“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 somehow fitting that Holy Week for Christians(April 5th Palm Sunday through Easter April 12th) falls in the midst of this tragic global Coronavirus-covid-19 Pandemic. And Passover for the Jewish Community also comes in this week, on April 9th. Both events speak to us of struggle, faith,love and ultimately triumph in the midst of tragedy. They speak to us of HOPE, and hope is what we most need in the midst of this pandemic leaving fear and death in its wake, although we hear less about the many who are getting the virus and living through it.
We need to hear those stories too for they give hope while somehow many feel betrayed that life as they knew it is now radically changed, our world is turned upside down- by a virus. One of our beloved elders here, Jack,90, a married retired priest still volunteering in the hospital, suddenly could not breathe. He was diagnosed with the COVID19 virus, hospitalized and sent home. They said he had a “non-lethal strain”. He is doing well two weeks after. Yet a 39 year old radio personality in our community got the virus and died within one week leaving a wife and young child. Another family man in his middle years is slowly getting better as is his teenage son. What is scary is that it is so unpredictable.
Some seek someone to blame for this and scapegoat others and even blame God because we feel helpless-even powerless. We no longer have the illusion that we can control everything.(And I will leave it to you to discover if there is an upside to this as you place your trust in God even when pain and death will inevitably happen despite our sense of control and power). Meaningful routine is lost, jobs are lost, schools are closed, families are separated at the most poignant of times,we can not actually touch one another or gather for anything. Those who found enjoyment in sports no longer have them to attend or to watch on TV and those who love to gather cannot do so. We cannot even have religious services together-even in Holy Week. While there are ways that we can still be in virtual and distant community,and show love and caring creatively as in communicating with loved ones through Nursing Home windows, and have virtual religious services using zoom and social media,we miss our joint worship, our hugs and simply being together. We are also seeing the many ways people can show love and that is heartening. Yet, fear and this sense of betrayal and even abandonment accompanies pandemics even as they accompanied the original events of Holy week as best we know them.
While most of us may not blame God or anyone else, we are wondering “where is God?” as we go through this on a huge global scale. Yet, it was for this hurting world that Jesus kept on going after Palm Sunday to the Cross. On Palm Sunday Jesus rode through Jerusalem on the back of a donkey(hardly the Cadillac or Mercedes of the times) and the common people cheered him on with shouts of Hosanna (Save us) and waving palm branches, threw their cloaks on the ground to make an easy path for him. It was a brief moment of joyful triumph though he knew what would be ahead. The crowds, full of ordinary people, including many poor and sick and outcast that he had healed,included, and helped,showed their thanks and love and hope for his reign. They didn’t understand that his reign was not to be a political one where the enemy would be overthrown and vanquished. They knew they loved him. This must have felt really good, but Jesus also knew that their love would include betrayal(Judas, his disciple would sell him for money) and denial ( even by Peter who had for a moment “gotten” who he was-“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” ), and abandonment by the disciples, and most of the crowd. He too wondered where is my beloved Abba God,as he was left alone, brutally beaten, scoffed, jeered at and in the worst physical pain. The emotional pain of betrayal may have been just as great. Pope Francis said in his Palm Sunday homily that when there is love and trust betrayal is the worst that can happen. Yet, Jesus love for us got him through it. Wow!!
Jesus experienced the worst pain at every level. Physically- talk about not being able to breathe in the throes of the coronavirus- nailed to the cross arms splayed out and hands and feet nailed, he could not breathe. And while his mother and the women and maybe one of the disciples followed as close as they could most of the disciples were nowhere to be seen and he faced the cross alone. He talked to His Father and quoted the Psalm about being abandoned by God, though in his native Aramaic this may have also meant, “I have fulfilled my destiny”. Simply, he faced an ugly death head on and kept on moving forward. To rise again in three days as he forecasted, to break the bonds of death, to bring us eternal life, he had to die even as we do, and it was anything but an easy death. We can now turn to him who knew suffering to know our suffering and to be with us in it, so we do not have to ever be alone. We marvel how great was his love, how great was God’s love. For Easter, we will focus on life and be glad. Thank God for Easter, it makes all the difference.
Yet,for Palm Sunday for a brief moment we focus on the triumph of his ministry, how he reached the people no one cared about with love and how he took on anything and anyone who lost the meaning of “love your neighbor as yourself”. The Gospels say Jesus was hung between two revolutionaries, also called thieves. Indeed he was a revolutionary of the best kind,taking on the powers that be and showing the power of God’s love, making everything new again by his death and resurrection. For Holy Week we focus on what lies ahead for Jesus and we cringe for him and for ourselves even as we recognize within ourselves the lack of fidelity to love. we too go through our Good Fridays to get to Easter. And he is there with us too with the promise of life. Wow!
For a look at Palm sunday’s past and the meditations of three women priests you can visit my earlier blog:
Have a blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev.Dr. Judith Lee,RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
The Roman Catholic Church is caught up in ugly partisan politics as Donald Trump attempts to assert himself as the only Right To Life Candidate for the 2020 Presidency of the United States of America. To decide if this is true one needs to look into the Social Teachings of the Church. If one knows, believes,loves and follows the Catholic teachings on Social Justice, one knows that ALL of life is to be valued ,from the womb to the tomb and ALL instances in between. All life is God-given and worth living with all the quality of living needed to live. All immigrants and strangers are entitled to their right to life wherever they and their children can truly live and thrive. All who have mental or physical challenges, both abilities and “disabilities” are entitled to a right to the fullness of life. All- of any culture, race, social class, language, color or of any particular religion or other persuasion are entitled to life. All of either gender or both genders or transgenders are entitled to the fullness of life. All of any sexual orientation including those somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum are entitled to the fullness of life. All of any age, from pre-birth to death, the young and the old and the very old and those in between are entitled to the right to life. All human beings anywhere are entitled to respect, dignity, compassion, mercy and freedom from armed conflicts and war-all deserve LIFE.
This includes (in no particular order as all are important) challenging archaic death penalties or state appointed murder as a solution to even the most horrendous crimes. The death-penalty is a right to life issue. Compassionate treatment of all immigrants is a right to life issue. Nuclear disarmament and PEACE are right to life issues . Access to food and water and compassionate care for all is a right to life issue. This includes full access to an income, food and shelter,education and health care both preventive and remediative for ALL. This also includes attention to the ecological perspective for both humans and animals, for the rain forests and all of the environment, and all living things. Love and care for God’s Creation is a right to life response. Cruelty or disregard for any living being (human or animal of any type) is the opposite of the right to live within Catholic Social Justice teachings. Believing in the right to life includes not “bad-mouthing” and ghettoizing any individual or group of people. Valuing and championing all of these rights to life are, arguably,the most important rules we live by-the essence of the Golden Rule- LOVE your neighbor as yourself- emphasized by Jesus and an essential part of all the world’s major religions. If we love all of our neighbors- no exceptions– we make very different policies and programs and uphold actions that uphold the right to life of all-not only the unborn and not only those like ourselves.
Here is the link to an excellent article by Tom Roberts of NCR Online on this topic of the right to life and the way the Church is being used and manipulated in ugly partisanship. I thank Ellen McNally President of our SW Florida CTA-Call To Action- group for sharing this article.
Let us open our eyes and see what is happening and act accordingly to support the universal right to life of all beings.
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr Judy Lee,RCWP,DMin,DSW,MS
Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
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 is HERE
“She Followed Her Conscience in Prophetic Obedience–and Disobedience!
This is the exciting and sometimes surprising life of Rev. Judy Beaumont: Benedictine Sister, Peace activist, “Jailbird”,prison reformer,justice seeker and provider of new life for the homeless and those at the margins and me, blessed to be her partner in life and ministry It is autobiographical as it contains her own writings and words as well as mine. It is authentic and faithful to her life of love, compassion and prophetic obedience. Be inspired and carry it on!”
Thus reads the back cover of this book by Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, yours truly.
This link should take you to a Review by Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan and a link to the book.
It is available NOW at Amazon.com and by tomorrow the Kindle Direct Publication e- copy will be available too- also Amazon.com. I do hope you will read it and be inspired to continue your own acts of love, conscience and compassion.
Thank you for your consideration. And I would love your feedback.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community , Fort Myers, Florida
And Good Shepherd Ministries
As we celebrate Advent,a most joyful time of hope and expectation as we await the newness of the incarnation of Christ once again in our lives at Christmas, it is energizing to receive encouraging news. It is good that during this time we who await good news on the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church, and we who have already been ordained as Roman Catholic women Priests through the RCWP, Roman Catholic WomenPriests Movement, receive news of both action and progress. the following articles affirm hope for the future and evidence of our
positive existence even now.
The first article is about Amazon Synod leader, German Bishop Josef Overbeck who discusses positive views on the Ordination of women and also on the just treatment of gays in the church’s views and in the church itself. This is the link:
The second article is about Rev. Barbara Beadles,RCWP, a member of the Eastern Region of Roman catholic WomenPriests. She is welcomed by many as she serves a home Mass. This is the link:
Enjoy these hopeful pieces of news as you await the birth of Jesus and the renewal of our faith at Christmas.
Members of the Eastern Region of Roman Catholic Women Priests
This is our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community celebrating a House Mass,
A Blessed Advent to ALL,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Many struggle with the traditional church these days. Attendance is markedly down in the Roman Catholic Church in the USA and Ireland and in all of the major Christian denominations in the USA as well. Some of the key issues are issues of injustice- the sex abuse scandal especially in the Roman Catholic Church where until Pope Francis recent strong stands massive abuse was hidden and the offenders passed along from community to community; the denial of complete acceptance to the LGBTQ community in Catholicism and recently in the major decision by the Methodist Church where 53 percent of the clergy voted not to give full access and acceptance to the LGBTQ community members and to clergy who are in that community and the denial of ordination and clergy membership to women in Roman Catholicism and some of the other Christian denominations.
In a world already full of injustice, conflict and violence the church should stand , as Jesus most certainly did, for the acceptance and inclusion of all, including the outcast and the stranger. Thereby it should attract a variety of members, young as well as old, and of all social classes, races, cultures and orientations and identifications. On Ash Wednesday (this year Weds. March 6th) we are told to “turn away from sin and believe the Gospel”. ( I actually say “turn away from sin and believe and live the Gospel”. In the passage from the book of Joel (2:12) we are asked to return to God with all our hearts. The 40 days of lent are then an opportunity to take stock of ourselves, move away from preoccupations with self and give ourselves away to the poor, to those who are mourning and those in need of healing and to all those who need a word and act of love and compassion. That is we are to return to “increasing Christ within us” “living Jesus” (as the Salesians say). As part of this many need to take stock of how they feel about the traditional church and its subtle and not so subtle decisions to become an exclusive group. If we are to include all who are excluded as Jesus did, where and how can we best do that.
Some have decided to do that by leaving the RC church per se becoming a part of independent Catholic churches, or joining other Christian denominations,and some continue under the Roman Catholic rubric, following the best of the traditions and yet breaking the man-made laws that exclude. Roman Catholic WomenPriests are in this latter category. We like to say we are not leaving the church but are risking criticism and, yes, ostracism, to lead the church in a new era of true Christ-like inclusion at the Table and at the altar. Whatever you discover this Lent about the direction of your journey to the cross and to the resurrection,it is important to join with other believers as you journey for it is the community that brings the living Christ in our midst and forms the mystical body of Christ that lives and gives hope to our lives.
Here is a link to a NCRonline article written by NCR Staff (National Catholic Reporter) where several people including some women Roman Catholic priests give their thoughts on leaving the church. Leaving or leading- it is up to you to be Church. Blessings to you as you walk this Lenten journey.
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Pastor and Director Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida and
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Fl
On Saturday February 23rd The New York Times Opinion page had this excellent opinion by Alice McDermott, author, novelist and essayist: Why the Priesthood Needs Women.
Of course, I am in total agreement with Ms. McDermott but want to point out to Ms. McDermott and readers that we are already here since 2002 when highly prepared Roman Catholic women were ordained on the Danube river and in 2003 a bishop who is still fully in communion with the RC Church ordained women bishops- for the sake of the church- who have passed down the line of Peter validly although illicitly through the Roman Catholic WomenPriest Movement. This Bishop’s name name will only be revealed upon his death although our bishops know it and have met him. Perhaps the women priests of RCWP International (and ARCWP) are not mentioned as we have broken canon law stating that only men can be ordained. But as St. Augustine noted an unjust law needs to be broken. And it has been so that now there are over 265 ordained RC women in the priesthood throughout the world. Thanks be to God for this start , not only at justice but at creating a priesthood of women and men who live out their Holy Orders in shepherding the people of God, especially those who are sometimes left out by the institutional church- the divorced, the LGBTQ community, and many others on the margins who have not been welcomed to the table of Jesus by the traditional RC church which, a table he has spread for all.