The raging wind roared all around the house. It was a loud and eerie sound. I sat inside by myself in an inner room with my cats and birds nearby and quietly prayed as the house shook but did not give. Was I scared? you betcha!!? But, at the same time, I also felt a calm and a peace with the presence of God near. “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble...”(Psalm 46:1). I felt Jesus hunkering down in there with us. ( As he said-“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 20b) I was not alone although Pastor Marina who was with me during Hurricane Irma was working at the hospital for the duration. I was glad she would help others and be safe. My love was away and also unable to leave work but thankfully we communicated on the still working cell phone. My storm shutters were up all around and they rattled loudly but we were safe and thankful. Electric power failed at some point, the world inside and out was deep black except for my flashlight and lanterns. After the wind finally died down I waited hours before gaining the courage to look outside.
My solid concrete home is fortunately seventeen feet above sea level and I was not in the two groups in this area asked to evacuate. My small lake crept up toward my house swallowing my downed banana trees but stopped short about half way to the lanai boundary. A whole wall of the lanai was gone, some of it in the pool. A gigantic clump of trees were up-earthed with roots clutching the air and a small rock formation was upturned with it and was revealed to be huge as well. There would be some costly damage to the roof and lanai and to the trees, but I was perfectly safe inside. With my neighbors, I was so thankful.
When we could finally venture out, Doris, who lives across the street and sustained bad roof and tree damage, and I reflected that we could not go through this again. Doris’s family quickly came and helped her to dig out. They were wonderful, as were Pastor Marina and her friends and Myron my carpenter friend who helped me, and my faithful God-daughter Maya with her devoted husband Lamar and daughter Kimora who came to bring supplies and check on me.(Their cheerful picture is at the end of this reflection). Yet, both Doris and I said Hurricane Irma was enough and this finalized it. No more Hurricanes for us! Somehow other plans would be made. I am making a plan to become a snowbird. Yet, it is so difficult to think of leaving what has been home and ministry for over 24 years-even for the hurricane season.
So much was literally turned upside down, including the tens of thousands of human lives touched by Ian, the second deadliest Hurricane hitting Florida in recorded history. The first was Katrina in 2005. The numbers change daily as Ian-related deaths are confirmed and missing people are found but the most recent number is 120 confirmed deaths. The stories of people clinging to trees and debris, and to the tips of their rooves before they were rescued are harrowing. One man floated inside of his open refrigerator on his top floor. He was barely breathing as the water was still over his head as he poked it up to breathe. Fortunately he was rescued by a search and rescue team. There were endless stories of rescue and its converse- the revelation of bad news. One young man who volunteered to help people to leave Fort Myers Beach shared that at one point there were 40 dead bodies in his boat. I cannot imagine this or how this affected him though the stories of his daring rescues may sustain him, and all who undertook this necessary task. As it was originally thought that Ian would hit Tampa and not Fort Myers, the evacuation notice was relatively short and some people simply could not leave.
The numbers of people who have lost everything in the storm are not countable at this time- loved ones, pets, homes, cars, and whole neighborhoods and communities are devastated or gone. For those communities that were not flooded and still stand in tact wind damage is significant. Everyone we talk to faces costly damage or has lost something irreplaceable or knows someone who lost everything. Our friend Doreen, also a former Good Shepherd Board member with her sister Stella, is an elderly woman who is blind and chronically ill yet always upbeat. She waited out the storm with Stella on the second floor of her sister’s Senior condo building in Seminole Gardens in East Fort Myers, an area grazed but not devastated. They were terrified but safe as the storm passed by. But, Doreen, whose home was in downtown Fort Myers, soon learned that she had 12 feet of water from the Caloosahatchee River, several blocks away, in her house. She was so thankful to be alive as is everyone who has gone through this. Everything is gone and she is now living temporarily with her daughter Sonya in Bonita Springs as her son Romel from New York takes charge of their devastated home.
I also note that I have canvassed our Good Shepherd Faith Community here in Fort Myers and each and every one has survived and is in a process of renewing their lives. Fortunately most lived east of the storm’s hardest impact. And each one wants you to know how thank-full they are!
The day after Ian left us a truck pulled up to my neighbor and friend Bernadette’s house. She was already deeply grieving the recent loss of her husband dear Greg who would have helped all of us now, and she was now facing her own damage. But a fellow teacher friend of hers with her young adult son got out of the truck dripping wet with nothing but their night clothes still on their backs. They had been rescued from the Island Park area of Fort Myers. Bernadette offered them shelter and food and we both supplied them with clothes and comfort. The next day I lent them my car so they could go and check on their beloved cats. The hearty cats had survived but their home was demolished. In a few days they were able to find a place to stay until they could rebuild with the help of another friend.
Yet there are many who have no one to help them, or to double up with. Some still reside in Shelters, like the one in the former Publix in North Fort Myers, or are camping outside or in unsafe portions of their devastated homes. FEMA is sending RV’s and Manufactured Homes to place on their properties but they are not here yet, over one month later. And FEMA gives housing money but there are still few hotel rooms. The feeling of devastation is hard to fight as all of this is witnessed daily. There is a wall constructed in downtown Fort Myers where names and pictures of the deceased are placed with flowers and art work. It is beautiful but so difficult to see. When the names of the newly confirmed dead are published on the local TV station with beautiful music and flickering candles, I cry.
And, I pray for all who are going through the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, in Cuba and the lower Caribbean where it first hit, and here in Florida and in South Carolina and beyond. I pray for all going through disasters of any kind as disasters can stop us in our tracks. But I also know that the Presence of our loving God is right here with us even as we go through the random path of a hurricane, or the rugged paths in our own lives. I think of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “”..those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ” ( Isaiah 40:31) And the words of the prophet Ezekiel(36:26) “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.. ” God knows that there are times that we may feel more dead than alive in our spirits and promises us renewal. And so we get strength to carry on in the face of devastation.
We may sometimes ask why was I spared when so many good people were drowned or killed or devastated in this Hurricane? We feel that all should have been spared. But random acts of nature do random horrible things and we can only join God in standing with those who are hit by it. Indeed, the many stories of kindness and caring after the hurricane are heartwarming and affirming. Disaster can release bonds of caring in us that may have been neglected before. (You might see, for example, http://www.ClickOrlando.hurricane, or https://www.wptv.com.hurricane, or Triblive.com, or https://www.news-press.com>story, or https://www.redcross.org>news>hurricane.) And for those who may question why God lets this happen and may tend to blame victims, I am reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 13 where Jesus notes that some people blame the 18 victims of the huge tower in Siloam that fell on them. “–Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem: I tell you no!” Jesus then points out that all of us need to look at ourselves and repent of our own sins and shortcomings. And as Paul counsels the church in Corinth: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”(2 Cor 4:16).
And, most importantly, Jesus promises us LIFE now and forever:
“The truth of the matter is, whoever listens to my words and believes in the One who sent me has eternal life and isn’t brought to judgement, having passed from death to life….the hour is here already-when the dead will hear the voice of God’s Only Begotten and all who hear it will live…”( John 5: 24 and 25b)
In this context to believe and to hear means to know Jesus in relationship and to follow what Jesus is asking us to do in the path of LOVE. This promise is for life NOW and FOREVER. It is a comfort to us, and to those who have lost loved ones even in this disaster, that death is a passage not a finality– we will live beyond death and rise again even as Jesus lives and has vanquished death. So as I sat there in the raging Cat 4 storm I had no dread or fear of dying though I did not feel ready to leave my loved ones here. Indeed, I am so thankful for the sparing of my life and pray that I can go on serving the ONE who makes life forever. I also feel that it is sometimes very hard to LIVE well now, in Christ, and am challenged to pray for myself and others that we live lives pleasing to God.
We can not minimize the impact of disasters on ourselves and our communities, we must “own” tragedy and loss to get beyond it. But, oh, we can pray that we are open to the LOVE, the RENEWAL and the LIFE God is giving us.
Below is my house with the Cross that shines at night still remaining on it, and the statue of St. Francis is now standing on a stump where my tall majestic palm tree once stood.
” Behold, I am making all things NEW! ” Revelation 21:5
So as we think of all that has happened since Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida our hearts turn to God who is with us through it all. We take hope in the words of John in the book of Revelation: “Look, I am making all things NEW!”
Above are mybanana trees that were trampled by Ian, the ripening fruit on the ground. And the young egret near it is still a testament to life. Miraculously, all of the ducks and little water creatures that come daily seem to have survived the storm. And, thankfully, the little outside cat that I feed survived the storm. She is more scared than ever, but still comes to eat at her site down the street. And, I think of all those people and living creatures who live outside when inside is needed. I think of the housing crisis in this area where minimum rents of $1000 and much more for even a studio apartment raises the numbers of homeless and doubled and tripled up exponentially.
Yet, both ironically and thankfully, during this time of disaster, those people who were homeless long before this disaster hit finally have Shelters they can turn to without judgement. And so I ask: if we can shelter and offer assistance so quickly after a major storm, why do we not regularly provide adequate shelters and help for those who are homeless from life’s disasters ? Neither the County or the City of Fort Myers provides any Shelter for the homeless among us. Private not for profits try hard and offer something but the beds are so few compared to the ongoing need. Do we only follow the Law of Love when it affects us directly? Are some more worthy than others to have a roof over their heads? It is my prayer that from this disaster we will look at ourselves and our local services for the poorest among us and do something NEW to shelter and help all of God’s people.
With just a little real assistance lives can and do turn around. (Thank you Patricia Byrne for reminding me of this). Within all living things there is a will to live and the means to grow and adapt.
The bananas could not be salvaged, but within just 3 weeks the picture below shows the banana trees growing back and flourishing again.
They are small but growing and will produce their fruit again. They will also continue to provide a sheltering feeding station where the ibis and ducks and moorhens come to feed. They are NEW again! And we can take hope that, like them, when we are mowed down by life’s disasters we too may rise again, may come to new life, may be RE-NEW-ED!
I urge you to believe it and be of good cheer and HOPE : God is making all things NEW again!
Thank you for your interest and your caring about us here in Fort Myers.
Love and Blessings and HOPE,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely seas and the sky…to the gull’s way and the whale’s way….” The English poet John Masefield wrote that poem (Sea Fever) when he was a young man longing for the call of the sea. He longed to sail in a grand ship on the sea. I longed simply to be at the seaside or to feel myself floating in the sea. That call has been with me since childhood. My mother, who had many struggles before and after my father left us when I was two, loved the sea. Although we lived in our little two story row house family home with my Grandma and Uncles in Central Brooklyn, she would take me by busses and trains to the sea at Rockaway Beach, or Riis Park, or Coney Island as often as she could**. I could often bring a best friend with me. We loved Coney Island best and I think she only chose the other two beaches when she did not have money for the Steeplechase Amusement Park in Coney Island, a strong secondary draw for us. Mother was always peaceful and happy when we were at Coney. Life was simple and so good in Coney Island.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a prominent “beat” poet, Poet Laureate and social activist of the 1950’s, wrote Coney Island of the Mind. The actual Coney Island is three miles of beach front bounded by a Boardwalk, and a host of other attractions set in a mostly poor and working class neighborhood. But to those of us who love it, it is also a state of mind. Ferlinghetti quotes Steeplechase founder George C. Tilyou: ” If Paris is France, then Coney Island, from June through September, is the world”. It is where “you and me could really exist”. It is where Ferlinghetti waits “for the rebirth of wonder.” It is where wonder took root in me. As I write this I can hear James Taylor singing his song “ “In My Mind I’m Goin’ to Carolina…” “Can’t you see the sunshine, Can’t you just feel the moonshine?” “I better get back home again real soon… Yes, I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind”. My Carolina is Coney Island.
Coney Island is home to me, as much as home can be now. When I was a child it was the smell and the feel of the sea and the sun, and the wood of the Boardwalk, the sand between my toes and in my pail, the smell of cotton candy and Nathan’s hot dogs and the music of the Carousel we always rode together that drew me. It was precious time with my working mother, traveling with her on the train and bus and watching her do handstands in the water, and teaching me how to float and swim. It was riding the electric horses in Steeplechase with her and a little friend, and really thinking we could win the race. It was tumbling down the huge, shiny, wooden slide and landing on the spinning plates below that thrilled me. It was visiting Aunt Edie at her summer bungalow there with the whole extended family surrounding and Uncle Jackie singing Pennies From Heaven. Playing with Cousin Billy on the beach as all the grownups sang and ate under the boardwalk. It was the whole summer Mama and I spent there when I was a little older, maybe 6, swimming every day, chasing butterflies in a backyard field and eating spaghetti on the Boardwalk at night. Wearing the pretty turquoise blue bathing suit my mother bought me and talking on a neighbor’s phone to my Grandma so I didn’t miss her so much. Mama and I hand in hand as we walked into the welcoming sea.
In a few years, in my early teens, we could also visit Cousin Jackie and her Mother Aunt Charlotte in Coney Island. Charlotte grew up on St. Marks Avenue with my Mom and my Uncle Jack . Jack and Charlotte lived in Coney Island together in young Jackie’s early years. Later he moved back to St. Mark’s Avenue but we could visit Jackie, my closest Cousin who was more like a little sister to me, and Charlotte who was one of my mother’s few loyal friends. Charlotte and Jackie lived inside of Seagate at one point and that was next to our favorite spot on the beach on West 36th Street. The rocks and later a fence separated Seagate from the public beach. Our spot was always near those rocks and as a child I would enjoy climbing on them.
When I was divorced, my own difficult decision as I claimed who I was, after 13 years of marriage I was “at sea” in a new way. I was thirty-three, a new University Professor and in my first love relationship with a woman. For the first 4th of July after the divorce I got on the train from Manhattan and visited my cousin Jackie and my mother who also lived in Seagate near them. We all sat on those familiar rocks and I dipped into the sea as I reoriented my life. The sea was a place that put life into perspective.
As Anne Morrow Lindbergh says in Gift From the Sea “…the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone. One becomes, in fact…flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings. And then, the mind wakes, comes to life again…It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach…”(p.10). And at the beach in Coney Island I began to put my life together again with new figurations that defined me as I was and would become.
My mother was beautiful, inside and out, and she was also very smart. I always felt it was special to be in her presence though I knew I would never be beautiful or as smart as she was. One of eight children, my mother was the only one that went on to High School and that on a College level, after excelling in Rapid Advancement Classes and entering High School a year early. She was a true pioneer who bravely left Brooklyn to attend Eastern Nazarene College Academy in Wollaston, Massachusetts. I think my Grandmother’s church gave a scholarship for this. She excelled and was about to graduate when she was sent home on a disciplinary action for sneaking out of the dorm to meet her boyfriend, another student who was not so disciplined. Seen as a “sinner” for doing this, and it was nothing more, she was denied graduation although she had completed all of her work. This terrible injustice was quite a blow for her. She eventually took hold and did Secretarial Studies, getting high level office jobs. But, she was an artist, a writer, an actress understudying at the Cherry Lane Theater in the Village, and a thinker who loved reading and the Library where we spent many happy hours. She never liked her regular work where the bosses would make passes at her and the job would be lost.
She, Anne Marie Weinmann of Brooklyn, New York was married to Albert Carl Beach, of Morristown, New Jersey, at 22 after an elopement. My Dad was also 22, and they lived happily in Greenwich Village, New York. I was born when she was 30 and my father left for World War II. We moved back to St. Mark’s Avenue in Brooklyn. He visited us during my first year and wrote loving letters, but when he was discharged from the Navy in 1945 he never returned to us. ( I was finally to meet him in my 55th year after a successful computer search. I could see her attraction to him, and I could see myself in his face. But this is another story). This was another blow to my mother that she could hardly recover from. But our times at the beach were a time of happiness and recovery for her, and pure joy for me.
The above picture was my Mother just before her marriage. She worked as a greeter at the Albee Theater in Brooklyn where she met my father, a head Usher. She was chosen “Anne of the Albee” at that time. She had modelling jobs and also Office jobs.
They called Coney Island the People’s Playland and the Poor Man’s Paradise or Riviera…but when we were there we were never poor-we were rich in what God had created and what imaginative human beings like George C. Tilyou had thought up and brought into being. We could make believe, we could play, and we could be free in the sea.
My Mother and I in front of her home on West 36th Street in Coney Island in the early 1980’s
In the last twelve years of her life, my mother lived in a new Senior Residence on west 36th Street in our Coney Island. She lived in an apartment on the eleventh floor facing the sea-her “million dollar view”. It was amazing walking the Boardwalk with her and realizing that she did this every day in her early seventies despite what heavy smoking was doing to her heart and lungs. She loved it there. She spoke of the good air, and the rolling sea. She painted many beautiful pictures of her view and of the beach. Her other favorite subject was colorful flowers. She left us peacefully in her home at the sea in 1987, the smoking had finally weakened her heart and she was about ten days from her seventy-fourth birthday. I still miss her every day. My walls in Fort Myers are filled with her paintings of flowers and of Coney Island, Her refuge, and our refuge. And my refuge.
IN the picture below taken this August I am with my dear friends Laura (left) and Danielle in front of the Adult Living Home where Laura lived on West 36th Street exactly across from my mother’s building. We are celebrating Laura’s 85th Birthday. Laura remembers when we all viewed this same Adult Home from my Mother’s window and wondered who lived there?
After Laura’s celebration which was brief as she did not feel well, we walked two short blocks to visit my favorite spot on the Coney Island Boardwalk and look at the rocks, Seagate, and the rolling sea. My life had come full circle there. I was with my love and full of quiet joy as we beheld my beloved beach. There were some changes. The Boardwalk was now made of a plastic composite and not wood at all. It lacked the warm sweet smell of sun drenched wood. The sand was filled in right up to the Boardwalk so no one could have parties or respite under the boardwalk any more. And grass grew here and there and a few flowers poked their yellow heads up. My mother would have loved the flowers.
I could feel her here with us. And I could see her living- whole and beautiful again with our loving God and all of our family. We were so blessed to be there and to have her close to us. It was so good to be home again.
May you hear the sea winds blowing gently, may you take your shoes off and walk in the sea if you like, and may you feel close to those you loved who have gone before. They are as near as your breath, and fill your heart with joy if you let them. They want no tears, though tears may fall, They want you to live your life fully, to love the Author of Life, our loving God, and to love one another. In doing so you will feel their love supporting you as always.
May God bless and keep you,
Rev. Dr.Judith A.B.Lee, RCWP
Pastor, Good Shepherd Ministries and the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Fort Myers, Florida
September 10, 2022
** If this sparks interest there is a book I have written about our life in Brooklyn entitled The House On Sunny Street: My Two Brooklyns that is available for ebooks on Kindle on Amazon.com Sadly the hard copy is out of print at this time. And now you may also know that the A. B. in the middle of my name is for my mother Anne Beach and it was also the rest of my maiden name after Judith.
I turn to green to feel God’s love, to feel alive, to freely worship and to renew my soul. To remember who I am. I need green to live.
When I was a child we lived in the “inner-city” in Brooklyn, New York. But there were green bushes in front and back and two small green trees in my yard, one was a flowering Rose of Sharon, and the backyards surrounding my little two story row house had many trees. The ailanthus tree, the ” Tree That Grows in Brooklyn” like Betty Smith’s novel of the same name, a tree that “likes poor people” according to Francie in the novel, was my salvation as a kid. My best friend Jean Tracey and I would shimmy up her skinny trunk and fix ourselves in the long boughs with almost palm-like leaves and sway in the wind. We would hug the trees for dear life and we could almost fly. We were parallel to the second story window where my mother would appear. We laughed as my worried mother would tell us to “come down this instant before we kill ourselves”. But it was just the opposite, like Francie in Smith’s novel, we were fine when we could touch our trees.
When I taught at NYU School of Social Work in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the best perk was the faculty housing at 3 Washington Square North that faced a courtyard full of deep green trees, and the best tree touched my bedroom window. When I moved to faculty housing on Bleecker Street for more room I had a beautiful view of the city but I began to feel sorely deprived of my needed green. This was one of the several reasons I took a position at the University of Connecticut School of social Work and moved to West Hartford in 1984. I bought my first home and I was on the ground, the lawn was green with a beautiful dogwood tree in front and later a pine tree that I planted grew into a deep green gorgeousness as well. And the back yard was also full of green. I would be fine again until fourteen years later it was time to help start a new MSW program in Florida. But I would seek green to live fully.
I chose my home in Fort Myers, Florida twenty-four years ago because within a few feet of my back door a gentle green slope dotted with a variety of gently swaying lighter green palm trees led into a small lake filled with life, with water birds and fish and turtles. It also had a greenish hue. The trees across the water were deeper green and as the seasons passed I was saved because the green and the lake remains throughout the year. Winter is still green here and I am so thankful. And I am also near the Gulf of Mexico and the sea is equally important to the green in my life. As a child my trips to Coney Island and Rockaway Beach with my Mother and a little friend were the greatest treat. And I could not stay out of the water no matter how chilly it might be. So Fort Myers held deep and flowing life for me.
Yet, the green in Florida is not quite the green in the Northeast, and from time to time I long for the green of “home”. So I was extremely happy and elated when we could take a road trip from New York to Connecticut and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania this summer. Not only could we visit family and dear friends who are family, we could be enveloped in green, and near the sea. We could be renewed on all levels. For without relationship to dear ones the scenery is absent of what is most essential.
We did not have time to go farther out on the island to see all of our family, but we were truly blessed to be with Cousin Bobby and his family and Cousin Patricia Sullivan King in Massapequa as well as Cousin Jackie and Mike Marion. Cousin Jackie was born and raised in Coney Island.
In Brooklyn we went to Coney Island and saw our friend Laura who was celebrating her 85th Birthday and Danielle who helped us celebrate with Laura and then enjoyed an afternoon at a restaurant on the water at Sheepshead Bay with us. Laura lives in an Adult Home across the street from where my Mother spent her last twelve years of life looking at the ocean from the eleventh floor of her Senior building, and walking the entire Boardwalk often. This was home for me and filled with good memories from all periods of my life. It was such a joy to be there.
In Connecticut we were delighted to visit family of choice as we saw Marley and his family in New Britain and Felice and her family in Somers, and the chosen family from my teaching at the University of Connecticut SSW in Hartford and West Hartford. Marley sees me as his “other mother” and calls his beautiful children my grandchildren. I helped raise Marley and his sisters Perdita and Chanel for several years of his childhood and we love and continue our close relationship. Felice is Marley’s younger sister and my God-daughter. To see both Marley and Felice in their lives as parents and be with their families brought special joy to this trip. And at each home and locale we were surrounded by rich deep green trees and grass and flowers all around.
We were also so blessed in Connecticut to see those I was close to while on the UConn Faculty and beyond. Dr. Ruth Martin and her family, Jean Low and her cousin Bob, and Gail Bourdon were literally a “sight for sore eyes”- a joy to behold. Dr. Ruth and her daughter Vivian Martin, a Journalist recently completed and published a book entitled “Beatrice’s Ledger: Coming of Age in the Jim Crow South”. (The South Carolina Press). We were so happy to celebrate her success in this landmark achievement despite struggling with illness and just to be in her presence.
On To The Mountains
From Connecticut we travelled to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts and parts of the Poconos in Pennsylvania. Here we were surrounded by green on every side. The drive itself felt like entering paradise.
It was cool and it was an ascent into layers of green, with and without lakes and endless gorgeous flowers.
St. Hildegard of Bingen was an amazing late Middle Ages abbess, theologian, writer, mystic, visionary, musician, scientist and maker of medicines from all that is green. She coined the word VIRIDITAS, probably from the words for green and truth in Latin, veritas and viridis. She also coined the word “greening” as in “the greening of the soul-” “There is a Power that has been since all eternity and its force and potentiality is green!” Greening is a metaphor for physical and spiritual health, for the vitality of spirit, mind and body. She first saw God in uncommonly bright light, brighter than the sun. And she developed a theology of the living God known through creation. Indeed, it is this I feel as I too immerse in green. I come alive again. The greenness obliterates the dryness, drought and aridity that can cause us to be ill spiritually and physically. We renew in the green and in the flowing waters of nature.
Nancy Fierro has written Hildegard of Bingen and Her Vision of the Feminine. And it is such a joy to claim Hildegard, this feminine theologian and thinker so far ahead of her times. Fierro wrote a poem based on ‘Hildegard’s writings on greening that captures best what I am trying to convey here. I submit this excerpt from it:
“O most honored Greening Force,
You who roots in the Sun,
You who lights up, in shining
serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence
fails to comprehend.
You are enfolded in the weaving of divine
The divine force of nature
greenness expression of heaven,
the creative power of life,
which can be witnessed
in the garden, forests and farmland all around us.
Viriditas to be cultivated
in bodies and souls-
Viridatas, gift of God
Health, wholeness, and holiness
Igniting the world into being
Illuminating all creatures
Giving them color and vigor,
root of growth
Proliferation of Spring
Making grasses laugh
Plants sprout-and flowers bloom…”
When you are feeling dry and arid. When you do not feel fully alive, when you feel ill, seek green, seek flowing water, seek life. If you can seek it with one you love and with those you love. For you will be renewed on all levels of your being. This is a story of my recent trip for which I am so grateful. There has been too much loss and death in recent times for me, and for this world. Once, twelve years back, I was hospitalized for eight days for a removal of a cancer. Thanks be to God, it was totally removed and I did not have to undergo any further treatment or radiation. It was the green world and the sun that would bring the final cures to me. My view in the hospital for those days was a brick wall. It was driving me crazy. As soon as I was discharged I ran to the grassy lawn, and laid down prone upon it. I cried and said “Now I am healed” and I was, and I am as long as I can touch and see even a few blades of green grass.
Thank God for green, thank God for Creation, thank God for love. Humbly and softly I say to you, get up, go out and be renewed.
Blessings and love,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith AB Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of Fort Myers, Florida
It is summer here in Florida and the deep, almost parching, dryness of an otherwise beautifully mild and benign winter has finally yielded to God’s watering of the earth. Lakes that had become sandy and rocky beaches with dry sand multiplying while water gets lower and lower, are finally full to brimming over with life again. The days are hot and one is thankful for the regular rain that breaks the heat just when it seems one can stand it no more. Only the thunder and dangerous lightening warn us that rain is not all gentle, there is also power in this rain. And there is sadness in witnessing even the idyllic natural environment, for small things die unexpectedly and people and other beasts and illness are sometimes predators.
The small lake behind my house is my salvation where I can truly utter a heartfelt THANKYOU to God from my soul every day. When a new and proud Mama duck was suddenly killed and her ducklings struggled to live alone, I was devastated for a while. Once again I was having to learn to accept the pain in God’s beautiful world as also natural-to accept dying as part of living. The sudden losses of two very dear friends this year, Jean Tracey Foreman of my childhood to drowning, and my best friend since early adulthood, Jean Cornella Bauer to Covid 19 and other complications of an infection. The loss of our church member dear Joe Baker to Parkinson’s disease. And even more recently the unexpected death to cancer of a special neighbor and friend, Greg Pearl who also helped with our ministry shook me even as I looked to eternal life and rising again, which softens, but can not take away the loss. Just a few weeks before his death Greg helped me to deliver a bicycle to one of our homeless women, so she could get to work. Still it is God’s special creation, including the memories and lives of such beloved friends, that grounds me in faith and love and hope.
Wherever you live you experience our loving God through everything around you, especially the very ground you walk upon and the very air you breathe. Finally it is summer and, in many places, you can run and jump into the welcoming water of the sea or a river or pond and swim and play to your heart’s content. You can lie on soft green grass and eat summer fruits like watermelon and berries and welcome God’s special summer bounty. And when you are in the midst of winter you can stay warm and look forward to these special times. For those of us who have been going through “dry times” and difficult times, experiencing the God of all Creation and the beautiful world around us can lift us higher once again. We have hope in the renewal of every day, and the life that God promises us in Christ. We have faith that the sunset is every bit as beautiful as the sunrise.
We can realize that both the sunrise and the sunset shout to God for joy as Psalm 65: 8 say: “And those who dwell at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your marvels; you make the sunrise and sunset shout for joy”.
“Praise is due to you,
O God in Zion.
You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water.
You provide the grain for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty.
The hills gird themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.” Psalm 65:1a,9-11a,12b-13
And the rich environment is full of creatures that show forth God’s infinite glory, from the smallest to the largest. Jesus assures us that God cares for all God has created: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. ” Luke 12: 6. And, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them”. (Luke 12:22) “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field …how much more will God clothe you….”
If only we could really see the beauty all around us. I am reminded of an early church hymn I loved: “All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all. Each little flower that opens, Each little bird that sings, God made their glowing colors, God made their tiny wings….(GOD) gave us eyes to see them ,and lips that we might tell How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well” ((From Genesis 1:31- Cecil Frances Alexander, 1818-1895). At the end of the first Chapter of Genesis we read that God pronounced God’s creation as “very good” and gave us “every green plant for food.” It is not until a later Chapter when we choose to go against God’s will for all to live that we read of living things eating other living things. I think our original paradise was without death for other living creatures. I think it is what heaven will be: “No more dying there, No more crying there…” And I am in awe of vegans who can do this faithfully today. The point however is not so much what we eat, but what we DO to promote God’s peaceable kingdom for all beings on this troubled earth. Until paradise comes for us again as we meet our loving God face to face, how do we bring life to all that lives?
In Luke 12: 22-34, Jesus teaches us so beautifully that worry is useless. In these verses Jesus asks us not to worry, but to trust in God’s loving care, for all of creation and especially for us. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Abba God has been pleased to give you the kingdom”. (Luke 12:22). Jesus then asks us to look for treasures that can’t fail us, to build God’s kingdom by sharing all we have with those poorer than we are: to love God’s people and creation and to build our treasures where our hearts are: in loving all of God’s creation.
As I look around me and see the beauty of Creation and of all creatures, including often struggling people, I am moved to be so thank full to God. I am moved to pray for and with Creation and to do my best to love. I am so thankful for love, yet it is only with God’s grace and help that this can be achieved. But we can pray for that grace.
I am reminded of words from another favorite old hymn: “This is My Father’s World” (Maltbie D. Babcock). the words sing of God shining in “all that’s fair” “In the rustling grass, I hear God pass, God speaks to me everywhere.” “O, let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet”. Yes, I believe that, and yes, I remember. Look around, my friends and remember the beauty that is surrounding you- the beauty of creation and the beauty of the people who surround you. The unequaled joy of those who love you and those whom you love, and have loved that are now with our loving God.
In the picture below a special part of my family is sharing love and joy.
I will end this reflection with a poem from -Prayer of the Season- by Gabe Huck (2002)
” God who called each day’s creation good,
all we have for our food
and shelter and clothing
are the crust and air, the light and water
of this planet.
Give us care like yours for this earth:
to share its bounty
with generations to come
and with all alike in this generation,
to savor its beauty and respect its power,
to heal what greed and war and foolishness
have done to your earth and to us.
Bring us finally to give thanks, always and everywhere. ”
Blessings to all,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida
A truly Happy Easter to all! Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. God has vanquished death through him. The moment has finally come. With Mary and John and Peter we have looked into the empty tomb. (John 20:1-9). Unlike them we need not guess what happened. We know that Jesus has risen! We have heard him call our names as Mary did ( John 20:16-18). We have met him on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) and behind the closed door where the disciples gathered in fear. We have put our hands into His wounds with Thomas. (John 20:19-30). We had him serve us breakfast near the Sea of Tiberius (John 21:1-14). Through the four Gospel records and indeed in our own lives, we have seen him for ourselves, as they did many times over time. JOY, joy, death could not hold him. And now, death can not hold us.
As Pope Francis says in Urbi et Orbi, Easter, 2021 “The Easter message speaks concisely of the event that gives us the hope that does not disappoint: “Jesus who was crucified has 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 witnesses 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 a 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. The hope that does not disappoint is that we too shall rise. We shall rise from our pain, from the darkness of the tombs we may find ourselves in, from living half a life. we shall rise to full life-NOW and then FOREVER. Can you let your heart be lighter now.? Can we embrace this hope?
Indeed that is the question. Joan Chittister says that “Easter is not simply a day of celebration; it is as well, a day of decision.” Can we allow the Light in? Can we allow Jesus to come again in us? Can we embrace J Jesus living in us now? https://firstname.lastname@example.org via gmail.mcsv.net
When we allow Jesus to live again in us we may have to take unpopular stands and reach out to the most broken of this world. Here Pope Francis sounds like a peace activist, and indeed here he is just that. In this years Urbi et Orbi message, (To the city and the world, 4/17/2022) Pope Francis notes that as Jesus greeted the disciples in the upper room after rising from the dead he said “Peace be with you.” In a world where war and its ravages continue even on Easter “we need the Lord more than ever to stand before us and repeat to us, “Peace be with you!” “Let us allow the peace of Christ to enter our lives, our homes, our countries!”. “May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine”…”that in this terrible night of suffering and death, may a new dawn of hope soon appear!” The Pope said that he “held in his heart the victims, the millions of refugees, the orphaned children, and the elderly left to themselves. We hear especially the cry of the children…” ” He appealed to leaders to “hear the cry of their suffering and to make decisions in favor of peace” Quoting Albert Einstein(1955) he said “Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?” He also prayed for peace in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, Myanmar, and on the African Continent. He also prayed for victims of natural disasters. and those struggling in horrific social conditions and drug trafficking. He exhorted us to not surrender to evil and violence. “May we be won over by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility.”
I am glad for a Pope that renounces war and in fact renounces human destruction and weapons of human destruction. May we too follow Jesus in ways that need compassion and courage to stop destruction and violence and injustice. May we truly be Easter People! with St. Augustine of Hippo let us say: “We are Easter people and ‘Alleluia” is our song. Let us sing ‘Alleluia’ here and now in this life, even though we are oppressed by various worries, so that we may sing it one day in the world to come, when we are set free from all anxiety.”
For other Easter Reflections click here and put Easter in the search box on the right
While four of our beloved community members pictured here, including our beloved Pastor Judy Beaumont, Peace and Justice Activist, and Roman Catholic Woman Priest since 2021, are now risen with Jesus we continue to gather to love and serve one another- to LIVE JESUS, as the Salesians say. May we all follow our saints and our risen Jesus in standing for peace and justice-no matter what.
HE is Risen! Alleluia! We rise too!
Love, Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP and
the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers
In Silent Waiting for the Light: Our Holy Saturday Vigil with reflections of A Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Today is a day of silence as we wait and hope for the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Tonight we will gather for the Easter Vigil in our churches together. We will first sit in darkness as the Easter candle is lit from new fire and carried into the church. It is a wonderful moment as “the Light of Christ” is proclaimed three times by the priest leading the procession to the Altar. Beautiful prayers of God’s deliverance follows. The lights are now on.
Then in the LITURGY OF THE WORD, we follow salvation history, God’s work to reach humankind, from Genesis and Exodus through the Prophets and Psalms to New Testament and the Gospel. It is the history of the Jewish covenant leading up to Christ. As one who does not eat animal flesh I particularly love the image of the original creation, the Genesis reading that ends with how God provides food for all living beings from the trees and seeds, and the fruits of the land (Genesis 1:29). And God looked upon all of God’s creation and said “it was very good”. And I love the Exodus story where the Hebrew people are rescued by God from the Egyptian oppressors. And the efforts of the prophets and the praise, glory and sometimes agony in the Psalms. I love the gospel account of Mary of Magdalene and the other women finding the empty tomb and being commissioned as the apostle to the apostles by telling them ” He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him as he told you.” Mark 16:1-7. we know that at first, predictably, the men did not believe them (Luke 24:1-12), but then John and Peter ran to the tomb and found out that indeed he was not there, he was risen and they would meet him on the road, and in many other ways and places attesting to his full life in the days to follow.
In my Holy Thursday blog I noted the NY Times article “What if there were no Exodus in the Bible? and its explicit connection to the struggles of black people in this country and wherever slavery and racism and the dehumanizing of peoples reigns. Yesterday there was another excellent NY Times article by New Testament Professor Esau McCaulley on Easter and the Resurrection from the Black perspective. For a clear connection to today’s world and one which I and our Good Shepherd people embrace the reader may see:
The HOMILY then follows the reading of Salvation history. In Pope Francis’ homily today (4/16/2022) he asks that we allow the women of the Gospel to lead us. Referring to the Gospel account in Luke 24:1-12, he suggests that they SAW, HEARD and PROCLAIMED. He captures well the fear. “they were terrified”, and anxiety they had at being told and seeing that Jesus was not in the tomb. He suggests that we often prefer to leaver Jesus in the tombs of old understanding and in the small boxes of our own construction rather than allowing Him to be free and walk among us transforming our lives right now. The women listened carefully when they heard “He is not here”. He noted that we cannot welcome Easter if we continue to be dead. We must hear the words and accept them deeply within us that Jesus is not in a tomb of the past. He is here now with us acting among us, enlivening us. Indeed then the women RAN to proclaim the joy of the resurrection whether anyone would listen to them or not. They immediately became missionary disciples, apostles, sharing the good news not an “idle tale” from the past but testifying to what they had seen , heard and experienced right then. We too must allow Jesus to rise again from the small boxes where we have imprisoned him as if the past contains him. Jesus enters the tomb of our sins and our deep darkness and all that keeps us from rising with him. Pope Francis broke from his script and his face was clearly moved as he addressed the Mayor and Parliamentary and people of war torn Ukraine in their suffering. He said “we can only give you our closeness, and prayers and say have courage, we are with you. Christ is Risen! Yes, even in the midst of war and suffering the risen Christ is there. In the darkest places of our lives Christ is there and we welcome the risen Christ!
And truly too, the prayer of the women who are Roman Catholic Priests is that Pope Francis and the leaders of the church he must deal with can indeed “allow the women to Lead us” even as ordained priests. Several of us have walked the road of the priesthood for many years now and while we do not want particularly to lead we do want to be seen and heard and to proclaim the risen Christ with our brothers.
Next is the Liturgy of Baptism
After the reading of Salvation History those who have prepared for a period of time to embrace the Christian faith within the RC tradition come forth for Baptism and /or reception/initiation into the church. The baptismal creed is affirmed and all present also affirm their Baptismal promises. (When there are no new baptisms, all present affirm their Baptismal promises). As we die with Christ in Baptism so we are raised to new life in Baptism. They don white garments and receive the laying-on-of hands by the bishop and are sealed with holy chrism oil and receive Holy Communion. This is a moment of resurrection for all present.
For Holy Saturday reflections of earlier years please click on this link and put Holy Saturday into the search space top right.
Here are the two different times that some of our Good Shepherd members ready themselves to receive Baptism and also Confirmation-to rise with Christ into new life. The first picture is Confirmaton with Bishop Andrea Johnson as celebrant, and the second, two years earlier, with Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. The third picture is the baptism of Brenda Cummings who was confirmed two years later, far left, in the picture below.
And finally in the Easter Vigil we celebrate the Eucharist, our thanksgiving for the death and resurrection of Christ with those gathered. In the bread and wine Jesus comes among us in the Eucharist. He enters us with risen life. And we look forward to the time when we shall see him face to face.
And so this Holy Saturday we once again await Christ’s Rising and taking away our darkness. We welcome him to be with us and in our world fully alive now. We join the women in proclaiming that He Lives! Thanks be to God!
Bless you on this Holy Saturday,
Pastor Judy Lee
rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP,
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
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
At his last Passover celebration Jesus, foretelling his death, took the bread gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them saying “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of (the new) covenant, which is poured our for many for the forgiveness of sins..” (Matthew 26: 26-28. See also Mark 14:12-26 and Luke21: 7-22. In Luke’s account of this last supper he records that the disciples were quibbling over who is the greatest and Jesus tells them: “For who is greater, the one who is at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22: 27) In the Gospel of John we have another part of that Passover celebration. Here Jesus washes his disciples feet and tells them that they should also wash another’s feet. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…” (John 13:1-17). And so on Holy Thursday we enact the washing of the feet and the sharing of the body and blood of Christ. With this, we too become the body and blood of Christ and we are commanded to serve one another.
First we note that Jesus is celebrating the Passover when he foretells his death and offers himself for us, for the sins of the world. Passover is an essential part of Jesus’ Hebrew faith and it is part of the covenant of God with God’s people to commemorate their freedom from slavery at God’s hand. The New York Times today had a wonderful article about the Passover Exodus account in the Scriptures. The reader would find it thought provoking particularly as we consider the words of Jesus “To Serve” with its subtext of “enact justice”.
For several years I have contemplated Holy Thursday in this blog. I am missing most the washing of the feet that we did at Good Shepherd. It is a moment of profound love and humility. The reader might go to
and where it says SEARCH on right top, put in Holy Thursday…many years will come up and each one will have a different meditation and pictures of our Good Shepherd Ministry on this holy day. I pray that the words and pictures of this day may move you this Holy Thursday. Move you to wash each other’s feet, and move you to become the body and blood of Christ.
Below is a lovely poem from one of our Roman Catholic Woman Priests-Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan, currently of the Detroit, Michigan area. She has graciously given us permission to print it here.
Dear Friends, Let us Serve One Another
For we are the Body and Blood Of Christ,
A blessed Holy Thursday to all,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholid Community and Ministries
Today we hail Jesus with palm branches and prepare for him to enter the holy city of Jerusalem, throwing our clothes on the little donkey to soften his seat and in front of his path on the road. The religious leaders ask Jesus to tell his disciples to quiet down, stop the joyful noise and “shut up”. Jesus replied that if they were quiet, “even the stones would cry out”.(Luke 19:28-40). The disciples and followers are on fire, the universe has a moment of joyful praise for God, for the love of God shown in the acts of healing and mercy that Jesus has shown, for the love Jesus has shown and will show even in the face of the betrayal and torture about to come. This joy and hope cannot be silenced for even the stones would cry out. Today we welcome the king who soon will be crucified. Evil forces cannot tolerate such love and joy. So next on this same day the Church also has us read the Passion, the account of Jesus’ last moments and crucifixion. ( Luke 22:14-23:6). And ultimately we are left to contemplate the meaning of all of this: of the joyous welcome and the apparent tortuous defeat of the goodness of God, of Christ. In hindsight we will also anticipate the resurrection.
But not today, not on Palm Sunday. Today we contemplate the best and the worst of our responses to the intervention of God’s love in our world- to the being of Jesus the Christ, very God and very man-shouting with joy for a moment and then standing by during his love and sacrifice under the most horrendous of actions, hanging him on the cross. This is our introduction to Holy week; to Holy Thursday and washing of feet and the Last Supper, Good Friday and the unbelievable cruelty of the crucifixion, and Jesus’ amazing love- even from the cross. And finally after being in the grave for three days, he will rise and Easter finally comes. Oh, thank God for Easter, for his rising again, for our rising again. But we cannot get ahead of the account.
This Palm Sunday Pope Francis focused on the forgiveness of Christ as contrasted to the “save yourself” of those who tortured him. Indeed our world is characterized by a save yourself mentality while God’s love is characterized by unceasing mercy and forgiveness; even to Jesus’ words from the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Not only does he forgive but he pleads for us saying we do not know what we are doing. Pope Francis stresses that violence and war crucify Christ again and again. He suggests an Easter truce in the Ukraine. We can only pray for this and for the cessation of that horrific war and crucifixion of the innocent. The Pope closes with “Father forgive them. Now let us do the same”. The challenge this Palm Sunday is for us to learn and practice forgiveness even from our crosses, and to cease from our violence that crucifies Christ again. It ends on a note God’s great love for us. Let us feel that love now. (,Some websites for the Homily of Pope Francis this Palm Sunday are: https://www.vatican.va>francesco ;
As we begin Holy week it is good to begin our meditations on Palm Sunday together. In past years we have reflected on Palm Sunday from a variety of perspectives that may interest the reader. For example https://judyabl.blog/2020/04/05-palm-sunday-triumph-hope-and-betrayal-sunday-april-52020/ . For a reflection of three women priests : https//www.judyabl.blog/2017/04/09/palm-sunday-reflections-by-women-priests- 4917/
May God bless you as you contemplate this Palm Sunday and the events of Holy Week,
as you go through this holy week with Christ,
with love and prayers,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida