Sunday, March 11, 2018

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Fourth Sunday in Lent

Bernie Kinlan and Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP, led the Upper Room liturgy with the theme: Awaken to the Light within. During Lent, the Upper Room community is listening to our Christian Scriptures and to the wise words of great spiritual leaders. During this liturgy, we heard  in our readings the inspired words spoken by and about the Buddha and by and about Jesus. Mary Theresa's homily starter is printed below.

Centering Prayer: (Bernie)
Singing Bowl - photo by M T Streck
Let us begin to center ourselves in the here and now.
Slowly breathe in and out.
Do this one more time…holding the breath a little more before exhaling.
One more time.
Allow light to enter into your mind, your heart, your soul
Acknowledge the darkness that remains in the corners, see the shadows, catch the cobwebs that you don’t want to see.
Bring to consciousness a new day. Embrace all of what you feel.
Breathe in and out one more time.
Awaken into the here and now.
RING Bowl.

Opening Song: Anointed by Kathy Sherman

The first reading is from the sayings of the Buddha.

The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens in character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings….
As the shadow follows the body
As we think, so we become.

These are the inspired words of the Buddha, and we affirm them by saying, Amen.

The second reading is from “Awakening the Buddha Within.”

Buddhism says yes, change is possible. It tells us that no matter what our background, each of us is the creator of his or her own destiny. It tells us that our thoughts, our words, and our deeds create the experience that is our future. It tells us that everything has its own place, everything is sacred, and everything is interconnected, and it introduces a system of integrating all experiences into the path toward realizing innate perfection.

To reach enlightenment our only task is to awaken to who and what we really are – and in so doing to become fully awake and conscious in the most profound sense of the word. “When I am enlightened, all are enlightened,” Buddha said. Help yourself and you help the entire world.

These are the inspired words of Lama Surya Das and we affirm these words by saying, Amen.

Gospel Acclamation: Spirit of the Living God

A reading from the Gospel of John
Jn 3: 17, 19-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
God sent the Anointed One into the world
not to condemn the world,
but that through the Anointed One
the world might be saved.

But, people showed they preferred darkness to the light,
because their deeds were evil.

Indeed, people who do wrong hate the light and avoid it,
For fear their actions will be exposed;
But those who live by the truth
Come out into the light,
So that it may be plainly seen
That what they do is done in the name of the Holy One.

These are the inspired words of John, disciple of Jesus, and we affirm them by saying, Amen.

Mary Theresa's homily starter:

Scripture scholar, Marcus Borg, in his book, Jesus & Buddha: The Parallel Sayings (2002), refers to Jesus and the Buddha as the two most remarkable religious figures who ever lived.

“Jesus and Buddha were teachers of world-subverting wisdom that undermined and challenged conventional ways of seeing and being in their time and in every time” (Borg, 2002).

Although Buddha lived about 500 years before Jesus, when we listen deeply to their words, we find that in many ways, they speak with one heart, like brothers, expressing compassion and healing for all who would follow their way.

Buddha says, “There is one truth, not many. See and know this for yourself.”

Jesus says, “The kin-dom of God is within you.”

Both of them present spiritual practices that alleviate personal and social suffering and lead to transformation and enlightenment.

So where does this spiritual transformation and enlightenment begin?

In today’s first reading, the Buddha instructs us to watch our thoughts and let them spring from love.

In the Gospel, Jesus instructs us to watch our deeds (which by the way spring from our thoughts) and come into the light.

The first step to spiritual transformation begins by looking within at our own thoughts.

According to Byron Katy, spiritual innovator, “The most important relationship we will ever have in our lives is the relationship we have with our thoughts.”

Why, because it is there that we create our ourselves, our destiny.

Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who abuse you.” (Luke 6: 27)

Buddha says, “Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love; this is an eternal truth . . . Overcome the miser by giving, overcome the liar by truth. (Dhammapada 10:1)

These good deeds begin with spiritual practices that train the mind to be reflective, loving and compassionate.

And the good news is that the path to transformation and enlightenment is meant for everyone, not just the spiritual masters.
Our only task is to awaken to the light within - to who and what we really are – to become fully awake and conscious.

So, what did you hear in the readings?

Communion song: Deep Peace sung by Ashana

Deep peace to you. 
Deep peace to you. 
Deep peace of the running wave to you. 
Deep peace of the flowing air to you. 
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. 
Deep peace of the shining stars to you. 
Deep peace of the gentle night to you. 
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you. 
Deep peace to you.

Closing Song: Let Your Light Shine in Us by Kathy Sherman

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