Thursday, December 1, 2016

THE SECULAR IS SACRED

   The coming of Christmas brings with it the perennial tension between what is secular and what is sacred.  In our malls, on TV and in our towns we struggle with the clashes:  Advent vs. the Christmas Season; prayer and reflection vs. frenzied shopping;  Jesus vs. Santa Claus; "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays;" a Nativity Scene in front of City Hall, etc.

   Of course, we should not overdo our Christmas preparations, to the point of overshadowing the peace, generosity, joy and love that mark the sacred meaning of the holiday.

   My point is that our secular Christmas preparations, reflectively carried out, are sacred.  The entire secular world is sacred.  It is a common mistake for us to believe that the secular is the opposite of the sacred, and therefore, not sacred.  This mistake is strengthened by the false spirituality of believing that in order to be holy, we have to avoid this world and think and do only heavenly things.  In truth, every good thing that we do here on earth is a heavenly thing.

   Secular means pertaining to space/time, i.e., to the created world we live in.  It means the opposite of the infinite/eternal.  It does not mean the opposite of the sacred.  Space/time, the secular, is God's creation and therefore is essentially good and holy:  sacred.  As we see in the Creation story of Genesis, "And God saw that it was good."  

   God is present within the entire secular world, and so all peoples, families, education, business, economics, politics, science, art, etc., are sacred.

   By its nature, space/time is limited.  So while sacred, it is imperfect.  As part of imperfect space/time, we humans can misuse and even pervert our humanity and fall into cheating, lying, murder, etc.  God calls and empowers us to use our sacred humanity to work to make our world more luminously good in the loving and saving grace of Christ.

   The true opposite of the secular, then, is not the sacred but the profane, the sinful.  Getting back to the Christmas season, we can profane this sacred time by over-emphasizing the buying of things to the detriment of enhancing the sacredness of our lives and the lives of our family, friends--and especially in these times--of our non-Christian friends and neighbors.    

   And stupidly, we can also get involved in profane silliness by trivializing our "devotion" to the sacred by declaring that there is a "War on Christmas!" being waged by people who say, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  

   Certainly, the Christmas season must be lived within a spiritually mature, prayerful reflection of Advent, as we once again anticipate celebrating the birth of Jesus, who by coming to Earth and personally sharing in our space/time, secular humanity, showed beyond all doubt that the secular is sacred.   






 

        

Saturday, November 12, 2016

THE ELECTION: WHERE WERE THE CHRISTIANS?

   The election of Donald Trump has left many Americans fearful and anxious.  In his campaign, Mr. Trump wantonly vilified Latino immigrants, women, Muslims, African-Americans, the disabled, and even the parents of a fallen American soldier.

   All through his campaign Mr. Trump showed himself to be a narcissist and pathological liar.  The attitude and values he displayed harshly contradicted the values of the Kingdom of God on earth.  Jesus gave us his Spirit of good order, justice, peace, purity of heart, joy of life, and love.  Mr. Trump gave us lies, anger, insults, sexual depravity and hate.  Where were the Christians?

   Political analysts tell us that Mr. Trump won because his appeal to "Make America Great Again" resounded with white voters, both male and female, who are fearful and uneasy about the changing demographics of our country, and worried about their ability to keep their family financially above water.  Many saw an uncaring and even hostile government working against them, and wanted change.  Finally, the ill-conceived and ill-timed FBI report on Mrs. Clinton's emails helped diminish her vote count.

   These fears and anxieties are understandable.  But the trust and hope that these people placed in Mr. Trump was naive.  They failed to understand the "signs of the times" that Pope John XXIII told us to watch for a half-century ago.  They failed to see that Americans are people of every race, color, religion and sexual orientation.  Very importantly, they failed to see that their economic problems are heavily due to the fact that greedy business leaders moved to maximize their profits by sending their jobs overseas, never to return, with no concern for the American workers who lost their jobs.  And American bankers gambled away the people's money.  And they failed to see that every job-creating program that President Obama presented to the Republican Congress, e.g., rebuilding our infrastructure, was soundly rejected.  Mr. Trump's proposed jobs program will help the rich to get richer through tax cuts and the national deficit to explode--to the further detriment of the American working people.  

   Mr. Trump appealed to those who voted for him in a truly evil way.  Turning their attention away from the greedy banks and corporations (including his own business), and a deeply uncaring Congress, he created scapegoats, falsely blaming Hispanic immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, and foreigners for America's troubles. And he denigrated women in a sickening way.  This is the method of a would-be autocratic dictator.  Where were the Christians?

   He was aided by people such as Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Kellyanne Conway, and in the background, Paul Ryan.  All Catholics.  Where was their fight for good order, truth, justice, peace, respect and love?  Where was their special protection for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast?

   So now, immigrant families are terrified that children and parents will be separated. Latino children are bullied in their schools.  African-Americans are increasingly worried about their safety.  American Muslims are wondering how they will fit into American society.  Gays and other sexual minorities are newly vulnerable to attack.  Foreign victims of wars that we started will be turned away from our solace and protection.  And women of all ages must live disheartened by the fact that a sex-offender will now be in the Oval Office.  And it is now possible that there will be more destruction of the life or our planet.  How far off was commentator Bill Moyers when he said, "America died on November 8th?"

   Where were the Christian voters?  Here's one answer.  With encouragement from bishops and other church leaders, many American Christians disregarded Christ, who is the entire God filled universe, they narrowed their view to the point of voting so that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned, and abortion will be made illegal.  Let's have a Reality Check here.  In a report I found, last year 1.21 million abortions were performed in our country.  A truly horrible number.  Of these, abut 290,000 were obtained by women who identified themselves as Catholic, and 317,000 as Protestants.  That's 56% of all abortions.  

   Why can't the Catholic church prevent so many of its members from having abortions?  For starters, where is the church's program for creating discerning, actively prophetic, spiritual adults who will work to build a culture that will bring ever stronger care, protection and love to every expression of today's society?  Without such a culture, why do we think a simple law will prevent most abortions?

   Back to President-elect Trump.  In his meeting with President Obama, he showed surprising restraint and sobriety.  Is there something in him that has been touched by his new, awesome responsibility, or was he just mouthing words programmed into him by his handlers, only to return to his true narcissistic, pathological self at any time?  I fear the latter is true.

   For example, when Trump, the psychopathic liar, saw thousands of people protesting his election in the streets of several American cities, he tweeted a lie that the protesters were "professional protesters inspired by the media."  Then, ever the narcissist, he added, "Very unjust."  Very shortly afterwards, a new Tweet came out, "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud."  Obviously, this second Tweet was written by a shaken consultant to Mr. Trump.  Another lie.  And another:  the second Tweet appears on the Trump Pence website, but not the first one.  This is a very bad sign for America.  It shows that Mr. Trump may be a puppet President, made to "say" things that people close to him make up, while the psychopathic liar sits quietly in the dark.

   Yet some people are anticipating that he might undergo a true conversion.  For example, they look to the fact that just four years ago, he was a Democrat with some liberal ideas.  Well, miracles can happen.  After all, look at Ebenezer Scrooge's Christmas morning conversion.  But Scrooge was a fictional character.  In the meantime, God bless us, everyone!











        

  












































  

Saturday, October 29, 2016

CATHOLIC DEMOCRACY

   How many times have we heard, "The Catholic church is not a democracy?"  And how many times have you heard the response, "Well, it certainly should not be a monarchy."

   For the first four centuries, the church was a way of life for the followers of Jesus. The top-down, monarchical structure of the church arose in the fourth century when the pope took to himself the title of the Roman Emperor.  Since then, church teaching has become more and more legalistic and less and less pastoral.  Against strong resistance, Pope Francis is trying hard to make church teaching once again pastoral.

   In truth, the church is a democracy--not a political democracy where power is given to the leaders by the people, but a spiritual democracy based on the fact that all members of the church enjoy equal baptismal dignity.  Among the spiritually equal, some are chosen for the service of leadership, not for the imposition of leadership from above, which Jesus explicitly condemned. (Lk. 22:25-27).

   The victory of the American nuns over the anti-Christian monarchical attack by Vatican officials is a clear example of Catholic democracy.  And Pope Paul VI's frightened rejection of the majority report of the Birth Control Commission, and the continuing refusal of Vatican officials to respect the discernment of spiritually adult married Catholics regarding responsible contraception, is a clear example of anti-Christian Catholic monarchy.

   Every member of the church receives directly--democratically--from God his or her individual and social talents and vocation to build up the Kingdom of God on earth, i.e., the reign of order, justice, peace, joy of life, gratitude and love.  Within the one living, evolving Catholic faith, all members of the church are able to discern God's intentions for themselves and for their spiritual participation in our society.  And all are prophets, who are called and empowered by God to work to elevate the institutions of our society, and humbly correct them, making them ever more luminously human in the loving, saving grace of Christ.

   The laity are responsible to contribute their discernment and understanding of the faith to the church.  From their everyday experiences e.g., regarding marriage, parenthood, sex, education, work, science, the arts, politics, economics, etc., they are called to contribute to what the church authorities need to know in order to teach authentically.

   The hierarchy and pope therefore must discern and listen to the faith of the laity.  Today, at least here in America, such discernment and listening are not possible.  No workable mechanism exists.  The living faith does not flow freely through the church.  And even if there was a mechanism, I doubt that many bishops have the spiritual insight and maturity to discern the laity's faith.  And given the bishops' clerical and monarchical mindset, they are disposed to disregard the laity's deepest insights and needs, attributing them to today's "secular" culture.  

   When the church falls behind the times and the laity, hungry for contemporary spiritual nourishment and formation, are not fed, it is easy to see why they walk away and seek nourishment and formation elsewhere.  And the bishops, within their ever emptier churches, are clueless as to why the laity are leaving.     

   Here is one example of how far behind the times the church has fallen, and how badly adult spiritual formation for the laity is lacking.  We know that our dogmas don't change but our understanding and appreciation of them continues to grow, i.e., to evolve.  So today, when we ask, "Who is Christ?" or "Does Christ make sense today?" we need a 21st century, evolved answer.  So let's start by going all the way back in history and then coming into today's world.

---the earth was a formless waste, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.  (Gen. 1:2)

   The mighty wind was the Spirit of God, bringing order, peace and beautiful form to the chaotic universe.  As I say more fully in my page, "A New Creation Story," the Hebrews described the coming of the Spirit into creation as God's anointing the universe, thus filling it with God's presence.  The Hebrew word for the God-filled universe is Messiah; in Greek, Christos; in Latin, Christus; in English, Christ.  So, who is Christ?

Christ is the GOD-filled, living, evolving universe.

   Two thousand years ago, the evolving Christ-universe took human form in the person of Jesus.

   To see Jesus correctly is to see God and all of  evolving creation in one person. 

   When Jesus said that the he was the way, the truth and the life, he was speaking as the Christ.  He was saying that the way to God is through deep, loving involvement in the everyday, evolving world, with a special option for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast. 
   
   When Jesus was born, Christ was already almost 14 billion years old.  And Christ has evolved for the past 2000 years.  While Jesus is no longer physically with us, his ever evolving Christ-Spirit will be with us until the end of human history.  By "ever evolving" we mean that the Spirit of Christ will continue to lead us forward in our humanity with his ever-unfolding, inexhaustible truth and glory.      
   
   With Christ's evolving Spirit within us we will be increasingly able to understand and handle the challenges of marriage, education, politics, economics, etc.  We will be able to speak and act in ways that are increasingly discernible and effective to everyone who witnesses us and works with us.  This evolving clarity of the Spirit of Christ in our everyday world is the glory of Christ and of our spiritual democracy.

   Catholic democracy is not a rebellion against church authority.  It is not picking out this or that part of church teaching as in a cafeteria.  It is the Spirit-inspired movement of the whole Catholic faith and church, in which every member contributes their particular God-given discernment and activity for ever greater order, peace, justice, joy of life, gratitude and love.  In Catholic democracy, church teaching will become more relevant, understandable and acceptable to church members and to the world at large.  And the universal, Cosmic Christ on earth will be more clearly recognizable and glorified.

   In all that we are and do, let us give all honor and glory to Christ, to whom be all honor and glory now and forever.







     

   
















   

    

Friday, September 16, 2016

A CREED FOR TODAY


We believe in Infinite, Eternal, Living LOVE,
   Creator of the universe and its unfolding evolution.

We believe that LOVE anoints the universe,
   Filling the universe with the presence of LOVE,
   A union that we call the Cosmic CHRIST.

We believe in Jesus, who was the Cosmic CHRIST:
   Creative, Healing and World-Evolving LOVE
   in human form.

We believe that Jesus was sent by Infinite, Eternal, Living LOVE
  To be our loving brother, one with us in LOVE.

But because we sinned, he also humbly became our Crucified Savior,
   Who died and rose again, for LOVE lives forever.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
  Who is the Divine Energy of Christ's
  Live-evolving, world-evolving LOVE

We believe that we are the People of LOVE,
  Called and empowered by Christ's Spirit
  to keep the Kingdom of LOVE on earth evolving
  Until Jesus returns and changes us and earth
  into the Eternal Kingdom of LOVE that we call Heaven.

Amen    

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A NEW CREATION STORY

   I have re-written the Page, "An Evolution Story" and given it a new title, "A NEW CREATION STORY."  I invite you to re-read the page.

   This was necessary because our church today is presenting an understanding of God that is driving many people away from the church, and even some into atheism.  

   In the past half century our understanding of God has evolved to the point where it is absolutely necessary to present the new understanding or continue to become less and less an influence in today's society.  I especially hope this new understanding will be attractive to the young readers of this blog.

   The new understanding of God is presented in terms of the evolution of the universe and the earth.  St. Thomas Aquinas said that we we don't understand creation well, we won't understand God well. The time has come for the church to understand creation well.  

   Today we don't find God by looking backward; we find God by looking forward.  God is within us and today's world calling us from the future into the future.  Our way to God, our spiritual life, is an ever evolving journey into the future possibilities that Christ opened to us by the quantum leap of his life Pentecostal gift of new, life-giving, life-evolving grace.  

   I will appreciate any comments and suggestions you may have to help make my new page more clear, accurate and relevant to your spiritual life.

Anthony   
 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

THANK YOU, MR. TRUMP

   First, let's get something out of the way.  This is not a political Blog.  And this is not a political Post.  It is not about Clinton vs. Trump.  It is a contemporary Christian Post about you and me, and all the American People of God, Catholic and otherwise.  It is about us and God, who in the form of Jesus became human and thus became deeply involved in all things human for the sake of the Kingdom of God on Earth and into Eternity.  That's different from politics.

   That said, this post is about Donald Trump's human, spiritual challenge to America.  Mr. Trump's view of America is neither Republican nor Conservative.  Nor American.  It is exclusively his own, private view.  And it is based in his own, private hate.  That's where this Post comes in.  Hate is not the opposite of love.  Hate is the absence of love that should be present in everyone and everywhere.  It is a black hole that annihilates everything that it pulls into itself.  Hate is the closest thing to Hell here on earth.

   Mr. Trump's program of hate directly attacks our humanity.  It attacks our human and American soul.  It attacks the Kingdom of God on Earth, Christ's reign of wholeness in love that has begun here in space/time and will be completely fulfilled in Eternity.  

   So why should I thank Mr. Trump for his hate?  Because he is giving us Christians and all Americans of good will the clear challenge and opportunity to revitalize and remake our country, so we conform more closely to our highest ideals--which we have allowed to weaken over the past decades--ideals of life, liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans and for all peoples of the world.      

   This week, the pressure to revitalize and remake our country was brought to a critical point by Mr. Trump's attack against a Muslim-American couple and their heroic, fallen son.  His unspeakable act of darkness was not just a slip of his tongue or a political mistake but a crystal clear exposition of his dark soul.  He can't see anyone or anything beyond himself.  It is deeply frightening that from a psychological and spiritual point of view, Mr. Trump is a dark person, humanly and spiritually devoid of empathy or compassion.  This Post is not about Trump vs. Clinton, who has her own faults.  Far beyond any political consideration, it is about the fact that Mr. Trump personally cannot possibly be given the responsibility of being President of the United States.

   I therefore thank Mr. Trump for so clearly and urgently presenting us with this vital challenge.  In a very real way, we are back to 1776.  The King we must now rebel against is the darkness, dissipation and hate that Mr. Trump so clearly plans to inflict upon our country.  Our rebellion must take us beyond our political views, deep into ourselves, to a place that our shallow over-individualized, over-politicized culture does not permit us to recognize.  In the words of poet, T. S. Eliot, we must find the still point of the turning world, the place of peace, light, generosity and love that lives within ourselves and today's society, where we meet the Spirit of all-embracing peace and love in the form of Christ's grace.  And we must hear Christ's quiet, urgent call to become over more discerning People of God and ever more effective prophets who work to elevate and, where necessary, humbly correct our politics and our society in the love of Christ.

   Our politicians won't help much.  Most if not all of them are stuck in their windowless silos.  Most can't see past their own point of view and thirst for power. Most can't see the human picture, the spiritual picture, the picture of wholeness in love.

   The Media is awash with shallow and mediocre reporters and commentators who can't or won't tell the truth for fear of losing access to the "big players" and thus losing ratings.

   With few exceptions, e.g., Chicago, our clergy and bishops won't help much.  They simply don't know how to lead us to the Spirit within ourselves and today's society. Our seminaries teach future priests and bishops morals, especially sexual morals, doctrines and law and authority, without forming them as spiritual leaders who can help us move further along our spiritual pathway, on our own everyday terms, in today's society.  Pope Francis knows this problem and is trying, against strong episcopal and Curial opposition, to solve it.  

   Happily, we do have our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution to help us clearly work toward creating a more perfect union and toward moving more closely to our spiritual goal of wholeness in love.

   We also have theologians and spiritual writers and teachers.  Back in the last century, theologian Karl Rahner said that tomorrow's (now, today's) Catholics will either be mystics or they won't exist at all.  This blog shows how we are already everyday mystics.  Of very great help are the many outstanding books by Franciscan Richard Rohr and his wonderful lectures now on You Tube.  For example, Rohr shows us that we have the wrong idea of God, one that does not fit today's society but is fit for helping drive people from the Church and even for creating atheists.  (I'll write about this in my next Post.)  For those with a theological bent, the books by Sister Ilia Delio are outstanding.  She brings Teilhard de Chardin's evolutionary God into today's evolutionary world.  

   We also have Sister Joan Chittister's exemplary writings, and the shining example of Sister Simone Campbell and the Nuns on the Bus, who bring peace and social justice to the streets of today's society.    

   However we do it, in small ways or large, we must face the urgent challenge that Donald Trump is presenting to us.  Republicans must push their Party to somehow neutralize or remove the evil that Mr. Trump is offering.  All of us, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Liberals, Conservatives, cannot allow our beloved country to fall deeper into the darkness that is open before us.  We can and must all come together to create a better, more unified, more just, peaceful and hope-filled America.

   God bless us, everyone!      








 








    

Sunday, July 17, 2016

SEARCHING FOR THE CENTER

   It's happened again.  This time, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  More deaths.  More thoughts and prayers.  A Presidential candidate declaring that he will be the "Law and Order" President. Etc., etc.  And soon, no doubt, it will happen again.

   After Dallas, President Obama pointed out how the people who were protesting against the police turned and began to protect the police when the shooting started.  He then passionately added, "That's who we are!"   

   Yes, President Obama correctly identified the Center of our society: showing love for one another for the common good.   He correctly identified the Kingdom of God on Earth, that Jesus told us to pray for.

    No, that's who all Americans of good will want to be.  That's who we should be.  In truth, our Center just shows itself in times of crisis, and then fades away.  It is not a consistent mark of our society.  In truth, we are a broken country.  A sentence in an Internet report on the Dallas shooting gives us an insane, comic-tragedy example of our brokenness. "While many of the protestors were helping the police, about 20 men openly carrying rifles ran away from the scene."  Every person openly carrying a weapon is a sign not of how unified we are but how stupidly separated we are. 

   An insightful, ominous view of our brokenness is given to us by poet W. B. Yeats, in his poem, "The Second Coming," which he wrote in 1919, following the Irish Easter Uprising and the First World War.  It was the First World War that moved Existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre to lament, "Reason was murdered in the trenches of France."  Prophetically, Yeats says the same thing about our world today.

   He begins the poem with an example of our loss of control:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

   The bird has flown away from the control of its owner.  Interpreters of the poem say that Yeats is saying that reason and intelligence have flown out of our control.  And as a result:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
There ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

   What a harsh, insightful view of our society today!  When reason and intelligence are lost, we lose the pure clarity of our human, national and community oneness.  We lose clear thoughts and ideas, and strength of conviction, and we scream and yell with blind, self-serving, even killing passion.  

   Does Yeats offer us any hope?

Surely some revelation is at hand;

   Yeats was a member of the Anglican church and is writing from within a Christian mindset. Is there a new revelation to help us?

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

   Is this New Revelation the second coming of Christ?  No.  Christians believe that the second coming of Christ will mark the end of the world.  Yeats sees a new world, a new civilization/culture being born here on earth.  And it is ominous.

The Second Coming!  Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight:  somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with the lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

   The Spiritus Mundi is the human spirit, as contrasted to the divine Spirit of Christ.  Yeats sees a new humanism being born and replacing the Christian spirit which has been dominant for the last 2000 years.  He uses the Sphinx to exemplify the new spirit:  a creature with a human head and animal body, the body of a lion. The indignant desert birds recall the falcon that has escaped from the control of the falconer.  Again, in this new era, reason and intelligence are out of control.  And so

The darkness falls again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at land,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

   The new beast of spirit-less humanism causes darkness to fall again upon the world.  The two thousand years since the birth of Christ were also dark, but at least they were vexed by Christ's cradle.  Yeats is saying that Christianity brought some light to the world, and that light had "vexed" the sleeping world.  But now, what is this new beast that slouches toward Bethlehem to be born in Christ's place?

   Here, he likens the separation of reason and intelligence from unrestricted passion with the separation of God from modern culture.  In both cases, he sees the decline of reason, intelligence and Christianity and the rise of an anti-reason, anti-intellectual, anti-Christian world spirit.

   President Obama is desperately  looking for the American center that can hold us together.  He found it in the scene of people and police working together to protect one another in Dallas.  But in his yearning for unity, he lamented that such mutual caring occurs only in times of crisis.  A reasonable, intelligent, Spirit-driven unity, the Kingdom of God on Earth, only "vexes" our everyday darkness. 

   Sadly, tragically, for the foreseeable future, things will keep falling apart and the center will not be found.  The open-carrying men will continue to run away from real danger and need into their world of personal supremacy; the politicians will continue to fill the airways with self-serving, lying rants; the corporate executives and polluters will continue to create economic inequality and pollution of the environment; bishops like Charles Chaput of Philadelphia will continue to misunderstand Pope Francis' Christianity of mercy and love and continue to reduce morality to sexual conduct.  All will continue to represent the beast of distorted humanity and spirituality that is slouching toward Bethlehem to be born in place of a community of justice, peace and love that is represented by Christ and by all people of good will.

   Dear Lord, help us to "vex" today's darkness with your Spirit of Light and Love.