As I think about the nature of God for Trinity Sunday I am reminded of listening to two of my young adult parishioners try to describe their parents. Each one harbored many complex feelings toward their parents and neither had the slightest notion that the parents had histories separate from themselves. They had no idea that that their parents had thoughts, feelings, problems, hopes,fears, dreams, strengths and weaknesses. Neither knew the parent at all- only how the parent had fallen short of their expectations. I remembered how woefully long it took me to really know my own mother and to love and value her as the priceless treasure she was. I then thought is that what we do with God-simply make God a product of our projections without trying to find out who God really is?
There are two things that enable me to speak but only with the greatest humility on this Sunday when the church offers an understanding of what God is like. The first is the experience of God- in- relation in my own life and in the lives of those I serve; and the second is simply appreciation of the vastness of the nature of God, a vastness that I can nowhere near comprehend. I dare not speak at all except for seeing and knowing what God has done as revealed through human imperfections in the Scriptures and as revealed daily in our lives. I know this God-in-relation to me and to all of creation. I see and hear God in the lives of those who truly cast their cares upon God and trust God for everything, especially those who are poor in the goods of this world.
Last Tuesday, In our worship group with homeless and formerly homeless men and women Nathaniel said “I know God is with me and that God loves me because there was a time that I was locked up inside myself and not able to find a way out to do something about being homeless and hungry and so I stayed that way for over five years. I stayed that way until I listened to and felt the message of love that the people of the Good Shepherd brought to the park. I felt loved and let God in. Soon after that I did what I had to do and got everything I needed.” Several of those gathered echoed his story. Lauretta said dramatically, “listen, listen to our stories, how can anyone who listens not believe in God and in God’s Christ?”
Our Tuesday Worship Circle
For those who depend on God for life, “believe in” is not an abstract exercise like believing in a dogma or doctrine, it is believing in a person who loves them and who will do anything for them- it is more like when a parent says to a child or one friend or lover says to another: “I believe in you”. It is of the heart not the head. It inspires and motivates to emulate. When I grew up poor I witnessed daily miracles of unmet needs being met by God and through people and I see it again now with our people. When I had to face cancer and major surgery in early 2013 an abstraction of God would not do, the love I experienced through those surrounding me with prayers and caring, and experiencing God being there with me especially at night got me through it. What I needed to see most after eight days in a hospital room with no view outside was evidences of God’s creation. My gloom lifted as soon as I saw green grass and trees, birds and sky and my pets-for that is how I experience God-through others and through creation. As I continue to face other scary health threats, it is God’s love and presence that gets me through it. I have a pretty good head, but it is my heart that knows.
And so is the meaning of the Gospel of the day John 3:16- to believe in(love and follow) Jesus brings life now and forever-it is a release from death in all its myriad forms, as Nathaniel said. When I first moved to Florida 16 years ago my neighbor was a woman who lived alone and had an inoperable brain cancer. She told me that she loved the Buffalo Bills football games and saw a John 3:16 sign held up in the bleachers. She asked me what it meant. I shared God’s love with her because of that sign. We talked about her cancer and her fears, and that God is with her always. This brought her comfort and she realized that she was not alone anymore. Over time we also spoke of reaching out to her estranged children and relatives and she did.
The words we use to explain God are inadequate. Our first reading from Exodus 34 says that God is a God of compassion and mercy-and we see what that looks like in the life of Jesus the Christ while we examine our own lives to see how far the acorn fell from the tree! In 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 we are blessed with the grace of Christ Jesus, the love of God and the friendship of the Holy Spirit- and how blessed we truly are to experience this relational God. Yet we also learn that God is “immanent and transcendent”. What does that really mean? Here is the explanation of one author J.I. Packer in Knowing God.
(Please note that I have changed the word “Him” in relation to God throughout this writing where I quote others for now it is accepted that women and men both reflect the image of God and God is our loving Mother as well as our loving Father. Also in the Scriptures the Spirit of God in original languages is clearly a feminine face of God. As this language was translated and God was referred to only as “Him” we lost the balanced view of God with feminine and masculine qualities thus diminishing our understanding of God. See for example Elizabeth A. Johnson, Truly our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints, Continuum, 2009. So below I substitute God for Him and Father/Mother for Father.)
“God’s transcendent nature strives to keep God distant and remote from God’s creation both in space and time, yet on the other hand, God’s immanent nature works to draw God near to God’s creation and to sustain the universe. God’s love for God’s creation is so great that we see God’s immanence overshadowing God’s transcendence. This becomes clear in God’s incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, as Christ… draws all humanity back into a close, personal relationship. We see God not only choosing to draw near to God’s creation but to personally come into the hearts and minds of God’s people through the indwelling power God’s Holy Spirit. This is the miracle of God’s transcendence.”
God is transcendent -“more” and “beyond”- beyond our greatest understanding yet not “above us” in the sense of removed from us. ALL we can understand of the cosmos does not begin to touch who God is, and yet God is right next to and within us at the same time as close as breath. This is part of the Mystery of God that we seek to name and know for ourselves. We cannot put God in a big God-box for we can not know the fullness of God’s being. I thank God for that Mystery that we know only in part.
|Fr. John Foley, scholar at St.Louis University, sees knowing the triune God as a “Story of Love”.“What is the Holy Trinity and why do we dedicate a big Sunday to it?I know a story that might help.Once upon a time, in fact once upon many thousand times, God the (Father/Mother) invited the people of the earth to a lasting and loving relationship. Look at the Old Testament: “I want to be your God and I want you to be my people. My love for you is tender and precious. Won’t you love me in return?”
In many ways people understood and entered into the agreement. Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Elisha, Elijah, just to begin the list.
But we humans keep choosing things closer to hand, like money and honors and such—barns full of them. Our refusal of God’s love became widespread.
How did God react to such rejections? With hurt and disappointment for sure.
My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me. For your sake I scourged your captors and their first-born sons, but you brought your scourges down on me! My people, answer me (from “The Reproaches” on Good Friday)!
No answer. So eventually the Father/Mother tried a new and quite brilliant way. “I will show them what true love looks like. Since I am all love and nothing but love, I will go out to them utterly, as love does. I will become one of them. I will live humanity to its depths, and they will see love in its full truth.”
So a human called Jesus was born. He grew up. He told the people to love God above all things and their neighbors as themselves. He was the very heart of God, the heart made flesh. One with the Father but different as well. Two persons in one God.
Human beings had been hurt and betrayed, of course, forced to live with their own mixed-up motives, selfishness and greed. Love gets lost in such a world. So Jesus-God plunged far into our ocean of cruelty and loss, dove all the way to down to death.
His job was to carry all this back to the source of everything, the Father/Mother. The disciples knew about only two parts of God, Jesus and his Abba/Amma. So before he left, he said the following to them (I am paraphrasing):
Philip and the rest of you, if you know me, you know the Father/Mother. And after I go back to the Father/Mother, I will remain within you. I will make a home in you by sending the Holy Spirit. This Comforter will be the very love that I and the Father/Mother have for each other!
He was talking of course about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit—a real being that snuggles close within our souls if we let it. This Spirit of love is graceful and deep and comforting, like a blanket in winter cold.
And that is the story. Alright, maybe it is less clear than we would like. Really it is just the story of our lives with God and each other.
It is the Trinity! Let us celebrate!”
John Foley S. J.
YES, let us celebrate that through love and relationship and creation we have some understanding of God, but more, that we are loved by the God who created the Universe,the cosmos, tends it like a Mother/Father and Creator, tends the created; and that we have a living example of what God is like in ways we can understand through knowing the love and self-emptying of Jesus the Christ who stood with the poorest and most outcast, the stranger and the sick, as for inclusion and justice; and that the Holy Spirit of our living God is with us, among us and in us now and forevermore.
It is not original with me, but another preacher suggested that we can understand the Trinity-the three-in-one God as: Loving, Loved and Love.
God’s active creating is loving; Christ’s example of love lets us know that we are loved; and the Holy Spirit is Love within us and motivating us.
Loving, Loved, Love,
And a Blessed Father’s Day to all of our fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and friends!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, ARCWP
Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida
The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), in Ireland, says the church must ordain women and allow priests to marry in order to survive.
Pointing out that there are only two priests under the age of 40 in the Dublin archdiocese, Father Sean McDonagh says the Church is “facing an implosion in terms of vocations to the priesthood.”
The group made a number of recommendations which will be discussed at the Irish Catholics Bishop Conference in Maynooth later this week.
In 2012 a survey of Roman Catholics, on behalf of the ACP, showed that 87 percent believed priests should marry and 77 percent were in favor of women being priests. Another 22 percent believed matured married men should be ordained.
“It’s fairly clear historically that women have served in the church, despite every effort to silence their voices since the 4th century.”
He continued, “Women have to be a very major part of the future of ministry in the church. When you look around the church on a Sunday, who are doing most of the roles? Women.”
The association is also calling on men who left the priesthood to marry to be called back to ministry.
In 1984 there were 171 ordinations in Ireland. In 2006 there were 22. In 2013 just 70 were studying to become priests in Ireland.
McDonagh said it is the obligation of the Irish bishops to raise these issues in Rome and added that it is not an issue unique to Ireland. He also noted that Pope Francis has indicated that he is open to such suggestions.
McDonagh said that while praying for the numbers of vocations to increase is “fine” the Catholic Church needs a plan.
This is about our ARCWP Priest Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia who is ministering to her community in Cali, Colombia. The pictures speak for themselves and do not need particular translation. They involve children and youth in a Boat Procession carrying Our Lady of Assumption and other community activities. We send our blessings to Rvda. Marina Teresa and her Community and thank Rvda. Olga Lucia for her blog on this. Rev. Dr. Judy Lee ARCWP
Remitido al e-mail
For the last week, I have had some unpleasant bug. Once again I feel my human frailty physically and in my spirit. I was supposed to be vacationing on the beach but I only got there for two nights as my breathing was heavy with coughing and new symptoms developed. I fully enjoyed being at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and part of God’s beautiful creation including seeing parent dolphins teach their young how to eat about five feet away from us as we waded in the water. Yet I needed to rest in bed as much as to be renewed by this. I’m feeling better now but I am sure that I should not breathe my germs on anyone, and I pray for God to renew my body as well as my soul as I prepare to preach on Pentecost. But the beautiful thing is that it is not my breath but the Breath of God that will renew our people.
“ ‘Peace be with you. As Abba God sent me, so I am sending you.’ After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…’” John 20: 21-22
Jesus left his disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit. He filled them with his Spirit so they could carry on his work of love, inclusion and justice. Still they were frightened, they had not fully tried their wings to see if they could fly-could really carry on the work of the kin-dom. On Pentecost, this gift came again in a dramatic way enlivening the followers, the men and women gathered together, with the abilities to reach out to peoples of all languages and cultures with the Good News of the living Christ. The Pentecost story in Acts 2 is such a wonderful accounting of how God provides the church the gifts that are needed to include everyone in the church. In the diverse group gathered in Jerusalem peoples of all then known languages and cultures had gathered. Suddenly, as if with the force of a hurricane, all could hear the Good News in his or her own languages, the disciples could preach to everyone! What a wonderful message of unity in diversity and in how Christ and the Church mandates, breathes, diversity.
In our church tomorrow the reading from Acts will be read simultaneously in African languages and in Spanish and English and possibly Italian. How exciting it is to hear the first Pentecost enacted in this way and to know that our church like the Pentecost church is such a diverse group of followers. Our youth leader, Efe Jane Cudjoe, is now home from her semester in Viet Nam, South Africa and Brazil and she will reflect with us on her experiences of the Spirit of God in those lands and diverse cultures.
Pentecost is one of the happiest feast days of the Church. We gather with excitement, we wear red and we welcome God’s Holy Spirit once again to breathe life into us so we may be the church that Jesus founded and intended. We are ever mindful of the need for renewing God’s spirit within us, not because it has left us, but because we are so often overwhelmed by life’s events and no longer hear or heed it. We need a fresh infusion, for God Transcendent as well as Immanent can indeed breathe new life into us! An African-American Gospel Song goes: “Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me, melt me, mold me, Fill me, use me, Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me”. That is our Pentecost prayer.
Acts 1:12-14 and 2: 1-11
The Spirit comes to the followers of Jesus, the men and women gathered in the upper room, in a dramatic and indisputable manner with what sounded like a “violent rushing wind, the noise filling the entire house.” – not a little breeze this time – something like the hurricane that we know well here in Florida. And how they must have been amazed and afraid! Their spirits were ignited by the Holy Spirit and they burned with the Spirit. Wind and fire, symbolizing the presence of God, filled them and they even began to speak in other languages. Here God gives the church, the first Christians – the power to preach, teach and witness to Christ, Risen, Living and present, and to present the Good News to all people; no matter where they live or what language they speak. And this power is given on the harvest feast of Pentecost (or the Feast of Weeks) celebrated by the Jews seven weeks/50 days after Passover. As such Pentecost is the reminder of the covenant the Jewish people and Moses made with God on Mt. Sinai. Luke is telling his followers that the Spirit brings us a new Covenant as God’s new people – that all people, “Gentiles” are now heirs to God’s promises of faithfulness and love. And we are to preach the Good News everywhere – and especially to the poor, the disenfranchised and outcast of our world even as Jesus came to do that (echoing the purpose of the Prophet Isaiah) and fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic vision: “The Spirit of God is upon me because the Most High has anointed me to bring Good News to those that are poor.” (Is. 61; Luke 4:16-20).May the Spirit of God be upon us to do this as well!
1 Cor. 12: 3-7,12-14 (TIB)
Clearly the Spirit distributes gifts “as She will” – No one, no church, no government, absolutely no one can get in the Spirit’s way of distributing gifts. So, my friends, clearly women – yes, women – and men – young and old of all classes, colors, cultures and languages may be filled and called by the Spirit. I sit here today in deep thanksgiving for that – Amen?!
Now here are the gifts Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12 – but these are just some of the gifts of the Spirit.
- Wisdom in discourse (i.e. teaching/ discussion/communication)
- Knowledge, the word of knowledge
- The gift of healing
- Miraculous powers / also …… as mighty deeds
- Speaking other languages
- Interpreting other languages
- The gifts to be apostles, prophets, teachers, administrators (and, yes, priests!)
But, Paul reminds us, it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts and many more and distributes them as She will – “as She will”!! (The words for Spirit in Greek and in Hebrew-Sophia and Ruah are indeed feminine).
Let us now think about these gifts – and name in our hearts other gifts given to each of us by the Spirit.
But gifts are not necessarily or even usually given in especially dramatic ways – just God’s Holy Spirit to the spirit within ourselves. The breath of God, the breath of Jesus. One of our young people, Natasha is discerning her path to higher learning. Sometimes the answer seems easy and clear, sometimes not so easy or clear. We pray for her as she makes her choice of college.
“We all drink of the one Spirit” (v. 13) – and here is the symbol of the living water and water as the giving of the spirit for we are baptized into one body – but it has many different and necessary parts – different gifts. As we USE and DEVELOP these many gifts we can join Jesus the Christ in turning the world upside down!! Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on a group of frightened people and they were no longer afraid – AND THE CHURCH WAS BORN!!
The spirit of the living Christ that Jesus imparted to his disciples after the Resurrection en-couraged and em-powered them to go forth. But the Pentecostal visitation of the Holy Spirit was different, it was dramatic and it was inclusive, for all gathered in Jerusalem. The followers of Christ, now empowered, could reach the whole world through the many gifts that God gives to each one of us, the body of Christ.
And the body of Christ is diverse and of infinite variety. The first Pentecost came with loud sounds – wind and fire – the way that the Spirit spoke to the people of old. Peoples who today are still struggling for peace- those from Israel, Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and parts of Africa, Asia and Rome, Jewish converts and Arabs alike were united by the Holy Spirit. Today the Spirit of God still speaks to the Church in many different ways – and it still says “Peace, Justice, Love and ALL are welcome. Receive the Holy Spirit, be instruments of peace, be re-newed, forgive all, and live!
May God empower us again to bring our many gifts to God’s world. Spirit of the Living God, fall Fresh on us! Happy Birthday Church! Amen.
Re: “God speaks, but few answer,” May 25.
Who can limit the call of God? God calls whomever God calls. The problem is that the church takes on the role of limiting God’s ability to call any but celibate men.
It may be true, at least in the Diocese of Venice of Florida, that few men are answering God’s call, but this is not true for the women who are responding to God’s call to priesthood.
There are nearly 200 women priests worldwide with the majority in the United States. We have not left the church, although we have “technically” been excommunicated.
We have answered God’s call to lead the church to a new model where all are welcome — no one is excluded from the sacraments.
Why not wait for the Vatican to accept women as priests? How can we wait when God has called? Jesus did not ordain anyone. He called men and women to follow him — and they did. They were married and unmarried and we do not know their sexual orientation.
We have prepared — studied theology and been pastoral ministers in many settings: parishes, diocesan offices, hospitals, homeless shelters, schools and everywhere God asks us to be. Our ordinations, although breaking Canon 1024, that limits priesthood to males, are valid.
Our ordaining bishops were ordained by women bishops who were ordained by a male bishop still in good standing with the Vatican whose name will be released upon his death. He said that he did this not for the women who are called but for the life of the church.
We all answered the call to serve. We listened when God spoke no matter what it cost us.
It is also a matter of justice for women in the church. Just think of what it would mean for women worldwide if the largest Christian denomination would accept women as fully equal to men in ordination. No longer would the Catholic Church be silent in its failure to recognize women as equal.
President Jimmy Carter has made this point eloquently in his book when he said, “Religions that relegate women to second place have to bear responsibility for the pervasive violence against women.” He has been in communication with Pope Francis on this matter and we pray that the wisdom he brings will bear fruit.
Our branch of the movement, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, has already ordained six priests this year. Locally, there are two women priests serving in Fort Myers, five located within the Diocese of Venice, with a total of nine priests and a deacon in Florida.
In Fort Myers, we celebrate Mass every Sunday at 2 p.m. in a church located in a house dedicated to that purpose and to help homeless individuals make a transition to permanent housing: Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, 2621 Central Ave. A hot meal follows and faith formation for children and youth.
On April 26, after much preparation, sixteen young people and adults were confirmed by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan in Sarasota.
All are welcome to join with us in worship on Sundays. On the first Tuesday, we also serve persons experiencing homelessness, who gather at the church to pray, share a meal, and seek resources and counseling. Many days are spent following up with those who have shared their needs. We have a score of faithful volunteers who help us serve the homeless and low income of our community.
The mission of Good Shepherd Ministries is to follow the mandate of Jesus in Matthew 25 by feeding, clothing and sheltering, ending homelessness one person at a time. To this end, we have collaborated with other agencies and have helped over 90 persons attain and maintain housing.
God speaks, God calls, and we are answering with women everywhere. Who are any of us to limit the voice of God?
The Rev. Judith Lee, ARCWP and The Rev. Judith Beaumont, ARCWP are co-pastors, The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers. arcwp.org