Monday, February 11, 2019

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy for February 10, 2019 - Presider: Kim Panaro, ARCWP

Kim Panaro, ARCWP, led the Upper Room Liturgy for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Kim’s homily starter follows the readings.

This week we will celebrate the feast of St. Valentine. Valentine was a 3rd century priest. Valentine was an evangelist known for his illegal and subversive acts of spreading the gospel. He performed marriages for Christians thus opening the possibility of married Christians making more baby Christians. Like most early saints, Valentine was ultimately beaten and beheaded for his beliefs. Like many legends in Christian tradition, Valentine’s story is pretty grim but we use it as inspiration to celebrate the joy of love. We are a tradition of paradox. As we listen to the gospel of Simon Peter’s call, we will consider the question “What Is The Net?”. Perhaps another paradox.

Begin now by taking a slow deep breath in and exhale gently. Allow your shoulders and body to relax.
Bring your awareness to your heart. As you breath in and out, visualize the petals of your heart gradually opening. Feel your heart filling with light and love.
Visualize this love expanding out from your heart and permeating every cell of your being.
A feeling of love and peace washes over you.
Your body is filling with light and love.
Send this love to yourself
your family
this community
and out into the world.
Send your love to the people who grew and harvested the food you eat
sewed the clothes you wear
built your home
and to all who are part of our lives.
Love connects all of us for God is love.
When you are ready, gently bring your awareness back to the room. You can open your eyes and feel the love surrounding you.

Companions on the Journey by Carey Landry 

We gather in the presence of the Holy One, who is Love itself. We open our ourselves to the sharing and love we celebrate whenever two or more are gathered in the name of our Brother Jesus. We accept the invitation to expand our hearts and our minds so that we may better love others, the Holy One and ourselves. Amen

FIRST READING: How to LoveIf you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.
When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness. Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.
These are the inspired teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and the Community affirms them by saying Amen

Reader 1: Let us pray together for all hearts held in unity. 
After every three petitions, respond,
All: We pray that this be so.

Reader 1: That broken hearts be mended
​​That young hearts stay wonder-filled
​​That old hearts discover their wisdom: 
All: We pray that this be so 

Reader 2:That embittered hearts let go of hurt
​​That compassionate hearts find strength
​​That big hearts know their wealth: 
All: We pray that this be so

Reader 1:That betrayed hearts recover trust
​​That soft hearts not be wounded
​​That hardened hearts begin to soften:
All: We pray that this be so

Reader 2:That sensitive hearts be vigilant
​​That happy hearts announce their joy
​​That courageous hearts keep risking:
All: We pray that this be so

Reader 1:That passionate heart tend the flames
​​That arrogant hearts learn humility
​​That sympathetic hearts benefit others:
All: We pray that this be so

Reader 2:That determined hearts lose their grip
​​That jealous hearts accept what they have
​​That lost hearts find their way home:
All: We pray that this be so

Reader 1:That loving hearts reach out to others
​​That generous hearts receive in return
​​The fearful hearts turn toward trust:
All: We pray that this be so
Reader 2:  That empty hearts befriend loneliness
​​That tepid hearts stretch into action
​​That faithful hearts remain steadfast: 
All: We pray that this be so

Reader 1:

Kindhearted Holy One, you gather all these hearts into your one great love.  Thank you for reaching our heart through the hearts of others.  The genuine love of each person reflects your divine affection.  Keep us aware, when we hesitate or question our ability to share our love with another and that you dwell within our hearts.  Amen.(Adapted from Prayer Seeds. Joyce Rupp)

GOSPEL: Luke 5:1-12
One day, Jesus was standing by Lake Gennesaret, and the crowd pressed in on him to hear the word of God. He saw two boats moored by the side of the lake; the fishers had disembarked and were washing their nets. Jesus stepped into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a short distance from the shore; then, remaining seated, he continued to teach the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Pull out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Rabbi, we’ve been working hard all night long and have caught nothing; but if you say so, I’ll lower the nets.”

Upon doing so, they caught such a great number of fish that their nets were at the breaking point. They signaled to their mates in the other boat to come and help them, and together they filled the two boats until they both nearly sank.

After Simon saw what happened, he was filled with awe and fell down before Jesus, saying, “Leave me, Rabbi, for I’m a sinner.” For Simon and his shipmates were astonished at the size of the catch they had made, as were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners.

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you’ll fish among humankind.” And when they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

These are the inspired words of Luke The Evangelist and the Community affirms them by saying Amen.

Valentine’s Day brings joy for some and misery for others. Couples get engaged or even married. They celebrate their love with gifts of candy, flowers, dinner, or other material goods. For others, Valentines Day may be a sad day because a loved one has passed on, a relationship once cherished has ended in separation or because it marks another year of frustrated longing to find that special someone. Valentines Day and our readings today have so much more to teach us.

The gospel from Luke is a very familiar story about the call of Jesus to Simon Peter.  Impressed by the teachings and the ability to fill empty nets with fish, Simon Peter drops everything and at that moment begins a life of discipleship. Conversion stories in scripture are meant to portray a sense of calling specific to that person and ultimately, to each of us.

This story about becoming a fisher among people led me to ponder the question “What Is the Net?”. In other words, what is the way that Peter, Mary, James, Matilde, Julian, Dorothy Day, you and I are to become fishers? To fish, there must be a net to do the gathering.  In the past, religions have used the fear of damnation as the net to fill the pews.  Come on in or face the consequences for eternity. We do not follow that path. No, our net I would suggest, is Love. We seek to live in the kindom here and now by sharing the message of love. It is our net.  We celebrate Love in religious language in so many ways.  God Is Love, God Loves Us, We are called to Love God and Others as Ourselves, we are called to Love ourselves as sons and daughters of God. But this always sounds so good. Deceptively simple in its language, daunting in its challenge.

It is of course easy to love those who love us and think like us. But what about loving those we don’t like, don’t agree with, who have hurt or abused us, who wish us ill? How can we love them? We may not have any desire to even try to. That person who is just so annoying at work, so irritating or narrow in their thinking, so destructive. Is there any way we can make ourselves love them? When we face with honesty, the limits of our current capacity to love, it is like discovering the dry bones. A tightly folded, carefully put away dry closed net.  

Thich Nhat Hanh offers us the “how” to open our nets.  That is through learning to love ourselves and expand our capacity to see beyond the small I that is our ego, our limited perceptions, our feelings and agendas for others.  It is to make our net bigger by loving ourselves enough to build our capacity to love others more than ourselves. This is not a call to codependency. It is an invitation to holiness and wholeness. Simon Peter knew that he was limited. He admitted this when he called himself a sinner.  We are all limited but called. As adult believers we cannot just dismiss or brush past the requirement to allow God to love in and through us. We cannot simply love where and when it is easy. Our call, like that of Jesus, Simon Peter, Mary and all who have been touched by a deep experience of Sophia Wisdom is to love when love seems foolish, makes us look ridiculous, makes us confused and makes us let go of our small-minded beliefs and agendas.

So, like St. Valentine who loved others and the gospel more than his own life, we may pay a price for love.  In our faith tradition, the ability to have changed hearts and minds is an act of free will and a movement of the Spirit.  We believe that in community, we encourage one another and we experience the movement of Sophia Wisdom in our lives. We get the paradoxical message to relax and “Be Not Afraid” but simultaneously, go to the edge and love in a way that does not seem possible and is never easy or comfortable.   

What did you hear in our readings today? What will you do? What will it cost you?

Love Changes Everything sung by Anthony Warlow

Lean On Me by Bill Withers

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