“Be a Bridge” by Rev. Dr. Barbara Billey, ARCWP Priest, Heart of Compassion International Faith Community Liturgy (Aug 07, 2016)
A Reading from the Gospel of Mary
When the Blessed One had said these things, he greeted them all. “Peace be with you!” he said. “Acquire my peace within yourselves!”
“Be on your guard so that no one deceives you by saying, ‘Look over here’ or ‘Look over there.’ For the Human One exists within you. Follow him. Those who search for him will find him.
Go then, prea
After he said these things, he left them.
But they were distressed and wept greatly. “How are we going to go out to the rest of the world to announce the good news about the kin-dom of the Human One?” they said. “If they didn’t spare him, how will they spare us?”
Then Mary stood up. She greeted them all, addressing her brothers and sisters, “Do not weep and be distressed nor let your hearts be irresolute. For his grace will be with you and will shelter you. Rather we should praise his greatness, for he has united us and made us true human beings.”
When Mary said these things, she turned their mind toward the Good, and they began to debate the words of the Savior.
“Be a bridge.” Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan spoke these words to me the day after my ordination, a little over a year ago. I had shared with her my concern about two friends who were in a conflict.
Jesus was a bridge. In today’s reading from the Gospel of Mary, Jesus reminds us to seek and to find Him. Where? Inside ourselves; He is with us always and already.
Mary of Magdala was a bridge, too. In the synoptic Gospel narratives, we see numerous examples of her in relationship with Jesus, as ministry partner and intimate companion – healing the sick, casting out harm, anointing Him for his passion and there at the foot of the cross when He took his last breath. She is the first person to witness Jesus’ resurrection before He ascends to God. He tells her, “My God is your God”, a bridge for her to the Divine. Then she begins the evolution of Jesus’ mission by commissioning the disciples to proclaim the good news of the Spirit of Jesus, here now.
In the Gospel of Mary, while the disciples are aware of their sacred calling and, moments before, have seen the Risen One, once he leaves them they experience the all too familiar human terror that comes with saying yes. What is the cost to us? Will we suffer the same brutal fate that Jesus did? Many of us might ask the same questions when faced with a life-altering, sacred invitation.
In a gesture of profound empathy, Mary of Magdala offers reassurance that graces will come. Her central message: the Risen One gives us what we need and our strength is in one another. She is anchored in His peace within herself and her power is potent. She is a bridge to the Holy, for them and for us.
We need only reflect on the last year to know this truth. Our Heart of Compassion International Faith Community has grown and deepened. We have become good friends and faithful companions in Christ, a diverse faith community of persons from many faith traditions and spiritual perspectives that spans two countries, Canada and the United States. We celebrate a pastoral circle of five persons from Ontario, Michigan and Ohio, including Michele Birch-Conery who was ordained our ARCWP bishop in September 2015. We moved Michele into a new home that we lovingly call the ARCWP Hospitality House. Our community also made a significant donation to the Holy Name Sisters’ refugee fund.
We have been bridged to the Sacred, and although our bridge has sometimes been over troubled waters, we have been abundantly blessed. However, as with Jesus’ disciples, we cannot contain this energy for ourselves alone.
Today, we will anoint one another to be a bridge beyond ourselves. As companions in Christ, our sacred calling must extend outward to address the real needs of people in our local and global communities. How? We are one Body of Christ and we are His peace; this is enough.
Barbara Billey, M.Ed., M.A., D.Min, Windsor, ONT, Canada is a registered psychotherapist and art therapist who gives presence to a wide range of youth and adults. As a priest with the Heart of Compassion Faith Community, she facilitates inclusive liturgies using sacred arts in order to evoke encounters with the Sacred. An urban priest and compassion activist, Barbara is mobilizing citizens to seek adoption of the Charter for Compassion by her local municipal government. Through the Wisdom Women Circles of Compassion Initiative, she supports the empowerment of young women from several faith traditions using creative expression. She was ordained a priest with ARCWP on July 25, 2015.