Ruby’s Memorial Service

Ruby Tuesday, also known as Stacie Pearce, had a beautiful and heartfelt send-off yesterday. Here are some highlights from the Memorial Service for Ruby Tuesday yesterday afternoon-Tuesday April 10 from about 4-6 PM on the river front in Fort Myers, Florida.

I started the Service off with the help of four of the members of Good Shepherd Ministry, Harry Lee Gary, Brenda Cummings, Kathy Roddy,and Judy Alves and Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez leading the singing: This is the day, the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it” and This is Holy Ground. Then Rev. Ron Willis of Love and Compassion Ministries opened the Service with prayer and shared his reflections of Ruby’s road and closeness to Jesus. He, and all of the others who shared their memories also noted that Ruby could stretch our abilities to help. He told, with humor, a story of taking her to breakfast before an important meeting with all the difficulties of managing Ruby’s large cart of personal items.


Janet Bartos, Director of the Coalition shared how Ruby taught her how to relate to homeless people by commenting with dry humor on her very nice and very proper suit. She emphasized how Ruby attended every Coalition meeting and was a great Advocate for the homeless.


Portia Wright had created a beautiful large portrait of Ruby that we all admired as we remembered Ruby.
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We remembered Ruby as an artist and jewelry maker and several commented on her generosity in sharing her work with others. A painting of lovely houses on a hill that Ruby made has been donated to the Coalition for fund raising by Ruby’s Case Manager who had been gifted with it. We also recalled how she constantly tried to help others, giving much away.

Kathy Sager and others shared how working with Ruby helped them to learn how to be helpful to others who experience the pain and sorrow of physical and mental illnesses and yet demonstrated the unusual strengths that Ruby did.
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Kathy Roddy shared how she and Ruby became acquainted at Goodwill Housing in North Fort Myers. While I asked Kathy to reach out to Ruby, Ruby made herself known by appearing every day at dinner time. Kathy was also helpful in getting Ruby’s cat Gouda ready for adoption when Ruby went into Assisted Living Care. Kathy Roddy was moved by the Service and shared how much Ruby had taught her about helping.
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Portia Wright then shared the story of fourteen years of knowing Ruby and accompanying her through many moves and changes, sometimes with exasperation but always with patience and love. She reflected on how much Ruby meant to her and her family including her grandson who was present at the Service.She played two beautiful songs on the CD player before the weather suddenly changed and a storm quickly brewed.

I quickly moved to wind it up and after a brief commendation of Ruby to our loving God, and the summing up that Ruby taught many of us here how to serve and we are thankful to her for that and for her courageous life the wind gained tropical storm force. I enjoined the group to join hands in Jesus’ prayer and as just we concluded all that was beautifully laid on tables, food, flowers, and art objects from Ruby began to fly across the area. I said, “well, go in peace but this is either a bad early summer storm or Ruby trying to tell us something”. Many answered definitively as they hastily departed: “It’s Ruby!”

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Some aspects of Ruby’s life were like the Tropical storm force winds-capricious, unpredictable and causing chaos. She was one,like some of the other homeless people, who refused to accept that she needed medication for her mental health to be balanced and so it wasn’t. And her physical ills and pain would be equally strong and unpredictable. As she endured chemotherapy for her illness and also endured an unexpected move up to a facility in Punta Gorda she held on tight to her friends and to our loving God. And she kept on caring about and trying to help others. We also reflected on how Ruby is now with God, healed and whole and that was our comfort.
Then we were blown away and drenched to the bone- a new baptism of the Spirit for those who serve ?

In the words of the chorus of the song by the Rolling Stones that bears her chosen name:
“Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I’m gonna miss you….”

Let us follow Ruby’s teaching and serve one another,

Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of Southwest Florida
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In Memoriam Ruby Tuesday

On Tuesday April 10th, 2018 a Memorial Service will be held for Ruby Tuesday, a dedicated Homeless Advocate in Fort Myers ,Florida. It will be held at 3:30 PM in Centennial Park on the river front in Fort Myers. Rev. Ron Willis of Love and Compassion Ministries will preside assisted by Rev.Dr.Judy Lee,RCWP of Good Shepherd Ministries and Mrs.Portia Wright, Ruby’s beloved and Christ-like dedicated best friend of many years.

Ruby Tuesday, whose name was Stacie Joy Pearce,nee Stacie Joy Shapiro,was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and moved to Fort Myers several years ago. She was born on December 15, 1957 and died on February 4,2018. After many rounds of chemotherapy her heart was weakened and she was admitted to the Lee Memorial Hospital ER where was admitted to the hospital then died of heart failure. Yet, Ruby’s was a heart full of concern for others. After putting her own battle with homelessness behind her she became an Advocate for the area homeless, serving on the Board of the Fort Myers Coalition to End Homelessness. Janet Bartos, the head of the Coalition, Kathy Sager and several others from the Coalition will attend the Memorial Service.

Ruby Tuesday is her chosen name and the one everyone knew. She loved the out of doors, especially the river front and the parks. She loved color and turquoise stones and natural things. She wore colorful long cotton skirts and cotton tops with a Native American or arty motif and high topped boots. She liked to carry many of her possessions with her and sometimes used a cart or a rolling walker with a seat and basket to do so. She liked to call herself “an old hippie”. Yet, every moment she lived expressed her care for others, including her orange and white cat Gouda whom she reluctantly had to give up for adoption when she moved into an Assisted Living Facility four years ago. I would send her pictures of Gouda in his new home and this brought her great joy. Ruby made wonderful jewelry from semi-precious stones. She sold it and often gave her money to people who were currently homeless. And she sometimes also gave it away to her friends.

We met Ruby first in Lion’s Park in 2007 as we ministered to and with homeless people in the park. She often brought the needs of others to my attention. I called her my assistant and case finder. She also liked to help plan the menu for the regular meal favoring fresh vegetables and fruits. She was, then, a vegetarian and she helped me as I slowly became one. She believed that poor and hungry people needed a healthy and not starchy meal. Once she asked me to bring a green pea salad for her, which I did and she was so pleased. We slowly built trust and became friends. She liked to sit two or three seats behind me-near, but not too close. At the time she was homeless but she was then able to get apartments, then a trailer, then she was accepted into Goodwill Housing for the physically disabled. The picture below was taken on the day she went for her interview with Goodwill. She enjoyed living in her little Goodwill townhouse in North Fort Myers until she faced more difficult physical problems and moved on to Assisted Living. In the last year Pastor Judy Beaumont and I met Ruby at the Cancer Center several times as both were receiving their medications. We were able to embrace and pray together at those times. While Ruby battled difficult physical and mental illness she remained a beacon of light to others, leading them to assistance and homes.

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All are welcome to attend as we pay our respects and say good-bye to a dear friend and colleague in the service of the homeless. the words of the 23rd Psalm are right for her:

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of Southwest Florida

Belief = No Needy Person Among Them

This Sunday, April 8, 2018, is called Divine Mercy Sunday. And we realize that God’s mercy and grace and just plain powerful love for us is available every moment of every day. We have followed Jesus through his betrayals, his passion and resurrection and this week through his appearances to the disciples after his resurrection. We are amazed with God’s love for us in sharing our humanity at its best and at its worst. We are amazed that death is not final and life after death is real. We are firmly impressed that Jesus the Christ is real and God is real.Our faith is not ethereal but substantial. Therefore it has real consequences in who we are and what we do with ourselves and with what we have.

This week the Gospel readings are of Jesus appearing physically and spiritually to Mary of Magdala and to the other disciples. we see Jesus imparting his spirit to the disciples and empowering them with life and love and power itself. His patience with Thomas is the Gospel reading for today( John 20:19-31). Thomas had to see for himself- so Jesus showed him that he was indeed real asking Thomas to see and to feel his actual body for himself. Thomas reaches out to touch Jesus and is blessed then with belief. Jesus says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 19:29). And we are assured (v. 31)that through this belief we have life. We have life, glorious life, now and forever. Now that is Divine Mercy -that is the love of God for us.No matter our individual sins and faults and weaknesses, we can leave them behind, we can be and live forgiveness and have life. No matter the sins of the world that we collude with and make possible-famine, war,terror,starvation,homelessness,oppression of women and minorities,discrimination and poverty. We are offered life for our belief in God’s love and mercy through Christ.That is liberating and it opens a world of possibilities for what we can be and do. Yet, we know that to believe in Jesus is not simply to utter a belief, to say words or even feel them in our hearts- but to believe in Jesus is to follow him in keeping the commandments and in loving our God and our neighbors with all of our hearts, minds and beings. That means to join Jesus in becoming Christ to the world. That is in actively including everyone in the love of God.( First John 5:1-6-to believe is to love-God, Christ and all of God’s children. We have to be responsive to the Spirit of God. )

How do we do that? How do we respond to the Spirit, to live a life of love and how do we carry Christ forth in today’s world? The first readings this week are from the book of ACTS, the Acts of the Apostles. Through them we see the apostles in action and witness the development of the early church. We see that because of knowing that Christ lives and having
new life we create community that includes and serves all. Specifically we see that “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection….There was no needy person among them….for they sold (what they had) and the apostles would distribute to each according to their need”. Acts 4:32-35). To believe is to live a life of love and as we do that we share what we have with those who do not have so that need is obliterated.

Clearly something has happened between the time of that early church and today for need is all around us. Even here in the wealthy USA we have not wiped out poverty or homelessness or hunger or prejudice and discrimination and its ugly fruits. For one thing, we have lost the fire of knowing that he did rise from the dead and listening to the Spirit speaking. When one reads and hears the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we learn that most of all, and faults and warts and all, he lived (and died) to be responsive to the Spirit. In a Civil rights era Movement song from a well known Spiritual we hear: “If the Spirit says march, we march, if the Spirit say jail, we are jailed, if the Spirit says speak, we speak” And so on. If the Spirit says “share” we are to share- or “give it all away” then that is what we need to do. We can do it in our actual communities, we can do it with our money in supporting world-wide giving to alleviate misery, we can do it by breaking the silence, as so many women are doing now regarding sexual harassment and worse,and by truly knowing that all lives matter especially black and brown and poor lives and those so easily taken by powerful authority and violence. We can take political stands that may be unpopular to make sure that no one is left behind while others are affluent. we can live lives of fairness, action and risking for what is right. It will take that and more for there to be “no needy among us”.

We have somehow turned this Gospel into a “Gospel of personal salvation” and even a “gospel of prosperity”. Somehow over the years since the early church was on fire with the Spirit of the risen Christ, we have perverted it to mean if we believe we shall individually prosper, and the only sins we are to worry about are our own. We have become focused on “going to heaven” and forgotten the hell we have been a part of creating on earth-even by our silence and complicity. We have forgotten “the sins of the world” and the very real and basic needs of our neighbors. We have perverted the gospel to ME,Me Me. Only as we learn that to believe is to love our neighbors and to change the world will we do so.
My prayer on this Sunday when God’s mercy is celebrated that we receive mercy and forgiveness and then extend that mercy to the whole world by our actions.
Amen.
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Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community,
Fort Myers, Florida

He Lives-We live! Alleluia!

Happy, Blessed Easter to all!

Some of you worried that I may not make it to Easter with Jesus because Good Friday and Holy Saturday can be so difficult to get through but Jesus broke the bonds of death and I know in every fiber of my being:
He is risen!
El es resucitado!
ALLELUIA!

Because He lives
She lives,
and
We live,
Now
and
Forever!
ALLELUIA!

The scriptures in the Gospel of John (John 20) shows Mary of Magdala running from the empty tomb to alert the other disciples that Jesus is not in the tomb. They run to the tomb and discover this for themselves. Mary of Magdala remains crying when they leave. Jesus appears to her and calls her name. She turns to him, “Teacher” and grabs hold of him. He says
“…Don’t hold on to me…Go instead to my brothers and sisters and tell them…”
She went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!…”(John 20:26-180
ALLELUIA! May we each see the living Christ this Easter!

This Easter more than any other
we pray (With The People’s Companion to the Breviary Vol.2 193;199)
“You broke the reign of death, O Christ and we are free! With joyful voice we proclaim: Glory and Praise to you

Redeemer of all, enlighten us who still walk in the shadow of death;
-that with your new life we may conquerour addictions and prejudices.

Risen Savior, you appeared first to women,and sent them with the glad tidings;
You sent your holy women, Christ Jesus, to be apostles to the apostles,
-free all women bound by traditions and cultures that inhibit their human development. Free them to be good news for the world.

You rewarded the undaunted search of Mary Magdalen with your glorified presence;
-grant that we may be persevering in our efforts to find you in the ordinary events of our lives.

Hallowed Stranger,you appeared this evening to the disillusioned disciples on the road to Emmaus;
-enkindle our hearts to recognize you in the unlikely
circumstances of our lives.

Savior of the world, your message is peace in a world racked with violence;
-teach us the way of non-violence toward all creation.
Your resurrection, O Christ,has transformed our universe.
-sensitize us to a new all embracing concern for …all creatures and all creation.
Prayer:
Most merciful, loving God, you have been revealed in Christ Jesus as he rises to bring us the message of forgiveness and all-embracing love. May we who have passed with him from death into life in the mysteries we have celebrated,be signs of your life among us. We ask this through Jesus, our risen Savior. Amen!

WE ARE AN EASTER PEOPLE
HAPPY EASTER!
Love and Easter Blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Below are some Easter faces-Smile with them as you live Easter with Jesus

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Holy Silent Saturday: Until Fire and Light Pierces the Darkness

We can almost forget the holy significance of this day, Holy Saturday, as we go about Easter preparations and live our ordinary lives. For the bereaved, the day after we experience the death of a deeply loved one is truly profound. The often lengthy dying itself has been so difficult to witness, yet also there is a moment of peace at the very last. When Pastor Judy Beaumont breathed her last she exhaled with almost a cough and a gut level brief sound that caused her beloved sister, Jill and I to respond with love,relief, wonder and awe. As her spirit went to God she also shared it with us, her last breath falling like holy mist upon us. And then we saw the precious peace she now had. Good Friday had been long and hard. It would be a while before we could have that peace about losing her. First, in our holy Saturdays however many there may be, we would mourn and miss her everywhere. Yet the peace on her face was perhaps something like the peace that Jesus felt when he said “It is Finished”-with the meaning “I have accomplished it all!” And peace with the cessation of suffering.

The Saturday after Good Friday,we sense the difference on every level of our beings. No matter the belief in resurrection we experience the finality of death to us. For the faithful on this Saturday, we almost want to forget that Jesus lies in the grave as his loved ones weep and mourn. While he did tell them that he would rise in three days it must have been hard to believe after witnessing the horrors of Good Friday. And what could it mean? It had never happened before. They, and we as well, have no real understanding of what rising from the dead means. So, on holy Saturdays we are simply bereft.

The church recognizes the day on this Saturday as a day of mourning and contemplation. There are no Masses or church celebrations during the day. It can be a very long day. My friend Kathy Roddy told me that she keeps it as a day of holy silence. Many do the same as they meditate on the life and death of Christ and its meanings in our own lives. I hope you can have some of that silence today. Some add music like Pachelbel’s canon or Faure’s Requiem or favorite hymns or spirituals to deepen and texture the silence. But others may add noise to deafen the silence and rush ahead to Easter joy. That is a temptation, even for me. But this year silence is more welcome and more possible for me. God is there.

Saturday evening slowly approaches when we will meet in community and share the Easter Vigil. In the Roman church and others as well there is a particularly dramatic beginning to the Mass/Service. New fire is created outside of the church. It pierces the darkness as we look on. The priest lights a candle from this fire and proceeds to the altar where the Easter Candle is blessed and made ready for this new church year. Members of the congregation each hold a candle that is lit by the Easter Candle. We are all bathed in light-the light of Christ. We welcome the risen Christ into our midst in a holy and deeply joyful moment.

The candles are then extinguished and the electric lights come on as we listen to “salvation history/herstory” in many readings. The first is from Genesis 1:1-2:2 where God creates all and says “it is very good!”. We pray “Come, Lord Jesus, send us your Spirit,and renew the face of the earth”. With the reading from Ezekiel (36:16-28 we sing “Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God”. We herald the Gospel , this year from Mark 16:1-7, With joyful Alleluias.

In the Gospel we are returned to the darkness of the tomb as we follow Mary of Magdala, Salome and Mary the mother of James inside. The huge stone has been rolled away. They can’t believe their eyes as the tomb is empty. A young man in radiant white is sitting there and tells them: He is not here, he is risen”. They run away in a host of feelings including downright fear. But, they certainly tell the others as the word of his resurrection spread like wildfire down the centuries to reach even us today. Alleluia!

After the homily there is the liturgy of Baptism and Confirmation for those catechists, those who have studied and are being received into the church. My cousin Jackie recalls the beautiful night that happened. She did not need to receive baptism as we were baptized together many years before, but the whole night was one of receiving the light of Christ into her life.
Below are some pictures of a few of those we baptized at Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community on Easter and near it. In the last last two pictures Confirmation follows for the baptized.

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The Congregation is also sprinkled with the water of Baptism as they renew their baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil. We sing “Come, o come, come to the river flowing from the body of Christ. We’ll go down deep in the water, but in the Lord we shall arise”. AMEN!
And after receiving the living Christ in the Holy Communion of the Eucharist we join in singing:
“Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleuluia”!
We are through the darkness, we are in the light, Alleluia!

Love and blessings this Holy Saturday,
Pastor Judy
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

At the Foot of the Cross: Good Friday

Today is the most solemn of days for followers of Christ. With compassion and sorrowful,heavy hearts we follow him to the Cross and his crucifixion. We enter a silent and holy space where we unite ourselves to Christ in his sufferings and as we do this we realize evermore how Christ’s sufferings and death unites him to us-how much God loves us and abides with us. It is our turn to abide with Jesus as he experiences the worst of being human-the inhumanity of our fellow human beings. Today there are a variety of ways to follow the way of the cross: to do it alone or in prayer, to do it inside of the church; to sit for three hours and reflect on Jesus’ words from the Cross; to be pilgrims and follow the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem; or to walk outside in the street and stop at many places where in our very neighborhoods Christ is still suffering. In many countries and in many ethnic neighborhoods in the United States the faithful walk the way of the cross before participating in a Good Friday Service.

In the pictures below a small group of faithful gather with their Pastors wearing red to symbolize the blood of Christ, to walk through the neighborhood outside of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers,Florida. ( A group of elderly and others who have trouble walking are also praying The Stations of the Cross in the church). The cross, covered with handwritten prayers of the faithful, is carried this time by Quayschaun Crews. They may stop at the hospital, the known drug houses, the homes of sick or shut-ins , the Bail Bondsman’s store,the school, etc. They will pray at each spot for Christ’s love to restore to life and heal. And, they will reflect on Jesus’ being sentenced, falling, meeting his mother and the women, Simon the Cyrenian carrying the cross, and the crucifixion, death and entombment of Jesus the Christ. They will sing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” with great depth of understanding. Then they will participate in the Good Friday Service that includes the veneration of the Cross and prayers for the world.

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In following the Way of the Cross, we unite with Jesus and all who are just and treated unjustly-all who take on state and religious institutions to infuse them with greater love and suffer at the hands that should offer love and compassion. As we reflect upon Jesus’ journey to his crucifixion we also reflect upon the sufferings of humanity- from those who are gravely ill, to those who are victims of powerful and capricious others who use force where none is called for, to those who are simply different from others and left out of human mercy. We think of all those who are by human rules not welcome at the Eucharistic, Holy Communion Table where Jesus offers himself to us-and that is happening at the hands of the church he died to save and infuse with his love. Jesus invited all to the table and ate with sinners and saints alike yet man-made rules of churches refuse many including those who are divorced and remarried, those who are gay or on the LGBTQ spectrum and those who break any of the rules-like fully ordained Roman Catholic Women Priests who break the canon law stating only men can be ordained as they follow their call to the priesthood. In this year’s Passion Gospel from John we read that three women waited beneath the Cross with the Apostle John. Mary, his mother, his mother’s sister Mary, his Aunt, and Mary of Magdala. My heart breaks with those four who loved him so much they risked surrounding his cross with love while other disciples ran away. I can hear them weep and weep with them. And I weep with all who wait at crosses in their lives as loved ones suffer with illness, imprisonment, at war, or taken away into various forms of slavery. I thank God for the women and the young disciple who were with him that day. I pray that the young and the women may be welcomed to serve him as God calls.

The pictures below were taken at a rally for justice.
The sign below next to “Women priests are here” held by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan,ARCWP reads “Love trumps Hate”-and that is exactly what Good Friday is about on every level of being.

As we follow Christ to the Cross we are mindful of the crosses we also bear, and some for righteousness sake. We realize the limits of human mercy as we embrace the vastness of God’s mercy in becoming fully human and suffering and dying as we do. The good news is that we can be sure that our God understands human pain and tragedy and that God loves us.

In her little book, Way of the Cross: Gateway to Resurrection, Joan Chittister, OSB writes: (The stations) require us to examine our entire philosophy of life. Jesus is condemned to die because he defied the standards of both the state and the religious establishment in which he lived. to both, he brought a truth they did not want to hear. He set out to witness to the love and justice of the God of all creation: Jews and non-Jews, women as well as men,underlings as well as the professional types of his time. He cured on the sabbath, mixed with foreigners, taught theology to women, played with children, questioned every law, chose people over ritual every time, never made authority a god. He threatened the establishment with his incessant attempts to build a better world,and they destroyed him for it.” She also asks “What in life is it for which we are willing to be condemned?” And at the last station, the tomb, she talks about the finality of some endings. she says “When Jesus submits to death of his ministry, when Jesus allows both state and synagogue to cast him out, one life ends so that another one can begin”. Indeed, after the agony of his emotional as well as physical suffering he says “It is finished” and is buried. Yet for him we know the tomb was a gateway to his resurrection. Chittister asks: Am I able to trust that the tombs of my life are all gateways to resurrection?” I pray that we are.

Jesus suffering on Good Friday causes those of us who love and try to follow him to “tremble, tremble, tremble”. The grievous events of our lives also may do this. There is no shame in this. There is no shame in love that follows, waits and weeps. But we now wait for the resurrection. Let us wait together.
Amen.

May God be with us this day and in all of our sufferings and deaths,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida

Holy Holy Thursday

Every single day and moment that we live is holy. Yet, to be with our beloved ones as they suffer and die is especially holy. In that “being with” we enter what the Irish call the “thin space” between heaven and earth when we can almost experience what is on the other side of this life. Perhaps it is when we realize that there is nothing more we can DO, but we can BE WITH, we are closest to God. This week is called Holy Week as we enter the Triduum (three days) of Jesus’ suffering beginning today on Holy Thursday and we follow him to the Cross on Good Friday,then beyond to glorious Easter dawn, Jesus’ rising from the dead, with the Easter Vigil. We can not close our eyes to the most difficult parts of living and dying and click our heels like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and jump to Easter, we must go through the agony of walking toward death with betrayal and angst, we must “face the music” and accept the cross and death, to get to Easter. I never understood this so well as when I spent the last days and moments with my beloved Aunt Edie in 1998 and now again with my beloved Judy Beaumont this December and January. The challenge is to enter the silence, retreat from the noises all around, with our beloved and just be with.

So we enter Holy Time and we take a while to really be with Jesus from today through the dawn of Sunday and Easter. On Holy Thursday in an evening Mass we celebrate Jesus’ last supper, His sharing of the unleavened bread and wine at the Passover meal as his very body and his very blood beginning a new covenant. Through Jesus giving up his life in a series of horrific events, God promises new and eternal life to the whole world. Life WILL follow death. Death is not the end. That truly is the good news. But we aren’t there yet. Jesus is not just celebrating a tradition he is starting a new one, offering himself as the way to be one with, reconciled to,our loving God. This last meal and the symbolism Jesus offers with it becomes the institution of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, our thankfulness for what Jesus has done, (Matthew 26:17-30). And it is awesome to realize what Jesus now must face. We begin our Holy Thursday Mass (or Service in other Christian traditions) with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-15). Then we proceed to celebrating the Last Supper before his death.
We then put the remaining bread,the broken body of Christ, in repose at an altar of adoration to be used remembering God’s grace on Good Friday the only day of the year when we do not actually celebrate the Eucharist at Mass.

We begin with the washing of feet as Jesus did as it shows us HOW to live the life that Jesus has asked us to live if we are to follow him. To “be with” Jesus is not only to feel or understand his suffering and join in it with prayer, but to bow down to one another and serve one another. To wash feet you have to bow down, and so we have our loving and humble God bowing down to us. Wow! Our response is “Oh, no, not me, I am not worthy.” But Jesus tells us “you need to be made clean, and I will wash you”. If God is so humble, we have no choice but to offer our feet, and to then bow down before the next one,especially those neighbors most beaten and broken by life’s blows and do the same. Today I think of the undocumented immigrants who work very hard and get dirty at jobs no one else will do and who are being arrested and deported in a new scourge of injustice suddenly leaving their crying families behind(250 new deportees were arrested by ICE yesterday including five in this County of Florida-our neighbors). Jesus ask us to truly serve the most broken: “If I the ‘master’ and ‘teacher’ have washed your feet,you ought to wash one another’s feet, I have given you a model to follow , as I have done for you , you should also do”( John 13:15). And so we begin our lives of humble service and seeking justice for God’s people as Jesus showed us.

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In the Holy Land,in Israel,at the Church of Gethsemane, located where Jesus prayed in the Mount of Olives, there is also a special Mass on Holy Thursday commemorating Jesus’agony in the Garden(Matthew 26: 36-45. That takes place after the “last supper” is completed. He has already experienced betrayal and predicts Peter’s denial. Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him and shares his heart with them. He says: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me”. He then falls face down to the ground,prostrates himself, and prays “My Father,if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will.” (Matthew 26: 38-39). We know the rest of the story. The disciples fall asleep. He is betrayed and Good Friday will soon begin. But let me lift out Jesus’ words, words that strike me most today: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. Jesus felt totally overwhelmed. Jesus felt crippling anxiety. Jesus felt the fear and grief of “being with” death, in this case not only his death but impending suffering. And Jesus’ prayers were answered with glorious life after death, but even he was not rescued from suffering and death. Finally, I can understand because of my own grief and feelings of being overwhelmed by sorrow: Jesus faced the greatest sorrow and he can understand fully when we feel the very same way. God’s humanity enabled God to viscerally know the lot of the humanity God so lovingly created. And God’s new promise is eternal life, not now though it begins now, this moment as we believe and walk with Jesus, but forever. And so I want to be with Jesus tonight and go with him through his agony, and with my suffering neighbors- to serve as he taught us.I offer only my imperfections but looking at the disciples sleeping and denying and betraying, and turning their backs, I feel that maybe I too have a chance at really serving and loving Jesus after all.

For the first time since my beloved partner in life and ministry, Pastor Judy Beaumont began her own Easter life on January 1st I was happy for the alone-ness and silence in the house today. Sometimes I say aloud and I thought only my cats hear: “this silence is deafening! I can not bear it!” But God is hearing too, Jesus is right there with infinite understanding. So today I realized that it is in that deep and overwhelming silence that I can join myself once again to Christ and find my way back home to love and service. Amen! I am thankful for this Holy , Holy Thursday.
Blessings,
Pastor Judy
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP