The Grace of Joy in the Bitter Cup: Rev. Judy’s Homily And Rev. Chava’s Letter for 29th Sunday in OT, 10/18/15

Today I am sharing my homily and also a letter from Rev. Chava Redonnet, RC woman priest for migrant workers in Rochester, New York. As the homily theme is that we belong to others, especially the most needy and outcast among us the letter is a part of the homily.  St. Romero’s has a pressing need before winter and I hope that we will all respond in sharing our resources to help this special church find a new home.

Rev. Judy’s Homily: The Grace of Joy in the Bitter Cup

God is deeply in love with the world and all of its people, each and every one. God will go to extremes so that all may live with health and dignity and worth upon this earth. But, that’s not the way it is or has been for many who suffer the inequities of existence.  The readings for this Sunday (Isaiah 53:10-11: Psalm 33: 4-5, 18-20,22; Hebrews 4:14-16 and Mark 10:35-45) show God giving God’s beloved Jesus in selfless love to the world.  In Isaiah the “suffering servant”-(in Hebrew Scriptures context Israel and in context for Christians, Christ) is to redeem the world from the evils and fruits of greed, hatred and injustice. Psalm 33 says that God loves justice and right and fills the world with God’s loving kindness.  In the New Testament book of Hebrews we are to see Christ as the great high-priest, yet one of us, who offers sacrifice (of himself) for suffering humanity.  This is to whom we can turn in time of great need.  And, in the Gospel of Mark we see Jesus asking his followers throughout time to imitate him in taking and drinking from the bitter cup and to show that by serving others.

Actually Jesus asks more than just service, but that we become slaves of all (Mark 10:44). That is, Jesus asks that we, born in freedom, choose freely to belong to someone else so that all may live. Yes, so that God’s loving kindness may spread throughout the world.  What a paradox!  The “someone else” is God in Christ and the” someone else” is the people we serve with the giving of our lives.  We are asked to choose to be slaves for God, that God’s kin(g)dom of love and justice may come on this earth. It is normal to want to be served instead of serving, and to be free and not “owned” by another. We who abhor class and socioeconomic systems that force some to serve others and racial, socioeconomic and other divides that enslave whole peoples and populations have an understandably hard time in dealing with these texts. And greater still is the hard time we have when we do enslave ourselves to the Gospel, to Christ and to God’s people, especially the most broken of them. And yet, there is the greatest hope and joy in this central expectation of Christian life-by freely giving ourselves to God and to one another we are free indeed and have the joy of drawing closer to God.  Moreover we are the hands of God offering loving kindness where it is most needed. This, not sitting in the power seats of heaven, is its own reward.

I have been reflecting on the saddest times in my life and on the happiest times. Believe me, in my life, as for most of us, there are more than enough sad times to choose the saddest times from.  The loss to death or terminal illness of loved ones make for the saddest times in most lives, mine included. But another powerful source of the saddest times for me are when I witness the needless pain and loss of others. Pastor Judy Beaumont and I spent an afternoon in a Nursing Home on Thursday. We were with a woman in her fifties whom we have known and ministered with since 2007 and our Park Ministry. She has maintained housing with difficulty and lots of help throughout this time. Ruby is a self- described  ‘free spirit’ who had experienced so much pain in her life from profound mental and physical illness and homelessness and now she faced living the rest of her life out in a hospice bed in a small shared room. She had to give up her little apartment home and her cat and her world as she knew it as her health was declining quickly and the light of life was beginning to fade. Yet, she still returned on occasion to days with some life in them and deeply missed her “life on the outside”. Her cries of “this is it? This is all I have now? This is where I will die?” burned through to our very souls. She had already “coded” in the hospital and returned to life. She still had life. But this life was not the life she wanted.  God gave us words and arms to hold her, but our hearts turned within us as we tried to help her accept the life she now had. Mostly she was afraid of dying “alone and forgotten” and we could assure her that with us and her other dear and faithful friends, one in particular, that she was not alone. She also wanted to know if her time of helping others who are homeless was over. We showed her how she could help the many people around her who were, like her, experiencing homelessness in a new way. But, when push came to shove all we could offer was some companionship on the rest of her journey. But that is also a great deal considering those we saw who appeared to have no one at all.  She also needed to know that this place would not cast her out into the street homeless again, and we did assure her of this.

My heart turns within me whenever I encounter people living on the streets. Whether these people are wandering aimlessly in the brutal heat and sudden torrential downpours of Florida or Guyana or Colombia, South America, whether they are wrapped in plastic like human sandwiches on the street median in Medellin or Fort Myers or Brooklyn, or huddled in doorways in New York City or Hartford, Connecticut in the freezing winters, they stab me in my heart.  That “stabbing” and turning of my heart is almost a literal feeling and I realize that is God reminding me that I can do something to help. And so I try.  We are blessed to have our Good Shepherd Ministry and many others to serve and try with us. There are times we can all cry together as when we realized that Tom or Diane are back on the streets again after completing the effort to get them housed one or two years ago. Or when we see Grady or Mike or Rudy or Dana who can’t stop drinking long enough to do the few things needed to get into housing. Or when we have young and large families that live lives tottering always on the brink of homelessness and despair because there are literally no housing resources for them here. Housing lists have been closed both for Section 8 and low income projects for over three years. The lowest income working poor do not have Medicaid until they place tremendous burdens on hospital ER’s. Then they sometimes they get it. We can offer to help with bills to the extent that we can. We can help with enriching experiences for the kids and young people. And we can be the shoulder to cry upon and cry out to. But I wish that we could take away the anxiety and pain they live with daily, not knowing if they will keep a home or a car or health. This is part of the bitterness in the cup. The sheer exhaustion of trying to help is another part. I have one young woman in her mid- thirties who finally has a chance to keep her baby. But this is so hard for her with working as well that she sometimes calls me several times a day. I am glad that I can help get her through each “crisis”-but I also admit I am tired. I admit that belonging to someone else is very hard. At Good Shepherd we belong to those we serve, and it often hurts to feel their pain and to encounter with them the obstacles to lives of dignity and worth.

But then there is the indescribable joy of doing what one is called to do. Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, says this:

“We are called to serve, and we are also called to drink of the cup from which Jesus drinks. It is a cup of darkness, a cup of suffering. In my experience this cup of suffering usually holds a hidden gift, an obscure grace. We may have to hold the cup longer than we wish to discover the gift. Seldom is the gift visible as we drink. “

I testify here to that holding the cup longer than it is comfortable reveals deep hidden joy. It is the feeling in my heart when even one other person is helped to turn tears into laughter.  And, by the grace of God there are many. Belong to Christ, belong to others, there is such deep joy to be revealed.

And so we pray with Sr. Macrina:

Lord, help me to trust even the darkness,that I may never turn away from the invisible gift”.

In Today in Focus in Living with Christ

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Also here is a letter from Rev. Chava Redonnet about her Ministry with the Migrants. Our ministry will be making a donation toward their church home. I pray that you will consider doing this too, it is one way of taking the cup.

Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, October 18, 2015                                                                         29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dear friends,

September 19 was the fifth anniversary of the first Mass of Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church. Back then we called ourselves “Our Little Church,” until our name was chosen by consensus of those present at Mass one Sunday a few months later. September 19 was also the day that my young friend and I talked about our migrant church and her family’s experience at a workshop at the Women’s Ordination Worldwide Conference in Philadelphia. She did great! I know she hopes to be a teacher someday, and I think she will make a good one! Those present were interested in what both of us had to say, and at the end when it was time to go, most of them stayed in their seats.

This week I again told our story, this time to a group called “Take Back the Land” that tries to keep people from being evicted here in the city. I told them we are natural allies, because they are walking with people in dire circumstances (eviction)  in the city, and we’re walking with people in dire circumstances (deportation) in the country.

I was there because sometimes people have land or buildings to donate, and I was asking them to keep their ears open for anything that might become available in the area more or less between Batavia and Albion. It is time for us to find a building for our migrant church, a building that we could use for community suppers and after school programs and AA and Al-Anon meetings in Spanish, and English classes, and a bike workshop, and generally welcoming people and building community. We could call it Oscar Romero House of Hospitality.

For two summers now, we have had the use of a small migrant dwelling for Mass, and that has been a great gift. This summer we have been battling a problem with mold in that house; even after finding the source of the problem, letting the farmer know  and having it  taken care of, we’re still finding mold growing on doors and cupboards. We’ve had to throw out all the nice office chairs that Jim Morasco donated to us (when mold grew back after being removed), and I’ve taken most of the books in the library home for fear of them being ruined. This is with a little dehumidifier running 24/7. So, I figure God’s giving us a nudge to start looking for other digs.

So, now, at the five year mark for St Romero’s, with our tax-exempt status in place, we are kicking off a fundraising campaign, hoping to raise $50,000, which will either be a down payment – or pay for a trailer – or if something gets donated there will surely be a need for repairs. If you would like to donate to our building fund, you can send checks to me, made out to Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church with a note that it’s for the building fund – OR, you can donate on line! Lynne Hamilton set up a website for us at http://www.oscarromerochurch.myevent.com

We also, TaDa!!! Have a website for the church. My daughter Clare has put it together for us, and she is still in the process of getting all the back bulletins on line. Check it out! http://www.oscarromerochurch.org/

I pray that we will grow however God is dreaming for us… that we will be and build community, and empowerment, and justice, and love. May it be so!!!!!

Love to all , Chava

“Dream Statement” for Oscar Romero House of Hospitality

From its beginning, the migrant ministry of Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church has truly been a migrant church. We have moved from place to place, worshipping in at least seven different places in our first five summers. Most recently we have used a vacant migrant house, a tiny building where we have battled damp and mold, and always had the possibility of being asked to move on if the house were needed for other purposes.
Here is the dream:
If we had a house of our own, we could use it, not only for worship, but as a community center. We could offer after-school help with homework, and have some computers available for kids to use. We could have community meals, movies, offer space for Spanish AA and Al-Anon meetings. We could have English classes – art classes – cooking classes – a bike repair clinic. We could be a safe space for people to stay when they get out of the detention center and need help transitioning to what’s next. We would call it Oscar Romero House of Hospitality.
Our goal is to raise $50,000. Find us at http://www.oscarromerochurch.myevent.com/

Oscar Romero Church  An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition   Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph’s House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620                                      A member community of the Federation of Christian Ministries

May God continue to surround us with love and blessing as we seek to serve one another.

Love and prayers,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP,

CO-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida

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