Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community Priesthood Saturday, October 25 2014 Imogene & Michael Rigdon Presiding Janet Blakeley, Music Minister

From left to right: Katy Zatsick, Kathryn Shea, Sally Brochu, Bridget Mary Meehan, Janet Blakeley, Marilyn Jenai, Sherry Robertson, ARCWP priests, ordinands and support community from MMOJ gathered to reflect on  Unit of Preparation for Ordination. Sally and Janet will be ordained deacons on Nov. 1st at St. Andrew UCC at 2:00 PM 

Opening Prayer: Let us pray: O God, your people gather with hopeful hearts.We gratefully acknowledge that you call all of us, through our priesthood of the people of God, to minister to those in need. And we thank you for those you call to ministry and leadership without regard to gender, marital status, or sexual orientation. May we all be faithful to our call to ministry. May the universal Church accept and support the ministry of all those you call. In Jesus’ name we pray. All: Amen

Sally Brochu shared with community that her call to ordination is rooted in her baptism and is a call to live justice for women in the church today. 

Mary Al Gagnon proclaimed the First Reading

Michael  Rigdon, a married priest, presided at liturgy

Imogene and Michael Rigdon, a married priest couple co-presided at liturgy at MMOJ  today and led a dialogue homily on how we celebrate Eucharist  as a gifted community, all of whom are called to live their baptism  fully  in loving service. 

A Roman Catholic Woman Priest:" Why I Attended a Rally for Marriage Equality in Atlanta, GA.'" Diane Dougherty, ARCWP

Diane Dougherty at Marriage Equality Rally in Atlanta, GA.
As the Associated Press reported “Catholic Bishops Scrap Welcome to Gays”, going on to say they failed to approve an even watered down section on ministry to homosexuals….I, a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, attended a rally at the City Hall in Atlanta in support of Marriage Equality.  You might ask why I would act in opposition to the hierarchy, especially as a priest?  Our community, Roman Catholic Women Priests, and most Catholics, do not hold the beliefs of the hierarchy and understand our sons and daughters are born whole and are made in the image of God.  They are truly God’s children and when the church hierarchy and civil authorities act against them, it is a violation of a God.

I went to this rally because of the love shared with many beautiful LGBT friends who have enjoyed long term relationships.  I believe they should have the right to be civilly married and have all of the benefits society offers.  I went in support of the beloved people of First Metropolitan Community Church, who have given me a home from which I can minister as an ordained woman.  I went in support of all people who are denied human rights.  Each person who steps out in love moves closer into the heart of a God of love.   As Roman Catholic Woman Priest…..we step out toward love and with open arms, embrace all who wish to grow together.  We step out to recreate a Catholic church of full inclusion-one that embraces love and its people without exceptions. 

Reverend Diane Dougherty, ARCWP,

Friday, October 24, 2014

Police Use of Drones May Threaten Human Rights

The Law of Love Trumps All-Rev. Judy’s Homily 30th Sunday in OT 10/26/14 by Rev. Judy Lee, RCWP

Matthew 22:34-40- What are the greatest commandment(s)?

The Context
Today Jesus continues to respond to the “tests” (and traps) from the Pharisees,the powerful authorities, rabbis and priests of his Hebrew religion. Jesus affirms the essence of the Law and Prophets. This takes place after his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and his “cleansing” of the Temple which is frequently portrayed as “chasing the moneychangers out of the Temple”. But, his revolutionary action to chase out (liberate) the animals and birds as well as those selling them for sacrifice meant much more than a frustration with cheating “moneychangers” (John 2:14-16;Matt 21:12-13;Mark 11:15-17;Luke 19:45-46.). The priests are furiously upset with Jesus, but the multitude, the people are with Jesus.  Jesus fulfills prophecy by his ride into Jerusalem, and is fulfilling the Law, the very essence and backbone of his Hebrew religion, by essentially defining what the Law and the Temple is about and what it is not about. Jesus defines what the Law is about by all that he does as well as all that he says, as best we can know it. In the Temple cleansing Jesus is establishing that it is notabout animal sacrifice. It is about love,especially caring for the most vulnerable like orphans and widows who have no means of support but are accounted for in the Law (Exodus 22:20-26). Care and mercy for animals is also written in the Law, for example farmers are to let their animals graze and drink from the stream on the Sabbath, so they indeed can enjoy a Sabbath. Jesus mentions this in Luke 13:15-16,also see Exodus 23:5 and Deuteronomy 22:4.  This emphasis on love and caring for the least among us is fully consistent with the Law and has its origins in the Law in Deuteronomy(22:4) and in the prophets (Hosea 6:6, which Jesus quotes at another point,  Amos 5:21-24 and Isaiah 1:11-16 and Is. 66:3) and also in the commentary of first century rabbis like the prominent Hillel. What Jesus did in cleansing the Temple strikes at the heart of what he sees as the corruption of the Law where the Temple priests are living off the money and the actual meat of the animal sacrifices and losing the key points of the Law, right relationship with God and right relationship with our neighbors, especially the poorest and weakest. This provides an excellent reason to trap him and kill him. To learn more about Jesus’ radical Jewish ethics that included vegetarianism, pacifism and simplicity with identification with the poor, read Keith Akers, The Lost Religion of Jesus,Lantern Books,2000. Akers makes a strong argument for the Jesus movement in Judaism that became Jewish Christianity for the first four centuries BCE. While I do not agree with all of Akers’ conclusions it is quite clear that it was not Jesus’ intent to abolish the Law but to fulfill it and show us how to live it.
Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment?The Pharisees and Scribes think they will trap Jesus into minimizing or falsely stating the Law.  Jesus boils down all 613 laws to the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart ,soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. He adds that the whole law and prophets are based on these two commandments.He is hinging all that is important in Hebrew law, tradition and Scriptures to loving God and all people, especially the most vulnerable people(Ex 22:21-22) wholeheartedly.  In Mark (12:32) the man who asked the question has to marvel: “Well said, Teacher”! He also says that this love is more important than religious ritual like burnt offerings and sacrifice and Jesus commends and affirms his understanding. What happens in the Temple cleansing also establishes this priority. It is major.  Once again love trumps all.  In Luke 10:28 Jesus has a similar discussion with another expert in the law who asks him about how to inherit eternal life. The expert answers with the two great commandments and Jesus affirms this and says “Do this and you will live”.  Following this, in Luke, Jesus teaches that loving the “neighbor” includes enemies, like the “good Samaritan”. Jesus is cutting through to the essence of the law which is love, and saying that this kind of love brings life now and forever. We note two things here: Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:7) and the fulfillment of the law is the life of love that Jesus led, and expects us to lead.  What kind of love did Jesus exemplify? His love was inclusive-women and children as well as men, poor as well as rich, sick and outcast as well as healthy and mainstream, strangers and outsiders as well as his own people. His love was selfless-even when he was exhausted and frustrated he continued serving, healing, teaching and loving the people. His life included “living sacrifice.”   His love was characterized by justice and actually put the last first, calling the poor blessed and fortunate, thus changing the usual order of things.  Jesus loved with a wholehearted, radical love. And, he loved until the end when he asked forgiveness even from the cross for those who tortured and killed him (Luke 23:34). And in rising he calls his disciples friends and assures that he loves and is with us forever. Jesus’ radical love is VERY hard to emulate.
I am thinking of the love of caretakers for the very ill. In our congregation when one young man was in the hospital struggling for life his entire family maintained a vigil day and night for weeks. They also prayed and asked for his baptism at a time when he could participate. The moment of baptism was the only joy they had all experienced in days.  Only when he improved in quite a miraculous way did his grandmother and mother get to go home and rest. In another case a family kept a vigil until their elderly terminally ill grandparent died. They did not go to work or school and even refused to eat when he could not eat. That was something I could help them with, God did not want their illness too. They ate but would not leave his side until he went home to God. In another situation a wife cares for her husband with Alzheimer’s disease 24-7 only taking a few hours a day for herself. She has sacrificed herself for her husband for over fifteen years and he is still recognizing people and able to stay at home. Her life on the other hand is restricted to his care. This is her sacrifice for him. It is radical love.
I am thinking of the outrage of our community at the death of a precious five year old by drive by shooting. I am thinking of the brave women, men and youth who despite their fear of a similar fate are trying to speak out for justice even though there are many who will not break the loyalty code and act justly. I think of the workers who take time off their low paying fast food chain jobs to protest for just wages, for raising the minimum wage, and the farm workers who take on large chains like Publix and Walmart and McDonald’s. I see in them the Jesus who used his righteous anger as the root of love( an ethical principle described by theologian and ethicist Beverly Harrison) to demonstrate what it takes to enact justice.  I think of all the humiliation and blood that poured in the streets to secure the nonviolent civil rights movement. I think of Megan Rice and other nonviolent peace and antinuclear activists who endure prison for love. I think of street ministries to the homeless and hungry where the elements of relentless heat, rain, snow and cold and even disapproval are rewards for serving along with oneness with the poor and least of these.  I think of our Roman Catholic women priests who are excommunicated to live the call to priesthood and serve thereby enacting justice in the church. I am thinking about the warmth and love our people give to one another every Sunday. This is all radical love.  Radical love is action not rhetoric.
Let us pray that we can love radically, with all our hearts. Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Book: She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World Published: SEPTEMBER 6, 2014

My copy of this wonderful new book by prolific writer Jann Aldredge- Clanton just arrived in the mail this week. I am delighted to be one of the women leaders described by Jann as  "driving foundational Christian theological change and restoring awareness of the sacred value of women and girls. " It is available on amazon and barnes&noble online. See links below.  She tells my story in the chapter entitled: "Leading not leaving the Church" Bridget Mary Meehan,

My new book, She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, will come out at the end of September. This book presents inspiring stories of clergy and laypeople bringing transformation through restoring the power of Divine Wisdom and other biblical female divine images to Christian theology and worship. These stories reveal the connection between including multicultural female divine images in worship and justice in human relationships. This book also provides creative inclusive worship resources and locations of feminist emancipatory faith communities.
One of the chapters in the book is titled “Wisdom’s Works of Interfaith Collaboration.” In the introduction to the book I state my religious tradition and my commitment to collaborating with other traditions: 
This book comes from my location within the Christian tradition with the hope that people in other religious traditions will write stories of transformation through Divine Wisdom. More specifically, I am an ordained Anglo minister within the Baptist tradition, growing up in Louisiana and working in Texas. I have served mainly in ecumenical and interfaith settings as a chaplain, interfaith conference director, pastoral counselor, teacher, and speaker. While interfaith collaboration is an important part of my ministry and a common thread in the stories in this book, I have featured people from the Christian tradition because I can best work for change within my own tradition. When it comes to overcoming patriarchy and transforming society through Divine Wisdom, there is enough work for people in all religious traditions. I am a Christian feminist, trying to do my part from my tradition while collaborating with other traditions.
Thus I was delighted to learn that Rabbi Rami Shapiro shares my passion for working together to transform all faith traditions and the world through changing God-language to include Lady Wisdom and other female names. Rabbi Rami wrote this endorsement of She Lives! Wisdom Works in the World:
Words are maps that shape the territory they claim to represent. The more common a word becomes the more natural the bias it carries becomes. Just reciting “Our Mother who art in Heaven” shows you how entrenched “Our Father” has become. Change the words and you change the world…and yourself. In her new book She Lives!, Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton shares the power of changing Godspeak, of speaking of God as Mother, as Lady Wisdom, and the Divine Feminine by sharing the stories of women and men who have dared to do so. This is a revolution within Christianity that has wonderful ramifications for all faiths trapped in the idolatry of gendered Godtalk. She Lives! is an important book chronicling a revolution in Christianity—the reclaiming of the Divine Feminine; a revolution that must be duplicated in other faiths as well. Read the book. Join the revolution.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author of over two dozen books on religion and spirituality, including The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom LiteratureEmbracing the Divine Feminine: Song of Songs Annotated and ExplainedThe Sacred Art of Lovingkindness, and Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent. Rabbi Rami received rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and holds a PhD from Union Graduate School. A congregational rabbi for 20 years, he currently serves as Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Middle Tennessee State University, co-directs One River Wisdom School, writes a blog, and writes a regular column for Spirituality and Health magazine called “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler.” See Rabbi Rami’s  website.
To Pre-Order She Lives! Wisdom Works in the World:

Catholic Women: “Our Absence Means Synod Lacks Credibility”

Contacts: Erin Saiz Hanna, 401-588-0457
                                              Marianne Duddy-Burke, 617-669-7810
Gathered in Chicago for its annual meeting, October 17-19, 2014, the members of Women-Church Convergence, a coalition of feminist Catholic groups, issued the following statement as the Extraordinary Synod on the Family was drawing to a close in Rome.
Women-Church Convergence celebrates the diversity of families and affirms the holiness of all families where love and commitment reign.
We agree that challenges faced by families should be at the center of our Church’s focus, but are concerned that women and families did not have active roles in shaping the outcome of the Extraordinary Synod. The entire Church—not just clerics for whom not creating families is a condition of their ministry—must have active and equal leadership roles in the development of policy, theology, and programs to address the myriad needs of families.
A group of men who fail to protect the children of our Church from sexual abuse, and who repeatedly sacrifice children to shield the offenders, has no credibility saying anything about what families need. A group of men who have no need for contraception has no standing to deny women access to appropriate reproductive health services. A group of men without experience of wedded life has no right to legislate who should and should not be married.
The egregious omission of women and families in forming Church policy has a devastating impact on Catholics and others worldwide. Instead of an obsession with doctrine, families need the Church to dismantle systems of oppression, work to end violence against women and children, stand firmly against war and the destruction of our planet, recognize women’s moral agency, and honor decisions about family life made with informed consciences and prayerful discernment.
We believe it is long overdue for all families to be welcomed into the sacramental life of our Church. Far too many people are denied sacraments because of their family status.  We mourn this misuse of clerical power, which deprives families of spiritual nourishment and connection to the Christian community.
Women-Church Convergence represents Catholic organizations committed to prioritizing the needs of women and children. In our circles, all are welcome.
Women-Church Convergence is a coalition of autonomous Catholic-rooted organizations raising a feminist voice and committed to an ekklesia or women that is participative, egalitarian and self-governing. Members endorsing this statement include
8th Day Center for Justice – Women in Church and Society Committee
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Catholics for Choice
Catholics for Choice-Canada
Chicago Women-Church
Greater Cincinnati Women-Church
Loretto Women’s Network
National Coalition of American Nuns
Roman Catholic Womenpriests
San Francisco Bay Area Women-Church
SAS – Sisters Against Sexism
WATER – Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

Women’s Ordination Conference

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Vatican's Wild and Crazy Synod on the Family by David Gibson

Francis himself also made it clear at the end of the meeting that he wants the church to be open to "new things," and he ordered that the "defeated" proposals still be included in the text. It is likely that over the next year or two, he will also appoint more like-minded cardinals and bishops who will push for changes...
Amid all the lobbying and armchair analysis, it's important to step back and realize that in the three decades before Francis was elected pope, bishops, priests and theologians could have been investigated, censured, silenced or fired for many of the ideas that were being openly discussed at the synod.
That is perhaps the real earthquake, and it's one that Francis himself wanted.
On the other hand, be careful what you pray for. Francis has long urged Catholics to say what they think without fear of reprisals. Opening the synod, he again reminded the participants that he had just one condition for their talks: "Speak clearly. Let no one say: 'This you cannot say.' "
And by all accounts, they did, with great passion inside the synod hall, but even more sharply in the press. The various interest groups seeking to influence the discussions were often much less diplomatic. As one cardinal put it to the Catholic news site Crux, at a certain point, open discussion becomes "chaos."....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Response to Pope's homily/Article on Vatican Synod-Report Narrows Open Tone, Pope Calls for Middle Path by Joshua J. McElwee NCR

Bridget Mary's Response to Pope Francis' closing homily:
As Pope Francis admits the Synod was a "journey of men." Herein lies problem number 1!! Women belong to the family and should be decision-makers at this Synod and in all church issues. Really, celibate males, some of whom according to the Pope, were outright hostile, should not talk the talk as if they walk the walk!  They have a major credibility gap on this and other issues too! As the youth today say-lol Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,

..."But calling it "a journey of men," the pope said "there were also moments of desolation, of tension and of temptations, of which you could mention some possibilities."
Listing those temptations, the pope began with "the temptation of the hostile rigorist."
Such a person, he said, has "the desire to close inside the script (the letter) and not be surprised by God, from the God of surprises (the Spirit); inside the law, inside the certainty of what we know and not of what we still have to learn and reach for."
"From the time of Jesus, it is the temptation of the zealots, of the scrupulous ... considered -- today -- 'traditionalists' and even 'intellectualists,'" he said.
The pope then warned against "the temptation of destructive do-gooding, which in the name of a false mercy bands wounds and cures them without first medicating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and roots."
"It is the temptation of 'do-gooders'  ... considered 'progressives' and 'liberals,'" he said."

Monday, October 20, 2014

St. Andrew UCC, Sarasota Celebrates October Fest/"God Laughing Out Loud"

"In the beginning God enjoyed herself. She laughed out loud and laughed some more because it was good. She sat back and smiled.  She clapped her hands in glee...She did nothing but enjoy and it was everything...:Light years later, when creation came into being and people began to toil and sweat their way, she noticed that her first principle had been replaced by work and pain. So she sent a reminder of her legacy. She gave it several names: celebration, recreation, fun, pot luck dinners, fellowship. Some thought it was a vestige of days gone by. But God knew it was the real thing.  She called it salvation. " Mary Hunt,, "God Laughing Our loud"  Concilium International Journal for Theology,2000/4)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bishops scrap welcome to gays in sign of split By NICOLE WINFIELD and DANIELA PETROFF/Follow your Conscience!

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families.
The bishops approved a final report covering a host of issues related to Catholic family life, acknowledging there were "positive elements" in civil heterosexual unions outside the church and even in cases when men and women were living together outside marriage.
They also said the church must respect Catholics in their moral evaluation of "methods used to regulate births," a seemingly significant deviation from church teaching barring any form of artificial contraception.
But the bishops failed to reach consensus on a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals. The new section had stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week.
Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families face. It said "people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity," but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
The revised paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod of bishops — whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion — also failed to pass.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the failure of the paragraphs to pass meant that they have to be discussed further to arrive at a consensus at a meeting of bishops next October.
It could be that the 118-62 vote on the gay paragraph was a protest vote of sorts by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording and wanted to keep the issue alive. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with "precious" support...."
Bridget Mary's Response:
I think the church  is on its way not only to a more positive attitude toward LGBT, but to a change in the teaching as well. 
As the above article states, the church  is throwing in the towel on the ban on birth control. Now it affirms that  Catholics must follow their consciences. on this issue .  The majority of Catholics  have being using artificial birth control  for many years as everyone knows! 
"Follow your conscience" is wise counsel for all - including the Vatican!
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,

"But What is God's ?" by Judy Lee, RCWP
Give To God What is God’s
But, What Is God’s?
“ Then the Pharisees went off and began to plot how they might trap Jesus by his speech  ….they asked is it lawful to pay taxes to the Roman emperor, or not ?…..At that, Jesus said to them give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. (Matt 22:15-21)
This Sunday Jesus tells us to give to God what is God’s. And what is God’s is
 his sole focus even as he deals with those who do not “get it” once again. 
In this text we see Jesus artfully dodge another bullet and evade still another trap the religious and political leaders set for him.  The context for this new trap is that Jesus has passed triumphantly through the gates of Jerusalem a short while ago.
 In doing so, he fulfilled Messianic prophecy and also continued in his way of turning the world of power and religious piety upside down. He entered not as royalty but in humility sitting astride a donkey’s colt. The people were wild for him.  Then, he entered the Temple and literally turned it upside down, freeing the sacrificial animals and birds and throwing the vendors and the money changers out. He claimed God’s house as a house of prayer and also defined what it was not for-not for commerce and animal sacrifice. Now, one can speculate, the authorities were really livid at him. To add to that he told three parables about the untrustworthy workers in the vineyard, the need for the work of the vineyard to be done, and a commentary on the people killing the prophets that God sends, including the son of the vineyard owner. The religious leaders were getting furious by this time.  Yet the people followed him, so the leaders looked for a way to discredit him with the people who were tired of oppression and not wanting to pay taxes. If he said it was not according to Jewish law to pay Roman taxes the authorities would have him. If he said it was lawful the people would lose faith in him. The religious leaders and the Herodians (those who uphold Rome’s power) fail to trap him and retreat. The zealots who want to overthrow Rome may not have liked his answer about what belongs to Caesar (the Roman coins) but he succeeds in telling the leaders and the people to give to God what is God’s.  Jesus knows that he is coming down to the finish line. He has explained what God is like and what God wants of God’s people: justice seeking, compassion, and inclusion: love.  Soon he will boil all 613 Jewish laws down to loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Although some midrash, rabbinic commentary, does the same, these religious leaders just don’t get it. And now he says “give to God what is God’s”.
I am not sure how the people in Matthew’s first century church thought about what is God’s. (Nor Mark’s or Luke’s intended audiences for this account and the preceding events described above are consistent in all three synoptic Gospels).  They may have known Psalm 24:1 “The earth and everything on it-the world and all who live in it-belong to YHWH.”  They may have known that all life belongs to the God who gave it. It is important for us to struggle with how we hear “what is God’s” today. The first reading (Isaiah 45:1,4-6) shows God calling a foreign power, King Cyrus of Persia to liberate God’s people from the Babylonians. The text reads that Cyrus’ role is messianic and God IS Cyrus’s God. “Apart from me, all is nothing.  I am your God, there is no other”.  Here God is calling an “outsider” to do God’s work and making the way clear for him to do it. So the whole world is God’s even those that do not know God. All life belongs to God. And yet, how careless we are with all things living from the green earth to animal and even human life, how complicit in destroying life.
The Psalm (96) asks the people to pay tribute to God, to bring offerings and recognize God’s reign, to recognize that God is coming to rule the world with justice and truth (96:13). What kind of tribute, what offerings are pleasing to God? Matthew’s listeners would have known the words of the 8th century prophet Amos who, preaching in a prosperous time, said that God did not want burnt offerings(animal sacrifices) or endless hymns, liturgy, but justice and righteousness (Amos 5: 23-24).  Amos was concerned about greed and religiosity while “they trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed” (2:7) and “they oppress the poor and crush the needy….”( Amos 4:1). God wants us to work for justice for the poor and needy and all those who are oppressed and exploited.  God wants what Paul calls in his letter to the church at Thessalonika, our labors of love. “We call to mind before our God ….how you are proving your faith by your actions, laboring in love, and….hope” ( I Thess. 1:1-5).
What is God’s? All of life is God’s. What does God want from us? That which is life- giving instead of death- dealing-for all, especially those on the bottom and the margins of death dealing structures.  God wants our labors of love and hope to build God’s reign of justice here and now. That is our tribute to God, our lives filled with love and activities for justice. And that is not so easy to give, it is much easier to give a money tithe or other in kind donations than labors of love. For each of us the answers to the questions “how can I live my life for God, and how can I live love and justice?” are unique. Look around and see what you see that speaks to you of that which is not life- giving and that which exemplifies injustice.  Then find ways to speak up and speak out and act for justice and life.
Early this week I was in New York City, home for my first 43 years, where ordinary people are priced out of housing and space is at a high premium like never before. Neighborhoods that housed low income people and their communities have been “gentrified” and are now “upscale”. Crowds gather to celebrate these new areas. But where do the ordinary folks and poor folks find housing? Even the massive housing projects have waiting lists that are years long.  Unemployment continues to be highest in minority communities. Added to that is the death-dealing systems of drug trafficking, sex and human trafficking and the exploitation of “illegal” labor. All of this demands a justice response. Once again homeless men and women and families are sleeping openly on the subway grates for warmth and you can pass by the same ones day after day. For a while in the 1980’s many helping systems were developed and homeless people were truly housed and helped. Now their presence is painfully obvious once again. But this is true of almost every city and some rural places as well. It is true in other countries. When I was in Medellin, Colombia in 2012 I
 drove down a main street with a religious young man and other priests. 
As we drove I noticed rolled white plastic everywhere.  Intuitively I asked about it, and no one knew what it was. One roll of plastic moved, turned over, feet visible but nothing more and I said to them these are your homeless, who is serving them? The young man tried hard to name someone he thought was serving them and came up with a mission that he knew about. Addicted, or mentally ill, or just poor, lost and homeless, we did not know and it would not have mattered if we did. They were there, rolled in white plastic, un-noticed in the middle of the day.  And here in Fort Myers, the bushes and woods and deserted houses are alive with homeless people. Violence toward homeless people is often in the news, a few weeks ago a thirteen year old boy killed a homeless man in what appeared to be a rite of gang initiation. And, the violence is also in tolerating homelessness. Once our Good Shepherd pastors went to pick up a homeless man to take him to his new home, subsidized housing for the physically disabled in his case. We picked him up at his abode-a garbage dumpster and waited as he said good-bye to the cats he had befriended there who were too feral to come with him.  Our ministry is dedicated to homeless and hungry people and to eradicating homelessness one person at a time.  We do try to include homeless animals in this effort as well. We are approaching the housing of nearly 100 people and their children and pets in the seven years that we have been doing this ministry. It is only a dent in the problem. It is a justice issue that remains.
Another justice issue in our area, as in other areas where there are gangs and drug traffic, is violence and murder.  This week a fifteen month old girl in New Jersey was playing with her little siblings and giggling as she jumped on the bed. They had just moved into their new apartment home.  Suddenly shots rang out and this baby was immediately killed by bullets coming through the wall. Instead of the house warming party there is a funeral.  Again, this week in Fort Myers a beautiful and active five year old boy, Andrew Faust, Jr. was killed as a drive by shooting sprayed bullets into his home as he played. This precious child was a cousin to two of our children. This type of random horrific violence has already hit our church community two other times this year with deaths of young adults to drive by shootings. In order for this to stop the community has to rise up and seek justice by telling what they know about the murder. And much is known here but like the people in New Jersey, the people are afraid to tell. Andrew’s family is rallying the community to come forward to name the killers. Barely able to bear their grief, they call for courage, hope and faith with zero tolerance of gun violence. I will be doing the same on Sunday. And as I work with my youth in the Sunday school I will be very clear that to follow Christ is to turn your back on gangs and violence. I will ask them to give their lives back to God and to God alone, turning away from death- dealing loyalties. And we will pray.
Let us pray together that each of us may find the way to honor life and the God of life in our own communities.
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers