Sunday, April 7, 2019

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (C) - Presiders: Dennis McDonald, ARCWP, and Kathleen Ryan, ARCWP

Dennis McDonald, ARCWP, and Kathleen Ryan, ARCWP, led the Upper Room liturgy for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (C). Dennis opened with the following theme: “You may have noticed that the passage from John's Gospel today, does not include the portion where Jesus says, "I am the Resurrection and the Life". I did not want the shared homily to focus on that, but rather, I wanted the focus on the tomb in which Lazarus was laid. Our theme for today is about the possible tombs in our lives. What in our lives keeps us in the darkness, away from the light? And what or who might there be to remove the stone to let in the light?

Opening Song: You Are Mine by David Haas

First Reading: Hidden Gifts

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me that angel’s hand is there; the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys too; be not content with them as joys. They too conceal divine gifts.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee.

These are the inspired words of Fra Giovanni, and the community affirms them by saying, Amen.


Gospel: The Raising of Lazarus

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Rabbi, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved these three very much. Yet, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago they tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see the world bathed in light. Those who walk by night will stumble, because there is no light in them.”

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our beloved Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going to Bethany to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Rabbi, if he sleeps, he will be fine.” Jesus had been speaking about Lazarus’ death, but his disciples thought he was talking about actual sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. In any event, let us go to him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the other mourners as well, he was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotion. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

The people in the crowd began to remark, “See how much he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“Rabbi,” said Martha, “by this time there is a stench, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Amma, thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Then Lazarus came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

These are the inspired words from the Gospel of John, and the community affirms them by saying, Amen.

Dennis’ Reflection – Raising of Lazarus

During the Lenten Evening of Reflection last Monday, I sang Endless Night, and the ending line is, “One word, just a word will do, to end this nightmare.” The song speaks to the darkness in which Simba lives, and abandonment felt by him, in the silence of his Father. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus says three words, “Lazarus, come out”. He calls Lazarus out of the darkness of the tomb into the light of day. And Lazarus does come forth, bound head to toe, barely able to move, and Jesus says to those gathered, unbind him, let him go. The call is to let Lazarus resume his life, loved and desired by both family and his community.

And so, I began to think about the tomb that I may be in, bound up and barely able to move. What has me bound, what has placed me in my tomb? Am I bound by worry, by despair, by fear? Am I entombed by jealously, or hate? What is holding me back from being open to the gifts that life lays before me?

What and/or who is needed to free me, to raise me up? Who are the angels in my life holding out their hand to be touched by me, in acceptance of the divine nature that is within me, so that I can break free of the darkness, and let my life and my gifts shine forth?

And then I reflected on to whom might I be an angel, extending my hand and my heart, to assist in rolling back the stone, and calling them from darkness into light. How can I, like Jesus, raise one back to life, illumine for them the divine gifts they have to share with the world? How can I help them remove the covering of an ugliness in their life, a heavy burden they are carrying?

As people of the Way, we are called to follow Jesus, who, out of his love for Lazarus and others who came to him, encouraged them to sense the love of the Divine within and around them, so that they could overcome the darkness in their lives and rise anew, so that “now, and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee”.

What message did you hear in the readings? To what do they call you? How might you act upon that call?

During the shared homily, Jonathan shared his interpretation of this section of today’s Gospel: 

"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die". [12] (John 11:25)

Jonathan’s sharing:

[I am the resurrection, and the life] and if you follow the path we are on, faithfully, believing in the divinity you see in us you will be enlivened. Even if you were feeling dead to life and people and without a calling, you will come fully alive. You will spread love everywhere and to so many places of which even you are unaware. Years after you are buried in the ground the effect of that wasteful and extraordinary life in the world will still be felt and [you shall never die].

Communion Song: Holy Darkness by John Michael Talbot

Closing Prayer: May we go forth recognizing that we are “Gospel itself, the joyful Good News!” of love and harmony. As we go forth let us reach out and touch those we meet, always wit the purpose of enhancing life and bringing justice and peace to all of creation.


Closing Song: City of God by Dan Schutte

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