Tuesday, December 23, 2014


 The Essence of God is birthing.  (Meister Eckhart)

   In a very real sense, Christmas has been with us for 13.8 billion years.

   The Christ part of Christmas dawned when God birthed forth the tiny energy dot that flared into the entire visible universe.  At that sacred moment, God entered into the newborn universe, making it the loving union between Divinity and all creation--the union that is called Christ, or the Christ Reality.    

   Every star, planet and galaxy is a visible expression of God's loving, self-giving union with creation--of the universal Christ Reality.  "The heavens declare the glory of God!" (Psalm 19:1)  God, our lovingly creative, birthing Parent, is the Foundation of all that exists. 

   Here on earth, God is the Foundation of our life and our faith.  We humans, along with every bit of soil, the air we breathe, all water, plants, fish and animals--all are wondrous expressions of God's loving union with creation, and of the now global Christ Reality. All the earth is worthy of our greatest care and respect.  

   From the dawn of human life, people have been conscious of the Divine among them and within them.  Their consciousness dawned slowly and evolved little by little, helped immensely by God's revelation of him/herself and of the Way we humans should live, love and believe.  When we had evolved enough to satisfy God, when time as we count it here on earth had reached the right moment, God's overflowing love birthed forth Jesus.

   When Jesus was born, the universal Christ Reality was already 13.8 billion years old.  He took into himself the fullness of the universal Christ Reality, from its beginning 13.8 billion years ago, to the present time, and forward to the end of the universe in unfathomable time.

   So Christmas marks two birthdays:  the birthday of the universe and universal Christ Reality, and the birthday of Jesus.  In Jesus, the Christ, both birthdays are lovingly united into one, creative, healing, and world-transforming union.

   Just as God, our Parent, is the Foundation of our life and faith, Jesus, our brother, is the center of our life and faith.  With and in Jesus we stand in the center and look backward through all time, and forward from the present moment into the future.  And with the clarity of God's love and our faith, we see the Way/way, the Truth/truth and the Life/life for ourselves and the world.

   Christmas is a new breakthrough of Divinity into the world, a new union of Divinity and creation in the person of Jesus, a union that calls and empowers us anew to live and strive toward global union and wholeness in love.  The Way will lead us to the Cross and to our Easter resurrection, and to a quantum leap of Spirit at Pentecost.  
   At Earth's Christmas, the whole universe rejoices, and all Earth sings its joyful gratitude and praise to God for the wondrous gift of our human-Divine brother, God, Emmanuel, now with us in our own form, living in our terms and situations, showing us with glorious light the way to be human, to fulfill our call and empowerment to move the world forward, step by step toward the wholeness in love that is the prelude to the full wholeness and love we will live with Jesus in eternity.

A blessed and joyful Christmas to all


Monday, December 8, 2014


   "I can't breathe!"  These were Eric Garner's last words as he suffered the violent loss of his living spirit.

   The Bible describes God, when present among and within us, as God's Spirit.  At first, creation was so chaotic and violent that the newborn energy particles refused to join together to begin the process of producing atoms, molecules, elements, planets, flowers, animals and people.  But then, God breathed his Spirit (a "mighty wind") into creation (Gen. 1:2) and the universe began its evolutionary journey toward peace and wholeness in life and love.  We literally live and evolve because of God's breath.

   But breathing, life-giving evolution has its enemies.  Mr. Garner's death was not merely one isolated case in the daily life of our country.  His death occurred within a context, a structure of anti-evolutionary, lethal divisions in our society, e.g.,. between blacks and whites, rich and poor, the well and the sick, corporate executives and working people, our political parties, environmentalists and climate-change deniers, and in our social media.

   Some inequalities are normal in every society, but today's inequalities go beyond normal limits.  As a personal example, all the black families we know tell us they are living in real fear, especially for their young sons.  When we speak with them, they cry and embrace us. The adults even fear for themselves.  Two of our neighbors, seniors, went on a camping trip last week.  Arriving late, they stayed outside the campground for the night.  At 6:30 the next morning, the husband got up and went out to walk to the camp store to get the necessary entrance permit.  But before he got far from his camper, he stopped, went back and woke up his wife.  She asked him why he woke her up. He replied that he was afraid to walk alone to the camp store so early in the morning.  He said if she was with him, it would show that they were just campers.

   Let's face the truth squarely and openly.  We have come to the point in today's America where there are people whose lives mean nothing.  The present, separating and isolating structures of our society and culture are rotting away from within.  Ordinary citizens are literally in fear for their lives.  In many corporate boardrooms, executives and accountants are planning how to maximize profits to the detriment of the workers and the environment. Political leaders are depriving the poor of Medicare, and lying about climate change in order to protect favored industries. TV and radio personalities are prostituting themselves for the sake of a good paycheck--and would change their point of view immediately if they could get higher ratings and even greater paychecks.  And what can we say about those who actually believe the rot they preach?  In too many churches, clergy are stressing their authority and power instead of acting as Jesus did.  In all these devastating expressions of lethal, uncaring and even hateful individualism and separation, we are spiritually choking ourselves to death.

   W. B. Yeats, in his famous poem, "The Second Coming," lamented:
                      Things fall apart, the center cannot hold...
                      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
                      Are full of passionate intensity.

   Later, Yeats adds:  
                      Surely some new revelation is at hand.              

   Providentially, today's science is offering us a way to help cure the rotting.  Many scientists are discovering the deep, essential oneness of all reality--an insight of unity that escapes our society at large.  These scientists are telling us that there is one, living conscious universe that is made completely of energy.  What appears to be separate material things and people is the one universal energy making itself visible in these outward forms.  But our separateness is almost an illusion.  Yes, you and I are separate, unique persons, but down deep, we are really two expressions of the one energy that is the universe.  Our apparent separateness is not as real as our deep oneness.  At heart, we are all literally one.

   The insights of today's scientists closely match the message of Jesus that we are one, that we are to live in love, and that we be our brother's and sister's keepers in charity, i.e., even to the sacrifice of something of ourselves for our brothers and sisters.

   During Advent we pray for Emmanuel to come and save us.  Such a prayer is spiritually meaningful only if we remember that Emmanuel has already come.  The Spirit has been breathing within us for 13.8 billion years.  Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost have been with us for 2000 years.  We are already called and empowered to build up, in every way we can according to our talents and possibilities, a society of wholeness in justice, peace, caring and love.  Only when we do this, only when we respond to the breathing of the Spirit, will we be able to breathe again.

   People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option..  

Friday, November 14, 2014


   We have passed the 50,000 mark with readers coming from 75 countries!

   I want to thank everyone for walking with me along the path to spiritual maturity and effectiveness in today's world.  May we always follow the Spirit in all that we discern and do.

   Again, thank you,

Anthony Massimini  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


   The recently ended first session of the Synod in Rome exposed lines of contention that have been stirring--though mostly suppressed--since Vatican II.  The Council faced a massive task:  to bring a Medieval church, with a Renaissance authority structure inherited from the Roman Empire, into the 20th century--and beyond.  The unresolved contention following the Council has now made a spiritual civil war inevitable.

   Pope John XXIII was a visionary who saw the Spirit present and active in the world of his day.  And he trusted the Spirit-filled world to awaken to a "New Pentecost," a new call to spiritual openness, evolution and maturity.  A great majority of the Council Fathers came to see the same vision, and so the Council gave us a new view of the church as the world-wide People of God, to all of whose members God was speaking, empowering them to respond to the Spirit with a discerning and prophetic heart and mind.  In short, John envisioned a church that would humbly serve the world to help make it more luminously human in the loving Spirit of Christ.

   Pope Paul VI, who continued the Council after John XXIII died, was a cautious and fearful man.  (His associates called him, "Hamlet.")  He distrusted the world, and he feared permitting the laity to contribute their everyday faith experiences--their sense of the faith--to the church and the world.  A vigorous minority of Council Fathers, dedicated to a strictly held moral view of the church and the world, agreed with him.  So Paul, ever cautious and fearful, insisted that the minority view be included in the final documents of the Council along with the new vision, hoping against hope that in time, the minority view would pass into history.  It didn't.  

   After four sessions of Vatican II, the expenses had become a problem, the bishops were worn out, and many did not want to leave their dioceses again for another session.  So a fifth session was not called.  This session could have set up a new structure for the church, making it a spiritually living organism instead of the authoritarian organization that it was.
Another session could have inaugurated a newly inspired, world-wide People of God, all of whom were recognized as having equal baptismal dignity, with a right to receive a new, contemporary spiritual formation that was applicable to the world they lived in.  And all could have had a respected voice in the church.

   But the language of the Council was almost totally pastoral and spiritual. Many bishops, being canon lawyers--and not well versed in contemporary Spiritual Theology--did not fully understand the Council's language.  Though many were filled with good will, they were not sure how to create the new kind of church that the Council called for.  Another session could have added the legalistic-juridical language for the new church structure that the lawyer-bishops could understand and implement.

   In the 1960's when the liturgy was changed into the vernacular, the people were not provided with the spiritual formation that was needed for them to incorporate the liturgy into their everyday service to the world they lived in.  The Sunday church did not match the weekday church.  And in 1968, Paul VI's disastrous handling of the contraception question added to the people's moral confusion and spiritual contention.  Catholics began walking away from the church in great numbers.

   Pope John Paul II used his powerful spiritual strength to preach the ideas of Vatican II to the secular world, but kept the church tightly under his personal control.  Efforts by the American bishops to write documents on peace and the American economy were criticized by John Paul's Vatican, who did not want an "American church," but a strictly Roman church.      

   Benedict XVI, for all his towering intellect and theological excellence, was as cautious and fearful of the world as Paul VI.  He even sponsored an attack on American nuns who were tending the sick, feeding the poor, and working for social justice, but not preaching his strict dogmatic teachings.

   Enter Pope Francis.  As soon as he began talking and acting as pastorally and spiritually as he does, a la Vatican II, it became inevitable that the contention that has been roiling in the church for the past half century would boil over.  And it has.  And I worry that it is not being handled well:

   1.  The struggle is being politicized between "liberals" or "progressives," and "conservatives."  One example:  Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, whom the press called a spokesperson for the conservatives, recently said that the Synod's language caused confusion, and confusion is the work of the Devil.  Pure politics.  No spiritual leadership. The political use of the terms, "liberal, progressive" and "conservative" should be abolished from Catholic conversation.  They are not worthy of the task at hand or of our spirituality.

   2.  Culture is also being used as an argument for one side or the other.  Yes, culture is important.  But we base our understanding of our faith and morals, not on culture but on the living Spirit.  It is in the Spirit's light and love that we understand our living faith and morals in today's terms for today's world.  To base our understanding on culture is to fall into fundamentalism.  Yes, Jesus was human and lived fully within his culture, but he was also divine and lived and taught beyond his culture, for all cultures and all times.

         So while we respect the various cultures of the world, we first need a new, contemporary discernment of the one global Spirit.  After we discern the Spirit we can then see how our insights and understanding can be expressed within our various cultures.  We are one, global church, expressing the one Spirit of Christ in many different ways.

   The Synod's documents will now be placed in the hands of the world's bishops, clergy and laity.  All are spiritually empowered and expected to contribute their living sense of our faith and morals, and everyone's discernment must be respected and considered.  If this does not happen, the spiritual civil war will continue, and the church and the world will suffer because of our inability or unwillingness to be the church that Christ intends us to be. 


Friday, August 29, 2014


   Look in a mirror.  You are looking at a person in whom God is present, right here, right now.  God is within you.  God is  within the entire universe--within our family members and neighbors, within our government, corporate, business, professional, educational, scientific and artistic leaders.  God is within mountains, air, trees, plants and flowers, animals, and even within the computer you are now using. 

    God is within Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism,and all other religions.  God is within President Obama, our Congress and Supreme Court, within the rich and the poor, the sick and outcast, within Pope Francis, Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas, and Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainians, within all the displaced refugees and immigrants all over the world.  Yes, God is also within ISIS and all terrorists.

   No person, no society, no institution is outside of God, and none ever becomes so opaque that it loses the ability to commune with the indwelling God and even express God's peace and love in themselves and their everyday activities.  No individual, no group, cannot be an expression of the global Christ.  Such a view is the glory and foolishness of our faith.  As St. Paul says, "Now the natural person [the spiritually immature or degraded person] does not accept what pertains to the Spirit, for to him it is foolishness."  (1 Cor.2:14).

   For us who have eyes to see, as we look in the mirror we can go deep within ourselves and take a "God's Eye" view of ourselves and the world.  We can look around and see the Kingdom of God, for whose coming Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come...on earth as it is in heaven."  God's Kingdom or reign, is our everyday world seen as a world of divinely luminous, ever-evolving creativity, justice, peace, joy, gratitude and love.  This world exists within our world--within ourselves and every community, within every government, corporation and business, school, religion, science, art and nation.

   We can also see that while the kingdom/reign of God is present throughout the world, it does not fully permeate the world.  In fact, it will never be fully realized here on our space/time earth.  Our space/time shadow side will always be with us until Christ returns and turns our space/time earth into eternal heaven.  Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to a wheat field, planted by Christ himself, in which the enemy has sown weeds.  And the weeds will grow along with the wheat until the harvest, i.e., until Christ returns.  (Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43).  Sadly, horribly, some of the "weeds" will fall so far into darkness and violence--something we, with "God's eyes" should try to foresee and prevent--that they can be stopped only with violence. 

    Despite the resistance that is present to God's Kingdom, we live and act in the Spirit of Hope.  With our "God's Eye" view of the world we can discern and are called and empowered to do whatever we can--alone or in community--with whatever influence we have, to move our space/time world forward in ever evolving self-transcendence toward the fulfillment of the Eternal Kingdom that is to come.  Along the way, with God's eternal love and with Christ's space/time, sacrificial/Pentecost love, we never give up--not even on those farthest from the Kingdom of God here on earth.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014


   In my last post I showed the difference between our faith experience of God and how we express our experience of God.  The ancient Hebrews experienced the same eternal-infinite God that we do today, and they expressed their experience in the ideas and language of their own time and culture.  If we wrote the Genesis story today, we would write it in the terms of today's language and culture, using today's experience of God.  The page, "An Evolution Story" gives you an idea of what I mean.

   A big problem with expressing the God of our faith in today's terms is that we still use images and language that are left over from other times and cultures.  A very important--and misleading--example is to imagine God as a Being somewhere "up there" or "out there" who intervenes in our world from time to time. This image gives us a God who is absent and who has to be asked to "come down" and be with us. For example, at Mass, the priest says, "The Lord be with you."  And we respond, "And with your spirit:, i.e., "with you."  If we think about it, we just asked an absent God to come and be with us.  But we don't ever have to ask God to be with us; we always have to thank God for already being with us--and within us and the entire universe!  Wouldn't it be better then, if the priest said, "The Lord is with us," and we joyfully responded, "Amen!"

   (Note that our experience of God begins with our experience of the universe, the earth and ourselves.  Then we experience God as living and acting within all that exists, especially within ourselves.)

   I suggest that one good way to experience God today is to first of all to put away all our images of God.  For the moment, let's not imagine God as "Father," "Lord," "Good Shepherd," "King," or any other of the wonderful things we call God.  Now, with a clear mind and imagination, let's look around at the world, at the earth and at the universe:  the sun and clouds or the star studded night sky, at rocks, mountains and oceans, plants and animals, and people. Imagine all of it--and us--as vibrantly full of deep, eternal life and energy.    

   Now imagine the universe as a sponge that is completely immersed in water.  Or imagine the universe and see a warm, intense, Living Light shining within it,  "saturating" every rock, mountain and ocean, every plant and flower, every animal, every person--with the glow of its creativity, healing and world-transforming love.  Or imagine within the universe a Sacred Flame, stirring the passion of wholeness and love within and throughout all the galaxies and especially within and throughout the earth.  

   Especially the energy living within all the peoples of earth, coming from the Inner Light and Life of Love, calling and energizing the world forward into the future, especially calling all the peoples of earth forward toward ever fuller life and love, sometimes despite horrific, man-made obstacles.  

   Breathe in the vibrancy of all this life, possibility and love, and find confidence and hope in the Spirit to work to move life on earth forward, despite the pessimism that too many people insist on generating through their hatred, greed and wars.      

   With such a positive, deep alive, all-encompassing experience of God to guide us, we can now take a clearer and more meaningful look at today's life and culture:  our politics, business, science, education, etc.       

Friday, June 27, 2014


   Attaining a clearer and more effective view of the God of our faith today is difficult.  So let's go a step at a time and review the basics.

   To begin with, there is a big difference between our faith and our religion.  Our faith is not letting us down, our religion is.

    Faith comes first.  We can describe our faith as our soul-deep, life-giving persuasion that God is the Infinite, Eternal, creative, healing and world transforming Living, Conscious Energy of Love who is powerfully present within all that exists, calling forth all that exists to its ever-evolving fulfillment in wholeness and love.  We further believe that God exists fully in the person of Jesus Christ, who represents the ever-evolving, human expression of God's loving, universal presence, made effective for us in and through the indwelling presence of the Spirit.

   Our religion is embodied in the church community that helps us understand and express the details of our faith, and that guides us in how to believe and live in the ever-evolving love of God.  Remember Vatican II's aggiornamento?  But since then, our religion has fallen ever shorter of explaining our faith in a way that fits today's world and times.  So we are stuck with many outdated and harmful expressions of our faith today.  There's much work to do.

   Let's begin with an example to help explain one reason we are behind the times.  When I was a schoolboy, my teacher taught me that one apple plus one apple equals two apples.  Then she taught that one orange plus one orange equals two oranges.  Then the same with pears.  Then she gave us a test and asked, "How much is one banana plus one banana?"  I couldn't answer the question.  Later I complained to my teacher, "You taught us about apples, oranges and pears but you didn't teach us about bananas."

   My teacher explained to me, "I wasn't teaching you just about apples, oranges and pears.  I was teaching that if you look inside those three examples, you will see a deeper truth than the fruits themselves.  You will see that if you add one thing and one of the same thing, you get two of the same things.  In fact, if you look a little deeper, you will see that if you add one of something and one of something different, you get two of them, no matter what they are.  You could add one apple and one desk and get two things."

   I thought about it for a while and then a light went on in my mind.  I saw the deeper truth beyond the literal items.  "Wow!  You could add any things at all and get the sum of them!"  At that point I saw the hidden truth within the material things of this world and ceased being a literal fundamentalist.

   Unhappily, some of our fellow Christians read parts of the Bible with the eyes of literal fundamentalism and thereby miss the amazing, beautiful truth within the story--within the "apples, oranges, pears and bananas" of our everyday world.  Because they don't see deeply enough, their religion can be reduced to politics, or profit, or power, or war.  (Another definition of "religion" is that it is someone's highest worldly value or values.)

   A very troublesome example of literal fundamentalism today is the way some of our fellow Christians read the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis.  Their concentration on the "apples, pears and oranges," of the story can unfortunately lead them to a distorted view of nature and science, and can reduce their religion to the values of politics, wealth inequality, and even disdain for the poor, sick and outcast.    

  So let's review, in simple terms, the story that reveals the true God of our faith.  Imagine, 3000 years ago in the Middle East, groups of wandering nomads living in the desert.  Imagine them gathering close together at night around a fire, telling stories.  Imagine them looking up at the wonder of the night sky with its billions of stars clearly visible in the desert darkness.  And imagine that they began to believe that there was a Power greater than themselves, in fact so much greater that it created the sky and all the stars, the earth and all the inhabitants of the earth--a power so great that It made them tremble with awe and wonder.  In their primitive awareness of that Power, they gave birth to the Hebrew faith.  Later, they realized that they did not create their faith themselves but were inspired to do so by the living Power, who on its (his) own initiative gave them their basic insight into his existence.  In time, we came to call this act of God's initiative, "Revelation."  God did not speak words, he gave insight.

   At first, the Hebrews called this Power, "El Shaddai," naming it after the strong wind that blew in at times from the north.  Being story tellers, they went on to create a creation story.  They knew, of course, about the desert, the earth and the sky, the stars, moon and sun, the plants and animals.  So they created a wonder-filled story of creation, and they told that story over and over again at night around the desert fire. And so the story became a basic part of the Hebrew religion, which was the way they explained their faith.

    In time, the story was written down,  Then, centuries later, the Hebrew priests, in their own act of aggiornamento, decided to "update" some parts of their religion.  They took the original creation story and organized it into a new form--a form that we could today call a catechism.  Now, the creation story is about the action of God, and everything that God does is perfect.  In their culture, the number 7 symbolized perfection.  God's work of creation was of course perfect, so the priests overlaid a seven-point structure upon the original story:  six days of creation and one of rest.  (The priests were also aware of the seven-day week.)

   The story's seven "days of creation" are the "apples, oranges, pears and bananas" that the priests used to help make their point of God's perfection.  The Hebrews saw the truth of God's perfection within the man-made structure and they read the old creation story with even new awe and wonder.  

   Their faith told them that all the limited, space/time, human expressions of God that they could invent--as beautiful and wondrous as they were--didn't come close to expressing God in God's full self.  In fact, in order to show that their faith was infinitely beyond their total understanding, they chose never to mention God's Holy Name.  In their culture, to name someone or something meant to have control (in this case, intellectual control of understanding) over that person or thing.  The Hebrews knew the difference between their transcendent faith, given to them directly by God, and their all too human religion.

   More to come in following posts.



Tuesday, June 10, 2014


   God is being shut out and denied when our government denies our people health care, food stamps, and voting rights, and when it refuses to seriously face today's crushing income inequality.

   God is being shut out and denied when corporations outsource their jobs and then refuse to care for or retrain the American employees whom they fired.

   God is being shut out and denied when our culture is based on economics and not on people and the environment.

   God is being shut out and denied when our citizens fail to vote in every election.

   God is being shut out and denied when some American citizens deny the legitimate rights of the Federal government, and when some Americans openly carry assault rifles into coffee shops, restaurants and malls to "protect themselves" against the government, instead of working for a peaceful, respectful society.

    God is being shut out and denied when radio and TV personalities and commentators create the atmosphere for anger, hatred and violence in our society, and particularly when they deny any connection between what they say and the acts of violence committed by people they help influence.

   God is being shut out and denied in the ever more frequent school and work-place shootings that are now plaguing our society.

   God is being shut out and denied when so many Christians misread the Bible, deny the legitimate findings of science, and stagnate their faith by refusing to take advantage of the progress in spiritual thinking and understanding that has taken place in the past 200 years.

   In sum, shutting out and denying God is physically, economically, politically and environmentally dangerous.  This danger represents a serious spiritual anemia in today's society--an anemia that leaves many of us living at a subhuman level.  We can physically live without believing, thinking or caring.  But if we do we are not living at a human level.

   The dangers and spiritual anemia listed above arise particularly from the absence of any true and effective images or representations of God, and therefore of ourselves as human images of God.  If we refer to God at all, we all too often refer to mistaken, harmful, or oversimplified representations of God.

   Mistaken, harmful or oversimplified representations of God include:

   1.  A God who is "up there" in heaven.  This is not the God of our faith.

   2.  A God who is masculine, or feminine.  This is not the God of our faith.

   3.  A God who favors one gender or race over another, or one political party over another.  This is not the God of our faith.

   4.  A God who heals one person but not another, who saves some people from earthquakes or floods but not others.  This is not the God of our faith.

   5.  A God who sends earthquakes and hurricanes to punish us for our sins, or to punish homosexuals or atheists.  This is not the God of our faith.

   6.  A God who tells us to disregard this world and our secular responsibilities, and pay attention only to saving our souls in the next world.  This is not the God of our faith.

   7.  A God who pays more attentions to dogmas than to our serving one another in peace, love and charity, to the point of sacrificing something of ourselves for others.  This is not the God of our faith.

   8.  A God who establishes a church in which the leaders have absolute power over the people.  This is not the God of our faith.

   9.  A God who personally dictated the Bible, word for word.  This is not the God of our faith.

  10.  A God whose Revelation is already fully understood and expressed by the church, and which therefore cannot be understood and expressed in today's terms--and onward to the terms of the future.  This is not the God of our faith.

   Clearly, we need to have correct and adult views and representations of the God of our faith, so that we do no harm, or permit others to do harm, to ourselves, our families, our neighbors and communities, our fellow citizens, and peoples throughout the world, or to the environment.  I will discuss such views and representations in the next and following posts. 


Monday, May 5, 2014


   Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is after the American Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) again.  He said they are not abiding by the reform agenda imposed on them concerning speakers and the printed materials they distribute at their conferences.  And he questioned their ability to sentire cum Ecclesia, to "feel with the church."  As a result, they have to submit their list of speakers to the Vatican for pre-approval.

   Muller is unhappy that the LCWR will bestow its 2014 Outstanding Leadership Award to Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, who was criticized by the American bishops (who refused to meet with her) because of the "gravity of her doctrinal errors."  He is referring to Johnson's outstanding book, Quest for the Living God.  In truth, the American bishops embarrassed themselves by stating through their appointed theologian (how many bishops even read the book?) that it is wrong, or seriously lacking, to say that people's everyday experience of God can tell us about the true God.  Only the church's abstract doctrines about God can do that--and Johnson didn't include them in her book.  Never mind that she was not writing a theology text, or that many of these abstract doctrines are based on a medieval philosophy that is no longer usable in today's society.

   Muller appears to be living in a world of abstract, timeless doctrine.  In his world, time stands still and everyday experience means nothing.  Medical doctors also depend on the timeless doctrine of healing people, but imagine if they were still using a medieval understanding of their profession and treating today's people with medieval remedies.

   Reaching back to 2012, Muller complained that the LCWR listened to Barbara Ward Hubbard, who is a "futurist" and speaks of conscious evolution.  He compared conscious evolution to paganism and Gnosticism, the doctrine that says that some people have secret knowledge of the truth.  Now Hubbard is not a Catholic and she doesn't present a Catholic view of conscious evolution.  But her ideas are translatable into a 21st century, Catholic view of God that can be very attractive and persuasive, especially to the young.  Many of today's scientists present the same idea of conscious evolution in their way, as do an increasing number of Catholic theologians in their way.  

   Today we can say that we humans are evolution having become conscious of itself.  This contemporary scientific insight is inspiring Catholic spirituality to develop a God-filled, evolutionary idea of creation and of our own conscious place and destiny in the evolving universe and world.  And this in turn leads us to an understanding of an "evolutionary God," who is calling to us from the future.  I offer the page in this blog, "An Evolution Story" as an example of this contemporary understanding of ourselves and God.  Maybe Muller should take another look at how we should "feel with the church" today.

   In sum, I suspect that Muller simply does not trust the nuns to know what they are doing.  I admit that I'm angry.  It's far past time for such nonsense.  I could almost hear him saying, "These pesky women!  They are not capable of knowing Catholic doctrine,.  Or even of knowing Jesus correctly."

   I admire their ability to address Muller and the whole situation with patience and humility.


Saturday, April 19, 2014


   Easter is the reason we are Christians.  

   Our faith depends upon our belief that Jesus did not die into nothingness but into eternal life, into which he calls everyone of us.  From eternity, which saturates the entire universe and is closer to us than we are to ourselves, Jesus now calls and empowers us with his grace to live lives of justice, peace, hope, joy and love.  Here and now, in today's world, Jesus calls and empowers us to bring forth the reign of God on earth.  There is no greater call, no greater hope, no greater love that we can offer the world.  

   To the risen Jesus, the eternal Christ, be all gratitude, praise, honor and love, now and forever. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014


   Eileen Spinelli is a writer of poems and children's books, and a very dear friend.  

   Here is a spiritually wonderful poem by Eileen:

               IN SPRING

                                                                          Oh God
                                                                          artist of all
                                                                          that is green
                                                                          and wild 
                                                                          and beautiful---
                                                                          You paint
                                                                          sunlight into corners
                                                                          dark with loss.
                                                                          You shape
                                                                          the ancient cross
                                                                          into willow
                                                                          that shelters
                                                                          things with
                                                                          broken hearts
                                                                          and tired wings.
                                                                          You give us
                                                                          morning songs to sing,
                                                                          risen songs
                                                                          in spring...
                                                                          in spring...

Friday, March 28, 2014


   The American Interfaith Institute in Philadelphia, PA is dedicated to building bridges of understanding between the Christian and Jewish faiths by eradicating the misconceptions which hinder their relationship.  

    At this time of year, the Institute sponsors sermons which help clarify the liturgical texts for Holy Week, that people have used for centuries as an excuse to practice antisemitism. They asked me to write such a sermon, and I offer it to you for our Lenten, and especially Holy Week, meditation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

   Many years ago, as a young priest newly returned from Rome, where I had attended the first session of the Second Vatican Council, I was invited to speak at the Main Line Temple in the Philadelphia suburb of Wynnewood.  At that time, Pope John XXIII had surprised the world by calling for the church to "open windows" and let the Spirit of universal brotherhood find new possibilities to blossom.

   When I arrived at the Temple, I drove into the parking lot and saw that it was full, save for one barricaded space.  Immediately, two men ran out, removed the barricade and waved me in.  When I got out of my car, I naively remarked, "There must be something big going on tonight.  I guess very few people will be here for my talk."  They laughed, "Father, you're the first priest to ever speak to us.  These people are all here for you."

   I walked into the vestibule and saw a tall, fatherly man coming toward me, whom I correctly guessed was the rabbi.  As he approached me, he called out, "So there you are.  Where have you been?  You're late."  Panicked, I looked at my watch.  "Rabbi, you told me to get here at 8 o'clock.  It's 7:45.  I'm fifteen minutes early."  Smiling broadly, the rabbi responded, "You're 2000 years late.  Where have you been?"  At that, Rabbi Theodore Gordon and I embraced.

   That evening, I said to the congregation that it was my joy to be present, and in the spirit of Vatican II, to discuss how much we shared in common.  "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are my fathers, too.  And Moses.  Your psalms are my songs.  The Revelation given to you shines its bright ray of truth into my faith.  I thank you for giving us your brother and our brother, Jesus." 

   I noted that Vatican II said that the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Scriptures.  The Council described the Jews as "most dear to God."  It called for mutual understanding and respect and decried any and all displays of antisemitism.  I said, "I apologize for the horrible suffering my people have caused you over the centuries."

   As I spoke, many started to cry.  And when I finished, just about everyone came up to me and embraced me.

   Vatican II also taught that salvation is open to all those who in good will follow their conscience.  One Friday evening, in another synagogue, a young man rose and said to me, "I just graduated from college.  For the past two years I had a Catholic roommate, and just about every day he said to me, 'Unless you become a Catholic, you will go to hell.'  What do you say to that?"  I smiled and said, "Well, your roommate obviously had no success.  Here it is, Friday evening, and you're in the synagogue."  Then I got serious.  "Do you believe that God wants you to be a Jew?"  He said firmly, "Yes."  I continued, "Now let me get this straight.  Do you believe, in good conscience and in your heart of hearts, that God wants you to be a Jew, now and for the rest of your life?"  Even more firmly, he replied, "Yes."  I said, "So if you become a Catholic, you'd be a hypocrite, wouldn't you?"  He said, "Yes."  Smiling broadly, I said, "Young man, if you become a Catholic, you'll go to hell."  Everyone got the point and laughed.

   But all was not pleasant.  At another synagogue, the rabbi pointed to an elderly couple in the congregation.  "They recently arrived here in America.  Not long ago in the country where they came from, on Good Friday evening, Christians broke into their house and struck nails into that man's head."  I recoiled in shock.  I thought of the recent Holocaust, the Shoah, and realized with deep sorrow that Vatican II's statement was only a small beginning.  We had a long way to go to eradicate 2000 years of antisemitism.

   One of the roadblocks in our work against antisemitism is the Gospel account of Jesus' trial and crucifixion, that we read on Palm Sunday.  Sadly, what Matthew wrote has been used for centuries to justify hatred and violence against Jews  In that Gospel, we read that Pilate washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood.  Look to it yourselves."  Then Matthew writes the terrible words, "And the whole people said in reply, 'His blood be upon us and our children.'" (Mt. 27:25).

   It is difficult to read those harsh words.  Why did Matthew write them?  And why did he say, "the whole people?"  Obviously his statement is not a literal report of what happened.  Some Jewish leaders were involved, but clearly all the Jews were not present.  And in any case, no one can speak for all the Jewish people, then and forever.  The whole account needs explaining.

   For one thing, at the time Matthew wrote his Gospel, there was animosity between the Jews who accepted Christ and those who did not.  Matthew, himself a Jew who had accepted Christ, was part of that contention.  In fact, the Gospel shows that he actually favored Pilate and the Romans over the Jews.  So Matthew's harsh statement is a political, editorial comment that shows the intensity of feelings between the new Christians and the Jews at that time.

   The circumstances also influenced Matthew's statement.  At the time his Gospel was written, the Romans had totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.  Back then, the notion that God punished people for disobeying him was a mark of their religious culture--as it still is today among some Christians.  How many Sunday sermons today warn of God's punishment, e.g., floods and earthquakes, for our sins!  Today we know that such things as floods and earthquakes were happening for millions of years before humans and sin appeared; they are the very process of creation itself.  Matthew however, could have viewed this horrible event as God's rejection of the Jews for not accepting Christ.

   But earlier, Paul had written, "God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."  (Rom. 11:2, 29).  Matthew himself was preaching that Christ was God who had come among us in human form to tell us to love everyone with unconditional love.  And at the same time, Luke was writing that Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." (Lk. 23:34).

   In our day, Pope John Paul II referred to, "The People of God of the Old Covenant, which has never been revoked."  Christ has not rejected his Jewish people.  Matthew's account belongs to the time it was written and to the circumstances of the day.  It does not in any way apply to today, and more strongly, it in no way justifies antisemitism.

    In fact, in a spiritual way, Matthew was right.  The "whole people" who called down the blood curse upon themselves and their children are the entire human community.  They are all of us, you and I.  We are the ones who made Jesus' suffering necessary.  We who proclaim Christ's self-sacrificing love for all the people, are called and responsible to be a light of love to all others, and especially to the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.  In the light of our faith, antisemitism is part of the sin that killed Jesus.  Purely and simply, antisemitism is anti-Christian.  Let's put an end to it now!

   Finally, before speaking at yet another synagogue, I was invited to dinner at the home of my host family.  It was the Feast of Tabernacles, and the father of the family had erected a tent on the back lawn.  When dinner was ready, the father called the children and they came rushing in, excitedly crying, "Abba!  Abba!"  Now, while the Jews do not mention God's name, they do have a formal word for God, or Lord.  It is, "Adonai."  But Jesus told us to call God by the informal, loving name, "Abba."  In the joyful voices of the children, I heard the call to our common Father.

   And as the years have passed since my visit to the Main Line Temple, I remember Rabbi Gordon and say, "Rabbi, now after even more than 2000 years, I hope that we Catholics are "catching up."

   And I pray that all that we do together in love, we do for the glory of Christ-Adonai-Abba, to whom be all honor and glory, now and forever.  Amen.






Thursday, March 13, 2014


   Pope Francis celebrates his first anniversary as a very popular pope who has made the church more acceptable to the public at large.  But he has not done much to unite the church within itself.  If the so-called "liberals" are happy because of Francis' very necessary focus on the poor, the "conservatives" are unhappy because Francis is upsetting their rigid view of the faith.  The divide among the one people of God remains.  It is deep, and Francis can't heal it by himself.  In the end, unity in the church is up to us.

   I know it seems impossible at this point in time, but we should stop describing ourselves in political terms.  Living our faith is not a political campaign to win power in our church.  We should describe ourselves according to the one faith that we all share.  Our basic concern should not be what side are we on but how spiritually mature are we.  Before I wrote this Post, I re-worked the page, "The Spiritually Mature Person."  I invite you to read it again.

   Our spiritual maturity requires an ever-evolving understanding of our faith.  We cannot live our faith in today's society and culture with the understanding we picked up when we were children.  Yet, how many of our public school children end their Christian education when they receive Confirmation?  How effective is the Religious education our children receive in Catholic high school and in our Catholic universities?  And beyond Religious education, how effective is their Christian formation?  How effective Christians are they--individually, in their families, in their work and professions, in education, business and economics, politics, science, the arts, etc.?

   As Pope Francis stresses care for the poor, I cringe at how many of our Catholic government and business leaders--almost all of them well off or even affluent--appear to be living and working in a bubble that isolates them from knowing and caring for the people they are responsible to serve.  As for ourselves, how well are we working with others of good will to care for and elevate our society and culture, and where necessary, peacefully heal and correct them, in the loving, saving grace of Christ?

   Pope Francis is an absolute monarch.  But that pertains to how he runs the church.  Our church may not be organized as a political democracy, but our faith is a graced democracy.  As Francis himself makes clear, neither the pope nor the bishops nor the rest of the clergy are superior to us.  We all share equal baptismal dignity, which is the Christ-like dignity of serving one another in peace and love--even to the extent of sacrificing something of ourselves for others.

   Making the world as much a luminous expression of Christ's saving love is not Francis' job alone.  Nor is it something he can or should try to do alone.  This Lent, let us remember anew that it is the job of all of us.  


Saturday, February 15, 2014


   In his recent encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, (The Joy of the Gospels) Pope Francis criticized "trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world."  Francis goes on to say that this opinion has never been confirmed by the facts.

   Some critics immediately jumped to the conclusion that Francis was criticizing capitalism itself.  One critic proclaimed that capitalism, compared to other systems, does very well at bringing people out of poverty.  Fine!  I'm sure Francis would agree.  But Francis was not criticizing capitalism itself; he was criticizing an abuse of capitalism.  This critic was so caught up in his commitment to capitalism that he badly missed the pope's very important point.

   Francis is a man of deep and clear spiritual discernment.  For one thing, he knows it is not his job to tell any country what system of economics to use.  However, it is very much his job to discern any form of economic injustice within any system.  In sum, his job is not economics as such; it's spirituality and justice for all, with special concern for the poor.  So when he speaks of economics, his insight starts in eternity, permeates our space/time economics, and then uses the spiritual disciplines, e.g., order, justice, service to others, etc., to elevate economic systems and policies to the eternal principles of humanity and justice.

   Another critic got so upset over Francis' critique that he excitedly asked, "Where are these unhampered markets?" and "Where is the market absolutely autonomous?"  These questions, which are sadly free of any spiritual discernment of Francis' words, are an insult to the pope.  Francis obviously knows, along with everyone else, that there is no totally free market.  He is speaking of an assumption concerning a free market.

   I'm no economist but I can ask, "How would a totally unhampered market work?" and confidently come up with a plausible answer.  A point of our faith helps me:  here in space/time nothing is perfect.  Everything has an element of darkness, a "shadow-side," and will therefore inevitably stumble and fall along its way.  So a totally unregulated market would inevitably falter and cause economic harm.  In fact, even a regulated market will stumble at times.

   In the economic meltdown of 2008, our point of faith was confirmed by a sad and rugged insight:  Alan Greenspan, the past chairman of the Federal Reserve, lamented that the self-interest of the economic institutions didn't make them capable of protecting their shareholders and themselves.  Do not Francis' critics have ears to hear and eyes to see? (Mt. 13:9-16).

   Self-centered ideology and spiritual blindness easily make us susceptible to superficiality and to the high pitched propaganda that is being spewed by too many politicians--sadly, some of whom are Catholics--and by many radio and TV personalities.  Francis is showing us the importance of deep and clear, peace-and-justice filled spiritual discernment in our everyday lives.  And he is calling us to put our discernment into prophetic action for economic justice, with special care for the poor.