Late this past week, multitudes of people from throughout the United States assembled in our nation’s capital to pray and peacefully protest against legalized abortion. It was the forty-fifth such March for Life, which has been held annually to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
The event raises questions about the approach of a Christian believer to life and how such a belief should be lived and expressed.
Are Christians only concerned with abortion? Do we champion the cause of life only until it’s born?
With an assault on people with terminal illnesses, special needs, the poor, migrants and refugees, minorities, and others, the call of the Christian to defend and advocate for life is real. Questions about capital punishment, euthanasia, war, torture, and other life issues are pressing and need clear answers.
How can the believer take action if the mission to protect life is ambiguous?
In an attempt to provide an answer to these questions, some have promoted a “consistent life ethic,” a type of seamless garment theory that was once taught by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
The theory is not without its problems. Contemporary versions of the theory, therefore, have retrieved the rich doctrine of solidarity from the Catholic tradition. Such a creative use of solidarity is helpful, since it shows a general unity within the teachings of social doctrine as well as a universal care and compassion for all people, especially those inflicted by each and any of the diverse social ills of our day.
In order for solidarity to be lived, which is an active effort to fulfill our call to be true brother or sister to our neighbor, we need subsidiarity. Subsidiarity exhorts us to allow moral teachings and social action to be coordinated and completed by the most appropriate social level possible [. . . .] and enhances practical discernment of needs, summons neighbors to reach out to one another, and develops a heartfelt and holistic sense of the common good among citizens and believers.
In answer to the question about the Christian’s specific mission to serve and advocate for life, subsidiarity shows us the obvious: Before we can advocate about any other life issues, we must have life itself. The first and fundamental right that must be argued and defended, therefore, is the beginning of life.
And so, we must oppose abortion without confusion or uncertainty. It stands as the primary and perennial issue for the person who cherishes and respects life.
While not a single issue, since it’s the first of many life issues, our opposition to abortion calls us to a solidarity with life. Such a solidarity compels us to care for the poor, the migrant and refugee, the person with special needs, and others who are helped by our attention and service. Such a solidarity urges us to work for peace, champion the rights of minorities, oppose capital punishment, and seek social harmony however we’re able.
None of these issues, however, are equal to abortion but all of them are connected to the dignity that abortion offends and they call for our intervention and action. They call us to solidarity. Our opposition to abortion, therefore, leads us into a solidarity with life and guides us in our fight against other social ills.
The above explanation can help the Christian who wants to be true brother or sister to all people, without falling into moral ambiguity, or who wants to accompany and serve those who suffer, without being entrapped in only one issue. Each of us, as believers or as people of good will, are called to welcome life – defending it at its beginning – and cherish it by living peacefully with all men and women and advocating for all those who suffer.
And so, we are called to solidarity and subsidiarity. We are called to be a people of life from the womb to the tomb, and everywhere in between.
I want to share with you what I wrote to Fifty-some friends on a New Year’s note I sent in lieu of a Christmas card. . .
After realizing what our President has done, I’m so anxious about what will happen to the dolphins and whales as the oil companies start depth-sounding for their positions. He has no conscience and no consciousness. It’s beyond worrisome at this point and I hope he can be stopped. I’m in deep prayer about all this. My stomach gets nauseated sometimes.
This blog is not to slam Mr. Trump, though, unfortunately, it has to do with, what I say~ and many others also say is~ a terrible decision that President Trump has made. My intention is to call attention to the plight of these magnificent animals whereas the DOCA children and so many other causes get a great deal of attention.
On Monday I’ll write my traditional Right-to-Life blog on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Today I’m writing on behalf of the Right-to-Life of our beloved Whales and Dolphins who will placed into mortal danger by the President’s decision to open our coastal waters to offshore drilling for oil.
Consider this: The seismic blasts the companies use to “sound” for oil are so devastatingly loud that these animals cannot hear one another communicate.A baby can’t hear where his mother is even nearby.
Imagine dynamite going off in your neighborhood every 10 seconds. Now imagine you can’t leave. That’s how marine life experience offshore oil and gas exploration!
Please watch this three-minute video produced by the National Resources Defense Council and you’ll understand: Click here.
And now here are the facts:
New York Times / Thursday, January 4, 2018 / WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Thursday it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, giving energy companies access to leases off California for the first time in decades and opening more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard.
The proposal lifts a ban on such drilling imposed by President Barack Obama near the end of his term and would deal a serious blow to his environmental legacy. It would also signal that the Trump administration is not done unraveling environmental restrictions in an effort to promote energy production.
While the plan puts the administration squarely on the side of the energy industry and against environmental groups, it also puts the White House at odds with a number of coastal states that oppose offshore drilling. Some of those states are led by Republicans, like Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where the tourism industry was hit hard by the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster in 2010 that killed 11 people and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Mr. Zinke said the drilling plan was part of “a new path for energy dominance in America,” but said he planned to speak with Governor Scott and other state leaders before the proposal was finalized. “It’s not going to be done overnight,” he said.
Oil industry leaders cheered the reversal, calling it long overdue.
“I think the default should be that all of our offshore areas should be available,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance. “These are our lands. They’re taxpayer-owned and they should be made available.
As you can see, these guys have no clue to what other kind of harm they will be causing. These precious animals could go extinct. Or if they do know, they just don’t give a tinker’s dam.
Pope Francis, in a letter sent to a conference on Oceanic Development in September 2017 would remind us ~ if not our Administration.
The oceans are the common heritage of the human family.Only with a deep sense of humility, wonder and gratitude can we rightly speak of the ocean as “ours”. To care for this common inheritance necessarily involves rejecting cynical or indifferent ways of acting. [ . . .} we remain indifferent before the loss of coral reefs, essential places for the survival of marine biodiversity and the health of the oceans, as we witness a marvellous marine world being transformed into an underwater cemetery, bereft of colour and life (cf. Laudato Si’, 41).The oceans unite us and summon us to work together. As His Holiness noted in Laudato Si’, “everything is interconnected”.
Our world today needs to see that the oceans are a crucial resource in the fight against poverty and climate change, both of which are intrinsically linked For all too long, it has been thought that the sheer vastness of the oceans would allow for negligence, the disposal of toxic waste, and freedom from oversight by the authorities. [. . . ]It is time to work with greater responsibility to safeguard our oceans, our common home, and our brothers and sisters, today and in the future.
The book of Genesis teaches that in the beginning “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (1:2). This verse reminds us that the oceans hold particular importance for many religions. Spirituality can provide powerful incentives for the protection of the oceans, and, more generally, for the care of all creation (cf. Laudato Si’, 216). “Science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both” (Laudato Si’, 62).
And my prayer. . .
O God, I’ve always wanted to swim with the dolphins in the ocean,
but never had the chance like my friends did in the buff.
Please allow us to get the President’s decision reversed
to save these magnificent creatures from suffering and death.
And even more so, even further harm to our oceans by devastating oil spills.
The oceans! The Dolphins! The Whales! The coral reefs!
These are your glorious creation, O God!
Let not these men destroy or degrade them!
This we ask as we ask all things, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Now, before you go, I have an eight minute meditation for you with music of whales and dolphins swimming together. Please take time to watch it and learn about these magnificent animals! Click here.
Today, Monday, January, 15, 2018, we honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.
On that fateful day, Dr. King was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers. He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that achieved great change in our land. This man is one of my mentors. I was in his presence in the spring of 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore. Our Rector sent a lot of us to hear him speak to a nearby college.
We remember him most for his most eloquent “I have a dream” speech on August 28, 1963 delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before crowds of many thousands on the National Mall.
That event and that speech led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964.
As a seminarian, I soon became interested in what I could do. In the spring of 1968, I sloshed around the mud of the tent city of the Poor Peoples’ Campaign on the National Mall in Washington which was set up to “lobby” Congress regarding the needs of the poor people of the country. I was interviewing folks for The Florida Catholic newspaper back home.
Dr. King was a man who committed himself to nonviolence, as did Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus. They believed nonviolence to be the only way that justice and peace can be achieved. Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows by police and others, and to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.
On, April 5, 1968 ~ the day after he was martyred ~ I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as a deacon. I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in the northeast part of Washington, D.C.
The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor with my brothers to be ordained. As I sucked in a deep breath, I wanted to absorb into my soul and body the ideal of justice and peace and freedom this great man idealized for me, I pledged my life to Christ.
Today, in this land of America, we have lost many of the freedoms and ideals of that other great man Thomas Jefferson that all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Isn’t the gap between the one percent and the poorest getting even wider as the result of recent legislation?
And isn’t incivility and racism becoming uglier through tweet storms and other discourse?
Will immigrants in this country ever be able to live in peace without fear of a knock on the door?
The questions Dr. King still asks of us are . . . .
Where are those today who inspire us and lead us out of our complacency?
Who are those inspire us to stand up and put our lives on the line for what we believe in?
Who still dreams the dream of Martin Luther King and Thomas Jefferson?
Who is willing to sacrifice to restore those ideals to our beloved country?
O God of Justice,
raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us and restore us to the original ideals of our nation.
Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we’ve lost, and safeguard our freedoms.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2018.
We pray to you, God, for You are the God who cries for justice for your children
and who still hears the cries of those who know they are poor without You.
We pray ~ for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL. To You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever, Amen!
But we are called, more than a generation later, once again to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.
They were trained to sit down on the ground and acceptblows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.
Dr. King held no public office. He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction and his character.
And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.
Is there anything you and I are willing to give your life for? What will be your legacy?
I wonder. , . Am I willing to make that kind of commitment? I pray earnestly that I will.
I’m nearly 75 years old, and have no way of knowing what my legacy will be. All I know at this point is that I’ve tried to be faithful to my song and my prayer and to love as best I can.
For a brief excerpt of “the I Have a Dream” speech, Click here. It’s the original.
And before you go, here’s the song “Abraham, Martin and John. Click here.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord~Monday, January 8, 2018
This feast marks the end of the Christmas season. In the Eastern Churches, it is the primary focus of the Epiphany celebration, the primary focus of their Christmas.
It reveals further the meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God, that is. our God entering our world and becoming flesh and blood.
God sent is only Son to become one with us.
What better way to do this than to show acceptance of the human condition by being baptized for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus has no personal sin. Yet he lined up with hundreds of pilgrims to be baptized by the prophet John in the Jordan.
In this we see Jesus’ humility. He is willing to accept ALL of the human condition. He willingly presents himself to baptism.
There he is: John in his camel-hair shirt at the edge of the desert, wading out into the waters of the Jordan River.
A crowd has gathered on the banks. Jesus is among them. He is relatively unknown because he has yet to begin his ministry. He has chosen this meeting with the Prophet to inaugurate his own mission.
Jesus waits patiently amidst the crowd. There is a line of people eagerly waiting to meet individually with John and to receive his baptism of repentance.
It’s almost Jesus’ turn. John catches his eye as he talks with the young woman ahead of Jesus.
As Jesus walks up to John, his cousin objects, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’
I wonder why John said “I NEED to be baptized by you.
There’s a crowd around but a bit of an intimate conversation between cousins.
I wonder when the last time the talked.
I wonder how close they were.
Did they ever have “guy” talk?
But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.
John probably admired his cousin a lot and found it difficult to play this role of “holier than thou,” so to speak. Consenting he probably did reluctantly.
But if I were John, I would have doused my cousin GOOD!
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
I have a strawberry conditioner I put on my hair as a reminder of my anointing at confirmation. It’s a ritual I do every time I shower to remind me of my baptism.
At times I very much feel a Beloved Son, with whom my heavenly Father and my Lord are pleased.
Jesus fulfills ALL of the proscriptions of a penitent. He does everything that he is supposed to do. He does not ask for special favors. He does not expect any courtesies or privileges.
(I can learn a lesson here. In the days that there were special privileges for priests ~ not any more ~ I sometimes relished being whisked to the head of the line or getting a “clergy discount.”)
But back to our story. An astonishing thing happened; the two of them were privileged to a vision. The sky opened up and John saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and hover over him.
With that, a voice from the heavens said,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
In our immersion into the waters of baptism, we are consecrated, set apart and made holy. In Jesus’ immersion in the baptismal waters of the Jordan, the opposite becomes true. Jesus consecrates, sets apart and makes holy the waters of baptism. Jesus as Man consecrates the movement of divine grace that flows just as rivers flow.
Sometimes the river has abundant waters that give life to all living things that share its banks. But sometimes the waters dry up and become like a desert.
So, too, with grace. Grace flows like a river bringing wonderful fruit to all who drink and are immersed in it. But sometimes grace seemingly dries up and we live in a desert for awhile. But the river is still there — unseen; it just moves below the surface.
So we have to be willing to be immersed. To be immersed in divine grace. To be immersed in God. To be immersed in love.
But that precisely is the problem. We are scared of being immersed in love. We are scared of being immersed in God. We prefer to stand on the banks of the river and watch the waters of grace flow by, without having direct contact with it.
So this feast day is about us as well. Don’t be afraid to be immersed in God. Don’t be afraid to be immersed in love.
If we are immersed in God, in love, we will hear the voice of God say to us.
“You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.
Now, before you go, here’s the traditional spiritual “Shall we Gather at the River.” Click here.
The Feast of the Epiphany ~ Sunday, January 7th, 2018
Today’s feast day has several meanings. In the Roman Church we celebrate the story of the Magi visiting Jesus and offering him gifts. In the Eastern churches, they focus on the story of the Baptism of the Lord. Both celebrate the manifestation, the revelation of Jesus to the whole world.
Paul in today’s letter to the Ephesians proclaims that
“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Eph. 3:6)
We focus on the story of the Magi in our celebration today. In the Gospel of Christmas, the angels proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth to the shepherds, who were uneducated and poor folk. The story from Luke indicates that the gospel is to be preached to the poor.
Today’s story is from Matthew. The Magi are scholars and learned men. They discern from their study of the heavens that the Messiah was to be born in their time; they would risk the search for him and offer their treasures. The Magi represent all the peoples of the earth outside and beyond the Jewish experience. Jesus is the Christ for everyone!
This Gospel story is about darkness and light. Brilliant light and terrible, fearful darkness.
The Magi were comfortable with the dark. They knew how to find their way in the dark, because they could interpret the lights of the sky. They were adventurers ~ seekers ~ explorers.
They represent all people who are at home in the world of the intellect. All people who are willing to journey far to seek and find the truth. (Unfortunately, we live in a world of leaders who don’t bother with seeking truth.)
The Magi went out into the night following the light, the great star which marked a singular event in human history.
They stopped to see Herod, expecting that he would welcome the light. He couldn’t; he was filled with diabolical darkness; he could not abide the light of truth. He tried to snuff out the life of the God-Man ~ Jesus the Light of the world.
Herod, the guy in charge, a king, was worried about the birth of a baby. Herod was powerful, and yet, as Matthew says, “ . . . he was greatly troubled.”
What was Herod afraid of? He knew that Jesus was going to make a difference in his world and was afraid that a change would mean losing the power he had. He wanted Jesus gone before any of that could happen. He liked things just the way they were.
So Herod decreed that all firstborn males under two were to be killed. Jesus and Mary and Joseph would have to flee into the night to find a safe place in a foreign land, the land of Egypt. And so a shroud of violence would invade the innocence of the Christmas story. Jesus and his family became political refugees. (Remember that fact if you are inclined to quickly condemn other political refugees.)
I’d like to try to penetrate the meaning of this sacred event by sharing excerpts of two articles that really impacted my faith and understanding of this great feast.
The great 19th Century Danish philosopher ~ poet ~ theologian Soren Kierkegaard, in an article entitled, Only a Rumor, states,
Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem. They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him. Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement. The power that moved Heaven and Earth leaves us completely unmoved.
What a difference! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move. Who had the more truth? The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?
What a vexation it must have been for the kings, that the scribes who gave them the news they wanted remained quiet in Jerusalem. We are being mocked, the kings might have thought. For indeed what an atrocious self-contradiction that the scribes should have the knowledge and yet remain still. This is as bad as if a person knows all about Christ and his teachings, and his own life expresses the opposite. We are tempted to suppose that such a person wishes to fool us, unless we admit that he is only fooling himself.
Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest imprisoned and executed by Hitler in 1945, concurs . . .
The wise men. Whether they were really kings or just local eastern chieftains or learned astronomers is not important. The secret of these people is as plain as the shepherds. they are the men with clear eyes that probe things to the very depths. They have a real hunger and thirst for knowledge. They subordinated their lives to the end in view and they willingly journey the ends of the earth, following a star, a sign, obeying an inner voice . . . . The compelling earnestness of their quest, the unshakable persistence of their search, the royal grandeur of their dedication ~ these are their secrets.
And it is their message for us and their judgment of us. Why do so few ever see the star? Only because so few are looking for it . . . What are we looking for anyway? And where will we find a genuine yearning so strong that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear of the unknown, nor loneliness, nor ridicule will deter us? Only such passionate desire can prompt the persistence which is content to kneel even when the goal happens to be a simple stable.
And so, listen to these powerful words from Isaiah in the first reading:
RISE UP IN SPLENDOR, DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD, YOUR LIGHT HAS COME.
THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHINES UPON YOU.
This feast is about a light that penetrates the most stubborn darkness of our lives.
This feast brings a Light to us all, if only we, like the Magi, would seek.
SEE DARKNESS COVERS THE EARTH
AND THICK CLOUDS COVER THE PEOPLES.
Violence seems to shroud our whole planet at times.
Some of us too are swallowed up by darkness, enshrouded by night.
Some of us live in dysfunctional families. That too can be terrible darkness, though we may not recognize it. We may think that yelling and screaming are quite normal.
Some of us get up and work hard day in and day out. Perhaps it is work that we do not enjoy, perhaps even hate. Perhaps our spirits are far away from our jobs. We go to work trying to eke out a living, hoping to not be engulfed by such darkness.
And we know that there is darkness in the world. Israelis refuse to seek peace with the Palestinians. And there’s troubles in Sudan, Iraq, Syria. The Rohingya people are no-where people. Our President doesn’t want to give a fair shake to our DACA kids unless he gets his wall. Hate seethes deep in the souls of neighbors a few blocks away from each other.
BUT UPON YOU THE LORD SHINES
AND OVER YOU APPEARS HIS GLORY.
Don’t despair of the darkness, dear friends. Know that there is a Light that can penetrate it.
There was sadness and a thick veil of darkness over my own life for many years. I had the good sense to move to the little bit of light that I could find.
A candle flame can be as bright as a great Nova when one is looking for light.
WE need the light of God’s truth in the world today.
NATIONS SHALL WALK BY YOUR LIGHT,
AND RULERS BY YOUR SHINING RADIANCE.
To whose light does the President of the United State of America and members of the Congress follow? Whose truth do they obey? To whom do they bow on bended knee?
Out of the darkness came the Magi bringing gifts for the Light of the World. Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Holy Child who was the Light.
But before we can give a gift, we must ~ often in the midst of the darkness ~ open our hands and our hearts to receivethe gift that God would give to us. We must first receive before we can give.
Out of the darkness of your lives, you also can find gifts to give to the Lord and your family and friends.
What gifts do we bring?
Do we bring Jesus the gift of our adoration that the Magi did? The gift of our hearts?
These learned and influential people got down on their knees before this little child.
What or who receives the gift of OUR adoration and allegiance?
The world does not know how to adore God. We adore so many other things ~ a new sports car, a new home, a gifted child of our own, good-looking women or men. Maybe we adore a favorite movie star or our favorite sports team when they’re winning at least. Maybe we adore our career path, willing to do whatever it takes, even as we embrace the darkness along with it.
And so, this Epiphany Sunday, I pray . . . .
When I get down on my knees on Sunday morning,
I’ll be humbled by this story of the Wise Men who traveled from afar and fell to their knees with their gifts for you.
Please allow me ~ allow us – to be renewed in your love this day.
May we live in your Light and share your Light with our families, friends and neighbors, and, indeed, all the world!
And please, as I’ve pleaded for years and years for our country, dear Lord,
help us to remember that it is in You we trust,
and are the source of our justice,
and the reason for us to live in civility and good will.
Renew us in your justice, love and peace.
To You be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.
And before you go, here’s an inspiring Celtic version of O Holy Night. Click Here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Further, if you’re interested in the star of Bethlehem, you might read this article “Synchronicity and the Star of Bethlehem” Click here.
If you’d like an extra treat, do you remember the little drummer boy? Here he is! Click here.