Archive | April 2023

“Do Not Be Afraid”: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Whether you find your life full of goodness and faith today or a constant negotiation of difficulties, whether there is mostly sunny days, or sun finally pierces the darkness, or you can just see the light at the end of the tunnel, or if this is a deeply dark time for you, listen now to Jesus saying ” It is I. Do not be afraid”(John 16:20). Jesus is offering his presence and help. Fear is a common,usually appropriate, sometimes even helpful but most often awful feeling. But Jesus is there with us. “It is I”- “I AM” is there with us. Our loving God is there with us when we are sore afraid. For all of us, fear is a part of living that must sometimes enter our hearts. Fear is a feeling that sometimes freezes you, pierces your heart and soul, causes anxiety, even panic, and challenges our faith. Perhaps that is why Jesus so often says, “be not afraid” as he lovingly offers his strength and support. Perhaps we can recall and pray for the rainbow after the storm. But during the storm we hunker down and try to “get through it”. That is when, if we listen, we can hear Jesus saying “Be Not Afraid”!

Most especially Jesus is there in our most stormy times of life. There are so many kinds of stormy times in our lives. When the Synogogue leader, Jairus, faced the shocking news of his daughter’s death as Jesus was delayed by healing a desperate woman who had been suffering for years as they went toward Jairus’ home, Jesus says “Don’t be afraid, just believe”. Jairus must have done so as they entered the child’s room and Jesus took her hand and told her to get up! She immediately did to the astonishment of all there (Mark 5:21-43). Oh thank God for the Risen Jesus! While we face our worst fears or experience devastating losses, Jesus is still there taking our hands and helping us to get up.

When financial worries threaten your livelihood and well being, or your daily life is scary and difficult, reach out for that hand. When it seems your heart is broken in failing relationships, take his hand. Or as you care endlessly for a loved one who is deteriorating in every way, and you feel you have been used up and can give no more, hear him say “Do not be afraid” and “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened (heavy laden), and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11; 28). “Do not be afraid, but believe”-and reach out for that hand. And sometimes as you do you will find other hands there ready to offer you care, guidance and support.

We may sometimes feel God is asleep on the job as the disciples did when Jesus, exhausted, slept in the rear of the boat as a storm at sea threatened to capsize it. When he calms the storm saying “Quiet, Be Still” we are relieved and can begin to breathe again. (Mark 4: 35-41). Yet, in this Scripture reading the disciples remained afraid even after the storm stopped as they were in awe of what Jesus had done! In still another storm Jesus hurries toward the disciples saying “Take courage, It is I. Do not be afraid”, and when he climbs into the boat with them the wind dies down. The disciples are still afraid, of who Jesus is and how he can calm storms.

Sometimes our faith wavers too. We do not believe our problems, our storms, can be calmed by Jesus. We just keep on carrying them as if he has no power or presence in such storms. We fail to invite him into the boat with us. But if we are aware of the nuances in the storm, it is often clear that Jesus did get into the boat with us anyway and calm is happening in ways we did not expect. A loved one’s support makes it possible to keep going on. A new friend or resource appears with another way to deal with it, or it just seems to improve. New information is helpful. Perhaps we gain in understanding and it seems more bearable. Jesus is in the boat.

IN John’s Gospel (John 6:16-21) When Jesus said to the disciples who were in rough waters in the darkness, “It is I; don’t be afraid” they were then willing to take Jesus into the boat and immediately the boat reached the safe shore. Dear friends, He is there, invite him into the boat, and do not be afraid. There will probably not be immediate or easy solutions but it will be all the difference to have Him in the boat.


Presently I am fearful because I have taken some tests that I take periodically since my bout with cancer ten years ago. That was a hard time for me as I went through major surgery. The good part was that because of that successful surgery I did not have to take chemo or radiation. I was so thankful to go on with life. A different cancer got me again five years ago and that too was handled by surgery. I am so thankful for good oncologists and good surgeons but I don’t want to face cancer again. It is five years later. And I am fearful that there could be another cancer as tests are delayed for further consultations. And these days it is impossible to speak to your Doctor until there is definite news. The time of uncertainty is a stressful time. It has been six days since the tests and I have taken my own spiritual advice and shared my fears in prayer, and with those closest to me. By the fourth day I had invited Jesus into the boat and am holding His hand. I am acutely aware of his calming Presence. My fears are not all gone but they have subsided and now I deeply feel, “whatever the news is good or bad, God and I will handle it together.” Oh yes, I still hope for good news, but now I am ready to accept it come what may.

Life is full of mountains and valleys. The harsh winds blow and we hold on. God is there beside us. Storms come and go and we carry on our daily lives. I am so thankful for my life. I am thankful for the sun on my back as I walk outside by my little lake. I am thankful for the good air I breathe AND the beauty all around me. The beauty of people and animals and all of creation. I am especially thankful for those who love me and walk with me no matter what comes. I am thankful for the difficulties I have already come through and the assurance of Presence as I deal with all aspects of my life that are uncertain and wearying. I am thankful for the health and strength I have by God’s grace and for the resources to handle whatever comes.

I am thankful that Jesus is in the boat.

Amen, and may you too reach out your hand, put it in His and ask him into your boat.

Love and blessings,

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

The Good Shepherd Community in Fort Myers, Florida


Alleluia! Happy Easter! Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

This is the real Easter, the rising of Jesus the Christ from the darkness of the tomb, and it never gets old. This is not bunnies and chicks and baskets of goodies although we love them. This is not the egg hunt. This is not new Easter clothes and sunrise services, or even joyful singing in the church. All these events and memories from childhood and years past are wonderful and our happy memories are a treasure. And yes, we should and do cherish them. But Easter challenges us to take hold of life in a new way each year. It challenges us to believe the unbelievable and embrace the living Christ-NOW. And so, we want to cherish more than memories of Easter past, we want to live Easter present. We want to LIVE!

My friend lost a beloved family member this year. It, and her responsibilities for burial, left her with the awful feeling:”everyone is gone now”. For the first time she felt too sad to host an Easter gathering for her nearby children and grandchildren. Her love and gratitude for them in her life was undiminished but her heart was too broken to “hide eggs and give out chocolate bunnies”. She hoped her children would understand. She was summoning the energy to attend to the burial in the near future. And so we talked about the new life of her family member and her hope of reunion with all her family some day. We talked about our stage of life in which so many loved family members and loved ones have gone before. We talked until we found the Alleluia represented on the card I gave her this Easter. It was the only Easter symbol she had up in the room. Bright and large letters on a black background. proclaiming “Alleluia!”- He Lives. As much as life was heavy for her just now she embraced the Christ who lives now, and the hope of the Resurrection for those gone before, and for us in our time. She could not give out Easter Bunnies, but the hope of the real Easter could still live in her heart.

Still another friend was down because significant others had moved away and the usual celebrations would not happen this year. Another was in pain with her health condition getting worse. While still another is cooking for all of her neighbors to celebrate Easter and another is throwing a party. Another friend is sharing his beautiful photography of nature with his friends. We each face life differently now. Many face this day without the joy it deeply represents. Yet, the hope of eternal life brings a peace beyond what words can say.

So, wherever this Easter finds you, may you find new life again in the truth of the Risen Christ!

In Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi of Easter 2021 he says:

“The Easter message speaks concisely of the event that gives us hope that does not disappoint: Jesus who was crucified is risen. It speaks to us not about angels or ghosts, but about a man, a man of flesh and bone,with a face and a name: Jesus. The Gospel testifies that this Jesus, crucified under Pontius Pilate for claiming he was the Christ, the Son of God, rose on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, just as he had foretold to his disciples. The crucified Jesus, none other, has risen from the dead. God, the Father raised Jesus….and now Jesus the Christ lives forever….The witnesses (in the Gospel of John Chapter 20) report an important detail: the risen Jesus bears the marks of the wounds in his hands,feet and side. These wounds are the everlasting seal of his love for us. All those who experience painful trial in body or spirit can find refuge in these wounds and, through them, receive the grace of the hope that does not disappoint.”

You might like to read some of my past Easter reflections- for example:


or any in that you find under Easter with the Search function

May God bless you with hope and life this Easter Sunday!

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP,

Rev. Dr. Judith Lee-Good Shepherd Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida


Carrying the Cross: Good Friday Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

“Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth…” Isaiah 53:7

“….For this I was born, and for this I came into the world,to bear witness to the truth.” John 18:37

Matthew 26 and 27

“Were you there when they crucified my lord?….” African American Spiritual

Dear Friends and Sisters and Brothers,

Jesus bears witness to the truth of God’s love for us today. Jesus is in unity and solidarity with all who bear their crosses to death and suffering today and throughout history. Suffering can be on so many levels including and never minimizing the physical level, and Jesus suffered all of these, hunger and thirst, exhaustion, betrayal, denial, abandonment, misunderstanding, false accusations and persecutions. One of the truths Jesus bears witness to today is the truth of injustice. On this holiest of days evil seemed to win as Jesus’ life was tortured and taken from him. His enemies thought that death was the end-but he was to show them that it was not, but a new beginning.

IF you too long for a new beginning, here are some questions for you to consider.

WHAT CROSSES ARE YOU BEARING TODAY? Can you tell God how it hurts?

CAN YOU GIVE YOUR CROSS TO JESUS TO CARRY? Do you want the weight lifted from your shoulders, or heart?

WHAT DO YOU FEEL SEPARATES YOU FROM GOD? Instead can those very things draw you closer to the Cross?



Here is a beautiful prayer that Pope Francis wrote on Good Friday, 2019, will you join me in praying it today?

“Lord Jesus, help us to see in your cross

all the crosses of the world:

the cross of people hungry for bread and for love;

the cross of people alone and abandoned

even by their children and kin;

the cross of people who lack the comfort of faith;

the cross of the elderly who struggle under the weight

of years and of loneliness;

the cross of migrants who find doors closed in fear

and hearts armored by political calculations;

the cross of little ones, wounded in their innocence and purity;

the cross of humanity that wanders in the darkness

of uncertainty and in the obscurity of

temporary culture;

the cross of families split by betrayal, by the

seductions of the evil one or by homicidal

levity and selfishness;

the cross of our weaknesses, of our hypocrisy,

of our betrayals, of our sins and of our

many broken promises;

the cross of your church that, faithful to your Gospel,

struggles to spread your love even

among the baptized themselves;

Lord Jesus, revive in us the hope of resurrection

and of your definitive victory over all evil

and all death. Amen!”

If you would like to read my reflections of other years with pictures of our church on Good Friday Stations of the Cross go to and put Good Friday into the SEARCH box.

Bless you as you watch and pray today,

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

Rev. Dr. Judith Lee

Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL, Fort Myers, Fl

Good Friday April 7, 2023


The Holiest of Weeks Approaches: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Every week is holy for every moment we live is a gift from God and life is most sacred and holy. Yet,this is an especially holy time of year for people of faith. On Thursday the 6th of April the Jewish Community celebrates Passover. (The same holy day that Jesus celebrated on the eve of Holy Thursday this week). Meanwhile the Muslims are already fasting and praying through the month of Ramadan culminating in the happy day of Eid.

In Christendom, this is the holiest of weeks where Jesus, the Good Shepherd of all of us, lays down his life for His beloved sheep. This is the the week where he is brutally crucified, is dead and buried, and, oh thank God, on the third day after rises from the dead, soon appearing to Mary of Magdala, his other disciples and many others. We long to be there with Him and accompany Him through this awful week. Easter and rising from the dead will come- but we cannot rush through our sufferings and trials to get there…with God’s help we go through our sufferings to our own rising again- just as Jesus did. This week we can bring our sufferings and trials before God in a special way, united with those of Jesus. Yet, moving away from ourselves too and focusing only on Jesus.

This is the week when we focus on the passion of Jesus, as after a triumphant ride through the city on the back of a donkey (Palm Sunday- Matthew 21:1-11) he is arrested and faces his ridiculers and accusers and is tortured and hung on the cross to die. This is the week we see the greatest expression of God’s love as Jesus washes the disciples’ feet ( John 13: 1-17) and celebrates Passover with them on Thursday even as he institutes the Eucharistic celebration, in the midst of their holy communion. When holding up the bread he gives thanks and says:” Take eat, this is my body given up for you”, and holding up the chalice of wine he says: “drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for you….” (Mark14:22-24; Matthew 26: 26-27; and Luke 22: 14-20). After this Jesus said echoing the prophet Zechariah (Zech 13:7) ” This very night you will all fall away, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the of the flock will be scattered”. The disciples (not fully understanding or heeding his forewarnings) were enjoying a happy Passover, a good meal with Jesus and their loved ones but Jesus is preparing them for what lies ahead. He is preparing them again for what Christians call Good Friday- the day of the Crucifixion. Indeed they are challenged to stay with him through what will come, and they mostly flee.

Can we stay with Jesus through this week?

Following the Gospel of Matthew is one way to stay with Jesus the Christ through this week of pain and suffering:

PALM SUNDAY Matthew Chapter 21- Triumphal entry to Jerusalem–for this special Sunday (April 2nd) first appreciate the joy of the moment of triumph. Later review what will come in the week ahead-the Passion of Christ.

MONDAY Matthew Chapter 22- Questions from Opponents

TUESDAY Matthew Chapter 23 – Final woes and warnings-and Jesus’ wish to gather us in

WEDNESDAY Matthew Chapters 24 and 25 Jesus’ final teaching to his disciples- serve the least of these..

HOLY THURSDAY Matthew Chapter 26 The Last Supper and trial

GOOD FRIDAY Matthew Chapter 27 The Roman Trial and Crucifixion

HOLY SATURDAY/ EASTER SUNDAY Matthew 28 The Resurrection and commission

Can we stay with Jesus in this week of all weeks? Can we take time to read the Scriptures, and pray, and give to the least of these God’s children?

Can we feel what Jesus went through that we may live now and forever?

Pope Francis said this in his Palm Sunday Homily of 2014 and it applies for this week’s journey:

“This week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question: Who am I? Who am I before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus: Am I like Pilate? when I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned–or condemning them myself: Am I like that crowd….. Where is my heart: Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.”

Whether or not we stay by his side, he stays by ours.

Pope Francis also said in his Angelus, January 2, 2022: “….If we are not ready and willing to receive him, he prefers to come anyway. And if we close the door in his face, he waits. He is truly the Good Shepherd. And the most beautiful image of the Good Shepherd? The Word that becomes flesh to share in our life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who comes to seek us right now where we are: In our problems, in our suffering..He comes there. ”

May God bless you as you go through this Holy Week with Jesus who goes through life with you.

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

Rev. Dr. Judith Lee

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida