Monday, December 16, 2019

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Gaudete Sunday - Presiders: Kathleen Ryan, ARCWP, and Ginny O'Brien

Welcome and Theme 
Gaudete Sunday, Rejoice and Be Glad!  Season of Joy- we hear this so often but what is joy?  It is generally associated with children who wait in anticipation for Santa's visit. They are thrilled with the notion that Santa will visit every house on Christmas Eve and they so want to be on the "nice"list.  Can we remember that feeling of sheer happiness, innocence and bliss? Are we still able to experience and share that joy? is it still contagious?  Our ability and indeed our willingness to once again become that innocent child demonstrates our inner strength. This kind of joy is deeply rooted in faith, hope and love. This joy becomes a virtue one to be shared, practiced and emulated.

Receiving the stole
We, your community, bless you and thank you for leading us in liturgy today.

Lighting the Advent Candle: Third Sunday
We light this third candle and remember that in the heart of every person on this earth, and in all of creation there burns the spark of luminous goodness – the presence of the Divine. Let us kindle the light of joy! Amen.

Opening Song: Spirit of the Living God 

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah     IS 35:1-6A, 10
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
who comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
and who comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
These are the inspired words of Isaiah, a prophet of the Holy One.

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew                           
MT 11:2-11                                                    
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
"Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?"
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."

As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
"What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
These are the inspired words of Matthew a disciple of Jesus. The community affirms these words with AMEN.

Kathie Ryan's Homily Starter for Gaudete Sunday
Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means rejoice-so today we are reminded to rejoice. We go from lighting purple candles to a pink one. I looked up the origin of Gaudete Sunday and found the Roman Catholic Church established Gaudete Sunday  to give us a little break from our “penitential exercises.”  My immediate thought was “what penitential exercises?”  Let’s hold that idea for a moment and go back to the readings- in the readings there is expectation, anticipation, and hope.
In the Isaiah reading we hear:  and then the desert will bloom with abundant flowers, creation will sing with joyful song, feeble hands will be strengthened, knees will be firm, and then just like our gospel reading we hear the blind will see and the lame will walk. Matthew adds more-the lepers will be cleansed, the deaf will hear, the dead will rise and the poor will have the good news. 
But there is a catch-all of these expectations, anticipations and hopes that are described in the readings are already happening. The desert has and is always blooming, creation is always singing. Long before Jesus there were many stories in Hebrew scriptures of the lame walking, and the blind seeing.  That tells us something important-- there is always reason to rejoice yesterday, today and tomorrow.  We have to wake up, see and be aware. Rejoice!
Henri Nouwen, defined joy as “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing-sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death-can take that love away.”  The key to rejoicing is to know you are unconditionally loved. 
Remember according to the RCC we are supposed to be taking a break from our penitential exercises? Maybe not penitential but there is an exercise that needs attention. I think the most important exercise and an exercise we all struggle with-- is to remind ourselves and each other that we are unconditionally loved. Believing, knowing and living as if we are unconditionally loved is not easy. You and I put that unconditional love into action when we take care of one another, when we are kind to those who are not kind to us, when we feed the hungry, when we take care of the poor, when we take care of creation. And when we really accept that we are personally, individually  unconditionally loved. The real message of Gaudete Sunday is to be aware of unconditional love and to love one another and all of creation, today, tomorrow and always.
What did you hear and see in these scripture readings today?  How will they change you? What will it cost?

Communion Song: Christ Be Our Light by Bernadette Farrell

Closing Song: Canticle of the Sun by Marty Haugen

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