Sunday, May 17, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy for Sixth Sunday of Easter - Presider: Kim Panaro, ARCWP

photo by Fathih Latheef on Unsplash
6th Sunday of Easter - Afire with Divine Presence   May 17, 2020
Welcome and Theme: Today we will take some time to consider the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which we celebrate in a few weeks. This Sunday the gospel is part of the farewell discourse of Jesus.  Jesus begins to prepare his disciples for how to cope with his impending absence from their presence.   He reassures his disciples that he will not leave them orphans.  He will send the Paraclete, the helper, to comfort and ultimately challenge them.  This same Holy Spirit flows in, around and through us today.  What a hopeful message during these troubling times. 

Opening Prayer:
We sit in the presence of the Holy Spirit who connects us to the Divine and to each other.  May we use this time to hear with the ears of our hearts to what we are being called to be, believe, and do.  We trust that the web of connection to the Holy One and to each other is not vulnerable to physical distance but exists as a unity, a Oneness, of spirit as the family of the Body of Christ. Amen

Moment of Sending Peace to ourselves, one another, the world.

Opening Song: Song: I Will Not Leave You Comfortless


First Reading: The Breath of God is the Holy Spirit by Sr. Joan Chittister

"The Breath of God I believe is the Holy Spirit,
the breath of God on earth,
who keeps the Christ vision
present to souls yet in darkness,
gives life even to hearts now blind.
Infuses energy into spirits
yet weary, isolated, searching and confused.
The spirit has spoken to the human heart
through the prophets and gives new meaning
to the Word throughout time."

"Hildegard of Bingen, caught up in the Holy Spirit, wrote, “I am a feather on the breath of God.” Conscious of the breath of God within us and around us, we can with confidence set out on the road to God knowing that it may be rocky but that it is at the same time well lit, brightly marked, wholly traversable because the Holy Spirit makes the path with us. We have not been left alone. Under the impulse of the Spirit, we are guided and safe. The Descent of the Holy Spirit is the call to be abandoned to the will of God. It is a call to risk the consequences of God’s love, here and now."
–from In Search of Belief (Liguori) and In Pursuit of Peace (Benetvision)
These are the inspired words of Sr. Joan Chittister, and the community affirms them. Amen. 

A reading from the Gospel of John
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.
These are inspired words from the Gospel of John, and the community affirms them. Amen.

Shared Homily

I wonder if we, if I, live a life that truly reflects a belief in the real presence of Sophia, Holy Spirit Wisdom.  Preparing for this liturgy created space for me to spend a lot of time pondering this question.  Do I believe that the Holy Spirit is a real thing or do I treat it as a theological concept or literary device? This would reduce it to a concept that “explains” the mystery of the Divine and the devastating absence of the human Jesus by creating an image of an entity that is still divine and still available and at work.

Let’s recall the context of the Gospel of John. It was written approximately 90-100 CE. That means it was written 20-30 years after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE.  Those who knew Jesus on earth were most certainly dead. Those Jews who continued to believe in Jesus as Messiah had been ousted from the Jewish community and both Jewish and Gentile Christians were experiencing severe persecution. John is the writer who begins to really expand our vision of Jesus as eternal. The first lines of John read, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. John wants the community to understand that the Word who is Jesus the Christ, has existed throughout time and is one with the Creator. Through the Holy Spirit we too would be one with the Creator God and the Redeemer Brother Jesus.  It is a statement of Oneness with divinity and humanity for all. 

In our gospel today we see the pivot from past to the future.  Jesus knew his time was limited and that when he was gone, the disciples could be lost and confused. Remember, the Messiah was not supposed to die, he was supposed to restore Israel.  The hope of a speedy return of Jesus became more elusive. And, so John gives us this farewell discourse.  It is a message cast on the lips of Jesus that reassures with the message “I won’t be here but another aspect of divinity will be here, the Holy Spirit”. This Paraclete (companion, advocate, comforter) will be celebrated on Pentecost in two weeks.  Let’s remember that these early Christians were not having an easy time of it at all. John needed to reassure them that God did not leave them comfortless.  

Really the Paraclete makes sense. How the heck else could anyone convince anyone that voluntary suffering in the name of a failed Messiah was worth it? Stephen, Peter, Paul and countless other men, women and children suffered and died for this cause.  In first century Palestine there was a Messiah on every corner. They could have just jumped ship to another easier leader.  I would suggest that the fact that Christianity is here feeding our souls’ hunger for God today is evidence that the Holy Spirit is not merely a concept. It is a real, although mysterious thing.  It connects all creation. It also compels some to do very unpleasant things like risk unpopular positions and uncomfortable life choices. Still, for 2000 years, followers of Jesus have turned to the comfort of the presence of the Spirit for wisdom, courage, inspiration, clarity and connection to other believers.

 In our first reading, Sr. Joan Chittister encourages us to recognize the role of the spirit in life today. The spirit provides light and help in a world with personal and communal darkness that is not much different than the world John lived in. Just like 1st century Palestinians we face war, famine, pandemics, poverty, isolation and confusion.  We strive to be a people of love, reconciliation and compassionate justice. I cannot imagine that we could possibly do this alone, we need the fuel of divinity which is spirit in around and among us.

Every mystic, every saint, every believer for 2000 years has tapped into the same divine spirit that existed before Jesus and which exists after him. Hildegard of Bingen called herself a feather on the breath of God. Through the eyes of faith the breath of God is everywhere. It is the first breath of a newborn baby, the breeze through the trees, the last breath of a dying Covid-19 patient , the stardust  air we breathe, the creative energy bursting forth in Springs’ renewal of life on earth, It is everywhere and always. 

The commandment to love God and others as ourselves is the path to living in spirit-filled consciousness. If this is true, if spirit is real and if we believe it, it should show in how we live. Like the early Christians, we maintain our connection to one another during these particular challenging times. Like the early Christians who were suffering terribly, people would want what we have because they would marvel at our hope and joy, our caring for one another and for our world.  I believe in the holy spirit because there is no other explanation for this love we feel, this hope we feel and the comforting joy of awareness of God in prayer and in time with each other. 

What did you hear in our reading? 

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 our sacred meals, we recognize that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us. And we bring blessings, cares and concerns. 
We pray for these and all unspoken concerns. Amen.

Please join in praying the Eucharistic prayer together: (Portions from Diarmuid O’Murchu and from ARWCP worship resources)

All: O Holy One, you are always with us. In the blessed abundance of creation, we gather to celebrate Your nourishing gift of life. May our hearts be open to You as You invite us to participate in the wise and wonderful work of co-creation.

May we be ever aware of Your Spirit within and among us as our world unfolds amid pain and beauty into the fullness of life. 

We are grateful for Your Spirit whose breath inspired the primal waters, calling into being the variety and abundance we see around us. Your Spirit sustains and animates our every endeavor, inviting us to act in wisdom and in truth.

In gratitude and joy we embrace our calling and we lift our voices to proclaim a song of praise:

We are Holy, Holy, Holy…3x (Karen Drucker)
We are whole.

Spirit divine, Come to me
Feeling love, Healing me .

Open my heart, Allow me to see,
Beauty & love, Lives in me.
You are Holy, Holy, Holy…

All:  As a community, we gather in the power of your Spirit, refreshing wind, purifying fire and living breath, for the variety and diversity of life. We seek to live as Jesus taught us, wise and holy as Spirit-filled people, courageous and prophetic, ever obedient to your call.

Presider:  Please extend your hands in blessing.

All: We invoke Your Spirit upon the gifts of this Eucharistic table, bread of the grain and wine of the grape, that they may become gifts of wisdom, light and truth which remind us of our call to be the body of Christ to the world.

On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at the Seder supper with his companions and 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.
All lift their plate as the community prays the following: 

When he returned to his place, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and offered it to them saying:
Take this bread and eat it;
This is my very self.
 (consume bread and pause)

All lift their cup as community prays the following: 

Jesus then raised a cup of blessing, spoke the grace and offered the wine saying:
Take and drink of the covenant
Made new again through my life in you.
Whenever you remember me like this,
I am among you.
(drink and pause) 

All: In union with all peoples living and dead, we unite our thoughts and prayers, asking wisdom and courage to discern more wisely your call to us in the circumstances of our daily lives: to act justly and courageously in confronting the pain and suffering that desecrates the Earth and its peoples; to take risks in being creative and proactive on behalf of the poor and marginalized; and to love all people with generosity of heart, beyond the labels of race, creed and color.

Holy One, your transforming energy is always moving within us and working through us. Like Jesus, we will open up wide all that has been closed about us, and we will live compassionate lives,
for it is through living as Jesus lived,
That we awaken to your Spirit within,
Moving us to glorify you,
O Holy One,
At this time and all ways.

Presider: Let us pray the prayer Jesus:

All:  O Holy One, who is 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 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  (Miriam Therese Winter)  

Communion Meditation: prayed in unity of spirit by 300 people in 15 countries
You’ll Never Walk Alone       


Presider: Let us pray our closing prayer:
May the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
bring fire to the earth
so that the presence of God
may be seen
in a new light,
in new places,
in new ways.
May our own hearts
burst into flame
so that no obstacle,
no matter how great,
ever obstructs the message
of the God within each of us.
May we come to trust
the Word of God in our heart,
to speak it with courage,
to follow it faithfully
and to fan it to flame in others.
                                               Excerpt from prayer by:Joan Chittister, OSB

Closing Sung Prayer: We pray this song today in honor of Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP. She recently underwent surgery for a serious health crisis.  Two days before the surgery, she stood in front of the hospital and danced, danced, danced. She lives in the confidence and joy of the Spirit. This song is prayed in honor of her endless joy and faith that the Spirit is always with her. May we share in this joy and confidence. If we lived like we believe this, how could we keep from dancing? 
Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake

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