Archive | December 2015

More of Christmas at Good Shepherd

We celebrate Christmas over many days at Good Shepherd and in many ways.  It ends for us next Sunday at Epiphany when some of our people celebrate with gifts for the giving of the Wise Persons also known as The Three Kings, (El Dia de los Tres Reyes) to the baby Jesus.

This is our visit to a Central American family that that we have known for many years.

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We are happy to continue to wish them Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo, and to serve this family, a family whose grandparents and parents started as migrant workers  that now has two girls in College. Carmen, with Pastor Judy B., is in her Junior year.

Christmas week , as a gift and enrichment for the people we serve, we took twenty-four children and adults to see a Christmas production of the Velveteen Rabbit at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater. While some have been to a show and dinner before, for others it was a first time. Although it was technically Children’s Theater everyone present enjoyed it. Our Grandma, three older ladies, our teens and our young children all enjoyed this creative effort. “When you are loved you are real” was the message they thought about and wondered about afterward. DSCF1513

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What a wonderful time together!  Thanks to all our donors who make trips like this possible. A blessed New Year to all!

Love and blessings,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP, and Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP

Co-Pastors Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers

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Homilies and Reflection on the Feast of the Holy Family: 12/27/15

Today is the celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, and we celebrate all families as holy as well. The Holy Family was included in my last homily at the Good Shepherd. Last Sunday I looked around our church of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, a poor church of and with the poor. My eyes rested on the  families and individuals gathered with eager faces, some lined and worn, some smiling and joyful, to celebrate closing advent with love and Christmas with the coming of God to earth in a new way, as one of us, starting off as we all do as a helpless baby dependent on parents and caretakers for everything. My eyes rested on Linda who has seven children, five still at home with herself and her husband, Joe, father of the 13 year old twins, her last children. A few weeks ago both Linda and Joe were hospitalized at the same time in different hospitals with life threatening illness. Both are recovering now, thank God and much prayer and family and church support. Linda has been battling life altering illness for the last several months, being hospitalized again and again. And yet her one focus is her family, making sure they are housed and well and doing well at school and work and coming to church. One way or the other they never miss a Sunday of worship.

And my eyes rested on Grandma Harmon, Linda’s mother who has faithfully brought over 23 of the grandchildren to church with her ranging in age from 2 to 22.  Linda’s brother’s children rest their heads on Grandma’s lap and her sister’s children sit on the laps of their older cousins in our crowded space.  I looked at them gently in my homily about God’s love manifest in human form on Christmas and said that they are like the holy family of the baby and child Jesus, loving one another and leading one another to God and God’s house, no matter what. I said that even as I baptized Mrs. Harmon and Linda, they also led many members of the family to baptism and worshiping our loving God here with us.  I looked at 13 year old Elizabeth whose parents do not come but who brings her two little brothers regularly. I said that even as Jesus liked to go to the Temple, his church, her love of coming here and bringing her brothers tells who she is , a child of God.  I smiled at Pearl and Dr. Joe Cudjoe whose daughters were raised in the church and are now studying medicine. Efe Jane, their younger daughter joined her mother in leading our youth and children in the Sunday School for several years. My eyes moved to Lili, an Italian immigrant who works so hard to house and care for her family. Her 14 year old daughter ,Marcella, sat next to her,  participating in the holy Mass. (We also baptized Marcella and her older sister Maria). I said they are another holy family, and so is everyone here as we are all parts of families and if we do not have our blood family present we do have our spiritual family, this church. The church is a holy family. We are all ages, races, languages, colors and states of being but we are God’s family. There were many “Amens.” During our prayer, Our church Elder, Mr. Gary who was homeless and estranged from his family when we met him, thanked God for his family (that he now leads to Christ) and for his home.  He prayed for all those who are homeless and feel alone that they may find a home inside and especially a home with God, and with us as a church family. We joined in prayer that all children may have loving families,biological, foster, other mother,adoptive and church families.

Today, I read the texts for this Sunday- in the First Samuel 1 reading Hannah and Elkanah are thankful for the unexpected birth of their first son in their older years, Samuel. Hannah says to God “I asked YHWH for this boy and God granted my request. Now I give him to YHWH, for his entire life is given to YHWH (Verses 27-28 TIB).” I am so thankful for the parents who like Hannah and Elkanah and Mary and Joseph and Linda and Jolinda Harmon, and Pearl and Joe Cudjoe and all of the others who have dedicated their children to God. It was my grandmother Ella and my mother, Anne, who did this for me early in life.  In today’s Gospel reading Luke 2:41-52 we read of the time Jesus stayed behind in the Temple when he was 12, after the Passover Feast in Jerusalem-to be about his Parent, God’s, ( in Aramaic,Abwoon’s -Birther God’s)  business. And we also remember when Mary and Joseph dedicated Jesus to God as their firstborn son in Jewish custom, and the joy of the prophetess Anna and elderly Simeon at seeing the “light of the revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel (Luke 2: 20-39)”. And now we too are all God’s children: (I John 3:1-2;21-24) “See what Love Abba God has lavished on us in letting us be called God’s children! Yet,that in fact is what we are!”

Let us rejoice this day that we are part of the holy Family of God! Amen.

rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

http://www.goodshepmin.org

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Our  Good Shepherd Church Family

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And now we present Pope Francis Homily on the Holy Family:

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday morning – the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Jubilee for Families in the context of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy currently underway in Rome and around the world. Below, please find the official English translation of the Holy Father’s remarks, including his extemporaneous additions

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Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

27 December 2015

The biblical readings which we just heard presented us with the image of two families on pilgrimage to the house of God.  Elkanah and Hannah bring their son Samuel to the Temple of Shiloh and consecrate him to the Lord (cf. 1 Sam1:20-22, 24-28).  In the same way, Joseph and Mary, in the company of Jesus, go as pilgrims to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (cf. Lk 2:41-52).

We often see pilgrims journeying to shrines and places dear to popular piety.  These days, many of them are making their way to the Holy Door opened in all the cathedrals of the world and in many shrines.  But the most beautiful thing which emerges from the word of God today is that the whole family goes on pilgrimage.  Fathers, mothers and children together go to the house of the Lord, in order to sanctify the holy day with prayer.  It is an important teaching, which is meant for our own families as well. Indeed, we could say that family life is a series of pilgrimages, both small and big.

For example, how comforting it is for us to reflect on Mary and Josephteaching Jesus how to pray!  This is a sort of pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of education in prayer. And it is comforting also to know that throughout the day they would pray together, and then go each Sabbath to the synagogue to listen to readings from the Law and the Prophets, and to praise the Lord with the assembly.  Certainly, during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they prayed by singing the Psalm: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’  Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem (122:1-2).

How important it is for our families to journey together towards a single goal! We know that we have a road to travel together; a road along which we encounter difficulties but also enjoy moments of joy and consolation.  And on this pilgrimage of life we also share in moments of prayer.  What can be more beautiful than for a father and mother to bless their children at the beginning and end of each day, to trace on their forehead the sign of the cross, as they did on the day of their baptism?  Is this not the simplest prayer which parents can offer for their children?  To bless them, that is, to entrust them to the Lord, just like Elkanah and Anna, Joseph and Mary, so that he can be their protection and support throughout the day.  In the same way, it is important for families to join in a brief prayer before meals, in order to thank the Lord for these gifts and to learn how to share what we have received with those in greater need.   These are all little gestures, yet they point to the great formative role played by the family in the pilgrimage of everyday life.

At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51).  This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families.  A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, butwhen we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience.  We know what Jesus did on that occasion.  Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him.  For this little “escapade”, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents.  The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it.  Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt.  Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience.  Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience.

In the Year of Mercy, every Christian family can become a privileged place on this pilgrimage for experiencing the joy of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the essence of the love which can understand mistakes and mend them.  How miserable we would be if God did not forgive us! Within the family we learn how to forgive, because we are certain that we are understood and supported, whatever the mistakes we make.

Let us not lose confidence in the family!  It is beautiful when we can always open our hearts to one another, and hide nothing.  Where there is love, there is also understanding and forgiveness.  To all of you, dear families, I entrust this most important mission – the domestic pilgrimage of daily family life – which the world and the Church need, now more than ever.

 

Amen!

And here is a special homily for this day from New Ways Ministries, Bondings 2.0 

What Makes the Holy Family–And Our Families–Holy?

Today’s blog post for the Feast of the Holy Family is a reflection on Luke 2:41-52. The reflection is written by Joseanne and Joseph Peregin, leaders of Drachma Parents’ Group, an organization for Catholic parents of LGBT children in the island nation of Malta (a more complete bio of the Peregins can be found at the end of this post).

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

In today’s Gospel, we are reminded that the Holy Family, too, experienced moments of frustration and anxiety similar to that of many parents these days.  Mary and Joseph must have felt let down by their family’s communication breakdown and possibly considered themselves, failures as parents.

They were travelling for one full day when they realised Jesus was not with them. And it took them three days to return and find him. It probably took them this long because they had been looking in all the wrong places before.  But in the end, they found him – in what was probably the least likely place they expected. The parents were stunned to find out their twelve-year-old son was not in some dire situation as they may have imagined: distressed, panicking, or severely sick. Instead, he was found quizzing the teachers in the temple, totally engrossed and fully absorbed in his quest to learn.

Jesus’ choice to stay in Jerusalem, seemingly indifferent to the family’s plan to head back home to Nazareth, may have stirred a relationship power struggle, quite similar to the ones that families experience today. The dynamics in the Holy Family seem very familiar to our own, so what is it that makes this family holy?

They are holy primarily because of the way in which they faced this challenging occasion. It was a moment for them to understand that parents must give up their own expectations and allow necessary space for their children to live out their own roles and fulfil their own life calling.  This gospel story is more about Jesus’ role and place in society, and not about their own hopes and plans.  Mary and Joseph probably touched the pain parents feel when they think they are being side-lined, made redundant, and feel out of touch with the reality of their children. This was their first leap in parenthood.

Jesus digs the wound even deeper: ‘Why were you looking for me?’ as if to say that if they knew him at all, it was obvious where he would be. Was it not yet clear to them that he should be in his Father’s house?  Have they been so blind to all his attempts to talk to them about his life purpose?  Although they may have felt worried and hurt over those four or more days travelling, in the end, they knew it was not all about them.  It was rather about Jesus and his well-being. This was their second leap in parenthood.

It is similar to the anxiety felt when teenage LGBT sons or daughters ‘come out’ to their parents.  Many parents still see this announcement as their child causing them anxiety, rather than their child showing trust – which is a gift. Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus was all about, and sometimes we parents don’t understand what being LGBT is all about. As parents we are sometimes astonished and bewildered.  We too would not have seen it coming.  We too may have ‘looked everywhere’ except in ‘the proper place’ and this leaves us feeling like failures. But the Holy Family assures us that this is all part of the process – all part of the journey to holiness!

In the silence of their hearts, during that dramatic moment, Mary and Joseph must have recognised they did not have all the answers any more.  Their son needed to find things out for himself. The holiness is, therefore, in their humility to backtrack–to go to that place where Jesus was and to meet him there. To acknowledge Jesus’ life calling, perhaps different from theirs.

So during their second attempt to return to Nazareth, they probably stuck closer together and used this crucial time to iron out any of their differences, hurts, and conflicts. They probably shared their own pains and dreams. This second journey must have united this family more significantly. Jesus was obedient and advanced in wisdom, age and favour. He knew he was loved unconditionally and felt supported by his parents. They did not walk ahead or he lag behind. Instead, they walked together aware of their unique purpose and holy path.

This story may uncover the secret to our own families’ journeys to holiness: to accompany one  another.

–Joseanne and Joseph Peregin, Drachma Parents’ Group

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Joseph & Joseanne Peregin have been married for over 30 years and have two sons and a daughter, all in their 20s. They have been active leaders in the Christian Life Community (CLC) of Malta for over 35 years. CLC is an international lay association inspired by Ignatian spirituality, integrating contemplation and action in a spirit of discernment. They are among the co-founders of the Drachma Parents’ Group (est.2008) which is a support group for parents of LGBT people in Malta.  They are members of the newly founded Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, for which Joseanne serves on the steering committee.

Alegria en la Buena Noche: and a Blessed Christmas to All

In Latin cultures Christmas Eve is called the Good Night, La Buena Noche. When my dear friend Nancy Echevarria was alive she invited us to a Buena Noche at her home. There was singing and guitar playing, tamales and special food and the exchange of gifts. It was a wonderful, joyful time. We were delighted to become a part of a Puerto Rican Christmas Eve. We also recall from childhood  all of the wonderful Christmas Eve’s and Christmas mornings that we have had. Some of this remembering is with tears, for it will be no more , at least here. Nancy died in her early fifties in a diabetic coma, a few years after complications of  stomach surgery for her totally unstable diabetes. Her life was full of joy and pain. She was one of my Masters of Social Work students and she was homeless as she began her MSW studies far away from her native Puerto Rico in Connecticut. She was brilliant and yet struggled with much. She cared for her mother, dear Miriam, as she was an only child and then for her twin daughters, Shayra and Mia who have survived her. I miss my dear friend, her joy and her sadness, her brilliance and her struggles. Most of all I miss her strong witness to the Christ of Christmas. She also became a Pastor and was active in her church. She had a beautiful voice and I think I can hear her singing when I step outside and see the stars hovering over my house as they hovered over Bethlehem. There she is singing and so are all of those,my family members, Mother, Grandma, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins and friends like family whom I miss very much tonight. But here also are those I am privileged to be with and share Christmas with, some, thankfully here, and some not right here, but close in heart. Thank God for all of you. And most of all, thank God for the Christ-child who changes everything, who restores love, and justice, and each of us, if we make room for him as the poem below says.

For all who miss someone tonight, especially my friend/sister Barbara who just lost her beloved husband John on December 2oth after a long struggle with cancer, and for my childhood friend Judy H. who lost her Mom and brother both this year. May special comfort and peace be with them tonight. And for all who love the Christ of Christmas, I want to share a beautiful poem by Susan (Elli) Elliot. It describes this night and Christmas so well.  Be surrounded by God’s love tonight.

Christmas Eve Prayer by Dr. Susan (Elli)Elliot     Source: http://ellielliott.webs.com

Fragile God, born in the night –
We listen in the clarity of the cold night air.
We hear the hoofs clopping in the dust,
a man’s soft voice reassuring a tired woman.
We hear his voice inquiring,
“Is there room?”
“Is there room for us?”
Fragile God, born in the night –
We know the story.
We know that you are coming.
“Is there room?”
“Is there room for you?”
Fragile God, born in the night –
We see the shadowy figures finding the stable.
“There is no room.”
We see the man preparing a place in the hay.
He makes room.
We see the woman moving heavily,
The hours of labor, the sweat, the tears, the cries,
the moans, the crushing grip of the hands.
We hear the insistent cry of the child wail out, born at last!
“Make room!”
“Make room for me!”
Fragile God, born in the night –
We hear your cry.
We hear from the hills and the pastures,
your cry as a newborn child ringing out in the still air,
your cry echoed
in the thunderous announcement from the skies.
We see you in the manger.
We travel across the miles to see,
your glory as a newborn child lying in a manger,
your glory reflected in the star we follow.
Fragile God, born in the night –
We have room for you.
We are poor scruffy shepherds and elegant educated kings.
We are servers in restaurants and CEO’s of giant corporations.
We are villagers hauling water for our families from distant wells.
We are neurosurgeons holding life in our well-trained hands.
We are survivors of immense disasters struggling to rebuild lost lives.
We are young children entranced with the glitter and mystery
in the candle light of this night.
We are old grown-ups filled with the emotion
of accumulated Christmas nights.
We are members of big families joyfully reunited tonight,
harried with preparations and seating arrangements for dinner,
but glad to be catching up.
We are individuals alone,
especially aware of the absence of family members,
family living far away,
family taken by death,
family from whom we are estranged,
family we never had,
— children we never had.
We are all these and more,
all of us aware tonight of the fullness of time,
of year following year,
another Christmas full of all the Christmases of the years,
of hearts filled with hearts,
Christmases full of all the people we love and who love us.
This time is very, very full for each of us –
yet we have room for you.
We come to your manger, each of us, in the stillness of this night,
Here we know our profound powerlessness,
and here you are –
a fragile powerless newborn,
yet the newborn child in whom we recognize the ruler of the universe.
We hear your newborn cry, the cry we have been waiting for –
“Make room! Make room for me!”
Fragile God, born in the night –
Meet us here at your manger.
Meet us as a newborn child meets new parents,
come to change our lives forever.
Meet us as the newborn
who insists that we make room for you,
who requires that we reorder our lives to pay attention to you,
who demands that we be re-centered on the very center of life.

AMEN!

Have a Blessed Christmas! Buon Natale! Buena Buena Noche y Feliz Navidad!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

 

Christmas Joy at Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

As Christmas draws near we at Good Shepherd worship with great joy . DSCF1227

And we rehearse our songs and our parts in the Pageant. Our children learn about Christmas best by playing out the story. DSCF1245Mary is Elizabeth Hasan, 13 and Joseph is Keion Lewis also 13. Arnya and Arliyah Jackson and Kiya Battles are shepherds and Niya Battles and Gina Landini are angels. Jon’Est Smith,Jirliyah Jones and RiyaBattles are the Wise Persons. Their teacher Pearl Cudjoe and Cyrillia Rismay are teaching them the song “Oh what a pretty little baby, and Jesus is his name. ”

DSCF1250Keion and Elisabeth, Mary and Joseph with Riya Battles one of the Wise Persons.

This year The Orioles Lodge with Judy Lalande, her husband Hank and the owner Ernie helped us with presents for the children, while Gini Beecroft and her friends at the Breckinridge Community helped with gifts for the teens and families.

The Orioles have generously gifted our little children for several years and we are very grateful to them. This year they donated four bikes as well. Gini Beecroft, left below, also mobilizes her Breckinridge Community each year to assist us with gifts and Lisa Munklewitz, right below, and her husband Walter cooked an amazing Christmas dinner for us.  IMG_0066

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Pastor Judy Lee says “All are welcome”!

Pastor Judy Beaumont reads the Gospel .

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We worship and we share the Christmas story and the homily .  The paintings above Hank Tessandori’s head were  painted by him and presented to the church last Christmas.  This Christmas he gave paintings to several of our people as very special gifts. ( Keion was delighted with his painting of LeBrun James!). Our theme today was God’s amazing love, and as one man said, God’s patience with us as we become brighter lights for the world with Jesus. 

 

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Before our Pageant begins we recognize our church and ministry leadership. Here we bless Mr. Harry Gary our worship leader who also has a birthday.  DSCF1377

We thank Lili Randazzo for keeping the church clean and beautiful,and Robert Swanson for caretaking.DSCF1381

We also thank Pearl Cudjoe and Brenda Cummings, our Sunday School teachers and Pat Byrne our Minister to the sick. Pearl also visits the sick.  And we thank Judy Alves for mentoring and Rogers Richardson and Linda Maybin for their transportation ministry.

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Then Jakein Maybin, 13 plays the trombone as everyone sings Christmas carols.

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The Pageant Begins:

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The angel speaks to Mary: Do not be afraid….

 

 

 

The angel speaks to Joseph too, and he takes Mary for his wife. They make a big trip to Bethlehem and have to sleep in a stable where Mary gives birth to the baby Jesus. Several in the audience also had animal parts.

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DSCF1421DSCF1347DSCF1427DSCF1415The Shepherds see a great light and visit and later on the wise persons also see a star and come to see the baby King Jesus.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DSCF1428

Our Junior and and Lambs class with the help of Keeondra Terrell of our Senior Class did a wonderful job and had a lot of fun re-creating the Christmas story. After arousing applause the scene faded out to the tune of the First Noel sung by the congregation.

Photos are by Natasha Terrell, Lili Randazzo and Pat Byrne.

The final event was Santa who gave gifts to everyone present. (Santa was excellently enacted by Hank Tessandori).

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And the whole church gathered for a Christmas picture.

We wish all of you a blessed Christmas and a Happy and Healthy and God-filled New Year!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP

Co-Pastors  Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

and Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFl,Inc.

http://www.goodshepmin.org

Fort Myers, Florida

 

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God With Us and the Need for a Church- With Bishop Andrea Johnson and Rev. Chava Redonnet

First we present a powerful homily by our RCWP-East Bishop, Rev. Andrea Johnson who shares her homily: God with Us for Advent Four. Then we present reflections on the need for a church building that will also be a Catholic Worker House for the migrant worker community in Rochester.New York by Rev. Chava Redonnet.  We invite you to look once again into your end of the year giving and consider building a church for Christmas.

Love and blessings,

Rev. Judy Lee, RCWP-East

http://www.goodshepmin.org

Homily For Advent IV

December 20, 2015

Andrea M. Johnson

 

God With Us

 

Throughout this season of Advent, we have been on a journey – a journey of hope and anticipation, – in some ways, a journey inward, but also a journey that has brought us into contact with the many signs of the times all around us – many of which disconcert us, filling us with anxiety. We have been confronted with humanity’s long, sinful history which seems to have us ensnared; but at the same time, we are being reassured that in Christ all can and shall be made new. The readings have slowly unfolded for us a plan of salvation which God has for us, and we have also learned that, in the end, everything depends on our response (as in Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel).  We are encouraged by the prophet, Baruch, along with the people of Israel to shed our mourning rags – our hand wringing over the ills of the world – and to clothe ourselves in God’s justice, to reach out to the poor and oppressed, – and to place our trust in God who has promised to visit us with his mercy – to be with us. Paul goes so far as to exhort us to REJOICE! And now, here we are on the last Sunday of Advent, and we are at this juncture hearing more particulars about the promise to which we cling; – we are about to experience deeply how the presence of God is among us – the mystery of God-with-us.

In chapter five of his book, the prophet Micah actually addresses himself to tiny Bethlehem in Judea, lifting up this village which was the ancestral home of the great King David, and was also the burial site of Rachel, the beloved wife of the patriarch Jacob. As such, it was considered holy ground – the cradle of Israel’s relationship with Yahweh. In this prophecy, Micah says that Bethlehem, the root of Israel’s vine, has not ceased to be fruitful. Indeed, a successor to David, a great leader –a messiah – will bud forth from this vine to shepherd the people –the Remnant returning from exile. This great ruler will shepherd them in the strength of Yahweh, who loves them and keeps faithful covenant with them. “They will live in security, for now the ruler’s greatness will extend to the ends of the earth,” says the prophet.  “They will say, ‘This at last is the one who will be our peace!”

So, while Father love, or Creator love, has accompanied the people all along the way, the new Christian community now sees in Micah’s prophecy, not only a great leader, but also that Creator love is birthing into the world a human/divine love – a Messiah and anointed leader – who will be God-Presence in a new way – in a way that people can identify with more intimately, can experience more palpably, and can trust more readily.

The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews has Jesus himself speaking; and he is clarifying for us what is meant by the salvation that he brings and by the meaning of sacrifice in the New Covenant. Sacrifice is nothing more and nothing less than totally putting oneself in alignment with the will of the Creator at whatever cost. It is striving to be at one with the Creator. It is essentially a spiritual conforming to the will of God, but it is played out and made manifest in material ways. Jesus, quoting the words of the prophet Samuel says: “God, here I am. I come to do your will.” The good news is that the coming of Christ into the world in bodily form gives a whole new meaning to our relationship with creation – with the cosmos – with the God who willed it into being and who sustains it. That same God-with-us!

And finally, the gospel passage from Luke, chapter one, depicts for us Mary’s visit to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. We are all familiar with the story. Ostensibly, Mary is visiting in order to be of assistance to an aging cousin, who is about to deliver her first child. The hidden story is that Mary herself is with child by the action of the Holy Spirit as a result of agreeing to the will of God as expressed by the Angel Gabriel. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit (the spirit of wisdom – a grace that comes with age and growth), recognizes the true meaning of the visit. The two pregnancies are inextricably bound together; – two manifestations of the same Spirit; – two signs of the same Presence which blesses the whole of creation. It is the Spirit Presence in Elizabeth that recognizes the universal blessing that Mary and her Child represent, and of which her own pregnancy is a part. “Blessed is she who believed that what our God said to her would be accomplished!”

What Luke has done is to place the story of Jesus in the continual story of God’s faithfulness to Israel, while opening his audience to the expansive love of God that reaches beyond Israel, even to the Gentiles.

Mary and Elizabeth are two unique women representing God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel, and God’s “new thing” being born in Jesus Christ. We, the church, can learn much by standing in the tension that Elizabeth and Mary represent; – learning from God’s covenant faithfulness – and using that groundedness to welcome the new thing that God is doing among us now. In the melding of the old and the new, there appears the continuity of God which brings about life even in impossible circumstances. The encounter of Elizabeth and Mary brings together the past and the future of God, and points the church to a faithful way of relating across generational divides. The shared celebration of Mary and Elizabeth can show those of us who struggle with difference –whether generational, cultural or racial – in communities both religious and civil – how to learn from, equip, and inspire each other. Respect and mutual learning between generations, cultural and racial groups can be a great blessing in church and society. Then praise of the older or more established can bless the younger or more newly arrived with confidence to give their own prophetic witness to God’s work in the world albeit in new ways. Elizabeth and Mary are a model of how the past and the future can come together in the present as prophetic witness to the abundance of God.

The great Protestant theologian Walter Brueggeman once observed: “A myth of scarcity will never generate ‘bread for the world,’ but only ‘bread for us and ours.’ The lyric of abundance asserts that, in the hand of the generative and generous God, scarcity is not true!”

Luke’s gospel makes clear that Mary relies solely on God for fulfilling the daunting mission she has been given. She is singing the ‘lyric of God’s abundance.” Elizabeth also totally depends on God for her fruitfulness. Together they are a powerful witness – both of them singing the lyric of God’s abundant justice in the fulfillment of God’s faithful promises to them.

The question for all of us is, “Can God be enough for us? Can utter reliance on God empower the rich to relax their death grip on goods long enough to see what is enough? Can utter reliance on God teach a lyric of abundance that leads the rich to listen with compassion rather than with pity to the poor, and so respond with generosity? Can utter reliance on God empower the poor and marginalized to speak the truth of God’s abundance with compassion and dignity and strength? Their testimony, like that of Elizabeth and Mary, is imperative to the spiritual liberation of all who seek to be disciples of Jesus.

So on this last Sunday of Advent, we have come full circle from the first Sunday, when Jeremiah announced that God would not fail to raise up a righteous branch who will bring justice and integrity, safety and security. We are to rejoice. Our hope is now to be fulfilled in Emmanuel, God with us. Our act of faith is to be open to receiving the Creator Presence, now Word-Made-Flesh, and ever-present, yet ever elusive Wisdom-Sophia. Our act of faith is to believe that Jesus, the long awaited one, will draw us into the lyric of abundance that bids everyone to come together.

“This at last is the one who will be our peace,” says Micah. May it be so!

 

And From Rev. Chava Redonnet: 

Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, December 13, 2015                                                  3rd Sunday of Advent

Dear friends,

Ever since the migrant ministry began in June 2011, I have thought it would be good if eventually we could have a building – a place where we not only could meet for church, but for ESL classes and other needs in the community. Over time that dream has taken shape. After three summers of meeting in various migrant dwellings, in 2014 I asked a local farmer if she had a vacant building we could use. For two summers we met in a small migrant house the farm wasn’t using. This past summer, a number of things happened. First, the family that had been the mainstays of the church were deported. Later, my significant other, Santiago, was granted administrative closure of his deportation hearings and is no longer in imminent danger of deportation, meaning that I’m now able to think about a long-term commitment like owning a building for the church. Finally, the building we have been using developed a persistent mold problem this summer. Besides making the house unsuitable, it underlined for me the difficulty of using a property that is not our own. Besides the possibility of being asked to leave at any time, if they happened to need the house, there was the difficulty of getting needed repairs done in a timely manner by a landlord who is trying to run a very busy and productive farming empire.

So: it’s time to start making that dream come true. But what, exactly, is the dream?

I’ve set a goal of raising $50,000, and started looking to see what might be available in Genesee or Orleans counties. At that price we might find a trailer on a bit of land; or several acres on which we could build a simple dwelling; or perhaps an old house. Exactly what we do with the house once we have it will be in part determined by what we are able to get, and where it is.

Members of our migrant church have said that they would like the church to have a ministry of outreach to men who are released from the Batavia Detention Center and brought to the Citgo station nearby to wait for a bus. (It is only men that are held at the detention center). They have stories of encounters with men with various needs for help in contacting family, picking up money from western union, and generally with translation. They spoke of men being left at the station in bad weather when the buses had been cancelled. They would like us to be able to respond as a church.

If we had a house, we could offer a chance to take a shower and make phone calls; a place to stay overnight if needed; help with troubleshooting whatever issues they might have in trying to get back home. Men at the detention center might have been picked up anywhere in the country and brought here: one man encountered recently was trying to get to Utah. This would be an opportunity for trained volunteers. I envision teams – an English speaking person who can drive working together with someone from the migrant community who can translate – if the translator can’t go in person they could be available by phone. It would be an opportunity for empowerment and cooperation between the English and Spanish speaking communities.

Depending on the location, we could use the house as a place to hold English classes, which is something folks have asked for a lot. I dream of art classes – of being a place where folks can explore their creativity. We could have community dinners, movie nights, be a welcoming space where people are known and called by name.

Most of all we need to be about liberation. That means not coming in as “helpers” to fix the problems of migrant farmworkers, but to be in solidarity, to be equals, to be aware that each of us has ways to grow as well as gifts to share.

I would like the house to be a Catholic Worker house: Oscar Romero House of Hospitality. At this writing, there is a young couple considering living there to be anchors for the community. Depending on the size of the house, we could bring in other Catholic Workers and the work could grow. We could offer a place for kids to do homework after school – a place for AA and Al-Anon meetings in Spanish – support to mothers with small children. Like the art classes, those dreams depend on how big and where the house is.  If we were to end up only offering hospitality to men coming out of detention, it would be enough.

Also depending on size and location, we would have Mass weekly, probably in the living room. If size and location make that unfeasible, we can continue doing what we did the first three years, and go to people’s houses for Mass.

So far we have raised $4,200 towards the buying of this house. Last week was very exciting because our fund grew exponentially – we had $900 already, then a check came in for $1000 from the community Mary Ann Schoettly started in New Jersey, Sofia, that is now led by Mike Corso. A couple days later came a check for $2000! Since then, several donations of $100 each have arrived.

If you would like to support this effort, you can mail us a check made out to Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church with a note that it’s for the building fund, or if you prefer  you can go to http://www.oscarromerochurch.myevent.com/ and donate there.

A Blessed Advent to you… may you find time for peace and silence and prayer in the midst of all the pre-Christmas bustle!

Love to all , Chava

 

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Words used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia.

Oscar Romero Church  An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in 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

 

Sharing and Love: Roman Catholic Woman Priest’s reflections for Fourth Sunday in Advent and Christmas

Christmas Sharing and Love: RC Woman Priest’s Christmas Reflections Fourth Sunday in Advent 12/20/15

This is the fourth Sunday in Advent when we go on a journey with Mary to visit her cousin Elizabeth and share her good and amazing news of bearing the Christ-child, Jesus (Luke 1:39-45).  How good it is that Mary has Elizabeth to share with, for despite her unqualified YES to God, she must be full of many feelings just bursting to be shared. How we thank God for our close friends and relatives this Christmas-tide. How blessed are we to have loved ones in our lives who can share anything and everything. The visit between two women who are so close to one another that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy at Mary’s words is not an unusual visit, especially around Christmas. We seek out and long to be near those we love and those we can share everything with.

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In our church we are celebrating Christmas along with this fourth Sunday in Advent for some practical reasons, especially to include all of the families and individuals in Christmas joy and gifting.  So we capture the themes of Fourth Advent and connect them to the first Christmas. We are particularly happy to blend this reading about Mary and Elizabeth with the usual Christmas Gospel in Luke 2:1-14 as that enables us to include another important woman, in addition, of course, to Mary who gives her all, in the litany of characters in the Christmas story who are traditionally otherwise all male. We have a Pageant/Tableau with all of the children acting out the Christmas story after the Mass. We have some of the girls enact shepherds and wise people along with the boys, and both boys and girls are angels and animals. We talk about the mothering and fathering of our loving and gifting God along with the mothering and fathering and gifting of Joseph and Mary. In our congregation many are fictive kin, meaning non blood kin, so Joseph fits right in in whatever way he is presented. We make all of the congregation participants in the first Christmas and in receiving the Christ-Child this Christmas. Then the gifts are given at the end. Although the material gifts are important to our people, the gift of love is what we experience and want the most, and that is freely given and fully received.

Some of our families will not have much to open on Christmas but long to stay home and celebrate that day together, so we provide a special celebration and gifting ahead of time. Due to the love and generosity of our donors, each one present is given a gift, and the parents take home bags of gifts for the children to be opened on Christmas-they are also given gifts for themselves and gift cards and funds to use as they wish or must as bills do not stop at Christmas.  Yet, the celebration of our church family ,  being together, worshipping together, laughing and sharing together as Mary and Elizabeth did, and most of all loving one another is the greatest gift to take home.  God’s gift of Love at Christmas is cause for celebration every day of the year.

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May you all be blessed on Christmas with gifts of love, people to share with, and the great joy of knowing God is with us in a new way, born again in our hearts this Christmas.  Make room for Christ to be born in your heart and life this Christmas!

Love and blessings,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers

Shout for Joy: Reflections of a RC Woman Priest on 3rd Sunday of Advent- 12/13/15

The Scripture readings on this joyful, Gaudete, Sunday in Advent begin: “Shout for joy,O daughter Zion!” (Zephaniah 3:14-18a). The prophet encourages Israel (and the people of God) not to be discouraged for “God is in your midst, a mighty savior who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in God’s love, will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals”. Imagine God rejoicing over each one of us and renewing us in God’s love. Imagine God singing over us,singing like a mother sings over her children, like a full choir sings the Hallelujah Chorus or like my church sings: Soon and Very Soon ,we are going to meet the king”.  Imagine God’s joy and all encompassing love  in your life. Imagine a world where this is so for all, leaving no one out, and indeed it would be the reign of God heralded by the prophets and the coming and living and dying and rising again of Jesus the Christ.  Imagine in the words of Julian of Norwich, “all shall be well”. I am feeling better already but I know that we will need to help to build this new Jerusalem,this new world.

God is in our midst, not only within each of us- but in our midst, in our families and neighborhoods and places of worship, in all countries and in our world, in our goodness and in our turning away, in the midst too of our messes. God is in our midst especially in our community of love and faith. It is in community that we propagate the reign of God, the kin(g)dom that Jesus the Christ came to grow and bring to fruition. The prophet Zephaniah heralds a new day for Israel and for each of us that comes to fruition during the reign of God. For us, a reign that blossoms forth in shouting joy with God incarnate on Christmas in a helpless baby who grew  in strength and wisdom with the faithful abounding love of Mary and Joseph and his family and community to fulfill the prophecy of John the Baptist:  “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”(Luke :10-18). Now, John the Baptizer was a fiery prophet indeed, he spoke truth to power and taught the fulfillment of the Law of Justice and Charity-“share with the person who has none”.  But,great as he was, he said he was nothing compared to Jesus, the Christ who would have the power to impart God’s Holy Spirit and to set people on fire for God and for justice. This is the power to animate us, to bring us into life once life has weighed us down with despair and yet given us the glimpse of heaven on earth in love and justice. This is the power of Nelson Mandela, of Msgr. Oscar Romero,  of Rosa Parks and Viola Liuzzo, and Jean Donovan and her Sisters, the power that Martin Luther King Jr. had as he led the Civil Rights Movement despite what his own fate would be-a fate similar to John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ. And yet, to quote the poet Maya Angelou, hatred and conflict, violence and death, prejudice, discrimination, racism, classism, heterosexism and all the other isms have no power over us for still we rise as Jesus did and as we do every day of our lives: “And still I rise”. And this is the power and the cry of the Roman Catholic women priests world wide who have defied the man-made rule of the church that only men may be ordained and stepped out ahead to accept valid Holy Orders. Whatever our fate may be, we act in prophetic obedience and risk our own status in the church to renew the church. We have been set on fire and filled with the Holy Spirit and will not be silenced or discouraged. We shout for joy!

As the Responsorial Psalm, actually the words of the prophet Isaiah says, “Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel”( Isaiah 12:6). As we stand for justice with all the unnamed saints above and below God is in our midst. Again, it is God in our midst,not in our DNA, not only within us like a captured bird, but in our midst-among us. God is transcendent and immanent, both, always and especially in this season as we await the coming of the Christ-child into a world characterized by those who oppress others and make others subservient: as such was the reign of the Roman Empire in all of Judea and much of the world at the time of Christ. And, such is the struggle now-between those who would dominate others and hoard all of the resources, and those who would share the world’s goods with one another so the earth itself may survive the greed of its people, and  all may have and all may live.

Pope Francis,a prophet for our times, has been wonderfully outspoken on the matter of sharing the world’s resources, and caring for the earth and all of its people, especially the poorest and most disadvantaged and disenfranchised-women, orphans, and all groups left out and judged. His inauguration of this Year of Mercy, of Jubilee, of welcoming all people back to God-to bask in the sunshine of God’s renewing love is what the church and the people of God everywhere ought to be doing. Today in his homily from St John Lateran in Rome he said” God’s love and tenderness does not love rigidity but like John it invites us to act justly and look out for the needs of all who need…” He said that sadness is not allowed today, not because he is a pollyanna-type person who does not know the pain in the world, but precisely because he does know the love that God gives and therefore pain that God feels when love and justice are not the order of the day.   He knows too well the need for mercy in this world and he welcomes us all back to God. He said “We have opened the holy door here and at all cathedrals and sanctuaries of the world”. This is not only to welcome people back to God when they had been lost to despair or cynicism or hopelessness, but “to admit joy… in this jubilee of mercy it is time to rediscover the presence of God.”

It would be nothing short of a miracle of love if Pope Francis would welcome back the women who are now priests and all those to come, if he would be able to open that door. Probably that is not going to happen and it is not up to him. But we are with all of the world’s outcast already inside the holy door opened by our loving God,  nothing dampens our joy for we are home with God and God is in our midst.  Let us,therefore,  with Pope Francis and all who  follow the Laws of Justice and compassion open the door for others. As Paul said to the Phillippians: (Phil $:4-7) “Rejoice in God always. I shall say it again: rejoice. Your kindness should be known to all….” Amen.

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REJOICE!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

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