Five weeks in, we are still dwelling in the Mystery!
Today we return with this tender passage to the night Jesus washed his apostles’ feet before their last meal together.
We look back -as his companions did, as the evangelist did – on the life and love that culminated in the cross.
Judas had just accepted his chunk of the bread Jesus broke and offered – when he left to betray him. Then Jesus, who knew what was coming, declared that this very moment he was glorified with the God who sent him.
Striking, isn’t it? In the moment he is betrayed by one of his own beloved Jesus speaks of Glory. In that moment Love has already faced betrayal and death and won. In Jesus’ loving of Judas to the end……God is Glorified. Love is perfected in forgiving.
Facing his inevitable death, Jesus told the disciples to carry on his mission in loving one another as he did. He was clear this wasn’t for their own consolation, but as public witness, so all who saw them would know they were his disciples. Given how the public treated the master, this is asking a lot more than patience with one another’s idiosyncrasies! This is a lot more than most of life’s demands place on us. They, and we, are to love in an unconditional, forgiving and just manner.
So many of you have or still do minister or teach; others heal the sick and wounded, or welcome babies. You calm the anxious and accompany the addicted, the questioning, the broken and the dying. Te levantas los desanimados. You have listened, you have advocated for. And in all the years doing what we do I suspect – I hope! – that sometimes, if not often, we have each been struck by an undeniable affection, a heart expanding in love for the people we are sharing our lives with. People beyond our families, possibly our culture, maybe even people with whom your efforts left you furious at times! Inclusive love is to be the hallmark of Christians, whether accompanied by the good endorphins or not.
But those times when we are gifted in moments of heightened faith to recognize the presence of the Spirit are unique treasures. Savor them; share them! This is part of what we hope will happen over coffee after our worship.
I will share one, prompted by a recent call. In 1992 I was hired as a pastoral associate in the Catholic parish of Immokalee Fl. There 3 Guadalupana sisters from Mexico had served for 25 years and had just been reassigned. With a nearly annual change of pastors, this rural area had depended on those sisters for all the religious instruction of children and adults, ministry to the sick and dying, all things pastoral. Moving into the convent house with our 3 kids, we found boxes of mimeographed copies of the Baltimore Catechism, 1947 edition. (and so much else!) and yes, the good sisters had still been using it.
There was no catechetical team. As my interview had included 45 parishioners, I began to recruit those who would soon become “mis queridos”, my loved ones: Luciano, Cynthia, Maria, Petra, Jose, Belinda, Josie… 20 or so eager but timid first timers. Some were yet laborers, 2 young teachers, 2 the first local newly- capped nurses.
We gathered around a table with a basket of bread to get to know one another and to work out how to shape the religious formation of the hundreds of children now in our charge. I announced that we would not be using the B.C. and they went from shy to giddy. I learned that several of them had been trained as lay missioners years before but had never been invited into leadership by the ever-changing pastors. I learned that no one who couldn’t pass the sister’s catechism test – whether due to low literacy or disability- received the sacraments. As in, ever. Neither did families who migrated to follow the crops north before the formal first communion in May. I met adults in their 50’s who attended Eucharist regularly but had never received communion for those reasons. These new catechists were ready to claim the long-denied rights of the baptised and eager to share the good news that all were welcome to the table. Life in Immokalee is difficult, and some of that team suffered great losses during the year, but they didn’t quit. We began each week with the gathered children in song outdoors.
These dear ones were to me then and in memory, luminous with the enthusiastic presence of the Holy Spirit. They expanded my faith and increased my joy; a joy renewed last week as I heard that many of mis queridos continue to liberate and share the faith with such love to this day.
I imagine that the redemption of Peter aka the scared betrayer energized him similarly. His faith has become expansive in the wake of the resurrection. His timely and vivid vision of a bounty of meats bears fruit for the spread of the Gospel, with its message of inclusion. His realization that God’s created gifts can be enjoyed without profaning the consumer freed Gentiles to join in the promise achieved by the glorification of Jesus on the cross.
This supports the mission of Paul to the Gentiles, and helps Peter keep the Jewish Christians from hoarding the promise.
Peter’s vision for inclusion was cultural and religious, and inspired by his conviction that Jesus belonged to all who sought to follow him, after his death as they had been before.
We are a community that values and works for inclusion and ecumenism.
It is a tender moment for many of us as one of the very earliest voices in that direction with the Sisters of Benedict at this Monastery declines in health. George Hinger’s charisms include deep listening, a deeply rooted commitment to ecumenism in our worship ,and respect and understanding of our relationship to other faiths. We lift him up today in prayer- with his wife Audrey- in honoring their contributions to this Assembly.
We are relatively diverse in gender identity, thanks to the joyful welcome of some of our longstanding members and the Sisters community. We pray to
always provide a safe and welcoming spiritual home for all who seek one here.
Given our limited diversity in that powerful triumvirate of race, education and wealth, It is exciting that Sister Paz is initiating a Hispanic ministry team out of the Monastery. Supporting her, we can all grow in love, inclusion, and witness. Do we not already feel our worship expand as we sing in Spanish, echoing churches you may have visited? El Espiritu Santo esta vivo!
The Spirit has animated such a rich array of beloved communities, often led by someone with a irrepressible vision. Jean Vanier was one of them; many came to know him through his 1979 book Community and Growth. A Canadian philosopher, he became aware that many persons in Europe were institutionalized because of their disabilities. Jean was drawn to form a community in France to which he invited some of these persons to live with him, and others who would came to assist. He called it L’Arche, or The Ark. His vision of inclusion was transformative for people around the world who share life in many similar communes. J. Vanier died May 7, and I highly recommend seeing a bit of his funeral online. Doing so for me was especially sweet after celebrating Kaethe’s Cutting Edge graduation and enjoying the beauty and pride of the other students and grads from that well-designed Edgewood College program of inclusion. What vision, love, and faith has achieved! What joy is possible for all who witness it.
This is why we need the 50 days Mystagogy, our reflection on our entry into the Easter Mystery before Pentecost. If, as I hope, we are all praying daily for a global infusion of the Holy Spirit, we’d best be aware of what we are asking for! The air out there reverberates with competing, not cooperating voices, with judgement, not justice. With anger, not vision.
We are a richly gifted, truly Spirited and I believe a courageous Assembly. We have much to offer ever widening circles of God’s beloved.
May we persist in active faith until just systems strengthen our communities for all their people. Procedamus in pace! Let us proceed in peace.
For the safety and healing of Christians in Sri Lanka as they resume worship in their churches after being attacked, and for the safety and healing of all believers of the world’s religions who are being targeted by hate and violence.
Pray we may each and all be given the grace to recognize, and the courage to follow promptings of the Spirit of the Risen Christ.
May our witness uplift God’s beloved, challenge all that would oppress them, and fill our hearts and homes with Joy.
For what else?
For the requests of those who have written them in our Book of Intentions,
And for all for whom we would now remember………………………..
God of Life and Love, we offer these prayers with confidence and open hearts in the name of our Creator, Jesus who brought your Mercy to our world, and the Holy Spirit who accompanies us, Amen.