Sunday, July 15, 2018

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy: Called to be Co-Creators of Paradise by Sharing and Living the Gospel Message

Suzanne O’Connor and Dave DeBonis led the Upper Room liturgy with the theme: Called to be Co-Creators of Paradise by Sharing and Living the Gospel Message. Dave's homily starter is printed below the first reading from Saving Paradise by Brock and Parker.

Opening Song: Anthem by Tom Conry

First Reading:
We come to know the world is paradise when our hearts and souls are reborn through to the arduous and tender task of living rightly with one another in the earth. Generosity, nonviolence, and care for one another are pathways into transformed awareness. Knowing that paradise is here and now is a gift that comes to those who practice the ethics of paradise. This way of living is not utopian. It does not spring simply from the imagination of a better world but from a profound embrace of this world. It does not begin with knowledge or hope. It begins with love.

Paradise is human life restored to its divinely infused dignity and capacity, and it is a place of struggle with evil and injustice, requiring the development of wisdom, love, nonviolence, and responsible uses of power. Paradise can be experienced as spiritual illumination of the heart, mind, and senses felt in moments of religious ecstasy and it can be known in ordinary life lived with reverence and responsibility. Paradise is not a place free from suffering or conflict but is a place in which Spirit is present and love is possible. Entering paradise in this life is not an individual achievement but it is the gift of communities that train perception and teach ethical grace. Paradise provides deep reservoirs for resistance and joy. It causes us to embrace life’s aching tragedies and persistent beauties, to labor for justice and peace, to honor one another’s dignity, and to root our lives in the soil of this good and difficult earth.

These are the inspired words of Brock and Parker from Saving Paradise and the community affirms them by saying AMEN.

Shared Homily by Dave DeBonis

In the Gospel reading we see Jesus speaking with the apostles as they prepare to go out in the neighboring communities to spread Jesus’ message and heal the sick.   It is important to note that scholars believe that although Jesus’ instructions to the apostles to shake the dust from their feet was in keeping with customs at the time (because of the dirt roads that were travelled), they do not believe that Jesus said that this was to be done “as a testimony against” those who were not open to the message.

Much of this Gospel is about specific instructions re: what the apostles should bring and wear in their travels and this information is in keeping with Jewish regulations at the time concerning travel.   Jesus tells them not to bring food, or money or an extra shirt and to wear sandals.  Considering what so many of us bring with us when we travel, this certainly is hard to imagine today. On another level, this can serve as a reminder to all of us that all we really need on our journey to spread the Gospel message is the message itself and the example we set by living it. Like the apostles, we have been given the authority to spread the word and isn’t this really all we need?

In the preface of the book “Saving Paradise”, which is the source of the first reading, the authors describe their research of early Christian art which “is painted on walls or carved into marble” often in “catacombs in underground tunnels.”  This research brought the authors to Europe and the Middle East over a period of 5 years and revealed numerous images that depicted heaven not as some place that happens after this life, but rather as here in this world—blessed by the creator with landscapes, “orchards, clear night skies, and teeming waters…”  It was 1000 years later, when the Church embraced the concept of Jesus dying for our sins and the need to earn your way into heaven, that images of Jesus’ suffering and death became prominent.

The authors remind us what those who understood Jesus’ message best-members of the early Christian communities--knew that paradise is here when we live the way Jesus taught us—particularly in our treatment of others. Because evil and injustice exist in the world, struggles are inevitable as we work to counter these destructive forces with kindness, generosity and the use of the power we have to do good. Brock and Parker note that paradise is not utopia and it is not wishful thinking; rather, it is embracing this world and working to make it good.
In our statement of faith we say: We believe that God’s kingdom 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. What do each of us need to do to have our eyes, hearts and hands engaged in this divine process of co-creation?

Communion Meditation Song:   You are the Voice By David Haas

May we continue to be the face of God to each other. May we call each other to extravagant generosity! May we walk with an awareness of our Call as companions on the journey, knowing we are not alone. May we, like Jesus, be a shining light and a blessing in our time!

Closing Song: City of God by Dan Schutte

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