“From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.Proverbs 8-22
When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water;before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth; while as yet the earth and fields were not made, or any of the dust of the earth”
Those were the words of the first reading at today’s celebration of Trinity Sunday. Fr. Dan Riley, OFM read some words prior to the beginning of Mass from Robert Lax’s “Circus of the Sun”. Lax’s poem prefaced the words from Proverbs. I was struck by the similarity of the words.
Lately I’ve been attending Quaker meetings on Zoom and as many of you know there’s a lot of silence in those services. Quaker liturgy is devoid of images and the absence of wrote prayers is refreshing too. The encounter with God is wordless and yet the presence is there. Silence has often been the voice of God in my life. When I visit monasteries I love the silence. When I walk along the creeks and among the trees in the wooded areas that surround our villlage I’m struck by the presence and power of creation but at the same time by its stillness.
I grew up surrounded by images of God, Jesus, and the saints. More often than not they looked white like me. Lately I’ve seen more depictions of Jesus, Mary and the disciples as darker which is what they probably looked like. What struck me about today’s reading is that it was a description of a force without form or shape. It was a presence but not a depiction. Everyday I’m surrounded by trees, grass, flowers and people yet I fail to reflect that all of these sentient beings are animated by a power and spirit that is without form. The presence of God is within and without all that I see whether Republican or Democrat, man or woman, woodchuck, squirrel, sparrow, rock, stream and sky. I’m surrounded by goodness and some badness too but it’s all permeated by this presence that’s described in Proverbs and other sacred writings from other traditions.
God always seemed forbidding and distant to me because I saw God as a angry man like my father. I couldn’t feel close to a force like that. In the past few years after a challenge from my wife I’ve been reconsidering my concepts and beliefs and it’s led me to a new conception of a supreme force for good in my life. More often than not that force has been feminine. EMDR therapy has helped me to discover the roots of that belief. It was my grandmother who was my early nurture and to whom I could always go for help. She had the time to spend with me that my mother could not because she was working with my father. That hurt my mother and I understand that now but it was Grandma who I felt close to.
Fr. Lou was sitting next to me at Mass this morning and he said “The Shack” had given him the perfect description of the trinity. That fit for me. Octavia Spencer portrayed God in that film. Sumire Matsubara played the holy spirit and Jesus was played by Aviv Alush. None of the characters were threatening. There’s a feminine spirit that’s missing in much of western Christianity that needs to be reclaimed. The world needs more of the feminine and less of toxic masculinity that pervades. We need more of the nurturer at least I have found it so in my life.
Saw this on Representative Mike Thompson’s Twitter feed this morning. Mike Thompson represents California’s 5th Congressional District. This letter from a Catholic Priest friend says it all about Arch Bishop Cordileone’s latest misguided decision:
“Bishops, priests, etc. are neither the hosts nor the bouncers nor the ones who wrote the guest list. The Eucharist is the resurrected body of Christ given for the life of the world…
Jesus Christ is the one who invites the guests (“all you who labor”); he is the host of those who come; he is the setter of the table; and he is the feast which is shared (“Take this, all of you. this is my body, this is my blood”)…
We are guests at the meal, and sometimes (by his calling) servers. So stay in your lane, please. The wait staff doesn’t get to exclude those who want to come. If you don’t like the company Christ calls (and, admittedly, it is a rag tag bunch of sinners, one and all), it’s… you who need to leave the table, not them.”
This week a catholic cleric in the state of California has stated that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi cannot receive holy communion because of her stance on abortion rights. Pope Francis openly suggested that American catholic clerics not politicize the abortion issue. The catholic church is the only entity in the western christian world that has had this stance. Not all catholics are anti-abortion. Many practice birth control and have for years. How does a celibate make policy for the rest of us including those Americans who are not catholic. None of these doctrines of birth control or abortion are included in any of the gospels. Neither is celibacy, nor the college of cardinals, the appointment of archbishops and the provision of ostentatious houses of worship and residence for these pretentious pricks. If you really believed the eucharist is the body of Christ and you thought Nancy Pelosi needed spiritual uplift then you’d insist she receive it more often.
There was a time when the Republican party bragged about getting government off your back. Regulations and regulation were the purview of the Democratic party which was assailed as the party of big government. Ronald Reagan once said, “I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited.“ But those words could not be further from the Republican Party of today which seeks not to free the people but to shackle them with unnecessary regulation. The Republican party has become the party of theocrats who want to impose their particular morality on the rest of us.
They want to turn back the clock on women’s rights and in particular on the ability of women to choose whether to have an abortion or not. These malevolent theocrats want to impose their narrow interpretation of Christianity on a country that is increasingly diverse. The founding fathers made their first amendment to the United States Constitution “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
We the people are one union comprised on many diverse elements. E pluribus unum. In that plurality we have those who oppose abortion on religious grounds and those who don’t. The freedom of choice should not infringed. The religious views of certain Christians should not become the law of the land. Ironically it was many of these same people who feared the imposition of sharia law. The idea that life begins at conception is a narrow view. Some religious people believe that while others do not.
We have a long history of respecting religious liberty. This is no time to change. The views of certain evangelical Protestants and Catholics should not be imposed on the rest of us.
Today is the first day of Holy Week in the Catholic Church and other Christian churches as well. Today at Mass they Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be read. We will remember how he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on this day on a donkey colt. We will hear how the crowd spread palm fronds and shouted “Hosanna.” The readings will recount the last supper the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest, imprisonment and eventual crucifixion of the Jesus. We will genuflect as the moment of his death is read. We will rise again like he did on the third day. We will remember all of this as we do each year. But will we connect the events of two thousand years ago with the events of today?
Will we connect the passion and death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, the Asian Americans in Atlanta, the innocents in the Colorado supermarket? Will we think of the passion and suffering of the those LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters? Will we connect the passion and death of Christ with the outrage on our southern border? Will we ask why women are not priests? Will we see the passion, destruction and death of our mother earth? Is Holy Week just an event where we think of the itinerant Palestinian carpenter who came to show us how to live?
Will we continue to trivialize the life of the Christ who came not merely to die on a tree so that two thousand years later we could sprinkle water on our heads and claim to be saved by his name while we openly persecute those created in his image? In a couple of weeks our granddaughter Fiona Katherine will be baptized. I hope that she will be filled with the Holy Spirit on that day as I’m sure she already is. I hope that the Holy Spirit will fill her heart with a hunger for righteousness for the goodness of creation and the welfare of her fellow humans. I hope that she will hunger and thirst for a rightful place for women in our world.
The passion of Christ is more than remembering the events that took place in Jerusalem two thousand years ago for me. Peace.
Pope Francis got some flack when he first came to the papacy in 2013 when he said he was not in a position to judge gay clergy. I don’t think he’s changed his view but it certainly seems that the Vatican is hell bent on continuing to make it difficult for Catholic folks who identify as LGBTQ+ to be welcomed into the church and most importantly to have their marriages blessed.
I’ve been a fan of Matthew Fox for several years after reading his book Original Blessing. Matthew is a great free thinking Christian who is a theologian and Episcopal priest. I subscribe to his daily meditations which arrives in my inbox everyday.
Today’s reflection was very poignant for me. All the excitement of the past week stemming from the Vatican’s refusal to bless same sex unions has created heated debate on the subject. Like Dr. Fox I believe that homophobia is a sin. There are countless Catholics including members of the Catholic clergy who are gay. They were made in the image and likeness of God and yet the official church continues to persecute them. It’s a travesty of epic proportion. No mention of homosexuality in any of the four Gospels yet the church continues its stance. I hope you take time to read Matthew’s reflection and to ask yourself what you believe.
Earlier today I came upon a quote from Matthew 25 which sums up the Jesus message.
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
The Jesus message which is often overlooked is about relationships. Too often the emphasis is on his death on the cross. Many if not most Christians believe in the doctrine of ‘original sin.’ Jesus never talked about original sin in any of the Gospels nor is it mentioned per se in the New Testament. So much emphasis has been placed on original sin that the relationship message of Jesus is given short shrift. I recently participated in a class where the emphasis for many was on ‘the fall.’ You know the story I’m sure about how Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge and then it was all down hill from there.
The idea that people are damned because Eve gave Adam an apple in a metaphorical allusion in a mythological explanation of the creation story was always something I questioned. Why would a supreme being create a cosmos that was flawed in such a manner to exclude that same creation from fulfillment. It doesn’t make any sense. Nearly twenty years ago I heard about the theology of John Duns Scotus and later St. Bonaventure both of whom were inspired by their seraphic father St. Francis that posited an alternative. In short the reason for the incarnation was to demonstrate the creator’s love for creation. Jesus never excludes anyone from the banquet. In fact the more sinful you are the more welcome you are at the banquet. He welcomed prostitutes, tax collectors and other sinners. It was the church people who crucified him. His preaching was too scandalous for them. He upset the status quo with this radical message of relationship.
In Matthew 25 he articulates clearly that what you do for the least of your fellows is what earns you the reward of eternal life. Getting baptized, saying that you accept Jesus as your Lord and savior and then turning a blind eye to the injustices that surround us is not going to get you into the kingdom according to what is written in Matthew 25:31-46. That’s always been my favorite verse in the New Testament. The golden rule is the recipe for happiness in this life and the next.
I woke this morning to a tweet from Christopher White who shared that National Catholic Reporter had named President – elect Joe Biden as Newsmaker of the year.
Joe Biden has been an inspiration for me. He was slow and steady in this race. He was unflappable in a day and time when the country was in panic mode. His election has been a lodestar for democracy. Sixty-percent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing as President-Elect. Despite little cooperation from Republicans and intransigence from the White House he remains calm. That inner calm comes from the practice of his faith which includes a daily meditation of the rosary. May God bless Joe Biden as he tries to mend the fabric of our broken country.
Despite voter intimidation, gerrymandering, voter suppression, lies, threats of violence to voters and officials Joe Biden is President-elect of the United States. Today was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The second Marian Feast in less than a week’s time. You might call December the Month of Mary. How is the opening sentence related to the second sentence? Joe Biden carries a rosary with him everyday and there are reports that in addition to his daily attendance at Eucharist he also prays the rosary. We have that in common in addition to our Catholic faith.
Did Mary have something to do with the outcome of the presidential election? There are some who would scoff at that. Others might say yes. In the past four years I’ve prayed the rosary almost everyday. I usually pray it as I walk but sometimes when I’m riding in the car. Some days when it is too cold to hold the beads in my hands I keep track of the prayers with my gloved hands. I pray the Franciscan Crown Rosary which is seven decades and it’s easiest for me to remember the seven joys of Our Lady.
Today as I sat in an Advent prayer service at Mount Irenaeus I reflected on both the feast day and Mary. The mother of the Messiah was not famous nor powerful. She was lowly and betrothed to Joseph The lowliness of his handmaid is duly noted in the Magnificat.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
The mighty are pulled from their seats of power. The humble and meek are exalted and are fed while the rich go away empty. The handmaid of the Lord became the Queen of Heaven. Ave Maria gratia plena Dominus tecum.
Today’s my birthday and it was a beautiful day indeed. The sky was blue with not a cloud in sight. Birthday’s are a time for reflection and gratitude. I’m grateful for my parents who made this day possible. I was their first born. I was the guinea pig. All first born children share that experience. Nothing in school or life ever really prepares you for being a parent. My mother had a tough time with the pregnancy. She was preeclamptic which severely complicated the pregnancy. I was delivered by my Uncle Eugene Rooney. It was Misericordia Hospital in Manhattan which no longer exists. I arrived at 5:55 AM according to a telegram my grandparents received to announce my birth.
My father was at the hospital but probably not allowed in the delivery room. That would have been unusual in those days. He sent the telegram to my grandparents upstate to announce my arrival. By all accounts I was a happy infant who once slept in a dresser drawer because there was no bassinet for me. That came later and we still have that item in our basement. It served for my brother and sister too.
I was blessed to be born on the 8th of December. It is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Mary the Mother of Jesus. I attended parochial schools as a child and young adult and always got the day off. We always went to Mass on my birthday. It was a holy day of obligation. I would like to have attended today but the pandemic and a shortage of priests made that impossible this year. Nonetheless, I was able to pray the rosary on my walk today and spend a few minutes in our grotto near St. Philomena’s RC Church today.
Blue is a Marian color. Today the sky was bright blue. I wore my blue jeans and a deep blue shirt. Maybe I over did it. In any event it was a beautiful day and one that invited me to be glad to be alive.