Sunday, April 17, 2016

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests: Homily at Ordination of Jim Marsh and Kim Panaro on April 16th Ordination in Albany, NY

Introduction: Bridget Mary
We rejoice today as we ordain Kim Panaro and Jim Marsh priests with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.
In the Gospel today, the Risen Christ asked Peter 3 times “do you love me, followed by “feed my sheep”?
In this tender encounter, the Risen Christ offers a vulnerable Peter, who had denied him 3 times, forgiveness. The invitation to “feed my sheep” reflects Christ’s compassion and confidence in a humbled Peter to serve God’s people. Thus, Peter’s apostolic authority is a call to faithful service and  not to any form of domination or power over others. ( James Carroll, Christ Actually, p. 243.)
The lake in Galilee provides an intimate setting for this Eucharistic meal. Peter is portrayed, by the author of the Gospel of John, as the one who truly understands the resurrection and the meaning of Jesus as one who dwelled in a mystical oneness with God. (John Shelby Spong, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, p. 316)
In John’s Gospel, Mary of Magdala is portrayed as the first witness of the resurrection. Unlike Peter and the other men, except for the beloved disciple, Mary of Magdala and the other women did not abandon Jesus at Calvary. First at the tomb and first witness to encounter the Risen Christ, Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles and the model of courage and faithful love for all generations.
The Gospel of Mary, a second century text, portrays the tension between Peter and Mary of Magdala. In this Gospel, Mary is portrayed as the first apostle whose authority is rooted in deep intimacy with Jesus. In this Gospel we meet a mystical Risen Christ, who cautions the disciples about following rules or leaders and who advises them to seek the indwelling presence of divinity within themselves and to live in inner peace.  
In one encounter, Peter said to Mary: “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than all other women. Tell us the words of the sacred that you remember, the things which you know that we don’t because we haven’t heard them.  Mary responded “I will teach you about what is hidden from you.  And she began to speak these words to them.“

“But Peter expresses anger toward Mary’s knowledge and understanding of the “hidden” meaning of Jesus, and he complains to his brothers: ““Did Jesus choose her over us?

“But one of the other apostles challenges Peter saying, “If the Savior considered her to be worthy, who are you to disregard her?”

Scholars conclude that this passage confirms the fierce debate in the second century over women’s apostolic authority and ministerial roles that continues in our times!

Seems like we have come full circle!
Like Peter and Mary Magdala, we are called to mystical oneness with the Holy One and to overflowing love and compassion  in our world.
The international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement is a holy shakeup!  There is room at the table for everyone as we live Jesus example of Gospel equality and reclaim the church’s early tradition of women in ordained ministry.  

Despite the hierarchy’s efforts to stop our movement, we have grown from 7 brave women ordained on the Danube in 2002 to a total of 222 in 2016 in 13 countries and 31 states serving 81 communities.

 In openness to the Spirit, we call on Pope Francis in this Holy Year to open the door to justice and change the tone of the Vatican toward our movement- from condemnation to conversation !

As a first step toward beginning a healing process of a centuries old misogyny we call our beloved Francis to lift excommunication and all ecclesiastical penalties  against us , our supporters and all Catholics who follow their consciences.

We rejoice now as we hear a reflection by Jim and Kim about God's call to priestly ministry in a renewed church. 

JTM’s Musings for Ordination Homily
My friends, we have gathered to share Word and Eucharist—to celebrate the Holy within and among us in the “story” of our lives as people of faith.

As we heard in that first reading, “We try to hang on to the teachings and ‘get it,’ but come to a realization that we must really let go in order to find our own way.”  The second reading from the contemporary mystic, Thomas Merton, reminds us that we find the way by “listening to the Holy One, who has no voice, speaking in the depths of our being, for we ourselves are the words.”  Each of us is a unique expression of the Divine—truly, you and I are the face of God!

This certainly captures much of my journey to this moment today.  My dreams and aspirations as a young man did not happen as I imagined.  Nevertheless, the journey has been extraordinary!  My experience as a “person on the margins” according to church and society, as well as my subsequent ministry to those affected by HIV and AIDS has profoundly influenced and re-shaped my life—my story.

In spite of being labeled “intrinsically disordered” by church authorities, perhaps, I too heard  “Feed my sheep” and responded with others to establish a ministry to gays and lesbians (known as DIGNITY Capital District), where all were welcome at the table.  Certainly, my ministry with and to persons with AIDS revealed another face of God—often a feminine face.  It was the faces of mothers who so tenderly cared for sons returning home to die.  The metaphor of “Holy Mother Church” became enmeshed with these images and once again I heard the voice “Feed my sheep.”

The Gospel we have just heard (chosen by Kim and me) is another marvelous story.  Though it states this is Jesus’ third appearance after the resurrection, we know it is really the fourth; someone didn’t count that first important appearance to Mary of Magdala, the “Apostle to the Apostles.”  Remember, too, that this Gospel by John, the Jewish mystic, was written after those Jews who followed Jesus were expelled from the Temple, and even after the Temple itself was destroyed by Roman authorities. 

What were these followers to do?  They were ready to give up until they heard the voice of the Teacher say “Cast your nets off the starboard side”—in other words, cast in a new direction and “you’ll find something.”

My friends, I believe this speaks of our ARCWP movement today.  In the words of Bridget Mary Meehan, our beloved bishop, we are not leaving the Church, but leading the church in a new direction by our new model of a non-hierarchical priesthood in egalitarian, inclusive communities where all are welcome and all celebrate sacraments together as the priestly people we are.

Let us continue together in the spirit of Vatican II “to read the signs of our times, and open the windows,” as well as listen to Spirit Sophia who echoes deep within our being, to follow our consciences and be prophetic voices within our church and world as we seek peace and “justice, love tenderly, and walk humbly” as Jesus taught.

Kim Panaro
Ordination Homily 2016

In it’s most simple sense, ordination is a response to a call. It is a  journey that is one of personal evolution  offered for the good of the community. But what is “a call” and who get’s one?  I believe the answer is that  everyone is called because a call is simply our invitation to live a life of being awake, alert, attentive and responsive to the many needs we encounter daily.  Ordination is not a call to preach a religion about Jesus. It is a call to live the faith and lifestyle that Jesus himself  lived. If we are to create the kind of church community and world that Bishop Bridget Mary just described, it must start with a personal experience of the Risen One.   It is clear that the Christ of Faith touched women and men 2000 years ago and that same Spirit moves us today.

As  Bishop John Shelby Spong describes it, Jesus’ message is  “that we reflect God when we love others more than we love our own biologic drive to survive”. Scripture portrays Jesus as one who spends time in solitude and prayer and then returns to the community with an ability to love extravagantly beyond all reason. In our gospel today, Jesus calls Peter and the other disciples.  It would be understandable if Jesus had moved on to someone more reliable than Peter, who denied knowing him, not once but three times.  

But here is the simple beauty of the gospel. Jesus knows that everyone is a work in progress. As Spong puts it “nothing about us is fallen, everything about us is emerging”.  In a world where religion and society are obsessed with guilt, rule's, crime and punishment, individual success and gain, Jesus turns the prevailing culture upside down.  He always chooses love, reconciliation, forgiveness, “do overs” and total belief in people’s potential to grow. He constantly refuses to condemn but also calls people to evolve and do better. In this light, it makes sense to me that he chose Peter and the others who had run away. I think the message is that he trusted them to have been transformed by experience. It is in this spirit that I trust our call today.

Karl Rahner says that today’s Christian will be a mystic, or not at all. Mysticism invites us to prayer, meditation and contemplation. As Buddhist monk Pema Chodron states in our first reading “the truth sinks in like rain into very hard earth. The rain is very gentle and we soften up slowly at our own speed”. 

Ordination is not a call to a new job. It is a commitment to letting the rain of God’s grace soften the very hard earth of one’s heart. We contemplate, we mediate, we respond to Spirit’s call to action.  Just like Jesus called the apostles in today’s story, we are ALL called to live in this world in a radically different way. I believe this radical way is to live with our heads held high as sons and daughters of God, co-creating a world that is the kin-dom of God.

 I am here, as is Jim, as one who is cooperating with grace to evolve into the person that God intends. I am so thankful that we are all here together today as companions on this journey. I know that we will be praying for you and I thank you for praying for us.  As we embrace this non-clerical priesthood I pray that our lives can be a testament to the infinite love of God and the power of that love to heal ourselves, our communities and our planet.  

Photos by Helen Blanchette 
Troy, NY

1 comment:

Mar Melchizedek said...

Beautiful! Please know that your are our prayers. Should you so be called and decide, you are welcome in our Vicariate.

Mar +Melchizedek, SCST
Apostolic Vicar