It is altogether fitting that we remember the life and death of Rev. Judith Beaumont on this day,the chief of Marian feast days. On this day, January 1st, Mary is honored as Theotokos- God- bearer and we are challenged to be like Mary in our lives: God-bearers. On this day one year ago, Rev.Judy Beaumont left this world to unite with our loving God, and all the saints and angels. Holy, holy of days for a faithful God-bearer to go home. This is also the World Day of Peace, and Judy Beaumont’s life was dedicated to love, peace and justice.
Her activism spanned decades but was most prominent in Trident 9, a 1981 Plowshares Action in which the participants entered the Naval Base in Groton, Connecticut, rowed out to the Trident Submarine and splashed blood on it. Not only was the Trident a symbol of world destruction, but of injustice as the cost of even one Trident Sub could feed most of the hungry of the world. She spent 7 months in prison for this action and during that time she enacted women’s prison reform*.
Judy Beaumont’s life was devoted to acts of justice, compassion and peace. Her dedication to the homeless spanned over 35 years of service in homeless Shelters and serving the homeless here in Fort Myers, Florida as part of our Good Shepherd Ministries. Her patient and care-full work helped permanently house over a hundred homeless individuals and families who loved her dearly as she loved them. When this humble woman of compassion and courage became ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest in January 2012 over 400 were at her Ordination, many of whom were the poor she served. She bore Christ to the least of God’s children and was rewarded with their love.
Today at noon on Catholic Television (EWTN) Pope Francis’ 2017 January 1st Marian Mass was aired again. His beautiful homily focussed on a few key phrases in the Gospel of Luke. The Scriptures of the day are:Numbers 6:22-27 when God blesses God’s people through Moses; Psalm 67 where we ask God to bless God’s people and the people of all nations to praise God who embraces all peoples; Galatians 4:4-7 where Paul notes that Jesus was born to ransom Israel and to adopt all of the peoples of the world.
The Gospel-Luke 2:16-21 shows the “lowly shepherds” finding the baby Jesus lying in a cow’s manger with Mary and Joseph hovering over him. The shepherds become the first apostles/ambassadors making known to everyone with great energy and praise of God, the presence of Jesus. And “All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Pope Francis said that we are called to be amazed-we must never lose the capacity to be amazed. In amazement we see a child lacking all abounded in love. Jesus’ life is a gift that gives us a chance to make a new start-even for the “lowest” amongst us. And, to focus on his mother Mary we are again amazed at God’s action in entering humanity-the baby was one with her and as she takes him in her arms,cuddles and feeds him we see a woman loving God and God’s loving oneness with humanity. God is not a distant creator of the cosmos, God is one with us through Jesus, hence through Mary who said “Yes” to God. Jesus rests in his mother’s lap who is also our mother now. ( From the Cross he gave her to his disciple John and also to all of his disciples).
Pope Francis notes that “God’s love is both maternal and paternal” and is always with us-never distant. (My response is that it is a small step here to embrace God as both Mother and Father!). Francis says that “God believes in humankind and becomes one of us in Jesus. Be amazed at the God of surprises! Remember the moment of your first belief, your first faith. Faith is an encounter not a religion”, says Pope Francis. And our faith includes a mother that gives birth to Jesus, and to all of us as God’s children. We must allow her selves to be gazed upon in love as Mary gazes upon Jesus. “Especially when our lives are entangled in the tightest of knots, Mary is gazing upon us in love seeing not sinners but children. The eyes of Mary reflect the beauty of God.” Mary gazes into Jesus’eyes and reflects his light. She says, “take heart I am your mother”. The maternal gaze instills confidence and faith, it is a bond formed with God that creates us as whole persons. Her gaze helps us to see ourselves as God’s children united as church moving beyond diversity to unity in Christ. We must be a church of loving tenderness and we cannot be lukewarm.
Mary never points to herself but only to Jesus and to God’s children. Our human family is built upon mothers. Maternal sentiment amazes us and this maternal love is especially lavished upon the poor and the “least” among us. We can pray for God to help us see as Mary did looking on the face of Jesus with such great love. Help us to see as You do. And help us to have the heart of Mary, the heart that treasured everything related to Jesus- starting with the shepherd’s praise.As we follow Mary in the gospels we see that she is present whenever she is needed-with her cousin EliZabeth, helping the newlyweds at the wedding at Cana (and perhaps helping Jesus too there- to start his public ministry) and finally at the Cross and grave. Pope francis continues: “Mary is the mother of consolation and words are not enough for consolation-presence is needed”. (I can certainly relate to this as I live my grief at the loss of Judy Beaumont yet embrace her in her new life- presence is all.) Francis says that we must allow ourselves to hold the hand that held Jesus’ hand with hope and sweetness. So let us allow ourselves to be taken by the hand and introduced to Life. Especially when we get lost and forget a mother’s affection, when we become angry and bitter and malicious. Let us renew ourselves in God’s Mother love.
Pastor Judy Beaumont never viewed people as sinners and she embraced even the most difficult among us as a child of God. Sher gazed upon each one with love. Her patience was often beyond what the best mother could offer and she would not hesitate to do the most difficult ordinary thing for her people- counting endless pills for those who would be sick because they could not manage their own medicines, sorting through piles of donated clothes to find the best things for each person, always offering them a choice. Making all the contacts needed for a hot meal to appear at every church gathering. And serving herself though exhausted on her feet. Filling out endless applications for services. Waiting with them at endless lines where dignity was at a premium, And listening as some raged on about their lives and real or imagined upsets. How like Mary she was reflecting the eyes of Jesus to all and offering God’s tenderness with her beautiful smile. I was so blessed to have her as my life and ministry partner. I rely on her spiritual presence to smile upon me with love and guidance. We were so blessed to have her as our co-Pastor at Good Shepherd-and now to have her as our saint and angel. When we meet on January 19th for Mass and our gathering we will light a candle for her in Memoriam, but we will not be surprised that she is there blessing us and praying for us.
THANKS BE TO GOD! Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida