Becoming The Living Church: Homiletic Dialogue for the 5th Sunday of Easter by Women Priests Revs. Bev and Judy
Here we present two complementary homilies on texts for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. It is interesting and inspiring to see the Spirit working to teach through the meanings and illustrations of two women priests. First is Ohio’s Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle’s homily and then is my own.
Let us pray: Our living God, raise us up with Christ so we may become the church You want us to be. Help us to remove all negative divisions from us, especially those we create ourselves. Help us, each one, to give our gifts and talents, our very selves so that we may welcome all to the many rooms in your house, so that we may become, with Christ, the ever growing and always welcoming living church. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Christ, who lives with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forevermore, Amen!
Rev. Bev’s Homily:
In “Finnegan’s Wake,’ James Joyce wrote
that Catholic means “Here comes everybody,”
and he’s right.
Jesus tells us:
The kin-dom of God has many dwelling places.
There is room for everybody.
It didn’t take long, though,
for us Christians to stop acting Christ-like.
Already, in the Acts of the Apostles,
we read of the problem
of some folks taking more than their fair share.
The Greek widows are being shorted in the bread line.
Distractions from prayer and scripture.
So they worked out a way to include everybody,
and their actions and their words
attracted even more people to the faith.
We still have the conflicts,
and we still have people working for peaceful resolutions.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)
continues, in response to the doctrinal investigation
by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF),
to show us what spirit-filled discernment
and respectful dialogue look like.
Frank Bruni in Wednesday‘s Blade wrote about
the teacher contracts in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,
calling the hierarchy’s new requirements “archaic fixations”
that show their “sad knack for driving people away.”
On the other hand,
he points to Pope Francis’ encouragement to priests
to be real shepherds.
This past Tuesday the pre-Vatican Tridentine Mass
was prayed for Fr. Steve Majoros’ funeral–
all in Latin, black vestments, priest with his back to the people.
Contrast that with our weekend Masses at Holy Spirit, in English,
everybody in a circle (well, more like a rectangle).
Our church includes all of that here in Toledo,
and even more variety in countries around the world.
Ours is truly a catholic church, in the best sense of the word.
How do we survive?
The first letter of Peter gives us a clue
when it calls Jesus the cornerstone.
That’s the first stone,
the one that sets the level for a building.
The other stones are positioned in relation to that stone,
and the building is solid and straight.
Those other stones–that’s us,
the living stones that make up the church.
As long as we work on being in right relationship
with Jesus and each other, the faith holds.
So we keep working at it.
Last week we thought about
how to be good shepherds to the people in our lives.
This week Jesus tells us he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,
and that no one can come to God except through him.
We misunderstand if we think that he means
that only Christians are going to some heaven
up in the sky above the clouds.
Jesus embodies the Way:
he shows us how to live a life of integrity
with love for the whole community of life.
And he tells us that the Way requires Truth,
so that pride, deception, fear, and selfishness have no place.
And he tells us that following his Way brings Life:
each of us fully and eternally alive,
conscious expressions of the Divine Presence.
If we don’t live that way,
we will not have life;
Ann Graham Brock, in her book on Mary of Magdala,
analyzes the New Testament and other ancient writings,
observing that the early church had two criteria
for designating some Christians as apostles.
First, apostles had a post-resurrection experience of Jesus,
and second, they were sent to tell the good news to others.
Every time we come to Mass,
we tell each other that we are the Body of Christ.
Christ is present, as Vatican II tells us,
in the Word proclaimed,
in the bread and wine shared,
in the gathered assembly.
So every one of us is an apostle:
we have experienced the risen Jesus–in each other!
Every one of us is commissioned–by our baptism–
to tell the good news.
As valuable as the early writings are–and they are foundational–
God has not stopped talking to us.
We, individually and collectively, grow and develop;
we discover new realities;
Our language changes;
our understanding grows more complex.
We have new insights into ourselves and God.
It’s not magic.
because we are limited individuals–works in progress–
on the Way.
Our hearts need not be troubled–
there’s a place for us.
The kin-dom of God is at hand.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 9 a.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Rev Judy’s Homily:
The Scriptural Readings for this week are wonderful guides to becoming church. The American psychologist,Gordon Allport developed a whole psychology of “Becoming” seeing people as unique works in progress and never finished products. In individual growth and development both being and becoming are essential components as one moves toward socialization and individuality. And so it was with the early church, and so it is with us. Indeed we can always plea: “Don’t be so hard on me, God is not finished with me yet!”. As church, as the body of Christ we are ever becoming Christ-like as we follow the Way, the teachings and actions, of Jesus but we are on shaky ground if we think we have already arrived. The Way is not easy and we are always in process as we learn and express it as individuals and as church.
Acts 6:1-7 shows the new church growing and encountering problems- between the Greek speaking Jews and those who spoke Hebrew, the original followers of Christ. The Greek speaking widows were being neglected in the established food program. To solve this problem, divisions and dissension had to be put aside as new leaders were chosen with the specific job of feeding the widows.This also left the Apostles free to pray and preach.Here we see the praying and laying on of hands, or perhaps the ordination, of what may be the first deacons. With this division of labor the word spread, the material and spiritual needs of the new Christian community were met, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem “increased enormously”. What a great example of becoming church-of learning how to do it in a particular community in the context of great growth!
The Psalm (33) is illuminating commentary on this process of a church becoming- “The Creator loves justice and right (and fills the earth with love)!” is the refrain (TIB). The context and content of practices that are just and right and loving( like feeding people in need with equanimity) are fixed characteristics of the becoming church. What is not just, right and loving, is not church and needs to be remedied for our effort at becoming Christ’s body-the church. As Pope Francis has recently noted any attempts at skewing the church toward inclusivity is not Christ’s vision for the church, or his. Yet, the leadership and the work it will take to make the church inclusive of the divorced,those on the LGBTQ spectrum and of women in the church who are called toward ordination as deacons and priests as well as married priests lies before us and is almost daunting. Without this work, the church is not “just, right and loving”. It is no longer becoming but quite stuck in muddy neck deep traditions that stultify and exclude, causing dimunition and not the growth of the church.
I Peter 2:4-9 speaks of Christ as the living ,chosen and precious cornerstone of the church and of ourselves as living stones being built in around the cornerstone. We are further called “a chosen people, a royal priesthood…a people set apart” to become church whose ” good deeds will glorify God”(v.12). This is about the “priesthood of all believers”, the right and the responsibility of all believers to enact and build the becoming church. How then, can the traditions and canons of men (like Canon 1028 saying only men can be ordained) decide that only some are to be priests? How can total categories of people be left out by virtue of gender, orientation or marital status? The church is the priesthood of all believers. If it is not, it ceases to be and to become, it is dead and dying.
The Gospel (John 14:1-12) is about inclusion-“In God’s house there are many dwelling places” meaning that all people and nations are welcome in the living church with the living Christ as its head and all believers as the live building blocks of the living church. Welcome too are all cultures and all expressions of human efforts to know God, yet we are blessed to know God through knowing Christ. It is also about seeing Jesus the Christ as the Way, that is Christ’s actions and teachings as the road map to becoming church and the people of God. And it is about seeing the oneness of God and Christ for Christ is in God and God is in Christ. And we too are in God and God is in us through Christ. Hence we now have the power to build this church, to build it on justice ,right and love, to build this church that is ever becoming- to bring it finally into being. What an awesome opportunity and responsibility,made possible only by the grace of God!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, Pastor
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Fort Myers, Florida