This insightful blog is from our sister priest, Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumea of Colombia,South America. She wrote it in March of 2010 and shares it with us now. I have edited the English sometimes loosely but the thoughts are all hers.She is saying that all of us prodigal daughters, sons, parents, spouses, partners and friends are longing for love and affirmation from our loving God and one another. Thank you, Rvda. Olga Lucia!
As I read Olga Lucia’s beautiful words I thought about a young person who is part of my church. She rarely attends as she is fearful in crowds and was agoraphobic, remaining in her room for many years, until fairly recently when caring,love,began to thaw the iceberg that became her heart. She was abused physically and emotionally by an angry father until he finally left the home. She left school after the ninth grade. She began hearing voices in later adolescence. She hardly ever left the house. Her family attends our church and I had intermittent pastoral contact with her over the last few years. But something happened to bring us closer together. My surgery for the GIST(slow growing low level malignant tumor in my stomach) a year ago caused me to stop and reflect on many things. I reviewed my ministry and I identified that this one young adult was neglected by me in the midst of those clanging cymbals that made a lot more noise. I wanted to try harder to reach her-God laid her on my heart and I could listen to my heart because I was not very active nor running around with the ministry or life. I also realized that I could no longer take care of my large aviary adequately.
I guess that I had reached her enough for her to come out of her room to greet me and express her pleasure that I was getting better when I visited her family. That was a big step for her. I spent some time with her and asked if she liked birds and if she thought she could get to my house and help with the birds. We were both amazed as she thought she could, and she did come to learn how to do this. She was gentle and happy with the birds and she enjoyed this job. We talked a little each time she came. She was able to accept a referral to the Mental Health Center and also to begin seeing her general practitioner. She opened herself to the possibility of other friendships very slowly but surely. We saw the iceberg melt. We saw the fear recede. We saw a whole person developing with courage and in response to caring. Recently there was a setback when a physical problem required serious medical intervention. She tried to retreat and move back into the iceberg again. But soon she started coping with it “because you and my doctors and my friend are so persistent”. It is such a blessing to witness her growth into life. For Valentines Day we gave her a card with pictures of the kittys and birds in it. Today she brought me and Pastor Judy Beaumont a beautiful card that said “People as kind and as loving as you are God’s Valentines to the world. Happy Valentine’s Day”. And in her own hand she wrote:” thanks for all the help and support. You both are wonderful. Happy Valentine’s to both of you and the birds and cats are great, I love them.” Wow-unfrozen by love! How wonderful to experience it. Rvda. Olga Lucia is right!
love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee,ARCWP
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
The Hunger of the I Love You in The Parable of The Prodigal Son by Rvda. Olga Lucia Alvarez
This text ,Luke 15:11-38 would call it the hunger of the “I love you”. When you have never had the warmth of a hug, a kiss, a loving detail, we become sullen, hard, frozen as icebergs. But if you meet this friend / or that support, this companions kind hand, that solidarity , that fraternity, you realize what you’re worth when someone cares. If you were a block of cement you’d melt like the opening of a a dam. See it fall lovingly, soft or hard, crystalline buds cascade of love and “I love you” spontaneous, fearless, free as the wind.
Some have had the experience of being concrete blocks, others perhaps never were, but one day the love they lost or never had, for whatever reason, unfounded fears, frozen by fears, by blockages in training, block out the experience of love. But like the prodigal son, and others somehow recognize and realize that in the house of my Father/Mother there is affection, a party, gestures of love hugs and kisses, and large or small details in pretty paper the bonds of love are wrapped. After thinking a while, we push and we run, with an open heart willing to melt in the loving embrace that receives and welcomes us because we are their daughters and sons and to God we are alike.
There are so many heartbreaks, causes of many diseases, and family violence. There are so many broken homes that create icebergs. Yet God’s great love is without fear and without reserve. You are melted by it and you feel violence, hatred and revenge that has brought us so many dead giving way and relenting.
It is the responsibility of all of us, of you and I of all who were born to ask for forgiveness, because this world, this life, and being distracted in our internal conflicts, we have not been able to sweep, shake and make ourselves as new. If you are sensitive to what I am saying here, I say it is because you have encountered the love of God, sometimes in another person.
Women and men need affection,it is the love of God that moves us to love. But, just as we know it, we are afraid. We may need a messenger to show us the face of God.
You have to be hungry for the “I love you”, you have to give them to receive them, you have to break the ice.
Leticia, I care about you, Get well; William;! I love you, Teresa, you’re great! Laura, God gave you that smile, so beautiful!. David! I hug and kiss you, Maru, thanks for the “I love you” I love you too, Camilin, Maria; my teachers, I love them! Diego! You’re the most beautiful thing God has given me in life, your presence, your friendship! Machelina, sister and my friend, how nice to have you in this life. Camilo, Inés, Benton, were thankful for that company. Blanca, Catalina, Charo, although they are far they are closer.
My life wants to be a hymn to life, I ask forgiveness for the times I have not loved, and I’ve offended, for the times I made you suffer and grieve someone this close or this far. To my family, my ancestors, my mother Earth, Air, Water, Fire, because I have abused them by not loving them and taking care of them as I should. I love you, I love you and I thank you. My greatest expression of love, commitment and responsibility towards all , is to show the face of God, that you recognize and find. May we, as we are, big, small, old or young, see the face of God. Run eagerly seeking your love and experience “I love you” like the prodigal son.
Thank God my spirit, because as they say, that when someone writes the soul walks. Mine escaped and went to recess and enjoy this day. .
Olga Lucia Alvarez B Rvdas. Olga Lucia and Judy
Bogotá, March 9/10
Rev. Maureen Mc Gill, ARCWP Ordained January 18,2014 Sarasota, Florida with Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan and Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, Maureen is on the left in Ordination Picture
On the left Maureen is at the hospital bed of Gloria Laracuente in Tampa with Rev. Judy Beaumont and Gloria’s Family members
Women Priests Ordained in Sarasota, Florida
by Yoselis Ramos, WGCU, NPR
News polls show a majority of American Roman Catholics believe women should be allowed to become priests. A group of women in Sarasota who are doing just that—with or without permission from the Roman Catholic Church.
The sun shone like a beacon through the windows of the St. Andrew United Church of Christ in Sarasota. It started off like a regular Catholic mass but instead of men wearing the deacon slashes as they walked down the aisle it was women.
This isn’t a regular mass. It is a ceremony for ordaining women priests and deacons. Two women were joining the more than 145 women priests around the world. They’re a part of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. It’s a part of a movement that started in 2002 with the ordination of seven women at the Danube River in Germany. They were ordained by an episcopal male bishop whose own ordination was not considered valid by the Roman Catholic Church.
Actually, the Vatican punishes women who seek ordination with excommunication. It’s a crime against the church as severe as priests who sexually abuse children. But excommunication doesn’t intimidate this group of women. Maureen McGill of Pensacola is one of them. She was ordained a priest in Sarasota.
McGill found the association through the internet after leaving the Catholic Church for a few years.
“At that point, nobody in the family was going to church”, McGill said. “We were just done with church. We had a bad experience at my mother’s funeral and we kinda just left.”
To McGill, this community felt right.
“I was home but there was none of the rigidity, there was openness to women, openness to birth control, openness to divorced Catholics, openness to gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual people”, McGill said. “It was a totally open experience and I think that’s what I had been looking for for 67 years.”
But this group is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Frank Murphy is a spokesman for the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
“The diocese of Venice does not recognize them at all”, Murphy said. “It’s just a group of people making a claim that’s just not valid within our church.”
Pope Francis has said the door of allowing women in the priesthood is closed. McGill says she understands that doors close.
“But they open, they do open”, Murphy said. “And if you knock loud enough and hard enough and keep going at it, that door might open.”
Some folks like Murphy, don’t see that door opening anytime soon.
“I think that the ordination of a woman to priesthood, I think it involves a teaching of the church which is for men only at this point in time and I think it will continue to be that way”, said Murphy.
Even so, McGill holds out hope as she jokes often with her husband.
“He said the other day, ‘you’ll never live to see women completely accepted in the church’ and then he looked at me and he says, ‘given your genes, you probably will live to see it’”, laughed McGill. “And I will crawl to the Vatican with my walker if I have to on that day if they do accept us.”
But history may be on her side.
A recent poll conducted by Bendixen & Amandi for the Spanish-language network Univision, showed Catholics internationally are split on a variety of issues including gay marriage, divorce, and abortion. Specifically, 59% of the Catholics surveyed in the United States believed women should be ordained into priesthood.
The young people of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community are setting the church afire with their examples of faithfulness and excitement in learning and living the Gospel. When asked how they witness to their faith they are initially stumped and then they can identify helping others, bearing other’s problems, being peacemakers and studying to do well at school. This is not easy in a neighborhood where violence is ever present and others may drop out of school and family life. Sometimes there are problems and bumps in the road large and small. One family was struck with tragic illness of one member and these youngsters did more than children are expected to do in being there for that member and the stressed adult caretakers. Economic realities are hard yet these young people do not ask for much. They are clear that most important is love and they are grateful for their parents and grandparents. Most significant for the youth who have remained with us over the years is that adult family members come to church with them. They are not just sent, they are led by parents, grandparents, aunts and Godparents. Instead of withdrawing from church as so many do, they come to church faithfully and to our Sunday classes where they share their lives, share God’s love with all present, and work at learning how to follow Christ.
They are not fully aware of how much joy they bring into the lives of their church family members with their smiles, and participation in the liturgy and in the life of the church. We are happy to support them as they work hard at success in school and having fun as kids should have. Most recently we were amazed as all of our young people elected to move forward to Confirmation at the end of April, the week after Easter. (On Easter our three youngest children, the triplets who are 5 and a half, will be baptized).The enthusiasm of our youth led about ten of our adults to elect Confirmation as well. Yesterday we held a joint Confirmation class with the young people and the adults. As Timothy was told by Paul to fan the flame of the gift of God in him by the laying on of hands by Paul and the community, our young people are leading their elders into the laying on of hands and receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit not only in Confirmation but in every day life. We are blessed with wonderful families and young people!
Nia, Kia and Ria Preparing for Baptism
LInda and Lili, Two of the Moms look on as the Youngsters prepare for Confirmation
Keion doing a good job!
Using our gifts
Joy in our Junior class
Efe Jane Cudjoe,Our Youth Leader and Pearl Cudjoe, Our Junior Class Teacher
This picture was taken at The Good Shepherd in mid-January before Efe Jane who is a Junior at Brown University left for Washington DC to prepare for a semester abroad. Efe,who is pre-med was chosen to go to Viet Nam, South Africa and Brazil to study community support for local medical centers. She will live with host families and we are sure that her joy and light will brighten their lives even as our lives are brightened by her. We are already looking forward to Efe’s return this summer to share her experiences with our youngsters.
Going to see Frozen and Play Miniature Glow Golf
Trying Something New Our Golfers with Pastor Judy B.
We thank God for our Good Shepherd youth! We also thank the Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community of New Jersey with Pastors Mary Ann Schoettly,RCWP and Mike Corso for their generous support of our youth activities. Seven of our youngsters also led the procession with drums and liturgical dancing and carried the gifts in the recent Ordination of two women priests and two deacons in Sarasota on January 18,2014. Efe Jane Cudjoe was the Lector for the First Reading.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,but set an example for the believers in speech, in life,in love, in faith….” Tim 4:12
Let us pray for young people everywhere to enliven the church!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,ARCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Fort Myers, Florida
Pastor Judy Beaumont brings Eddie and Robert a Birthday cake as Betty looks on during our Tuesday Church
Be Salt, Be Light, Be Blessed! Rev. Judy’s Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time-2/9/14
The readings for this Sunday are some of my favorite as they establish what the life of the Christ follower will look like. In rich imagery and poetry Jesus, using the Aramaic idioms easily understood in his time, teaches us how to live. The Gospel is part of the Sermon on the Mount as recorded by the writer of Matthew (Matthew 5: 13-16). After the Be-attitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), after showing those attitudes and actions that enrich being with joy, happiness and deep satisfaction: humility, losing everything and depending on God alone (as the poor in the goods of this world must), a thirst for justice, compassion and peacemaking, Jesus says that we who follow his teachings, his light,are to be the salt and light of the world. We are not to lose our saltiness and we are to put our lights on a lampstand so that they can be seen. This light is to reflect Christ not ourselves, to demonstrate what it means to be Christ-like in a world that is marching to a different drummer-or many different drummers. To be light we are to understand what Jesus taught and live it though this is so much easier said than done and to do it is the operative word.
Salt is a preservative and a flavor enhancer. In Jesus’ time it was an expensive, necessary and precious commodity. In that time as in modern times, mining for salt was a difficult, back breaking and dangerous job. So salt comes with a price and so does being salty. In our vernacular “salty” is to speak up and to say what needs to be said. That is often prophetic as well. Jesus is asking us to be bold as we enhance the world with God’s meanings, ways and purposes-to be salt and light for people. The Message Bible has a lovely rendition of these verses (5:13-16):
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth….Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill…now that I’ve put you on a hill-top, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house, be generous with your lives….” (The Message).
And, what exactly are the God- flavors and the God-colors? What will people taste and see if we are salt and light? Jesus is clear in the preceding Be-attitudes and throughout the Gospels and the prophet Isaiah is clear in the first reading (Is. 58:7-10): people will taste compassion and they will see justice in living vivid color. They will therefore not go hungry either physically or spiritually. Isaiah says” Share your bread with those who are hungry, and shelter homeless poor people; clothe those you see naked, and do not hide from the needs of your own flesh and blood. Then your light will shine like the dawn and your wound will be quickly healed over….If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then light will rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom will become for you like midday”.
If we love our neighbors (and yes, our difficult family members) as ourselves and care for those in most need, whatever those needs/afflictions are-we then are healed of our own wounds and find light in the darkness that enters our own worlds. When we are salt and light we too are whole and healed. Wow!
This rings so true. Yesterday we had our Tuesday ministry and once again my heart and spirits were lifted by our people- most once homeless, a few still homeless, some broken and yet full of God’s love. When I am at my lowest and think I can’t take another step let alone provide care for anyone in need: “the convincing power of the Spirit” (I Cor. 2:1-5) takes over and we are transported together. Yesterday we sang that we are holy ground and we were. We sang about joy and we were joyful. The joy of Mary and Phyllis, Gary and Nate and Lauretta and the others as they read and reflected on the Scriptures for the day lifted all of us. The prayer time lifted the needs of those present and those prayed for to the heart of God. The hot and delicious lunch provided by Jack and Ellen was so much appreciated. The clothing in our free store was a big hit, especially for the women yesterday. Four people spoke individually with me at length and both tears and laughter was shared. And as we celebrated the birthdays of Roger, Eddie and Robert it was truly a happy day. Jesus was so right, living the Gospel brings great joy and satisfaction: it is as simple and as hard as that. The hard part is that there is so much need and it hurts deeply to know that there are such meager resources for those who need a place to lay their heads. The work is slow and tiring: filling out endless forms for Social Security Disability benefits and waiting, sometimes years, with people for incomes and housing can break your heart. Yesterday, Kris finally had good news. He filled out a housing application for persons with disabilities in 2010 and his name is finally near the top of the list. In a few months he will have his own place. He laughed then cried for joy and so did we. But 60 year old Carrie is still waiting living on the charity of others who are impatient, and Jenny has lost her housing again as she went off her meds and failed to care for her apartment and pay the rent. Giving yourself away can be endless and difficult. Yet that is also the source of greatest joy.
I will end this homily with sharing a reflection:
One of the most beautiful places I have seen is the Salt Cathedral in Bogota, Colombia. This beautiful underground cathedral and marvel of engineering was started by the miners who worked the salt mine near Zipaquira, Cudinamarca . Deep in the salt mine they carved out a chapel where they could pray. By 1932 the building of an underground cathedral was underway. In the 1950’s a major effort completed a three story underground cathedral depicting Christ’s story in sculptures of salt (halite) emerging from the darkness of the mine by beautiful strong lighting. The birth, death and resurrection of Christ, including the Stations of the Cross and other biblical scenes are artistic masterpieces. Although it is not under the jurisdiction of a bishop and therefore not an official Roman Catholic Church over 3000 people worship there each Sunday. But what struck me most was not the beauty of it all-and it was awesome, but a window where we could look in and see the helmets and lights and messages of faith by miners who were killed in this mine. It was their very lives that brought salt to the earth and beauty to this mountain. Indeed they were the lights and salt of the earth. And serving God’s poor who risk their lives to do work that must be done and yet goes unrewarded materially in this 21st Century must remain the essence of the Christ followers mission-however we enact it. But enact it we must, for to follow Christ is to do and to do is ultimately to be, to be salt and light and to be blessed.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,ARCWP
I cried when Pete Seeger died this past weekend, I thought he might live forever, and I think he will. I am happy to present Rev. Chava’s reflections here and echo them. Pete Seeger’s simple melodious strumming and singing moved my soul as a teen and young adult living through the Civil Rights Era and Human Rights era. I applauded him for his courage-to be blacklisted and still sing. I still remember his song parodying the fear of “a red under the bed” and his description of suburbia as “houses made of ticky tacky-and they all looked just the same”. As a city kid I thought exactly that when I visited the suburbs. Pete Seeger sang about equality and individuality not blanket conformity. His music was a fuel to give me the courage to be different as I was and would be in so many ways. But most of all, like Chava, I remembering singing Pete Singer songs, many of which were old favorite folk songs, in a small circle with my beloved Pastor, Rev. David Ver Nooy and my group of friends. I’ll admit that I wanted to sound more like Joan Baez than Pete Seeger, but his songs were the basis for all other folk singing for us. It is not one of his famous songs, but I remember this Quaker ballad as it is associated with the spirituality of Rev. Dave and Pete Seeger for me ” It’s a gift to be simple, it’s a gift to be free, it’s a gift to come down where we ought to be… and by turning, turning we come back home….” Pastor David lived in Beacon, New York in his last several years. He loved attending Pete Seeger’s concerts in the area and the ship Clearwater. Pastor Dave went home to our loving God a year ago December, now that Pete Seeger is there too, I can hear them jamming-Pete on the banjo or guitar and David on the trumpet,or maybe they are just singing together in that heavenly chorus that I hear singing all the time in my head-the songs of the community of saints that live on in our hearts forever.
The Sunday Morning Show featured highlights of Pete Seeger’s life. The commentator said that Pete Seeger was deeply upset when Bob Dylan started playing the electric guitar, not because it was Rock music and the dawning of an age that would end the folk song revival era, but because the musician stood on a stage blaring music out way above the people. Pete Seeger was a prophet of equality-he wanted everyone to sing together, on the same level, standing side by side and even locked arm in arm, as we did and still do in our churches when we are singing We Shall Overcome, since there is much to be overcome. Pete Seeger did not preside over he sang with. Chava, wouldn’t you agree that that is exactly what we are trying to achieve in the women’s priest movement? That the renewal of the Church is symbolized by the circle where we all link arms and sing together with no rock star towering above us-pastor and priest, man and woman, young and old, documented or not documented, and all colors of the rainbow- united in equality and freedom together?
We are so blessed,Chava, to be shaped by Pete Seeger, his music and that beautiful era in time. We shall indeed carry it on! The Sunday Morning Commentator said “Pete Seeger carried that music a long way, now the music will carry him”.
Rev. Judy Lee, ARCWP
Rev Chava Redonnet’s Reflections on Pete Seeger
Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, February 2, 2014
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The world lost one of its great troubadours this week. Pete Seeger died, at
the age of 94. I’ve been trying to imagine what the world would have been
like without him and his music, without “We Shall Overcome” and “Turn,
Turn, Turn.” – and what my own life would have been like without him.
As a small child, I gleefully learned the words to “Be Kind to Your
Parents” – “so treat them with patience, and kind understanding, in spite
of the foolish things they do…” and then to “Where Have All the Flowers
Gone?” My best friends and I used to walk to the store together, singing
“If I Had a Hammer” at the top of our lungs. In the ‘70’s I watched a TV
special about the sloop “Clearwater,” the boat that Pete Seeger sailed up
and down the Hudson River, holding concerts and calling attention to the
filthy water and the need to clean it up. And it worked! It was a great
example of how one person with a good idea and some energy can get things
moving and change the world for good.
When the crisis at Corpus Christi happened in 1998, we sang “We Shall
Overcome” together, lots of times. I sent Pete a letter, telling him how
important music had been to us during that time, and thanking him for his
songs. Some time later I got a postcard back from him with a simple
message. It said, “Chava, thank YOU!” I’ll bet thousands of people had
notes like that from him, because he was always about including all the
voices and encouraging people to participate. He said, “Participation –
that’s what’s going to save the human race.”
All his life, he got people to sing. You couldn’t go to a Pete Seeger
concert without having a chance to sing along. In fact, he perfected the
art of “singing a song twice at the same time,” shouting out the lines just
before everybody sang them together. He was all about getting people to use
their voices. None of that “are you good enough to sing” stuff – just SING!
When I was a chaplain resident at Strong, one morning we all crowded around
the computer to watch Pete, aged 89 or 90, singing “This Land is Your Land”
at President Obama’s first inauguration. It was wonderful – seeing someone
who had worked so many, many years for justice, singing with hope and joy
with hundreds of thousands of people. He kept singing even though his voice
was shot, and it was always wonderful to hear him.
Thanks, Pete, for living your life the way you did! The best memorial I can
think of is that each of us use our own voices – for justice, for peace,
for cooperation and for joy. (Find a recording of Pete singing “Wimoweh” if
you want to hear what utter joy sounds like!). Use our own voices, and
encourage each other, and keep an eye out for anybody whose voice is being
silenced. Participate! Encourage each other. Share. And sing!
Blessings and love to all,
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Dedicating these temples of the living God, ourselves and the youth we have baptized to God and Community.
While the Scriptures are full of the faith of our fathers, today also speaks to the faith of our mothers and grandmothers and that calls for a wonderful celebration. We focus today on who Jesus is and on who his mother Mary is, and the prophet Anna as well. We also note the power of elderly Simeon and Anna who in their eighties heralded the Christ.
The feast of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple is also the feast of the purification of Mary. Mary is an observant Jew of her times. She is presenting herself for ritual purification after childbirth as is the Law, even as Mary and Joseph are presenting Jesus as their firstborn child, an act of thanking God for the gift of Jesus and, as it were, giving him back to God but redeeming him from a life of Temple service (really done by Levites) with their offering. Exodus 13:1 instructs on the consecration of the firstborn. Leviticus 23: 9-14 discusses the law of offering first fruits to God. This is similar to Hannah giving the much longed for Samuel back to God although Samuel was to be raised in the Temple. The Law says that a firstborn must be dedicated to God. The dedication of a firstborn son is still practiced today among Orthodox and Conservative Jews and is a wonderfully happy family and communal event (Pidyon haben). There is also a Pidyon ha-Bat/ha-Ben developed by the Leifer’s, a reconstructionist/ reformed Jewish couple in the 1970’s to assure that either a girl or a boy could be dedicated to God. Other ceremonies such as a naming event are practiced for firstborn girls in all branches of Judaism today. In some of these ceremonies the baby girl is placed in water, somewhat similar to our infant baptism. It is a joyous occasion where the parents are dedicating their child and connecting her to the covenantal faith. Jesus’ presentation was also symbolic of this covenantal connection.
Mary and Joseph followed the Law, at eight days Jesus was circumcised and at 40 days Jesus was presented at the Temple (Luke 2:22-40). The first reading of the day from Malachi (3:1-4) is the prophecy: “the Sovereign One you are seeking will suddenly enter the Temple….” Simeon and Anna were waiting. The old, strong and wise were waiting.
On that day God’s Spirit guided the elderly devout man, Simeon, to the Temple. When he saw the baby Jesus he knew right away that his eyes had seen God’s salvation and a light of revelation to all. He said he could then die in peace. Anna the prophet who is 84 years old, was there as well, at that moment she gave thanks to God and then talked about the child to all who anticipated the deliverance of Jerusalem. Here we note the strength and importance of these elderly people in the prophetic role of welcoming Jesus and spreading the word. This respect for the wise and prophetic words of the elderly is refreshing in a time where “youth culture” is totally glorified. The ads for Super Bowl Sunday are said to make billions for companies, let us see how many mature people are featured positively in these ads?
The Gospel of Luke is known to have included women far more than the other Gospels and there has even been speculation that it may have been written by a woman or at least influenced by women (Loretta Dornisch, A Woman Reads The Gospel of Luke: 5; 1996). The writer of Luke is making Mary, and Anna as well, central figures in this pericope (brief story) of Jesus’ presentation at the Temple. Simeon blesses the couple, talks of Jesus’ destiny and addresses Mary directly and foretells her pain at the rejection of Jesus and the related events- “And a sword will pierce your heart as well”. Indeed every mother and all mothering persons can identify with Mary’s pain. When a teenager that I had fostered, loved and cared for left my home and got into trouble with the police he was brought before the judge in shackles. His head was down and he was clearly broken. Seeing him like that broke my heart. How much more was Mary’s heart broken?
Anna who is described as a prophet who “never left the temple” gave thanks and shared the good news about the child with all who had hopes of the deliverance of Jerusalem. Both Simeon and Anna have a prophetic belief in Jesus as the expected Messiah. This is noteworthy as the writer of Luke is speaking to a varied, mainly Gentile Christian community and is usually more concerned with Jesus’ inclusion of all people in God’s kin-dom than with Messianic prophecy. Yet as we look carefully, Luke is consistent as Simeon is describing Jesus as “a light of revelation to the Gentiles AND the glory of your people Israel”. Luke has a both/and approach to seeing the Christ– deliverance and the light of revelation is for the Jews and for the whole world. Luke is giving women and the elderly a central role in this presentation of Christ.
As he later shows Jesus to be growing in wisdom (sofia) and the grace of God (charis), feminine words in Greek that also show feminine aspects of God, the writer of Luke seems to be embracing Christ as a feminine aspect of God and beyond all notions of gender. Schussler-Fiorenza (1994) develops extensive thinking on Christ as Wisdom Sofia. Mary remains central as the teacher of the faith for Jesus. When Jesus, at 12, gets left behind and is found in the temple, (Luke 1:41-52) it is Mary, not Joseph that he dialogues with. It is reasonable to think that Mary was his primary faith teacher (Dornisch, 1996). Reflecting on Mary’s Song- Magnificat- (Luke 1:46-55), we see Mary’s knowledge of the Scriptures and her sense of identification with the compassion and justice that the Law represents with the poor and outcast.
The non-canonical Gospels of The Birth of Mary ascribed to Matthew and the Protoevangelion ascribed to James say that Mary was a much longed for child who was presented to the Temple by her parents Anna and Joachim at age 3 and remained there until she was 14 and betrothed to Joseph. She was given back to God in thanksgiving for her birth and also to be educated. There is historical evidence that “Temple Virgins” lived in a separate building behind the Temple walls and that they recited prayers and sewed the Temple veil and took care of vestments and other liturgical items. This was the only way a girl could become educated as well. Older women, usually widows like the prophet Anna in the Presentation pericope lived with them and cared for them. It is reasonable to think that Mary was a temple servant and that she was now dedicating her son Jesus, even as she was dedicated although he would become the new Temple, “to be torn down and rebuilt in three days”, and not live in the Temple. The Christ presented in the Gospel of Luke could have indeed been educated for his first twelve years by a woman, Mary his mother.
As Mary and Joseph present Jesus, as Anna and Simeon recognize and present Jesus, may we not lose hold of our faith and its roots in the depth of the beautiful Jewish faith. May we embrace our sisters in the Scriptures and revere our elderly. May we realize that like Jesus, we are all temples of the living God and act accordingly. May we also learn to present Jesus to the world, and to present ourselves and our own children and faith communities to be dedicated to God and to all of God’s people, especially to those in most need of inclusion.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, ARCWP