Two Roman Catholic Women Priests Reflect on All Saints Day: Sunday Nov. 1, 2015
We are pleased and grateful to present here two homilies for All Saints Day, my own and Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle’s of the Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Toledo, Ohio.
Rev. Judy’s Homily
This Saturday Hallow’een is celebrated and it leads us into the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints Day on Sunday. Hallow’een means Holy evening when the church prays for all departed souls. The praying for our loved ones is a welcome remembrance of them and a sense of their existence beyond the grave. But for children, eerie ghosts and friendly and not so friendly pumpkins as well as downright scary costumes heighten a sense of questionable comfort with the dead. Mexico with its happy and playful Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations conveys cultural comfort and acceptance of death as part of life. Yet, I loved Halloween as a child and had only a vague sense of its religious significance. It was a day when children could have fun dressing up and also “beg” for “treats” including apples, candies and coins, a special joy in a poor neighborhood. Only as I grew older did I grow to appreciate praying for the dead and celebrating the sainthood of ordinary people as well as extraordinary people throughout the ages. It is so precious to me to get together with friends and family members who live far away, to preserve and rekindle those precious ties. But for those who have died, prayer can unite us with them in forever love and care. I deeply miss many saints who have gone before, including my own grandmother Ella, and mother, Anne, and my mother-in-law (Ngut Gue Lee) who bore much pain and adversity with strong and wonderful faith and sweet, sweet spirit. I think of my friend Barbara’s grandmother, Hattie Ballard, who did the same with the added burden of discrimination to balance yet she raised her son’s family as my grandmother raised me- to know God. I think of living Grandparents, Godparents, and other holy people in our church like Grandma Jolinda Harmon and her daughter Linda Maybin and Phyllis Williams and Harry Lee Gary who carry huge families and much illness and laugh to keep from crying but bring their families to church, bring them not send them to God. I think of my co-pastor Judy Beaumont who has served always bearing at one point one cancer after another, three in all, and other illnesses. I think of my Pastors, David and Melvin and Virginia and Al and Angelo and fellow church members who kept the faith when discrimination,hatred, doubt and many evils might have pulled them away. I know that they are with us still. Prayer can remind us that we are part of a “communion of saints” throughout time, a “cloud of witnesses” who point us to the faith and hold us to the love of God in Christ. And as we are witnesses to their journeys they are also witnesses to our own.
The first reading for Sunday from Revelation (7:2-4,9-14) is rich with symbolism known to people of the day probably 81-96 CE or A.D.( after the death of Christ.) Christians were living under the cruel domination of the Roman Emperor Domitian who demanded that he be addressed as “Lord and God”. Those who refused to do this were threatened, exiled and put to death. This book(the Revelation of John) was a call to the persecuted that God still reigns supreme, and Christ is alive forever, death did not hold him. “Praise and glory….power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” The saints who endured persecution continued to praise God. Indeed it is an essence of sainthood to praise God in great adversity. While Jesus’ disciples often did not “get it” and sometimes denied and betrayed him, all but John also died a martyr’s death as did unnamed millions throughout the ages. They have much to teach us as do modern day saints like Martin Luther King, Jr., Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day and the millions unnamed who lived the faithful life of working for love, justice and inclusion. For those who live for justice no matter the cost with little reward I John 3:1-3 offers explanation: “The reason the world does not recognize us is that it never recognized God”. Selah-pause and think that over. We are also assured that we are children of God. The Beatitudes Jesus gives in Matthew 5:1-12 tells us that we are blessed, happy, and indeed, congratulated by Jesus when we keep the faith in humility and in poverty, when we are gentle, and merciful. These Be-attitudes are the attitudes that make for sainthood. We are also congratulated, encouraged and happy when we live our lives as justice seekers and peace makers. I see the Beatitudes of Christ as be-attitudes and actions that lead to fulfillment of our purposes on earth -to bring in the kin(g)dom of God where ALL may live and be and be happy. Finally in the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that we are to be congratulated and blessed when we are persecuted for “righteousness sake”, “persecuted for their struggle for justice” . And here I think of our Roman Catholic women priests and the men and women who support us. I reiterate to those who get mired down and stuck in outdated church traditions that don’t recognize the sanctity of all lives, including women, gays and those on the LGBTQT spectrum: God still reigns and Christ lives and includes all of God’s children always and in all ways.
I think especially of Rev. Sister Tish Rawles the gentle woman of conscience written of in earlier blogs, who dared accept her call to the priesthood and is now dismissed from the only family she has known for 47 years as a religious sister, her community of Sisters. I pray for this living saint who is in need of appropriate housing and health care. Let us remember the saints on Sunday, the living and those gone before. Let us take strength from their courage and steadfastness. Let us pray for them, and ask them to pray for us.
Rev. DR. Judy Lee, RCWP-US-East
Co-Pastor of the Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Rev. Bev’s Homily
Blessed are the poor in spirit, our gospel says.
The modern translation would read like this:
Congratulations, you who are poor! the reign of God is here!
Right here, right now.
Congratulations, you who mourn!
God is with you!
Congratulations, you who hunger and thirst for justice!
God is on your side!
Good news, indeed, for the people Jesus talked to… and for us.
Those beatitudes, scholars tell us,
are very close to what Jesus actually said.
In the Gospel of Thomas, which predates the canonical gospels, Jesus says:
The kin-dom of God will not come by watching for it.
It will not be said, “Look here!” or “Look there!”
Rather, the kin-dom of God is spread out upon the earth,
and people don’t see it.
The Gospel of Luke repeats that same saying.
So Jesus challenged
both the apocalyptic and the nationalist expectations
of John the Baptist and of other prophets of the time.
In short, Jesus said, God—
not the government, not the rich,
not the corrupt religious leaders—
God is already in charge.
But Jesus’ sense of God’s reign was often lost on his followers.
The gospels show them as understanding him poorly.
Mark softens Jesus’ ideas—he writes
blessed are the poor in spirit
instead of just blessed are the poor—
probably, scholars say, because Mark’s community is wealthy.
Mark also follows the expectations of the culture
in phrasing the beatitudes
as a promise of reward for virtue in the future
rather than assurance about the reign of God
in the present time.
Not only that, but the kind of people Jesus calls blessed,
the kind of people he congratulates
for their poverty, for their grief, for their hunger for justice—
those folks are not the ones looked up to and rewarded
by the culture they live in.
Theologian Frederick Buechner observes that
“If we didn’t already know
but were asked to guess the kind of people
Jesus would pick out for special commendation,
we might be tempted to guess one sort or another
of spiritual hero—
men and women of impeccable credentials
morally, spiritually, humanly, and every which way.
If so, we would be wrong.”
This week when I was at breakfast at Claver House,
I was especially aware that I was sharing a meal
with people without much money, some without a place to live.
I found out Tuesday that Ned,
a man I’ve talked with every weekday for over a year,
can’t read or write.
I found out that the job he goes to every morning
is hard labor at less than minimum wage,
paid under the table, with no benefits,
and that he did time in Stryker.
But my experience of Ned is
of a man with a sense of humor
and a habit of consideration for his elderly neighbors.
When I look around that room,
I see people who are looked down on by our society.
I see the very people Jesus called blessed—
people living in poverty,
people who grieve the loss of jobs and homes and family,
people oppressed and discriminated against
who hunger for food and justice.
Being recognized as a saint didn’t always mean
that you had to be canonized by a pope.
The first saints were people who died for their faith.
Then people who were examples
of living good lives as followers of Christ
began to be called saints.
The year 973 saw the first recorded evidence
of a pope naming a saint.
Then the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century
set forth the dogma of the communion of saints
and reserved the naming of saints to the pope.
As a result, lots of saints don’t get canonized.
But the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful, prevails.
We still, thank God, hear people say about someone,
“What a saint!”
Like the first disciples, we all stumble and bumble through life,
most of the time unaware that we live in the kin-dom of God,
unaware that we live in the midst of a communion of saints.
Not perfect people, but people on the Way,
people doing the best we can,
with what we have,
right where we are.
Thinking about these beatitudes
caused me to take another look at the people in my life.
I have to admit that it’s hard for me to see any saintliness
in some people I’ve known—a short list, but memorable.
And then there are some people who have died,
family members and colleagues and friends,
a longer list of people who did some good stuff in their lives.
And finally, a really long list of people I know who are still here,
living under God’s rule,
friends of God, and prophets,
the holy ones among us.
Every one of you is on that list.
All of these folks—
the saintliest of them as well as the ones
we aren’t able to see the way God sees them—
all of them are part of our church.
When we gather to celebrate Mass,
they’re with us, that communion of saints
that we acknowledge when we profess our faith.
On this All Saints’ Day
we call them to mind in a special way.
Each of you has a slip of paper,
and as you reflect on today‘s celebration
of our communion with all the saints,
please take a minute to write down the names
of the people you would like to remember.
Write down the saints who have died,
and the saintly people still with us,
and any people you have trouble seeing saintliness in.
Then place them on the altar as a reminder to all of us
that we are not alone
and we are not a small group.
We are, as the book of Revelation puts it,
“an immense crowd without number,
from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”
We live, right here and right now, in God’s kin-dom,
a true communion of saints.
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
Thanks be to God for the Saints among us!