Archive | October 2015

Give It To The Poor: Homilies For October 11, 2015, the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is nothing unclear in what Jesus says in Mark 10: 17-30-if you want eternal life “sell what you have and give it to the poor….then come, follow me”. This passage, also addressed to the rich young man or the rich young ruler,the important man,  is also found in Matthew 19: 16-30 and Luke 18:18-29.  In consideration of the feelings of the rich, and most of us who have enough, we do many theological dances that ultimately miss what Jesus is saying. We glorify spiritual poverty, for example. We raise dependency on God as a supreme value but we also then overlook Jesus’ actual concern for people who were poor and outcast. We glorify poverty instead of work hard with those affected to do away with it. We also apply these passages mainly to those called to follow Jesus in religious life with vows of poverty to earn this spiritual poverty.  But, we miss the call to all of us  who follow the Gospel to depend on God in this way and , moreover, to share our goods and resources with the poor among us so that there will be no more poor.This indeed is the essence of Acts 3:44-47 and Acts 4: 34-35 where the apostles and all followers understood what Jesus meant and shared their resources freely and there were no poor among them. This is the spirit of the Gospel- Jesus came to “…preach  good news to the poor, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:14-20),  This job description in fulfillment of prophecy and Law is not metaphorical or abstract. Jesus lived under Roman oppression and the poor and many outcast in his culture and under Roman rule were consigned to the bottom of the heap with no hope of moving up from there. Jesus defied that structure and included the poorest and most outcast in his love and ministry. He also consistently asked his followers to follow the Law of Moses but go one better, to go beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit of the Law.

To follow Jesus and to enjoy the fullness of life now and forever, is to remove one’s self  from the center of concern and share all of one’s resources, money, gifts and goods with those who struggle for subsistence so that they will be poor no more. In this there is no idealization or glorification of poverty, and no real damnation of riches if they are shared fully, but the charge is to fulfill the Law by giving more than a small percentage of one’s income or one’s self and to go farther. Jesus acknowledges that the seeker of life (rich young person) already keeps the Law. He loves this person who is struggling to be a good person.  The Law includes many commandments about treating the poor fairly. Jesus wants us to go the next step.  To follow Jesus we are asked time and again and in many ways: give it all away-give yourself away, then you will find yourself and then you receive the fullness of life. To do this only in the abstract with out realizing that Jesus strongly said to give, share with, be committed to, align with, and struggle with and not only for those who are economically poor is to miss the point of the Gospel-to bring God’s kin(g)dom here on earth. Justice , love and inclusion are the hoped for outcome in the kingdom of God and also the processes by which it is to come.  Tzedak, Tzedakah and Chesed, justice and charity and lovingkindness in Hebrew, are the essence of the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy).  Justice and Chesed/ Caritas, the kind of love that gives it all away is the essence of the Gospel. Jesus gave his life so the kin(g)dom of God may come and the sins that deter it be addressed. Sin goes beyond our mis-steps in our near relationships, however serious these may be. Sin most strongly relates to creating, tolerating and participating in those conditions of injustice, exclusion,oppression,greed, discrimination,ethnocentrism and often hatred that create a world in which only some are “worthy” of love and equality and a very few have a lot and most have very little-our world today. Today we are asked by Jesus to commit ourselves to actions that end injustice here in our world, in our families and our near communities and throughout the world. As Pope Francis said to the shepherds of the church, we are to get down in the nitty gritty with the sheep so that we smell of sheep. Yet,we are all to shepherd one another, to  literally walk with and stand with the poor and outcast of our communities to move on up together and take others with us. We are to give ourselves and our money and gifts and resources all away in pursuit of the kin(g)dom of God where there will be poor no more.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

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

Part of The Good Shepherd Community with Co-Pastors Judy Beaumont and Judy Lee, RCWP

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Community of Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, RCWP in Cali, Colombia Dando la Eucaristía a los niños de Colegio Educativo Navarro

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And here is an insightful homily by Fr. Gerald Darring on a similar theme for today’s Gospel and Readings. I love his quote about avarice as “moral underdevelopment:

The Perspective of Justice
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time B
October 11, 2015

Everlasting Life
The rich man wants to have it both ways: he wants his possessions and he wants everlasting life. Jesus shatters his illusion; you can’t have both, Jesus says. The rich man goes away sad, prompting Jesus to comment on the difficulty of being rich and entering the kingdom.

There is more to this story than renunciation of material possessions, for Jesus does not tell the man simply to get rid of his possessions: he must sell them and give to the poor. The point of the command is the acknowledgment of the priority of people and their needs over the satisfaction provided by the ownership of things.

This is “God’s word (that) is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword,” and this is the spirit of Wisdom of which the first reading speaks: we are to value each other as if we were prime possessions, and the promise of everlasting life is made to those who have the power to give all they have to their brothers and sisters, especially those most in need.

Then who can be saved? Those whose love for God expresses itself in eagerness to do good for others.

Increased possession is not the ultimate goal of nations nor of individuals. All growth is ambivalent. It is essential if man is to develop as a man, but in a way it imprisons man if he considers it the supreme good, and it restricts his vision. Then we see hearts harden and minds close, and men no longer gather together in friendship but out of self-interest, which soon leads to oppositions and disunity. The exclusive pursuit of possessions thus becomes an obstacle to individual fulfillment and to man’s true greatness. Both for nations and for individual men, avarice is the most evident form of moral underdevelopment.

Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio,1967: 19

Gerald Darring

Now published in book form, To Love and Serve:
Lectionary Based Meditations, by Gerald Darring
This entire three year cycle is available at Amazon.com.

Ordain Women in the Roman Catholic Church ? Yes!

This article is from the Kansas City Star and Associated Press writer David Gibson Religious News Service. While I applaud Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher for his strong positive statements on behalf of women, it is necessary to think through whether opening one door to women would fix them at a permanently “lesser” state or open the door later to the priesthood? By lesser I do not mean that the tasks of the Deacon are less important than the tasks of priests at all for service to people according to Pope Francis, and my own spirituality, is exactly the job description of the priest as well as the Deacon. To “get the smell of the sheep” on one’s hands is to serve them. However, within the church as it is now, Deacons can baptize,  officiate at weddings , perform funerals and preach. Priests also do all of this. But only priests can celebrate Mass, consecrating the elements at the Eucharist, hear confessions and anoint the sick. Certainly the latter three are service to God’s people as well and all of the above are holy and sacramental. How can it be that one sacrament is more holy than another? And, indeed it is the people of God that are needed for a Mass to take place and for consecration. The people are sacrament, the church, the Body of Christ, is sacrament. But the line is drawn making the diaconate and priesthood a two class clerical system. To assign women to rise only so high in this hierarchy,simply based on gender, not on call or spiritual gifts or intellect or knowledge, education and preparation is to say that both women and deacons are not only different from priests but inferior to them.

As readers of this blog know: Roman Catholic women priests are already here. Starting in 2002 on the Danube in Germany prepared women were ordained validly to the priesthood and women bishops were validly ordained as of 2003 who have ordained many other prepared and called women. There are over 150 validly ordained women priests world wide and also many in the transitional diaconate and more in candidacy, totaling well over 200 ordained members of Roman Catholic Women Priests worldwide. As one of those priests, ordained in 2008, I have served God’s people sacramentally and with all my heart and soul. Our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic ministry, as readers know, where I serve with Co-Pastor Judy Beaumont ordained in 2012, serves the homeless and the poorest and a range of Catholics who also want to serve with the outcast and marginalized. The priesthood and the diaconate is a literally awesome responsibility and grace. It is only by grace that service to all of God’s people is accomplished. And grace is free for all, men and women alike.  God can and does bestow grace on women and men to provide service to God’s people, sacramentally and in all ways. Preparing meals for the hungry and homeless is work for priests as well as deacons as well as so-called laypeople. We are all called to feed the hungry. And we are all called to feed the hungry sacramentally as well. I hope that our brother Archbishop Durocher, who is the bravest priest I know of in the church today(others have been dismissed from Orders for such radical ideas and we pray this does not happen to him) will continue to stand for women. I also pray that he will broaden his argument-but then there would be no doubt, he would have to join us as excommunicated,a penalty we reject. But, like Fr. Roy Bourgeois, he would continue his cause as conscience trumps unjust rules every time. Here is the article.

Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP-USA-East-Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Fl

AP Article in Kansas City Star, 10/9/15 by David Gibson, Religious News Service

Ordain women? Vatican synod gets an unexpected proposal

Canadian archbishop suggests women could be deacons

In theory, female deacons could preach, baptize, officiate at weddings and perform funerals

A woman named Phoebe was called a deacon in Romans

The most controversial proposal floated so far at the high-level, high-stakes Vatican summit on church teachings on the family has nothing to do with gays or divorce. Instead, it’s about ordaining women — not as priests, but as deacons.

Love’s Family: Roman Catholic Woman Priest Judy’s Homily for 27th Sun in OT-Oct. 4, 2015

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Our Scripture readings for this Sunday are wonderfully deep about love and relationship. They are about God’s love and the love of family including our church families and those we make for ourselves. If we don’t get stuck in literalism and we understand language and cultural context we understand that these are some of the most important lessons in the Scriptures, and we are so thankful for them.

The first reading is Genesis 2:18-24 where the first thing we learn is that it is not good to be alone so God created companionship of a like sort for us. God also created animals and birds as companions on this earth but the companions of like sort would meet a need within us that other loving creatures could not meet. This week there was a terrible case in nearby Cape Coral , Florida  of a teenager tormenting and abusing small pet dogs that went viral online. By now he has been apprehended but what will fix this tortured young soul that thought it funny to torture other living beings? Similarly this State of Florida is big on killing any animal deemed a pest. Most little lakes here had funny and beautiful, in their own way, muscovy ducks a few years back. Then people complained of duck waste and were allowed to shoot them. Soon almost all were gone to the dismay of those who love and enjoy all creatures, as God intended. Now they are returning and we pray for no further permission to mass killing. Bears are now also on the “shoot them” list despite the outcries of many.  There is time for one more appeal on this. We have taken their habitats and left them only garbage but when they “steal it” and make a mess or scare someone the instinct is to kill them. This is not what God intended when God provided for animals asked Adam (the human being) to name them .  God who is Love intended care, but “dominion over them” KJV words meant for many an awful domination instead of caring for.

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There are many translations of God bringing humans into being. But there is one interpretation by the great African American poet and writer James Weldon Johnson in his poem The Creation that shows deeper spiritual  understanding than some of the translations.  God is clearly a being with deep feelings to the poet: ( I am using ‘God’ where the poet would use either God or he.): “Then God walked around/And God looked around/On all that God had made. God looked at God’s sun/God looked at God’s moon/And God looked at God’s little stars.; /God looked on God’s world/With all its living things, And God said: I’m lonely still”. So God bent down and from the earth, “like a mammy bending over her baby,/ Kneeled down in the dust/Toiling over a lump of clay/Til God shaped it in God’s own image…” and human beings came into life.  While the poet of his times, the 1920’s, saw God as “he”, Johnson also saw God like a mother bending over her child. It is a tender and  loving feminine image of God along with the masculine image of sculpting the clay. Johnson saw God as loving and lonely for companionship from the universe. That is good theology that prevails even today.  In short, the cosmos was created in love and for love. Last week in his USA visit Pope Francis spoke to families. He told a story of a child asking a priest what God did before God created the earth and all that is in and around it. The priest was stumped and thought-then he said “God was busy loving for that is Who God is, Love”. What a great answer. Whether we come from clay or stardust or a big bang-we were created, along with all of the cosmos, in love. And God is still here loving us and drawing us close.

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Why then do we have so much trouble with love? Many stories in the Bible address this- like Cain and Abel and the twelve brothers and Joseph that illustrate the worst effects of sibling rivalry or the story of Ruth and Naomi that illustrates the love of a daughter-in-law for her mother-in-law-so usually not an easy relationship. But Ruth’s story is a beautiful story of love for one woman for another. Just as the story of David and Jonathan is a beautiful story of male friends. And God incarnate, Jesus, was born as a baby into a human family-how precious and important that makes families. And the Gospel is the story of God’s love and Jesus’ love for all of his brothers, sisters and friends , for that is what he calls us. Love is for husbands and wives and families and extended families of all sorts, families headed by two parents, mothers and fathers, and two women or two men or one grandmother or father or mother or grandparent or aunt or foster or adoptive parent, and friends and tribes and neighborhoods and communities and for the church. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that Jesus was not ashamed to call all of us brothers and sisters. Wow! We are thereby grafted into God’s very family.

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Pope Francis’ coming to the conclave on the human family further gave families dignity and immeasurable worth. However, it was used by those who are opposed to gay marriage as a bludgeon against two of the same sex joining forever in holy union. I fail to understand how this provision for companionship, joy and stability in relationship of others would undermine the traditional family. Gayness is not a chosen state so that people are being drawn away from traditional marriages into gay marriage. Living a life of rejection and stigma that still exists even in many American families and cultures is not an appealing choice unless that is the choice you are born with to love another like yourself.  The alleged meeting of Pope Francis with the woman, Kim Davis, an elected Kentucky City Clerk, who would not sign marriage certificates of gays was a painful rebuke for people who love each other and plan to live together always. Yet, Pope Francis also met “secretly” with a gay male couple of 19 years and their friends (one of the Pope’s former students and his partner) before meeting with her (See Bondings 2.0- newlifeministriesblog and USA Today 10/3/15) . We cannot simply dismiss Pope Francis in his complexity even when he does not do exactly what we who believe in love and inclusion as he does think he should do, and even when we too, as members of the LGBTQ community or as women priests may want his blessings and the opening of doors now.

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Jesus addresses the question of divorce in today’s Gospel. Read without cultural and language understanding this made for rigid church rules about divorce. But in context of Jewish Law and his times and language, men sometimes simply threw away their wives and took another wife. In doing so they were following popular culture but not Jewish Law about having  giving a bill of divorcement so she and he could marry again. Jesus is saying at least honor the bill of divorcement but better still don’t just throw wives away like inanimate objects you don’t want anymore with or without papers. Go even beyond the law on giving a bill of divorcement- make it work!  Marriage is a holy union of two-don’t loosely undo what God has blessed as one. If a woman was thrown away without the bill of divorcement she was in limbo, she could not even marry, while the man could. Jesus is speaking up for the dignity and equality of women, he is charging men with greater responsibility to live in love and not to follow cultural prescriptions that take all women’s rights away.

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Brothers and sisters, God who is love has made others for us to love. God who is Love has made provision for all to be loved.God who is love has made us able to love God and be in relationship with our loving God. We need never feel unloved or alone, God is with us in love. And we thank God for all forms of family and friends, for biological families and for chosen families and for the inclusion of animals as loving companions. Let us then celebrate the message of this Sunday: let us celebrate the sacredness of love in all its forms and let us remember in today’s words: When we express our love to God in our worship and in our everyday lives, God’s message is “I love you more”. Thank you God for all the love in our lives and thank you most of all for your love! Amen!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCW_-USA-East

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

A New Roman Catholic Women Priest Led Congregation in South Jersey

This excellent article by the South Jersey Courier-Post writer Kim Mulford is about a new congregation led by Rev. Eileen Di Franco who was ordained a priest with Roman Catholic Women Priests in 2006 and  four other Roman Catholic Women Priests who will share the responsibility. Rev. Eileen is a member of RCWP-USA-East.

JL

Catholics Start Women-Led Congregation in South Jersey

PALMYRA Last week, as Pope Francis visited the United States for the first time, Eileen DiFranco stood on the street outside a World Meeting of Families conference in Philadelphia and held a banner calling for women’s ordination. Inside, there were banners printed with the words “Love is Our Mission.”

But she heard a different message.

“People were making horrible comments,” DiFranco said. “They were booing, hissing, telling us we were pitiful. Priests and nuns wouldn’t even look at us.”

“I finally started to say, ‘Is love really your mission?’ And nobody could answer.”

Ordained as a Roman Catholic woman priest in 2006, the Philadelphia native has celebrated the Eucharist with four other women priests at regular services held in Drexel Hill, North Wales and Northeast Philadelphia.

The congregations of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community are small. Perhaps 30 to 35 people meet regularly at Drexel Hill, for example.

Starting at 11:30 a.m. this Sunday, the women will take turns leading weekly worship services in a small chapel at Epworth United Methodist Church at 501 Morgan Ave. in Palmyra. Between 10 and 15 people are expected to attend.

The women’s ordination is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Their community isn’t either. A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Trenton, which includes Burlington County, said she had no information about the group.

Indeed, women’s ordination “cannot be done,” said Pope Francis, during an interview with journalists on his trip back to Rome late Sunday. He pointed to Pope St. John Paul II’s declaration against women’s ordination in 1994. Pope Benedict reiterated that message in 2012.

“I must admit we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women,” Francis added, according to atranscript posted by the Catholic News Agency. “We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true.”

Some Catholics already are.

From the time she was a little girl, DiFranco felt called to fight injustice. She saw disparity in the way girls and women were treated at her school and in church.

“For me, it was glaring,” said DiFranco, who recently retired as a school nurse. After earning a master’s of divinity from The Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, she felt called into ministry.

But she didn’t want to leave the Catholic Church. She wanted to help other Catholics follow the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus. She is among more than 145 women priests ordained through the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement.

“It’s my church as much as it is theirs,” DiFranco added. “There are plenty of people sitting in those pews who don’t believe what the bishops believe.”

Even so, change is hard, her congregants explained.

Three South Jerseyans who plan to attend the Palmyra worship service spoke to the Courier-Post only on the condition that their names, towns or parishes would not be used in the story. They said they feared excommunication from the Catholic Church. But each said they support women serving as priests.

One 77-year-old Catholic man said he has attended women-led services for nearly a year. After hearing about young girls who were abused during confession by a male priest, the South Jersey man said he felt young women should have the option of confessing to a female instead.

Jackie Agostini of Hainesport attends Mass at a few parishes, including the Mary Magdalene services. She doesn’t worry about excommunication because she supports women priests or attends their worship services. She said she wants to hear the Gospel interpreted by someone other than a man.

“It’s hard to be a feminist and remain Catholic,” said Agostini, a retired therapist who teaches women’s history at Rowan College at Burlington County. “I’m just going to stay around and be a thorn.”

“This pope is opening windows and doors and inviting change,” she added. “Change is tough. It’s tough in families, it’s tough in individuals.”

Kim Mulford: (856) 486-2448; kmulford@gannettnj.com

If you go

  • St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community will meet at 11:30 a.m. on Sundays at Epworth United Methodist Church, 501 Morgan Ave., Palmyra. Visitors should use the ramp to access the chapel. For information, visit http://www.smmcommunity.org