Archive | March 2014

A Woman Priest, Janice Sevre Dusynska Celebrates the Life of Oscar Romero in El Sal

Archbishop Oscar Romero is the Monsignor of the Poor of El Salvador who died for the Gospel and the freedom and liberation of his people and the poor of the world on March 24th,1980.
Oscar Arnulfo Romero (1917-1980)
Archbishop and Martyr of San Salvador
 
Oscar Romero photoAuthor Robert Ellsberg notes: At this juncture in history, we have more cause than ever for gratitude towards Archbishop Oscar Romero of El  Salvador. Like us, he could not find his voice at first. Like us, he went along with the status quo. And then, “something changed him,” and gave him the power to speak out for peace and justice. From that point forward, he could not condone war on the poor. In word and deed, he taught that we must take seriously the cause of the poor “as if it were our own…as indeed it really is.” The change went so deep that even death threats did not deter him. May we learn from his example to be fearless, to abhor all forms of killing, and to put our total trust in the God of life. — Patricia Carlson

I have frequently been threatened with death. I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.”

During this Lenten Season, may we all reflect on lives that parallel that of Jesus Christ and follow Christ and leaders like Oscar Romero and his modern day counterparts who gave their all in serving the poor.

Special thanks to our  sister priest Janice Sevre-Dusynska and our brother priest Roy Bourgeois and others who stand with the SOA Watch and also with us for the equality of all in the world and in the church. This takes a special kind of courage and we pray to have a share in this courage in our own places of service.

Love and Blessings,

Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP

March is the Anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in this Hospital Chapel in El Salvador.
He was killed by two Salvadorians who were trained at the School of Americas.
These pictures are taken by members of the SOA WATCH. This group is a peace activist group and our woman priest Rev. Janice Sevre-Dusynska, ARCWP is a member who was there as a witness with the group last year, March 2013.

Translation: On this altar Monsignor Oscar A. Romero offered his life for his people.

Note from Rvda. Janice Sevre-Dusynska, ARCWP  regarding the picture below: I am on the altar with my compadres

This is the sarcophagus of Beloved and Blessed Mon. Oscar Romero with the people gathered round him.

How the people love him!

SOA Watch delegation March 2013

St. Romero’s Community outside of San Salvador

Our Peace Activist and Woman Priest Janice says:

Here I am telling the story, “The Five Chinese Brothers,” to these beautiful people and it is being translated.

Indeed children must be taught to love peace and turn away from violence.
We must all be taught to love peace and realize the costs of war in perpetuating poverty and violence in the world.
We thank our sister priest Janice, and Roy Bourgeois and all members of the SOA Watch for their witness and teaching.
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Finding God On The Mountain Top: Rev. Judy’s Homily The Second Sunday in Lent 3/16/14

Mount Hermon with snow

MT. Hermon /Sion  Israel

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 17:1-9) we accompany Jesus as he takes three of the disciples, Peter, James and John up to a high mountain where his appearance dramatically changes before their eyes. They see him in a very different light. This is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels with minor differences in the story.  In Luke Jesus is praying as his appearance changes and astonishes the disciples.  (See also Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9: 28-36). In the three Gospels this trip up the mountain occurs 6 to 8 days after he tells the disciples that he will die and be raised to life. He is headed toward Jerusalem and all that will unfold there.  What also astonishes and frightens the disciples is the appearance of, or the vision of, Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus as they are enveloped in a bright cloud and Jesus is affirmed as he was on the day of his baptism. “My Own, my Beloved, on whom my favor rests. Listen to him!” They are terrified and fall forward on the ground. Jesus touches them and tells them to get up and not to be afraid. They then dare to look up and only Jesus is there with them.

How are we to understand this powerful and apparently mysterious experience? And what is its connection to the first reading where (in Genesis 12:1-4) Abram and Sara are told by God to leave the land they have lived in for many years and go to a land that God has prepared for them? Abram is already 75 years old and probably is not up for a long trip South with his family and all he owns. And he and Sara are childless and so he is prepared to die without a legacy.  But God promises that God will make a great nation from Abram and that all families of the earth will be blessed in Abram’s seed. Abram, who is the patriarch of faith, does not argue with God. They get up and go. When they arrived God repeated God’s promise that Abram’s offspring would have this land. Abram then went to the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent and built an altar where he prayed. (Gen 12:8).  We know the end of the story-that Abram and Sara (becoming Abraham and Sarah) do, after further trials, become the patriarch and matriarch of the Hebrew people and that Abram’s seed through both Isaac (the Hebrew people) and Ishmael (son of Hagar, the Muslim people) and through Jesus, also through Isaac and Ruth, Jesse and David) are in “number like the stars in the sky”.  Through faith, Abram becomes the father of Judaism, Christianity and the Muslim religions.

In the Gospel account, Matthew is connecting Jesus to the pillars of Judaism through its greatest prophets, Moses and Elijah. While Moses represents the authority of the Law and Elijah, the prophets,  both represent great faith and loyalty to God in times of exile and great doubt about who God is and what God is like.  The implication is that Jesus fulfills and surpasses the Law and the prophets. The “Listen to him!” (said also at Jesus’ Baptism) means God has given Jesus the authority and Jesus’ Way (teaching and actions in life, death and resurrection) is the new Way that God is reconciling God’s people to God’s self.

Both Moses and Elijah were tormented and persecuted as they served God and God’s people. Both climb mountains to be in holy space where God speaks to them, directs and guides them. While Moses is given the commandments, the Law, on Mt. Sinai, his first mission is given to him on Mt. Horeb, called the Mountain of God, where God speaks through a burning bush and says “I have seen the misery of my people, I have heard their cries, and I want you to go tell Pharoah to let my people go!” (Exodus 3: 1-10).  Elijah climbs Mt. Horeb to flee from King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel after Elijah shamed 850 prophets of the gods Baal and Asherah (who “eat at Jezebel’s table”) on Mt. Carmel as God acted with fire to show God’s strength.  On Mt. Horeb Elijah hides in a cave and waits to hear from God. There is a powerful wind, (like a Hurricane) and an earthquake and a great consuming fire. But God is not speaking through any of these. Finally God spoke in a “still small voice” in a “gentle whisper” and Elijah was told what to do next.

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and what lies ahead. He climbs the mountain (scholars think it was Mt. Hermon which is over 9,200 feet of snow- capped peaks) to be close to God and to pray.  He takes those particular disciples with him “to be alone with them” according to Matthew, as they have reached a higher level of understanding. Nonetheless they fall asleep as he prays. They wake up to see Jesus “transfigured”- shining like the sun with his clothes as bright as a flash of lightening, according to Luke. Moses and Elijah appeared as well “in glorious splendor” as they discussed “his departure that had to take place in Jerusalem”.  It is then that the whole group are enveloped in the bright cloud and the voice affirms Jesus as Chosen/Beloved who is to be heard. Jesus has to touch the disciples and tell them not to be afraid and they respond to his touch and see only Jesus there.

We remember that the Hebrew and Aramaic languages convey meaning in metaphor and with much symbolism. Jesus, Elijah and Moses may well have climbed real mountains but we and they have many kinds of mountains to climb. Here the mountain is that place close to God, where we can speak to God and God can speak to us. The mountain is also high and represents a difficult journey of understanding. It is hard to do the climb and requires effort. It is a place to pray where enlightenment can happen, sometimes in dramatic ways.  The cloud represents, and both indicates and sometimes hides the mysterious presence of God.  The bright lights and fire and even the gentle voices where God speaks also represent our understanding and en-light-enment as we communicate with God who loves us and affirms us and guides and directs us.  Sometimes literally as we climb a mountain the light is different so we can see in a new way. The air is also clean and clear and we can breathe easily and fully. The breath (Spirit) of God can fill us. We also have the perspective of the wider view, we can see all around from the mountain top. And, like Jesus and the disciples we have to come down from the mountain tops of very special experiences with God and faith, and enter the valleys and lower ground of everyday life. Christ accompanies us and we are emboldened by faith and grace to share what we have experienced and do what we have been asked to do, even when it takes all we have and the courage of Abram and Sara, Moses, Elijah and Jesus.

Who is our God and what is our God like? For Abram and Sara, God provides.  For Moses, God is a God who is moved by the suffering of God’s precious people and hears their cries. God sends someone to help. Moses is sent to lead God’s people out of terrible exile and oppression-to liberate God’s people.  For Elijah, God comes through time after time. Elijah is ultimately not a laughing stock although 850 prophets of false gods stand ready to ridicule. God also cares deeply when Elijah is so depressed he tells God that he wants to die. God tells him to get up and eat as a good parent would and prepares water and food for him. Eventually God takes him right past the death experience unto life. We see God around and in Jesus. God is radiant, glorious, shining and ultimately affirming and loving. God gives the authority to be heard, the authority to lead, and the authority to change lives from misery to joy. God gave this to the prophets, and to Jesus, and to us as we climb the mountain and make the effort to communicate with God and to listen,hear and follow. Unlike Elijah, God’s Own, Beloved and Chosen is going to have to go through suffering and death to vanquish death and be raised from the dead. Right before this mountain top experience Jesus asks the disciples to deal with suffering and follow him. How beautiful it is that resurrection is on the other side of death. Let it be so for us, here and now and forever.

In this Lenten season, may we have the faith of Abraham and Sarah, the prophets and Jesus. May we be disciples who have the strength to go where God sends us and to follow Jesus up the mountain. Whether the mountain is a bout with serious illness, family struggles, the loss of a loved one,  daily dealing with our difference, rejection and exclusion, ministry and career challenges, difficult life transitions or environmental challenges, or just facing another day, may we know that God is there as we climb.  May we see and experience the glorious God that Jesus, the prophets and the disciples knew. May we know deeply that we stand on holy ground and that we are holy ground. May we too be affirmed and experience ourselves as deeply loved by God as Jesus and Elijah were.  May we have some friends to climb with.  May we act to liberate God’s people with the faith and strength of Moses and may we face our “Jerusalems” as Jesus did filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Love and blessings throughout this Lenten season,

Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP

The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

Fort Myers, Florida

Caracol TV Follows Roman Catholic Woman Priest Olga Lucia Alvarez in Colombia with Priests Martha Aida and Marina Teresa Included

eaa1e-img_0106One does not have to speak Spanish to understand the scope and importance of this excellent TV coverage of the activities of ARCWP  priest Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumea in Colombia, South America. Also included as she ministers to her people, is woman priest Martha Aida Soto Bernal.The Ordination of priest Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia in Sarasota Florida is included. All three are from Colombia- from Medellin, Bogota and Cali. We are blessed to have these women of deep faith and courage as our sisters in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.

Olga Lucia shares that there are over 180 in the women priest movement and this is growing daily.  She says that from her baptism she was called to be a a priest and man-made rules cannot change this calling. She says that “excommunication” which is a form of “self-excommunication” means nothing as she has not broken herself off from the church or from the people of God whom she serves. She  shares her ministry and we see her baptizing a baby, serving the Eucharist , preaching, relating warmly to children and families and doing the things that all priests do with love and joy.

Let us remember that Pope Francis, from Argentina, speaks Spanish fluently and may be watching this video right now. If so, he will see the love and affirmation Olga Lucia gives him as a Pope of the poor. If he reflects and searches his heart and conscience this Lenten season he may also find the mandate from the people and from his own heart, and the courage to ask for change in  the rules made by men in the 12th century. This is not expected or needed but it would be a great surprise to the people of God.

Olga Lucia was ordained in Florida in December of 2010. Martha Aida Soto Bernal was ordained in Colombia in March of 2011. And Marina Teresa was ordained in Florida in January of 2014. There are other candidates from South America who will likely be ordained this year. We are so thankful for our South American sisters who are leading the way in Latin America.

Please click on this link to see the video:

http://losinformantes.noticiascaracol.com/reviva-la-edici%C3%B3n-15-de-los-informantes-871-capitulo?historia=874

con esperanza y gracias y bendiciones,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, ARCWP

Co-Coordinator with Olga Lucia Alvarez for Hispano Parlantes

Struggling With The Mission: Rev. Judy’s Homily For The First Sunday In Lent

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We begin the Lenten Season this First Sunday by joining Jesus in the desert as he struggles against the “temptations” that could destroy the mission and ministry he is about to begin. There are prototypes here for all of the struggles in the desert that we too face.

The readings for the day are beautiful in metaphor and meaning. They can be difficult to understand. They are not meant as literal historic or scientific happenings but are packed full of many essential meanings described in poetry, story, idiom, imagery and metaphor.  In the Genesis reading and the Gospel, temptation is faced. But, it is far too easy to say they are about dealing with temptation. They are about choice and discerning and accepting God’s work, mission, for us in building the kin-dom, the reign of God’s presence here on earth. The Gospel (Matthew 4:1-11) is about Jesus and his wrestling with how he would announce and bring about the kin-dom. They are about what we do with God’s affirmation and how hard it is to enact and live the Gospel once we understand it. They are about our own deserts and accepting our callings.

In the first reading, Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 humanity is created by the very breath or spirit of God, and given all of creation to enjoy, work in and care for as well as the choice to do what is right or to choose the “wrong” path where evil is encountered. Wow! For me, this is a “selah” moment, a moment to pause and appreciate what God has done.

Yet, with this gift of choice we can choose good or evil for all of our days. The Epistle, Romans 5:12-19, contrasts Christ, who discerned and enacted God’s love and justice even when it cost everything he had, and Adam who all too easily chose what he knew to be wrong (and then blamed it on Eve who blamed it on the poor serpent). From Adam, in being human, we inherit a propensity for good and for evil, for sometimes making death- dealing instead of life giving choices while from Jesus we learn what life giving choices are and gain life now and forever.  Wow! Another “selah” moment, to pause and appreciate what God has done through Christ.

The Gospel story according to the writer of Matthew takes place right after Jesus’ baptism where Jesus experiences God’s loving affirmation in a way that is beyond words to tell. Jesus knows that he is chosen, affirmed and deeply loved by God. (Matt 3:17). “Then he was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted…” (Matt 4:1). In the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures imagery and metaphor are dramatically used (Errico, Let There Be Light). The phrase “led by the Spirit” usually means “had a dream or vision”.  In Aramaic the word “tempted” means to be tried out, much like a new horse would be tried out. So Jesus is trying out his mission as the one who is chosen and, in essence, discerning what it will be and how he will enact it.  The imagery of the desert is appropriate for such discernment. I have been in the remaining desert area in Israel and it is endless sand, hills of sand and endless valleys and surfaces of dry sand.  There would be no temples or parapets to jump off of and certainly there would be nothing to eat-not even the cacti that exist in the American deserts. The word “devil” or “satan” in Aramaic is “deceiver” or “to lead astray” and it does not mean a supernatural being or force. Jesus prayed, reflected, wrestled and dreamed and wrestled again with deceptive notions of who he was and could be, of power and of mission.

In this trying period of discernment (the idiom 40 days is used much in the scriptures and means a period of trials) Jesus turned his back on doing tricks like turning stones into bread instead of the very hard work of ministering to the poor, the sick and the outcast in need of healing and inclusion. He also turned his back on religious power-he would not become the head of the established religion but he would question, clarify, and challenge what had become of the Law’s intent and the covenant between God and God’s people. When necessary he would take on the establishment and they would respond with a vengeance.  Similarly Jesus turned away from the appeal of becoming a political leader with “all the kingdoms” at his feet. The reign of God was not a material or political reign as much as some wanted this. Jesus would show us what the reign of God could be.  It would cost him his life. Jesus agonized and clarified what he was about and what his ministry and mission would be. In essence, in the desert experience Jesus agonized over accepting the cup long before he prayed tears like blood in the Garden of Gethsemane after the last supper. The poor and outcast would welcome him and love him, but we all know the end of the story. Jesus had to know that, unlike the tempting paths of personal, religious and political power, what he was about to do using the power and authority to change human lives would cost him everything. But he was ultimately not tempted to abort the mission God had given him. He would show us how to love, and enact inclusion and justice, no matter what it cost.  When Jesus finished this trying period of discernment in the desert, he began his ministry. He preached “turn your lives back to God”.  In Luke he defined his mission as “preaching the good news to the poor….” He healed the sick, welcomed the stranger, included women and foreigners and showed us how to live the Good News. Through him we are all grafted into the tree of life and we are asked to follow him,to DO what he did.

I think that all of us who want to follow Jesus have agonized at some time over this calling. I know I have. Each and every one of us who wants to follow Christ has a unique gift to give different from the others. But the common ground is putting those gifts at the service of God’s people and building the kin-dom.  I have served God’s people most of my life using my experiences and my training as a clinical social worker and teacher of social workers and pastors who wanted to serve and counsel the poor, the homeless, the outcast and those who faced the demons of mental illness, addictions and many aspects of physical and spiritual dying. Yet in the helping professions and in one’s every- day life one can legitimately take time off and time out. One can always take vacations and rest from this work or change jobs. But when one does it pastorally  and sacramentally another level of self- giving is involved. Like Jesus, all is given. Yes, Jesus wants us to go aside and rest for a while or we will truly burn out like falling stars. But we are the face of Christ to the world and only the grace of God enables that face to be smiling when we too are tired and overwhelmed at the constant need and the unending nature of injustice and pain before us. My particular call is to be a priest and pastor of and with the poor.  I became a priest not to wear robes and serve at a high altar, but to serve at the altar of broken lives, especially those broken by poverty and oppression in addition to life’s other blows. I wanted to open up the alabaster jars of sacraments and make them available to all.(Susan Ross elaborates on this task in her book  Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental Theology).  I can never turn my back on this call and instead sometimes have to turn my back on the kinds of things Jesus was tempted with: human hungers, magic powers, and power in institutions religious or otherwise. I knew a little of how hard all of this is when I accepted ordination, but almost six years later I know it is only by God’s grace, and not one’s own powers, that one can do it at all. Thank God for this grace.

This is the first four stanzas from a poem that I wrote when I was in my desert discerning this call to priesthood and ministry:

I Accept The Cup

It is ringing in my heart-

Bob Marley say

“No woman, no cry,

Drinkin’ from the

Cup of pain and sorrow,

Love will heal it all”.

 

Yes, there is Love

And there is

Pain and sorrow.

To walk the road

Of Love and serve

You gotta take the cup.

 

I said, Lord, I know

That cup, don’t ask

Me to drink from it

Again, don’t show me                   

Their hurt and pain

And tell me they’re

Dyin on the street

Right here and now,

An don’t add to it

My sisters in hospice,

Don’t tell me to tend

Death again with you.

Give me some of that

Joy instead, don’t let

Me walk among the

Living dead.

 

And God said

They ain’t dead yet,

To walk my road and

Serve Love,

You gotta take the cup…”

After much trying discernment I did joyfully and willingly take the cup. I renew that vow every Sunday when I finish the cup. I love my people, our ministry and my life. But I know a little of what Jesus did in the desert. And so do you. May God guide you and love you in your desert times.

Love and Blessing,

Pastor Judy Lee

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Commjunity

Fort Myers, Florida

                                  

“We Will Sing and Not Be Silent”

“We Will Sing and Not Be Silent” a Conference on Women, Faith Traditions and Leadership by Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP

This is a report of a momentous conference where ARCWP priest Janice Sevre-Dusynska and  RCWP priest Victoria Rue and Fr. Roy Bourgeois and theologian Rosemary Reuther spoke.  Janice is telling the story:

“We Will Sing and Not Be Silent” was the title of the event on Women, Faith Traditions, and Leadership” held on Saturday,March 1, 2014 in Salt Lake City Utah.  The symposium was sponsored by the University of Utah College of Social Work under the auspices of Christina Gringeri who has interviewed Roman Catholic Women Priests as part of a research project on our movement. The College of Humanities and the following departmental programs and others also provided funding for the event: International Studies, Religious Studies, and Languages and Literature.

RCWP priest and longtime friend, Victoria Rue of Oakland, and I began the day leading a morning liturgy at Jane’s House, an elegant mansion in SLC. People of all faiths gathered with us to celebrate the first Eucharist in Salt Lake City led by Roman Catholic Women Priests.  Along with us were feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether and Roy Bourgeois who were housed with Victoria and me in Jane’s house as they were also invited to speak.

That afternoon we gathered at the Main Library Auditorium, which was part of an eclectic glass structure filled with activities, shops and stores. The event, which was free and open to the public, was well attended.

Keynote speaker, Rosemary Radford Ruether, began with her presentation entitled “Women’s History: the Struggle Against Exclusion.” Margaret Toscano, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Languages and Literature at UU moderated the multi-faith panel discussion focused on “Gender Equality and Faith Traditions: Issues of Justice.” Panelists were Chelsea Shields Strayer, Ph.D. Candidate, Boston University who is a leader in the Mormon Ordain Women movement; Maeera Shreiber, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English and Chair of UU Jewish Studies Initiative; Maysa Kergaye, Coordinator of the Islamic Speakers Bureau;and Victoria Rue, M.Div., Ph.D., Roman Catholic Womenpriests. A screening of “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” followed. Fr. Roy Bourgeois and I answered questions from participants.

Our sharing of women’s struggle for justice in our faith traditions offered insight and inspiration for all gathered, young and old.

Because of the storms my flight was delayed until Tuesday morning.

On Sunday I was invited to visit the Mormon Temple with Tara Romney Barber, Christina’s research assistant, and walk thru Canyon Creek with Christina. On Monday we drove through the mountains and visited the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the only cathedral in the U.S. dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. What an exquisite structure! Neo-Romanesque on the outside, it reminded me of churches I’ve visited in the U.S. and Europe. The inside was glorious especially the background painting behind the altar and the mural of Mary Magdalene at the tomb. The Stations of the Cross are extraordinary and not to be missed. They were painted in 1992- 3 by Sam Wilson, who was inspired by European painters, especially the Italian.  Besides evoking the passion of the cross, each station presents animal, plant and religious symbols that provoke thought and make the experience even richer.  For me the cathedral evoked native -American colors like one finds in maize, the multicolored corn used for Autumn decorations, full of the Earth’s glory and delight.

My photos are below but check out the following link compiled by the painter himself.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleanandsolid/2197118393/in/photostream/

Hugs and Ashes-Ash Wednesday with the Good Shepherd Community and Its Women Priests

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Our community had two worship services today, actually one service and one Mass. The Mass was after the first service and attended by twenty-one people including families and the ashes were given after the homily followed by the Eucharist where Pastor Judy Beaumont presided and all consecrated and prayed the liturgy together.  After my part of the homily the people add their own insights. The raw sharing of what needed to be changed in lives followed. Anger at family members, hurt, resentment, selfishness and having no time for God or others needed to be changed during this Lenten season. One elder praised the young people who were there for coming and told them to hold their heads up high at school with the joy that they followed Christ.  I was deeply moved and blessed everyone there for their faithfulness in starting this Lenten journey together as a community and in the quality of care that is so evident among them. All present received ashes and participated in sharing and being the body of Christ.

The first service was attended by eighteen people most of whom were formerly homeless.  I will share the sermon that emerged from this gathering of God’s people.

The first thing we give on this day is hugs-hugs in response to their generous hugs and hugs requested by them. By the time the service begins all are feeling loved and welcomed. This, our usual Tuesday group, is a faithful and enthusiastic group that enjoy the informality and freedom of participating in the discussion of the day’s scriptures, in prayer and in sharing their own stories. They look forward to the hot lunch but often let it get cold as they become involved in discussion and prayer. They remain long afterward to enjoy the company of one another in their church living room.  Usually a few “new” people also attend. Today we had two new men join our circle. In between the two services I saw people in counselling and referrals and Pastor Judy B. saw them for concrete needs.  The mood is joyful and the talking and singing can be loud as feelings are expressed in tone and tempo.  Even the solemnity of Ash Wednesday could not temper the joy at being together once again.

This group knows suffering-the suffering of sleeping in the street or woods, the suffering of being hungry, the suffering of physical and mental illnesses that go untreated, the suffering of rejection and shunning, of people not seeing or looking away, and the suffering of losing family and friends to violence, to illness, to neglect.  Mortality awareness is every day. There is no need to remember it as if it is far away. A few also struggle with life consuming addictions or mental illnesses.  Evil touches their lives on both personal and social levels as the poor here in mostly right wing Florida have very little given to alleviate poverty and suffering. So when I explain the themes of Ash Wednesday and why we keep this ritual of the church for those that may not know there is immediate understanding.  The ashes are a sign of our turning around, of sorrow for those things that absorb us and keep us from right relationship with God and one another.  The ashes are also a sign that we were made from dust and will return to dust. I add that the dust could be stardust or earth dust but we are created by our loving God in God’s own way and we return to God when our days are done. A few laugh heartily at the idea of stardust, seeing it inferior to good old mother earth dust and clay, seeing it as a truly far away metaphor, not needing any scientific explanation to satisfy their longing for a God who loves them and accepts them as they are.  The God who is Love is very near to them-no metaphors are needed, euphemistic, ethereal or otherwise.  Lauretta said “I didn’t think I needed God until God was all I had. When no one else loved me, I knew God still loved me.”  She and Roger and Nate and Gary add that our ministry brought this love to them and now they make it their business to bring it to others.  I said that as I look around the room I see a room full of people caring for one another and that is what God asks of us as we follow Jesus to the events of Holy Week and Easter, as we live the Gospel, the Good News, with Jesus.

Phyllis, Dwayne and Mary laughed when we made the distinction between “giving up something” and giving our whole hearts to God reflecting on Joel 12: 12-18.  “No, God don’t want your bubble gum, or your cake, God wants your HEART! God ain’t no fool, and you can’t fool God!”  Phyllis emphasized that everybody was to be brought to God, even the babies and that’s something-the whole community needs to realize who God is and how we turn away from God to satisfy our selves alone. John repeated that it is God’s love that we turn away from and yet God welcomes us back. After the Epistle reading (2 Cor 5:20-6:2) there was a veritable chorus of “NOW is the acceptable time” to be reconciled to God.

Then we sang “Holy Ground” touching our hearts and pointing first to ourselves and then to our neighbors as holy ground before the reading of the Gospel. After the reading of the Gospel we discussed acts of charity and fasting and praying. Dwayne summed up: everything we do needs to be done for love. “Fasting” just means don’t pig out, don’t live to eat or drink or do anything, live to love God and each other. People discussed where they pray and how they pray.  Our volunteer cook of the day, Gini, prays as she walks and hears the birds and breathes God’s good air with the sun on her back. Lauretta prays by listening because otherwise she talks too much. Gary prays in his room where he is not distracted by anything.  Nate prays as he rides his bike. Phyllis then made the Gospel reading ((Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) come alive. She began to smile and then laugh. She said that she just “got it” Jesus was really making jokes about the hypocrites who blew their horns to herald their own righteous actions.  She put those verses in her own words as Jesus might have said them with acting out the horn blowing, standing on the street corner, and making long faces and we were all laughing.

We then said Jesus’ prayer together holding hands and I blessed the ashes. I explained that there were two things that I could say as I made the sign of the cross on their heads with the ashes: the “dust to dust” saying or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”. The group was of one accord that the second one was the meaning they appreciated. Phyllis said, “ They say the other when they put you in the ground -when it is a funeral”. All agreed. I said I agreed and said that I intended to say the second-we are being invited to live, not to die.  We need to reconcile with God who loves us completely and wants life for us. We need to help each other to walk the walk.  All agreed and each one smiled as they received the ashes that reminded them of God’s love and desire for us to live fully now and forever.

How wise the people are, how easily they cut through to the essence of God’s love. I hope that you enjoy their sermon(s) as much as I did. And I hope that you will use this Lenten season to reflect on the ways you connect, disconnect and reconnect to our loving God and service to God’s people.

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Love and blessings,

Pastor Judy Lee

Pastor Judy Beaumont ,

Your Roman Catholic Women Priests and The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community