“I will make roads through all the mountains and my highways will be raised up… because they are on their way from afar…Shout for joy you heavens! Exalt you earth! For YHWH consoles the people and takes pity on those afflicted….Does a woman forget her baby at her breast, or fail to cherish the child of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you. Look and see: I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands….”( Isaiah 49: 11-16 excerpted TIB). How blessed are we that our loving God regards us as a mother regards her children and will never forget or abandon us. I am struck with the feminine voice of God here. There is no love like a mother’s love and that is God’s love for us. But it is even better, because, the prophet allows that human mothers may forget their children, but our loving God will not forget Her children.
So no matter what happens on the road, we may well experience affliction, we may get ourselves into trouble and forget the way, but we will not be lost and we will not be harmed and we will find the way back into God’s loving arms. Indeed we also ponder the return of the “prodigal son”( or daughter as we are to put ourselves in the story) in Jesus’ parable of the two sons in relation to their father who deeply loves and welcomes home the one who did everything wrong (Luke 15:11-31). If during this Lent we can confront where we have turned away, God is so eager to welcome us back. This is also what King David sings of in Psalm 51 when he responds to the counsel of the prophet Nathan after his adulterous encounter with Bathsheba. “Because of your love and your great compassion wipe away my faults (other translation- “transgressions”);wash me clean of my guilt;…for I am aware of my faults/transgressions….O God, create a clean heart in me, put into me a new and steadfast spirit….be my savior again, renew my joy, keep my spirit steady and willing; and I will teach transgressors your ways….” : Let us pause and think that over.
Pope Francis said about the start of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday: “Ashes are sprinkled on our heads so that the fire of love can be kindled in our hearts”. He points out that “Our earthly possessions will prove useless, dust that scatters, but the love we share–in our families, at work, in the Church and in the world will save us, for it will endure forever.”
Are you feeling that love in yourself, in your life? Or has your love dried up and shriveled with so many things choking it out. Sometimes my daily life is all I can manage. There is also the daily care for over 20 abandoned and sometimes ill cats, living inside and outside. I am blessed to have a young man, Gaspare Randazzo to help me with these chores a few days a week. And out of this work together he has maintained his mental health and completed his GED and obtained not only his first jobs but a car. Yes, my every day contains loving but there is so much more I can do to love. I am praying with you that love will come alive as lent progresses.
It strikes me that as we find love and renewal with our loving God, then our joy flows over to others to reach and thereby teach and heal them in their pain and trouble. We then share our loving God and God’s ways with others. We do not simply feel better ourselves, we share the love we have been so freely given -we let the light shine!
The words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 49 tells of God’s relationship with “the suffering servant”, the Israelites. And the promise and love described here is for the whole people of God, of Israel, who will be (and were) returned to their land. We also see it as applying to Christ as Master Teacher, best love and friend, and, yes, as suffering servant,and to ourselves and all who inevitably face suffering and all manner of troubles on our journeys. Christ Jesus who knew knew no transgressions suffered fickle rejection and the extreme punishment of the cross and he rose three days later destroying death forever as foretold in Isaiah 25. The final and stark reality of death is one that only God could address and God did this through our loving Jesus, the Christ.
I have been struggling with thoughts of retirement from Ministry- not ministry in general but from pastoring my Good Shepherd congregation which continues over time whether we meet regularly or not! It simply continues as the people of God. I am well beyond retirement years. In order to pursue ministry full time I retired from a career as a Master’s level University Professor (of Social Work) of 27 years. I retired again from jobs serving the youth of Lee County in the Middle Schools, and instead in 2007 Judy Beaumont and I developed Good Shepherd Ministries where we worked full time for as long as we both could. Now my work with GS Ministries and Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community here in Fort Myers is part time, at least some of the time. Other times it takes all I have to give. I am blessed to have friends, Judy Alves, Rena Kopp and Carol Schauf who share ministry with me, and Ellen McNally who encourages me even in the midst of her own grief at losing her beloved husband Jack. And I am blessed to have seasonal supportive help in Rev. Judith McKloskey, RCWP from Missouri and part time help from my Associate, Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia though she also must work full time. ( Her job is also her ministry. In her CNA job at the local hospital’s covid rehab ward, she was able to anoint and pray with our beloved Jack McNally as he lay dying of Covid).
I am so grateful for their help, but I get tired and that is a major struggle for me. Part of that struggle is being tired in natural ways, but part of it is wrapped in the grief of losing my life and ministry partner, Judy Beaumont. Part of being tired is also facing what it is like not to be young anymore. Part of it is realistic and part of it is giving up. What I have confronted this Lenten season is the part that is just giving up. I am praying to let that go! And then I find instead renewal of my spirit and the strength and will to respond to the needs of my people, of God’s people, all around me. As they call on me I can respond. I can anoint and visit the very sick. I can bury the dead and console the grieving. I can counsel the young and those with very difficult problems. I can be there for God’s people. I think as every Pastor knows deep inside- there is no full retirement. (Indeed, every Christ follower knows this). Nor need there be for God gives the strength to do what is needed. There can be a slowing down as needed. But once called and committed one simply cannot ignore the needs of God’s people. So here is how I just “kept on keepin’on” as pastor and minister of the Good News in the last few months.
In Isaiah 25 the promise of life is broadened for “all peoples”. “On this mountain YHWH omnipotent will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines,…On this mountain God will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, the shroud covering all nations, destroying all death forever. God will wipe away the tears from every cheek….On that Day it will be said, ‘This is our God, this is the One for whose liberation we waited. YHWH is the One in whom we have hoped! We rejoice exultantly in our deliverance, for the hand of YHWH rests on this mountain!” (Isaiah 25: 6-9 excerpted TIB). God is there on the mountain, in the midst of our troubled times and even our giving up, God is destroying all the ways we find to die while living and death itself in its finality through Christ who rose again vanquishing death itself. God is offering us life NOW and FOREVER! Wow! We are so blessed!
Here indeed is the joy of my salvation, for I am joyful in God’s presence-in creation-in nature; in quiet and contemplation so I can write; and mainly when active in the lives of God’s people whom I am privileged to love and serve.
Here I am with Felice and her baby Daniel and sister Maya. I am so thankful for the young that God has given me to love and sometimes guide.
Above I am blessing our friend and Good Shepherd supporter, Stella Odie-Ali before she undergoes a difficult medical procedure. On this same day I anointed our dear GS member Ann Palmer, who was in Hospice care weeks before her 91st Birthday. GS member Judy Alves assisted me with this as did about twelve members of Ann’s family. What a loving family surrounded her. Ann’s singing of “This is Holy Ground” and saying of Jesus’ prayer was loud and clear and beautiful to hear. Ann was a most special member of our GS Church. As a traditional and cradle Catholic and community Matriarch she found the ministry of two women priests to be “just what she was waiting for”. She attended Mass, services and all of our gatherings as she was able since my Ordination in 2008. She loved the children of the church especially and always donated funds for ice cream for them. Everyone looked forward to her gentle and happy presence. Finally her great heart began to wear out and two weeks after her anointing she was peacefully taken home to God. Pastor Judith McKloskey and I did the graveside ceremony, commending her great loving spirit to our loving God forever.
Jesus also takes us aside and asks us to rest with him. This is the little lake behind my house where I renew my spirit every day as I feed and visit the ducks, water birds and turtles. This is my best time with God as I give thanks for Creation. And below I am at Fort Myers Beach also renewing my spirit with Creation.
Last week we met with Mr. Gary and Roger Richardson and Quay Crews and Joe Baker for Eucharist and anointing and for planning our first outside church gathering since Covid 19 invaded one year ago. We consulted with many church members including Jolinda Harmon, Brenda Cummings and Kathy Roddy. Our plan is to meet outside of Gary and Quay’s home at Goodwill Housing in East Fort Myers. This will be on Saturday March 20th,2021. If anyone is in the area and interested in joining us, please get in touch with me and i will give you the details. All will be welcome!
Thank you for sharing a little of my Lenten journey. I would love to hear about yours and keep you in my prayers.
Love and Blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Fl and
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers
I have been reflecting on the loving gifts I have received this Christmas-expressions of love never cease to amaze me. Some were small material gifts thoughtfully matched to who I am or what I like and some were gifts of calls and cards and messages sending love. They were especially important in this year of Covid19 when we cannot travel to be with our loved ones. And they were especially important to me this year as it is my third Christmas without my partner in life, love and ministry- Rev. Judy Beaumont.
(We were both ordained Roman Catholic Priests through the Roman Catholic Women Priest -RCWP-Movement that began on the Danube river in 2002. After many years of service and compassion particularly to the homeless and outcast we were both called by our local community to also serve as Priests. We were already serving our Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida and we became Co-Pastors of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers. I was ordained in 2008 and Judy Beaumont was ordained in 2012. Over 400 persons joyfully participated in her ordination. Our service continued with a new sacramental dimension supported by our varied and loving community.)
On New Year’s Day, Jan 1, 2021 Judy began the New Year by leaving the suffering of AML Leukemia behind and going home with Love. Her life is now eternal and she remains our guiding star and angel. As all who lose loved ones know all too well, the Holidays, and even the most Holy days can be a difficult time, a time of remembering and a time of missing and a time when there is one foot in the past and another in the present. So love expressed at Christmas is particularly important. Yet Christmas is ALL about Love. God’s tremendous love for us. A beautiful Christmas song popularized by the Jars Of Clay and available on Youtube is entitled Love Came Down At Christmas. (It adapted by the jars of Clay but was written very long ago by Christina Rosetti- 1830-1894 with a Traditional Irish Melody). The words say it all:
“”Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas; Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine….
Worship we our Jesus, But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token; Love be yours and love be mine,
Love from God to all of us, Love for plea and gift and sign”.
When we embrace the love of God at Christmas we are never alone and never ‘Unloved”, though we remember the loves of our life who have gone before us. Those of us in older years may often say: “There are more of my loved ones in heaven than on earth”. Some may even say “ALL of my loved ones have now gone before”. There is a poignant sadness in that, yet a hopefulness. I ask you to remember love with me now. The love we were blessed with, and the love we are still blessed with- and most especially the Love that came down at Christmas.
As a special gift I am sharing here Chapter 12 of my book about Judy’s life of complete loving service. There are Chapters that are written by Judy and Chapters about what she accomplished and how she struggled and served. A few Chapters are about our life together as well. This is one of those Chapters. If you care to read this Christmas chapter, it may whet your appetite for the whole story. It is appropriately entitled “Every Day Is Like Christmas”. Click on Download if you would like to read it.
Here is a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/author/judyleejudithablee
A Blessed Christmas Season and a New Year in which you know without a doubt that you are loved-most especially by the Love that came down on Christmas. Let us remember to be the hands of Love this Christmas and always.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
Co-Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and Good Shepherd Ministries in Fort Myers Florida
Justice Oriented Roman Catholic Woman Priest from Toledo Speaks: Bev Bingle’s Homily 28th Sun. Ordinary Time
Naaman is healed in Israel
and so concludes that God is in Israel.
So he asks to take muleloads of dirt with him back to Syria
to make it holy ground.
The tenth leper is made clean
and so heads off to find a priest
but doesn’t know whether to go to the temple in Jerusalem
or the temple in Gerazim in Samaria.
So he goes back to thank Jesus.
These foreigners have it right.
They experience healing.
They know that it transcends—goes above and beyond—
anything they have ever thought or experienced before.
It’s a faith experience.
So they think about it.
They examine the facts.
They look at the reality around them.
And they place their faith in their own experience,
and act on it.
That’s pure theology:
First, an experience.
Then, believing that the experience is real.
Thinking about it and trying to understand what it means.
These readings today reverberate in our own lives.
Each of us has been, at some time—maybe even yet and still—
in some way one of the outsiders, one of the foreigners,
one of those in need of healing.
Syrians and Samaritans and Paul in chains—they’re outsiders.
Sunni and Shiite, Israeli and Palestinian—outsiders.
Gays and straights, the clean and the addicted,
blacks and reds and yellows and browns and whites.
They are “other,” and we don’t trust them.
They have B.O., filthy clothes, scraggly beards.
They look desperate,
like they’re ready to pounce and rob you.
No matter that they don’t have an address
so they can’t get mail or apply for a job
or wash their clothes or take a shower.
They might even be HIV-positive,
so you don’t even want to shake hands with them
or touch a doorknob after they do. .
But the scriptures teach us what to do with outsiders.
Elisha, the prophet of God, reached out to Naaman
and sent him to wash in the healing waters of the Jordan.
Jesus reached out to the lepers
and sent them to the priests to be certified clean.
Elisha and Jesus did not hesitate to reach out,
to act in compassion and kindness.
There wasn’t a whisper of judgment in their treatment,
only kindness and caring and concern.
And these foreigners, these outsiders, are changed forever.
They have experienced God,
and not just as a healer.
They have experienced God
in the one who embraces the outsider.
They have experienced God
as one who goes beyond all the limits
of nation and culture and religion.
The experience catapults them into faith.
They believe in the God who has touched them.
And so they respond.
Naaman wants to give a gift, but Elisha won’t take it.
So he asks for enough dirt to take along
so that he can have holy ground to pray on,
enough so he can stay in touch
with the God who has made him whole.
The cured leper returns to Jesus to give thanks,
and Jesus tells him it’s faith that has saved him.
Even though a Samaritan,
the leper had believed the word of a Jew
that he was healed.
The leper realizes that God is not in the temple,
neither in Gerazim in Samaria nor in Jerusalem in Israel.
God is in the loving acceptance of another human being.
The first Christians were not sure
about how far to take this inclusive love
that they had seen in Jesus.
Jesus was a Jew.
They were Jews.
What would an outsider have to do to follow Jesus?
Would the outsider have to become Jewish?
Follow the dietary restrictions?
The early Christian community struggled with those questions
and eventually opened their hearts to the outsiders
in the way Jesus had shown them.
Every once in a while I hear someone talk
about the deserving poor… and the undeserving poor.
I’ll give someone a dollar for the bus,
and someone will see it
and tell me not to give that person anything
because he already gets $350 a month disability check.
Or because she spent 18 months in Stryker for prostitution.
Or because he’s a transvestite.
Or a Muslim.
Or whatever, just different.
One of those people.
But they are us.
We are all different,
all on the margins at one time or another,
for one reason or another.
So we all have a responsibility
to end the marginalization of people
who are out there right now.
50 years after Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech,
racism still exists in America.
A coalition of Toledoans,
with funding from the Toledo Blade and the Anderson family,
is working to change minds about people who are “other.”
One of the projects they have put together
is called “Be Kind to a Different Race Month.”
There are details about it in today’s bulletin.
Anyone who volunteers is asked
to take on a project or do an act of kindness
for someone of a different race, 10 times in October.
They give the person a “Combating Racism” card
explaining the effort.
Some of the suggested random kindnesses are
paying for someone’s groceries, raking leaves, mowing a lawn,
handing a person a gift card,
putting change in a parking meter, walking a dog,
visiting someone in the hospital,
hauling in someone’s garbage cans,
I signed up.
As a white person, I’m part of the privileged majority here.
I’m going to keep my eyes open
for people of color who are living on the margins,
and I’m going to go out of my way to be kind.
Some people won’t want my help and will walk away.
Some may even get angry at me, or try to take advantage of me.
No doubt I’ll end up helping someone who didn’t need it.
And that’s all okay.
The person I’m really working on
I hope to be a better person by the time November rolls around.
More aware of discrimination.
More caring, more compassionate.
More sensitive to people who are different from me.
More like Jesus.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Mass at 2086 Brookdale (Interfaith Chapel):
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 9 a.m.
Mass at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Rev. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Our Scriptures for this Sunday are not the warm fuzzy ones we like to hear about our loving God-or are they? It all depends on how we understand love and what love can help us to do. Here, we are asked to follow Christ and to more deeply understand what that means. We are asked to count the costs of our decision to follow Christ. We are asked to look at those things and relationships that “ground us”. Not in the sense of anchoring us in stormy seas, but in the sense of holding our feet to the ground when we are ready to fly or just plain need to go. In the Gospel (Luke 14:25-33) we are asked to “Turn our backs on our loved ones” (some translations say “hate” them) and turn “our backs on even our very selves” to follow Christ” ; to “take up the cross” to follow; and to “say goodbye to all of our possessions” to be disciples. Wow! If this is about only what we give up it is too hard. But, if it is about learning how to love as Jesus loved that is a different story.
I am reminded of a scenario from my older adolescence-one that I did not handle very well although I tried. I lived in a poor inner city neighborhood where violence was on the increase. My mother loved me very much and wanted to protect me. She also had many internal fears about how dangerous life was and I fought to embrace life and saw it differently. When any event planned by the Church or the Youth Group involved returning home late at night I could not go. There was a particular event involving an inspirational and evangelical speaker and it was far away necessitating several subway rides. Although people would accompany me there and home, my arrival home would be very late. I loved my mother who in many ways was giving her life for me, but I needed to let her know that I it was important for me to go to this event. My Grandmother even advocated for me. Mom was adamant and I wound up yelling at her and saying things I was sorry for. My Pastor called me on this and he was right. But, I still couldn’t go until my Pastor convinced her that he, himself, would bring me home. In my mind my mother had wrapped herself around my ankles and literally held me from following Christ. I could not see that she, too was a woman of faith, or comprehend her fears of losing me and how much I was her life. I didn’t know how to be loving in my distancing. I didn’t know that growing up could be so difficult and complex. But for me it was.
And I would learn in later relationships in life that the call of God and the demands of the relationship were sometimes in conflict. This is not an argument for being single and celibate though some are called to be that. It is in relationship with loving others that we learn what it is to be in relationship with a loving God, and the reverse is also true. In relationships, the beloved is first. But it can be particularly hard when there are two beloveds-when God, our love, is first and when our spouse, partner or child is ,in another way, first. That is when Jesus asks that God and the needs of the kin-dom be our greatest love. No spouse or life partner finds it easy when the pastoral response demands attention to others, even strangers, at the worst times and hours and sometimes at the cost of other important plans or even one’s health. When Pastor took me home, he would get home even later and at his own peril. Somehow in love we negotiate these times. We don’t hate those we love, but we do put the call to serve first and for the right reasons, and I think that is what Jesus meant in the Gospel.
What does it mean to follow Jesus? Why does it sometimes take some hard self-denial? What are the ‘right reasons’ to put our following before those we love and our very selves? What does it have to do with love?
First, what “following” is not-it is not admiring what Jesus did. The wise theologian Soren Kierkegaard said that Jesus wants followers not admirers. The “rich young man” (Mark 10:17-22) admired Jesus. He admired his goodness and called him “good master”. Jesus was not up for this adoration and told him only God is good. When he pressed Jesus on what he should do to have life forever, Jesus told him to keep the commandments and to sell what he owned and give his money to the poor,and follow him. He went away sad because he couldn’t part with his great wealth or change his lifestyle. Jesus too was sad because he “looked steadily at him and he was filled with love for him.” Many times people will tell us how much they admire our work with the poor and homeless, adding “I couldn’t do it”. Sometimes I answer that God has given many gifts and talents as if it is only a gift and not the essence of the Law and the Great commandment to live a Matthew 25 life. If I were true to the Gospel, and not afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, I would say as Jesus did “inasmuch as you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me”.
One does not need a special ministry. There are many opportunities in every day life everywhere to live this Gospel. Our Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) Bishop , Bridget Mary Meehan enjoys McDonald’s ice cream and goes regularly to get it. She has a ministry of presence as she greets, smiles and talks with people that no one else would talk to. A woman who was homeless and mentally ill shyly approached her. She engaged her and was happy to buy the woman a meal. Subsequently, the woman would approach her at various times. On one occasion another friend accompanied Bridget Mary. This friend, “Betty” who is generous in many ways to her own friends, chastised Bridget Mary and tried to convince her that she should not talk to or give anything to this woman, “who probably drank”. Without chastising her friend in return, for she loves her, she continued to relate warmly to this lonely woman. I know Betty admires Bridget Mary, but she does not follow her.
To “follow” is, then, to do what Jesus did. To respond in love to the needs of all, especially those who are poor, sick, lonely, and outcast. To work hard for justice and peace so that no one is left out of having what they need, be it a bed indoors at night or a simple meal or a place to raise children without fear, or medical treatment. To welcome the stranger and open the doors of the Kin-dom to everyone. To create a culture of sharing and giving rather than having and hoarding. And, yes, to challenge those who make religion into endless rules that no one is good enough to follow perfectly and an exclusive, members only club. To overthrow the tables of those who sold doves and animals for sacrifice, to set all God’s creatures free, including those who made money from their sale, from their perversion of religion,their misuse of God’s House. To risk righteous anger at all systems that oppress,exploit and starve some while others are inordinately rich and sleek. Pope Francis is now giving an example in simplicity and priority on serving the poor that is moving to all who want a renewed church. Last week workers in some major cities of the USA united in a strike against fast food chains to lift the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour so they could begin to live and not barely survive. It takes 3 such jobs to pay rent, bills and care for a family. Dear followers of Christ, this too is our fight. This month too we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream Speech and the dramatic changes the Civil Rights era brought. This too is an ongoing dream of equality for all through nonviolent activism that we as Christ followers are still fighting for.
In the Epistle reading (Philemon verses 9-10; 12-17) the Apostle Paul is challenging the institution of slavery “left handedly” by entreating Philemon to take back his slave Onesimus, who ran away to Paul and became “Paul’s Heart” and was loved as Paul’s own child. Philemon is asked to love and treat him as a brother,not as a slave. While we may have preferred a polemic from Paul against slavery, and wish that he did not send the slave back to his owner(thereby giving a double message), we can full well appreciate the love Paul had for Onesimus and Philemon. We can appreciate Paul’s “appeal in the name of love” and we can learn to do the same along with whatever courage it may take in the face of injustice. The book of Wisdom reading (9: 13-18) helps us because it reminds us that we do not have to rely on our own faulty mortal reasoning, but on the Spirit of our living God to learn what pleases God. We are so thankful for the Spirit of Wisdom (Sofia) when things are too hard for us to know or do otherwise. Sofia teaches us the love of Christ, hence how to follow.
Jesus embraces all of us, including the rich young man who could not allow himself to follow him. Jesus had a special love for him. We are challenged to have that love as well. To have enough love to lift Lazarus from the grave. To love when we are too tired to love, to care when our caring dries up because we do not feel cared for ourselves. To care for people who cannot give up the addictions and ways that are killing them. There is a Memorial wall of pictures in our church and a few candles beneath it. The wall has become too filled with pictures of our people who have died homeless, or addicted to alcohol or both. I am actually astonished at those we have helped to turn around-and there are many who have expelled demons and only by the grace of God. Some we got into good housing and all was well for a while. Then, and it breaks my heart, they still could not stop drinking and died rather than use help. Last week I almost cussed at a man who was doing really well in housing and then got hooked on prescription painkillers that took away his rationality and good judgment. I told him that I was not planning to do his funeral and bury him. I did cuss when he was gone. When I get over my anger at him, I will gently start my work all over again. To love as Jesus loves is sometimes to have a broken heart.
Hence, to “follow” is not only to do what Jesus did but to feel what Jesus felt. To feel the love that filled him until he wept, until he cried out to God and sweated blood in intensity and even fear, To feel the “dryness” when God seems too far away. To feel alone and exhausted. To be reproached and battered for taking on the “powers that be”. To carry people on your back when you can hardly carry yourself. To crave time away only to be followed on your bathroom break. And, maybe even to keep on loving and forgiving when you feel like you are dying. Can it be that we are asked to love as God loves? I think so and that is the cross.
The beautiful spiritual poet, J. Janda says it this way in the closing lines of a poem called “Covenant” from his book IN EMBRACE published by Life In Christ Press:
“….I know/it is/difficult/ to suffer/but look/I am taking/away your heart/and in/its/place/I am/putting/my heart/now I will/ be suffering/now I will/be/forgiving/now I will/be loving/in you/my heart is/beating in you”
“Following” is when Christ’s heart beats in us. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Judith A. Lee, ARCWP
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Fort Myers, Florida 9/4/2013 Sculpture at the FDR Memorial in Washington DC
The view was breathtaking as Amanda and Andy exchanged their vows to love and cherish one another forever on a hilltop in the beautiful wine country of Virginia in the late afternoon of August eleventh 2013. The bluegreen mountains in the background framed the scene as many shades of green punctuated by the bright yellows and oranges of huge butterflies and the bride’s lovely shimmering dress with beautiful bouquets of fresh flowers on either side of the couple, formed the altar where they were wed. The butterflies ,a symbol of new and beautiful life, were all around. One elegant rust and orange butterfly settled on the bride’s side as she, aware only of her handsome groom, said her vows. His eyes intently rested on her. One had a glimpse of that first Garden where life and love were ignited.
Rev. Judith Beaumont began the ceremony in an unusual way, asking the families and friends gathered there to state their intentions with an “I do” to vows of supporting the couple in the ups and downs of married life. The large group gathered were joyful as they pledged their support and love. They were also asked to raise their hands in blessing the couple along with the priest.
The Gospel reading was from John 15:9-12 (Verse 12) ” And this is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you”. In the brief Homily Rev. Beaumont located the love of Andy and Amanda and their families and friends in the heart of God’s love for them as expressed in the life and example of Christ. The couple also chose Adam Sandler’s song about growing old together and Apache (Native American) and Jewish Wedding blessings as readings.
Their vows were moving and loving,truly sacramental. Toward the end of the ceremony Rev.Beaumont wrapped their joined hands in her wedding stole and united them with a blessing including God in their marriage and naming the many ways their hands would comfort and enable them to serve one another and God’s people as they have already been doing in their service to others.
After the ceremony many attending thanked Rev. Beaumont and remarked at the deep and sacramental meaning of the holy, beautiful, simple and inclusive ceremony. Those gathered were a very diverse group of all ages, races and religions, but most were Roman Catholic by birth. Some were practicing Catholics and some “fallen away” but all welcomed Rev. Beaumont warmly. Many who never even heard about the existence of women priests said that they were so pleased to experience the difference a woman priest can make and to know that church renewal has begun.
Reported by Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, ARCWP 8/13/13
Rev. Judith Beaumont, ARCWP, Officiating
I Choose Joy June 8,2013