Celebrating Our Body of Christ-Especially our Graduates at the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
At the end of our celebration on this feast day of the Body of Christ we celebrated some of our own members achievements.
Most notably our Efe E. Jane Cudjoe was graduated from Brown University with Honors. She is pursuing a Research Fellowship and will then go on to Medical School. Rather than focus on herself today she jumped right in and taught our Junior and Middle School class and chaperoned three of our children as well. She is a light set upon a hill and her light shines on all of our young people saying “Keep going-come on up here”.
BLESSINGS and CONGRATULATIONS, DEAR EFE!
And, our Natasha Terrell completed her Freshman year at FGCU and is now a sophomore. She continues to be our Lector and also to help with the little children. She has a part time job. She is deciding on a Major and thinks she wants to be a social worker!!! Way to GO, Natasha!
Keeron Jones is now a High School Senior. Today he said that he was thankful for his gifts of intellect and athletic abilities and prayed to use his gifts well. He would like to teach sports to younger children. We are proud of him. There are so many negative roads to take but his feet are planted on the narrow road.
Keeondra Terrell was graduated from the eighth grade and plans to attend Dunbar or Lehigh High School. Her spirit is one of love and kindness and she works hard on all she does. When I ask for a volunteer she is always there. Way to Go Keeondra!
All of our Middle Schoolers were promoted. Now Jakeriya and Jakein Maybin are entering the 7th Grade and Marcella Randazzo and Aleigha Longstreth are entering the Eighth Grade.
Jon’Est Smith had his sixth Birthday!
BIRTHDAY BLESSINGS, dear Jon”Est!
Homily for Corpus Christi-6/7 2015: Life Saving Blood Transfusions
Today we celebrate the Body of Christ, the fullness of what Jesus, the Christ, gave for the life of the world and the fullness of what we, as members of his Body, the church, are to give to one another and to the poorest and “least” amongst us.
The readings for this Sunday speak of ancient and current rituals and deep symbolic meanings. In an era when some theology chooses pretty and ethereal words like ‘stardust’ and ‘cosmic Christ’ and evoke beautiful pictures from the Hubble telescope to capture the essence of who we are and who Christ is, this Sunday the church focuses boldly and solidly on “the most holy body and blood of Christ” or the solemnity of Corpus Christi, literally the Body of Christ.
How truly amazing, complex and beautiful the human body is. From infancy through old age, in health and in illness, beauty and grace and wonder are embodied in us. When one part of the body is hurt we can still see how other members compensate for that loss and the body still functions. After major stomach surgery two and a half years ago I am still going strong. Not the same as before, but strong. How resilient the body is. We can see the face of God in one another. The body, not the stars above, is the single greatest metaphor for the miracle of creation and life. What an amazing miracle to have God embodied in Christ and giving God’s self for the world, and that our God knows intimately what it is to laugh and fear and hurt, and to love, to suffer and bleed as we do. We too are embodied and far from being celestial our bodies often remind us of how precious and fragile life is.
And some of our precious little ones.
It is a temptation to choose only feel-good words as God-words and to avoid words like body, blood, broken, poured out and death lest we offend or lose the faint- hearted. I literally use the word ‘faint’ as I recall that my beloved Grandmother, the tree of life and faith for me, wanted me to become both a missionary( there were no women clergy back then) and a nurse (she didn’t know any women Doctors either). In High School I thought that would be my path until my best friend sustained a major cut on her hand while preparing food. There was no car available so her sister and I wrapped up her hand, put our arms around her and walked her quickly one block to St. Mary’s Hospital. I was fine until they began to sew the wound and blood spurted out. I fainted then and there. When I woke up we were all outside and she was ready to go home. I knew then I would not be a nurse because I could not deal with blood. Yet we miss the true meaning of the Gospel today if we cannot deal with blood. And by now, I see blood in a totally different light.
When my Grandmother was operated on for what turned out to be a cancer that had already spread out of control the family was asked to donate blood as she had many transfusions to keep her alive. Each one did and it was not enough. Then one by one the members of my young adult group at the church came forward and gave their blood. Some of them were as repelled by blood as I was, but it didn’t matter- they came through. I was so thankful for them. They could not save her life, but their selfless gifts may have saved someone else’s life. And most importantly their love surrounded us and helped us to get through the worst time of my young life.
In our work with the homeless we learned that many must sell their blood to survive. One man, Mike, explained to me that he no longer needed to sell blood after his Social Security and Veteran’s benefits started, but he continues because he knew that his gift would save lives. He felt that he had little else to offer but was thankful to be alive and to have a home now and he wanted to continue to give something back so others could also live. I was thoroughly moved that this person who had been through so much wanted to give the best he had to help others. Remarkably he also cares for the many stray cats in his apartment complex.
In 2005 Pastor Judy Beaumont was diagnosed with a rare type of Leukemia called APL. Her white cell count bottomed out and her blood was unable to nurture her body. This was a time of much prayer of the faithful and much love for her. Some of our church members also gave blood to be banked for her. She had massive infusions of chemo and was hospitalized for almost a month when she sustained infections during this time of lowest immunities. She needed blood and platelet transfusions. As I sat with her through these I could see the color return to her face and the energy return to her body. I could literally see the life giving properties of blood. I could hear the old hymn in my head “There is power, power, wonder- working power in the blood, of the Lamb….” While I cannot hold with sacrificial atonement I accept that it was an early belief of God’s Hebrew people and I know for sure that there is power in the blood, and in the giving of blood for love. Now, I welcomed the sight of blood and thanked God for it. And, within two years, thanks be to God and prayer and an excellent Cancer Doctor, James Reeves, she was pronounced cured of this cancer. She has now been free of it for ten years and remains an active and energetic servant of God.
Her understanding of the role of Christians before, during and after her bout with leukemia is to follow Christ- “body broken, blood poured out”. This simply, and not so simply means, to give your ALL in loving and serving God and one another. As she said in a sermon given in 2012, “(We put ourselves in the bread and in the wine to be changed even as the bread and wine are changed into Christ we too are changed into the body and the blood of Christ)…. Just think of what a different world we would have if all those who claim to be Christian really make it important to be life-giving to others. So when today you hear the words: You are the Blood of Christ, say back your AMEN (I agree) and mean it-YES, I believe I am the blood of Christ and I will be life-giving for others. This change of bread and wine, of you, of me, of the church, of us-such change is possible because Jesus says so: “This-and you- my body. This and you-my blood. Do this and remember me”. And we will answer by saying AMEN to what we are.
Theologian Megan McKenna (author of On Your Mark: Orbis Books, 2006) tells a story from the Viet Nam war era that corresponds to the Gospel (Mark 14) where Jesus offers his own life, his body and blood, as symbolic of the new covenant. During that tragic war an orphanage was bombed. One little girl was losing blood fast and needed a transfusion. The other children were asked and were too frightened to comply. Finally one little boy came forward. He cried and watched the little girl’s face to see if new life was entering her. Finally a Vietnamese woman was able to talk with and comfort him. When asked why he was finally able to calm down, she explained that he thought he was dying because she got his blood and his life. “Then why did he do it”, the doctors asked? He said simply: “She’s my friend, I had to help her”. Ah yes, this is exactly what Jesus did, as he said (John 15:13-14a) “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, and you are my friends….” (TIB).
I reflect here too on the transfusions the church needs to really be the Body of Christ. It needs to be compassionate to all, a friend to all, including all and excluding no one at the Table. It needs, as Pope Francis has said, to return to simplicity and a priority for serving the poor. It needs to become more Christ-like. “It “ I say, but I simply mean “we”. We need the transfusion of the holy blood of Christ to become life giving as Christ was.
The readings from Exodus (24:3-8) and Hebrews (9:11-15) speak of blood as sealing the first covenant and the new covenant between God and God’s people. We still say important promises are “sealed in blood”, though we do not mean it literally. The Gospel (Mark 14:12-16, 22-26) shows how far God was willing to go for God’s friends-for us. For telling the truth and showing us how to love God and one another, Jesus met painful rejection, suffering and a violent death. Yet his essential non-violence and selfless giving wins out in resurrection and life eternal, for him and for us. McKenna quotes theologian David Hamm reflecting on this Last Supper: “Now they are quite literally given Jesus’ cup to share. Continuing to be his disciples will entail a full giving of self somehow like his. Such laying down of one’s life-in a loving service that may or may not include martyrdom-is the life-blood of the covenant community called the body of Christ. Jesus’ giving of his blood provides not only the model but the source of this new covenant life….Sharing in the sacramental body and blood entails behaving as one body by donating the gift of life to one another. (“The Word’, America, May 24, 1997).
Reflect with me on how it feels to give yourself away so others may live. In our Tuesday ministry this week Lauretta, a formerly homeless woman who had as she describes, “been to hell and back” shared that she was full of joy because she was welcomed to do volunteer service at a local food bank. Everyone listened and clapped as she described what she did and how happy it made her feel to give others food and hear that it was appreciated. Roger was the first man we helped out of homelessness in Fort Myers, some seven years ago now. His unstable diabetes is still life threatening. He said that he has found meaning in his life by helping other needy people like Jesus did and as our ministry does. He brings a donation in a white envelope every time he comes and it is marked as “Roger’s Foundation for the Poor”. He asks that we give it directly to someone in need and we are very happy to do so. Gary, formerly homeless and an elder in our church who leads Sunday Liturgy with us, listened carefully as I told the group of my recent emotional and spiritual struggle with violence and drive by shootings in our community and how it depleted my energy until I realized that there was nothing I could do about it except to keep on serving, preaching and loving with the heart of God. I could not change people’s loyalty to the “ghetto code” of tolerating violence out of fear and misplaced loyalty, but God could. Gary literally beamed and said that he was so glad I would keep loving “our people” with the heart of God because that gave him strength to do that too-we needed each other. Indeed, he has to live where the bullets fly but he is not afraid anymore because he is consumed by love. All I could add was AMEN!
But here I can add that loving with God’s heart, serving God’s poor and struggling people, is often as hard as it is joyful and only through prayer and the support of all of the Body of Christ can we do it. And so, before you take Holy Communion and hear those words again ask yourself “Am I willing to be the body and blood of Christ? And if you are, give yourself away and start praying.
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
One of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community members,Patricia Byrne, sent us this story about a wonderful people’s priest in Boston. She said “this is your kind of priest”, and she is right. It is by Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe,June 1, 2015. As we pray for vocations let us say thanks for Fr. Dan Finn and pray for many more women and men like him to answer the call to the priesthood and to serving all of God’s people,especially the poorest and most outcast. Thanks to Patricia for sending this.
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Parishoners said goodbye to Father Dan Finn after 22 years at St. Mark’s in Dorchester.
KEVIN CULLEN/GLOBE STAFF
Parishoners said goodbye to Father Dan Finn after 22 years at St. Mark’s in Dorchester.
By Kevin Cullen GLOBE COLUMNIST JUNE 01, 2015
The rain was holding off and the people who had attended the Spanish Mass at St. Mark’s were holding on, enjoying the vibe at the back of the church and on the steps overlooking Dorchester Avenue.
Some stayed for the noon Mass, too, because it was Father Dan’s last at St. Mark’s.
Staying at any one church for 22 years is a rarity these days. The Rev. Dan Finn arrived at St. Mark’s the same year that Bill Clinton arrived at the White House, and he had a much longer, better run.
Father Dan’s last Mass was more than a celebration of one priest’s service. It was a metaphor for a changing Boston, a changed Dorchester. Father Dan’s replacement is a terrific 44-year-old priest, the Rev. Linh Nguyen, who moved from Vietnam to Dorchester with his family when he was 15.
One of the first priests he met in Dorchester was Father Dan, then at St. Peter’s. He was still learning English, but Father Dan’s smile was easy to understand in any language.
Father Linh is the first Vietnamese pastor in Dorchester but won’t be the last. It’s a natural transition, the ecclesiastical equivalent of the Irish pubs giving way to Vietnamese restaurants from Savin Hill to Ashmont.
On Sunday, as Father Dan made his way to the back of the church for the opening procession, spontaneous applause washed over him. He blushed.
There’s an old joke that people were loath to hang their winter jackets near the door at St. Mark’s because Father Dan would give them away. Except it wasn’t a joke. He really did that. He let homeless people sleep in the church, too.
“What’s the use of recognizing Jesus in bread and wine in here if we don’t recognize him out there on the street?” Father Dan said, pointing toward Dot Ave.
A church, any church, is useless if it is defined and confined by walls. That’s why he had his own version of the Freedom Trail painted down the middle aisle at St. Mark’s, leading outside.
“We should always be trying to make the connection between the sanctuary and the street, the church and the world,” he said.
On the altar, Father Dan was surrounded by priests and deacons whose faces were black and white and yellow and brown. The congregation was the same mosaic. There were even red faces in the pews; Irish construction workers are not big on sunscreen.
Father Dan paid tribute to Archbishop Oscar Romero, shot dead in El Salvador 35 years ago.
“He stood for the poor and those on the margins,” he said.
You could say the same of Father Dan Finn. In part because he is an immigrant, Father Dan was especially kind to newcomers. He ran citizenship and English as a Second Language classes at the church.
“You don’t have to join the Navy to see the world,” he said. “Just come to St. Mark’s.”
Because he is Irish, Father Dan couldn’t resist singing from the pulpit. He serenaded us with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Changes Everything.” He quoted Emily Dickinson, then urged us to “see with the eyes of the heart.”
When the Mass had ended, Elizabeth Metelus, a native of Haiti, embraced Father Dan at the back of the church and said she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because she felt in between.
On the steps outside, people recreated a group photo from years ago, lest the bean counters question the vitality of their parish. Father Dan stood in the middle of them, a Dorchester rainbow, smiling.
Passing cars on Dot Ave honked in approval.
There was a reception waiting in the church hall, but everybody lingered, daring the rain, hugging Father Dan.
The bagpipes faded and people clamored around Father Dan, posing for photos. Old ladies hugged him so tight it looked like he might break.
Somebody asked him how he felt.
“Blessed,” Father Dan Finn said, looking around one last time with the eyes of his heart. “I feel blessed.”
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.
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