Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"How the Message of Advent Speaks to our Political Moment' by Jim Wallis, Sojourner,


..."This Advent, we are longing to hear voices that speak for Christ to speak out — including against the perpetual presidential words, behaviors, and policies that are clearly diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
...We are waiting and longing to hear the voices that love Jesus to find the courage to say “anti-Christ” when we hear the words of hate, fear, and violence. The politics of fear, of hating rather than loving our neighbor, and putting the least of these last instead of first must be spoken to by all those who claim the politics of Jesus. Could our praying and calling out together for truth and justice help bring us together?"

Monday, December 9, 2019

"It's time to stop federal executions for good." Archbishop Paul S. Coakley Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory Bishop Frank J. Dewane

My response: Amen. 

We have embarked on the season of Advent, waiting in eager anticipation for the birth of the Lord into our sinful world. With a heavy heart in a season of holy preparation, we are reminded of the U.S. government's ongoing efforts to resume federal executions for the first time in 16 years. The first of these federal executions was scheduled for Dec. 9 but was placed on hold by a federal judge. The government is appealing the decision and intends to carry out the executions if it prevails.

As bishops of the Catholic Church, we have a moral obligation to teach the faith and uphold the dignity of human life. Through prayer, education and advocacy, we call on our government, as both Christians and as Americans, to turn back from the path of death and forgo all executions.

We call on our government, as both Christians and as Americans, to turn back from the path of death and forgo all executions. 
Human dignity can be difficult to understand when we are confronted with the depths of our sins. But we believe, from Scripture and tradition, that each person is created by God in his image and likeness, and the dignity that flows from God's creative act cannot be removed by the actions of any person, no matter how bad, no matter how hurtful. We reverence God's gift of life in those at the beginning of life and those at its end, in the weak and in the strong, in the poor and in the rich, in the happy and in the sad, in the honored and in the forgotten. And we reverence God's gift of life in the guilty and in the innocent.

The Catholic bishops of the United States have consistently called for an end to the death penalty for decades. When Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis in 1999, he urged an end of the death penalty, which he called "both cruel and unnecessary." Pope Benedict XVI called for "the attention of society's leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty," and he praised lay Catholics working to end the death penalty around the world.
To oppose the death penalty is not to be "soft on crime." Rather, it is to be strong on the dignity of life.

Pope Francis has strongly emphasized that the death penalty is unacceptable and is an affront to the Gospel and to the respect for life and human dignity. When he addressed the joint meeting of the U.S. Congress during his historic apostolic visit to the United States in 2015, the pope called for the abolition of the death penalty because "every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes."

To oppose the death penalty is not to be "soft on crime." Rather, it is to be strong on the dignity of life. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that the death penalty in the United States  is racially  and  economically  biased, and it varies arbitrarily in its application based on the location of the crime.

Most troubling of all, we know beyond any doubt that innocent people have been sent to death row, 166 of whom have been exonerated since 1973. As Pope Francis has written, "[t]he death penalty loses all legitimacy due to the defective selectivity of the criminal justice system and in the face of the possibility of judicial error. Human justice is imperfect, and the failure to recognize its fallibility can transform it into a source of injustice."

We stand for helping victims and for bringing about justice when great harm is done. And God brings justice, but he also offers mercy and grace in abundance. During Advent, we anticipate the coming of the Lord not with power and violence, but humbly and gently as a baby, a lamb, an offering. God loves us enough to die for us, to restore us to friendship, to teach us the ways of love and forgiveness, to lead us to eternal life. We ask our fellow Catholics and all people of good will to reject the death penalty, and to proclaim the Incarnate Lord's unmeasurable gift of life. This Advent, we walk again in the darkness that seems too visible in the fear and pain of our sin, but we will catch sight of the light once more, and we will know that the darkness has not overcome it-and never will.


Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice have all led dioceses where executions have been carried out, and where they have previously spoken out against capital punishment.

Biblical Scholar Bart Ehrman , Commentary on Dating the Gospels and 1 Timothy's Sexist Teachings

By Bart Ehrman

"First, Jesus died around the year 30, so the Gospels were written after that.   The first really convincing quotations of the Gospels (there are probable allusions earlier than this, but these are the most certain ones) come in the writings of Justin Martyr, around the year 150.  
This means, for starters, that the Gospels must have been written sometime between 30 and 150 CE.

"Women Are to be Silent and Submissive" (NOT) Read Scholarly Analysis of  Letter to Timothy, not written by Paul/30 years later


Excellent articles by biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, join his blog and get regular articles on biblical studies. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Second Sunday in Advent - Presiders: Dennis McDonald, ARCWP, and Terri Kersch

Terri Kersch and Dennis McDonald, ARCWP, led the Upper Room Liturgy for the Second Sunday of Advent. They asked the community to reflect on this week's readings, which speak of the need for a change of heart, a transformation within us and the world, that will result in a time of justice, compassion, and peace. What change of heart are you called to consider?

Lighting of Advent Candles

We light this second candle and remember our ancestors who feared death, evil and all the dark powers of winter.  We, too, in our day fear the darkness of war, discrimination, xenophobia and selfishness that threaten us and our planet to an eternal winter. Let us kindle the light of peace! Amen

Opening Song – Deep Within


Our First Reading is from the Hebrew Scriptures

Then a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse; from Jesse’s roots, a branch will blossom:*
The Spirit of Adonai will rest on you - a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and reverence for Adonai.        
You will delight in obeying Adonai, and you won’t judge by appearances or make decisions by hearsay.     
You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden.
With a single word you will strike down tyrants; with your decrees you will execute evil people. Justice will be the belt around this your waist— faithfulness will gird you up.
Then the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat the calf and the lion cub will graze together, and a little child will lead them.                
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like the ox.

The baby will play next to the den of the cobra, and the toddler will dance over the viper’s nest. There will be no harm, no destruction anywhere in my holy mountain; for as water fills the sea, so the land will be filled with knowledge of Adonai.
On that Day, the Root of Jesse will serve as a symbol to the peoples of the world—nations will flock to you, and your home will be a place of honor.

We have heard a reading from the Book of Isaiah, and we affirm it by saying, Amen.


A reading from the Gospel attributed to Matthew

At this time John the Baptizer appeared in the desert of Judea, proclaiming, “Change your hearts and minds, for the reign of heaven is about to break in upon
 you!”  It was John that the prophet Isaiah described when he said,
        “A herald’s voice cries in the desert:
         Prepare the way of our God,
         make straight the paths of God!’”

John was clothed in a garment of camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. Grasshoppers and wild honey were his food.  At that time, Jerusalem, all Judea and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him. John baptized them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.

When he saw that many of the Pharisees and Sadducees were coming to be baptized, John said to them, “You pack of snakes! Who told you to flee from the coming wrath? Give some evidence that you mean to reform! And don’t pride yourselves on the claim, Sarah and Abraham are our parents.’ I tell you, God can raise children for Sarah and Abraham from these very stones! “Even now the ax is laid to the root of the tree. Every tree that is not fruitful will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

I will baptize you in water if you have a change of heart, but the One who will follow me is more powerful than I. I’m not fit even to untie the sandals of the Coming One! that One will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire, whose winnowing-fan will clear the threshing floor. the grain will be gathered into the barn, but the chaff will be burned in unquenchable fire.”

We have heard a reading from the Gospel attributed to Matthew, and we affirm it by saying, Amen. 

Homily and Shared Reflections led by Dennis McDonald

John the Baptist in today’s Gospel urges people to change hearts and minds, be open to the message that the Kin-dom of God is at hand.  He chastises the Jewish leaders who come to be baptized. What was their real interest in being there?  So many people were going to John, it was all the rage, you might say. So, the Pharisees and Sadducees decide to jump on board.  But John sees through their charade and calls them on it.  They are not there to be transformed, but to be seen by the people, to appear to be what they are not, believers in the power to change and make a difference in their world.  For Paul this was the coming of the Messiah who would lead the Jewish nation against the Imperial Rule of the Romans.

But we know that Jesus’ sense of the Kin-dom of God was that it was already here, and his call was to change heart and mind to one of love and compassion, and transform the world by reaching out in love and compassion to those oppressed and enslaved by the legalism of both the Roman and Jewish leadership. His was not a call to arms for the battlefield, but rather a call to arms to birth, as Julian of Norwich would say, “the love-longings of God”.

John Philip Newell, in his book, “The Rebirthing of God”, shares that these love-longings are planted within each of us.  They are deep within as holy, natural longings for oneness, a primal sacred drive for union, waiting to be born anew in our world.  We are called during Advent, as were the people by John the Baptist, to review what is blocking this renewal of God’s love-longings in us. 

Where am I stuck? When might I be a Pharisee or Sadducee?  What prejudgments of others, what prejudices, what fear of speaking out, what disregard for creation, be that animals, plants, the ocean, etc. block me from bringing to fruition the world proposed by Isaiah where justice and mercy will reign, and adversaries will be at peace with each other.    

As we prepare to recall the birthing of Jesus by Mary, it might be worth remembering Meister Eckhart’s insistence that it doesn’t matter if Mary gave birth to Jesus, if we don’t give birth to Christ in our lives, today.  How will you spend time during this Advent season to reflect of what barriers exist in your life?  What needs transformation in your life? How might you bring God’s love-longings to birth that will help transform the world in which you live?

What did you hear? What might you do? What might it cost you?

 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 1:  As we prepare for this sacred meal we are aware that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us. As bearers of LIGHT and HOPE, we bring to this table our blessings, cares and concerns. Please feel free to voice your intentions beginning with the words, “I bring to the table…..” 
Presider 1: We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. Amen. 

Presider 2: With open hearts and hands let us pray our Eucharistic prayer as one voice:
(written by Jay Murnane) 

All: Source of All That Is, we seek you in this season, when the earth is resting and preparing for new life. Like the earth, we long for new life and hopeful beginnings. This is the time of the pregnant woman, filled with life and hope powerful enough to topple structures of oppression.  This is the time of her song of fidelity and celebration. 

During this gentle season of Advent, we recognize that you have made us capable of bringing forth justice, like a rising sun. One with all who have gone before us, we sing a song of praise: 

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! 

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) 

We thank you for those in times past who believed the good news, and lived what they believed. 

Blessed is Isaiah and every visionary who insisted on a better future that would break through the deception, disaster and broken promises of the age in which they lived. 

Blessed is John, in the stark desert of careful focus, inviting the people to be born again in your love.  

Blessed is Miriam, who believed the words of Isaiah and opened herself up to the unbelievable. 

And blessed is her child Jesus, who felt the sorrows of humankind in his soul, and responded with deep and tender compassion. 

Please extend your hands in blessing.

All: We are grateful for your Spirit at our Eucharistic Table and for this bread and wine which reminds us of our call to be the body of Christ in the world.

Presiders stand at table

All.: 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. 

Presider 1 lifts plate as the community prays the following:

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.

Presider 2 lifts the cup as community prays the following:

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.

All: We give thanks for our tradition, which is a living history of your love for all creation. We join ourselves with that tradition, as the visionaries and healers and peacemakers of our own time in history. 

We celebrate the many creative traditions which guide and form us and we are grateful that there are many paths to wisdom and life. 

Each Advent we make a place in our prayer for all those who are oppressed and marginalized in so many places throughout this earth, and right here among us. 

We are grateful for the gift of your Spirit, always drawing beauty and balance out of chaos.  And like Jesus…

Standing where he stood,  
and for what he stood,  
and with whom he stood, 
we are united in your Spirit, 
and worship you with our lives,  

All: Amen.  

Presider 1: 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 2: Please join in our prayer for the breaking of the bread: 

All:   Holy One, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice.  We will live justly.    
You call us to be Your presence in the world.   We will love tenderly.  
You call us to speak truth to power.  We will walk with integrity in your presence. 

Presiders lift bread and wine 

Presiders: "This is the bread of life and the cup of blessing. Through it we are nourished and we nourish each other. 

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.  

Presider 1: Our Eucharistic celebration is all-inclusive and nothing can separate us from God’s love. All are welcome to receive at this table. Please pass the bread and the cup with the words: “You are a bearer of Light and Hope.”
Communion Song/Meditation – Something New by Jan Novotka

Presider 2: Please extend your hands and pray our blessing together.

May we continue to be the face of God to each other.  May we call each other to extravagant generosity!  May our light shine for all to see, and may we be a blessing in our time! 

All: AMEN 

Closing Song : Celebrate the Works of Wisdom