Thursday, March 19, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community, Fourth Sunday of Lent Liturgy - Presider: Dennis McDonald, ARCWP

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Welcome and Theme: From Darkness to Light
Opening Prayer: We gather this day, as the world and our country face the darkness of disease.  May we bring forth light during this time of darkness by the compassion, hope, and love that we share with each other, and those in need.  Let us call upon the Spirit of Hope and Courage within each of us, that we may persevere during this difficult and trying time. Amen

Opening Song: Be Light For Our Eyes 


A reading from the Letter to the Ephesians (5:8-14)
There was a time when you were darkness, but now you are light in Christ. Live as children of the light. Light produces every kind of goodness, justice and truth. Be correct in your judgment of what pleases our Savior. Take no part in deeds done in darkness, which bear no fruit; rather, expose them. It is shameful even to mention the things these people do in secret; but when such deeds are exposed and seen in the light of day, everything that becomes visible is light. That is why we read: Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Hear what the Spirit is saying in the Letter to the Ephesians. Amen

Response to reading:

Spirit of the Living God 
Fall fresh on me (2x)
Melt me, mold me, 
Fill me, use me 
Spirit of the Living God 
Fall fresh on me

A reading from the Gospel of John

As Jesus walked along, he saw someone who had been blind from birth.
With that, Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva and smeared the blind one’s eyes with the mud. Then Jesus said, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” — “Siloam” means “sent.” So the person went off and washed, and came back able to see. Neighbors and those who had been accustomed to seeing the blind beggar began to ask, “Is this not the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said yes; others said no — the one who had been healed simply looked like the beggar. But the individual in question said, “No, it was I.”

They took the one who had been born blind to the Pharisees. It had been on a Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud paste and opened this one’s eyes. The Pharisees asked how the individual could see. They were told, “Jesus put mud on my eyes. I washed it off, and now I can see.” This prompted some of the Pharisees to say, “This Jesus cannot be from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others argued, “But how could a sinner perform signs like these?” They were sharply divided.

Then they addressed the blind person again: “Since it was your eyes he opened, what do you have to say about this Jesus?” “He is a prophet,” came the reply.

“What!” they exclaimed. “You are steeped in sin from birth, and you are giving us lectures?”
With that, they threw the person out. When Jesus heard of the expulsion, he sought out the healed one and asked, “Do you believe in the Chosen One?” The other answered, “Who is this One that I may believe?” “You are looking at him,” Jesus replied. “The Chosen One is speaking to you now.”

The healed one said, “Yes, I believe,” and worshiped Jesus. And Jesus said, “I came into this world to execute justice — to make the sightless see and the seeing blind.”

Hear what the Spirit is saying in the words of the Evangelist known as John. AMEN!

Homily and Shared Reflections  - Dennis McDonald, ARCWP

In his book, “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic”, Bishop John Shelby Spong, views a segment of the Gospel, written by one of the five writers to whom the Gospel is attributed, as, what he calls, the “Book of Signs”.  He shares that this part of the Gospel identifies various characters, from Mary to Nicodemus to the Man Born Blind, the one in our Gospel reading today, as not real people, but rather as  mythical characters, and the stories surrounding them actually have a deeper underlying message.  
In today’s Gospel, the man born blind represents members of the Johannine Community, for whom this Gospel was written.  Following the death of Jesus, his followers continued to worship in the Synagogue, living a Jewish life, while recognizing Jesus as the Messiah.  In the beginning the leaders of the Synagogue accepted this, but as time went on both sides realized that it was just not working. In the end, the followers of Jesus were expelled from the synagogue. The Jewish leaders did not see how they could continue to allow those recognizing a Messiah, who they did not accept, to stay within the synagogue.  This is where the story of the Man Born Blind comes into play.  This person born blind meets Jesus, and Jesus opens his eyes, brings him from darkness into light.  The members of the Johannine Community were living in the dark, continuing to stay within the darkness of their traditional faith, even though they had grown beyond it.  Their eyes had been open to a new truth.  They had found a new way, a new path, a new tradition. They came to recognize Jesus as the “light of the world”, and they were following him and what he had taught as a way of life. The author of the story is providing an explanation to members of the Johannine Community of
As we approach the end of March, Women’s History Month, and its theme celebrating women who fought for the vote, it made me think of the women in the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement who decided not to wait for the Roman Catholic Hierarchy to recognize their call to priesthood.  Like the Jewish leaders in today’s Gospel, the Church Hierarchy has failed to open their eyes and recognize the divine call that women have heard for many, many years.  When those women act upon that divine call they are expelled from their traditional faith. But these women are responding to something greater than that tradition.  They are responding to the call implanted in them by their Creator.  They bravely step out and accept and embrace their true calling, their true self.   These women, as Bridget Mary Meehan, loves to say, are “not leaving the Church, but leading it” to a new way of being, creating a community of equals where everyone’s gifts are recognized and welcomed.  As the reading from Ephesians states, “Live as children of the light. Light produces every kind of goodness, justice, and truth”.  This is what these women and we have been called to, to wash the mud from our eyes and step out in new sight to a world that is hungry for light, for justice, and for truth. 
So, what did you hear? What “mud” may still be blocking you from seeing the Light in your life? When or how have you stepped out to shine the light for others?
Statement of Faith 

 We believe in the Holy One, a divine mystery 
beyond all definition and rational understanding, 
the heart of all that has ever existed, 
that exists now, or that ever will exist. 
We believe in Jesus, messenger of the Divine Word, 
bringer of healing, heart of Divine compassion, 
bright star in the firmament of the Holy One's 
prophets, mystics, and saints. 
We believe that We are called to follow Jesus 
as a vehicle of divine love, 
a source of wisdom and truth, 
and an instrument of peace in the world. 
We believe in the Spirit of the Holy One, 
the life that is our innermost life, 
the breath moving in our being, 
the depth living in each of us. 
We believe that the Divine kin-dom is here and now, 
stretched out all around us for those 
with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it, 
and hands to make it happen. 


Presider:  As we prepare for the sacred meal, we lay our stoles upon the table as a sign that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us. Please voice your intentions beginning with the words, “I bring to the table…..”  

Presider: We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. Amen.  

Holy One, we yearn to be close to you and to live in the embrace of your gentle wisdom. Your divine grace and love lead us away from our anxieties, fears and distractions and toward all that is blessed and joyous.  

Each of us is divinely created in Your image. We are precious to you and to each other because of who we are. We are beloved and blessed in your unconditional love, quite apart from how we act or fail to act.  

Thankful for Jesus who treated all of Creation with respect and abundant love, we resolve to follow his example to be a light in the darkness. We recognize Your loving Presence here with us today and always, and we sing: 

Blessed be our God!  Blessed be our God
Joy of our hearts, source of all life and love!     
God of Heaven and Earth!  God of Heaven and Earth! 
Dwelling within, calling us all by name!  
Alleluia, sing! Alleluia, sing! 
(Alleluia Sing by David Haas)

Dearest Holy One, there are times when we feel scarcity and emptiness even though we know You love us more than our human imagination can grasp. May we have the presence of mind to live in Your love. We strive to see You reflected in every person we meet. Guide us in sharing our gifts and in being open hearted so that we may accept help from others.   

We thank you for Jesus, who knew what it was like to be an outsider in occupied and foreign lands. May his presence prompt us to bring gospel kindness and understanding to the divisions and conflicts of our time.  

Presider: Please extend your hands in blessing. 

We call upon your Spirit that is present in us at this Eucharistic table. We are grateful for the bread and wine that remind us of our call to be the light of Christ to the world.  

On the night before he faced betrayal and death, Jesus shared supper with his friends.  He reminded them of all that he taught them, and to fix that memory clearly with them, he bent down and washed their feet.  

When he returned to his place at the table, he lifted the bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread and offered it to them saying:  
Take and eat, this is my very self. 
Then he took the cup of the covenant, spoke the grace, and offered it to them saying: 
Take and drink. 
Whenever you remember me like this, 
I am among you. 

 Let us share this bread and cup to proclaim and live the gospel of justice and peace. 

Holy One, your transforming grace inspires us to follow our consciences and bring comfort to wherever people are in need.  We pray for wisdom, patience and persistence to make a difference in our world. We resolve to love as Jesus loved, to discern the better angels of our nature with hearts open to your Spirit. Amen.  

Presider: Let us pray as Jesus taught us:  
Holy One, you are within, around and among us.   
We celebrate your many names.  
Your wisdom come; your will be done,  
unfolding from the depths within us.  
Each day you give us all that we need.  
You remind us of our limits and we let go.  
You support us in our power, and we act with courage.  
For you are the dwelling place within us,  
the empowerment around us,  
and the celebration among us,  
now and forever, Amen.    Adapted by Miriam Therese Winter  

 Presider: Please extend your hands in blessing. 
May the infinite beauty and joy of Creation continue to astound us   
May the Presence of the Divine always comfort and inspire us  
May we be the face of the Holy One in all we say and do, and  
May we be a blessing in our time. AMEN. 
Closing Song: Awake, O Sleeper

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