Support document for April

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Suggested service order for a time of prayer
This service order includes songs from a Latino-american songwriter in Spanish and English. Every month music from different church backgrounds will be proposed for listening and/or singing. Feel free to adapt the music according to your local situation, as well as the arrangement of the prayer space.

Lord, to whom would we go (Señor, a quién iremos | Cristóbal Fones, SJ)

Psalm 91
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “The Lord is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely God will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
God will cover you with his feathers,
and under God’s wings you will find refuge;
God’s faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For God will command angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because they love me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue them;
I will protect them, for they acknowledge my name.
They will call on me, and I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will deliver them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them
and show them my salvation.”

Bible Text
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)

From Death to life | Cristóbal Fones, SJ

Bible Reflection

God goes before me in my deserts

The Exodus of the Hebrews is a fundamental event in Biblical history, and marks the birth of the people of Israel: it was during the walk in the desert that God made Godself known to God’s people. This episode recounts the liberation of a people who were victims of oppression and slavery, and it comes up again and again as a refrain recalling God’s action in favour of God’s people: “With a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”. The Exodus narrative thus appears as the proclamation of good news, that of God’s free salvation for the people, and the promise of a new land. The God of the Exodus is the one who saves and liberates.

The Exodus is also a place of impressive divine manifestations. In today’s mediation, it is in the form of a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire that God’s presence is physically manifested: God’s presence goes before me in my deserts in the cloud by day, and God’s presence in the fire by night. While the pillar of cloud in the journey through the desert can be linked to the pillar of cloud in the Tent of Meeting, here it has more the role of a divine guide for God’s people. By day and by night, the Lord accompanies and precedes the Hebrews.

This text reminds us that God was present at every important stage of the exit from Egypt, and that
without these physical manifestations the people would have been lost in the desert forever. Moreover,
the cloud came between the fleeing people and the Egyptian army to allow a passage through the Sea of
Reeds: in addition to the function of guidance, there is also that of protection.

The text is relevant to us today, because we too go through deserts in our lives. At every important stage, we stand on a decisive threshold where we leave one way of being to enter another which, we all hope, will be liberating. A threshold is not an accidental border that separates one region from another, but a border that separates two different visions of our human condition. Often this threshold only becomes clearly visible when it is actually crossed, and can mean the total loss of all that one has enjoyed on the other side. But there is no turning back, because we are no longer the same person as the one who crossed the threshold: we have been transformed. I like to think that, like the people of Israel, God accompanies me during my periods of transit, i.e. from one part of my life to another. Of course, God does not manifest Godself in such a spectacular way, but I know that God is no less present at every moment through the Spirit who lives in me.

Thibault Foulon.
Director of the League for reading the Bible (Ligue pour la lecture de la Bible) (France)

Questions for sharing
1. As we come closer to Easter, how can I understand this notion of “crossing a threshold?”
2. At different important stages in my life, how can I let God’s presence guide me?
3. In the light of what has just been said, how does my viewpoint change regarding the story where
Jesus heals the blind person of Bethesda? (Mk 8.22-26)

The “Maison d’Unité” (House of Unity) in Paris shares thoughts on the Bible text “Enlarge the place of your tent.”

A word from the first Christians

An old prayer for unity (from the thanks giving meal of the Didachè, a church order from the begining of second century)

Like the broken bread, scattered on the mountains,
was gathered together to be one,
may your church be gathered in the same way
from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.
For thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever! (Didachè 9: 4)

In all things we thank you, for you are mighty.
Glory to you for ever!
Remember, Lord, your Church,
that you may deliver her from all evil and perfect her in your love.
And gather her from the four winds,
the sanctified Church, into your kingdom which you have prepared for her.
For thine is the power and the glory for ever! (Didachè 10: 4-5)

Group Activity

Visualizing Exodus 13
Aim – To facilitate personal reflection around the biblical symbols of the pillars of cloud and fire.

1. Provide participants with a copy of the biblical text for reference.
2. Encourage participants to reflect on what the pillars of cloud and fire might have meant to the
Israelites, and what those symbols might represent for us today.
3. Ask the participants to take a few minutes to write down their own reflections on the text. Younger
participants can also be invited to visualize the pillars, draw them and write their reflections in the
pillars. The facilitator can guide by asking questions such as: What does it mean to be guided by
God? How can we trust in God’s protection and provision? How do we find light in times of
darkness? Some examples can include:
• Guidance: Just as the cloud helped the Israelites, we can look to God for help in our
own lives, by asking for advice through prayer or seeking mentors for direction.
• Protection: Just as the fire protected the Israelites, we can find ways to protect
ourselves and others, and trust that God is always watching over us. This can include
physical and emotional support.
• Light: The fire brought light to the Israelites, and we can bring light into our own lives by
seeking out happiness, gratitude, and connection, and sharing that with others.
• Community: The pillars showed the Israelites that God was with them, and we can find
our own community of people who share our beliefs and values, to journey together and
share God’s love and grace with each other.
4. Once participants have had time to write, invite them to share their reflections with the group.
Encourage dialogue and discussion around the themes that emerge.
5. Conclude the activity by connecting with the idea of God’s guiding presence in their own lives.