Gifts Due and Overdue

Mary Magdala Community

“Gifts Due and Overdue”©

by Rev. Jim Ryan,

Homily thoughts on the Third Sunday of Easter, April 10, 2016

I thank the Community for guiding thoughts in this compilation.  This morning at Eucharist we had a conversation about Pope Francis’ Exhortation that was issued at the end of last week.  In my own wanting to see a fragment of light  in what Francis wrote, I neglected to see the institutional darkness and even dismissal of so many of God’s loved ones that this Exhortation continues to represent.  In light of such experiences the “Joy of Love” is only ironic, at the least.

What this means is that this edition of the blog is a community effort as a result of our discussion.  If I have missed, neglected, and/or misrepresented viewpoints that have been included in these thoughts, I apologize and welcome an ongoing discussion.  Just enter your comments below.

The Gift of Easter is to acknowledge grace in our lives – the unanticipated, unearned, unexpected gift of God.  The startling event of seeing the divine present in so many, many ways.  In terms of today’s Gospel (John 21:1-19) it is the image of too many fish in the boat, a superabundance surrounding, filling, and almost capsizing the boat.

A Gift that we are so completely grateful for is this community – a gathering of prayer, a place to worship, and environment of mutual respect and care.  As our self-survey recently revealed to us we find among one another this gift of community.  We are a source of many graces, of a superabundance that just places us in a state of praise and thanksgiving.  We are a family of believers – we cherish the time of being God’s priestly people together.  We pray that this sends us forth renewed and encouraged each week to live Jesus in our various worlds.

So, in this time of unanticipated, yet gloriously celebrated, gift we receive a message from Francis in his document on love, marriage, and family life.  It is critical at this point to speak to the disappointment this document brings to so many.  This certainly is the view of more than a few of our members.  In his message, Francis continues to speak on behalf of an institution that refuses to recognize the full gift of love that people experience in daily living and encounter.  This refusal constantly exposes this institution in its minimizing of the power of the Holy Spirit both in the development of human sexuality and of the integrity of persons whose marriages do not fit the mold of “until one of you dies.”

This message, as one of our members offered this morning, goes unheard when it is presented as a directive to the clergy.  Just think of all those who have no need of a celibate clergy who think they have some insight into the practice of sexual encounter over a lifetime.  Or how about those who come to full stature in Christ because of the successes and failures of their life – like, perhaps the vast majority of the Gathering of God’s People.  A Pastoral Ministry that works is the collaboration and mutuality of all who celebrate each one’s gifts of the Spirit.  As one of our members offered, it’s probably time to do all this without “benefit” of the hierarchy.

Keeping this in mind, I shared with the community my thought that what Francis writes has a feeling of emerging from the desert.  The drought has gone on too long – the drought of top-down abstractions that are packaged in spiritual drivel.  I actually find a drop of water that slakes our thirst in what Francis says.

Here’s what I mean.  Forty some years ago while engaged as a graduate student in Theology at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, during  both Pastoral Ministry classes and Internships as well as in Canon Law courses we were introduced to some wonderfully graced phrases.  They were:  Primacy of Conscience, Internal Forum, and that all-time favorite Sensus Fidelium.  We were taught that applying these phrases in a context of pastoral care meant that we were preparing ourselves for contact with adult Catholics who were our peers when it came to responsibly embracing life.  People can make their own decisions based upon well-formed conscience.  That was the shining light 40-some years ago, shining, that is, before the darkness overcame it.

The forty year stretch which we have recently experienced between the mid-nineteen-seventies to the mid-twenty-teens has been of biblical proportions.  The ancient People of God wandered in the desert searching to complete their Exodus act of freedom.  We Catholics have suffered a similar wandering in the desert.  Oh, in both instances the leaders were still there.  It’s just that in this most recent arid sojourn the leaders consisted of men who hold that a well-formed conscience is the result of only boundaries, rules, laws, edicts.

What a waste this latest 40 year stretch has been.  A waste when one considers that we could all have been mutually respectful peers engaged in the same search for freedom.  I acknowledge that it is a small bit of manna, but consider that when Francis says applying Pastoral Care is about living together in the trenches and on the battlefield, how much better this is than Central Staff (Vatican, Diocesan Chanceries, ets.) sipping brandy and smoking cigars pontificating far, far away from the struggle.

Yes, these past 40 years have biblical soundings in the depth of the drought.  When I look back 40 years to primacy of conscience and internal forum for divorced couples here’s what I remember.  It was a time of people exercising freely their God-given gifts based upon their love of their Faith and the Sacraments.  I remember divorced and remarried Catholics honorably and with full integrity receiving communion.

For those of the LGBT community who have been disregarded and violated, yet again, in this message of the “Joy of Love” please recall with me.  Forty-some years ago the era of actions that took place as a result of well-formed consciences  gave us the birth of Dignity, the first national and fully active organization of some of today’s LGBT community.  Dignity served these members of God’s family and graced all of us in our open embraces together.

So, what have we learned in this latest 40 year stretch of God’s wandering people?  We have learned that some of us must live outside the camp.  We love our new camps.  Some of us are an oasis for the larger camp population of those who have been subjected to the desert.  We are a relief for those who cannot wait.  An oasis for those who celebrate the superabundance of God’s gifts wherever we live on the rainbow, however our family lives out faith and love, and an oasis of Praise & Thanksgiving called Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles Community.

This time we refuse the desert.  Freedom demands it.

A Prayer for Easter

Honor and Glory, Praise and Thanksgiving be to you, All-Holy One.  You are the bringer of day, the creator of life, the inspirer of dreams.

We gather in hope to receive the gift of union through prayer.  We sing to proclaim your praise.  We speak a common language of commitment.  We proclaim an undying faith.

This is the day you have made – let your people rejoice in it.  Your love is forever.   Amen!

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