Two RC Women Priests Reflect on Shepherding: Rev. Bev Bingle and Rev. Judy Share for the Sixteenth Sunday in OT July 19,2015
Readings: Jeremiah 23:1-6,(the bad shepherds) Psalm 23( The Lord is my Shepherd…); Ephesians 2: 13-18 (all have access to our God) and the Gospel- Mark 6:30-34 ” He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd….”
For this Sunday we are blessed to share Rev. Beverly Bingle’s homily on shepherding along with some reflections of our own. Rev. Bev Bingle, RCWP is the Pastor of the Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Toledo, Ohio.
In 2003 we (Co-Pastor Judy Beaumont, RCWP and I) took the name “Good Shepherd Ministries” to describe our work with the diverse poor and homeless in Lee County, Southwest, Florida. We continued ministering as Good Shepherd Ministries until my Ordination as a Roman Catholic woman Priest in 2008. Then we developed the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community church as well as incorporating our Good Shepherd Ministries into a non-profit organization serving the poor and homeless. We now shepherd with more than 60 other shepherds who are members of our church as well as many others who also serve in our ministry.
We chose the name Good Shepherd for several reasons. In this age it is more popular to choose non-biblical names like Lighthouse or Elevation or the Bridge etc.for a church, and in Catholicism it is still popular to choose a Saint’s name or that of a central figure in the Holy Family. But nothing seemed to capture our calling and work as well as the Good Shepherd does.
In Jesus’ language, Aramaic, the word raa, to shepherd, means many things: to shepherd, tend, keep, pastor, nourish. Metaphorically it means to lead. Rocco Errico , Aramaic Scholar(…And There Was Light) , says ” Clearly the idea is that God guides and nourishes us”. But as people and not sheep we potentially get to choose our guides. We are shepherded as we trust and rely on the shepherd, for as human beings our will is a part of every choice we make.
For the co-pastors of The Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, in the spirit of the 23rd Psalm,we realize that like sheep in relation to the shepherd we are utterly dependent on God for our lives and for the resources needed to serve others. One does not grapple with survival from cancer(s) or face loss and vulnerability and the many challenges of serving as Pastor Judy B and I have without deeply knowing that ultimately we rest in the arms of God. Unlike sheep we have knowledge and skills in independent living but like sheep, we are in need of a guide not to get lost along the way or become vulnerable to despair or fear or to predators and false guides. Our God IS our shepherd. We see God as our shepherding guide and the one who leads and nourishes us. The one who gently guides us and keeps us together but does not drive us like a wild herd of animals. Then, we see Jesus as the Master Shepherd who guides all of the other shepherds treating each one and all of the sheep equally and fairly as demonstrated with his life and message of inclusion and compassion.
In the Near and Middle East shepherding is still a revered profession and the Master Shepherd is an earned title of honor for extraordinary talent and skill in shepherding. This is also so for the Chief Shepherd. We learn how to be shepherds from the Chief Shepherd. As we develop in relationship to Christ and learn his way of love and justice,forgiveness and inclusion we are kept close to our Great Shepherd, our Mother/Father God and we grow in shepherding one another. As noted in Jeremiah, bad shepherds, false teachers, also rival for attention and followings. Rev. Bingle names some of the ways our Church has developed and followed bad shepherds and she also shows how good shepherds can exist along with the bad.
When we are led by restful waters, we are led into truth. In Aramaic “water” means truth for we cannot live without it-to be led by still water is to be led gently to God’s truths. Following Christ and in the care of the great Shepherd we are refreshed with the truth of God’s way of justice, love and compassion. And, as the end of the 23rd Psalm indicates, God literally will not let us go. God will pursue us with loving kindness and compassion all of our lives. When I think of this, I gain perspective and strength as a shepherd. Like Jesus I know it is okay to get tired and to retreat for a while. Like Jesus, I am often disturbed in my retreat and brought back to the endless needs of the flock. But, unlike Jesus, sometimes I grumble and turn away. Jesus just kept on teaching them. He kept on loving them. He kept on shepherding them. No matter what. Our ministry could use a few more co-shepherds. But we pray that , like Jesus, we will meet everyone who comes to us with compassion and loving kindness as we walk the talk beside them. Amen. Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP-East, Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers.
Rev. Beverly Bingle’s Homily
That Jeremiah reading really hits home, doesn’t it?
We’ve had a lot of experience of bad shepherds in our lifetime.
In our church we’ve seen, among other things:
Pedophile priests and cover-ups by bishops and popes.
Investigation and censure of the U.S. religious sisters.
That crazy birth control encyclical, Humanae Vitae.
Rejection of Vatican II reforms
and excommunication of people
who embrace the reform message.
When I hear the statistics about the decline of Christians
and the rise of the “nones”—
people not affiliated with any religion—I
don’t wonder why it’s happening.
I’d be one of those “nones”
if I had to rely on those bad examples
of our institutional Church’s moral leadership.
It’s not that our church doesn’t have any good shepherds,
but the experience of too many people in the pews—
where the rubber hits the road—
often is disappointing and disillusioning.
Not all pastors are good shepherds.
By contrast with Jeremiah,
the picture painted in the letter to the Ephesians
strikes us as idyllic:
unity and reconciliation of all of creation through the Church.
It’s helpful for me to remember
that this letter circulated around 62 AD,
before the destruction of Jerusalem
and the subsequent split between Jews and Christians.
The letter’s clear hope for peace was dashed then,
but it is revived generation after generation.
The letter gives us hope when in its assertion
that “All are members of the family of God.”
But we don’t always act like we’re all members of the family of God.
Here in the land of the free,
separate and UNequal
are written into our laws and customs and lifestyles.
Our institutional church has spoken strongly
against racism in Brothers and Sisters to Us
and for immigration reform in Strangers No Longer.
Even now, as we are still reeling
from the tragedy of the Charleston murders,
we read Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical
asking God to “Fill us with peace,
that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.”
So our church, as much as it needs reform, does much good.
We have some outstanding individuals
who practice what they preach,
like Greg Boyle, Simone Campbell, Rick Gaillardetz…
and many local folks, too.
In today‘s Gospel Mark pictures Jesus as caring, concerned,
moved to teach the vast crowd out of pity
because they were “like sheep without a shepherd.”
He and his disciples are weary from their ministry,
heading off for a break and some peace and quiet.
We know how that happens—just when we’re exhausted
and think we’re going to get a break,
somebody needs us—one of the kids, or a friend,
or a neighbor, or a stranger.
We’re called back into action,
in the middle of prayer as Jesus was,
in the middle of vocation and vacation,
in the middle of life, wherever we are.
A few years ago I noticed a colleague
staring at the scores of phone message slips on her desk,
and I commented about how overwhelming it must be for her.
She told me that those little pink papers affirmed her;
she saw each of them as a special message
that said that she was the kind of person
people could count on, that she would try to help,
that her work was valuable and meaningful to others.
Those messages were a gift to her—an opportunity, not a problem.
Just like Jesus,
who didn’t get annoyed when the crowd followed him,
she saw it as a call to serve, to be a good shepherd.
All of us are called to be good shepherds.
Along with many others in northwest Ohio,
Barbara Coleman participated
in a Dialogue-to-Change discussion group.
Through that process she saw that,
while listening and talking and sharing for six weeks
leads to greater understanding between the races,
more was needed.
She reached out in friendship
and invited all the members of that group, black and white,
to supper at her house.
The group bonded
and continues to meet for supper every month or so.
Barbara is a good shepherd.
My neighbor Steve keeps watch on my place
and lets me know when something looks odd to him.
When I was on crutches this spring,
he took care of mowing my lawn.
Steve is a good shepherd.
Another neighbor, Phyllis, toted me around town
when my old car proved unreliable.
Across the alley is Lily, who phoned last week
to let me know there was a strange car
parked behind my garage.
(It turned out to be Tom McDonald,
picking up seedlings for Tree Toledo.)
People who care and act on it—good neighbors, good shepherds.
Jesus sent his followers out to preach and heal,
and they came back to tell him of their success.
They had shepherded wisely.
We are to do the same thing—
go about our lives with care and concern for others.
It starts with us, where we live and where we work.
The institution may fall short, as institutions do,
but the work of God goes on
because we are the church,
each one of us a member of the family of God.
We are the ones who bring peace and justice to the world.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006