“Rejoice...all you who mourn…” Isaiah 66: 10-11. So begins the entrance antiphon for this Sunday in the Lenten season. For this Sunday the priest wears a rose colored chasuble and unlike other Sundays in Lent flowers may adorn the altar. Why? Because we are anticipating getting beyond suffering, our Beloved Christ’s suffering, and that of the world, and our own, to the joy of the resurrection on Easter- to our rising from the dead. How good it is to stop the mourning on all levels and anticipate the rising again. This Sunday highlights that even Lent itself is not about penance, or atoning for one’s faults, but it is for the renewal of love-love expressed in caring service and giving. The Gospel for the day (John 3: 14-21) gives us the depth of the reason for this joy in the midst of any suffering: “For God so loved the world…” It is about God’s love – God’s love of the whole world, God’s immense, all encompassing, amazing love! And this love gives us the hope of rising again and of learning to love as Jesus did, to love the WHOLE WORLD!
John 3:16-17-“Yes, God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One, that whoever believes may not die, but have eternal life. God sent the Only Begotten into the world not to condemn the world, but that through the Only Begotten the world might be saved”. (The Inclusive Bible, Priests for Equality Translation). God so loved the world that God gave….God’s Only Begotten Son....
When I first moved to Florida my next door neighbor was a woman who was battling brain cancer. Her name was also Judy and we immediately loved her. One night she came next door in great pain and we helped her back to bed and stayed with her until she rested. A few days later she was watching her favorite Buffalo Bills game. When I dropped by she said she had a question for me. There was a sign at the Football game that said “John 3:16” What was that? I was happy for this opportunity to explain God’s love to her and assure her of it. She thought a while and she said “I do believe”. I was joyful with her. I asked to pray with her and affirmed that her life was eternal. Indeed, we die but we live on with our loving God. As Christ rose from the dead we too rise and join Christ whose love never lets us go. Judy D. was very much amazed and , I think, relieved. And I was amazed that the opportunity to share the good news came from a sign at a football game! Yay, Buffalo Bills!
God so Loved the World– this Sunday of Joy is based on God’s embracing each one of us, AND all the world. Ours is not a small, or national or parochial faith, or mainly a personal faith, but it extends with God’s love to all the world. Yes, each of us can rouse ourselves on this Sunday as individuals, families, communities, groups, and nations but weneed to know that our God’s love belongs to ALL the world.
On this Sunday, 3/`4/2021 Pope Francis celebrated Mass with the Filipino/a Community at St. Peter’s in Rome commemorating the 500th Anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. He said that he was taken with great joy as he watched women. men and children in their native costumes dance down the aisle to begin the Mass. (The third largest number of Catholics in the world reside in the Philippines while many Filipinos/as live throughout the world witnessing to their faith in Christ). In my own life a wonderful Filipina woman was my great role model in faith: Virginia Maniti Williams, a Methodist Deaconess and wife of the African- American Pastor of my youth, Rev. Melvin G. Williams. Beloved Virginia visited me in Florida after Pastor Mel’s death over 20 years ago, and she is home with our loving God now. She then shared with me how she struggled first with women as Pastors in the Methodist church , then with accepting the LBGTQT community as Pastors. At first she could not accept this but as she got to know women and LGBTQ Pastors of deep faith and service, she was moved to accept the pastoral service of all people to our loving God. She concluded that those who love and serve our God with all their hearts and loved their neighbors as themselves not only should but must be given the opportunities to serve within all churches calling themselves by the name of Christ. She was way ahead of her times. Her love was the love of Christ within her and it shined brightly. I pray today for the spreading of that love.
Pope Francis noted in today’s homily that God’s love is the good news, and is the heart of the Gospel “because God loved, God gave…” And it was not words, an idea or doctrine that was given but it was Jesus whom God sent to show us how much God loved us. He said that God cannot help but give God’s whole self to us. “In Jesus we see the face of God’s love”, he said. We can pray that because of God’s love within us we too will become capable of giving.
Here, I expand with many of our Lenten Gospel readings, in Jesus we see the acceptance and inclusion of all people and not only the religious or “righteous” , we see what Pope Francis calls self-giving not selfishness. We see Jesus with tax collectors who were despised, we see him with women, even “sinful” women of other cultures that no one would speak to, we see him with those ostracized and set aside in chains, freeing them, loving them. We see him making no exceptions and putting the law in perspective by healing the blind, the mute and the lame, even on the Sabbath. The law of God is the law of Love, not a bunch of rules to be blindly followed while people suffer. The law of love leads us to the light. The Pope said that lovers exemplify self-giving over self-preservation. “Couples in love love each other so much that they give their very lives for one another”. And this is the way God loves us-and all the world. ” Love always gives of itself and shatters the shell of our selfishness”.
Pope Francis’ Trip To IRAQ March 5-8: A Living Example of Christ Loving the World
Pope Francis then recalled his trip to Iraq last week. He noted his own joy at the joy with great abandon of the Christians who greeted him in the Hariri Soccer field where he held Mass openly for ten thousands of Christians. He said that there and everywhere the people who suffered so much rejoiced and were glad! Pope Francis made an unprecedented trip to Iraq despite the coronavirus, and the highly precarious security situation, and threats against his life. There, oblivious to his own safety, he visited the many sites of terrorism and slaughter of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis and reached out in peace and love to people and leaders of all religions and cultures. He said that he hoped ” the world would take a journey from conflict to unity.” He noted “How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed”. He noted that thousands of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis were cruelly annihilated by terrorism and others forcibly displaced or killed”. This is a link to wonderful pictures of his journey to Iraq. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/world/middleeast/pope-francis-iraq-pictures-html.
What was particularly moving to me was his meeting with the Ayotollah Ali-al-Sistani, the leader of Iraq’s Shiite Muslims. He walked to the Ayotollah’s humble home and sat with him on wooden chairs for 45 minutes speaking of the situation of all faiths in Iraq. After the meeting, the Ayotollah spoke publicly for the safety and freedom of Christians and all minorities. Also particularly moving was his Mass at St. Joseph’s in Baghdad where he celebrated the Mass in the Chaldean Rite, another unprecedented move of love. But most exciting was seeing the joy of ten thousands of Christians gathered at the Soccer Field where he moved among them in his “Popemobile”. He brought such hope to them, and such joy.
May our love be renewed as we too embrace the love of God for the whole world, and do our best to work for acceptance, tolerance and , yes, unity of all the world this Lenten Season.
Bless you as you continue through Lent with joy and love,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee, Pastor Good Shepher5d Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
** Please remember that we are meeting outside for the first time since Covid 19 came on this Saturday, March 20th at 1 PM. Ask me for details if you are able to join us and join us please in prayer and spirit. .
Starting with this Sunday we enter the season of Advent. All over the world in big cities and small towns, in the church and in the secular world, in all countries and cultures and with all languages, the preparation for Christmas-the coming of Christ-begins.
We bless the circular Advent wreath with its three purple candles (for Christ’s royalty through the lineage of King David) and one pink candle for Joy-the 3rd Sunday is Gaudate (joy)Sunday. The circle is God’s unending love and the candlelight is Christ, the light of the world). At each week’s lighting the Presider may say: “Be still before God and wait patiently” (Psalm 37:7). Those present may reply “So I wait for you, God, my soul waits, and longs for you….for with you is abundant love and full deliverance”. Psalm 130:5-7).
Each Sunday we light a candle. They symbolize Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. And the readings of the day are about watching and waiting and light and darkness, loss and redemption, miracles of healing and and walking the walk. We are challenged this first week not to “fall asleep on the job”, to “stay awake” as we await Christ’s coming. (The Gospel is Mark 13:33-37).
Theologically, we await the coming of Christ in three ways. First, the celebration of Christ’s historic birth in Bethlehem , God’s entrance into history/herstory in human form- God as one of us! And that is always a WOW! to contemplate. Then, we become alert to seeing God in the events of our every day lives, God -With-Us and God among us-especially in the faces of all around us-especially the poor and the outcast whom we need to see to serve. And finally, we hope for the Second Coming of Christ when God’s kin-dom will finally fully be enacted on earth.
Today, Pope Francis, from St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, reminded us that there are two key words in today’s readings: closeness and watchfulness. The Hebrew Scripture reading from Isaiah 63 and 64 reminds us that God is with us as a parent is with a child, and as a potter works with the clay, so God is our potter and molds and shapes us, each one uniquely to be what we are called to be. Paul reminds the church in Corinth ((I Cor 1:3-9) that God is with us, faithful until the end, giving us all we need to follow Christ. In his homily today Pope Francis reminded us to actively invite Christ to come with us as we watch and wait and serve. Christ is always with us but our acts of invitation help us to KNOW that. So Advent is to be a time of active listening, waiting and inviting and acting with God in our midst.
In the secular world , especially this year with the anxieties and langor of Covid 19, elections, racial and other tensions, and myriad troubles,Christmas-waiting actually began early in November. People all over expressed the need for cheer, for uplifting, for joy and an end to darkness and sadness. Well before Thanksgiving there were Christmas Carols on the radio and Christmas movies on TV and the decoration of stores and homes with bright lights and Christmas themes long before Advent officially began-four weeks before Christmas in the church year. I am late in my neighborhood in getting my Christmas lights up as I only began the day after Thanksgiving. The light is literally and sorely needed this year so I am now hurrying. I do have a lit Cross on my house to break the darkness as we have no street lights here and it is a wonderful symbol of light year round (except on Good Friday when I shroud it). People tell me it means a lot to them to see it. But there is nothing like every house displaying Christmas lights in the dark night here. The world waits for Christmas.
So this Advent season let us light the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love as we await the Light of Christmas. And let us see the light in all of the faces around us and be glad.
While we can not worship in close contact this year let us hold one another in spirit and in love.
Let us bring light and joy to one another.
And let us serve one another.
Let us have a little Christmas every day.
Watchfulness and charity will arouse us, according to Pope Francis, and praying,serving, and loving will bring Christmas near every day. Let us watch and wait and serve.
A Happy Advent to all.
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia,RCWP
and the people of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, FLorida
The US Capitol
Waiting for the Plane
We follow Jesus and we follow LOVE. We want to learn the history of justice making in the United States and in the world. We are part of the legacy of Jesus the Christ as manifested in many persons throughout history, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Freedmen and women and slaves, and John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy brothers and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, to name just a few. So we wanted to go to Washington DC where so much of American history and herstory and our story was made and remembered. For us, representing the teens and young adults and all members of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church of Fort Myers,Florida this trip was a FIRST in so many ways. Four of us were born and raised in Fort Myers and we never saw another State, or flew in a plane, or took a subway, or even a bus. We wanted to see more of the world and we got to do all of this! This is a little of what we did and saw. We are Natasha Terrell, 18 and Felice Rismay, 21, the working and College students. And we are Jolinda Terrell, and Keeron Jones, High School Students and Keeondra Terrell, an eighth grader. Our Pastors, Roman Catholic women priests Judy Beaumont and Judy Lee were our guides for this amazing trip. Our church and The Father’s Table Foundation and individual donors made this adventure into life and justice available to us and we are so thankful.
OUR DREAM IS TO BUILD THE BELOVED COMMUNITY OF JESUS and DR. KING
The Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King made his I Have A Dream speech Abraham Lincoln (At the Capitol)
At the Memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King ,Jr.
WE WANT TO HONOR DR. KING AND ALL FREEDOM FIGHTERS
It was exciting to see and go to the top of the Washington Monument and understand how the United States of America came to be.
It was very special to go inside of the White House. We hoped to see a glimpse of President Obama or his family but they were not home. We learned that Malia and Sasha can go into all of the rooms that we were able to see whenever they want to. They also have their own movie theater.
Pastor Judy B and Felice are near the statues of a couple struggling with poverty and Felice is near the statue of one of her heroines, Eleanor Roosevelt .The group members are standing on the bread line that marked the great depression and homelessness and hunger today as well in the USA and world-wide.
Keeron Jones standing under FDR’s Pledge of the New Deal that still helps people today.
The Arlington Cemetery was a hallowed place. We prayed before going there and as we saw a funeral in progress there. We prayed at the site of the eternal light at President John F.Kennedy’s grave and at the graves of all the Kennedys. We tried to understand how so many members of one family gave their lives for freedom and equality.
We also went up the hill to the “impressive” house owned by the Washington-Custis-Lee family. We were truly impressed, however, as we visited the slave quarters in the back and learned that the Washington’s personal maid was able to buy freedom for her son by sharing the story of his death with a reporter as she was with him as he died. It was difficult to witness slave history but we learned of the courage and accomplishments of the slaves. We also learned that slaves were treated better by the Washington’s than by the Robert E. Lee family. We were able to feel the reasons for the Civil War and see the bravery of those enslaved.
It meant even more to understand who Frederick Douglas was after viewing this history.
We also visited The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic Cathedral in the United States where we prayed and were amazed at the stories in the pictures. It was overwhelming to some of the group but very beautiful. All of the paintings and the statues told the story of Christ and of God’s love for all people and for justice and equality. The paintings and statues of Mary, the Mother of Jesus with Jesus showed Mary and Jesus as Chinese, Czech, Native American, African and Mexican and dark and light and of many Nationalities. Keeondra and Natasha were in awe while Jolinda said that she was happy that we have a much smaller church where we can all know and love one another. When we lit a candle to pray for a sick family member Keeron questioned why I put money in the box, did we have to pay to pray here? We explained that we never had to pay to pray but that was a love offering like we give in church on Sundays. Yet, his question was astute. He and Jolinda were not comfortable with all the gold and glitz, and I told him that he is in good company for neither is Pope Francis. As we traveled in Washington we saw many homeless people. Our group members appropriately questioned why homelessness was everywhere, even in our Nation’s Capital. The Pastors were pleased to see that this moved our young people who dug in their pockets to be helpful. But once again they asked good questions. Indeed we pray that their questions and answers may help bring the reign of God to all people here and now.
This trip was well worth every effort that it took and we are thankful to all who helped it to take place. We will post other aspects of this journey in a separate post. Thanks be to God for these young people who follow Christ! Rev. Dr. Judy Lee and Rev. Judy Beaumont, Roman Catholic Women Priests and Co-Pastors of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida.
Below are the women at the Cross