Monday, March 19, 2018

Upper Room Liturgy - Fifth Sunday in Lent

Kim Panaro, ARCWP and Lynn Kinlan, ARCWP led the Upper Room Liturgy with the theme: Holy Humility. 

Our theme today is Holy Humility. We look toward the examples of Therese of Liseaux, Jesus and Anastastios to teach us the value of emptying ourselves with love. The Japanese have a tradition called Kintsugi. They repair broken vessels with precious gold. In doing so, the repaired (or healed) object is stronger and more beautiful than before. We are such Earthen Vessels for God.

Opening Prayer for Peace by Lynn Kinlan

We come and greet one another in the holy Presence of the Divine, to celebrate community and to be nourished by the peace of  Christ.  In our sharing of peace, may we be refreshed with the sense that:
Our greeting of soul- peace is not sentimental.  Peace is a tide coming in on the shore, rolling and gentle and insistent. 
Let’s flood the person on our left with peace and allow it to gently roll around the circle leftward.

Peace is not self-satisfied and tribal,; it is all encompassing like the air we breathe and reliable like the earth upon which we stand.
Let’s surround the person on our right with peace and send it rightward as the wind of the Holy Spirit moves. 

May our circle of peace be a reliable companion as our circle moves outward for today into a wounded world greatly in need of comfort and reassurance. Amen.

First Reading:

From the first moment of his presence in humanity, Christ makes self-emptying the revelation of the love of the Divine. He spends the greater part of his human life in the simplicity of everyday labor…

The power of love is totally bound up with humility. The opposite of love we usually call hatred. But its real name is egoism…Christ ransoms us, chained in our egoism, by accepting the ultimate humiliation, the cross. By this humility he abolishes all pride and self-centeredness. In that hour, the glory of his love shines forth and we are redeemed.

Christian life means continual assimilation of the mystery of the cross in the fight against individual and social selfishness. This holy humility, which is ready to accept the ultimate sacrifice, is the mystical power behind Christian mission…

One of the greatest dangers for Christian mission is that we become forgetful in the practice of the cross and create a comfortable type of Christian who sees the cross as ornament and may prefer to crucify others rather than to be crucified oneself…

These are the inspired words of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania and the community affirms them by saying: Amen.

Gospel Reading:

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and declared, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew and then they went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Jesus continued, whoever loves his life, loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Holy One will honor whoever serves me.”

These are the inspired words of the gospel writer John and the community affirms them by saying: Amen.

Homily Starter:                                                       Kim Panaro, ARCWP
Why should we consider the path of humility in these last few weeks of Lent? So many people in our world struggle with low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing.  As 21st century theology moves us away from Atonement Theology in favor of a Theology of Blessing it would seem very nearly to be going backwards to embrace concepts like humility. Humility has often been synonymous with promoting a sense of guilt, unworthiness and of being “less than”. What do today’s gospel reading, the life of St. Therese of Liseaux and our first reading from Archbishop Anastasios offer as a way to understand humility as the heart of the Christian mission?

St. Therese, the great doctor of the Church, embodies this wisdom like no other. She was called to the priesthood and to be a missionary but her life path was quite different. Her mother had died when she was very young and she had watched all her mother figure sisters leave to go into the convent. She lived a life of complete charity and humility as a perpetual novice in her cloistered Carmel community until she died in agony of tuberculosis at age 24.   She learned to embrace humility as the path of unconditional love for God and her sisters. She never denied her own suffering, her challenges, her pain, her doubts or her fears.  Rather, she saw them as an opportunity to be more loving to those around her. She was so kind and loving in fact that several of her sister nuns were very mean to her. Instead of ego driven anger and hurt, Therese put aside her own ego and need for human affirmation and embraced the opportunity to love those sisters with an even greater compassion. She chose to love others with the bigger, all embracing love that she experienced in her relationship with her God.  She did not deny her brokenness but she embraced the strength and the beauty that could come from it. Like the beauty of the vase that is repaired by gold, the soul that lives in union with the unconditional love of God can reflect that love in care for others. She emptied herself of ego and the need to be understood by others because she lived in humble union with the source of all who is Love itself………..God.
Author CS Lewis said that “Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself, it means thinking of yourself less”.  In other words, it isn’t about putting ourselves down, it’s about moving beyond the “me” in favor of the “we.” It is the paradox of letting go in order to gain all, forgetting oneself to find oneself, embracing death to gain life. In our first reading today, Archbishop Anastasios challenges us to understand that the cross is about letting go of selfishness and egoism just as Jesus did. Jesus’ witness of unconditional radical love for all regardless of gender, social status, adherence to religious legalism or past behaviors made him such a threat to religious and political leaders that they killed him in the way most degrading and painful way they knew, crucifixion. Jesus’ cross represents the triumph of self-emptying love for neighbor.  In our gospel reading today, Jesus points to the lesson that in dying, the grain of wheat produces life.  The cross becomes our symbol that unconditional love leads to life and that death does not have the final word.  The intended humiliation of Jesus at the crucifixion was not effective because his focus was on love of others and God.

How about you and I? Do we embrace this holy humility? Do we place our hopes on the path of complete self-emptying  and sacrifice of our egos in order to live as Jesus? It is not simply about doing good works, or being a social worker or social activist. Those are part of the work but they are not the goal itself. The goal is love. The mystical heart of the cross is the paradox of letting go of all to gain all.  If we have the vision of Therese, Jesus and Anastasios, we might be able to use our own emotional, physical, psychological hurts and pains to open our arms wider to embrace and love those around us.  We don’t need to think less of ourselves but by thinking of ourselves less, we take the power away from the injustices and hurts in our lives in favor of the joy of living for others and for God.  That is holy humility. That is living in the Kindom of God.
What do you think?

Closing Prayer: inspired by a poem by John Soos
May we be rooted but restless seeds, struggling toward light, growing and bursting and from our efforts, loving our wounded world toward peace and justice. And may we look with fortitude and hope at losing life to save it, letting go in the mystery of the seed’s death to welcome the miracle of new birth.   Amen


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