Sunday, March 29, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Fifth Sunday in Lent - Presiders: Kim Panaro, ARCWP, and Donna Panaro, ARCWP

Welcome and Theme: Our theme is WAITING

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

 Meditation: I Will Surrender – Karen Drucker

Refrain: I will surrender to my greatest highest good.
I will release any fear that blocks my way.
For every step I take is taken in pure faith,
And I am stronger every moment every day.

(2nd time in place of “stronger: grateful; 3rd time: kinder)

My mind is willing and my heart is open wide.
I trust my instincts and let Spirit be my guide.
I vow to live a life that's real and true and free,
As I continue walking in this mystery.

There may be walls there may be roadblocks in my way,
But I can choose to take a higher path each day.
And now I know that what I thought was safe and sound,
Was only habit and regret that held me down.


A reading from the Book of Ezekiel
YHWH says this: I am going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the land of Israel. And you will know that I am YHWH, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. 
And I will put my breath in you, and you will live. And I will resettle you on your own soil, and you will know that I, YHWH, have said and done this — it is YHWH who speaks.

These are the inspired words from the Book of Ezekiel, and the community affirms them by saying, Amen.   
A reading from Henri Nouwen
How do we wait for God? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity
Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise.  It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.

The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior, which means “to suffer”.  Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground, on which we stand, grow into strong plants.  Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming. 

How might we live more fully the grace of each moment?

These are the inspired words of Henri Nouwen, and the community affirms them by saying, Amen. 

Responsorial: Spirit of the Living God

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

 “Where have you laid him?” Jesus asked. 
“Come and see,” they said. And Jesus wept. 
The people in the crowd began to remark, “See how much he loved him!” Others said, “He made the blind person see; why could he not have done something to prevent Lazarus’ death?” 
Jesus was again deeply moved. They approached the tomb, which was a cave with a stone in front of it. “Take away the stone,” Jesus directed. 
Martha said, “Rabbi, it has been four days now. By this time there will be a stench.” Jesus replied, “Did I not assure you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took the stone away. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Abba, thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd, that they might believe that you sent me!” Then Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 
And Lazarus came out of the tomb, still bound hand and foot with linen strips, his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus told the crowd, “Untie him and let him go free.” 
Many of those who had come to console Martha and Mary, and saw what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 
These are the inspired words from the Gospel of John, and the community affirms them by saying, Amen.

 Homily and Shared Reflection 

Homily by Kim Panaro, ARCWP - WAITING :The Challenge of COVID-19

There are few things in religious language more disappointing and irritating than platitudes and easy answers that gloss over the reality of important or uncomfortable moments. “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” or “God Is In Control” are meant to comfort us in faith but what they do, I would propose, is use God language to take us away from fully living the experiences of darkness that enter all of our lives.  COVID 19 is a worldwide pandemic that brings today’s readings, familiar Lenten scriptures, into a whole new focus.

In Ezekial, the vision of the dry bones was given to the prophet to demonstrate that even dead and bleached bones could be reanimated through the power of the breath of the God of Israel. God would restore God’s people as a nation although they had been scattered, had no temple and no king.  The people were encouraged to  have hope where there was no earthly reason to have any.  Also, in the raising of Lazarus, there was no reason to have hope because Lazarus was dead for 4 days. Martha and Mary believed Jesus could have saved his life but they certainly never would have imagined Jesus would be the one through whom God would bring the dry bones of Lazarus back to life.

Now, we are adults in faith. We know how our faith tradition is recorded.  The nation of Israel was restored, Lazarus rose to new life and soon, Jesus would be crucified , die and would rise on Easter. So, is it enough to tell ourselves to remember these stories of hope during this time of dry bones and tombs? As an Easter people we are naturally called to have hope that suffering will not have the last word. But this is not enough. We should not be “white knuckling” our way toward life as we know it returning to normal. Just using platitudes and distractions to survive another day of the new normal will not help us to emerge from the tomb of isolation any better than we entered it. Our mystical wisdom tradition  is rich with men and women who model opening to the transformative power of fully embracing whatever situation presents. The writer Paul wrote letters from prison.  Julian of Norwich the 14th century mystic wrote from the confines of being an anchoress, walled up inside a church, during the time of wars and the great plague that killed for decades. She wrote of Divine Love as motherly love. John of the Cross talked about his experience of the Dark Night of the Soul when he was imprisoned in a dungeon for 11 months because he refused to stop working with Theresa of Avila. I hope to come out of this experience not as a mere survivor but as one who has chosen to thrive spiritually and emotionally no matter what the situation brings. 

I would suggest that the TRANFORMATIONS to which we are each called are found in HOW we choose to wait. We can stay aware, alert, open to the moment. It is important to resist the temptation to try to avoid the uncertainty of this time by either predicting catastrophic outcomes or a holy hopefulness that denies the reality of the loss and suffering so many are enduring.  This is the meaning of the  “active waiting” described in Nouwen. If we are committed to allowing each thought, emotion and impulse  during this period in the tomb of uncertainty  we will likely discover many wonderful blessings. People are cherishing the gifts of  time with family, slowing down, self-care, simplicity, deeper prayer experiences and so on.Letting go of our tightly gripped illusions about what we must do in our hectic daily lives.  We may well also find that we see the darkness or uncertainty in ourselves. Our own inner dark cave of the heart.  How long will this go on? I’m afraid, How will I and my family be impacted? Will I be financially ruined? Where is God in this? Loneliness, despair, longing, anger. The mystics always teach us that it is only in living fully through the circumstances of our lives with awareness, open hearts and minds that the Holy One can work in and through us. It is possible to use this time to deepen our compassion for ourselves and others. When I feel impatient and angry at being trapped at home, I can bring that to prayer aware of the opportunity to cultivate patience, without judgement or harsh self criticism. If I am feeling alone or lonely, I can experience it deeply and move through it to the comfort of knowing that Spirit will never leave me comfortless. When I am afraid of where this is all going and what will happen before it ends, I can remember the word of the beloved song Be Not Afraid. God goes before me always.  I can only remember that comfort if I allow the fear.

 How are you waiting during this time of dry bones and entombment, hope and faith? What is helping you to experience it fully?

 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 voice our 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 (

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  

 MEDITATION SONG:  Come Alive by Lauren Daigle

Through the eyes of men it seems there's so much we have lost
As we look down the road where all the Prodigals have walked
One by one the enemy has whispered lies then led them off as slaves

But we know that you are God, Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come that we may not yet see
So with the faith You've given us we'll step into the valley unafraid

As we call out to dry bones come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

God of endless mercy, God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter, bring us back the wayward sons
By Your Spirit breathe upon them, show the world that You alone can save
You alone can save

As we call out to dry bones come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

So breathe, Oh breath of God now
Breathe, Oh breath of God
Breathe, Oh breath of God now breathe
Breathe, Oh breath of God now breathe
Oh breath of God
Breathe, Oh breath of God now breathe

As we call out to dry bones come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive
We call out to dry bones come alive


 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: Lean of Me by Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have faith you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show

You just call on me sister, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

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