is the acceptable time….and Thank God for NOW!
When we receive the ashes on our foreheads there are two sets of words that may be used: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” To remember our mortality and our fragility-perhaps easier to do in the midst of this pandemic when there is loss at every level including loss of life, all around. And “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”. I choose to say “Repent and believe in and live the Gospel”. In the original sense of the word “believe” living and following is implied but in our modern language believe can be divorced from actions- so I remarry it. With both sets of words at the imposition of ashes, we are reminded to turn our lives around, to get them back on track where they have fallen off and to “live Jesus” as the Salesians say. I do beleive that there are those who are living in grace and living lives full of Jesus. But I also know how easy it is for my own life to fall off the track as I remember grief and loss more than life and joy-and as I put myself and my “needs” above the needs of God’s children in a suffering yet so beautiful world. And so I am thankful for the ashes, for the time to remember to put God and all God’s creation first again. I am so thankful.
When the sign of the Cross in ashes is placed on the forehead, those receiving it are saying “I love you Jesus, and I am sorry for my sometimes shoddy behavior and uneven faith”. And because it is an obvious sign , they are willing to live their faith out loud, in public, visibly. And yet in the Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6,16-18) Jesus warns us not to “practice your piety before others to attract their attention; if you do this, you will have no reward from your Abba God in heaven.” He tells us to give charity quietly, without trumpets, and simply, and to pray in our closets in secret, not for public attention, and not to moan if we are fasting or making other sacrifices for the kin-dom of God to come on earth, and “our God who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” Leave it to Jesus to tell it like it is and give us a way to handle the ways even our good acts can go off track.
We shared the wise words of Pope Francis in his Lenten Tweet and meditated upon them. We ask you to do the same:
“Today we bow our heads to receive ashes. Lent is a humble descent both inwards and towards others. It is about realizing that salvation is not an ascent to glory,but a descent in love. It is about becoming little”. vatican.va/contentfrance
LET US CONTINUE THIS DESCENT TOGETHER during this blessed Lenten Season.
And, moving to today’s readings (Deuteronomy 30: 15-20; Psalm 1; and Luke 9:22-25) let us choose LIFE over death, every time and in every way we can. “Today I have set before you life and success, or death and disaster… Deuteronomy ” CHOOSE LIFE…. “Happiness comes to those who delight in the Law of YHWH (God)….They’re like trees planted by flowing water-they bear fruit in every season….YHWH watches over the steps of those who do justice; but those on a paths of violence and injustice will find themselves irretrievably lost… (Psalm 1)” Well we might desire and try to live following the law of loving God first in our lives and loving others like ourselves, but now is a time to assess how hard that actually is and how we can with God’s help live more closely to the spirit of the Law Jesus gave us. And we can assess too the ways in which violence and injustice may flow from our mouths if not from our hands. Jesus tells us in the Gospel to deny ourselves and follow in his steps. If we are honest with ourselves, how hard is that?! He adds that if we lose our lives for his sake we shall find them.
.Let us find our lives this Lenten season, rediscover them where they have become lost in daily living and struggles, or even find them for the first time. What a wonderful opportunity we have this Lenten season to find our very lives, to choose life! To what Pope Francis said:” It is about becoming little” I humbly add “It is about becoming Love”.
AMEN , AMEN.
Here are some moments from the past about becoming Love for the world- May each of us find our own way of doing and being this this Lenten season
With love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A.B.Lee
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Ordination of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest in Boston on 1/23/21 and Reflections On the Sunday of The Word of God 1/24/21
Yesterday, January 23,2021, at 2PM marked the Priestly Ordination of Deacon Jane Audrey-Neuhauser by RCWP Bishop Jean Marie Marchant, MDiv, DMin of The Spirit of Life-A Catholic Community of Justice and Joy in Weston, Mass in the greater Boston area. While only a few RCWP clergy and close family members were in physical attendance, most of the large Eastern Region RCWP members and other RCWP members and community members participated via ZOOM. Rev. Jane Audrey Neuhauser was called to priesthood many years before the RCWP Movement developed in 2002. She served faithfully in Boston area churches in many capacities and elsewhere. She looks forward to developing her own worship communities. She also resides in the Orlando area of Florida for several months a year. As a Deacon she participated with our Good Shepherd Community with myself and Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia here in Fort Myers, Florida in 2019. She is filled with joy at her Ordination and humbly and eaagerly looks forward to serving all of God’s people, especially those at the margins, as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. Our loving prayers and deepest Congratulations to Rev. Jane Audrey-Neuhauser, the newest Priest in the world-wide RCWP Movement, numbering nearly 300 Ordained women with some men.
Reflections on Today’s Readings and the Homily by Pope Francis
How fitting it is that the Scriptures of this Sunday, January, 24th 2021, ( Mark 1: 14-20). also called the Sunday of the Word of God, center on the call of Simon(Peter) and Andrew, James and John from their jobs as fishermen to follow him. This is seen as the call of the first disciples and also as the call of all followers as disciples. It is seen as both a call to vocations and to the vocation of all the baptized to serve an inclusive loving God and one another, to imitate Christ. We remember that Simon was married and later Jesus will heal Simon’s mother-in-law, ill with fever, and she will get up and serve him (Mark 1:29-39).Clearly from the beginning both men and women received and responded to the call, and the healing, of Jesus. The writer of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, also records that as Jesus died on the cross “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there” (Mark 15: 40-41). ( The Gospel of John has Mary, his mother and Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene near the cross (John 19: 25-26). . Then the same women who were watching him die, brought spices to anoint his body in the grave. They were told that he was no longer there! (Mark 16: 1-8). Later (Mark 16: 9-11) it is recorded that Mary of Magdala was the first person Jesus appeared to and she went and told the other disciples immediately, but they did not believe her. For wonderful commentary on this and the book of Mark the reader might see “On Your Mark: Reading Mark in the Shadow of the Cross” by Megan McKenna,Orbis, 2006). Luke 24: 9-11 also reports this. Matthew (28:1-10) also records Jesus encountering Mary of Magdala and the women to their great fear and joy, and telling them to “Go and Tell” his brothers , thereby making Mary Magdalene the first Apostle to the Apostles. Then ( Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus gives the disciples the Great Commission to ” go and make disciples of all nations….”
And so Jane Audrey Neuhauser and almost three hundred other women have responded to the call of Christ to serve as Priests and make disciples of ALL nations, despite the man-made doctrines in Canon Law saying that women can not be priests. if Jesus can call all people, then all can become priests. Roman Catholic Women Priests are ordained contra legem but validly in a line of succession provided by the first male RC Bishop(s) in good standing who ordained our first priests and bishops. (Their identity will be revealed upon their deaths as they are still in good standing).
In the Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica today Archbishop Rino Fisichella President of the Pontifical Council on the Promotion of Evangelization presided and read Pope Francis’ written homily as Pope Francis suffered with Sciatica and could not preside.(Let us join in prayer for Pope Francis with this painful condition). At the end of the Mass the Archbishop presented copies of the Bible to a large group of recipients who would be Lectors that included women, men and children in preparation for Confirmation. Particularly moving was his giving a Bible in Braille to a woman Lector who is blind. To read the Word, to share all Holy Scripture, and specifically Jesus’ words, is now open to all Lay ministers in the church including women. Yet the human powers-that-be still withhold the Priesthood from women despite how Jesus and the Gospel writers (Canonical and non-Canonical- see the Gospel of Mary, for example) included them clearly as Jesus’ disciples and Apostles. THANK YOU women, and Jane Audrey-Neuhauser for answering the call despite “official rejection” with the love of Jesus the Christ guiding you.
Pope Francis in his brilliant and beautiful homily said that the first meaning of what Jesus said at the start of the Gospel of Mark is “The time is NOW, the reign of God is near, God is Near”, is that a new day has come. We must turn around our lives (repent) and get them following God’s loving lead in service to all especially the outcast of our times. Jesus has ushered in a new time, a time of God’s Way as exemplified in the life , death and resurrection of Jesus. To enable us to follow, to do this GOD IS NEAR. To see all of this Homily see: https://www.popefrancishomilies.com. When the Archbishop read Pope Francis’ Homily the translation given by a Religious Sister included words that spoke directly to me. “God is with us” not far away somewhere, very near to guide and to console us especially when we feel alone. The word “con-sole” was defined con-solo- with the alone. I reflected on how we as women priests are often alone in our obedience to the Call since the “Church” Magisterium reject us. So often our people, those who call us and those we serve are with us, but this is in a surround of rejection that creates an alone-ness unless we stay NEAR to our loving Jesus, to our God, to our CALL.
In addition we are all living in a time of greater alone-ness due to the restrictions of Covid 19. For our Good Shepherd Community in Fort Myers, Pastor Marina and I do still minister to and with various members and do outreach to lost and struggling folks, but we do this almost one by one or one by a few as we can not meet as a church together. Many have told me they sorely miss our gathering. Even Jane’s Ordination was not able to be held in a packed church although the Zoom feature made a large attendance possible. And in our own personal lives there are so many who are now literally alone from one end of the week to the other. There is something about in-person encounters that exemplify the nearness of God in the Gospel, and this is often through the nearness of others. And so now, more than ever we must embrace the loving God Who is Near as we continue to take the challenge to Come follow Me and “Go and tell”.
Our prayers are for all who seek to follow the God Who Is Near, and to feel this loving presence, no matter what. And then to reach out to someone else who is feeling all alone and share the Presence of God.
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee,
Part of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida in January 2020, Pre-Covid
I have been reflecting on the loving gifts I have received this Christmas-expressions of love never cease to amaze me. Some were small material gifts thoughtfully matched to who I am or what I like and some were gifts of calls and cards and messages sending love. They were especially important in this year of Covid19 when we cannot travel to be with our loved ones. And they were especially important to me this year as it is my third Christmas without my partner in life, love and ministry- Rev. Judy Beaumont.
(We were both ordained Roman Catholic Priests through the Roman Catholic Women Priest -RCWP-Movement that began on the Danube river in 2002. After many years of service and compassion particularly to the homeless and outcast we were both called by our local community to also serve as Priests. We were already serving our Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida and we became Co-Pastors of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers. I was ordained in 2008 and Judy Beaumont was ordained in 2012. Over 400 persons joyfully participated in her ordination. Our service continued with a new sacramental dimension supported by our varied and loving community.)
On New Year’s Day, Jan 1, 2021 Judy began the New Year by leaving the suffering of AML Leukemia behind and going home with Love. Her life is now eternal and she remains our guiding star and angel. As all who lose loved ones know all too well, the Holidays, and even the most Holy days can be a difficult time, a time of remembering and a time of missing and a time when there is one foot in the past and another in the present. So love expressed at Christmas is particularly important. Yet Christmas is ALL about Love. God’s tremendous love for us. A beautiful Christmas song popularized by the Jars Of Clay and available on Youtube is entitled Love Came Down At Christmas. (It adapted by the jars of Clay but was written very long ago by Christina Rosetti- 1830-1894 with a Traditional Irish Melody). The words say it all:
“”Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas; Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine….
Worship we our Jesus, But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token; Love be yours and love be mine,
Love from God to all of us, Love for plea and gift and sign”.
When we embrace the love of God at Christmas we are never alone and never ‘Unloved”, though we remember the loves of our life who have gone before us. Those of us in older years may often say: “There are more of my loved ones in heaven than on earth”. Some may even say “ALL of my loved ones have now gone before”. There is a poignant sadness in that, yet a hopefulness. I ask you to remember love with me now. The love we were blessed with, and the love we are still blessed with- and most especially the Love that came down at Christmas.
As a special gift I am sharing here Chapter 12 of my book about Judy’s life of complete loving service. There are Chapters that are written by Judy and Chapters about what she accomplished and how she struggled and served. A few Chapters are about our life together as well. This is one of those Chapters. If you care to read this Christmas chapter, it may whet your appetite for the whole story. It is appropriately entitled “Every Day Is Like Christmas”. Click on Download if you would like to read it.
Here is a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/author/judyleejudithablee
A Blessed Christmas Season and a New Year in which you know without a doubt that you are loved-most especially by the Love that came down on Christmas. Let us remember to be the hands of Love this Christmas and always.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
Co-Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and Good Shepherd Ministries in Fort Myers Florida
Our Good Shepherd Ministries Community celebrates the amazing life and mourns the loss of Jack McNally (John W. McNally, 1927-2020) who went home to our loving God after a month long struggle with Covid 19 on December 5th, 2020. His Funeral Mass was today 12/12/2020 at the church he loved, St. Cecelia’s Roman Catholic Church in Fort Myers. The Eulogies were led by his loving wife of 47 years, Ellen McNally who served always at his side including volunteering in our Good Shepherd Community with him faithfully since 2007. Ellen firmly said that she shares his joy in being fully alive with God now.
In view of Covid guidelines only those close to this wonderful couple were able to attend sitting six feet apart and wearing masks, yet this beautiful church was filled with love as Jack was remembered. St. Cecelia’s Assistant Pastor, Rev. Frank Hanlon honored Jack’s request to have the theme of the day and the homily centered on Church on the Margins. He pointed out that although Jack served on the margins and felt that he too was on the margins of the church, Jack’s life of selfless service was right in the center of Jesus’ heart and Jesus’ teachings and the Gospel message. Jack’s life long commitment to serving the poor and outcast enabled him to empathize and identify totally with the poorest among us even for his Funeral Mass. Joe Irvin Pastor of Bootstraps Ministry in North Fort Myers and one of Jack’s closest friends, and I joined Ellen in eulogizing this special man.
Jack and Ellen McNally , to the right of Rev. Judy Beaumont and Good Shepherd member Nate Chester( both preceding Jack to eternal life) in the above picture, were beloved supporters of our Good Shepherd Community serving the poor and homeless in Fort Myers since 2007. They were with us when we served up to 150 people in Lion’s Park and remained with us when we served both outside and inside through 2010, and when we moved our hot meals, services and Mass inside our House Church and transitional home for the homeless on Central Avenue from 2008-2017. Jack and Ellen brought and cooked meals and organized their whole neighborhood at Country Creek in Estero and the CTA (Call To Action) group to do the same so we were never without a hot meal. Perhaps more importantly they were the presence of love as they interacted with all who came to eat and have fellowship with us. Our Community members cried upon hearing of his death.
In this collage(top left) we see Jack as a youngster in his class in the poor country school house where he had his first eight years of learning in rural Nebraska. Another picture shows him in the US Navy and from there he was sent to Notre Dame where after two years he entered the Seminary. There is a glare from the glass(top right) but we see him as a very young man saying his first Mass. He served a poor rural community for four years then served in inner-city Detroit where his love of the poor and outcast continued to grow. When he was in his mid forties he met a Religious Sister also serving that parish and another very special love happened. He received a dispensation from his vows, and she from hers and they married in 1973, serving together ever since. ( The pictures are faded, but there is one of their wedding day and one taken a bit later). Their love continued in a marriage of three, including Christ at the center for all of their 47 years together. All who came in contact with them felt the joy and centrality of Christ in their love and service.
Ellen talked about Jack’s kindness to all and his ability to always keep his word as well as his love of service. She pointed out that Jack served as a volunteer in Lee Memorial Hospital for twenty-eight years. And he also served similarly for many years in Pontiac General Hospital in Michigan. In Lee Memorial he was a loving presence for those waiting anxiously for news of their loved ones during surgery. It is possible that he was exposed to Covid 19 there as he was at his post until it was no longer possible due to the pandemic.
For me there are four concepts that describe Jack McNally: Ultimate kindness; prophetic service; courageous persistence for justice; and a presence of love. First, I echo Ellen’s description of his kindness. It was palpable in any room he entered and with all people. Our Good Shepherd people were calmed and drawn by his often quiet yet smiling, warm and kind presence.
Joan Chittister says the following about prophets (P. 22 in The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage, 2019 Convergent Books):
“The prophetic tradition is clear, We are not here simply to succeed today. The prophet will persist for as long as it takes to make the present what God intends it to be as well as to prepare the future to maintain it. We are here to seed the present with godliness so that others may someday reap the best of what he sowed.”
That is exactly what Jack McNally did throughout his life of service to those in most need. Godliness was what you felt in Jack’s presence as he quietly served and cared for all around him. Indeed, “as long as it takes” was his whole life of 93 years, for he persisted in challenging injustice until the end, and we are so blessed that he has helped so many of us to maintain a present that is as God wants it to be: full of love, compassion and justice. And, yes, this took special courage-courage to live at the margins with all who live there, not just visit it occasionally. Jack lived a life of courageous persistence in enacting and working for justice for all God’s beloved people.
And, finally as we remember Jack we are struck by love. Jack exuded love for those he worked with and served. His was a reflection of Christ’s love and all were blessed in his presence. And Jack and Ellen together were dynamite for prophetic justice. Their love reached out to all around them, enfolding all in love. “JackandEllen” seemed often to be one word as their love was a unity in Christ’s love. And here I want to speak of their love for one another as it was an example for all couples who love, and for all who love. there was ample space for independent activities within their relationship but their service together was also remarkable.
I like the words of Henri Nouwen (from Bread For the Journey, Harper, 1997). I hear them as Jack speaking to Ellen. “Ellen” he whispers to her,
“Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die. But love will remain. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God. When we die , we will lose everything that life gave us except love. The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us. It is the divine, indestructible core of our being. This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation”.
“Ellen” he continues with Nouwen’s wisdom filled words, but his own love,
When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer consolation and comfort”.
I know Ellen is feeling that love, and I offer it as well with Nouwen, to all who sustain profound loss.
Thank you Jack McNally for showing us the way to love.
Thanks be to God for his life.
Rest in peace and rise in glory dear Jack. Well, he already has!
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, Good Shepherd Ministries of Fort Myers, Florida
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee,RCWP
Starting with this Sunday we enter the season of Advent. All over the world in big cities and small towns, in the church and in the secular world, in all countries and cultures and with all languages, the preparation for Christmas-the coming of Christ-begins.
We bless the circular Advent wreath with its three purple candles (for Christ’s royalty through the lineage of King David) and one pink candle for Joy-the 3rd Sunday is Gaudate (joy)Sunday. The circle is God’s unending love and the candlelight is Christ, the light of the world). At each week’s lighting the Presider may say: “Be still before God and wait patiently” (Psalm 37:7). Those present may reply “So I wait for you, God, my soul waits, and longs for you….for with you is abundant love and full deliverance”. Psalm 130:5-7).
Each Sunday we light a candle. They symbolize Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. And the readings of the day are about watching and waiting and light and darkness, loss and redemption, miracles of healing and and walking the walk. We are challenged this first week not to “fall asleep on the job”, to “stay awake” as we await Christ’s coming. (The Gospel is Mark 13:33-37).
Theologically, we await the coming of Christ in three ways. First, the celebration of Christ’s historic birth in Bethlehem , God’s entrance into history/herstory in human form- God as one of us! And that is always a WOW! to contemplate. Then, we become alert to seeing God in the events of our every day lives, God -With-Us and God among us-especially in the faces of all around us-especially the poor and the outcast whom we need to see to serve. And finally, we hope for the Second Coming of Christ when God’s kin-dom will finally fully be enacted on earth.
Today, Pope Francis, from St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, reminded us that there are two key words in today’s readings: closeness and watchfulness. The Hebrew Scripture reading from Isaiah 63 and 64 reminds us that God is with us as a parent is with a child, and as a potter works with the clay, so God is our potter and molds and shapes us, each one uniquely to be what we are called to be. Paul reminds the church in Corinth ((I Cor 1:3-9) that God is with us, faithful until the end, giving us all we need to follow Christ. In his homily today Pope Francis reminded us to actively invite Christ to come with us as we watch and wait and serve. Christ is always with us but our acts of invitation help us to KNOW that. So Advent is to be a time of active listening, waiting and inviting and acting with God in our midst.
In the secular world , especially this year with the anxieties and langor of Covid 19, elections, racial and other tensions, and myriad troubles,Christmas-waiting actually began early in November. People all over expressed the need for cheer, for uplifting, for joy and an end to darkness and sadness. Well before Thanksgiving there were Christmas Carols on the radio and Christmas movies on TV and the decoration of stores and homes with bright lights and Christmas themes long before Advent officially began-four weeks before Christmas in the church year. I am late in my neighborhood in getting my Christmas lights up as I only began the day after Thanksgiving. The light is literally and sorely needed this year so I am now hurrying. I do have a lit Cross on my house to break the darkness as we have no street lights here and it is a wonderful symbol of light year round (except on Good Friday when I shroud it). People tell me it means a lot to them to see it. But there is nothing like every house displaying Christmas lights in the dark night here. The world waits for Christmas.
So this Advent season let us light the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love as we await the Light of Christmas. And let us see the light in all of the faces around us and be glad.
While we can not worship in close contact this year let us hold one another in spirit and in love.
Let us bring light and joy to one another.
And let us serve one another.
Let us have a little Christmas every day.
Watchfulness and charity will arouse us, according to Pope Francis, and praying,serving, and loving will bring Christmas near every day. Let us watch and wait and serve.
A Happy Advent to all.
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia,RCWP
and the people of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, FLorida
Today we celebrate the reign of God in Jesus Christ-the Shepherd King- “the Solemnity of Christ the King”. The word “KING” is alienating to many and comforting to some. It speaks of God remaining in charge of this endless cosmos from time immemorial and present in our troubled world. It is reassuring to think that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet”! But “King” also brings images of opulence, subservience, paternal(istic) power, and, sometimes, arrogance.
Instead the readings of the day are about the humble good shepherd who makes sure not even one is lost, or sick and alone ,or hungry or unsheltered and our responsibility to make sure this is so. Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17; Matthew 25: 31-46.
In the Gospel (Matthew 25) Jesus says that those who ACT lovingly toward others actually provide care to Jesus. Those who feed the hungry, give the thirsty a drink, welcome the stranger, clothe and shelter and care for those who need care, and visit the lonely and those in prison will inherit the “kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world”. Most importantly, this is not a far away kingdom-or kin-dom- it is what we co-create with God on earth here and NOW as well as what we anticipate throughout eternity. The Epistle of the day, I Corinthians 15: 20-28, assures us that all who die in Christ shall be brought to life again as Jesus who gives life now and forever even ” put death under his feet”. For many of us experiencing loss this Holiday time the prospect of becoming part of forever with our loved ones lifts our broken hearts. And serving those around us now brings new meaning and joy.
This giving of self and much needed material and spiritual goods brings God’s kin-dom “on earth as it is in heaven” and gives total meaning to our lives. We experienced a little of this yesterday as we made our Thanksgiving visits to community members.
Yesterday, 11/21/2020, with the help of groceries provided by Lamb Of God Lutheran Episcopal Church in Estero, Our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers team distributed food and funds and other items for Thanksgiving to 15 of our Good Shepherd families. Kathy Roddy and her friend Angie and Carol Schauf and I were honored to visit with our friends who warmed our hearts with their own deep thank- fulness to God for their lives, and homes and for our visit. The unbounded joy of each one with the exception of one family who was very sick and unable to come outside at the moment, fearing covid, filled our hearts. With them, I talked on the phone and through the door and as we left the door opened to receive the offerings we brought. I am encouraging them to go to the ER but they are afraid due to their immigration status. They do not believe strangers are really welcome here. Even my words of assurance are not enough. Please pray that they will get the help they need.
How good it was to share the faith and hopes of each one visited. Kris Nasi lifted our hearts with his hopes for a gentler and more caring USA when our new President takes office. His love of his cat Hootie, with him before he finally got the home they now share, also moved us.
When Kathy and Angie visited Mr. Gary, our Good Shepherd church Elder, they reported that despite having just been through painful surgery and coping with both isolation and a wheelchair, Mr. Gary exuberantly shared God’s love and goodness with them. When we visited Mary and Brenda (above) as well we were met with unswerving faith and hope despite illness and isolation.
We also think of the selfless self-giving of our Associate Pastor Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, a Nursing Assistant, who works regularly with Patients who have Covid19 on a Rehab ward at Gulf Coast Hospital. This week she was able to visit and anoint our beloved Good Shepherd supporter Jack McNally who can barely walk as Covid lingers on. No Priests are able to visit during Covid. Jack was not on her service but she got special permission to enter his room and serve him. He was so responsive and thankful as was his wife our CTA President Ellen McNally who is home in Covid quarantine and cannot visit him. Please keep them and all who have Covid and their selfless caretakers in your prayers.
We are so thankful to witness the kingdom/kin-dom of God on earth in the lives of our Good Shepherd Community members. We pray that each of us may experience the true “high” of God’s kin-dom on earth as we serve one another, and the Shepherd King, in love.
Happy Thanksgiving and be blessed!
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee,
Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL and The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers
Thanks Be To God!
4th World day of the Poor-IV Jornada Mundial de los Pobres-4e Journee Mondiale des Pauvres- 4.Welttag der Armen
A day to stop and think, pray and DO-ACT!!!
Today in Roman Catholic religious observance we celebrate the Fourth World Day of the Poor. This is a day set aside by Pope Francis in 2017 for remembering to “stretch forth your hand to the poor” (Sirach 7:32) on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Yet, strangely, my Sunday Missal Readings in the otherwise very good Guide “Living With Christ”, made no mention of this day. And, as I attended morning Diocese of Venice (my SW Florida Diocese) TV Mass sent from a church in Bradenton the Priest made no mention of this day in his homily. Fortunately,I tuned into a TV Mass on EWTN at 12 O’Clock and it was the Pope’s celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica of this World Day of the Poor. His homily was magnificent as he rolled in all the readings of the day with the theme of this most important day of consciousness of the poor, materially and otherwise, abounding in our midst and our Christian obligation to “Stretch forth our hands”. His full homily and earlier ones on this theme dear to Pope Francis’ heart can be found on the Vatican website Vatican.va. The whole texts are imminintely worth reading. I will only comment on some of his thoughts today as I share my own.
The readings of the day are: Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31; Psalm 128:1-5; I Thessalonians 5:1-6 and Matthew 25:14-30. In Proverbs, the virtues of a good woman and wife who reveres God are extolled. She brings good to her spouse and the family and works hard “with loving hands” to do this. Yet we don’t often quote the following virtue listed in Proverbs 31 v. 20: ” She reaches out her hands to the poor;and extends her arms to the needy”. (In The Inclusive Bible this reads “She holds out a hand to the hungry,and opens her arms to the homeless”. Psalm 128, the response, says that those who revere God and walk in God’s ways will be blessed and surrounded with love. Thessalonians says that as children of light we will not be shaken by the disasters of the times but look beyond to seeing God at work in the darkest of times and stay alert for the coming of Christ in the midst of darkness. And the Gospel is what is often called “The Parable of the Talents“. A Talent was money in Jesus’ time but we can and do interpret this Gospel as speaking of more than money, of how we use or neglect our God-Given talents and gifts.
Simply,on one level, this Parable says regarding our gifts from God “If you don’t use it, you will lose it”. That makes a lot of sense-no matter what talents and gifts we are given, however great or small, if we fail to use them they shrivel up and die and us along with them. Yet, every time I read it I feel sorry for the one who received less because she or he had less abilities to begin with and who was so afraid of the Boss that the talent was buried in the ground for safe-keeping thus enraging the Boss who expected something back on the gift given. I didn’t like that the gifts given were uneven, and that giving back the gift was seen as an affront, rather than the act of a scared being. But as I reflect I must agree that that is the way of the world that Jesus was trying to capture here. The materially oriented world is unfair and uneven and capricious. And Jesus was conveying that each one of us has received gifts from God: free and wonderful gifts that we can share or hoard or bury.
What have your gifts been? What are they? No, don’t minimize anything- you CAN find your unique gifts. My Cousin Jackie has the gift of passion for a cause and her activities during this last election were unceasing and powerful. (And yes, we were so joyful when Biden, a man of faith and decency did win. Yet, we are also mindful to embrace everyone no matter who they voted for or why). A friend spoke to me the other day of her gift of music, and how she has not been able to use it of late. Suddenly, I wanted her play to her instrument again, and both of us would be lifted. Another friend spoke to me about how her sewing and quilt making grounds her and brings her joy in these times. She made masks for me and for many others, and a baby quilt for her new grand daughter and for my God-daughter’s newborn. The joy of giving filled her. Still another man, one of our Good Shepherd members, is a formerly homeless man who is not only homed in his own place, but is an Elder in our community, leading in worship and reaching out to others who are still homeless and others. He recently broke his leg above the ankle and had to stand an operation and living in a rehab when he was already stressed out by living in these difficult covid times. Yet his joy in God’s love and the gifts he has been given were never dampened. His niece helped him learn how to use Facebook since he can’t get out to share his joy in God’s love and he is writing beautiful messages for all to see.
I am overwhelmed as I look back on my life and realize all the gifts I have been given-gifts I can use, gifts I can share and gifts, especially of people and community, that make life worth living. I can empathize, I can love, I can write, I can speak, and I can outstretch my arms and serve others, especially the poor materially and in spirit. And if I do little or none of this, I am the poorer for it. This time of Covid shut-in has challenged me to keep using my gifts even in different ways. It has also challenged me not to become selfish or self-centered and not to pull in so far that I can’t reach out again. Like you, I am working on how to use and share my gifts in this difficult time. I am learning that a phone call or even a good message or a letter is another form of touch in a way I did not have to learn before.
Today Pope Francis reminded us that we are given such wealth to share. He noted that “those who do not live to serve serve for little in this life”. He noted that we have to take risks and not be overly cautious if we are to put our gifts to good use. We are not valued for what we save or keep for ourselves, but by the fruit we bear. We are not to seek “the good life” but the good we can do with our lives. We are to see those in needs, not focus on our own needs. We need hands outstretched, not grasping and clasping. In the parable, the first two given talents took risks and invested them. The third took no risks and buried the talent. Pope Francis suggested that we “hand over our life plans to the wind and serve. Those of us who only observe the rules and take care of ourselves take no risks. So we are mummified and our souls are mummies”. WOW!
He added that when we only “follow the rules” and fear making mistakes that fear can take over. The third person who received the one talent lacked initiative and creativity, and was full of fear. He did no wrong, but he did no good. He buried his gift. instead we are challenged to be generous, to conquer fear and passivity which becomes complicity. We are challenged to look fear in the face and let go of disinterest. For long term interest on our talent we are to “invest in the poor-the center of the Gospel”.
Pope Francis reminded us that the Gospel can not be understood without the poor. The poor among us often lack the very basics needed to live. Yet they are fully gifted beings loved of God who are symbols of Jesus. Jesus became one of the poor for us. He reached out to the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, the stranger, the profoundly ill and the despondent regardless of gender, culture, race,religion or anything else. He was so rich in love and gives us all that love. We can accept and use it or we can instead develop a poverty of love and become the poorest of all. In the end of our lives, what we have will not matter-success, power or money won’t mean a thing. Our lives will be measured by the love given away. That is our true riches. To serve Jesus in the poor, to bring water and food and shelter to those who do not have it, hope to the hopeless and love to those who feel unloved or unlovely, is to share the riches we have been given, and seeing those riches grow will bring us joy and peace, now and forever.
So, and I return to Pope Francis words here : “As we face Christmas we must not ask what can I have, what can I buy-but what can I give, like Jesus”.
Be blessed and give it away this holy day!
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida
Rev. Dr. Judith A.B.Lee, DMin, DSW,MSW
I am so glad to be back on my blog after a long hiatus of taking care of business during this time of “coronavirus” and the necessary staying home where I remain. I am ministering still mostly from home and “keepin’ on keepin on”. I have been blessed to have the loving support of new friends and old during this time though family is far away. Support makes all the difference.
My prayers are with all who have been touched by the Covid19 virus who do not even know the long term effects. First I pray for all those who went home to God as a result of this siege, especially the many Religious communities and members/residents of Nursing Homes whose whole communities were hit and diminished. The Felician Sisters of Pennsylvania where thirteen were lost at one time comes to mind, and we also lost a dear friend of Pastor Judy Beaumont’s, Sr. Johnette Sawyer O.S.B. from St. Scholastica Priory in Chicago. I can see them laughing together in Heaven now and shepherding us too!
Two family members and two Good Shepherd Community members (to my knowledge) have been through it and all are well enough now after a frightening siege. At both ends of the age spectrum, Jack in his 90’s and Jakeriya, 19, a young mother, were hit hard, sent to the ER then quickly sent home to be treated and quarantined, and thanks be to God, they are well now. Yet our prayers and love remain with all touched by this scourge and their caretakers and loved ones.
Please wear masks, use good sense, and observe distance until this plague passes.
AN Important and Revolutionary NEW BOOK
I am delighted to share that the prominent Catholic Theologian John Wijngaards has a new book out about why women must be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. As he is a Scriptural scholar I can’t wait to read all of his arguments, they will be persuasive. the book is called “What They Don’t Teach You in Catholic College: Women in the Priesthood And the Mind of Christ” (Acadian Press, 2020) 216 pages, $16.95.
Here is an article announcing Wijngaard’s exciting new book from NCROnline by Hille Haker who teaches Theological Ethics at Loyola University of Chicago. Here’s THE LINK:
There is also another important book written this year (2020) by Jill Peterfeso published by Fordham University Press, New York. It is about our Roman Catholic WomanPriest Movement and it is aptly called :
“Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church”
This book, like the now classic “Women Find A Way: The Movement and Stories Of Roman Catholic WomenPriests” edited by Elsie Hainz McGrath, Bridget Mary Meehan, and Ida Raming (2008,VirtualBookworm.cpm Publishing, Inc. ) tells the stories of many women who have been ordained as Roman Catholic Priests since the beginning of the Movement on the Danube river June 29th, 2002. While the edited book contains stories written by several of the ordained priests (including myself) Jill Peterfeso did extensive research and presents her findings with many quotes from priests. There are nearly 300 ordained Roman Catholic women Priests and Deacons who reside all over the world now.
Below are pictures from an Ordination (of Rev. Dianne Willman) in South Africa. The presiding Bishop was our beloved Patricia Fresen, one of our RCWP founders. Fr. Roy Bourgeois is also in the picture. His unceasing support of women priests got him officially laicized but his priesthood is more powerful than ever as he continues to courageously stand for justice for all.
Below Priests of the Eastern Region in the United States
Here (below) I am with our Priests from Columbia South America, Rev. Judith Bautista Fajardo and Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and Rev. Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez. Below this are Pastor Marina Teresa and I with some members of our Good Shepherd Congregation
And before closing on Books for now, I humbly but heartily encourage you to get my book about Rev. Judith Ann Beaumont as the story of her lifelong service and fight for justice and peace will give you much inspiration and greater detail of a life lived for Christ and culminating in the Priesthood.
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 by Judith A. B. Lee, (Outskirts Press, 2020) Here is the LINK:
FINALLY a few words for our unsettling times –I quote a sage on politically fomented discord:
“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war
in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor,
for patriotism is indeed a double edged sword.
It both emboldens the blood
just as it narrows the mind.
And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch
and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed,
the leader will have no n eed in seizing the rights of the citizenry.
Rather, the citizenry,
infused with fear and blinded with patriotism,
will offer up all of their rights unto the leader,
and gladly so.
How do I know:
For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar”
This is attributed to Julius Caesar, and a word to the wise and those seeking peace and justice with love, is sufficient.
Love and Peace, Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor, Good Shepherd Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida