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Ordination of Ruth Wasylenko

Homily for the Diaconate Ordination of Ruth Wayslenko, March 29, 2012

Scripture Passages:
Isaiah 6: 1-8
Psalm 110
Letter of Paul to Timothy
2 Tim 1:3-9a
Matthew 25: 31-40

Homilist: Priest: Michele Birch-Conery

In scripture, we often hear of God’s exceptional manifestations in calling prophets and anointed ones into servant leadership. Some of these are so familiar to us that they come to mind immediately. They have a magnificent aura about them, as Divine entry into the human realm appears extraordinary. It is easy to forget that a God, revered as magnificence in the Old Testament, entered history in the humble presence of the Jesus we have come to know in the New Testament.
At the same time, as we come to know Jesus’ simple ways, we may forget that here is the same God, holy beyond our comprehension; here is our God dwelling within us, close as mind and heart, as blood and bone; here is our God so intimate and yet so Other, so beyond us and, therefore, asking to be held in awe and great reverence.

We would know this to be true if we recall how Moses remembered to remove his sandals in preparation for his encounter with God at the summit of Mt. Sinai. When God would bring messages to Elijah, Divine Being would remind him to cover his face with his cloak. He was not to look upon the Sacred One as he or she passed by. As prophet, he was to hear God’s requests of him and then go forth as one sent forth to do as God had asked.

We can think of the Annunciation and the angel Gabriel’s request of Mary her unqualified and immediate response… “Yes.” Like all prophets she was ready to surrender to God’s need to become embodied through the gift of her body.

Divine manifestations!  In her ordination to the diaconate today, Ruth Wasylenko has chosen readings that take us with her into the unfathomable mysteries of the prophet’s call in the Old and New Testaments. In this, she brings us particular gifts. Ruth was once a vowed woman in the Ursuline Sisters of Jesus. They understood their charism or spiritual gift in religious community to be incarnational, that is, they understood themselves to be bearers of Jesus, and this would be realized in their mission as teachers, as women who lived the beatitudes and who practiced the spiritual and corporal woks of mercy. From this life experience and with the extensive pastoral work and theology degrees obtained since she left her congregation 11 years ago, Ruth comes to us fully ready for ordination and for furthering her prophetic call.

From the readings, Ruth brings us four gifts in particular. In the reading from Isaiah, she takes us into a particularly mysterious manifestation of God’s call to a powerful prophet. It may be difficult to imagine Isaiah’s encounter with seraphim, angels with 6 pairs of wings who, in continual worship, sang praises such that the walls of the temple shook and smoke filled the air. It is not familiar to us to imagine these angels covering their faces with their wings and, yet, they flew forward to empower the prophet in the way God wished. Through this reading, Ruth chose to give us a fresh awareness of the unworthiness of the prophet and the gift of speech he receives in the cleansing of his lips with a hot ember brought by the ministering angel. We can realize that, at this moment, a prophet was born, a prophet  who would speak in tongues of fire---in words of condemnation and consolation. But it is God’s questions that are particularly important: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” And then Isaiah’s reply and Ruth’s reply today, “Here I am. Send me.”

The second gift that Ruth brings forward is that of liberation and of ultimate freedom and the rightness of that. This is always where the prophet is meant to take us. The journey demands boldness in the face of opposition. At the same time, as acts of courage are necessary, we are strengthened in communities of support where we can be refreshed and know that together we have enough faith to bear God’s living water, and to take this nourishment wherever its necessity is presented to us.

Ruth’s third gift to us today, the gift that she is gripped by and that she desires for us, is that we grow beyond timidity and live and act in a spirit of boldness. In the reading from Paul’s Letter to Timothy, we once again hear the encouraging way Paul speaks to his communities. He always validates individuals and shows their triumphs as well as his own before he teaches the lesson he wishes to bring to them. In this reading, Paul lifts Timothy up through remaining him of his family heritage, especially as exemplified by his grandmother, Lois, and his mother Eunice. It is Paul’s own difficulties, too, his own sieges of timidity to be surpassed, that leads him to recognize the necessity of emboldening the communities so that they do not lose faith as exemplified in his own struggles—that of imprisonment, shipwreck and obstacles of all kinds in the unfolding of his ministries. He lives in  the time of the Acts of the Apostles, as do we again, in hoping for and in creating a new and invigorated Church, a non-clericalist church struggling towards equalities of every kind.

Lastly, the fourth gift Ruth brings forward for us is a sense of the continuity of God’s action in our lives from Alpha to Omega, from the beginning to the end. In the reading from Matthew we find ourselves at the conclusion of Cosmic time as we presently know it. Now the concerns are not, specifically, about the great mortal sins we might once have believed could condemn us forever. Most simply, we are asked if we have practised the golden rule. Have we treated others as we wish to be treated.

For us Roman Catholics, the specifics of the golden rule are laid out in what we have customarily called the Corporal works of mercy. If we have faithfully practiced these works, we can claim the inheritance promised by Abba God. If we have given drink to the thirsty, hospitality to the stranger—if we have supported the sick, visited the imprisoned, the kindom of heaven is ours, even now. In our forgetfulness we won’t remember when we did this for God, but then we remember the words, “just as you did it for one of the least of these, you who are my sisters and brothers did it for me.”

We have often experienced that we are sisters and brothers to each other but now, in Ruth’s ordination, we discover this in a renewed way. As a deacon, she will receive renewed gifts along with the mandate to preach the word. I have only done so tonight in her place knowing form what she has told me what she might have wanted to say. For this I have been blessed and privileged to be with you. Be blessed, be well, as we go forward from this sacred event into our lives.

Homily for the Ordination into Priesthood of Ruth Wayslenko, March 30, 2012

Bishop Marie Evans Bouclin

Dear Ruthie, Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to hear once again these readings. And so you can further internalize some of the important words you’ve chosen, let me just say: Thank you for listening to the voice of God asking, “Who will go for us”, and for answering, like the prophet, “Here I am - send ME”... Thank you for hearing God’s voice speaking to you, even as a child, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedek”. They remind us that our call comes first from God. Divine Wisdom speaks that call to our hearts, and ratifies it when a community of believers calls us to ordination.

We gather here as your community to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of hands” as the letter to Timothy puts it. And we pray that you will continue to rely on the power of God to fearlessly live out your calling, perhaps not so much by performing the so-called works of corporal mercy described in today`s gospel, but certainly “according to God`s own purpose and grace”.

Ruth, you have answered the call to priesthood with Roman Catholic Women Priests because you believe in our model of renewed priestly ministry. With us, you are accepting a model of servant leadership:  leading God`s people in worship, not in a spirit of clericalism, elitism or domination, but in joyful celebration of the Divine Spirit living in us all. Our priesthood is about calling forth the gifts of the members of our worshipping communities to build the kindom of God, inclusive of all with their differences of race and culture, creeds and traditions, sex and sexual orientation.  It is about supporting people  on their spiritual journey as companions and friends. But especially, we are called to lead by example the total abandoning of our lives, our bodies, our futures into the hands of our Abwoun.

Because we are an ordained in the Roman Catholic church, we are called to celebrate the sacraments. Especially the Eucharist. We are called to perpetuate the subversive memory of Jesus by presiding at, or leading,  Eucharist. If you minister in no other way, Ruth, as long as you can, do what Jesus asked of his friends: remember him by blessing the bread and raising the cup of  thanksgiving for yourself and for all of us. Eat the bread, drink the cup of your own - and our -  transformation into the Body and Spirit of Christ. Break the bread and share the cup as you cling with all your might to the promise of eternal life and peacefully, intentionally transition into it.

Actually, this is what we are all called to. None of us knows how long we have to fulfill our specific missions. Pray for us women priests and your friends gathered here, that we may rededicate our lives to perpetuating the dangerous, subversive, memory of Jesus. Pray that we gently but fearlessly speak our truth and lead by example. Hold us close to the heart of Divine Wisdom so that we may faithfully live the gospel imperative of compassion to the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the broken-hearted, and pray that we have the strength and courage to support and affirm others who do so. And know that we love you and support you as you journey. Bless you, dear sister, and thank you for saying, “Here I am. Send ME. I am ready.”

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