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