October is the height of our traditional gathering season, when corn and soybeans are harvested along with late apples, pears, late vegetables and nuts. It is also the precious time for winter preparations -- wood cutting, final insulating and winterizing, greenhouse stocking and late autumn garden protection. A deep sense of mortality is settling over the countryside as leaves turn and fall. With aging comes all the more opportunities to find ways to share with those who are less blessed than we are. We prepare for radical sharing through an atmosphere of forgiveness, for our efforts during change of seasons contain an openness to invite collaboration among all people of good will -- an October focus.
Autumn radiance in white, pink, purple, Traffic island distractions, Nodding gallantly to the sun; Braving early frost, to give one last hurrah to summer's fading vitality.
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October 1, 2015 Reflecting on World Vegetarian Day
October reminds us of harvesting, which brings to mind food, drink and celebration of all sorts. It is a time to consider global sharing for millions who lack food security. That makes us realize that total sharing is more important than the type of food, provided the meal is good tasting and well prepared. When we are focused on family or small community sharing, as at the Thanksgiving event next month, dishes of our past have their importance -- and for many of us that means meat dishes. However, if in October we think of World Food Day, we realize that vegetarian meals have a broader ranging sharing potential. These are focused on less resource intensive and locally produced foods.
Autumn is a sobering time while awaiting the drastic change of seasons. Now we recall memories of things past -- some good and some not so: what was good is treasured, but perhaps somewhat exaggerated by embellishment; what was bad is forgotten or vaguely remembered with a tinge of regret and guilt. To improve that sense of good we, as budding healers, seek forgiveness and resolve to undertake improvement. However, we recall that our journey of faith involves nourishment shared with others and it takes energy to continue with fidelity and vigor. We do not travel alone; we strive to help others and share our largesse with those who are famished on their own journeys in life.
In the atmosphere of this transitory October beauty we examine the bonds that bind us together as communities. These bonds are recognized as fragile and deserving of nurturing, for they span a wide range: bonds to plants and animals, bonds to fellow human beings, especially those with whom we share faith, and bonds with our God. We sustain and repair these bonds through forgiveness, love and mercy; we strengthen them through prayerful gatherings and sacramental life; we deepen ties through extending them to others and through radical (rooted and foundational) sharing. This includes a desire to share our food (if it can be shipped) or food budget with the hungry in other lands.
We realize our horizonal bonding with others is strengthened by our vertical bonding as community with God ahead of us and to whom we reach out in hope. Amazingly, in reaching out we also find that God is near and accompanying us. Much is still unfulfilled, but in radical sharing we discover that much has already begun. Eternity starts with those who are already sharing. A positive resolution here and now means consuming less resource intensive food (animal products and commercially prepared foods) -- but it does not mean going cold turkey, except for those committed to being vegetarian. Herein with divine favor lies a budding mystical experience -- something that underlies the healing of our Earth: we need to honor our spiritual calling. God is master healer, and we are companions, teammates and participants.
Prayer: Lord help us to honor vegetarians and the gentle message they bring to a world in need of radical resource sharing.
The owl will hoot at the window and the raven croak at the doorstep. (Zephaniah 2:14b)
Fall can be at times joyful and at times melancholy. I think the animals have a special manner of expressing themselves in this season. Many winged creatures seek to escape to warmer climes and have already departed; those that remain have the winter scene to themselves and that is always a challenge. In some ways they sound happy to be left among themselves, but then, on second thought, I think they miss their departing wildlife partners as well. No matter what we say, we envy the facile movement of our fair weather friends to more comfortable zones to the south.
Appalachia, as sacred space, is a home to many creatures, each
with its own niche established a few millennia ago. We are to be
open to our local wildlife that lives and moves and sings around us both day and night. In fact, this was their home long before human beings arrived; yes, both permanent and transitory flying birds enliven our region, giving it a certain unique character. Land-and water-based wildlife have less mobility and are generally more localized residents. They are all our constant companions.
Some of the birds -- the neo-tropical ones -- leave for warmer
climates at the first signs of frost. These fair-weather visitors prefer milder temperatures, somewhat like "snow birds" in Florida. Other, more permanent residents such as cardinals and bluejays stay, make do with what is here, brighten the winter scenes, and keep us company throughout the year. We appreciate summer guests enlivening our lives by songs and chants, but value hoot owls and other year‑round residents all the more. We admire the skill and cunning that the permanent residents must possess to survive the winter chill and a few severe weather events like February's.
Some Appalachian folks exercise the same opportunistic instincts. Some go away for jobs as migrants and for education as students; others stay through the harsh winters of life. To each group, we show appreciation: for those who go, we wish them well; for those who come back on occasion we thank them for their visits; but we appreciate most sincerely those who stay put. The blessing of their presence is so often overlooked; they make community.
Certainly, in October we sense our deeper kinship with the plant and animal kingdoms, when birds migrate and leaves fall. We find the deeper yearning to share our love with our Creator and Conserver of life, and are drawn to desiring approach to our Mystery within. The haunting feeling of October produces an ambivalent atmosphere deserving deeper exploration. All creation -- heavenly bodies, plants and animals -- has a message for us to ponder. Let's take the precious time to do so.
Prayer: Lord, help us see life as a going and coming -- from the womb and to the tomb, from you and back to you.
October 3, 2015. Enjoying the Scent of Wet Autumn Leaves
I will fall like dew on Israel They shall bloom like the lily, and thrust out roots like the poplar, their shoots will spread far; they will have the beauty of the olive and the fragrance of Lebanon. (Hosea 14:5-7)
I dread to drive in the dense fogs of autumn morns and so I am more inclined to stay put and savor the season, for here and now we experience the distinct scent of decomposing leaves. No other time of year is so punctuated by an extended seasonal fragrance. And we know this is nature's way of returning vegetation to humus and preparing for new life. Dead leaves are so different from the harsh odor of decaying animals; fallen leaves emit a perfume that can be enjoyed. Natural recycling occurs, and it stirs our souls.
The warmer autumn daylight span is shortening and night's coolness is increasing. Breezes creep up from the valleys to the higher reaches of the hills; the fog clings to us more closely; the frost scampers rapidly across the landscape. Hanging autumn leaves exude a beauty that is fleeting. Really, Halloween marks the last of normal foliage in Appalachia, even though oaks cling on to their rust-colored leaves until well into winter and even beyond. Those fallen leaves return to Earth's organic pool, but in the process they emit characteristic autumn scents, which tell us that nature is going to sleep for awhile.
This is confirmed by all the senses, but our humble nose really knows the uniqueness of this season. Lessons are learned through sight and sound but are never so pronounced as those learned through the sense of smell. Nature beckons us gently through its teaching mode: accept the seasons; recycle organic matter; regard all things as of value. The humble leaf teaches us that nothing is "waste;" all is "future resource." So autumn can be a learning time, if we but give some time for reflection.
Really, if we look back on the total sweep of "Daily Reflections," we characterize each month as a "good time" to ponder certain issues. It's true; each is a time for everything under heaven. But in autumn we can go beyond yearly surveys of January or July, or the Lenten period, or Advent and year's closure. October scents remind us of life's passing and approaching mortality, of not only the change of our yearly cycle of seasons, but a transition from mortal to eternal life. This is time to be at peace with God and yet we are restless. Perhaps it is time to be adventuresome and prepare for the eternal journey. Faith allows us to have courage to look ahead in anticipation. We don't abandon the current procession of events, but we can in spare moments grow in anticipation of things to come. Why not?
Prayer: Lord, help us plot where we are going and correct for the tempting little detours that we learn to simply ignore.
May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives. (Psalm 128)
Our Sunday reading today includes Genesis (2:18-24) and its second creation narrative, the one in which husband and wife are distinguished as partners and co-equal (made from the ribs of man or of one flesh). The term is also used by David to the elders of Judah that "you are my bone and my flesh." The need for a partner is the norm for the human race. Our parents had such a relationship, and many who read this also have one, and know its value and merit. Woman is a partner and worthy of the deepest respect, and not the subjugation imposed on women in the culture of the Middle East at the time the Scriptures were written -- and continuing in many cultures today. The Biblical account is really an affirmation of equality in it fullest expression. Men are not above women, but co-sharers in being created to God's image.
The Hebrews (2:9-11) text speaks of the extended family, which is what the first reading ushers forth through the partnership of marriage. But here our family extends beyond physical bonds of flesh and blood to include the family of God, the deep Mystery into which we are called to enter through our Baptism. Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters and make us part of his Divine Family. This immense gift baffles us, for we are invited through Baptism to become a companion of Jesus in the establishing of the Kingdom of God. This calls for a lifetime of service and asks us to ponder with Mary the great Mystery into which we enter. We take on family relationships; this colors the way we act, for radical sharing means we advance to an understanding that all people are one family deserving of our respect and service.
The Mark (10:2-16) selection for today tells us of the commitment that Jesus calls upon married couples to make with each other "and the two shall become as one flesh," for this is to be a permanent binding, as Jesus is permanently bound to us. He sees the human race as a stable unit, centering in this partnership of husband and wife, and the challenge to each couple is to see this throughout life. Due to hardness of heart, people were permitted by Moses to divorce, but that's not ideal. God wants the partners to be a covenant sign of God's relationship with us. This commitment is not taken lightly, requires full consent by both parties, openness to having children, and hospitality to others.
Stability of marriage shows in deed that God constantly loves us and that both our family units in marriage and the Divine Family unit in Baptism are to be the cornerstones of the Kingdom of God. Through this human exchange the married couple returns gratitude for God's love for asking them to become the backbone of the social order and building blocks of society. Each stands in a relationship to God that requires constant effort and prayer.
Prayer: Lord, protect married partners who show us the loving commitment that you have in radically sharing with us.
Autumn hike in Kentucky creek finds freshly fallen leaves.
October 5, 2015 Flowing Water Refreshes the Soul
...the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside them, welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14b)
So often I think of flowing water in late winter and through the more traditional wet season of spring. However, looking back on water experiences, I am convinced that the sight, sound, feel, and taste of flowing water in autumn is sublime because it occurs more rarely than in spring. Autumn rains are blessed opportunities; few seasonal springs last throughout the hot summer; only larger creeks continue to flow. The memories of these sources of autumn water are quite treasured.
Water fills the senses with joy, especially if we are thirsty and discover a supply of clean fresh water. We pause because this is such a gift -- potable water. One‑third of the world's people do not have the privilege of readily available and plentiful clean pure water. Their streams are polluted; their aquifers fractured; their supplies problematic at best and often dwindling and threatened with contamination. For them and for everyone, potable water ought to be precious. Ask the people in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, about water these days.
On the physical level, water is true refreshment, especially after a hike on a dusty road or working in the garden. It is the true pause that refreshes, and really a balm to life. We are now able to see the pictures of our planet from satellites that hover at a distance and photograph the blue water-covered Earth below. Some eighty percent of the surface is water (mostly salted) and thus the green (and brown) quality of landscape is far more sparse. We could not live without fresh water and yet it is not to be taken for granted; we are directed to water conservation.
On a spiritual level, water is life-giving. We crave the flowing waters of Baptism, for these are the portal to the believing community. Through Baptism we are bonded to God in a special way; we enter into the Divine Family; we are vowed and consecrated to service to God, fellow human beings and Earth; we are watered with supernatural life; we are furnished with refreshment so that we can assist others.
If we are saved through water, we are mandated to help save the water, so others can fully share this life-giving substance with us both physically and spiritually. In the process of being water conservative we come to a heightened awareness of just how precious water is to us -- and how refreshing it is. Good water sources deserve our respect, for too much can drown us and too little can desiccate us.
Prayer: Lord, assist our efforts to make water awareness an issue to concern all people; help us never to waste this precious resource and to encourage others to use it properly.
Colorful pile of leaves. (*Photo by H. Cajandig, Creative Commons)
October 6, 2015 Romping amid Piled Leaves
The locusts, these have no king, and yet they all march in good order.
There are times in life when I like order, and there are other times when a little disorder is okay -- letting our hair down as they might say. Looking back, we find that such youth occasions of disorder occurred more often than we care to remember (corncob fights, wrestling matches, sliding down the straw stacks and damaging them, climbing over fences on the neighbors' land, etc.). Moments of disorder can be relished, overlooked, forgotten, regretted or selectively exaggerated. Only too often they come within the arena of events needing healing and forgiveness. Amazingly, these can be contrasted with times of order, but the latter take back seat in October. Things are changing, and the fallen leaves create a momentary disorder from a rather ordered summer condition of foliage.
Is the wild kingdom so chaotic and disordered? If we would
but cease to romp about, we might discover a certain order and
method to microcosmic life beneath our feet. We see swarming insects such as yellow jackets, just before frost. They have a
mission to transmit life to another generation -- and little time
left to do it. The hustle and bustle of these creatures are for a
greater purpose of preserving the species.
What applies to the insect world extends to our human portion
of Earth's total kingdom. Youth seem to enjoy a certain chaotic bit of fun, but that is part of becoming bonded and letting go of some of the boundless energy that screams for release. Kids too
must hurry, for youth's span is short. If their activities did not demand so much energy, most adults would roll and play in the leaves as well. We expend our energy in ordering the disordered, and rake the leaves into piles -- that's very "adult" in autumn.
But the deliberate playful nature of autumn's youngsters recalls us to our own past experiences in this grander autumn of life. The autumn-coloration is short-lived and that makes it all the more treasured; let's get a little more outdoor time before the long winter sets in. But striving to prolong a fading gusto may be actually childish. Are not ordered things of life to be far more cherished, for they have been acquired at a high price of lived experience? Playful times had their place in life's span, but let them be, and redouble efforts to show tolerance for others who are going through youth. For us adults, any little bit of chaos is shunned and every additional bit of order is relished. Our tasks are different and goals more focused. Even if the leaves swirl away in the wind or are spread about by romping youth and their pets, we ought to smile. Raking is an ordering process.
Prayer: Lord, allow us to give people room to express themselves, even when it might be a bit inconvenient for us.
Migration draws to close for monarchs in the Appalachians.
October 7, 2015 Honoring Our Baptism as a Road to Collaboration
Peter himself then said, 'Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?' (Acts 10:47)
Nothing makes those administering the Sacraments more happy than the moment we pour the water of Baptism on the new member of the Church, a truly joyful occasion whether the person (often an infant) is smiling or shocked by the onrushing water. We help usher in a new way of life while being God's instruments of grace.
At our own Baptism, of which some of us were too young to remember, we enter into the divine family and take on a true Christlikeness expressed in love, mercy and forgiveness. Yes, it will take a lifetime with rises and falls to truly imitate the Lord, but Baptism sends us on the journey. Furthermore, we need the fortification of the other sacraments so that the original vows of Baptism might endure and grow in perfection during the years. In due time we discover an urgency to confront the unjust System that engulfs us, and we seek a pattern of confrontation that is similar to Jesus' way of acting.
God radically shares with us and invites us to share in the same manner with others. Part of this involves individual sharing of surplus resources through a conservationist ethic -- and that is needed for our individual and collective salvation. But in respect to an eco-spirituality, the sharing must take on all levels of society, from the local to the global one. What can we do as citizens to encourage, popularize and promote radical sharing at all levels? This becomes a preoccupation when we discover Jesus walking beside us and that we are part of the Body of Christ.
Our incorporation or consecration in community goes beyond the world of people and includes the plant and animal kingdoms with which we find a deepening and familial relationship. The challenge in this troubled age is for a strong and positive eco-spirituality that is collaborative in all aspects of operation. We cannot treat others (plants and animals as well as humans) as impersonal objects to be used and then discarded from our world. We need compassion.
The collaboration demanded cannot be contaminated with forms of materialistic selfishness and limited focus; we reach for a thorough ecological stance that seeks radical sharing with others because God radically shares with us. Since God enters our everyday life as companion and friend, we hear the call to connect with others, in every way we can -- and that takes some creativity. Through sharing we open the door for the possibilities of a New Heaven and New Earth in which we are of service. Yes, this entails a restlessness not allayed but understood; we are restless for the fullness of God's presence and the coming of the divine Kingdom.
Prayer: Lord, give us the joy to bring others into communion and to help launch them on their journey of faith.
October 8, 2015 Forgiving as Part of Collaboration
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. (Matthew 6:12)
We stand at a bluff overlooking a surface mined land that has not been reclaimed. Anger swells and we are tempted to violence. When in touch with Earth, it is so hard to forgive those who come, devastate and then move on. To forgive takes a deep spirituality, for otherwise the anger may make us lose control. Here our mountains are dying as though by the hands of a murderer who is running loose. We hear the sobbing Earth and yet cannot weep, for anger chokes such emotions. The land mourns, and it calls for those who can forgive but not forget, those with stamina, with concern, with compassion and with the grace of hope to stay the course -- and to get others to do the same. This is a moment to pray for and strive for the act of forgiving.
Forgiveness appears to be the glue that binds us together with each other -- thus we are taught as part of Christian faith. The hardest part of prayer and especially the "Our Father" is that the forgiveness God gives is related to our own act of forgiving. We know God forgives, but our receptivity to divine forgiveness resides in willingness to imitate God in caring for our neighbor. So often, the parable of the servant who was forgiven a big debt and then throttles his servant for a smaller debt haunts us.
Forgiving is so difficult at times. Maybe it is our own imperfect condition, but it seems to take time to forgive and thus heal wounds, whereas we know that God is constantly forgiving us. What emerges upon reflection is that the stumbling block to Earth- healing resides in our failure to extend and receive from others perfect forgiveness. It takes courage to forgive another; it takes double courage to ask forgiveness from another; and it takes deep faith to rest assured that we are forgiven by God.
Forgiveness is sought by us over and over because we are imperfect and have offended God who is all loving -- and we stumble over and over. With forgiveness comes the peace of soul that we all seek and crave -- the peace of Christmas night; the mercy of Christ's gift at Calvary; the joy of Easter's Resurrection; and the presence of God within each of us at Communion. Being prepared to forgive is at the heart of the Lord's Prayer and that readiness demands that we have an open heart to those who stumble, especially those who we closely collaborate with.
Do it again and again. Jesus tells us to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18: 21-35). Some suffer abuse or hard times from people they really love, whether husband, wife, child, parent, friend or co-worker. Forgiving again and again brings holiness, even though others may coax us to leave, hit back, divorce, or walk away.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to forgive as you forgive us.
October 9, 2015 Entering Ever Deeper Levels of Forgiveness
There are three levels of my forgiving another: the first level involves the bare forgiveness required so that we are forgiven by the Lord; a deeper level of forgiveness is seeing that my own faults in some way cause a disharmony in the social order -- at least in a generic sense; the third and deepest level is to become at-one with the other party and wish them happiness.
Forgiving is bringing back to life or revitalizing -- the life of the person forgiving (for we must in order to be saved), the relationship of that person to a forgiving God (ask for our forgiveness), and the relationship of the forgiving person to the one forgiven so that bonds might grow. Nurturing these bonds or relationships of forgiveness is at the heart of healing, and is the most creative thing we can do in our lives as collaborators.
We give ourselves through forgiving; we encourage others to give of themselves in healing past wounds; and we make our amens with our loving and merciful God. That is why forgiveness is so utterly important to bring peace to our world, for it is the primary bonding agent. We imitate our loving Creator when we forgive from our hearts. Thus forgiving is restorative; it goes beyond mere utterance of forgiving words to another who rubs us in a wrong manner. Perhaps our own insensitivity is part of the reason why others hold back and why we are slow to forgive. Our hearts are not yet ready to create deeper relationships with our neighbor and with God. When we forgive from the heart, we suddenly see the offender in his or her human condition. We come to bless them with a spiritual fertilizer that allows communities to grow, for blessings are Good News that spreads God's kingdom.
Forgiving is easier, if the action has ceased or I agree to tolerate it. But can I speak for a third party who is offended by this wrongdoer who offended me? Not exactly. Reconciliation needs to occur, not just between offender and me but to offended third parties as well. If my forgiven party is hostile to another and I know the situation, I must do what Jesus says -- go to the party and seek change, or to others, or to the larger community (the Church), but always acting in a forgiving manner. Forgiveness is not forgetfulness, nor does it overlook current offenses.
If I say "I forgive you" to another and make that former estranged person a friend, then we have bonds of friendship to honor through forgiveness. I am better situated to tackle the offending party's act of wrongdoing to a third party. Broader collaboration is at stake if we make our forgiveness part of a new friendship that extends to others as well -- and thus to building deeper community. Our reconciliation is not complete, if I disregard my obligation to ensure that barriers are removed, and we both pursue reconciling acts. Thus, this deepest level of forgiveness helps build the bonds of the human family.
Prayer: Lord, help us see the ramifications of forgiveness.
My cousin, the late Spanky Fister, journeyed to Florida and went to a prison and forgave in the name of his family the murderer of his brother. Pope John Paul II went and forgave the man who attempted to assassinate him. These heroic efforts show us the wonder of God's grace at work. How hurtful it is to see people who refuse to forgive and want to go to the execution of a murderer. That does not bring closure! How sad!
Healing requires that we are willing to forgive as God has forgiven us. Reconciliation is ultimately a two-way street, for if we do not do what God does for us, our forgiveness is forestalled. The act of forgiveness is part of Divine Mystery; in a more perfect world, giving and receiving are almost simultaneous. In our imperfect one, we hesitate before we are truly able to totally forgive. The grace of forgiveness is the pure expression of God's love shown to us, who in no way deserve this act of divine mercy. Upon realizing our own faults, we beg through our own acts of contrition for forgiveness. We do this first in the "Our Father," where through begging we show our human condition.
Never in Scripture does it say that those who sincerely begged forgiveness did not receive it from Christ. His openness to forgiveness is a characteristic of his love for us. Even on Calvary, the good thief begs for forgiveness, and he is the only person to be personally canonized by Christ -- even before his own death. God forgives the sincere heart even amid our imperfections.
In Mark 2:1-12 Jesus performs a miracle of curing the paralyzed man and he forgives the man's sins. Amazingly, the miracle is more easily accepted by the cynics than the act of forgiveness. The crowd begins to regard Jesus as a wonderworker; the Scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy for saying he can forgive sins. Neither opinion is correct: Jesus worked wonders but he does not want to be regarded as a wonderworker; as God he has power to forgive sins and thus is no blasphemer. Throughout history, God's marvelous deeds include miracles showing divine love and mercy, e.g., parting of the Red Sea, feeding Manna in the desert, multiplication of loaves, and forgiving sins.
God's mercy includes the divine willingness to extend the power of forgiveness within the Church through ordained ministers. God offers forgiveness as a seal of the promise of eternal life through Jesus' Resurrection. At Eastertime there is a clear connection between new life and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, "for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven..." (John 20:23). In spiritual healing and eternal life, God's mercy is wonderfully beheld. When we forgive others, we give them new life; we forgive and we believe that God has forgiven and the ones forgiven will do the same even when it is difficult to do at time.
Prayer: Lord, help us establish an atmosphere of forgiveness so that those who find it hard will still be able to do so.
October 11, 2015 Confronting Worldly Wealth and Inequality
How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God....It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
(Mark 10:23, 26)
This hard saying is repeated by Jesus for emphasis and this causes astonishment on the part of the disciples. In bewilderment they ask each other then "who can be saved?" This is always an enlightening question, for they and much of the world regard those with wealth as having earned it, and if or not squandered, entitled to their holdings and are praised for their achievements. For admirers, if the rich with all their mercenary virtue can't be saved, than who can?
Jesus knows that the rich young man in conversation can not part with his wealth; he is too overly possessive at a time when perfection means moving away from material things to the presence of the inviting Lord. Many are easily enticed to wealth of various forms, from autos to electronic devices in this age. Some observe that youth today are less materialistic than those coming out of the depression -- but the enticement to riches is still strong.
Jesus answers the disciples' question on salvation by saying that all things are possible with God, the author of salvation. Among possibilities are the burning off of polluted wealth by the grace of God after a period of time. That burning is a form of impoverishing when the individual comes to realize that the utter possessiveness of his mortal life held him back from the joy of becoming closer to the Lord. Wealth hindered his progress and so some burning may be necessary -- a true argument for purgatory.
Today, we are called to act as instruments of salvation history. Just as we are called to turn people away from the materialistic wealth-laden allurements, so we must convert these souls to spiritual wealth. Morally, materialism hurts both the individuals who grasp for the wealth and a culture that allows them to go unhindered. If one percent owns half the wealth of the world then who can tolerantly allow this travesty to continue? We as a democratic society are just as much to blame as the arrogant, who cling to their collected thievery.
Even if poor, we are partly to blame for not assisting in the rich ones' impoverishment in order to further their chance for salvation. This could surprise many, especially adherents of prosperity Christianity; it is alien to those who strive for a Powerball win of tens of millions of dollars. Striving to get more and be rich has been a goal in an age when this is an essential part of the American Dream. But wealth in privileged 1%ers in our current world is destructive of social order and of our democratic process where elections are blatantly purchased.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to listen to the words of the Gospel and to help unloosen the stranglehold of the wealthy on society.
October 12, 2015 Conducting the Sacraments of Life
"You must repent," Peter answered, "and every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
While I was performing public interest work in Washington a varied group of public interest representatives sat down in a circle and discussed how to add labor unions and others to the anti-pollution program we were conducting. The person next to me (whom I had never met before) became somewhat dramatic. He asked emphatically, "Where is the Church?" Someone volunteered, "Well Al is a priest." Obviously he was embarrassed and moved steadily further away as the meeting progressed. We were all amused.
Through God's invitation we are invited into the deeper Mystery of the Divine Family. The Greek word mysterion is translated into the Latin as mysterium, or mystery, and sacramentum, or sacrament. "Sacrament" in the Eastern Church terminology is designated as "the holy mysteries;" this is the visible sign, and the hidden reality is the Mystery -- Christ himself. Analogously, the Church is a sacrament for she "contains and communicates the invisible grace she signifies" (Cat., #774).
Through Baptism and Confirmation we are consecrated as a special people of God. A monumental transformation occurs and the "we" becomes somewhat confusing. We receive a baptismal name. When we develop an ecological consciousness of being close to all creation (a WE) and are closer to divine Mystery (the emerging greater WE), we receive the still deeper divine call to become a Consecrated WE, one that includes those others who are part of the vowed (through baptismal vows to renounce Satan and to believe) Body of Christ. Through Baptism, the stains of sin (both those previously committed individually and those of "Original Sin") are wiped away. We go down with Christ into Baptism and rise with him in a new life. We are born again, especially in confirmation, the fullness of Baptism, and are being prepared for our special mission. The "we" takes on further life-giving power.
Our Christian commitment involves entering into the divine plan for this world; we become participants in the establishment of the New Creation of which we will speak. As consecrated people WE become a word to the world that needs the healing that we bring as other christs. As part of the Divine Family we are committed to enliven the world around us in a spiritual way. This threefold process of creative activity, spreading the word, and extending love to others through radical sharing is our participation in Divine Mystery, for Church is icon of the Trinity. Through our God we perform godly acts in a public manner. To someone who is thirsty, we give drink in Christ's name. Individually and collectively, we acknowledge another's need through sharing.
Prayer: Lord, give us the blessing of sharing with others and thus in a small way penetrate the divine Mystery of life itself.
It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up for all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. (Colossians 1:24).
Christ's Resurrection is the universal "yes" to new life. At the heart of our faith is this new life extending to all believers who strive to be with the Lord. Death is now conquered for eternal life awaits us. Through Baptism, we formally enter into the Divine Family, and are invited to participate in Christ's death and resurrection. We die to our old selves and through God's forgiveness we take on a new life in Christ. Baptism is God's gift to us just as is physical life itself. I can affirm new life by the free act of a "yes" or reject it through wrongdoing's "no."
This gift means that I am called through Baptism/Confirmation to participate in the activity of our Triune God, to walk on a godly path of life -- that which the patristic fathers called divinization. Thus, we start to speak of the Father as Abba (Daddy), Christ as our brother, and the Spirit of love, companion and constant friend. We are on familial terms. Through Baptism, God's Mystery unfolds within us in a most pronounced way, especially as we strive to answer the divine invitation and become more like Jesus by becoming christs to others. We deny our very selves in order to accompany Jesus on the road to Calvary, with its rough spots and blessings.
Life's journey is a personal salvation story with Christ himself as Bread from Heaven and fitting nourishment for our journey. Faith is realizing the task ahead and that we have Christ as our fortification. People in no other age have had our particular calling because never before has God's creation been so threatened by human wrongdoing. Where sin abounds, there all the more grace abounds. The territory on our journey of faith is a devastated Earth in the twenty-first century, and so we are called in the HERE and NOW to respond as consecrated people, brought together through Baptism and enlivened through other sacraments.
We are baptized in the name of the Trinity and called to the Divine Family as Christ's brothers and sisters. Jesus suffers for us and he is empowered as Lord in the Resurrection. As companions, we too are empowered and enter into the sufferings of Jesus on Calvary, which extends in space and time. We suffer through involvement, through self-denial, through personal risks, and through healing efforts undertaken over time. The question, "What would Jesus do?" is asked by some, but it has an unexpected answer. We are not to imitate the Jesus of 2000 years ago in the Holy Land, for circumstances are different today. Jesus suffers today in our world and so we phrase the question differently, namely, "What does Jesus do with and through me here and now?"
Prayer: Lord, inspire me to be a christ to others in this age.
Baptism is an event that is completed through receiving the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. We are empowered to proclaim the Good News to others. The efforts that must be undertaken in order to heal our wounded Earth are unique in human history, and thus demand coordinated effort. This twenty-first century vocation is truly challenging and thus we need nourishment (Holy Eucharist) to keep us enthusiastic and effective; through the Sacrament of Reconciliation we return quickly to the right path. The formal bonding that makes the elemental grouping of society, the family, is blessed and affirmed through the sacrament of Matrimony. Likewise, as sacramental people, we seek the assistance of the ministers of the Church through Holy Orders. When we become ill we are assisted by the special fortification of the Anointing of the Sick, so that our work will be all the more effective.
While bishops, priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers of baptism and to various degrees the other sacraments, still all believers are asked to encourage others, to forgive as a start in the healing process, and to regard the immensity of the present vocation as a privilege to be called at this time. Each is part of the collaborative team through creating an atmosphere of mercy and of urgency in a willingness to serve the Lord here and now. We are all to overcome the wrongdoing that has brought our Earth to this condition and show alternatives that are to bring on new life. We cannot wallow in quagmire, but see forgiveness as a liberating force to advance healing -- a smile launching revitalization.
At first, believers focus on their individual salvation, "Repent and believe in the Gospel!" The shortness of life and the suddenness of illness and death make it imperative to see that what each individual can do is only a single service; by working with others in the Body of Christ our efforts are magnified and, when focused, we act as a catalyst to initiate newness. In fact, this collaboration brings on surprises. A new paradigm emerges; we anticipate that we have much to give the world and much to receive from others. It is like spreading Good News and finding receivers have much to give; bearer and receiver proclaim, receive, and grow together. This team work involves the need for enthusiasm through the Spirit, nourishment in Living Bread, correctives when detours arise, and special assistance when health breaks down. We can be better collaborators through sacramental life.
Salvation history includes our helping to save our troubled planet ASAP. Billions of years of growth seem compressed in the instant of the last few decades. Salvation history does not end with the Calvary of history but continues down through these ages. Unique events blend in to this salvific process and we are to be present with the modern storms at sea. Jesus is here with us.
Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to see our immense calling; help us respond courageously and with the knowledge you are both in charge and in the boat with us to ride out the storm.
October 15, 2015 Mustering Coworkers to Earthhealing
We individuals cannot do it alone; we need to recruit and work with all people of good will and who affirm a future. Changes will not be automatic, for part of our consecration is to be God's voice encouraging our neighbor; together we are to collaborate in regaining the commons for all. This encouragement is both self-fulfilling and community enhancing. Under- or unemployment affect 300 million in the world, hurting the affected individuals and the social fabric as well; such current conditions are also the seedbed of terrorism. There's willing hands seeking a livelihood and enormous work opportunities for services to people in need, along with rebuilding the world's infrastructure (road, seaports, etc.). All the while irresponsible corporations move about hunting for cheap labor and least environmental regulations and enriching the privileged few by global inequality.
The hoarders of the world's wealth are simply thieves who take what belongs to others. When such injustice is being perpetrated on our neighbor we must speak out. Silence in such circumstances is never mercy; it may be fear or cowardliness and only enhances the unjust condition. All have a right to a livelihood and we bring this about through performing our democratic duties. When social ills occur, we must be open, swift and effective: let's work together to take back the commons. We forgive the sinner but denounce the wrongdoing. Climate change is of human causation and thus we do all in our power to bring justice by confronting the current economy and ushering in an alternative one.
Invite in all people of good will, the anonymous believer, the ones desiring a better life for their families and the poor neighbors, the ecological WE. Our collective calling goes out to the whole world moving to a new, but not fully defined future. In faith, we believe that the great majority share a desire for a better place. God calls them through us, not to be us but to be our companions in transforming our wounded Earth. Through consecration a core WE retain our enthusiasm as committed believers. We trust that our faith-laden graces are contagious and will gradually be attractive. It is our God who invites others into deeper Mystery and ultimately to radical sharing with their neighbor. And we pray for and work with them -- a sharing that many appreciate, since blessing is far more joyful than a curse.
The consecrated do not remain silent, nor do we proselytize. We are by the grace of God mere agents of change; others join if and when they desire a deeper involvement. Our spiritual privileges are not like material ones that are gripped tightly; ours are meant to be shared and that is a difference. We are restless for change and this has its fire in enthusiasm, the Mystery of God with us. Material comforts are intoxicating but profound restlessness is spiritually energizing.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to assist others to help with the healing of our Earth in meaningful ways.
Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) on milkweed leaf.
October 16, 2015 Observing World Food Day
We are each called to radically share the limited resources that are present at this time, for by the end of the century there will most likely be two billion more mouths to feed. Our sharing must by that time be far more planned and executed. Actions of this month are directed to radical sharing. Risking loss of quality points, I still must publicize my practice of sharing part of my food budget each month with a young person (of whom I know very little other than a name) through the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Still I cannot share what is in my refrigerator with her, but some grain and other food shipments can be supplemented through my donation.
A thrust towards food security makes us all conscious of our need to help bring this about; we can each do our part when living in a land of plentiful food supplies and habits of waste by so many in our midst. Our task to bring food of sufficient quality and quantity to others is challenging on World Food Day.
Charter on Food Security
1. Everyone has a right to safe, nutritious and wholesome food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity.
2. Women play a central role in household and community food security. Women have a right to resources for food production, credit, capital, education and services and equal opportunity to develop and employ their skills.
3. Everyone has a right to honest and accurate information and open, fair, democratic decision making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination.
4. Everyone has the right and responsibility to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources and to preserve biological diversity. Producers have the right to produce food in a sustainable manner, from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agrochemicals and pesticides.
5. Cultural heritage and genetic resources belong to all humanity. All life forms should be protected from patenting and the heritage of indigenous peoples should be preserved.
6. Peace is a precondition to food security. Everyone has a right to be free from violent conflict. Food should not be used as a weapon. Reference: Wilder Forest NGO Food Security Charter
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to radically share the world's food bounty with our global brothers and sisters.
Autumn brilliance in the hills of Appalachia.
October 17, 2015Making an Autumn Wilderness Retreat Several decades ago when traveling out west three of us started a small evening campfire. No one had bothered about checking on fire conditions and certainly all of us non-natives were unfamiliar with fire dangers in Oregon. The dry thatch that we used just about exploded when we lit it. Suddenly we realized that this camp fire could go wild -- and so we extinguished it.
Earthhealers must constantly make an effort to stay close to Earth. We constantly stress in mid year the need to take time off, come close to Earth and to make a retreat for reflecting on where we are going. Earthhealers are drawn to immerse themselves in the wilderness, provided we do not damage it in any way. This "getaway" calls for us to rejoice in among God's creation and a retreat becomes a moment of natural celebration. Some purists oppose making this suggestion to people for fear that the wilderness will be overrun. Thus a word of caution -- for overly frequent camping in wilderness areas could disturb wildlife.
The simple rules for low impact camping apply here, i.e., no littering, pack out non-degradables, campfires only in approved areas and times, no digging up of wild flowers, etc. Not all can endure a primitive camping experience in approved public or private park areas; some will use existing retreat facilities or cabins and venture into wilderness areas during the daylight hours only. Still others may be drawn to set up their own more permanent facilities in their choice piece of wildscape (though not in declared wilderness areas). Such cabin facilities should be selected, sited and constructed properly without harming trees and with minimum access road facilities (Al Fritsch & Paul Gallimore, Healing Appalachia: Sustainable Living through Appropriate Technology, University Press of Kentucky, 2007, Chap. 18).
Natural settings can help people come to terms with their difficulties. A comforting effect is present in closeness to mother Earth. The particular place will affect people differently, and so some planning and preparation are most helpful. Some find it best to construct their own lodging such as a simple retreat cabin, hermitage or tent site. Keep things simple, such as a rain barrel, solar lighting and dry composting toilet.
Total wilderness retreats may be beyond our abilities due to age, health, or temperament. A partial experience is possible when residing in more comfortable surroundings (retreat facility or cabin in a natural setting or park with camper or tent camping facilities). Here one can venture out on day hikes with a minimum of gear. A well selected site (a "sacred place") moves one to pray and reflect easily. At such a site all the senses are activated: sight of landscape, sound of running water or birds, smell of flowers and herbs, taste of berries, and feeling of breezes.
Prayer: Lord, direct our hearts, minds and bodies to natural wilderness, so that we learn to be in touch with nature.
October 18, 2015 Rethinking the Folly of Seeking Glory
Lord, let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.
Glory-seeking is a part of our daydreams, or even our hopes for a brief moment when someone says something laudatory to us. The temptation is just below the surface -- then we are drawn back to reality, which is for the better; we are just who we are.
The Gospel (Mark 10: 35-45) tells us of glory seekers who are not the explorers, or the adventurers, or the soldiers of fortune, but rather those closest to Jesus, his very disciples. James and John are products of their pushy mother, who nudges them on to seek a position when this Messiah, who is coming in full glory, makes his grand move. They are people of mixed motivation that Jesus makes an effort to correct. Remember, even at the Ascension, Jesus' disciples ask once more whether the political Messiah is coming to establish his kingdom. Even to that last moment before Pentecost, the disciples awaited a position as right hand staff in the political kingdom of their anticipated political messiah.
Christ espouses a totally different philosophy from one of political or military power. His message is of loving service shown in gentle non-violent ways. Suffering scares all of us, just as it was hard for Jesus to go up to Jerusalem and eventually to Calvary. All our being rebels against such suffering, for glory road seems so much more enticing. However, Jesus promises success through suffering, by drinking the cup of pain and of judgment. Archbishop Romero of El Salvador (now on road to sainthood) exemplifies one who learned to sacrifice for others after being asked to baptize the baby of a rich family in their hilltop villa because they did not want to be included among the "peons" in the valley church. He refused to give them or others a deference based on wealth, and this paradoxically became his road to Calvary.
We need to learn to sacrifice and include in our service the following Christian characteristics: openness and profound listening to the will of God in focusing on those in need around us; compassion (suffering) with the people we provide with service and humility in seeing ministry limitations and moments of failure; furthermore this involves a desire to identify with the ones who suffer most in our world. Do we aspire to be least among all we serve -- and thus to mimic Christ who we seek to imitate? "Service" sounds so neutral, for it is used from military to auto maintenance, from table-waiting to being a politician.
Should we seek glory? Perhaps the answer is a qualified "yes." We seek the greater glory of God, for our service can be glorifying in itself with proper motivation. Even day-to-day acts of kindness to others give glory of God. For such glorification is a noble calling -- and one worth living and dying for. Right?
Prayer: Lord, give us the privilege to serve you humbly so that we are able through service to glorify your name.
October 19, 2015 Encouraging Radical Sharing at All Levels
The mission of the Church is not only to save souls, but to save society. (John Lancaster Spalding, American & Catholic: A Popular History of Catholicism in the United States, (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2004), p. 111)
In high school in the late 1940s I twice had the privilege to participate in a youth United Nations gathering in Cincinnati. I became sold on the role of that organization and have always found those who oppose it to be misguided. But today it is more a question of strengthening rather than fighting for the UN's existence, for a global role is more necessary than ever before.
Gradually the divine pattern that we seek to imitate takes on concrete form. God shares radically with us through the coming of the Son and the inspiration of the Spirit. In turn, we respond to the privilege of being invited into the Divine Family by being willing to share with others. And this sharing is part of salvation history for it involves our personal salvation and that of all on this planet. As members of the Divine Family we are called to act locally AND globally in a godly manner within a salvation history that is in progress -- God's unfolding mystery of love. Our specific acts, whether individual or collective, are God's very actions in which we participate. To do these things we need to be nourished by Godself in the Eucharist; they call us to be agents of change; and they involve our concrete actions.
A planet divided among rich and poor, developed, underdeveloped and overdeveloped, and enemies and friends is in need of healing. For those committed to the ministry of forgiving, sacramental life invites us to see the importance of water, bread, wine and oil used for spiritual transformation. Through a conservationist ethic we realize that we are to reduce resource use through more efficient vehicles, mass transit, small living space, organic gardening, renewable energy utilization, recycling, reduction in meat consumption, and other practices advocated by environmentally concerned groups. Thus we free up physical resources necessary for the concrete transformation that we are challenged to bring about.
Domestic sharing. Many of our Daily Reflections focus on individual and domestic efforts at sharing meals, or space, or forms of entertainment. In fact, it would take all our efforts to recap conservation savings mentioned in the past. These are bricks on which radical sharing start to build; they spread like a ripple effect to the entire world. If we are able to share well at the domestic level, we can influence our next door neighbor and beyond to other communities, regions and nations. We note that policy advocates such as Jeremy Rifkin and Gar Alperovitz place strong emphasis at the local level with cooperative endeavors. I prefer coordination at all levels as ideal: local, regional, national and global levels. We are citizens of ever-expanding communities.
Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to learn to share radically.
Ladybird beetle, Coccinellidae, sunbathing on granite outcrop.
October 20, 2015 Dawning of a New Economic Order
The following list is meant to emphasize that radical sharing can occur through attention to volunteer and ordinary efforts on the part of local communities -- and is really the backbone of a new economic system and worthy of support and promotion by higher levels of governance. At the locale is where social capital is raised and nurtured. The listing of neighborhood possibilities shows just how varied and creative are expressions of radical sharing. To this partial listing you are invited to add more:
* Community hospitals and clinics
* Joint-owned seldom used equipment
* Worker-owned cooperatives
* Church festivals and homecomings
* Community land trusts
* Local health associations
* First Aid training programs
* Community insurance programs
* Regional utility companies
* Farmers' and growers' markets
* Shared living space (interior and exterior)
* Common gardens and playgrounds
* Emergency escape routes protection
* Fire departments and services
* Homeless shelters and feeding centers
* Summer youth vacation programs
* Silence and celebratory periods and places
* Historic societies and shrines
* Joint tourist promotion schemes
* Town library facilities
* Senior citizen centers
* Care for pre-schoolers
* Drug rehabilitation centers
* Herbal and garden clubs
* Thanksgiving celebrations
* Food cooperatives
* Cooking classes
* Used clothing outlets
* Holiday bazaars
* Religious and ethnic celebrations
* County fairs
* Artistic and writers cooperatives
* Pregnancy assistance programs
* Wildlife preservation projects
* Town beautification programs
* Roadside garden plots
* Cemetery cleanup projects
* Litter pickup days
* Walks for health victims
* Senior citizen entertainment, and on and on.
Prayer: Lord, help us see the many places we can share locally and to encourage others also, for from here arises a new economy.
October 21, 2015 Promoting Regional Sharing Practices
Examples of problem areas beyond local bounds include:
1.Fragile Area Protection is best performed at a more regional level. Residents must be persuaded that their shared wilderness and fragile areas have planetary benefits worth protecting in a collective fashion. Besides habitat areas, these include delicate rock formations, remnant tropical and temperate rain forests, unique water sources, fragile desert areas with rare flora and fauna, specific oceanic islands being inundated by rising oceans, and the continent of Antarctica. Poor nations with threatened and endangered flora and fauna need resources from abroad. However, protection is best done regionally.
2. The imposition of energy taxes on the use of non-renewable energy sources (coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power) is one approach that would lead to expansion of environmentally benign renewable energy applications. Each region has its own renewable sources worth developing. A fossil fuel energy tax would be highly effective in subsidizing a renewable energy economy based on hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, and some biofuels. A Manhattan scale project (as used to develop the atomic bomb in the 1940s) is needed to halt human-caused climate change. Once installed these systems demand no costly energy source and can be decentralized but connected through regional net metering programs.
3. Tourism Regulation can best be handled at a regional level. Today, tourism is the world's fastest growing service industry, often adversely impacting host communities; in fact, the carrying capacity of certain regions are exceeded. Such popular tourist activities as riding off-road vehicles have damaged fragile areas and disturbed local communities. People and cultures can be exploited, all by unscrupulous tourist agencies and promotion schemes. A three-part program of satisfaction for the tourist, preservation of the culture and environment, and just compensation for the people in the target areas can be implemented.
4. Language and cultural preservation is another regional sharing consideration. At current rates of disappearance, within this twenty-first century half of the six thousand languages of the world will cease functioning. As remnant native-speaking populations die out and younger people aspire to write, read and speak major languages, these native tongues are threatened with extinction. Is this a price of globalization or the lack of a sense of diverse culture and history that deserves challenging?
5. Internet and communication networks are global but the access is a regional responsibility. One-tenth of the U.S., mostly in rural areas, have no access to broadband internet. All regions need emergency services that are easily accessible.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to unite in larger gatherings to pool
resources in order to make our world a better place.
Various nations need to take a leadership role in promoting global activities; the U.S. has several areas for promotion:
1. Internet neutrality means that the global communications revolution that the U.S. brought into existence could be captured by large corporations and turned into favorable speeds and availability for those who could afford to pay more. A clear example of currently sharing the communications commons could be lost if vigilance is not maintained. How dare those who make use of the commons and others' R&D take hold and freeze out those who have a perfect right to access --capitalism versus commons?
2. Training a UN Police Force would be a better procedure than to expect America or any other nation to be global police. Sharing some of the massive military budget by doing such training is a wise use of money and would not mean having "boots on the ground" in a variety of world trouble spots, as ISIS would love for America to have. One radical sharing proposal would be drastic reduction in sophisticated military hardware such as aircraft carriers, and turning savings into assistance in realistic dreams of proper housing, potable water, health and education.
3. Availability of Generic Drugs is utterly necessary to save lives once a drug has been tested and applied to the market. The cost of AIDS-related generic drugs for poorer nations has been dramatically reduced, but still many affected nations lack adequate supplies to treat such outbreaks as Ebola in West Africa. Drug companies have made fortunes on high-priced products, often with subsidies from federal research funds. Drug research should contribute to the commons and thus after a short payback period the developed medicines ought to be shared with those who suffer most, the victims, at low or no cost. The time from research to generic circulation should be shortened, especially if epidemics threaten.
4.International environmental and safety regulations could be implemented nationally on all products coming into this country. A travesty of justice has been the escape of corporations to countries that have more lax environmental regulations and then the shipping of finished products that are actually costly to the environment back into this and other developed nations. Black listing products that were made with lax environmental and safety regulations is a good way to exclude global commerce in such items.
5. Control of tobacco smoking products in the U.S. has occurred in the last decade after a long and bitter battle. This struggle needs to be encouraged to other generally upwardly mobile developing countries where smoking is having a disastrous effect in shortening the lives of users. Some countries such as China are prepared for massive numbers of afflicted smokers.
Prayer: Lord, help us become leaders in sharing areas where control and expertise have worked for the betterment of all.
October 23, 2015Advocating for International Controls
Some issues require international agreements due to globalization, environmental and spatial considerations:
1. Controls on multinational Corporations, especially in financial operations, is globalized and often beyond the monitoring of individual nation states. Corporations and the wealthy have creative ways to avoid taxes. Furthermore, the U.S declares corporations to be "persons" with certain speech rights, but no duties. In fact, corporations are "paper not people," and threaten to throw national governments into plutocracy and oligarchy. Corporate tax rates are often manipulated to be far lower that fairness demands. These corporations move operations quickly to less regulated nations with underpaid workers (and sometimes child labor) and paid-off politicians and governments to weaken fair labor and environmental regulations. New joint international commercial agreements and restrictions are necessary to expose and eliminate tax havens. Radical sharing supports international regulations and an agency to issue licenses to operate across national boundaries.
2. International Space Programs offer real possibilities for international cooperative features (e.g., International Space Lab). These programs are too expensive for nations to invest alone. Launches of space probes and satellites are now multinational ventures. The future includes a cosmic outlook on the world around us, and some forms of space travel are to be encouraged as a way to move the world in a cooperative spirit. Some form of regulation is required due to the proliferation of space "junk," which has and is proving a major danger in space probes and manned space travel.
3. The CITES Treaty (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), to which the United States is a party, is an effective vehicle for protecting threatened and endangered species through banning the sale and export of certain determined commodities. Again, this international regulatory approach for one of the world's most serious environmental problems should be strengthened with enforcement powers to ensure that treaty obligations are met. Poaching and trading of animal parts should have international restrictions with strict enforcement provisions.
4.Trade Barriers have be reduced for fair trading across national boundaries. The so-called developing countries claim that the $300 billion a year in subsidies paid to agricultural producers in the wealthy nations has the effect of driving down prices of their own competing commodities. They are less able to sell products at decent prices and thus demand removal of affluent country agricultural subsidies. However, any trade agreements should be open to transparency and public comment.
Prayer: Give, Lord, our national leaders the courage to share resources with those nations in greater need.
October 24, 2015 Supporting Broad-Based Global Practices
We must start in an atmosphere of forgiveness, as has been the battle over Greece's debt crisis earlier this year.
1. Reducing national debt is a form of radical sharing and has its Scriptural basis in proclaiming every fifty years a Year of Jubilee (noted by many in 2000). Overwhelming debts are modern enslavement procedures and are recognized as part of our outmoded economic System. Efforts are being made to ensure that the power elites in debtor nations accept the burden of this reduction. It is evident that with honest governments the elimination of such indebtedness and the resulting savings on oppressive interest payments could benefit educational and health programs. No nation should have national debts exceeding 100% of GDP.
2. Addressing climate change is a global priority. In this coming December world leaders will be meeting in Paris to discuss and hammer out a policy to address this grave concern of our world. The rise in greenhouse gas levels must be halted, though it is very difficult to expect the major emitters (China, U.S. and India) to accept formal treaties. However, knowledge of impending dangers is forcing all nations to take steps to correct the rise of consumer demand for relatively cheap fossil fuels, and to promote national renewable energy applications and energy efficiency programs.
3. A Law of the Seas exists but is not totally operative. The oceans are truly a "commons" and are for all the people. They cover four-fifths of the planet's surface. In the past, the U.S. has blocked an effective Law of the Seas Treaty, especially one where all oceanic resources, especially those on the ocean floor (e.g., mining of manganese), would be administered through an international body. Proceeds from such mining should be apportioned according to global needs and for registry and regulation of shipping, and especially oil tankers, on the high seas. One can hardly expect hard-pressed bordering nations to take on such policing of the high seas from their own resources; this should be a UN responsibility. Proceeds from a general global shipping registration fee could finance an international maritime police force that is needed to counteract piracy on the high seas.
4. Supporting a World Criminal Court is needed today. Crimes against humanity should be controlled by legal instruments that transcend national boundaries. The fear on the part of the U.S.government that it will lose some of its autonomy must be overcome from within our country; we cannot expect outsiders to champion the cause alone. The Court in the Hague needs power to arrest, subpoena, try, convict, and punish the culprits of such crimes such as Charles Taylor. Fear of surrender of American power retards the full effectiveness of this Court. Radical sharing involves a surrender to a higher and more cooperative power and American federalism should reach global levels.
Prayer: Lord, help us to go from thinking to acting globally.
The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy.
In Mark (10: 46-52), a blind beggar Bartimaeus is named along with his father. He is one of the little people mentioned in the Gospels, which include Lazarus, Zacharias and Simon of Cyrene. His plea haunts us, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me." Maybe if we put our ears to the ground we hear a billion voices saying the same, and we are to help bring pity to a wounded world. In one sense, the named and nameless poor and destitute need pity and so do we all -- sympathy or compassion, sorrow felt for another's suffering. Remember, "pitiful" is defined today as arousing or deserving pity, not the giver as individually full of pity. We seek God's compassion, ever aware it is given and is ours to give.
The prophet Jeremiah (31:7-9) says that God will console and guide the people. We are like the spiritually blind in need of forgiveness and direction. We need to throw away the cloak that covers our condition and stand exposed before God to see us as we really are. Jeremiah is generally regarded as the prophet of doom, and yet here he shows in the "Book of Consolation" that God is always ready to console us, if we truly believe in the divine helping hand. I will gather them from the ends of the world. The use of the first person shows God's presence with people in need of pity and compassion. God is our Abba (daddy) and we come to him as a member of the Divine Family in need of consolation.
Jesus as high priest (Hebrews 5:1-6) offers his life for the many and for us as family members. He is the master in giving pity to those in need. His service is affirmed from on high: "You are my son; this day I have begotten you." Jesus is a priest as one who sacrifices for others, but this applies to every Christian in a priesthood of laity as well as those of us in sacramental ministry. Our priesthood in Christ is not a direct continuation of the high priesthood of the Jewish order, for that was one of bloody sacrifice. The Mass is a continuation of the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, an extension in time and space.
When we hear kind words spoken quickly after an unexpected death that has the power to comfort the bereaved, and we say a prayer of thanks; it was not us who had to be so creative at this very difficult moment. In fact, the ministry of comfort at a death can be highly challenging. In our prayers in community we affirm being sacrificing people ready to extend pity to others -- and trust the Spirit will tell us what to say when an unexpected moment arrives. What compassion we have been blessed to receive is now a double blessing when given to another. A hardened heart finds this impossible or lacking in practice; a softened heart hears and responds to a perceived need with compassion.
Prayer: Lord, soften our hearts to respond to those begging and to give the pitifully little that we have humbly to others.
And then the moon always punctual, to mark the months and make division of time:
the moon it is that signals the feasts, a luminary that wanes after her full. The month derives its name from hers, she waxes wonderfully in her phases, banner of the hosts on high, shining in the vault of heaven.
Gazing at the harvest moon is somewhat haunting. Perhaps it is the associations in our culture with witches and goblins on moonlit nights, or the more vicious trick-or-treaters who could do damage to our property. But it is something far more. The bittersweetness of autumn is summarized in the gentle moon; the season of growth is ending and mortal life of that growing year is coming to an end. And this haunts us as to what could have been done and wasn't achieved -- and the opportunities have slipped past us. I think the moonlight makes us aware of what we missed doing and also the energy to try anew.
We can't help but turn our eyes to the heavens, especially on
a frosty autumn night with the full harvest moon shining brightly. In much of Appalachia, where the light pollution from urban areas
is less intense, the skies are far clearer than in other parts of
populated America. We can gaze upon the immense expanse of the heavens -- a sight that our ancestors were privileged to see with
clarity, even as residents of towns and villages. Today, this privilege is reserved to a shrinking undeveloped space as the world's urban people look up increasingly at blurred night sights.
Nothing is a more awesome sight than the full harvest moon.
We are struck by its brilliance, golden color and luster. No wonder so many throughout the centuries have been drawn to the
Creator by looking up to the nighttime sky. The shining vault of
the heavens invites us to praise God for the vast panorama before
our eyes. All creatures, especially the awesome distant heavenly
bodies, act as beacons and more appropriately as catalysts on our spiritual journey. The moon, that close, highly attractive neighbor, waxing and waning before our eyes, has always enchanted and tugged on us.
Nothing compares with an autumn moonlit night for rediscovering heavenly sacred space -- and why shouldn't skies and heavens be somewhat interchangeable? Our thoughts and eyes should be turned upward and outward. Each full moon beakons us to observe its story, which our bestowing a name does not do justice. We are helpless to affect its waxing and waning. So why name it as "harvest" or "hunter" or anything else? Let it just be.
Prayer: Lord, we give you praise on evenings when the moon is full and we cannot sleep. Help us find rest in you.
Dolomedes tenebrosus, large "fishing spider".
October 27, 2015 Forgiving Polluters?
Environmental degradation occurs in our world and some are more to blame than others whether individuals or agencies. Failing to confront degradation through silence, oversight, or insensitivity is condoning injustice; this is contrary to radical sharing -- for environmental destruction is ultimately a form of thievery or taking from the commons. A forgiving attitude must never be confused with permissiveness. Remember Jesus, the perfect ecologist, says: "Woe to you scribes and pharisees." He means what he says; so should we accept our baptismal role of being prophetic, along with being priestly and kingly. Speaking directly and frankly is to address culprits in the most honest manner.
Speaking out is a public way to refuse to condone injustice. Silence in the face of injustice may be interpreted as being willing to accept the wrongdoing; what then is there to forgive? Corporations are impersonal idols and instruments, blind to any faults. Our striving is to make individual real persons who are free to perceive good and evil, and to accept responsibility for their current acts. Radical sharing on our part involves shaking the curtain of silence and being willing to join others to confront what needs to be and overcome false security or embarrassment. We all need to share our commons (land, sea and air), which does not belong to a privileged few who can use it as they wish. When injustice occurs we condemn it openly even though forgiving the one who perpetrates the deed. There is a distinction!
A forgiving heart knows when to speak softly and mercifully. You cannot preach to a corporation or a sledge hammer. When corporations are misused, they need reform or their existence terminated, for they exist to benefit all. Our actions in combating pollution pertain to basic justice that is defended in an atmosphere of forgiveness that is not permissiveness. We speak and act in opposition to deeds that harm others, including our Earth -- and do all in our power to halt the misdeed.
Jon Sobrino says that theological discourse is necessarily more dialectical than analogical. Dialectical cognition knows things in their dissimilarity, unlike analogical cognition which knows things in their likeness to created reality. The dialectical contrary is known by the structures of oppression as lived experience. Thus one's encounter with God consists in these realities of oppression, pain and injustice, opposite that of liberation, life and justice, and demands a transformation of present reality (Reference: Victorio Araya, God of the Poor: The Mystery of God in Latin American Liberation Theology, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988), p. 31). Effective confrontation may involve the dialectical approach and is a matter of justice and portrayal of acts of injustice. Confrontation can and ought to be loving and merciful to both victim and culprit -- but still publicly done.
Prayer: Lord, teach us when to combat the injustice that harms our neighbor, but still be willing and able to forgive.
Weathered rock from the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky.
October 28, 2015 Praying a Green "Our Father"
In an atmosphere of forgiveness we reflect on the prayer that makes forgiving a key component in our relation to God -- the "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9-13). Since this is a communal prayer, it is more fitting to use "we" as the emerging Earthhealing community. I can do little to change the world alone; however, we can. We praise, beg, confess and thank God all in one short prayer.
Our Father, in heaven -- These words take into consideration the God who directs and guides our family, who created this vast universe and who is a loving God who wants us to help usher in the kingdom of peace and justice. May your name be held holy -- The holy name is given not only in and among people, but also among all the plants and animals of creation. Making all the more holy what is already so is part of an ongoing revelation of which we are part. Your kingdom come -- The New Heavens and New Earth are connected, and are already beginning to appear. We are called to halt the deterioration of our Earth, to help with the healing process, and to bring on God's kingdom of a New Heaven and New Earth. Your will be done on Earth as in Heaven -- It is the will of God expressed in the Scriptures that our world will flourish and all people will have a just share of resources and a proper quality of life. Give us today our daily bread -- So many of the world (current estimates at 850,000,000) are without the basic needs for the day. Can we worthily receive communion if so many are without the necessities of life? Can we solve ecological problems without addressing all justice issues? Can we hoard when others have empty pantries? We are the practical givers of daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us -- We need to ask forgiveness for the debts we have incurred due to our use of world resources. This becomes an awesome moment, for we come to grips with ourselves and our ability to forgive. Within the process of forgiving do we experience God's forgiveness? And in this atmosphere of forgiveness do we find our true conditions, our wasteful consumer practices and our insensitivity to the needs of others? And are we taking our first faltering steps towards improvement? And do not put us to the test -- Most of us are tempted by the addictive consumer products all around us. We are tempted to take the easy way and become wanton consumers in this world of scarcity -- and the consumer culture weakens our collective sense of togetherness by fragmenting us and leading us to act selfishly. But save us from the evil one -- The deterioration of our Earth involves various forms of evil: human greed, selfishness, and insensitivity -- the personification of pervasive evil. We need God's help at this time to be free, to halt the destruction of the environment, and to bring hope to all. We pray to be properly confrontational without succumbing to the evils we seek to expose.
Prayer: Lord, help us pray your prayer more meaningfully.
The goal of collaboration within communities first includes addressing barriers of divisions through a discernment process. Various factors must be addressed:
Possible areas of action -- see October 20th for a partial listing of opportunities.
Proper place and time -- Meetings at a stated time and place should be accessible and convenient. An ideal ecological setting may prove helpful, but not absolutely necessary. Sometimes alternative meetings are desired with use of Internet conferencing or recording of proceedings to be shared with others.
Structure of the process -- Participants may desire an outside facilitator. They may divide their time into segments. In the first segment, treat solely the positive (or negative) aspects of a specific proposed action; then take time to reflect (and pray for guidance) and treat only negative (or positive) aspects. During these treatments there should be no discussion of opposite factors, although clarification is encouraged. Open discussion should not take place until all the positive and negative reasons and substantiating information have been brought into the open.
Consensus. Sometimes complete and impartial consensus cannot be reached and additional steps must be taken. It may be necessary to repeat the process, obtain a facilitator or incorporate fresh data that may have been unearthed. Hopefully consensus will result, but objections of a few should not scuttle a resolution.
The Difference between a True and a False Conclusion. If a consensus or near consensus is reached, one may still wish to test whether this is the correct course of action. The following are indicators:
* An overall good feeling of peace on the part of all. Eachrealizes that the action is beyond pure self-interest and is driven by an inspired movement for the common good;
* A respect for other members and reluctance on the part of some as unqualified are worth addressing openly; possession of a gift, a power, an opportunity, and an awareness of working for a greater movement and thus seeing the importance of this particular action with a clear perception of where things are heading; and
* Finally, a willingness to live with consequences and a fidelity to the ultimate goals rather than a personal success of one or other party.
Success or failure. Ongoing monitoring is essential and frank honesty necessary. Success brings joy and willingness to launch into deeper issues. Imperfect discernment may result from self-interest, or mean-spirited reactions.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be honest about our success or failure and whatever the outcome to chalk up a learning experience.
Blessing of the Animals with Fr. Al Fritsch and parishioners. (*Photo by Marge Para)
October 30, 2015 Renewing the Face of Our Earth
Harvesting is always a community exercise, for it takes many hands. True enough, renewing broken communities in our world amid the trepidations of ISIS and other terrorists is a greater challenge, for it takes a willing global community. But we cannot wait for a perfect state in order to start rebuilding the world in which we live. As believers we are called to be earth healers, the beginning of the renewal process. We start by applying the glue of forgiveness, the binding tha t makes collaboration possible. People are starting to work together in enthusiastic ways, a host of cooperative examples (see October 20th) springing up not from top down but bottom up in a wide diversity of communities and actions.
We the baptized are becoming conscious of being participants, not isolated believers; we are interspersed in a world of the "godless" and those creating their own gods. Christians see Church as icon of the Trinity, and that means being fully in this world, moving it forward to a Kingdom of God. Thus, we invite others to become part of our faith community and to be like us if we are likeable enough. We have a confidence in God to make us seek to overcome exclusive competing spheres bent on overcoming others. Our sense of growing universality challenges past stereotypes and calls for practical united action in order that all might live in a just society. God radically shares Godself as model for local and global radical sharing of which we can participate.
Locally, we must radically share resources in the community where investments should be targeted. Here renewable energy is the acceptable means, housing is local and space shared for communal activities, food is for the greater part locally grown and water is stored, protected and conserved. Globally, resources are not to be sequestered away and pirated by legitimate thieves; political activity is to be democratically directed and not open to plutocratic elements; military expenditures apportioned to health and safety issues, and communications and transportation being neutral and at the benefit of all on equal terms.
Healing involves sharing the suffering of all on a global level. Ever so gradually, we are becoming aware that we live in multifaceted and interlocking communities of beings and that the bonds of the lower levels are analogous to those on a higher one. If offered positively, so is the response. As teammates in healing, believers usher in a deeper WE that can overcome material addictions by abandoning the materialism of the current economic System. We relearn the art of working together as surprisingly found in primitive tribes and poor localities. Sharing shuns competition, for our goals are oneness in which all participate together. Baptism vows us to be agents of change and catalysts for the rebuilding of the social order; the fine details require the encouraging activity of all people of good will.
Prayer: Lord, inspire within us the goal of a New Heaven and New Earth and allow us to anticipate a final eschatological event.
Rustic farm below majestic mountains. Lee Co., VA.
October 31, 2015 Moving to Deeper Mystery
You have a permanent place in my heart, and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loved you. (Phil. 1:7b-8)
Do I hug trees that I admire? Yes, to measure them, for my span from outstretched fingertip to fingertip is six feet, upraise one hand and its five-and-a-half, one hand and arm is four-and-a-half, and on and on to virtually exact measurements using hands, arms, and elbows. Otherwise, I am not too fond of hugging trees.
Mystery unfolds before us as we advance through the year in our reflections on eco-spirituality. We have moved through the Mystery of God's creative hand, of Christ's coming and suffering for us, and of the active presence of the Spirit in our world. We are wrapped in this deeper Mystery of God with us and begin to attempt to respond through radical sharing of what we have with others. This sharing becomes the foundational basis for a new economic order since the current System is outmoded and must be replaced; it causes an environmental crisis through globalized consumption patterns and privileged 1%ers raking in profits.
We survey the many levels of radical sharing with a host of possibilities that makes us restless: so much to be done and so many obstacles standing in the way. A new view of Mystery begins to surface as we look upon our duties in the light of God's goodness to us. On the one hand we are naked at birth and in that condition we return to dust; in another way, we are empowered to be God's hands in bringing about a new order. Powerlessness and power touch as at Calvary when Christ becomes powerless so that we can become empowered; the two conditions suspended within our beings as time expires and work unfinished. This makes us restless.
In our unique ways, we both pause and reflect before Mystery and then plot on as restless wayfarers on our journey of life. We approach the November of our lives (not knowing exacting when that is due to life's uncertainties). St. Augustine tells us that our hearts will not rest until they rest in God, and so we suspect that restlessness is our mortal condition. When we survey the barriers before us, the acts of senseless terrorism, and the social addictions of neighbors, we wonder what more can we do. We are only servants and limited beings at that -- yet empowered.
We have discovered that restlessness is a characteristic of Earthhealers, and rightly so. Anyone who is perfectly comfortable in the present world situation is disillusioned. Restlessness stems from urgency of the times, cries of the hungry, perceived distance we still are from God, and shortness of life. There's comfort in saying "We have done our best," though God knows how true that is. Restlessness is part of our journey of life and needs to be placed in context: we are restless for Christ's return and for a more perfect communion with the Divine.
Prayer: Lord, guide us in our journey and bring us to you.