Today we walk with Jesus to the Cross. This is a “GOOD” Friday not for the ONE, or for the ones in our contemporary world, who will be crucified unjustly or wantonly killed by evil forces such as war, greed and poverty and illness and health care systems that leave so many out, but for the humanity that benefits from His love. It is a day when we accept that all who live shall die. And that evil and injustice sometimes reigns. It is a day when we feel the weight of loss and pain, even with Jesus on the Cross where he said finally “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And Who, even there, attended to the needs of his mother and disciples, giving them to one another. (John 18:1-19:42).
Our churches are bare today. The altar is stripped of all except the Cross. In a sense, our lives are bare today, and laid open before our loving God. In the Church today we read from the Word, we venerate and adore the Holy Cross, and we receive communion consecrated yesterday at the Lord’s Supper. In the Word we receive the suffering servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. We respond with Psalm 31 where we see ourselves as broken but continue to place our trust in our God who will save us in kindness. We reflect on Hebrews 4:14-16 about the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Then we read the Passion according to John (John 18;!-19:42.) After that we pray our intentions. Then we hold up the cross as each one of us bows before it, touches it or kisses the feet of Jesus. It is this physical sharing of the Cross that I miss the most this day in zoom ministry. The Cross pictured above was made by a friend for our Community. So many of the faithful have venerated and touched it. and several of them have now departed this earth and are living with Christ. It is truly holy in every way. I hope you will pray with the Cross today.
In our Good Shepherd Community of the poor and homeless, formerly homeless and those standing with us, before our worship in church, this day would begin with Stations of the Cross in the community. We carry our cross and we would stop at the hospital, the bail bond store, the drug infested houses, the school and the homes of the people . We would reflect on Jesus falling and Simon helping him to carry the cross and Veronica wiping his brow and all that happened on the walk to the Cross at each of these places. Then we would return to the church and pray together.
In the Good Friday Mass from Rome today, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa focusses on the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate. In considering Jesus before Pilate I have often focused only on Jesus while Fr. Cantalamessa the Pope’s homilist, focusses us on Jesus’ desire to have Pilate consider for himself who Jesus is. He sees this as Jesus’ love for the man who seems to hold his human fate in his hands. When Pilate asks “What is Truth?” It can be seen as an age-old philosophical question with no answer. But the Answer stood right there before Pilate, as Jesus said before “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”(John 14:6). It was Pilate’s chance to come to the knowledge of God through the love of God expressed in the presence, in the life and death, and of course, finally the resurrection of Jesus. It is a time when we too have the chance to know the Jesus who accepted a horrific death bringing those who love him into oneness with God with him. Today our hearts are moved to love this Jesus.
As I watched Pope Francis in the Good Friday Liturgy televised today, he was limping and the weight of both this day and his years were upon him. As he venerated the Cross, his face revealed that he was completely attuned with Christ. As he kissed the Cross he was one with it. For all who are growing older, have tasks that are ominous despite human frailty, and who love the Jesus of the Cross, be filled with Love today. Be united with Christ, pray through your Good Fridays, and Easter will come.
In our church on Good Friday we always sing the Spiritual “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” And I can still hear this sung by Mr. Leo Dyce in the church of my youth, with his rich baritone that actually did tremble. And on this day we too are there, and indeed, Jesus is with us as we too suffer our crosses. The one who knew the cross knows our crosses and lifts them so they do not crush us. So today we unite with Jesus on the Cross. And, “oh, oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble….” And, oh, we eagerly await the Resurrection.
Here is the link to my blog where you can click on
And put Good Friday in the Search section upper right on the site so you can see and read about our Good Friday reflections and observations in years past.
Be blessed to day as you unite your cross with Christ’s. As you stand by the Cross of Christ like his mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved. Today may you be the disciple that Jesus loved.
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
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