We present here Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan’s homily for this Sunday. Rev. Meehan deftly connects the readings for the day with the themes of God’s great love for us and God’s call to each one of us. The gospel for the day is the calling of Zaccheus, the short of stature tax collector whom others see as a sinner. Zaccheus climbs a tree to even see Jesus and Jesus honors him with a visit to his home. Zaccheus is filled with Jesus’ love and promises to right his wrongs toward others. The Psalm of the day reminds us: “Our God lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”(Psalm 145:14). As I read the Gospel text I identify with Zaccheus, not because I am rich or have cheated others, but because my own imperfections are ever before me. They are different from Zaccheus’ imperfections but there nonetheless. I am so pleased to be loved by God as Dr. Meehan points out and to be invited to house Jesus. As I struggle with the difficult transitions of my life I look to our loving God to be lifted up and raised up. And I pray that my service to others who have little and hurt much brings the face of Love to them. So if you feel like Zaccheus today-climb the tree of faith and look for Jesus who will welcome you with open arms. Then carry him to everyone and live your calling to love and enact justice.
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Homily Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan, RCWP:
Thirty-First Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle C – 30 October 2016
Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2
Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14
2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 2:2
[The Book of Wisdom is found in the Apocryphal section of some translations of the Bible.]
One of the themes brought out in today’s readings is the call. We are told we are good and we are told to follow our call. Our calls are not denied and the theme of call runs throughout today’s readings. But, what else is there?
Look at this phrase from the Book of Wisdom. “You [God] love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made.” Were we not all made by God? Do we not all fall in this category of God loving all things that God has made? Of course we have heard since we were small children that God loves us. But, how often have we stopped and thought about how absolute and profound that statement is?
The reading goes on with, “for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.” God is absolutely and positively in love with each one of us and if God were not in love with us, we simply would not be here. We would never have been here! Look at a few more phrases from Wisdom. “And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?” Have we not been willed by God? Have we not been called forth?
Sometimes words like that sound very distant. We know them in theory but do we really know them in our heart of hearts? Think of the person you find most despicable, the person you absolutely abhor. Does it hurt you to think that God loves that person with the same absolute passion that God loves you?
How does this statement of love relate to our call today? Look at the letter to the Thessalonians. “(W)e always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith.” We see a very definite progression here. God is absolutely in love with each one of us and now we hear a prayer that we may be made worthy of God’s call. Yes! God is calling each of us. Our calls may be temporary or our calls may be permanent. We may have a call to listen to someone for an hour or we may have a call to spend forty years as a missionary in a foreign land. We may be called to our family situation or to our profession. We may even be called to be unemployed. But, regardless, God calls each of us.
The point is that the letter to the Thessalonians is a prayer that we may be worthy of our call. Our calls are unique. They are a part of who and what we are. They are a part of our innermost beings. Are we worthy? We are working on it! We are not perfect. Think back to that question of how we react to God loving the most despicable person we can think of even as God loves us. It does not matter that we are not perfect. Only God is perfect; all we can do is strive toward perfection and ask that we may be worthy of our call. No one in Scripture was worthy of his or her call – at least not by our standards. But, every one had a call. Every one of us also has a call (or a series of calls). We can only ask to be worthy of our call. We will falter and sometimes we will fail but if we remember that our God is absolutely in love with us, our ultimate moment is not failure but the fulfillment of God’s ultimate purpose for each of us.
It is interesting that the gospel today – Luke’s story of that short and bossy little chief tax collector named Zacchaeus – should be a part of this series of readings on our call. Tax collectors were held in less regard in Scriptural times than they are today. The followers of Jesus certainly had no great love for Zacchaeus! He was a tax collector and he was rich. But, he knew how to answer the call! It is entirely possible that professionally he was called to be a tax collector! He was also called by Jesus. Look at what Zacchaeus had to do just to see Jesus! Somehow he got up in that sycamore tree. This may have been quite a feat for a short fellow! He felt the call – a call that extended beyond his profession as a tax collector. And he felt it so strongly that he went to extreme lengths to answer it!
But, even though Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus, Jesus was actually searching for Zacchaeus and Jesus told him gently to come out of the tree because he (Jesus) was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that night. Again we see the absolute love of God – the Hound of Heaven. And what does Zacchaeus do? He prays the essence of the message from Thessalonians! He prays to be worthy. He makes a commitment to his call from God. He will give half to the poor; he will repay anyone he has cheated four-fold; he will turn his life over to God.
And, God says that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house. Notice that we have no indication that Zacchaeus will stop being a tax collector. That may well have been and would continue to be his professional calling. We also have no indication that he will stop being rich. Even if he gave away half of his possessions, he may still have had enough to be classified as rich.
But, notice something else. His answering the call was a change of heart. He knew that God loved him absolutely. He knew he was going to make amends for any wrongdoing and he was going to turn his will and his life over to God. He was answering his call from God. We do not know if he changed his profession; we do know he changed his life. He answered the call to be who he was – the beloved child of God, doing what he could do to be what the love that God had for him called him to be. That is our calling too.
Roberta M. Meehan, D.Min.,RCWP
Pope Francis will visit Sweden next Monday as the Swedish Lutheran church celebrates Reformation Day. This ecumenical and unity move is another good move by Pope Francis, but he can expect the Swedish Lutheran Bishops to continue to express strong pro-women priests sentiments as they have before. The Swedish website: The Local SE has the following article by Ilgin Karlidag. http://www.thelocal.se/20161028/i-want-to-see-women-priests-in-the-catholic-church
‘I want to see women priests in the Catholic Church’
Archbishop Antje Jackelén meeting Pope Francis earlier in 2016. Photo: L’Osservatore Romano/AP
Pope Francis still has a lot of work to do on a range of moral issues despite encouraging comments from the Catholic Church head, leaders of Sweden’s Lutherans say ahead of his visit to the country.
“It is clear that he has said and done things that have ignited much hope among many Catholics and even many people outside the Catholic Church,” Sweden’s first female Lutheran Archbishop, Antje Jackelén, told AFP.
Stockholm Bishop Eva Brunne hailed the Argentine pontiff as “a breath of fresh air”. But the openly lesbian bishop added: “He has a lot to work on when it comes to gender issues, for example.”
Francis kicks off a two-day visit to Sweden on Monday to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation – a highly symbolic trip, given that Martin Luther’s dissenting movement launched centuries of bitter and often bloody divisions in Europe.
Sweden’s branch of the Lutheran Church is amongst the most liberal in Christendom, and the pope’s visit highlights deep splits between the Vatican and this gay-friendly constitutional monarchy, where same-sex marriage is allowed even for priests.
Francis has tried to make the Church less judgemental in its approach to divorced, cohabiting and gay believers since he became pope in 2013, but his critics say he has delivered little concrete change.
In August he launched a commission to study the idea of female deacons – a rank just below priest – but made clear he did not see women becoming priests.
“I believe (the Catholic Church) must bear women and men at all levels,” Brunne said, blasting the lack of progress the Vatican has made on female representation.
“I told the pope last year during a speech that it is time to no longer speak for women about women, but to speak with women,” Jackelén said.
“I want to see women priests in the Catholic Church and I know that there are many Catholic women who are well-educated and would be excellent priests,” she added.
The Swedish Lutheran Church has been appointing women priests since 1960. Figures released in 2010 showed that 45 percent of its nearly 4,500 professional priests were female, with the proportion even higher among parish priests.
Francis raised hopes early in his papacy that he might steer the church towards greater acceptance for homosexuality, and in June he said Christians “must apologize” to gays and lesbians for their past treatment.
Yet new Church guidelines on family life released in April failed to recognize homosexual couples.
“When the pope was asked about homosexuality and responded ‘who am I to judge?’ some hope was ignited,” Jackelén said.
“One could say that as far as this special stance is concerned nothing has changed,” she added. “There is impatience over change in practise.”
Anders Arborelius, bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Stockholm, said the pope’s approach had been one of continuity, despite a “progressive” image compared to his predecessors.
“Pope Francis comes from another continent and has a different way of expressing things, but one cannot say that he has changed anything in the teachings,” he said.
Despite tensions between the two churches, the purpose of the pope’s visit to the southern Swedish towns of Malmö and Lund is to celebrate dialogue and common ground between Catholics and Lutherans.
“We are getting closer on how to tackle climate change,” Brunne said, referring to the pope’s calls for action against global warming in an encyclical issued in June 2015.
“We have reached a point now where we have gone from conflict to solidarity, and we are celebrating that now.”
The Nordic region was completely conquered in the 16th century by the Lutheran Reformation as Protestantism established itself as the dominant form of Christianity across northern Europe.
Officially, Catholicism is on the rise in Sweden – the Church has 113,000 members (1.1 percent of the population) compared only 87,000 in 2000, but it says it believes the actual number of Catholics in the country to be 150,000.
The Swedish Lutheran church says it currently has 6.2 million members, which amount to more than 60 percent of the nation’s population.
But the figures have been slightly falling each year because old members die and fewer children are being baptized, according to the church.
Immigration is also on the rise, prompting religious diversity.
By AFP’s Ilgin Karlidag.
Women Priests are already here in the Roman Catholic Church. There are over 230 world-wide.Some of the priests of the Eastern Region of Roman Catholic women priests-10-15-2016. See, for example, www.romancatholicwomenprests.org
On Sunday October 16,2016 at The Retreat Center in Stony Point, New York, Marilyn Rondeau was Ordained a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church by Bishop Andrea Johnson of Roman Catholic WomenPriests, Eastern Region. Below is a picture of Marilyn with some of the Priests of the Eastern Region. We offer our blessings, prayers and Congratulations to Marilyn and RCWP, an international Movement that ordains prepared women to the temporary Diaconate and Priesthood.
The readings of the day were so appropriate to the occasion: Exodus 17: 8-13 shows that Moses was able to provide leadership in battle only with the support of Aaron and Hur. Without support all long and tiring battles would be lost. Women and men supporting women in the priesthood would tire without the strong support of the many men and women in our communities that hold up our arms as we respond to God’s call in the context of rejection due to the man-made rules of the church limiting the services women can perform(Canon Law 1028). Our Psalm 121 reminds us that God has our backs. Our loving God will guard us from all evil, will guard our very lives, now and forever. 2 Timothy 3: 14-4:2 tells us to be faithful to what we have learned and believed and known from the Sacred Scriptures. The Deacon’s charge is to proclaim these Scriptures and live the service that they ask of us. And regarding the status of women before our God we recall now Galatians 3:28 “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are one in Christ Jesus”. The Gospel of the day, -Luke 18:1-8 shows the response of the unfair judge to the persistent woman. She finally got her justice. And we are assured that God will “secure the rights of God’s chosen ones who call out to God night and day”. One day even within the Roman Catholic Church our persistence will pay off, but thanks be to God, it has already paid off and we are already here. There are over 230 ordained women in the Roman Catholic Church and this number grows every moment as women respond to God’s call and step out on faith, with courage and love. Blessings on you dear Marilyn and on all who persist with courage.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP-Eastern Region
The sin of misogyny has caused many of us to experience sexual assault or sexually abusive language that threatened our safety, dignity and well-being.
Christian leaders cannot condone such violent speech about women as a minor mistake or an innocent attempt to be “macho.” These excuses teach our young people that such language is acceptable and do further harm to those who have been abused.
We urge all religious leaders to preach, teach and help their communities heal from the twin sins of sexual violence and misogyny. While we are disheartened by Mr. Trump’s toxic words, we believe this moment presents an opportunity to teach our daughters and sons that they are loved, and to teach all Americans how to speak out against sexually violent language.Please take a moment to add your support via this link + forward on to other clergy + lay leaders in your network – http://tinyurl.com/XtianWomenCondemnTrumpRemark
(* Congregation names are for organizational purposes only)
Rev. Suzii Paynter, President, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Michelle Warren, Director of Policy, Christian Community Development Association
Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary
Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute
Diana Butler Bass, Ph.D. Author, Educator, Spiritual Leader
Jennifer Danielle Crumpton, Femmevangelical.com
Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life
Jo Anne Lyon, Ambassador, The Wesleyan Church
Rev. Jaqui Lewis, Middle Church
Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, Author
Rev. Katharine Henderson, Auburn Seminary
Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary
* and a growing and flourishing coalition of over 700 highly motivated US clergy + lay leaders as of Thursday morning. Thank you for adding your support!
And many more by Thursday night-do sign on!
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee,Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Pastor Judy Lee