I Was Blind And Now I See: RC Women Priests Reflect on the Fourth Sunday of Lent 3/26/17

In today’s Gospel Jesus heals a man blind from birth and the religious leaders of the day want to deny that and find fault with it and with him. (John 9:1-41) When the leaders cross examine the man trying to prove that Jesus is a sinner who heals on the Sabbath,  in desperation the man says: “…One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see”. He knows what happened to him because of his encounter with Jesus: his whole life was changed. He fully believes in Jesus, case closed. So the account is about a miracle, similar to healing the two blind men in Matthew 9:27-31. Miracles were a great way to show the people who he was and help them to listen to his teachings. And often he was moved, his heart was filled with empathy for those who suffered physical and mental illnesses. His loving, caring turned to doing something about it. Both miracles and teaching were means Jesus used to reach the people with God’s love, justice and inclusion.   In this passage from John’s Gospel Jesus also goes on to the metaphoric level of speech showing that the Pharisees are the blind men for they can not see, understand or accept, what Jesus is teaching and who Jesus is. The man cured of blindness has no trouble with this. The religious leaders, here the Pharisees, think they know it all and can not see beyond what they “know”.  In the Aramaic “light “means true teachings and to live in darkness means to live in (self) deception, a place where ”alternate facts” exist and mean nothing but are firmly believed. To see, the Pharisees would have to accept that they were blind-did not see, and since they can’t do this their blindness is sin-a breaking of the very law they claim to know/see.

The author of several delightful series set in Botswana, Scotland, Portugal and elsewhere, gently teaching and unmasking human nature, Alexander McCall Smith, ponders the nature of truth, belief and facts in his newest installment of the Scotland Street Series, The Bertie Project.   His character Stuart is a totally truthful and thoroughly oppressed married man whose wife could be hated by feminists and most men alike. As Stuart struggles with guilt over having finally met someone who can love him he ruminates on “those who are not interested in facts as determined by empirical observation”. “…Änd on the coat tails of those who ignored the facts there traveled all sorts of sinister enthusiasms and social infections: arrogance,intolerance,indifference to need. After all, even the facts of gross injustice could be rejected if  one were in full denial mode, as things you did not want to see simply did not need  to be seen….” Finally he can not talk himself out of the wrongness of his actions and concludes: “the problem with being brought up to do the right  thing was that it ruined your fun. Forever…Guilt…”.  Once we see, we see, there is no going back. I remember a very special High School teacher who taught us, a group of working class girls, to see the world from a broader view by having us read and quote from The New York Times and not only the Daily News or Daily Mirror for starters. This was echoed by my church Pastors who opened our eyes to social justice issues and led us in taking actions toward racial and class equality. (Our Pastors were jailed in actions led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)  I remember having to question things I learned to that point, and fighting for what I thought was right , indeed a narrow view of the Gospel,only to find that I had not seen at all. I have been forever thankful that my eyes were opened early on. And yet the call to live the Gospel of love and justice is often not fun, it is hard work that is never done.

When John the Baptist is in jail his world is falling down around him. He begins to question the Jesus whose way he prepared as a herald and, in a way, a predecessor. Yet, the news of Jesus’ actions reached him in prison and John sent his disciples to ask Jesus “Äre you the one who was to come…?”Jesus answered “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight,the lame walk,those who have leprosy are cured,the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor”….”(Matthew 11:2-4). In other words, Jesus says- we are known by what we do-not what we say or aspire to do, but by the miracles we help work in the every day life of the poor, the sick, the outcast,the stranger  and the different. We most likely will not work the miracles of Jesus but we can do something to alleviate pain and poverty and we can love the unloved all around us, if we can only see them. And so we pray”Give us eyes to see and hands to serve and courage to stand up for what is right.”

The Health Care struggle here in the USA is a good example of overlooking the people we may not see or want to see. Today we are thankful that millions of economically struggling working Americans will still have health care, but we pray that  this remains affordable and that the next health care reform  will mean the poorest are still covered and that health care will include the working poor who do not qualify for either Medicaid or ACA Insurance-those who fall through the cracks like Millie a mother of two who cleans offices and makes very little and Javier a grandfather, and head of a family of seven, who works in  basic landscaping but can not qualify for either level of insurance.   May all of us see who is left out of the dream for a good life everywhere and act accordingly as the body of Christ here on earth.

Give us eyes to see….and hearts to love.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

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And now Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle continues this theme:

Still another transfiguration this week,
the third of four in this Lenten season.
Two weeks ago the disciples gained insight
into Jesus’ closeness to God
through the law and the prophets.
Last week Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well
both gained insight through their theological discussion.
This week the man-born-blind gains both eyesight and insight.
___________________________________
The Greek word for this man is “anthropos,”
the generic word for a human being
without telling gender, ethnicity, or historical context.
The man-born-blind—the one-who-saw—is everyone.
It’s us.
So when we hear this Gospel,
we are challenged to figure out the part we have been playing
AND
the part we want to play.
We may be bound by our unshakeable convictions.
We may be the ones who wonder what God is up to.
We may choose to let authorities give us the answers.
No matter what our role has been,
we are invited to be anthropos,
people who realize we have been blind
BUT who are now ready to see.
___________________________________
Last month Pope Francis said
that Christians don’t live outside the world;
we live in the world.
Francis said that Christians have to know
how to recognize the signs of evil, selfishness, and sin
in their own life
and in what surrounds them.
Part of the transformation for the man-born-blind
is recognizing the politics of the Pharisees
who blind themselves to the truth
so they can keep their power and wealth and control
over the people.
___________________________________
We don’t have to look far to see
how this story speaks to the signs of our times.
The big picture for us is that America is being transformed.
Programs that support the principles of Catholic Social Teaching
are threatened by that budget sent to Congress this month.
It ignores the rights and dignity of the human person.
It is blind to the preferential option for the poor.
It is blind to the command to feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
shelter the homeless, and welcome the stranger.
It is deaf to the call for peace and justice.
It would cut 62 agencies and programs
to fund expansion of our military,
already 1,000 times more lethal
than all the other militaries in the world together.
___________________________________
Here in Toledo we would see drastic cuts
to programs to shelter the homeless, like Family House;
Meals on Wheels for seniors and people with disabilities;
weatherization assistance;
low-income home energy assistance;
UStogether and its support for refugee families;
school breakfasts and lunches;
PBS and NPR.
___________________________________
And there’s more than the budget
to threaten our Christian values.
Already we see Muslims vilified
and immigrants and refugees turned away.
Environmental protections are being wiped out,
allowing unrestrained dumping of pollutants.
The proposed health insurance proposal
would make health care unaffordable or unavailable
to millions of people.
Truth and civility and respect have been replaced
with unfounded accusations, insults, and crude language.
In short, our country is abandoning its commitment
to the common good.
___________________________________
One good thing is
that it’s not only our country that’s being transformed.
We—each of us individually, and all of us together—are changing.
How blind we have been!
We were stumbling along in the dark.
Like the man-born-blind,
we didn’t see the damage that could be done.
We thought it couldn’t happen here.
Now, thanks to Donald Trump, our eyes are opened.
We are being transformed.
___________________________________
The transfiguration is everywhere we look.
Across the country
ordinary citizens are showing up at their senators’ offices.
We’re asking for town hall meetings.
We’re making phone calls and sending emails
about the issues we care about.
We’re writing postcards to Congress and letters to the editor.
We are following the political news
on TV and radio and in the paper.
We’re talking about it, and we’re taking action.
___________________________________
This is the “faithful citizenship” that the U.S. Bishops called us to
10 years ago when they said
that responsible citizenship is a virtue;
when they said participation in political life
is a moral obligation
rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus;
when they said that all of us
must actively participate in promoting the common good.
So we continue to work for the change
that will transform each and every one of us
to be able to read the signs of our times
and put our faith into action.
___________________________________
We’re halfway through Lent, symbolized in the pink around us.
Light is dawning.
With the man-born-blind,
with all who follow Jesus,
we are called to live as children of the light.
Amen!
Public Domain


Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
(Washington Church)

www.holyspirittoledo.org

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006
419-727-1774

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More Butter Less Guns

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Pictures From Good Shepherd Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida

REFLECTION by Rev. Deniray Mueller deni doulos blog 

LESS BUTTER, MORE GUNS – Are these Christian Priorities?
by rev deniray
As Christians, we will be judged by how we support the care of God’s creation; Jesus repeatedly taught us to work for peace and to care for the people of the earth.

How we allot and spend our combined resources – our budgets – are moral documents, reflecting our values. The proposed state and federal budgets reflect few of the religious values that our Savior taught, or for which our churches proclaim they stand.

At the federal level, the proposed budget eliminates school lunches and HeadStart programs, funding for programs for the elderly such as ‘Meals on Wheels’, and drastically reduces money for environmental protection a clean-up. Also significantly reduced is funding for foreign aid and diplomacy, and for Medicaid which provides healthcare for some 30% of our neediest poor and elderly.

The billions of dollars removed from Medicaid will be transferred, instead, to a 10% increase in military spending (the U.S. already spend more than any other nation on earth on armaments) to a Pentagon renown for waste and fraud. Some of this money will also go for tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens in our nation.

At the state level, the proposed budget only has a 1.9% increase over the current budget. Funding for education (early education, primary, vocational and college) programs has not been increased to meet the 2.7% rate of inflation. School districts will be penalized for a decrease in enrollment, although classroom costs will not change. Severe decreases in funding for vocational training for those students who are not college-bound practically eliminates the possibility that students graduating can obtain training to become productive citizens.

In the Ohio budget, tax cuts proposals include benefits for the upper socio-economic class, while significantly increasing sales tax and local income taxes, which negatively impact those with lower incomes.

The Ohio Department of Aging, which provides services to the elderly, receives no additional monies, although the percentage of elderly Ohioans living on fixed incomes and in need of these services is rapidly increasing. With the decrease in or elimination of Medicaid funding at the federal level, essential preventive healthcare measures and addressing the critical opioid addiction problem in Ohio will go unfunded. No additional funding for non-physical healthcare, will lead to more and more crises for the homeless and those suffering from addiction and mental illness.

As stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:28), elimination of major portions of the Environmental Protection Agency should cause great concern. As the effects of global warming becomes more apparent, we need to take additional measures to ensure the quality of our air and water and earth, rather than ignore this growing world crisis.

Yet money for border walls to separate us from one another and for life-killing weaponry is being proposed!

Is this really what we as a nation stand for?

when I was hungry, you canceled my food stamps;
when I was thirsty, you diverted lead & coal into my water;
when I was sick, you tripled my insurance rates;
when I was in prison, you enslaved me to corporations;
when I was a stranger with brown skin you deported me;
from the lonely you took away social programs;
from the elderly, you took away meals & medicine;
from the workers, you took away legal protections;
from the young, you took away school funding;
from the victims, you took away shelter;
instead of diversity, you encourage intolerance;
instead of caring, you encourage isolation;
instead of equity, you encourage military excess.
It is our obligation, as people of faith, to do everything within our power to call our senators and representatives to account for their votes on these budget decisions. There are many things individuals can do: make telephone calls, visit legislative offices, write letters and send emails to elected officials, and write letters to the editors of your local papers.

Yet, is this enough?

Perhaps more importantly, what are we- the members of Saint John'<uls – going to do to provide leadership to our city and state reflecting our priorities? Jesus’ voice must be our voice. We, as a church, can have an important influence. What are we going to do?
We should hold the clergy responsible for talking and preaching about these issues, reminding us that we are responsible for the world we live in, and we need to be vigilant to see that no one is left behind.

This is DSCF0777not politics! – it is caring for our world and the people in it.

Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 19 March 2017

rev deniray | 03/20/2017 at 11:49 am | Tags: budgets as moral documents, Environmental Protection Agency, Genesis 1:28, HeadStart, increasing sales and income tax, industrial military complex, Meals on Wheels, Medicaid, Ohio Department of Aging, Oho 2018-2019 Operating Budget, schoool lunch programs, U.S. federal budget, U.S. foreign aid and diplomacy, vocational training | Categories: Articles of Interest | URL: http://wp.me/p3CZwj-zw

 

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Jesus said; “Come you who are blessed by God;take your inheritance,the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me….whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.Matthew 25: 34-36; 40 .

May the blessings of our Lord be upon you as you live the Gospel’

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Give Me This Living Water: RC Women Priests Reflect on the third Sunday in Lent

Today the Gospel is John 4:4-42 a powerful passage generally titled “The woman at the well” but this is more than a story of a woman at a well. It is a story of a woman, yes, of a woman from a despised culture, a Samaritan woman; of a woman who sinned, yes; of Jesus who against his religion interacted with this woman and offered her himself as the living water; of a woman once despised who, encountering Jesus,the Christ, evangelized her community and brought them to Jesus and of the relationships between cultures and religions and nations and those who usually despise one another. In this passage Jesus in dialogue embraces the woman and the people she represents who have intermarried and mingled Judaism with other notions of God. She is able to hold forth in a good dialogue with Jesus and each sharpen their thinking as the dialogue continues. She literally runs to share Jesus with others. Her people flock to him and see and believe for themselves. Jesus restores to her the God who loves, accepts and includes all people, the God we all thirst after.

There are many levels of meaning here, a despised woman is invited to dialogue with Jesus- Wow! Score one for Jesus and another for the worth of women in general and this woman. As a result of the dialogue Jesus and the woman move toward each other, Jesus reaches out to the Samaritans and they in turn respond and are blessed with life. This is dry season here and brush fires and wild fires frighten and dispossess many people. Yesterday a mobile home park where many poor people live coulld have burned to the ground, were it not for quick intervention of Fire personnel with water. Water gives live, puts out death and quenches our thirst. Jesus Christ and his Abba God brings us to life, saves us from our dryness and death–Thanks be to God! May we as individuals receive this living water this lenten season and may all who do not have dialogue with one another, individuals, families, communities and nations reach out to one another in love no matter how hard that may be.

On another level the woman IS Samaria and Rev. Beverly Bingle helps us to understand the meanings in that outreach by Jesus. May we life in the hope described in the passage from Romans 5:1-2,5-8 as we contemplate God speaking to us today.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Rev Dr. Beverly BIngle’s Homily:

> Another transfiguration this week.
> Last week the disciples saw the change in Jesus
> and his closeness to God
> through their law and their prophets.
> This week the transfiguration comes through dialogue.
> The meeting at the well shows both the woman and Jesus
> transformed from their exclusive native religions
> to allow both to embrace one faith in one inclusive God.
> The woman learns to give up
> worshiping the multiple gods in her Samaritan tradition.
> Jesus learns how to give up
> his Jewish attachment
> to Jerusalem as the only proper place to worship God.
> She stays a Samaritan, and he stays a Jew,
> but they are both transformed.
> _____________________________________________
> Did this really story happen?
> Fr. Raymond Brown doesn’t go very far towards a yes on that.
> He writes that “It is not at all impossible
> that even in the conversation
> we have echoes of a historical tradition
> of an incident in Jesus’ ministry.”
> Most scholars doubt that this gospel story ever took place.
> They think the point is to explain
> how the hated Samaritans came to be included
> in the Jesus movement.
> _____________________________________________
> There was a long history of dissension among the tribes of Israel,
> nearly a thousand years of it between Samaritans and Jews. When the
> city of Samaria fell to the Assyrians,
> many of them were led off into captivity,
> but some were left behind.
> Both Israel and Samaria failed to keep to the way of Yahweh.
> When the Jews came out of Babylon nearly 400 years later,
> the Samaritans tried to welcome them back,
> but the returning exiles despised the Samaritans
> because they had intermarried with the Assyrians.
> By the time Jesus came around,
> there had been over 500 more years of hate
> between the Jews and the Samaritans.
> Scripture scholar John Pilch says
> that some knowledge of Mediterranean culture
> helps to focus on the shocking pieces in the dialogue.
> For one thing, the well was a space open to both men and women
> but not at the same time.
> Women came only in morning or evening…
> but this woman is there at noon.
> Also, it was very questionable for a man
> to speak to an unchaperoned woman in a public place.
> And it was scandalous for a woman to talk with a man in public,
> but this woman talks with Jesus
> and then heads off to the marketplace,
> a place reserved for men, where she talks to the men there.
> _____________________________________________
> The improper details of the story let us know
> that something extraordinary is going on,
> and other details give us clues about their meaning.
> It’s significant that Jesus and the woman meet at Jacob’s well,
> a place whose tradition is shared by Samaritans and Jews.
> Those five husbands and the one she’s living with now
> refer to the many gods that Samaria had historically worshiped
> along with the God of Israel.
> They discuss the question of whether worshiping God
> is proper to Jerusalem or to Shechem…
> and Jesus’ insight is no.
> Not exclusively in those places
> but anywhere and everywhere, in Spirit and truth.
> They’re talking theology.
> Through their mutual acceptance of the other,
> the walls, boundaries, hostilities, and hatreds
> which had long separated Samaritans and Jews
> melt away and disappear.
> _____________________________________________
> And what about us?
> Think about the 400 years of hate
> between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland,
> or the 1,400 years of hate
> between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East.
> Think about the 482 years we Christians spent hating each other
> from Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses in 1517
> to the 1999 Lutheran-Catholic Declaration
> reconciling our differences on that “justification by faith”
> that Paul talks about in today’s second reading.
> How often do we just talk at one another!
> Genuine conversation is hard work,
> but it opens up encounter with the other
> and brings life-giving transformation.
> _____________________________________________
> This past Tuesday our Muslim neighbors
> at Masjid Saad Foundation up on Alexis Road
> opened their doors in gracious hospitality
> to help us Christians begin to understand Islam.
> We talked about having very different perspectives,
> different contexts, different rituals, different readings—
> and all converging on faith in one God
> that has to lead to action in the world.
> We agreed that God—by whatever name—is everywhere.
> And we agreed that our traditions converge
> on the need to put our love for God and neighbor into action.
> We’ll be meeting again on the next four Tuesdays
> to continue the conversation.
> _____________________________________________
> We have much in common.
> We share a thirst for meaning,
> sometimes feeling abandoned by God
> in the desert of our lives.
> We share a thirst for freedom—
> the need to leap out of the slavery of our Egypts
> into the promised land.
> We share a thirst for truth—
> looking to get away from the polluted water
> of outmoded parts of our traditions
> to drink from fresh, clean springs.
> We share a thirst for justice—
> to stand in right relationship with one another
> and with all of creation.
> Above all, we share a thirst for love—
> the burning desire
> for a world that follows the Great Commandment—
> love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
> _____________________________________________
> Psalm 95 tells us, “Harden not your hearts.”
> We must not live our life against any person,
> against any religion,
> against God.
> We must live in peace with all.
> Amen!
>
>

> —
> Holy Spirit Catholic Community
> Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
> at 3925 West Central Avenue
> Toledo, OH 43606
> (Washington Church)
>
> http://www.holyspirittoledo.org
>
> Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
> Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

Jesus Talks to Paul Ryan

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED COLUMNIST

Jesus Said Unto Paul of Ryan …
Nicholas Kristof
Nicholas Kristof MARCH 16, 2017 NewYorkTimes.com

What would Jesus tell House Speaker Paul Ryan about looking after the sick and the needy?
A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind Jesus and touched his clothes in hope of a cure. Jesus turned to her and said: “Fear not. Because of your faith, you are now healed.”

Then spoke Pious Paul of Ryan: “But teacher, is that wise? When you cure her, she learns dependency. Then the poor won’t take care of themselves, knowing that you’ll always bail them out! You must teach them personal responsibility!”

They were interrupted by 10 lepers who stood at a distance and shouted, “Jesus, have pity on us.”

“NO!” shouted Pious Paul. “Jesus! You don’t have time. We have a cocktail party fund-raiser in the temple. And don’t worry about them — they’ve already got health care access.”

Jesus turned to Pious Paul, puzzled.

“Why, they can pray for a cure,” Pious Paul explained. “I call that universal health care access.”

Jesus turned to the 10 lepers. “Rise and go,” he told them. “Your faith has made you well.” Then he turned back to Pious Paul, saying, “Let me tell you the story of the good Samaritan.

“A man was attacked by robbers who stripped him of clothes, beat him and left him half dead. A minister passed down this same road, and when he saw the injured man, he crossed to the other side and hurried on. So did a rich man who claimed to serve God. But then a despised Samaritan came by and took pity on the injured man. He bandaged his wounds and put the man on his own donkey and paid an innkeeper to nurse him to health. So which of these three should we follow?”

“Those who had mercy on him,” Pious Paul said promptly.

Jesus nodded. “So go ——”

“I mean the first two,” Pious Paul interjected. “For the Samaritan’s work is unsustainable and sends the wrong message. It teaches travelers to take dangerous roads, knowing that others will rescue them from self-destructive behaviors. This Samaritan also seems to think it right to redistribute money from those who are successful and give it to losers. That’s socialism! Meanwhile, if the rich man keeps his money, he can invest it and create jobs. So it’s an act of mercy for the rich man to hurry on and ignore the robbery victim.”

“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus mused to himself. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven.”

“Let me teach you about love, Jesus — tough love!” Pious Paul explained. “You need a sustainable pro-business model. And you need to give people freedom, Jesus, the freedom to suffer misery and poverty.”

“The Lord God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,” Jesus replied, emphasizing the last two words. Then he turned to a paralyzed beggar at his feet. “Stand up!” Jesus told the man. “Pick up your mat and go home.” As the man danced about joyfully, Pious Paul rolled his eyes dismissively.

“Look, Jesus, you have rare talent, and it should be rewarded,” Pious Paul said. “I have a partner, The Donald, who would like to work with you: He’d set up a lovely hospital, and the rich would come and pay for you to heal them. You’d get a percentage, and it’d be a real money-spinner. Overhead would be minimal because every morning you could multiply some loaves and fishes. You could strike it rich!”

“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God,” Jesus said. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received comfort.”

“Oh, come on, Jesus,” Pious Paul protested. “Don’t go socialist on me again. Please don’t encourage class warfare. The best way to help the needy is to give public money to the rich. That then inspires the poor to work harder, galvanizes the sick to become healthy, forces the lepers to solve their own problems rather than kick back and depend on others. That’s why any realistic health plan has to focus on providing less coverage for the poor, and big tax benefits for the rich. When millions of people lose health care, that’s when a country is great again!”

“From everyone who has been given much,” Jesus told him, “much will be required.”

“Well, sure, this hospital would have a foundation to do some charity work. Maybe commissioning portraits of The Donald to hang in the entrance. But let’s drop this bleeding heart nonsense about health care as a human right, and see it as a financial opportunity to reward investors. In this partnership, 62 percent of the benefits would go to the top 0.6 percent — perfect for a health care plan.”

Jesus turned to Pious Paul on his left and said: “Be gone! For I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; and I was sick, and you did not help me.”

“But, Lord,” protested Pious Paul of Ryan, “when did I see you hungry or thirsty or sick and refuse to help you? I drop your name everywhere. And I’m pro-life!”

“Truly, I say to you,” Jesus responded, “as you did not help the homeless, the sick — as you did not help the least of these, you did not help me.”

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A version of this op-ed appears in print on March 16, 2017, on Page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: And Jesus Said Unto Paul of Ryan … Today’s Paper|Subscribe

An Open Letter to Paul Ryan from Rev.Dr.Matthew Fox

In this letter a prominent priest advises Paul Ryan to follow the Gospel and listen also to the words of Pope Francis! Matthew Fox is responding to Speaker and Congressman Paul Ryan claiming that he follows Catholic Social teaching and he cannot see how this could be so given Ryan’s actions and statements. This is also a good lesson on the Gospel and the church’s social teaching for everyone. It is time for all of us who believe in/live love and justice to speak out. Thanks to Bridget Mary for putting this on her blog. 

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

A Priestly Letter to Speaker Paul Ryan From Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox


Dear Speaker and Congressman Paul Ryan,
As a priest who commemorates his 50th year in the priesthood this year (28 as a Roman Catholic and 22 as an Episcopalian), and as your elder, I am writing you this letter because I am worried about your soul.

We all know you take good care of your body, working out frequently in the congressional gym we taxpayers provide for those in Congress, and that is a good thing. But I am concerned that you are neglecting your soul. It too requires work-outs and practice to stay healthy.

You claim to be a good and a practicing Catholic Christian but I have serious doubts that you are. Our Christian beliefs include these words of Jesus after all: “What does it profit a person if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” These powerful words are surely important for anyone serving in public office or any other places of responsibility, whether in government or business or church or wherever. Yes, they even apply to your close buddies the Koch brothers, upon whom you depend so fully for your income and ideas and campaigns and job.

You see, another passage that grounds Catholicism and Christianity is found in Matthew 25: “Do it to the least and you do it to me.” Not to mention the Golden Rule which is found in Matthew 7:12 and is reflected in some form in every world religion since the time of Hammurabi: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Now I want to ask from a spiritual and theological perceptive how you can possibly reconcile these basic teachings of the Gospels with your continued efforts to create budgets for our entire nation that do the following:

1. Threaten to privatize and thereby destroy Social Security for elders and disabled people.

2. Destroy critical health support systems for the sick, handicapped, mentally disabled, and homeless by effectively scuttling Medicare and Medicaid.

3. Dismantle the EPA so that the rest of God’s sacred creation is imperiled by human narcissism (Pope Francis’ words). Have you not read Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si that teaches everyone—believer and non-believer alike—that we humans are not here to destroy but to support creation for the good of all beings on earth now and in the future? If you have studied this great document—as you must as a thinking believer—where is it to be found in your legislative agenda?

Another Biblical teaching is the warning that we are not to worship idols. But Wall Street is a purveyor of the idolatry of money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer in that system. Pope Francis has spoken to that truth also when he speaks of the “savage capitalism” and the “god of money” that dominates so much of decision-making in western culture.

Your naked efforts to give more and more tax breaks to billionaires like your supporters the Koch brothers is proof that you have up to now chosen to be on the side of the savage capitalists and the gods of money. Have you no shame? Have you no conscience? Do your faith and Jesus’ teachings mean nothing to you because you are mesmerized by power and the powerful? Do you not know—or do you simply not care—that when the uber-rich do not pay their fair share, the struggling poor and middle class must pay from their meager resources to subsidize the rich? And when the uber-rich get still more tax breaks, the poor and middle class are forced to make up the difference?

I am worried about your soul. It is not too late to repent and start over. It is time to examine your commitment to the values that drive your heroes the Koch brothers, who want to worship the idols of Wall Street instead of caring for God’s sacred creation, and who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes to contribute to the common good. And who buy the loyalty of politicians like you to commit sins against the poor and creation itself to make their fat wallets even fatter. Shame on you!

Yours are not the values I learned growing up in Wisconsin (indeed, my godmother lived in your hometown of Janesville) and growing up in the Catholic Church. How have you wandered so far off track? Was it the ridiculous narcissistic writings of atheist Ayn Rand that enticed you to surrender Gospel morality for Mammon? (Let me add that I admire many atheists for their ethics and morality but Ayn Rand is not one of them. Not by a long shot. She has rendered selfishness a virtue.)

I wish through this letter to awaken your soul. Your sweet Wisconsin smile and gym-toned body notwithstanding, through your choices you are dancing with Evil.

The gospels teach such truths. So too does Pope Francis who, as a Roman Catholic, you supposedly respect and listen to. Have you listened to his warnings and his teachings lately? Allow me to remind you of some of them.

The Pope minces no words when speaking of the divergence of wealth and poverty today. He speaks to globalization this way: “The globalization that makes everything uniform is essentially imperialist…it is not human. In the end it is a way to enslave the nations.”[i] Is globalization enslaving the nations? It seems to me that much of Trump’s success as a candidate was built around this very idea—only his solutions seem to me to be dark indeed. What is your agenda, Mr. Speaker, about this “inhuman” globalization that is hurting so many citizens of our country and beyond?

Pope Francis says: “Christianity condemns both Communism and wild capitalism with the same vigor”[ii] and one needs to reject the “wild economic liberalism we see today” and “seek equal opportunities and rights and strive for social benefits, dignified retirement, vacation time, rest, and freedom of unions.” [iii] Are you on board with this set of values? Or are you in the camp of “savage capitalism?” Why do you want to destroy the dignified retirement of American people by diminishing Social Security instead of building it up? And to destroy social benefits for the very poor and working classes while giving tax gifts to the super rich and corporations? And to eliminate a current health insurance program that provides assistance for many millions of people instead of improving it?

The Pope praises St. Francis because “he contributed an entire concept of poverty to Christianity against the wealth, pride, and vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time” and for this reason “he changed history.”[iv] Are you putting obstacles in the way of the wealth and vanity of the powerful in our day? Given your responsible position as Speaker of the House, why don’t you try to change history for the poor and neglected instead of for the 1% who are already over their heads in favoritism and success and (too much) power?

The Pope takes on the neocon preoccupation with “world terrorism” and the fear such language arouses when he declares that “human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”[v] How important is that? He equates economic structures with terrorism. Yes, he is telling us that Wall Street terrorizes. Ask any Main Street citizen: we all feel the effects of this terror and that is why many in Main Street voted for Trump, out of fear of this terror from Wall Street. But your buddies the Koch brothers are those very terrorists the Pope is speaking of. Yes, how does it feel to be in bed with terrorists? And of course, Trump has turned his back on his promises to the working people and has appointed an unprecedented number of billionaires (terrorists) to head his cabinet positions.

The Pope also denounces the “flight of money to foreign countries” as a sin because it dishonors “the people that worked to generate” that wealth. [vi] He also condemns those who hide their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes that are so important for the common good. What are you doing to challenge those hiding their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid taxes? Aren’t you in a powerful position to do something about that?

Pope Francis has said: “The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It is the Gospel itself.” And he has remarked that were he to preach sermons from the first fathers of the Church on the needs of the poor, he would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyite.”[vii] Are you leading legislation that puts an option for the poor in the forefront?

He says: “Human rights are violated by…unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”[viii] Are you on the side of human rights and against economic structures that create huge inequalities? Or are you on board to actually increase those inequalities by passing legislation that gives tax breaks to the 1% who in fact need them the least? Pope Francis warns that “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any human goal.”[ix] Where do you and your fat-cat donors stand on the subject of the “cult of money”?

We need, Pope Francis says, a “balanced social order that is more humane”[x] and that resists consumerism. Pope Francis says further that “Money has to serve and not rule.”[xi] It is a “savage capitalism” that teaches “the logic of profit at any cost” and exploitation of people.[xii] Where do you stand on the topic of “savage capitalism” and the cult of money? In your very responsible position as Speaker of the House what are you doing to address these important issues—issues that touch all the people in America, especially the downtrodden and left out? If you had addressed them before the 2016 election, maybe the strongman Trump would not have been able to tap into the frustration of as many blue-collar Americans as he did.

Finally, as a Catholic, where do you stand on the notion that corporations are people (see Citizens United and Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decisions)? Are you in bed with the neo-fascist Catholic members of the Supreme Court who, contrary to Catholic teachings, are telling us to believe that a corporation is a person? How could you possibly reconcile that with the teachings of the Church on the immortality of the individual soul and more? While we are on the subject of neo-fascist Catholics, where do you stand on Opus Dei?

Unfettered capitalism is, according to Pope Francis, a “new tyranny.” [xiii] Where do you stand on this new tyranny? What limits are you setting on unfettered capitalism by your legislative leadership? Are you keeping Dodd/Frank laws on the books? Says the Pope: “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.” This “throwaway culture discards young people as well as its older people…..A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work.” A “diminishing of the joy of life” is the result of such idolatry. [xiv]

In his document entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis speaks bluntly as all the prophets do. He says No—as all the prophets do. He denounces “trickle-down” economics as “never having been confirmed by the facts” and being built on a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power….Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”[xv] Where do you stand on trickle-down economics? Have you learned from its blatant failures? Are you aware how many Main Street citizens are “still waiting” for good wages and jobs to reach them?

Following are some of Pope Francis’ No’s presented in his own words:

1. No to an economy of exclusion….An economy of exclusion and inequality kills….Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.[xvi]

2. No to the new idolatry of money….While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…..Self-serving tax evasion has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits….Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a defied market, which becomes the only rule.[xvii]

3. No to a financial system which rules rather than serves. Ethics is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person….Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.[xviii]

4. No to the inequality which spawns violence. [Violence happens not] simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear…..Evil crystallized in unjust social structures…cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.[xix]

And “NO” to the despoiling of Mother Earth about whose peril Pope Francis has written an entire encyclical. Clearly you have turned your back on the sacredness of the Earth as well: you support for the head of EPA a man who has shouted that he wants to destroy it, while you make ridiculous mumbles about climate change that you are not a scientist. Well, sir, isn’t that all the more reason to listen to scientists who do tell us that humans are bringing about climate change and the destruction of many, many species as well as the rising of the oceans? How can one be a Christian and not recognize the sacredness of creation?

Where do you stand, Speaker Ryan, on these issues that the Pope raises? How are you using your position of power and responsibility to alleviate the ills he addresses? Isn’t what the Pope says true, that the violence the current system provokes is one reason why many victims of this system voted for Trump—and even admire his violence? Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.” [xx] And he defines injustice as “evil.”

I pray that you may be converted and return to the teachings of Christ and the Church striving to teach in his name very soon. Time is running out for our species and you are in a position of trust and responsibility and leadership in our country at this time. Earn it!

Meanwhile, until you and your party pay attention at last to these basic issues, I as a Christian priest and theologian can only conclude that you are not at all a Catholic or a Christian but just one more hypocrite flaunting your bogus religion on your sleeve to garner more votes and stay in a cushy job while you sell your soul to the Koch brothers and other Wall Street misers. People who don’t have a clue about the “weightier matters of the Law—justice, compassion, good faith!” (Mt. 23:23) that Jesus preached, and who could not care less.

Jesus had something to say about that too, remember? It was strong stuff. He was speaking to you, Paul Ryan, and your fellow politicians when he said: “Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption. In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness….You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.” (Mt 23.27-28, 31).

I hope and pray that you and your fellow politicians, Mr. Ryan, so beholden to the rich and uber-rich, might heed Jesus’ words. And if not, at least do him the courtesy of not invoking his name to justify your lawlessness.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

[i] Jorge Maria Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka, On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century (Image Books, 2010), 158

[ii] Jason Berry, “Pope decrying ‘anesthesia of the heart’ heads to Brazil,” PRI, Public Radio International. 19 July 2013

[iii] Bergoglio 172

[iv] Bergoglio 231

[v] Mark Rice-Oxley, “Pope Francis: the humble pontiff with practical approach to poverty” The Guardian, Guardian News & Media Limited. 13 March 2013

[vi] Bergoglio 160

[vii] Michael Warren, Jenny Barchfield, Marcos Aleman, John Rice, “Pope Francis: Liberation Theology Priest Sees New Hope for Catholic Church,” Huffington Post, The Huffington Post. 28 April 2013

[viii] Oxley, “Pope Francis.”

[ix] Pope Francis. “To new Ambassadors of Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, Luxembourg and Botswana accredited to the Holy See (16 May 2013) | Francis.” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 16 May 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2017 <http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/may/documents/papa-francesco_20130516_nuovi-ambasciatori.html>

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Naomi O’Leary, reporter, and Michael Roddy, editor, “Pope criticizes ‘Savage Capitalism’ on visit to food kitchen,” Reuters. 21 May 2013

[xiii] Eamon Javers, “Pope Francis: Capitalism “New Tyranny,” CNBC. 26 November 2013

[xiv] Hugh Bronstein, Reuters, “Pope Francis: ‘King Money’ system has failed unemployed youth, older people.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 28 Nov. 2013.

[xv] Aaron Blake, “Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle-down’ economics, The Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2013.

[xvi] Pope Francis. The joy of the gospel (Evangelii gaudium): apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. New York: Image-Crown Publishing, 2014, Kindle edition, 43

[xvii] Ibid., 44

[xviii] Ibid., 45

[xix] Ibid., 46

[xx] Ibid., 47

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The people in these pictures almost ALL were homeless and finally got housing and Medicaid-Ryan and Trump have no idea what poverty and the lack of health care does to people-thank God Jesus loves them and sent some folks to help them but without Medicaid and SSI it will be like Calcutta in the USA and homes and health will be lost as the streets are even more filled with people who are ill and have very little or no income.  There are already millions there and if we go backwards the numbers will swell to the unimaginable-there are also  already countless homeless children but I do not include their pictures here. Is that loving our neighbors? 

 

Transformed : Two Roman Catholic Women Priests Reflect on the Second Sunday of Lent 3/12/17

Today we look at the promises of our God that lead to blessing and transformation and the faith that is necessary to claim them. Faith by definition is a step out into the unknown, the uncertain. It is not the territory of the known or the easily explainable. Sometimes these days we  worry too much about what we can never know-like exactly what happened eons ago as told in  Scriptural passages. With all of our scientific knowledge we seek rational explanations for everything as if we need to know for sure before we step. But life is full of times when we must step out without knowing.

This week Pastor Judy Beaumont is starting a new and experimental cancer treatment. What she had before was very hard on her but it was working, although its history is such that it could stop  being effective at any moment. She is a woman of very strong faith. As I accompany her on this journey sometimes I am more afraid and worried than she is. After much prayer and underpinned by the prayers of many she decided to step forth on faith to take this new treatment. Thus far,all goes well with this. It is a gentler treatment but will it be effective? Its gentleness is a partial miracle,  with effectiveness it would be quite a miracle, and that is what we have been praying for. It is a step into completely unknown territory with great hopes, not unlike the hopes of Abram and Sarai as they stepped out on faith to a new land. Or the trust of Jesus as he stepped forth toward the Passion and Resurrection. Or to the disciples as they coped with the journey that was set before them in the Gospel of the day (Matthew 17:1-9)-to keep on believing in Jesus, in the fullness of who he is, and do what he asked of them no matter what was ahead.

In Genesis 12:1-4 we see God asking Abram to leave all he knows, to move from the land of his kinfolk, and make a journey into a new land that God would show him. God promises that he would become the father of nations even though his wife was barren. While Abram was part of a people that moved around, this was a lot to ask for-in so many ways it was farther than he could ever envision and he was already 75 years old. We can just hear his wife Sarai saying, move where? Why? (And,well she might fear if she knew what part of the journey would have in store for her!)  Yet Abram had faith that was strong enough to propel his journey and he and sarai and his extended family left the known for the completely unknown. . And he was thereby eventually transformed to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah -the father and mother of the people of God.

In the Psalm of the day (Psalm 33) we are told to place our trust in God who loves justice and right. (So if this is what God loves this is what we must do leaning on our faith and we are both blessed and transformed for doing it. Pastor Judy B and I see our Good Shepherd ministry as both transformative for us and those we serve, and blessing in our lives).We are told that God’s eyes are upon those who “hope for God’s kindness to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine “( Or anything else).  In the picture below Roger ,who was among the first to join our ministry to the homeless in 2007, is blessing our new Priest Rvda. Maria Elena. Roger told us later how happy he was  to come and to bless her and worship with us once again because we changed his life. We told him that it was God who changed his life and he agreed,reminding us that he was living in the streets for three years when we met him and was unable to find a way to housing. He was the first one who asked us to pray for him in the street ministry. He then started to spend nights on his knees praying. When we finally helped him to claim his Veterans medical services and SSI income in 2008 and 2009 and to obtain Goodwill housing for the physically disabled he could not believe the miracle of his answered prayers. He has remained with our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church for ten years, making his Confirmation in 2014. He  always brought an offering of love to church from his small income in a large white envelope. He gave that to us once again at the Ordination and we assured him it would help someone else. Roger took a leap of faith and his life was truly transformed. There is life and joy where there was sadness and despair. And his story is multiplied a hundred fold and more. Thanks be to God!

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And so too with faith Abram and Sarai were both transformed and delivered.And so Jesus who prayed on the mountain with three of his disciples before his  violent death by crucifixion was ultimately transformed through his miraculous resurrection shattering the finality of death for all of us. On that mountain with disciples as scared witnesses he was also transformed/transfigured before them in a vision that they shared. The blessings of his Father given at his baptism-you please Me my Son- flowed over him once again. And, as the Eucharistic Preface of the day says: “For after he had told the disciples of his coming death,on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory,to show,even by the testimony of the law and the prophets,that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection….”

May we be blessed with life and transformed as we step out on faith and risk what is “unriskable” without it-our very lives- for the realization of the reign of God in love , compassion and justice for everyone.

Rev.Dr.Judy Lee, RCWP

And now for Dr. Beverly Bingle, RCWP on Transfiguration

Transfiguration.
Biblical anthropologist John Pilch says that
describing the disciples’ experience of Jesus’ transfiguration as a “vision”
is an important piece of information.
Modern psychological anthropology tells us
that the majority of the world’s cultures
do not consider alternative states of consciousness
like visions
to be odd or irrational.
They see them as normal human experiences.
Cultures like ours are the ones that need to take another look.
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In the USA we’re more likely to talk about hallucinations or illusions
instead of visions or transfigurations.
But we do know about change.
We know that people can change, dramatically.
Old dogs can learn new tricks.
People jailed for serious crimes turn their lives around
and become productive citizens,
even role models for youngsters.
The footloose and fancy-free
have been known to shape their idealism
into responsibility and commitment.
These days we see scores of folks
turning out for demonstrations and marches
because they have a better idea—a vision—
of what our country should be.
They have a vision.
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Then there’s the difference that faith makes—
the change in people who live what they believe.
It’s plainly visible.
John’s gospel tells us
that everyone will know that we are Jesus’ disciples
if we love one another.
If we believe that,
and if we begin to act out of that love,
then we will change our lives.
And people will notice.
We will be transfigured.
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The early followers of Jesus saw transfigurations all around them.
Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went about doing good,
and people saw it
and followed him.
Chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians
tells us what that love looks like.
You know the passage: Love is patient, love is kind….
If we are not changing,
not acting out of love,
not becoming transformed,
then we cannot call ourselves disciples.
We cannot call ourselves Christians
unless people can see a difference in us.
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The turning point—
that point where the change becomes noticeable—
is transfiguration.
Today’s first reading calls Abram to change.
He goes from being Abram of one tribe
to Abraham for all the tribes,
for all the nations.
Today’s second reading encourages Timothy to change.
Paul tells him to lead a holy life,
to fan to flame the gifts he has,
not with a spirit of fear
but with a spirit of love.
And today’s gospel shows the transfigured Jesus
inspiring Peter, James, and John to follow him.
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We’ll hear about another transfiguration next Sunday
in the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.
The Sunday after that
we’ll hear the story of the transfiguration of the man born blind.
And the Sunday after that
we’ll hear the story of Lazarus untied and set free,
brought to life,
transfigured.
___________________________________________
Something clicked for Peter, James, and John on that mountaintop with Jesus.
They finally understood that he was the real thing;
a leader, like a new Moses;
a prophet, like a new Elijah.
Those three disciples finally learned
that Jesus’ very being
was an expression of the God’s presence,
They had to listen to him.
They were compelled to follow him.
___________________________________________
What changed them?
What made the difference for the woman at the well,
for the blind man, for Lazarus?
It was Jesus’ compassionate love,
his honesty, his truth,
and his hunger to share all his life—
the length of it and the memory of it,
the quantity and the quality of it—
to share life and love with the likes of them.
The Spirit of God—the divine Spirit—filled Jesus’ soul,
and it changed him
to the point that it became visible.
Jesus taught with his very life,
with what he did with it
and all the ways he lived it
by giving it to God.
The power of his goodness
moves us to be like him,
to imitate him.
We become, like Peter, James, and John, disciples.
We learn how to be good.
Then our goodness becomes contagious.
Others are inspired by us—
by our compassionate love;
the power of our truth;
our freedom to be wholly ourselves,
the selves we are made to be.
We are changed.
Transformed.
Transfigured.
We become more like Jesus.

Thanks be to God!

Public Domain


Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
(Washington Church)

www.holyspirittoledo.org

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor.

Return to me with your whole heart: Ash Wednesday Meditations of Roman Catholic Women Priests

Today, in a special way, we turn our hearts back to our loving God who forgives us everything and loves us unconditionally. Yet, even with such amazing love we manage to turn our backs on God and lose touch with God’s healing presence that is always there for us. We become lukewarm in the practice of our faith. We get lost in the desert of  our own ways and paths and wants and upsets.

Sometimes today’s theology softens the presence of sin so that it is almost irrelevant. But there is no doubt that there is grievous sin in the world and that we are a part of it. There are the hungry that we do not feed, there are those without shelter that we pass by, there are those living in violence that we turn our backs on,preferring to care for ourselves first and walk by on the other side.  There is no doubt that at times we feel cut off from God by our own doing. Sometimes personal life events can also precipitate this state. For this Christ-follower and Pastor, the deep vicissitudes of this last  year brought about by dealing with serious illness and the necessity for change has been difficult. Letting go of our usual worship services and regular contact with the church family, especially the young people has been a deep disappointment. Being there for the flock, not to lose even one, even while bringing in other shepherds, has been a challenge.  Accompanying our Co-Pastor and my beloved life partner, Judy B. as she fights for life with chemo that leaves her fatigued beyond words and in uncertain territory has been painful while witnessing her faith and strength has been an inspiration for us both to go on, continue on the journey. Yet, there are moments when bitterness and despair creeps into a usually grateful heart-when I curse rather than praise and bless. I am deeply aware of my need to return to God this Lenten season.

Thank God for the road signs that can lead us back home.  God is waiting, patiently waiting for our return.  Ash Wednesday is such a road sign, it marks the beginning of the Lenten season-the forty days before the celebration of the Paschal mystery- Easter and rising again with Jesus, the Christ. . Even as our ancestors in faith made forty day journeys (and longer-40 years- numbers signifying long journeys) to new life we take time now to reflect on how we are living the promises of our baptism, how we are doing at loving and welcoming all of our neighbors, how we are doing at living peace through justice, and how we are preparing our hearts to be in the presence of our God who is Love.

Our readings for the day illuminate what this day is about: 

Joel 2:12-18- The prophet Joel calls the people back to God, through repentance, telling them: “Even now, says our God, return to me with your whole heart…rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord,your God. for (our God) is slow to anger, and rich in kindness…”

Psalm 51 speaks of God’s great compassion in wiping out our offenses and asks God to “give us back the joy of our salvation”.

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 implores us to be reconciled to Christ and live for justice, becoming more like him-NOW.

In the Gospel, Matthew 6:1-6,16-18  Jesus reminds us to do all the good works we do not so people see us and praise us but secretly and God will see us- to live Christ as Christ lived.

As a younger person I wanted to receive the ashes so others could see that I follow Christ, now I simply want to receive them and remember how fragile and tenuous and temporary life is and to turn my whole heart back to God so that I, and those whose lives I may touch in any way, may be forever in the arms of Love.

And now we have the joy of seeing our newly ordained priest, Rvda. Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez who is also a school Principal in a poor community in Cali, Colombia teach and  lead her children in receiving ashes with understanding. One may say, what sins can these children have?, but that is to miss the import of this day. These dear children, like us, their elders, may or may not be doing willful things that separate them from God, but their lives are full of things that demand their attention and little time and energy is left over for relating with, communing with our loving God and for following Christ Jesus. They too can grow away from the God who welcomed them in baptism. It is up to them and each of us to find the God within, and outside of ourselves, all around us, the God of the Universe,the transcendent and the More, the essence of Love and to live in close relation with the living Christ. Do note how Rvda. Maria Elena has the children bless the ashes with her. It takes the holiness of each one of us to sanctify ashes into life.   (Some have reported that they can not see the pictures I have posted below. I am very sorry about that and don’t know how to remedy it!  I can see them here. They show Rvda. Maria Elena gathering the entire school in the Courtyard and teaching them. There is a small altar and the ashes are on it.  She moves away from this and is close to them as she teaches/preaches on Miercoles de Cenizas- Ash Wednesday and Lent-Cuaresma. There are pictures of her blessing the ashes with the children’s arms raised to join her in the blessing . There is a beautiful picture of her putting the ashes on the head of a girl who appears to be about ten-twelve years old. )   

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And here too is the beautiful Ash Wednesday homily of Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP of Toledo, Ohio:
In our tradition Lent is the time
to remember Jesus’ life and passion and death.
It’s a time of self-examination and penance.
It’s a time when we concentrate on re-shaping our lives
to learn what we can do without
so others can have something to do with.
Let’s start by remembering our unity with all creation,
each of us a part of God’s immense universe.
Let’s remember that we, like all of creation, are important.
Let’s remember that sometimes, though, we think we’re in charge,
that all too often we act like we’re the center of the universe—
as if everything is here for us,
for us to use, even to use up.
Lent calls us to remember that we live in, and through,
connections with all that was and is and shall be,
and that we are responsible for taking care—
care of ourselves,
care of our family and friends and neighbors
and enemies and all humankind,
care of animals and plants,
care of water and sky,
care of the whole planet, our common home.
_______________________________
So we are called this Lent to ask God
to show us where we live in the illusion
that we are separate and apart from the rest of creation.
We are called to ask God
to show us the old, ingrained habits we need to get rid of;
to show us the ways we need to change;
to show us the new practices
that we need to get into the habit of doing.
This is the real work of Lent.
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It’s not about guilt or shame.
It’s not meant to make us crawl
or beat us down
or make us suffer.
The real work of Lent
is to renew our sense of connection,
restore our dignity,
and call us to a place where we choose life
and shoulder our responsibility to act co-creatively with God.
So let us answer the call
and take the first step on our Lenten journey.
_______________________________
Call to the Lenten Journey
Priest: Lent calls us to journey along the edge.
All: Lent calls us to the cutting edge,
where the wheat falls to the ground and new life comes forth.Priest: Lent not only calls us to give up something
but also invites us to participate
in the mystery of God-with-us.
All: God of all creation,
by your grace, call us from grief into gladness, from despair into hope,
from estrangement into right relations with you and with each other
and with the earth.

Blessing and Imposition of Ashes
So we begin.
We declare the fast, call the assembly,
listen to God’s voice, and act on it.
We’ll find the one thing that we can do
to change our lives this Lent—
and doing that, no matter if we stumble at it,
we will change the world.
_______________________________
We will now bless these ashes,
and all will be invited to come forward
to receive the sign of the cross on our foreheads
as our communal act of penance—
the sign of dying to something negative in our lives
and preparing to rise in new and positive ways.
Let us embrace this opportunity to change our lives,
to embody our values,
and to walk humbly with our God.


Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
(Washington Church)

www.holyspirittoledo.org

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

A Blessed Lenten journey to all!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers