Alleluia He Lives! And She Lives! And We Live-Easter Sunday, A RC Woman Priest Shares Resurrection- 4/12/2020
I am so thankful this year,especially as we experience COVID-19, the global Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, to welcome Easter-the day of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead! Alleluia! Easter is finally here-death came but it could not hold him-and He is risen from the grave. He has broken the bonds of death and brings with him our new life. We too can cast off the bonds that keep us less than fully alive in our everyday lives. We each have different bonds that can hold us back from the fullness of the life that Easter promises. In my life sadness and loneliness can do this, anger can do this, the exhaustion of the everyday chores of a serving life can do this,being up to my ears in the complex sometimes tragic lives of others can do this, and sometimes I even let some folks who are negative “get my goat” and bury their negativity under my skin. Yet, because of Easter, I pray and ask God to take the deadness out of me-to let me live the fullness of life and joy I know as a follower of Jesus and minister of the Gospel. To let me feel and live the Good News so I can touch other lives with the hem of his garment that I have a good hold on. And so it happens that I laugh and smile and sing and go out and serve again. I can be fully alive and for me that is a big WOW! A big EASTER WOW! And even more than that I am older now, and have known the loss of most I hold dear, and I look forward to the life beyond the grave with the Risen Christ of Easter, with our loving God, and with them. I deeply know that we can live now and forever- past the grave. And that is worth an AMEN and a Hallelujah!
I have gone through so many emotions this Holy Week and I have recorded them, sometimes hidden in my reflections in my blogs for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. (Reading them is a good prelude to this. You just click on any of my blogs and go to the archives on the right and there they are.)Easter is the very best and happiest day of the year and you may enjoy my Reflections from two Easters past:
But here, for this blessed Easter, I want to share something very special with you. It is the last (18th)Chapter of my book about my beloved partner in life and ministry Rev. Judy Beaumont who is with us in a very real way this Easter.
The Courage To Love And Serve: The Life Story of Rev. Judith Ann Beaumont-A Roman Catholic Woman Priest and A Saint For our Times
Perhaps it will inspire you to read the book about her amazing and unique life. But its message of life is way beyond what can be captured in a book as it affirms the reality of resurrection here and now.
Here is Chapter 18-The Long Way Home-click on the words Chapter 18 below.
HE LIVES-SHE LIVES-WE LIVE!
A blessed Happy Easter to all,
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
On this Holy Saturday we go with the women to the grave. We pray. We mourn. We do not yet experience hope or understand anything about resurrection. We are in darkness before the light dawns. For many fearing and experiencing the swift sword of the COVID-19 virus and the unexpected loss of our dearest ones it is Holy Saturday. World-wide in this pandemic, not just in our own spheres, it is Holy Saturday. We pray for them today, and all who serve them with love and care. For the many losing loved ones to the ravages of war and hunger and thirst throughout the world, we pray. For the many who lose loved ones to a realm of natural illnesses not yet vanquished by knowledge of prevention and cure, we pray. For all with cancer,Alzheimers’ disease,and other life altering and life threatening illnesses, we pray. For all who don’t know You and the Light and Healing You bring, we pray. For all who know no Easter, no rising from the dead, we pray.
In Pope Francis’ Holy Saturday Homily today he said that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb at dawn (Matthew 28:1-10) and the huge stone in front of the grave was so dramatically rolled back they were given a message of the greatest HOPE. First, they were told not to be afraid. That is a clear message for us today, here and now too-Do not be afraid. Then they were told that the crucified Jesus they were seeking was not there-“He has been raised just as he said”. By now they must have been in total shock and awe, but they were invited to “Come and see the place where He lay”. They were then told to hurry and go and tell the other disciples that he has been raised from the dead and goes before them to Galilee where they will see Him. And you know the women did RUN and they did become the first apostles telling the Good News that Jesus was raised from the dead! He also said that the fact that Jesus went to Galilee was so important. Galilee was not the heart of Jerusalem it was often called Galilee of the Gentiles. Jesus was leading them to go tell EVERYONE, that Jesus rose and because He rose from the dead they too, no matter who they are, can live-now and forever! The message of the empty grave, of the cross and resurrection is a message of HOPE-death does NOT have the last word-Amen!
For those for whom the cross, and its meaning as the gateway to life, remains covered we pray.
With all who keep vigil today waiting for Easter, we pray.
For all who have gone to their Easter and live in Your Light and love forever, we pray. And we ask them now to pray for us.
For our own Easter, our own rising from the bonds of death, now and forever, we pray.
Here is a link to my earlier blog that tells about the beautiful Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Service and pictorially illustrates its sequences and meanings:
May the light and love of Easter break through for you this night.
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble,tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
I can still feel the strong baritone voice of Mr. Leopold Dyce, a Jamaican-American leader in our diverse Brooklyn,New York community and the Choir singing this African-American Spiritual in the church of my childhood and youth as we followed Jesus to the cross and heard the seven words from the cross. Mr. Dyce’s trained voice could literally tremble and cause us to tremble. As I sing it with my church members now, the quality of the voices may lack but the empathy and identification with the suffering of Christ is as strong as ever it was among those who know suffering. All who have suffered in any manner WERE there. Moreover, the good news is that the One who suffered on that day IS here with us now as we suffer. One Priest said Good Friday is the feast day of those who suffer-the humiliated,throughout the world. Another reminded us of the loneliness of Jesus on that day, and the loneliness of those who loved him when they thought he was lost to them, dead forever. The aloneness of that day is striking and perhaps some of us experience a small part of such loneliness now when we can not come together in person in our communities for worship, adoration and comfort on Good Friday despite virtual and social media ways of sharing.
In the midst of this coronavirus-COVID-19 pandemic so many are now suffering with the actual illness, others suffer as they lose loved ones, and watch them suffer from afar,others suffer as they selflessly serve and care for those with the illness-and many live in paralyzing anxiety about the illness. Our prayers today are for all those who experience this tragic illness and those who care for them medically or serve them in meeting basic needs. For the transit workers in New York City and elsewhere who keep the city rolling while they catch the virus, for all grocery store personnel and all essential workers and first responders who respond to us during this epidemic. For all who put self aside and reach out to others during this pandemic,may they feel the presence of God with them in healing and peace.
We could not do it this year in the presence of the epidemic but our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community followers sang this deeply moving African-American Spiritual yearly as we walked through the streets of Fort Myers following the Way of The Cross and praying at places of misery in our neighborhood. And we again sang this plaintive hymn during the Good Friday Service. These were the strong and moving voices of those who knew the pain of racism, social class/poverty, being LGBTQ,being different/other/on the margins in this country. Some also knew the crosses of homelessness,illness without medical coverage, and hunger. They knew suffering yet most of all they knew that Jesus was right there with them in their suffiering. You might listen to “Were You There?” on youtube during your Good Friday meditations.
But the words of another old hymn lift me up today…(From the 3rd verse of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”
“Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in Prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in Prayer;
In His arms he’ll take and shield you;
You will find a solace there…
What a friend we have in Jesus….”
The theologian Bernard Cooke argues that friendship is the paradigm of our relationship with God. We have a Divine Friend who knows our pain and all of our humanity because he experienced it. God’s abiding friendship is exemplified in Jesus on Good Friday as he lays down his life to destroy death so that we may live forever- beyond our physical deaths. But we must wait for Easter to come. He died the torturous death of a revolutionary who offended all of the powers that be of his times with the simple truth of God-love. We too shall die, though perhaps more peacefully. Our beloved Friend has died in the greatest injustice of all times. And so dying he breaks the bonds of death for us.
“Yes, God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One,that whoever believes may not die,but have eternal life” (John 3:16-TIB).
“GREATER LOVE HAS NO ONE THAN THIS-
TO LAY DOWN ONE’S LIFE FOR ONE’S FRIENDS.
AND YOU ARE MY FRIENDS…
LOVE ONE ANOTHER….” John 15:13-17
Today we lose our best Friend and we deeply mourn- though Easter will come.
We will all have our Calvary-yet we are not nor will we be alone. Our Friend is right there beside us. Amen.
Here is a link to “being there” with the Good Shepherd Community in past years:
Below is one of our early Good Shepherd members, Michael Murray who was Jesus for us as we walked the Way of The Cross in Lion’s Park in Fort Myers with members of our Good Shepherd Community. He was a homeless Veteran when we met him but was so thankful to be housed that he wanted to carry the cross for us for two years. He died with COPD after 9 years of living in his home and caring for his kitties in 2018. We were so thankful for his life and his friendship with Jesus and with us. As he carries the cross with members’ prayers nailed to it, our Deacon Hank Tessandori and Elder Harry Gary look on.
A Blessed Good Friday,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
It is hard to be alone as we walk through this Holy Week with Jesus. A most moving part of celebrating Holy Week is the communal celebrations of Holy Thursday and Good Friday and reaching the pinnacle and joy of Easter together after sharing the pain and Jesus’ teachings on the days before as Jesus makes his ways to the cross. This year because of the coronavirus-COVID-19 we can only do this together virtually and solely in our own devotions and meditations. So many of us sit alone with Jesus on these days determined not to “fall asleep” as Jesus prays. Many are attending church by zoom and other social media. Many churches and radio and TV stations such as EWTN enable us to participate when we can not be physically with our own worship communities. And we can continue to share our Reflections of the day in our blogs and other communications. So here I will share some of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community’s activities in earlier Holy Thursday and Holy Week Celebrations and my reflections and that of other Roman Catholic women priests. As you sit at prayer and with your Bibles and devotional readings it may help to include some of these reflections.
Today we have reached the first of the three days of the “Holy Triduum”- the three days leading up to his death,entombment,and resurrection. It is
Holy Thursday-where we accompany Jesus through his “last supper”-having Passover with the disciples, including his washing of the disciples feet,(and thanks to a friend’s phone call- I make clear that I believe it likely that all of the disciples were there including the women who loved and followed Jesus and his mother Mary, Peter’s wife and the other wives and children); his sharing of the bread and wine at the Passover supper-to become his body and blood of the new covenant;and later his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as his disciples slept and the betrayer and soldiers came. (John Chapter 13 and Matthew 26:36-56.)
In the Holy Week 2020 Living With Christ Joe Gunn writes about following Jesus’ example (p.88). “In a gesture pregnant with meaning just before the highly significant Passover meal, Jesus totally disrupted the traditional expectations of his time and culture. He stunned his disciples by insisting on serving them in the most deferential of ways: washing their feet. This deepest measure of service for others is how we must also prepare ourselves for the Easter Triduum. Pope Francis has understood Jesus message. The Supreme Pontiff shocked the world by visiting a Roman jail on this high feast day. He then kissed the feet of young prisoners. He bent the liturgical arc of this teaching moment precisely by washing the feet of those who were never previously included in such ceremonies: two women and several Muslims…Whom should we kneel before and try to heal on this Holy Thursday?” If we can not do it in person perhaps we can make a call or reach out in some fashion and symbolically wash feet until an in person opportunity is present.
Here are two links to my earlier reflections on Holy Thursday:
A blessed Holy Thursday to all,
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
It is somehow fitting that Holy Week for Christians(April 5th Palm Sunday through Easter April 12th) falls in the midst of this tragic global Coronavirus-covid-19 Pandemic. And Passover for the Jewish Community also comes in this week, on April 9th. Both events speak to us of struggle, faith,love and ultimately triumph in the midst of tragedy. They speak to us of HOPE, and hope is what we most need in the midst of this pandemic leaving fear and death in its wake, although we hear less about the many who are getting the virus and living through it.
We need to hear those stories too for they give hope while somehow many feel betrayed that life as they knew it is now radically changed, our world is turned upside down- by a virus. One of our beloved elders here, Jack,90, a married retired priest still volunteering in the hospital, suddenly could not breathe. He was diagnosed with the COVID19 virus, hospitalized and sent home. They said he had a “non-lethal strain”. He is doing well two weeks after. Yet a 39 year old radio personality in our community got the virus and died within one week leaving a wife and young child. Another family man in his middle years is slowly getting better as is his teenage son. What is scary is that it is so unpredictable.
Some seek someone to blame for this and scapegoat others and even blame God because we feel helpless-even powerless. We no longer have the illusion that we can control everything.(And I will leave it to you to discover if there is an upside to this as you place your trust in God even when pain and death will inevitably happen despite our sense of control and power). Meaningful routine is lost, jobs are lost, schools are closed, families are separated at the most poignant of times,we can not actually touch one another or gather for anything. Those who found enjoyment in sports no longer have them to attend or to watch on TV and those who love to gather cannot do so. We cannot even have religious services together-even in Holy Week. While there are ways that we can still be in virtual and distant community,and show love and caring creatively as in communicating with loved ones through Nursing Home windows, and have virtual religious services using zoom and social media,we miss our joint worship, our hugs and simply being together. We are also seeing the many ways people can show love and that is heartening. Yet, fear and this sense of betrayal and even abandonment accompanies pandemics even as they accompanied the original events of Holy week as best we know them.
While most of us may not blame God or anyone else, we are wondering “where is God?” as we go through this on a huge global scale. Yet, it was for this hurting world that Jesus kept on going after Palm Sunday to the Cross. On Palm Sunday Jesus rode through Jerusalem on the back of a donkey(hardly the Cadillac or Mercedes of the times) and the common people cheered him on with shouts of Hosanna (Save us) and waving palm branches, threw their cloaks on the ground to make an easy path for him. It was a brief moment of joyful triumph though he knew what would be ahead. The crowds, full of ordinary people, including many poor and sick and outcast that he had healed,included, and helped,showed their thanks and love and hope for his reign. They didn’t understand that his reign was not to be a political one where the enemy would be overthrown and vanquished. They knew they loved him. This must have felt really good, but Jesus also knew that their love would include betrayal(Judas, his disciple would sell him for money) and denial ( even by Peter who had for a moment “gotten” who he was-“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” ), and abandonment by the disciples, and most of the crowd. He too wondered where is my beloved Abba God,as he was left alone, brutally beaten, scoffed, jeered at and in the worst physical pain. The emotional pain of betrayal may have been just as great. Pope Francis said in his Palm Sunday homily that when there is love and trust betrayal is the worst that can happen. Yet, Jesus love for us got him through it. Wow!!
Jesus experienced the worst pain at every level. Physically- talk about not being able to breathe in the throes of the coronavirus- nailed to the cross arms splayed out and hands and feet nailed, he could not breathe. And while his mother and the women and maybe one of the disciples followed as close as they could most of the disciples were nowhere to be seen and he faced the cross alone. He talked to His Father and quoted the Psalm about being abandoned by God, though in his native Aramaic this may have also meant, “I have fulfilled my destiny”. Simply, he faced an ugly death head on and kept on moving forward. To rise again in three days as he forecasted, to break the bonds of death, to bring us eternal life, he had to die even as we do, and it was anything but an easy death. We can now turn to him who knew suffering to know our suffering and to be with us in it, so we do not have to ever be alone. We marvel how great was his love, how great was God’s love. For Easter, we will focus on life and be glad. Thank God for Easter, it makes all the difference.
Yet,for Palm Sunday for a brief moment we focus on the triumph of his ministry, how he reached the people no one cared about with love and how he took on anything and anyone who lost the meaning of “love your neighbor as yourself”. The Gospels say Jesus was hung between two revolutionaries, also called thieves. Indeed he was a revolutionary of the best kind,taking on the powers that be and showing the power of God’s love, making everything new again by his death and resurrection. For Holy Week we focus on what lies ahead for Jesus and we cringe for him and for ourselves even as we recognize within ourselves the lack of fidelity to love. we too go through our Good Fridays to get to Easter. And he is there with us too with the promise of life. Wow!
For a look at Palm sunday’s past and the meditations of three women priests you can visit my earlier blog:
Have a blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev.Dr. Judith Lee,RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community