Sunday, April 5, 2020

Community of St. Bridget - Inclusive Catholic Community, Palm Sunday Liturgy, April 5, 2020, Mary Eileen Collingwood ARCWP

Suggestion:  * Find a branch with leaves, pine needles, or from an evergreen bush, even a strand from a fern or greenery from another plant will do.
* Have a piece of bread and some wine/grape juice on hand to
                        participate fully in the Eucharistic Liturgy.

My sisters and brothers, the Holy Spirit is within all of us gathered here today!

We gather and bless these branches. With them we remember Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem where the hopes of many were gathered and lifted high.  Like those bearing branches from so long ago who hoped that Jesus would rescue them from the daunting challenge of unjust political and societal systems, we turn our hearts and minds to his message, to his hopes and dreams, to his ardent desire for a better society.  We gather today mindful of the many times we have professed our readiness to be true disciples of Jesus, to be salt of the earth and light in the world.

ALL:   +Bless these branches of remembrance and glory.  Bless our hearts as we relive the story.  And as those who cast their branches and their dreams before the Christ on a donkey, may we open our lives before you, so that our days may be your pathway and our hearts, your open door. 

A reading recounting the story of Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, by Margaret Silf

It was a warm morning.  The sun had risen over the small villages of Bethpage and Bethany, a few miles from Jerusalem, and there was no reason to expect surprises.  Yet there was an atmosphere of tension in the air, too.  A man, Jesus, and his friends were passing through.  They had often stayed there in the past.  It was a place where they clearly felt at home and safe, and now they had to move on, into a future that seemed full of threat.   It was quite a trek from there into the city, and Jesus sent two of his friends across the road to find a young colt, not yet broken in.  They were to untie this colt and bring it to him.  If anyone challenged them, they were to say, “The Master needs it.”

They did as he asked them, and threw their cloaks across the colt’s back, for Jesus to sit on.  The little scene turned into something of a celebratory procession.  The sight of the colt, and Jesus on its back, attracted a large crowd of people.  Many of them had known Jesus’ healing touch on their sick bodies, or his calming influence on their troubled minds.  Others had sat at the lakeside, or climbed the hills, to listen to his quiet wisdom.  Some had seen miracles happening at his bidding.  None of them could understand the mystery this man embodied.  But they knew its effects, and they had something to shout about.  So they shouted, and sang out their thankfulness.  It turned into a standing ovation.  ‘Blessings upon you,” they cried, “You bring the things of heaven to our earthbound lives.”
The inspired words of Margaret Silf.  Amen.

In commemoration, we sing:  (Mass of Creation melody)
Holy, Holy, Holy One, Spirit of Love and Peace.
All of creation is filled with your glory. Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed are all who come in your Holy Name.
Hosanna in the highest!  Hosanna in the highest!

Opening Prayer:
(1)God of galaxies and gerbils,
and this “great happening, this boundless earth,”
with great hope and celebration
we join the procession of life
enroute to Jerusalem,
honoring the Christ, in Jesus,
as alpha and omega, beginning and end.

(2)The palm branches we throw down
royal carpet for his passing
are our own lives
offered as hallelujahs
that it has all come to this:
(1)Fourteen billion years it has taken
to come to this One,
arriving as servant, though honored as King;
as peasant, though Compassionate One;
no formal education, though born as Wisdom;
dormant in the stars, gestating in the pregnant Earth
and through Mary, his Mother.

(2)What joy is ours as we take our place,
in the great procession of life,
heralding and blessing
this One who comes in your name,
and all who are coming
with a song of holiness on their lips
and a yearning for wholeness in their hearts.
ALL: Blessed, blessed, blessed, is this One who comes in your name!  Amen.
We now call upon the Spirit of Our Living God as we reflect on the
Scripture readings broken open and shared by all.

First Reading:     Isaiah 50:4-7

Our God has given me a well-trained tongue that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.  Morning after morning, God awakens me, to hear as disciples do.  God opens my ears; I was not disobedient, I did not turn back; I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who humiliated me; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.  The Most High helps me, therefore I am not dishonored; therefore I have set my face firm.  I know I will not be put to shame.
The inspired words of the prophet, Isaiah.  Amen.

ResponsorialO my Beloved! Why have you forsaken me?

I seem as nothing, hardly alive; scorned and despised by many.
Those who see me make fun at my expense, they ridicule and gossip among themselves; “Commit yourself to the Most High;
Let Love deliver you, you who delight in the Most High!”  R

Many, like bulls, surround me, they come at me with great force.
With fire in their eyes and bellowing roars, they charge after me.
You have laid me in the dust of death.   R

They divide my belongings among them, greedily casting lots.
But You, O Beloved, be not far off!  You, who are my help, hasten to my aid!  R

To You, O Beloved, I lift up my voice          in the great congregation;
for You promise to remain with those whose love is steadfast.
Those who seek You shall sing praises!
Your Heart is our dwelling place forever! R

Second Reading: “Love Not Atonementby Richard Rohr

The common Christian reading of the Bible is that Jesus “died for our sins”—either to pay a debt to the devil-- which was the common thinking in the first millennium-- or to pay a debt to God the Father….

Christians have paid a huge price for… the strange idea that before God could love us, God needed and demanded Jesus to be a blood sacrifice to atone for our sin-drenched humanity.  With that view, salvation depends upon a problem instead of a divine proclamation about the core nature of reality.

As if God could need payment, and even a very violent transaction, to be able to love and accept God’s own children—a message that those with an angry, distant, absent, or abusive father were already far too programmed to believe…

Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity, because it did not need changing!  Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.

God in Jesus moved people beyond the counting, weighing, and punishing model that the ego--the self-- prefers, to the utterly new world that Jesus offered, where God’s abundance has made any plan or worth of merit, sacrifice, reparation, or atonement both unhelpful and unnecessary.  Jesus undid “once and for all” all notions of human and animal sacrifice and replaced them with his new vision of companionship and relationships, which is at the very heart of the gospel revolution.  Jesus was meant to be a game changer for the human psyche and for religion itself.  When we begin negatively, or focused on the problem, we never get out of the hamster wheel.  To this day we begin with and continue to focus on sin, when the crucified one was pointing us toward a primal solidarity with the very suffering of God and all of creation.  This changes everything.  Changing the starting point, will change the trajectory!

We all need to know that God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good.  Nothing humans can do will ever decrease or increase God’s eternal eagerness to love.
These are the inspired words of the spiritual writer, Richard Rohr.  Amen.

Gospel:       The Passion Story of Jesus of Nazareth,
          with reflections by Michael Morwood:

The elders of the people and the chief priests and scribes rose, and they brought Jesus before Pilate.  They began their accusation by saying, “We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of Tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.” Pilate asked Jesus this question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “It is you who say it,” Jesus replied.

I remember a man who had dreams of what might be: that people would be set free from ideas and images about God that enslaved them. That people would believe that through their everyday acts of human kindness they are intimately connected with the sacred. That people would live “in peace, in God’s presence all the days of their lives.” I remember a man driven by his dreams.  (pause)

Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no case against this man.” But they persisted, “He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judea; It has come all the way from Galilee, where he began, down to here.”

I remember a man who had his moments of breakthrough, when it must have seemed his dream was being realized: The times people really listened and responded, the men and women who were prepared to walk with him and support him, times when he spoke better and more convincingly than other
times. I remember a man enthused by his successes. (pause)

When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man was a Galilean. And finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction, he passed him over to Herod who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; he was hoping to see some miracle worked by Jesus. So Herod questioned Jesus at some length, but without getting a reply.

I remember a man who learned of the cruel death of his cousin. He got into a boat, seeking a lonely place, where he could be with his friends to absorb the shock, to grieve quietly, and to calm the feelings of powerlessness and frustration and fear for his own future. I wonder what he prayed about that night? I wonder what helped him leave that lonely place and go forward to confront life, rather than retreat into isolation and safety? I remember a man driven by his convictions.  (pause)

Then Herod, together with his guards, treated Jesus with contempt and made fun of him;    Herod put a rich cloak on Jesus and sent him back to Pilate.  And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.  Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leaders and the people.  “You brought this man before me,” Pilate said, “as a political agitator.  Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against him in respect of all the charges you bring against him.  Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to us.  As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, so I shall have him flogged and then let him go.”
But altogether they howled, “Away with him” Give us Barabbas!” Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back, “Crucify, crucify him!”

I remember a man whose dream was shattered: Who broke down and cried over what could have been, who knew the pain of failure and powerlessness,
who knew what it was like to feel broken and terribly alone. I remember someone human like all of us.  (pause)

Pilate then gave a verdict: their demand was to be granted.  Pilate released Barabbas whom they asked for and who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

I remember a man who knew he was going to die: Who gathered with his friends knowing it was for the last time, who spoke to them about what he really believed, who wanted them to remember him and to keep his dream alive. I remember a testament to love. (pause)

When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left.

I remember a man crucified: He was a failure, abandoned by his male friends, taunted, despised, enduring a shameful and agonizing death, no consoling or heartfelt presence of his God to help him. I remember a man whose faith in all he believed was tested to the limits.  (pause)

I remember a man of extraordinary religious insight:  Utterly convinced of the connectedness between human loving and living in God, determined to give people personal authority in their relationship with God, wanting to set people free from fear of the unknown, setting his heart on breaking down barriers between people…

We give thanks for the ways in which the life, teaching, and death of Jesus have set us free.
The inspired words of our Gospel writers and spiritual author, Michael Morwood.  Amen.


In the book, The Last Week, by Marcus Borg and John D. Crossan, they recall that two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession.

From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers. Jesus was from the peasant village of Nazareth, his message was about the Kin-dom of God, and his followers came from the peasant class.

On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate entered Jerusalem with his imperial cavalry and soldiers. This emperor was not only the emperor of Rome, but was also considered the Son of God, as among Pilate’s forerunners was Augustus, whose father was the god Apollo. 

Jesus’ procession proclaimed the Kin-dom of God, deliberately countering what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate proclaimed the power of empire, embodying not only a rival social order, but also a rival theology.

Jesus lived and taught forgiveness as a means of breaking the cycle of violence.  His active ministry of healing, reconciling, and loving others attracted many followers, but also threatened the Roman authorities.  In the end, his ministry brought on personal suffering and ultimately cost him his life.  If we are to follow the Way of Jesus, accepting that we, too, will suffer for our beliefs, we, too, must begin by forgiving and seeking reconciliation with others.

The apostles followed Jesus until fear overcame them.  The women stayed with Jesus through his death and resurrection.  It is through their actions that they preached most profoundly. 

I remember when attending Catholic grade school, all the students were required to memorize many prayers.  Among them were the Act of Contrition, the Act of Faith, the Act of Hope, and the Act of Love.  What stands out as significant about these prayers is that their titles begin with the word “act.”  It is in acting that we show our belief, hope, love and reconciliation with others. 
We will be known as the followers of Jesus only by our faithful, hopeful and loving actions.  This applies to our personal lives as well as to government actions across the globe.

Borg and Crossan highlight the two processions entering Jerusalem on that day—the peasant procession and the imperial procession.  The peasant class sought to be saved from an oppressive government and religious authorities by following the Way of Jesus.  The dominating, ruling class sought to control the peasants and make them support the lavish lifestyle of the imperial empire.  

Which procession are we in?  Which procession do we want to be in?  Who will be our companions on this active journey that Jesus invites us to take?

Prayer of the Faithful
Always mindful of our Creator’s love and care for us, we now bring to the
Table our prayers of thanksgiving, petitions for help and compassion, and declarations of what we hold dear. We know that the Body of Christ is present in our community of faith, and that we will awaken to the call of responding in the name of Jesus, the Christ.  We remember that Jesus encountered in his day systems as unjust as those we experience in our day, and who surely felt powerless to change anything on his own.  We turn our hearts and minds through these prayers to his message, to his hopes and dreams, to his ardent desire for a better society. After each request, our response remains: We awaken to your call!

O Holy One, we know you hear the prayers of your people.  In your compassion and love embrace them and hold them and all our unspoken desires close to your heart.  Amen.

Sign of Peace
As we prepare for the sacred meal, we reaffirm that just as Jesus was anointed, so is each of us.  And so we celebrate our Creator’s fruitful love as we bless one another with joy.  May the peace that our brother, Jesus, offers be always with us!    Amen.


Blessed are you, Source of all Life, through your goodness we have bread, wine, all creation, and our own lives to offer.  Through this sacred meal, may we become a new creation.  Blessed be God forever!

Prayer Over the Gifts
O Holy One, in bread and wine you give us food for body and spirit.  May our strength be renewed by your generous blessings that will bring us health of mind and body.  Amen.

The Holy One is with us, abounding in Love!
(ALL)Let us open our hearts in Christ who lives and loves, heals and empowers through us!
Let us give thanks to the Source of All Life.

(1)We thank and praise you, Loving God, for the awakening and transforming
presence of Jesus whom we accompany today in his last moments as he rides a donkey to Jerusalem.

(2)As Jesus comes to celebrate his last Passover, we remember how he was transformed in agony in Gethsemane, was let down by his apostles, betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and abandoned by all.

(1)We thank you for his nonviolent, suffering presence when humiliated by Pilate, stripped, scourged and crucified to set us free.

ALL: Through the power of our Creative Spirit, Jesus lived life to the full.  We, too, are blessed in the power of that same +Spirit, which we now invoke upon all gathered here, to celebrate the transformative energy symbolized in our gifts of bread and wine, given to nourish and sustain us into the fullness of life.

ALL: We thank our Loving God for the new life Jesus celebrates with us again, as he gathered with his friends the night before he died, took bread, blessed it, broke it and offers it to us now saying:
Take and eat, this is my very self.  (pause)

ALL: And when he took the wine, as he blessed it and shares it with all, saying:
Take and drink of my cup of new life through which the covenant is made new again for you and for everyone, for liberation from every oppression.  Whenever you do this, remember me!  (pause)

When we share this bread and cup, we embrace the Gospel of justice and peace as we proclaim this mystery of faith:

ALL:  In every creature that has ever breathed, Christ has lived;
In every living being that has passed on before us, Christ has died;
In everything yet to be, Christ will come again;
In our breaking open the word and the bread, Christ is with us still!

(1)Jesus invited those around him on that night to eat and drink as a sign of their readiness to keep his memory alive, to give their all for what he believed and taught them.  

(2)We, too, eat and drink.  We stand up as a sign of our readiness to be counted upon.  We give our word.  By our eating and drinking we commit ourselves to follow where Jesus dared to journey.
ALL:  For it is through learning to live as he lived,
And why he lived,
And for whom he lived,
That we awaken to your Spirit within,
Moving us to worship you truly,
Life-giving God,
At this time and all time and in all ways.  (sing) Amen!

Let us pray together the Prayer of Jesus:
ALL: O 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.

Please join in prayer as this bread is broken for all:
ALL: Loving God, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice.
We will live justly.
Loving God, You call us to be Your presence in the world.
We will love tenderly.
Loving God, You call us to speak truth to power.
We will walk with integrity in your presence.

This is the bread of life and cup of blessing.  Through it we are nourished as we nourish one another.

ALL: What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives; as we share
communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and
Love’s challenge.

Our Eucharistic celebration is all-inclusive; nothing can separate us from the Holy One’s love.  All are One at the Table of Friendship!

Communion Meditation: Consciousness Waking --by Jan Novotka

Consciousness waking, holy and whole
Creation stirring, birthing anew
Now is the time, we are the space
For the Holy to rise in our midst.

Prayer After Communion
Our prayer at this time is one of resolve.  A prayer of determination that we, each one of us, will do whatever we can, however small, in whatever way, to bring the real dream of Jesus to fruition in our lives, and in our world today.  Amen.

(1)This blessing can be heard coming from a long way off.

(2)This blessing is making its steady way up the road toward you.

(1)This blessing blooms in the throats of women, springs from the hearts of men, tumbles out of the mouths of children.

(2)This blessing is stitched into the seams of the cloaks that line the road, etched into the branches that trace the path, echoes in the breathing of the willing colt, the click of the donkey’s hoof against the stones.

(1)Something is rising beneath this blessing.  Something will try to drown it out.

(2)But this blessing cannot be turned back, cannot be made to still its voice, cannot cease to sing its praise of the One who comes along the way it makes.

ALL: May we all be attentive to this blessing as we invoke the Divine Presence:
Source of All Being, Eternal Word and +Holy Spirit.  Amen.
We go now in peace to love and be loved; to serve and be served.

Closing HymnCome and Journey with Me --by David Haas

Come to the song, come to the dance.
Bring all you are, bring all you be.
And come with your voice, come with your heart,
Come and journey with me (x2)

Come let the sun fill up your eyes
Take the time to look around-- and love,
Just love, and walk with each other
Come and journey with me (x2)

Come and see, come and be.
Be all you are and all you can be,
And leave all behind and calm your mind.
Come and journey with me.  (x2)

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