Two Roman Catholic Women Priests Reflect -Sixth Sunday of Easter: My Peace I Give to You- May 1, 2016
Whether we are struggling with what it means to live a Christ-like life and if we can really do it, or whether we long for a time and place where justice and peace reign and shine like the sun and the splendor of God is brilliantly apparent (Rev. 21:10-14;22-23), something we do not experience now, this Sunday’s Scriptures give us gentle guidance. Acts 15:1-2 and 22-29 shows the conflict in the early church between the Jewish Christians who also live the Mosaic Law and follow the Jewish traditions and the gentile Christians who do not want to be circumcised. The landmark decision of the apostles and elders and “all the church’ was that “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…”(and not eating the meat of idols, abstaining from blood and from the meats of strangled animals and from unlawful marriage” were the necessities-circumcision was not. ) As Rev Beverly Bingle notes below: this was the start of a new type of Christianity,not conforming to Judaism except in some ways.
Jesus boils it down even more succinctly in Sunday’s gospel (John 14:23-29): “Whoever loves me will keep my word (will obey my teaching), and my Abba God(Father) will come to (you) and we will make our dwelling with (you). …” (J0hn 14:23) As far as we know Jesus did not speak about conforming to the letter of the Law,and sometimes he set priorities in the Law as in healing on the Sabbath, yet he fulfilled the essence of the Law in his every action and in his being (Matt 5:17). In strongly giving us the Mosaic commandment of loving God above all else and our neighbors as ourselves, he both told us and showed us how to live. John 14:15-16 says clearly”If you love me keep my commandments…and I will send you another Counselor,(Advocate, another Paraclete/Helper, the Holy Spirit) to be with you forever”.
We learn that if we live Love and Compassion and seek justice and peace, our loving God will be with us, the Holy Spirit of God is with us. Then, we don’t have to “sweat the small stuff” worrying always if we are doing all we can to be Christians, if we are good enough or holy enough or even doing enough-if we love Jesus and follow his teachings, loving as he loved, we can stumble and fall many times and yet have the peace that Christ sent deep within us. The Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth will teach us all we need to know- “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid-(I will be with you)”.
So on this Sixth Sunday of Easter, let us put aside all anxiety about the lives we lead, as long as we are responsive to the Spirit within us and let Love guide us and sometimes correct us. We are not going to do it perfectly, we are not God, we are not Christ though somewhere in our very human complexity, Christ lives and the Holy Spirit of God sets us on fire for healing, justice and peace and the pursuit of the city of God that shines like the sun, NOW and forever.
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP and Co-Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
And now for the inspirational homily of Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle ,RCWP
That story about the debate over circumcision
that we hear in the Acts of the Apostles
was written sometime in the mid-90s,
and it’s a different from the story
from what Paul wrote to the Galatians about 40 years earlier.
Fr. Raymond Brown says that decision
to allow non-Jews to become Christians without circumcision
guaranteed that Christianity
would eventually become separate from Judaism.
So, from the very beginning we were ecclesia semper reformanda
—a church always re-forming, always changing,
always searching for ways to tell the story of faith
to the next generation.
In the early 400s St. Augustine of Hippo wrote about it.
In the 1960s Fr. Hans Küng wrote about it.
Now, because of technology,
we get almost immediate reporting of the ongoing debate
about what we need to do to be Christian.
How do we think about the wisdom and the glory of God?
How do we spread the good news that Jesus taught,
that good news that the reign of God is at hand?
How do we express the inexpressible?
Just like they did, we use symbols and metaphors
and create meaningful narratives.
Just like they did,
we try to live what we believe.
It’s like today‘s passage from Revelation, for example,
with all those visionary twelves:
twelve angels at twelve gates
with twelve names inscribed on them,
and twelve courses of stone in the foundation,
with twelve names of apostles inscribed on them.
Those twelves meant more than twelve to the early Christians.
Twelve to them meant complete:
all the people of God, everyone,
all included in God’s house,
all that is.
And Revelation tells us that the city doesn’t have a temple
because all the people live in God.
They don’t need sun and moon
because the presence of God—God’s “glory”—
is in them and lights up the world.
Another effort of early Christians to tell the good news in narratives
shows up in today‘s gospel,
a continuation from last week
of Jesus’ “last will and testament,”
created by the evangelist.
The story is true, but it’s not, as Marcus Borg would put it,
something that really happened.
And the message is not written for the disciples.
They’re not around any more.
It’s for future generations,
communicating in story
Jesus’ important messages:
first, that the Spirit will be with them to help them remember
that Jesus lives not only with God but also with them;
and second, that love, and the peace that love brings,
are central to Jesus’ legacy.
How do we see the joy and the dedication,
the care and the compassion,
the love for one another,
that Jesus learned from his Jewish tradition,
and called on his followers to practice,
in the midst of foreign occupation, oppression, and hardship?
His own experience had to have taught it to him,
had to have brought him the peace
that comes from helping others.
Brain scientists looking at mob mentality found
that people who can think about their own moral standards
are more likely to be able to resist
getting caught up in a vicious cycle of violence.
They also tell us that generosity, kindness, and caring
release oxytocin, the hormone that brings feelings of warmth,
euphoria, and connection to others
and causes them to give more generously
and to feel more empathy.
It’s the exact opposite of the vicious cycle of violence:
people on an “oxytocin high” can jump-start a virtuous circle,
where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s.
So one person does a good deed for another,
and it inspires people who see it
to behave with compassion later, toward different people.
Maybe you’ve seen those TV ads for Liberty Mutual,
where one person’s small action helps someone
and is seen by a third,
who goes on to do a good deed for someone else.
That really happens.
Brain scientists have shown how altruism spreads
from person to person to person to person,
how one person’s goodness
can influence dozens or even hundreds of people,
some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.
It’s been 2000 years since Jesus called us to love one another,
2000 years since he said God’s reign is at hand,
that he said we would have peace.
Where is this peace in our world?
In Michigan, 16-year-old Hunter Gandee
found peace in the world last week
when he carried his disabled nine-year-old brother 110½ miles
to inspire people to embrace people with disabilities.
In Tennessee, Jacob Weiss and Joy Teal found peace—
and spread it, too—
when they asked the people they invited to their wedding
to skip the presents and donate instead
to a fund that gives micro-grants to local nonprofits.
In last Wednesday‘s talk on Luke’s gospel,
Fr. Jim Bacik shared a story about UT students
coming back from their service project in Haiti
to tell about the happiness they had seen
among people who lived in garbage dumps—
people whose faith taught them to live
with love for one another.
In Toledo, Julie is a coupon queen,
but she doesn’t keep her bargains for herself and her family.
On the first of every month she delivers peace to the world
in the form of hundreds of dollars worth
of food and household goods
to local efforts to help the needy among us.
Down at Claver House, a local firefighter
finds peace in the world every Tuesday
when he brings a package of cookies
to thank George for his service in the Navy.
There was great joy in the early Christian community.
It brought them peace, and it was noticed, and it spread.
They went about doing good, like Jesus had shown them,
and they were remarkable for the way they loved one another.
Their world was at peace.
We experience that same joy, that same peace,
in this community dedicated to the Holy Spirit,
in each of the ways we reach out as individuals
and as a community together in our social concerns ministry.
As theologian Elizabeth Johnson says,
it’s the Holy Spirit,
nothing less than God’s own loving self,
present and active in the world,
bringing new life to all peoples
and the whole of creation.
It’s truly the Holy Spirit in us.
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