August is verdant and alive, especially after a warm summer rain. Perhaps this is a prime time of year, for all is green and growing, and fruits and garden produce are so plentiful in this month of our Northern Temperate Hemisphere. August is when we see the unfolding of God's creation, in insects and wild foods, in fields and foliage, and in kitchens where summer flavors are preserved. We are enraptured by mid-summer's nights and days, and are drawn to deeper thoughts of how to do godly service for our neighbor. This interplay through prayer is both inspired and inspiring; inspired by the Spirit, inspiring for us to move to deeper levels of involvement with our wounded Earth. Let our thoughts turn to God, who we imitate in our healing work. This is when we speak of our Triune God; let's muster summer's energy for this task ahead and beg for courage and wisdom.
Blazing stallions of summertide, Life-giving in crimson pride; Guarding our home in gratitude, Standing aloft in fortitude, Blooming away to frost time: A spectacle truly sublime.
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(*photo by Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M, Creative Commons)
August 1, 2015 Celebrating Lammastide in Gratitude
Lammas was an English feast when the first wheat of the harvest was brought to be blessed at Mass. God touches our soil and blesses us with good things, thus our responding thanks can occur in solemn ways. We show gratitude by encouraging all budding Earthhealers to help save a planet, just as the window of climate change demands closes.
Summer's initial lethargy gives way to rich introspection, for we see the first signs of climate change now and must do something, for time to act is short. After periods of refreshment and rest we ask ourselves: how can we be instruments in inspiring others? How do we sustain and increase our own enthusiasm for our mission? How can we do what is godly and not resort to violence? We often pause in mid-summer to avoid heat exhaustion and discover that this pause allows us to discover the glorious mystery of plant life at its zenith. No mortal thing, no matter how glorious, remains in its present state, and so we marvel at what is passing; what is green today is golden tomorrow. Spiders build cobwebs; migratory birds are clustering together with their chatter, and mornings and evenings are less harsh than in July. Subtle change is in the air; and we need to harvest and heal with a sense of gentleness.
August invites us to look about and see, and so we turn within ourselves and consider our source of inspiration, the enthusiastic drive to assist others, the interior workings of the Spirit and the sharing of experience with others. This introspection leads us to address this inner restlessness, which at times we hold suspect. Ought we to engage in a discernment of conflicting spirits? We return to a mystery beyond (in time), all around (in space), and within (all of us), all coalescing to make us who we are. That Mystery beyond is a deep underlying experience of God's presence, which may approximate what Karl Rahner calls the "mystical moment," namely the awareness of God touching us even though there is no explicit reflection on that experience. In fact, this Mystery is God influencing and communicating with us. We open our hearts to others and especially to the God who is the absolute Mystery, incomprehensible and impenetrable.
August, this month of the Transfiguration, is a perfect time to consider resting in the glory of mystery all around. Is this not when we ought to consider where neighbors fit into our lives? In this precious moment of rest are we moved to confront our personal interior environment that contains an inherent restlessness that is needed to drive us forward? Is this not a mystery within that has a depth worth exploring -- really the last unexplored reaches of this Earth and as close as our hearts? Is our interior balance retained or threatened by this restlessness? Will delving in all forms of mystery sustain and strengthen our mission?
Prayer: Lord, let us welcome Mystery as magnetic, enticing, and unfathomable all in one -- beyond, all around, and within, the image of your dancing Trinity.
Patiently all creatures look to you to feed them throughout the year; quick to satisfy every need, you feed them with a generous hand. (Psalm 145:15-16)
A battle is starting to wage, for what we eat has environmental consequences; thus, we ought to reflect on how our own diets affect the community of beings in our world. Those of us who consume resources needed to produce meat and other animal products are called to think seriously both about meals that are nutritionally balanced and about the resources needed to produce, transport, process and store these foods for our use. But how can the hungry relax and expect to be fed unless we are close enough to the Lord that we distribute from God's abundance with our own hands? We, as members of God's family, are designated as distributors from the bounty, and part of distribution is our own consuming habits.
...the Eucharist is a cosmic act, uniting Heaven with Earth and permeating all creation. This one act of praise restores all creation in the One Who created it, giving back to the Father a redeemed creation (Reference: Letter on the Eucharist, John Paul II, Merion, PA: Key of David Publications, 2003).
With a spirit of compassionate mercy and caution, we are empowered to bring about a re-creation of Earth in an even more wonderful manner. We are called to do something new in the fullness of the Resurrection/Ascension and seek earnestly to find the clues to godly action by looking with awe at the very nature of the Incarnate Word and the Trinity of Persons. Mystery now becomes even more awesome. Our pilgrimage is a road to discovering our own transformation or metamorphosis into Earthhealers. This is part of the liturgical act of transformation of bread and wine (the work of human hands) into the Body and Blood of the Lord. Even in our unworthiness, this supreme divine/human act, is perceived as a gift. Now we need to anticipate what lies ahead, a New Creation.
The Eucharistic Feast is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Are we sincere in saying "thank you" to God for gifts received without opening our hearts to the hungry? This land has tax breaks for a few wealthy, while millions have their food stamps shaved. The differences in breaks and shavings is immense, and yet we fail to see the Lazarus syndrome that fits us Americans perfectly. We cannot receive the Lord worthily unless we address the hunger of those around us. Each time we hear the story of the God's eternal food for us, we know we have been nourished so that we can conserve our resources and use them well; we are to save and redistribute leftovers that include our time, opportunities, talents, and our energy. Leftovers show the plentitude of God and the challenge to us to share, not by hoarding, but by giving out to those in need.
Prayer: Lord, give us the food of Eternal Life so we can share it with those in need; show us how we are to act in a godly manner and yet with joy.
Idler, go to the ant; ponder her ways and grow wise; no one gives her orders, no overseer, no master, yet all through the summer she makes sure of her food, and gathers her supplies at harvest time.
After a nice summer rain in August the fields truly exult. I always regarded the middle of this month as the height of summer growth: the hayfields are again greening for the last cutting, the corn is tasseling and verdant, soybean pods appear, woodlands are aglow with greenery just before their sleeping phase begins with September's nodding off. God's own divine color must be green. From my earliest youth, I always wanted summer to last forever, but the month of August awakens us to new reality; all is passing. Gradually, it emerges that in August we are looking for eternity.
They toil and work, whether ants, or tumblebugs, or "waspers," or yellow jackets. They make us aware that time is a precious commodity; we must "make hay while the sun shines." Life is short for the world's insects, and they know it in their own instinctive ways. Furthermore, they teach us to be equally aware of the shortness of our days. August's shortening days and cooler morns and evenings breaks the endless daydreams, but ought they not say more? Are we not destined for an endless season of delight? The hot weather softens; plants come to seed; deep green foliage is ready by month's close for a hint of a golden hue; even the crickets' sound will be a little different as time passes.
To observe busy insects is to gain wisdom from their story-telling; there's meaning to their apparent nervous busyness. They are part of communities, of anthills and hives, all working together for the good of the whole. We learn from them to overcome our self-centeredness and think of the whole community; for one time of the year, we observe insects closely as they do their own thing; they obey their natural calling to conserve energy and prepare for winter's needs; their individual end is near and yet they contribute to the survival of the group.
Insect wonders abound! Monarch butterflies flit from milkweed bloom to bloom in deliberate preparation for its upcoming two-thousand mile migratory trip to Mexico. Hummingbirds seem even busier with wings fluttering faster than the eye can see; the methodical and large sized bumblebees move from one flower to another, busy, ever so busy. They pause but for a moment, knowing quickly whether the nectar store has been fully tapped. All insects have a sense of mission, of which we could learn much.
Prayer: Lord, help us to perceive the lessons of the insect world and grow in a desire to be of service to all the world.
Carolina buckthorn, leaves and fruits, Frangula caroliniana.
August 4, 2015 Engaging in Nature's Conversations
Let the heavens be glad, let earth rejoice, let the sea thunder and all that it holds, let the fields exult and all that is in them, let all the woodland trees cry out for joy. (Psalm 96:11-12)
A lazy day in summer in the hot field allows us to hear the crickets' chorus and see and hear the corn grow. Nothing has ever been more harmonious for me than the high summer sounds. It is as though the trees really do shout out to God with joy. Here we detect the harmony of all creation and allow these sights and sounds to penetrate the depths of our souls. Is it distant thunder, or do we even hear the sound of the Big Boom still resounding throughout the universe? Sights are harmonious; sounds even more so, all contributing to a feeling of well-being and exultation. Now is the moment to stop and look and listen, even while our physical eyesight and hearing fade.
The fields and trees also tell profound stories, but these are filled with mysteries that constantly challenge us. Fields exult in the soft misty haze of morning, the intense blaze of noonday glory, and in the lengthening shadows of evening. Even in the night when the subtle, creepy voices of nature are detected by a well-tuned ear, a story is being told; at night we can hear the corn growing, as blades unfurl with their creaking sounds -- a truly mid-summer sound. We tone down the distracting conversation of everyday life and attune our senses. Fish splash in the creek; leaves rustle in the summer breeze; a varmint moves ever so quietly; birds flutter about. Listening brings on nature's symphony, and while our physical hearing lasts we are privileged to be part of the audience. Mystery abounds all around.
Nature's varied voices in the summertime of our lives move us to converse with them. Why not? It's natural to speak to and among the creatures of nature. My Aunt Toots, the green-thumbed gardener, once asked, "Is it wrong to talk to plants?" "Why not?" I responded. "They are looking for a good conversation when happy." Many people talk to their pets; some speak to the wildlife as well. I once overheard a Jesuit on his morning prayer walk saying to a begging squirrel, "I'm sorry little fellow, I haven't got anything to give you." He was a little wrong -- he was giving the creature his love in response to the animal's invitation.
Our keen observation and listening during this glorious month floods us with creation's innate joy. God speaks through all creatures and they, in turn, invite us to converse. And when we respond freely, we show that we appreciate the great gift of their presence to us. In doing so, we enhance creation's act of praise, and we join in one great act of re-presenting the Divine Presence.
Prayer: Lord, we thank you for being able to hear what is around us, and as it fades at least allow us to imagine the sound.
YHWH smelt the appeasing fragrance... (Genesis 8:21)
We hungry youngsters were always drawn to Mama's kitchen, especially for supper. During summer, it was especially a favored time because that was when the strong sweet smell of the day's canning pervaded the steamy environs. Looking back, we didn't give full appreciation to those who made the atmosphere so pleasant. Only after they are gone do we realize how they would become our inspiration.
August was food preserving time. The super-abundant fruit --cherries, plums, blackberries, peaches, grapes, and summer apples -- were made into preserves and into juicy cobblers for the night dessert. Mama was proud of her day's work and, while we ate, she showed us the jars lining the marble counter top, which were cooling before being taken to the cellar storage area. Her collection would include sweet and dill pickles and relish, pickled pears and watermelon, mincemeat made from green tomatoes, as well as strawberry, grape, and blackberry jam and jelly, and apple sauce. And plum marmalade, which became the basic ingredient for her famous Christmas puddings.
During those pre-air conditioning days we hardly thought about how uncomfortable preserving food by canning actually was. When the steamers or "boilers" were used for "cold packing" beans and non-acidic produce, the place became even more heated. That heat was the reason why in anti-bellum homesteads summer kitchens were separate from the household proper. At our humble home we didn't have that luxury of a summer kitchen, and so Mama endured her purgatory on Earth -- and it was also her sacrifice to give us good home-cooked, summer evening meals.
I am now convinced that the non-cooks of the world never show adequate appreciation for the efforts it takes to cook and preserve food. We indulge in the fragrances that whet our appetites and we eagerly sample the finished products, but do we truly thank the cook? Too often, we take summer's bounty for granted, and the people who make it appetizing even more so.
The further thought in preserving bounty is to never, ever waste food, for it takes too much effort to grow. Wasting is a sin that ought to be confessed; furthermore, there are too many who lack food security in the world around us. To waste what we have received is to flaunt the God who provides so much plenty. I find it even difficult to throw out spoiled food, but when animals turn away that is the sign we must compost what we cannot eat. All not used is meant to be naturally recycled, for at least the earthworms have good digestive tracks.
Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to appreciate your bounty and the ones who toil to use it to the best of their abilities.
August 6, 2015Delighting in the Consolations of Summer
They demanded food, God sent them quail, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven; God opened the rock, the water gushed to flow through the desert like a river.
(Psalm 105:40- 41)
There was a small cluster of trees along the side of the lonely road on which I jogged in the Rockcastle River Valley. Only in August did this woody cluster yield wild plums that speckled the green foliage. I know no taste more exquisite, but that is beauty in the eye of the beholder. You have favorites too.
The verdant growth of summer is a perfect time for the Feast of the Transfiguration -- a feast of glory and Christ's exaltation.
Consolation is needed for tasks ahead, and Jesus finds this on the glory of the holy mountain near the Lake of Galilee -- a perfect setting for consolation. We crave an enhancement of enthusiasm for the harvest season ahead. Nature's exceedingly wide variety of wild foods invites us to sample many unique tastes: fruits, nuts and seeds, berries, greens, herbs, saps, edible mushrooms and flowers, all just waiting for sampling. These wild things are the "manna and quail" of our age, naturally present and, if we accept God's invitation, ready to be sampled. Why deprive ourselves of wild creature comforts? Just a single seasonal taste satisfies.
The lesson of the Book of Exodus demonstrates an exercise of
Divine Providence in our collective spiritual journey. These wild
provisions are to be taken to the degree needed and not more; we
should not become greedy, for these are provided for our simple enjoyment; they invite us, in turn, to share a sample with those unable to go and gather nature's bounty, and thus the double enjoyment of sharing with others as well. Then will God's saving grace flow like water from the desert rocks. By harvesting wisely, we ensure enough wild plants and wildlife for all to enjoy.
Prayer: God's Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things: And though the last light off the black west went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -- Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ (1844-89)
August 7, 2015 Appreciating the Summer Foliage and Beauty
No longer are you to be named 'Forsaken', and your land 'Abandoned', but you shall be called 'My Delight' and your land 'The Wedded'; for YHWH takes delight in you and your land will have its wedding. (Isaiah 62:4)
The thought occurs often when I am hiking in the wilderness that now is the time when the green foliage of summer and the blue skies meet in utter triumph. What is more sublime in all of God's creation than the intensity of August color touching the heavens? Here truly a wedding of sorts occurs when Earth meets Heaven and Heaven meets Earth in a vow-like exchange, nature's true participation in the incarnation. This is an opportunity, a prime moment of inspiration, when God's gift is perceived in the act of being given, a hint as to what godliness is all about -- for the Son was destined to come among us. We are destined to help save our wounded Earth, like gentle rain from above allowing the planet to flourish.
A wilderness retreat is a prized period of the year. If you miss July, at least try August, for it might be better. Don't let the summer pass without some special period in the wilderness. Just a little intensity of a short duration makes the gift all the more appreciated. Here and now the Giver's gifts are experienced; here and now we can reaffirm with no pressure from others, only in the utter moment of freedom from which it springs forth, that what God has given is good.
Here the total sensations of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling become one. Rather than being personal gratification, this ought to be the moment to reach out and share gratitude, first to the giver in words, and then in serving others. In words we have that moment when a contemplation of Divine Love is possible, a realization that the Giver is revealed in the intensity of the gift, and that by appreciating the gift we are drawn through love to God. We realize also that even the capacity to receive the gift is also gift in itself.
A second moment of response must be one of deed, of giving back through thanksgiving as expressed in serving others. It seems so simple, yet it takes a lifetime to initiate this process with a loving heart. But the opportunity for giving, while sometimes so sudden we did not have time to reflect, is more often a planned affair in offered opportunity to share the good bounty all around. Let this be the time to ponder what nature's beauty triggers.
Prayer: Lord, give us the fullness of appreciation of beauty abounding on all sides; help us find an opportunity to enjoy the sights and other sensations all the more.
August 8, 2015 Focusing on Major Climate Change Decisions
The first draft of this was considered eight months ago when outlining the reflections of August. At that time Ebola was still menacing West Africa, the Russian economy was in a tailspin, ISIS held Mosul and was only gradually being checked, terrorism was rampant, and the window of time on the Climate Change issue was closing. The upcoming control of Congress by the Republicans was imminent, and every effort at political payback was moving to erect the XL Pipeline. Only the rapid decline in crude oil prices below $60 a barrel seemed to hold up decision-making, along with some environmental resistance.
From an environmental standpoint we were reaching an equivalent to the battle of Bunker Hill. Resistance is necessary in order to stave the fossil fuel economy's ongoing advance by billionaires who are determined to control our democratic process and reduce people to peons of a plutocracy. This appears in the eyes of Earthhealers as the time to do something that is meaningful. At this point, I am drawn to ask a series of questions worth pondering at length, and be willing to rephrase these questions as time advances:
* What meaningful things can we do to make this a national issue, or are the mass media outlets subtly set on support of the status quo that is bringing on severe climate change?
* Can the System be pinpointed as culprit and actions taken to make the public aware of what is really happening?
* Is there a communal discernment that must be undertaken in a prayerful and humble manner to show the connections between economics and resource choice and extraction?
* Are we finding peace of soul when the actions that are public and resistance are brought up for consideration?
* Must large institutions be willing to take sides, to sponsor those who are actively trying to change the System? What about church leaders and religious communities?
* Can a prophetic voice be raised and will it be listened to at this time? Or do the only ones with voices have such control of the media that they alone will be heard? Do thirty Catholic and more Protestant colleges and Universities take funds from the Charles Koch Foundation -- and remain cheerfully silent along with hundreds of others? Silent and affirming libertarianism of donor!
* Do we have the courage to determine our own convictions and then the willingness to follow where they take us?
Prayer: Lord, allow us to address the right questions and to seek honest answers through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and then follow them through complete trust in you.
Lovely flowers from the Brassica genus in the Appalachian garden.
August 9, 2015Receiving Nourishment for Our Mission
The Lord Jesus is always present in his Church, especially in the liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of the minister, but especially under the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when one baptizes it is really Christ who baptizes. He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. He is present finally when the Church prays and sings, for he promised: Where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). Reference: Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
We acknowledge the Real Presence of the Lord in a number of external gestures: through bowing and/or genuflection, depending on culture and physical condition of the person. The Presence of the Lord is shown by a burning sanctuary light and by our respect in the Presence of the reserved Eucharist. We need Emmanuel, God with us, on our Journey of faith. As we spend time during this month on the Sixth Chapter of St. John, we seek the nourishment that Jesus offers on our journey of life. Too often people refuse to see the need of this constant nourishing spiritual food.
Frequent Communion: Today, our calling is more demanding than those of other ages, for our Earth is harmed and we are responsible for caring for it. This effort requires extra energy and more frequent visits to the banquet table of the Lord. Through the Eucharist we are united with Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body of believers in the "communion of saints." For a long period of Church history, the Eucharist was more frequently adored than taken as food by ordinary lay persons; these received their First Communion later in life and only at major occasions, immediately after confession. Current devotion involves frequent reception of Communion.
Glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem -- This title of the Eucharist tells of our own mission to help transform Earth; our daily commitment is to bring about the Christian vision of "a New Heaven and New Earth (Revelations 21:1). The Mass of All Ages, as recorded by St. Justin in the second century, includes the following: a continuity with the Old Testament past; the sacrificed lamb now Jesus himself; the bread and wine becoming his body and blood; the solemn memorial of God's gift to the people as a memorial of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection; and the disciples assembled as one body. We participate in the banquet by grinding wheat, crushing grapes, baking bread, fermenting wine -- "the work of human hands." Processed wheat and grapes (not natural products as such) are transformed into the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the Lord, by the words of consecration. The nobility of our work in cosmic transformation and saving our wounded Earth becomes the glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Prayer: Lord, give us food to carry on in these times.
August 10, 2015 Believing in the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life
I stood on my porch and saw two Carolina wrens busily bringing food to their young in the nearby nest -- a sight to behold! At first, I considered this a distraction, and then on second thought these flying creatures and their actions brought joy; there I saw Christ looking up to me in life at its full, and this was a wholesome inspiration.
In decisions related to the vitality of our planet we must follow the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, and our consoler in troubled times. We are baffled by decision-making and turn to the Spirit. We do not impede the Spirit who breaks through the fog of our addictions and offers us viable options. Our response is to be open. We become "inspired" to know who we are as healers. In a truly Ignatian sense of finding God in all things, we look now into our own interior and discover the Spirit dwelling within.
During the season of Pentecost, we testify that the coming of the Spirit to the disciples is in the glow of Risen Christ, a light to the world not including the ray of light within a company of believers of which down through the ages we are privileged to be part. Thus, we are invited in the Spirit to become one in God's family and partake in the unfolding of the Mystery of the Triune God -- the Father, Son and Spirit. This Mystery is "hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak by a kind of darkness" (Vatican I terms) and yet we are called to discover the light (Vatican II's Lumen Gentium). As believers, our primary inspiration is to accept Mystery and recognize our role to play in salvation history -- the revealing of the Triune God. In redeeming us, God sends us the Spirit to enliven a world needing salvation.
Inspiration expresses herself in our interior enthusiasm, a response fraught with human limitations but undertaken through courage and trust in the Spirit. Yes, enthusiasm is a gift, and every great gift reveals the Giver. If I appreciate the gift of enthusiasm, I must delve into the meaning of the God within. From our being centered by the Spirit and engaged, we find our sacred space, our individual HERE; we further discover our time to act, our individual NOW. When these rays of spiritual energy are purified and do not remain contained within as a self-glorification, they touch other kindred souls and form a spiritual glow, a WE, that can change our world, a multidimensional source of light. We are inspired to heal our Earth as collaborators.
The focus is on how the inspired team works in harmony. We discover an inner creativity to find resources to carry on actualized through our hands, heads, and hearts working in unison. Believers see deeper meaning: a New Creation come from the works undertaken. In healing our Earth we help usher in renewed life that has eternal value, and the urgency to act is intensified.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us to gather and work together, seeing what we do as a New Creation, a "Global Mystical Moment."
New York ironweed, Vernonia noveboracensis, Kentucky native plant.
August 11, 2015 Announcing God's Spirit as Inspiration
...and God's spirit hovered over the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
Three years ago our radio alert system announced a tornado heading our way in Estill County; take shelter! Being old, I thought it nicer to just watch. However, the route of the heavy winds crossed the Bluegrass Army Depot grounds housing the largest number of chemical weapons in our country, only 20 miles away. What if an igloo housing weapons were destroyed and gases escaped? Yes, concern as to local population did arise, though workers say "be more concerned about an earthquake." That powerful wind storm destroyed the town of West Liberty and many houses and caused a dozen deaths, but the depot was spared.
The mighty Spirit, Ruah (translated breath, air, wind, and soul) moves about the world from the first moment of creation when God's spirit hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2). As Yves Congar says, this word "ruah" appears 378 times in the Old Testament and means in various places: the wind or breath of air; the principle of life and the seat of knowledge and feeling; and the force by which God acts and causes action at the physical and at the 'spiritual' level. (Reference: Yves Congar. I believe in the Holy Spirit: Vol. I, The Experience of the Spirit. New York: The Seabury Press and London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1983, pp.3-12).
In the New Testament, the Spirit enters as a messianic gift in the conception (Luke 1:35), baptism (Mark 1:1ff.), and activity of Jesus (Congar, pp. 15 ff.). The Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparations for Christ's coming, and God gives the world Emmanuel, God-with-us (Matthew 1:23); Jesus, as befits his true and full humanity, grows in wisdom and favor with God (Luke 2:52); he is inspired by the Spirit throughout his human maturation; the Spirit leads him into the desert to be tested (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; and Luke 4:1) as to his obedience to God. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me (Luke 4:18a). Jesus works marvelous deeds; he battles the powers of the Evil Spirit throughout his ministry: God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil (Acts 10:38).
This Holy Spirit comes to the disciples and those gathered in the room at the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), as Jesus had promised (Acts 1:5, 1:8), and at the Last Supper (John, Chapters 13-17). And finally, in our own time, the Holy Spirit comes to each one of us at our baptism and confirmation. Like Jesus and his disciples, all believers, especially in our Church, are inspired by the Holy Spirit: in the Scriptures, in Tradition, in the Church's Magisterium, in the sacramental liturgy, in prayer, in charisms and ministries, in the signs of apostolic and missionary life, and in the witnesses of the saints (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). Ligouri, Mo.: Ligouri Publications, 1994, #687-88).
We can feel the Spirit and try to define the undefinable by some descriptions. Titles of the Holy Spirit include: Paraclete (consoler), (John 14:17, 26, 16:13) (see Congar pp. 53-57), Spirit of promise (Galatians 3:14, Ephesians 1:13), Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6), the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), Spirit of the Lord (II Corinthians 3:17), Spirit of God (Romans 8:9, 14; 15:19; I Corinthians 6:11; 7:40) and Spirit of glory (I Peter 4:14), (CCC.#692).
We go farther and try to describe the Holy Spirit through the use of symbols: water (of baptism), anointing with oil, fire, cloud and light, seal, hand, finger, and the dove. What is becoming evident in our growth in spiritual life is that we cannot lock up the Spirit, whose freedom and unanticipated movement is like the moving air. The Spirit breaks through our self-made shells and softens our hearts, returning always with that same first freshness each time we respond. God's love enters the openings in our hearts and circulates throughout our beings as an inspiring force giving us new life. And in these matters we experience the Holy Spirit within, who is the seat of a growing enthusiasm for tasks ahead.
Characteristics of the Spirit's inspiration for each individual believer include: unlocking the closed doors of our hearts and penetrating our beings with their flimsy walls of supposed security; coming as a great and restless wind in power and suddenness to give us a prophetic spirit and encourage us to speak and act boldly; descending on us as tongues of fire showing the uniqueness of the gifts each person is given in the Spirit; impelling us to speak publicly to others in a manner that allows them to understand (a gift of tongues) by using our own talents and manner of personal communication; healing and consoling us and thus manifesting God's compassion; and urging and empowering us to perform uniquely forceful deeds through spiritual discernment.
Inspiration enters our creative efforts. Many are inspired in writings, art, science, exploration, homemaking, and in many other ways. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-88) was so inspired when he played music that he would go until 11:00 at night without taking an intermission. Natural inspiration is known to us all and is not limited to a chosen few or to believers alone. Inspired creativity is part of human history and of virtually every human being as well in unique ways. We are often inspired in an instant and, though totally unexpected, energized to do or make something.
Inspiration for good is through the Holy Spirit, whether we advert to this or not, and even when the gift is hardly appreciated or recognized as being of divine origin. This type of inspiration is a grace-filled instant in time, a striving to break out and be public, to be appreciated, to be loved. Inspiration seeks communication; it is risky when freely undertaken, for the inspired artifact created or service rendered may elicit rejection, for there is no guaranteed acceptance, though deeply sought.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, empower us to bring about changes that are utterly needed in our world and to follow your inspiration.
Tall sunflower, tracking the sun heading into its autumn path.
August 12, 2015 Recognizing the Good Spirit in Our Lives
Immediately afterwards the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness. (Mark 1:12)
I was invited to speak at the World Council on Religion in 1992 in Chicago on a panel dealing with eco-spirituality. I told the organizer that I would speak of distinctions of good and bad spirits and he directed that I be on a separate panel of one. How could anyone dare talk about possible evil spirits?
The Holy Spirit hovers over this broken world, touching it with Love. Each person who is filled by the Spirit testifies to that Spirit among us as other christs, extending godly love to a troubled world. Inspiration is more than a rare occurrence; it is the very soul of who we are, the fresh air needed for our life, the part of what gives us uniqueness. Inspiration is the Spirit's presence in our soul seeking to penetrate more deeply and catalyze a radical sharing of love. But on this high note we act with caution. Not all inspiration is from the Holy Spirit. Through experience, we realize the struggle between good and evil spirits; Jesus engages in this ministry as do apostles; so does the Church. Earthhealing has the same struggle from corporate misadventures to greedy profiteers. The battle continues between the good Spirit and those of evil. (Reference: Joseph F. Kelly. The Problem of Evil in the Western Tradition. The Liturgical Press, 1989.)
Through prayer, discernment, and the sacraments we come to realize the good Spirit that is at work within us. This recognition has decisive moments of acute inspiration (special events), but it is also a long process of maturation in faith. In due time we recognize the Holy Spirit is our life, our power, our coming to be who we are, our gift. With time, our appreciation grows; we are born physically and reborn in baptism; recognizing these events takes a lifetime. Trying events do not stand alone as though beyond divine or human effort. Otherwise, we would be guilty of "presumption," a sin against the Holy Spirit -- either to save ourselves without help from on high, or hoping for forgiveness without our conversion, or glory without our merit (CCC., #2092).
Our rebirth in the Spirit is more than the single event. We are constantly being inspired to receive the Spirit and share the fruits with others. We recognize a feedback mechanism that allows us to share more and to all the more appreciate the Spirit within us. We are invited to be partners with the Lord by expressing this appreciation through evangelized word and effective deed. Without ongoing divine inspiration we are not able to continue and to assist others in finding their own inner gratitude for gifts received. By discovering this enduring Gift of Spirit within, we start to understand why the sending of the Holy Spirit after Jesus' glorification reveals the fullness of the mystery of the Holy Trinity (CCC., #244, John 7:39). We get the first glimmer of the inner dynamics of this profound Mystery.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to discern what is better for us.
August 13, 2015Proclaiming the God Within with Enthusiasm
I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)
I felt impelled to write down my inspiration. It was a sort of a prayer triggered by the running brook on that August day while walking in the Newfound Mountains of North Carolina. I had no pencil and paper so I tried to memorize the inspired thought, something quite difficult since my stream of consciousness marched on. How can one capture the inspirational moment -- or is it fleeting by its very nature? And more so, what exactly is it?
Our call is unique to human history, namely, to heal our wounded Earth. This task is complex requiring collaboration of all people of good will. Promoting this task requires inspiration; continuing it towards completion demands enthusiasm. For such difficult work we turn for help to divine assistance, and we turn outward and inward. Suddenly believing Christians hear God calling us from within into the realms of hidden Mystery. The very call is a gift from God, Giver of all good gifts; this includes that ultimate gift, Jesus. Being here and now is a privileged gift as well as being able to work in a supporting community of faith. We step beyond faith-seeking-understanding to faith-seeking-to-serve effectively. That takes an act of being enthusiastic.
One discovers enthusiasm springing up about a special project, activity, goal, or prospect. This is an intense or eager interest, a zeal or fervor. When founded in Mystery, this enthusiasm takes on the character of supernatural inspiration -- a coming from a divine source making enthusiasm -- the God within. This intrigues the searcher for truth: how can one describe the spontaneity or the springing forth from a source within, a motion that is often unpredicted? It involves unfounded energy or the capacity to get something accomplished. Enthusiasm is public and expressed through facial features, body language, and words. Often it is directed to the benefit of others, though malefactors and the demented can operate with a certain eagerness. Enthusiasm seems so natural, but is it so? There are enthusiastic persons who declare themselves unbelievers, but hidden way down deep is the loving beckoning of God to each and every one, including them.
An authentic enthusiasm is open to new creative possibilities. For the Christian, that ground of possibilities is found in the death and resurrection of God's greatest gift, Jesus Christ. Plunging down and rising from the waters of baptism is a definitive event calling for appreciation; this, in turn, becomes the fertilizer in an expanding arena of service stretching out to the distant horizon. For the believer, God is source of enthusiasm.
Prayer: Lord, keep us enthusiastic about the work ahead, for
it will take all we have to save our planet.
When YHWH called, 'Samuel! Samuel!' He answered, 'Here I am.' (I Samuel 3:4)
The believer is keenly aware of being HERE; it is the way we perceive things in our current environment; this perception extends to the total world around us as we reach beyond ourselves. It is what we know about our environment, our being down-to-earth. Many people are only remotely aware of their environment and distance themselves from nature; they live in an idyllic dream. On the other hand, an enthusiastic HERE is present in a person motivated to grow in consciousness of our wounded Earth. This awareness contains a mysterious element that cannot be defined and is a restlessness that lingers, that we cannot deny, excuse or escape.
Mystery includes our individual place in the world, as well as our time and social relations; these are not totally of our own making, determination, or grasping. Mystery around consists of other beings with whom we are interrelated and the degree of their influence defeats our own notion of self-sufficiency, which is ultimately a mirage. Mystery beyond is up ahead, the hereafter, which draws us as by a teleological force forward to our destiny; believers regard this as incomprehensibly divine and beyond human powers. We realize it is impossible to determining our exact position in space, and thus we tolerate mystery impinging upon us, a sort of ecological Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Our measuring of HERE interferes with our being HERE. We are tempted to pause and in doing so become inactive. If this drains our enthusiasm then is it a temptation to curb Earthhealing? Is a static here in some way an idol that we would pause to adore?
Mystery within is an interior light that says "be thankful and move on." With this interior word comes the inspiration to continue salutary action. Like being at a railroad crossing, caution is necessary; we look down and see the marvelous and still mysterious created world all around; we look up above at the infinite heavens towards destiny. Quo vadis? To look down, we become engrossed but always desiring to know more. To look up, we peer beyond the fleeting clouds and blue sky and feel a restless beckoning to ascend beyond the confines of current space. Believers, especially those near death, emphasize heaven and the fleeing of this mortal domain for a better place. Others, such as St. Francis, see the glory of God shining in all of creation and find comfort in this immediate world of brothers and sisters among animals and plants. Neither focus is perfectly satisfying.
We Christians regard heaven as home, a distant place or abode of the just. We are presently here, not there yet. But should we not be concerned about Earth where we are currently located, which includes our general environment? The scene changes with time and we wonder why a focus on the below is not totally satisfying. "Life everlasting is out there." We may find ourselves immersed in the green spectrum of environmental consciousness and argue that to look up will cause us to trample on what needs healing below. However, to look down to Earth causes us to lose our bearing and fail to see the bigger picture. By looking both ways, as at the railroad crossing, we refuse to define an exact HERE and admit to revealing mystery, not to unravel it. Here ironically the restless soul finds consolation.
Earth -- HERE -- Hereafter
The HERE at the mid-point may resemble Rahner's schwebende Mitte or the person suspended between the world and God... "and this boundary line is the point of his [human being] definition and his destiny." (Reference: Karl Rahner, Spirit in the World, trans. William V. Dych. New York: Herder and Herder, 1968, p. 407).
An overly constricted HERE of ecological consciousness is devoid of gifted aspects of external influences, upward motion, and internal mystery. A God-given destiny may not be within the purview of green non-believers; their focus, while praiseworthy, lacks a sense of mystery -- a problem in our modern world. An authentic HERE demands growth lest the enthusiasm wane, and that means looking two ways -- down and up. And in looking we must confront the mystery within, where the immediate and the distant are distinct from the present position and yet are interrelated and constitute a single whole. We do not discover this from pure reasoning, but from faith seeking understanding. But is the divine beckoning from a distance or is it within the heart? Destiny is a divine invitation, a special gift, a way of making us more keenly aware that Earth is a gift in flux.
Life's pilgrimage is grace-laden, a passage span rather than a point in space. We are not static and isolated mystics focusing on a God-and-me experience. We contain a restless wind that seeks to break loose. An authentic mysticism is what Karl Rahner calls an experience of Grace, or the immense longing we experience in life as a result of the inability of anything finite to satisfy us. (Reference: Harvey Egan. Karl Rahner: The Mystic of Everyday Life. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998 p. 57.)
Some may interpret their HERE as isolated space and private domain. For them, spirituality is a personal experience apart from others, even though they may include special creatures (friends, associates, or pets) within that arena. Drug users define their spirituality completely within their heightened physical, mental and psychic state apart from others around them or their past experience and future destiny. Subjects of research into psilocybin, the active ingredient of the natural "magic mushroom," speak of how it is the "single most spiritually significant experience in their lives." This narrow concept of spirituality as an isolated individual experience is certainly not what is meant within authentic "eco-spirituality," which must be inherently and dynamically relational, that is, related to Earth, to other human beings, and most importantly related to our God.
Prayer: Lord, help us to understand why and how we are here.
'I am the handmaid of the Lord,' said Mary; 'let what you have said be done to me.' (Luke 1:38)
A personal NOW is that moment of major decision, as was Mary's at the annunciation. The long past history of divine promise of a Messiah had suddenly come in a moment; the two millennia since his first coming brings us to our NOW, when past longing meets future expectations of his second coming. We live in the HERE where down- to-Earth issues meet with heavenly expectations; we see an urgency that is pressing at this moment, our NOW in our lives. Past and future meet. The NOW is more than an environmental awareness of time of day and changes; NOW is a combination of past promises, experiences and memories, along with aspirations that constitute a future destiny of which our present decisions are hastening.
The past partly forgotten and yet forgiven, and partly a memory though fading, stands before us. Amazingly, we may cope with our past and yet not dismiss it. Over attention to past makes us walk backward in history and stumble. The future draws our attention and is a magnet pulling on us; we can neither deny it, nor become overly foreboding about it. We hope and thus avoid presumption or despair. To face death in the future is discomforting due to its uncertainty as to time and circumstance. The more we try to figure it all out and measure, the more the measurement gets in the way (again the ecological Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle). Accepting an indefinite future in trust is accepting further mystery.
The present is the coalescing of past experience and memory with future destiny and hopes. Present time does not stand still, but changes at each moment, as St. Augustine reflects upon in Chapter 10 of The Confessions. The immediacy of knowing climate, weather, and sunrise and sunset is part of the ecologically conscious NOW, and is most praiseworthy but passing. Part of the past is hidden by shortness of memory as well as the veiled emerging future; taken together these give direction and magnitude to where we are. The three (past, future, and present) are really distinct and yet in coalescing in one's being constitutes a NOW on life's journey, when faith and hope give way to love.
Past -------------- NOW ---------------------Future
Through faith we become conscious of time as God-given gift, and this realization grows as to life's fragility and brevity -- our life lasts for seventy years, eighty with good health (Psalm 90:10). With aging, mortal life a fading memory; each new moment is all the more precious. Some live in past and neglect future; others think of future and forget past. A believer's NOW includes an awareness that "my time" is not mine, but part of God's eternal plan with a future cradled in Divine Mercy. We are in the hands of God's love.
Prayer: Lord, help us become more conscious of the present moment, and to see it as having a direction to an eternal future.
White Snakeroot, Ageratina altissima, Kentucky native plant.
August 16,2015Eating the Bread of Eternal Life
I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever. (John 6:51a)
The Calvary event of 2000 years ago is liturgically made ever present in the Eucharist. The definitive deliverance of the Kingdom to the Father as we await the New Heaven and New Earth, begets our future. This linear trajectory from redeemed past to eternal future gives breadth to the NOW of personal life, gives direction, and is a gift from a loving God. Our past is forgiven; our future is full of hope. We begin to fathom Eternal Life.
At the Last Supper on the night before he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection, a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.' Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium 47)
* The Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith.
* Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking. (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres) *Mystery of faith; Heart of the Church's mystery (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, John Paul II) * Breaking of the bread (Acts 2: 42),(Luke 24:21) * Memorial of the Lord's passion and resurrection *Holy Sacrifice -- The Eucharist is a sacrifice, Christ giving himself to the Father and then to all of us. * Sacrament of love St. Ephrem wrote that Jesus filled the Eucharist with His Spirit. Augustine wrote:
-- O sacrament of devotion!O sign of unity! O bond of charity! * Paschal banquet -- Bread of life;Cup of eternal salvation * Gift par excellence -- Christ's person and his saving work. *Cosmic Act -- "uniting heaven and earth and permeating all creation." (John Paul II Letter on the Eucharist # 8) * Pledge of eternal glory -- Eucharistic devotion goes beyond being a memorial of the Passover, for through our communion at the altar we are filled with heavenly blessing and grace. Now the Eucharist is an anticipation of the heavenly glory. *Promise of Christ's return -- Marana tha! Come Lord Jesus!
(Revelation 1:4, 22:20) * Divine Liturgy(Mass) -- "The work of the people" under divine guidance. This is entry into the Heavenly liturgy where God will be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:28)
Prayer: Lord, we thank you in the Eucharist for the great works of creation, redemption, and sanctification.
August 17, 2015 Interrelating with the WE in Community
Our total space includes our interrelationships with "others," which include all plants and animals as well as people close at hand and more distant. The entire planet is interrelated, for we are not isolated individuals; awareness gives meaning to an authentic eco-spirituality where others enhance our individuality. This emerging WE is multidimensional, for each one of us is related to another (a linear relationship), and the two of us are related to a third (a plane or level of two-dimensional relationship). This surface changes through growing awareness of past and future states (a three-dimensional volumetric relationship); this "field" moves in real time (a temporal dimension). Furthermore, growth of interrelated groups or clusters form overlapping communities. WE grows in consciousness through awareness of divine companionship.
The WE also has a trinitarian character that touches once more on the mystery within, the mystery around, and the mystery beyond. As individual persons, we confront our self-awareness (mystery within) of limited time and place that can never be fully determined nor secured by our individual resources. As social beings, we look about for companionship and support with others in the vicinity (mystery around), and we are drawn as interrelated beings to a collective but indeterminate future (mystery beyond). These elements may resemble Rahner's philosophical/ theological categories: 1. the existential unity, 2. the historical dimension involving our connection with space and time, and 3. the transcendental knowledge or experience of God (Vorgriff auf esse) Reference: Karl Rahner. Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, trans. William V. Dych. (New York: Crossroad 1987, p. 52.) Rahner applies the transcendental character to human beings; these ideas are worthy of further reflection.
We are all distinct from each other, and yet we are really bonded together in various degrees by established and emerging relationships. These help constitute the WE, which is as much a part of my individual HERE and NOW -- and yet my "WE" is shared with others; it is the domain of "ecological commons." Some say you use "we" too much, and yet it is an emerging concept of collaboration that grows with time and effort. Also, the bonds that unite us help enhance our individuality, and so our enthusiasm drives us all the more. The mysteries within, around, and beyond are part of one's social being; as bonds strengthen through communication, my individual unique enthusiasm grows. We are more familiar with where we are, and thus HERE becomes a broader home; we are more aware of our time and our destiny, and NOW becomes a mystical moment. We are freer to move about in company with others, and the WE is destined to expand and deepen as emerging communities of faith hasten the coming New Heaven and New Earth.
However, without a strong awareness of the beyond, the environmentally conscious WE can shrink to a small group of friends reenforcing its domestic comforts of local home life and companionship; salutary restlessness is stifled, and an enthusiastic sense of urgency wanes. It follows that at higher levels of comfort, the beyond may fade to a greater distance and even the HERE and NOW lose their hold upon us. Ecological awareness fades.
While the Giver gives the immensity of the gift of Self in the person of Christ, the acceptance requires an ever deepening commitment of faith on the part of receivers in company with others. Eucharist is the nourishment allowing growth. We are called to exercise a freedom of determination. Some say "yes" and some say "no," making the WE an atmosphere where freedom is exercised. The recurring question down through the ages is how does the Christian draw another's attention to the fuller WE, a question of evangelization? Is this done through word or deed or both?
The Three as One: HERE, NOW and WE grows with spiritual awareness. A trinitarian imprint is found in all dimensions that give rise to an expanded environmental consciousness: HERE, seen through the eyes of faith, has a creative personal Source of Mystery who creates all and draws all; NOW, experienced in hope, involves a past -- a redemptive Calvary event -- and a future -- bringing all things together and delivering the kingdom to the Father; WE includes various parties with whom we are associated in neighborly love; these help us find our place (home), define our time (this moment), and improve a needed social quality of companionship to life. These three components are really distinct and yet form a unity within each of us as an individual and unique person -- and, more so, as inspired and enthusiastic enough to invite our God to break out in celebration and dance -- provided we accept the final invitation to receive a personal gift of divinization with enthusiasm. Here and now we are part of the Divine Family through our baptism. What does this mean?
Activists start in the possibility of acting more godly and effectively. Knowledge even about the divine working within us, is not for its own sake, but so that we can be moved to do greater works (John 14:12). Trinitarian reflection becomes the believer's imperative, for the greatness of our work begins to grow upon us and shocks us. Yes, speculative truth may be good in itself in an eternity with the luxury to speculate, but we have a job to do and that is to heal this wounded Earth. Yet we must reflect. We must transform a speculative theology of the Trinity into a moral theology of godly action. Being made in God's image is enough to make us reflect deeply as a prelude to action. If we balance reflection and action we can do both better and make this part of the collaborative enterprise.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to continue to reflect so that our healing activity can be more effective.
Mountains disappearing into fog, near Stewart, British Columbia.
August 18, 2015 Delving into God's Self-Communication
How rich are the depths of God -- how deep his wisdom and knowledge-- and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who will ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory forever! Amen.
(Romans 11: 33-36) Quoted from the Liturgy for Trinity Sunday.
We were hiking in the dense rain forest of British Columbia when we came upon massive wet footprints. I was no expert on animal tracks but I knew wet marks when I saw them, and that meant something really big just up ahead on the path. My vivid imagination pictured -- a possible bear? As we rounded the bend we saw a large St. Bernard wagging its tail and wanting to jump up and greet us. The mystery was happily solved.
Some mysteries are natural in origin and can be unraveled; others are never even known except by the revelation of the Almighty. And divine mysteries may gradually become clearer through an eternity of reflection. Such is the Trinity, the deepest of mysteries -- but maybe far more approachable than even a St. Bernard. We stand in awe of Mystery known only by Divine Revelation. Yes, our concepts and words fail us. Karl Rahner says that God is a mysterious Being who is incomprehensible apart from God's self-communication to the world. But from an activist standpoint, could we manifest our appreciation of this self-communication through deed rather than word? Isn't this difficult subject fraught with perils of misunderstanding and even heresy? However, let's buck up our courage and find the limits and road signs on our journey of faith. In delving into divine Mysteries we may become more aware of the God who is our companion in troubles.
An inspiration says "go on," and so we plunge amid spiritual consolations to see the nobility of the calling to heal Earth, precisely because it is so close to and even identified with the work of the Almighty. All God's people are created in God's image and called to be part of God's family; Christians have a vowed partnership with the Lord through baptism. Being created in God's image does not mean to "lord" over creation as an overbearing tyrant. Since our enthusiasm and our work dynamics are gifts from God, then to act as God's image in a godly manner requires that we reflect more deeply on how God acts and more so, open ourselves to allow God to act.
The following reflections were developed over eight years ago for an unpublished book but are extremely a propos today in the light of effective Earthhealing as a mark of the Trinitarian image in our world. This is an invitation for theologians to help save our wounded Earth.
Prayer: Lord, give the poor access to your mysteries so as to advance your presence in the world around us.
August 19, 2015 Considering Ignatian Tradition and the Trinity
As a youngster on Sundays I would look up at the large west window of our parish Church. Saint Patrick stands tall, holding a shamrock before a Celtic king and his subjects. Three-in-one. Yes, I could make the sign of the cross, but what does it all mean? I never really abandoned the question and find it looming ever larger before my mind and heart in old age. How unexplainable the Mystery! Can I show the Trinity at work without holding up shamrocks?
Ignatius had great devotion to the Most Holy Trinity, and so each day he prayed to the three Persons separately. But as he also prayed to the Most Holy Trinity, the thought came to him: why did he have to say four prayers to the Trinity? But this thought gave him little or no difficulty, being hardly important. One day while saying the Office of Our Lady on the steps of the same monastery, his understanding began to be elevated as though he saw the Holy Trinity in the form of three musical keys. This brought out so many tears and so much sobbing that he could not control himself.... As a result, the effect has remained with him throughout his life of feeling great devotion while praying to the Most Holy Trinity. (Reference: Luis Goncalves da Camara. A Pilgrim's Testament:The Memoirs of St. Ignatius of Loyola, trans. Parmananda R. Divarkar. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1995 p. 28.)
Ignatius' spirituality is thoroughly trinitarian, and that is why he is a master planner and organizer. A single insight into the Mystery of the Trinity becomes the deepest spiritual illumination in his early life while finding his vocation (at the River Cardoner in Spain), and this has been the subject of many reflections (Reference: Saint Louis, Mo., Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, Vol 1-38). Ignatius experienced the divine "circumincession," the total self-giving and indwelling of the Divine Persons in one another, and this gave him intense joy. (Reference: Robert Sears and Joseph Bracken. Self-Emptying Love in a Global Context: The Spiritual Exercises and the Environment. Eugene, Oreg.: Cascade Books, 2006, p. 42.)
In the Book of Genesis God says, Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves... (Genesis 1:26a), in a resemblance that marks us off from the animals and involves a general similarity of nature: intellect, will, authority. The human being is a person who shares in dignity through the union of the physical and the spiritual in one nature. In the atmosphere of love for us and in a desire to have us close, the almighty God creates us. If we do not believe that God's love is almighty, how can we believe that the Father could create us, the Son redeem us, and the Holy Spirit sanctify us? (Cat., #278.) It begins to emerge that the likeness of the way God acts is the perfect pattern in which we are to heal our wounded Earth.
Prayer: Lord, give us patience to reflect on divine activity.
Magnificent patterns of the blackberry lilies. (*Photo by Sally Ramsdell)
August 20, 2015 Striving to Be Godly as Earthealers
He gave the power to become children of God. (John 1:12)
In the atmosphere of creative love we freely raise our voices and praise God for such a privilege as to be part of the family. As adopted sons and daughters of God we are invited into the divine action in this world, especially to saving and healing this wounded planet and assisting in the creation of a New Earth. Authentic Earthhealing strives to be godly; this is creative in methods, redemptive in addressing ecological misdeeds, and holy in its preparing for the New Heaven and New Earth. The love Jesus expresses in his farewell address (John 13:33 to 17:26), gives us an insight into the love of Father and Son, and the love that makes us friends of the triune God. Any speculative smugness or tyrannical attitudes of lordship have no place, for being godly means humbly serving others.
We share the enthusiasm of the disciples and thus look to Jesus for words of wisdom and direction. The master model of ecology, our redeeming Lord, shows us how to conserve our physical energy (pray always, work in teams, don't encumber yourselves with excess baggage, shake off the dust when rejected, etc.). Jesus promises the Spirit who inspires and invites us to focus our attention on the task ahead. Called as agents of change we discover our own restlessness, which has benefits and liabilities: a restless enthusiasm is good; expending energy where less useful is not. St. Augustine says that our hearts will not rest until they rest in God; Earthhealing can be godly work leading ultimately to final rest. We are called to move beyond a consoling knowledge for its own sake to meaningful and harmonious action for others.
Christians are baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28). Early Christians saw this as the Trinitarian Mystery. Jesus declares an equality with the Father in a solemn manner before a hostile audience, I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever was, I Am (John 8:58). His audience knew full well what he meant. The trinitarian affirmation was generally accepted by the time of St. Paul (Yves Congar, p. 73). Origen, the great second century thinker, reflected on the oneness and threeness in God. Irenaeus during the same period expanded this affirmation into a confession of faith: That is why, when we are born again, baptism takes place through these three articles and gives us the grace of new birth in God the Father by means of his Son in the Holy Spirit (Reference: Dem. 7(SC 62. p.42).) "In the name of".... Pope Vigilius (537-555) said not "in their names" (DS 415); there is only one God: The Most Holy Trinity (Cat., #233). The word "Trinity" is not found in Scripture and yet the early Church struggled. Sacred Tradition embraces Scripture, and the final books are inspired and a Church-compiled product. The credal formulation is the monument and fruit of that struggle to understand and to translate understanding into action.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see grounding for our Earthhealing.
Late August color of the poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans.
August 21, 2015 Commenting Further on the Holy Trinity
We continue our reflection on the Triune God by whom we found our Earthhealing ministry. A major controversy arises over the Arian position prevalent in the fourth century, namely, Jesus is an exalted being but not of the same substance as God. Athanasius argues that Christ has to be divine in order to cause our divinization. (Reference: Thomas Bokenkotter. A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Image Books, 1990, p. 48.) In his De Incarnatione, Athanasius states that "The Son of God became man so that man might become God." After much reflection he, Athanasius, settles on the term homoousios, which means "identical in substance" rather than "of like substance." God is unique and indivisible and yet the Persons are distinct. Augustine in great detail discusses how these three Divine Persons are of the same substance. (Reference: Saint Augustine. The Trinity. Brooklyn, N.Y.: New City Press, 1991, Book V, Chap. 2, pp. 195-96).
The manner of expression differs in the East and West. The Greeks think in terms of the one God and Father, the Father is "the God," the one and only principle of the Godhead, which he also gives to the Son (God from God and light from light) and finally also the Holy Spirit. They are like three stars, one after the other; each gives the light to the next, but we only see one (Reference: Hans Kung. Great Christian Thinkers. New York: Continuum, 2000, p. 91).
The early ecumenical councils of the Church (both East and West) -- (Nicaea (325), Constantinople I, Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451) and Constantinople II (553)) -- strive for trinitarian clarity and precision. From these massive undertakings emerges a basic formula or creed along with an articulated system of trinitarian doctrine that becomes the core of our trinitarian theology. From an activist standpoint we could say that this struggle of coming to an understanding of three-in-one is ultimately a conservation of spiritual resources leading to action.
The West continued the discussion. Hans Kung writes of the "higher mathematics of the Trinity." The Church speaks of how the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct from one another and in the Lateran IV Council (1215) (after the Greek cleavage) states, It is the Father who generates the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds. The divine unity is triune (Cat#254). These Divine Persons are relative to one another, but everything in them is one, where there is no opposition of relationship.
There are four relations: paternity (Father generates the Son), filiation (Son is generated by the Father), spiration (Father and Son breath forth the Holy Spirit) and procession (of Spirit from Father and Son). These relations are what constitute the distinction between the Divine Persons. They cannot be distinguished by any absolute attribute, for every absolute attribute must belong to the infinite Divine Nature, and this is common to the Three Persons. Whatever distinction there is must be in the relations alone (Reference: The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1912, Vol XV, p. 56.). Kung says the real issue rests with "belief that God the Father works in a revealing, redeeming and liberating way in us through his Son Jesus Christ in his Spirit." (Kung, p. 92)
Gregory Nazianzen, the fourth century Patriarch of Constantinople, talked about this gradual revelation of God to us over time: The Old Testament preached the Father openly and the Son more obscurely, while the New revealed the Son and hinted at the deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells in us ... (It was much more suitable that) by gradual advances and, as David said, by partial ascents, moving forward and increasing in clarity, the light of the Trinity should shine on those who have already been given lights. (Reference: Orat. XXXI Theol. V. 26.)
Revelation of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is definitely a historical "procession," for the Son comes among us in time and then sends the Spirit for our enlivening work. Thus time enters into our understanding of the eternal Mystery. St. Augustine deals with the process of human knowledge as trinitarian in its very nature and writes on this subject, especially in his major opus, The Trinity. The very movement of the mind -- memory, intellect and will -- could be described as through a temporal sequence. As Kung comments, Augustine begins his Trinity reflection with the one divine nature or substance, the one divine essence, glory, majesty common to all three persons. "This one divine nature [is] for him [Augustine] the principle of the unity of Father, Son and Spirit, within which these three differ only as eternal relationships (these are the foundation of life within God): the Father knows himself in the Son and the Son in the Father, and proceeds from this as the personified love of the Spirit" (Kung p. 91). Saint Augustine highlights the extent of this procession that has divided the East from the Filioque now found in the Western Creed, that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son" [bold added]. Through a sincere theological discussion in an ecumenical atmosphere differences will hopefully be resolved.
Thomas Aquinas and other medieval scholars adapted and yet expanded beyond Augustinian insights, or theo-psychology of the soul. Aquinas utilized insights from Greek, Pagan, and Arab sources and developed a theology of the analogy between eternal Begetting of the Word and Breathing forth of the Spirit and human knowing and loving. Thomas' mystical experience of God towards the end of his life was so profound that he was tempted to abandon his major works. He writes that "the ultimate human knowledge of God is to know that we do not know God." (Reference: Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 1947,<http://www.ecel.org/a/aquinas/summa/home.html>.)
Prayer: Lord, give us the patience and fortitude to delve into past and current reflections on the Mystery of our triune God so that we can better understand our own part in salvation history.
August 22, 2015Hoping We Do Not Stumble in Godly Reflection
YHWH is the Creator; Jesus comes among us as our Redeemer; the Spirit sanctifies us. Yes, all these statements are true, but we still must exercise caution. Father, Son, and Spirit; creation, redemption, spiration; uncreated Love, begotten Word, overflowing Spirit. And we say, following the Second Council of Constantinople, "One God and Father from whom all things are made, and our Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are." The Father, Son and Spirit create, redeem, and inspire together truly a "community" action.
Thus, the whole divine economy is the common work of the three Divine Persons. The Trinity has only one and the same nature and only one and the same operation -- the Council of Florence (1431-45). "Each Divine Person performs the common work according to his unique personal property......It is above all the divine missions of the Son's incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit that shows forth the properties of the divine person" (Cat., #258).
Assigning exclusive operations to the Divine Persons could smack of tritheism and omit the oneness of God. But Karl Rahner makes an additional point when he says that, despite their orthodox confession, Christians are, in their practical life, "almost mere 'monotheists.'" (Reference: Karl Rahner. The Trinity, trans. Joseph Donceel. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1970, p. 10 -- hereafter Trin.). However, some in academic circles argue with this critique and focus on the question of whether the Son was the Person who had to become incarnate (Rahner affirms he was). Further, there is controversy with Rahner's treatment of the economic/immanent Trinity; Rahner holds an identity between the economic Trinity (the divine persons as they are revealed and act in salvation history) and the immanent Trinity (the divine persons with respect to one another) (Trin., p. 22).
Furthermore, Rahner says many spiritual writers dismiss the classical "vestiges" and the "image of the Trinity," as possibly a collection of pious speculations, unobjectionable once the doctrine has been established, but telling us nothing, either about the Trinity itself or about created reality, which is not already known from other sources (Trin., p. 14). However, our eco-spirituality seeks to reemphasize the trinitarian nature of our own actions and that our motivation is normative and pious: in reflecting on the presence of the Trinity in our midst, we discover that our work has a profound trinitarian character that colors how we are to act.
In the twentieth century, in the spirit of Vatican II, an impetus to move away from traditional trinitarian treatments has emerged. Some regard the classical trinitarian formulations as similar to structures and boiler plates -- but both skeletons and steel sheeting are lifeless. Karl Rahner calls for distancing ourselves from a more isolated scholastic trinitarian treatment and finding a "liberation" using more modern approaches and concepts (Reference: Karl Rahner, "The Mystery of the Trinity," in Theological Investigations," Vol. XVI, trans. David Morland. New York: The Seabury Press, 1978, p. 256).
For Rahner, human history is the event of transcendence (a characteristic of all human beings). For him, only within this condition of human transcendence are we able to experience and receive God's self-communication through historical mediation, that is "salvation history." Christ is the prime expression of our Triune God, the divine self-communication. Rahner says that God's self communication is necessarily triune and constitutes salvation history to be what it is. This is the domain of God's self-communication, specifically God's self-revelation and activity through Christ and the Spirit (Trin., p. 5).
This is the total offer of God's self through Christ to the human being who is created as the recipient of the self-communication of God, and who is made capable by the Spirit of receiving God's free gift. (Reference: Trin. p. x. Intro. by Catherine Mowry LaCugna). Gutierrez holds that a profane and a sacred history are not juxtaposed, but are one single history assumed by Christ the Lord of History; the history of salvation is at the heart of human history and the salvific action of God underlies human existence (Reference: Gustavo Gutierrez. Essential Writings. New York: Orbis Books, 1996, p. 79). Rahner, however, holds that the history of salvation and the whole world history are co-existent but not equated, because there is a corresponding history of guilt in world history. (Reference: Joas Adiprsetya. Karl Rahner "Jesus as God's Self Communication in History," http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/courses/mwt/dictionary/mwt themes 800 ,p.10).
As Ignatius has insisted, all contemplation on the loving Triune God leads to a refinement in our own action -- and we desperately need assistance from our Triune God in the Earthhealing task before us. Does our merciful God reveal this divine Mystery in the fullness of time (this era) or maybe through time? Events (the Incarnation and Pentecost) and process (ongoing salvation history) will occupy us in our reflections this year, for much depends on our notions of history, evolution, and human anthropology. Something must be done urgently NOW. Certainly we know that the Trinity is revealed in time and thus the revelation is within salvation history. What we are doing in saving (not redeeming) our troubled Earth is part of that history. This saving deed is part of a mystery we seek to enter in some way.
Prayer: Lord, give us a grounding in our traditional beliefs so that we see the Trinitarian imprint on the Earthhealing service that we are to render. Help us see the impact of creative mystery, redemptive renewal, and a loving service going out to all the world. In a spirit of collaboration help us see this as a single movement among believers to a New Heaven and New Earth. Let our internal harmony be united with the external harmony of teamwork.
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus).
(*Photo by Sally Ramsdell)
August 23, 2015 Perceiving Multitudes and Remnants
After this many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him. (John 6:66)
All of us can be mesmerized by numbers. I certainly can and perhaps you as well. We are results-oriented and like to hear of ever growing numbers of believers and donations and the increasing size of structures. Then we come to the readings of the past few weeks on the Eucharist and read in the final portion of John 6 where many left Jesus after hearing the discourse on the Eucharist. How can he give us his flesh to eat? Is the entire solemn donation of God to us openly rejected by a great number of hearers? Surely, if the teaching is divine the multitudes would be willing to accept the message. But they do not. The Eucharistic story is one of solemn depth and yet it is rejected by many of the listeners. At this sublime moment of Good News comes a departure of the unbelieving people. This bears out Mother Teresa's words that "it is better to be faithful than to be successful." And this holds for the faithful who come to believe in the Eucharist as well.
Statistics can fool us. As a hobby I try to make sense of religious statistics. About 55% of Christians are Catholics of the various rites (Latin, Chaldean, Maronite, etc.), or about 1.2 billion people. Just how many of these, or of the remaining one billion Christians, are nominal and how many sincere believers is uncertain. How many truly believe in Christ and how many of the Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and others believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist? What we do know from Scripture is that only a remnant of those who were physically present and heard Christ's message believed. Down through the centuries people have reflected on whether faith is for the multitudes or for the remnant faithful few. Many of the small sects operate as remnants on their belief that their fidelity is more important than their numbers.
Is a remnant theology still before us? Whatever the answer, we ought to be prepared that many could fall away and only a few remain, or we may expect that the decline in attendance in Europe could be the harbinger of falling away in attendance in other parts of the world. Christianity has been buoyed up by the massive growth in Africa, China and other parts of Asia and Oceania, as well as many Latin Americans. But what lies ahead? Certain passages of Scripture may give us clues. When Christ returns, will he find faith? Does this question cause us to engage in idle speculation or to redouble our efforts at coming closer to the Lord? We are called to believe in Christ through a rationally-based faith and yet this is grounded in the simple trust of the innocent child -- the one whom Jesus encourages us to imitate on our journey of faith. The Eucharist is the Lord's gift, his presence, his sign of future glory, his offer of eternity to us. Our response to "Do you want to leave me too?" is with Peter's question "Lord, to whom shall we go?"
Prayer: Lord, help us remain loyal believers in your presence.
August 24, 2015 Working Harmoniously in a Godly Fashion
Now we are seeing a dim reflection as in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known. In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13: 12-13)
The glory of the Creator and Source of all life is present in all creation, from the artifacts we produce to services rendered. But artifacts require a maker and services a renderer, all working with enthusiasm, a believer's expression through deed. God acts and Divine Harmony resonates in the ears of those who believe. It is like the residual sound billions of years after the Big Bang. More importantly, Divine Harmony floods the universe with a sound that listening believers can perceive coursing through our bodies; moral temporal pauses and eternal timelessness. Music is the gateway to Divine Harmony and promise of future glory. Musical notes is how Ignatius perceives a glimmer of Trinitarian Mystery. (Reference: Luis Goncalves da Camara. A Pilgrim's Testament:The Memoirs of St. Ignatius of Loyola, trans. Parmananda R. Divarkar. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1995 p. 28.).
Believers radiate godliness by manifesting harmony in their individual lives and in harmonious interaction of body parts. All bodily organs work together for total health and well-being: hands fashion clay, head ponders design, and heart quickens the process through inspiration. Head plans the use of hands, expresses the satisfaction of seeing the spiritual artifact emerge or service rendered, and faces smile with joy. Heart, that traditional seat of emotions, gives inspiration to head and hands, and triggers revealing and sharing the artifact for practical use. Bodily organs work together, are not jealous, nor seek special recognition.
The total work involves giving, reflecting and accepting -- hands which give and receive, heads that reflect and nod in agreement, and hearts that go out in service and are received in gratitude. Harmony then becomes giving and receiving, a communication in which interiority grows and flourishes.
Harmony or anticipated order is derived from the Greek harmos, or fitting. Human beings seek art or service that is fitting and pleasing. Harmonious action is seen, heard or felt as pleasing, pleasant, and adding to wellbeing. Concordant notes, measured rests and a sense of modulation of chords all create an atmosphere that is most pleasing to the ear. Such pleasure gives music and includes dance, visual or dramatic art. Architecture, culinary delights, good scientific presentations, well-tended farms and gardens, hairstyling, home decoration, yard care, administration, liturgical practice -- just to name a few. Harmony involves: a production of work or service; a word to heal this wounded Earth. We must transform a speculative appreciation to practical healers.
Prayer: Lord, help us restore balance and harmony to our work.
August 25, 2015 Contrasting Harmony and Disharmony
Let us continue our reflection on harmony. While we human beings seek that which is fitting and pleasing, still disorder comes to us at various times and places. Certainly those we regard as disorganized really seek a harmony in life at quieter times; all of us crave agreeable relations with others -- people, plants and animals. Disharmony whether in sound, taste or sight strikes us in disquieting ways. Concordant notes, measured rests and beats, and a sense of modulation of chords all create an atmosphere that is most pleasing; on the other hand, we are distracted by the presence of disharmony. We know when and where this occurs and generally resist it when in control of our actions. All in all, disharmonies take us away from God.
Our impulse is to harmonize with others and this draws us into God's ongoing creative activity. Artists become creators of artifacts through their talents and efforts; organizers help create communities; gardeners create cultivated space in growing produce; homemakers transform households into homes; healers work for the victims' wellbeing; and hospice workers fashion an atmosphere of support for those making the final journey. Love of harmony begets its own expressed fruit of labor, and such efforts do not go unnoticed. A catalytic effect results with loving deed giving rise to more acts of love. Harmony leads to further harmony.
The world is not perfectly harmonious. Even amid all the harmonizing that we find, disharmony abounds and takes the form of erratic conditions beyond our immediate control -- discord among families, communities and nations, selfishness and failure to share essential goods and services, and addictions of all sorts that result in discouragement and even despair. Hands are idled or misused; heads are filled with false glory or greedy plots; hearts are insensitive to others' needs. The body parts are functioning, but not working together. However, harmony can be restored.
Jesus was a carpenter and regarded as a carpenter's son, whose calloused palms showed the nobility of working with the hands. St. Irenaeus says in a figurative manner that God created the world by the Son and the Spirit or "His two hands." (Reference: Adv. Haer., IV, xx,1); if such was said of God two millennia ago (in order to show that the Second and Third Person are not substantially distinct from the First), why have the works of the hands been neglected for so long? Were such works the sole domain of servants, slaves and serfs and beneath the radar of theologically trained academics? Was hand work ungodly? Ancient Greek and Roman culture looked down on such slave or serf labor and never utilized energy sources as labor-saving. However, medieval monks regarded labor-saving as giving time to workers to rest and pray, thus sponsoring windmills and water power. Christianity brought both liberation and a sense of nobility to working with our hands.
Prayer: Lord, teach us the joy of being of service to you.
My heart is ready, God -- I mean to sing and play. (Ps.108:1)
Healing Earth involves the creative power of our accumulated experience through crafting, research, engineering, medical, legal, economic, and political efforts. Hands are essential for spreading the Good News, but so are head and heart. Medieval theologians following in the footsteps of Augustine saw a trinitarian pattern in the human thought process, with memory giving way to understanding and intelligible word and this giving way to willing acts. The brain is meant to think, to engage in keen observation, to utilize rational principles, to help test and design properly, and to form words, which are uttered to the world. In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). We create and sing songs of praise; we say healing words as well as perform good deeds; we choose to pronounce what is just and right; we proclaim the Good News through our thoughtful words spoken as Good News.
The hearts of the concerned respond to the urgent calls for help; they are moved by destruction of our landscape, polluted rivers, endangered wildlife. If we as a community of beings have been remiss in allowing injury to occur, then we, as a people working together, must gather together and rebuild the damaged social order. And the will to do so takes in the heart. This is work that extends the love we have for God's creation to those hurt by misdeed. In accepting our responsibility to glorify Earth we unite with others and show the power of love at work.
If the works of the head are characterized as stemming from a masculine mentality, the works of the heart are so intimately feminine womanly that most of us men must learn from those who do them best -- the women of the world. Is the heart that the Holy Spirit permeated with love so feminine that one could dare to call Spirit a "she"? That may allay fears of many feminists about the Trinitarian Mystery. (The Hebrew Ruah is feminine and the Greek Pneuma is neuter). Furthermore, Mary is the heart of our Earth, saying "yes" to its redemption, the recreation of its "glory" as God's dwelling, the "eternal feminine" (in Teilhard's words) who delights in God -- and God in her.
Interior harmony of hand, head and heart does not remain isolated but is Good News. Harmony is a product of enthusiastic work and that effect catalyzes actions on the part of others to harmonize, heal and restore. Inspired beneficial products and services have power to renew the face of our Earth -- and so God works by choice through us in building up a more glorious Earth. Let's emphasize works, i.e, Earthhealing. God invites us to enter into the re-creative process and engage in purifying air and water, in renewable energy and affordable housing. The Spirit moves us to bring ourselves into harmony. Physician, heal thyself!
Prayer: Lord, teach us harmony in our products and services.
We are called to address the disharmonies of our wounded Earth, to heal ourselves and to attend to the healing process itself. Believers have a special role to play in helping to unfold the Mystery of an eternal and immutable God at work in a changeable and temporal world. In an atmosphere of gratitude we are invited to recognize Jesus Christ as greatest gift given and received in faith, and to share with others generously and courageously, while insisting that the saving work cannot be achieved without divine help. We do not ask for miracles, only divine inspiration.
While convinced that healing Earth can and ultimately will occur, we do not doubt the "can" (the potential to do a certain task), but may doubt the "will" within the foreseeable future. We have the tools in appropriate technology. However, consumer greed and comfort have dulled the sensitivity of the civic will power to respond. The prophetic word needs to be heard in its conditional manner, "If excessive carbon dioxide generation is not curbed, then surely harm will come to our Earth." True prophets do not foretell the future; they only see the conditional future with clarity if actions are not taken. Will they be heard?
We Christians do not possess a gnostic secret healing procedure or spiritual knowledge about Earthhealing. While non-believers can contribute mightily to environmental work ahead through their good efforts and expertise, Christians must show a profound sense of care and caution, knowing it is part of our collective destiny: the task involves enthusiasm; re-creation is to be enduring; all improvements are to avoid greed and selfishness; and we must insist that an openness be exercised in inviting all to participate, not an elite few. Thus, believers ensure that a trinitarian healing process occurs that includes knowing and loving. Ultimately this is part of the mystery of our divinization (in the sense expressed by St. Athanasius), which impels us to go forth and heal our wounded Earth with each truth professed in word AND expressed in deed.
The Holy Spirit enhances our enthusiasm; this leads to initiating and participating in salvation history. We must be practical and creative people and undertake works to benefit all. Our deeds confirm our words, but their imperfect performance takes us back within ourselves; we must make correctives that will produce greater inner harmony and thus, better external performance. The interplay of interior enthusiasm and external expression is vital. For Christians this inner harmony of creative expression, spoken word, and loving heart is a participation in Divine Harmony. The greatest commandment to love God with our whole being includes beneficial deeds in conformity to that love expressed by the Son's love of the Father. We love with our whole hearts; harmonious and effective Earthhealing is sure to follow.
Prayer: Lord, inspire our harmonious Earthhealing practices so that your love for all of us is manifest.
The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit. (II Corinthians 13:13)
I was able to perform post-doctorate chemistry work at the University of Texas with the late Professor Michael Dewar. While he was a theoretical person by temperament, he had the genius to appreciate practical science and encourage his team to do both. Collaboration is essential for harmony in scientific pursuits.
Truth can be proclaimed in many ways -- softly, deliberately, and courageously, or self-righteously, defiantly, and arrogantly. Truth needs to be proposed and not imposed. The truth of the Trinity is proclaimed in a fervent sign of the cross and in an enthusiastic showing of God's love appreciated through human service. The Spirit leads each of us to speak and act publicly, but in a loving and merciful manner. Humble proclamation of the Triune God can produce results, though they are not automatic, for we are dealing with free human beings. All vowed by baptism are to proclaim the Good News including global collaboration -- not competition. Diverse work areas show this:
Migrants come to this country to perform menial labor by housecleaning, doing construction, or working as day laborers picking vegetables. These humble people are inspired to do a good job and be honest caregivers in their own way. No sacrifice or suffering is lost in the Blood of Christ throughout the ages. Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare an abode for us in heaven (John 14:1-4). Earthly homes (ecos) become examples of harmonious and loving work and the launching pad of eternal happiness.
Artisans with generous hearts participate in the Creator's work. Artisans plan, prepare, and promote their work, all done with enthusiasm. Materials are reviewed, advice sought and sometimes accepted, public display is fostered and criticism rendered. Artisans speak to themselves, to artifacts, to companions, to the discerning public, to anyone who will listen; the work takes on its own life. In rare cases, artists hide or destroy their work, but ordinarily it is a self-communication to the world. The particular artifact expresses a harmonizing of hands, head and heart. Michelangelo tapped the statue and said, "Speak!"
Scientists discover and do research in a quest for new learning and development. Thus, scientific discovery is Good News and experimentation leads to broadening the outreach. The ones who advance science in all its fields are i nspired. However, not all that is termed science is used for benefits, e.g., weapons of mass destructions or greedy profits. Some Romance languages couple exploration with exploitation. When working together, theory and practice share in collaborative efforts to benefit the common good.
Prayer: Lord, you create, dwell with us, and share your divine love with us all; teach us to follow your example.
August 29, 2015Deciding to Discern Spirits Communally
Inspiration involves spirit, but how are we so sure that what we have in this journey of life is the good Spirit or not? That question may never occur to someone who thinks all spiritual quests are for the better, or are too subjective to be judged by another. But speaking loosely, we also know that some inspiration may bring disharmony: crooked business practices, cheating, unsound investments, or greed.
Ignatius of Loyola delved into the multiple spirit problem when recovering from wounds inflicted at the Battle of Pamplona. During his convalescence he came upon the reality of diverse spirits. When he thought about his aspirations of being a valiant knight, he noticed that noble thoughts did not last and left him with an empty feeling. However, when thinking about the saints he experienced a different feeling of joy that persisted long afterwards. He came to gradually realize that these were very different spirits, "one from the devil, the other from God." (A Pilgrim's Testimony, p. 8).
Decisive moments occur in all of our journeys, but especially at major turning points in our individual lives. Communally, healing our Earth is a major occasion. Our rudimentary aspirations can get quite confused by inspirations from diverse sources. One may be moved by an impulsiveness and yet the first direction may not be the best one. Promotion of fracking as cheap "clean" energy is one such occasion when the alluring temptation comes to avoid climate change issues. We pause and focus our thoughts and reconsider our goals. The challenge to change to a renewable energy economy has vast implications. The impulse must be purified of detours such as enticements to profitability and material gain.
We must prayerfully list what it takes to attain a truly renewed Earth. The practices chosen must be safe and free of harmful emissions; they must be friendly to people and benign to the environment; they must be for the benefit of all and not just a few. Disharmonies such as greed exist from the temptations of the Evil One. Many of us have seen enough evil in a lifetime to attest to its personalized and alluring nature in violence, abuse, and dishonesty. The listing of good and harm must be made with honesty and proper discussion. Experts help and their opinions are weighed, as well as those of the ordinary citizen and especially the poor who can suffer from bad choices.
Individual discernment can be undertaken using the Spiritual Exercises and often an experienced director. Communal discernment is challenging for it requires honesty and prayerfulness in disentangling hidden allurements. This is a need and the process worthy of good planning and openness on the part of all parties. The fruit of the Good Spirit is a collective peace of soul.
Prayer: Lord, help us see the titanic battle between good and
evil and how we can come to a successful communal discernment.
August 30, 2015 Purifying the Heart by Earthhealers
This people honors me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. (Mark 7:6)
Are our hearts with the Lord? We hear in the Gospel today (Mark 7: 1-23) that it is what comes from within the heart that shows who we truly are, whether that be good or bad. The obtuse heart is something worth reflecting on here, for "obtuse" means blunt or rounded, dull or insensitive, or lacking in alertness. Obtuseness can be applied to intellectual or to spiritual development, to a failure at understanding the meaning of the exercise, or the failure to see the need for virtues that flow from the good Spirit's prompting. While others weep on Good Friday or rejoice on Easter Sunday, the obtuse person is totally calloused as to what makes for a change of mood with the liturgical season.
Let's return to the Gospel. Jesus brings disciples whose cultural traditions neglect the little ways of another part of the country -- the ritual of sprinkling utensils before use. The Pharisees observe their neglect and find an excuse to attack Jesus; they regard his disciples as lacking religious fervor, but the attack is directed against Jesus. Recall that Mark's Gospel was written for Romans and that a few decades before Christian "Judizers" wanted to impose Jewish observances on gentile Christians -- "a," if not the, major part of the early emerging Church conflicts. Observance of laws and customs can become a stumbling block within a diverse community of shared belief.
Why observe these regulations? The Old Testament tells the reason: "observing commandments gives evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations" (Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8). The command must penetrate deep within our hearts, not as a strict imposition from the outside, making the heart hardened. That is especially true if the unappreciated rules are not seen as springing from the depths of God's concern for us. Rules and regulations should be guide posts on our journey of faith, not stumbling blocks. Rules are not meant just for others; we are to welcome them with open hearts. In calling for Vatican II, St. John XXIII wanted to open the doors to let the air in, not throw the furniture out. Francis speaks of openness of heart in spreading the Good News to a waiting and troubled world.
Purification of heart occurs in different ways. Through sensitivity and alertness, we abandon selfishness and look to needs of others. James' Letter (Chapter one) mentions especially orphans and widows -- and we add other categories as well. We must acquire a merciful heart, seeking to forgive quickly, and solicitous of others' needs. We must refrain from allurements from TV, billboards, and the Internet. Purification becomes our goal, but this takes humble service. Ask the Lord to soften our hearts.
Prayer: Lord, prepare us for the great works ahead by giving us merciful and loving hearts that allow sensitivity to others.
August 31, 2015 Preserving and Enhancing our Enthusiasm
Never try to suppress the Spirit, or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt; think before you do anything -- hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil. (I Thessalonians 5:19-22)
As the grand month of August draws to a close we reflect on all the efforts we make to practice being Earthhealers in the ease of summertime. We focus on retaining our enthusiasm and in giving attention to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who enlightens us to difficult tasks ahead. An effective Earthhealing process must be filled with enthusiasm to help us continue. We seek to establish, not unravel, the Mystery that grounds our being, is our destiny, and triggers our restlessness. Such efforts give us a broadening view of our ecological HERE, NOW and WE, all seen through the eyes of believers.
Our enthusiasm justifies an inherent restlessness that stands in sharp contrast to the "comfort" levels sought by those who seek the status quo. A feeling of guilt in not resolving our inherent restlessness could be the workings of the Evil One and lead to denial, excuse, escape, or acting as cynics or busybodies. Becoming better Earthhealers means we look to the Source of all gifts, the Gift (Christ), and the Spirit in our lives. And we show our gratitude by our involvement, not only by sincere words of thanks, but through effective deeds. We are to help make salvation history -- and this opportunity is gift itself.
Our awareness grows but the upcoming result is not that we have more information or a hidden secret knowledge that excludes others. Rather, consolation occurs even while restless about the status quo and human needs. The restless wind blows where she will and our hearing and response gives spiritual comfort. Our hearts are directed by the Spirit. We must invite Mystery to be truly present and make this the ground of enthusiasm, the divine Mystery within us. Herein lies the imperative to love and let its effects be manifest for all to see and imitate. Enthusiastic action means that a blessed state lies in a future not yet attained, but deeply desired; a blessed "process" involving our ability to share more with others to reach that state.
Our enthusiastic response is trinitarian in character. We discover inner harmony in our particular work, in the sciences and arts, and in the process of healing Earth. And in reflecting on this harmony we find that God is within, prompting us, guiding us, directing us to give loving service. The more we seek to love, to harmonize our interior lives, and to live in harmony with others, the better we work together. Thus, we begin to discover what Earthhealing should be, and this is more than an expression of piety; it is the heart of the divine calling to hasten a New Heaven and New Earth. Earthhealing is salvation history being made.
Prayer: Lord, even in hard and harrowed times we are drawn ever closer to you and gaze at the immense gravity of our calling.