Sunday, April 8, 2018

Second Sunday of Easter 2018 - Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community, Albany, NY

Kim Panaro, ARCWP, led the Upper Room liturgy with the theme of Divine Unconditional Love.

Theme: In the traditional church, today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Our theme is Divine Unconditional Love. This is a way to understand Divine Mercy in the language of Original Blessing. We are not fallen sinners in need of Mercy from a judgmental God. Rather, we are precious and loved by the source of all love who is Love itself. We are called to be this Love for others. This is the gift of the spirit of God that is Wisdom, the Ruah, the feminine aspect of the God.

Centering Prayer for Peace: 

Opening Prayer: Holy One, we are blessed to be with one another this morning. We open ourselves to your presence in, around and among us. We wish to be more open to your love so that we can be more loving to ourselves and to others. Help us listen with the ears of our heart to the written word and the words shared by our sisters and brothers during this sacred time together. We ask this in the name of our brother Jesus. Amen

First Reading: 1Acts 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one mind and one heart. None of them claimed anything as their own; rather everything was held in common. The apostles continued to testify with great power to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and they were all given great respect; nor was anyone needy among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them and give the money to the apostles. It was then distributed to any members who might be in need.
The community affirms these words by saying “AMEN”

Second Reading is from Joan D. Chittister

It is precisely women’s experience of God that this world lacks. A world that does not nurture its weakest, does not know God the birthing mother. A world that does not preserve the planet, does not know God the creator. A world that does not honor the spirit of compassion, does not know God the spirit.

God the lawgiver, God the judge, God the omnipotent being have consumed Western spirituality and, in the end, shriveled its heart.
The community affirms these words by saying “AMEN”

Gospel John 20:19-25

In the evening on that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities.

Jesus came and stood among them and said “Peace be with you”. Having said this, the savior showed them the marks of crucifixion.

The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, “Peace be with you. As Abba God sent me, so I’m sending you”.

After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive someone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you retain someone’s sins, they are retained”
The community affirms these words by saying “AMEN.” 

Kim's Homily Starter:

Divine Mercy Sunday was started to commemorate the visions of St. Faustina, a Polish nun who lived from 1905-1938. She was very poor and had a 3rd grade education. Like Therese of Lisieux before her, Faustina brought the world a simple truth about God. This truth is that God loves everyone on earth and that God expects us to share this love with one another. That’s it. The simple and yet the most challenging part of our faith.

In our first reading from Acts, the early followers of The Way shared all things in common. They tookcare of one another based on need, not on worthiness or status. They model community as a place where no one needs to live without basic necessities because everyone is responsible for the other. So how did this vision become “shriveled” as we hear in the Chittister reading? It is because the God who Jesus knew, the God who loved women and children equally to men, who loved all regardless of nationality or religion, the God who embraced all of creation was replaced with a God created in the image of those with agendas to control and dominate through fear and dogmas. The breath of God Jesus shares in the gospel is the ruah or breath of the Holy Spirit who is Sophia Wisdom. It was a gift to them during a time when they were lost in their human fear, grief and confusion. This is the same breath of God that you and I breathe with each breath we take. This breath embodies the unconditional love and wisdom of God flowing into every moment of our existence. We need only awaken to that. What does it mean to say that what the disciples forgive is forgiven, what they bind is bound? I would offer the perspective that this speaks to our basic choice of whether or not to unconditionally love others , especially those who have hurt us. When we live in a state of unforgiveness, anger or judgement, we are tied to that person or situation with a negative tension that disrupts the harmony of the kindom which we are called to create in ourselves and the world. None of us lack the ability to love because we all love our family, our friends and those who think like us. This is easy human love. Celebrating Divine Unconditional Love allows us to look at our ability to love all the other people we encounter. The harder ones. This means sharing resources with those who have need for physical, mental or emotional help. Not giving only from our excess but giving generously of our time, presence and treasure. It means not binding others to ourselves or situations by unwillingness to forgive, to understand, or to put others before ourselves without the kneejerk fears of being codependent or losing ourselves in the process.

What about you and me? I know that my ability to love is limited by my own stubborn attachment to ego, emotions and judgements. It is limited by my fears of being hurt and my anger at those who I believe do wrong and harm. Every day is another opportunity to cooperate with grace to live more as we are invited to by scripture, prophets ancient and current, and by our living faith. We are not called to give up opinions and values but we are called to remember that we are companions on a journey with all people and that divine unconditional love comes in where the rubber meets the road and we need to hold “difficult” others in the light of God as we are held each and every day. This is how we celebrate Divine Mercy or as we would say Divine Unconditional Love . What did you hear and what do you think?

Alternate “We Bring to the Table”

Today we will offer our prayers for others in a different way. Each of you is asked to take a feather out of the basket. (wait). Now, holding this feather in your hands, bring to awareness a situation that does not yet have the wholeness or healing of the unconditional love of God. A situation or person, known by you or simply one you are aware of, that needs healing. It may be a situation of brokenness between you and someone else or it may, not be directly related to you at all. In the silence of your own heart, pray a blessing into that situation. When you are ready, you will blow on the feather. This is the ruah, the same breath and spirit of God Jesus shared with his disciples in our Gospel today. You have that same spirit within you. 

We will gather the feathers. With another pass of the basket, we take a feather. This is our opportunity to pray for one another’s intentions. This is a great gift of community, the kind described in our reading from Acts today. We will take the intentions of our brother or sister into our home and pray for their needs with the same love and perseverance that we pray for our own. It is not a matter of how long or how many times we pray, it is the love in our hearts when we do it. If possible and when think the time is right, you can return their prayer feather to the earth by burying it or putting it in a body of water or even a fire. This shows respect for the earth and the creature from which that feather came.

Communion meditation: 

St Theresa's Prayer by John Michael Talbot

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