The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity ~ Sunday, May 30, 2021
This is the Sunday when we give praise to God as we Christians understand and know God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For me, it’s all about being caught up in ~ getting lost in ~ finding my true self in the awesome dynamic relationship with our God as we come to know that God is love.
The Christian religion is different from the other world religions in that we see God is relational in God’s self. Other world religions see God in relationship with creation and of course, with humanity. As the Bette Midler song suggests, there’s no personal relationship there: “God is watching us—from a distance.”
The all-embracing love of the Father and the Son and the Spirit sustains us each one of us in existence. We are drawn into the dynamism, exuberance and power of that love.
In God, as Richard Rohr shows us “Everything belongs.” God splashes God’S love on us all with such abundance and exuberance that we’ve discovered that within one galaxy there are billions of suns! You and me included! (Today’s Gospel is from Matthew 28: 16- 20 ~ “I am with you always . . . that includes you and me! )
The Holy Trinity ought to be for a Christian the foundation for a whole new way of being! But we have made the Holy Trinity into a dry, boring doctrine that we dismiss as beyond our comprehension and therefore, irrelevant to our lives.
William Young’s book The Shack brings the doctrine of the Trinity—the very foundation of Christianity—to life in a clever, imaginative description of how three persons in one God might interact with each other and with us. It reveals a God who is so easy, relaxed and delightful in God’s self that we are eager to be caught up and sustained in that delight and love. The image above is the famous Rublev ikon. When I was out west a few years ago, the refectory of the Benedictine Monastery in Abiqui, NW had a painting of this ikon that filled the whole wall behind the Abbot’s place.
Sadly, however, so many of us Christians—Catholic or Protestant—relate to God as if he is eager to trip us up and send us to hell! If that is what we believe, we’re not going to be very interested in relating to him, are we? We’ll want to stay away as far as possible; to relegate God to the periphery of our lives.
The revolutionary notion of Christianity is that we are the “Thou” to whom God relates! We are not just part of God as Eastern religions view the divine. We are co-creators of our world. For me the Father, my elder Brother Jesus and the Holy Spirit are even more real and involved with me than my neighbor Loreto whom my dog Shoney and I used to visit when we walked in the evening as I watched the sun setting.
Here is a story I loved to tell when I’ve preached on Trinity Sunday.
My first assignment as a young priest was to Holy Name of Jesus Parish across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. I have fond memories of that place, not only of the whole parish but also of its geographical and ecological setting. Today I see it as one of the finest parishes in the continental United States in the wonderful ways in that hundreds of parishioners are involved in 85 ministries.
And so, that first year of priesthood rendered a story that I’ve told on Trinity Sunday almost every year of my priesthood. It’s about some sea turtles. You’ll probably be wondering as you read what turtles have to do with the Trinity. But I’ll save that for the end. It is a powerful connection.
Indialantic, Florida, summer 1969. I had just arrived in the parish and was meeting my new parishioners. Several asked, “Have you seen the turtles yet?” I assumed they were talking about turtles who came to our beach but I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. So I accepted Tony’s invitation, a teen from the youth group I had just met: “Meet me on the beach at 9:00 tonight; bring a small flashlight.”
I was a little early, so I sat on the steps watching the 2-foot waves lap the shore. It soon learned what a joy it was to live across the street from the ocean! I lived there the first three years of my priesthood. That night was a quiet, dark night; there was no moon. I took off my shoes and put them beside a small-sized dune. I could see the light of flashlights bouncing across the sand towards the south but the beach was dark to the north. Apparently, prize turtle-watching happened on the south stretch of beach. Indeed, the most active area for loggerhead turtle nesting is south of Cape Kennedy.
Tony came along and we walked south and the waves washed further up the shore. He quietly explained that loggerhead turtles grew to about 38 inches and had huge heads with short necks and powerful beaks that can break open mollusk shells. He said they weigh from 200 – 350 pounds.
We were silent for a while. I noticed that the flashlights were all turned off; apparently the sea creatures are spooked by light. A dark night is best.
“What will we see?” I asked.
“The huge creature will lumber slowly up the beach to reach an area above the high water line. The tracks she makes resemble caterpillar or tank tracks. She will then turn around facing the ocean and use her rear flippers to dig a hole. Sometimes she will not leave any eggs and fill in the hole again to fool us turtle-watchers. There are sometimes egg poachers around. But if she does lay eggs there will be about 100-126 white-colored eggs about 2 inches in diameter.”
We soon saw some turtle tracks, leading out of the surf up the beach. None of us used our flashlights, keeping some distance and, interestingly, even the children kept silent, as if there were a spell over us.
That was my first experience of turtle watching. I had many more. But there was one night I will long remember. It is that night that I have told in my Trinity Sunday homilies all these years.
I was alone that night — no companion, no other turtle-watchers. The moment opened up for me to be a profound mystical awareness, a moment I still remember vividly. I watched the giant turtle lay her eggs and slowly make her way back toward the surf. I moved a little closer as she came to the edge of the water. It was really dark.
I felt drawn to her by some compelling or impelling force. I wanted to follow the turtle! As it disappeared beneath the waves, I was drawn to follow her, to enter the unknown world beneath the sea.
But I hesitated. I pulled back.
I was on the edge of mystery.
The turtle has its own mystery; the turtle is at home in two worlds — land and sea. We also live in two worlds — the physical and the spiritual, the seen and the unseen. For a brief moment, I was drawn to follow the turtle down beneath the waves. But actually I was drawn into the mystery of the life of God which the feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates for us. And there, too, I hesitate. I pull back. I prefer to get close, but not too close. I prefer to stand upon the shore, to walk along with my toes only in the water, not to plunge in.
The shoreline is highly symbolic. It is the liminal space (the margin) between land and sea. As such, it is a powerful space, a place of mystery in its own right, as any liminal space can be. I have stood on several of the shores of the world and it’s always a powerful experience. Perhaps the shoreline runs down the middle of my soul.
So, what do we make of this feast of the Holy Trinity?
In having this feast the church is telling us we live on the edge of mystery. We live on the edge of God’s wonderful life — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This is not to be solved like a Perry Mason or Agatha Christie mystery. In religious experience, a mystery is to be lived and to be unfolded as we uncover its multifaceted dimensions, as we allow it to envelop and sometimes enrapture us.
The immensity of God’s love is a mystery for us, for sure. But we should not be afraid of mystery. We should not be afraid to immerse ourselves in the mystery of God as the turtle immersed herself in the mystery of the ocean.
The day will come, sooner or later, for me and for you to let go of our hesitancy and fear and to fall into the ocean of God’s love. To no longer live on the edge of mystery but to be immersed fully in the mystery of God’s love — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I had the experience a couple of years ago when I got off the shore and onto a dive boat. After three years, I finally got my Scuba certification, and like the turtles went below the surface of the Atlantic ocean for the first time and entered a brand new astonishingly beautiful, silent world!
There’s a similar story told about the great St. Augustine who lived in the Fourth Century. The story or legend goes that he was walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity when he saw a boy in front of him who had dug a hole in the sand and was going out to the sea again and again and bringing some water to pour into the hole. St. Augustine asked him, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit in the hole you have made” said St. Augustine. The boy replied, “And you cannot fit the Trinity in your tiny little brain.” The saint was instantly confronted with the mystery of God.
And so, dear friends . . . .
Follow a turtle!
Before we sign off, let’s ask, what about the baby turtles?
They hatch in sixty days and are completely on their own. The hundreds of condominiums on the Florida shoreline are in themselves a threat to the newborn because the little ones are drawn to the light and away from the ocean where they should be. There are laws that only a few lights are to be on the sea-side of roads and these are to be covered. Like so many other little babies they are endangered. May we protect them all!
Now, before you go, here’s a cute music video about “Caretta, the Sea Turtle.” Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full Screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings Click here.
And to complete our feast day celebration, here’s a lovely rendition of Holy God We Praise Thy Name. Click here
Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 7, 2019
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
In the first reading, Moses says:
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Now here are my thoughts on Moses’ address to his people. One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message. That’s important, but we’re invited to choose life again and again, every day. This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own home that damage the souls of our spouses and our children.
Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.
Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person. We need to choose our words carefully. To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths. To realize our words create life or death.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? (Luke 9: 22-25)
My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan here. That’s a Zen word for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.
Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.
Jesus’ message is so counter-cultural. In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check for diabetes. And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from our problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits us via way of a cruel text message.
Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, yes, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey. He knew he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart. He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road to Jerusalem.
The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.
He was a person of absolute integrity. No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.
This is the Jesus I know and love: The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my Lord, my Savior, my mentor, if you will. I would like very much to be like that. How ’bout you?
Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert’ (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission.
Now before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie singing the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.
I usually publish a blog for CARNIVAL! at this point as we are two days away from Ash Wednesday. But this is a sobering year with the coronavirus and it has taken all the fun out of CARNIVAL in both Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. No parades allowed. No alcohol on Bourbon Street!
But today is Presidents’ Day. It’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, but it originally was meant to mark George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. It’s come to honor all presidents, past and present.
We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.
We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.
But our present times are difficult ones, with Covid 19 and trying to build back the economy. We’ve just had a transfer of power of two very different presidents and that didn’t go very smoothly. In fact there was violence involved with the attack on our beloved, sacred Capitol building on January 6th that we still have not recovered from.
Some of us, however, find some level of security in the midst of insecurity. Some of us roll with the punches better than others. We plod along not sure what will happen next. The ones who will be OK are those who are prepared. Who are always ready for life to change on a dime.
“To be at ease is to be unsafe.”
~ John Henry Cardinal Newman
Back in the fall of 2008, I had been getting to know some homeless people. I admire and respect the ones I have met because they look out for each other. My whole perspective on my own worries has completely changed as a result. It has led me to profound gratitude and real compassion. I thought long and hard what it would be like to be homeless. And then I realized there are going to be many more.
Our economy is based on the premise that we should buy, buy, buy – sell, sell, sell. It is not a godly economy. In my opinion, our present American society is not a healthy one. In order for our economy to work we are constantly prodded to buy stuff. And the more we buy, the deeper in debt we get. It’s foolish. Insane, actually. But this pandemic has taught many of us a different way. We’ve had to stay home and find our entertainments in simpler ways.
It could be a great grace; some will find God and turn to the one only God and away from the false idols of a material way and turn to a more spiritual way of life. They will have the opportunity perhaps for the first time to find meaning and love and authentic relationships. They will come to understand what life is for. Many will find Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Hopefully the uncertainty we’ve been through this past year will bring us and our nation to our senses.
What will happen next? To you? To your job? To your family?
We need to look for certainty and security on a deeper level.
It would seem that having a sense of the presence of God in our life will give us a foundation that is not so easily shaken by uncertainty. The scriptures present Jesus as the one who can quiet the storms of life (Matthew 8:23-27); He can be the Rock, the foundation on which our life is built.
Failing to accept life on life’s terms can cause anxiety and depression whereas hope takes the bite out of uncertainty. Through thirty years of learning to cope with bipolar illness I have learned to keep going . . . no matter what. I call you, my reader, to the same faith and hope and love in every moment of your life. Only God can provide the security we need in uncertain times.
Jesus taught his disciples to accept uncertainty as something valuable. He told them “Take nothing on your journey but a walking stick — no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in purse” (Mark 6: 8-9). He wants his disciples to not place ultimate security in things (a warm tunic or some coins in your purse) but to find security in a well-lived, lifelong, open and trusting relationship with God.
For years now I have been calling us to repent of our sins of complacency and greed and idolatry and lust for power and preoccupation with hate and fear and violence that permeates our society. Every day I pray that God restore our beloved country to shining beacon on a hill we once was. I just invite you, I implore you: Let us pray and restore our nation’s relationship with God and justice for all races and peoples in our land of immigrants and indigenous people.
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the sea. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (Ps 46)
And now, my prayer . . . .
Good and gracious God,
we come before you today to ask your blessing
upon this vast and great land of ours.
We are grateful that our republic has stood safe for 241 years now.
And so, we ask your continued blessing upon us.
Please bless President Biden and all elected and government officials
that they would have the best interests of all of the people in mind and heart.
Let there be peace at home and peace throughout the world.
For Yours, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.
And now, before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and a Chorus singing “This Land is Your Land on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers, intend-eds, spouses, classmates, mothers and also spouses remembering their deceased loved ones, even ~ or maybe especially during this pandemic. And maybe because of it, we won’t be able to visit them!
Hallmark would encourage us to “send the very best.” And marketeers would like to get their greedy fingers on our credit cards for this one-day holiday, wouldn’t they? I don’t have a TV but I was in a doctor’s office this afternoon and saw a commercial for edible ‘floral’ arrangements’ that looked awfully tempting.
And later I stopped by the Post Office and as I was standing in line, I noticed this young black dude posting dozens of what looked like small pink cards and dropping them one by one in the mail bin. I went over to him and teased, “Are you sending those to all of your Valentines?” He turned around toward me and grinned, “I wish! he said.
But let’s go a little deeper here. What is true love, really?
I’ve officiated at the marriages of many young couples during my years as a priest have chosen St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.
It has to be one of the most glorious pieces of prose of all time.
Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up.
. . . . If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.
~ I Corinthians 13
You are Love itself.
We give you thanks for the people in our lives who have loved-us-into-the-Persons-we-have-become.
We rejoice in them and remember them in love.
But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love that would allow us to know how to love.
Help us take your apostle Paul’s words to heart that we may truly know the true meaning of love.
May we have a heart open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.
To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.
Before you go, take a moment to listen to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. Click here. It’s a song I’ve always favored ~ one of my generation. I think it sets the tone for what I wanted to say here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen and have a great day! It’s a song I’ve always attributed to Our Lady.
I’ll be publishing two more Valentine’s blogs trying to unpack the meaning of St. Paul’s Ode to Love next week until Valentine’s Day Sunday, the 14th.
On this coming Monday, January, 18, 2021, we will 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 took an assassin’s bullet that he knew was waiting for him at any time. It came while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that acquired great change in our land. This man is one of my mentors. I was in his presence only once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore. Our Rector arranged for some of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore. Today, I have an image of him near my desk in my home.
He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi, and also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us, that Dr. King and I believe is 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 of police and others in their racial hatred. His organizers trained them to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.
On, the day after his assassination on April 4, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon. I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in 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 of our chapel with my brothers to be ordained. As I looked up to this man and his ideals of justice and peace and freedom, I also wanted to absorb them into my body and soul, I sucked in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.
Today, in this land of America, the freedoms and ideals that Thomas Jefferson told us all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are seriously in danger of slipping away from us. Just this week we witnessed the desecration of our Capitol instigated astonishingly by the President of the United States. Mobs of people broke into the Capitol and into the House of Representatives and the Senate chambers and threatened their members and ransacked some of their offices, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s. Their intent was to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden. Their insistence was the election was stolen from President Trump..
Two days ago, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 with a vote of XXX, the House of Representatives drew up articles of impeachment for ‘High crimes and misdemeanors”in act of “incitement of insurrection”. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to manifest injury of the people of the United States,” according to the documents of the House of Representative impeachment of Donald J. Trump.
Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned by President Trump, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, two years ago, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people.
The number of race-based killings and other incidents in our country in the last two years has been astounding — some by officers of the law. It has taken our young people to lead the way to and advocate for real change against gun violence led by the courageous leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
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 have 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 2021. We ask you to watch over President Trump as he leaves office that he may face up his life and it’s consequences. We also ask you bless President-elect Joe Biden and his incoming administration and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2021.
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 and realize 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!
May we call each other more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.
They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows 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 willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.
Is there anything you are willing to give your life for?
I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes! (Or at least I hope so.)
It has been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, I offer this video reflection from the History Channel on Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by some powerful excerpts from that speech. Click here.
Then follow with this excerpt from his speech. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe ~ Sunday November 22, 2020
Today’s feast is Good News for most of us who are weary (and fed up?) with all that’s gone down with the election and it’s aftermath and the Pandemic too. There are two sections to my comments. First are those on the scriptures of the day followed by a reflection on the title of today’s Feast. I just did a bit of research in the liturgical archives: this feast has gotten an upgrade! Before it was just “The Feast of Christ the King.” Now it’s the Feast (we give it the fancy name of Solemnity) of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe. That offers us a lot more richness for our spirituality and even our politics as you’ll see in a few moments.
In our last blog, we shared about the worldwide organization ONE devoted to caring for the poor, a humanitarian organization putting pressure on the governments of the world to do what they should be doing in caring for the least of society.
Now here are the opening lines of today’s gospel . . . .
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome . . . .
Scripture scholar William Barclay, thinks this is one of the ‘most vivid’ parables Jesus ever told, and that his lesson is very clear—that God will judge us according to how we react to human need. He won’t judge us by the amount of knowledge we’re able to cleverly use, or the fame or social status that we’ve acquired, or the wealth that we’ve somehow amassed, but the help we’ve given. And he suggests that the parable describes how we should give.
Whatever we do, must be help in simple things. The things Jesus picks out—giving a hungry beggar a meal or a thirsty child a drink, welcoming a stranger or a new neighbor, cheering the sick, visiting a prisoner—are things anyone can do. These don’t require giving away hundreds or thousands of dollars or even just twenty. These are things we can do when we meet people every day.
The second point Jesus seems to make is that our giving must be uncalculating; that is, “so we could get our eternal reward” or get in the good graces of the bishop or the mayor! Our attitude should simply be to help because we could not stop ourselves. To help as the result of a natural, instinctive reaction of a loving heart, without any calculation.
The attitude of those of those who failed to help was: “If we had known it was you we would’ve gladly helped, but we thought it was some common man not worth helping.” There are those who’ll help if they’ll get the praise and publicity, but that’s not help, it’s to pander to self-aggrandizement; it’s certainly not generosity.
* * * *
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
And as we look forward to Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas—the New Year and the upcoming inauguration of our new president, this feast brings us, not just a sigh of relief from all we’ve been through this past year and, for me at least, but an explosion of new hope and wonder as we realize we the implications of living in Jesus’ kin-dom here and now!
I was blown away by the insights of famed Franciscan author Father Richard Rohr’s recent book The Universal Christ from which I unabashedly quote extensively here.
I am making the whole of creation new . . . It will come true . . . It is already done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, both the Beginning and the End. ~ Revelations 21:5-6
Jesus didn’t normally walk around Judea making “I AM” statements; if he did, he very soon would have ended up being stoned to death. He didn’t normally talk that way. But when we look at the phrase we all love, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” we see a very fair statement that should not offend or threaten anyone. He’s describing the “Way” by which all humans and all religions must allow matter and Spirit to operate as one.
Once we see that the Eternal Christ is the one talking in these passages, Jesus’ words about the nature of God—and those created in the image of God—seem full of deep hope and a broad vision for all of creation.
The leap of faith that the orthodox Christians made from the early period was that the eternal Christ presence was truly speaking through the person of Jesus. Divinity and humanity were somehow able to speak as one, for if the union of God and humankind is “true” in Jesus, there is hope that it might be true in all of us too. That is the big takeaway from having Jesus speak as the Eternal Christ. He is indeed “the pioneer and perfector of our faith,” as Hebrew puts it (12:2).
As the “Father of Orthodoxy,” St. Athanasius (296—375) wrote when the church had a more social, historical and revolutionary sense of itself: “God was consistent in working through man to reveal himself everywhere, as well as through the other parts of creation, so that nothing was left devoid of his Divinity and self-knowledge . . . so that the whole universe was filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea”. ~ Athanasius De Incarnatione Verbe 45
I have a note in the margin or Rohr’s book at that quote: WOW!!!
Athanasius was writing in the Fourth Century! Think about that when today we’ve seen images of our blue planet taken from the moon; when scientists are discovering black holes and other solar systems beyond our own. And mystics like Athanasius are still with us too! And yet for a Christian—Catholic or otherwise—who clings only to Jesus as their personal savior in a “Jesus and me” kind of faith is much too myopic and narrow-minded—Rohr would say, and therefore missing the real depth of their faith.
As a counterpoint, he says, the Eastern church, has a sacred word for this process, which in the West we call “incarnation” or “salvation”. They call it “divinization (theosis). If that sounds provocative, Rohr suggests, know that they are building on 2 Peter 1:4 where the author says, “He has given us something very great and wonderful . . . . you are able to share the divine nature!
Most Catholics and Protestants still think of the incarnation as a one-time and one-person event having to only with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, instead of a cosmic event that has soaked all of history in the Divine Presence from the very beginning. Therefore, this implies . . .
· That God is not an old man on a throne. God is Relationship itself, a dynamism of Infinite Love between Divine Diversity, as the doctrine of the Trinity demonstrates.
· That God’s infinite love has always included all that God created from the very beginning (Ephesians 1:3-14). The Torah (first five books of the Hebrew bible) calls it “covenant love,” an unconditional agreement, both offered and consummated on God’s side (even if we don’t reciprocate)
· That the Divine “DNA” of the Creator is therefore held in all creatures. What we call the “soul” of every creature could easily be seen as the self-knowledge of God in that creature! It knows who it is and grows into its identity, just like as seed and egg.
Faith at its essential core is accepting that you are accepted! We cannot deeply know ourselves without knowing the One who made us, and cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of ourselves. And God’s impossible acceptance of ourselves is easier to grasp if we first recognize the perfect unity of the human Jesus with the divine Christ. Start with Jesus, continue with yourself, and finally expand to everything else. As John says, “From the fullness (pleroma) we have all received grace upon grace “(1:16).
And for my concluding prayer this day, I rely on the wisdom of David in Psalm 37 . . . .
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and [fn]cultivate faithfulness
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday
Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land
Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there
But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
When I prayed this psalm the other evening, it calmed me because of our present post-election / pre-inauguration quandary and anxiety, It was just perfect for what I was thinking and feeling. Perhaps for you as well.
I will offer my Mass on Sunday for all of you, my readers—for yours and your families’ needs and intentions, Blessings to you this day!
Now before you go, I’m offering you a choice of music.
The first is “Crown Him with Many Crowns with about 3,000 voices. Click here,
The second is “Worthy is the Lamb” by the Australian young people’s group Hilsong. Clickhere, And here are the Mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Acknowledgements . . . .
William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew –Volume 2 revised edition / The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1958
Richard Rohr The Universal Christ / Convergent Books New York 2019
Last Thursday, November 3rd, I received this email in my inbox . . .
THE FEAST OF ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
AUGUST 15th, 2020
In 1950 Pope Pius XII declared as a dogma of the church something that Catholics have believed throughout the church’s history ~ that Mary was taken up into heaven, body and soul to sit at her Son’s side for all eternity. In that document Pope Pius had this to say . . . .
It was fitting that she who carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting the spouse whom the Father had taken to himself should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow . . . should look upon him as he sits with the Father.
It seems impossible to think of her, the one who conceived Christ, brought him forth, nursed him, held him in her arms, and clasped him to her breast, as being apart from in body after this earthly life ….. Hence the revered Mother of God … finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from corruption of the tomb and that, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory or heaven where as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages …..
And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bring good to others [and that] in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Municetissimus Deus—The Apostolic Constitution; i.e.The Most Provident God. By Saint Pius XII defining the dogma of the assumption of the Asumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
On August 22nd, the octave of the Assumption we celebrate a minor feast ~ the Queenship of Mary. I honor her as my queen. Now this may sound a bit odd, my friends, but I take her shopping with me. I thanked her for my lovely condo. I signed the documents for the condo on August 15th, 2008, so this year I will be in this lovely home for twelve years now and when I celebrate holy Eucharist on her feast day I will thank her and our dear Lord once again.
Here’s a bit about this Feast (or Solemnity, as we call it in the liturgy.)
First of all, it’s a celebration of the body and an exaltation of womanhood.
Everyone was quite startled when the distinguished psychiatrist Carl Jung, who was not a Catholic, said that this declaration about Mary was “the greatest religious event since the reformation.”
Here’s the entire text of what he had to say. You ought to read this; what he says is truly amazing coming from a psychiatrist and a non-Catholic!
The promulgation of the new dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary could, in itself, have been sufficient reason for examining the psychological background. It is interesting to note that, among the many articles published in the Catholic and Protestant press on the declaration of the dogma, there was not one, so far as I could see, which laid anything like proper emphasis on what was undoubtedly the most powerful motive: namely the popular movement and the psychological need behind it. Essentially, the writers of the articles were satisfied with learned considerations, dogmatic and historical, which have no bearing on the living religious process.
But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work …One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the ‘Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.’ For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.
I consider it to be the most important religious event since the Reformation. It is a petra scandali for the unpsycholgical mind: how can such an unfounded assertion as the bodily reception of the Virgin into heaven be put forward as worthy of belief? But the method which the Pope uses in order to demonstrate the truth of the dogma makes sense to the psychological mind, because it bases itself firstly on the necessary prefigurations, and secondly on a tradition of religious assertions reaching back for more than a thousand years. What outrages the Protestant standpoint in particular is the boundless approximation of the Deipara to the Godhead and, in consequence, the endangered supremacy of Christ, from which Protestantism will not budge. In sticking to this point it has obviously failed to consider that its hymnology is full of references to the ‘heavenly bridegroom,’ who is now suddenly supposed not to have a bride with equal rights. Or has, perchance, the ‘bridegroom,’ in true psychologistic manner, been understood as a mere metaphor?
The dogmatizing of the Assumption does not, however, according to the dogmatic view, mean that Mary has attained the status of goddess, although, as mistress of heaven and mediatrix, she is functionally on a par with Christ, the king and mediator. At any rate her position satisfies a renewed hope for the fulfillment of that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest, the more so the less he sees any possibility of getting rid of it by rational means. It is no wonder, therefore, that the hope, indeed the expectation of divine intervention arises in the collective unconscious and at the same time in the masses. The papal declaration has given comforting expression to that yearning. How could Protestantism so completely miss the point?
I was amazed and thrilled when I discovered this text and again when I’ve just now re-read it. And I’ve always loved to pray and sing these words from the preface of the Mass of the day:
Today the virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and the image
of your Church’s coming to perfection
and a sign of sure of hope and comfort for your people
on their pilgrim way.
Mary is the first disciple of her Son.
She is the one who said Yes! “Be it done unto me according to Your word.”
Each of us who bear witness to Christ give birth to him in our own way.
May we honor Mary on this wonderful feast day and enjoy this late summer weekend ~ safely, of course!
Now here before you go, are some young people in quarantine singing our old favorite hymn honoring our Lady “Hail Holy Queen enthroned above” Click here. And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Usually, dear friends, I interrupt my blog service until the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th. However, on the morning of the Fourth of July last Saturday, I received an email from a friend from the church I had been attending before the coronavirus stopped us from attending church. He was up in the middle of the night writing an essay about racism in America. (And when I read it there wasn’t a mis-spelling, or a grammar error; the essay was just plain compelling.
I had already posted a couple of external links on the subject on my Facebook page on racism, so he got me think—Hmmm—maybe I should write a blog or two on the subject. And so this is the result.
Many of my long-time readers may recall the story that I’ve often told that I was ordained a deacon for the Catholic Church the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. That was April 4th, 1968. I was a a seminary student at Theological College of the Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C.
At the beginning of the ordination ceremony, we ordinandi laid down on the marble floor before the bishop as the choir intoned the ancient Litany of the Saints, that particular day was mingled with the sounds of sirens wailing in the distance. I sucked in a few deep breaths and told myself I would try to follow that great man’s example and do something about racial justice.
The following month the “Poor Peoples Campaign” that Dr. King had conceived was marching toward Washington had arrived in D.C. and hurriedly constructed what was dubbed as “Resurrection City” on the National Mall. They received a permit for 3,000 folks to set up camp there. I had at times reported certain events for The Florida Catholic, the newspaper for the Orlando, Florida diocese to which I belonged. By the time I got on the Mall, it was a muddy mess. There were wooden sidewalks throughout, but I didn’t have the proper footwear to get around without slipping and sliding. I interviewed a few folks for our paper back home and went back to the seminary for a warm shower. I wasn’t particularly helpful, but at least I ventured out there where the action was.
What I propose to do here is, first share with you my friends essay. Since it’s quite controversial and he himself is a person of color I suggested to him that I not print his name so that he have no repercussions from his family or employer.
And then today also I’m going to share with you Frederick Douglas’ Fifth of July Speech. There was word today that his statue in Rochester, NY was toppled.
Next week, I will share with some external links I posted on Facebook and two statements by the Bishops of the United States.
It has been said that this movement, sparred by the death of Mr. George Floyd is the largest and longest movement in US history. Let us pray it leads to fruitful change for the better.
Here’s my friend’s essay . . .
Dear Father Bob,
Thank you for sharing your insight and prayers helping us to recognize our national sin.
However, I’d like to offer a few thoughts you might want to consider in our national discussion about racism. First, racism and slavery was pressed upon peoples of color since the 1500s by European peoples, not the other way around. So by the time the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, abject subjugation of Black people and the systematic extinction of Indigenous peoples was the norm.People of color and their families who remained oppressed under this new independence actually ved an alternate historical reality—a Declaration of Indifference.