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Posted by on Apr 12, 2009

Resurrection Sunday – 2009: Jesus Did Not Die for Me

Resurrection Sunday – 2009: Jesus Did Not Die for Me

Resurrection of Christ - Mikhail Nesterov (late 1890s)

Resurrection of Christ - Mikhail Nesterov (late 1890s)

Jesús No Murio Por Mi

Jesus Did Not Die for Me

Holy Weekend
The time of customary rituals
Of words spoken a thousand times
A season of the silence of death
Fasting, resolutions, and processions
A time of self-contained euphoria
As it seems sin sees the ending
We already know
and will flood all with life
A shallow season of hypocrisy
“Happy Easter”

A season of churches in a thousand different ways
yet a thousand ways the same
Cannot say other than what they have always said
“Jesus died for our salvation”
But “You know what?”
Jesus didn’t die for me
Jesus died because of cowardice,
greed, arrogance, love of power
by those who did not understand his message
by those afraid of the new
by those who had made a god to their own stature
by those who did not accept his offer of life to the full
not for just a few but for all men and women.
That death did not save anybody
Not even those who believed that they are saved by Jesus.

What saved me and you
And continues to save
Is that Jesus who became a person
Who identified with the people
Who was a baby and cried,
Who was a boy and played
Who grew and worked
Who was called to a mission and took it on
Who paused before the pain of men and women
Who in solidarity of gestures, words, and actions
Who did not silence what had to be said
And who though fearful, moved ahead
out of love, sheer love.

It was not his death, so cruel and unjust.
It was his life!
If death can be salvation
Whan can resurrection mean?
What sense does it make to celebrate Easter?
Death does not save
Even if it scandalizes theology
Life saves.
That is why resurrection is the great cry,
The lead story, the great news of our time
For this the stone rolls aways, the tomb opens
And foot steps are heard in the garden

God raises up Jesus
To condemn death forever
To announce that Life has won out
and that faith in the this Jesus who lives
who conquers the mercenaries of terror
is the faith that saves and
is the faith that makes us free.
What Peter said with such clarity
“This same Jesus whom you crucified
God has made Messiah and Lord”.

Jesus did not die for me.
They killed Jesus!
Jesus died because they tortured him in a blind rage
Because they wanted to shut him up and make him disappear
And because the powerful have always killed Him.

Yes, Jesus was born for me.
He also lived for me,
He taught, healed, pardoned, loved and rose again for me
for you and and for everyone.

Jesus did not die for me
nor for you nor anyone else
Perhaps, some day
We will stop honoring his death
In order to begin celebrating His LIFE.

Gerardo Oberman

translated by Randolfo R. Pozos 2009

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Posted by on Apr 3, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame: Why the Catholic Right is Wrong

Obama at Notre Dame: Why the Catholic Right is Wrong

notre-dame-indiana-dome1

The Cardinal Newman Society has launched a petition drive objecting to President Barack Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame University’s commencement this year. Here is another approach to the issue.

George B. York III sent this letter to the National Catholic Reporter. It is presented here by permission of the author.

God and Man at Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s President, Fr. Jenkins, has extended
an invitation to President Obama to speak on
campus; the President has accepted. Some object,
asking, How could the President of Notre Dame
compromise with abortion? Closely observing
Jesus’ behavior in the Gospel of Luke, (7:40 and
following), I find Fr.Jenkins’ position consistent
with Jesus’ behavior, and in no way a compromise
with abortion.

In the story of Jesus’ evening in Simon’s
house an outsider, a woman, washes Jesus’ feet
with her tears and dries them with her hair. Simon
thinks, `Doesn’t he know what kind of woman she
is?’ Knowing what Simon is thinking, Jesus
surprises him by simply pointing to ways in which
Simon did not welcome Jesus; in so doing, Jesus
invites Simon to convert from hypocrisy to a
different way of judging and acting toward fellow
humans. While Jesus is uncompromising toward
misdeeds or sin, isn’t he also uncompromising when
it comes to accepting others, friend and foe alike, in
this case, welcoming the woman and challenging
but not rejecting Simon? Are humans defined only
by their real or supposed misdeeds?

About the strategy of some of his brother
bishops to `make war’ on abortion, South Dakota
Catholic Bishop Cupich told them: `…a prophecy of
denunciation quickly wears thin …what we need is a
prophecy of solidarity, with the community we
serve and the nation that we live in’. (quoted in
Commonweal Editorial, 5/12/08).

The way of implementing a prophecy of
solidarity is indicated by American Jesuit
Cardinal Avery Dulles. In commenting on
envisioning unity among Christians; he says, `The
first condition . . . is that the various Christian
communities be ready to speak and listen to one
another. . . . The process of growth through mutual
attestation will probably never reach its final
consummation within historical time, but it can
bring palpable results. . . . The result to be sought is
unity in diversity.’ (First Things, ’07)

Those are not just a Christian condition and
result; they are fully human. Does experience not
validate a claim that the better way between
different, opposed individuals and groups is one
leading to “unity in diversity”? Are exclusion and
isolation anything but impotent and sterile? Aren’t
Simon and the woman drawn within a more human
process? As a result don’t they depart from their
evening with their ability to hear reason and with
their freedom intact? In fact, is it not credible that
both Simon and the woman are invited, if not
actually drawn, closer not only to Jesus but also to
one another? Finally, to return to Bishop Cupich’s
solidarity, doesn’t `E pluribus unum’ mean unity in
diversity — union, not in sameness, but in
difference?

Such solidarity is impossible when one’s
starting point is that expressed in Simon’s initial
attitude: “Doesn’t Jesus know what kind of woman
she is?” Therefore, I have to wonder, Is it truly
Christian or even human to start, as some seem to
start, with a question like: “Doesn’t Fr. Jenkins
knowwhat kind of man Obama is?”

Isn’t the call to every Christian to put on the
mind of Jesus who Christians believe emptied
himself of power and the ways of power and drew
others neither by compromise with sin nor by
isolating rejection or coercion? To the extent a so-
called `prophecy of denunciation’ expresses a spirit
like that of the Pharisees (Simon’s initial attitude),
isn’t it a betrayal of the mind of Jesus? ? Isn’t such
prophecy animated by a spirit aiming at institutional
control, expressing a desire to force conformity in
the name of real or supposed truth? In the case of
NotreDame, doesn’t it express an ill-advised wish to
forceFr. Jenkins to dis-invite a supposedly unclean
Obama?

To the extent your answer is `Yes’, you see
why I say that Fr. Jenkin’s invitation to Obama
could be called a compromise with abortion only if
Jesus’ firm but friendly challenge to Simon could be
called a compromise with hypocrisy.

George B. York, lives in Denver. His
publication, `Michel de Certeau or Union in
Difference’ (2009, ISBN 978 0 85244 684 3),
concerns Faith in the understanding of a celebrated
French Jesuit historian.

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Posted by on Feb 18, 2009

Day to Day Evangelization

Day to Day Evangelization

evangelization1

The term “evangelization” means to share or spread good news. For Christians, the Good News we spread is of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Evangelization has been the privilege and role of followers of Jesus, Followers of the Way, from the very beginning. In the Gospels we read that Jesus gave this directive to His followers after the Resurrection when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” (Mt 28:19) 

From the day of Pentecost forward, empowered by the Holy Spirit, Christians have shared their beliefs with family, friends, neighbors and total strangers. Sometimes sharing the Good News takes the form of words. More often, it comes through action. One of the first things we know about early Christian community and life was the recorded observation that they were “of one heart and mind, … they had everything in common.” (Acts 4:32) They were known for their love and caring for each other.

We evangelize and in turn we are evangelized by others. Each of us had had times when a kind word or a helping hand served as a reminder that we are loved. Someone taught each of us about God and God’s love for us in sending Jesus and their Holy Spirit.

I was reminded of this the other day at Mass. A mother was there with toddler firmly in arms. She has been bringing her son with her since he was tiny. Sometimes he sleeps, but increasingly he is awake, watching all with wide eyes. When it came time to pray the Our Father, his mother raised one hand and he raised his opposite hand. Together they joined in prayer with the rest of the community. Someday he’ll learn the words of the prayer, and perhaps some theology too. But the most important learning has already begun. He is part of a community of people who love God and care for each other. A community that bears witness through their everyday lives to the love they have received.

Pope John Paul II called the Church to a New Evangelization, reaching out again to our world, bringing the good news into every aspect of our lives and communities. We begin within our daily activities, sharing our hopes and dreams and visions, reaching out in love to those we meet, answering questions about our faith when asked, and trusting the Holy Spirit to guide our words and our ways. The men and women of faith who have gone before us have brought tremendous change for the better to the world. It’s our turn now. May we have the courage and grace to be evangelists in our day to day lives.

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Posted by on Jan 7, 2009

Merry Christmas to our Orthodox Sisters and Brothers – January 7

Merry Christmas to our Orthodox Sisters and Brothers – January 7

Celebrating Orthodox Christmas - Photo by Muhammed Muheisen, AP

Celebrating Orthodox Christmas - Photo by Muhammed Muheisen, AP

January 7 is the Feast of Christmas in much of the Orthodox world. We don’t hear much about it in our Western cultures, in part because it is not the big commercial event that it has become in North America and Europe. Nevertheless, it is a time for celebration and remembering that we share the roots of our faith with these ancient communities as well.

For more information about Orthodox history and beliefs, as well as why our calendars don’t match, there’s a good explanation on the BBC’s website. The quick answer is that most Orthodox communities still follow the Julian calendar for certain feasts. That calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, so Christmas falls on January 7. 

Western Christians who’d like to celebrate in solidarity with Orthodox Christians might want to try a dish typical of Christmas celebrations in the Eastern Church. Some interesting ones can be found at: http://www.prosphora.org/page17.html.

So, as the festival arrives, we wish you a Blessed Christmas, with time for family and friends to gather and enjoy the gift of love. We also pray for peace – in our entire world, and especially in those areas torn by war. May the coming of the Prince of Peace bring hope and courage to all of us, to work together and make it real in our day.

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Posted by on Dec 24, 2008

The Star: Signs in the Heavens

The Star: Signs in the Heavens

christmas-eve-goa

Lackey #1:  Your Grace the neo-pagans are at the door.

His Grace:  Very Well. Let them in and call my theologians.

Lackey #1 to Visitors:  Please be seated, the palace theologians will be with you shortly. Would anyone like coffee or mineral water?

Visitor #1:  We appreciate the welcome but we were hoping to speak with his Grace. We have come a long way with a special message for his Lordship.

Lackey #1:  I’m sorry, it won’t be possible. Philosophers, sages, luminaries, and other thinking persons have to be interviewed by the court theologians. I’m afraid it is protocol.

Visitor #2:  We emailed our request for an audience some time ago and explained that we have a message based on Signs in the Heavens.

Lackey #1:  I’m sorry but we only receive messages, electronic or otherwise, from persons who are properly credentialed. It all started after that unfortunate affair with John the Terrorist and his threats against the government.

Visitor #3:  We thought that he was some sort of leader of revivals – a fringe sort of religious figure with some sort of discredited theology of liberation. We didn’t know he was a terrorist.

Lackey #1:  Most people don’t know that and we would prefer to keep it that way – but some of his followers confessed after some aggressive interrogation.

Visitor #1:  We thought that torture was outlawed here in the Commonwealth.

Lackey #1:  It is, but let’s just say that our less squeamish allies can be of great assistance. Besides, most of our citizens are in favor of  “necessary means” according to the polls if it will produce valuable information.

Visitor #2:  You mean they would give up their constitutional rights?

Lackey #1:  Not their own rights, mind you – just those of people opposed to his Grace. Well, here are the members of the Government’s Panel of Divinity. Please rise.

Theologian #1:  Welcome Ladies of the New Age or should I say Priestesses of the Orient?

Visitor #1:  Actually, we are astronomers and astrologers – scientists and visionaries.

Theologian #2:  We are interested in speaking with you. We are specially licensed to deal with the occult and other forms of demon worship.

Visitor #2:  We are not shamans or priestesses of the Crystal.

Visitor #3:  We study the stars and are accredited to the Global Space Research Council.

Theologian #3:  As unbelieving secularists how can you claim to be visionaries?

Visitor #1:  We are as perplexed as anyone else. The patterns of planetary alignments are most unusual. The probability that this is mere chance is very, very low.

Theologian #1:  Wouldn’t you say that it is just random chance in your Godless scheme of things? Besides, how would you know to come here? – and for what?

Visitor #2:  What indeed! The Star Regulus – the King Star –  in conjunction with Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces – the House of Judah – is a very unusual occurrence.

Theologian #2:  Reading the stars. Don’t you mean reading into the stars? Astrology was discredited centuries ago and now you want to revive it in your so called Age of Aquarius? You must be the laughingstock of your fellow scientists!

Visitor #3:  Empirical science is one mode of knowing certain things, including the mechanics of the stars, but it does not tell you what it means.

Theologian #3:  It is very clear from the Writings what it means. God made Creation whole out of nothing – everything in six days.

Visitor #1:  And the fossils?

Theologian #1:  A simple test of faith. God made the fossils to fool unbelievers like you.

Visitor #2:  We came here to honor the birth of a heavenly ruler. Has a child been born here?

Theologian #1:  What Child? That’s absurd. We are a republic founded by God fearing men. How could a child be the Ruler?

Visitor #3:  It has become more common for the sons of your rulers to be elected. But perhaps we are wrong.

Theologian #2:  That seems to be the case. The Child was born a long time ago and rules in Everlasting Glory. Have you not heard the Good News?

Visitor #1:  With all due respect, it hasn’t been such good news.

Theologian #3:  What the hell!

Visitor #2:  Yes, I am afraid that that has been the case.

Theologian #1:  Did you come here to insult us or did your stars send a message with you.

Visitor #3:  We will have to look elsewhere. She is not here.

Theologian #2:  You’re going to look a long time. He came as a man.

Visitor #1:  I thought it is written “He became one of us.”

Theologian #3:  The correct wording is “He became man.”

Theologian #2:  Perhaps you could let us know when you find her. We would be most interested in seeing who she is.

Visitor #2:  Yes, perhaps we should be on our way. We are free to leave aren’t we?

Theologian #1:  It’s a free country isn’t it?

Visitor #3:  Peace Be With You

Lackey #1:  Ladies – this way please.

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Posted by on May 30, 2008

Feast of the Day – The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Feast of the Day – The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of Jesus - Fronhofen Pfarrkirche

The Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost each year. It is always on a Friday.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart began to develop in the Middle Ages, but it was considered a private devotion, not a specific feast day. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque  (1647-1690), a French nun and mystic, promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart in its current form and over time it was adopted as a formal feast. This devotion also includes Mass and Communion on the first Friday of each month.

A friend of mine was raised Catholic in an Irish family in Rhode Island. One day we were talking and laughing about some of the funny things that had happened when we were girls. She told of the time a non-Catholic friend of hers was visiting her family for the first time. The friend, a young man, commented that he was always shocked when he went into Catholic homes and was immediately confronted with a statue or picture of Jesus, with his heart showing – pierced and bleeding. He said something about how glad he was not to find that image in her parents’ home. He had begun to think that all Catholics were somehow off balance with this insistence on having the image around them. Then they went around the corner into the living room, and there was the picture on the wall, where it couldn’t be missed by anyone!

My friend and I were working together at the time. As we went around the corner into my home office, what was on the wall, but a picture of the Sacred Heart – more modern than the traditional one in her home, but unmistakably still, the Sacred Heart. We just laughed and knew again how much we had in common!

So what is it about the Sacred Heart? First, it’s important to remember that it’s not really about worshipping a physical human heart. The Feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us of the overwhelming love of God for us, as seen in the love of Jesus for us. As the Son of God, second person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus became one of us, lived as one of us, died as one of us. God’s overflowing love poured through Jesus to us. It still does. Symbolically, Jesus’ pierced heart is a reminder that love is not always easy. It can be costly. Love flows out of the heart of God as the water flowed out of the heart of Jesus when pierced by the centurion’s sword. Nothing can stop that love’s flow but our refusal to accept it.

The Sacred Heart also reminds us that Jesus always forgives. God always forgives. Nothing we can do will keep God from loving us and forgiving us. We can turn away, but God is always there calling us back. Hoping we will once again accept love and mercy. Because God’s mercy is unfailing, all we need do is ask and accept it.

In celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we are called to love as Jesus loves, forgive as Jesus forgives and be compassionate and merciful as Jesus is compassionate and merciful. A tall order for our human hearts, but one to which, with the help of Our Lord, we are called.

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Posted by on May 24, 2008

Corpus Christi: The Body of Christ

Corpus Christi: The Body of Christ

Stephen’s bright blue eyes smiled as we said, “Lamb of God, Give us Peace.” According to the rubrics we were now to show each other a sign of peace. Yet with Stephen’s attention deficit disorder, which had already taken him in and out the brief service at least twice, it seemed that a little catechesis might help him be a little more aware of what we were about to do. Stephen is not a little boy. He is a handsome man in his early 30s, with a number of tattoos poking out of the v-neck and short sleeves of his starched jail issued smock.

The readings had been those of Pentecost. The second reading was from First Corinthians 12. “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This had struck all four of the men, but had made a special impression on Stephen. “Does that mean that when I pray the Holy Spirit moves my heart?” Stephen had asked. When I answered “Yes” his eyes got wide and he said that since his attention came and went and his thoughts were often jumbled, he thought his prayers were more bothersome and must be irritating. The notion that he is a temple of the Holy Spirit was as novel to him as it was consoling.

Stephen was back now and I shared a few words on the Lamb of God, recounting the Last Supper and the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord. We do this in His memory as He requested of us. We are invited to the Lord’s table. Stephen and his companions were not new to the faith, but this brief memorial of our Great Memorial brought a renewed awareness to the others and a slack jaw from Stephen. He did not doubt, but could not help but marvel at the wonder of it.

As we shared the wonder of the Blessed Sacrament, our communion was truly a sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ. Bread blessed and broken at the Eucharist, celebrated in the parish, given to all, shared with all, and sent to those in need and to those in prison. The Body of Christ – Corpus Christi – saving us all from our prison of loneliness, our hunger for love, and admitting us to the feast of heaven here and now.

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Posted by on May 20, 2008

Celebrating the Trinity

Celebrating the Trinity

Trinity by Andrei Rublev (ca 1410-1420)

The first Sunday after Pentecost is celebrated as Trinity Sunday. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet one God. The Trinity is a reality over which Christians have puzzled for centuries. Jesus spoke of His Father. He stated that He and the Father were One. He promised to send their Holy Spirit. But what did it all mean?

We speak of the dogma of the Trinity as being a mystery. The use of the word mystery can be problematic. It can imply that if we just focus our attention and uncover the right clues, we can solve the mystery and get to its core. After all, that’s the way it works in detective novels and television shows! But that’s not the kind of mystery we’ve got in the Trinity. The reality of God is so much more than we can ever imagine, let alone comprehend, that the best we can do is look for threads that give us a small sense of the dimensions and reality of the whole.

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM and the late Fr. John O’Donohue have both gifted us with meditative reflections on the Trinity in recent years. They speak of the Trinity in terms of rhythms and flow and surpise. Richard Rohr speaks of a “family resemblance” between the Trinity and all of creation, from the depths of the atom to the furthest extent of the universe, there is a similarity of pattern. All are in movement, all are in relationship to each other, the power is in the “in between.” Life is in the movement, the flow.

Fr. Rohr notes that the Greek Fathers of the Church described the Trinity as a relationship of perichoresisa mutual interpenetration and indwelling. He explains that perichoresis can be translated as dance. God is the dance and we come to know God only from within the dance of the Trinity. As long as we remain open and allow ourselves to be pulled into the flow of mutuality, to the perfect giving and perfect receiving that is the life of God, we will experience the communion, intimacy and relationship characteristic of God’s life. Anything that stops the flow of loving – anger, resentment, judgement – cannot be part of who God is. To the extent that we harbor those blocks to love, we block the flow of God’s life/love in ourselves.

John O’Donohue, in a workshop for the Religious Education Congress of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2005, also spoke of the Trinity in terms of rhythm and flow, touching on many of the same themes described above. A poet and storyteller, he looks at the mystery of the Trinity through poetic images – the flow of a river, a dream of the divine, dance, music, between-ness. He speaks of God as the “secret music of the heart and the universe… the primal music and dance of all that is.”

We most often experience the world in terms of dualities such as inside/outside, masculine/feminine, divine/human, light/dark and so forth. Yet O’Donohue points out that in reality we actually find ourselves at the threshold between those dualities most of the time. It’s a threshold that must be permeable if we and our relationships are to be healthy, so that the qualities of each side of the duality can pass between, refreshing, supporting and enlivening the other. As he points out, there’s the one side, the other side and the place in between. For O’Dononue, the place in between is where we find the Holy Spirit, holding “all the between-ness together.”

The insights of these two men are well worth hearing and pondering. There’s far more to what each has said than can be described in a short blog post. But the depth of the wisdom they bring resonates with the insights of the mystics from all the ages. As John O’Donohue notes, “Once you get a taste of God, nothing else tastes the same.” And again, “That’s what it’s about – coming fully alive to the dream of the Divine within you.”

May the dream of the Divine resonate within you and lead you ever more deeply into the life of the Trinity.

 

 

 

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Posted by on May 7, 2008

Are You Ready for Pentecost yet?

Are You Ready for Pentecost yet?

holy-spirit.jpg

In the United States, we are used to hearing questions like, “Are you ready for Christmas yet?” or “Are you ready for Easter?” The assumption is not that we have been spending time in spiritual preparation for these wonderful feasts, but rather that we’ve done our shopping, wrapped our gifts, mailed surprises to our loved ones, sent the Christmas cards, and so on and on and on. There always seems to be one more thing that must be done to assure a perfect holiday experience for ourselves and our families. Spiritual preparation often takes a back seat in the excitement of getting ready for a holiday. Yet, if the holiday is all about the material gifts and the perfect meal and the family all being on best behavior, it is bound to be a disappointing experience. No matter how wonderful the toy looked in the catalog, or the meal looked in the recipe book, they cannot fill the empty spot in our hearts that is longing for the Divine. And certainly, no one can control the behavior of children, family or friends who may not always act in kind, loving, patient ways. If celebrating the feasts requires that all be perfect, the celebration will certainly not be joyful.

Pentecost is a different sort of holiday. It isn’t even seen as a holiday by the culture as a whole. We never see “Pentecost Sale” in the newspaper or on TV, for example. We don’t have special dishes we prepare for Pentecost. No candies are stacked by the check-out stands to tempt the unwary. No cards or wrapping paper displays vie for our attention. It is almost a secret festival – an un-event.

This year, Pentecost comes very early, because Easter was very early. Pentecost comes on the 50th day after Easter every year. It was originally a Jewish feast. It became a Christian feast because that was the day the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles and others who had been hiding out in the upper room, afraid of what would happen to them because they had been followers of Jesus. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the fear that had bound them was dispelled. They went out and witnessed boldly to what they had seen and heard. That Jesus who had been crucified had been raised from the dead and, in Peter’s words, “… God has made him both Lord and Messiah…” (Acts 2:36)

Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian Church. If the Holy Spirit had not come, the followers of Jesus would never have found the courage to go out into the world and share the Good News. But as He promised, Jesus asked the Father and the Father sent the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit of Love to us. And so, two thousand years later, we can celebrate Pentecost, our birthday.

So how do we celebrate? Certainly with liturgy. Make time in your day to join with the larger community for Mass. Make a joyful noise, sing praise. Invite the Spirit to come into your life in a special way. Join often in that ancient prayer, “Come Holy Spirit,” both in the days leading up to Pentecost and on the feast itself. Be as open as you can be to the coming of the Spirit and you will receive wondrous gifts. Then, take time to enjoy nature. Spend time with your family and friends. Light a candle for dinner – maybe a red one. Use a table cloth – red any one? Bake a birthday cake. Wear a touch of red in your clothing or jewelry. Every reminder of the coming of the Spirit in “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3) is good.

And this year, when Pentecost and Mother’s Day fall on the same day in the United States, celebrate the love of your mother, and remember that although God is neither masculine nor feminine, the Holy Spirit of Love is often described in terms of qualities seen as feminine in our culture – loving, tender, wise, compassionate, patient.

So … are you ready for Pentecost yet?

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Posted by on Apr 25, 2008

A Theologian’s Reflections on Mark’s Gospel

A Theologian’s Reflections on Mark’s Gospel

on-your-mark.jpg

Theologian and storyteller Megan McKenna’s book, On Your Mark: Reading Mark in the Shadow of the Cross, is a powerful example of the contribution of theology and biblical research to our understanding of the Good News. When the gospels were written, nearly 2000 years ago, they were written for a specific audience, with certain shared beliefs and experiences. Each was written for a different audience, but each audience had much in common. They were written as teaching materials, to help new believers come to know about Jesus, become His faithful followers, and live according to His Way.

We live in a dramatically different world. Many things the ancients took for granted or understood to be significant, we don’t even notice in passing when reading Scripture.

In the past century, thanks to the work of theologians, biblical scholars, anthropologists, archeologists, linguists and many other professional researchers, we have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about the world in which Christianity began and of the beliefs and life of the early Christian community. The Holy Spirit has worked through these people to bring the Word to us as excitingly fresh teaching. 

Megan McKenna’s presentation of Mark’s Gospel lays out the requirements of Christian discipleship through exploration of the meaning of the texts. She shows what their meaning might have been for the disciples and the early community – how they served as a roadmap for discipleship. Because she is also master storyteller, Megan presents other stories  as well that serve to reinforce the Gospel. And always, for Megan, the bottom line is, what this means for us today.

Take a look at her work. You won’t regret it!

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Posted by on Apr 23, 2008

St. Anselm of Canterbury – Faith Seeking Understanding

St. Anselm of Canterbury – Faith Seeking Understanding

st-anselm.jpg

Fides Quaerens Intellectum – Faith Seeking Understanding – is the theme of the philosophy and theology of St. Anselm (1033 – 1109). His feast day is April 21.  St. Anselm is regarded as the greatest philosopher of the 11th century and set the tone for the scholastic thinking of the early Middle Ages. Anselm represents a new beginning of a new civilization that ends the Dark Ages. His thinking is very much in line with the Neo-Platonism of St. Augustine.

St. Anselm’s writing on the nature of God and his proof for the existence of God emphasize the role of reason in understanding and shaping faith. His proof for the existence of God is meant to show that we can come to a knowledge that God exists from our own reason. Belief in God and His revelation is a gift of faith. However, faith is a reasonable course to take and of itself enlightens and encourages understanding.

It is often fashionable to dismiss the Middle Ages as a pre-rational time before the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Unfortunately, this overlooks the importance of reason and the intertwining of faith and reason since the origins of Christianity. Although many of its concepts and their cultural context are foreign to us, the content and style of Anselm’s reasoning demonstrates a critical, analytical, and logical approach to dealing with questions of faith and living the Christian life.

Anselm’s notion of atonement, the redemption of the human race brought about by the death of Christ, is based on a concept of justice that seems – well – Medieval, and that is what it is. While it might strike some of us as portraying a vindictive God, St. Anselm presents it as arising out of the will of the Father and the Son to restore the human race. While we as post-moderns might see echoes of European tribal notions of compensation for injury or damage, St. Anselm is following the lead of many preceding philosophers and theologians to place the witness of scripture in a rational context.

Most of St. Anselm’s life was spent as a scholar and abbot. As Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Anselm had the unenviable position of being subject to two kings who attempted to exercise control over the church and plunder its treasury. St. Anselm spent years in exile.

Western critical thought and reasoning owes a debt to St. Anselm. As much as we might be inclined to relegate faith to the psychology of religious experience, St. Anselm reminds us that while the heart might claim our allegiance, our mind and reason challenge us to understand and live the faith of our hearts with the best of our minds enlightened by grace.

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Posted by on Apr 10, 2008

Memory, Identity, and Resurrection

Memory, Identity, and Resurrection

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This Easter Season, I have been puzzling over why the people who lived with Jesus and shared the intimacies and hardships of his travels didn’t recognize him when they encountered the Risen Christ.

I have been reading Oliver Sacks’, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, and came across the notion of emotional memory. Sacks relates the very tragic case of a brilliant music scholar and choral director who suffers an almost total amnesia as the result of encephalitis. He had no episodic memory, which meant that everything kept popping into existence all of the time. However, his ability to sight read and play music from memory was quite intact. He also “recognized” his wife and clung to her. Apparently, according to Sacks, our physical and emotional memory is somehow distinct from our memory of events past and present. It is something much deeper. He also states that our development of episodic memory comes to the fore after the age of two. In those first two pivotal years we develop deep emotional bonds. Learning music, riding a bike, and other types of motor learning have their own place outside of episodic memory. The bonds of deep love even transcend the loss of memory of specific events.

The scene in the garden with the Risen Christ and Mary of Magdala has always resonated deeply within me. Mary is still in a serious state of shock on top of her tremendous grief. Her disorientation seems almost complete when she hears her name in the music of a voice that transcends the memory of events.

So many oceans of ink and uncounted forests have been lost to the question of how we can find the Jesus of history. The disciples left us stories and experiences that are far beyond episodic memory. Their invitation is catechetical – an invitation into the mystery of a love and relationship so intense it is beyond time and memory.

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Posted by on Mar 30, 2008

Easter Tide: The Age of Faith

Easter Tide: The Age of Faith

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It’s all so obvious – right? Jesus is Risen. The women and men closest to Him have all seen Him, touched Him.

Yet they only recognized Him with difficulty. St. Mary of Magdala’s grief was not broken until Jesus called her by name. The Apostles recognize Him with difficulty and Jesus takes the initiative to introduce Himself. There is an air of surprise – an awkwardness that Jesus breaks with the greeting used by Angels and other heavenly visitors, “Peace be with You”. It is easy enough to see this as a blessing, but not as the gesture of reassurance that it is. The Risen Christ is not the historical Jesus that He was. Beyond time and space, the Divine Word – God Eternal – is now and ever was.

We can all now live in the Risen Christ and He in us.

“Without seeing you, We love you;

Without touching you, We embrace;

Without knowing you, We follow;

Without seeing you, We believe.”

– David Haas, “Without Seeing You”, from the album “Glory Day”.

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Posted by on Mar 29, 2008

Seven Stanzas at Easter – John Updike

Seven Stanzas at Easter – John Updike

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Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Telephone Poles and Other Poems © 1961 by John Updike. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House Inc.

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Posted by on Mar 24, 2008

Dance: The Easter Sacrament

Dance: The Easter Sacrament

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Yesterday on Easter Sunday, we sang a second communion hymn in Spanish and English “Resucitó” (He Is Risen). The latin beat, punctuated by conga drums and a driving bass line, turned most of us cradle Catholics into momentary Baptists, as our middle class “cool” gave way to clapping, toe tapping and widespread joyous singing. We were too well brought up to be too demonstrative, but this did not stop the smaller children from launching into a marvelously free dance of joy, aided by their older siblings. It was all in keeping with our name – Resurrection. Granted, we are not the most conventional group, which is saying something in Santa Cruz County. The concluding bars were punctuated by “gritos,” those characteristically Mexican musical shouts of joy, from the smaller children, whether Mexican or not. Things got more animated when we ended Mass with the spiritual, “O They Rolled The Stone Away”.

Terry Hershey, in the March 24, 2008 issue of his newsletter, Sabbath Moments, is also carried away by dance. Yes, Easter Week is a time to stop pursuing happiness and to just be happy.

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