Saturday, March 5, 2016

Homily: Ordination of Janet Blakeley ARCWP as a Priest in Sarasota,, Florida, March 5, 2016

photos by Rev. Barbara Zeman, RCWP
Shared Homily by Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP and Janet Blakeley, with Magnificat Reflections by Mary Murray, Kevin Connelly, and Diane Campbell 

Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP
Let us rejoice today as we ordain Janet Blakeley a Roman Catholic Woman Priest.

Like Mary, Mother of Jesus, we sing God’s praises that God is doing great things for us and is working through us in marvelous ways!

On this special occasion, I invited Janet to share her reflection on Mary’s canticle, the Magnificat.  Of course, she said YES!

Therefore, our homily will present some of her insights and experiences in her faith journey as well as insights from recent scholarship on Mary.

Today there is a resurgent of interest in the historical Jesus and the Jewish Mary whom we can imagine lighting the Sabbath candles, following Torah and celebrating the festivals of faith in Nazareth, a small, poor village where, according to scholars, most of the people were illiterate.  For too long in our Catholic tradition, Mary was imaged as  a lovely lady dressed in blue, meek and mild, a model of complete submission for good Catholic girls! Some of us were told that rolling up our uniform skirts made Mary cry!
Offering another perspective German theologian, Diedrich Bonhoeffer views the Magnificat as  a passionate hymn by a prophetic Mary: “This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary who we sometimes see in paintings. It is the passionate, the rendered proud, enthusiastic Mary who speaks out here. This has none of the sweet, nostalgic tones of some of our Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbling the lords of this world, about the power of God who comes to save.  These are the tones of the women prophets of the Old Testament that now come to life in Mary’s words.”

The Mary, we meet in the Magnificat is a strong and bold woman of faith. She taught Jesus about God’s vision of justice and compassion for humankind. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus begins his ministry by declaring healing and liberation for the broken and captive. 

His words echo the words of Mary’s canticle proclaiming God’s extravagant love for all: “The Spirit of Our God is upon me because the Most High has anointed me to bring Good News to those who are poor. 

God has sent me to proclaim liberty to those held captive, recovery of sight to those who are blind and release to those in prison- to proclaim the year of Our God’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)  

Like mother, like son, or as the Asian feminist theologians commented at a conference in Singapore, the apple does not fall far from the tree.  ( Elizabeth Johnson, “Will the Real Mary Please Stand Up”, p. 6, CORPUS REPORTS, March/April 2016)
As a courageous prophet walking in the tradition of her sisters in the Hebrew scriptures, Miriam, Deborah and Hannah, Mary’s revolutionary canticle challenges the social order of her time. She praises God that the exploited will triumph over poverty, abuse and domination and that they will experience the justice promised to them by God.

In a world today, where millions suffer from poverty, violence and oppression, Mary’s canticle reminds us that our work for social and structural change is God’s will. The marginalized are the blessed ones, not their oppressors.

So, here we are are today, blessed beyond comprehension as we live  our baptismal equality on the margins of the Roman Catholic Church. Here, in a United Church of Christ, we gather around a Banquet Table where everyone is welcome and everyone celebrates sacraments. Here we are living Christ’s vision “that all may be one” as we share liturgical celebrations with our sisters and brothers in the UCC.

With Mary, we proclaim that God is doing great things for us and through us as we celebrate10 years of growth from a tiny house church in 2006 to this amazing MMOJ community in 2016. 

We are leading the Roman Catholic Church in a transition as we cross a bridge from the present patriarchal model of church to the early Christianity’s companionship of empowerment. 

Like Mary, we can indeed proclaim our own joyous Magnificat!

So now, let us reflect on our sister, Janet’s reflection on the Magnificat:

Janet reflects: My soul   DOES proclaim the greatness of God -and always has. 
From the age of four, I have felt myself standing in the warm light of God, absorbing it, and reflecting it back to God and all that is within reach of that light.   

The   desire to preach has been with me for at least thirty years, although it was in great nervousness that I began giving homilies on retreats. The first   time was at Boston College with Cardinal Law living about a mile away from the pulpit in which I stood!

Mary proclaims:And my Spirit exults in God, my Savior.  A
Photos by Alicia Bartol-Thomas
Janet reflects: Fortunately, there are those who can listen to my heart and hear my deep love of God. A supervisor once said that I became too excited about God! So I learned to quiet that excitement on the outside, but not the inside!       

Mary proclaims: For showing mercy on my lowliness, and my name will be forever exalted.

Janet reflects: Through reason, I find the institution of the priesthood  to be problematic because it doesn't seem to fit the emerging church of the People of God. I have always acknowledged, however, that God continues to call people to that role in life -and you can't argue with that!   In my own case, I who talked openly and convincingly about there being no need for priests, find myself invited by God to that very place. It seems that there is nothing to do but walk as   gracefully as possible through the door that the God of Surprises is holding open.

Mary proclaims: For the mighty God has done great things for me.  And God’s mercy will reach from age to age. And holy, holy is God’s name

Janet reflects: I am so happy to have had a good upbringing, a good family of my own- complete with beautiful grandchildren! -a partner who loves me, friends, the opportunity to travel and see this beautiful world, the many chances to learn, the gift of music, a roof over my head and food on the table,- the list could go on indefinitely!
God has done great things for me.  God's name is holy, holy, holy.

Mary proclaims: The hungry God has filled the poor with good things, the rich are sent empty away.  

Janet reflects: I was rich and empty. Then I went to work with the poor in Haiti and found them hungry but filled with good things.  
In Haiti I understood that people who have nothing with which to impress others, who by their poverty are obliged to simply be who they are, are the  most enriching people of all!   

photos by Ed Dilgen

Mary proclaims: God remembers the promise to our ancestors to Abraham and Sarah…

Janet reflects: One of my favorite Scripture readings is that of Abraham and Sarah It shows us the simple humanity of these two old people, as well as the beautiful graciousness of God. As for God 's mercy on them and their descendants, we are those descendants and our lives are filled with surprises, generation after generation, as we grow and evolve and draw nearer to God.

Bridget Mary Meehan
 In conclusion, like Sarah and Janet, we too rejoice at what the God of Surprises calls us to do as we ordain Janet a priest in our discipleship of equals MMOJ community.

 Like Mary and Janet, each of us could write a prayer of praise, a Magnificat, for the wondrous things God is doing as we serve the people of God in grace-filled lives of compassion and love each day.

Today we have invited three members of our MMOJ Community to share a personal Magnificat, proclaiming God’s compassion and justice. Mary Murray, Kevin Connelly, and Diane Campbell.

Mary Murray
Eternal, all powerful, nurturing Creator: The loving consciousness and presence you offer to all, without condition, teaches, consoles, enlightens, guides, and illuminates my life with laughter
You define my purpose to be fully a woman human being:  Relishing my differences in the seeing and experiencing of this world dominated by men and their perspective:  

so far
You give me courage to dissent when I see or hear injustice…speak up, take action, and pray for those who do not see the cruelties in our society…..all in service to you, and those fellow humans who are powerless in the world. You give me the freedom to be, and acknowledge, when I am wrong

You held me tight when I sought deliverance from a deadly addiction, and restored me to sanity through the people in my first real community of faith. It was as a part of that sheltering community, I surrendered to your love and power and became a fledgling human being

You have blessed my life with loving parents, beautiful children, grandchildren, three wonderful families, and two amazing faith communities.  You consoled me when my dear son Jim died at 46. Much of that consolation was expressed in the kindness and shared tears of my companions in faith and the image of Mary in the Pieta gave me assurance I was not alone in my grief.

I live each day in You, with humanly limited, variable awareness.  You are the power of love, present in everything and everywhere: absorbing all doubt, fear, and violence, and offering peace in this moment forever.

Kevin Connelly
It was just before dawn about 2000 years ago when a woman walked down a trail carrying with her oils to anoint the body of her beloved teacher and friend who was cruelly murdered 3 days earlier. As she walked along the trail coming towards her was a very familiar figure-familiar , but radiantly different- The risen Christ.

Mary of Magdala was the first person Jesus appeared to. It was Mary who carried that message to the rest of the Apostles. It was Jesus Himself who ordained women to carry His message—

And indeed they did for the next 400 years serving as priests, bishops and being equal partners in the Christian community. Men, for political gain, changed the message thus excluding half the human race from fully participating in Christ’s vision for us -reducing women to minor, subservient roles in Church structure.

Christ could have changed that, but as Christ’s partners in creation He wants us to do the heavy lifting. We do not learn anything if He did it all for us. It took us 1600 years to learn this! For 1600 years The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloped unchecked through the world.

Now we are bringing our Church back to its roots as Christ intended with the ordination of Mary of Magdala’s successors. Courageous women are answering Jesus call to service in full partnership with His vision.

Janet Blakeley has courageously accepted His call to serve and we are all enriched by her many talents,
spiritual insights, and keen intellect. May Jesus guide and direct you on your spiritual journey and may your service illuminate our path!

Magnificat by Diane S Campbell,MD

My soul is ecstatic  in the presence of the Lord

The Giver of my life, the Lover of my soul

Because He has regarded the state of this lowly lesbian,

disregarded my many, despised by some.

You have seen the humble heart of this woman who has known no man,

and yet you have chosen to make her fruitful,

and a bearer of the Christ to others in the world.

I am grateful to you, my holy Mother/ Father God,

for the gifts of humor, and healing, empathy and compassion,

which give me deep pleasure in my work every day.

You have raised me up from very humble beginnings,

and cleared a path through many barriers

 to a station in life where I am available to many,

and  you can work through me to help make your children well,

and I can often witness lives transformed by your power.

I praise You, my loving God, and express my gratitude

that in my lifetime I have been able to see

the translation of Your Powerful Loving Mercy
into more and more  justice for women,

people of color, my gay and lesbian sisters and brothers,

 and now the transgender.

I thank you for my family, for bringing me up with a knowledge of you-
for Elmer & Emma, Franklin & Myrtle, Betty, Charles & Sadie,
Richard & Virginia

and for my family of Faith and community of your Holy Spirit-
Francis, Jean, Annie, Heidi, Mary, Angela,
Joan, Maureen and Karen, Jim & Marie, Kathy,
and Janet & Sally

Blessed be God Forever.