Sunday, October 18, 2015

Homily of Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP for Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone in Salt Lake City, Utah Oct 18, 2015

Photo by Steve Griffin of Salt Lake City Tribune



Today we rejoice as we ordain Clare Julian Carbone the first Roman Catholic Woman Priest in Salt Lake City Utah.


Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune
Clare Julian brings the contemplative spirits of St. Clare of Assisi and Blessed Julian of Norwich to an interfaith ministry of faith-filed women working for deeper understanding, reconciliation and healing from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions.
Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune

Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune
Clare Julian reflects on her calling in the following words:  “As I reflect about what my life in God is about I believe God calls me in various ways to be a bridge of sorts.  This calling first expressed itself years ago in a desire to  weave together the beauties of our spiritual tradition with the psychological components of Depth Psychology and the insights of Carl Jung.  Then after 9/11 I felt compelled to learn about Islam and find ways of encountering one another in the Abrahamic traditions via  Interfaith dialogue, prayer and friendship. Now as I embrace a new role as a Hospice Chaplain, once again I am aware of this "bridge" calling  as I learn about the realities of the Afterlife and companion others as they make their transition from this earthly existence into the next.   Finally, I feel my role as 'priest' will be another aspect of this calling to be a bridge, especially in living out our inclusivity and reconciliation with all creation within the realm of our Sacramental/Catholic tradition.
Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune
In our scripture reading today, the story of the woman who anoints Jesus is told in all four gospels.

In Mark and Matthew, the anointing occurs in the home of Simon the leper in Bethany. In Luke, the place is the home of  Simon, a Pharisee. In John, the location is the home of Martha in Bethany.

In Mark and Matthew, the head of Jesus is anointed, in Luke and John the  feet are anointed.
According to Mark, Matthew, and John, the meaning of the story is the anointing of Jesus’ body before burial.

Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune
There are three different women in these accounts.
In John’s Gospel, the woman is identified as Mary of Bethany, a close friend of Jesus. Luke changes the identity of the woman from disciple to a sinner and the focus is on forgiveness of a sinful woman.

The passion narrative of Mark’s Gospel provides the context for the story of the woman who anoints Jesus. It takes place two days before the Passover. It is evident from Mark’s perspective that the male disciples don’t comprehend that suffering and rejection is part of the mission of Jesus. Its significance escapes them.  In the end they abandon or betray him. However, the female disciples who have journeyed with him from Galilee to Jerusalem become the true disciples of Jesus.

They are faithful, loving present during  his execution and death on the cross, and the women are the first witnesses to Christ, Risen and glorified. They are apostles sent to announce the good news of the Resurrection, the core teaching of Christianity. Mary of Magdala was known as the apostle to the apostles. In Romans 16,:7, St. Paul introduces us to another woman apostle, Junia, who with her husband Andronicus, were his mentors. So, there were more than 12 apostles. Therefore, Christianity must follow the example of Jesus and treat women as equals in  every ministry including ordination.


 In our Gospel today, Jesus affirms the anointing woman’s prophetic gesture for all time, “Truly, I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world what she has done will be told in remembrance of me.” (Mk. 14:9)

The assumption that the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke7:36-50 is a public sinner, cannot be verified. In her commentary, feminist scholar Miriam Therese Winter observes: “While the passage illustrates the integral connection between the loving and forgiveness of sins and the preceding text calls attention to the fact that Jesus associates with sinners, the woman’s sin may be no more than that associated with her status or a pattern of behavior unacceptable to the male ruling class.” (Woman Word, p. 71.)

So what is the take home lesson from the Gospel stories of the anointing women?
 I believe that she challenges us to listen to the urgings of the Holy Spirit in our lives, for the Spirit does at times move us to take unpopular, public actions in response to our call to live the Gospel. When he overthrew the tables in the Temple and set the animals free, Jesus angered the priests in charge of ritual sacrifice. 

Our Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement makes the connections that poverty, violence and abuse of women in the world is related to sexism in the church. Like the anointing woman, we are breaking through centuries of Vatican opposition to women priests by disobeying an unjust church law that discriminates against women.

Like the anointing woman, women priests anoint the Body of Christ who suffers, dies and rises in women and men in our churches and world today. We are offering sacraments to everyone especially those who are broken and on the margins of church, such as gays, lesbians, transgender, the divorced and remarried and women who feel abandoned by their church’s exclusion.

I asked Clare Julian to share her reflection on the anointing women in the Gospel. She writes; “For these women to step forward and courageously take on that role to anoint Jesus in the face of the apostle's criticism, and for Jesus to accept this and affirm these women and their inner guidance, is so reminiscent of what we are doing in the women's priest movement  - trusting our inner guidance and stepping forward to express our profound love of Christ and the Christ in others.  The entrenched patriarchal criticism towards us is there, but like Mary and the other woman who anoint Jesus, our anointing, expresses our love. We live into Christ’s call for us to be "One". Nothing else really matters.”

Today we are also walking in the footsteps of pioneer visionaries like St. Clare of Assisi and reclaiming the rich treasury of the mystical tradition of divine love for our modern era
In her third letter to Agnes of Prague, Clare, who wrote the first Rule for Women Religious, said; “Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory. Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance and through contemplation, allow your entire being to be transformed into the image of the Godhead itself, so that you may feel what friends feel, and taste the hidden sweetness that God has reserved for …Lovers.”

In evolutionary spirituality, we glimpse the wisdom of St. Clare and St. Francis coming alive, for contemporaory spiritual seekers of all religions and no religion, in the writings of Franciscan Sister Illia Delio. She invites us to contemplate the depths of God’s boundless love in creation. “God is not the prime mover of a static cosmos but the dynamism of love swelling up in space-time through the process of evolution and rise of consciousness…The God of love appears in Jesus of Nazareth. A God who gets radically involved in the messiness of the world to be God for us…Love is not a concept but a powerful, transforming energy that heals, reconciles, unites and makes whole… love seeks to empower the other for the flourishing of life.” (Sister Illia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, pp. 74, 83-84.)

This passionate movement of love that permeates our cosmos reflects the entire world giving birth to God in a deep awareness of our mystical oneness with all in the embrace of God. Everything is in process of evolving, growing, changing, dying, and birthing new life. 
After the Synod of Bishops on the Family in 2014 rejected his plans for a more pastoral approach to homosexuals and the divorced, Pope Francis told the bishops that God is not afraid of new things. Amen, Pope Francis!
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I believe that the worldwide movement for women’s equality in all religious traditions is a new work of the Spirit rising up in our times. I believe that the international women priests movement is a new work of the Spirit rising up for justice in the Roman Catholic Church. As we follow Jesus’ example of Gospel equality and walk in the footsteps of the women who ministered to Jesus, and who served as deacons, priests and bishops in early Christianity, I believe that a new day is dawning for a more egalitarian, inclusive, flourishing church now.
Jesus called women and men to be his disciples. According to Luke 8: 1-3 among his followers were Mary of Magdala, Susanna, Joanna and many others. Jesus did not ordain anyone male or female at the Last Supper or at any other time.

For 1200 years women were ordained. Gary Macy, in his highly acclaimed book, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination reminds us that “References to the ordination of women exist in papal, episcopal and theological documents of the time, and the rites for these ordinations have survived.” (In the early centuries of Christianity, ordination was the process and the ceremony by which one moved to any new ministry (ordo) in the community. By this definition, women were in fact ordained into several ministries. A radical change in the definition of ordination during the eleventh and twelfth centuries not only removed women from the ordained ministry, but also attempted to eradicate any memory of women's ordination in the past.”Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination)

Sadly, the history of the church is marked by many centuries in which women were treated as second class citizens, and the ordination of women was prohibited.

In 2002, seven courageous women were ordained on the Danube. Then, anonymous male Roman Catholic bishop ordained two of these women -Gisela Forster and Christine Mayr Lumetzberger -bishops. In 2006, 12 women were ordained in the first U.S. ordination in Pittsburgh. I was ordained a priest. Janice Sevre Duszynska was ordained a deacon at this historic ordination. In 2009 I was ordained a bishop in California.  Therefore, our Holy Orders are valid because a male bishop with apostolic succession ordained our first women bishops.

The international Roman Catholic Women Priests now numbers around 220. Our worldwide movement has branches in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Canada, U.S., South America and South Africa.  Women Priests are now ministering in grassroots inclusive Catholic communities in over 36 states in the U.S.

In the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement, there are two international RCWP groups: ARCWP and RCWP-USA. Our common mission is a renewed priestly ministry in an inclusive church. Like two religious orders, we each have our own administrative structure and preparation program. We have worked together on retreats, liturgies and workshops at major conferences such as Call to Action and Women’s Ordination Worldwide.

In 2008 the Vatican issued a decree of  automatic excommunication against Roman Catholic Women Priests. Church officals have punished priest supporters like Roy Bourgeois, forcing his dismissal from his religious order: Maryknoll. They have disciplined Jesuit Bill Brennan (now deceased) and Franciscan Jerry Zawada because they co-presided at liturgy with Janice Sevre Duszynska. People who publically support us and work for the church can lose their jobs, However, no punishment can cancel our baptism.  We affirm, as St. Paul teaches in Galations 3;28, “in Christ, there is neither male nor female, all are one.” Our baptism makes us spiritual equals in Christ.

One could argue that, when Pope Benedict XV1 canonized two excommunicated nuns, Mother Theodore Guerin and Mother Mary MacKillop, he made excommunication the new fast track to canonization! So our motto could be "excommunicated today, canonized tomorrow."

Women priests are visible reminders that women are equal images of God and that all the baptized, the body of Christ, are called to celebrate Eucharist. We preside at sacraments in inclusive, Catholic communities, where all are welcome to receive sacraments. In our liturgies, we use inclusive language and often have dialogue homilies. We invite the community to pray the words of consecration together. In our model of a renewed priestly ministry, we call forth the gifts of the people in a circle of equals as a companionship of empowerment.

I have seen women weep with joy at our liturgies. Like our sisters in other faith traditions, we are a movement of hope that gender equality will become a reality in all areas of ministry and leadership in our church.

Today, in the spirit of the anointing women in the Gospels, Clare Julian will bring healing and wholeness to the suffering and dying and affirm the spiritual equality and oneness of all in the embrace of God. Let us rejoice that a new day is dawning for the people of God in Salt Lake City as the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests ordains Clare Julian a Roman Catholic Woman Priest!


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