Archive | November 2014

Keep Your Eyes Open! Rev. Judy’s Homily for The First Sunday in Advent Nov. 30, 2014

Sometimes I feel like the girl in the picture at the right of J. Janda’s poem, “Patterns” as it appears on the Sunday Website of St. Louis University University:

A Poem To Sit With
The First Sunday of Advent B
November 30, 2014

It is a cartoon by Martin Espramer,OSB,  of a young woman sitting in a chair asleep with something like a broom leaning on a wall behind her and an angry bald headed man standing over her.  I don’t quite get the scene, is it a girl and a teacher, a cleaning woman and a boss, a father and a daughter? I am not sure and I am not inclined to accept the angry looking man as a God-figure-or the view that God is angry at our shortcomings.  But I am sure that I do fall asleep on the job. I am sure that I do too much and reflect too little. I am sure that I am not often true to my nature anymore because I rarely take time to be quiet, to experience, to think, pray, and ponder, appreciate, and write poetry. I am such a complex combination of needing to work actively for the kin-dom and live the social justice teachings of Christ and the church as in our Matthew 25 readings of last week, and needing to stop and be quiet and share the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in words and poems. With that dual focus balance is needed and I have lost it for the time being. I am running (away) too much, as Janda suggests and as the prophet Isaiah (63:17) suggests when he says we are wandering far from God. I can identify with Isaiah’s feeling that even our good deeds are polluted and we have all withered like leaves (Isaiah 64:6). I know when I am “off balance” because I get grumpy and angry and exhausted. I feel very much like a withered leaf. I have often said that it is God’s creation, particularly the life abundant at my little lake that grounds me. And yet, there are days when I do not spare even the few minutes it takes to step outside and feed the ducks, ibis, fish and turtles and appreciate the deep beauty and meaning of those moments-the “Thank you, God!” and restoration that those moments bring. There are times when I let that which means the most to me become just one more chore. But, whenever I make even the slightest effort I am rewarded with peace and joy and awe of that God who restores us (Psalm 80) and strengthens us (I Cor 3:9) and is, as Isaiah says, our Mother/Father and the potter who shapes and molds us with care and love.

So, I appreciate Advent when we are to stop a while and open our eyes to what is around us and really see it, as if for the first time. That is what alertness and being watchful means to me. Not to wait for something or someone to come, but to open my eyes and see who is already here and what is surrounding me. To really see and experience the moment. The beautiful spiritual poet J. Janda captures this need to watch, and see. (This is from the St. Louis website, under Spirituality of the Readings on

What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'” (Gospel)

Patterns         by J. Janda
Again I was running
from you, Lordwhen I fell
that field
clover filled
filigree butterflies
enameled bugs
apple leaves

blue chicory
running rabbits
daisies gold
white—all in

J. Janda

(The  poem comes from Janda’s book,
If you wish to order a copy go to     ). 
 photo 2Good Shepherd’s Youth Leader Efe Jane Cudjoe appreciating the sunflowers in an airport in Thailand during her semester of study abroad from Brown University. 

As we light the first candle, the candle of hope, in the advent wreath tomorrow may we be filled with the hope that we may refresh and renew our lives this Advent-time; that all that is withered within us may be brought to life again; that we will look and see God’s creation, the beauty in each lined and anxious face we see, the sacred in the flowers, small animals and birds and most especially the sacredness of God’s people-young and old, beautiful and withered. Let us hope that we can learn to wait with anticipation for God with us, of Emanuel, of the Christ-child and of the Christ. And let us hope to then work to renew the world with the Spirit of the Living God burning bright within us-like the candle of hope for a weary world.

There is a song by Daniel Iverson that I first heard in St. Michael, a black and Hispanic Roman Catholic Church in Hartford Connecticut where my soul was renewed.. We will sing it tomorrow as we recall that in this waiting time, this advent, our Potter is still with us renewing our souls and creating us anew:

“Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

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.”

In this time of anticipation of the coming of Christ once again may we, in stillness and hope, know deeply that we and this world can be made new again.


Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida


Walking the Walk:Rev Judy’s Homily for the Reign of Christ Sunday Nov. 23,2014

A few weeks ago I was visiting our youngest Sunday school class, for 4-6 year olds, and they were coloring two pictures: a picture of cute little sheep and lambs in a field and a picture of Jesus carrying a little lamb in his arms. The teacher, one of our parents,  was teaching: God loves you and God takes care of the little sheep; Jesus loves you and takes care of you. I sat down and praised the work they eagerly showed me. We sang “Jesus loves me” and I got ready to go, saying that they were a beautiful group of little lambs. Bobbie,6, asked me what a lamb was. I said a baby sheep. Riah,5, said to me “Well, I am not a sheep!” I had to agree that they were beautiful little girls and that God loved each of them very much. It was too hard to explain that sheep stand for many things in the scriptures, including God’s people,but I gave it a good try.


In the first reading for this Sunday,Ezekiel 34:11-12, the prophet Ezekiel is following up on a ten verse challenge to the shepherds of Israel who have lost the sheep, who take care of themselves instead of the flock, who actually feed off the flock. In verses eleven and twelve God takes the sheep back and looks after them, searching for them, rescuing them and giving them good pasture land.  In Verse 16b God says “I will shepherd the flock with justice”. God, the Good Shepherd, goes on to say that the fat sheep push the thin ones out of the way and drive away the weak sheep. Reading this passage as a 21st Century Christian and Roman Catholic Christ follower, I am pleased that we can dissent even as Ezekiel did. Rev. Charles Curran,  a famous moral theologian who disagrees with the church on many things, calls this loyal dissent. Isn’t this what the prophets did? Isn’t this what Ezekiel is saying? Watch out you so called shepherds-you are losing the sheep and driving them away. Pope Francis lives a lifestyle of simplicity and reaches out to the poor and outcast no matter what the other shepherds are doing. He challenges us to “have the smell of sheep” on us-to be deeply and closely involved with the sheep.


Jesus, in the famous Matthew 25:31-46 passage, minces no words. He is telling us that to walk the walk of building the kingdom/kin-dom of God we are to feed the hungry, give the thirsty a drink, shelter the  homeless, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, and visit the prisoners. To do this is to serve Jesus, the Christ. To do this is to serve God. To do this is to care for the sheep.In another Jesus given metaphor: if we love him we are to feed the sheep, ewes, and lambs. Anything less than this is to talk the talk sitting on our rear ends. It counts for nothing.  In this passage Jesus also separates the doers from the talkers and lets us know clearly that “as often as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these,you neglected to do it to me” (V.46). There is no eternal life in this. Love is an action word. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta says: “Love is not words. It is action. Our vocation is to love”.


The Good Shepherd is both the name and the metaphor for our church. We teach that each one is to serve the next one. We serve mostly the hungry, homeless, formerly homeless, underemployed,unemployed, thirsty, not well clothed, sick, prisoners and other outcasts. We serve one another. There are moments of great joy in our church and tomorrow we will affirm the baptism of a young adult man who was almost dead from an opportunistic infection, struggling for life in the hospital a year ago to date. As he was baptized by me in the hospital he is really happy to make and affirm baptismal promises when he is healthy again a year later. He has a difficult life of battling opportunistic infections and sometimes he is difficult within his family as he and they deal with what it means to battle virulent disease so young. Yet, we are so thankful for the miracle of his life and his desire to follow Christ.  The work of such service is often joyful.  But just as often it is very difficult as the needs never stop, and the resources ,including human resources needed to serve, are never enough. There are moments of almost screaming-help, we can’t do this anymore,send some help, please!  There are moments of impatience and frustration- saying when will that one ever see the light for his or her life? There are moments of anger when one larger sheep grabs all the best food being served or when we are treated to a diatribe of curse words as someone frustrated with not having what is needed yells at the closest people he or she can find.  There are no saints here, just a small group of  very human folks trying to be good shepherds. And we can only pray that at the end of the day, we too will be lifted up and carried by the Shepherd. This is our faith. And in the meantime, let us continue the work of the reign of God,the work of the good shepherd.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

I am also sharing here the words of Fr. Ron Rolheiser who wrote an excellent homily for this Sunday on the Spirituality of the Readings on the St. Louis University Website:

In Exile
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
King of the Universe
November 23, 2014

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did

for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Gospel)

Give Drink to the Thirsty

When we think of the essentials of the Christian faith we generally associate these with belief in a certain creed, acceptance of various dogmas, adherence to a certain moral code, especially as it pertains to private morality, involvement with a church community, and with having some personal relationship to Christ in our lives.

Now, while these things are essential and may never be denigrated, Jesus would add something else. For him, a criterion, in fact the criterion, for the practice of the Christian faith is the exercise of the corporal works of mercy. Have we fed the hungry? Given drink to the thirsty? Clothed the naked?

Jesus’ command to practice the corporal works of mercy is direct, uncompromising, and everywhere present in the entire New Testament. Taken as whole, every tenth line in the New Testament is a direct challenge to the Christian to reach out to the physically poor. In Luke’s gospel, it is every sixth line. In the Epistle of James, it is every fifth line. Involvement with the poor is not a negotiable item. This is mandated with the same weight as is any creed, dogma, and moral or spiritual teaching.

And this may never be spiritualized. The command to be involved with the physically poor means just that, the physically poor. It is rationalizing when we turn the corporal works of mercy into something less concrete, namely, when we define the physically poor in such a wide sense so as to include everyone—“To feed the hungry can also mean feeding those who are spiritually hungry.” “To give drink to the thirsty can also mean giving spiritual nourishment to those who, while affluent materially, are hungry for deeper things.” There is a sense in which this is true, but that is not what Jesus intended in Matthew 25 and not what the church has perennially intended in its social teachings. There is a spiritual sense to hunger, thirst, and poverty, but that is addressed elsewhere, both in the New Testament and in church teachings. Reaching out to the deeper, non-material, hungers and thirsts of humanity is what is mandated in the spiritual works of mercy. The words of Jesus in the gospels challenging us to reach out to the physically poor are not intended spiritually. The corporal works of mercy are about reaching out to the physically poor, pure and simple.

So how do we give drink to the thirsty?

Text Box:  What is required is a change of heart and ultimately a change of lifestyle.Obviously, especially given what has just been said, there is an aspect to this that is brutally concrete. Water is even more important than food. Without water we die, are unable to wash ourselves and our clothing, and are unable to enjoy any quality of life whatever. To lack clean, drinkable water is to lack the first necessity of life. Hence, Jesus’ command to give drink to the thirsty is, first of all, about looking around ourselves and our world and trying to provide for every person on this earth clean, drinkable water.

This, given the present situation of the planet, is not easy to do. A long, and mostly morally sanctioned, history of privilege and inequality—wherein some of us have surplus while others lack for basic necessities—has made for a situation in which there is now a rationalized acceptance of the fact that millions of people lack the basic physical necessities for life, including clean, drinkable water. Thus, to get water to the thirsty today requires more than just the positive efforts being made by those individuals and agencies which are directly trying to bring clean water into poor areas. What is required, as well, is a change of heart and ultimately a change of lifestyle, by each of us who does have clean water.

As the great social encyclicals of the church, from Leo XIII through John Paul II, re-iterate over and over, clean water will come to everyone on the planet when those of us who have surplus, of any kind, live fully moral lives, namely when we accept that is it not right to have surplus while other lack necessities:

  • God intended the earth and everything in it for the sake of all human beings. … Thus created goods should flow fairly to all. All other rights, whatever they may be, are subordinated to this principle. (Popularum Progressio 22 & Gaudium et Spes 69)
  • No person or country may have surplus if others do not have the basic necessities.” (Rerum Novarum 19; Quadragesima Anno 50-51;Mater et Magistra 119-121; Popularum Progressio 230)

Giving drink to the thirsty involves looking at those principles with more moral courage than we have up to now.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser

Used with permission of the author, Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser. Currently, Father Rolheiser is serving as President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio Texas. He can be contacted through his web site,
Art by Martin Erspamer, O.S.B.
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C).
Used by permission of Liturgy Training Publications. This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go to:

The Parable of The Big Money: Rev. Judy’s Homily for Sunday Nov 16,2014

Followers of Jesus then and now earnestly seek to know God, and what God wants of us. All that Jesus said and did revealed answers to these age old questions and spoke to the need to experience the presence of the living God who wants love and justice to reign especially for the poor and the outcast.  Jesus was a highly popular rabbi/teacher and a supreme parabolist. Many teachers of his time taught in parables and Semitic teachers and others, even businessmen and politicians in the Near East and elsewhere continue to do this. It is a poetic, mystical and social way to speak. The word parable comes from a Greek word meaning “to put parallel or cast alongside”. Jesus told many stories to illuminate what the reign of God is like for ordinary and not highly educated people. The workers and the peasants flocked around him even as the most well trained in the Hebrew religion also sought him out.  Jesus’ parables illuminated what God is like and what God wants of God’s people.  Many would begin with “The kingdom of God is like, the kingdom of heaven is like (heaven is a word for God) or the reign of God is like….” Jesus’ parables were  short and simple stories and one liners and longer and complex parables that included wit and humor, irony and enlightenment. They often challenged temporal powers and values. They could be offensive as well as moving, exhilarating and hopeful.  In Aramaic and Hebrew the words are pelatha and mashal, each carrying the root of “it is like” or “it is similar to”. ( I am indebted to Rocco Errico, Aramaic Scholar and author, for “…And There Was Light”, Noohra Foundation, 1998:42-52, Noohra foundation for his thoughts on parables).  One of the difficulties in understanding Jesus’ parables is that we are centuries, cultures and languages away from the original telling and meanings. Later centuries have interpreted meanings which we accept as “the” meaning until we take a closer look. Later  meanings can also be significant, but it also helps in our search to consider the original meanings as best we can in such long retrospect.

This week  we have another complex parable of Jesus to consider. This one is often called the “parable of the talents” (Matthew 25:14-30). While many people know that talents were large sums of money in Jesus’ time the meaning of the parable has often been boiled down to “use your God-given gifts”,”don’t bury your talents in the ground”, “Use it or lose it”,  “don’t be afraid to use your gifts and talents for the kingdom”.  All of these are good admonitions but, as we read the whole parable closely and consider it in time and cultural context it might more appropriately be called the parable of Big Money.

Jesus begins this parable with “Again it is like a wealthy landowner who was going on a journey and…” This follows parables that start “the kingdom of heaven is or will be like” so the “it” is to explain or illuminate what the reign of God is and will be like.  As we read to the end of the parable this wealthy landowner is also “ruthless” and one who “reaps where he did not sow, and gathers where he did not scatter”(reminds us of a Ponzi scheme in another time and place) and “wrathful”. Clearly the wealthy landowner is not the hero here, he is not God nor the Christ figure, he is not the representative of God’s reign. He gives what may now be seen as millions of dollars to three “servants” so they can make some more money for him in his absence. He also expects usury or interest which is against the Mosaic Law. The first two do what he asks and he is pleased with them. The third may be afraid of him but he steps forward and essentially says” you are a cheat and a ruthless wrathful man, here is your money back”. He did not do what the dishonest wealthy landowner asked and he is brave enough to tell him off. If there is a Christ figure in this parable, it is this man. He did not buy into the big money scheme and he risked his life to tell his boss off. So when the cheating billionaire boss says ” Those who have will get more until they grow rich, while those who have not will lose even the little they have…” this is not virtue speaking but evil/sin itself.  It is not virtue to become rich making money into a god and “reaping where one does not sow”. It is not virtue for the rich to become richer and the poor poorer-it is sin/evil. The virtuous one is the one who does NOT buy into this system of thinking and getting money any way possible, and valuing money above all. It is the one who sees the system for what it is-dishonest and unjust- and who blows the cover of the richest and most powerful in the land who is the hero in this parable. Jesus’ followers who were just ordinary folks and poor folks, and women, strangers and the outcast, would have identified with and cheered for this hero.    Finally, in understanding the meaning of giving talents away and expecting unfair return on them, we get the true meaning Jesus is trying to convey.  This is a covert parable about the rich  who Jesus earlier said were like the rope (the Aramaic gamla in context meaning rope not camel) trying to pass through the eye of a needle- only with great difficulty will they become a part of the kingdom of heaven or positive actors in the reign of God on earth (Mt.19:23). Jesus’ hearers may well have also heard of him telling “the rich young man” of Matthew 19, who did follow the Law to go the second and third mile and give away his possessions to put his “treasure in heaven” and follow Christ. Jesus offends the rich and embraces the poor. Jesus asks the rich to put their riches into the service of the poor and to eradicating poverty. Jesus message is revolutionary-it turns things upside down. He will be punished for this and once again in almost hidden ways (to some) he is making clear what will happen to him-and indeed to those who offend the rich and the powerful.

The rest of Matthew  25 (25:31-46), in the very next teaching about the sheep and the goats where Jesus shows that when we feed the hungry, clothe the unclothed, give drink to the thirsty, care for the sick and the imprisoned, and invite the stranger in, when we serve the “least of these brothers and sisters” we do it for Jesus.  Now the parable of the big money makes sense, all of us, but especially those with big money need to invest it in the poor and hungry in order to build the reign of justice and love, the reign of God on earth. This is what God wants of us. this is what the “perfect love” of Proverbs 31:10-31 does, she “holds out a hand to the poor, greeting the needy with open arms”. And this is what children of light DO, the opposite of the darkness described in the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians(1Thess 5:1-6)-this is what the light does, it illuminates the darkness of our souls when we live for ourselves, for material things, and not for building God’s reign of justice and love. This is the “darkness, where there is wailing and grinding of teeth” (and this phrase in Aramaic means to be in” deep anguish and regret”).  And it is not the servant who bravely did not follow the corrupt billionaire’s orders,who did not invest his bosses one talent( a LOT of money)  who is in deep anguish and regret, it is those who mindlessly buy into the system of building riches however you can, and then building their lives around the riches and not around God’s dream of love and justice for all, especially for the poor and outcast.

Among the top one percent who own over 85 percent of the world’s riches there are some few who do give it all away and live justice. There are foundations and individuals who find ways to make sure the playing field gets leveled. Thank God for them. This is what God asks of us.  And according to each of our abilities to give  money and time, skills  and treasures God wants this of each of us. Let us pray that we  will learn how to give ourselves away to those who need us most. Amen.


Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

Fort Myers, Florida






Embracing the Jewish Jesus

These days it is popular to choose the aspects of Jesus that blend easily with post-modern thought. I often wonder how the new cosmology is reduced to that which we can intellectually see and think. If anything it should help us instead to embrace infinity and let it be okay to say we cannot know definitely with our finite minds. How a clear vision of the cosmos blurs a clear vision of the Christ who lives and loves is a mystery to me. Although the many filters we see Jesus through have at times distorted the image, it is the challenge of every one who is a Christ follower to discover the risen and living  Jesus the Christ in his own time and throughout eternity. This article by James Carroll was sent to me by a very wise Jewish and humanist friend who said:

“I’m impressed with James Carroll over the years.  This is an extraordinary confession which persuades.”

I thank my friend, Professor George Getzel andPope Francis cartoon2 submit this as a reflection for our faith-filled search for the living Christ.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP

Jesus and the Modern Man
NOVEMBER 7, 2014
SOMETIMES, when I kneel alone in a pew in the far back shadows of a church, face buried in my hands, a forbidden thought intrudes: You should have left all this behind a long time ago. The joyful new pope has quickened the affection even of the disaffected, including me, but, oddly, I sense the coming of a strange reversal in the Francis effect. The more universal the appeal of his spacious witness, the more cramped and afraid most of his colleagues in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church have come to seem.

It is easy to love Pope Francis for his resounding defense of the poor, his simplicity, his evident large heart. But the moral grandeur of his personal triumph throws into stark relief the continuing pettiness of the institution over which he presides, a pettiness that inevitably seeks to impose itself on him. What magic, actually, can Francis’s singular magnanimity work on the church’s iron triangle of bureaucracy, dogma and male power?

The intruding voice in my head keeps asking, for example, why has Francis, too, joined in the denigration of American nuns?

Why is the culture of clerical immunity that unleashed a legion of priest-rapists being protected instead of dismantled?

Why in the world beatify, or advance toward sainthood, Pope Paul VI? With his solemn reiteration, in 1968, of the ban on contraception, that pontiff, whatever counterbalancing virtues he displayed, single-handedly made Roman Catholicism a church of bad conscience.

Is an awful truth about dogged church backlash on display here?

No one cares whether one bent man in a back pew, like me, throws in the altar cloth at last, but the religious disenchantment of the secular age puts the question even more broadly: Why the church at all? Yet as soon as the voice in my head forces the question, I know the answer, although it’s hard to explain. Unlike many Protestants, Catholics have long put their practical faith more in the community of belief than in the person around whom that community gathers.

We are on intimate terms with saints, the mother of God, the parish priest, the good sisters, fellow Knights of Columbus or Legionnaires of Mary; we make our home in the seasons of the year, from Lent and Easter to Advent and Christmas; the trusty liturgical cycle; a beloved sacrament for each stage of life; the silence before and after Mass; holy water. But what’s left when, owing to intrusions of power or sex or new ideas, the ancient solidarity cracks?

Compared, say, with Evangelicals, we Catholics do not speak easily of Jesus Christ: no “closer walks” for us.

Yet Jesus Christ is the point of all the smells, bells, rules and dogma; the point, finally, of being Catholic. Ironically, the failures of the church make that point with power, for it is when one dares imagine the deliberate act of lapsing that the image of Jesus Christ snaps into foreground focus. Here, perhaps, is the key to Pope Francis’s astounding arrival, for beyond all matters of style, doctrine and behavior, he is offering a sure glimpse of a fleeting truth about the faith: The man on his knees washing the feet of the tired poor is the Son of God.

Francis is pointing more to that figure than to himself, or even to the church, which is why institution-protecting conservatives are right to view him with alarm. For this pope, the church exists for one reason only — to carry the story of Jesus forward in history, and by doing that to make his presence real. Everything else is rubrics.

So what can a modern person believe about Jesus? There are intellectual obstacles to faith. The church has always shaped what it believes in terms drawn from the prevailing worldview, but history is the record of one worldview yielding to the next — from Ptolemy and Aquinas to Copernicus and Darwin to Einstein and Hubble.

More than a century ago, the church was thrown for a loop by the mind of modernity, and even now struggles to assimilate the established ideas that change is essential to the human condition; that truth is always seen from a particular point of view; that all language about God falls short of God.

And, speaking of God, in what way, actually, can Jesus be said to be divine? A scientifically minded believer wants to discard that notion, but before he does, he should remember that if Jesus were not regarded as somehow divine almost from the start of his movement, we would never have heard of him. And if faith in the divinity of Jesus is left behind because it fails the test of contemporary thought, Jesus will ultimately be forgotten. Is it possible that contemporary thought can learn from this old article of faith? What if the so-called divinity of Jesus lays bare not so much the mystery of God as the majesty of what it is to be human?

But, in addition to intellectual barriers, there are moral obstacles to faith in Jesus, too — not just the blatant sins of the church like sex abuse or misogyny, but also sacrosanct core traditions of Christianity that turn out to be grotesque distortions of who Jesus was.

Chief among these is the way in which the full and permanent Jewishness of Jesus was forgotten, so much so that his story is told in the Gospels themselves as a story of Jesus against the Jews, as if he were not one of them. Against the way Christians often remember it, Jesus did not proclaim a New Testament God of love against an Old Testament God of judgment (which girds the anti-Jewish bipolarity of grace versus law; generosity versus greed; mercy versus revenge). Rather, as a Shema-reciting son of Israel, he proclaimed the one God, whose judgment comes as love.

Imagined as a zealot who attacked the Temple, Jesus, on the contrary, surely revered the Temple, along with his fellow Jews. If, as scholars assume, he caused a disturbance there, it was almost certainly in defense of the place, not in opposition to it. The narrative denouement of this conflicted misremembering occurred in the 20th century, when the anti-Semitism of Nazism laid bare the ultimate meaning of the church’s religious anti-Judaism.

The horrified reckoning after the Holocaust was the beginning of the Christian reform that remains the church’s unfinished moral imperative to this day.

Most emphatically, that reform must be centered in a critical rereading of the Gospel texts, so that the misremembered anti-Jewish Jesus can give way to the man as he was, and to the God whom he makes present in the lives of all who cannot stop seeing more than is before their eyes.

Such retrieval of the centrality of Jesus can restore a long-lost simplicity of faith, which makes Catholic identity — or the faith of any other church — only a means to a larger communion not just with fellow Jesus people, but with humans everywhere. All dogmas, ordinances and accretions of tradition must be measured against the example of the man who, acting wholly as a son of Israel, eschewed power, exuded kindness, pointed to one whom he called Father, and invited those bent over in the shadowy back to come forward to his table”.

You Are God’s Building: Rev. Judy’s Homily on the Feast of the Lateran Basilica-Sun 11/9/14

“The basilica of Saint John Lateran was built under pope Melchiade (311-314), it’s the most ancient church in the world. Due to the fact that the pope is also the bishop of Rome, Saint John in Lateran – being seat of the bishop’s residence – is also Rome’s Cathedral.”

This Sunday our weekly celebrations in Ordinary Time are suspended to celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. This church is considered by the Roman Church the ‘mother church of Christendom’, dedicated in Rome on November 9th, 324 CE. Unlike many other early churches it has withstood invasions, vandals, storms and time. Its endurance through history sets it apart but other churches may claim even earlier ‘mother church status’. For example, St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt claims to be standing on the site of the church founded by St. Mark the Evangelist in 60 CE. This represents the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, predating the founding of the Roman church. And in Jerusalem where it all began, sites of churches date back to the crucifixion and the empty grave,ie. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In Bethlehem there is a church,The Church of The Nativity, built over a cave where animals would have been stabled, thought to be the humble birth place of Jesus, though no site in the Holy Land is undisputed.  I remember,to the surprise of my friends and my own surprise at an experience of involuntarily falling to my knees to pray in this church at the opening of this cave. I did not at all expect it to be a place of call and reaffirmation of my faith,yet it was. I would have expected that more at the River Jordan or Golgotha, or the tomb, if at all. But we do not really choose such experiences.

Many pilgrims  love to seek out holy places feeling perhaps a thin wall there between us and the presence of God. I took a Zionist tour with a dear friend through Israel in the early 1980’s when many beautiful Jewish holy places were visited, including the West Wall of the Temple destroyed in 70 CE. Jews were carefully guided as they approached this holy place to pray and place petitions in the wall. The very wall was thought to have retained the presence and power of God. We later toured the Christian holy places on our own. I remember the cacophony of noise as priests of various Christian persuasions loudly clamored for us to visit their section of the major churches.They depended on the money charged and the tips made in the church even as the high priests in Jesus’ day depended on the fees and meat from the sacrifice of animals. I could viscerally understand Jesus’ revulsion at the commercial ventures in the Temple of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem itself was a polyglot cry of prayer that sounded almost competitive as Muslims, Christians and Jews called upon God. I preferred sitting quietly in awe at the side of the vast ” Sea of Galilee’,climbing to the Mount of the Beatitudes, and standing in the blanched remains of the ancient temple in Capernaum/Capharnum where Jesus was known to live and preach. And here in Fort Myers, I prefer to pray standing at the edge of my little lake so full of life or visiting the  nearby Gulf of Mexico.


Some people seek large and beautiful cathedrals like Notre Dame or Chartres or St. Patrick’s Cathedral to feel God’s presence. Some are happy to see the gold and silver that adorn the altars and drape around the priests in some churches feeling that God deserves the best we have to offer.But is this finery the best we have to offer?  Others find God in the out door cathedral of the mountains or the sea at sunrise or sunset. Some are repelled by this show of wealth when so many are hungry. Some find God while serving in the Soup Kitchen or hospice. With Pope Francis we may see God in simplicity. When we took our youth group to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. they had mixed reactions. Our young man,Keeron, and one of our young women,Jolinda, could not translate it into church. The boy just turned off. He was also angry at the suggested donation for lighting a candle, rightly complaining that it should never cost money to pray.  The girls looked carefully at the diversity in the statues and marveled at the beautiful statues and paintings, but Jolinda was overwhelmed. She said “Pastor Judy, I like our church better. It is like our home. This could never be anyone’s home.”  Her older sister said, “it’s more like a museum” while her younger sister said she liked it because it was beautiful.


But the church is not a building and Jesus showed us that God’s presence could not be contained in a building. We can love and remember places where we first worshiped in truth or first met Christ. I still love to go back to Bethany Methodist Church in Brooklyn and St. Michaels’ RC church in Hartford where I met God and God’s people in a special way. I feel surrounded by saints present and gone before in both places and now in our own small church in Fort Myers. Even when the people are not there, the very walls and floors where we worship are holy.  I loved visiting the churches in the Holy Land. Some love the churches of Rome and some love the holy wells and holy places of Ireland, Wales, Lourdes, Ethiopia, Egypt, India and else where. Wherever we meet God or recognize God within us and among us it is a holy place. We do not need to prove which is really the first or Mother church, or worse, the “real” church of Christ.

I love Paul’s wording in his letter to the Corinthians(1 Cor 3:9c,17) “”Brothers and sisters: You are God’s building”….””the temple of God, which you are,is holy”. For Paul each one who follows Christ and all of us together throughout time become the body of Christ-the church.


In the Gospel of the day, John 2:13-22 Jesus passionately cleanses the Temple and then relocates the temple in himself, saying if they kill him, he will rise again in three days-all acts of revolutionary courage and enough to get him killed. And in his living, his teaching and healing, his dying and his rising, the church was born.

Let us look at the readings of the day as they appear in our liturgy:

Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12 -the water flowed from the Temple giving abundant life everywhere

Psalm 46 R. The waters of the River gladden the City of God,the holy dwelling of the Most High

I Cor.3:9c-11,16-17 You are God’s Building , the Spirit of God dwells in you-holy you

HOLY GROUND            Alleluia…  the Gospel    John 2: 13-22

“He drove them all out of the Temple area with the sheep and the oxen….and doves…and he said take these out of here…” Jesus loved the Temple. We see him in the Temple astounding the elders and being about his Parent’s business at twelve. We see him in Nazareth reading the Temple scrolls from Isaiah saying ‘the Spirit of God is upon me, for I am anointed to preach good news to the poor… and this day this prophecy is fulfilled”. We often see him preaching in the Temples in Galilee and in Jerusalem. He knew well the rituals of his people and the Scripture we read from Ezekiel 47 that helps us picture the living waters that bring life flowing from the side of the temple. (Later interpreted as the water and blood from his side on the cross). Along the banks of the river growth flourished-“Their fruit shall serve for food and their leaves for medicine”. Nourishment and healing flow from the living water of the temple, flow from the presence of God.  The writer of John writes that Jesus referred to himself as the temple in this Gospel text. Jesus the Christ became that temple, and we too become, through Jesus, the risen and living Christ, the living temple of the living God. We become the living and chosen stones of God’s building. God’s presence abides with us as the church. This is truly awesome.

Jesus even loved the Temple enough to try to set it right when it went astray. In driving the animals and doves out, he is liberating them and showing that God does not want animal sacrifice although the Temple has become dedicated to that,with the priests and others living physically and materially off these sacrifices.   God wants love, justice and mercy according to the prophets ( Hosea 6:6,Amos, 5:21-14). God wants us to love God and to love our neighbors,even the most outcast among them, as ourselves, according to Jesus. God wants our lives in service to one another, not our dead animals as burnt offerings, not even the best of them.  God’s house is not a marketplace or a slaughterhouse, it is a place where living waters, wonderful teachings about justice and love, flow (as in Ezekiel 47).  Life and healing blooms where this water touches. Jesus is changing the rules and the rituals of the religion. This is revolutionary. They will surely kill him for it. But he tells them he will rise up in three days (John 2:19). They can torture and kill his body but they cannot kill the living God and stop the living water. Let us pray to have the courage of Jesus and set right the wrongs that are practiced within our religion especially when it is tinged with privilege,materialism and the exclusion of those whom God loves but some in the church prefer to exclude from the Table.

Let us honor our lives and the lives of all of our neighbors as Holy Ground. Every time we worship, those gathered in our little church in a small humble house in a poor community sing: “This is holy ground, we’re standing on holy ground, for our God is present and where God is is holy”. For the second chorus we place our hands over our hearts for each one of us is holy ground full of God’s presence.Then we reach out toward our neighbors declaring ourselves and our neighbors as holy ground.  This ritual started when we worshiped with the hungry and homeless (many of whom are still with us) in the local park after providing an evening meal. Let us pray to see the face of God in all, especially those who are outcast, hungry and homeless and struggling to survive.  Let us pray for inclusion and justice for all. Let us pray to be truly holy ground revealing the presence of God.AMEN.

This is our church inside and out of the building

But, our people know- They Are The

Building- This Is Holy Ground



Rev.Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida

Autumn with The Good Shepherd Community, Birthdays and New Homes

Autumn has been a beautiful time here at the Good Shepherd Community in Fort Myers, Florida. The air is light and clear as the humidity disappears in the gentle wind. The days are warm and bright and the evenings cooler giving energy for all that must be done. Our young people have their feet on the ground after their mid September Trip to Washington D.C. They are working hard at College and school and, along with their younger family members and friends  in the Junior and Little Lambs classes, they are again working hard to learn what it means to love and follow Jesus. Several have had Autumn birthdays.

This is Linda, mother of seven of our young people and teacher of our Little Lambs who celebrated a September Birthday.



Jolinda, Natasha, Keeondra and Keeron all have Autumn Birthdays

IMG_0004This is Natasha celebrating her Nineteenth Birthday with the church yesterday, 11/2/14. We are so proud of her as she works hard at her first semester of college courses at FGCU and holds down a part time job. Natasha also took the time to write an account of the trip to Washington. She described her awe at the”very tall and amazing King Memorial” noting “I was in love with the many MLKJr. quotes surrounding his statue”.  She also enjoyed “The Roosevelt’s Memorial” where “I particularly liked eleanore’s Monument because of what she represents to me.  She is a strong woman who wanted to make change…and strive for peace”. She thought many of the First Lady’s dresses exhibited at the Smithstonian were beautiful  but that “going inside the White House was amazing, and something that I will always remember.” She, like the others wrote about all they saw and enjoyed, but she added another level of what the trip meant to they young people: “I also got to witness many sites that may not have been so historical,for example the sight of two old friends reuniting when Pastor Judy Lee and youth group friend Martha met after several years, and the sight of someone just excited to show kids something they haven[t seen before-Pastor Judy B. is the best tour Guide!  Our church and our Pastors really care for their kids!”.   Keeron wrote about the excitement of seeing “the President’s work place-his office in the White House-a rare-once in a life-time experience” , and his amazement at the King Memorial. “It was an honor to see a black male statue created to serve as freedom and justice for what he stood for. Seeing his Monument is a breath-taking sight…. ”  He concluded with his gratitude for all the firsts this trip represented: “first airplane and bus and subway rides and all the history”. Jolinda and Keeondra also wrote a beautiful travelogue and focused on the firsts. Jolinda added ” Going to Washington is really something I will always remember….everything about it….I enjoyed the company of everyone and we all had the best time ever! Thank you….I would not have seen any of this if it were not for our church”.  Keeondra added “I couldn’t believe I rode in an airplane, a trolley and even a subway for the very first time in my whole entire life…and what sealed the deal was doing this with the people I really love”. Keeondra’s “whole entire life” will be fourteen years on November 27th and Jolinda was seventeen in September and Keeron will be seventeen two days before Keeondra is fourteen.  It is a very special joy to share this beautiful growingIMG_0054 time in their lives.

                                                           Happy Seventeenth Birthday, Jolinda

Our Junior class members had some birthdays and special events as well. On October 12th it was Marcella’s thirteenth birthday. IMG_0017

This is Marcella with her friend Aleigha on Marcella’s 13th Birthday. 

Our ministry partner,Good Shepherd Board Member and friend Stella Odie-Ali also celebrated a special October 20th Birthday last week. This is Stella with her family, including her sister Doreen also our supporter.

IMG_0150 - Copy IMG_0152 - Copy  IMG_0122 - Copy IMG_0124 - Copy IMG_0125 - Copy IMG_0126 - Copy

Keion also had a thirteenth birthday on October 20th . Here is celebrating with the rest of the Sunday School members. Eric,standing next to me, also has a November 2nd thirteenth Birthday. And our triplets will be 6 on November 6th. We are enjoying celebrating our Autumn Birthdays. 


We also had two other very important celebrations. Good Shepherd helped Aleigha and her Aunt Jody move to into their new apartment home at the end of October. Aleigha was especially excited about having her own room for the first time. And we also helped Lydia,74, to move into her own Senior housing after having to move in with her large family after illness and the death of her husband. Lydia fell in love with Palm Harbor when she visited in May and she was able to move in at the end of October. She is so happy to have her own affordable place again.  We are truly blessed to accompany our people as they make milestones in their lives. Thanks be to The Father’s Table Foundation for assisting us in our work. Thanks be to God for our walk together.


Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP,

Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers

Some Reflections on Recent Events for All Saints and All Souls Days

First we have a reflection of John Brock who attended Ecclesia-Street Church Ministry’s “Come and See”-an annual retreat/ holy gathering for those who do street ministry and serve the poorest. It is a beautiful reflection about creating safe and holy space for worship and reflection with those we serve.

By John Brock-Reflection  11/1/14
“I plowed to unearth last years’s reasons–the farmer plows to plant a greening season.
From “The Harrowing” by Parker Palmer

A reflection on leaving a weekend shared with fellow street chaplains. pastors, and priests.

We use the phrase “safe container” to include ritual, church walls, community, presence, shrines, prayer, companionship, vigils, sunrise, and many more. It’s a phrase that means a “space” where there is no fear of the bottomlessness of existence. Often it’s an intentionally entered, liminal space that the leaders and the participants enter together, without fear, into the mystery of kairos, time experienced without measure. There is trust in the path. Leaders have walked that way before. Others find confidence in the leaders’ presence.

In that space the divine is enterally present in living sense of being. Entering that space is entering into creation itself; the physical presence of creation and act of creation united as one. There is seldom a sudden breaking of time and space, seldom a miraculous revelation of an objective, extraordinary divinity. More often there is a quiet opening to the living manifestation of divinity within the daily bread of life.

In those eternal moments there is no need for fear, no desire for measured control. Whatever baggage there is to carry ceases to be important. Resentment fades to forgiveness; worry shifts to hope; anger to resolve; fear to love; distant goals to present action.

This is the work we do. As leaders we walk in this space as an invitation for others to join us.

This is not new. Leaders over the centuries have moved this way. As we do now. In the Christian tradition we look to leaders such as Mary the mother of Jesus, the apostle Paul, Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, George Fox, and Thomas Merton. Other traditions have their leaders as well. All say simply, using their own language and terms, “There is no need to move or wait. God is not out there. God is right here, right now.”

THEN we have the Good News about Roman Catholic Women Priests from a South African Perspective.

Printed online in Mail and Guardian   10/31/14 by Mbuyiselo Botha:

Patriarchy Must Be Defrocked

Women priests who defy Catholic doctrine and demand equality should be applauded

A few weeks ago, Mary Ryan became the second South African woman to be ordained as a Catholic priest. The Catholic Church does not, of course, acknowledge this ordination.

In fact, in 2007, the Vatican declared that even attempting to ordain women would lead to excommunication, the harshest punishment the church leadership can mete out.

But Ryan and her colleagues bravely persisted.

Patricia Fresen, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle and the first South African woman to become a Catholic priest, oversaw Ryan’s ordination ceremony, during which she said: “In South Africa in particular we know that the only way to change an unjust law is to break it. And that is what we are doing today.”

Roman Catholic Womenpriests is a growing movement that began in Austria and Germany in 2002 and now includes more than 180 female priests in 10 countries. These efforts should be applauded.

Even in South Africa, the Catholic Church stands out as a space where patriarchy is entrenched.

Women are not allowed to serve as priests because they are supposed to operate in “separate spheres” from men, in “different but complementary roles” to which they are suited because of their “nature” as women.

As South Africans well know, “separate but equal” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

According to the Catholic Church, the priesthood isn’t just a role: it involves an “indelible spiritual character” that women somehow don’t possess.

The argument that Jesus was a man and therefore only men can be priests is hardly convincing.

Though there are many tomes describing and defending the theological roots of these arguments, it is hard to get past the fact that this kind of discrimination flies in the face of many of the church’s other teachings about equality and humanity.

Practices such as excluding women from the Catholic priesthood are not just matters of concerns because they are inherently discriminatory and unfair. Patriarchal culture breeds sexual abuse and violence, as we have seen in the church’s recent child abuse scandals, and as we see every day in South Africa.

The writer Amanda Marcotte summarised this concern well when she wrote that, although many were shocked when the child abuse scandals broke, “for feminists, the pattern of silencing victims and letting rapists roam free didn’t surprise us at all”.

“In patriarchal societies, letting the rapists off and revictimising the victims is standard operating procedure. The Catholic Church is even more patriarchal than society at large and, unsurprisingly, that made the problem of rapist-coddling and victim-silencing even worse.”

Despite growing Catholic support for the use of birth control, gay marriage and even women priests, the Vatican has made it clear that the Church is not and will not become a democracy.

The movement of women priests thus raises challenging questions. Can one be a Catholic and a feminist? Can or should religious institutions be truly democratic?

These questions have been written about and fiercely debated for decades – for centuries in some cases.

Regardless of where you stand on the matter of female priests, these women should be applauded for bravely standing up to express their beliefs in the face of patriarchal forces that too often silence any discussion.

The Catholic Church has a rich history of social teachings. Many of its core messages focus on loving and uplifting the oppressed, the excluded, the vulnerable and weak. Pope Francis should be applauded for trying to revive the church’s focus on these kinds of messages. He has spoken passionately about the dangers of limitless capitalism, climate change and gay-bashing.

Yes, let’s regulate markets so they don’t ravage the poor and let’s take care of the environment. But why not also take a hard look in the mirror at some of the church’s most basic practices?

Pope Francis has, in many ways, been the answer to progressive Catholics’ prayers; hence, many were disappointed with his statement last year that “the door is closed” on the idea of women priests.

Yet, as we know in the struggle for women’s equality, “the door is closed” should be the beginning of the conversation, not the end of it.

Mbuyiselo Botha is the media liaison manager of Sonke Gender Justice.

AND, in the same Mail and Guardian we have two Reflections on Pope Francis and his impact on current thought:

Gay rights: Is the pope still Catholic?

24 OCT 2014 00:00 JOHN HOOPER

Italy’s leaders and the Vatican are battling to close the gap between church doctrine and modern life.

Despite protests outside the city hall Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino (centre) binds Tommaso Giartosio (left) and Gianfranco Goretti in marriage. (AFP)

Italy would not be Italy if it did not reflect faithfully the divisions that have brought turmoil to the leadership of the Catholic Church.

Last Saturday, as the Vatican was revealing that conservative bishops had blocked a distinctly guarded welcome to “men and women of homosexual tendencies”, 16 gay couples whose marriages abroad had just been registered by the mayor of Rome were being hustled out through a back exit of the city hall to avoid a clash with protesters.

Pope Francis and Italy’s centre-left prime minister, Matteo Renzi, are following remarkably similar paths. Just as the Argentinian pontiff is striving to close the gap between his church’s doctrine and the realities of modern life, so Renzi is striving to update the laws of a country where attitudes have changed rapidly.

In 2012, an extensive government survey found sharp contrasts about homosexuality among Italians. A quarter of the respondents regarded it as an illness. Half agreed that the best thing for gay people was “not to tell others”. Yet almost two-thirds felt homosexuals in partnerships should have the same rights as married couples. A recent poll suggested a majority of Italians now favoured the introduction of gay marriage.

Yet the Italian Constitution continues to recognise the family as “a natural society founded on matrimony”, and the partners in civil unions, whether hetero- or homosexual, have no legal status. Leaving aside small states such as Monaco, Italy is the only country in western Europe that still holds this position. Even fervently Catholic Malta has passed legislation to give legal status to civil unions.

“In Italy, we still lack even the most fundamental entitlements,” said Domenico Pasqua, one of the men whose marriages were recognised on Saturday. “For example, you have no right to see your partner in hospital if the family objects.”

Life-and-death decisions can be taken by relatives on behalf of a patient from whom they have been estranged while the patient’s partner is kept in the dark. If the patient dies, the partner will not inherit the home they bought together.

“A 50% share goes to the family, and the surviving partner, who is legally a third party, must pay 30% inheritance tax on the rest,” said Fabrizio Marrazzo, the president of Arcigay, Italy’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lobby group.

Pressure for change has been mounting since July when the mayor of Naples gave official recognition to the marriage of an Italian man and his Spanish partner. Since then a string of other first citizens have followed his example. “But what has happened in Rome is more important, both because it is the capital and because of the presence of the Vatican,” said Marrazzo.

Renzi’s reaction was to declare that he would table a Bill to legalise civil unions. But he added that it would have to take its place behind constitutional reform and a new electoral law.

Political dynamite
Civil unions are still political dynamite. The Vatican’s opposition to a similar Bill hastened the downfall of Romano Prodi’s centre-left government in 2008. Renzi is in a weaker position, dependent for his survival on the New Centre Right (NCD), led by Angelino Alfano, his interior minister.

The protest outside the city hall was organised by the NCD. Alfano’s ministerial representative in Rome, the prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro, told the daily Il Messaggero that “the registration of those marriages must be cancelled. I shall be annulling everything on Monday.”

Across the Tiber on Sunday, Pope Francis was celebrating a mass to close the synod and beatify Paul VI, the pope who presided over the later stages of the reforming Second Vatican Council. In his sermon, Francis quoted his predecessor: “By carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods … to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society.”

For Marrazzo, the outcome of the synod was not a defeat. The number of bishops who voted in favour of the passage in the final report that called for gay people to be “welcomed with respect and delicacy” may have fallen short of the two-thirds necessary for official approval, but nevertheless represented a clear majority – 118 out of 180.

“That puts [the synod] ahead of the Italian Parliament, where there has never even been a majority for a law against homophobia, let alone one for civil unions,” he said. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

Pope Francis: Evolution and Creation Both Right    Mail and Guardian, Guardian Reporter

It is possible to believe in evolution and the Catholic Church’s teaching on creation, Pope Francis has said, as he cautioned against portraying God as a kind of magician who made the universe with a magic wand.

“The big bang, which is today posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creation; rather, it requires it,” the pope said in an address to a meeting at the pontifical academy of sciences.

“Evolution of nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings, which evolve.”

Pope Francis (77) said it was easy to misinterpret the creation story as recounted in the Book of Genesis, according to which God created heaven and Earth in six days and rested on the seventh.

“When we read the creation story in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining that God was a magician, with a magic wand that is able to do everything,” he said.

“But it is not so. He created beings and let them develop according to internal laws, which He gave every one, so they would develop, so they would reach maturity.”

Although the pope was packaging the ideas with his trademark eye for a soundbite, the content of what he was saying does not mark a break with Catholic teaching, which has modified considerably since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Popes before him have also said that – with certain provisos – there is no incompatibility between evolution and God as divine creator. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

AND,FINALLY I missed this June 8th Article about Pope Francis Hosting a Prayer for Israeli -Palestinian Peace-a topic that  remains of critical importance.

Pope Hosts Israeli-Palestine Prayer to Foster Dialogue

Pope Francis on Sunday hosted an unprecedented joint peace prayer in the Vatican with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in a symbolic gesture aimed at fostering dialogue.

Abbas said he hoped the event in the Vatican Gardens at 1700 GMT, which will include Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers and the planting of an olive tree by all three leaders, would “help Israel decide”.

“The pope’s invitation was courageous,” Abbas said in an interview with the La Repubblica daily. “With this prayer we are sending a message to all believers of the three major religions and the others: the dream of peace must not die,” he said.

Peres, who is 90 years old and will be stepping down as president next month, was quoted by his office as saying on Sunday: “The spiritual call [for peace] is very important and affects reality.

“I hope the event will contribute to promoting peace between the two sides and throughout the world,” he said, adding that the conflict is “both political and religious” and “religious leaders resonate”.

‘Unusual call for peace’
He defined it “an unusual call for peace”. Tensions are running high between the two sides following the formation of a new Palestinian unity government backed by the Islamist group Hamas.

Israel has since announced plans for building 3 200 new settler homes and has said it will boycott what it denounces as a “government of terror”.

Peres said the Palestinian unity government was “a contradiction that can’t last very long” but Abbas defended it saying : “One should never reject a chance for dialogue, internally as well.” The Vatican is being realistic about the ceremony, which is unlikely to have any immediate effect.

“Nobody is fooling themselves that peace will break out in the Holy Land,” said Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Franciscan Order in the Middle East who is organising the historic event.

“But this time to stop and breathe has been absent for some time,” he told reporters at a briefing, adding: “Not everything is decided by politics.”

Francis made the offer to Abbas and Peres on his first visit as pontiff to the Middle East last month and ahead of the meeting on Sunday he reiterated his call for a Catholic Church able to “shake things up”.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Speaking to thousands of followers in St Peter’s Square, Francis pointed to the two colonnades around the plaza and said they were like “two arms which open to welcome but do not close again to imprison”.

Francis earlier admitted it would be “crazy” to expect any Vatican mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but said prayer might help. In a tweet from the pope’s @pontifex account on Saturday, Francis said: “Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world.”

The Vatican has defined the meeting as an “invocation for peace” but has stressed it will not be an “inter-religious prayer”, which would have posed problems for the three faiths. Peres is set to arrive at 1615 GMT followed shortly later by Abbas, with Francis welcoming them outside St Martha’s Residence where he lives in the Vatican.

In the Vatican Gardens, the prayers will be recited in chronological order of the world’s three main monotheistic religions, starting with Judaism, followed by Christianity and then Islam. The prayers from each of the three will focus on “creation”, “invocation for forgiveness” and “invocation for peace” and will be read in Arabic, English, Hebrew and Italian, the Vatican said.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim professor Omar Abboud, two friends of Francis’s from Buenos Aires who travelled with him and prayed together on his trip to the Middle East will also attend. The Vatican said the event, which has been carefully planned in detail, was “a pause from politics”.

Friday was ruled out since it is a Muslim holy day and Saturday for the same reason for the Jewish community, while Sunday is Pentecost for Catholics – a day of celebration of the Holy Spirit considered appropriate for the event. The choice of the Vatican Gardens as a location is also significant since it was considered the most neutral territory within the Vatican City, with none of the Christian iconography that might be seen as offensive to the other two faiths. – AFP

The golden threads running through these reflections are love, justice, inclusion and peace. May these be our prayers on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, so that those who died holding on to these threads may rejoice!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee