Archive | February 2016

Strange Fruit: Two RC Women Priest Homilies for the 3rd Week in Lent

If you have ever heard the great Blues singer Billie Holiday, Lady Day, sing “Strange Fruit” the melody and the words will haunt you. It is one of the earliest songs of the horrors of injustice and racism.  It is about the lynching of blacks in this country.   The body of a black man is the “strange fruit hanging from the poplar tree”, the fruit of a “strange and bitter crop”.  The racism (and other horrific isms) of our 21st century is still the strange fruit of those who claim to love God and those who claim to follow Christ. It is the bad fruit growing on the sick vine. When Pope Francis recently said that those who build walls instead of bridges cannot be Christian he was reacting as Jesus did in Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 13: 1-9) where Jesus is reacting with a call to repentance to the horrible injustice of the death of Galileans at the hands of Pilate and the Roman occupiers who “mixed their blood with their sacrifices”.  The Galilean Jews were killed as they followed the Law and then their bodies and souls were desecrated as their blood was mixed with the blood of animals.  Jesus clarifies that it was not their sin that “earned them” this fate, nor were those who had a tower fall on them more sinful than all the rest. In a time of untimely tornadoes and tsunamis and earthquakes and viral plagues, mass murders and terrorism, it is important to know that God is there with us not causing our horrific troubles.  In a different slant than is sometimes taken on this Gospel, I think Jesus was reacting to the  blatant evil and injustice of murderous oppression and to the capriciousness of those who blame people for the horrors that befall them-and he was strongly saying “turn it around!”. (Jesus also clarified in another place(John 9:3) that, contrary to popular belief,(and indeed contrary to some of the words of Paul to the Corinthians in I Cor 10: 1-6) a blind man was not blind because of his sins,(and God does not bring evil upon people who grumble and turn from God). But Jesus also said that “no good tree can bear bad fruit” a tree is recognized by its fruit (Luke 6:43;Matt 7: 15-20). Jesus calls strongly for repentance, he cannot tolerate such injustice and hatred. But he also wants to help us learn how to truly love our neighbors before we cut ourselves off from God. 

As in the Hebrew Scriptures’ reading for Sunday, (Exodus 3:1-8,13-15)  our compassionate God hears “the cry of those oppressed, the complaint against their slave drivers”, and God knows well the suffering of God’s people. God has come to rescue the people and lead them to a “land of milk and honey”.  Moses is struck with the literally awesome holiness of God, and God clarifies that God’s love and compassion is part of this holiness,and he calls Moses to deliver his people.  We see here that the God of Moses, the Great I AM, and Jesus, the Christ of God, can not tolerate the downright evil and injustice of oppression. Jesus, goes on to say that repentance is called for in the face of evil and injustice. That is, we are called to turn ourselves around when we perpetuate or tolerate the hatred, murder,indifference and injustice of our times. To God the lives of the oppressed,all those who suffer while others prosper, matter so much that God calls for repentance as well as deliverance. To “enter the kingdom of God, we must do the will of God”-we must put the words of God, and the words of God’s Chosen One, into practice or the world falls down around us and we are “away” from God (Matthew 7: 21-28). 

In the parable of the fig tree in our Gospel today we see the frustration of an owner of a vineyard that has a tree that bears no fruit- he is ready to cut it down after three years of waiting for the fruit. But the gardener who tends the trees, pleas, as it were, for the life of the tree. “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down”(Luke 13:8-9). In this parable Jesus is not the owner of the vineyard but the gardener who will give the sorry tree another chance. He will cultivate and fertilize it, he will take care of it and give it every chance to bear fruit.  Jesus recognizes that we are not always fruitful, and although he calls strongly for repentance, for turning it around and practicing the laws of love and compassion and justice toward our neighbors, all of them, he is also willing to tend our growth so that we can indeed bear this fruit. What a relief that is for those who have trouble with the laws of compassion, what a relief that is for us.  


The Responsorial Psalm (103) for this Sunday says it so well: Our God  “pardons all your inequities, heals all your ills, redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion”  Our God “secures justice and the rights of all oppressed…Merciful and gracious is  our God, slow to anger and abounding in kindness…” AMEN!  

Let us then examine our lives and turn away from injustice and hatred in every form, and enact mercy and kindness like our God.Let us, in the Spirit of Christ, tend to the sorry trees and help them to grow good fruit. Let us turn it all around in ourselves, and in our world. 

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers

And From Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle of Toledo, Ohio:

In today‘s reading from the book of Exodus,
Moses spots a flame in a bush,
and when he checks it out,
he finds that it’s a messenger from God.
And then, when he gets nearer, he hears God’s name—
God IS.
Moses learns the nature of God, and of all that is:
the ground he stands on is holy;
the people of God are holy;
all creation is on fire with God’s love.
The bush is burning.
From the stardust of creation
to this very day,
every bush is burning.
God’s name is written in all that is,
and it is to be remembered forever.
Nearly 1500 years later, Jesus looks around
and sees that people are not remembering the name of God.
They are not remembering that the ground is holy.
They do not see that all creation is on fire with the love of God.
So he tells people about it.
In the passage just before today‘s Gospel,
he tells the crowds that they know
how to interpret signs of the earth and the sky
but not the signs of the time.
He asks them why they don’t judge for themselves what is right.
Then he tells them that, if they don’t change their ways,
they will all perish,
and he follows that
with the parable of the fig that isn’t bearing fruit.
The owner wants to cut it down,
but the gardener pleads for time
to try some routine horticultural practices
for just one more year to bring it into fruit.
Now, it takes three to five years for a fig tree to fruit,
and the planter of the tree expects fruit in the fourth year.
The gardener knows that it should mature and bear fruit
by the next year, its fifth year.
If there’s no change, it will be destroyed.
The crowd recognizes the fig tree
as a typical metaphor for the Israelite people.
They understand that Jesus is saying
that the center of their culture—
the Temple in Jerusalem and its cult of Roman collaborators—
is unfruitful.
And the crowd clearly understands his message:
unless they change, unless the Temple changes,
all will perish.
Now, 2000 years after Jesus, and 3500 years after Moses,
we hear the same message,
this time aimed at us.
In Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudatio Si’
we hear that the center of our culture is unproductive;
unless we change, we will perish.
We hear Francis calling us to heed the signs of our times.
There’s lead in Flint’s water, microcystin in ours.
Record heat and record cold.
Record earthquakes and cyclones and tornadoes.
Violence in Kalamazoo and on our streets in Toledo
and around the world.
Zika virus.
Air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, extinction of species.
They’re all around us, the signs of our times,
calling us to change our ways,
or we will perish.
It’s inspiring to see so many Toledoans,
especially our Holy Spirit Community,
changing their personal lifestyle habits
to become more and more responsive
to Francis’ call to care for creation.
Some folks carpool, or bike to work, even in winter.
Some turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.
More are buying local food at local businesses.
Some are researching candidates’ environmental positions
so they can vote their consciences in the March 15 primary.
And all of us are trying to get a few trees planted.
Big things and little things,
each of them part of the effort to take better care of our planet.
Inspiring as all these good works are,
we know we have to do more.
God’s name is written in all that is,
and human selfishness and greed are destroying it.
That’s why we’re spending time this Lent fine-tuning our lives,
eager to follow ever more closely the lesson Jesus teaches.
We must read the signs of the times.
We must judge what is right and act on it.
We must care for creation
as an act of love for God and neighbor
and a work of justice for all.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Holy Thursday, March 24, 5:30 p.m.
Holy Saturday, March 26, 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-


Look, Listen and Be Transformed! A RC Woman Priest Homily for the Second Sunday in Lent

As I write this homily Pope Francis, in the spirit of Lent and living the year of Mercy,  is visiting the prisoners in a “Social Rehabilitation Center”/Prison in  Juarez, Mexico on the Border of Texas and Mexico. First he greets and hugs women and men who approach him individually. Many are crying. Then he addresses them and their faces say that they are hanging on every word he says.  He tells them that they are precious to God and can turn their lives around and the test of this will be on the outside.  He prays that sentences may not be for whole life as those who turn their lives around will be powerful messengers of God in society. As he closes, he asks them to pray and to ask that their hearts may grow to include the forgiveness of  society. He then blesses them and many are weeping openly. As he passes by the band and musicians they come forward to touch his hand and pray. Some kneel and still holding onto his hands weep uncontrollably. This is the spirit of God working powerfully in them, transforming their hearts. I believe this visit will transform many lives. May it be so for each one of us as we continue to walk our Lenten journey. May our touch and words transform lives and may we too be transformed.

Our first reading for this Sunday is Genesis 15:5-12 and 17-18 where we see God making a Covenant with Abram who is asked to look up and see the endless number of stars in the dark night sky, promising him that his descendants will be as many as the stars of the sky and the land will be theirs. Abram was transformed from Abram to Abraham, meaning father of his people as he looked, listened and loved God, and trusted and believed God’s promise.  Indeed adherents of the three faiths springing from Abrahamic roots are “like the stars in the sky”. Looking and seeing and having faith in God’s promises transforms the believer from hopelessness to hopeful. As we live with hope our lives touch and can help transform other lives.

Many things happen in life and ministry that transform us. Both things experienced as negative and as positive can do this, perhaps equally so. In the last few weeks I have experienced both. We had to leave a large family in God’s hands as we had done all we could to help them. We could continue with them in prayer and emotional support but we could not make all things better for them, too many things were wrong, including possible drug addiction and the inability of the parents to listen and hear beyond what they already knew and wanted. It was beyond our ability to do any more. Another agency is finally offering shelter and trying to help.  We learned to gently place them in God’s hands. This was transforming as we have felt that we had to do it all ourselves and that we could. Learning that we could not, but God could, strangely gave another kind of peace. IMG_0004.JPG

The positive experience was experiencing the Spirit intervene in the life of an older woman who was living in the woods for almost ten months with her cat. Often it takes many months to help such a person come “inside”. But this time there was a readiness and our resources matched the need. This woman, “Peg” was praying every day for God’s help. She was increasingly frightened in the woods although many nice people helped her in little but important ways. The unpredictable weather, the sound of the newly arrived coyotes and men in the woods nearby made nights very hard.  The help came when she sought help for her cat and our Veterinarian brought her to our attention and when a man who lived in our hospitality space was simultaneously ready to move on to his own place. As soon as Peg understood that we could accommodate her dear cat with her and that we would also help her apply for Senior living but she could stay with us until her name came up on the list, she was ready to move.  In less than a week she was able to move inside and her gratitude and appreciation was evident as she attended church with us. She cried and cried and whispered “I am home at last”. She had also prayed for a way back to God and to church. She told us and anyone who would listen that God heard both of her prayers and gave her a home AND a church home at the same time! Her joy transformed us from seeing so much of what we could not do and affirmed what we could do with God’s help.  She was also able to help us care for a dog that the large family had to leave behind. Peg’s faith and joy touches all around her. (Below-Peg ,in green jacket on Ash Wednesday, with new friends Brenda and Nancy, and kitty ,Sarah. )



Psalm 27 then asks us to see the goodness of God in the land of the living . God is our light and our salvation now, and forever. Of whom or of what should we be afraid? But it is often harder to see God’s goodness here and now in the midst of daily struggles and not just hope for it in eternity. Seeing God’s goodness here and now is transforming.

Just as reasons for greater fear entered Peg’s camp site, God provided an inside home. WOW-whom shall we fear! I also had another cause to fear in the last few weeks. A routine mammogram revealed a mass that was not palpable. I had to have a biopsy that turned out to be a difficult procedure, and then settled in to await the results. The memory of my first cancer, this same time of year three years ago, a stomach cancer,sarcoma, called a GIST, flooded my memory and struck my heart with fear. Was it to be another major surgery? That cancer was taken away with surgery but I live with its aftermath, having very little stomach left, daily. Yet,  after the first shock and deep recognition of mortality, I was thankful to be alive and able to continue with life and ministry. Now, for a while, I returned to fear. Friends and our church members prayed and supported. Mary, one of our church members who just had a mastectomy shared her journey with me on another level realizing I was facing what she has just faced. We prayed together in  a new way. We truly understood each other’s pain, though mine may be less than hers. She told me “Pastor, you paid your dues with the first cancer, this one should be only a little one”. I hoped so too.  Yet as I lived with it, I realized that God still “had my back”. Once again I am relieved,  that while it is cancer it is contained and “the little one” Mary hoped  for. I will lose at least the mass and surrounding tissue, I will not lose my life. Once again I am to be spared. And I am so thankful.  I found myself at peace today and no longer anxious or frightened. I will be okay. Of what should I be afraid?  I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living. 

In the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (3:17-4:1) Paul challenges Christ’s followers to stand firm in Christ Jesus, and not to let their bellies become their Gods, as some have. Paul is moved to tears as he thinks of those who say “Yes” to following Christ but actually transform nothing in their lives, keeping their own desires as most important. He is encouraging them to allow themselves to be transformed by Christ. As Pastors we are most often moved and heartened as we see our people grow in Christ and in the giving of themselves to others. Sometimes, though,we are disheartened as bickering and anger and selfishness breaks up families and relationships, and self interest looms much larger than community interest. We want them to be transformed. But that takes time and so we pray for our patience and for ways to teach without words. If I am honest, I must say, I am more frustrated with myself than with others as I do not transform so easily either! And so we pray.  

In the Gospel of Luke (9:28-36) we see Jesus transformed/”transfigured”/appearing in a new way, on a high mountain top with James and Peter. Jesus often went to the mountains to pray and to commune with Abba God. He also preached in the hills and mountains. All three synoptic Gospels record Jesus taking Peter, James and John up the Mountain where they experienced who he was and saw his divinity in a new way. The other sources are Matt 17:1-9 and Mark 9:1-9)

In the Gospel  Jesus is presented in divine light and connected to Moses and Elijah who suffered greatly even as they led God’s people. Jesus is seen on par with them and as the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.  He looks different.  His very appearance is radiant/dazzling white including his clothing, indicating their perception of his divinity. The disciples are amazed and frightened. Then in the cover of the misty mountain cloud they hear God’s voice affirming Jesus as also happened in Jesus’ baptism:  “This is my beloved, my Own, My Chosen One, Listen to him.” Now there is divine authority to do what Jesus asks, to follow him. To be transformed we are asked to listen to Jesus. We are also asked by the intent of the text to look around us and see God and  things and people and ourselves in a new way. See the light of God in everyone and in everything. And where it seems not to be, look the hardest and listen with your “third ear” the ear of compassion and understanding, of empathy.  We are asked to be transformed with Jesus, the Christ.

 In his   Angelus talk on the 2nd Sunday of Lent, March 16, 2014 this is what Pope Francis said about the Transfiguration/ the transformation on the mountain top: 

“We need to go to a place of retreat, to climb the mountain and go to a place of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord. We cannot stay there, however. The encounter with God in prayer again pushes us to come down from the mountain and back down into the plain, where we meet many brothers and sisters weighed down by fatigue, injustice, and both material and spiritual poverty.”

We who are transformed by looking and listening and trusting God can transform the world. And toward that end, this is our prayer:

“Our loving God, Help us to see You and hear You. Your words come in many ways. Teach us to see and listen to the gentle breeze and the Gulf winds as well as the howl of the storms of upheaval; to the birds chattering and the babies, to the children and the old folks, to those who have little and to those who have much, to the teacher and the preacher, and to all of Your creation. Help us to trust You and Your promises when we read them for ourselves in the Scriptures or hear them read, or shared by the testimonies of others or experienced in our own lives. We believe, help our unbelief and thereby transform us. Amen.”

Love and blessings,

Rev. Dr. Judith A.B. Lee, RCWP

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




First Sunday in Lent:Reflections of Women Priests and Pastors

We present three Lenten Reflections/homilies here: two by women who are Roman Catholic Priests: Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle,RCWP of Toledo, Ohio and myself, Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP of Fort Myers, Florida; and one by a renowned Methodist Minister and Author Rev. Jan Richardson. Rev. Beverly is focused on the First Reading from Deuteronomy while Rev. Richardson and I consider the Gospel. As I am very much into genealogy and family history as meaning in our lives I am particularly interested in Rev. Bingle’s spin on Deuteronomy and her connections to today’s world with it that rings true for so many  families throughout the world. And as I face the unknowns of another health issue I am completely attuned to Rev. Jan’s reflections on the Gospel.

We begin with a beautiful reflection from the blog of Rev. Jan Richardson,  Rev. Jan’s reminder of the preceding event for Jesus, the Baptism and the affirmation of him as “The Beloved One” is one I take with me, not only through this Lenten period but through any times that are difficult in our ministry and lives and especially when I am about to enter the difficult unknown, a time sort of like now in my life. It is my challenge and my comfort to remember that I too am beloved. And, you ARE too!


Rev. Jan’s Reflection:

“Reading from the Gospels, Lent 1, Year C: Luke 4.1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

—Luke 4.1-2

If we back up a bit in Luke—if we turn around, hang a left at the genealogy, and take a look at Luke 3.21-22—we will be able to enter this week’s text with the same knowledge that Jesus had: that when he went into the desert, he went with the baptismal waters of the Jordan still clinging to him, and with the name Beloved ringing in his ears. How else to enter into the forty-day place that lay ahead of him? How else to cross into the wilderness where he would have no food, no community, nothing that was familiar to him—and, to top it off, would have to wrestle with the devil? How else, but to go into that landscape with the knowledge of his own name: Beloved.

In this first week of Lent, as we turn our faces toward whatever this forty-day place holds for us, we would do well to have that name echoing in our own ears—to enter into the terrain of this season with the knowledge that we, too, are the beloved of God. And so I want to offer you a blessing that tells us this. It’s a blessing I wrote last year for those who joined us on the Beloved Online Lenten Retreat—a beloved community indeed.

As we cross with Christ into the landscape of Lent and into the mystery that lies ahead of us, may we know at least this about ourselves: that our name, too, is Beloved.

Beloved Is Where We Begin

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:


—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

For a previous reflection on this passage, visit Lent 1: Into the Wilderness.

New from Jan Richardson

CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

– See more at:

In last year’s Lent 1 reflection I also reflect on the meaning of temptation in Jesus’ language, Aramaic (slightly modified below): 

(This week) we celebrated Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season at our Good Shepherd Church. I looked into the eyes of those assembled-I saw those who were tired from the heavy work and heavy blows of life-from hard manual work and demanding professional work,  to  seeking work where there was no work, from serious bodily illnesses, from family strife and living in neighborhoods where drive-by shootings have become common place, as recently as yesterday. I saw faithful followers who came to renew their vows to live like Jesus removing any obstacles from the path.  I saw steady golden glimmers of the hope that faith brings.  I saw the burdens of sin laid down in baptism and the mantel of life put on. I easily recalled their baptisms as I had baptized several of the young people and adults who came to accept the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads. I easily remembered with regret my own sins and affirmed the joy of my own baptism and all of the sacramental blessings I have received.  I  saw the freshness of life in the eyes of the youngest and the constant hope in the tired eyes of the oldest.  As I looked into the eyes of those assembled it was not hard to embrace the fragility of life and know that whether it be star dust or good rich earth our bodies are temporal and will all too soon return to the earth while our spirits are united with our Loving God in life forever…


And I saw before me those struggling, as I am, to lead a life in imitation of Christ. Beyond our shortcomings I saw the intentions to get closer to Christ in this Lenten season, not only by giving much less priority to those things that may take us away from God,(our teens have identified technology addiction as something to fast from this Lent and they are so right) but by actively increasing our service to others. It was so helpful when our Co-Pastor, Judy Beaumont said,”… and if you find yourself doing the same things that keep you from God over and over again, forgive yourself and just start again-but don’t give up, DO start again”. …

As Jesus struggled in the desert for 40 days we too struggle with those things that challenge, dilute and diminish our dedication to the Gospel of service, love and justice especially to God’s poor,outcast and struggling. In the Aramaic translation of the “trials/temptations” of Jesus in the desert, we see that the word “dnethnasey” (loosely translated by most as ‘temptation’) means less being tempted and more trying out or being tried out. And Satan is not a supernatural being but a deceiver and the battle is with deception. So we see Jesus struggling with what his mission is to be and if he will accept it and live it. He knows how hard it will be. ( He encounters a battle with gratifying his own needs and wants(bread), with attaining false spiritual power(a ministry of magic and tricks), and with political power(all this can be yours). Power itself is a deception he deals with in order to emerge in his ministry with compassion and love for all.) He emerges- preaching repentance, preaching turning our lives around, changing our lives and believing the good news, with all our hearts. “Believe” in Aramaic connotes “believing in” in the sense of loving another (not a dogmatic belief system). Parents who love a child or spouses and friends who love one another truly believe in them). So, as we have accepted the cross signed on our foreheads and either recalled that we are dust, or as we say,  “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” may we try in these forty days to imitate Christ in the way that we love and serve others.”

Rev. Judith A. B. Lee, RCWP

And, we also have an insightful reflection on the Hebrew Scriptures text from Deuteronomy that begins our worship the First Sunday of Lent by Rev. Beverly Bingle of Toledo, Ohio:  

The book of Deuteronomy tells us that,
like our ancestors in faith,
we must recognize that the power of God
has brought us to this land flowing with milk and honey.
We are to say, “My father was a wandering Aramean”
who traveled from place to place,
out of oppression into freedom and security,
living in peace.
Between the years of 1835 and 1837,
violent acts were perpetrated
against the Jews of Marköbel, Germany.
George and Minnie, married there in 1833,
left Marköbel in the midst of that violence.
With two-year-old Henry, their only child,
they traveled the 4,200 miles to America,
hoping for peace and security
in a land flowing with milk and honey.
Henry married Anna Elizabeth, daughter of British immigrants,
and they raised three sons in northwest Ohio.
Henry’s son Conrad married Sarah,
also a child of immigrants, hers from County Mayo in Ireland. They
traveled 25 miles west
and settled in Scott Township, Sandusky County, Ohio,
where they joined St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Millersville,
east down the Greensburg Pike
about a mile-and-a-half from their Home in Tinney.
They raised seven of their nine children to adulthood,
sweating and scrabbling to make the boulder-strewn fields
flow with milk and honey.
Their youngest surviving son Cletus married Marie,
whose ancestors were Dutch and Danish and German,
Shawnee and British and French.
They found a small piece of land about halfway
between his native Tinney and her native Vickery,
rich and productive soil that became
for them and their three children
a land flowing with milk and honey.
Yes, my parents—
and their parents and their parents’ parents,
as far back as I can trace—
were “wandering Arameans.”
I am blessed to live a long and fruitful life
and settle into a place flowing with milk and honey—
well, with eggs and lettuce and tomatoes and beans—
and the loving embrace of friends and family on the journey.
It’s the history of the human race,
whether they’re our ancestors by blood or by faith,
ordinary people looking for security,
and the power to make a living
for themselves and their children.
Those Arameans that Moses talked about
were an ancient people in Aram and Babylonia—
the land we now call Syria—about 3,000 years ago.
Too many of today‘s Arameans are wandering the world right now,
hoping for a land
flowing with milk and honey
instead of bombs and bullets.
Over 7 million have left Syria in the last four years,
and another 2 million have fled their homes inside the country.
Nine million men, women, and children
running from violence and oppression—
that’s equal to the whole population of the state of Michigan.
Over 200,000 have died from the violence.
That’s like murdering seven out of every 10 Toledoans.
Or the entire population of Akron.
Toledo, a city built by immigrants, has offered safe haven
to 54 of the 80 Syrian refugees received in the State of Ohio
in the last four years.
Some of you volunteer with our local organizations
to help refugees settle here:
UsTogether, Welcome TLC, and Water for Ishmael.
Some of you volunteer in the many activities
of our Northwest Ohio MultiFaith Council,
building peace among Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists,
and every other religious group in our community.
And we write letters and sign petitions
in support not only of Syrian refugees
but South American refugees
and refugees and immigrants from every country.
It’s not just refugees.
Too many people here in Toledo live in despair
of ever finding anything but affliction, toil, and oppression.
We rank #1 in the nation
in the increased concentration of poor people.
One out of seven in our town live below the poverty level.
And poverty is much worse in other places around the globe
than it is here in Toledo.
Our homeless shelters are full again this winter,
but we have shelters
and we have generous donors like you.
You work for and with people in need here in Toledo.
You show your belief in Paul’s observation
that there is no difference between Jew and Greek,
that all are one in Christ.
Just this month you sent financial support to 1Matters
to help the homeless,
St. Martin de Porres’ Black History Month concert,
and the Seagate Food Bank.
That’s on top of the load of in-kind donations
you pack into my car every weekend
for Monday delivery to Claver House and Rahab’s Heart.
And then there’s the environment.
Twenty percent of the world’s population
uses up resources at a rate
that robs poor nations and future generations
of what they need to survive.
That kind of excess and waste and abuse of the environment
break the fifth commandment:
Thou shalt not kill!
But all of you, by putting your time, talent, and/or treasure
into our Tree Toledo project,
are keeping that fifth commandment.
So we say, on this First Sunday of Lent,
“My mother and my father were wandering Arameans.”
It’s time to give thanks, like Moses says,
for the great gifts of God that we enjoy.
It’s time to help others get to this same place
because, as Paul tells us,
we are all one, all equal, all without distinction before God.
It’s time, as Luke’s Gospel tells us, to look to our brother Jesus,
another wandering Aramean,
as he heads into the desert on a spiritual search.
It’s time for us to walk with him into these quiet Lenten days,
searching and praying
to become even better
at following him on the Way.

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

AMEN! Let us move forward into Lent and beyond all levels of death to Resurrection.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP



IN this picture with me are three who live the Gospel of justice and peace: Jackie Allen Ducot of the Catholic Worker House in Hartford, Ct, Rev. Judy Beaumont and Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia of Colombia. Jackie and Judy have been imprisoned for their peace activism and continue to live lives of serving the poor and struggling for social justice and Rvda. Marina Teresa has risked much to serve the ends of justice for the Afro-descendants of Colombia. We are humbled to follow in their shoes this Lenten season. 

The Least of the Apostles: Two Roman Catholic Women Priests Consider God’s Call- 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

What is your response to awareness of the presence of the living God? When something happens to make you consider God’s holy presence and what God wants of you, how do you feel and how do you respond? I give some of my own thoughts and responses here along with the perceptive homily of Rev. Beverly Bingle of Toledo, Ohio.  These are for your prayerful consideration:

The Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 138:1-8; I Corinthians 15:1-11 and the Gospel, Luke 5:1-11.

First we see the prophet Isaiah reflecting on a dream he had in which he senses/sees the awesome holiness of God. He responds that he is “doomed”– he does not belong in the presence of the Holy of Holies as he is a “Man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” and yet he has seen “the King, the Lord of Hosts/ the Ruler, YHWH omnipotent”.

The Psalmist responds with deep heartfelt thanks for God’s kindness and asks that God not forsake “the works of God’s hands”.

Paul describes himself as “the least of the apostles” not fit to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church, and he describes how hard he worked, with God’s grace, to spread the gospel.

And, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching the great crowds near the shore, sitting in Peter’s boat.  When he is finished he tells Simon (Peter) to go out “into the deep water and lower the nets for a catch”. Simon has already tried that and was putting the boat away for the night when Jesus chose get in it to teach at a little distance from the crowd.  So he said to Jesus (we did that already to no avail, but) “at your command I will lower the nets.”  When the nets were filled beyond belief Peter was in awe and knew that Jesus was no ordinary man or prophet and said, as Isaiah did, “Leave me, for I am a sinner”.

Jesus said to him “Do not be afraid; from now on you will fish among human kind. “ Then Simon and his partners James and John brought their boats ashore and left everything and followed Jesus.

In each of these scriptures the human response to God’s holiness, Presence, and power is first a sense of sinfulness, of not measuring up, of not being fit to be in God’s intimate presence and not worthy of the call to follow. And in each case God continues to call and accept the gift of those that are called.  Then, as in the case of Isaiah, God cleanses/heals Isaiah’s unclean lips and calls him forth. Now Isaiah, cleansed, can accept the call: “Here I am send me”.

I know well these very human and understandable responses. They were, and sometimes are still, my own responses as well.  I still say to God, “what on earth do you want of me with all of my faults? Dear God, you know me so well, how can you send me?” I know my own sinfulness and limitations as the prophets and disciples knew theirs.  I sometimes still say to God, “I am not worthy of the call, and I am not worthy of the priesthood”. Fortunately, as God shows in the call of Peter and Paul and Isaiah, my worthiness is not required. (And, in fact, I am worthy because of Christ, even when I don’t believe it or feel that way!)  God asks only that I do as Peter did, even in moments of disbelief-do what I am asked to do. Then,as I separate myself from what may hold me back including my own sense of unworthiness, I can join the great company of people with many human frailties that God uses to answer the prayers of others, and to serve “the least of these”, God’s people.

Something beautiful happened this week: a woman prayed and prayed and Pastor Judy Beaumont and I and our ministry were used by God to answer her prayer.  Within the last two years, ‘Peg’, a newly widowed older woman, lost her job and had to live with one of her children whose spouse could not tolerate her. Seeing the spouses fight over her was very painful and one day she left and having nowhere else to go lived in the woods. She was actually able to make a go of this hard life for ten months and did not complain. She told those who asked her that she prayed every night that God would protect her and help her to live, and God has done this. She asked God’s blessings on all who were kind to her. She read her Bible but felt her clothes were not good enough to go to a church. Also she was disillusioned with the church, but full of faith in a loving God. Her sweet and upbeat spirit attracted many natural helpers to her who gave her what it took to survive outside until she got her own Social Security check-not an amount that facilitated housing in this pricy area. An influx of rough men, the recent heavy rains and threats of tornados and also a coyote in the woods brought new pressures upon her.  A  cat came to her little tent and soon they were best friends. When the cat took ill she took it to the Vet in the nearby plaza, Dr. Terry Sutton who is also our wonderful Vet. Dr. Sutton treated the cat and with Peg’s permission told us about Peg. Before I even called Peg on the cell phone to set up a meeting Pastor Judy B. recognized her on the plaza from Dr. Terry’s description and engaged her.  I then came the next day and learned her story. Next we filled out an application for Senior Housing with her. But most of all we prayed that we would have an empty room behind the church, then filled with two men and a dog, so that she could live there until her Senior Housing was available. A day later one of the men called and said that he had saved enough to get a studio apartment and had moved out! Now Peg and her kitty had a home! She was ecstatic and was able to gather her belongings in two days and move in-just ahead of unseasonably cold, windy and rainy weather! She has attended a midweek meeting at the church and feels right at home. Her gratitude and joy is infectious and gives us new life. She said that we were her answer to prayer but we feel that she was an answer to our prayers, an affirmation of our call.

How amazing it is to be an answer to prayer when feeling the full weight of our own imperfections. God used us despite our failures and human frailties. How awesome is our loving God!

(Peg and I sit on the plaza and fill out an application for Senior housing. )  


(Below on the right is Peg at church with two of our leaders, Brenda and Gary.)



Peg moving into her new room with great joy. Thanks be to God! 

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL

Rev. Beverly Bingle’s Homily:

Last week’s passage from Luke’s Gospel

saw Jesus rejected by the people of his home town,

with its population of 400,
and heading down to Capernaum,
with its population of 1,500.
Capernaum is about 20 miles away from Nazareth—
an easy day’s walk.
In passages read on weekdays,
Luke has Jesus exorcising a demon in the synagogue,
curing Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever,
and healing people sick with various diseases.
Then Jesus goes off to a deserted place,
but people follow him
and try to convince him to stay in Capernaum.
Instead he heads off to spread the good news
to the other towns of Judea,
and that’s where today’s Gospel passage picks up.
Luke says Jesus is standing by Lake Gennesaret,
the freshwater lake
that’s called the Sea of Galilee by the other evangelists,
not quite four miles from Capernaum,
a little more than an hour’s walk away.
A crowd has gathered by the lake to hear Jesus.
So he hops into Simon’s boat and sits down—
the posture of the teacher in the Jewish tradition.
The miraculous catch of fish follows his teaching,
Luke’s version of an event
that most scholars think
in some form or another
actually happened.
Mark and Matthew give the bare information
that Jesus told the disciples
they would be catching people instead of fish.
Luke expands the story
into the big catch and the call of the disciples.
John puts the catch after the resurrection, on the beach,
as a story of call to discipleship and sending on mission.
All four of the Gospels give evidence
that Jesus talked about fish a lot,
and he ate a lot of them,
and he passed them out to lots of people.
Many of the towns he walked to—
Capernaum, Bethsaida, Caesarea Philipi, Chorazin,
Scythopolis and Hippos in the Decapolis,
Jericho, Tyre, Sidon—
were on rivers, lakes, or the Mediterranean Sea.
By the time of this event,
Simon Peter would already have experienced Jesus
as an extraordinary person
through his experience of the teaching in the synagogue
and the exorcism
and the healing miracles.
The giant catch of fish puts Peter over the edge—
he leaves everything and follows Jesus.
People would have remembered
Peter talking about that important moment over the years.
People also remembered that Peter was not perfect.
He was an ordinary human being.
He worked hard as a business partner with James and John.
He was not part of the ruling class but one of the ruled
and would have, along with other Galilean Jews of the time,
chafed under Roman oppression.
He was impetuous,
sometimes mistaken,
prone to misunderstanding what Jesus was saying.
But more than anything,
people remembered that Peter’s encounter with Jesus
dramatically changed his life.
In that same way,
our life experiences change us.
At some point we are compelled to change,
perhaps to follow the dream, like Isaiah;
or to see more clearly, like Paul;
or to leave a job, like Peter.
We remember a point
when we made an important choice.
And it happens to us
not just once
but over and over.
We are called.
Most of the calls we get are little ones,
choices we make almost automatically,
like smiling at a stranger
or helping a grandchild with homework.
They’re like the call Peter got
to let his friend Jesus hop in his boat
and put out a short distance from the shore.
He could have said no
and kept on washing the nets.
And some of the calls are big ones,
like Peter’s leaving everything behind and following Jesus.
We might answer a call to learn
that sends us off to college,
or a call to marriage and family,
a call to leave a well-paying job for a more meaningful one,
a call to volunteer for justice and peace.
Sometimes we misunderstand,
stumbling along the way like Peter did,
and take the wrong way for a while.
Then, like Peter, we turn ourselves around.
By the way we live,
by the choices we make in each circumstance,
our actions teach the Way of Jesus.
We are called to be disciples.
We become followers of the Way.
We become fishers of people.

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

Blessings to all as you find yourselves in the Presence of our loving God who asks you to follow. 

The Catholic Church of the Beatitudes: Roman Catholic Women Priest Pastors

We are pleased to share a 2/1/2016 article about the Catholic Church Of the Beatitudes in Santa Barbara, California and thoughts on Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy  from the Santa Barbara NOOZHAWK by Francie Monk. Rev. Suzanne Dunn and Rev Jeanette Bertalan Love are the Pastors and Cindy Yashimoto is the Deacon.

May God richly bless the work of this church.

Love and prayers,

Rev. Dr.  Judy Lee, RCWP

Catholic Church of the Beatitudes: Imagining the Holy Year of Mercy

By Francie Monk for the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes |

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio becamePope Francis on March 13, 2013, a pair of feelings stirred in me — hope and skepticism. Both felt like one authentic reaction.

When I heard he was interested in the poor, the hungry and marginalized, I blithely remarked: “Isn’t that entrance-level gospel work?” I admit, this was an embarrassing ignorance on my part. For decades I’d been used to a different message coming from Rome.

But now, the entire world has witnessed that Pope Francis’ compassion for the suffering of our brothers and sisters the world over is not work for him.

Rather, it is his total immersion in the mind of Christ, his being in Christ, his joy in Christ. It has been a constant invitation and call to all of us trying to be faithful to the gospel.

…may the church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid and love. May she never tire of extending mercy and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from old” (Psalms 25:6).

The Catholic Church of the Beatitudes has always answered the call to live the gospel with dedication and joy. We have varied and active ministries inside, as well as outside the Beatitudes, that we support.

If it’s a corporal work of mercy, we do it. If it’s social justice, we address it. If it’s controversial, we consider it with open minds.

We take care in our community, serving the homeless, fighting for the rights of the mentally ill and marginalized, standing vigil at Vandenberg Air Force Base against nuclear annihilation, and supporting the creative life of formerly incarcerated men and women.

We take care of each other in times of sickness, grief and changing life circumstances. We celebrate the gifts and accomplishments of each other and work to see that others in the Santa Barbara community receive the same consideration.

This year, Pope Francis has presented the official Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy ​— “a special time for the Church, when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.” Apparently, it isn’t business as usual like yesteryear.

So I have to ask myself, if the Beatitudes community has been actively engaged in gospel work, then what is the meaning of a Holy Year of Mercy for us? What will make this year different from what we have been doing?

It seems like keen discernment is what is required as we define the scope of mercy. The pope makes it clear when he says, “We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”

I interpret this to mean that mercy is not a smorgasbord — no room for mercy-lite. He means absolutely everyone.

It is easy to stumble here if you are trying to practice rigorous honesty. It is here and now that we must ask ourselves different questions — perhaps even difficult ones.

“How far are we willing to go to be merciful,” is a good starting place.

Pope Francis asks us to contemplate the idea of a Holy door.

“… a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope,” he says.

It makes me think of all the doors in my mind that are only partially open, and some that are closed altogether.

Before crossing the threshold of mercy, it’s important to examine who is shut out, who is forgotten, who is too difficult or who not deserving at all. Mercy has hidden depths when we care to wander there.

At the first Beatitudes community meeting in this Holy Year of Mercy, the question of what mercy would look like for us was raised. One woman, well known for her thoughtful responses, mentioned softly, “Maybe we could offer forgiveness to someone who has harmed our community.”

I silently struggled with that. (Could I really do it? No, yes, no … is how it went).

Then I realized I am part of a community that never shies away from difficult issues and is more than willing to tread further together into unknown territory.

Pope Francis stresses that our own lifestyles contribute to much of the suffering of people in the world. The Beatitudes has started looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

We are looking for ways to answer where it is we can simplify our lives and use of material goods, and we are aware of our responsibility to those who suffer the effects of consumerism and its excessiveness.

When it comes to mercy and all its nuanced meanings, the Beatitudes community has committed to keeping the doors wide open and will continue to ask probing questions, challenging ourselves to go deeper to find newer meanings that we haven’t imagined.

As a community, the Beatitudes give special attention to Pope Francis’ reminder: “.. God has chosen our time as a special moment in history for emphasizing this aspect of God’s plan.”

As a contemplative community, shepherded by two Roman Catholic women priests, the Beatitudes will continue to act with the same courage and faithfulness that has always enlivened us. We are, after all, in the words of Francis: “… the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.”

— Francie Monk is a member of and co-chair for the Safe Parking Outreach for Women program through the the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes, which celebrates Mass at 4:30 p.m. Saturdays at First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara, 2101 State St. Click here for more information, or call 805.252.4105.Click here for previous columns.